Friday, March 29, 2013

This Is Jesus

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.
Matthew 27:37

His crime: Being King.

The sign was more of a mockery than a declaration.

There he hung. To the crowds who called for His crucifixion, He was an imposter. Yet the Messiah they had waited for and anticipated was right before them ... and they missed it. Jesus. The Savior. King of the Jews. Long-awaited Messiah. They missed Him.

The charge against Him was the very reason He came.

And just as Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say I am?" (Mark 8:29), He's asking each of us.

Who do I say He is?

Who do you say He is?

Is He the Christ? Is He your Savior? He is Lord of your life?

Maybe to you He's an imposter. Maybe you think He's a fraud. Whether or not you've made His life and death personal to you, I can assure you, it is personal to Him.

This is Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Then being in very nature of our depraved and fallen flesh, He took my sins, your sins, upon Himself and gave His life as a ransom for my life, for yours.

This is Jesus. King of kings. Messiah. Lord of lords and Lord of my life.

The man who died for my sins. The man who died to save the world.

The one who hung on the cross. The one who bore my shame.

He committed no crime, yet He took my place and paid the price.

This is Jesus.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

I just deleted 2,017 emails out of my Inbox. I cleared another 8 folders with hundreds more archived emails. It feels good to get rid of the old/unused/no-longer-needed notes and messages I've kept over the years. It was also nostalgic to glance through a few and see how things have changed.

For the past 12 years I've come to the campus of Liberty University as my place of employment. In some capacity, I've occupied an office and a title, interacting with faculty and students, and making my very small mark on an ever-expanding campus that has its own global impact.

I've been here long enough to see former students become colleagues. Around every corner, I can look at various offices, classrooms and buildings and recall involvement in the planning, even the decorating. Now I'm packing up yet another office, only this time I'm not moving across campus. I put 8 yearbooks in a box. Six of which boast national awards. The last one given the highest honor in the country. I'm proud of these accomplishments, but even more proud of the students who are now teaching their own students. That is truly the greatest of accomplishments.

Now it's time to say goodbye. Goodbye to this campus that will no longer house my office or be my place of employment. But it's also time to say hello. Hello to the new opportunity and the new world of business that awaits me.

With each ending comes a new beginning. I've learned that lesson well. And this new venture will undoubtedly be no different.

I'm thankful to Liberty, this campus, the vision of Dr. Falwell, and the opportunities and relationships I've enjoyed here. I'd be lying if I didn't say it was bittersweet. I've invested too much time, talent and energy into this campus to not feel a special connection. Yet even as I left the previous office I'd built and grown, and the position that afforded me so much of my own personal and professional growth, I've only ever looked back to recall the stones that mark the altars where I've seen God's faithful hand. Now I enter into this new opportunity eyes-wide-open, knowing full well He's orchestrated this as part of the plan. And so another altar is constructed. Another testament of His provision. Another reminder of His grace.

With joy and anticipation for the road ahead, I say hello.

And with gratitude and reflection for the road I've already traveled, I say goodbye.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Just as Jesus Said

"They left and found things just as Jesus had told them." Luke 22:13

The disciples were to prepare the Last Supper. But they didn't know how. They didn't know where. They didn't know with what means to do anything Jesus had asked. So He told them. And when they arrived, it was exactly as He had said. So they did as He said. He had provided the instructions and even the means by which they would fulfill His command. All they had to do was trust what He said and go and do it.

This story has hit me profoundly today. Just as Jesus said. Just as He told them. It had come true. It was prophecy fulfilled. Promises revealed. Faith in action. Truth in His words. Just as He said.

How often have I heard His word, yet when it happens I somehow end up in disbelief?

Moreover how often am I waiting for His instruction and feel as though He's just not speaking?

If I would but listen, wait and trust, would He not tell me? If I would believe in faith would It not be just as He said?

I wouldn't need to be shocked at the fact that His word has come true, or that His promises revealed will be fulfilled.

When I'm sitting in the waiting room and not sure of the next step, He only asks me to trust that He is who He says He is. And He can do what He says He can do.

When I can't make sense of things, I need to remember He already has a plan. He will choose how and when and even how much He reveals to me. My response is to trust that whatever He trusts me with, He will provide a way, the means, the preparations. And when I arrive, it will be exactly as He said.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Greater Yes

I'd been hanging out in the hallway, living in transition, waiting for my next step. And then I started to see God move. On the left side, then the right. Around every turn, it has seemed He was flinging open the doors. WIDE open. The truth is, it's been somewhat mind blowing, and happening so quickly that I've barely caught my breath from the whirlwind. It has seemed the storehouse has been opened and all I could do is stand back and let Him move.

Make no mistake; prayers have been offered up, regular and repeated requests and petitions, and very specifically He has answered. And up until this point, His answers have been in the affirmative.

Until now.

It's problematic to me that as a Christian I fall prey to the belief that God simply can't keep blessing. Surely He doesn't just answer yes and give me everything I've asked for. Right?! But why am I led down a path of thinking that God is somehow disappointing me or not rewarding me? Maybe I go as far as being tricked into thinking I'm being punished. He wouldn't do that...not when I'm believing in faith...would He?!

There's a truth I'm learning. I'm sure I've had to repeat this lesson numerous times. But God is consistently reminding me that my plan isn't always His. Don't I already know His plan is always better? Don't I trust He has my best interest at heart? Don't I believe He has a hope and future, one I may not yet even be privy to? Still, I find my weakened flesh crying out, "Lord, help my unbelief!"

It's not that I don't trust God. It's that when He says "no" or closes a door, I go through a myriad of emotions. With confusion I wonder what His plan is. With disappointment I realize I have set my expectation on something other than Him.With frustration I sometimes get angry that I'm left in the dark and trying to figure out my next step again. Especially when I thought I had already been given the map and the go ahead.

Despite those emotions, when God says "no" there is a greater yes yet to come. I've written about it before, a song literally called "Greater Yes." But it tells how we've never prayed a prayer our Father hasn't answered. While we're waiting and believing for what WE thought was best, we must trust God when He says no. We are still blessed. There must be a greater yes.

This "no" brings the emotions, even pain, but it also carries a test of faith. And without faith it impossible to please God. And without Christ it is impossible to get to God. So this "no" brings me to my knees. It brings me to the feet of my Lord. Even though I still have much to be grateful for, I must also admit my confusion and my own hurt. So I tell Him. And He tells me, "Trust me. This 'no' that I've given is just an indication of the greater yes I have yet to reveal to you."

No. I can't expect Him to always answer the way I want. But He will answer. And when that answer is "no"my response must be in faith to wait for His greater yes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Second Stories

We enjoyed spring teasing us with 70 degrees on Saturday...only to be followed by two days of cold rain. One very disappointed little boy said sadly from the backseat, "It's pouwing down wain again...I'm never gonna get to pway outside." So it was off to Kid's Cove to cure the rainy-day-blues.

I can understand the confusion - there's a giant Whale AND an Ark - but E kept referring to it as "Jonah's Ark." I questioned him at home to make sure he knew the two different stories. "Yes, but mom...this is a second story I made up called Jonah's Ark." Okay. At least I knew he knew the difference.

A second story. A second chance. A God whose loving kindness is better than life itself. A gift of grace, mercy and redemption to never leave us or be finished with us. It caused me to look deeper into Jonah's story.

From inside the fish, having disobeyed God and now sitting in the pit of consequences he'd found himself in, Jonah cries out:

In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave

I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
Jonah 2:1-2

I've been in the depths of that pit, sometimes one I've dug for myself. I've been in distress. I know the reality of being face-to-face with the depravity of your situation and knowing ONLY GOD can get you out of it. And what does God do?

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time... Jonah 3:1

God listened. He heard his cry. He answered even when Jonah thought his life was done. God redeemed Jonah's life. God gave him a second chance.

It's a chance at a second story.  It's a new opportunity to do what God has called you to do. It's a beginning with new perspective having been rescued from the belly of uncertainty. It's the redemption story of God, in His perfect loving kindness, looking upon us with undeserved mercy and - inspite of ourselves and despite what we've done - coming to us a second time.

New beginnings. Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy. Redemption. I'm thankful God has never left me in the pits or bellies I've landed myself in. I'm so thankful for second stories.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Old Pants

It was a typical morning. I was trying to get clothes for me and E, finish getting us both ready, pack lunches...and eventually head out the door.

"Mom, look what I made." I was distracted by his world of make believe. Without looking, I grabbed a pair of brown pants off their hanger.

I attempted to zip up my dress pants only to be stopped in my tracks when I realized that simply wasn't happening.

"What in the world..." I was asking myself as I grasped tightly to the hook-and-eyes and made an effort to close them. Realizing there was no hope of that happening either, I started to panic.

It was a tug on this side, a pull on that one, and I was now sucking in my stomach and holding my breath. Nothing. It was now apparent there was absolutely NO WAY these pants were going to be zipped and fastened...and I was about to have a meltdown.

I could feel myself getting hot, wondering how on earth I had gained that much weight.

Let's just say that at 34 years old and 12 years removed from college, I've finally gained my "freshman 15." I affectionately call it my "happy fat." :) And no, I'm not complaining at all. But when it came time to get dressed and clearly these pants were NOT fitting, I admit to being stressed.

I had a problem. A BIG problem. Frustrated and flustered, I pulled at the much-too-small pants and looked down at the tag. "Ohhhhhhhhhhh! Thank goodness!" I exclaimed. "I was about to be worried!"

E was now aware of my world. "What's wrong mommy? Why are you worried?"

"Oh I'm not worried, E. I'm relieved! Mommy grabbed the wrong pants!" I explained.

A quick glance at the tag informed me that I had not gotten bigger but I had grabbed pants 2 sizes smaller than what I currently wear.

Try as I might, I was NOT going to fit into those pants. Those pants were from more than a year ago. They were -15 pounds ago. They were, in fact, MY pants - but they fit a slightly lighter version of myself. Those pants don't fit me anymore.

Growth can be good. The problem remains when you leave the reminders of the past mixed in with the present. Sometimes it means you reach for the wrong thing. You get confused. You are reminded of a time in the past, an older version of yourself, that you only somewhat resemble. The truth is, you can try it on for size, but it just won't fit.

Try as you might, you can't relive the past. You can't change it. While it has shaped you into who you presently are, it remains something that must be shelved and put away. The past, like my old pants, can provide reminders that help us continue to grow, but we should never try to wear that which we've outgrown.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires... Ephesians 4:22

Paying close attention, I grabbed the right pair of brown pants, checked the tag to be sure, and much to my delight, they fit perfectly! I tossed the old pants aside, adding to a growing donation pile. No more confusion. No more mix-ups. I don't need old pants hanging in the closet to be confused with the present.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In Season

We woke to a beautiful snowfall covering everything. I usually think of March as the onset of spring - especially since the early Easter date this year has the stores in full bloom expecting spring soon. But the snow was a reminder winter still holds its place on the calendar. It was a wonderful day enjoying cuddle time inside - E finally got his long-awaited "jammie day" - and some playtime outside.

I was dragging him in the sled around the yard and getting ready to send him off down the hill again when I noticed the most pecurliar sight. Beneath the snow and slush, the tips of yellow and white daffodils were peeking through.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

It was a beautiful image of winter not yet having its fill, with spring just waiting in anticipation for its moment to bloom. I was captivated by the thought. Even in the "in between" there is a season for everything.

With winter reminding spring, "Not just yet..." I'm reminded of how often I try to bloom before its my time. I've got to learn to be "in season" - present in the time and circumstance God has planted me. Not "in between." There is waiting on Him; to prepare the ground and the elements around me so that in the proper time I can bloom. But wherever He has me is right where He wants me - for that time and place, in that season. In the season He has me in, I am in season.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March Madness

Good morning, March! I greet you today with joy. It's a new day, a new month, new opportunities on the horizon, new beginnings that await. It's going to be a VERY busy month. Not like February was much different. But here we go...

As I reflect on another February come and gone, another birthday celebrated and lots of memories made, I'm reminded how God's plan is not always my plan. I started the month knowing I would be packing and moving. I spent the first week doing just that. Then packing and moving some more - only in the middle of the move, my plan changed. "Okay, God. What's plan B? I'm going to have to let You figure this one out."

He never left me hanging. Although I admit what has followed has been a swarm of chaos, I am holding fast to His steady grip that has never let go of me.

With that behind me, and new opportunities ahead, I'm staring March down with intensity, looking at the calendar and thinking I can't possibly squeeze anything else in. I'm excited that at the end of this month we'll be celebrating Easter and that means more to me than anything.

It was March 31, 1984, when I was just five years old and I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior. This year on Easter Sunday I will celebrate a risen Savior while I also celebrate my 29th birthday - literally - of being born again into His family. (Don't worry - this is nothing like the FebruCarrie birthday celebration. But it is reason for me to celebrate the most amazing gift I've ever received.)

I don't exactly remember what words I said as a 5 year old little girl kneeled beside the bed, but I knew I needed to ask forgiveness of my sins. I knew I needed Jesus to save me. I knew I wanted to be assured that I'd be in heaven with Him when I died. And so I prayed.

I wish I could say the past 29 years have been a perpetual journey of holding fast to the straight and narrow. At times I've drudged through the valleys, while other times I've celebrated on the mountain tops. And all the while, He's never let go of me. Continually held in the grip of His grace, even when my own grip loosened.

Easter is not about baskets and bunnies. It's not about jelly beans or speckled robin eggs or even chocolate (although I can't deny my love of Cadbury eggs). It's about the death of the Word became Flesh who lived a perfect life then took upon the sins of the world - even knowing every time I would fail Him. It's about the One who willingly paid the price with His life so He could one day redeem mine. Easter is about the grave that held Him and the victory that came when death was defeated. No longer would I be sentenced to condemnation but instead my filthy-rags would be replaced with His righteousness.

To some, it's madness. To me, it's life. Eternal life.