January 9 Devotional

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27
I can remember being afraid since I was a little girl. I was afraid of the dark, loud noises, and big
dogs. I once ran so erratically from a German Shepherd that I managed to slip down the hill on
our street, cutting my forehead open and having to get stitches. I was terrified of Darth Vader
when I saw Star Wars for the first time. I had nightmares afterwards, waking up unable to
breathe after getting swooped up in his black cloak in my dreams. I was always shy and timid in
school, and I didn’t really have any friends because I was afraid to talk to people.
I still struggle a lot with fear. Often, I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to
sleep, and the panic feels like a dark thing sitting on my chest, pressing down until I can’t
breathe. During these times, it’s all I can do to pray, but I can’t really do anything else at 3 a.m.
So I lie there, trying to think of something to say to God, some way to ask for His help, and bits
and pieces of scriptures illuminate like light bulbs my mind:
“Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.”
(Psalm 91:5)
“The Lord is my keeper: the Lord is the shade on my right hand.”
(Psalm 121:5)
“Fear not, fear not, fear not…”
(Isaiah 41:10, Luke 2:10, and, according to Rick Warren, 365 places in the
Bible).
I keep repeating these verses like a mantra, until I can breathe again.
Jesus said that He left us with peace. If you look around the world or even your own
neighborhood, it’s hard to see that peace, and it’s easy to be afraid. Hardly a day goes by that I
don’t see a Facebook status about a sickness, a death, an accident, a job loss, a war, another
political battle. It feels never-ending. Yet in John 14:27, Jesus assured us that His legacy is
peace, and He says that it’s unlike anything the world has ever given us before.
What has the world given me? I have blessings: a great husband, awesome kids, a terrific
church, a good job. But I think that, while these gifts exist in this world, they’re not of it. James
1:17 says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of
heavenly lights.” God gave me these blessings. The world’s gift to me has been fear, because
who knows what could happen in an instant on this planet?
But this fear is not the gift that Jesus gives. He says He doesn’t give as the world does, so the
peace He gives is nothing like what we’ve received from life on this planet. Life on Earth
conditions us to be afraid of what we’re going to get—the things that chase us or envelop us
around every turn, each and every long and endless night—but that’s not His legacy to us.
That’s not the gift He’s offering. It’s peace.
What does this peace entail? There are lots of things that I want it to be: the monsters to be
vanquished, the wars to end, death to be overcome. And He promises all that, too. But right
now, I live in a world that is marked by uncertainty and instability. Yes, that knowledge at times
threatens to suffocate me. But in the middle of the fear, there He is, saying what He gives is so
much more. It’s peace, perfect peace, that He promises to keep us in.
I don’t know what the next day will bring when I’m awake in the middle of the night, but I do
know that all I have to do is whisper His name and He is there. He promises us, over and over
and over, that I don’t have to be afraid, that He’s got me, that “in peace I can lie down and sleep,
for He alone, makes me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). And in those moments, that gift is more
than enough.

January 5 Matthew 6:9-13

Matthew 6:9-13King James Version (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

This prayer has a special meaning for me. I had sat under an amazing pastor who introduced me to Jesus. It was after my sister had taken her life and I was at my lowest point in my life. He showed me who Jesus really was, not religion or Christianity, but really introduced me to Jesus.  Fast forward to 2015 when (after searching for a church literally for years and finding unkind people, backbiting, and frankly uncaring souls) we walked in to The Ridge. First, I knew so many people from there who had always been kind to me in daily life. That was a plus!  Everyone I met was so kind. They were happy to see us, they reached out to us on Sunday and throughout the week. They embraced my boys, even when they were noisy.

On January 5, 2016 I was sitting at my desk at The Arc and got a call from Loni, my daughter-in-law. She said that I needed to come to her house right away because Branden had “done something.” I asked if he was dead and she said, “Just come.” I remember telling another lady in my building that I had to go and I feared that my son was dead, but I don’t remember walking there or back nor locking my office. I talked to 2 different people on my way to Branden’s house. They kept me on the line until I arrived in the driveway. I saw the ambulance coming from there and asked if they had my son. He replied that they had nobody inside. I knew then that my son was gone. Now, I want to go back to October when we first came to The Ridge. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that our lives were lead by the Lord between October and January. People reached out to us and He put things in place that I needed to just survive this devastation.

Now, that day, I remember (in slow motion) pulling into the driveway and seeing the love of my life bending over from the waist and screaming. There were police officers guarding the camper and talking to the many family members that had already arrived. Family continued to come and hug me. I was numb and had no idea what to do or where to turn. Jerry said,”Don’t go to the dark place like you did with Pam (my sister) because I will not be able to save you this time.” I knew I had to lean on others to make it through this. My sons and daughter had lost their brother, Jerry had lost his son, Loni had lost her husband, and my grand babies had lost their daddy.

The coroner’s van came to take Branden away. Nothing would ever be the same again. I would see his smile only in photographs and in his children.

I wanted  to be there when they took him away. The clergy from the sheriff’s department stood with us and asked what he could do. I said help me say the Lord’s prayer. We called Bobby and he came. I hardly knew him, but he came.

I could hardly move or think from being numb with shock, but I asked him to help me say the Lord’s prayer because I knew that it covered everything. I screamed it to God as they took Branden out of the camper and slid him into the back of the van. It was that simple physically to do their job. For me it was shutting a door on my favorite chapter of my life, when I became a mom and we became a family.  I knew that this prayer would cover all of our needs.  It was the only thing I could think of to pray.

There was praise to The Father who would be receiving my son; Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

There was perspective to ask for His will to be done;

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

There was a plea for provision as we all missed work and traveled to say our final goodbyes:

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

There was a plea for forgiveness (Branden and ourselves):

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

There was a plea for covering all my family from slipping back into complacency and worldly “comforts”;

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

And then there was trust, praise and a reminder that He had this under control before it even played out;

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 

I know that God led me to the Ridge. I love you all. When I think of the time and words and hugs that you all have shared…it is why I was able to survive this year. I want to time to pass so that it doesn’t hurt so bad-people tell me time is all that changes it. But on the other hand I do not want time to pass. I worry that I will forget his smile and his humor and that his children will not know the good that he did and the real man he was.

 

Hope is what I have and I am so thankful.

 

Hard typing through tears.

Anyway, I am going to get my kiddos up and head for The Ridge, where I will be accepted, loved on and embraced by the loving hands of Jesus. And I thank you. AMEN

 

 

 

Jesus Is…..Relief

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By Tara Gibson:

There is a question floating around the last few days.   It’s a stimulating question, but also a simple question for me to answer.  It wasn’t always a simple question to answer, but the more laps I take around the sun, the easier it is to answer.  The question…”Who is Jesus to you?”

My answer in short form: RELIEF

I have a tendency to be an anxious person.  I have a feeling not a ton of people know that about me, but it is part of my struggle.  I have learned over the years who Jesus is and have gotten to know Him through the written word of the Bible, the stories that people are brave enough to share, and through my own personal experiences.  I have been through some pretty traumatic experiences and some incredibly wonderful experiences.

There are two specific scriptures that I ALWAYS turn to when I feel myself starting down the slippery slope of anxious thoughts.  I have trained myself to go to these scriptures and read them, reflect on them, meditate on them, pray them, sing them, cry through them.  They are my reset button so to speak.
One is a promise:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/rom.8.28.esv

One is a reminder:

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/psa.27.13-14.niv

These words are a relief to my mind, my heart, my spirit.  I’m free from trying to figure everything out!  That’s His job and His desire.
Jesus is so encompassing that it’s hard to put one word down to explain who He is to me.  He is truly everything to me, but today I hope that someone will read this and it will help you find relief from whatever situation you are facing in this moment.  Jesus is good and He keeps His promises! Read His word to learn those promises, it will forever change your life and your perspective.

Love This Mess, Again

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I love sharing the art of the people at Ridge Church! Yesterday after one of our services, Alex Bruse approached me and said, “I wrote a poem out of your message today.”  So without delay, here’s the work Alex submitted from yesterday’s message.

I hid that treasure beyond your reach,
Or so I thought.
Deep within my chest I hid it with long lies
That walk circles around your ears
And chase your thoughts from the question
“What have you done?”
Or so I thought.
I hid it for my lusting eyes.
I hid it for my salivating, greedy palms,
For my destructive passion,
For my angry dissatisfaction,
Rotting sanity,
And sinking identity.
And as my legs submerge lower under my own fears,
As my knees buckle under the weight of this pride,
I cling tighter to what I hid.
Because letting go would be admitting something,
But I don’t know what that is yet.
Easier?
Yes, it would be easier to let you in behind these bars,
I would breathe you in
And light would soak into the wounds.
The darkness would be confused
And would flee from my lungs.
It would cry out of my ears,
Leap from my shoulders,
And fall from eyelashes.
My knees would be relieved from their shaking,
My mouth from this thirst,
And my mind,
Behind my eyes,
My heart from behind my chest,
Would leak out from the binding, drowning, suffocating
Lies I tied around them
And I would find rest.
But, I can’t get enough breath.
I can’t get enough strength
So I can’t get enough courage
To simply put the air behind vocal chords
To whisper out the words of what I’ve done.
So there you stare,
Refusing to leave.
Your shadow kissing your feet
As you stand in the insults I left piled around your ankles
That I rehearse into the crying mirrored image at night.
And here I stand,
Slowly dying,
My soul shaking in the skin of my starving desire for simply
No more fear.
I hid that treasure beyond your reach,
Or so I thought.
But you still found a way to love this mess,
Again.

Wonder

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by wesley hicks

It was not very long ago that my family and I went to watch Disney on Ice.  We have two children under the age of 3 and our daughter, Mercy 2 ½ years old, is infatuated with Disney.  As we sat there in the coliseum I watched the faces of my children more than I watched the actual skaters.  Maybe you can relate to this point.  

What I saw struck an emotion, mental, and spiritual chord in my life and I simply have not been able to separate from dwelling on the experience.  As I watched Mercy’s face each time a new princess came out, or each time a song from Frozen began to play I noticed something peculiar.  I noticed the look of absolute wonder on her face.  Wonder that led to smiles, joy, and greater yet delight.  I noticed as she smiled and would dance in excitement of what was happening in front of her.  I noticed her bobbing her head and singing along with the symphony made of the voices of children as the songs were being performed.  I noticed Wonder in the eyes of a child.  

Wonder.

What struck me deepest was as I saw her in the depths of wonder, as her dad that held her as she smiled, that provided the means to enjoy this moment of Wonder, I could not help but be overwhelmed in joy.  It really resonated with me spiritually. Yes, I had a spiritual experience at Disney on Ice.  

I couldn’t help but think about the creation God has placed us in and placed before us.  I can’t help but think about the amazing creativity of God.  In and throughout the universe the stars and galaxies in sheer volume alone is mesmerizing.  Take the time to look at images on NASA and one is amazed in wonder and the beauty and detail in every single image (Psalms 19:1).  Think about the depths of the oceans, and the design of creatures that have yet to be seen or will never even be seen.  He made those special and we may not even ever see them.  Think about that.  It makes me just sit and Wonder in awe of Him.

What if, how seeing Mercy’s delight in what I was able to sit in front of her was a lesson?  What if God is glorified, and magnified when we recognize the amazing, awe-inspiring things He has set before us and it leads us to experience Awe and Wonder at the works of His hands?  What if we took the time to look in Wonder at these things set before us and just embraced the Maker in simple amazement?  I believe that would be glorifying to Him.  I believe not only does that please Him but it stirs within our hearts a deeper desire and passion for more of Him.  It elevates Him in our hearts, minds, and souls.  What if every moment of Wonder was a catalyst to worship?  I believe it can be, and should be.  I believe that I can sit on my porch and watch the sun rise and be captivated by His beauty in the detail of a single day’s sunrise.

What about you?  What makes you Wonder at His creativity?  What stirs within you amazement?  What brings worship and delight in your heart?  Do that.  Do it today.  Let your entire being be stirred to delight and glorify Him by the Wonder that He gave you in whatever it is.  Be a worshipper today.

Disney on Ice….I did not expect to leave there with a heart captivated in worship.  But when I saw the delight and wonder on their faces, I could not help but wonder and delight in the God that gave them to me.  He reminded me then of how amazing He is and He used Disney on Ice to energize my heart.  

Wow. Wonder.