Tag Archives: future

Commencement

In April, we celebrate new things.

Like our new baby birds :)

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Last week

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This week. Hello world! What’s for dinner?

And new flowers – 20140424_101018

New shoots on our lantana. Love to see these come back year after year!

New shoots on our lantana. Love to see these come back year after year!

New babies

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

Since this is a season of new things, I’m excitedly introducing a new blog today. From now on, I’ll be writing here – @ Eternity in Our Hearts.

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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“Helicopters” or “whirligigs”

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.

“Many Joys Are Waiting Yet…”

When I finally get there, I’m gonna stay!”

I laughed, but it was okay because Muriel and I have been friends for awhile now. Muriel says lots of things that make me laugh. All these years (and hardships) haven’t diminished her witty sense of humor.

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I had been reading to Muriel a few verses that she had written years earlier (when she could still see) on the front page of her Bible. She remembered most of the verses and said them along with me, especially Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

When I finally get there, I’m gonna stay!”

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Of course you will, my friend. Surely you will receive a beautiful reward from your Lord and you will joyfully lay every crown at His feet.

As we officially welcome summer this weekend, Muriel will celebrate another year on earth even as she longs for heaven. I understand her longing, but I’m thankful for more time with her – to chat and pray and read Scripture and talk about heaven. No matter what kind of day I’m having, time with Muriel changes my perspective. Let me share with you part of her story in her words, and you’ll understand why she is an extraordinary person:

Seventy years ago I set sail for Africa to become a medical missionary. The war (WW II) was still on so the only way to get passage was to go as the ship’s nurse. We sailed in full blackout down the coast of the U.S. to Brazil where we began our trip across the Atlantic. Most ships that were going went in convoy in case of a German submarine attack. Ours was a very fast ship so we went alone. We got across the Atlantic near to the coast of Africa when we were sighted by a submarine. Because of our speed, we were able to outrun it and land safely at the Port of Matadi in the Belgian Congo.

I was assigned to a station on the border between Congo and Uganda. I was thrust into a place where I knew no French, no native language, and nothing about tropical medicine!  I had to learn the native language, to sew up the wounds of Africans gored by buffalo or torn by lions and leopards, deliver babies, and treat tropical diseases. I was in charge of a dispensary where we treated 50 – 80 patients per day.  Before work began we had a Gospel service that every patient attended.

At the end of five years I returned to America for a year of furlough. Then I went to Belgium for one year of study in tropical medicine – all in French!

When I returned to Congo I was assigned to a new station up near the border of French Equatorial Africa. There I was in charge of a leprosy colony of about 100 patients. There was no cure for leprosy then, only care of ulcers and making patients as comfortable as possible. I was there for 4 years, then a year of furlough.

About 3 years into my third term at the leper colony, Congo got its independence from Belgium and became a very troubled nation with much fighting among tribes for supremacy.  We were evacuated from the country. I waited four more years, hoping to return, but the situation did not improve, so I resigned from the mission. I was thankful to God for the privilege of serving Him as His ambassador.”

These days, this amazing ambassador who nursed hundreds of broken people depends on nurses herself. While her earthen vessel is weak, Muriel’s spirit is strong. She chooses to be thankful. Some days are better than others, but Muriel chooses to look beyond what she experiences in any given 24 hours.

The lyrics to a song are taped to the door of Muriel’s room in the nursing home. I don’t know where the wrinkled piece of paper came from, but the words there perfectly describe how Muriel has lived.

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Dearest Muriel, I celebrate your life with deep gratitude and rejoice in the eternal joys that are waiting for you. Thank you for your example of courage, sacrifice, faith, and obedience. I can’t see beyond today, but my prayer – if I live to be 95 or just one day older – is to, like you, “cling to Him the more.”

If We Could See Beyond Today – by Norman J. Clayton

If we could see beyond today as God can see;

If all the clouds should roll away, the shadows flee;

O’er present griefs we would not fret,

Each sorrow we would soon forget,

For many joys are waiting yet

For you and me.

If we could know beyond today as God doth know,

Why dearest treasures pass away and tears must flow;

And why the darkness leads to light,

Why dreary days will soon grow bright,

Some day life’s wrongs will be made right.

Faith tells us so.

If we could see, if we could know, we often say,

But God in love a veil doth throw across our way.

We cannot see what lies before,

And so we cling to Him the more.

He leads us till this life is o’er.

Trust and obey.

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The Prize

It just amazes me that our Father God is so majestic and yet so merciful. And powerful but at the same time personal. He truly speaks and acts in our lives tenderly, deliberately, and individually. I’m sure of this because I experience how He teaches me patiently when I need to learn the same lesson over and over again. And how He continually points me back to His voice and His purposes when I’m prone to wander or wallow in discouragement. Sometimes through different circumstances or various people, the same messages will coincide, and I’m certain it’s not a coincidence.

It’s graduation season, and whenever I attend a commencement ceremony, I look most forward to the speaker’s address to the graduates. The message is usually filled with inspiration, challenge, and vision. After all, the word “commencement” means “beginning.”  It’s obviously an occasion to congratulate the graduates on their accomplishments but it’s most importantly a time to direct their energies and hopes toward the future.

For this reason, as I was preparing to graduate from seminary two years ago, I chose to memorize Philippians 3: 13 – 14 ~

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (words of the Apostle Paul).

As the big day drew near, I mediated on this passage and prayed that my heart and mind would be focused not upon worldly success or gainful employment but upon the upward call of God in Christ.  I wasn’t sure what this would look like in terms of future ministry. I was receiving a degree in Christian counseling, yet I was pretty certain that God would use my training in unexpected ways. Unlike most of my classmates, I didn’t feel lead to pursue the path toward counseling licensure and practice. I wanted to go out into hospitals, nursing homes, and crisis pregnancy centers, perhaps serving in a way similar to a chaplain.

Standing in the lobby as we awaited the processional, my fellow graduates were buzzing with excitement. There was nervous talk about their next steps, such as taking the licensure exams and applying for residencies. Several of them asked me when I was taking the exam and where I was seeking a position. When I replied that I didn’t have immediate plans for either step, they were perplexed. “But,” a classmate protested, “you should follow through right away before all this becomes….a  waste.”

Hmm. Thousands of dollars and countless hours of work. A waste.  Geez – not the most cheery thought as I walked toward my diploma!

As I sat among the rows of people with black robes and silly hats, I glanced over the graduation program. And my eyes fell on this Scripture on the back cover:

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For me, it was the sweetest moment of affirmation. The Word doesn’t say “press on to the most logical step” or “press on toward what makes you professional and significant” or “press on toward a job.”  No, the Holy Spirit reminded me that my goal is the prized upward call of Christ. Certainly my classmates, in their pursuit of becoming Christian counselors, were also seeking God’s will and His Kingdom purposes. Having received the same rigorous training, I highly appreciate and respect their very important ministries. But the call of Christ for me was to be different, and in that moment God reassured me that it was good. Underneath the uniform black robes and silly hats, all of us graduates were created uniquely for God’s personalized plans.

The prize lies wherever Christ’s love compels us. It may be in a counseling practice, the backstreets of town, an orphanage in China, your kitchen, a Bible study, your office, the yard that connects you with your neighbor, or a nursing home. When Christ’s love compels you and you go, nothing is wasted.

So, fast forward two years, and I am sitting at a friend’s graduation from seminary. Honestly, the speaker doesn’t capture my interest this time, but I do remember one thing he has to say: “God doesn’t use a measuring stick.”

I think about that as I drive home, having congratulated my friend and having spoken with several familiar people who asked, “So, what are you doing now?” With all honesty, I replied that I happily love my family, serve my church, and volunteer at a hospital and a nursing home.  Only one person asked why I’m not using my training. It doesn’t really bother me. I’m slowly learning that while a paid position could be really nice, it doesn’t validate me or my degree.

God doesn’t use a measuring stick. The same is true for you. God’s love and purpose for you doesn’t depend on what you have or haven’t accomplished. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When Christ’s love compels you and you go, it’s joyfully significant. My sweet husband and I trust that one day we’ll see an eternal return for our investment.

There are days when I struggle with discouragement or selfish motives. I am a “Martha” (Luke 10: 38 – 42) at heart, and Marthas often try to find their significance from what they do. But Jesus calls out the “Mary” in me – the heart of devotion and worship for what He has already done. Jesus said that this is “the one thing needful” (verse 42).

Notice that Paul said, “This one thing I do…” His one thing, his focus, his purpose was in living his values – supremely the Love of Christ. When we truly live out what we value, I believe that the prize is discovering the freedom, simplicity, and significance of God’s personal call upon our lives.

I’ve been blessed with an incredible opportunity to stay at home with my girl, love on my husband and our parents, and serve in ministry with amazing people in my church and community. Perhaps there will be different seasons with different opportunities, but I’m cherishing this one. And when another season comes, I’ll continue to look forward to the prize of God’s call and go where Christ’s love compels me.

On the day that I graduated, my husband presented me with a treasured gift – a beautiful new study Bible. Without speaking with me beforehand (this was a surprise), he chose a verse and asked a sweet friend to write it in calligraphy on the inside of my Bible:

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God is so mighty and merciful – so powerful and personal! Sometimes the same messages will coincide, and I’m certain it’s not a coincidence.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5: 14 & 15

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands. Psalm 138:8

He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

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Not Only Christmas Day

Good morning! I hope you had a blessed Christmas! It is a rainy & windy day in North Carolina – perfect for a lazy morning of staying in our pajamas. I’m thankful for time to rest, partly because my family hasn’t had a lot of sleep in the past few days and partly because the house is such an overflowing mess that I don’t know where to start! Sometimes life is one daunting task after another, isn’t it?

And so today finds me procrasinating a bit, because I’d really like to stay in the Christmas glow of worship, family, prayer, and reflection. But I know that as soon as I turn on the TV, the newscasts will have turned their focus onto 2012 in review and what’s to come in 2013. Commercials will be playing upon our holiday-indulgence-regrets and pitching weight loss plans and products. Eventually I’ll have to think about removing the tree with the falling needles. And there will be duties to resume and big decisions to make. Plus, upcoming visits to the cancer center with my dad.

January may be around the corner, but this year’s Christmas offered me, more than ever, the gift of an eternal perspective. The holiday season may soon be past, but Christmas Hope is a forever-reality because the Baby went from the manger to a sinless life to a cross that I deserved. He died that death may die. The things that I worry over today – be they trivial like messy houses or heavy like doctors’ reports – pale in comparison to the immeasurable hope and glory that are forever found in Christ.

And so I’ll take one step at a time today and not buy into the temptation to mentally venture into what’s to come. Life will be a mix of taking out the trash and hugging the ones I love and talking to Jesus who goes before me. His example of humility and His gift of hope won’t be on my return list, but will be presents that I open every day.

The poem, Not Only Christmas Day, by Mary Fairchild, is on my mind today. I hope it encourages you, as it has inspired me, to view life with a Christmas perspective throughout the year.

http://christianity.about.com/b/2007/12/06/weekly-prayer-post-not-only-christmas-day.htm

Lord, this is my prayer
Not only on Christmas Day
But until I see You face to face
May I live my life this way:

Just like the baby Jesus
I ever hope to be,
Resting in Your loving arms
Trusting in Your sovereignty.

And like the growing Christ child
In wisdom daily learning,
May I ever seek to know You
With my mind and spirit yearning.

Like the Son so faithful
Let me follow in Your light,
Meek and bold, humble and strong
Not afraid to face the night.

Nor cowardly to suffer
And stand for truth alone,
Knowing that Your kingdom
Awaits my going home.

Not afraid to sacrifice
Though great may be the cost,
Mindful how You rescued me
From broken-hearted loss.

Like my risen Savior
The babe, the child, the Son,
May my life forever speak
Of who You are and all You’ve done.

So while this world rejoices
And celebrates Your birth,
I treasure You, the greatest gift
Unequaled in Your worth.

I long to hear the same words
That welcomed home Your Son,
“Come, good and faithful servant,”
Your Master says, “Well done.”

And may heaven welcome others
Who will join with me in praise
Because I lived for Jesus Christ
Not only Christmas Day

— Mary Fairchild

The Present is the Gift

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! It’s a very different Thanksgiving for my family this year as we celebrating in south Florida instead of our North Carolina home. We’re with my husband’s siblings and their families, and our days have been filled with swimming and playing on the beach with cousins. We’ve discovered live starfish and sanddollars and even happened upon an alligator this morning! This is the first Thanksgiving we’ve ever spent away from our parents, and we’ll go to a buffet instead of cooking.

Even though it doesn’t seem like a traditional Thanksgiving, I realize that we don’t need the aroma of roasting turkey or the sounds of the Macy’s parade on TV to remember thanksgiving in our hearts. We have many, many reasons to thank God for the abundance that He has provided.

And when I think about Thanksgiving this year, I am trying to stay anchored in the present – with all the gifts that this day offers. Two things often rob me of a grateful heart. They are “ifs” – as in “what if?” and “if only…” The “what ifs?” put my focus – and worries – on the unknowns of the future. As the daughter of aging parents – one with cancer – my thoughts trend this way quite often. What if there will not be any more Thanksgivings together?

And the “if onlys” put my focus on the unchangeable realities and regrets of the past. If only I had not wasted the promising years of my young marriage and early career, bound by an eating disorder….

When these big “ifs” steal my peace and joy, I have to make a choice to stay right here in today. The past can’t be changed and the future can’t be controlled. I have to fix my mind on the one “IF” that brings my heart and mind back into the right focus:

IF God is for us, who can be against us?” ~ Romans 8:31.

God is for me, and neither the if onlys of the past or the what ifs of the future can take that away. That truth anchors my heart in gratitude for today. Gratitude that my regrets and shame are wiped away in Christ. Gratitude that He promises His sufficient grace for whatever lies in the future.

My heart is free and thankful today. I like the expression “Today is a gift – that’s why it’s called the present.” May we sincerely lift up our thanks today to the Giver all of good gifts – to the One who has redeemed our past and secured our future in Christ.

I truly hope that your heart will be free and thankful in Him too.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8: 38 – 39