Easter Acrostic: From Sorrow to Joy

Easter—the holiday that takes us from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy in the span of only two and a half days.

We remember the Last Supper our Lord had with his disciples and feel the pain of his betrayal. We recall his prayerful agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and then relive the horror of his arrest and crucifixion. We feel the grief his loved ones and followers felt.

But then the joy comes. We remember and rejoice in the fact that death did not win. God raised Jesus from the dead—our Savior lives! And because of him, we who are believers will live eternally with him in heaven. What joy!

May the following Easter “From Sorrow to Joy” thoughts bless your celebration this year. Happy Easter, friends!

Easter: From Sorrow to Joy

Ever remember his body and blood shed for us.

Again read the scripture and tell the story of those history-altering, life-changing days.

Stand at the foot of the cross and weep over the price he paid for our sin.

Thank God for raising Jesus from the dead, for giving us a Savior who lives today.

End fearful and defeated thinking and be filled with the joy and hope of eternal life.

Rejoice in Christ’s victory over Satan and let our lives overflow with praise to God!

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6 NIV

*Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If not, ask him to forgive your sins and be your Lord. Give him your heart today!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Dale Simonson, Creative Commons License

What Will I Do When a Storm Descends

*I pray this encore post from April 2011 blesses you today!

A potential health crisis threatened our family a few weeks ago. A cancer scare. Like storm clouds hovering overhead, thoughts of “what if” cast their shadow for days. We deliberately tried to shove them aside, but they were still there, hiding just beyond the surface.

I won’t go into specifics of who and what, but the scare did not involve an extended family member, but one within our immediate family. Yes, that’s right. It hit close. Too close. And too unthinkable — though I had to remind myself, like so many others have had to do, not to ask “Why us?” but “Why not us?”

Thank God, benign test results relieved our fears, but those days of waiting gave rise to countless thoughts, feelings, and ultimately a few overarching questions: If it proves to be cancer, what will we do with our faith in God? Will we stay faithful and continue to trust him even if the news is devastating? Or will we pull away — and stay away — from him, losing faith that he is good and that he loves us? In other words, will we run to him or away from him?

Mercifully, God spared us from having to live out the answers to those questions in full, but we tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. We remembered the truths of God’s love for us and of how he can bring something good out of a heartbreaking situation. We reminded ourselves that he would be with us every step of the way. You might say we were preparing ourselves to be faithful, preparing ourselves to trust him, no matter the outcome.

One day a similar life test will go differently. One day we’ll have to live out the answers to these faith questions in full. Some of us reading this today have, in fact, already faced such a crisis, but even so, will we be ready for the next one? Join me today in considering, “What will I do with my faith when the unthinkable happens? What will I do when the storm descends?”

“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge…” Psalm 141:8a

*What helps you stay faithful to your faith in God when times of heartbreak come?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*My photo

Midweek Morsel: Loving Others, Showing Them God

7452197640_7c4d4e9aea_zDid you realize that when you show love to others, you are in fact showing them a bit of what God is like? Since the Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8b), it follows that God can be reflected through our loving acts and words towards others.

In the book Bittersweet—Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, author Shauna Niequist points out this truth especially as it applies to loving the heartbroken. Consider these words of hers and recall if this has been your experience as well:

“I believe deeply that God does his best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over.”

What a privilege to show God to a hurting soul, huh? Let’s remember that our expressions of love to the heartbroken can have deep and even eternal impact. Let’s show them love. Let’s show them God.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7a

*During your times of heartbreak, has someone reflected God to you through their loving deeds?

*Flickr photo by lucidtech, Creative Commons License

Fruit in the Land of Suffering

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“‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’” Genesis 41:52b

Some of the most well-known people in the Bible knew great suffering, and Joseph is among that group. By the time he was thirty years old, he had experienced great grief and trial more extreme than many of us might experience in a lifetime.

At age seventeen, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to live in Egypt, a foreign land. While serving his master, he was unjustly accused of a serious offense and thrown into prison. During his prison stay, Joseph helped one of Pharaoh’s officials and had reason to hope that this official might be able to secure his release. However, the official forgot him, and then Joseph had to endure another two years in prison.

Finally Joseph came to the attention of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams that he put him in charge of all Egypt. By God’s power and blessing, Joseph went from being a slave in Egypt to being in a position of great power, second only in command to Pharaoh himself. God then went on to use Joseph to bless the entire nation of Egypt as well as the surrounding nations during a time of severe famine. Joseph remained humble, however, and gave all glory to God, saying, “‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’” (Genesis 41:52b)

Many lessons can be drawn from the life of Joseph, but today let’s focus on the fact that even during times of suffering, God can use us and bless our efforts.

I’ve seen this happen in my own life. For example, during periods when Don’s mother was extremely ill, I had very little time to give to my writing. I was in a land of suffering, so to speak—a place I hadn’t chosen for myself, a place where I was frustrated by my lack of time to get pieces written and submitted. God took the little in my life, though, and blessed it. He allowed some of the few pieces I did have submitted to be accepted for publication. Another example unfolded when I was grieving my mother’s unexpected death. Years of work came to fruition as I was offered agent representation. That’s right, God blessed me with fruit in the land of my suffering.

If any of us are currently in a land of suffering, let’s be encouraged—God can make us fruitful even now. Whether physical fruit we can see and touch or spiritual and emotional fruit in our lives or the lives of those we impact, God can and will use us and bless our efforts, however small they may be. Yes, friends, he’ll make us fruitful in the land of our suffering.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

*When has God used you or blessed your efforts in a time of suffering?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. Sign up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by CaptPiper, Creative Commons License

5 Ways to Make Valleys of Weeping into Places of Springs

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“As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs . . .” Psalm 84:6a

People have had to travel through tough times and places since the beginning of time. Ever since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, difficulty and suffering have touched our lives.

In the verse from Psalm 84 above, pilgrims on their way to observe the religious festivals in Jerusalem (see v. 5) passed through the Valley of Baca—a valley of suffering. My NIV text note tells me that “Baca” means either “weeping” or “balsam trees.” It goes on to say that balsam trees were common in arid valleys. So whether the meaning here is a place of weeping or an arid place, both paint pictures of difficulty and suffering. The pilgrims didn’t have it easy. They had to travel through tough places.

Today believers are still pilgrims traveling through tough places, through valleys of weeping or struggles. Each one of us is walking life’s road toward our heavenly home. Each one of us faces tough places along the journey. Places and times when grief, trials, or spiritually dry times overwhelm us. Like the pilgrims of old, we don’t have it easy.

But notice how the scripture tells us that these Old Testament pilgrims made their valleys of weeping into places of springs. If you’re like me, you’re wondering how in the world they did that. Again, an NIV text note gives further insight. It says that the pilgrims’ expectations of joy transformed the difficult ways into places of refreshment. The promise of coming joy helped see them through.

So how can we transform our valleys of suffering into places of springs? Here are five ways that might help us:

1. Keep our eyes on the Lord and turn to him for solace. Even during our toughest times, he can supernaturally give us comfort, strength, refreshment, and even joy when we look to and depend on him.

2. Like the Old Testament pilgrims, expect and look forward to future joy. Instead of focusing only on the grief or difficulties we are currently dealing with, let’s keep an eye on future days when joy will be our portion again.

3. Find something every day to be thankful for. Expressing gratitude for something—for anything positive we see in the midst of our struggles—can lighten the moment, lift our spirits, or give us a fresh perspective.

4. Instead of isolating ourselves, stay involved with others and allow them to provide the comforting touch or encouraging word we need. Remember, God uses people to apply balm to our hurting hearts.

5. Read from the Bible every day—even if it’s just a few verses. God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It can provide refreshment and comfort and wisdom and everything else we need on any given day. It has been a lifeline for me nearly all my life.

As we apply these strategies—and others you may be thinking of—I can almost guarantee that God will bless us with moments of refreshment in the tough places of our lives.

God wants to show us his love and he will honor the efforts we make as we look to him. We may not have it easy all the time, but we do have a God who walks with us and is able to transform our valleys of weeping into places of springs. Let’s keep our eyes on him.

“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;” Psalm 107:35

*Which of these strategies have made a difference in your life during tough times? What else could you add to the list?

*My photo