The Groanings of the Spirit

By JMathis

One of my close friends was a victim of sexual abuse when she was a child. (A different friend from the one I wrote about previously.) From the age of five to the age of ten, she was repeatedly victimized and forced to participate in acts that no child should ever know–all at the hands of a family friend, whom everyone in her family trusted.

This week has been rough for her, as the news is once again swirling with allegations of sexual abuse: Penn State, Syracuse, The Citadel. While it gives her strength in knowing that she is not alone, it also hurts her to know that the number of victims and predators seem to multiply with each passing day.

To those victims, I offer the following two verses:

Romans 8:22 For we know that all the rest of creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

You are not alone. There is a Holy Spirit who groans with you and all of creation, praying for you with unutterable words. Interceding for you in ways we cannot even comprehend.

In this month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you. I am thankful for your courage. I am thankful that you continue to persevere despite the atrocities that have been committed against you.

Most of all, I am thankful that there is a Holy Spirit who is here to help you in your weakness.

You are not alone.

He hears your groans. He sees your groans. He feels your groans.

Even if it is with groans, call to Him and He will answer.

He groans with you, and wants nothing more than to rescue you, His child.

You are not alone, dear child, for Hope lives and He lives within you.

Consider Your Destiny

By AbbyA

She did not consider her destiny; Therefore, her collapse was awesome. Lamentations 1:9. Jeremiah is speaking of Israel. But the form of his words causes me to think of the feminine, of woman, of me. She did not consider her destiny; Therefore, her collapse was awesome. It doesn’t even sound like it would apply to a man. Of course it could, but it makes sense in a feminine context to me.

I am thinking of the impulses that cover a woman’s time line. Temptations to choose a career direction without fully consulting God’s plan for your life. The same applies to friendships and boyfriends. There is temptation to miss the relationships that God has handpicked for you in exchange for the convenient relationships that miss God’s mark for your life. There are temptations to become tired or lazy in the pursuit of Godliness as a mother. Temptations to avoid depth in order not to hurt. To cast blame rather than to grow. To be deceived rather to stand for who you are. This is the tendency of the natural woman and her collapse is great.

Jeremiah, I am starting to understand your pain. You have gathered up the desolation of your land and your people as suffering in your heart. You experience the consequences of the adultery of the natural woman as your own. You grieve and weep for the destruction she called upon herself. But your spiritual self recalls that you have hope. You write that Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22.

We all have been both the spiritual and natural woman.  We have succeeded and failed.  But the spiritual woman is not without Comfort when she falls.  Lamentations 1:9.  Before all that you do, consider your destiny.  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.  Lamentations 3:25


What If…there were no Jesus?

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

What if there was no Jesus?

 My pastor raised this question during yesterday’s sermon, and answers just flooded my thoughts.

 There would be no heaven.

There would be no hope.

There would be no peace.

 Having been raised in a Christian home, Jesus has always been part of my life. But as I’ve gotten older, my problems and struggles have also gotten bigger. Job layoffs. A struggling economy. Dwindling investments. Life isn’t easy and sometimes it can be downright overwhelming. I cannot imagine not being able to pray. I cannot imagine not being able to lean on Him and hope in Him that despite my struggles, things can and will get better. He is my hope in this life. He is my friend when other friends let me down or when they cannot be there for me at that moment.

 Interestingly enough, our pastor brought up things I never even considered. There would be none of the great paintings we know like The Last Supper or sculptures like The David. Many of the great universities were established based on Christianity. There would be no schools. Or orphanages. Or charities.  The list went on and on. Many of the things in our modern life have roots that are borne out of a relationship with Christ.

As we are now officially into Christmas season, in the midst of the chaos of shopping for the perfect Christmas gift or decorating our homes in red and tinsel, or taking vacations to be with our family, let us not forget the true reason for this Christmas season. And let us not forget to celebrate the amazing love of a Heavenly Father who would knowingly sacrifice His Only son so that we each could know Him, too. Let us continue to have that spirit of Thanksgiving in our hearts through the holidays and into the new year.

 18This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

She will give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel,

which means ‘God is with us.’”  Matthew 1: 18-23

 Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Son. Because of Him, we have hope. Hope on this earth, and hope for heaven. May our lives touch someone else  this holiday season so that they, too, may experience the wonder and blessings of your most Perfect Gift.




The Gift of Breakfast

By JMathis

On the morning my grandfather died, my husband kept it a secret from me for several hours. I had been working on a deal at the office that had me essentially sleeping there for months. Routinely working right through the weekends, I missed weddings, girls’ nights and anniversaries. All of my connections to the outside world were being compromised, and I was left feeling vulnerable, exhausted and beaten down. My heartsickness for family, friends and fellowship grew by the day, and I was continuously awash with guilt that I had traded all of the good in this life for an ephemeral, hollow vision of success.

My husband knew very well what I had been going through, as he was living this nightmare with me. No wife, no life, no peace. So, that Saturday morning, he was determined to take me out for breakfast, before I clocked in for another prolonged weekend at work.

That Saturday morning, I went ahead to our car, and right before he walked out of the house, he got the phone call from my parents. They chatted and he finally came to the car after what seemed like an endless period of waiting.

It was only later I found out that he and my parents had decided on that phone call to wait in telling me the news about my grandfather–the grandfather whom I loved and adored.

You see, even my parents had known what I was going through that season. When they found out that my husband was planning a relaxing, albeit brief, breakfast for me that Saturday morning, they selflessly put aside their desire to grieve with me, so that I could have a warm, filling and life-affirming breakfast–a breakfast devoid of stress, anxiety and grief.  

Years later, I still remember that breakfast. My husband kept me in stitches of laughter, he tenderly told me how much he loved me, and he protectively pulled me close to him–all the while, ordering a schmorgasbord that constituted every taste offering on the menu.

I allowed myself to be completely free during that breakfast, taking in the pampering and all the attendant nurturing and loveliness inherent therein. I strolled out beaming, and briefly forgot about the impending hellishness of another weekend spent at work.

We walked back to the car and it was then that he told me.

It was then that I ran to be with my parents.

It was then that I cried for an entire month straight.

At the time, I remember being so angry with them over this ridiculous notion that I should wait to hear about his passing.

Now, close to a decade later, I see that they put my joy before their pain.

My husband, my mom and my dad had put me first that morning.

They chose to breathe life into my fading husk, while death swirled all around them.

Some may see their decision as misguided grief, but I see it for what it is: an unmerited, generous gift from them that I will always carry with me and treasure. Given by them to me, at a time of great grief and sorrow.

And, for that, I am thankful.

Mom, Dad and D: I love you for what you chose to pour into me that Saturday morning. This Thanksgiving weekend, I honor, remember and cherish your gift. May I be blessed with the opportunity to sacrificially pass it forward to my own children someday.

In the Morning Darkness

By AbbyA

Waking up before the alarm goes off.  Sensing awake.  Searching out the question of what day it is.  What is in store.  And, where are you Lord?  In the morning dark.  Wanting arms wrapped around me.  You are here.  Are you here?

Are we okay God?  Scanning my recent actions.  Condition of my heart.  Lord, are you disappointed in anything?  Where am I?  This is not the quiet stillness of His presence.  In the morning dark.  This is me sensing that I don’t know if you are there.  Wanting arms wrapped around me.  You are here.  Are you here?

This is not bleeding or desperation.  This is not brokenness or streaming tears.  This is not fear or anxiety.  This is me in the morning darkness wanting Your arms wrapped around me.  You are here.  Are you here?

In the darkness.  I have not been able to answer these questions of where you are or how we are.  Neither have you.  I am seeking your security.  In the darkness.  I am checking to see if we are okay before I reach out to seek you.  You have not sought me first.  It is like I have gone to the kitchen to make coffee but I cannot find the filters.  I can’t begin.  I want you to show yourself to me.  This is me in the morning darkness wanting arms wrapped around me.

I do not know how old I will be in age or spiritual maturity before I learn your purity and faithfulness.  You do not hide.  You do not have better things to do.  You do not cease to know that it is me grasping for you in the morning darkness.  You are there in the lack of stillness and stirring of my heart.  You are there even while I open doors to find you.  The maze that I turn through in the stillness of morning is to lead me to you.  There is insecurity in living without you and security in finding your peacefulness.

Lord, I pray for all of the restless hearts that wake up searching for you.  You called me friend, but sometimes I have to knock on your door.  You chose me first, but sometimes I have to invite you for coffee.  Unlike a friend who will inevitably be late or forget or go through her own tough time.  This is never you.  You always show up on time.  Never forget a date or become preoccupied with your own important matters.  You always have time for me.  Probably more than my little mind can comprehend.

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him.  You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.  Psalm 32:6-7.

Something in the Air

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Perhaps it’s the cool winds after the three months of blistering, sweltering heat. Or the beauty and richness of gold, maroon, and marigold colored leaves.

Or perhaps it’s the memories of yesteryear…of a new school year…of homecoming dances…football games…band practice…

 Or maybe it’s the beginning of holiday season…a season of festivities…of dressing up for Halloween…of pumpkins…pumpkin spiced lattes…and pumpkin pie.

Or maybe it’s Thanksgiving itself…buttery corn on the cob…sweet, candied potato casserole, succulent juicy turkey, and yes, more pumpkin pie.

Or maybe it’s the prelude to Christmas…the smell of fresh pine needles in the house…candles laced in sweet cinnamon and vanilla scents…colorful trees decorated in memories of Christmas past.

 There is something undoubtedly magical about this time of year, isn’t it?

 Growing up, it was the spring that I always longed for…or summer…but now as an adult, it’s the Fall…the months of October through December that somehow bring a smile to my lips and a warmth to my heart. There is a festivity and an excitement in the air…of things to come and of memories past.

 Tomorrow as you sit around the table with your family, I hope that you, too, feel the beauty and wonder of this season.

 This season is our modern day harvest. A time where we can sit around and enjoy the fruits of our labor and the bountiful blessings of our merciful, generous God. So tomorrow…Eat. Drink. Enjoy. Give thanks.

 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 2 Corinthians 9:10

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings are indeed great!

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Full Indeed

By AbbyA

We are eight children, six adults, many bags of little toys, crafts, snacks and a willingness to do some good.  Twelve empty shoeboxes being filled for delivery to children throughout the world.  We run out of shoeboxes before we run out of little toys and crafts.  Two parents drive to the shoe store up the corner to get more boxes.  Sixteen shoeboxes full.  Full indeed.

I am taking the week off with my kids.  Sitting on couch watching C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian.  I get up to get my feverish daughter something to eat.  Cleaning up along the way.  Picking up the media package that reminds me each year to fill shoeboxes, and the tears begin to stream down my cheeks.  I am partly sad because of the world we have delivered to our creator.  Partly sad because of my heart’s cry to do more to change our world.  Partly sad that we are so broken as a people.

I am overwhelmed in the kitchen.  Pouring into my kids this morning.  Attempting to pour into the world with the causes we support and volunteer work we do.  Thinking how both are intentional and sacrificial, but miniscule in comparison to the need.  Overwhelmed by the work to be done for His glory.  As His hands and feet.  He meets me there in the kitchen.  The big and small work together for My good.  Calm your aching heart for I have overcome the world.  Part of me stops there.  For I have overcome the world.  I have never understood this remedy to the human struggle.  We are burdened to do His work and should.  But He has already overcome the world.  He has won the battles of this world and taken my human struggles with Him to the cross where He declared victory for me.  I am full indeed.

The burden I am experiencing falls off my shoulders.  He gives me zeal to continue to pour into my kids.  Zeal to continue to pour into the world.  There is not one lost effort to save or love in His name.  There is not one empty or void act when done for His glory.  Small acts are not welcomed in and of themselves.  They are received in cargo containers to be worked together for His good.

In His hands, small acts are yeasted up to rise like dough – – double and triple their original size.  Small acts become full acts when worked in His hands.  The movie ends and my tears continue to fall for the love of my children.  I look into my older boy’s eyes and tell him No matter what happens in your life, do not be afraid because you have Jesus in your heart.  I pause.  And when you get to the very end of your life, do not be afraid.  Take Christ’s hand and let him lead you into eternity.  He stares back and wraps his sweetie-boy arms around me.  Full indeed.