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Redeemed

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe” (Psalm 107:2).

Facebook overflows with national headlines about politics and tragedies. Celebrity quotes buzz from Twitter as if it were a beaten wasp nest. Instagram, Periscope, and Pinterest offer the newest trends and latest tips on how-to anything. Blogs on every subject abound. I’ve shuffled through Books-a-Million’s vast aisles, wondering how many e-books exist for each tome on their shelves.

The overwhelming volume of written messages can bog the motivation of writers like me. Has it all been said? Maybe my time would be better spent folding laundry–again. At least my lips can be put to better use eating chocolate. After all, what words can I offer a world inundated by stories?

Scripture insists the world needs critical stories which I alone can share–my stories. Jesus redeemed me. The Lord crafted me as a vessel for a specific message to be poured out into a thirsty world. No matter how many books, blogs, or tweets flood the media, His words remain significant.Christ’s transforming breath deserves sharing. I must not prioritize laundry, chocolates, or statistics ahead of those still needing His rescue.

Telling my personal tales scares me a bit. I never feared speaking before hundreds, but was terrified the first time I shared my redemption story before dozens. Even if I weren’t a blogger, writer, or speaker, the Lord would still call me to share His effect on my life with others.

We’re all vessels, crafted with a unique God story. Each testimony carries a critical taste of antidote for the world’s terminal illness. Someone needs your message. A neighbor. Blog readers halfway across the world. Only God knows whether your outpoured life brings His rescue to one or to many. Either way, it’s certainly worth saving them.

Start where you are. With those in your immediate community. Include His praises in conversation. Pray for the Lord to create opportunities and guide you to share more.

Redeemed (1)

We each have inspiration which no one else can offer. Let’s encourage one another, and refuse to be stingy with our stories. Please comment about the Lord’s impact on others through you (past, present, and upcoming). I look forward to reading your testimonies!

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“Suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Magical characters reach from movie screens and beckon me into their world. Theme parks offer fresh visits to childlike wonder. Incredible masterpieces fill museum halls and garden paths. I relish each chance to drink in the inspiration of imagination.

The Father molded each of us in His image. He crafted unique works of art, kissing individual personalities with a different spritz of His creative sparkle. In a delightful chat with a 72 year old Christ-sister yesterday, we explored our different means of reflecting God’s ingenuity. When I shared my work as a writer, she first defined herself as devoid of creativity. Yet, as we talked, her amazing talents with children shone (along with other strengths) as brilliant examples of imaginative gifts. The Lord engineered our differences to glimmer in harmonizing shades as part of His glorious design.

Imagination inspires, motivates, uplifts–a fantastic blessing. My coaching and writing professions require consistent supply of this priceless resource. I cannot inspire unless I drink copious doses of inspiration. My incessant thirst deems me ever thankful for each sip of creative fuel.

While magnificent, imagination fails to bless us as an end unto itself. Creativity must encourage the soul to seek something greater. Inspiration toward anything less than true hope leaves us empty. Our sparkling kisses of ingenuity must reflect the Father’s love to others. Each imaginative work which honors His touch will transform others’ souls.

In the midst of a bleak, discouraging world, we need splashes of inspiration more than ever. God designed us to “poke holes in the darkness until light bleeds through,” as Margaret Feinberg so eloquently put it. Hope must radiate from the edges of all our creative endeavors. Imagination glimmers with us on earth for a season, a beautiful tool to point others toward eternal hope.

What creative works will God use from your spiritual and natural gifts to offer hope? Comment and share with all of us, so we can inspire one another to persevere in His work of providing hope.

2015 class

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20).

I wiggled on the plastic seat and squinted toward the floor of the expo hall. Four hundred fifty-four square black caps huddled into rows of folding chairs. Red honor cords, white stoles, and baccalaureate medals flowed to the center of the black robed sea. One precious individual sat in the middle of the crowd awaiting his moment to cross the stage. Four years of excruciating work now hung as distinguished accouterments around his neck and lay as satin remnants over his shoulders. The moment of graduation hung within reach, with a few words to traverse on the way.

The principal delivered his congratulations and exhortations, followed by high-ranked students offering similar remarks. As the International Baccalaureate Valedictorian approached the podium to deliver the final speech, the expo hall went dark. No sound equipment. No lights. Shadows engulfed the commencement process.

The Valedictorian looked back for direction from the faculty, who turned to the school principal. The entire staff hesitated for a moment. The darkness caught us all off guard. Then, the IB administrator urged her top student to press on. As he proceeded to speak, the generator brought up a few stage lights. The sound system resumed. As the lead student offered his concluding words of encouragement to the graduating class, the house lights brightened. With minimized delay, light guided our commencement outward.

On the drive home, my son and I discussed future graduations. With college racing toward us in a  couple of months, we anticipated undergraduate and graduate commencements to outshine the one we’d just completed. Before striving onward, we gathered for hugs and copious amounts of chocolate cake.

Diverse events comprise threshold moments of our lives. Certainly not limited to school achievements, many kinds of commencements spangle our timelines. Periods of intense trial come to a close. Good things end, too, such as cherished bonds or occupations we enjoyed.

At the end of one season, we can often experience a moment of uncertainty. The next steps toward our calling fall under shadows. We hesitate, taken off guard by our blindness.

In the shadows of commencement lies an opportunity to tighten our grip on faith. Turn back to consult the Lord’s wisdom through prayer and Scripture. Even when we cannot see yet, the Spirit might exhort us to press onward. Persevere despite the dim lighting and poor sound reception. Take the next right step. The lights will return to guide us outward into fulfillment of our mission.

Commencement defines the growth stages of our spiritual journey. Challenges and suffering teach us volumes. Compassion and wisdom shimmer over our shoulders more brilliantly than a scholar’s garb. With each threshold crossed, we have an opportunity to deepen our trust in God, develop more Christ-like love for others, and emerge well-equipped for the next level of our mission.

So, let’s pause to pray for wisdom. Prepare with me through frequent meditation on God’s Word. And even if we don’t know it all yet, the Spirit will exhort us to commence. But, before we get going, let’s not forget to celebrate with excessive chocolate.

Seriously, we have way too much cake here for one family. Any volunteers to help with that?

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . .encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:23-25, 35-36).

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

“‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven'” (Acts 1:8-11).

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’” (Luke 22:39-46).

On the eve before His crucifixion, Jesus knew each detail of the unprecedented suffering awaiting Him. Jeering pagans would scourge him until near death. The priests who claimed His Father as God would insist they strip and kill Him. He would drag a beam through the dusty streets, as those He suffered to rescue spat upon His battered body. His raw flesh nailed to rough wood, He would hang to suffocate in the blistering sun. And that wasn’t the worst of it. He would also bear the immeasurable weight of every sin from the advent of time until the distant end of all days. Incomparable physical, emotional, and spiritual agony.

Jesus foresaw all this as He poured the Passover wine. Three years of cherished moments with these men culminated in this final message.He ripped the bread and explained its secret meaning to blank stares. In conclusion, He handed the elements to the dear friends who would soon abandon Him.

The scent of roast lamb floated through the streets. Jesus led them beyond the hard-packed roads until the murmurings faded and lush grasses eased their steps. With the steep incline, His legs strained under the added weight of His coming journey. They settled under a favorite cluster of trees in the garden. Gentle breezes lulled His full-bellied companions into repose. Jesus offered a vital exhortation to his too-comfortable students.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

He surrendered Himself in a crucial prayer. Angels responded to strengthen Him. Christ continued His fervent interaction with the Father. Until—

Every nerve and hair prickled as He recognized this moment. The time had come.

Jesus returned to wake his dozing supporters. Yes, He realized their frailty. But He must impress the concept of crucial prayer. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Christ’s insistence upon prayer at this moment renders it a crucial matter. The word ‘crucial’ derives its significance from its parent term, crucifixion. Though comprehension eluded the disciples until after the resurrection, we now benefit from Christ’s magnificent teaching delivered on Maundy Thursday. He

  • Forgiveness. He fulfilled the secret meaning of Passover as the Messiah Lamb Who redeems us from the consequences of sin. Despite impending betrayals and our continued undeserving nature, He demonstrated ultimate grace.
  • Service. He modeled the nature of a servant, explaining an additional impact of His coming sacrifice as providing inspiration for selfless living.
  • Submission. He surrendered Himself in prayer to the Father, Who strengthened Him to face unimaginable agony. During His crucial prayer, the Lord sent angelic support.
  • Crucial Prayer. He exhorted His followers to pray against temptation. He knew the trials awaiting them in the coming season. He knows prayer is our essential resource to fortify and equip us foll all that lies ahead.

This Maundy Thursday, as you reflect upon Jesus’ message to the disciples at the Last Supper and Gethsemane, will you join me in committing to a discipline of crucial prayer?

“children running and shouting through the Temple, ‘Hosanna to David’s Son!’ . . . Jesus said, ‘Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?’” (Matthew 21:15-16).

Easter dawned on the horizon as Christ marched through formidable gates to redeem His house of worship. With every step across the courts of women and Gentiles He manifested God’s presence among those furthest removed from the holy place. In strode the One Who would make all things new.

The resident authorities balked at change. The current state of worship served their lifestyle of disdain and exclusion. Sizable gifts impressed them, not whether men offered them from their hearts. The swindling of poor worshipers failed to prick their conscience. Priests and politicians shared the drink of corruption. The Temple rulers shrugged away such apostasies.

But, oh, those children.

Jesus foreknew the Temple purification would meet resistance. Sanctification always does. He took time to weave a whip, readying His physical instrument as He prepared for battle against unseen forces. While we don’t know the inner details of this quiet time, Christ maintained perfect concordance with His Father throughout His life. That He prayed during these moments requires little conjecture.

God’s maelstrom thundered across the Temple as He flipped wooden tables over onto the stone floors. Merchants pawed across the marble tiles to recover spilled coins. Christ’s whip cracked over their heads and spurred them to flee the halls. His voice echoed off the smooth walls, declaring the purpose of His Father’s House. And His task was not yet complete.

Sanctification requires more than cleansing filth away.

Enter those relentless little worshipers. As the children ran through the Temple, the Lord used their praises to help cleanse the Temple by renewing its divine purpose. It wasn’t enough to stop doing wrong. The right type of worship had to fill God’s house again. Worship like a child who loves the Lord.

Scripture defines Christians as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1Corinthians 6:19). Just as the driving out of money changers represented something larger in need of removal from the place of worship, our lives tend to harbor elements that don’t belong. Our sin nature clings to its corrupt old ways and resists change. Despite human and supernatural opposition, Christ’s sanctification can renew our lives. If we submit to His ongoing work of transformation, He drives out residing powers that don’t belong. Pride, selfishness, all manner of sinful strongholds flee out of the halls with a pathetic squeal.

A purged Temple isn’t fully cleansed yet. After the Lord relieves my soul of a nasty attitude, renewed purpose must complete His work. I need to reorient my spirit and fill the cleansed spaces with the worship He desires. Whether He prescribes certain actions or a discipline of stillness, complete renewal means submitting to renewed purpose. I must worship Him with the relentless praise of a devoted child.

Not childish, but child like. Knowing my utter dependence upon Him, yet comfortable that He carries me. Filled with awe and wonder. Accepting the unexplained. Believing without seeing. Trusting with all my soul. Loving Him with all my heart.

Will you join me in worship today, accepting the royal status as His transformed child?

 Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there” (Matthew 19:14-15).

“‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me'” (Matthew 18:3-5).

view from Chimney Rock

On one of THOSE days, the alarm clock fails to rouse me. After the third slap at the snooze button, I’ll roll off the bed to press my forehead on the carpet in prayer. In my fogginess, I misjudge the distance and crash a bit harder into the floor than I intend.

Please, God, spare my vanity and let there be no rug burn on my head.

The tweeting “sound spa” clock reminds me I didn’t quite turn it off. Red digits glare at me.

“I’m late.”

Protein bar and zip fizz have to make do for breakfast. I glance at my Bible with a pang of regret and grab for my purse. The phone charger cord yanks my arm back. After fumbling to untangle straps, elbow, and cord, its a race to the car.

Traffic slows to a crawl. What’s this? My road is closed. I clench my jaw while probing narrow streets for a new route. A German luxury car cuts me off. The protein bar crumbles onto my lap. I roll down the window to flick out the mess. A swig of carbonated B-vitamins coincides with a ragweed sneeze. Fizz burns into both nostrils. I slap my nose to stop the flow. Pink snot drops adorn my quaking palm. Another luxury car honks me away from the desperate search for a napkin. I return my slimy grip to the steering wheel, shouting the most popular query to heaven.

“Why?”

In this throng of dust-creatures, we bump into one another and grate our flesh on the brokenness of this world. Annoying days fade in comparison to the rampant tragedy filling the earth. None of the chaos, frustration, or pain makes sense. Suffering and loneliness seem to have no end or meaning. We often cry to the Lord in despair, wondering how a loving God can forsake us.

Jesus met us in our experience when He cried out to His Father on the cross,  “’My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” But He didn’t leave the question to hang out there without response. He gave His life with a final declaration, “It is finished.”

Christ resolved our loneliness and met our need for meaning. He stamped an expiration date on the broken world and its suffering. In that sacrificial moment, earth’s curse broke with the gift of wings.

When I use His wings to rise from the dustiness of life, I see things from a broader perspective. Above the smog of pain and sin, a clear sky brings fresh breath and new focus. I hear Truth and see beyond my present darkness. He is with each of us and all of us. Christ appears throughout every crowd and alongside those in solitude. Love gleams onto each rug-burned forehead below, even those too downcast to notice. A sweet breeze shifts my gaze to the horizon. Beyond the gloom, hope peeks from the coming Day with brilliance to outshine the dawn.

There’s more to today than our earth-view reveals. There’s more to life than this day’s gloom.

Instead of getting distracted by my discontent, I can zoom out with the wings I’ve been given. Acknowledging God’s supportive presence allows me to shift the day’s burdens to His shoulders. The weight of my momentary troubles set into His hands, I can direct my energy toward life’s true meaning–blessing.

Let me use this day, no matter how dusty or tragic, to lift the chins of the downcast. Lord, let my life draw attention upward so others see Your love.

 

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ” (Romans 8:18).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…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 8:35, 38-39).

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

various-pumpkins-10026569

Yellow and white blooms wilted under the blood moon. Their papery remnants clung to the vine until autumn’s breeze tore them away. For a day or two, the evidence of fallen beauty littered gardens across the countryside. Within the base of those flowers who had used their season to pollinate beyond their temporary moment of loveliness, something more substantial had developed.

Lacy petal-cardigans slipped away to reveal which ones carried deep-colored treasures. Gourds expanded from the places once held for them by passing flowers. Skins thickened and bubbled with warts and valleys, guarding the prize within. Stout and solid, their weight anchored them more and more in steadfast positions. Each tough vine-dweller grew while patiently awaiting the harvest.

One must look deep to find the gourd’s riches. Beyond the tough, uneven skin lies a wealth of nourishment. At its life’s end, the harvester breaks open the body to feed his family with vitamins, minerals, seed protein, and fiber. Extra seeds and inedible matter provide an entire garden from one individual hull. He wastes nothing from the pollinated vinedweller’s life.

I gaze across the pumpkin patches and butternut squash displays, considering the investments of my time dwelling on Christ’s vine. Have I pollinated the inner station of my soul so it will bear lasting fruit for generations to come? What part of my life will feed the family of God after my body’s earth season has ended? How much have temporary things distracted me from investing in the eternal?

Lord, help me stay focused on things of lasting value instead of the less important matters which pass away. Pollinate my spirit and expand my heart. Let my thoughts grow solid and steadfast in Your Truth, impenetrable to the pestilence of toxic attitudes. Cultivate rich nourishment within me until I am beautiful in Your sight, regardless of how I appear to passers by. Make me gourdgeous to You, Lord. Thank You, for planting me in Your garden.

What about you? Ready to grow gourdgeous on His vine?

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. . .I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8

“I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. . .Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Phil.1:20-27

“if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” – Phil. 2:17

Ruach gusted from the Creator’s lips into soulless forms on the earth. Life billowed into flesh and gave significance to the carcasses. Darkness shattered the perfection of Eden. Creation turned from its direct connection to Pure Lifebreath and distracted itself in a clamor to gasp for its own survival. The earth staggered and suffered in its putrid marshes of paganism and humanism while a remnant lifted their heads for the lilt of the Father’s breeze. After salvation dawned upon the world, new life rushed into a cloistered group of terrified disciples. Pneuma, as their language described it, set their breath ablaze with the advent of the Holy Spirit among believers. Revival whooshed across continents with unceasing demand.

An ongoing need to inhale fresh Spiritbreath persists. The breath of God alone begets life. Without His wind in our souls, we deflate to a gasping existence on dead calm seas.

We all need refreshment. In this stale pit of tragedy and confusion, our shoulders sag after so many miles of care. The norm can easily fade to drear and our words begin to lack flavor. Without a gust of divine breath, we suffocate in the dismal valley. We must seek His presence continually, and ask Him for renewal.

Florida’s sticky heat clutches at my chest as a constant reminder of my own Pneuma dependence. Our tropical summer waxed on for an extra month. The peak of hurricane season had passed, but the rains continued to pelt us. Nineteen inches drenched our September lawn. Temperatures wavered between eighty-eight and ninety-three, but steam hung in the air long after dusk. I attempted a prayerful walk around my neighborhood one evening. After less than a mile, I fought for breath.

Focus on circumstances had recently mired my soul in the doldrums and I struggled to keep moving in the work before me. Hot, sticky despair daunted my steps. Gloomy skies stretched beyond their due season. I pleaded for breath. I searched the heavens for a gust of Spirit to raise my flattened soul. And when I asked, ever faithful God demonstrated His goodness and breathed Pneuma into my spirit. Much like a gust of fresh, autumn-like air.

This weekend’s front gusted away the humid doldrums with a cool, refreshing wind. I snatched a sleeved blouse from the closet and leapt outside. Grins bloomed across the landscape–in passing cars, along the sidewalks, and throughout church. We held Sunday school outdoors to celebrate the occasion. Sighs floated on the breeze with contented remarks such as, “It’s so nice.”

I rolled back my sagging shoulders and drew in long drafts of rare autumn. Blues saturated the heavens, where the birds soared and dove to immerse themselves in fresh air.  I closed my eyes to offer prayers of gratitude. How magnificent is the Lord, revealing His creative glory in a breath of wind! Thank You, Father, for much-needed refreshment .

The temperatures will rise again mid-week. Humidity lurks in the near forecast, too. When the tropics settle over me, I can now face each day with the energy of revived breath. Pneuma alone renews the spirit. Thank You, Father, for a gust of Ruach to refresh my stagnant soul each time I ask.

How long will you gasp before calling for the LifeGiver to breathe refreshment into your soul?

 

“Send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” Psalm 104:30

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
He sends his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly…
 He sends his word and melts them;
    he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.” Psalm 147:15, 18

“Teach me to do Your will,
for You are my God.
May Your gracious Spirit
lead me on level ground.
Because of Your name, Yahweh,
let me live.” — Psalm 143:10-11

September clung to the calendar by less than a week. I still hadn’t enjoyed my autumnal pumpkin spice latte. My conditioner ran out. I scraped at cosmetics to stretch them a few more weeks. I didn’t mind a few sacrifices to share time with my writer friends at a retreat. Sharing a dim bathroom? Doable. Cafeteria food? Well, it was only for three days.

But when the speaker questioned our willingness to suffer, I balked. Pain and grief didn’t paint a sparkly advertisement. I couldn’t say I felt eager to leap onto the hurt wagon. Yes, I’d make minor concessions here and there, but would I be willing to charge into suffering?

This  guarantee of trials peppers the New Testament, but I hadn’t considered my consent. The resolution to use faith to cope with trouble differs from volunteering for certain angst. I had often professed a desire to fulfill God’s purpose, but had failed to anchor my commitment in this depth. The resolve would need to burrow into my core to hold a Savior-sized beam of dedication. I’d have to reject the priority of my own comfort to embrace the splintery cross. Beyond confessing my love for Jesus, I must decide my reason for living. Will I live for Him … or for me?

Our culture invites us to live for our own comfort. We work to accumulate possessions, engage in costly hobbies, and obtain the security of others’ approval. Reward-seeking shimmers like a mirage and beckons us down its well-paved path. Though we experience less resistance on a self-centered path, the indulgences fail to offer us a satisfying existence. Happiness evaporates the instant it passes our lips. Hedonism leaves our souls empty, and our comforts abandon us at the grave.

Christ invites us to trade a dying body for eternal luxury. Our temporary investment of suffering on His behalf guarantees an exponential return. Unlike the selfish indulgences we savor on earth, sharing Christ’s joy never loses an iota of shimmer or a bit of thrill.

What will you choose to live for?

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing…A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” —James 1:2-4,12

I don’t venture up onto my roof often. In fact, I only brave that weak-kneed climb if no one else volunteers to help with an annual task. My core tightens as I wobble those initial steps. After I reach the center and grip onto an anchoring structure, my lungs relax for a full breath. I look out across the treetops as dusk honeys the heads of our neighborhood live oaks. My view extends beyond our street to the school, ballparks, and the mass of homes further outward.

A moment on the peak shifts my perspective. The sunshine’s caress penetrates my cheekbones. The breath of a fresh season revives my senses. I consider distant homes as my neighbors. At this moment, when God secures my quivering frame, the world feels both larger and more intimate. Standing on the rooftop, I recognize myself as a saint.

As twilight darkens my view, time demands my return to life on the level earth below. I resume my daily routines, walking across the dust of the past toward the tomorrow from which it will grow. The miseries and burdens of passers-by permeate the stagnant air. I see despair in their eyes and feel the pull of hopelessness from their hearts. So much pain. I reach out with an urge to help, but hesitation quivers in my fingertips. I, too, have knees prone to buckling. Who am I to offer them strength? What if I let these fragile neighbors down? My doubts and fears tire me, and I begin to sink onto the curb of purposelessness. The suffering of life on the roads and in the alleyways tempts me to forget I am a saint.

Rays warmer than sunbeams lift my drooping chin. I need not search with my eyes to know Who is there.

“You are not made to be a saint for the rooftop,” He says. “Nor are you made to pour your own strength out to sustain these others.”

I want to leap from the curb and snuggle in His arms. Every muscle of my body, to the core of my soul, longs to soak in His presence forever. “Keep me with You,” I say.

My spirit inhales a heady draft of His invigorating fragrance.

“You are a saint because I am with you. Here on the road…” He turns my shoulders to face out across the vast neighborhood, through the nearby fences and into the world beyond them. “And out there. I am the strength you offer, the healing you convey. You got your bearings on the rooftop so you can live My purpose while you’re down here.”

I crane my neck, attempting to glimpse His brilliance. Though my eyes fail to capture a view of the Son, He has not left me alone. The Word of my promise-keeping God anchors my certainty about His location–within my heart.

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).

The confidence that He remains with me girds my weak knees to venture out into the world and steadies my frail arms to reach out to bless those who suffer. I do not merely give myself to those in need, but I offer Someone far better. He alone can transform the unsteady roof climber into a earth-treading saint. The Son Who did so for me can change any willing soul. With such immense suffering, the world needs more saints to climb down and share His love on the roadway. Let’s reach out together, in His strength, to leave no neighbors to despair of hope.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John17:20-23).

 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:18-20).