Pain in this life is a given.
It is unavoidable.
It will happen.
It is a foolish endeavor to attempt to avoid it touching our lives. Seasons of pain come and go. Sometimes the season is short but sometimes those seasons seem endless. Sometimes the pain is of our own doing, a consequence of a rebellious spirit. Other times, we are blindsided by life and we find ourselves in the crosshairs of a fallen world.
What do we do when we find ourselves in a season of unrelenting pain and hardship? If pain is inevitable, then there must be some kind of help out there for the afflicted, some Divine provision for a hurting soul.
Maybe we need to change our understanding of pain and it’s purpose in our lives. Sometimes it just helps to know something has purpose.
What would happen if we saw pain as a tool? Then recognizing how that tool is used in our lives would be hugely significant.
Let me explain.
If pain is a tool, then we need to recognize whose hands hold the tool.
If the tool finds its way into the hands of the enemy, we can be sure that it will be used to cripple us, maybe even destroy us. We know the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10
But, if the tool finds itself in the hands of a loving Father, then we can be assured that the tool will be used to chisel and shape us into something beautiful. We could then claim Romans 8:28 with absolute certainty. We could know beyond any shadow of a doubt that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Armed with that assurance, we could stand up under the weight of any pain.
We don’t often have a choice as to whether pain enters our lives or not, but when it does, we do get to choose whose hands will hold the tool.
Choose your carpenter wisely.
Have a great week,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
Yesterday was a first of an upcoming year of firsts. In January, my mom went home – to her real home. So this was my first Mother’s Day without a mom, without my Mama. I really wanted to just move on past the day and pretend that it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way so I just kinda muddled through the day.
I was so blessed to have precious friends send sweet texts throughout the day. One even made the most amazing cake to let me know that she was thinking about me. I was blessed to have most of my children with me but, and I hate to admit this, I just wasn’t feeling overly grateful for the blessings that were around me.
This morning a sweet friend said, “You made it through your first ‘first’. You did it.” She knows what she’s talking about because she has walked this same road. She knows that there will be many “firsts” this year. As I left her house to head home, I started thinking about how much I don’t want to just make it through the next year of “firsts”.
As I drove, I began to become so aware of my ungrateful heart. God had so lovingly surrounded me with loving friends and family and I had just neglected to recognize it. But then He brought a precious memory to my mind. I want to share it with all of you, especially any of you who, like me, have a year of “firsts” ahead.
Back in January, early on a Monday morning, my Dad called to let me know that he thought Mama had just had a stroke and she was in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. We had made several trips to the hospital over the last few months. Her health had been declining and her body was worn out. I remember that my only prayer on the way to the hospital was just that God would be merciful and that her suffering would not escalate even more.
When we got to the hospital, she was on a respirator and was heavily sedated. We were told that she had had a catastrophic brain bleed. After a few more tests and much prayer, the decision was made to remove the respirator. That night, her family surrounded her as she took her last breath.
One by one, family left the room until the only two left were my son, Dalton, and me. His eyes were swollen and red and I knew his heart was crushed. I didn’t want to leave him in the room by himself so I just stood there, watching him out of the corner of my eye. My own heart was so heavy as the finality of what had happened sank in.
But as we stood there in that dark, cold room the most amazing thing happened. All of a sudden, Dalton’s eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up. “Mama, just think what she’s seeing right now…can you imagine what she’s seeing right now!” It was as if God had cracked the door to heaven just enough to allow us a tiny glimpse of what the real reality was. The whole room seemed to light up.
His words washed over me like a river of healing water as I was reminded that the empty shell lying in the hospital bed was nothing more than just that, a shell. But my Mama, well, she was face to face with her Savior. No more pain. She was free. And maybe, she was even dancing.
The reality of what death is for those of us who belong to Christ had escaped me for just a moment. But my son’s words reminded me that the truth is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
Who was I to want anything else for her?
So, as I drove home today, I realized that I, again, had lost sight of the truth. I confessed my ungratefulness to my Father and asked that He renew a right spirit in me. I told Him that for the rest of my year of “firsts” without my Mama, I was going to celebrate her year of “firsts” with Him. I was going to just imagine what she was seeing and how she looked now that she was fully healed.
I also had to smile because I’m pretty sure she is rearranging all the furniture in the Mansion and telling the angels what to do.
Have a great week!
Yesterday was a big day for the family. Dalton, child number 3, graduated from The University of South Carolina. Three Marlowe children down, one to go. To make things even more special, Robert, whom I claim as one of my own was also graduating.
Because we are so academically oriented, we all headed to Columbia for the momentous occasion. Actually, that’s a lie. We mainly get excited over these kinds of things because it gives us an excuse to get the families together and, well, eat. And, because it wouldn’t be right to celebrate the occasion without actually attending the graduation, we decided that it was only appropriate that we go.
Certainly picture taking is also an important part of such occasions, not as important as food, but important all the same. The problem is that none of us are good at:
A. Actually taking the pictures
B. Posing for pictures.
I think this is because there are so many of us and out of the entire group, there are only a few who know how to focus for longer than 60 seconds. Well actually, that’s probably not true either.
Thank goodness for my daughter in law. If it weren’t for her, there would be very little documentation of family events. Sadly, I think we have started to wear off on her somewhat. She is the one standing on the far right. Obviously, she is struggling with the whole focus thing, too.
Special thank you to my friend Julie, Robert’s mama, for capturing our dysfunction.
So, after the trauma of the picture taking with the Coker family, we all were so worn out that we decided to take one of the shuttles from the Horseshoe to the Colonial Life Arena. That was also an experience, but not one we will delve into right now. Once inside, we had to sit in the nosebleed section because all the good seats were taken. My guess is that either everyone else decided to wait and take pictures after graduation or they are better at taking pictures than we are.
Once in our seats, we all sat politely and waited for the ceremony to begin. Philip fell asleep. Twice. People were asked to behave respectfully and not holler so as to not drown out the name of the graduate following their child; most were courteous, some were obnoxiously not. I, myself, was so distracted by the fabulous artwork on the top of the graduates’ caps (Remember we were in the nosebleed section) that I almost missed my own son’s name being called out.
The soon-to-be graduates were assured that they were ready to take on the world – to change it. We were all told the same thing when we graduated. Do you remember? I remember. So much value was placed on that simple piece of paper I held in my hand. And it is valuable. But it is not in itself able to empower anyone to change the world. What will cause change is found in the heart of the one holding the diploma.
To Dalton and Robert I want to say that I’m so proud of the hard work and dedication that brought the two of you to this moment. But this moment, this degree, is not what you should ever allow to define you. Instead, see it as the catalyst through which God will direct your steps - for His glory. Don’t let your main ambition from this point forward be to earn lots of money and be financially set for life or to attain a high job status or even to be impressive in man’s view. Instead, make it your life’s goal to, “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
One day, all the finances accumulated and all the accolades bestowed by man will be left behind and you will stand before the One who created you to do great things that He has already chosen for you to do. He has given you all the gifts and talents that you will need. Use them selflessly and wisely. Remember that God’s view of greatness is different from that of the world’s. While the world looks at the outward appearance, God is looking at your hearts.
Make Him proud. I have no doubt that you will.
Love you both. You too, Hunter.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
If you never felt pain,
Then how would you know that I’m a Healer?
If you never went through difficulty,
How would you know that I’m a Deliverer?
If you never had a trial,
How could you call yourself an overcomer?
If you never felt sadness,
How would you know that I’m a Comforter?
If you never made a mistake,
How would you know that I’m forgiving?
If you never were in trouble,
How would you know that I will come to your rescue?
If you never were broken,
Then how would you know that I can make you whole?
If you never had a problem,
How would you know that I can solve them?
If you never had any suffering,
Then how would you know what I went through?
If you never went through the fire,
Then how would you become pure?
If I gave you all things,
How would you appreciate them?
If I never corrected you,
How would you know that I love you?
If you had all power,
Then how would you learn to depend on me?
If your life was perfect,
Then what would you need me for?
The day after Jesus’s crucifixion was the Sabbath day, a day of rest. Can you image how strange that day must have been? I wonder if those who loved Jesus just sat and starred at each other in dazed silence. Picture the confusion.
There were some who were not resting. The religious leaders, wanting to cover all their bases, asked that the tomb be secured. They needed to make sure that Jesus’s body stayed put. Pilot gave permission and the tomb was sealed and guards were posted.
I just recently watched the movie Risen. I watched the religious leaders looking on as the Roman guards anchored the stone and placed the seal on it. I smiled to myself and thought, “Well, good luck with that!”
Because I know how that story ends.
It's 6:00 a.m. and I'm really tired this morning. But how tired must Jesus have been? He has not slept. He has been beat, spit on, and accused falsely.
Let's walk in His shoes as we go about our day today. Let's be keenly aware of what was done for us.
At 6:00 a.m. Jesus is standing before Pilot listening to their lies as they yell for His death.
In the next few hours, Jesus will be sentenced to death, mocked and flogged beyond recognition, and then He will drag His cross to Golgotha.
By 9:00 a.m., He will hang on the cross for the next 6 hours as the insults and mocking continue, as soldiers cast lots for His clothes, and as a criminal is promised salvation.
Around 3:00 p.m. today, Jesus will cry out, "It is finished."
He has paid our price. He has bought our freedom. Don't let anything distract your heart and mind today. Remember what was done on your behalf and live like one who has been spared simply because you are so loved, not because you deserve to be.
Tonight Jesus will be arrested. He has just a few precious hours left. What do you say to those you love when you know time is running out?
Read John 13-17. Key in on four words-forgive, love, obey, and unity.
Jesus told His disciples to forgive one another after His example; those who have been forgiven much, should forgive much.
He gave them a new commandment, " love one another as I have loved you."
He said, "If you love me, you will obey me."
Then He prayed for their unity and for the unity of those who would come after them-He prayed for us.
That night, with only a few precious hours left, Jesus was thinking about you and me. Let that thought settle into your heart as you get ready for bed tonight. Tonight, all those years ago, Jesus did not sleep. The terror of what lay ahead for Him was just beginning. He would willingly endured it because He thought about you and He thought about me and He loved us so.
Scripture is largely quiet concerning Jesus's activity on the Wednesday before His death. Many believe that today was the day Judas approached the religious leaders and offered to help them arrest Jesus.
Why would he do such a thing? Greed, obviously, but really, when he approached them, he had no idea that they would pay him.
Maybe because Judas never really loved Jesus or believed what He said. Maybe because Judas thought himself to be better than the others. Pride, greed and love for self only opened the door for the enemy to tempt Judas to betray Jesus - to sell him for a measly 30 pieces of silver.
That's all Satan wants to do anyway. He wants to tempt us to believe Jesus is not enough; that there is something out there better than Jesus; that there is a better life than the one He has for us.
Sadly, sometimes we believe him.
But not today.
Today, let's toss the silver coins Satan hands us back at him because, today, we know that there is nothing more precious than our Savior.
Have a blessed Wednesday!
Jesus was busy today teaching in parables – lots of parables. He covered obedient and disobedient sons, greedy farmhands, wedding banquets, even paying taxes. He told them what the greatest commandment was and what the second greatest one was. He denounced hypocrisy and He let the religious leaders hold it. He warned them about the signs of the end times, and at the close of the day, Jesus talked about how He would separate the sheep from the goats when He one day returned to sit on His throne.
What an incredibly busy day! I can’t help but wonder if He was trying to squeeze in every bit of last minute teaching He could manage to squeeze in before He left them.
I found myself focusing in on two things Jesus said.
Loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds was and still is the most important thing above all else. But then He went a step further and told them that the second most important command was to love their neighbors as themselves. (Matt. 22:34-40)
Love for God and love for others. How well do I love? How well do you love?
Jesus said, “A new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
And we know how well He loved us…
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