Friday, December 28, 2012

The Miracle of Delays

Last night my daughter and I went shopping.  It was a very enjoyable time together.  As she was driving me home, a deer finished crossing the road.  She calmly said, "Well, hello deer!"  I said, "Thank You, Lord."  The deer had crossed on the steep hill right at a curve, so that if it had still been in the middle of the road, we would have seen it as we hit it.  Instead, we saw its hind feet kick up in the air just as it hit the ditch on our side.  I was able to see its rear end and the white under its tail through my window.  I couldn't help but think how God may very likely have intervened on our behalf by delaying us just a bit so that we did not hit it.  We had found 3 of the four shoebox sized containers my daughter needed, so had to go back to the front of the store to get a fourth.  I told her to go ahead and get one while I stayed with the cart.  A couple of seconds after she left, I saw a fourth one down the next aisle on a shelf and went and got it.  I wondered at the time why I hadn't seen it before so she wouldn't have had to go back.  It would have saved us time if I had just looked ahead.  When I saw the deer I felt wonder at the thought that perhaps THIS was why we had to be delayed.  At the time it had seemed frustrating, but looking back it seems miraculous. 
What if God has held back 99.9% of the evil that would have happened in our lives by causing or allowing delays, mishaps, arguments, etc. that seem so frustrating to us?  What if He hadn't allowed those things to happen and we hit a deer on our way home instead?  Which is worse - being later than you wanted, or hitting a deer and possibly dying in the process?
Perhaps we need to learn to be grateful for the minor frustrating occurrences in my life, for they may be the very things protecting us from disaster.
But, we wonder, why does God allow disasters in the first place?  God allows disaster first and foremost because human beings choose to make them happen.  It is humans that rape, murder, steal, etc., not God.   We have free choice and have chosen unwisely. Also, however, because we actually would be completely unfeeling without it.  If nothing ever went wrong there would be no need for hope and therefore we would not see a need for God.  This is really the crux of the issue.  We do not want to have to believe in and trust God.  We want to believe in and trust ourselves.  If we can get rid of the need for God, we are free to do as we please.  However, then we are right back to where we started, because what we want to do is sin without punishment - thus the reason we want to not believe in God.  But then things become disastrous again and we start seeking answers and come back to, "Why doesn't God?'  What a vicious cycle we place ourselves in!
"Suppose we rated all pain (and suffering) on a scale of one to ten, with ten representing the worst and most intense pain, and one describing the unpleasant, but quite tolerable.  Say, 'engulfed in flames' got a ten rating while a 'mild sunburn' received a one.  If God eliminated level ten pain, then level nine pain would become the worst.  God could reduce the worst suffering to level three, but then level three  now the worst, would seem unbearable......." pg. 330 If God Is Good. 
We tend to change our views according to what is allowed.  No matter what God does or doesn't do, our desire to be our own god will always make us criticize Him.
CS Lewis wrote, "Imagine a set of people all living in the same building.  Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison.  The half that think it is a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable. and those who thought it a prison might decide that it was  really surprisingly comfortable."
Those who have learned to trust Jesus realize they deserve imprisonment and death.  They also know our physical bodies are imprisoned more or less on this earth, so it doesn't seem so bad.  They recognize that it could be much worse, so are grateful that it isn't.  They also know the day is coming when they will be free from the effects of sin and death and look forward to that day with great joy.
Those who trust in self and believe this world to be the end all have difficulty seeing the beauty of God's original creation, because they tend to only see the devastation that has occurred instead and wonder why their hotel is so uncomfortable!!  
"I (Jesus)  will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Matthew 16:19 
The keys are sitting there in His palm waiting for us to reach out and accept them.  When we do, our circumstances here may not change, but our view of them will and our situation in eternity is changed completely forever!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THE Choice

I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord at the age of sixteen.  I remember the event vividly, though I could not tell you the exact date or time, though I know it was early evening.  From that time on I have hungered for more of God.  I started taking my Bible to school with me, not so I could preach at people, or even in order to testify of God's grace in my life, but simply to have it on hand should I get opportunity to read it.  I received that chance at lunch frequently, because the majority of the time I sat alone.  That is another story.
There was a boy in a math class I was taking that didn't like the fact that I was a believer.  He would tease and taunt me.  For the majority of those times I simply ignored him.  It wasn't easy.  He sat directly in front of me.  One day he turned around in his seat and asked this question (a common one with those determined not to believe) "If there is a God and He is all powerful, can He create something He cannot destroy?"  He was very smug about the question.  That smugness was rewarded, because I had no answer for him.  I wish I could speak with him now.  I would tell him the following:

Yes, God can and has created something He cannot destroy - at least that He will not destroy in the sense of annihilation - completely wiping away its existence - you!  When He created you, He made you for all eternity and then He gave you a choice.  Choose life by accepting His free gift of salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection and spend that eternity in His presence, or choose death by rejecting it.  By death I do not mean the end of existence, I mean eternal separation from God.  This is true death.  Without God's presence there is absolutely zero good, zero hope, zero light, zero faith in anything, zero enjoyment, zero anything of value.  However, there is fear, pain, suffering, anger, resentment, blinding darkness, being totally alone, hatred, and any and every other evil thing you can conjure in your imagination.  These things will never be destroyed, but they WILL be contained.  God will take Death and Hades and throw them into the lake of fire for all eternity.  
Know this, Hell was not created for you - earth, which will one day be cleansed and reborn to perfection was.  Hell was created for Satan and his dominions, but if you choose to follow Satan there, that is your choice.  God will give you every opportunity while you are still alive as you know it to choose eternal life over eternal death, but once your body passes into death, you have made your choice and He will honor it - for eternity.  "The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent."  II Peter 3:9 
I will pray for you that you come to understand what I have just told you and that you turn to Him and receive His free gift of eternal life.

God created us in love, watched as we turned our backs on obedience and embraced sin as our way of life, agonized over us in love so much that He gave His own life through His Son Jesus' death on the cross and then rejoiced in our deliverance the day Jesus rose from the grave in victory over sin and death. Hell is real, but God has done everything there is to be done to keep us from having to go there.  However, He also gave us free choice.  If we choose by our own stubbornness and desire to hang on to what we want to do and believe or not believe, He will not deny us that choice.  He cries out to us every moment we are alive in this world, "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!"  Deuteronomy 30:19
I choose life!  My prayer is that you make the same choice today.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What Christmas Is Really About

"How will we feel when the great shadow departs forever?  How will we feel when everything happy comes true, and everything sad comes untrue?  We will feel, perhaps, like it couldn't get any better than that.  But each new day will prove us wrong." 

This is the ending quote of chapter 28 in the book If God Is Good...Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.  I read it and felt deep abiding joy surface and expand in my chest as I thought about it.  Can we even imagine how wonderfully exciting eternity with God is going to be?  I think not.  We are so finite in our thought processes that we can only grasp a miniscule amount of understanding and yet that is enough to make our hearts want to explode in ecstasy!!  My heart beats faster and faster until I have no choice but to jump up and shout my love for God!!  He is so wonderful that there are many a time when I have to say, "Enough!  I cannot take in more or I will burst!!"
While it may seem that it would be fantastic to know everything, isn't the joy of exploration, experiment and discovery even more enjoyable?  Look into the eyes of a young child as they watch a simple candy cane dissolve in hot chocolate.
Yesterday, during Sunday School, my sister-in-law, Susie, gave her class hot chocolate and a candy cane with which to stir it.  I had just dismissed my class and walked in to hers where they had just finished up.  My grandson Lincoln looked at me, grinned from ear to ear and grabbed his cup.  He pulled out the candy cane and practically shouted, "Look Gramma!"  He was amazed that the candy cane was a skinny stub at the bottom where it had been in the hot chocolate.  I just looked at his adorable 7 year old face and smiled.  That simple experience of learning brought him such joy that it exuded over to me when he showed me!  This is what it will be like every day for all eternity!!  A constant exploring adventure where we will learn and expand in thought process.  There will forever be more to do and learn about and experience and each activity will simply make us love God and each other more!  Can we imagine this?  Not fully, but we can practice.  Practice always brings greater achievement, though it doesn't bring perfection here on this earth, even though it is said to.  There is always room for more and always will be!!  That excites me more than I can express.
God made us to learn, to experience and to achieve.  He placed the desire in us to always do and be better.  Sometimes we give up here, because the improvement is negligible, but when our senses and our bodies are made perfect, nothing will be negligible to us ever again.  We will sense it all, every minute learning experience will be heightened to the extent of bringing us great joy, peace, love and faith.  That is how much we are loved!  Rejoice - for Christ has come and is coming again!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Granting Permission to Fail

Divine permission is not weak, but active and strong.
We define our good in terms of what brings us health and happiness now; God defines it in terms of what makes us more like Jesus.  (Randy Alcorn - If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil)

The other day I was stopped by a woman who asked, "How much longer are we expected to listen to that?!"  She was speaking about a crying child who desperately wanted a toy.  She went on to tell of how her daughter brings her children to her to receive discipline.  In my mind I was thinking, "And there is the root of your complaint."  I managed to get in, "We live in a different world now," before she launched into a rapid fire diatribe on parents needing to give their kids something to cry about.  I tried to say more, but instead received an apology for dumping on me and then she walked away.  What I wanted to tell her was that the reason parents react differently to their children today is they are scared.  They fear having family services called on them for beating their child, when they actually simply spanked them.  People have even had them called for verbal abuse, because they corrected their child in public and this is considered embarrassing.  The fact is, if you are in a store with toys, chances are there is going to be a crying child somewhere trying to get its way.  Children have an innate sense of what they are going to be able to get away with in public.  The mother of the above child may have been putting up with him in public, but what happened when they got to the car or home?  I was grateful she didn't give in to his cries.  That would have made matters worse for her in the future. 
If it were possible, I would teach every parent the trick I learned from Dr. Dobson of  placing your arm around the child in a loving embrace and gently grabbing the muscle attached to the nerves in the child's upper shoulder and slowly squeezing until they give in and, while doing so,  whispering in their ear that they need to stop or there will be consequences to pay when they get home.  My boys, who are grown men now, jokingly tell people that that particular nerve in their neck is dead due to all the squeezing that took place.  Truth is, it is funny that after the first couple of times I barely had to squeeze at all.  Simply placing my arm around them let them know what was coming and they behaved - most of the time.  They were never embarrassed,  everything was done quietly and they didn't have to suffer further discipline, which was nice for me as well.  The real bonus was there was no real anger.  It was too humorous to see the expression on their faces when I placed my arm across their shoulders.  After the first time or two, their eyes would increase in size, they'd look at me and grin and say, "Okay, I'll stop," which of course made me smile inside and out.
As a parent, I wanted to know everything I could about rearing my children in a godly manner, so I read Christian books on parenting and compared them to Scripture as I went along.  One of the greatest things I learned was - Divine permission is not weak, but active and strong.  That quote is from the book above, but can be applied to our parenting as well. 
We are representatives of Who God is to our children.   Permission to fail is necessary for growth.  It is not a weak attribute in a parent to give their child the choice to do so, because the consequences are, I believe, harder to bear for the parent than the child.  When telling our children, "If you don't stop, or don't obey (etc.) there will be consequences," we are giving them opportunity to disobey and fail.  However, we are also holding out the opportunity for obedience and success.  When they choose disobedience, if we don't follow through with our promise, then we have taught them, "we are liars, sin is fun and there are no consequences - so go for it!"  When we do follow through, it must be done out of our hatred for sin and great love for them and our desire for their deliverance from it that motivates us or we are teaching them to "get even."  Yes, parenting is hard work, but well worth the effort!!
We define our good in terms of what brings us health and happiness now; God defines it in terms of what makes us more like Jesus.  This is something I am still learning.  It is an ongoing process. That I am still learning it is evident in the fact that I still complain at times when things don't go "my way."
The day I remember that "all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purposes," without fail will be the day I wake up with Him in eternity.  We are all those little children crying in the store for the toy we want.  God is our parent Who lovingly reaches out and makes us uncomfortable by squeezing that nerve.  He whispers in our ear and we need to listen closely.  If not, we must remember - God always keeps His promises!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Emotion of Music

"The system of truth is not one straight line, but two.  No man will ever get the right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once."  Charles Spurgeon

When I read this simple statement a light bulb went off in my head and it flashed the word "music" over and over again.  I think there are more lines than two.  I believe God is so complex that those of us who love and adore Him will spend all eternity searching Him out and learning more and more about Him each and every moment.
Music flows through my veins.  My daddy played guitar and violin (or fiddle, as he called it) and he could sing.  Momma played piano by ear and still sings beautifully, as all who really know her will tell you.  All my siblings and myself love to sing, and some of us play musical instruments, mostly piano, but I am the oddball who plays flute.   I married a trumpeter who has a gorgeous voice and now two of our three children work in the music industry - one teaches vocal and the other instrumental music, in the same middle school building no less.  Our oldest son has won karaoke competitions as well, though he is a businessman rather than musician.  I write all this simply to confirm that I do indeed bleed music. 
The one part of music that has always intrigued and astounded me is the conductor and his/her ability to read a musical score in order to direct each part.  If you have never seen an orchestral score, here is a single page I copied off the internet, so it is free for the viewing:

An orchestra conductor "reads" this as a whole and will immediately stop the music the moment one part is not played as written.  Where I would have perhaps two sheets of paper in front of me with only my part on it, he/she may have 50 pages of the same piece written as above and must view the piece as a whole.  I have to concentrate to play one line at a time while they are seeing the entire score and can pick out my slightest mistake!!  I marvel at this!!
There are harmonies in each piece that play beautifully and there are clashing parts that make us cringe, but they are all there for a purpose - they make us feel and understand what the author of the movement was trying to convey - joy, anger, amusement, frustration, etc. 
We must remember in this life that God is the Author of our lives and He sees every piece as a whole, just as the conductor sees the score.  He knows when things will harmonize and make us happy, when they will clash and make us angry and frustrated, when they will mesh so closely that we aren't certain what we are feeling until much later and when they will make us want to cry for their beauty or their agony.  If we are His we can trust that the music, though it has many difficult places to play through, will always turn out to be a blessing to those around us listening.  We can also trust that He will bring the music, not to a complete end, but have it eventually join in with the chorus of eternity with all the saints that have gone on before us. 
I was asked once if music always makes us feel emotion.  I believe music defines emotion when there is no other way to express it. 
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  'Praise the Lord!'"  Psalm 150:6

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Burden of Belief

There is a saying that goes: "We believe what we want to believe."  This may be true for some, but I have found that there are many things in Scripture that I do not necessarily want to believe - at first.  It was difficult to believe that God loves me, but He does.  Why was this so difficult for me to fathom?  I looked at myself and saw so many ugly things; greed, conceit, selfishness, and so on.
How could God look at me and love me? 
This may surprise many that I say it is a burden to believe I am loved, but once I came to really begin to grasp how great His love for me is, I began to realize how great a sinner I really am.  It can become overwhelming if I dwell on it, not to mention that it becomes sin once again, because when I dwell on it, I begin to feel sorry for myself at how unworthy I am to even know Him.  Romans 7 describes me well: So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (verses 21-24)
Notice the last verse - Thanks be to God - Who delivers me through Christ Jesus our Lord!!
I realize that as a Christian I have Jesus as my Mediator, which means that every time I d something stupid, Jesus steps up to the plate for me to take the blame on Himself.  That, if I allow it, can make me feel even lower.  Every time I hurt a brother or sister in Christ with my willfulness, selfishness, self-righteous attitude, envy, etc. I am hurting the very body of Christ.  This is too hard to conceive and I don't want to have to think about it, let alone believe it.  However, if I do not take up this cross, this burden of belief, I cannot draw closer to Him, to know Him better.  So I set aside what I want to believe and take up the burden of knowing that I am loved and that when I sin against a brother or sister in Christ, I am sinning against Him.  I am more quickly drawn to my knees to ask forgiveness and have fellowship restored.  So through the agony of assuming responsibility for what I have really done, I am drawn back into His arms for an even better relationship than before, as I will think twice before acting again.  Why?  It is much easier to accept responsibility for hurting a brother or sister than to accept it for hurting the One Who has done me good only and loved me when I was unlovable.
There is a song that I loved to sing while growing up: 
"I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day."
I have chosen to believe Jesus.  It was a difficult choice at the time.  I didn't want to give up feeling sorry for myself.  There is something cynically appealing about it to our flesh.  It's like a drug that sinks us lower and lower, but if we don't have it, we feel like there must be something wrong with us.  Once I made the decision to give my life to Jesus, that suffocating bubble of "poor little me" burst and I was overwhelmed by His love.  Now when I find a Scripture that is hard to grasp and cling to, I simply turn to my Father God and ask His help.  From experience I know that it won't be long until that very Scripture becomes precious to my spirit and one I turn to again and again for strength and comfort. Jesus also said: Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30  Oh, how extremely faithful to this promise He is!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Being Radiant

Eph. 5:25-33  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This morning I woke with a migraine.  This was quite a surprise since I have not had one for a couple of months.  At first the thought went through my mind that if I just lay still it would go away, but then the pain shot into my shoulder and I knew!  I forced myself out of bed and took an Excedrin migraine tablet and crawled back into bed.  My husband reached for me in his sleep and I snuggled into his arms.  I am always amazed at how much better I feel when he holds me.  

The above verses explain what it takes to make a great marriage.  Husbands are to love their wives.  What women need more than anything is to know they are loved unconditionally by their husbands.  No matter how many stupid mistakes I make (and there are plenty!) I know my husband will love me anyway.  He may chuckle at me or even chide me a bit, but he will never stop loving me.  There have been times when he actually became angry with me, but he never stopped loving me.  How is this possible?  He keeps his promises.

Before we were married we had a conversation regarding what we each believed regarding marriage and divorce.  We agreed that divorce should not even be a part of our vocabulary when it came to our personal marriage status.  We were both born again believers and took God's word about not breaking promises seriously, so when we vowed to love each other no matter what....Little did we know what we would put each other through, but with God's amazing grace backing us, we've made it 35 1/2 years as man and wife.  

Sometimes I think about what I write about our marriage and I wonder if people get the wrong impression.  Our marriage being wonderful is not a figment of my imagination, but it is also not all roses and tea parties (or football and pizza for the men).  We have struggled through jealousies, differences of opinion in child rearing, fears, money shortages, a miscarriage, deaths of family members, time constraints, misunderstandings, and have been so hurt and angered by each other that the temptation to walk out was very present.  The one thing that has always held us together was reminding each other that we love each other and me reinforcing my belief in him and the abilities God has given him.  When he tells me he thinks I'm beautiful, he looks deeply into my very soul to do so.  When I tell him he is the wisest most generous man I have ever known and the most handsome to boot, he knows I am not just saying words but mean it with my entire being.

When Jesus told the Pharisees that the greatest commandment is "to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," this is what he was talking about.  A Christian marriage is supposed to demonstrate this to the world.  It's exactly what Hebrews 5 is talking about.  But Jesus didn't stop there.  He said the second greatest is like the first; "love your neighbor as yourself."  If loving our spouse is loving ourselves and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we are to love our neighbors unconditionally as well.  AH, but He still was not finished.  He went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan to let us know that we are to be a neighbor to everyone, not just those who live close by.

So then, our marriages should demonstrate our relationship with Christ and our lives should demonstrate his love for the world.  Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. I John 3:1a  He pours out His love on us for us to demonstrate to the lost and dying world.  I pray we all are granted the desire to live fully in that love.


Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm Dreaming

Randy Newman has released a new song entitled "I'm Dreaming."  My husband came across it one night as he listened to some of his favorite songs via the internet.  He had me listen to it to see what I thought of it.  His initial reaction was that it is a very racist song, though he did not tell me so until after I had listened.  I had a different reaction.  I assumed symbolism: white means honesty and integrity vs. black meaning doing as pleased regardless of the effect on the country or possibly even to gain more power to become tyrannical.  Racism didn't enter the picture in my mind, but perhaps that is because I was reared not to think in those terms.  A person is a person and there is no such thing as red, yellow, black and white, but simply different shades of brown.  We are all equally created in the image of God and therefore should not esteem ourselves better than anyone else.  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3  So when I heard the ending of the song that says:
Whiter than this?
Whiter than this?
Whiter than this?
Whiter than this?
Oh yeah
I actually smiled.  Yes, I want a president who is more honest and has more integrity than even Lincoln, or Washington, etc.  I want Jesus as Lord over us all!  The only way that can happen is for a man or woman, regardless of race, with deep convictions and trust in the Lord to enter the office.
However, I am sad to say that I have recently learned that was not his message of intent.  He states in an article written about the song:  “I think there are a lot of people who find it jarring to have a black man in the White House and they want him out. They just can’t believe that there’s not a more qualified white man. You won’t get anyone, and I do mean anyone, to admit it."
It saddened me, I admit.  However, it cannot and will not change my opinion.  We need a man or woman in the White House as president who will stand by the constitution as it was intended, listen to the people when they cry out, and offer answers that bring integrity and honor back to our nation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our Sovereign God

God's Sovereignty and It's Reach ...  I long ago had to deal with this topic when we experienced a church splitting over differences of opinion regarding it.  Some were saying that because God is sovereign, everything we do is His hand forcing us to do so.  Others said that we have complete freedom in everything we choose to do and that God simply takes what we do and uses it for good.  Both of these sides completely disregarded the others ideas and a split took place.  It was a very frustrating experience, because I believed neither way was completely true.  I saw truth on both sides, danger on both sides and was powerless to stop what happened. 
Being a person who takes Scripture as it is and accepts it even when it upsets my little world to do so, I have to agree with this statement: "We delude ourselves when we think we have ultimate control over our lives.  We imagine that God should let us have our way.  And when He doesn't, we resent Him." 
However, I also do not believe God forces me to make every little decision.  He couldn't possibly.  Why?  Because sometimes I make sinful decisions and God would not force me to sin.
"And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, 'God is tempting me.' God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. James 1:13 
He might allow it, though not always, but He would never force my hand to do so.  He does, however, know in advance that I am going to do so and therefore uses that negative choice to bring about good in my (undeserving though I am) or someone else's life.
When suffering we get it into our heads that no one is suffering as we are; no one has it as badly as we do; no one knows what we are going through and every bit of it is a lie from the evil one.  If we would step back and simply look around us for a moment, we would find hundreds of thousands of people in worse shape than we are.  Then, if we would refuse to give in to the temptation of self-pity, but rather turn to God for the comfort He so longs to give, not only would we receive said comfort, but it would be greater than we ever imagined possible, as we would begin to realize that He went through it all before us, agonizing over the fact that we were going to have to experience the problem in the first place.  We are His children and He loves us as such. Therefore how He must grieve over the poor decisions He knows we will make, the hazards Satan will throw in our path that we will be wounded with - but ultimately grow from, the resentment we will fling at Him (God) even though everything He does and/or allows is for our ultimate good.  Who is hurting more?  If a parent has gone through a child involved in drugs and having to watch them suffer in prison or some other form of detention, they know that though their child is suffering physical agony and they grieve over the fact with tears, moaning, aching from the inside out, that that very physical suffering is the only thing that may save their child from permanent destruction, so they allow it.
We, as human beings, suffer from addiction to sin.  It is a drug.  It makes us temporarily feel good about ourselves or relieves some sort of stress for a very temporary time.  God knows every addiction and what it needs in order for us to be set free.  Should we condemn Him for wanting what is very best for us?  So if I must suffer in some manner in order for good to take place, then so be it, whether it be for sin in my own life or to set someone else free.
I went through my worst suffering ever almost two years ago.  I felt as if I were dying inside.  I would rather have been literally beaten to death than what I was feeling at the time.  I am not being facetious, or even exaggerating about my feelings.  I even asked to be beaten to get it over with, but was told no.  But I tell you now, that was one of the greatest blessings I could have ever experienced.  God used it to bring about more good and freedom in my life than I ever thought possible.  Would I have known it was coming would I have avoided it?  Yes!!  And guess what?  I would have given up the great wonder in life that I am experiencing right now. Therefore, I am utterly grateful that it came as a complete surprise.  Did I enjoy it?  Not in the least, but I am enjoying the results of it immensely!!
God loves you and me.  It may not feel like it at times, but love is not a feeling, it is a decision, otherwise we would all go to hell.  God decided before He created us, knowing we would give in to sin and temptation, that He was going to love us regardless and lay down His own life that we might experience His life for ourselves.  A grand life it is too.  It is full of suffering, grief, turmoil, distress, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  The best part is that at the end of our time here on this earth: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  I Corinthians 13:13
All the negative will be gone while faith, hope and love remain to guard our hearts for all eternity.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On Being Blessed

There is a song that was written with great intentions and has been loved over the past several years.  It is revived when there is a crisis in our land such as 9/11 and on Memorial Day quite often.  We all, including me, know the lyrics to the chorus and sing along quite loudly, even when we cannot carry a tune:

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

There is nothing wrong with loving our country.  We should, by all means, as it was a gift to us from God almighty.  Our forefathers wanted the right to worship God in freedom rather than being told how to do so, what denomination they had to attend and what they were to believe, even when it didn't match up with God's Word exactly.  They left their homeland where they had been born and reared; the land they had grown to love, for a country of which they had heard vague reports.  They left family, friends, home....How lonely they must have felt, but their hearts were determined to be allowed to serve God freely and fully, so they boarded a ship that would claim some of their lives.  They knew the probability of lives lost, yet their love of and faith in God kept them going.
Things have changed, many believe for the better.  However, the problem we as a nation have fallen into is pride in the land.  We sometimes act as if this country is our god.  We have declared pride a strength and humility a weakness and have begun to laugh at anyone who cries out for us to go back to our roots of faith and trust in almighty God.  We tend to think that because we are Americans we are indestructible.
I am personally very thankful to the men and women who place their very lives on the line to protect this nation.  My heart cries out in love and admiration for their dedication to the task.  However, I realize that without God in their midst, they can do nothing and their lives may be forfeit.  I do not want to hear about or see this take place, so I pray for them that God would move in their lives to bring them to the understanding that they need to call upon His name for strength and wisdom in each and every situation that arises.  May they depend on Him for victory in their own personal lives even more so than in battle, though I desire victory for them there as well.
If we would all turn our hearts back to realizing that everything we have is a gift from God, quit demanding blessing upon our nation because it is so great, but instead humbly ask for grace, forgiveness, wisdom and understanding in love out of respect for the gift we have been given, repent of pride in country and become humble toward the God Who gave it to us, then we become automatically blessed.

  "Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar."  Psalm 138:6

Lord, make us a humble people.  Keep us from pride and come close to us.  We, Your people, desire to be close to You and have You with us at every turn.  Thank You for giving us this country to dwell in in safety and freedom, but help us remember that these things are a gift from You and not from the land itself.  Help us depend on You for deliverance rather than the strength of mankind and protect the men and women who place their lives in Your hands in order to maintain freedom for us.  Grant them understanding and wisdom in every circumstance.  Grant them personal victories in their walk with You as well as strength and determination to do all that must be done in order to maintain victory for freedom in this country.  In Jesus' name.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Only Answer Bigger Than The Questions


"Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and he will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"  Matthew 26:53

The temptation to end it all, give up the plan of salvation, was very great for Jesus.  He sweat great drops of blood due to the agony He was about to face.  He could easily have just gone back home to the Father and Holy Spirit.  Yet He went through with it for two reasons: He had said He was going to save the world in this manner and He never breaks a promise and He simply loves us that much for some strange reason.  We aren't worth it.  He created us and has every right to do with us as He well pleases, just as I have the right to rip apart a dress I just made or unravel a sweater I just crocheted.  I made it, so it is mine to do with as I choose.  He made us and it is His right to do with us as He pleases.  He was pleased to suffer and die for us, even though it brought greater agony to Him than anything we ever have or ever will experience here on earth.  He made sure of that.  He didn't want it easily said that He doesn't know what we're going through. 
There are three persons in the Godhead; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  First the Father agonized because we gave control of our existence to Satan at the fall.  (No one can say it was Eve's fault, because at that time she wasn't Eve.  She was woman and combined with man she was Adam.  God considered them so much one creation that He called them Adam.    In fact, they were so much one in thought that they were together all the time, even during the temptation.  Woman took of the fruit and gave some to man and they both ate of it. After the fall, man named woman Eve.  The separation and distinction between the two had begun.) He immediately had a plan, because He had seen what we would do and gave the solution.  First, He sacrificed an animal to cover them and their sin.  Next, He gave the prophecy of what the complete answer to the problem would be as is told in the title of this chapter: Jesus.
Next the Son had to suffer.  His job was to be the ultimate sacrifice.  He would give up His kingdom in heaven to take back the kingdom of earth.  In order to do so He had to become human.  So He was born of a virgin, Mary, spoken into human form by the Father and breathed into by the Holy Spirit.  His life was His own, He was still God, yet He was human as well and felt everything we do.  He was tempted, but refused to give in to it.  He received physical pain, yet refused to end His journey because of it.  He experienced the agony of hell by being totally separated from His Father on the cross when He said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  His Father had to turn His back on Him when He became our sin.  At that moment Jesus experienced hell, for what is hell but total separation from God.  Unimaginable as it is, where God is not, there is nothing but horror, fear, anxiety, pain and suffering.  Hope, love, joy or anything else that is good is not there.  Thank God that one day this will be thrown into the Lake of Fire never to be released again.  Praise God He did not have to remain there for long.  He declared, "It is finished," gave His Spirit into the Father's hands and died.  Three days later He rose again, proving that life after death is not just a glib promise made by God, but a reality.  When He left, He gave us His Holy Spirit - the Third Person of the Triune God.
Now it is this person Who suffers.  "And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption."  Ephesians 4:30  New Living Translation
We grieve the Holy Spirit every time we sin, so we can be assured that we grieve Him daily at the very least, but more likely hourly.  So to say that God cannot know what we are going through or He wouldn't allow it is simply nonsense in my book.  He understands so thoroughly that He has come to live in us through His Holy Spirit in order to help us get through any and all that occurs in our lives, because He knows we cannot succeed without Him. 
Tim Keller writes "If we again ask the question, "Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?" and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is.  However, we know what the answer isn't.  It can't be that He doesn't love us.  It can't be that He is indifferent or detached from our condition.  God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on Himself....So, if we embrace the Christian teaching that Jesus is God and that he went to the Cross, then we have deep consolation and strength to face the brutal realities of life on earth."
And then Randy Alcorn makes an observation that has been in my heart for the lost since I was saved, "If you hate suffering, does it make sense to choose eternal suffering when God has already suffered so much to deliver you from it?"
I do not know why He loves me so much, but I am ever grateful that He does.  I pray that you are as well.  It changed my heart attitude from one of "I wish I hadn't got caught," to one of "thank You for catching me in the act and rescuing me from it."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oceans and Streams

Luke 6:47-48 "Whoever comes to me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.  And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock."
I am surprised at how blind I can be.  I have heard this story from as long back as I can remember, which is quite far, since my mom tells me some of the stuff I remember was from before I turned two years old, yet I never noticed what it was really saying.  Sure, I know that it is talking about setting our foundation or faith on Jesus Christ, but I always pictured the house being built by the ocean, so that when storms came, the ocean rose and tried to flood the house.  This is what the pictures I colored as a child depicted regarding this as well, so I must not be the only one who saw this in their mind's eye.  However, that is not what it says.  It says, "the stream" rather than the ocean.
This morning as I read this, it hit me that the problems the evil one throws at us feel like a violent storm, with waves crashing in from all sides.  It seems like an ocean of problems.  The truth though is that they are but streams in comparison to the oceans of God's power and might.  His power is the ocean; Satan's is but a stream.  When we turn our hearts to Him in prayer, we have all the resources of that ocean waiting for us to access them through faith believing. 
So when the storms of life come pressing in Father, help me remember Who is the ocean and who is the stream. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Straying Sheep

Chapter 20 of If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, by Randy Alcorn, brought this to mind:
 "What if, in order for us to truly desire evil to be destroyed completely, wiped out and become totally non-existent, we have to experience it first?"  Are we not like this in virtually every area?
We desire junk food.  Junk food is devastating to our bodies, but we want it.  My particular downfall is ice cream.  I crave it even in winter.  Michael finds it humorous that someone who is as cold-natured as I am would want ice cream of all things in the midst of winter.  If  I eat it in winter, I suffer more than normal consequences.  I go into freeze out mode and cannot get warm.  My husband places an electric blanket over me and sets it on high to get me warm again.  Sometimes he has to add a quilt.  It takes a while.  Why do I put myself through it?  Because I really want that taste in my mouth.  I don't want the extra weight it can bring, or the blood sugar problems, or the tooth decay, etc., but I want that taste!!
We are all like this in one area or another (or if you are like me, many more than one), but then we tend to wonder where the problems come from.  We are simply and stupidly amazing!  No wonder God says we are like sheep going astray. 
God is not just our God, He is our Father.  He wants the very best for us.  So, if we have to suffer in order to no longer desire to suffer....
When our daughter was a little over a year old, she kept going over to the oven wanting to touch the door.  They didn't have the cool-touch doors they have now.  If you had something in that oven, the door got HOT.  I would tell her over and over not to touch it, but she kept going back to that door.  I would say, "No, no!  HOT!"  And take her hand away just to have her return a minute later.  Finally, I decided that if she had to learn the hard way, then I would be in control so that she didn't really get hurt.  She went to the oven door, looked at me, smiled and started reaching for it.  I ran to her, took her hand and quickly touched it to the door and removed it immediately.  Her eyes became very wide as she cried out, "HOT!"  I hugged her, hating that I had had to do that, but grateful that she wasn't hurt and with tears told her, "Yes, it is hot, just like Mommy told you."  She never touched the oven door again.  That was a very difficult thing for me to do, but I baked a loaf of bread every day at that time.  What if I had to go to the bathroom, or answer the door or telephone and didn't see her go to the oven?  She might have burned herself badly, so great was her desire to touch.  What I did would probably be declared mean, cruel, even evil, but I did it out of love.  Allowing her to feel the heat without getting injured kept her safe from the oven from that moment on.
Mr. Alcorn sums this up beautifully in the final paragraphs of the chapter, pg. 205 "God promises that the eternal ending will break forth in such glorious happiness that all present suffering will pale in comparison.  All who know Jesus will have a happy ending. We just haven't seen it yet."
These bodies of ours may go through temporary torment, pain, heartbreak, etc., but if we know Jesus as Savior, we will be given them back - perfected for us when this one wears out  or is taken from us. It will never suffer in any way ever again.  We will experience adventure, excitement and all that is good, without ever again having to suffer the negative  and we will appreciate the fact for have had to suffer here and now.  Like our little daughter, we would have continued longing for the excitement of the heat otherwise.
Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Refresher Course on Wisdom

Several years ago I did a study on chapter one of Proverbs.  I had forgotten all about it until God laid it in my lap as a reminder last evening.  I was feeling rather sorry for myself, wishing my house were bigger and a few other things.  In other words, I was acting like a spoiled brat.  These words refreshed my spirit and allowed me to seek forgiveness and freedom.  I hope they are enjoyed by many.

The purpose of the book of Proverbs, according to verse two of chapter one, is for the reader to know wisdom and instruction.  The Hebrew word is yada (yaw - dah') and has many inferences.  The one I like most, whether Solomon meant it this way or not, is "to become a familiar friend with."  I want to know wisdom and instruction thoroughly, because they come solely from Father God.

The fear of God is the beginning of this process.  The Hebrew word here is yirah (yir - aw') meaning a reverential fear, exceedingly so.  Most of the time we fear man more than God.  What a very small amount of wisdom we must really possess in order for this to be true.

Verse nineteen is a verse to cause fear of God.  "So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners." NKJ  The temptation for greed is a strong one; thus all the casinos, gambling boats, "friendly" games of poker, sweepstakes, lotteries, bingo, etc.  They take our focus off the One True Supplier of all our needs and make us feel as if we have control.  However, according to this verse, greed is in league with death and is out to do no more than destroy us.

Verse twenty-five is another eye-opener.   Wisdom says to us: "Because you disdained all my (wisdom) counsel, and would have none of my reproof, I will also laugh at your calamity....Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find Me.  (End verse 28)

When wisdom "stands in the streets calling to us," we'd better heed. If we do, we have the promise of verse thirty-three: "But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure without fear of evil."
The Hebrew word for fear here is ra (rah') meaning everything evil - calamity, harm, adversity, etc.

Proverbs implores us to side with wisdom.  Wisdom does not hide in secret making it difficult to find.  Rather she stands in the streets, calling us by name, begging us to listen.  I want to listen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Highly Favored

...."Every sky has rain.  Every journey has a hard road.  You have begun well, given much.  The eye of Olfadr (author's made up name for God) sees all.  You can pass your mantle to another of his choosing or you can accept that trouble will follow all who are so favored.  I ask again, will you finish your course?"  (The Song of Unmaking)

Choices.  We are constantly making them.  We wake in the morning and decide to get out of bed or remain there.  What or if to eat breakfast, what to wear, and so on.  The list of decisions is endless, yet we make them without thought until we come to one of which we are unfamiliar.  Should my first car be new or used  If used, how old?  Should I rent or purchase a home, or build?  Are we ready to become parents?  Should we move our parents in with us or do they need twenty four hour care?  The decisions get harder the older we become and each time God asks the question, "Will you continue the journey or give up and quit fighting?"  He will allow us to turn our mantle, or journey, over to someone else, but we forfeit the blessings He has in store for us if we continue the fight.

"Know this....Your time is not finished, nor is your call.  When you slander yourself in your thoughts, it grieves my Master, for you stand high in favor...Yet have done with pity and not return.  Hear me.....'This is your life, but you must want it.'"  (The Song of Unmaking)

God has placed His calling, the life He has planned for us, inside us.  However, He gives us the choice of fulfilling that call or not.  We have to truly want it.  We should consider ourselves extremely blessed to be given this call in the first place.  It means He has placed much faith and trust in us to fulfill it.  How honored we feel when another simple human being gives us responsibility and tells us we did well when we accomplish the task.  How much more wonderful to hear the voice of our Creator, Father God Himself, say to us, "Well done my good and faithful servant!"

Today Michael asked if I would ever stop teaching Sunday School.  I replied that if God led me to do so, then yes.  He then asked, "What if one day you wake up on Sunday morning and think, 'I really don't want to do this today?'"  I simply smiled.  Why?  Because that has happened many times over.  Some times I feel ill-prepared, sometimes I feel exhausted, sometimes I don't like the material or have become bored with it, etc.  However, unless it is unavoidable, I will not miss.  Why?  Because God has entrusted these small children into my care.  He trusts me to teach them to the very best of the ability He has given me.  Not only that, but I know from experience that He will bless me way over and above anything I would ever receive from staying home.  So I keep going.  Will I ever stop.  Quite possibly.  I have felt a tug in my spirit recently that I may be moving on soon.  Soon is relative.  It could be a year from now or twenty years from now, but to God it is always soon.  My sweet husband then said, "It's a lot harder than it looks.  It could be easy, but then it would be boring."  As I have said before, he helps me along every step of the way, so he knows and has experienced the difficulties that come with the task when done correctly. 

God could look at me and decide that I was incapable of handling any task He could give me.  So I would sit back watching all my brothers and sisters in Christ working, become jealous of their abilities, become resentful of their callings and wonder why they are so favored.  Meanwhile, these same brothers and sisters may be looking at me and wondering why I get off so easily.
The grass is always greener, isn't it?

So, let us accept the calling, embrace our lives and rejoice in being so highly favored of God among men!! 

Thank You, Father, for Your love, Your grace and for entrusting this precious life to me.  I do not deserve such trust, but with Your grace and blessing, I will put my best foot forward to accomplish the goals You have established for me.
I love You!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Having a Name

In all the ways he could not escape his private those very same ways he now found himself more attuned to those around him.  He was not alone, if only because living brought countless circles of hope and disappointment to everyone...Find life, live it, dream big.  All good.  But there was danger along the way.  A person could also lose their wings, their dreams, their love, their song.  But what could you do?  Run away in fear; live life half dead, like the Nameless?  (The Song of Unmaking, pg 134)
As I read this something stirred in me - I have a name!!  Most people think, "Yeah, me too.  Lot's of them.  Mom, Grandma, Aunt, Wife, Daughter, my given name, etc." But I have a real name!!  It's a name that means who I really am and was created to be.  A name that means I belong somewhere, where that somewhere is located and Whom it is I belong to! 
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.Revelation 2:17
 Jesus said of a good shepherd, "The sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out." Then he told the disciples, "I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." John 10:3
You may wonder why this is so exciting to me.  A while back I ran into a family friend who is not only five years older than I, but hadn't seen me since I was 15 years old and I was then about 48.   She called out my name to get my attention.  I looked up, thought for a moment, was temporarily blank until she said her first name.  I squealed and ran to embrace her.  We had been next door neighbors all those years ago.  Her mother and mine had been best friends.  She and my oldest sister had been best friends.  I was at their house and she at ours regularly, but I didn't think I was being paid much attention to, because I was so much younger.  But, she knew me!!  What's more, even after 39 years, I knew her!  However, she knew me better.  
I am always amazed when someone recognizes me from years past, and it happens often.  Students I taught in Sunday School, Children's Church or worked with at Sherwood Elementary come and ask if I remember them.  I may not remember names, but I always remember eyes.  I am able to say so and they then refresh my memory with their names.  I can then tell them something I remember that made them special to my heart, which each and every one of them was and is. 
God remembers every tiny detail of my life, except for the sins I have committed.  He forgave them the moment I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord.  He then cast them as far as the east is from the west.  It was that moment I heard Him call my name, though He had been calling it since the moment of my conception.  He never stopped calling, and since that day I actually listened, I have never stopped responding.  There are times that I ignore Him, because I am still human and therefore not perfect, but I hear Him and eventually turn to Him in repentance and listen to what He has to say.
I praise God that I am not half dead and nameless, but fully alive unto Christ and He calls me by name.  He is calling your name too.  Listen closely and you will hear Him.  It is your choice to respond and be named among the children of God or ignore Him and dwell among the nameless.  I pray you choose rightly.  After all:
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.  Proverbs 22:1

Friday, August 10, 2012

Death's Produce

Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  John 12:24

I have been sick for a few days.  I knew I felt exhausted, but kept pushing myself to go on, because I didn't feel ill.  Yesterday it hit me that I should take my temperature.  Voila!  I indeed had a fever - low grade, but a degree higher than normal.  Now I understood the problem.  I only did things that were relaxing to me from that point on and now today I am much better.
Many times in life we sense there is a problem, but since we cannot put our finger on it, we ignore it.  We go on acting as if we felt nothing until one day it hits us what the problem is, or we are too late and it has escalated beyond repair.   If we would take time out to decipher our feelings and why we have them in the first place, we perhaps could diffuse the situation with prayer and action.  However, we tend to migrate to the things we understand the easiest and fastest, thereby causing us more problems than necessary.  It takes too much effort to search things out.  Our immediate desires are all that matter - until......
The verse above is about salvation - dying to self and living for Christ.  However, as with every verse of Scripture, we can glean even more from this than the obvious.  If we die to self daily, we accomplish His goals daily.  So think about if we died to self moment by moment.  Sin would not so easily beset us.  If we produce much fruit simply in receiving salvation and as we grow and learn to die to self daily in life we begin to produce even more, then how productive would we be if we made a concentrated effort to die moment by moment?  This would take much work at first.  We would need to concentrate on Jesus and His great love and sacrifice to the point that it becomes so much a part of us that we can go nowhere and do nothing without thinking about what He would have us do.
It is wearying to think about, but well worth the effort.
Rearing children teaches us what God goes through with us.  If we take the time to pray and listen to His voice before disciplining, getting angry, agreeing with them, etc., we end up with children who rise up and call us blessed (Proverbs 31:28).  If we do not, we end up with children who disgrace us (Proverbs 29:15).  None of us does this perfectly, but those who try are rewarded with God's promises.
We get frustrated when our children refuse to listen, because we want them to produce quality fruit.  The saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" holds true.  We are the example, so we need to do the work of praying for and with our children, loving them unconditionally, rewarding them with our love and appreciation rather than material possessions and setting the example of obedience by our own obedience to our heavenly Father.
Death to self produces the fruit of life to our children.  What better produce can there be?

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Mighty Hand

The Song of Unmaking by D. Barkley Briggs: pg. 120-21
"Watch it!  I'll slit his throat!  Not another step!"  he warned.  "Ha!  I'll take that pretty necklace o' yore's too.  Now stop and toss it here!  Stop!"
Arthur did not stop.  The only sound was the noise of his booted feet tramping across the earth.  The thief clamped Ewan more viciously, red-faced and angry.  Ewan had to claw at his arm just to breathe.  Arthur's expression was grim......
The thief screamed and shook.  "If you want him to die, keep walking! ....."
His last words as a living soul.
Arthur never hesitated.  Once within striking distance, he raised his sword and thrust it past Ewan's cheek straight into the man's gullet.  Grasping at his throat, the man staggered backward.....
He fell, dead, staring into the cold sky.........
Gasping, Ewan peeled away, stumbling backward in shock......
No one spoke......Everyone stared at Arthur.  Ewan softly shook.
"Are you still ready for me to be your king?"  Arthur rumbled as he passed by......"This is who I am.  Now let's ride.  And from now on, keep your swords ready." 
I closed the book.  I had moments before asked God to share something with me - anything.  I just wanted to hear His voice and feel His presence with me again.  As I read these word (of which I have left out many to shorten it) I knew there was a message for me.  This thought went through my mind,
"Sometimes you just get in My way."
We do, don't we?  Especially when it comes to our children or grandchildren.  If a family member is being troubled by some sort of oppression, be it drug addiction, sexual impurity, immorality in general, etc.  we want to jump in and fix things for them.  The problem is, we don't have our swords ready and we don't really know how to fight.  We think we do, but are sadly mistaken.  We walk away from the same battles over and over again, shaken, bruised, weary and wondering what in the world happened.  Instead of being the mighty and victorious warrior we were designed to be, we walk away defeated.  We need to keep our swords ready.  How?
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12
We must really know the word of God.  Read His word and pray for understanding.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:1 and 14
We must take out time to get to know Jesus, through the communication of prayer - listening for His voice and learning to recognize it.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  Proverbs 3:5-7
Then we must learn that His ways are not the same as our ways.  His ways are perfect and will always bring about the very best results.  It may seem at times that He is fearsome, as Arthur seems in The Song of Unmaking as He goes after the demons of darkness on our, our children's or anyone we love's behalf.  Other times we will wonder why He waits, when we want to jump headlong into the fray.  We must remember that we are not the ones who can see past, present and future all at the same moment.  That is something only God can do.  We must learn to trust Him no matter how things look on the outside, because He sees the inward parts of all creation.  If we will take time each and every day to spend time getting to know Him and His Word, our spiritual swords will be at the ready, even if our physical man strives to drive us to fear.  We will remember the words of the children's song:

Words & Music by Stephen Elkins

What a mighty hand, a mighty hand has He
What a mighty hand that calms the raging sea
What a mighty hand, a hand protecting me
What a mighty hand has He

Humble yourselves, humble yourselves
Under God’s mighty hand
Humble yourselves, humble yourselves
Under God’s mighty hand
What a mighty hand

For it was He who made you and me
And every creature in the sea
For it was He who made you and me
And every creature in sea
In the deep blue sea

I had not thought of this song in years until God spoke it to my heart this morning.  I pray He speaks it to yours as well and that as He does, we all say together, "YES!!  We are ready for You to be our King!!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Lion and the Mouse

We live in a world of self-sufficiency.  A child as young as age 2 (or in s few cases even younger) cries out, "I can do it myself!"  Give the same child a couple more years and they will say, "I don't need help!"  A little later on and it's "I don't need ANY one to help me!"  Then the majestic years of the teen cries out, "You just don't understand!  I can handle this myself!"  The twenties begin to ask the question, "Can I do this?"  Give them a little more time and it becomes, "Maybe I could use a little help."  If they are truly honest with themselves they will one day reach the point of, "I cannot do this alone.  I am desperate for help!"  The problem is, most never reach the final stage.  Okay, they reach it, but they are too prideful to admit it.
Yesterday in Sunday School I read the story of the lion and the mouse.  A quick synopsis is that a little mouse, not paying attention to where he was going, runs over a lion's nose and wakens him.  The lion scoops up the mouse and threatens to eat him.  The mouse cries out to please be allowed to live, for the day may come when the lion needs his help.  The lion laughs uproariously at the thought of a tiny mouse being able to help a big strapping lion.  He lets the mouse go due to the mouse's bold proclamation.
A few days later, the lion becomes ensnared in a hunter's net.  He roars in frustration and believes himself lost.  Along comes the mouse, who bravely climbs up onto the net and chews the ropes to allow the lion his freedom.  The lion and mouse become fast friends from this point on.
We are so like the lion, thinking we must show the world how good, strong, capable we are.  Asking for help is a huge sign of weakness.  We are trapped in the snare of sin and death and think that we must struggle and work our own way free.  We will work ourselves into our graves if we have to in order to bring success.  The only problem there is that everyone has a different definition of success.  If we accomplish one, then we must go on to accomplish the next, and the next until we feel the snare closing in and growing tighter.  There has to be a way out!  A little more struggling, a little more effort, more education on the subject, more money spent to find the answer.........
The answer is the bold mouse who dared confront death and win.  Okay, not literally a mouse.  Not truly a mouse by any means, yet the world looks at Him as being such. 
As many were astonished at you—
chis appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—Isaiah 52:14
For he grew up before him like a young plant,iand like a root out of dry ground;
           jhe had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.Isaiah 53:2
How could one simple man get me out of this huge mess I am in?  No, I have to do it myself, or everyone will think I am a wimp.  The irony is, I am only one person as well, yet I think I can set myself free?  Sadly, we do not even recognize this irony.  Since the entire world is in the same boat, it seems logical to go on doing what we've been doing all along.  We tend to forget that if you do the same thing over and over your going to keep getting the same results.  If we will but admit defeat:
         If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all 
        unrighteousness.  I John 1:9
He will start chewing the ropes to freedom.  Little by little He will gnaw away at our pride and jealousies until one day we find ourselves recognizing the fact that He is truly doing exactly what He promised to do:
         If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised  
         him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9
We will no longer see Him as a tiny mouse Who cannot possibly do anything for us, but as Savior and Lord!
Jesus is not simply a man, which is something the world forgets.  He IS God.  He lives and reigns whether we choose to believe or not.  Nothing can change the fact.  Only pride and jealousy stand in the way.  I pray that anyone who reads this comes to a point in time where they tire of the struggle and accept the help of the only One that can set them free.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Face to Face

     This past Saturday I got out my old yearbooks from my high school days.  I hadn't looked at them in years.  However, I needed at least one of them for an object lesson in Sunday School, so I wanted to look through them to see which one had the fondest memories for me, as memories were what we were to discuss.  I realized that my sophomore yearbook was my favorite and used it.  Why?  Halfway through my sophomore year we moved to a different school district.  I formed new friendships there, but they lasted only through 2 1/2 years.  When I looked at the yearbook that had friendships that had formed over a ten or more year period, I realized that these memories went deeper and brought more fondness.  One of the main reasons is it contains a message from a young woman who had become my friend when I was only two and she three years old.  We remained fast friends up until a couple of days after Michael and I married.  That was when she died in a car accident.   Her death brought me much grief and I didn't handle it well. 
The first three months of my marriage are a blur.  I can remember our honeymoon, because I wasn't informed of her death until it was over, which was the day after her funeral.   From the moment I was told everything started to blur.  Life was mechanical.  Get up, get dressed, make lunch for my husband, try to read and comprehend my Bible, least I assume that is the way things went, I honestly don't remember.  I simply know things got done that needed doing. 
One night I went to bed and prayed for the grief to be over.  I felt I couldn't handle it anymore.  The goodness of God overwhelms me at times, and this was one of those times.  I fell asleep quite soundly and dreamed.  It was one of those extremely vivid dreams that is so real you can almost reach out and touch it.  There were brighter colors than I had ever seen nor have ever seen since.  A feeling of whimsy and excitement mixed with grief flowed through me.  Then a marvelous thing happened that set me free.  My friend's face got right into mine the way a child does when they want to make certain they have your attention.  She looked into my eyes and said (and I will never forget this, I don't think), "Would you please stop this!  I am HAPPY!!"  Then I woke up.  I realized at that moment how selfish my grief was.  A very heavy burden was lifted from my shoulders that day.  I have never felt depressing grief since.  Oh, I have grieved.  When my daddy passed away last year I cried and still cry at times for my loss, the loss for my siblings and especially for the loss my momma must be feeling.  They were married for over sixty years after all.  However, knowing that Daddy is with his Savior and King also made my heart sing for him and, if I am completely honest, I felt a little jealousy.
It is difficult to explain how you can feel grief and joy at the same time.  It should be impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.  So while I indeed feel sadness, there is a deeper joy that goes with it, knowing that my loved ones are in the safest hands possible and I will be with them one day soon. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Drink of Water

I made a big mistake this morning.  I forgot to get a drink of water before I went out to walk.  Walking two miles first thing in the morning when you are already dehydrated from sleeping seven or eight hours is not a good idea, to say the least.  Around the third lap I began to feel thirsty.  By the fifth lap I was feeling rather light headed.  By the final round I was definitely ready to go inside and get a drink.  The funny thing is, that's not the first thing I did.  I sat down and took off my shoes, looked at the time and went in to turn off the alarm first.  It was on my way to the alarm that I remembered my thirst.  I turned it off so that it didn't go off and went and filled a glass and drank it all.  I felt much better afterward.  I looked at the clock again and went in to waken Michael.
What struck me about this was the fact that I felt so VERY thirsty while walking, but as soon as I got back inside I didn't feel so badly anymore.  I neglected my thirst even longer due to the fact that I stopped thinking about it.
This is the way our spiritual lives tend to go, is it not?   We waken with a fresh new day before us, but if we are not careful to be deliberate, we do not take the time (though extremely brief it is) to say a simple "thank You" to the Lord for giving us another day and another opportunity to serve.  We start our day with "busyness" and continue throughout it wondering where the time went and wishing we had accomplished more for our efforts. 
I don't know about anyone else, but my personal experience tells me that if I will take a moment to read a chapter of Scripture and pray, I accomplish more in one day than I will in three days of trying to do things in my own strength.  Spending time with my heavenly Father refreshes my spirit.  I even manage to get in a nap on those days.  I admit it is usually a power nap of ten to twenty minutes, but it is extremely refreshing.  I do not understand why I fall into the get up and get going routine some days, rather than making each day one that starts with the refreshing drink of God's Word and communication with Him.  How grateful I am to Him for giving me a new day each morning to begin again. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Garden of Life

It was hard to walk this morning.  The air was very heavy and my joints felt achy.  As I read from The Scribe, I started praying.  The book is about Silas, Paul's second missionary companion.  It is told from his first person experience and in it he speaks of the beatings, robberies, etc. they received and how Paul would immediately begin telling their abusers about Jesus.  This encouraged him to do the same, though he speaks of the struggle with anger and the desire to be free of pain even while praising God that he is allowed to suffer for Christ's sake.  Very honestly written, I think, even though it is a work of fiction based on historical facts.  Honest, because it reveals our inmost feelings even when we do not wish to have them revealed even to ourselves.
I quickly offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for waking me and ushering me out the door to walk and explained that I know I wouldn't do it if He didn't do so each morning.  There is part of me that wants to rebel against it and seeks an alternate form of exercise, even though the doctor says walking is the best form for me personally.  I realize things will be different this winter when I simply cannot go outside and walk for 40 minutes.  This is where God will have to intervene and usher me onto the mini trampoline.  Even though it is fun, it is still time away from what I want to do.  Selfish?  You bet, but I must admit it in order to be set free of it.
I am very grateful that I am allowed to walk.  My legs and/or the use of them could be stripped from me at any given moment.  I have heard of this happening to people like Joni Eareckson Tada and our niece's husband, Paul.   They would neither have ever expected it to happen to them, yet it has and God has His reasons for allowing it.  The same could one day happen to me.  There is also my own mother who was born with misshapen feet and has difficulty walking at all, but forces herself.  So, in the mean time, I should be willing to use my legs for His glory, and walking each morning keeps me in better physical health in which to serve Him.  So, I get up each morning, do my best to not grumble, offer up thanks for working legs and feet and begin my journey.  I try to make it a sweet smelling sacrifice, but fear that it sometimes brings a stench to His nostrils.
This morning I was thinking about grass.  So many people around us planted gardens, but instead of watering them faithfully, were more concerned about whether their grass was green or not.  I am not saying it is wrong to water your lawn, by any means, but if you have to choose one over the other, why choose grass?  I have been pondering this for a few weeks.  There is a sort of competitive spirit on my street.  Who has the greenest, most weed free lawn?  Final results show us as losing drastically.  However, we have been blessed with a prosperous garden.  It is a very small garden, but has produced many green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and is working on celery.  We plan on planting more green beans this weekend.  It has taken faithfulness on the part of my husband to see the garden produce.  He gets up every morning and comes home every evening knowing the first thing he is going to do each time is water the garden.  He has fed it, sprayed it with garlic and peppers spray to keep deer away, hoed and reaped faithfully.  Our garden has done quite well.
Our spiritual life is much the same.  What are we taking time to water?  Are we more concerned with aesthetics or production?  I can exercise my body to keep it in shape, and this is a good thing, but which is better?  Making sure my body's outward appearance is good or making sure I am producing fruit for His kingdom through learning His Word and sharing it with others?  Listening to His voice and obeying, or striving to gain others approval through outward appearances?
Lord, help me be faithful in the work that allows the garden of my life to produce enough that all around me may share in its bounty!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


     My husband and I love to watch a good murder mystery together.  We are not talking about the gruesome, graphic ones.  Those we refuse to watch, because quite frankly, they make us want to throw up - literally.  However, to sit down and watch a good Miss Marple, Inspector Poirot, Charlie Chan and for current ones - NCIS or Castle, is a challenge for us.  Most people would not enjoy watching them with us, because we talk during the shows.  If it is a DVD, we will pause it to discuss what is going on, who we think committed the murder, theft, etc. and why.  We do this periodically, when we have a change of mind or discover a new clue.  The main thing we look for in doing this is motive.  The cheesier the motive the better, because, let's face it, it is usually going to be the least likely person (I hope I am not spoiling this for anyone) for the most obtuse reason.  Anyway, as the years have passed we've gotten better and can usually figure out the who, but the motives still get away from us.  This keeps us going.  Every great once in a while we get the motive correct too, but not often.  However, half the fun is suggesting possible motives and we come up with some doosies!!
     I am currently reading the last of five novellas about men who "quietly changed eternity" by Francine Rivers.  It is entitled The Scribe.  I am only getting ready to begin chapter three, so have a few to go, but this morning I read these words, "I will never forget Jesus' eyes as He answered my questions.  I had sought His approval; He exposed my pride and self-deceit.  I had hoped to become one of His disciples; He told me what I must give up to become complete.  He gave me all the proof I needed to confirm He was the Messiah.  He saw into the heart of me, the hidden secrets even I had not suspected were there."
     The word "motive" immediately popped into my thoughts and I began to ponder my own reasons for wanting to do some things.  Why do I feel the need to do them?  Am I wanting to do them because I want to obey God's voice, or is it because I desire recognition?
     As I continued reading I came upon these words and recognized them as words I have actually prayed regarding myself, "I knew He had not asked the same of others.  Why did He demand so much of me?"  I have to admit that I felt some relief at reading these words, as it helped me realize I am not the only person to have ever felt this way.  I imagine every Christian has at one time or another.  So, when I DO obey, is it simply out of love for my Savior, because I want to get Him to leave me alone regarding it, to receive a pat on the back that makes me feel I must do what He asks?  Any of these ways gets the task accomplished, but how many blessings have I missed out on by doing things more or less out of spite?  What are my motives anyway?
     The last passage that stepped heavily on my toes was as follows: "I cannot explain what I felt as I watched Jesus outside the city gate, nailed on a Roman cross.  Men I knew hurled insults at Him.  Even in His hour of suffering and death, they had no pity.  I felt anger, disappointment, relief, shame."
     The word "relief" jumped off the page at me.  How many times have I felt relief that I would not be allowed to do something I knew should be done, or rather relief that I had good excuse not to do so?  I cannot name a specific time, but can tell you I remember having the feeling many a time over.  I was reminded quite definitively today that we all do exactly as we please.  If we truly want to see something accomplished, we will pray and work until the goal is met.  If we feel too tired, confused, frustrated or that no one will stand alongside us as we work, we throw our hands in the air and seek excuses for why we cannot get the job done.  At least I do. 
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  I John 1:9
Lord, forgive me for always seeking motive as to why I cannot do what You ask of me and help me instead learn to seek Your reasons for why I should move ahead.  Purify my heart and make me a woman after Your own.  I realize the impossibility of doing things in my own strength, but with You all things are possible.  Make me a woman of possibilities - a woman who truly walks in faith believing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coming Clean

Yesterday morning I woke feeling worse than I have felt in a very long time.  When I sat I felt as if I would pass out.  When I stood, it was worse.  Later I discovered our pastor was in the hospital and that the grandmother of two boys in my Sunday School class had had a heart attack.  I have full confidence in my God, that He will work all things for each of our good in these things.
Days like this make me realize just how very blessed I truly am.  What would I do without Jesus?  With Him it was easy.  I asked my husband to pray, wrote an email to family and friends asking for prayer and then called those who don't have email and/or  I don't have addresses for.  Within a couple of hours I was able to get up, get to work and go work in VBS. 
I realize that many may say this was coincidence.  Believe what you will, but if that is the case, then coincidence is my life.  I know differently.  God knows my heart desire and how much I love VBS week.  Most years during VBS I have at least a day where I feel terrible, and it is usually on the day the lesson is on Jesus' ultimate sacrifice of giving His life in our place.  Such was yesterday.  This is the most difficult message to teach and my favorite message to teach. It is difficult because it always makes me cry (literally) as I stand in awe of His mercy and grace for ME!  When I think about the fact that He suffered and died for me personally and for every other human being that ever has or will live on this earth , I grieve that I ever did anything that would make Him have to do so and marvel at the depths of His love for His creation.  It is my favorite for the very same reasons.
Each and every time God has gotten me through and allowed me to teach.  There have been times I have gone in feeling horrific, but when it came time to teach the lesson - I felt wonderful - only to go back to feeling sick afterward.  One year I was throwing up all week.  I had a bout of food poisoning I discovered later.  It was a day time VBS and each morning I would go in to church and lie down until time to teach the Bible lesson.  I would get up and, the moment I began teaching, felt strength course through my body.  I would teach the lesson, walk away with great joy and promptly feel the need to throw up again.  Coincidence?  I say, "amazing!!"
This is entitled "Coming Clean."  Why?  Because when I rose to do my Bible devotions, the title to the devotional was "Confession Brings Cleansing."  I had to laugh, because our VBS theme for the night was "Come Clean."  Both spoke of how confessing our sins, admitting our guilt and receiving God's forgiveness through the blood of Jesus brings complete cleansing for us and God remembers our sin no more.  Coincidence? 
Each days passes more swiftly than the day before.  Anyone over the age of 30 knows I speak the truth.  Time is short.  

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!"  Deuteronomy 30:19  
Admitting we make mistakes, believing and trusting Jesus, accepting His gift of dying in our place brings life and freedom, a greater and more blessed freedom than we ever dreamed possible, because with it comes forgiveness and cleansing and God remembers those sins we confess no more!!
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."  Hebrews 8:12.
Forgiveness and freedom - what more could we ask for?!!