Justified by Faith Alone

For two nights this week my husband and I watched a movie about Martin Luther. It is on demand if you have any interest. This isn’t the first Martin Luther movie  we have seen. Not Martin Luther King just Martin Luther from whom modern Lutherans draw their name.

Martin Luther did not intend to break from the Catholic church. He only wanted to reform it.  And he decried his name being used as a name for churches.

But he could never deny anything he read in Scripture. He was devoted to the Book and to Christ.

There is so much to Luther and to his story but the turning point for this man who wore out the confessional was when Scripture came alive to him.  By faith alone! The righteous live by faith alone not by the number of good things they do. He set the Holy Roman Empire ablaze with this insight. It was freedom! And it could not be quieted!

How long has it been since you read a truth in the Bible that you suddenly saw as if you had never seen it before? It is astonishing when it happens, when God pulls back the curtain on our blindness!

Romans 3: 23-24

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–

Romans 3:28

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Personal Footnote:

Almost 3 months ago I injured my back during physical therapy. It was diagnosed as an annular tear, a tear of the tissue surrounding the disk. I was told it would take about 2 months of  rest for it to heal itself. The second month, the pain began to escalate. Last Thursday and again on Sunday I was in the emergency room with what felt like a stab to my lower back. Sudden unrelenting pain, so much so that I became panicked that it would happen again. I was afraid to stay at home by myself and Judge was afraid for me. His mother came in the mornings Monday-Wednesday before he left for work so there was no time when I was alone in the mornings. By Thursday my sense of panic began to ease and I was able to stay alone. To be honest, I am still afraid when I get out of my chair. It has been a very rough time for us.

I have another upcoming visit with my neurosurgeon and my pain clinic as well.

I have read a good bit about annular tears (while glued to my chair). They can take up to a year to heal but surgery should intervene after several months. And, they are excruciatingly painful (oh, really?)

I am tired. Tired of expecting the next attack of pain. Tired of being so preoccupied and tired of this chair. Tired of any kind of pressure to fulfill any obligation. Tired of panic.

I am going to take a hiatus from blog writing. I can’t even put two thoughts together.

Thank you for following and reading my blog. That has meant so much to me. If God brings me to mind, please keep me in your prayers. Maybe I will be able to start up the blog again soon.

In Christ’s love,


Is Everything All Right?

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

from Pippa Passes

The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn:
God’s in His heaven— 
    All’s right with the world!

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While it is a nice poem, after the hurricanes I am not sure all is right with the world at least from our perspective. I see the destruction and broken hearts but also all the giving hearts and the resilience. Things never seem right with the world on a global perspective even when our private lives may resonate with Robert Browning’s verse.

No matter where you are personally on such a spectrum elsewhere it will be different until Heaven’s glory dawns.

Except for the fact that the year is at the autumn instead of the spring, my life on one level could fit the verse. On the other hand, I have been terribly sick for a few weeks, thus the inconsistency in my blog appearances.

Friday morning my husband had an important meeting at work. He refused to go even though I insisted I was fine. He said he could not leave me in that condition. I still insisted that I could take care of myself. He would not leave and within a couple of hours we were at the emergency room getting pain and steroid injections, increasing the dose of my anti-inflammatory and getting prednisone.

I am doing much better as long as I sit in my recliner and do not move unnecessarily but the side effects from the prednisone were worse than the cure. Had to nix that. As long as I can hold out till Monday. I am praying the orthopedist will give me an effective spinal injection. Please pray with me on that.

I guess that because I  have insurance and live in a place where I can readily get medical help makes things all right in my world. Of course, there is no guarantee that I will live with a healthy back after Monday. Fiddling around back there makes me nervous.

I can’t speak for hurricane survivors. I imagine some are extremely grateful while others are devastated.

I appreciate your patience with this rambling post. Comparing my painful injury to the event of a hurricane is not even sensical. So I ramble about my physical pain in the face of others emotional pain.

Please pray for me these next few days, especially on Monday.

Blessings to all of you!




What It Means to be Held


Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him (Moses) and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.  Exodus 34

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The following post by Vaneetha Rendall is raw yet tender. Vaneetha has experienced so much pain in her life. Pain from both physical and mental/emotional experiences have followed her most of her adult life yet in all she still hears and knows the name of God.

When I read a post like Vaneetha’s I am reminded of the seriousness and awe-filled name of the God we worship. I wanted to start out with his precious name before I reprinted this very raw post.  It minimizes my pain to nothing.

What It Means to be Held

By Vaneetha on Aug 31, 2017 03:31 pm

Paul Demski held 

This month marks twenty years since our beloved son Paul was born and I am reposting this article from 2014 about him and the song “Held.” I am reminded once again that God’s ways are not our ways, but we can trust that he will ultimately use all the sorrows in our lives for our joy and for his glory.


Burying my precious baby was devastating. I had no idea how to cope with his sudden unexpected death. True, Paul had been born with a heart problem, but he had survived the critical surgery at birth and was thriving. He’d come home from the hospital at three weeks old, and after a slow start, began gaining weight.

With his winsome smile, easy disposition, and mop of curly dark hair, he delighted us all. He was healthy and beautiful. Even the physician filling in for Paul’s regular cardiologist was so impressed with his progress that he impulsively eliminated most of his heart medications. Paul didn’t need them anymore. He was fine. At first, I was encouraged by the good news. But two days later, Paul was dead. He was only two months old.

I struggled to accept what had happened. That a doctor’s foolish mistake took my baby’s life. As I watched them lower Paul’s tiny casket, I buried my dreams for him. How could his life glorify God? I felt nothing good could come from his pointless death.

But God in His wisdom knew differently. He uses everything in our lives as we submit to Him. He can turn the broken and marred and ugly into something beautiful. And He did that with Paul’s death.

Month later, I shared the story of Paul’s life and death with a new friend. That friend, Christa Wells, is a recording artist who subsequently wrote the song “Held,” which begins with the story of Paul. The opening lyrics are raw:

“Two months is too little, they let him go. They had no sudden healing. To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling.”

The chorus provides the response,

“This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life, and you survive. This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was, when everything fell, we’d be held.”

The words of the chorus echo my experience. God loves us. He holds us in our pain. And because of his love and compassion, we can go through anything, knowing he’ll never leave us. We will always be held by him.

“Held” was recorded by Natalie Grant in 2006, and won numerous awards and touched countless lives. As I read messages from people who felt God’s comfort in their pain because of the song, I saw how Paul’s short life brought God glory. But none of the letters impacted me as much as seeing how it changed someone firsthand.

It had been a miserable rainy day and I was feeling sorry for myself, running behind on errands because of the stormy weather. Partially drenched, I ducked into a bagel shop to grab a quick lunch. It wasn’t busy, but the guy making my sandwich seemed interminably slow.

‘Couldn’t he go a little faster,’ I wondered, as I sighed impatiently. He was almost finished, just tearing the final leaf of lettuce, when “Held” came on the radio. As I heard the familiar chords, I felt my tension and irritation roll away. Thankful for the delay, I smiled and leaned against the counter to enjoy the moment, unhurried. Something healing had come out of my brokenness, and it was still healing me.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice that the young man making my sandwich had stopped. When I looked up, he was crying. Our eyes met and he apologetically mumbled, “I’m sorry. Are you in a hurry? Do you mind if I stop for a minute and listen to this song? You see, my mom died a few months ago, and this song “Held” is the only thing that got me through. It has meant so much to my whole family.”

I cringed at my prior impatience. Pulling myself together, I nodded and whispered, “Please do. Take as much time as you want. I love this song too.”

Time stopped as this stranger and I shared a sacred moment together. I stood in silence as he took in the song, mouthing the familiar words, as I recited them in my head. When the song was over, tears were streaming down my face as well. Tears of hope. And redemption.

I need that the song had touched thousands of people, but I’d never seen it firsthand. I had never witnessed its healing impact on broken people. I had never fully understood the way God was using it to comfort others. I’ll never forget that day. Seeing purpose in my suffering was more redemptive than I ever imagined. Though it didn’t take away the pain, it did take away its sharp sting. Knowing that God was using my loss made it easier to endure. It helped me see how God uses all of our suffering for our joy and his glory.

None of my other trials have been memorialized with a song, but God has brought meaning to them all. With each loss, he has pulled me closer to himself, held me tightly and shown me the depth of his comfort. The deeper the sorrow, the more profoundly he draws near.

He has also met me as I talk to others who have experienced their own suffering. I’m often tempted to shy away from sharing because I don’t want to relive the agony. It’s often less painful to stay on the surface with struggling people. It’s easier to remain detached. But inevitably when I do that, I leave emptier and more burdened.

I know how much it meant to me to talk to others who had walked similar paths. They were able to offer advice and insight; they understood the unique sorrows of my particular trial and they provided evidence that healing was indeed possible. In the pit, sometimes I doubted that. I wondered if I’d ever make it through. I questioned if the aching would ever stop. I wasn’t sure if I would ever laugh again. Just talking to them gave me hope for the future.

God uses us to comfort one another with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. And as we tell others of God’s faithfulness in the midst of trial, it reminds us afresh that God will never forsake us. Though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will never walk alone.


adapted from the Archives

The post What It Means to be Held appeared first on Vaneetha Rendall.

You can read more of Vaneetha’s work at danceintherain.com.  This post was presented with her permission.