Thursday, August 20, 2015

How can it be?

If you’re a real-life friend of mine, you know that 14 days ago, my brothers and I found my dad, who’d been convinced he could sleep off his sickness the night before, was no longer alive. Since that horrific moment, what feels like 10 foot waves crash over me; waves of despair, disbelief, and unanswered questions. I steady myself a bit with comforting truth and joyous memories before another wave crushes me. Such is grief, I suppose. I’m new here.

While I’m waking up haunted by my wonderings of his last hours, one thing, I know for sure: he left this world and woke up to heaven. I knew it the moment I leaned, aghast, over his body in the funeral home. He wasn’t there. It was his body, yes, but he was absent from his body. 
Oh God! It stings even to write those words now.
Standing there, someone asked me if he was in heaven. 
Yes. Unequivocally, yes.
Because I believe what the Bible says is true, this I have as an anchor in a treacherous storm.

The temptation to believe he earned God’s favor through his devotion and godly living did not beset my dad. He trusted in God’s grace as a free gift, unearned.
“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
He famously claimed that God knew his heart. He relied on the work of Christ’s shed blood on the cross to make his heart pure before God.
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Romans 3:22)
When we emptied his apartment, we found one of many notebooks, where, for as long as I can remember, he copied the Psalms and the words of Jesus in the gospels. He identified most with David, a man after God’s own heart, simultaneously plagued by oppression and guilt. We searched page-by-page of dad’s Bible, where he’d marked the tortured cries out to God for rescue & strength, and proclamations of God as his hope, his salvation.

We are familiar with his habit to come to church, hit up the altar, and leave (early!).
And because it was his only hope, he came “boldly to the throne of grace, that {he’d} obtain mercy, and find grace to help {him} in {his} time of need”. (Hebrews 4:16)

Throughout the Bible, it is their faith that saves the people Jesus encounters. In the final moments before His death on the cross, Jesus spoke to two criminals hanging on crosses beside Him. One challenged Him to prove he was the Messiah. He’d only believe if Jesus proved it to him, by enhancing his life, saving him from certain death.
The other criminal believed Jesus was as He proclaimed, his hope for eternity in heaven.
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
 “If you openly declare that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Does this free gift of grace serve as an excuse to reject godly living?
Paul writes: “By shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.” Roman 3:31 (MSG)

Before Jesus was crucified he told his disciples, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15)

We obey Jesus because we love him. We love him because He first loved us.

In Luke 15, Jesus uses a story of two sons to illustrate such undeserved grace. Perhaps, like my dad, you identify with the prodigal son, who was met with extraordinary compassion when he returned to his father after sinning against him. Maybe you identify with the other son, who resented such grace, because of his life-long devotion to his father. Jesus includes both in the story for a purpose. Whether it’s shame (how could he accept me?) or pride (I don’t need his grace), it threatens to keep us from the Father, in heaven.

I’m so grateful to know that my dad was convinced of his need for a Savior and believed Jesus to be that Savior.
While it doesn't change that I miss him so terribly it staggers me unexpectedly. When I can hardly settle on not seeing his grin or hearing his voice again, this assurance steadies my heart from spiraling. It provides comfort when I am desperately wishing I could have said good-bye. It gives me hope. Perhaps it will do so for you too.

Jesus said, before He went to heaven:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home…And you know the way to where I am going…
(John 14:1 & 4)
Pin It

Monday, June 29, 2015

On courage and compassion

Hey friend,
Let's talk. If you're like me, you love Jesus and believe His word, and have decided to follow His word because you love Him. While I've refrained from writing them out in full, I've noted many scriptural references for you to do your own digging, which of course, I suggest.

We stretch our arms wide, sing out loud in the safety of our cathedrals, declaring "He makes us brave!", "calls us out upon the water" and we welcome Him to "lead us where our trust is without borders".
This is it!
This is what we've been waiting for!
The willing among us, will summon our Divine courage to "Be alert. Be firm in the Christian faith. Be courageous and strong. Do everything with love". (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Let's talk about the after-after we've stood firmly and spoken the Truth with boldness & grace. 
After we've taken our opportunity to present a case, based on our beliefs. (Col. 4:5&6)
After the choice is made against our better judgement.
After the verdict rules against what we hold sacred.
Let's talk about how to proceed when we're left to continue living-raising our families, conducting business, living in peace with our neighbors, respecting those in authority over us.

As I searched the scriptures for guidance on living in a world, increasingly divergent from His principles, I found a recurring theme: Love! Love! Love!
Here are 5 things in particular I believe are worth noting.
1. Jesus is concerned that His followers love each other.
"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples". John 13:35

Struggle to align yourself with Christian counterparts, because of their conduct? I get it. Perhaps, go to them with your concerns, but don't get trapped in judgement. Instead for the sake of living in peace & unity, forgive and make allowances for each other's faults. (Eph 4:2)
What's so radical about loving those that sit in your living room, with a warm mug of coffee, conversation dripping with agreement with everything you say and do? (Luke 6:32 & 33)
Concentrate on aligning yourself with Christ. Align yourself with the Bible. Resist the temptation to tear other believers down or attack their methods. It's simply wasted energy and tarnishes the image of Christ, as represented in His church.

2. Jesus is concerned that His followers show love toward their enemies-people against them. 
"“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you...Do good to them...Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked". (Luke 6:35 NLT)
Vehemently opposing the choices of a person doesn't require you to turn your back on them.

3. Jesus warns against judging, instead be compassionate.
"You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back to you". (Luke 6:36-37 NLT)

And if you find yourself particularly tempted toward pride, Paul reminds us our right-standing is not of ourselves, so we can't boast!
"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)

4. Jesus cares how we make our case for the Truth.
Our answers should be well-informed, wise, prepared. Which is opposite of an emotionally-charged, off-the-cuff defense. Belligerence is not the tone a Christ-follower should use

Be prepared to give answers with respect & gentleness. (1 Peter 3: 15& 16)
Conduct yourself with wisdom & let your speech be graceful. (Col 4:5-6)

Don't be misled. All this gentleness & love talk doesn't constitute weakness & wavering. The scriptures read: "be firm!" "be strong!" "be brave!" suggesting the contrary. I'm a first-born, Italian girl from NY so you can pretty much bet I have strong opinions, that I embrace passionately. 

5. Jesus predicts rejection
Will some be offended? Yes. 
Will some hate you? Yes. (John 15:18 & 19)
This is a call for the brave! It takes courage to stand for Truth when it is not tolerant or popular.
The fruits of the spirit: love, kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control should govern our behavior as we navigate uncomfortable situations.

Jesus is the originator of freedom of choice. As Creator, He gave humans free will. He's not afraid of it. It doesn't put a crimp in His plan. His plan is to demonstrate radical love that will draw men to choose Him.
Don't waste your time convincing someone to adopt your Christian morals before they are convinced to love Jesus. 
It is because we love Him, we obey him. The message of the Gospel is foolishness to those who are not believers.
Morality alone is not the concern of a Christian.

Peter wraps it up nicely, I'd say:
"Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor." 
1 Peter 2: 17

So I guess, we can start there, huh?! What are your thoughts?
Pin It

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

See ya Real Soon! Disney World Reveal Ideas

How are you going to tell your kids you're going to Disney World?
Whether it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip or you've visited before, something this special deserves a ceremonious unveiling and can help build anticipation.

Let me take this moment to share a few links to the entire Disney World Planning Series:
Disney World Planning Guide (Choosing a time, resort, etc.)
Disney World Tips & Tricks for Making the Most of the Magic (10 Best Tips, incl. Fastpass+ info.)
Disney Dining Tips (Dining Plan, ADR Recommendations) 
Disney with a Baby/Toddler (including packing list)
Packing for Disney (including ways to save $ & time)
Disney World Touring Guide (which parks when, how many days)
Magic Kingdom Touring Guide (1 day & 2 day plans)
Port Orleans Riverside Review (Room for 5)

Now, here's 2 of my favorite way to reveal:
The iconic "WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD" Day-Of surprise.
We surprised our kids on the morning we left & it was quite memorable.
This method obviously requires major restraint & effort. We had to get to the mailbox before they did when Magic Bands & Magical Express packages arrived and often conceal mailings with wording that would have revealed the secret. We also had to pack the entire family & stow the evidence completely in secret.
Here's how we revealed the surprise:
We went about the morning routine: dressed for school, packing lunches, and eating breakfast. I had packed three shoe boxes (1 for each kid) with Disney paraphernalia as clues: glow sticks, sunglasses, water bottle, Disney trinkets, Disney apparel, placing the most obvious: the autograph book (purchased at Disney Store) & trading pins (purchased on prior trips & from Amazon) on the bottom. On the top of each box I pasted a word & together it spelled out: We're Going To. 
While they were sitting at the island for breakfast, my husband casually asked them what they wanted to do today. School, was the natural reaction, because they suspected nothing. "But if you could choose, what would you do today?" Funny enough my son whispered, "Go to Disney World" into his youngest sister's ear to get her to say it out loud. And we told them we have an idea & gave them each a box.
Dancing & jumping for joy erupted! I'd even had a Disney station playing on Pandora through the whole thing, (that was pretty typical for us) and turned it up for celebrating the surprise! We showed them the Magic Bands, in an official box (which were still in the testing phase at this point) and they further added to the excitement.

One word of caution for a day-of surprise, depending on the age of your child, you may not want to pull a bait & switch-i.e.: say, "We're going to grandmas house" & then instead pull up at the airport & surprise them with Disney. Children have been known to cry over the overwhelming change.

A Countdown Chain
As much as I enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime type thrill of surprising them on the morning we were leaving, I missed the build up of anticipation we've shared prior to other trips. I enjoy pouring over details with them, getting books from the library, and watching You Tube videos of attractions.
We made a countdown chain that sat with a plush Sorcerer Mickey & a box of Magic Bands to reveal another trip. Clues led them to a room that had this all set up. It was a thrill! 
The countdown chain (an idea I found on Pinterest, but unsure of original designer) was super easy to make. I free-handed Mickey ears on black construction paper & folded them to make the Mickey link, and pasted white circles (made with a hole punch) on the red link to represent his pants.
On the inside of each link I wrote a detail about our trip to reveal little by little each day & build anticipation.
I have to say, this is the most enjoyable reveal for me. I felt my little kids (under 5) were overwhelmed by the "day of" reveal. Decide how long of a countdown is appropriate for your kids', depending on their ages. Three weeks is plenty long enough for us; 21 links in our chain looks like a lifetime to 5 year-old!
Pin It
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Blogging tips