He is risen indeed

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As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” ~ Mark 16:5-7

Wishing you a blessed Resurrection Sunday from Mama’s Empty Nest.

Be blessed, dear readers. 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

On a hill far away

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He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. ~ 1 Peter 2:24

When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. ~ Acts 13:29

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:2

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Do this

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The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Stirring up the fire

blogIMG_1818I usually avoid writing about controversial subjects.

My reason is valid, at least to me. I have plenty of opinions on polemic issues, believe me. But that’s just it. They are my opinions and I’m free to have them as you are free to have yours.  However, my intention for this blog is not to polarize people but to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to all, not just those who share my opinions or beliefs.

No doubt if I start posting my thoughts on contentious matters though, some readers will not agree with my opinion and will comment to state their case for their beliefs. Having a difference of opinion is not the issue. What a dull world it would be if we all agreed all the time.

What bothers me most is what I see happening on social media way too much.  You know, when verbal arguments escalate and become downright mean and nasty. And I see it occur on lots of blog posts too. 

I don’t want to initiate a war of words with my readers. Instead, my desire is that Mama’s Empty Nest be a respite from that part of our world where folks spread malice and vitriol at the drop of a comment.

Yet this post may cause a bit of contention, probably only in certain circles, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to speak your mind, or at least from your heart, even when you know there will be opposition to it. 

I find it ironic that just as the idea for this blog post began to take shape in my mind, I noticed an email encouraging me to write about this word – controversy.

So here goes.

You know what kills any kind of growth, whether it be in business, politics, organizations, or even in a church? Something that not only slays the momentum of moving forward but slams shut the coffin of death and nails it down tight?

Saying, “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing that saying. But we’ve always done it this way.

I’m weary of attempts to encourage those who play it safe in cozy comfort zones to embrace something different that might just initiate a change for something better or more meaningful. But we’ve always done it this way.

I bristle when I hear how someone seeking to promote change instead hits the wall of tradition made up of nay-sayers. But we’ve always done it this way.

I’m disappointed in those who can’t – or won’t – deviate from the tried-and-true (yet old and tired) way of doing things. But we’ve always done it this way.

I’m frustrated by those who are so deep in a rut of sameness, they couldn’t find their way out with a bulldozer. But we’ve always done it this way.

Call me crazy, but I like change. I find the same old, same old incredibly dull and well….too much the same. And I really find it so in a house of worship.

Why balk at changes that may promote spiritual growth?

Now, let me get one thing straight. I am not talking about changing the message of the Gospel.  I’m not talking about changing the words God gave us in His Word. No, we must never change that because God and His Word are perfect and unchanging.

God was, is, and always will be. He is constant and enduring and so is His message of salvation.

But we should not be stale. We can’t grow if we don’t change. And if we don’t change, we won’t grow spiritually. If we don’t progress on our spiritual journey, we are only suckling down the milk of God’s Word without ever getting to the meat of it. We stay in a spiritual state of infancy – spiritual babies instead of mature believers.

“Change is one of the ingredients of Christianity. If people could not change, the gospel would be absolutely meaningless…The fact that people can change is the only hope they have.” ~ A.W. Tozer (from Rut, Rot, or Revival)

When believers are spiritually stagnant, we can’t experience the passionate life of being a Jesus follower. And how ever can we be in tune to what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do if we’re mired down in the humdrum?

The same old same old.  But we’ve always done it this way. I think God expects us to boldly step out of our ruts and embrace a vibrant faith, one so exhilarating that is catches on like wild fire.

How can people sit in their pews in their places of worship with an attitude of platitude? How can we sing the same old songs with the same old lack of enthusiasm? Where is our joy in worshiping the King of Kings, Lord of Lords?

How can we stick like superglue to traditions, which really don’t impact our salvation or our spiritual growth one iota, just because we’ve always done it that way?

“Somebody once said that man is made of dust and dust tends to settle. People tend to settle down and do the same things year in and year out, slowing going around in a circle.  When this gets into religion, it is deadly and evil.” ~ A.W. Tozer (from Rut, Rot, or Revival)

I don’t understand that kind of ‘religion’ and I guess I never will. I’m one of those people who says I don’t have religion, instead I have faith. And my faith is not in a set of traditions, a certain denomination, a social club, or a certain way of doing things just because it’s always been done before.

My faith is in a flesh and blood Savior who lived on the earth as one of us, died on a cross for me, rose from the grave, and gave me a priceless gift – salvation.

A Savior who expects me to be on fire for Him. To share His message of salvation to others. To express with joy and awe how much I love Him, trust Him, and am grateful for Him and share that with everyone I know – and even those I don’t.

I believe my Savior doesn’t want me to get bogged down in trivial matters that mean nothing when it comes to promoting His kingdom and glorifying Him.  My Savior, the miracle of Easter, expects me to be a soul on fire for Him.

Just like the lyrics to this song by the Christian group, Third Day. Listen here: Soul on Fire.

A soul on fire doesn’t care if we sing praises to God accompanied by an organ, a worship band, or a CD, but if a variation in music is what brings people to Him, then we better change and sing with joy.

A soul on fire doesn’t mind if Sunday morning worship or Bible study during the week takes longer than an hour because a soul on fire wants to spend as much time as possible worshiping the Lord, listening to His messages of truth, learning more about the God we serve, and applying that message to everyday life.   

A soul on fire doesn’t get mired down in trivial matters like which version of the Bible should be read, or what color the sanctuary’s new carpet should be, or where or when communion should be held, or ….whatever.

Because a soul on fire wants more than earthly matters. A soul on fire wants more of Jesus. More of His Word. And more spiritual growth until the day that soul departs this earth.

And if the majority of a church are not souls on fire, the slowly dying embers will not keep the church alive. You might as well pound in the nails to that coffin. Eventually, the doors will close on a dead church.

It’s never too late to save it.

“A church can be unified in one of two ways. You can freeze together, as the Church of the Frozen Chosen; or you can melt together with the fire of the Holy Spirit.” ~ John Hagee

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Forest or trees?

blogIMG_8321Sometimes you really can’t see the forest for the trees.

One of the many truly amazing sights our family encountered while living in the Pacific Northwest was the dense, thick forests there. 

Moving from the mostly plains of the Midwest to that area of the country, I remember well how awestruck I was the first time I saw the size of the massive trees there.

After stepping off the plane on my first trip to the Pacific Northwest for a house-hunting mission, I vividly recall marveling at the colossal Douglas fir trees we saw as Papa and I ventured around the area in search of our new home.  

Once we moved there and settled in, we took our children on many excursions to explore our new domicile and again I marveled at the density of the forests.

As a native northeasterner, forests were nothing new to me. In my childhood, my family spent a lot of time in our modest “camp” near one of the national forest areas of our home state. So I’d seen thick forests. But not like the giants of the Pacific Northwest or the immense Redwoods of Northern California, which we also visited.

I wish now that I had taken the time to photograph those dense forests we visited, but after looking through all of my pictures taken with old-school film (long before digital cameras), I don’t have a shot that I feel does enough justice for this week’s photo challenge – dense.   

So the more recent photo above (a stand of bamboo at a zoo last summer) will have to do, although it is nothing like the thickness of the Pacific Northwest forests. This picture does show density, but not like the almost impenetrable forests ensconced in my memory. Those trees simply take your breath away.

But it’s true you can’t really see the forest for the trees. The trees capture your attention in such a way that you might miss a less commanding sight right there in the forest.

Sometimes things are so dense that you just can’t see your way through, just like those thick, concentrated forests. And often I feel like I’m just as dense.

Like when I just can’t see a solution to a problem even when it’s staring me in the face. Is it really because I’m dumber than a box of rocks? Or is just a case of stubbornness? Not wanting to face the problem or the solution? Maybe even pride?

I’m not sure but I know one thing for certain. When I can’t see the forest for the trees, I need to stop looking at the trees, no matter how glorious they may seem. The answer may just be on the forest floor right in front of me.

“Pride works frequently under a dense mask, and will often assume the garb of humility.”  ~ Adam Clarke (1760 or 1762-1832), British theologian and Biblical scholar

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Bulls-eye

blogimg_3892-3It shocked me.

Utterly shocked and pierced me right in the heart like a swift arrow hitting the bulls-eye.

One Sunday afternoon, alone in peace and quiet, I decided to plunk myself down and try to conjure up some blogging ideas on our office desktop computer. 

Nothing came to me.  I felt totally devoid of ideas or even coherent thoughts.  So I logged off, drifted into our family room, settled myself on the comfy couch, and picked up my iPad mini thinking maybe I’d just play a game or read something on my Kindle app. 

Each time I fire up that tablet, it shows me app updates/notifications which I generally ignore.  But not this time.

This time, I actually blinked at the very first notification that presented itself right there in front of my eyes.  Blinked. Opened my eyes again to read it. And blinked again.

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” it said.

Say what???? Arrow to the heart.

I have a Bible app downloaded on my mini, but it has never given me a notification like this one before.

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” Bulls-eye.

All I could do was stare at that question so plainly stated on my tablet’s opening screen and believe in my heart of hearts that God was truly speaking to me.

You see, I’m mired in an ongoing struggle and it has derailed me enough to make me feel just like a freight train wreck sometimes. I have never really grappled with such negative feelings in the past. I may have run across people a time or two who I didn’t necessarily like, but never have I experienced these kind of feelings. Until now.

I have struggled daily for quite some time with ill feelings of…take a deep breath, wrestle with the guilt, and admit it boldfaced in writing…loathing for one person. Someone who lied, betrayed trust, and deeply hurt people I love.  

And I ashamedly admit that I have succumbed to too many truly negative thoughts about this person and I’ve even uttered them out loud.

As a life-long believer in Christ, I KNOW this is wrong. I KNOW it!

I KNOW this a vile emotion and I KNOW that as a Christ follower, I should do all things with love.

I KNOW that my Savior told His believers to love our enemies and pray for them.  He plainly spoke these words in the Bible – Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

And I KNOW I need to forgive.

I tried. I really did.

I fought to dispel my passionate emotions and show this person love. I prayed daily for weeks and weeks for that one soul. But as weeks turned into months and even years went by, I just stopped. The offender demonstrated no remorse, no apology, and no signs of even remotely caring about the sorrow and heartache that person’s actions caused.

As a result, disgust and abhorrence engulfed me. I found this fellow human utterly despicable and in doing so, ugly, hideous thoughts of anger filled my heart at the mention of the person’s name. 

Those feelings have shaken me to my very core. The thought that I could harbor such animosity towards another human being shocks me because never, ever in my lifetime, have I felt this way towards another. It’s proved to be a daily battle and I have prayed, I have wept, I have retreated, I have discussed it with those closest to me until I am exhausted.

And then that Sunday afternoon, my iPad confronted me. “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”

Am I listening? I’ve tried to. But that’s the thing.  I have tried to do it on my own. I have tried to sweep this ugliness away myself but haven’t allowed God to truly transform my heart as only He can do.

Why did this hit the bulls-eye with me? Because on that same Sunday, just a few hours before my tablet asked the question which seared my very soul, our pastor preached a message called “Clarifying Love.”  

Real, honest to goodness love. Not the giddy, fuzzy warm feelings of love, but love that is an action, love which is the “non-negotiable fundamental of Christian faith,” according to my pastor and I agree.

Sacrificial love. Love that is deliberate.

As I sat in worship listening to Pastor’s message and reading the scriptures he cited, I found my thoughts centering yet again on that person who I still harbor ill will against. That one who proclaimed with words to exhibit this kind of love yet, when the price of love was difficult, didn’t manifest it at all, and wouldn’t even try to make amends to the ones hurt most.

And I realized that I wasn’t exactly manifesting sacrificial kindness myself. When my pastor reminded me that this kind of love – or the lack of it- reveals the state of my heart, I knew his message was for me.

My heart surely has been in an awful state. I felt that check in my spirit as I read scripture that I have read many, many times before in the book of 1 John, Chapter 3 and 4:  Anyone who doesn’t love is in death.  If you do not love, you don’t know God.  Yes, yes, I knew that!

But the next passage was a full frontal assault on my heart and spirit. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. A murderer?! I tried to brush that off.  I’m not a murderer. This person who so willfully wronged my loved ones is the guilty one.  But yet, wasn’t I “slaying” this person with my negative words and unforgiving actions?

I thanked my pastor and told him it was a great message – which it was – and then jokingly told him that I knew I needed to take heed to it but I still wanted to punch this one person in the nose. And my pastor, being the great person that he is, laughed with me. He didn’t chastise me or give me that righteous look that makes one feel condemned. No, he laughed. That’s why I like him so much, he’s real.

Pushing that message to the back burner of my mind, I searched for something distracting to do later that Sunday afternoon. And that’s when my iPad challenged me.  

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”

No, I must admit, I have not been listening to what God’s Word tells me. But it’s time – actually past time – that I do. When I don’t speak love with my words, I am wrong. But I’m even more wrong when I don’t love with my actions and in truth.

It’s not an easy task – a work in progress. I must willingly submit myself to the Lord every day to help me rid the malice from my heart and to forgive with sacrificial love even though the offender has never asked for that forgiveness and maybe never will.

Someone once told me that to be unforgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the wrongdoer to die. I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve even used those same words in a women’s Bible study on forgiveness that I once led.

Being unforgiving doesn’t hurt the one who wronged you, but it does great damage to your own soul.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

How well I know. I have been forgiving so many times in my lifetime, but this one has been the most difficult ever and I don’t understand why.

But this I do understand – God promises to help and guide me as I apply His Word to my daily life –  “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” – if I allow Him to do so. 

Just like He did when I opened my Bible app that Sunday afternoon and discovered the verse for the day:  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G.K. Chesterton

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com