Pray, Joy, Thanks: My New Mantra

By Chris Sweet, guest contributor

God has been teaching me about feeling the joys of life while pain is present.  I’ve learned that His love is in the reflection of the shattered pieces of glass reflecting our brokenness.  It’s the glimpse of light on its shards.  The broken edge reflects the Creator’s loving gaze, who picks us up, roots for us to get up, heals us, and showers us with grace and mercy.

I’ve been encouraged by amazing books on the topic of loss and finding joy such as those written by Dr. Mary C. Neal and Pastor Levi Lusko who themselves have suffered unimaginable loss.   Dr. Neal wrote the book “To Heaven and Back” and Pastor Lusko wrote “Through the Eyes of a Lion”.  Dr. Neal died and went to heaven and returned to tell her story about Jesus, heaven and the angels.  She also suffered the loss of her son.  Pastor Lusko suffered the loss of his daughter.  The tragedies suffered by both are our worst nightmares.  But they talk about Jesus and their interaction with Him and the hope and healing He provides.  Dr. Neal in an interview said that the verses that were pressed into her spirit when she returned back to her body after dying were simple but powerful:

Pray without Ceasing 1 Thess 5:17

Be Joyful Always 1Thess 5:16

Give Thanks in All Circumstances  1 Thess 5:18

I love this simple mantra so much (Pray! Joy! Thanks!) that I wanted to share it with you.  When he lost his daughter, Pastor Lusko reflected on the assurance that what can’t be seen with the naked eye is being also worked out by God.  He states in his book that “This is the war:  every moment of every day, we must make the all-important choice of whether we will rely on the naked eye.  Will we trust what we can see is there, or believe what God says is there?  …  The apostle Paul put it this way:  ‘So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.’  2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT.”

We have all suffered such tragedies in our own lives.  Remind yourself that Jesus loves you.  Hold on to the things that cannot be seen.  He is always working behind the scenes of your life.  His intent toward us is love. Take the verses in the Bible as God’s promises to you that He has you.  And as we continue our days on earth in whatever form and with whatever condition, let us hold these verses as our mantra “Pray without ceasing, be joyful always, and give thanks in all circumstances.”  Here are some ideas for living that mantra:

Pray without ceasing.  Have an open conversation with God that starts in the morning and just talk to him throughout the day and ending in the evening before you go to bed.

Live with Joy.  Laugh, tell jokes and enjoy conversations with family and friends.  Take a moment and look at nature and appreciate the beauty in this world.  Do things that make you happy and try to figure out ways to make others happy (e.g. by sending that encouraging text message).

Be grateful.  Tell God all the things you are grateful for.  Have your family and friends name off things that they are grateful for when you get together.

And, don’t give up on your dreams that God has whispered to you from the time you were born.  Do your mission and live “Pray! Joy! Thanks!”  (Love it, love it, love it).

Cleaning Out Your Closet

By Bindu Adai Mathew

Spring is here! Well, let’s be honest, here in Florida, our “winter” is actually the equivalent of Spring up north. Growing up, I always loved spring… warm but cool weather, the trees have leaves again, there are fresh, colorful flowers everywhere. I‘ve always adored the Spring season because it makes me feel alive again. My mom also loved Spring, and like mothers everywhere, she always liked to use that time to clear out our closets and do some deep house-cleaning.

For me, cleaning out my closet and getting rid of toys and clothes was the equivalent of forcing me to eat liver and spinach for dinner. It was the equivalent of no cartoons on a Saturday morning or no swimming pool in the summer. It was neither palatable nor fair. So what if I didn’t play with that toy anymore or that I no longer wore that dress?? It was MY dress… it was MY toy. And I still liked both, and I was not ready to part with either.

Then high school hit, and I not only hoarded my clothes and toys, but I began to save my schoolwork. I began to worry that I might forget how to do a quadratic equation in college, so what if I still needed my notes and homework to figure it out? (In my defense, there was no Google or Internet back then.)

My mom fought a yearly battle with me, encouraging me to clean out my closet and get rid of unneeded things. “But that was my first Trapper Keeper! I have to keep it!” or “I know parachute pants will come back in style. Why do I have to give them away?!”

As I got older, my mom eventually left me and my closet alone. Over the years, my closet grew… and grew… to the point that any time I moved, it was not only painful and overwhelming but truly a nightmare. And after my last move, I realized that my mom had been right all along. However, it’s still not been an easy task to clean out my closet.  I’m very sentimental and I take very good care of my things, so it’s very easy to continue to hold on to everything.  But now I’m in a home where closet space is limited, and I realize that if I do want to make room for new things, I do have to let other things go…

This year particularly I realized it’s not only clothes, shoes, and paperwork that I often hoard. I also hoard unresolved feelings like unforgiveness… resentment… bitterness. I hold onto those hurts and pull them out to look at them, think about them. It’s almost like pouring salt on an old wound. But rather than letting them go, I put that hurt right back in my closet, storing those feelings away until the next time I’m feeling vulnerable or hurt and decide it’s time to think about them.

Just like an overrun closet filled with unneeded things can limit our ability to have room for new things, so can a overrun heart that is filled with hurt and unforgiveness. It’s not only limiting but debilitating. It not only limits your own potential in life, but just as importantly, it limits God. While nothing is impossible with God, He works best in us when are hearts are clean and pure. And more than our current circumstances that we’re focused on, he’s more focused on our hearts, and he often uses our circumstances to transform our hearts.

In my new year posting, I mentioned that it is time. And I truly believe that. This is the time. Today. This year. It is time to let go. Time to let go of the hurt, the disappointment. Time to forgive your friend/mother/spouse/child. It is time to forgive yourself. As the Bible eloquently stated, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. To make room for the new, you have to let go of the old.

As I think of the promise of spring and the concept of letting go of the old and embracing the new, I’m reminded of the closing chapter of my novel, The Chrysalis:

Like the rings of a tree, each of these events marks a significant year in my life. And now another year has come and gone. And soon enough, this moment, too, would be a distant memory. I could suddenly feel time ticking again. It is as palpable as my heartbeat. I can feel the grainy sands of time slipping through my fingers. As much as I want to curl my palm into a fist, it is inevitably slipping through my fingers. I have only one choice, I realize. To embrace it. To embrace this life—my life. Because Life is happening—with or without me. There was already so much wasted time spent on wishing, wanting, waiting… when life was all around me, ready to be experienced and enjoyed.

Our lives are like this forest. Seasons of beginnings and endings, marking both life and beauty as well as desolation and emptiness, all leading us to where we are, where we are meant to be.

I dig my hands deeper into my pockets in a futile attempt for warmth and march on, eager to explore parts of the forest that I had never seen. It seems to go on for miles, but how far had I ever gotten? Something had always stopped me from exploring—busyness, laziness, fear. I always said that I wanted to explore, but somehow I never had the time. But now the trail lies before me, a seemingly never-ending road of possibility stretches before me, winding and twisting, leading me, and now Life has simultaneously presented me all the time, the interest, and opportunity. As I walk, some markers are initially familiar, but soon enough, I am on unfamiliar ground.

I haven’t even gotten farther than a mile when I come upon it—there amongst the brittle, dead, seemingly barren branches—one little leafling pushing through the lifeless tree bark. A bud. Alone in its dark green, fragile glory, it dares to breach its tiny blade through. It is a reminder that yes, change is on its way and what was once barren would bear life once again. One small bud. Of Hope. Of Life. I smile at the reminder.

With outstretched arms, I lift my head to the waning sun and twirl around slowly and then faster, faster—for after the winter, the spring surely comes, and with it, I, too, am reborn.

Our Cord

By JMathis

How far back does Our Cord go, Father?

Far before I cried out to You in despair on so many nights? Far before The Towers Fell? Far before childhood innocence gave way to teenage angst? Far before the glee of my fire-engine red tricycle?

Does Our Cord go back even further than the lifeline of my own mother’s umbilical cord?

How did You gaze at me in The Womb? With wonder? Excitement? Expectation? Bemusement? Where did You think I would fit into Your Plan for humanity? Am I right now where You envisioned me to be? Will I ever get there? Soon, I hope?

Did Our Cord go back to when my ancestors heard The Word and breathed You into their lives?

Was I in Your mind as You watched my 8-year old great-great-grandmother chase after dragonflies in her bare feet? Did you whisper something into her spirit about Our Cord, causing her to follow one path versus another? The path that led to You?

When Your Son bled and died, did Our Cord come to mind? Did You anguish over sacrificing Him for me? Was there ever regret, or was Our Cord always the joy set before You?

As You fashioned the earth with Your hands, did Our Cord factor into Your design of the Florida beaches? Just knowing how much I adore and exalt them as Your handiwork?

When there was darkness in the expanse, was Our Cord something that gave You hope and inspiration? Did You draw Our Cord into the night stars, waiting for the day I would crave intimacy with You?

I see today how far back Our Cord goes, Father.

I see now how Our Cord traveled over the time-space continuum, defying obstacle after obstacle over the course of my historical and spiritual lineage–through the lives of my daughter, my husband, my parents, my sister, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents, my ancestors, Thomas, Peter, John, Stephen, James, Barnabas, Paul, Philip, Mark, Daniel, Esther, David, Deborah, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Adam and Eve.

I see Our Cord in the battle between light and darkness, and I see that Your Love prevails.

Your Love is in the very design, fabric and fiber of Our Cord, and that means Our Cord will never be broken, bent or shattered.

I hang onto Our Cord, assured that through You, my life overflows with Your healing, deliverance, forgiveness, safety, peace, refuge, salvation, life everlasting and Love.

Our Cord is the story of Love. Your story and mine, Father. To You, forever, I cling.

The Color of Love

By Bindu Adai Mathew


If love were a color, what color would it be?

Is it white and pure, like freshly fallen snow?

Or is it ocean blue with waters that run deep and wide?

Or is it the color of the midnight sky that knows no end?

Or is love yellow, bright like the sun, piercing the darkness with its radiance?

Or is it petal pink, soft, delicate, like a baby’s whisper?

Or is love like a rainbow, a kaleidoscope of all color?

Or perhaps love is neither.

Perhaps true love is truly just color-blind…


No, my friends. Love is Red. Crimson.

Love dripped from a pure white soul, down a grey rugged cross, and covered the brown, earthy ground.

Love illuminated through the darkness and clothed us with forgiveness.

Love endured all and forgave all.

Love is the color of the blood that was sacrificed so that we could truly live. The life-blood that beats within our hearts, flows within our veins, and rebirths our soul.

The color of Love, my friends, is Red.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son. That whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 
John 3:16

Love in the Time of Pain

By JMathis

I wish your heart was not so wounded from the pain caused by your loved ones. I wish that your family could be a source of comfort to you, rather than the source of your distress and anguish. I wish that our words would bring us together, rather than tear us apart.

Until that day, I wish you love unspeakable. May your soul be mended by the love of the Father who adores you beyond comprehension. Who knows every birthmark on your body. Who delights every time your eyes twinkle with mischief and laughter. Who longs to wipe away those tears you masterfully hide from everyone but yourself.

I pray that His love envelop you in comfort and consolation, in ways that your family cannot. May His words revive you and give you life, especially when the words of your loved ones create so much confusion and conflict.

Allow your Father to turn your mourning into dancing, and to heal the soul strings of your grieving spirit. Let His songs transform the sackcloth of your broken heart into a safe and nurturing cocoon of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Never give up hope that your family can change to become your greatest champions. That they may love you in a way that is not destructive or damaging. That their words lift you up rather than fracture you apart. That they may come to know the Father and bear the fruits of His Spirit.

May He heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. May He cure your pains and your sorrows. Psalm 147:3

Know that you are love, you are light, you are His. You are an overcomer, you are a conqueror, you are His. You are treasured, you are cherished, you are His.

You are you, you are ours, but most importantly, you are His.

You are loved.

Which Direction Are You Facing?

By Bindu Adai Mathew

When you drive, what direction are you generally facing? Unless you’re reversing out of your driveway or a parking spot, most likely you are facing forward most of the time you are driving.  Imagine though, that you are intending to go forward, but your neck is craned around to constantly look behind you. If you did that, more than likely, your car would veer off its course or worse, crash into something else.

We all know the dangers of texting or driving. Even taking your eyes off the road in front of you for a few seconds can result in tragedy.

But that is exactly what happens when you are constantly dwelling on your past. It’s human nature to want to think about our past. Our memories are powerful and they can have lasting effects on our life. It can be fun to reminisce with some good friends and family about our lives. However, whether it was the “good ole’ days” when life was so much better or some deep childhood hurt we can’t move past, constantly focusing your attention on the past can result in veering off your course in life. We can’t change the past. We can’t access it except through our minds and memories. But if you don’t like where your life is or where it’s headed, you must focus on where you are and where you want to be.

So which direction are you facing today? Is it focused, forward with anticipation, ready to move and adjust as needed in your journey? Or are you constantly looking and dwelling on your past?

Perhaps your life isn’t moving forward because you’re facing the wrong direction.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  Isaiah 43:18 NIV
“But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.   Isaiah 43:18 NLT

Still Standing

By Bindu Adai Mathew

I remember watching in horror as the World Trade Towers crumbled into a heap of metal and dust in 2001. I drove to work in a daze and just as I got there, news came of the Pentagon being hit and another plane crashing.

One of my good friends called me crying in panic and fear, worried about a cousin who worked in the Towers. She asked me if I thought this was the end. I said, of course not, but after our conversation, I, too wondered what was going on and if she hadn’t been that far off. And later that day as I watched the news reports and especially at all the lives that were lost, I, like many, wondered how God allowed this. I recall hearing the stories of families who lost a father, a sister, a loved one, and those who were still searching to find their bodies amongst the rubble, and I again wondered how God allowed this. Unlike others, I didn’t question God’s existence or His sovereignty, but I definitely questioned His Plan.

Now over 15 years have passed, and while our way of life has changed, it wasn’t the end of the world. Life has continued, and throughout the years, we’ve continued to see horrible acts of terrorism in school shootings, movie theater shootings, and other random, unexpected acts of terrorism. But yet, life continues. It endures.

Perhaps this morning, you’re looking at your own life. You’re surrounded by heaps of rubble. You’re enduring but you’re wondering where God is… and how He allowed something to happen in your life. Perhaps you’re looking at a dream that is in tatters… or you’re reflecting on a relationship that imploded… or you, too, have lost a loved one. You’re suffering in pain and wondering where God is…

For those of you, I share this verse I came across during my quiet time today:

“If the Lord had not been on our side–let Israel say–if the Lord had not been our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalms 124: 1-8

We may not understand why God prevents some things in our lives and allows other things to happen. But there is one thing we can be sure of… if it weren’t for God, we would have been consumed by our loss. We wouldn’t still be standing.

And for those of you who have been knocked to your knees by your struggles, by your loss, like the Towers, you, too, will be rebuilt.

But first we must clean out the rubble from our lives. We must make room in our hearts for something new. We must realize God is still God. And we trust him with a child-like faith.

Out of the rubble, if you allow it, God can rebuild your life. He can rebuild your dreams. He can make you stronger. He can help you stand taller.

If you allow it.