“Even the icebent daffodils and crushed violets, the trampled crocuses and the battered hyacinths glittered like jewels in the muddy farmyards. Thomas caught his breath. He had never seen anything so beautiful. He passed the cemetery. The gravestones, too, twinkled in their shining gowns of ice. And the church bell began to ring.”
This paragraph from The Legend of the Easter Egg, shows a glimpse of Thomas, a boy who spends the week before Resurrection Sunday at a friend’s home because his sister is very sick. While there, he grasps the beauty of new life — eternal life. He learns death is no final separator for those who belong to Christ.
Our little church in Kansas overlooked the town’s cemetery. I would play with the other children outside after Sunday and Wednesday services, the charming trees towering over the tombstones a familiar sight. I saw the flowers come and go, the beaming American flags posted on Memorial Day, and a list of fallen veterans etched in a memorial stone.
We weren’t allowed to play in the cemetery, but we still knew the shapes and some of the stories of the ornate graves, and could sense the history. It stood a constant reminder of the realness and certainty of death. There were names from the 1800s, little graves for babies, and even fresh graves of a few from our own congregation.
It didn’t really bring fear, just an impression. A respect that it was appointed for man once to die.
Once I asked my dad where he’d like to be buried one day. I personally thought under the shade of a sturdy tree would be nice. He said, “Doesn’t matter where they’ll bury me. I’ll be gone.”
I pondered this, and I agreed. I, too, would be gone, in a place better than anything conjured up on earth.
“It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.”
It is important to remember death, because in its bitter sting, we know what it is to truly live a born-again life. We know the opposite of death. We taste victory, because we were buried with Him and raised to walk in newness of life.
Over and over Scripture declares to know Him equals life, in the fullest, sweetest, deepest way.
This weekend I’m looking forward to the choir declaring life, my husband’s sermon, my new dress, cinnamon rolls, and hearing the bells ringing, “Hallelujah.” Like little Thomas in the story, I still have questions, but they are resting in the hands of a Risen Savior.
Death is a reality and certainty, but it is no master of the saints. It is the wages of sin for sinners, but it is no victor over God’s people.
He conquered death, and He defined eternal life right in John 17:3.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
The next time you see a cemetery, be it shining in gowns of ice, stones faded from all the sun, under trees or a forest of flagpoles, remember to acknowledge death in the light of Christ’s own death, burial, resurrection.
Enjoy this poem my friend Madelyn shared with me–
“Gain after loss, Strength after weakness, Crown after cross; Sweet after bitter, Hope after fears, Home after wandering, Praise after tears.
Sheaves after sowing, Sun after rain, Sight after mystery, Peace after pain; Joy after sorrow, Calm after blast, Rest after weariness, Sweet at last.
Near after distant, Gleam after gloom, Love after loneliness, Life after tomb; After long agony, Rapture of bliss— Right was the pathway leading to this.”
In my first few months of motherhood, anxious thoughts simmered. I was even nervous the first time alone with my baby, feeling we needed at least four sets of hands to keep our precious bundle safe!
Every creak sounded like a break in, and during nap time, I constantly zoomed in as close as possible on the monitor to ensure the rise and fall of his breathing.
Certainly, motherhood is a steep learning curve, with hormones and normal concerns. But I hope to share how God’s Word encouraged me and established truths a little tighter in my heart in those newborn days.
Isn’t it amazing how God’s sovereignty envelopes us with sweet confidence?
I find daily courage in these two verses.
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Even if I could be a perfect parent, and utilize every earthly precaution, I’m still not in ultimate control. With the psalmist I acknowledge, the Lord ALONE sets us in the safety. It’s a safety we long for (Psalm 12:5).
The Lord gives peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). All the understanding a young mom doesn’t even have time to acquire yet… a river of peace runs much deeper.
Secondly, our children are infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than our own. He knew us in the womb, and His care goes to the length of etching each day in His book.
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
Some have a life story filling many pages into old age, chapter after chapter. Others’ lives are brief and also beautiful, but still penned in glorious love and purpose. It’s not for me to know the number of my days, nor the number of my little one’s. He knew before we were fully formed in the womb, and each day is a gift of grace to enjoy. What comfort and courage!
Whenever those fingers of fear and worry start reaching for my heart, I remind myself of these bedrock truths. God is sovereign over motherhood.
What do we believe about God?
As my son grows older, I’ll have more opportunities to fear. It won’t be just his health, but I’ll think about his emotions, his personality, his education, his relationships, everything. I’ll need to reaffirm that it isn’t my job to be in control. I must remember that even at my baby’s most vulnerable state in the womb, I could trust God to sustain his heartbeat in accordance to His will. Can we not continue to cast our cares and anxieties on such a wise Father?
At a baby shower last week, a mom much further down the road than me, shared how she desired to communicate her trust in God to her kids even when it was hard to do so. Because sinful fear shows others what we believe about God — that He isn’t to be trusted.
Instead, we can rejoice in the knowledge of His power and complete control. Safety isn’t a place. Safety isn’t a frame of mind. Safety isn’t perfect health. Safety isn’t a high-dollar security system.
Safety is a gift from God alone. He faithfully walks with us each day, until welcoming us to our forever home. Yes, I can place something even as precious to me as my loved ones in the hollow of His hand.
My sister recently reminded me of this old hymn Safe Am I. Sing this over your baby’s nap time, and give thanks He ordained this very day in His book, before we were born.
“Safe Am I, Safe Am I, In The Hollow Of His Hand. Sheltered Over, Sheltered Over With His Love Forever More.
No Ill Can Harm Me, No Foe Alarm Me; For He Keeps Both Day And Night. Safe Am I, Safe Am I In The Hollow Of His Hand.”
I recently introduced my husband to my favorite book, The Hiding Place, and we haven’t been able to stop talking about it since we listened to it together on our holiday road trip.
What I love about the Ten Boom family is their lack of fuss. They simply read God’s Word and sought to apply it even while their home country decayed in the WWII German occupation. They intimately knew God’s voice and leaned on Him for courage.
The Ten Booms knew they held no value to the Nazis. They weren’t young, rich, or cutting edge, just one wrong move away from prison or worse. They fixed watches for a living and loved the disabled people, the strays, the beggars, the homeless, anyone who knocked with need. In aligning their view of other image-bearers with God’s, some of them paid the ultimate sacrifice for their diligent obedience to the Lord.
Wanting Ears Tickled
For all the things that will be hard next year, there is something that will be all too perfectly easy for us. It will be easy to skate around the Bible instead of studying it. Even silencing it by listening to the believer’s three worst enemies instead.
1) The Deceiver subtly seeks to feed us lies, or even half-truths, suggesting we question God’s goodness like Eve did. He’ll try to make us ashamed of both Christ and the words of His mouth.
2) The World blasts anything that will sell for its own fat profit and cleverly hide the true price tag.
3) Our Flesh will crave the things the world offers because of its raging appetite.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.”
2 Timothy 4:3
It’s easy to accumulate teachers who tickle or scratch our ears because we don’t even have to leave our couches to hear and read them.
The Worthiest Voice
But God’s Word equals the brightest light and the source of sound doctrine. Our God is sufficient for our needs, and He speaks the raw truth. Our ears need it in an enormous amount so we can discern everything else we hear.
I’ve seen the slow fade in my life. By giving my time, attention, and priority, I twist up the volume of other platforms. Perhaps of gifted writers who weave things that sound good, are mostly true in some contexts, and who emphasize the trending mantras. I have to be wary, lest I’m desensitized to deceptions cloaked in lovely prose. Humans are good at convoluting truth, one catchy phrase at a time.
Am I tuning into any influencers/teachers/writers/celebrities/church leaders who speak into my own fleshly desires? Who are easy to look at and promise enlightenment, but serve sickly-sweet flattery and feel-good stuff? I never want to stay informed of the culture at the cost of opening my heart to deception.
Can we endure sound doctrine? The Piercing Lamp, volume turned up?
Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus, –Louisa M. R. Stead
We would do well to follow in the footsteps of the simple Hollanders from The Hiding Place, just obeying what “saith the Lord” in daily tasks and stewarding opportunities for sacrifice with courage. Sound doctrine was their light in the hellish concentration camp. Sound doctrine spoke louder about their value than the guards who called them only by their prison numbers. Sound doctrine gave strong promises of God’s care and kindness in the absence of their basic human rights.
In war-torn hunger, Jesus still proved the Bread of Life. While they had threadbare blankets in the cramped barracks, His Word is called a fire. When Corrie and her siblings were weak, His Word is known as a hammer. Their earthly bodies shriveled, but God’s Word stood as a mirror to their precious souls. They were defenseless, but the Nazis could not take away the Sword of the Spirit.
It’s so sweet just to take Him at His Word.
As we venture into 2022 — be it easy or hard times — take up this Light. This Mirror. This Sword. Let’s delight in rather than wander from His commandments. Refresh ourselves with the accuracy of God’s own account of Himself. Turn up the sound doctrine so we can see our path.
The sky hung weighty and pale. Backyard held a foggy hush, but inside the whole household glittered with candlelight and beamed with courage.
Christmas togetherness circled a long table laid with evergreen. The year had been mostly good, aside from an unwelcome medical diagnosis in the midst, and this could have disheartened the season.
But . . . joy and light and great news for all people.
In Psalm 112, the ones who fear the Lord are described as blessed and fearless. Light arises in the darkness for the upright, those who delight in His commandments (vv. 1,4).
“For he will never be shaken; The righteous will be remembered forever.
He will not fear evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is upheld, he will not fear . . . “
The reason we’re not cowering in fear of more evil news, tonight or next year, is because:
“…The gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials.” ― Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer
Are you clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Be steadfast in heart, trusting the Lord; there’s nothing left to fear.
Think about the shepherds, faced with a reason for terror.
When the sky split, it wasn’t Christmas-pageant, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy imagery. An angel army began shouting in the sky.
I, too, would have been stricken with fright. I think the shepherds anticipated evil reports, judgment, or end-of-the-world pronouncements. Perhaps their sheep scattered.
No wonder the angel declared “do not be afraid” first of all. Their presence necessitated it.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among menwith whom He is pleased.”
The shepherds’ fear of bad tidings was overwhelmed by good news in a manger.
The shepherds had sinful souls destined for wrath, and so do we. It paints the bleak night stage, set for the desperately needed good news/great joy of Christ’s birth, His death, and His resurrection.
Still today we have no need to be afraid because the light arises in the darkness. Sinners are called to hear and know the gospel, which changes everything about everything. We are considered “the righteous” because Jesus bought us. Each medical diagnosis is about glory to God in the highest. And He leaves peace with us, but not the kind the world gives.
Nothing can truly shake the righteous one’s position before God. No terror of the night can steal the peace promised that surpasses all understanding.
It’s why my family doesn’t need to fear evil tidings but can rejoice in the knowledge of our eternal security, the goodness of God’s perfect plan, and the desire for gory to the Prince of Peace, come what may. This is the good about the bad.