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Good Friday is not the end

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He didn’t defend himself.

He didn’t try to justify his cause or prove his innocence.

He stood there…silent…like a lamb to the slaughter.

When offered the opportunity to speak into the situation and right the wrongs…clarify his position…he chose to stand in quiet strength.

Pilate, so arrogant in his authoritative role…his title…believed that he held the power of life and death in his hands:

“When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’” John 19:8-10

Jesus’ response spoke of who had, and continues to have, the true authority:

“Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.’” John 19:11

Think about that.

Facing his accusers…standing before one who held human power and authority, Jesus did not surrender his identity. He stood firm in his position and made it clear that the only power Pilate had was given to him by God, and at any moment God could take it away. This statement solidified God’s control overall.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”  Isaiah 53:7

By whose authority do you stand?

In what situation do you find yourself in that demands a statement…some sort of justification or defense?

Have you been accused?

Are you shackled with a heavy and unjust weight?

Are your circumstances beyond what you can bear? Are you weary, worn, pushed to your limit?

In whose hands are you resting?

Who holds the power over life (freedom) and death (captivity) in your situation?

When Jesus responded by saying, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above”, it wasn’t just a statement directed to Pilate regarding this particular moment in time. It was a declaration that nothing – not one single thing – that happens in this life has power outside of God’s authority.

What this tells me is that whatever circumstances we find ourselves in that cause our hearts to faint and our souls to cry for help, we can stand in assurance and confidence that God stands with us and for us and has the final say.

No earthly vessel has power over us…God’s power determines time, the duration, and the outcome. No sickness, no false accusation, no affliction or loss is outside of God’s sovereignty. He reigns over everything.

He is King over sickness.

He is Lord over every false accusation.

He is Mighty over each sting of affliction and devastating loss.

The silence of Christ…his weary body beaten in humility…seemed to declare nothing of victory…nothing of Lordship.

When it seemed that darkness had won…that death had conquered…Christ’s humble response declaring God’s power and authority was, and remains, the hope that we cling to.

Good Friday was not the end.

Christ standing before Pilate…the angry crowds crying out for his death…the beating and the insults…the cross…his death.

It was not the end.

This is not the end.

Your unimaginable situation…the heaviness you bear…is not the end.

While the world may appear to hold the power of life and death over you…

Remember…it is merely borrowed power.

Good Friday is not the end.

“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Isaiah 53:11,12

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bruised for us

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It is Holy Week.

I woke up this morning feeling heavy…weighted down.

A sorrow and grief that has been nagging at me seemed to surface in my heart before I even got out of bed.

I felt like God was so far away.

“Where are you, God?”

Have you felt that way before? Have you ever found yourself wondering and wandering in God’s silence?

The rain, pouring down heavy on our roof and drenching every nook and cranny of our city, seemed to echo the heaviness in my heart this morning.

For some odd reason, it seems to make me more attune to the solemnity of this Holy Week.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…

Jesus…the weight of the cross…the splintering edge of the wood as it rested on his flesh…bore my grief…carried my sorrows.

He was bruised – crushed – for our iniquities.

I am trying to fathom the depth of such love. All my wrongdoings…my sins…the intentional and unintentional times I fail…for all of those, he was bruised.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.

Isaiah 53:10

It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.

It pleased the Lord.

God did not spare his son.

He was not pleased to see his son suffer, but he was pleased knowing that, through Christ’s sacrifice, the world would know salvation and reconciliation with God.

What strikes me so profoundly is that the weariness I am feeling today…the weightiness of this grief…was carried by Christ as he walked to his death.

The sorrows that I feel…that we feel…were on his mind in every step and every harsh beating that he took.

And Jesus knows, and is acquainted with, the silence of God.

In the heaviness, there is comfort.

In the weariness, there is strength.

In the uncertainty and disappointment, there is hope.

In the grief, there is peace.

He knows our sorrows…he has already carried them.

He knows our pain…he has already felt it.

He knows right where we are…what we are facing…the challenges that are in our hands and the ones coming…he has gone before us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Holy Week.

As I walk through this week…still keenly aware of the weariness of my heart…I walk in Christ’s comfort.

You, as well, may walk in the comfort of the One who was bruised for the very heartache you are feeling right now.

There is no suffering that Christ cannot console.

He has felt every wound and the sting of every pain…every disappointment and every hard and heavy step.

This week leads us to the greatest moment the world has ever known…the hope we have…the reason for our very being.

Redemption…salvation…hope and renewal.

Holy Week reminds us to keep our eyes looking upward…to keep our hearts turned towards him…the One who was bruised for us.

we will not fear

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“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalms 46:1-3

Trouble comes.

It is inevitable.

On this earth, through these earthly vessels, trouble will enter into our lives.

So much so that we can feel the mountains quake and hear the oceans roar.

Be we do not fear.

The Psalmist says, “we will not fear”.

He doesn’t say, “we don’t need to fear,” or “do not fear”, or “stop fearing”.

He says, “we will not fear”.

When the earth gives way…when our world is shaken to its core and our hearts tremble as the ocean surges…we do not fear.

Because God is our refuge and strength.

We hide in his shadow.

He sustains us and strengthens us.

We are not abandoned to fear and dismay and discouragement and hostility.

We are on solid ground.

He is our ever-present (constant and ongoing) help in times of trouble.

There is no question and no doubt in God’s presence and his strength.

Surrounded by trouble, we are secure.

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalms 46:11

What great assurance!

What peace of mind!

God is with us…he is our fortress.

Trouble will come, but we will not fear.

Christmas hath a darkness

Brighter than the blazing noon,

Christmas hath a chillness

Warmer than the heat of June,

Christmas hath a beauty

Lovelier than the world can show:

For Christmas bringeth Jesus,

Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,

Birds that sing and bells that ring;

Heaven hath answering music

For all angels soon to sing:

Earth, put on your whitest

Bridal robe of spotless snow:

For Christmas bringeth Jesus

Brought for us so low.

- Christina Rossetti

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The paradox of Christmas.

They were looking for a king in regal attire…riding on a horse, wielding a sword and rescuing the world from political bondage.

But the Messiah came in humility…brought low…poor and simple…to rescue the world from spiritual bondage.

They wanted power.

He offered redemption.

They wanted a Messiah created in their image.

They couldn’t see the very image of God standing right in front of them.

Concerned with tradition and appearance, they missed the moment that peace entered in.

Hope for salvation invaded our world…brought down low for you and me.

In a simple manger…born to simple means…humble and unrecognizable…

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not receognize him.” John 1:9, 10

I don’t want to miss it.

The peace of reconciliation with God…the joy of his presence…the hope of the world…a love willing to sacrifice…

May we never miss it.

May our hearts remain in focused anticipation…not deterred by silly doctrines or fantasies.

May we live in an ongoing state of expectation.

He is coming.

Saviour of the world.

Hope for mankind.

Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God.

Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace.

The Lord Our Righteousness.

God with us.

The coming of Christ…the arrival and celebration…and the hopeful anticipation of his second coming.

True joy…

I am grateful for the One who was brought down low, who brought salvation into the world…who rescues…saves…sets the broken free…who loves and dwells with mankind.

Our hope.

Our Immanuel.

Merry Christmas!

adore Him – advent 2021

Six years ago, today, Jasper was born.

Six years ago, and I remember it so well.

I remember the very moment the doctor laid him on my chest, fresh and new, warm and soft. I remember looking at him, observing him, unable to take my eyes off of his perfect little face, his thick matte of black hair, and his hands clenched in tiny determined fists. I felt immense adoration for this new person that God had blessed our family with. I was in love.

I’ve been challenged over the course of these past several weeks of Advent to consider what, or whom, I adore. What thing, or what person, holds my heart? Or better yet, what thing or person, is king of my heart? Who do I adore…who do I worship?

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This is week four of Advent…come, let us adore him.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

When the Magi came to King Herod and inquired about “the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2), Herod was “disturbed”.

King Herod’s actions after his initial disturbance were truly horrific. He ordered that all boys who were two years old or younger in Bethlehem and its vicinity be put to death. His fierce anger and jealousy wreaked devastation and destruction on the lives of innocent families and communities.

I am not a fan of King Herod. I imagine you are not, either. He is the villain in the Christmas story.

And yet, I wonder how often I behave just like him. I don’t throw out murderous plots or meet out acts of revenge, but I do struggle to relinquish the throne over my life.

“Where is the true King?” That question is the most disturbing question possible to a human heart, since we want at all costs to remain on the throne of our own lives. – Hidden Christmas, by Timothy Keller

This question has troubled me. As a child, I often pictured myself as Mary in the grand drama of the Christmas story, but when I stop and try to answer this question, “Where is the King?” I realize that, more often than not, I am Herod.

I struggle to give God everything.

I struggle to adore him without reservation.

There is always that little something that keeps me from fully surrendering.

It is a battle.

Yet, to truly adore God is to let go of the throne of my life.

And this is a daily act of surrender.

“O come let us adore him.”

To adore him is to be fully devoted to him.

Even now, when I look at Jasper, there is a love – inexplicable – that fills every nook and cranny of my heart. I adore that little boy of mine.

But there is a King who does not beg, demand or force my affections and adoration. He doesn’t push his way onto the throne of my life. He simply waits.

To forfeit my throne to this King only give my heart a greater capacity to love…to forgive…to pour out freely…to worship and adore the true King.

He is the King – The Lord Our Righteousness – who holds my heart in the palm of his hands.

He is the King – Emmanuel, God with us – who abides with me in every circumstance.

He is the King – Christ the Lord – who reigns over my life with wisdom and peace.

And I adore Him.

“For He alone is worthy,

For He alone is worthy,

For He alone is worthy,

Christ, the Lord.”

I’m sitting here at my desk, looking out of the window in front of me. I see palm trees swaying under the heat of the African sun, and the afternoon breeze comes dancing in and out…in and out.

There is no snow…no fires burning in the fireplace…no mittens or hats, puffy coats or boots.

The scene outside my window looks nothing like my American traditional Christmases.

In South Africa, Christmas comes in the summertime…and, while this is our third Christmas in Africa, I find that the rhythms of both my mental and body clocks have not yet completely learned to walk in sync with the world I live in. It is coming…but slowly.

And so, I light my Christmas-y scented candle, turn on the tree lights, play some Christmas music, and open up my Bible. I turn to the familiar Christmas story.

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Can you feel it yet? Is the anticipation of Christmas growing inside of you? As you consider the magnitude of the Christmas story, are you finding peace in the preparation? Has Christ’s coming, his Advent, sparked a new kind of expectation?

This is week three of Advent…and I am walking in the joy of this season…not-so-much the decorations and seasonal accoutrements that are often the centerpieces of my attention…but in the joy of who Jesus is…and the peace he brings…

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations, rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With th’ angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King

- Felix Mendelssohn -

Angels filled the sky.

Imagine that sight.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14

A declaration of great news…a heart-stopping announcement…a moment of awe.

And the shepherds hurried to see this great thing that had happened.

The Messiah had come.

The promise of peace had come.

But not the kind of peace that was expected or fully appreciated at the time.

This was peace and reconciliation between God and man.

This was monumental.

Bigger and more meaningful than “world peace” and everybody holding hands, playing nice on the playground of life.

Jesus had come to reconcile the world to God…truly joyful…hopeful…glorious.

Take a moment to let it all sink in…angels in the sky…peace on earth…a baby…fresh and new…the embodiment of hope…the answer to every prayer…joy to the world!

“Joyful all ye nations rise!”

This peace that had come…this peace that would rest upon those whose hearts were open…had come.

Joy is defined as “a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.”

Christ’s birth is joy personified. He is the definition of joy, and his coming is the ongoing source of our joy…our peace.

In the midst of pain and suffering…his joy sustains us.

In times of uncertainty and confusion…his joy gives clarity of focus.

As the world collapses, and we struggle to see the next step forward…his joy is the spark of light and hope that will lead and guide us through.

The significance of his arrival…the proclamation of the angels…brings me great joy.

Regardless of where I am, his joy is right here with me. In the snow or the southern hemisphere heat, Jesus is here. God with us.

He is the Good News.

He is the Reason for Hope.

He is the Messiah.

He is the Joy.

One late fall afternoon, when I was seven years old, my parents and I went to a craft fair held at a local church. Walking through the large church gymnasium, filled with vendors and booths and all manner of crafting, my eye caught a playpen filled with handmade dolls. I made my way, in haste, to check out this amazing display, and my heart instantly fell in love. There was a life-size baby boy with curly brown hair, wearing a red gingham shirt and denim shorts, made out of the softest fabric my hands had ever felt. I picked him up and cradled him in my arms. I wanted this baby so much. I believed that I was meant to be his “mama”.

I know this sounds incredibly melodramatic, but in my imaginary world, baby dolls were very real to me, and apparently, the “call to motherhood” came early.

I begged my parents for this doll. I had even named him because I knew he was meant for me. My mom and dad gave me the response that I had grown accustomed to whenever I asked for a toy, “Maybe for Christmas”.

Christmas was coming soon, so I set my heart on it.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, I prepared myself for the arrival of “Baby Frankie” (yes, that was the name I chose…Frankie.) I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning.

I waited, and I prepared.

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This is week two of Advent, and I am reflecting on the preparation of my heart during this time of waiting…

Christ’s birth was foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Is. 9:6, 7

He was to be a light in the darkness.

Four hundred years of silence and darkness preceded the arrival of the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Is. 9:2

It was a dismal time. Hope was waning. A few were hanging on…waiting in expectation. But many had forgotten…swept up in the darkness…living in the land of the shadow of death.

And then…Jesus came.

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:9

The light of the world had come…shining brightly into the darkness.

And still…the world struggled to see it…to embrace it…to follow it.

It is so easy for us to become entrenched in the darkness and gloom of this world. We can’t escape the news headlines or the realities of this broken world we live in. It is so easy to forget that the Light came, and there IS still light in this world. God has not abandoned us. We are still living in the Advent…Christ’s light has not flickered out, and neither is the hope and the promise of his second coming. The darkness around us will never understand or accept the Light, but those of us who have embraced Christ have a hope and a promise worth waiting for, with great expectancy. He is coming. The Scripture never lies.

So, while we wait…we prepare.

We prepare our hearts.

We abide in God’s Word, and we walk in His truth.

We live out our faith…we live with hope.

We walk with joyful expectation.

We set our focus on the eternal…we fix our eyes on Jesus.

The darkness may be all around us, but it cannot overtake us.

Christ’s light shines through our lives into the darkest places of this worn and weary world…his hope and his message…his peace and his character are reflected in our faces, our actions, and our words.

We wait and prepare.

Just as I prepared my room and my life for the arrival of a handmade doll, so we prepare our homes (families), our attitudes, our spheres of influence, for the light that has come and will come again.

Christmas morning finally came, and Baby Frankie was sitting under the tree. It took my breath away. I had hoped and prepared, waited and anticipated this moment for what felt like an eternity, and there he was. Perfect in every way.

Forty years later, I still feel joy awaken within me as I look towards Christmas.

The Light of the world has come…the Light of the world is coming again…there is so much to celebrate.

Jesus…prepare my heart…in the waiting…let your light shine.

“Let every heart prepare him room.” – Issac Watts, Joy To The World

The door is on the latch tonight,

The hearth-fire is aglow,

I seem to hear soft passing feet –

The Christchild in the snow.

My heart is open wide tonight

For stranger, kith or kin;

I would not bar a single door

Where love might enter in.

- Author Unknown -

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This is week one of Advent…I cannot even begin to express the anticipation my heart feels…hope is tangible…I can touch it and feel it. My heart is wide open…Jesus come…

We wait with great expectancy.

We hope for what has been promised.

We anticipate the coming…the new…the joy and peace that will accompany.

We are watching the world collapse upon itself and we wonder…in the waiting.

But…I just can’t seem to set this hopeful feeling aside.

I can’t shake the expectancy.

In the middle of the dark…I know Light is coming.

A peace that will transcend all fear and worry and understanding.

We cling to hope.

We trust in the promise.

God always keeps his promises.

Even on those days when I feel so disturbed and grief weighs heavy.

I remember.

I reflect.

And I hope.

With great anticipation.

Undeterred expectancy.

The coming of Jesus.

The Saviour of the world.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2


inevitable grace

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“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

In times of refining and breaking and walking through the fire, God is gracious.

Hard to see in the middle of the crucible, but his presence never leaves us…his character never fails.

God’s grace is inevitable regardless of our situation. Regardless of how deep the pain goes or how hard the path unfolds.

His peace passes understanding when we find ourselves standing sure footed as the waves come crashing down around us. We shouldn’t be standing, and yet, here we are. There is nothing to fear. He is near.

There are seasons when we are poured out. Empty from prayer and intense waiting upon God.

His grace is abundant.

It shows up when we are making our beds, cooking our meals, carrying on conversations, holding our children and walking with loved ones. It shows up in our most ordinary tasks.

When we think we’ve gone and messed everything up…this is it…the end…no more grace left to be had…

Inevitably, God’s grace is still there. Holding us together.

God’s grace surrounds us. Keeps us. Sustains us.

It is the force that compels us to keep getting back up and keep trying over and over again.

It doesn’t demand perfection. It can handle the mistakes and the failures. It tells us that we don’t have to be afraid to take that next step.

God’s grace is unavoidable…we can count on it…it is a characteristic of God, it cannot change. It is inevitable because God is unchanging. He is gracious to us, because that is who he is.

I am grateful for this all-sufficient grace.

It is with us in the lions’ den…

In the heat of battle…

In the eye of a storm…

In those seasons of drought…

In those hard-to-share stories…

God’s grace stands…holds us tight…and will never let us go.

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1


Transitions are…

Hard.

The in-between…the not 100% here, the not there yet, the balancing of the chaos and the uncertainty of where we are currently…is hard.

It sometimes feels like transition will last forever.

But thankfully, it doesn’t.

It is a stepping-stone, uncomfortable as it is.

It is part of life…cycles…seasons.

Life cycles.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.

There is a natural rhythm – an ebb and flow – that carries us from one season of our lives to the next.

Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Old seasons give way to new seasons, and the cycle continues.

Nothing stays the same forever.

Our human bodies are constantly changing and evolving through the years. I don’t look exactly the same as I did thirty years ago, or even ten years ago. I am aging. I am growing, shifting, maturing and cycling towards the next season of my life.

Our bodies operate in cycles.

Creation operates in life cycles.

Our families have life cycles.

Churches have life cycles.

Ministries have life cycles.

Careers have life cycles.

Moving from one stage to the next.

Some things have to die out, or transition, in order for growth and maturity to come.

Something always needs to die in order for something new to blossom.

Letting go.

This is part of life cycles.

This is part of healthy transition.

It is probably one of the most difficult things to do.

Whether we are letting go of someone we love or letting go of a season of life we have cherished. Eventually, we must let go.

The letting go is dreadfully painful.

The heart aches.

The transition creates chaos and we don’t like that either.

We sometimes would rather hold on to what was in order to avoid what could be because we just can’t handle the in-between.

But

We have to let go.

And we have to live in the tension of the in-between if we are going to experience the beauty of what comes next.

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season – a time – for everything.

Everything.

The good, the bad, the hard, the painful, the joyful and the difficult to understand.

Mourning and sadness, joy and dancing. Life and death, planting and reaping.

We can’t escape one in order to live in another.

We have to embrace them all.

If we want to experience the full seasons, we have to walk through the barren ones.

But here’s the hope…the good news…the feel-good part of this grand story…

From beginning to the middle and all the way to the end…through it all…there is Jesus.

He orchestrates events and holds our very lives in the palms of his hands.

The goodbyes, the sudden changes, the hard-to-let-go-of moments we dread do not catch our God by surprise.

When the shaking up of transition feels too much, when we see the end of a season coming and we are grieving its loss…Jesus is there.

And you want to know something?

It’s okay to feel heavy.

It’s okay to feel weary.

It’s okay to cry and grieve.

It’s okay to stop and take a deep breath and maybe just sit in the in-between for a little while.

I’m learning to just let these cycles run their course.

I’m challenged to allow God’s master plan to unfold without my meddling.

I’m taking lots of breaks and breathing slowly as ministry, our family, the status quo of our lives are changing and evolving even as I write this note.

Transition is…

Well…it’s just plain hard.

But the beauty that is coming is truly something special.

The letting go is heavy.

But the hope of eternity and the anticipation of what is to come is comforting.

“There is a time for everything.”

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