Sunday, May 5, 2013

Life is a Gift


“If you don’t take it all as gift, you end up taking it all for granted — which amounts to not taking anything good from life at all.”   
Ann Voskamp

Death taught me this.  Six precious lives in five years instantly slipped from this world to the next.  Two of them right before my eyes.  The horror of death.  The ugliness.  Don’t let anyone tell you that death is beautiful.  I saw LIFE leave my parents and it did not look pretty.  I saw my son’s shell returned to me in a coffin and it was “Ichabod” – the glory had departed.  And yet……

The very ‘living’ of these experiences taught me – albeit it took me many years of hard grieving and intense wrestling with God – that it is all a gift.  All of life.  That God is God and He is good – whether I am comfortable or not.  Happy or not. 

It took experience.  It took suffering.   Yes, suffering to learn to fully appreciate life.

And now we have Sutton.  We have been granted a little respite in our suffering.  I have no doubt we are NOT through suffering on this planet.  God’s word is quite plain on that subject.  “Count it all as joy, my brethren when you experience trials.”  We’re not done.  You aren’t either.  But we have Sutton.  And we have experience.   And we have today. 

We have lived long enough to know joy does not last forever so suck every moment of it up.  Breathe in the fresh morning air.  Savor the first cup of coffee.  Gaze into the sky and KNOW that your Redemption draweth nigh.

He is God.
            He is alive and on the throne.
                        He never makes a mistake.
                                    He has you.

We are seeing life through the eyes of a child again.  We are re-learning life.  That a hug cures most everything.  That the arms of Abba make the world right and safe and secure.  That there is wonder all around.  That naps and snacks and allowing someone to carry you make the journey much more enjoyable.

And one day – by God’s will and grace Sutton will grow up and live her own life and she will only have her memories of a Pops and Mimi who did their best to teach her that life is all about joy and sorrow, love and loss, and grace.  Remarkable God-giving, life-breathing grace.  We will remind her that nothing in this life is forever except Him so take nothing for granted.  The One who gives and takes away.  And we will teach her to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Resurrection Reminder


Before the resurrection there was a crucifixion.  Before there was joy there was great pain.  Before there was hope there was abject despair. 
I found my mind going to the homes of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew 28: 1-8).  The last to leave the scene of the cross, they would not go home to fulfill the law’s requirements for the Sabbath until they had seen His body placed in the tomb.
I can only imagine the sleepless night they would endure.  The tears.  The grief.  The pain.  And somewhere in the night they would make the decision to ‘do’ something.  They couldn’t bring Him back.  They couldn’t stand against Rome or the Sanhedrin but they could take care of His body. 
And sometime in the early morning hours they began to pack their basket with the things they would need.   Soap and linens to cleanse His body.  A comb for His hair.  Perhaps a needle and thread to attempt to repair His wounds.  A clean tunic.  Oil and spices to anoint Him.  And then they would wrap themselves in black to begin the long walk up the hill to Him.
I imagine the journey seemed so long.  So arduous.  Grief saps your energy.  Sorrow breaks the spirit.   Their baskets must have been heavy on their arms.  Their conversation hushed and hopeless as they imagined the scene they would face and the job that was ahead.
But what they didn’t know.  What they couldn’t see…..was God holding back an angel who was given the order to bring them good news.  I can picture that angel SO ready to go and God saying, “Wait.  Just a minute.  Let them get up the hill and around the bend.”  And “Now.”  Stretch your imagination for just a minute as that angel shoots to earth and rolls away the stone and sits on it!  (Matthew 28: 2)  The scripture says it was an earthquake – I just kind of picture a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier to get there!  Can you see him?  Sitting on the stone – like, “what’s the big deal?”  It makes me laugh.  He seems like a cocky angel to me!  And he says, “He is not here!  He is risen as He said.” 
I was reminded that as sweet as their motives – they went to a lot of work to do something that didn’t need to be done.  If they had only listened and believed their steps would have been light to the tomb that morning.  There would have been no baskets.  No heavy loads.  Because they weren’t needed!  So often we do the same thing.  Plan.  Pack.  Carry……loads that are not necessary.  
Easter is the reminder to listen.  To believe Him.  To remember that what we see is not all there is.  Because He lives we can face tomorrow.  Because He lives all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Treasure Seeking


In the summer of 1985, a joint operation was launched between a French oceanographic team and an American team which left from Woods Hole in Massachusetts.  It was led by Dr. Robert Ballard.  The crew spent over three weeks scanning the area known as Titanic Canyon. On Sunday September 1st, 1985 just before 1am, scientist, Stu Harris got what we now know to be the first glimpse of Titanic for 73 years. In his book “The Discovery of the Titanic” Ballard writes, “Stu’s eyes were fixed to the Argo monitor. There’s something, he said as he pointed at the TV screen. Suddenly every member of the sleepy watch became alive and alert.”
What looked like a boiler was cross checked against the 1911 photographs of Titanic’s boilers at Harland and Wolff.  As a tribute to the shipyard which had built Titanic, Ballard raised the Harland and Wolff flag on the team’s vessel and a memorial service was held for those who had died there 73 years earlier.
Can you imagine the excitement as the crew began their journey to the area they suspected to have been the resting place of the Titanic?   Their optimism and anticipation of being the ones to actually find her in her 73 year secret cemetary?  Billions of dollars were spent on discovering this watery gravesite - with no lives to save, no possibility of raising the ship.  Just the thrill of the hunt.  The satisfaction of being 'the one' to find it.
Does that remind you of our quest for Christ?  He is our treasure.  The storehouse of precious things that is our privilege to seek out.  Are we as radically driven as these scientists and modern-day treasure hunters?
Did you catch their response when they finally knew they had come upon her?  As a tribute to the shipyard that built Titanic they raised the flag and as a tribute to the lives that were lost they held a memorial service.  That is a picture of what it means to pay honor and tribute; to give respect.  That is also the definition of worship.
When we encounter Christ, it behooves us to pause.  To lift up a banner of praise.  To worship.  I find it touching that a group of sailors and scientists would stop in their excitement of the discovery to pay respect to the shipbuilders, ship and people who lost so much so many years ago.  Yet we, the children of the Almighty God encounter Him and it scarcely moves us.
The bounty from the Titanic was the lifting of 5500 artifacts from 1987 - 2004.  That's a lot of stuff!  I recently visited a traveling museum of the Titanic and got to view some of those treasures.  Dishes marked with the RMS Titanic.  Corroded and water damaged leather goods - wallets, purses, gloves.  There were even some perfume samples that survived their watery grave to be placed on a traveling exhibit.
In Christ we have an eternity to explore the depths of Him and never reach the end of the precious riches He has for us.  I feel a stirring in my spirit to be a treasure seeker.  How about you?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lord, you know I need a brand new start!

I love change.  Especially if it's one I get to choose.  Control.  It's an issue with me.  How about you?  Rearranging my furniture.  Adding a new touch of this or that.  Changing colors.  New hairstyle......heck even a new toenail polish is refreshing for a little while.   When a new year begins I start a new journal and a new plan for reading through the Bible in a year.  

This year I chose to do the chronological Read Through the Bible in the New Living Translation.  I've been doing this for about 15 years now and I've discovered a few things.  You need to change things up to stay fresh.  I've done OT/NT/Proverbs/Psalm; Study Bibles (best done if you're not journaling too), chronological, straight through from Genesis to Revelation and then last year I started with the NT and finished up yesterday in Malachi.  Now the bad news is this:  I finished with Jesus in about March and I won't get to Him again until about September.  That's a long time without Jesus!!!!  The good thing is I have to purpose to find Him throughout all those OT books!  Just like we have to purpose to find Him in this day in-day out life that we are living.

I also chose for my journal to do My Utmost for His Highest.  I have done this many times over the years but it's still my go-to devotional journal for its depth and passion.  And as usual Oswald spoke to me again from day one.

Crisp new pages.  New bookmarks.  New highlighters.  New year.

But what all these things really mean to me are a new me.  

Lord, I need a new brand new start!  Over the last nearly eight years since tragedy so ravaged our family I have lost so much passion and crispness in my walk with the Lord.  I'm just going to be honest with you.  I have spent a lot of years being resigned.  

     Resigned to 'this' being my lot in life.
          Resigned to 'God will have His way' - why ____________?
               Resigned to a life of fear - 'it' happened to me, it could again.
                    Resigned to holding back.

And just about the time my heart seems ready to burst into abandon "I am yours God.  Take me and use me to Your glory," my old familar friend, fear's tentacles tighten and the enemy whispers, "You said that once before and look what happened!"  

To be honest - this kind of living - as normal as it might be for all I've lived through is not glorifying to the Lord.  Oswald Chambers - just this morning - day one - said that living a life without courage is shameful.  And that's what my life has been like - courage-less!  I've been afraid to be abandoned to the Lord.  

Now don't get me wrong.  God is gracious and merciful.  He understands my flesh.  My fear.  My need to have time to grieve, to work through, to heal.  He knows me and loves me.  I am not being too hard on myself.  I am just saying....there is a time for all things under heaven.  And my time has come to 'start over.' 

How about you?  A new year is a good time for a new you.  It doesn't take loss of loved ones to make you afraid to fully live.  To lack courage.  There are a lot of losses out there - relationships, marriages, financial, health......and with each hit our courage usually takes a hit.   So Lord, we need a brand new start.  A do-over.  A make-over.  A dose of courage for this new year.

We don't know what it holds.  But we know Who holds it.   

In my mind I picture myself at the start of a path - a path which is only visible right in front of my face.  I don't see the curves - or straight.  The plains - or the mountains.  The shadows - or the sunshine.  The giving of gifts - or the removal of them.  I do see little old me with a shaky hand reaching up for my Abba Father's hand.  He who sees the end from the beginning.  He who IS the light where darkness may threaten.  He has me.  His hand infuses courage.  

And we start out.  

Won't you go with us?  A fresh start.  As weak and shaky as we may be.  He is our courage.

Bring it 2013.  Our God is able and He has my hand.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2013

From the Kulwicki family to you:  Wishing you and yours the most blessed of all Christmases.  May Christ's presence be yours.  May the joy of friends and family surround you.  May your health be good.  And may 2013 exceed your greatest expectations.  

All because of Emmanuel, God with us!

Friday, April 6, 2012

BEAUTIFUL

I love seasons. Perhaps it is because I am easily bored that I revel whenever a new season comes. Sometimes I think about the possibility of a world without seasons and think how monotonous that would be. God could have done that and we would have never known the difference. Yet in His wisdom and creativity, He blessed us with the starkness of winter that gives forth to the beauty of spring.

That is a picture of one of my mother's irises. I moved bulbs from her yard to mine right before she relocated to heaven. Every year without fail they produce these beautiful purple blooms for me to remember her and her love for flowers. To remember the things she liked to do and how happy the simple things made her. I want to be like that. Happy with the simple things.

These cone flowers were also in her yard. My stepdad, Shelby was a gardener. He could make anything grow and he packaged these up for me from little seeds and told me how to care for them. I remember him as they grow and spread each year.

It's amazing to me how God created these beautiful flowers and if you look closely at the center of them you will see they are filled with little seeds that fall to the ground and reproduce. That is what the believer's life should resemble. Beauty that reproduces itself to grow new believers. I so love that about the Lord. How He uses physical truths to teach us spiritual realities.

But nature untamed can be ugly. I have to frequently nurture those flowers by cutting off the dead and scraggly stems. My life needs the same care. There are things in me that I don't like. Things that are NOT beautiful and I pray that I am as ruthless with the pruning on myself as I am with these flowers.

This is the most beautiful of flowers that entered our world 3 1/2 months ago. She is the reason why ruthless pruning of my life is so necessary. Little eyes are watching. All of us have someone watching us. All of us have the opportunity to be beauty to a life that needs to see Christ. I want my life to bear much fruit to His glory. I want to expend my life in such a way that a legacy of beauty is left behind. For that to happen I must be intentional in my living.

Jesus is my example. He lived a life of perfect beauty and the world pressed in hard on Him leaving a perfume behind. That is my desire - that I be the fragrance of Christ. In this beautiful season of spring....on this most heart-rending and yet hope-filled of days - Good Friday - my prayer for you is that beauty moves from your vision to your heart and from your heart to your life. And in so doing He will receive all glory and honor and praise.

I love you, my friends.







Thursday, February 2, 2012

February: The Love Month

Welcome to the month of Valentine's and all things LOVE. I have learned much about the true meaning of agape love from the man God blessed me to spend my life with. I am humbled to tell you that it is BILLY far more than Sherrie who practices and models the love of the Father in our house.

I grew up the eldest of three children and I don't know about all the stuff of birth order, but I was certainly the overachiever, always aiming to please firstborn. My parents were normal parents who loved us and praised us and for some reason - I, above the other two thrived on that praise. I constantly strived to "do" in order to hear those words of affirmation and that affirmation spelled LOVE to me. And while that made me a GREAT daughter, it also made for a girl who spelled LOVE - CONDITIONAL. It was all about my doing. My achieving. My effort. My grades. My popularity. In other words, it was all about me. And ME had to DO.

Along came a young man that I fell madly in love with. I was only 18 but those conditions of love were well engrained in my psyche. I hid my ugliness from him. I didn't tell him what was really going on in that young and messed up heart until one day I let something slip. Don't even remember what it was.....but he loved me anyway. I TOTALLY remember that.

Slowly, as he won my trust, I began to be the real Sherrie. Lo and behold......he loved her. I hope this makes sense to someone. I hope it helps someone. My parents never meant to make me so dependent. It wasn't their fault. It wasn't even my fault. For some reason I took normal praise and developed an inordinate craving for it. And I was the one that equated it with love.

That's the problem with seeking the praise of man. It will always be dependent on what man thinks and what you do. And man is a fickle master. He is never satisfied. It will begin an endless and unquenchable cycle that will circle the pit until you are sucked deep into a vacuum of never feeling good enough. That is no way to live.

On our cruise this past week, we got separated for a few hours. I knew I needed to just sit somewhere and be still and wait. I knew he would be frantically looking all over the ship. Sure enough, I saw his bright orange shirt and he came - sweating and worried - and sat down beside me. Before he could say a word I looked at him and said, "I knew you would find me." And we just leaned into each other.

It is a picture of the God's love for us. Sometimes we get so lost. Sometimes we make such a mess of things. Sit still, beloved because He knows right where you are. Be still and look up. Say into His precious face, "I knew you would find me." Affirm His love for you.

The love of God is a love that is dependent on Him and His nature. He just loves. It has nothing to do with us. What we do. How we act. He loves us period and He passionately pursues us.

If that has never been modeled for you, if you have never experienced that kind of love on planet earth, my prayer for you is that you would accept it and believe it of your heavenly Father. Rest in that. Don't be afraid to tell Him your deepest and darkest secrets. He knows them anyway and has been longing to hear them from you so you would be free. As we bring those 'secrets' out of the darkness and into the light, He shows us that they have no power to separate us from His love.

Thank you my sweet husband......for loving me so, so well these 38+ years. You are a gift to me.

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."