I could have been Joe Holcombe and I wouldn’t change it

Please understand that I will never pretend to know what the families of the Texas shooting are going through this week.

But I could have been Joe Holcombe.

He lost eight family members to senseless violence.

I don’t make that comparison lightly.

I have stood at a triple funeral of family members as the result of violence. I have heard the trite platitudes as if ANYTHING someone could say would patch the hole gaping in my heart.

But I have to say this.

My family is also the church. If circumstances were different and we lived in a tiny town together, we would have all been in church together last Sunday morning. In actuality, we were still gathered in churches across my city and our nation.

But if we all lived in a tiny Texas town, we would have all been in our spots on the pew or covered chair.

We wouldn’t be there out of obligation; we would be there out of freedom. Because JESUS radically changed us, we would have no other priority than spending a morning worshipping him.

Because in my family Jesus saves:
He saved the racist.
He saved the manipulator.
He saved the divorced.
He saved the prisoner.
He saved the druggie.
He saved the self-righteous.
He saved the bitter.
He saved the liar.
He saved the abused.
He saved the cultist.
He saved the rebel.
He saved the drinker.
He saved the burden carrier.
He saved the harsh father.
He saved the cheated.
He saved the helpless, hopeless, and heartless.

He has saved nearly every one of my family members.

And we didn’t do it to join a church, we did it to be made new.

I have sat at more than one funeral and texted some of the sinners on that list and thanked them for following Jesus.

It is their faith in Jesus that gives me hope. Our trust is in the one who has the power to lacerate death back. It is the only hope we have when we face the unimaginable.

I think this is a touch of what Paul was saying in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 when He said we would grieve differently.

NOW, hear me clearly. Paul does not say we will not grieve. He says we’ll grieve WITH HOPE.

In fact, I would argue that a life fully lived for Jesus will have accomplished its purpose and can and should leave a hole.

I would cry maybe all of the rest of my days if I was truly in the shoes of Joe Holcombe. But I can tell you from experience that I have stood beside the caskets of those who have left me with hope, and I have stood beside those that have not. I handle saying goodbye to those who leave me with hope much better.

So I can’t help but ask. Will you leave others with that hope?

I am serious when I say… MESSAGE ME or email me at christina@christinakhanagov.com. I would love to share how you can leave that hope with your friends and family. I could tell you about how Jesus makes all the sinners in my family brand new, and that he can make you new, too.

Because it could have been my family Sunday morning, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Like Cornelius

I met Cornelius in a chapel in the North Carolina mountains.

Cornelius is who I hope to be one day.

Let me tell you exactly how we crossed paths.

This year for our 15th anniversary WK and headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had the “honeymoon” that we only could have dreamed of when we stayed in that condo in Hawaii.

We did all kinds of things and, after over a year of running off my feet, I relaxed.

For a whole week I enjoyed the days, the luxury, and the company. I inhaled deeply the grace and extravagance of God and my husband, and exhaled the feelings of unworthiness and idleness.

We hiked trails to see waterfalls. We toured our historical hotel. We drove in the rain for part of Blue Ridge parkway as the steam from the rain filled the valley. We drove with our (rented) top down through the tallest trees this Oklahoma girl has ever seen.

We explored the grounds of the Biltmore Estate thanks to a long time family friend’s generosity. We had several extra courses the night of our anniversary because another friend’s cousin owned a fabulous restaurant. We had cocktail hour (that I called “snackers” because I ain’t a cocktail girl) and spa time at our hotel each night.

I was in heaven.

But it was on the day that we went to the Billy Graham Conference Center that I met Cornelius.

The Cove in the Blue Ridge Mountains holds about 1200 acres used by Billy Graham as personal retreat and training for Christians across the nation.

We were touring the chapel there and met several volunteers along the way. They were all very knowledgable and helpful. As we went into the main chapel area that had a pulpit transplanted there that was hundreds of years old (complete with it’s original candelabra for evening sermons), Barbara and Cornelius met us to tell of the place.

They took their time telling us all about the influence Ruth Graham had on the design and construction of the chapel.

They were a sweet couple, but here’s what will always stick out to me.

Cornelius hobbled along with the aid of a walker. His body was extremely frail. He drooled a little when he talked.

Now… Why on earth would I want to be like that?

Because his eyes lit up when he talked (ok, yelled… he was pretty deaf too) about Jesus. His step seemed lighter as he quoted Ruth and Billy’s favorite verses respectively.

He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 4:16 when Paul says, “Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

Longevity runs in my family. By the time my race is run, I may find myself watching my outer body waste away.

But here is what I pray. I pray that my unstable legs will still follow Jesus. I pray that my eyes still light up when they see his work. I pray that my drooling mouth keeps speaking his praise.

I refuse to ask God for less than more of him when then there is less off me.

One day soon Cornelius will see Jesus face to face. He will stand straighter than he did as a boy. He will run faster than he has in years. He will have a new body, but he will have the same Jesus.

Until then I pray that both Cornelius and I grow closer to the only One who gives drooling lips the ability to praise.

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The value of family that follows

I have often wondered what it might be like to have a mother or father who I only saw sing to the Lord during church services. I would have to wonder because that was not my experience.

One of the greatest blessings of my life has been to watch my family follow Jesus.

Simple things that most people miss or call profound, I called a Tuesday. I learned to follow Jesus from my parents and then watched them live it out before me.

I saw my Daddy and Mama praise the Lord in word or in song all week long. There was not a time, a possession, or relationship that was unavailable to the Savior.

They believed that following Jesus was about making Him Lord or boss. I didn’t see churchgoers, but Christ followers. They really thought that God was big enough to lead and worthy enough follow.

They knew that following Him would and should transform them. They taught us that taking up your cross and following Jesus would be difficult. There was no prosperity gospel at our house. They didn’t find that in their Bibles.

And the Bible. It was the word of God. They taught us the importance of reading and studying God’s word in context. (You mean your parents didn’t teach you how to use Strong’s concordance?)

I never got confused about what the church was. At a very early age, I knew that the people we met with inside the building were the church of God. We knew that going to a church building was only a sliver of what it meant to be a part of the church.

I will never forget stopping to pray for things. I will never forget hearing my parents share what they had learned from a brother or sister of Christ. I will never forget them praising the Lord through word or song.

It was bigger. God was bigger. I cannot repay those ahead of me for living truth in a way that could not be denied.

I can only pray that my children see me in the same way.

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Following the leader

The fear of leadership is not a lonely place. When entering this group you find many here. Some have grown old and wasted away in this room. Others merely visit from time to time. I am praying to be the latter.

I know that often I find that my fear of leadership is often in trying to make it something it is not.

Solomon simplified it in 1 Kings 3:8-9. “And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

When leadership is put in its proper perspective it is less complicated, less heavy, and eventually less fearful.

I am struggling with all of it, and therefore some things I need to remind myself.

Solomon helps me realize three things that help with my fears.

Solomon showed me that it’s not my plan, it’s not my purpose, and it’s not my people.

I don’t have to know the steps. God’s got those.

I don’t have to know the outcome. God’s got that as well.

I’m not even ultimately responsible for the people. Yep! God’s business too.

Leadership simplified is just taking people where they need to go.

The fear is that I won’t do it right, that I will end up taking them to the wrong place, or that I will ruin the lives of those who follow.

If I believe that God has a plan, then I can merely align myself with it.

If I believe that God has a purpose, I can trust what my eyes don’t see in this season.

If I believe that people belong to God and that He is just using me for His purpose and plan, then I can keep pointing them in the direction He would have me point.

When I was a little girl and the teacher chose me for line leader, I walked according to the teacher’s plan, headed in the way of her purpose, and lead her people. As long as I kept my eyes on the one who put me in the position of leadership in the first place all was well. It was only when I got distracted, thought my way was better or paid more attention to the ones behind me instead of the one in front of me that I failed to lead people where they needed to go.

The path is not much different if I just follow my Leader.

Lord, help me to be comfortable in trusting your plan. Help me walk in the way of your purpose. Help me understand that anyone behind me belongs to you.

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A simple lesson in place value

I am a homeschool mom. This expands to so much more than grammar and mathematics.

Here’s a little thing about me that you might have picked up on by now.

I teach.

If God had directed or one day directs our family to educate our children in a different fashion, I will still be a homeschool mom.

I cannot get away from teachable moments. I am wired to find what we can learn from each season in which we find ourselves.

That being the case let me teach you a simple lesson.

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