Joy no matter what. A blog by Deanne Nelson.

Blogging, Speaking, and Writing | Jesus and Autism | The Nelson Family Journey

I Wouldn’t Change a Thing November 13, 2018

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The other day my 15 yr old son Nathan told me that when he finally gets a job, he is going to save his money and take me out to dinner to Ruth Chris Steak House. “How much money will I need mom? I will take you to a fancy dinner…just you and me.”

Yep, that’s my son Nathan. This proclamation of his got my mama tears immediately rolling. You see, there was a time I never dreamed that such a thought or reality could be possible.

At just under 2 yrs old, Nathan was diagnosed with classic autism with possible mental retardation. He seemed lost in his own little world and I felt helpless to really know who he was. I determined early on that I would pray for a miracle. My miracle was straightforward and unwavering; I asked that any signs or symptoms of autism be completely gone and erased from his life. If the Lord God granted me one request in the world, it would have been that. That was my plea for days, months, and even years. I only saw a future robbed of possibilities and hope while autism remained. Fear has a way of clouding the mind.

I used to dream and envision back then what Nathan would be like in the future as a teenager. I, of course, reasoned with all the faith I could muster that he would be blissfully ‘neurotypical’. That is a term to describe a person who is not affected by any type of developmental disorder, especially those included in the autism spectrum. The Webster’s dictionary providers further clarity:  a “neurotypical” person is an individual who thinks, perceives, and behaves in ways that are considered to be “normal” by the general population. I was one of those special needs’ moms who believed that having only neurotypical children was the ideal and best plan. I prayed for that plan with all of my heart. Praise the Lord God that he sees in full and knows what is far better. The years have brought beautiful clarity and I know that God’s ways are indeed best.

I have such admiration and profound respect for parents and families who live life to the fullest while caring for a special needs child or children. I had the privilege of meeting families coping with profound and disabling conditions who embraced joy through it all. A biblical truth comes shining forth through such people: James 1:  2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

There is great strength, wisdom, and patience gained through the challenges of this life. While most of us might not choose the more difficult paths, it is those very paths that instill precious qualities in the heart that last. The amazing mystery is that what may seem to be a hardship and suffering from a human perspective, are turned to blessing and goodness when the Lord God takes hold of and transforms that very situation in ways that only he can. Whatever trial you face, the Lord God is ready, willing, and able to bring you through it with hope and restoration waiting on the other side. Nathan’s life and journey in our family have proven this to be true. He has brought such blessing and goodness to our lives in countless ways and has taught us to appreciate the beauty of simple things.

I am humbled and regretful concerning all of those previous demands of the Lord to ‘fix’ Nathan. There was never anything that needed to be fixed. I literally laugh out loud as I consider that I longed for him to be ‘neurotypical.’ I shake my head in disbelief that I struggled to accept the unique and fabulous human being that he has always been. Nathan is a gifted, talented, selfless, honest, and loving young man. He is quick to forgive and never holds a grudge. He means what he says and you never have to guess where you stand with him. If you want the truth, he will provide it. There is a purity and sweetness to him that is beautiful and refreshing to be around. He has no use or desire for social media, selfies, or useless comparisons of himself to others. He loves to ask many questions and he will call you out on any deviations or changes in your answers! He loves magic tricks and is a master of sleight of hand with playing cards. His smile takes up about half of his face and he shares it easily. He is quite simply, a beautiful soul.

I do not know what the future holds for Nathan and do not have to. I have let go of the countless fears over how he will get along in this life and who will be there to love, accept and help support him. The Lord God created Nathan and knows the path and plans for his life, and they are good. I encourage every parent who trusts in the Lord to release every fear and worry over your child’s future to the faithful and good hands of the Lord, no matter if you have a child of different and special needs or not. This world is rough, but God is in control. Remember to keep praying and holding on to hope.

Somewhere along the line I actually did have a miracle answered regarding Nathan, but it was far better than the one I had been seeking. I can’t even exactly say where or when it happened, but it did. The miracle is this; if the Lord God granted me one request regarding Nathan now, I would simply ask that he remain exactly the way that he is and always has been. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

A change of heart and perspective is indeed a profound miracle from the Lord.

I am really looking forward to this Ruth Chris dinner date one day! Oh, it’s coming…

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A Reflection of the Father January 23, 2018

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No matter what your history or story entails, you are valuable beyond measure. Perhaps an analogy is in order…

Seven card stud…isn’t that the name of the game? The one where the player gets to choose the five best. What a notion. The cards dealt are seven, but two get discarded. The two that the player determines are not worthy of the final hand are set aside. Choices. We have the power and ability to make choices. What do we keep, and what do we let go of?  It’s kind of like a box of chocolates really…why would anyone ever choose some coconut cream filled thing when the pure chocolate/almond/caramel delight is sitting in the very next spot!

In life, it seems that we have no problem releasing the inanimate objects that do not serve us well, or that we choose to simply let go of. Rejecting two weaker cards is a split second and easy decision in most cases,  but what about the ‘cards’ we are dealt in life? We often hear people use the analogy that ‘this is just the hand I was dealt,’ in speaking of genetic family traits and tendencies. “It is what it is” sort of mentality. And we even go so far as to embrace the negative traits tightly in our psyche, while being hesitant or reserved in claiming the strong and good ones. We essentially discard the strongest cards to the detriment of our entire hand! Am I making sense?

I will make this very personal. My father was a complex man. He is a part of me and my blood surely would reveal that. I honor his memory and loved him very much. When I consider his life, this is the kind of hand that immediately comes to mind:

  1. A hard-working and steadfast provider
  2. A creative and imaginative thinker
  3. A stirring and eloquent writer
  4. A gifted and talented musician
  5. A get-down-to-business man of his word
  6. A burdened and depressed mind
  7. A resentful heart towards authority

There are many more of course, but these came to mind for me. Your initial list might look similar or different when considering your father/mother or person of authority in your life. But let’s say these seven are my hand. There is no doubt for a moment which two would not make my final cut. I would simply lay down 6 and 7, and play the rest. I would take hold of the gifts of his life and lay down the troubled portions that in no way define me or my seed…my children. Could it really be that easy??!! Surely life and family bloodlines are intricately more difficult and complicated than that, and what of traits that do not seem to apply at all?! And what about throwing out the whole hand altogether?! We would not want to do that, but it is the reasoning here that I am getting at. Are we really only a reflection of our genetics? Is there anything that we uniquely bring to the table?  Are we just sort of stuck with things that we would really rather do without? Are we a reflection of our father/mother?

It is honest and fair to ask such questions.  I have asked them, and the answers have come in the most tender and precious of ways…“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”…2 Corinthians 5:7.  That is an amazing truth. Jesus Christ sets the whole record straight and gives those who call on His name a completely restored and healed hand to play. He is the ultimate wild card! I remember times playing cards that I would feel a sense of unfairness at the notion of the wild card. For example, if deuces are wild and if one is lucky enough to land one, it could be used as ANY other card at all. What??!! And so my useless hand of 7,8,2,10, Jack could suddenly become a strong straight as that 2 would be transformed into a 9??  The one with the good fortune of securing the wild card would be thrilled, while someone who didn’t might just become thoroughly annoyed! That annoyance is a picture of the flesh really.  But that wild card opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities and new potential. The whole notion of being stuck with the hand your given goes completely out the window when the ole’ wild card comes into play! Will we embrace and hope for it? Or cling to what seems ‘fair’ in our book, and stay with the original hand no matter what? So funny, because I love to play with a wild card in the game now.

Jesus Christ puts new talents, abilities, and mindsets into us that we did not even know we had the potential for. He refines and purifies any inherited traits in us to reveal His glory and faithfulness through us. He transforms the weak and broken things we carry into works of humble beauty in his honor. He is the miracle savior. Nothing is impossible to those who believe…”that is God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.Romans 4:17.

Remember the discard pile? Those cards we chose to throw out because they were the weakest ones in the hand? It turns out that those are the very cards the Lord Jesus uses to cause faith, endurance, and perseverance to rise up in our lives. He is gracious to allow us to set those cards aside TO HIM. We don’t need to carry them in their broken state anymore. If we trust in the Lord alone with the hardest and most difficult weaknesses and insecurities we struggle with, he will transform and change that discard pile of nothing good into something amazing. He will use it for good and it will bring him glory. There is no greater purpose for anything in our lives than that. Will we trust him with the discard pile? It is from there where our most powerful and beautiful testimonies of the Lord’s goodness will flow from. Someone needs to hear that testimony. Someone in your sphere of influence needs to hear your testimony. Our temporary pain is never wasted. Behind it all stands a testimony of the wonder-working power of the Lord, who bestows on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair..(Isaiah 61:3) Now that is the kind of testimony that can save a lost soul.

And so, back to one of the original questions…AM I MY FATHER’S SON/DAUGHTER?

Yes, you are!! You ARE your Heavenly Father’s son/daughter. You are who HE says you are. You have a beautiful and creative mind and you are covered in His love and mercy. You have a hope and purpose and are designed to bear good fruit for His kingdom. May the Lord bless and keep you. May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace!

Now go out and grab all the wild cards you can get!

(This was a letter written for my big brother months ago. The Lord laid on my heart that someone needed to hear these words.)

 

 

Humble Pie November 14, 2017

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downloadAnyone that knows me knows this… I LOVE peanut butter pie! I believe a good piece of peanut butter pie can solve many an issue or grievance. I even believe a good piece of peanut butter pie can warm a frigid heart a few degrees. It is hard to be sad with a piece of peanut butter pie on hand.

I like to think then that I am pretty easy to please, especially when it comes to birthdays or special occasions. I have long said that a nice card with a few personal words and a piece of peanut butter pie is all I ever need. Yep, that is all. That sounds pretty easy, right? My husband might not agree…

Throughout our twentyone years, Grant has forgotten my birthday a couple times and our anniversary a time or two as well. It is safe to say that on those particular occasions, there was no peanut butter pie or card coming my way. But would you believe that I still was lacking peanut butter pie on almost all of the other known special days too?! There was one fateful birthday when he bought me a banana cream pie. I have never eaten a single entire piece of banana cream pie in my life. I am not a fan. Then there was the year he made me an inedible white birthday cake. Our sons managed to get through a piece but the rest made it to our garbage disposal quickly. I did appreciate the effort. Did I happen to mention that peanut butter PIE was my favorite of all favorite? A cake is ok; pie has always been better.

I wish I could say that I have always been gracious and merciful during such spousal oversights, but I have not. Walking in forgiveness is a sign of true Christian growth and maturity, one in which I have fallen short many times. Did you know that truly forgiving someone means not bringing up the offense again and again…and again…in an effort to be sure that the offending person suffers what you feel is only fair? It is hard to say how many times through the years the ole’ lack of peanut butter pie and special occasion oversights have been laid back on Grant’s plate via me. Those little reminder jabs seem to slip out every now and again. I suppose it is easy to keep jabbing when one feels certain that they would certainly never act in the same “offending’ way themselves. Self-righteousness is not a pretty thing. Extending forgiveness whether it is deserved or not is a beautiful act inspired by the Lord, but taking it back to sling a bit more mud from time to time tarnishes and destroys such beauty. It grieves the Lord. Aren’t you grateful the Lord does not treat us in such a way? His forgiveness is complete and final.

Then the “impossible” happened…

October 12, 2017. The alarm clock rang at 6:30am but Grant was still in bed. He is usually out and gone to work by then. I was totally shocked when he said he was staying home that day. He NEVER takes a random day off of work. I even got a bit annoyed for a moment that he did not tell me beforehand so that I could pick up a work shift to help out then. I was about to express my irritated sleep-deprived opinion when I looked over at our dresser to see a dozen gorgeous red and pink roses. What in the world??!! I turned back to my husband. “Happy Anniversary.” His words pierced my heart like a dagger. Yes, I had done the impossible; I had forgotten our anniversary! I had never forgotten a single special occasion in our entire marriage. The first slip-up came on the very day of our twenty-one-year mark. I felt horrible beyond words. I could not muster a single word. I love words. I am never lacking for words. In that moment, I had nothing.

Grant knew immediately that I had forgotten. He let out a chuckle and moved on. Yep, you read that right. He moved on. I apologized profusely over and over. He told me that he forgave me. He proceeded to bring me a gift bag which had a brand new white lab coat for my upcoming nurse practitioner clinicals for graduate school. There was a beautiful card in the bag as well with some sweet personal words written by him. The tears just kept rolling down my face. His gifts were incredibly thoughtful.  I had nothing… nothing to say except how sorry I was over and over, and nothing to give him. No card, no gift, no nothing.

Grant’s quick and no-strings-attached forgiveness impacted me deeply. My first natural inclination was to prepare myself for some accusations and words of guilt coming my way, which would have been well-deserved. We do that to make sure the person who hurt us understands the depths of our pain. And yet, such words only bring strife and defensiveness. The irony was that when those words did not come, I was forced to lay down my defenses altogether. Grant’s kindness and mercy melted any hardness that was trying to wrap around my heart. The kinder he was, the sorrier I was. I began to consider how I had acted in years past in the very same situation reversed and I was deeply sorry for my lack of mercy. A wave of true repentance came over me which never would have happened if I had felt attacked or guilted for my mistake. The freedom I received from Grant’s forgiveness allowed for both of us to truly celebrate that day, no matter how it started. When you extend forgiveness to one who hurts you, God is able to break their heart in a good way. It is a way that changes them forever and brings them, and you, closer to the Lord.

Grant extended mercy, which is far better than judgment. He extended forgiveness, which is far better than offense. He extended grace, which is never deserved but is precious and invaluable, and far better than accusations. Grant reacted in a way pleasing to the Lord and it brought wholeness and healing to both of us.

Now I am aware that there are some very hurtful offenses that are far worse than forgetting an anniversary or birthday, but God’s ways are always right. His word mandates that we forgive one another, no matter the situation. The Lord gave his very life so that we could be forgiven of our sins. We must, in turn, be willing to forgive others, even when they are not sorry. We only hurt ourselves and those around us when we refuse to obey the Lord in this.

Matthew 6:14-15:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

The choice is yours but I can say with absolute certainty that forgiveness free and clear is the right one.

I do still love peanut butter but there is a new favorite on my list…Humble Pie, with a side of crow. I highly recommend it!!

 

 

Jesus Wept October 11, 2017

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“Jesus wept.”  John 11:35

The shortest verse in the Bible, yet packed with profound and intense meaning. To get to the heart of it is beyond full human comprehension,  yet to only embrace even a glimpse of it is to be filled with hope.

So what was the scene behind those tears? Why did Jesus cry?

The setting was a small Judean countryside. Jesus had been in public ministry for close to three years but the time for his greatest life’s purpose was fast approaching. He had walked the earth and loved deeply. That is what he did. He never ascribed to be a worldly king or political leader. His mission was certain and he never lost sight of it. He literally came to earth to die…to die for you and to die for me. It is the greatest love story ever told. He paid the death penalty for sin on our behalf. The wages of sin is eternal death. If you are reading this, you are a sinner and you need a savior. Your savior is Jesus. There is no other. He is God in the flesh and only he has the power to forgive and save you for eternity.  He has already chosen you, but you must choose him too.

Back to the story…

Jesus had some friends that he loved dearly. Their names were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were all siblings. Jesus learned that Lazarus was very ill. Messengers had sent for Jesus in the hopes that he would come quickly to heal Lazarus, as word had spread that he had miraculous powers, but Jesus waited and Lazarus died. Yes, he allowed for an incredible hardship and pain to happen. When he finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. The sisters were weeping and in deep mourning. The rebuke in their hearts poured out…’If only you had been here, our brother would not have died.’

Have you ever questioned the Lord God in such a way? “If only you had been there…If only you had stopped that accident from happening…If only you had caused that disease to never happen…If only you had intervened before that poor decision was made…If only you had stepped in and stopped that evil person from doing that evil thing…If only you had quieted the storm…If only, If only, If only…”

God has never promised a life without pain and suffering. On the contrary, we are assured that this life will be wrought with hardship…”In this world, you will have trouble…” John 16:33. When sin entered, so did pain and heartache.

So why did Jesus wait only to allow Lazarus to die? The question is compounded by the fact that Jesus knew that he, in fact, was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why didn’t he just do that sooner and avoid all of the messy heartache in the first place? Or better yet, why didn’t he come in a blaze of glory and raise this dead man immediately so that the happy celebration could commence? The answer is that God’s plans and purposes are far bigger and greater than ours. Even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, he will call forth eternal life and hope to rise from the ashes. Death and heartache were never part of his original plan, but in his mercy, he will use even the dark things of this life for eternal good. We only see a very small part, while the Lord God sees the whole entirety.

When Lazarus died, it was so the glory and revelation of God could be revealed. There could be no denying who Jesus was when he literally spoke, and Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, came walking out of a tomb with grave clothes on. All of those present were forever changed, and countless others through following generations to now have come to faith through this biblical account as well. Who could raise the dead to life, other than the author of life himself? It was time for God’s plan of redemption for all mankind to proceed, and the more Jesus showed who he really was, the more evil mankind despised him. This final earthly miracle before his crucifixion sealed his fate. Masses of people were coming to faith in him due to the enormity of this event and the religious leaders at the time decided firmly that he must die as his influence was becoming far too great. Raising the dead was the line in the sand.

We must see that God’s greatest blessing to all mankind came on the heels of deep sorrow and grief for some. Human loss and sadness were followed by indescribable goodness and hope. This takes great perseverance and trust as we walk by faith in Jesus and not by the sights of this cruel world. Can we admit that we reach our greatest moments of surrender and humility before the Lord when we are at the end of ourselves?

Jesus Christ crucified was the most heinous and agonizing reality this world has ever known, and yet, his shed blood is the only reason that there is any hope for human beings to inherit eternal salvation. Without the cross, we are hopeless and helpless.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”…John 3:16. Praise God for this good and wonderful news!

So why was Jesus crying? The scriptures report that when Jesus arrived and saw the sadness of those who loved Lazarus, he was moved to tears. Did you catch that? Jesus knew that those sorrowful people only saw the pain of that temporary earthly moment and experience. He knew that there was a far greater plan and purpose happening and that soon their deep anguish would turn to joy. He knew that he was the one and only answer to their every longing and need. He knew that he too would suffer and be put to death but for a glorious purpose. He knew all of that, and yet he also knew that their pain and earthly suffering were real and it moved him deeply. He did not weep for the death of Lazarus for he knew that death would be conquered. He wept because it pained him to see the ones he loved hurting. We weep for the circumstances we face, Jesus weeps to see us struggling through them.  He knows that a greater eternal hope awaits but also knows that we struggle to lay hold of that hope sometimes. He is not some far off savior who is waiting for us to strengthen and firm up our faith muscle in the midst of trials. He is a savior who suffered himself and weeps right alongside us. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”…Psalm 34:18. He loves you so very much. Every tear you have cried matters to him. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”…Psalm 56:8.

In the book of Revelation, a river of life is mentioned that flows from the very throne of God. This depiction is in the eternal life to come. The water flows crystal clear in this majestic place. I like to think that all of our collected tears will be poured out into this heavenly river. Even Jesus’ tears will be mixed in. Those tears will literally be transformed into living water that brings life, and then there will be no more tears of pain and sorrow. It is a glorious and blessed hope.

Yes, in this world you will have trouble, but I left the best part of the verse out…”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”…John 16:33. That is the savior of the world talking right there. Whatever burden you face, he has overcome it. Press on and never give up hope. And it is ok to cry. He is crying right there with you.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go Just A Little August 3, 2017

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The first time I heard the term ‘helicopter parent’ I was dumbfounded. I had to inquire on what it meant. The definition implies an overly protective parent who hovers over and tries to control almost all areas of their child’s life. The result is a lack of resilience and grit in the heart of that child. The thought sure seems a bit repulsive doesn’t it? I certainly am not one of those mothers…or am I?

My Gracie-girl is turning 17 in just a few short weeks. The thought makes me dizzy in the head. She is entering her senior year of high school and I feel certain that I just sent her off to kindergarten. Oh if I could only turn back the clock to those early days of pig tails and pink bows, but then again, that would mean reliving the middle school years, and I for one am not up for that. Fast forward we go then…

She reminds me that I turn almost every life situation into a ‘learning moment.’ I have easily given the ‘power of your words’ talk enough times that she could recite it backwards. I have a hard time letting things go when I feel certain that more must be said. Why is it so painful to just put that punctuation mark at the end of a mama sentence?!?

I suppose the message I am trying to convey is that timing and balance in parenting and in life are so very critical. I have no hope within my self to gain wisdom or insight into such truths, but the Lord God is faithful to drop precious pearls when we need them most. We simply need to ask, and listen.

Well before The Byrds made popular the song with the lyrics, ‘to everything turn, turn, turn,’ the Israelite King Solomon was filling the pages of scripture with reminders of the necessary times and seasons of life. “A time to tear down and a time to mend. A time to be silent and a time to speak,”…Ecclesiastes 3:8 (amongst many others). The Lord God wants us to discern the times we are in as parents and walk accordingly. Most of all, He wants our children to ultimately learn to rely more on Him, and less on us. Are we giving them room to make mistakes? It is only through hardship and pain, that they can really learn to trust that the Lord will always be there for them through the storms and beyond. We should not be too quick to intercede at every sign of impending trouble.

In Matthew chapter 14 we see a bold Peter stepping out of a boat in the midst of a raging tempest. His eyes are fixed on Jesus when he gets the gusto to go through with this. What an incredible moment. The world around him was in utter chaos and destruction, and yet something in his heart and spirit urged him to believe beyond the fear and grab for Jesus. He stepped out of that boat, and for a miraculous and awesome moment, he was walking on water!! Yes, he took his eyes off of Jesus and sank, but more invaluable truths and life lessons were revealed when the savior Lord reached down and pulled him up to safety. Peter’s faith grew that day. But what if Peter’s mama was there at the sidelines? Perhaps she might have been waving her arms in the air and shouting words of extreme caution..”Don’t go son! It is too dangerous!!” If it was my child, I can picture frantically throwing out a life jacket or preserver as a safety back up plan. It is agonizing to watch a child walking head on into danger, but there are times we must back away and let the Savior lift them up when they fall. How else will they learn to call on HIS name?

Now don’t get me wrong…no way should we let go of the controls entirely, but every now and again that helicopter needs to come in for a landing.

Ssshhh, don’t tell Grace I am admitting to any of this! That pic of her is the face I get during one of my exhaustive lectures!

Graces IPOD 2016 PICTURES 065.JPG

 

 

Let There Be Light July 8, 2016

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I cannot sleep. I find myself pleading with the Lord God to calm my heart’s greatest fears. My faith is so little right now. And yet I know that my Savior lives, despite the chaos that ensues in our world.

There is an enemy to us all. His name is Satan. He is the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Our war is truly not against one another, but with the dark powers of Satan. He takes great delight in bringing division among and through people. He is throwing our nation into utter confusion and chaos. The current events in Dallas, TX are a result of his handiwork to bring hatred into the hearts of people. He is nowhere near being done with his evil schemes to bring division and death.

Yet in utter darkness, there is always hope. No matter how great the darkness becomes, it can be extinguished with light. Consider a pitch black room, where nothing can be seen. It is impossible to navigate through such a room. One can only hope to grope through, grasping for something to hold on to. But once a single light illuminates that room, the darkness that was once there proves to be powerless and eradicated. The light fills in every nook and cranny of darkness, so that none remains. I see our nation blindly grasping on to anything in order to survive. Where is the light switch?…

Jesus Christ is the one and only hope of the world. He has already conquered the powers of hell and darkness, and no amount of evil on this earth can undo the victory he obtained on the cross. We are all heirs to eternal life, if we trust in His death. Yes, He had to die, so that we could truly live beyond this temporarily life. May Jesus Christ be the light switch that humanity clings to, as only He can shed light on the darkness that seeks to destroy us all.

My husband is sound asleep right now. I am grateful for his peaceful sleep. He is not yet aware that eleven of his fellow police officers have been shot upon, as they showed up to perform the duties of their sworn position. He does not know that five of those have been killed in the line of duty. He will waken soon, probably around 4:30am. He will begin to get ready to start his twelve hour shift as a sergeant for the police department in our town. I would like it if he would just stay asleep longer, in a peaceful place of comfort and safety in our bedroom. Perhaps he will feel ill when he gets up, but then I remember that he shows up for work even when he is weakened physically. Perhaps he will hear of the tragic events of the night and start to consider that maybe police work is no longer what he needs to be doing. But then I remember that he is passionate about serving and protecting his community, and that such news will only serve to make his resolve to being a honorable police officer even stronger. Perhaps if I cry and plead that he take a desk job, that he might consider it. But then he just might ask me why my children and I pray for him as we do, if those prayers for safety and protection are not believed in. He would then remind me that he loves being a police officer, even though many hate him when he puts his uniform on. He will not let fear, violence, or hate control his life, and neither will I.

And so I will stop playing out in my head the ways in which the love of my life should live the rest of his life. He has sworn to protect and serve, and nothing will deter him from doing that. I will simply wait for him to arise any minute, and I will tell him of the tragic events in Dallas. I will kiss him and hold him tightly, say a prayer over him, and send him out in his patrol car for the start of a new day. And as he pulls away, I will know that the light of Jesus Christ goes with him everywhere, and even death has no power over him.

Yes, may the light switch in his patrol car remain bright, no matter what.

 

But the greatest of these… May 25, 2016

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I start off by sharing that I am not an expert on anything. Oh, there have been areas that I once thought I might have known more than a little something about, but one thing that the years have given me (besides poor eyesight and an extra twenty-five pounds) is humbling revelation. I find that humility is the absolute best teacher, if we are willing to receive and be trained by it.

That all being said, there is no question that darkness and sin abound in our world. One does not need to be a scholarly theologian to come to that conclusion. What is so disheartening is the ever growing collateral damage that our sins are leaving behind. Sin has dire and destructive consequences to be sure. We live in a time where pain, violence, and offense have become the norm, but is it too late to find hope in this world? Our nation? Our workplace and neighborhoods? How in the world do we fight the sin and darkness that come to destroy ourselves and each other??

Now, I again reiterate that my word is not one of any power or authority in this matter, but I believe that the Lord God speaks truth into the hearts of those who seek Him. We are all but one prayer away from His advice, counsel, and direction. I am only sharing what has invaded my heart as I pray and ponder over all that is around us.

The answer starts with something that we all have open access to, but will we receive it and use it? The starting place creates the entire foundation, but will we skip over this step to get to matters that we believe are more pressing or crucial? Oh yes, many people believe that they have the keys to knowledge and understanding, but have we forgotten the most critical and basic of all requirements for hope and restoration to abound?….

LOVE.

It is a word we use in excess. We love coffee, the beach, Disneyland, our families, etc. We love to sleep too! But genuine and deep love comes from the Lord God. In the Greek language, there are multiple words to define varying types of degrees of what we know in English as ‘love’. One such word is ‘agape,’ and it refers to love that is everlasting, unconditional, and transforming. It is this type of love that can take a blameless man to a brutal death on a cross, and leave behind not a single shred of irritation, blame, or offense. Not only that, it is a love that offers total and complete forgiveness to anyone, no matter how much of a sinner they are. Let’s face it; we are all just a mess. This love does not need you to get ‘cleaned up’ or ‘right’. It is there for the taking. It comes from the Lord God, through way of Jesus Christ. He was the one who battled the shame, sin, and death for us on the cross, and what did He leave behind for us?…LOVE. Will you receive His love? I promise you this, it is the answer for your every need, question, and longing.

To the broken sinner…you are loved.

To the struggling drug addict…you are loved. God loves you right now, just the way you are. He loves you as you are injecting, snorting, smoking, or ingesting, and He loves you as you plead and fight through the pains of withdrawal. He loves you as you fall one more time to the beast of addiction, and He loves you as you try to convince yourself and others that this time is the last time. He loves you just as much as He loves any human being who is and ever lived. Will you surrender to Jesus and receive His love?

To the homosexual, bisexual, transgender, lesbian, pornographic partaker, prostitute, and all others…you are loved. God has formed every part of you and loves His creation. He knows you better than you know yourself, and so today, just know that you are loved totally and completely, just the way you are. The walls of shame and anger that you might feel in regards to God were not placed there by Him. Jesus Christ extends love and hope to all, and will not turn you away. Please do not turn Him away. He did not love you more when you were living ‘better,’ and He will not love you any less when you make choices and decisions that don’t align with His ways. His love is constant, no matter what. Will you surrender to Jesus and receive His love?

To the murderers, rapists, pedophiles, terrorists…yes, Jesus’ blood shed on the cross is that strong. You are loved in complete measure. The God who created you is merciful beyond human comprehension, and His love can be your true source of life and hope. It is a love that washes every stain, and leaves behind a new creation. God’s love for you is just as powerful and alive as His love for Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, or any of the spiritual ‘greats’ as we might perceive them to be. The foot of the cross is level ground, with a full and equal portion of love to all who come. Will you surrender to Jesus and receive His love?

To the atheist, agnostic, new world guru, Mormon, Baptist, Lutheran, Buddhist, Muslim, Jehovah’s Witness, Hindu, Catholic, Christian, Jew, and ALL other religions…you are loved. God has never been bound by our religious boundaries. His unconditional and total love for mankind crosses right over all of them. He loves you today, no matter what ‘religion’ you happen to be practicing right now. When Jesus died on the cross, a way was provided for each and every individual to come to God. No need to earn certain theological or advanced knowledge, or to pass through a series of ritualistic steps of worthiness. You have an open pathway to His perfect love through Christ. He sees you, He knows you, and most importantly, He loves you. Will you surrender to Jesus and receive His love?

Hhhmmm, any others?  Have you ever lied, cheated, stolen, grumbled, or complained? Have you ever been envious, prideful, jealous, angry, bitter, selfish, or self-righteous? Ever felt that someone of a different race, political affiliation, or religion was beneath you? What about offended? Have you ever held an offense against another and harbored unforgiveness in your heart for them, for any reason at all?

I could go on, but I believe I have touched on every human being who has ever lived, and who ever will. If you take issue with this, I would refer you to the preceding paragraph, and hope that you do not take offense.

The apostle Paul sums it up under guidance of the Holy Spirit…“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.”… 1 Timothy 1:15. 

Why in the world would Jesus Christ do such a thing? The answer has always been there since the foundation of the world…LOVE. God loves you. He loves you magnificently. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”…John 3:16.

The question is, will you now take that love and pour it out into others? If  the love of Jesus would  flow freely out from those who have been willing to receive it, our world would literally have a love explosion! It would be colossal. We would see unity, restoration, healing, and joy across our land.

I suppose I could have cut straight to the chase and said that God loves all sinners, but there are some groups of people that I specifically mentioned in which some people feel might be disqualified. Not so. We are all sinners, plain and simple.

To my precious Christian brothers and sisters, we are truly free in Christ Jesus, but it was nothing that we earned or deserved. May we use that freedom to love all the more. While we certainly have the right to protest and boycott things we feel strongly about, let’s be sure that we are not boycotting the love He so strongly wants us to spread. He just might be sending you to the very people or places that you feel certain you must exclude. Be prayerful and willing to open your heart to where the Spirit leads, knowing that He might be speaking a different plan and purpose to another. May mercy and grace abound in these things.

“Three things that will last forever-faith, hope, and love-but the greatest of these is LOVE.”  1 Corinthians 13:13

Let’s get busy fighting the darkness of this world with agape love for one another. It is a powerful weapon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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