Monthly Archives: July 2015

Don’t Cry


By Judy Villanueva

Luke 7:11-15

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Huddled close together we prayed.  A stranger to me, she came forward after Sunday service and shared her story of buried hopes and disappointed dreams.  She recounted one loss after another and described a sadness that broke my heart.  Hopelessness seemed to surround us and I could feel its crushing weight.  “No! No! No!” were the words I quietly prayed  in response and “Jesus, come save us.”  Sometimes life deals us blows that knock the wind right out of us and leave us vulnerable and tired.  Sometimes all we can do is trust that God sees us, that He cares deeply and that His voice can call us back to life!

The widow had already lost her husband and now her only son has died.  I imagine that hope and joy lie next to him lifeless, as well.  I wonder if she knew Who it was that noticed her that day—Whose heart went out to her and said, “Don’t cry.”  Do you ever feel that your life is happening way down here on earth…out of view?  Every time I read that Jesus sees one of His beloved, I am relieved, reassured, and so, so glad!  That He feels for the widow confronts my wounded notion that Jesus, being God, knows everything and has no reason to feel for us. On the contrary!

“God with us” means that He travels through our moments in “real time” and feels our life with us!

The widow watches Jesus touch her son’s coffin, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  I’m guessing that before she can even make sense of what she has just heard, she sees her son sit up and feels him placed back in her arms!   Can you imagine?   Instead of her worst nightmare, an unbelievable joy sweeps her up and twirls her around!  He’s alive!  Her son lives!  Have you ever felt helplessly at the mercy of your circumstances?  Has disappointment ever stolen your hope?

This story reminds me that it’s all about Jesus!  It’s never about me figuring “it” out…you know, how to be alive!

But rather, it is always about a kind God who sees me in the middle of my life and cares.  It helps me to remember His true heart that says, “Don’t cry” when I am utterly devastated…and strengthens me to witness His power over death!  Watching Jesus give back this son to his mother places hope back in my arms and fills my heart with joy!

“Thank you, Jesus, that you notice my coming and going, my joys and sorrows…and feel my life with me!  Help me in my helplessness and please tell my lifeless hopes to “Get up!”  I pray for anyone reading this who may feel weary and hopeless…that they would feel Your love today and Your touch on their life.  Amen.”

What about you?

Have you ever felt helplessly at the mercy of your circumstances?

Has disappointment ever stolen your hope?

Do you have friends who will be with you in your sorrows?  Is there a prayer team waiting for you to come forward?

God sees your life and cares!  His heart goes out to you today!

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DSC_0514By Judy Villanueva

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns,  where evening fades, 
you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8)

Covered in blankets with our faces pointed toward the sky, we watched for magic!  “Glory!” our friend’s little daughter cried out, “I saw one!”  Under a canopy of stars we laid out on the deck, shivering in the cool night air determined to witness wonder!  “Glory!” another shouted, “Glory!  Glory!  Glory!”  Shooting stars showered us with delight and time seemed to stop as we watched wide-eyed and awed by each brilliant starburst!  It was the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower and there, gathered with family and dear friends, wonder gave way to worship and before we knew it, we were singing songs of joy in the middle of the mountains!

I am so grateful for wonder.  It is different than knowing or understanding a thing….there is something about wonder that points us beyond the comprehensible to unique and magnificent possibilities!

Wonder confronts our finite natures and asks us to reach beyond our grasp and dare to imagine beauty beyond our disappointments.  It signals us to hope!

It opens up soul-space and encourages us to watch for life.  Wonder reminds us that there is a God…a good and wonderful God.

“Wonder-ing” becomes more natural as we practice noticing and tuning into its invitations to stand still and behold.  Beholding helps us to see, feel and hear God in the midst of shooting stars, rainbows, and shimmering aspen trees…to name a few favorite wonders!  To behold is to stop, move toward and then look closely with all of oneself.   It is to allow wonder to speak and teach of God’s glory…glory found all around us, every sunrises and sunsets,  in wildflowers and waterfalls and, in sitting amongst friends with faces pointed upwards,  singing songs of joy for each moment spent together watching for glory!

“Heavenly Father, help me to notice your invitations to be drawn into wonder.  Life can be hard sometimes.  Help me to trust You and stay open to whatever You will next for me.  Thank you for lights in the sky, for dear friends, precious children, for beauty, wind and wonders too many to count that help me reach beyond disappointment and fear,  to hope.  Thank you for daily reminders that You are…and are good.  Amen.”

What about you?

What fills you with wonder?

Are you aware of how beholding wonder moves your heart?

How are your hopes?

Do you need a reminder that there is a God…and that He is good?

Lay down, look up and watch for His wonders.

(Thank you, Tommy Walker, for leading worship that night and helping us lift up beautiful songs of joy!)

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Death and Daisies

DSC_0468By Judy Villanueva

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Our family recently suffered the loss of a beloved member.  It hardly seemed real and doesn’t feel real even now.  Whether anticipated or unexpected, death seems to throw us into an unwelcomed and unimaginable state of disbelief.  While a shared destiny, its arrival ushers in an incomprehensible moment, a soul-wrenching anguish.  It is with great reluctance and tears that we let go and eventually accept the realities of life without our dad, mom, spouse or friend.  We are born into a world that brims with life, and knowing that one day hearts stop beating and next breaths simply aren’t inhaled doesn’t make death any easier to tolerate when it takes away our loved one.

And, then there are daisies.

Have you ever noticed that life is always piled up on top of life?  In other words, we are seldom purely happy or sad and most often experience a mix of emotions that live together all at once.  Grief sits in the middle of the arms that hold us and sadness amidst the good that surrounds us as the sun comes up and we awaken to God’s fresh mercies.  Life continues to pour out love and beauty right alongside great loss and, incongruous as it may feel, our hearts are designed to take in and hold both the joy and the sorrow.

Hellos and goodbyes stand side-by-side inviting us to let go of what has ended and reach out for God and the life He offers beyond the pain of loss.

Each June the fields around our house are visited by hundreds and hundreds of daisies!  At first, only a couple of bright yellow faces peek out from amidst the grass but before long the whole landscape is blanketed in what looks like happiness!  Their time with us is a gift every year and their presence, a reminder that God is good and beautiful.   As I soak up the blessing of “daisy-joy” I can feel the love of God wrap around my heart with healing grace…and I am helped to allow for laughter amidst the tears, joy alongside my sorrow and gratitude to rise up from the middle of my grief.

“Father, how we need You to hold us in times of loss and pain.  We cannot have been made for death as it seems so very incomprehensible.  Help us to lean against your faithful heart and trust You now and always.  Help us to receive the comfort that we find inside Your arms of love.  Amen.”

What about you?

Are you in a time of great loss?

Have you experienced the comfort of God’s presence?

Do you know the peace that surpasses all comprehension…found in the arms of God?

“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.”

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