NO REGRETS

Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. [Revelation 21:3-4 (NLT)]

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. [1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NLT)]

tiger swallowtail butterfly on bergamotWhen writing yesterday’s devotion (“It’s Curtains”), I couldn’t help but feel a brief pang of regret because I never had those conversations with my parents before they died. The thoughts, “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you,” may have been assumed but never were spoken. I was fifteen when my mother succumbed to cancer. I saw her that day in hospital but, when I walked out that afternoon, I was sure I’d see her again when I visited the following day. I never thought the next time I saw her she’d be lying in a casket. When people would say, “She looks so good,” I wanted to shout at them and say, “She doesn’t look good; she looks dead!” Five years later, I was in the same funeral home and surrounded by many of the same mourners. That time, it was my father’s body lying so still in the front of the room. Two day earlier he’d been hunting pheasants when his heart failed; he died in the middle of a corn field. I’d seen him just a few weeks before that and never thought our farewell was the final one. Did my parents know how much I loved them? Did they know how sorry I was for my failings? Did they know I forgave them for theirs? Did they know how thankful I was for the life they gave me?

If we’d had those conversations at that time, however, I’m not sure how satisfying they would have been. I was far too young to have any concept of what it meant to be a parent and make the difficult choices parents do. I was too immature to have a real appreciation of the sacrifices they made for me or to understand the depth of parental love and the pain that so often accompanies it. And, I was far too young to acknowledge how wrong I’d been in so many ways. I think of the Apostle Paul’s words, “I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.” Indeed, I did. Now, more than fifty years later, I have the blessings of faith, maturity, perspective, and experience but those conversations cannot take place. Surely, like me, there are others whose final farewells were nonexistent or less than satisfactory. Nevertheless, they were final.

Although I expect to meet my parents in heaven, I think we’ll be too busy joyfully worshipping God to bring our regrets with us to the afterlife. What’s done is done and those last farewells, as unsatisfactory as they were, will have to do. The past is just that—passed! There really is no room in our lives for regret or looking backward. After all, we still have a race to run.

To dwell on the past simply causes failure in the present. While you are sitting down and bemoaning the past and regretting all the things you have not done, you are crippling yourself and preventing yourself from working in the present. Is that Christianity? Of course it is not. [Martyn Lloyd-Jones]

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. [Philippians 3:13b-14 (NLT)]

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IT’S CURTAINS

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. [Psalm 90:12 (NLT)]

Death never takes the wise man by surprise; He is always ready to go. [Jean de La Fontaine]

PEONYWithin a week of one another, two friends joined the ranks of widowhood. One was not surprised when she joined this club. Her husband surrendered to cancer several months ago when they chose to stop all treatment and make the most of their remaining time together. The other woman was caught by surprise; she went to bed a wife and awoke the next morning a widow. Her husband, who appeared to be the picture of health, had suffered a fatal heart attack during the night.

I thought of these women when reading an article in Prevention magazine by Dr. Ira Babcock. His experience as a palliative physician taught him the value of making four statements before saying our last good-byes: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. Although the first family had an opportunity to prepare for that last good-bye, the second family did not.

We may picture a peaceful ending with family gathered around the bedside affording us an opportunity to say and hear whatever needs to be said or heard. In actuality, that’s probably not the way the last act of life will be staged. Any forgiveness that needs to be asked for or extended, any thanks that should be offered, and any words of love to be spoken cannot wait for the last act. We may not even know the play is nearly finished, the people to whom we want to speak may not be present, or conversation may not be possible.

Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. They’re all thoughts that shouldn’t wait to be expressed until we or the people we love are at death’s door. In their last moments, did either of those husbands regret having left something unspoken? When the casket was closed, did their family members weep because of words they’d left unsaid? I’d like to think the first husband and his family had expressed their forgiveness, thanks and love. As for the second husband—as he was gasping his last few breaths, did he wish he’d said “I love you!” before his wife went to bed? Do his children regret not apologizing for something or failing to express their love and appreciation for all he did? Does his wife wish she’d told him how much she loved him that night? Does she regret their morning argument or wish she’d thanked him for his incredible patience?

Lazarus died and was resurrected. If he or Martha and Mary left anything unsaid the first time he died, I imagine they didn’t the second. Unlike Lazarus, we don’t get a second chance at dying and, unlike Martha and Mary, we don’t get a second opportunity to say farewell to our loved ones.

Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. We don’t know when the curtain will close. Is there anyone to whom we should say those words before it does?

Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it…If we did, we would do things differently. … Forgive yourself before you die, then forgive others. [Morrie Schwartz in “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom]

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. [Psalm 39:4-5 (NLT)]

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YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. [Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)]

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. [Psalm 20:4 (NLT)]

oxeye daisy
What is it your heart desires? A photo safari in Africa or a river boat cruise along the Rhine? A paid-off mortgage or an enormous IRA? A private chef, personal trainer, maid or someone to chauffer the kids to their assorted activities? To be free of physical ailments or pain? A better paying job, longer vacation, or nicer boss? Better behaved children, a more loving spouse, or an abundance of friends? Are these the things our hearts desire or do we really desire the things that will accompany them—things like love, security, joy, serenity, a sense of well-being and peace? When we commit everything to the Lord, we will have those things, even without the luxury items, vacations, ideal situations, money or even the health.

Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else. [Woodrow Kroll]

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. [Psalm 73:25 (NLT)]

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. [Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

BE STILL

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. [Isaiah 55:3a (NLT)]

Goldmoor InnThe gardeners in our community always stop running their mowers, weed whips and leaf blowers whenever someone passes and we walkers appreciate not having grass clippings and yard debris blown into our faces. Yesterday, I noticed that nearly all of them check their cell phones during that short break in their work. Today, as I waited in the car while my husband pumped gas, the first thing I did was reach into my purse to check my iPhone. Had I missed anything in the world since last I’d looked? I will venture a guess that most people are like the gardeners and me—they check their phones during those brief pauses that occur throughout the day. Hopefully, they resist the urge to check them while at a red light but I see plenty of drivers who do!

It’s not just our cell phones—it’s our computers and tablets as well. Most of us frequently check our email, social media, the stock market or weather reports, the latest video on YouTube, or even the eaglets’ progress in the eagle cam. Then, as soon as we return home, we check the voice mail and caller ID in case we’ve missed anyone’s call. Are we ever so diligent about checking with God to see if He’s got a message for us?

In those brief moments of quiet that occur throughout the day, what if we didn’t check our computers, pick up our phones or, worse, the remote to see what’s on TV? Most likely, nothing that important has transpired since last we looked! What if we took those moments to check in with God? If He has nothing to say to us, we could always take those precious seconds to send him a thank you for the little blessings of the day or shoot out a prayer for a friend, co-worker, or that person who is texting while driving. If nothing else, we can take a deep breath, be still and know that He is God.

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. [Psalm 46:10 (NLT)]

Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” [Psalm 46: 10 (MSG)]

And what did I do after putting this devotion in my “To Post” folder? You guessed it, rather than thanking God, I checked my email!

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THANK YOU NOTES

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased [Psalm 138:1-3 (ESV)]

blue flag irisI came across a book that offers 101 ways to say “Thank you.” It suggested ways to express one’s appreciation for milestone celebrations, business opportunities, help, social events, and assorted gifts. I didn’t think a thank you note for a blender was that much different than one for a vase or candlesticks but, apparently, the author does. There also were chapters devoted to topics like stationery, envelopes, and internet etiquette. One chapter offered a “thank you thesaurus” complete with several “glowing superlatives and energetic adjectives.”

Like the book’s author, I firmly believe in writing thank you notes and, for the most part, still write them by hand. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to believe anyone needs a 160-page book to help them express their thanks. Granted, I haven’t hosted a debutante charity ball nor have I received an ambassador’s invitation to a reception, so I probably travel in a different circle than the author. Nevertheless, if such occasions should arise, I now know where to find the perfect wording for my thanks.

Since the book also included ways to express thanks for opportunities, love, friendship, continued loyalty, for being there and for “saving me from myself,” I thought of prayer and all of the things for which we should thank God. While just about every reason to thank people was covered, the author missed some important ones when expressing thanks to God. There were no sample letters for what Paul might call thorns in the flesh—be they disappointments, illnesses, challenges, difficult people, or pain. After all, we are to give thanks in all circumstances, not just the ones we like!

While some of us may be etiquette-challenged, there’s no official protocol for thanking God. We certainly don’t need a thesaurus or a list of vivid superlatives and adjectives for our prayers. Since God is the one who does the mountain moving, we won’t need the author’s list of “power words that move mountains.” Moreover, we don’t need to know the “do’s and don’ts of using honorifics.” Although we should remember that Jesus does not have the middle initial of “H” and that God’s last name isn’t “Dammit,” simply addressing God by any one of his Biblical names works fine. I do agree with the author that our thanks should be specific; simply saying “thanks for the many blessings” is way too generic for our generous God. Even so, I think God already knows if the pink cashmere sweater looks fantastic with the new beige skirt or that the blender will be put to good use when we make our morning kale smoothie.

There are only two rules about giving thanks to God: first, we must do it! Praise and thanksgiving are to be a part of our lives—at all times and in all circumstances. Second, while our prayers of thanks probably don’t have to be as eloquent as David’s, they should be as frequent and as heartfelt.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)]

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. [Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV)]

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AFTER THE STORM

compass plantThe terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. [Acts 27:20 (NLT)]

“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! [Psalm 107:28-30 (NLT)]

While walking this morning, I could see the toll last night’s hail storm took on the wildflowers. Many that yesterday stood tall and proud over the prairie were now bent and broken. These defeated looking plants made me think of a friend and the storm that overwhelmed and nearly defeated him.

Raised in a Christian home and once a believer, he lost his faith in a loving God years ago when a series of medical errors left his child with severe brain damage. Angry at God and then disillusioned by the hypocrisy he saw in his church, he decided to worship the god of achievement and wealth. All went well for him until one day it didn’t. The storm hit when the multi-national corporation for which he worked closed its doors. In spite of his stellar resume, nearly two years passed without employment. When the economy tanked, so did his investments and his savings dwindled to nothing. Upside down with his mortgage, his god of success and prosperity was nowhere to be found. It was at that point that this once proud man literally fell to his knees and humbly admitted his defeat and nothingness to God. He wanted to believe but needed to know that God really was there. He didn’t ask for relief; he asked for reassurance of God’s presence. “Show me that you exist, that you care, that you are good!” was his simple prayer.

Most of those drooping wildflowers along the trail will again stand tall when the sun shines. Like those flowers, my friend was raised up when he turned to God and allowed the Son back into his life. Within a day of his prayer, he received a call from a struggling Christian-based non-profit and, within a week, he’d started working there as the CEO. Several years have passed and he is happier and more content than he was in his previous life. Because of his business acumen, the organization he serves is now thriving and people’s lives are being changed in incredible ways. His child is still disabled and his standard of living is not what it was before the storm, but he lives joyfully in the knowledge of a loving and good God—a God who can still storms and lift a drowning man out of the sea.

A hail storm can knock down flowers and, sometimes, God knocks us to our knees with a storm of troubles. It’s when we’re on our knees, however, that the only place to look is up! When we ask God to reveal Himself to us, we shouldn’t expect Him to do it with a job or financial support. After all, God only promises relief from all of our troubles in the next world. In this life, we will be relieved only from some of them; other troubles He will enable us to endure. Nevertheless, when we humbly and sincerely ask God to reveal himself to us, He will.

If God seems far away, who moved? [AA slogan]

But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found him. [2 Chronicles 15:4 (NLT)]

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