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Celebrating the Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 KJV)

Yes, I am celebrating the abundant life, in spite of my current health issues and fragile bank account. Unlike popular beliefs, the abundant life Jesus promised doesn’t center on health or wealth. If it did, we’d eventually lose it, simply because our bodies are temporary and feeble. And Jesus never intended for us to lose that abundant life. It begins here on earth and extends throughout eternity.

Besides if Jesus’ idea of the abundant life meant health and wealth every one of His disciples missed out. None of them enjoyed a luxurious life.The beloved John, for an example, was exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony. All the other disciples were executed for believing Jesus was the Messiah. Paul lived with a physical infirmity and imprisonment. How did any of their lives line up with the abundant life many Christians claim Jesus wants for us today?

While we’re at it, consider all the believers in third-world countries; does Jesus promise not apply to them? How about all the dear saints you know who have serious health issues, have their conditions disqualified them?

The real problem lies not in Jesus’ promise for an abundant life but in our interpretation of His meaning. The wealth and health doctrine stems from an earthly view of our temporal lives. We want to live this life without the struggles that come with it. Eliminating financial difficulties and declining physical conditions would certainly ease the pains of this world considerably. But is that what Jesus promised?

Luke 12:15 states something entirely different: Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Now either Jesus contradicted Himself in these two statements, or we’ve misconstrued His meaning. I’m betting on the latter.

So if Jesus’ promise of abundant life does not refer to health and/or wealth, what was He promising?

  1. Contentment in all situations. Paul found this to be true, even from prison. He wrote: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).
  2. Peace that passes all understanding. Jesus gives us peace even in our most difficult situations. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  3. Joy unspeakable and full of glory. When Jesus’ peace permeates our lives, we have unspeakable joy. Nothing can disrupt that kind of joy. Now read what Peter said on the topic of joy, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

These are just three of the aspects of the abundant life Jesus promised. Whether you’re rich or poor, the picture of health or crippled with disease, these benefits never fade away. They grow stronger and carry the promise of eternal life.

Jesus’ reference of an abundant life was never the same as our mortal minds imagine. It was far more superior, more valuable, and more enduring. His plans and promises always are.

How about you? How are you celebrating your abundant life in Christ?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

The Right to Cry

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. (Psalm 6:2)

July 3, I cried nearly all day. Couldn’t stop myself. I was facing my last chemo treatment with a great deal of reluctance. Each treatment thus far had brought more nausea, dry-mouth (accompanied by nasty, muddy-metal taste), and other discomforts that lasted longer than the previous treatment. I simply did not want to go through it again, not knowing what the side effects would entail.

So I wept. I pleaded with the Lord to stop this madness, to tell me I didn’t have to go through it one last time, to rescue me.

Finally sometime that evening, I recommitted the situation to the Lord. I knew there was no way out. I had to face the gauntlet one more time, come what may. And trust. Isn’t that where true faith lies—trusting without knowing what’s beyond the next summit?

July 5, I walked into the clinic with the most cheerful disposition I could muster. Gene’s presence brought comfort even though we talked little. He was there. And so was my Father. I wasn’t as much aware of Father’s presence at the time … a little preoccupied with my surroundings I suspect. But I know He was holding me closer than Gene could’ve.

Here’s what He did for me the week of my final treatment:

  1. Very little side effects. This was the mildest of all my treatments. God wrapped His loving arms around me and kept the nasties away. I’m believing the medication accomplished even more because of it.
  2. The Saturday after treatment, my family walked in a march against breast cancer. What support and love! Plus, we had a picnic at my sister’s house afterward. The event boosted my spirits tremendously.
  3. The next day, almost every lady in our church wore a hat! Their expression of love and support … for ME … overwhelmed me. At the onset of my diagnosis, I told my daughters I thought it’d be cool if someone would have a hat party for me. No one in the church knew that. I can’t begin to tell you how much those ladies showed the love of our Father to me that day. I pray I never forget the power of His love through His faithful daughters.

More tears flowed that Sunday than on the previous Monday. For the past two weeks, I sang His praises and cried … because of His merciful love He showed me through this last treatment.

So, why do we hold back tears as though they’re forbidden? Why do we choke on them as though they’re shameful? Why do we mask them as though they represent weakness?

We have the right to cry out to the Lord. He hears and answers in unexpected ways.

How about you? How has Father responded to your cries?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Give Me an Inch

And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? (Luke 12:25-26)

Exchange Wishful ThinkingMeasuring in at five feet, three and a half inches tall, I was not only the youngest in my family, but the shortest—not by much mind you, but still the shortest. My next-to-the-oldest sister towered over me by two whole inches, while our older sister beat me by a mere quarter of an inch. Our brother, nearly six-feet tall, looked down on all of us.

Wish as I may I never could grow that extra quarter inch to match my older sister.

Then we entered the mysterious land called the Change of Life where women grow chin hairs and skin tags. We learn to tan one pixel at a time. (Some call these tanning marks age spots.) And, we shrink! Thus, my sisters began their slow decline in stature, each losing three or four inches of their adult height.

Now, I tower over them. I can’t begin to explain how weird this feels to me. You see, I haven’t lost so much as a quarter inch yet. In fact when the nurse measures me at the doctor’s office, she tells me I’m now five feet, four inches tall … in my stocking feet, no less. What? How did that happen? A delayed answer to prayer? No one grows in the Land of Change. And I’m not claiming the extra half inch. Something’s amiss in the equipment is my guess.

I firmly believe God assigned to each of us a body code in our DNA the moment of conception, which no one can alter. It regulates our bone structure including our height.

Here’s the thing:

We must embrace many things in this life, whether we like them or not. We grow to a predesignated height. People cut us to the core with unkind remarks during our greatest need for encouragement. And our bodies fail us.

Jesus confirms this assessment with these words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation. But He didn’t stop there. He added the most encouraging words ever spoken, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

If I am to be of good cheer and stand with Jesus as an overcomer, I have to embrace my current health issues. The oncologist said I’ve done nothing wrong. Nothing could’ve prevented me from getting cancer.

Perhaps it was written in my DNA. I don’t know. But here it is. I have to accept it and learn to deal with whatever that may entail. It’s my new norm, part of my new territory, and definitely a piece of something bigger than I understand.

Nevertheless, I’m holding the hand of the One who wrote my DNA, knows the plans He has for me, and promised to give me a future and a hope.

How about you? How have you accepted your current troubles?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Joy in Sorrow

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

celebrating-life-eternal-4-webSix weeks have passed since my mother met Jesus face-to-face. We who remain are in the process of settling her estate. Not that she had much with which to contend, but there are possessions to disburse or to sell. My sisters, brother, and I have agreed to give the grandchildren whatever they’d like as memorabilia including furniture.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege to meet my daughters and one of my nephews at my parent’s house to allow them to make their selections. It was interesting to watch them pick and choose items that brought back precious memories. My older daughter, Melinda, chose Gram’s rolling pin with only one handle. My younger daughter, Rachel, chose Gram’s colander and wants to learn how to make Gram’s applesauce. My nephew, Bill, chose a silly, plastic, cartoonish statue with a saying on it about fishermen. He said it reminded him of Papa. Of course, they chose somethings of more value. But it was those items that amused me.

The time spent with those three “next-generation” adults was precious to me. There was no arguing over the more valuable items. They exemplified Paul’s instructions in Philippians 2:1-4.

But for me, I had the honor to say, “Here is your inheritance. Pick whatever you want as a token and memory of Gram and Papa’s love for you.” Each one came with items, “Can I have this?” With the exception of a few things that were promised to someone else, I replied, “Yes. Take it.” It delighted me to grant their wishes and to see the delight in their faces as they packed up their treasures.

As I reflected on this process the other day, I realized a deeper meaning … a foreshadowing if you will. It is our privilege, as Christians, to do the same thing with people we witness to. We have the keys to open heavens gates to fellow believers and non-believers and say look at your inheritance. It’s yours for the taking. Come. Receive. Drink. Eat. Embrace the love of God. Cherish it is as the great treasure it is from the Father who loves you with an everlasting love. Keep it in your heart. Display it for all the world to see. It’s yours. It’s mine. There is more than enough for everyone. His house is abundant with treasures and always shall be.

How about you? How have you found joy in sorrow?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

It’s 2017???

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

moms-masterpieceI feel like I’ve slipped on a snow-covered mountain, landed on a heated fanny pack, and slid from November into the middle of January. That fanny pack had no brakes or controls. But it sure melted the snow, creating a fast, slippery path to the bottom of the virtual mountain. The only thing possible to do was hang on and pray God had the reins and no trees or boulders jumped out in front of me.

It was a rough ride. But here I am … standing to tell about it. Praise God for guiding us and making our paths straight.

On November 3, my mother injured her leg, which became sore and infected. The first night in a week she spent alone, she fell. No new injuries occurred. But her long-term degenerative disc disease became agitated. Unable to walk because of the pain, they placed her in a nursing home for rehab. Thanksgiving Day, we brought her home for the family meal. She went into A-fib and spent almost 2 weeks in the hospital until they got her heart rate calmed down enough to send her back to the nursing. More determined than ever to get back on her feet, Mom worked hard during her PT appointments. Progress was slow. But we saw some improvements. Christmas Day, she got out of bed and walked, with the aid of a walker, to the recliner across the room. It was like a marvelous Christmas present God had sent to all of us. She was so proud of her accomplishment.

2:00 a.m. December 26, the call woke me. Mom was having trouble breathing, and they had put her on oxygen. Later that morning, a phone call reassured me her breathing was easier. That evening, another call, this one from my sister, requesting we come into the nursing home. Mom said she was dying and wanted to see us. About 11:00 that night, another ambulance ride took her to the hospital again.

Ten painful days of watching her slowly inch her way into heaven took their toll on my sisters, brother, and me. But her suffering made it easier for us to say goodbye.

During all the heartache and grief, I could see God’s hand working in my mother’s Passover and in my own life.

He loves us all so much. He even takes care of small things that cause us extra stress.

There were two parts of planning her funeral that concerned me more than the rest. 1. The Sunday of her burial was to be bitter cold. And yes, I complained to my Father. I hate the cold. How could I stand outside on a hill for a half hour or so? 2. I didn’t want to pick out her coffin. The thought of going into a room filled with empty coffins made me cringe. I really didn’t want to go there.

Father knew my concerns even before I expressed them to him. He arranged for my pastor to perform the services when the pastor of my mother’s church declined do to previous commitments. Pastor Roger knew nothing about my anxiety about the weather. But he suggested the entire service be done at the church rather than going to the grave site. I felt a God-hug at that moment seriously.

Father also took care of the coffin selection without me even asking. My sister asked the funeral director if we could have the service on Sunday because of two different members of our family starting radiation treatments the next day. The director said, “Yes, on two conditions. One, you have the service at your mother’s church (we intended to do so anyway.) Two because of the rush, would you be okay if we simply did for your mom what we had done for your dad.” That meant they’d pick the coffin for us–the one we had for Dad. We knew these people personally and knew they could be trusted to do it right.

What a relief to put all things great and small in our Father’s hands. He does take care of us and gives us rest when we go to Him.

How about you? How has the Father given you rest and comfort recently?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Advent 2016 Day 8

“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer.” (Ruth 4:14)

Read: Ruth 3:1-11; 4:9-10

Jesus Loves Even Me

Jesus Loves Even Me

After the death of her husband, Ruth decided to leave her home and family to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, also widowed, back to Bethlehem. With no men to take care of them, Naomi sent Ruth to glean what she could from a relative’s field as was the custom of the culture. Ruth did as she was told and soon gained the attention of the field’s owner , Boaz. He made daily provisions for the widows, indicating his interest in Ruth.

Again, Naomi instructed Ruth in the Israelite customs, telling her to go to Boaz at night and sleep at his feet. Boaz knew Ruth was asking him to be her guardian-redeemer and agreed to settle the matter in the morning. Becoming Ruth’s guardian-redeemer meant Boaz agreed to buy Naomi’s deceased husband’s property and marry Ruth. Thus, Boaz committed to taking care of and providing for both Naomi and Ruth for life.

In comparison, Jesus is our guardian-redeemer. He has redeemed us and calls us His own. In Him, we have all we need for this life and for eternity.

Today, let’s find ways to honor our guardian-redeemer.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Advent 2016 Day 7

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Read: Deuteronomy 5:1-22

x-defaultMoses, another “type” of Christ, delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. Those who believed Moses obeyed his command to slaughter a lamb, wipe it’s blood on their doorposts, and prepare to flee. The blood of the lamb saved their households from the death angel. Moses, through the guidance of the Lord, lead the Hebrews to the Promised Land but not without mishaps. The Hebrews were a rebellious people despite all the miracles they had experienced along the way.

During their exile, the Lord gave Moses the ten commandments. He instructed the people to “write God’s laws on their hearts and live by them so they would not sin against God.” However, it’s impossible for anyone to obey all ten commandments consistently.

That’s why Jesus came. Similar to Moses, Jesus delivers us from the bondage of sin. Applying His blood to our hearts saves our spirits from what the Bible terms the second death. The physical death we must all pass through. But the second death separates unbelievers from the presence of God for eternity.

When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice, He sends His spirit to dwell within us, enabling us to keep God’s laws more consistently. Yes, we still slip at times. But the Holy Spirit is right there beside us, convicting us and helping us to seek forgiveness.

Today, let’s rejoice in knowing Jesus paid the price for our sins and has given us His spirit to help us live a life pleasing to God.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks