I was very excited to be given the opportunity to review the new Thomas Nelson NKJV Study Bible Full-Color Edition from the Blythe Daniel Agency, The box containing the Bible was very eye-catching and two of the first things I noticed was the color and print size stated clearly on the box top, both of which are very important to me.
Upon opening the box and seeing the Bible itself, I quickly noticed its rich cranberry color with beautiful artistic design. It could easily be held in one hand comfortably, which is important to me as a women's Bible study teacher. The text is clear and easily readable with a 9-point Comfort Print. This is important to me as my vision has changed over the years making some texts difficult to read.
Each book of the Bible begins with colorful stunning photography and a history of the book including its author, timeline, purpose, and other interesting details. The Bible contains verse-by-verse study notes, notes about cultural history, word studies, timelines, tables, maps, and cross referencing.
I am looking forward to adding this study Bible to my daily Bible reading and study, as well as in preparation to teach. You can check it out for yourself and learn more by watching the video at the link below.
Change. That's what the focus of a new year is all about...change. Some regard change as necessary...something to be desired. Others see change as bad and wish that things could always remain the same regardless if that means that one's life remain stagnant and unfulfilled.
Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves to make changes in our lives, whether those changes be physical, spiritual, or part of our daily routine. All too often we break these promises to ourselves and then struggle with the fact that we feel as though we have failed. Not only do we give up on reaching our goals, but we also tend to stop setting additional goals, excusing ourselves because we see it only as a source of more opportunities to fail.
There are so many goals I set for myself last year that I failed to meet. Rather than give up, I have determined to continue those same goals for this year hoping that I can redeem myself from where I failed in the past year and to celebrate the smallest steps of progress this year.
For me the hardest part in reflecting back on the past year was seeing the ways I broke promises to God. Breaking promises I made to myself are more easily excused than promises that I make to God and fail to follow through with. But every time I start going over the list of ways I have failed Him, He reminds me of the ways that He has supported me and forgiven me. There's one area in particular that I have failed Him in tremendously. For me that is my foothold...my sin area...the place that I let Satan creep into and whisper things to my heart that it should refuse to hear. He has mastered using the voices of others here too, and I listen because their voices carry some measure of weight. This year above all years I must determine to live only for an audience of One. That is hard to do. It means rejecting those other voices. It means measuring everything against the life of Christ rather than the world's measuring sticks.
The weight of such a decision is so heavy and cumbersome, and yet,so freeing. It is so hard to live for Him....I mean to truly try to follow all His commandments and to deny yourself and what you want to do and say in the flesh. There have been so many times this year that I was completely justified by not only the world's standards, but those of the Bible, and yet the Holy Spirit urged me to be still and wait. Even now I have so many finely sharpened arrows tucked safely within my quiver waiting at a moment's notice to come to my defense, and yet the God of the Universe beckons me not to trust in what is within my own strength and resources, but rather to wholly trust in Him to fight my battles.
And so on this first day of 2018, I commit myself to live for an audience of One....to live out the word JOY...and to write. Yes, I said it. I have failed. I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. He reminds me gently and for some reason He lingers and patiently waits for me to draw from His strength...to trust in His call....and to be authentic no matter the cost, for the cost is high, but when I survey the cost He paid for me, it is as nothing.
August 21, 2017, there will be a total solar eclipse visible to a great portion of the United States. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is close enough to the earth that it appears to be as big as the sun, and as the moon passes between the earth and sun it will temporarily block the sun making the earth dark as if it were night. This is a rare occurrence and is being widely discussed and celebrated.
Sadly eclipses of the heart and soul are not as rare. They tend to occur all too frequently. Sometimes trials or problems in our lives appear to be bigger than the Son. Although in our heads we know that He is above all things, we become blinded to the light of the Son. Sometimes life is hard and when trials come that overtake us, they tend to appear much larger than they truly are simply because of how close they are to important things in our lives. The sheer proximity of a trial can block our view of the Son, leaving us in darkness, void of God's light in our lives. We lose our reality knowing that there is nothing He cannot handle, and yet during these eclipses we find that we have lost focus on the Son because all we can see is the trial upon us.
Just as special eyewear is available to safely view the eclipse, we too have been given a lens through which we are to view eclipses of the heart. We are to cover our lives with scripture in order to protect our vision during an eclipse of the heart. If we are equipped to look at trials through the lens of God's Word, then we can maintain our focus on the Son and not find ourselves surrounded by darkness, but be able to find the light of His amazing love.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14-13-14 NIV
Standing still. It seems like such a passive direction, and yet it is anything but passive. In fact it may quite possibly be the hardest thing to do. In 2 Chronicles 20:17, God instructed the Children of Israel as follows, " You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” What an odd battle strategy. To be instructed to go into the battlefield not to fight, but to merely stand still. One would think that it would make more sense to be given a command to take up your weapon, to put on your armor, and yet the command is to stand still. Having read and studied Ephesians 6, I would think that it is assumed that you enter the battlefield fully dressed in the armor of God. I feel that it is an unspoken assumption that any time we are awaiting commands for the battle, that we are already fully dressed in all our armor and that our weapons and shield are in place merely awaiting the call from the Commander of the army. But even in full armor complete with a sword and a shield, these instructions seem out of place.
Standing still. To stand requires the body to work together in order to have all its parts united in the effort to keep it upright and maintaining its balanced weight to hold the position. To stand takes work and is not passive as sitting or lying down would be. There is nothing passive about the command to stand. To be still on a battlefield is everything but passive as well. The normal response to impending battle would be to seek shelter, to hide, to defend oneself with weapons. But the command is to remain still. To simply wait and take no action to protect oneself. Standing still is difficult and goes against what we want in order to make ourselves feel more relaxed and secure.
I had a dream once. I was alone in a large field with only tall grass around me with the exception of a two story barn up ahead. The barn's second floor had a door that was open revealing what appeared to be an empty hayloft. As I walked along taking in the sights of the beautiful grassy field moving in the direction of the barn, I was suddenly hit with an arrow in my left shoulder. Shocked, I reached to pull the arrow loose from where it was lodged and as I did I was hit with another arrow in my chest. More and more arrows seemed to come at me first from the direction of the barn, and then from all directions. I was bloody and in pain and wanted so much to lay down in the grass, hoping that if I did so that the arrows would stop. Suddenly there was an angel standing beside me instructing me to stay standing and to be still. As more and more arrows struck me all over my body, I began to beg the angel to let me lay down. He told me no, that I must stand and I must be still. It seemed like the arrows continued to come more quickly and with more force, and I soon found that I could no longer keep them pulled out as fast as they were hitting me. Most of them stayed in my skin. Blood covered every inch of my body and the pain was almost unbearable. My legs quivered, weak, begging to rest. Finally reinforcements appeared and the angel told me that I could lay down. I was so exhausted, nor from fighting, but from standing still.
Exodus 14:13-14 commands us to not be afraid, to stand firm, and to see what God will do. What will God do? He will fight for us. There are so many verses in the Bible that speak about how God will fight for us, how He will help us, how He will bring us through. It is amazing that God Himself cares about us so much that He tells us just to concentrate on standing and being still, and He will do the rest. In Ephesians 6, when Paul is describing the individual pieces to our spiritual armor, he states in verse 13 to "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." He asks us to be fully clothed in the armor that He provides, to be ready to walk onto the battlefield, and then to stand still and watch our Daddy do the rest. How empowering it is to a girl who isn't a great fighter, who sometimes finds her armor too heavy to wear, much less fight in. What amazing grace to know that your Heavenly Daddy merely wants you to be willing to fight, and He promises that if you show up ready and willing that He will fight for you. It doesn't matter that you are smaller than your opponent, that you don't understand the rules of engagement, or that you aren't a great fighter. It only matters to Him that you show up wearing what He has provided you, and then He smiles, tells you to stand still, and He destroys the enemy for you.
"Good morning, Baby Girl. It's over. I need you to wake up today and soak in the Sonshine. The clouds moved out last night. It's spring, and it's time to stop circling the mountain and move." That was Saturday...almost five months since my last post.
It's been easy to hide here in my shell...hidden in a dark place all by myself. Months of being quiet with only two blog posts and a few glimpses as to what is under the shell here with me. It's been a year since I've been consistent with blogging. It's been a year of trial and tragedy. A year of joy mixed with pain. A year when it was almost too dangerous to even dare let the words flow from my heart to the page. A year when the pain was too close to write about...so much to tell from a heart that was too broken to speak it.
But there comes a time when the story must be told...when the ashes become beauty...when the mourning is met with the oil of joy...when the spirit of heaviness must be exchanged for the garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). He's been patient with me. He has heard each and every time that I told Him that I didn't know how I could bear to lose her...how much I loved her...how much I needed her in my life. I was so careful to praise Him and be grateful for every time He allowed her to stay longer because I knew one day He would say that she had to come Home. I didn't want to let her go. I was selfish and I wanted her to stay here. I wanted to be able to call her every night and listen to her voice. I wanted her to mentor me in the faith...to teach me more about what it means to truly follow Him...to let me sit at her feet and marvel at her love for Him. But she was ready to go Home. She had been ready for a long time, and He was calling her Home.
And I didn't fall apart when she left because I couldn't. My kids needed me and my daddy was sick and we didn't know what was wrong. By the time Mammaw left, Daddy was in a wheelchair a lot of the time if he was out of the house. When around the house he relied on a walker. We didn't have answers until the first of September, and the answers were the worst ones we could have. We spent the next four months watching his body decline with each passing day, and then on Christmas Eve he was invited Home and healed perfectly just in time for Christmas.
There were other things in the middle...things that brought pain...disappointment...anger. By the time I got to January I felt so defeated. I spent a lot of time in Isaiah. I went there to find my favorite verse, Isaiah 41:10, but He invited to hand out there and look around. There in Isaiah I would find other verses for dark days...for days when I felt alone...for days when I had given up on anything to do with a calling...and He met me there in Isaiah. Gently waiting in the lines of individual verses of scripture...slowly...patiently healing me piece by piece. He reminded me that I am inscribed in the palm of His hand and that nothing can ever change that. No loss in spiritual warfare...no struggle with anger...no failure to follow His calling could remove my name from His palm. When it looked like opposition was stacked against me, He reminded me in amazing ways that no weapon can prosper if I am in His will.
Sometimes I felt like the dark would never end. Sometimes it felt like I was drowning in an ocean of pain and I couldn't get loose from the entanglement of the seaweed around me...not that I was trying all that hard really to get loose because it was easier just to give in to it and let it drown me. I tried to tell myself that the water and the fiery trial was just to make me stronger, for I knew that was His way of strengthening me...but this time I wasn't sure that I wanted to be stronger. It felt darker and lonelier than it had before. And there He was reminding me that I was His and that He would be with me when I passed through the waters, and that the fire might be hot, but I would not be burned. Every wave...every flame...He was there.
And here I am in April... a girl so tempted to remain quiet and slowly let people forget what it was I once told them eagerly that I felt called to do. I wanted to just say that I tried and walk away. Most people find it a little hard to believe anyway, and let's face it...what's so different about me? Why would God pick me for anything? I probably just imagined it, right? I mean, what in the world does God need with a 45 year old woman?
Apparently He has something in mind because He sure does wait for me to get myself together for Him. He took me through Isaiah and reminded me that His word does not return to Him void and that He can make it prosper and accomplish whatever He wants...even through me. I don't understand it either...but then He reminds me that His thoughts are not like mine. He is going to do a new thing...and for some reason He wants me to be part of it. That to me is amazing.
So it's time for me to pull myself up, dust myself off, and figure out that it's April. I have stories to share with you...stories of love and hope...stories of daring and trust...stories that go against the odds....stories of loss and heartbreak...stories of joy and redemption. I have pictures that you have never seen that I want to share...dreams that make my heart sing...and brokenness that leaks the warmest of all light.
It's time for a new thing...and I am so excited to see what He has in mind.
November. There is something about you that frightens me...painful memories...sleepless nights...empty chairs at Thanksgiving...birthdays alone. But November, there hidden among the painful shadows are holy sacred places. For no matter how dark November can be...there is light that shines there whose beauty is beyond words. For within the walls of November lies my El Bethel.
My El Bethel, the place where God came, the place where He revealed Himself to me in a way He had never done before...my El Bethel, the God of the House of God, that belongs to November. That place...that holy most reverent of places, hallowed ground, sacred...that place bids me take off my shoes and bow.
The feeling you feel when you are so tired from the spiritual battle that you are in...when you absolutely have nothing else to give...when you are surrounded by darkness seemingly alone, staring Satan in the eye...when you are ready to quit...and then the wind changes and you literally smell the sweetness of His presence...when the only thing you know to do is to lay prostrate in the damp grass and cry because you are no longer alone in the battle for He now stands between you and the enemy.
There is an unparalleled beauty there in that place. Something so life altering that you know that you will never be the same. The place where He changed the very course of your future...where He forced demons to flee. The place where the darkness crawls away and peels back into the shadows leaving a gentle glow in its retreat. The place where the One who controls the winds and the waves reaches out His hand to pick you up off the ground. The place where He encourages you to follow as He continues to hold your tired injured hand within His that is nail-pierced. The place where you sit with Him in the quiet for hours as He hand-picks verses and opens them in the exposed crevices of your heart. There is a beauty that is only born in brokenness...a place where you come face to face with the God of the House of God...El Bethel.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;. She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth,
Hosea 2:14-15a NKJV
It's one of my favorite verses, and yet I know it's not really about my life....or is it? This verse was given to me at the most difficult time in my life. I had spent the entire day pleading with God for an answer....begging Him for direction...and He pointed me to Job and Hosea. I remember crying and asking Him if this was seriously the best He could do for me as I struggled to remember to breathe. I remember reading these two verses and thinking that surely God did not understand what it was that I needed to hear at that moment...but I was wrong. It was exactly what I needed to hear, for it was my personal promise from God.
The verse is really a reference to the time Israel spent wandering in the wilderness. The Valley of Achor is a reference to a place of tragedy for Israel with it being now promised as a door of hope. I didn't see it at first, but God would show me that it was about me...a promise of things to come.
Most people do not spend their days in areas that are wilderness. Most people don't really enjoy darkness. Most people are content to spend their days in sunny areas surrounded by people. For some the wilderness and darkness mean fear because of what you cannot see...the fear of the unknown. But there are things that you only can see in darkness. There are things that you miss in the light of the sun.
There is beauty in darkness that you can never see in the light. For example, stars are always above us, hovering in the canopy of the sky, but they are hidden by the brightness of the sun. Even at twilight most remain hidden. It is only in the darkness that the beauty of a star-filled sky can be enjoyed. The beauty of a star can only be seen against a background of darkness. Without the darkness one would miss the beauty of the stars.
God wanted to reveal Himself to me in the darkness. He wanted me to linger in the wilderness, not to grow accustomed to the darkness, but to better understand the beauty of lights stretched against its canopy. He wanted to meet with me there. He wanted to allure me...to draw me to Himself. He wanted to show me that He is all I need. He wanted to comfort me in my darkness, and show me that He is my light. He wanted me to trust that He could take a valley of pain and make it have purpose...to transform my Valley of Achor into a door of hope.
I've often thought what I would do if God offered to let me go back and never enter the Valley of Achor. What if He let me erase it from my memory...to never have allowed my feet to cross its threshold. My head shouts an enormous "yes", but my heart....my soul...well, they're not so sure. I remember nights that I just laid in the grass in the dark and cried. I remember nights when I bowed in the yard and sometimes lay prostrate on the retaining wall just pleading with God for peace. I remember nights of struggling to take my thoughts captive and fight to cling to Him although the winds of the storm threatened to tear me loose from His grasp. Why would anyone even consider going through that again?
Because there is hope that flows from Achor. There is a comfort and peace hidden in the darkness of the wilderness. There is a beauty in a star-strewn sky that you only see in the darkness of night. Those nights in the fetal position in the grass...those nights prostrate on the retaining wall....those hours of pleading with Him to put your heart back together because you couldn't find all the pieces. Each and every one of those nights in the wilderness....He was there. Each and every cry that went from the darkness...He heard. He stole my heart in the wilderness. He allured me to draw nearer to Him in a way I had never experienced. He spoke comfort to a broken heart. I learned that there is great fruit that comes from the wilderness...fruit that doesn't grow in mountain top vineyards. And the words He speaks in the wilderness...they are more beautiful than any ever spoken, for the comfort and peace that they bring is indescribable And suddenly you find yourself singing there in the valley....in the deepest darkest crevices of the wilderness you learn to sing. The song born in the wilderness cannot be sung by those who live on the tops of mountains, for they do not understand the words. The song born in the wilderness touches your heart in places it would never have been touched had it not been broken. There is beauty in brokenness...Truth in trial....Depth in darkness that you only find in the wilderness and I wouldn't trade my time there for anything....even if it cost everything.
I am so frustrated. Sometimes I look around me and I just want to scream. How does it get this messed up? I know that You are in control of it all, but sometimes it is so hard to believe it.
I am frustrated with a system that doesn't protect the children that it's supposed to protect. I am frustrated with parents who are so selfish that they neglect the children that they brought into this world because they focus only on themselves. I am frustrated with parents who allow drugs, alcohol, and sex to become more important than the little people that they have helped to create.
I am frustrated with people who hurt kids either physically, sexually, or mentally. I am frustrated that these people are given opportunity to harm these kids in irreparable ways and more often than not to get away with it. I am frustrated with a society that doesn't want to address the problem or even discuss it because it's uncomfortable.
I am frustrated with people who ruin other people's lives by the choices that they make. I am frustrated with spouses who selfishly destroy marriages and homes out of nothing less than selfishness. I am frustrated with people who turn to drugs and alcohol and out of desperation for their next fix end up hurting or stealing from others.
I am frustrated with my country and where we have gotten ourselves. I am frustrated that men and women gave their lives for a cause they believed in only for us to become a country that believes in nothing.
I am frustrated with the Church. I am frustrated that we have become distributors of judgment rather than givers of grace. I am frustrated that we spend more time trying to be like other Christians than we do trying to be like Christ. I am frustrated that we have been adopted into a family where grace abounds, and yet we don't want to extend that grace ourselves or make sure others have the opportunity to be adopted as well. I am frustrated that we have been loved with so great a love just as we were and yet we aren't willing to love people who don't look like us, dress like us, believe like us, or live like us. I am frustrated that we have come to view ourselves more holy than the Holy One. For He gave love regardless and yet our love comes draped with stipulations.
But God, there is something that frustrates me more than all these things. I am frustrated with a girl who says she loves You and yet she doesn't do what you've asked her to do. I am frustrated with a girl who You have delivered from the darkest deepest waters, and yet she isn't following her calling. I am frustrated with a girl who has had an incredible opportunity to know You in a way more intimate than most may ever know You, and yet she isn't screaming about Your love from the mountaintops and the valleys. I am frustrated with a girl who knows that You are the most incredibly loving and amazing Father, and yet she finds excuses not to write her blog. I am frustrated with a girl who You've called to do all those things....a girl who said she wanted to be an Esther...a girl who You've asked to do hard things because You wanted to grow her...and yet for all her faith she claims to have, she won't step out and go.
So God, would You help her? Would You allow her to see that maybe if she would do what You've called her to do, then maybe the other things that frustrate her would get better because she was making a difference. Could You keep reminding her that You gave her a story that fits into Your story? A story that You've asked her to share. God, would You please remind her that those other voices that she hears do not matter and that she only needs to listen to that still, small voice and nothing else? Because I know her and she really wants to do what You want her to...it's just that sometimes she is so overwhelmed by the storm that she forgets to listen for that quiet whisper. Please don't give up on her because she's trying so hard to prepare herself to do those things You've given her to dream.
It was Saturday. Yesterday was Friday. Yesterday they had watched Him die. Yesterday they had witnessed the sun refusing to shine and the earth quaking because their Creator had lost His life. They had watched him be tortured and beaten. They had witnessed the crowds mocking Him and them nailing Him to die on a cross. They had been there when He cried that it was finished. They had seen Him be buried. They knew He was gone.
And now it was Saturday...they had woken to hopelessness and fear of the unknown that lay before them. This Man they had followed for three years was now gone. His Father had allowed Him to be crucified and now He was lying in a borrowed tomb. They were afraid for their futures for they did not understand what Sunday would bring. They remembered the horror of Friday. Now they were scattered...fearful for their very lives.
Saturday was a day of darkness and hopelessness. It was a day of fear and not knowing what would follow. The hopelessness they felt on that Saturday had to be heart wrenching and horrible. They had been with Jesus for three years and today He was gone...silent...and they were as sheep without a shepherd.
We spend a lot of our time in Saturdays. We have heard the words of our Lord and we know them to be true, and yet we get hit with Fridays that are dark, hard, and desperate. We watch things in our lives fall apart with no hope of them being repaired. We have Fridays when the last thing we ever expected happens and we find ourselves lost for what to do next. There are days in our lives when the sun seems to hide itself from us and our heart feels as if it is being ripped in two. There are days when God seems painfully silent and we feel that He has turned His back on us.
Saturdays can be a time of waiting. A time when we rehearse the events of the day before trying to find evidence of hope or at least a sense of understanding. Saturdays can be dark and long. Saturdays can leave us looking at Friday without any hope for a Sunday. Saturdays are the days when faith comes in and calms your heart. It's the time when you wait on God not knowing how long the wait will be. Saturday is the period between Friday's heartbreak and Sunday's unspeakable joy.
I've spent a lot of time in Saturdays. I've endured the pain of Friday not knowing how long it would be before Sunday would come. But there's a lesson in Saturday. Jesus Himself had a period of waiting. He didn't go straight from the humiliation and pain of the cross to the glory of His resurrection. For there was Saturday. The day creation would wait for her King to rise. The day when Satan felt he had defeated Christ as He lay there in that tomb. The day when His followers would find themselves engulfed in hopelessness. The day when God was silent as His Son slept. Saturday was necessary as part of the process.
We all have Saturdays in our lives. That time in the middle when we wait for God to take our pain and suffering and turn it into something for His glory. The time when it seems that God is silent or maybe even gone. Sometimes Saturdays last a really long time. Sometimes it seems like a Saturday will never end.
But soon enough Saturday becomes Sunday. Hope comes from despair. Beauty comes from brokenness. Love breaks free and unspeakable joy comes out of the very places where hopelessness once abounded. So if you are in a Saturday, hold on. Don't give up in the waiting. For the hurt on Friday will turn to hope on Sunday. The brokenness of Friday will birth beauty on Sunday. The pain of Friday will give you purpose on Sunday. So hold on through Saturday because Sunday is just around the corner.
I've often thought about her, the woman caught in adultery, brought by her accusers to stand before Jesus for judgment. The Scribes and Pharisees had nothing but malicious intentions. They knew that this woman was guilty of sin punishable by death according to the scripture. They purposefully brought her and placed her in the midst of those who knew her in order to publicly humiliate under the pretense of being servants of God. They brought her to stand guilty before the Perfect One.
I think about her standing there alone in her guilt. She never claimed to be innocent. She knew she had sinned. And here she stood humiliated and alone in front of her peers and her accusers. The fear that must have gripped her soul. Not only did she stand before these in her shame, but she had been brought to stand before the Son of God. Her accusers were quick to point out her wrongdoing. They even pointed out what the law said should happen next. I imagine them smiling as they stood there condemning her to punishment by death. I imagine the people in the crowd whispering about her and her sin. I see her with her tear stained face awaiting certain death.
But Jesus, He just stooped down and began to write in the dirt. I have often wondered what He was writing. Many assume that He was writing the Ten Commandments, but we don't really know. Maybe He was writing the names of those who stood there. Maybe He was listing the sins that many there had committed. Maybe it wasn't what He wrote at all, but the way He conducted Himself, ignoring their attempts to force Him to condemn her. Whatever it was, it made all the difference.
When they wouldn't give up in their pursuit to have her condemned, Jesus stood to His feet and stated that anyone there without sin should cast the first stone, and then He went back to writing in the dirt. I can see them now looking at the ground where His finger was writing in the dirt. I see them slowly one by one being convicted of their own sinful transgressions and walking away knowing themselves to be guilty as well.
And so after they had all gone away, this woman caught in the very act of adultery found herself alone with Jesus. He was the only one who stood without sin...the only one worthy to cast a stone. I see Him standing before her, asking who was remaining to accuse her and she said that they had all gone away. Then Jesus, the one who was worthy to cast judgment looked into her guilty eyes and spoke those beautiful words, "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more."
Here was a woman who stood guilty of committing a sin. The crowd knew she was guilty. What they also knew was that they themselves stood guilty of sin as well, which led them to lay down their stones of judgment and self-righteousness and walk away. Jesus loved her in spite of her sin. She was why He came. He came for sinners. He came to shower us with unconditional redemptive love.
It was late at night when he sat crying at the foot of our bed telling us the news we never expected to hear. Although my heart was breaking and filled with disappointment, all I saw before me was my firstborn...my little blond haired boy...consumed in guilt and shame, feeling undeserving of my love and forgiveness, yet wanting so bad for me to love him enough to forgive...to lay down the stone that I could throw and instead wrap my arms around him in love. And so as he offered to gather his things and leave, it was my chance to forgive as I am so often forgiven.
My son sat at the foot of my bed and told me that his girlfriend was pregnant. I went over it in my head a million times...what could I have done differently? Didn't I teach him right from wrong? Should I have changed churches sooner? Maybe if he had had better Christian mentors? Should I have been more strict? Had he tried to reach out to me and I missed it? But while my head was going through the questions, my heart looked at the tear streaked face of this man who had made me a mom. My heart saw him for who he was...he was still that good kid that I had the honor of raising. He had never been in trouble. He had never drank alcohol, smoked a cigarette, or taken drugs. He never even got a speeding ticket. This man before me was the same kid who stayed with his grandparents when they were sick, who mows his grandmother's yard, who loves little kids and doesn't mind them crawling all over him. And I did the only thing I could do...I took him outside on the porch and we prayed. We prayed for forgiveness and for guidance. We held hands and thanked God for His amazing grace and forgiveness. We prayed for his girlfriend that she would find peace and have a healthy pregnancy. And we prayed for the precious baby that would one day bring us joy.
They have our blessing. our love, and our forgiveness. No, they didn't have to get married, they wanted to get married. It was the plan all along. They have made things right with God and with each other. I am learning to be a mother-in-law and how to love an adult son who is now the spiritual leader of his own household. Her parents are learning how to live with an empty nest while welcoming my son as their own. We are blessed. We are blessed to have two children who chose to be responsible and give life to a precious baby that they could have eliminated without anyone knowing. We are blessed to see two people who love each other make a commitment before God to live for Him and raise their baby in His house. We are blessed to await the arrival of a precious gift from God.
And while you're here, can I just say that I have seen him. I have had the honor to see this beautiful little life that is forming in a quiet hidden place. I have seen his little hand and his fingers. They are so perfect...ready to reach one day and grasp my finger in his little fingers. I have seen his little feet and his little toes, and one day I will kiss those precious little feet and marvel at how wonderfully made he is. I have seen his little heart beating...growing strong for days when he will run and laugh and play. I have seen him...and I have fallen absolutely in love with him. He is not a mistake. He is not an accident. He is a creation of the Creator being fearfully and wonderfully made in a hidden place. His name and form are known by the Most High. His days are all written in God's plan. And yes, God has a plan for this little one. I don't know what it is yet, and I may not live to ever know, but I do know that he is already bringing my heart unspeakable joy.
And so I ask you as you finish reading, to pause a moment and look at the stone you are holding in your hand, for I know how easy it is to rush to grab one. Just look at it before you are tempted to throw it. Take a minute and look at Jesus writing in the dirt. Could He have a message for you there as well? Could He be asking you to lay aside the stone, and instead to take an opportunity to show His grace, mercy, and love to two people who really are no different than you are? Could He be asking you to love them like He loves you? I hope so because I love those two (well, three) with all my heart...and so does God. I am so overwhelmed by His grace and mercy, and I am so thankful that He forgives. His grace really is amazing...and I am grateful for seeing that same grace in the eyes and actions of some of you. May He bless you richly for your love.