Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday's Meaning


Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday (holy day) that is not a biblical requirement (just like Christmas and Easter, which are not commanded in Scripture). Nevertheless, it has been honored by Christians for well over ten centuries, falling at the beginning of Lent, a six-week season of preparation for Easter. In the earliest centuries, Christians who had been stuck in persistent sin had ashes sprinkled on their bodies as a sign of repentance, even as Job repented “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Around the tenth century, all believers began to signify their need for repentance by having ashes placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. Notice: even this sign of sinfulness hinted at the good news yet to come through its shape. Ash Wednesday is not some dour, depressing holy day because it symbolically anticipates Good Friday and Easter.

How Do We Observe Ash Wednesday?

Today, celebrations of Ash Wednesday vary among churches that recognize this holiday. More and more Protestant and even evangelical churches hold some sort of Ash Wednesday services. At Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served for sixteen years as pastor, and at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Boerne, Texas, where I now attend, the distinctive activity of Ash Wednesday services is the “imposition of ashes.” Ashes are placed on the foreheads of worshipers as a reminder of our mortality and sinfulness. The person who imposes the ashes quotes something like what God once said to Adam after he had sinned: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). This is the bad news of our sinfulness that prepares us to receive the good news of forgiveness in Christ.

Why Should We Observe Ash Wednesday?

There is no biblical commandment that requires us to observe Ash Wednesday. Thus, I believe this one of those practices that Christians are free to observe or not to observe. The theological core of Ash Wednesday is, however, shaped by a biblical theology of creation, sin, mortality, death, grace, and salvation. It also enacts biblical injunctions to “weep with those who weep” and to “confess your sins to one another.”
What I value most about Ash Wednesday worship services is the chance for us all to openly acknowledge our frailty and sinfulness. In a world that often expects us to be perfect, Ash Wednesday gives us an opportunity to freely confess our imperfections. We can let down our pretenses and be truly honest with each other about who we are. We all bear the mark of sin, from the youngest babies to the oldest seniors. We all stand guilty before a holy God. We all are mortal and will someday experience bodily death. Thus we all need a Savior.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of Ash Wednesday is that it begins the season of Lent. This is also a foreign concept for many evangelical Christians. In a couple of days I’ll weigh in on the meaning and benefit of Lent.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Thunder

The windows in the old Victorian house rattled and the wood floor shook beneath my feet as the oncoming train passed in the valley below my childhood home.  The whistle blew long and loud to warn all, the train was coming thru.  I can still hear that whistle and picture in my mind the puffs of smoke as they rose to meet my eyes while I watched from my bedroom window.  

Ruthie 9 years old...diagnosed
            It’s funny the things that come to mind sometimes from my childhood.  But maybe, just maybe this is something the Lord wanted me to remember this day.  I found out that my lovely little girl might have a form of Autism.  There is no firm diagnosis at this time.  She must go through many tests and evaluations.  You see, Autism, causes a person to not be able to understand the emotions of a relationship with other people.

There are a lot of things that now seem so unimportant compared to the health and well being of my daughter.  Just as I remember the thunder of the train as a child, God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways.  He does great things beyond my understanding.  He makes my eyes see past the given circumstance to reveal the cross before me causing me to always have hope amidst the storm.  He makes my feet rumble as they move to seek a closer walk with Him that I may gain strength in his infinite wisdom as his Holy Spirit whispers sweet comfort.  I want the sound of the oncoming train, the train of God, to always be near reminding me of his great power.  I want his voice to whistle in the wind thru his Holy Spirit and gently nudge me on as a champion for Christ.  But, I also want this same thing for my daughter.  If her mind works in such a way that she can not understand the emotions of a relationship, can she have a friendship with Christ as I have prayed for since the day she was born?

            I know there is nothing… nothing beyond my Immanuel’s most capable hands and nothing I can not overcome thru Christ who strengthens me.  He will be my rock in this time of need.  He will be the one I seek when I want to just cry.  He will be the one to wipe the tears and put me back on my feet and say, 

“Stand up my child and walk with courage.”  

No, I know he never gives us more than we can handle.  He chose me to be Ruthie’s Mom.  He knew I would be strong enough to help her learn about Him and love Him despite the obstacles that together we might encounter.  He chose Ruth to be my daughter.  He gave her to me, because he knew I had what it would take to raise her to know and love the Lord! 

I wrote this piece 10 years ago and Ruth was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum shortly thereafter. She is now 18 years old nearing her 19th birthday. It is has not always been an easy ride  
Ruth now 18!
having to be an advocate for her. But I would have it no other way. I would never change a thing.  And all the questions I wrote about above...God has heard my prayer and answered loud and clear. Ruth does have a relationship with her Heavenly Father. Sometimes I think she is closer to Him than most would ever know. She is precious, sweet, tenacious, and never ceases to surprise me! She is joyful, funny, and such a pleasure to be around. She will graduate high school this June and will attend college seeking a four year degree in Marine Biology! I love her and for as much as I thought God gave her to me because He knew I was the right mom to raise her for the Lord, He also knew I needed her to see Him in an amazing way! 

"
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well."
~Psalm 139:13-14


          


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Regroup Day


     
My cousin Joy always speaks of needing to “regroup today”.  It’s a day she designates to stay at home, get her house in order, and just chill. I always chuckle when she proclaims a “regroup day”. But actually we ALL need a day to do this…not only in our everyday tasks…but we need days to regroup within our hearts. I like to think of  it as deep soul searching and tree pruning, as we don our coat of love to walk out into the bitter cold world to share Jesus.



Last night as I sat at my kitchen table reading God’s Word, I did just this…regrouped. It has been a tough week and emotionally I am tired. I have been on the phone endlessly to work toward answers as to how to reinstate and IEP (individual education plan) for my daughter. My youngest son was sick and he has been walking through some growing pains as a 14 year old. All of this combined with a parent who likes to make life difficult for her children at 80 years old has left me breathless at times.

I knew I needed some fresh air and I knew just where to find it…read some scripture…pray…and be silent before The Lord. In my reading, I came to Psalm 27:14…

“Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart,
and wait for the Lord.”


Sometimes in my busyness to accomplish…only to be frustrated by no results, I need to be reminded of my helper, the Holy Spirit. I need to take time to just do nothing, but quietly sit in His presence and listen for the soft whispers of a redeeming love that woos my soul back to tranquility. I need to wait with expectant hope and abide in His providence…secure in His unending love…and seize, take hold, and capture moments of His amazing grace for me. In return, I leave with courage and enthusiasm to run this race called life well managed as a marathon and not an all out sprint. So don’t be afraid and know that we ALL need a time to regroup with Him to allow Him to lead and us to follow.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Heavenly Hug

The moon in all its brightness peeked from behind the pine trees as dawn approached. As I turned and faced the opposite direction, there before my eyes was the start of the rising sun. The white rippled clouds had purple hues and shades of red and pink as the top of the sun began to appear on the hillside. A beautiful morning indeed with shades of His glory embracing the depths of my soul. It was if my heavenly Father wrapped me up in a big hug between the hems of His white linen robe. A special, “I love you”… sent from heaven above!

“Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him all ye stars of light.”

~Psalm 148:3

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Morning Staircase

      I am just so in love with Him. He has always been there for me when hope seemed so far away and sadness filled my heart as a child. I knew I could come to Him no matter the hour…no matter the circumstance….He remained beside me and comforted my aching heart. I know some may have had it much worse than myself as a child, but I have learned not to minimize my own suffering. It was real. It was shameful. It was a hard road to trod with heavy baggage in tow. I longed for love and peace to abide within the walls of the old Victorian. 

My brothers and me on Christmas morning. Shane (left),  me (middle), Shawn (right)

It’s Christmas. My favorite time of year. My husband and I were married this season of yuletide joy  24 years ago on December 28th…that’s how much I love Christmas. It was the one time of year…the one day…the one morning…I could rest assure there would be no fighting between the walls of my childhood home. And He…as in all other days…was with me as I would skip the first three steps and jump to the landing of the endless staircase. My fair skinned hand would slide down the rail and guide me to the bottom of the decent as a peered through sleepy eyes. I would turn to the parlor room…grand as always with 10 foot ceilings and a cherry wood fireplace with ornate tile in the hearth. There the angel hair covered tree stood in all it’s glory with wrapped gifts scattered beneath. I would just sit on the oriental rug in the middle of the huge room and gaze in amazement and take it all in as my heart felt peace. And He was with me. I know He sat beside me.

I am forty-eight years old this Christmas. It has been a year of healing for me as I walked through some rough childhood memories. It was painful. It was hard. I am not done yet for the tools I have learned to use, I will continue to pull out of my tool box for the rest of my life and use when necessary. So this Christmas is just extra special because I have run my race hard enduring much to win this victory over the walk on the shattered glass of a broken childhood. And the one constant in ALL of my life’s recovery…He was with me, He is with me now, and He will be with me forevermore. My friend…my Savior…His name is Jesus. And this Christmas will be the 38th time we will walk down the staircase together  to celebrate His birthday and I am grateful…so very grateful to Him for loving that little girl with long brown hair and hazel eyes. And so I praise Him this Christmas for His faithfulness, His love, and His grace. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I  thank you from the bottom of my heart for your presence in my life. You took hold of me at a very young age and it has been an amazing ride. It has not always been easy, but through it all you have stood beside me…sometimes holding me when I couldn’t stand. You have left me breathless in your unending love for me. You are my redeemer and the lifter of my head. I am forever grateful!

All my love this Christmas,
Your beloved daughter,

Shannon

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Horn of Salvation

Though she loved him, he loved her more. She didn’t know in that moment of joy; He came to die. He came to save her and the entire sin sick world. In time, she would realize just how much he adored her as he would ask John to care for her as he agonized upon the cross.

But in this precious moment surrounded by only the lowly animals of the stable, she wished never to forget the little hands…the tiny feet, the bright star in the clear night sky, and the wonderment painted on Joseph’s face. Her hands trembled as she feared to touch the Holy Child…her son…Jesus. She took hold of the King of the Most High…pulled him close…cheek to cheek, and began to cry.

“I love you.” She whispered softly.

The babe’s heart beat a lullaby of peace to her anxious soul. And there that beautiful night when the horn of salvation resounded in an infant’s cry, Mary treasured the moment and would forever ponder all this that was given her.

Will you take hold of the King of the Most High this Christmas?

Will you dare to pull him close, cry a loud, and say…

“I love you Jesus!”

Sit quietly long enough to hear his heart beat a lullaby of peace to you.

Remember

Treasure

Ponder as Mary did so long ago…

Christ was born to die…

For you!

That just how much he loves you!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

By God for God



It is so easy for us to forget our sole purpose in being created. We were made by God for God. He created each of us unique. Because God created me different and set apart from anyone else...only I can love Him in the special way He created me and He aches deeply for intimacy with me…the way I can only love Him. What we don’t realize is how much God longs to hear from us and give back to him our exclusive way to love Him. He yearns with expectant hope to hear our voice call his name and praise Him. 


We ourselves as believers in Jesus Christ should desire deeply this intimacy with the Father because of His great love for us. You don’t seem to have this desire you say…then ask God to help you thirst for this alone time with him. He loves to give you the desires of your heart.


“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the 

desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4


As Paul stated in Galatians 2:20


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”


Again, as believers, we need to “give up” our selves for Him because of His great love for us. Quiet time alone with God brings us oneness with God in Christ, oneness with fellow believers, and oneness with God’s creation. As we begin to diligently apply this quiet reflection to our lives on a daily basis, we experience the presence of God in ALL things! We learn to abandon all our desires…agendas…thoughts so we might have immediate contact with God through Jesus Christ. We give God back what He created us to be…by God for God!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Touch of Death


Discouragement has found it’s home upon my shoulders and whispers in my ear once again. I keep swatting at him as I would a fly that buzzes around my head, but to no avail his nagging still tugs at my shirttails. Why has he come, I ask myself as I sit in the stillness of the night unable to sleep. 

The answer does not arrive quickly as the clock ticked at the midnight hour. So I do the only thing I know which is to just “be” with Jesus. I talked to Him and expressed my feelings as if He sat beside me…everything. As tears appeared and rolled down my cheeks, silence returned to my lips. 

I sat for a very long time alone in the dark and then the question came to me. Why have you put your expectations on man once again? This answer I know was not from my annoying friend discouragement, but from the precious Holy Spirit…my counselor sent to me from my Heavenly Father. I realized at that moment I had once again put my  hope in the work and actions of men. How foolish of me to think my life’s satisfaction could come from a sinful source. 

I asked Jesus for forgiveness for I had touched death in my thoughts as I put my trust in man and not in God alone. I remembered how much Jesus loved me as I reflected on when His blood ran red at the cross of Calvary. For a length of time, I just praised Him relentlessly and professed my trust in Him alone. My eyes closed as sleep came and a peaceful heart was found. I awoke this early morning and my friend discouragement had disappeared and joyful praise unto His name remained.

“Trust in the Lord with ALL thine
heart and lean not into thine own 
understanding, but in ALL thy ways
acknowledge Him and He will make thy
paths straight.”


~Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mighty to Save


I sit here this early morning in awe of a God who loves me. He is such an amazing Father. He breaths life into me each and every day no matter what my circumstance. I know some might look at my life and say I have everything and it also would be easy for others to think I am in want of nothing. This statement is completely true. But it is not because of the material things I have been blessed with, rather I have everything and want for nothing because He…my best friend…Jesus….gave His life for me and in Him I put my trust.

However, there are things I long for…I continue to wait for…with confidence of not “if” it will happen, but trust and stand on God’s promises that it will be. Some may wonder what this something could possibly be that I so long for within my life. It is actually not something I desire for myself, but for my husband, whom I love dearly with ALL of my heart. It is for him to know Jesus and His great love. Tears flood my eyes as the salted drops run down my fair skinned cheeks. My husband is a good man, but I know his goodness will not get him into heaven. And so I pray…everyday…that his heart would change and he would say yes to Jesus and believe in Him. 



I am sure I am not the only one who longs for a loved one to be saved by Christ’s amazing grace. So today, I not only pray for my husband, but for ALL the unsaved souls near and far. I could not imagine life without Jesus. I desire others to know of His great love. I ask you today if you have read this piece, to pray for one soul…maybe someone you know…to come to know and believe in The Lord Jesus Christ. If you would so kindly just put the first name of the person you are praying for in the comments of this Facebook post or this blog post, be assured I will also pray for that person as well today. We have a mighty God and nothing is impossible with Him.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

His Touch of Love


The raindrops fall from the limbs as the tree dries in the refreshing breeze. The wind upon my face whispers softly my Savior's sweet touch of love. The morning dove coos in the distance and the birds chatter and add to the beauty of another day given by the great I Am. I sit quietly on the old wicker rocker and take in all the melody and harmony of God's beautiful creation...and it is good!