The Power of the Cross

A few weeks ago, I was sending a YouTube video of the song, “The Power of the Cross” to some prospective choir members in our church, in hopes that they would join us on Easter morning in singing this amazing song.

A similar group sang this for an Easter service at our church out in Earlham 10 years ago.  And because we all loved it so much, it became a favorite of the congregation and we added it to our repertoire.  We even did the full-blown choir version!  So, I’m extremely familiar with this song as I’ve sung and/or played it dozens of times.

So, I was completely caught off guard when, while I was half-viewing the YouTube before sending it, I just broke down into tears as I was moved by the words of the verse I was hearing.  But do you think I can remember WHICH verse it was now?  Of course not… I reread them all just now and decided that any one of them could create the same reaction because they are all extremely powerful – and TRUE!

The thought that slammed into my mind and caused the flood of tears was this:  Jesus went through the agony of the cross, both physically and spiritually (in that He experienced separation from His heavenly Father), SO THAT I would have the joy of seeing my husband again one day.  It makes me cry again even now.

And while that is an incredible promise and what I often cling to during this time of grieving, it really is NOT what we can best celebrate in heaven.  Yes, it’s a huge comfort to think about seeing our loved ones again, because, let’s face it, what or who could be more tangible to us than the people we have loved the most and lost?  And let’s not forget the biblical promise of no more tears and no more sorrow and no more pain.  Boy, do I long for THAT!

But if you’re a believer, our greatest joy lies in the indisputable fact that our Savior, Jesus Christ, the same One who went to the cross on our behalf, is reigning triumphantly in heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father and WE can now be in His presence FOREVER!  There can be no greater joy than to spend eternity in Paradise with the One who sacrificed it all for us.  And the icing on that heavenly cake?  We also reunite with our believing loved ones – and no more sorrow, pain or tears..or SIN!

Although this song focuses on Christ’s death on the cross, the greatest news in the history of the world is that He rose again!  No other world religion has a leader who died and came back to life ON OUR BEHALF!  It’s an amazing truth of the Gospel and one that I hope and pray you will be able to embrace this Easter weekend.

Christ didn’t stay on the cross, but the penalty for our sins did if we acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior of our lives.  If we don’t, then there is no power in that cross for us. Our part in this salvation story is to recognize that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23  And then what?  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

There you have it.  Direct from the mouth of God!  Don’t put off this decision if you haven’t made it yet.  None of us knows if we will see tomorrow.  But we can face it with hope, as Dale did, if we’ve claimed Christ’s sacrifice as our own.

I’m including a link to the song below and I hope you’ll take the extra few minutes to listen through it and let the truth of the words sink deep into your heart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPFv-ywTY-c

Have a blessed Easter because CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

The “How Are You Doing” Dilemma(s)

This post topic was originally going to be a singular dilemma, not two.  But a recent conversation with a friend caused me to tweak that a bit and write about TWO dilemmas – one for me and one for you!  How generous of me.  😊

I’ll start with my initial inspiration for this article.  In an earlier post, I talked about how encouraging it was for me when people check in with me to essentially see how I am doing.  And while I’m not reneging on that statement, I am finding that I’ve created a dilemma for myself.

Simply stated, I don’t know how to answer it!  It depends on who is asking, how well do I know them, what communication means are they using, how much time do they have, what kind of day am I having and any number of other factors.

Now we’ve all met acquaintances “on the street” so to speak who, upon having the “how are you doing” (HAYD) question posed to them, go on and on and on with a litany of every little detail of their amazing or pitiful life!  Our intention was just a friendly howdy do.  (But I have to wonder if there were times when I should have stopped and listened more intently, sensing they needed to talk, but that’s not a topic for today.)

In those first couple of seconds after the question is posed to me, I make a quick determination on what an appropriate level of detail in my answer should be.  If the person is truly just an acquaintance and may not even know that Dale has passed away, or we are just passing each other at church, my obvious answer is, “Good.  How are you?”  Nobody here really wants that long, drawn-out litany mentioned above!

On the other end of the “HAYD” spectrum are the people who ask me, “How are you doing…really!?”  Then it’s clear to me that they are looking for the nitty gritty of my heart condition and what I’m currently feeling or struggling with.  I feel comfortable sharing the grief and pain because I know they truly want to know the answer and apparently have time for it.

In the fuzzy middle are the situations where I struggle to know just how to answer.  These are people who know of my loss and would be considered friends.  But I’m not necessarily sure how much time they have, if texting limits my answer, or if they really want all the gory details. So far I’ve come up with a few semi-noncommittal statements such as, “One day at a time,” “I’m hanging in there,” “It’s still hard,” or any number of other pat statements.  I’d like to say that God has hit me with His perfect, lightning bolt answer to HAYD, but alas, nothing has popped into my head.  So, I’ll just have to continue muddling my way through this middle fog!

One answer I never give is, “Great!”  Two reasons for that – I generally don’t feel great.  And I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that you can recover from a devastating loss like this in just a few months.

Just a side note here.  By God’s grace, I AM still able to find blessings in each day through people and events He places in my life. And His promises are still rock-solid to me, so there is still joy in my life.  As James so clearly states, “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  James 1:2

Now onto YOUR dilemma!  Boy, I’m not sure I even know how to tackle this one.  The dilemma is – what SHOULD you be asking me?  Is it, “How are you doing?”  Maybe.  Or any other number of discussion-opening statements.  Again, I’d love to have a lightning-bolt answer from God to tell you how you should communicate with someone who is grieving.  There are TONS of books written about that subject and I don’t claim to know much more than those authors.

So, I think the best I can do for you here is to share the questions friends have posed to me in the past 5 months that were helpful.  And with the caveat that they won’t be the same for everyone.  No wonder this is such a tough subject!

I’m actually fine with the HAYD question, especially with the “REALLY” attached to the end!  Have also appreciated, “How is your day going?”, “How can I pray for you?”, “Let’s set a date to have lunch/dinner/movie together.”  There are numerous other ways that people have blessed me during this time and I plan to share some of that in an upcoming post.

More important than the words you or I use, is the heart from which they come.  When a friend is clearly wanting to know how I’m doing, I sense that and it really doesn’t matter WHAT words they use!

While I really did want this post to be much instructional than it turned out, maybe the message is that there is no one right way to do this – on your end or mine.  Trust your instincts or the nudging of the Holy Spirit to guide you on this.  And I will strive to do the same with my answers!

“Five More Minutes”

With apologies to my non-country-music-lover readers, my theme for this post comes from a recent #1 hit on the country charts by Scotty McCreery entitled, you guessed it, “Five More Minutes.”  I first heard the song a month or two ago and without even listening to the verses, I knew that there was a message here, not just for me, but for hopefully many of you as well.

Before I get to the stab to my heart I felt upon hearing it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of the song – and a little country music writing tutorial for you country-music illiterates!  Often the song writer will tell a story with each verse, using the chorus as the tie that binds.  In this case, the verses talk about children wanting to play a little longer, a young couple wanting their goodnight kiss on the porch to last longer, the high school senior football player needing a little more time in that last game they just lost – and then finally, the writer asking for more time with his dying grandfather.

But when I heard the song the first time, I only paid attention to the chorus and I immediately thought to myself, “What would I say to Dale if I could have him back for just 5 more minutes?”  (Although I would seriously never ask him to leave the glory of heaven to come back to earth for even that short period of time!)  Would there be enough time to make up for the things I didn’t say before he died?  And surprisingly, I decided that yes, I could say a LOT in five minutes.

We were blessed that, in the 10 months Dale spent in the assisted living facility, God brought restoration to our marriage after some very difficult years dealing with his dementia.  I was able to go from being his full-time care-giver to his wife again.  So, we did have time to reminisce about the many good years we had together and thank God for the blessings throughout those years.  And I was able to ask Dale to forgive me for the times I hadn’t been as patient as I should have been, to which he replied, “I already have.”

And yet, I felt so strongly about the message in this title that I did stop and honestly address the question.  What would I say if I had five more minutes?  I would be much more intentional about letting him know how much I loved him and how much his unconditional love meant to me for over 35 years.  I would thank him for his faithfulness to me, for his great sense of humor, for his outlook on life, for his patience, kindness and understanding, and for his quiet faith.

I would also be more intentional about asking for his forgiveness for all the times I fell short of being the wife that I knew God wanted me to be.  And maybe I’d even ask forgiveness for the times I felt compelled to correct the spelling in his grocery lists!  Maybe…

While my message from this song was about doing something completely impossible – bringing Dale back for five minutes – its original intent was, in part, to challenge the listener to consider how we would treat five more minutes with a loved one.

What would YOU do with those five minutes?  What would the most important message be?  And who comes to mind when you ponder the question?  Just what are the scenarios that pop into your mind?  What about sending a child off to college?  Or seeing a friend move across the country?  Or thanking a favorite teacher or boss?  Or just seeing your spouse or child walk out the door to work or school in the morning?  Simple, every day interactions in which those five minutes would become very precious to you.

So, this post is really food for thought.  Who are the people in your life that need you to fill up five minutes with words of encouragement, or repentance, or love?  We all have them – lots of them, most likely.  Let me encourage you to take that little snippet of time and use it for the good of others – and you’ll find that you’re blessed in the process. I know it’s good advice for me as well.

And it’s not just good inter-personal relationship advice, it’s also biblical.  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Ephesians 4:29

May God give you and me the courage, the heart and the opportunities to use our five minutes well!