Another Day Strong

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Some days are harder than others
Without your curves under the covers
Waking up knowing I’ll never hold another…like you
But then there’s days when I think everything’s gonna be alright
And nights when my heart tells me I’m gonna survive
Without you snuggling by my side

Another day gone, another day strong
I’ve gotta long way to go, down this lonely road
I don’t feel like I’m getting far, when I’m missing you so hard
But I’m praying one day at a time, since you’ve been gone
I’m another day strong

Some days I’m haunted by your face
Driving by spots where we used to date
Sometimes you appear in crazy ways…out of the blue
Like hearing that song you always sang the wrong words to
When a caller on the radio sounded just like you
Catching the scent of your perfume

I’m moving on, never the same
Changed by love, changed by pain
But your memory will never fade

Another day gone, another day strong
I’m another day strong

Tom’s Song

Tom Carpenter
Tom Carpenter

One wretched sinner, saved by grace
Through Christ the Son Who took my place
Once dead in sin, a guilty man
Until I met the Great I AM

He knows the number of my days
Discerns my thoughts, sees all my ways
Sealed with the Spirit – guaranteed
O Praise His name! How can this be?

His way, His path, His narrow road
My life’s journey will yet unfold
And when “God help me!” is my cry
My Sovereign knows, He’s not surprised

Though dark and desperate days find me
I’ll fix my hope on Calvary
For Sin and Death cannot prevail
When Christ, the Cure, has made me well

Behind the lines

This song, and the idea behind the GraceSyllables blog, was inspired because of how God worked through Tom Carpenter’s life and his final days with terminal cancer. Tom passed away February 16, 2010 at the age of 51. You may learn more here along with the compelling words he wrote before he died.

 

The Church: Scary or Sacred?

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It’s the time of year for scary movies, haunted houses, and tribulation trails. It’s also a season where many actively avoid anything remotely frightening. But there’s one place where the dichotomies of good and evil meet, it happens year round, and it’s called the church. The local church is a place, more accurately it’s a group of God’s people who are in community together in order to worship Him, serve and love one another, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Let’s call it a gathering of sheep, which alerts hungry wolves, and causes shepherds to be on guard. It’s a refuge of hope, yet a place where spiritual warfare rages. The church is not for the faint of heart, but is for the faint of heart. It’s where the weak become strong, because the Strong came to be weak. Some see it as scary, some see it as sacred, but can both be true?

House of Horrors
From the world’s point of view, the global church and the gospel are offensive, calling out sin is judgmental, and the world hates Christ, hates the true church, and sees the Bible and Christianity as a religion of fools. Likewise, there are governments who persecute the church out of fear and out of the desire to maintain control at all cost. And because of sin, the fall, and spiritual warfare, many people will only see and hear about the abuse of some churches, the damage caused by wolves in sheep’s clothing, the false teachers (as in the Book of Jude), the power hungry, money grabbers, the lord it over you leaders, and the politically motivated bandwagoners. For some believers, who have been burned by such abuse, the local church can be a terrifying place that has impacted them so negatively that when they hear the word “church” they immediately cringe. It’s a place they don’t want to go because of their bad experience. Other believers may go to church regularly, worship and find value in it, but are still reluctant to join, get involved, and serve others because of their past experiences. Then every believer, whether they attend church every time the door opens or not, will struggle with sin because we are prone to wander from the truth of God’s Word. Oh, and the Bible teaches that the shepherds, sinners too, will be held accountable for the sheep. From this view, the church is a scary place.

House of Healing
But God, in His infinite wisdom, established the church to make disciples and further His kingdom and told us not to avoid assembling together. When the local church is functioning effectively, that is Biblically, and correctly, it is a house of hope and healing – a healing that may take a long time for those who have experienced abuse. The true church is a beautiful mess of sinners saved by grace, still being sanctified, struggling, yet victoriously perfected positionally in Christ. Where else can you find reprieve from the world? Where else will fellow believers care for each other, provide meals, send a note of encouragement, pray for and cry with one another? Where else will believers sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron in preparation for battle? Where else is there a victory cry over sin because of what Christ has done? Where else can ultimate victory over sorrow and death be expressed at a funeral? Where else are we taught to overlook offenses, forgive seventy times seven, while still talking about the consequences of sin and holding each other accountable through church discipline? Where else can difficult questions be asked and answered, differences of opinion and theological disputes debated, sometimes agreeing to disagree out of love for Christ and one another?

Exit Here
Yes, the imperfect local church can be scary and beautifully hope-filled at the same time. If you’ve ever been hurt in or by the church, know there is healing in Christ and that healing is often manifested in how His love is carried out through a local body of believers. So, be discerning, persevere, and don’t cut yourself off from the church out of fear. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is victorious over all evil and His perfect love drives out fear. The same Jesus who drove the money changers out of the Temple will one day return, and the church will be made perfect, no longer stained by sin.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:17-23).

Groanings Too Deep For Words

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The Broken World

Have you ever had groanings that were too deep for words, where the details are so heavy and difficult to share, it’s hard to even breathe, much less talk about it? It may be a situation of abuse, abortion, addiction, bankruptcy, divorce, or the loss of a dear loved one to suicide. It may be the inability to have children, or perhaps you finally have a child, but your precious one has an unexpected terminal illness. It may be that you have a rebellious young adult causing tremendous heartache as a prodigal son or daughter. It may be that your eyes have finally been opened to your own sin and poor choices. Whatever it is, there’s a deep lingering sadness, and a time for grieving, sighs, and groaning.

Yet, our fast paced world doesn’t allow us to grieve properly. You know, the one of self-esteem and you can get through anything so get up and get going. The one where you must keep up that perfect public image, because let’s face it, who has time for reflection or grief? Who wants to be around that kind of sadness? However, sadness, as the Disney movie, Inside Out, vividly portrays, is a very helpful emotion. Sadness is a gift from God given to help us deal with the difficulties we face in a fallen world. Sadness brings tears of healing in the present, while making us long for a better world in the future. A world restored to the original intent of God dwelling with man in perfect relationship, where there’s no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain, and no more death.

No Words

Grievous circumstances are often when our words fall short and we can’t even begin to describe the spiritual and emotional turmoil we’re feeling. This is where the Christian clichés, and the token, often out of context, Bible verses given by friends, though meant to be encouraging and kind, may seem empty, unwanted and even cruel.

It is in the these life moments where words need to be few and where love needs to be shown with much patience and kindness. There’s not a quick fix – just snap out of it, solution, and our actions during these times will prove much stronger than our words. This is when just being there to serve out of love and support is the best thing we can do for one another before we speak words based on the “truth in love” principle. This is a time for weeping with those who weep. A time for listening. A time for reflection. “What is God teaching me?” It’s a place for hugs, a time for praying, – not just saying, “I’m praying for you”, but actually praying with someone. It’s also a time where we should ask for permission to speak. “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, is it okay if I share something?”

How Long?

The grieving period really depends on the circumstances and the people involved, but eventually the sadness gives way to an opportunity to express joy in the hope of Christ. And here we must acknowledge that people grieve in different ways. This may take days, weeks, months, or even years. There will be good days and bad days, but there’s a Living Hope that we must turn to, in order to help us better understand why there is suffering. It’s a hope that may have never been completely lost, but we, or our friends, were unable to fully rejoice in it during the season of grief.

Paul, who was no stranger to suffering, wrote these inspired words of hope, a hope which cannot be seen, yet a hope we patiently wait for. It’s a hope that we must learn to embrace.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:18-25 ESV).

Peter, who denied Christ three times, and who had to be terribly grieved by his denial throughout his life, also reminds those who are born again of our Living Hope. You see heartaches often have reminders that trigger renewed periods of grief. Can you imagine him hearing a rooster crow each morning or just seeing one wander by? Some days it may not be too difficult, others it may be like a fresh crushing blow. Like Peter, we must constantly remind ourselves of this hope:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV).

Our Helper When There Are No Words

Going to back Romans 8, Paul writes where our Help comes from, and then writes one of the most quoted scripture verses for encouraging other believers. However, we must be careful when we use it. For instance, don’t jump to v28 when you should start with v26. Stay there for a while in weakness and be comforted, knowing that when we have no words to pray, the Holy Spirit knows, and He’s interceding for us with groanings too deep for words…

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:26-28 ESV).

 

Be Still My Soul

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Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
leave to thy God to order and provide
in ev’ry change He faithful will remain
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake
all now mysterious shall be bright at last
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart
and all is darkened in the veil of tears
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness all He takes away

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last

Behind the lines

One of my favorite hymns to grieve by, especially the passing of a loved one. It was written by Katharina von Schlegel in the 1700s and little is known about her life which in many ways makes it even sweeter.

Dedicated to Rowena Appleton Taylor who passed away yesterday at the age of 69.

Below is a YouTube video of a traditional a cappella boys choir, Libera, singing it complete with lyrics.

 

Thorns and Roses

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I’m running hard through thorns and roses,
Tilling up the garden of my mind,
Feeling both pain and sweet emotions,
And wondering if they’ll ever die.

For the scars still hurt from years ago,
Why does it take wounds so long to heal?
But when those memories take over,
I thank God for the love they reveal.

So Lord help me wear my crown of thorns,
And when they sting remind me to smile,
Because I know You were first adorned,
And You rose to make the thorns worthwhile.

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