Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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a 13-reasons-why response

I haven’t watched the Netflix series that’s generating conversation about teen suicide. But I’m deeply concerned that teens might be drawn into the raw program without processing these sensitive, graphic issues with a trusted adult.

This is another example of the way that books, television shows, and movies engage young people with shocking, grim, and reckless stories. I understand that teenagers are ready to delve into what fascinates and scares them about real life, without the phoniness of a handsome prince swooping in to guarantee the happy ending.  Yet, I’m convinced that a biblical perspective is essential for our children to learn to spiritually, cognitively, and emotionally process the realities of this fallen world. This is an opportunity for Christian parents to disciple our kids within a biblical framework in which Jesus reigns and hope lives.

Yesterday, I ventured into the conversation for the first time with my 15-year-old daughter. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I asked her if she’s heard of “13 Reasons Why.” She attends a Christian school, and to be honest, my perception is that she lives a fairly sheltered life. Our appetite for compelling television is fed by “The Amazing Race” and “The Spring Baking Championship.”

“Oh, yeah – everyone’s talking about it.”

I suppose that confirmed my reluctant suspicions that these kids aren’t so sheltered after all.

About 20 minutes into our conversation, we received an email from a teacher about the series, another confirmation that yes, parents need to be aware and engaged in this discussion. It doesn’t mean that we have to watch the program, but we need to be present and willing to have two-way conversations about hard issues like bullying, rejection, abuse, sexuality, self-harm, anxiety, and depression. While our teens are growing, they need roots to anchor them. All of us do, in times like these. We need to be rooted in Christ’s love in order to see ourselves through His acceptance, to perceive our circumstances through His sovereignty, and to establish our hope in His victory.

For my daughter and her peers, plus my small group of 10th grade girls – allow these 13-reasons-why-you-can-have-hope and these truths from Scripture to sink deep in your heart. You are fiercely and unconditionally loved. 

Please read 13 Reasons Why You Can Have Hope at my Shortest Season blog.


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A prayer as we experience Easter with sorrow and joy

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Color and warmth finally emerge from the starkness of winter, and we are grateful. Sometimes the soul, though, isn’t on schedule with the seasons. This lovely spring day has a full portion of hurts, disappointments, and weakness as unyielding as January’s soil. Fluffy bunnies, flowers, fancy dresses, and pastel candy appeal to our senses but our souls need Easter in its full and rich meaning.

Holy Week invites us to follow You through the depths as well as the heights. Draw us to Your steps, we pray, and let us not shrink back. Lead us to linger at the Cross. It is the only place where suffering has meaning and hope.

Give us grace to embrace fellowship with Jesus, even in His rejection, His sorrow, and His death. Draw us into Your experience because You entered firstly into ours. The bridge is constructed with Your flesh and blood. You give us peace, even when our hearts are torn between grief and joy, because You mysteriously make them one.

Man of Sorrows, You invite us to intimacy, to come honestly from our hurting places. And so, our Easter prayers are most true when we come with our thorns, our loneliness in Gethsemane, our let-this-cup-pass.

When we are willing to go there, You walk us through the mysteries of Your wisdom and time, to the other side – to the joy, the peace, the Your-will-be-done. As we approach Holy Week, set our hearts on a pilgrimage of prayer where we follow our Savior through the one story that gives life through death.

Lord, let us remember how You set Your face toward Jerusalem. Your friends misunderstood Your mission, but it was radical, selfless, intentional love that compelled You to Good Friday. May we journey with you, accepting the Calvary road not as a path to power or prosperity but to the most soul-satisfying companionship we will ever know.

Lead us to a table where we handle the bread and wine. Remind us that one day we too will eat our last meal and sip our final drink. As we touch the physical, temporary elements of the Supper, remind us that You were broken and poured out so that we may drink freely of eternal life.

Draw us to the table with people who look different than we do, for You paid a precious price for unity with You and with one another.

When power seduces, pull our knees low before a basin of pure water. May the humble kindness of our Savior wash over our hearts down to our towel-draped hands.

When we are hard-pressed by our trials, help us to fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the weight of sin and suffering. At Gethsemane, where the olive is pressed until it releases its precious oil, our sinless Savior willingly poured out heart and will to the point of blood. When we are soul-weary, enfold us in such compassion and unstoppable love.

Teach us that You send grace to drink whatever cup is ours. May our lives be fountains of obedience.

The voice of culture is dissonant with the call of the Crucified. If others reject us, You understand and welcome us as Your own. When we are tempted to reject You, tune our spiritual ears to the rooster’s crow. Rouse our sluggish souls from the lullabies of convenience or people-pleasing or conformity.

When hurt lures us toward bitterness, may we have a heart like yours for the Roman soldiers and the thief on the cross.

Because we are so sinful, we treasure a Savior who was tempted in every way yet lived without sin. And because You, not knowing sin, became sin for us, we are free and forgiven. When shame hurls accusations, let us take the Cross as our shield – before us, behind us, above us, within us, beneath us.

In seeming hopelessness, help us remember that You have the final word. Despite the Romans’ defensive efforts, neither seal nor stone could confine Jesus to the grave. We need You to break loose those areas where we have been discouraged and defeated. Remind us that sealed-shut dreams can be trusted to the One who overcame death.

He is Risen! is an anthem that quakes rocks and our unbelief. Lord, as we give You our hearts, fill every empty place with the certainty of the empty tomb. Your Resurrection robs any circumstance of its hopelessness. And if we find ourselves again on the Emmaus road, with souls disappointed and confused, open our eyes and make Yourself known to us. For You are beyond all our hopes, and Your love is stronger than anything, even death.

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

 


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When Trouble Surrounds

I’m sure your social media feed is filled with pictures of kindergarteners, high school seniors, and even a few college students. I posted them too 🙂

Especially with the seniors, I’ve noticed, parents post something like:

It’s the first day of the last year!

It’s the beginning of the end!

And the thought struck me that while the beginning and the end are usually two distinct places in time, sometimes the first and the last are one and the same.

I need to know that today.

Since my father died, I think about heaven a lot. I write about “eternity in our hearts.” And sometimes when I tell people this, maybe it’s just me, but I could swear that their eyes glaze over.

Maybe they think eternity is too distant. Boring. Unfathomable. Irrelevant.

I’m not a girl with a lot of theological thoughts to make sense of transcendent realities, but the thing about eternity that captures my heart is that it’s already here.  From everlasting to everlasting He is God. And so, everything in the physical realm may be finite but my soul, bonded to Jesus, is not.  God’s Kingdom is a divine, eternal reality, and Christ-followers are already its citizens.

But I get that some would say that being heavenly-minded is no earthly good in the face of present trials. On this day, there are bills to pay and treatments to endure and marriages on the brink and bosses to please and disagreements to settle.

Believe me, I know.

So how is eternity comforting – in this present moment?

There are these days when I don’t feel it.

But I believe in Jesus and trust Him when He says He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.  Just as alpha and omega are the bookends of the Greek alphabet, Jesus is the One who holds all things together.

I’m encouraged by these words from John Piper: “… since everything comes from God and nothing will outlast God, therefore God has no final competitors.”

To me, this means that eternity is not so much a death-changer as it is a life-changer.

There is no suffering, no terrorist, no grief that can outlast God. No diagnosis nor weakness can supersede His control. No injustice can thwart His ability to work good. No loss will slip outside of His purposes.

If I trust Jesus for my eternal salvation, how is any other concern too much to offer in faith?

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He was, He is, and He is to come.

I find rest in the reality that God was. He, the only Un-Created One, is the author of history (His story).

And I throw the whole weight of my hope upon the anticipation that He is to come. There will be a Day when He completes the history of existence as we know it. The Word in Romans 8 assures us that our present sufferings cannot be compared to the joys that await us in eternity.

But today, this hard day, I am remembering He IS.

“… anyone who comes to God must believe that He is …”

I’m remembering God in the present because I am desperate for His presence. When the pressures of being wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and writer close in, I need to draw close and breathe in grace. Because He is already there.

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God IS with you.

God IS faithful.

God IS the one who goes ahead of you.

God IS for you.

God IS able.

God IS your refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble.

God is a refuge to protect you and a strength to help you overcome. Both defense AND offense.” *

God hems us in – behind and before. When troubles surround us, friend, may we remember that the eternal arms enclose us.

And because “time” is a concept created by God, He can end a time of trouble any time and any way He wants. But if He chooses to let that time linger, it remains within the constraints of His wisdom and sovereignty.

Because God IS, His promises are ever old, ever new, ever faithful through Christ.

Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever. The First and the Last are One and the Same.

*******

Linking today with encouragers, Meredith Bernard and Holley Gerth. Their writing reminds me of all the beautiful ways that God IS –

#woman2woman Wednesdays

“A broken heart leads to the true contentment of asking less of this life because more is coming in the next.” Joni Eareckson Tada – Heaven

Revelation 21 –

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death  or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Deuteronomy 33:27 –

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

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Photo credits: Lightstock

* Experiencing God’s Presence by Chris Tiegreen. Devotion for Oct. 2


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Unexpected Answers to Prayers for My Mother

It was one of those awkward situations that you want to politely ignore but things are playing out right under your nose. This past weekend, we were in Disney World, standing in line for the monorail to take us into the Magic Kingdom. The mother in front of us was trying to take a picture of her toddler son.

This was obviously important to her, as she implored her son to stand still for a photo in his current clothing in case they happened to get separated. And it was equally urgent to the little boy to evade her every attempt to capture a decent image. The other family members were standing around being generally unhelpful. This poor woman had a very long day ahead of her.

Exasperated, she yanked her son out of line to a private spot to “work things out” and snapped: “Yes, this IS the happiest place on earth.”

I inherited my love for Disney from my parents. Over the past few days, I’ve remembered taking Daddy’s hand to ride the “big rides.” I heard his laugh through the dips and sharp turns of Space Mountain and the Rockin’ Roller Coaster.  I can’t count the times that Mom and Daddy took me to Disney and then carried on the tradition with my husband and daughter along.

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While Daddy was sick I prayed for a long time for one more Disney vacation.

The travel agent must have thought that I was nuts, welling up with tears in front of her as she booked our latest trip for four – me, my husband, daughter, and Mom.

Despite our aching hearts, we wanted to affirm to Mom that we will continue because she matters and memories matter.

A few nights ago, as we watched the “Wishes” fireworks show, I was especially aware of the narration through the innocent wistfulness of Jiminy Cricket:

When you wish, upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come…to…you.

Like a bolt out of the blue,
fate steps in and sees you through.
When you wish upon a star,  your dreams…come…true

Puppets become real boys. Cinderella goes to the ball. Snow White’s prince comes.

But … like a bolt out of the blue came a cruel thought, “Your wish didn’t come true.”

For a moment, it really jolted me, I have to admit it.

I’ve been an adult long enough to know better when it comes to Disney’s wish-upon-a-star optimism. Just ask the mother with the toddler – If the happiest place on earth can be maddening, how do we cope beyond its borders? You can call me a pessimist, and I probably have a natural bent that way, but the reality is that every person who walks into Disney World has to eventually exit into the real world where the credit card bills come due and wishes don’t always come true. As a party of 4 on this trip, we experienced it.

And during that blasted fireworks show (ha, the pun wasn’t intended, but I’ll leave it), I realized that I was, even with teary eyes, more hopeful than I had ever been.

Like smoke after a fireworks show, wishful thinking drifts with the wind. But hope is anchored into the solid foundation of God’s wise and loving character.  It’s not based upon my mood or upon magic. It’s an eternal reality, purchased with sacrifice and sealed in my soul.

As an adopted child of the Most High, I belong to another Kingdom. I don’t need to believe in fate, thank you, I (still) have a Father. With infinite wisdom and compassion, He works all things in my life for His good purposes. I have enough experience with my Father to understand that He is too wise and loving to give me everything I wish for. While He doesn’t always grant the desires of my heart, He has placed eternity in my heart. This truth tells me, whether I am in the happiest or the saddest place, that I have everything to hope for.

And so now that we’re home, my attention turns to Mother’s Day.  Today, I thought about my most-read post: “A Prayer for My Mother on Her 80th Birthday.” And I recall those requests made on August 8, 2013 –

“Lord, would this day – her birthday – be the beginning of a year in which my mother knows the deepest peace and richest joy?  I pray with thanksgiving for the promise that You are the strength of her heart and her portion forever. May she be sustained daily by the comfort that You are the eternal refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

And Lord, I pray for the simplest but most meaningful joys to come her way – such as sweet times with Daddy and with her family.

For laughter. And more opportunities to explore an open road.

For days to enjoy good meals with good friends. For many more victories on the court or on the field for her favorite teams (Your help is especially needed here, Lord!).

I pray for precious memories made with the little ones. For weekends to watch swimming practice or go shopping or eat ice cream with her granddaughter. For the satisfaction of knowing that these shared experiences are creating a lasting legacy.”

In August 2013 we knew that Daddy’s cancer wasn’t responding well to treatment but we really had no idea.

Yet, in May 2014, I hold hope in my heart. Daddy is experiencing more delights than a trip to Disney could ever offer. And my prayers for my mother have been answered.

Dear Mom –

Even in your deep grief and darkest days, you have been a testimony of God’s enduring joy and strength. You have demonstrated the peace of being comforted and carried by everlasting arms. Because He is your refuge and strength, you are still laughing and loving well. Our family finds perseverance through your example of courage and resiliency.

You are brave enough to accept and explore the unknown adventures of an open road. As you share life with us, your days are rich with meaning and purpose. We understand more fully the sweetness of simple moments. In these past few months, we’ve eaten well and cheered hard and watched swim practice and shared ice cream with the dog. Our family is growing with great-grandchildren whose lives will be enriched by your legacy. We will live and experience togetherness to the fullest because you and Daddy taught us to love God and love each other with all our might.

My prayers for you are still being answered in God’s most loving wisdom. Perhaps His answers have not come as I wished, but because of your faith, I know that hope always remains. And so I will keep praying. Thank you, Mom, I love you.

Hope tells me that these unexpected answers come from an unchanging God whose promise of eternal life is unwavering.

I’d rather have that sure foundation than a wish in the sky any day.

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Commencement

In April, we celebrate new things.

Like our new baby birds 🙂

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And new flowers –

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New babies –

Aww, Elisabeth Grace - my great-niece. Isn't she precious?

Aww, Elisabeth Grace – my great-niece. Isn’t she precious?

Since this is a season of new things, I’m introducing Eternity in Our Hearts as my new blog today. If you’ve come from my previous blog, dimly burning, I welcome you and hope that you’ll stay awhile and become part of this community which is so dear to me.

If you’ve subscribed to dimly burning, I would be thrilled and grateful for your support of the new blog. You have been dear, patient friends to me as I’ve journeyed through seasons of grief, parenthood (with a tween!), marriage, and faith.

These seasons have taught me that in the midst of heartbreak, life continues because – as a responsible adult – I have to show up everyday whether I want to or not. But in my heart of hearts, I know that this is not all there is. God has placed eternity in our hearts.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

God has made everything beautiful for its own time and has set eternity in our hearts, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 11).”

April is what we longed for during the long, cold days of January. But sometimes new seasons, with their closures and beginnings, are messy.

For instance:

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These little maple seed pods are covering our yard, sidewalk, driveway, flower beds, and our lazy dog (no, just kidding). As a kid, I used to love to throw these things up in the air and watch them twirl to the ground. But now, I have to sweep them or pluck them out of the beds before this happens:

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A tree where I don’t need a tree

Often, when we think of “new” we think of things shiny and efficient. But “new” in life is not like a new car. Many times, “new” blows in with a storm, a crisis. New creates a mess. A new divorcee or the new widow knows this. Anyone with a new diagnosis knows this.

Today I’m celebrating a blog with a new title and a new look. I kinda like it and I hope you do too.

And yet, friend, the sufferings and experiences that I’ve witnessed this week tell me that it may be spring outside, but it’s not necessarily spring in your soul.

My husband and I were recently eating outside at a deli on a beautiful day, and a couple walked past us. Because both of them were formally dressed in black, I instantly thought “funeral.” And I remembered how I wore a black dress not so long ago on a day when lots of other people were stringing Christmas lights.

We live in this tension between merriment and mourning. Those who have trusted in Christ live in the now and the now yet. More than ever, I believe that eternal life in Christ begins the moment we say “yes” to Jesus. Living as if we believe this can change everything about the “now.”

We’re entering the season of graduation. At some schools, this final ceremony is known as “commencement.” It’s the end. Yet the beginning. Life will continue as a series of conclusions and commencements. Some people will be ready for these adventures while others are riddled with anxiety. I’ve been both. I suppose it depends in part upon the season but more fully upon my measure of trust in the Timeless One.

I wrote the following words on a January day when the year was young and my heart felt old. I read these words now and I can’t come up with any different words to close one chapter (one blog) and begin another:

The cyclical nature of seasons, even in the bleak midwinter, serves a preparatory purpose. Growth awaits. New life. Hope.

Duke Cancer Center, where I’ll be spending the day tomorrow with Daddy, is newly refurbished. It’s pretty and shiny, and no one wants to be there … You go there and realize that while the seasons of climate are relatively predictable, the seasons of physical life are sometimes not.

And so, when we think we know what to expect, we really don’t. In a mortal world, we see through lenses that are scratched and dulled by the jagged edges of sin, brokenness, and grief.

Even still, in seasons we couldn’t and didn’t predict, there are preparatory purposes. Even here, growth awaits. New life. And Hope. The truth, as told in Ecclesiastes, is that we were created for an eternal world. A different set of eyes are needed.

The season of Hope is not contained to Christmas or Easter morning. It’s not boxed in the attic or hauled to the curb.

Because ultimately each of us needs Someone who created the seasons and knows the scope of time from beginning to end. We need His eyes to see beyond the exterior and into the eternal. To see beyond the mess and into the meaning of it all.

The eternal cannot be boxed or packed or managed. One day everything that once looked messy will have meaning. We will see. For now – in whatever season we find ourselves – let us live with anticipation, fully and with purpose.

The seasons, those present or those that have passed away, hold for us purposes unfolding and promises coming.”

I hope you’ll join me for new seasons at Eternity in Our Hearts.

And if you are in a place where it’s not spring in your soul, I’d like to pray for you … If you want to leave a comment with a request, it’s truly my honor to lift your concerns to our Father.

Holy and eternal Father,

Thank You for being the God of all seasons. I praise You for being the same yesterday, today, and forever. You are before all things and in You all things hold together. I pray today with thanksgiving for the community I’ve come to know through Dimly Burning. I lift these dear ones up to you and ask that You would hold their hearts, especially those who are in a season when circumstances and hope seem dark. Lord, would You open their eyes to Your Word, Your faithful and good character, and Your promises? Give them grace to trust that You are the Guide who makes a stream in the desert and a path in the wilderness. Where they feel weak, rekindle a new dependence upon You that makes a dimly burning wick shine as a lantern for Your glory. When storms blow in, may Your hope be the anchor of their souls. Allow their hearts to rest in the love of the cross and the promise of the empty tomb. May they stand on the truth that any suffering on this side of heaven is nothing compared to everlasting joys that await believers in Christ. May we give all new opportunities and circumstances to You – whether we rejoice or grieve – in the faith that Your unfailing purpose is to make beautiful, eternal things.

Amen.