I guess you could say I’m a sucker for the “bad guy turned good” plot line. We recently finished watching the BBC Robin Hood series, and somehow by the end of it, I was feeling a sense of grief as Robin’s antagonist (Guy of Gisborne) breathed his last. In spite of an insatiable thirst for money and power, and a willingness to do ANYTHING to get them, he underwent a major turnaround during the last couple of episodes—a change of heart, a change of character, a change of attitude, and a change of behavior. His last words (to Robin, in fact) were, “I’ve lived in shame, but because of you, I’ll die proud.”
That line reminds me of someone else who might have said the same thing. When Jesus was being crucified, he was joined by two thieves. One of those, recognizing that he deserved his lot, nonetheless reached out to Jesus, saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). While a change of heart and allegiance are remarkable in themselves, the most encouraging thing about this story is Jesus’s response in verse 43: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
What this passage means to me is that, no matter how long you spend praying for a loved one, telling them about Jesus, encouraging them to change—and all seemingly in vain—there is still hope. As long as they have breath, there is still hope. So keep on praying, keep on sharing, keep on encouraging. The eleventh hour may come, and in a divinely inspired moment of clarity, everything that you’ve done and said may sink in, and you, too, may meet again in Paradise.
I originally shared this post on Facebook in January, before starting this blog. But recently, when my husband built us a new set of bookshelves to hold our nearly countless number of books, I thought back to this day. In light of the new bookshelves, and in light of the upcoming used book sale here in Waco, I thought it apropos to share it again, and to reflect on it a bit.
Here it is:
At our house, we have top shelf books and bottom shelf books. Of course, it is virtually impossible to keep ANY books on the bottom shelf, so instead we have a big cardboard box (now three of them, actually) that holds the books that would go on the bottom shelf in an ideal world. The difference between them? The top shelf books are those that are brand new, in great condition, possibly fragile—sometimes it’s just because they are my favorite stories and I don’t want the books to get ruined because the kids are playing with them too roughly.
But, over the holiday season, we’ve accumulated probably fifty new books, at least. And, as you might guess, that has led to a space problem—specifically, a book storage problem. So I had to shuffle some things around and, in the process, reevaluate some of those “top shelf” books. The final result has been that, as of today, we have a LOT more bottom shelf books. And the kids—Tijge especially—have been having a blast reading and playing with them. And so what if they end up literally loving them to pieces? We can always get new ones if we need to.
It got me thinking. How much stuff do we all have sitting on a top shelf or in a drawer somewhere, waiting to be used on some unforeseen special occasion that never seems to arrive? If all of that stuff can’t be used to bring and share joy, then what is it good for? So I say use it—use all of those things you’ve been waiting to use. Wear your nice clothes. Dry off with the decorative towels. Eat Hamburger Helper off of the good china on a Monday night. Burn a candle for no reason. Try out some of the recipes from those 18 cookbooks that are just collecting dust on the shelf. Whatever it is for you, just do it. Don’t wait to live your life. Enjoy it!
“The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.”
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Over the last couple of weeks, our pastor at church has preached sermons on the following two titles: 1) Going when you want to stay; and 2) Staying when you want to go. After this week’s message, I began to think to myself, What about staying when you want to stay? Doesn’t that feel wrong, somehow—as though it’s too easy? Maybe even a little bit selfish?
During the service, the worship team played a song by All Sons & Daughters called “All the Poor and Powerless.” I had never heard the song before, but a couple of lines struck me: “All the hearts who are content, and all who feel unworthy….” I think the song was originally intended to refer to two groups of people here. But it spoke to me as a both/and, rather than an either/or, kind of thing. In so many ways, I do feel content where I am—in the physical space and the spiritual community where I find myself. And that makes me feel unworthy. I certainly don’t deserve such blessings.
But then what is grace, after all, but unmerited favor and undeserved blessing? And even as we ask ourselves why God would give us so much, He is looking at us and seeing his son’s righteousness and his faithfulness. And He consequently showers us with his reward. May we then join in praising him for those many blessings, saying “Blessed be your name, in the land that is plentiful, where streams of abundance flow, blessed be your name!”
Psalm 19: 1-4
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
One evening last spring, following the hustle and bustle of trying to get the kids ready for bed, I grabbed my camera and ran outside. The way the sun was setting, I just knew there must be some photo opportunities waiting. When I came back inside, I scrolled through the pictures I’d taken so I could show them to Chris. While there were a lot of nice shots, I paused on this one.
Surprised, he asked me, “Where did you find that?!” I answered casually, “Oh, just out back.” You see, beauty is all around you. You just have to look for it. I believe that God is always looking for little ways to bless us and make us smile. But it’s up to us to keep our eyes open for them. Otherwise we won’t see them, and we won’t notice all of the beauty around us.
So, whether it’s in a sunrise, a cloudy sky, a field full of wildflowers, or a fresh-fallen snow—or anything else that catches your attention—stop and notice it. Capture it, whether in a photo or in a memory. Rejoice in the moment, and thank God for all of the little gifts He sends your way.