All means ALL {things work together}

If you’ve been a part of the church/Christian Faith world for more than a minute in your life, you’ve probably heard these words:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NKJV

I’m pretty sure I memorized these words fairly early in my Sunday School career.‬‬ I mean, if there was a sticker or piece of candy in it for me, I was all about parroting the words back to my teacher.

But I don’t think the little Sunday School version of me had a clue what those words really meant. I’m not entirely sure the grown up version of Tracy gets it either. But I’m beginning to.

You see, when those God-breathed words made their way out through the Apostle Paul’s pen, all meant All. Absolutely no exceptions.

And all these centuries later, all still means all. No exceptions.

But I’ve made exceptions. I totally get God using the pretty , shiny, and happy things of life for my good and His glory. I even get Him using some of the darker sides of life – as long as I did nothing to cause them and they don’t last too long.

But what about the long dark pathways of my own choosing?

All means all.

What about the things that will never ever make sense to me this side of Heaven.

All means all.

What about the things that seem so dark and evil it seems absolutely impossible that good for anybody at any time could ever come out of it.

All means all.

Why is it so important that we begin to grasp this?

It frees us from being bound by the lie that our sins and bad decisions exempt us from God’s Good in our lives.

All means all.

It frees us from the false belief that we are little mini-gods who shoulder the responsibility of acting right, believing right, being right in order to experience God’s goodness in our lives.

So, if your heart is weary and disillusioned believing that somehow the actions of others, a “bad hand” dealt by life, or even your ugliest of sins and poorest of decisions can somehow stop the flow of God’s good in your life – you can be lifted by the fact that

ALL MEANS ALL!

Our Worry Only Limits Us

Here is the prayer that closed this morning’s leadership huddle at the incredible hospital where I am so blessed to work:

Holy God,

This is the day that You have made – Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Each person gathered here is a masterpiece designed by You.

Help us to remember our worth when challenging situations arise. Should we feel depressed or lacking joy in our lives, help us to remember we are fearfully and wonderfully made in Your image.

Our worry does us no good and only limits us, and You do more with worry than we ever could. So help us turn our anxious thoughts and situations over to You and trust that You are working. You work all things for our good because You love us. May we always be mindful that You are working in ways that we cannot comprehend, as Your ways supersede ours. And in this working You are continuing to mold us into masterpieces that fulfill Your purpose.

For the unseen, the increasing of our faith and our capacity to love, we give thanks in Your Holy Name. Amen.

-Prayed this morning by Mary Beth Krivanek, Sr. Chaplain, Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital Pastoral Services

Don’t let a temporary change in view shake your faith in permanent truth!

The beautiful landmark #KingAndQueenBuildings looked quite different during my commute in this morning’s fog than they do in the #AfternoonSunlight. But the #LifeLesson in this is that the actual structure and function of the buildings didn’t change just because my view was temporarily obstructed. Do not let what you see weaken what you KNOW to be true. #LessonsFromTheSky.

Easter Egg Hunts?? Or Church All Day?? This year I’m Celebrating Resurrection a Different Way.

There’s been debate in “Christiandom” for years about whether or not good Christian parents should tell their children stories of Easter Bunnies and send them off on adventures to find hidden eggs.

Some would argue that the remembrances and celebrations of the Easter Holiday weekend should all focus on our Risen Savior and the empty tomb He left behind. “Behead the bunnies and burn the baskets!” might be their mantra.

But I would argue that a single day – or even an entire Lenten season – cannot adequately celebrate our Risen Redeemer – whether filled with chocolate bunnies or fervent fasting. You see, the whole point of that ancient crucifixion and resurrection of our Serving Savior was not for focus to be fixed on an empty tomb or for feasting on baskets full of candy.

The point of the God becoming man, dying, and rising was not to create an empty tomb for generations of faithful pilgrims to gaze into – as awe-inspiring as that may be. The beauty of what these over-crowded Easter Sunday services are trying to Celebrate is so much more than one day and a family dinner. Rather, the true Resurrection Celebration is the sudden and sustained appearance of the light of hope and life in the eyes of a person who had previously been daily trudging through a living death of hopelessness.

So eat that Easter Candy if you want to. Go to church and slice the ham. But you are only witnessing a true Resurrection Celebration when you can daily look into eyes and see a changed life.

For me, this Easter weekend was one of my best yet. I shared the weekend with a dear friend who has navigated through very similar life struggles as me. As we hiked some beautiful West Virginia trails and spoke of strong and confident personal and professional steps we would have never taken in prior years, we realized the very lives we are leading are a beautiful resurrection story.

And the weekend was summed up with a beautiful reminder of this at the close of the service of a little church we visited in West Virginia today. Unlike the larger highly-produced church services many of us experience these days, this one was small and intimate – opening with the pastor querying the entire congregation for any prayer requests and closing by asking if there was anything else on their hearts. It wasn’t focused on a celebrity-style preacher but on the simplicity of God’s love poured out on all the people as they ministered to one another. And it was that sweet atmosphere that provided the freedom for a woman near the back of the church to stand at the close of service and say, “I know He’s alive because He Lives in me!“.

And that – the unending and uninhibited passionate spark of a changed life – is way better than an Easter basket or a sunrise service.

So, not just happy Easter to you. Our Father designed us for more than just an occasional celebratory day.

Happy Resurrection Lifestyle!

Growing with you in Him,

The Gospel According to my Bubble Bath

If you’re a fan of bubble baths like I am, you probably would never add fragrant oils or soap to still water. You either add it when the water is running or you fire up those jets on the whirlpool tub. Why? Because as fragrant and lovely as that oil or soap may be while sitting still, its full refreshing, relaxing, fragrant, and bubbly impact is not released until it is stirred.

It would be sad if I sat in my big old tub and added fragrant oils and soaps, but never fired up the whirlpool jets to spread their healing beauty throughout my bath. Well, how much sadder still if we never fully release the fragrant life-giving beauty our Maker so lovingly crafted into us because we avoid the very things (often in the form of painful or challenging decisions, situations, or relationships) that were designed to stir us up in order to release us into our full potential.

So I challenge you… I challenge me… not to be so busy about avoiding the pain of life’s stirring that we miss having our full and intended impact!

Think about that the next time you’re in a bubble bath. Or, think about it the next time life’s circumstances try to get you stirred up. The stirring that rocks our predictable “safe” little worlds sometimes may not be such a bad thing after all.

Growing better together,

Resilient Beauty

So there’s this tree just outside my hotel here in beautiful Virginia that started showing off these beautiful blossoms a couple weeks ago at our first unseasonably warm day. What’s so amazing about this is we’ve had more than a couple hard freezes since then. But this tree continues to blossom – blessing us with beauty in spite of harsh external circumstances.

As God does so often, He reminded me of spiritual truth through a beautiful natural example. Beauty does not have to be diminished by external circumstances.

It is not easy – but it is possible to be so deeply grounded and rooted in the strength and power of our Maker that the deepest freeze the world has to offer cannot rob us of our beauty. In fact – because of the greyness of the world around us, our beauty will be even more vivid in the landscape of the pain around us.

You see, this tree was probably planted by the hotel owners when they opened the place over 20 years ago. Even though it may not be the largest tree from what we can see, it has had years of developing a deep root structure and careful nourishing and tending to by its landscapers.

May my life be a beautiful testimony of the strength that can only be developed over time as I learn to lean in to the deep abiding power of my Maker.

“They are planted in the house of the Lord. They grow strong in the courtyards of our God.” – Psalm 92:13 ERV

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from Me you won’t be able to do anything.” – John 15:5 ERV