Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This morning I was contemplating the birth of Jesus and His reasons for coming to earth and taking on human flesh.  Then I read Hebrews 2:14 and 15 from the NKJV:
Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Christ, perfection Himself, chose to take on human flesh so He could die.  Why? To prove to us, His creation, that there is nothing to fear in death by rising again.  Yes, Jesus came to pay the price for our sin.  The wages of sin is still death (Romans 6:23) and will always be.  That particular law was set in motion at creation (Genesis 2:17) when God gave one simple test of obedience so that man would have free will and we used that gift to disobey and become ensnared to fear - fear of physical death itself, fear of being alone - because death brings separation, fear of how death will come about, fear of what will happen after death. 
As I thought on this, it hit me that our every sin is somehow related to this fear of death.  Greed is caused by the fear that there may be nothing for us after this life, so we'd better get what we can while we can.  Laziness goes back to it by us rationalizing that work simply isn't worth doing, because the only things sure in life are "death and taxes."  Arrogance comes from believing we have to prove ourselves better than others and therefore worthy of more than this life alone.  These are simply a few of the things that slipped through my thoughts, but the "fear of death" seems to cover them all!!  The bondage every human being faces then is not individual sin (those they add to the burden, making it seem heavier and more imminent) but the overall, all encompassing fear of death.
I watched the movie "The Perfect Gift" the other day.  Though it was made in 2009, I had never seen it before.  I enjoyed it so much, I had to tell Michael about it.  He thought it sounded good, so I ordered it in the trilogy set.  It's the third in the trilogy "The Perfect Stranger." The man playing the part of Jesus did a wonderful job of portraying the One I have come to know and love so dearly.
While baking a cake with a young girl, she gets cake batter on his hand.  Rather that wiping it off and finishing the cake, he reaches out and wipes some on her nose.  You can pretty well figure what happens from there.  They end up with handfuls of batter and flour in their hands, ready to toss them at each other, when the head pastor walks in.  He was NOT happy.  I was though.  It showed Jesus as being able to have fun and willing to get messy if necessary to do so.
In another spot he was setting up the nativity.  He came to the statue of Mary and kneeled down to look at it more closely.  The love shown on his face amazed me.  He never said a word, but after a brief moment and a smile, stood and patted the shoulder of the statue as he walked inside the church building. 
The conversations between "Jess" (as he asks the people to call him) and each person was simple and straight forward.  Basically, this movie depicted Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture and in my heart, so I have a burning desire for others to see it.  Therefore, I purchased it to make that dream reality.  I also confess that I really want to see the first two of the trilogy.
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2 NIV
The joy of setting us free from the fear of death and bringing us back to that place of eternal life rather than eternal separation from God, which is the real death we fear, pushed Him forward into the arms of derision, torture and death on the cross. We think we fear physical death.  In reality, it is the fear of eternal separation from Him.  Satan has wrapped it up in the disguise of fear of physical death, but if that were truly what we feared, no one would contemplate suicide, nor would people struggle so hard to stay alive when faced with  deadly illness.  However, the fear of what happens after death is and should be VERY real, so real that it draws us to the only place of freedom from it - the loving arms of Jesus, Who died in our place so we could spend eternity with the Father.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.  I John 3:1 (AKJV)
The greatest gift of love was handed down by Father God Himself.  He gave us His only true Son, Jesus, that we could become His adopted children.  If we are His children, then we are His heirs.Heirs if His glory!!!  I don't know why He loves us so much, we definitely don't deserve it, but I am sure glad He does!!
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  Romans 8:17 (NIV)
Father, it brings tears to my eyes each time I think of how much love it took to be willing to allow Your own Son to become flesh, be tortured and killed, so that I might be set free from fear.  I know I do not deserve it in any way, shape or form, but I thank You for it!!  Thank You for Christmas. Thank You for Easter.  Father, as Your children wake this morning to all the physical gifts given to us, help us to take just a moment to remember that this is Your Son's birthday we are celebrating.  Help us remember the cost of that birth, giving up everything perfect to take on the imperfect and gain victory over it so it can be remade back into perfection through faith in His blood, death and resurrection.  You alone are worthy, Jesus.  Thank You for giving Yourself so that I, even in my unworthiness, might take on Yours and enter the Father's presence for all eternity through the veil of Your blood. I only have to walk through once and I am cleansed forever more.  Thank You, thank You, thank YOU!!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Rebels Heart

The very argument that took place in Lucifer's mind before he was kicked out of heaven is being used by him today to stir up rebellion in mankind.  "We are being treated unfairly, unequally!  We have every right to do everything everyone else is doing!  We have every right to be as wealthy as everyone else!  We have every right........!"
Whites are superior, Blacks are superior, Hispanics are superior, Asians are superior and every other supposed race of mankind is superior!  To what?  The other races?  I hope not to offend, but I find this rather humorous.  Why does having a different shade of skin, hair, eyes, shape of face, etc. make you a different race?  Not because we come from different nationalities, but simply because we all desire to be unique and different at the same time.  We are all simply the human race (or kind in Biblical terminology).  We are confused by the cries of "UNFAIR!" and feel we must do something about them. So we decided that if you speak differently than I, look differently than I, see things differently than I, etc. then you are WRONG!!   Sometimes this is true, but not because people are different in their ways than I am, but because they are different in their ways than God desires them to be.  This is where we get confused.  We make it a me vs. them thing, when in reality it is God's ways vs. the ways of sinful man. 
What rights do we truly possess?  None but those with which Father God has graced us.  We deserve none of them. 
As my children grew I gave them more and more authority as they proved they could handle it.  It was nothing they deserved, but was something they would need to get through this life.  God has done the same with us.  As we grow in our faith, He bestows more authority on us to help us be all He desires us to be in life. 
There were times in my children's lives where they abused the authority given them.  One of my children was caught speeding (only 5 miles over, but it was a $65 ticket).  That child came home red-faced and told me the story.  I told said child to go immediately to Hillsboro and pay the ticket out of their own pocket or their keys would be taken away until it was done.  The ticket was paid that day and another was never received again as long as they lived with us.  God is going to react in the same manner with us.  As a child, I lied to stay out of trouble.  It would plague me until the truth was out. My parents had taught me that lying was wrong and when (no ifs) I got caught I would be in more trouble than if I had told the truth.  As an adult and trusting child of God, I know that His Word tells us that He sees our every thought and knows all we do, so now if I tell what would be considered the smallest of lies in today's world, I have to immediately apologize to God and correct things.  Once Michael asked if the paper on the table was all the mail, I immediately replied yes, realized my mistake and said, "EXCEPT the junk I put in the recycle bin.  It is still there if you'd like to see it."  Most people would have told me that was silly, but my Father God knows that if I allow slip ups, they become habit.  If I want to keep authority over lying in my life, then I cannot give in to it at all.  This is not easy.  Do I believe there are times when we have to lie in order to protect others?  Yes, and I believe God understands.  He knows what kind of world we live in, how dangerous and destructive it can be.  So if a child is home alone and someone comes to the door or calls on the phone should they tell the truth that they are alone?  No.  However, it is mankind's greed that has gotten us to this place.  But that's another story.
"As our children will one day understand things we don't try to explain now, so one day, in God's presence, we will have the reference points to understand what now remains a mystery."  (pg. 50 If God Is Good)
Being in God's presence is essential to growth.  We must spend time with Him on a consistent basis in order to understand what life is really all about, grow in wisdom and understanding and become what He truly desires us to be.  I lived with my parents almost 19 years on a daily basis.  I learned to take authority over dressing myself, cleaning myself, taking care of my possessions, etc.  I learned that their dreams for me were that I come to know the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord so I could continue to grow and be able to live a happy and blessed life in the Lord, serving Him with my whole heart.  Just as I needed those 19 years of daily experience with my parents, I need a lifetime of eternity to spend with Jesus in order to learn, grow and understand all there is to understand, and in all eternity, I will never learn it all, so isn't it best to start now learning all we can? "Satan is not God's opposite, fighting a cosmic duel with an uncertain outcome." (pg 51 If God is Good)
To be honest, I hadn't fully thought about this before.  However, I had heard analogies such as "life is like a chess game with God and Satan as opponents."  The analogy never seemed quite right, but I didn't have anything spring up in my heart about it, so I didn't really think on it much.  I realize, however, that it may have tainted my understanding in some way, as many things, okay - most things, we hear have a tendency to do.  When I read these words, however, something new sprang up - "Evil is the opposite of good, but Satan is no where near the opposite of God.  There is only one God and He has no opposite.  There is nothing with which to compare Him."
The book goes on to explain: "Michael, the righteous archangel would be an opposite to Satan.  Satan is finite.  God is infinite.  God has no equal."  And I would go on to say, "no equal opposite or otherwise."
A game or duel implies that either side could be winner, but God has already won through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  On the same page this statement is made: "Their conflict better resembles the undefeated world heavyweight champion (God) taking on a cranky three-year-old (Satan)."  Even at that though, I have experienced many a cranky three year old and sometimes they beat you down.  God cannot be beaten down, so there you go......
Where we go wrong is assuming that because Satan has already been defeated by God, we have already defeated him as well.  We cannot.  He has power that we should never sneer at:  Jude 9" But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
We can resist him and he will flee from us, but how do we go about that?  "Submit yourselves, therefore, to God; resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7 The entire outcome of our lives depends on this.  IF we submit ourselves to God - THEN we will be able to resist the devil and he will flee from us.  Once again I go back to marriage.  When I submit myself to Michael, his desire to do what I ask becomes greater.  As I submit, my desires change and conform to become more like his, which makes his desire to fulfill my dreams greater still.  What is even lovelier still is that the more I submit to him, the more he submits to me.  We become more and more one.  Our thoughts, desires, dreams and even our sense of humor become more and more alike.
Sense of humor popped into my head because of an event of last evening.  There is supposed to be a law in Jefferson County that people must have their dogs indoors at night or trained not to bark so that they do not interfere with peoples sleeping.  Every night the dog on the street behind our house starts barking around 10 pm.  He doesn't quit for about an hour.  You have to know that there is a valley between our streets, so everything sounds extra loud.  I can stand in my back yard and talk in a normal voice to the people over an acre away and they hear me plainly.  Anyway, I was exhausted last evening and desperately wanting to sleep by 10.  My husband came to bed with me so I could sleep and we turned on the fan because we knew the dog would start barking.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, there he was loud as could be.  My goofy husband got out of bed, opened the window and started barking and howling and said, "Scoobyoobyroo."  There was a time when this would have embarrassed me greatly, but no more.  Instead, I started laughing until there were tears.  I told him, "I don't know how much good that did as far as the neighbors go, but it sure was funny.  Thanks for making me laugh."
What happened?  A couple of minutes later the dog quit barking!!  I don't know if the neighbors heard Michael and thought they maybe should do something or if God simply shut his mouth, but he quit.  Did we resist the devil in the instance?  I think so.  Instead of getting angry and huffy, we found the humor in it and I think, just maybe, God honored that. 
We must remember that to submit to God we have to trust Him enough to do so.  I can guarantee that if I did not trust Michael I would not submit to him.  I am too stubborn.  But over the past 37 1/2 years of knowing him and 36 years of marriage, I have grown to trust him more and more because I have gotten to see and know that he is trustworthy by dwelling with and spending time with him.  This is what we must do with God - dwell with Him and Him in us and spend time with Him getting to know Him more fully.  I stress this over and over as a reminder to myself to never give up.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Seeping Sun

Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
 It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The sun is amazing.  Each morning it peeks in my window to waken me and succeeds quite thoroughly.  I stretch and yawn, open my eyes and can see everything in my bedroom quite clearly.  I open my closet and can see everything in it, though the colors are not reflecting quite as well as they will later on.  If I step into my closet and close the door, the sun's light seeps in through the cracks at the sides and bottom.  What is truly amazing is that it will also seep in the top, even though there is a strip of metal that covers the crack above.  It bends and winds its way up and over as if the metal were an easily manipulated plaything.  At night, even though the earth has spun so that the side I live on is facing away from the sun, it gives such a brilliant reflection off the moon that I can see to get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or use the restroom.
The sun's warmth is so penetrating that it leaves its mark even in winter when the portion I live in is furthest away.  It melts the snow and ice, heats homes and businesses through solar panels, and warms us as it streams through the windows of our houses.  Its rays are so powerful as to fade furniture to make it appear more like the sun itself - colorless. 
As I read these verses of Scripture this morning, I couldn't help but rejoice at the thought of how the sun truly does declare the glory of God.  Just as the sun wends its way into every nook and cranny, so the light of God's love wends its way into every nook and cranny of the believer's life. Oh, we try to block Him out at times, just as the metal tries to keep the sun's light from streaming into my closet, but we can never succeed fully.  We are His and He will shine even when we are at our furthest point from Him.  Yes, we will get cold; some ice will form on our heart; but His light will continue to shine on us until it melts that ice to reveal the warmth of His love and grace that was there all the time, from the moment of our rebirth.  It even fades the colors of self to make me appear more like Him as I continue to sit in the warmth of His glow, talking with Him as He warms my spirit.
Father, I rejoice in the fact that You are always there, pouring out Your love to me.  Even when I do my best to build up walls to keep it out so that I can revel in self pity, pride, greed, etc. You continue to stream in until the ice melts and breaks apart, revealing the truth and setting me free.  Keeping shining Your light in me and melting the chains that hold me fast to the past, the desires of the present and take me boldly into the future to face the unknown with the peace that You will be with me always, even to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Water Walking

Sitting in the classroom with my youngest grandson and watching the light in his eyes as he accomplishes a new task, learns a new concept or succeeds in perfecting the art of drawing a particular letter brings satisfaction.  However, the best and most encouraging part of the day comes when I tell him it is time to do Bible reading.  He has told me multiple times that this is his favorite part of our day.  When I say, "time for Bible reading!"  He grabs his blanket and runs for the child sized couch we have against the wall and waits for me patiently, always with an expectant look on his face.  When we finish I will usually ask a pertinent question.  He always answers with serious enthusiasm.  We then pray, which he is always more than happy to do.  His faith in and love for Jesus makes me ashamed; ashamed that adults such as myself proclaim faith, but walk in so little of it. 
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2
God has been dealing with me on this issue off and on for most of my life.  There are times when I just know what God is going to do and I am able to walk in faith without being double minded in the least.  But there are other times when I struggle greatly, and recently I have been struggling indeed. 
Sunday morning I taught my class the lesson about Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water with Jesus.  I told them how exciting it was until Peter took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the storm.  What happened then?  He sank!  Admittedly Jesus was right there to pull him out when he cried out for help.  I wonder what would have happened if he had not.....Rather than chase that rabbit, what if he had kept his eyes on Jesus?  Obviously he would have made it to Jesus and they would have walked back to the boat in great joy and probably laughter.  Instead, even though he was saved, he walked back ashamed at the failure. 
Such is my life in what seems to be so many places.  while I am praying and/or studying God's word I am full of faith and trusting Him to do all that He promises in His word.  Then I walk into this nightmare of a world and have problem after problem thrown at me and I start sinking.  I cry out to God for help and He pulls me up once again. 
There is a childrens' verse that was written long ago that goes something like this:
I want to be helpful and loving
At home and at school and at play.
I wish I could be just like Jesus
In every single way.
Jesus, Jesus, I want to be just like Him.
I indeed want to be like Him, but just how badly?
The scripture above says it all: Jesus endured the cross and the shame for the joy that He was keeping His eyes on at all times - our salvation.  There was nothing He wanted more than for us to spend eternity with Himself, so He endured....more than I can ever possibly envision.  Pain, disgrace, shame, separation from His Father, loneliness, rejection by the ones He loved more than not simply His life, but everything.  He gave up His home of glory to come to this wretched earth; an earth that he had created in perfection and we had destroyed through greed and pride and still are in the process of destroying today.  It brought Him joy to think of what going to the cross would bring about.  Talk about amazing!  Are we even capable of loving like that?  Not without His Spirit living within us.  Without Him we cannot even really begin to grasp that kind of love.  We might be willing to die for someone, but loving those who hate us would be out of the question.  Even with his Spirit it is easier to shove His love within us aside and become angry, resentful, bitter, etc. toward even brothers and sisters in Christ, let alone the lost.  Misunderstandings (or miscommunications if you prefer), teasing, getting even, and so much more, bring us to the point of not simply sin, but utter rebellion against the One who gave Himself on our behalf so that we could live without such nonsense.  Yet here am I, doubting that He can repair the damage done in others lives.  I pray for someone to learn to forgive and then feel hopeless when they continue to hold a grudge or grab hold of a new one.  When I pray for someone with an angry temperament to learn joy and they begin to gripe at me about something, I start grieving inside all over again as if I had never asked God's intervention in the first place. 
Pastor Kenny is preaching a series on Habakkuk.  It is all about finding hope in this world.  The lessons God is having me teach deal with keeping our eyes on our hope - Jesus - in every situation, my neighbor brings me a study guide on the book of Hebrews about learning to endure through every situation.  I think I am supposed to learn something here.  First, quit listening to bad reports about others.  Rather I should simply pray and keep my eyes on the solution - Jesus.  Second, I need to stop dwelling on the negative and uphold the positive.  When the enemy throws negative thoughts my way I need to quote scripture such as Colossians 3:
 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Last of all I need to remember who it is that is trying to rob me of my "peace in the midst of the storm." 
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10
After all, I have Jack Dawson's painting entitled this (Peace in the Midst of the Storm) as a reminder hanging over our sofa to help me remember.
So Lord, I come to You again in remorse that I have allowed myself to be drawn off track in fear regarding different loved ones.  I ask that You would continue speaking to my heart, guiding me through friends and Your word and opening my eyes of faith to help me see that if I will simply keep my eyes and heart stayed on Thee, I will walk in peace, joy and victory rather than defeatism, negativity and loss.  You have already won the war, I simply need to be patient and fixed on You.  I need not dwell on sinking in the storm, but rejoice in the knowing that You have my hand in Yours, drawing me up and helping me walk on the water in the midst of the storm.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Painful Peace

Pleurisy - inflammation of the pleurae (each of a pair of serous membranes lining the thorax and enveloping the lungs in humans and other mammals), which impairs their lubricating function and causes pain when breathing.

When a teenager, I had a friend who was out of school for a week.  When he came back, he told us he had had pleurisy.  It sounded rather terrifying.  The definition sounds terrifying as well until you come to fully understand what it is saying.  I worried about my friend, but I did not have to worry about myself.  Yes, I knew God had a plan in allowing this, but I looked it up and discovered it isn't life threatening, just painful. 
People have always linked pneumonia to pleurisy, which is part of the reason it sounds so scary.  However, I obtained it from a simple cold that went into a sinus infection.  Other than the pleurisy, my lungs remained clear. The pain from it is pretty excruciating, so, having had double pneumonia, I can imagine how extremely horrible it would be to have both.  You would most likely have to be in the hospital.  It is difficult enough to breathe from the pneumonia, but with the pain from the pleurisy you might be tempted to give up.  The coughing would be terrible.  I remember wondering if I had cracked a rib from it.  Add in the extra chest pressure and back pain from the pleurisy and I think I would be very tempted to cry out to God to take me home.  Shoot, I've done that just from having to live in a dying and decaying world!  (Yes, I have been known to be on the spoiled side.)
One Sunday after contracting this strange illness, I was feeling much better and decided to go to church.  I went ahead and sang in the choir, though it made me dizzy.  Then I went on to teach kindergartners in Sunday School.  They are so much fun.  I get hugs and hand drawn pictures, told they love me and so much more from them!!  I love them all!!  However, they are very busy little people.  At the end of the hour, I reach over my head to put away the colored pencils and almost fell to the floor in pain.  I had taken a breath as I reached up.  Evidently that is a huge mistake!!  Anyway,
I stood there frozen for a minute until I could move again.  The kids were so busy, they didn't notice.  I am so glad my husband was in the room to keep them entertained.  I then turned to them and said that I needed to sit down and asked them to come over so I could read to them.  Quite the obedient children, they did so and everything went fine, even through the pain.
That evening I was still in pain, so I decided not to go to choir practice.  I then went in to prayer.  
Have you ever had  one of those moments in prayer when you enter a state of awe?  God is so wonderfully awesome and those times are quite memorable.  You fall on your face, so to speak, before Him and experience such magnificence!  You want to stay there in that place forever, but knowing that you cannot makes you want to tell Him how much you love Him, but words tend to fail.  This time though, I had something I wanted to say.  It was so lovely to really and truly WANT to say it that I still revel in the thought and what happened next.
As I sat there before God, back hurting and no way to get into a comfortable position, I felt joy first and then overwhelming love flooded me.  I told God with much enthusiasm that if my being in pain brought glory to His name in some way, ANY way, then I would gladly be in pain.  Many people would probably have thought me crazy at this point if they could hear what I was thinking in prayer, but they soon would have been in as much awe as I was at that time.  No more than a blink of an eye passed when so did the pain!!  It was gone!!  I went to the doctor the next day.  The pleurisy was still there and I was given medicine because of it, but the pain never came back.  
God loves us so extremely.  He gave His very life to pay the price of death for our sin. "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord."  Romans 6:23
Since He did so much for me, I should be more than willing to do whatever is necessary to bring glory and honor to His name.
Father, I know there are many times when I display selfishness rather than willingness.  I don't want to be a brat, but it seems my flesh will continue rearing its ugly head until the day it is made perfect in Christ.  I wait expectantly for that day and thank You that it is coming.  I thank You that I have a future with You in eternity. Help me remember this as long as I am waiting in this body.  Help me remember how fleeting and temporary this life truly is so that I don't dwell on its disappointments and agonies, but focus on what is to come - eternity - never ending life of joy, excitement, and love with You!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blossoming Rods

It happened on the next day, that Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. Number 17:8
A simple rod with three main uses - to protect, to discipline and to inspect.  A true shepherd would never go out without their rod and staff.  These are two different items.  The rod has a smooth, bulbous end and the staff has a crook.  The staff has different uses as well - drawing sheep together, guiding back onto the right path, and to make the shepherd's presence real to the sheep - when they see the staff, they know the shepherd is approaching.  Both of are great importance in the life of the shepherd and of the sheep.  Without one of them, the job can only be accomplished halfway.  Today I am focusing on the rod. I want to think about what my rod is blooming for Christ?  Is it blooming for Him at all, or is it filled with the weeds of self?
I read a passage that confused me a moment this morning, until I asked God what it meant for me at this moment in time of my life here on earth.  I confess that I started out seeking answers on the internet, but it simply frustrated me to do so.  Each article I read cried out to me, "We don't know!!!"  So, I finally asked God to explain.  I immediately had a sense of knowing that He was speaking to me about how I look and smell to Him.  I know that may sound strange, but I understood due to verses such as Psalm 141:2 which says, "May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." 

As this understanding came to me, I was drawn to a site entitled "The Sign of the Almond Tree." It is a publication by "Hebrew for Christians."  It says that the Hebrew word for almond is shakeid and comes from the root "shakad" which means "to watch" or "wake."  God uses this as a play on words when He shows Jeremiah the vision of an almond tree and tells him he has seen well, because God is watching over His word to perform it.
In Numbers God proves He has chosen Aaron as shepherd of the people by making his rod, which has no life within itself, as it has been cut off from it's life source, bloom.  It bloomed almond blossoms.  God had called Aaron and his family as watchmen (or shepherds) over Israel.
We, as Christians, have each been given a shepherd's rod of some sort. We may be shepherding our children, a Sunday school class, relatives, neighbors, but we are shepherding someone, somewhere.

We must first realize that the rod is carefully selected and cut to fit precisely.  The shepherd then must practice with the rod until it virtually becomes an extension of his arm to the sheep.  This takes time and effort. 
Our rod is the Word of God.  We must put forth time and effort into praying for understanding and wisdom regarding it and then study it thoroughly until it becomes an extension of ourselves so much so that it feels perfectly normal to use it wherever we are and with whomever we are visiting, whether a believer or not.  When we do so, we have a promise from God Himself -
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
  Isaiah 55:10-11
Some will read this and say, "But it says that it is the word that goes forth from God's mouth, not mine!!"  They would be correct except for one thing, God's children are that extension of Himself that become rods in His right hand.  We have been carefully selected and formed to fit His calling on our life.  Therefore, His words should be what comes forth from our mouth as He directs.  This means that our words are His words. 
As rods of God, we may have different blossoms, but hopefully they are all a sweet smelling fragrance to the Lord rather than weeds that cause sneezing, coughing, wheezing and disgust, thus being plucked up by the roots and thrown from His presence. If we are not blossoming, then there is a definite problem.  We are either not really His, or we have neglected spending time with Him, getting watered and filled with the light of His word so that we have begun to wither instead. 

As for the verse that stumped me originally, it is as follows: Ezekiel 8:17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen [this], O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Yehudah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.
God's people, the Israelites, had chosen to put a branch from idols to their noses.  Rather than breathing in the Truth of God's word and filling their lives with His presence, they chose demonic idols instead.  They believed in God, but chose idol worship over waiting for His promise of the Messiah.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  James 2:14-18 & 26
  It is not that faith does not save us, but rather that if it does not produce works (or fruit) in us, then it is not a living faith, but a dead one.  Something that is dead cannot give life.  Without Jesus we are simply a rod, created, designed and chosen by Him, but dead and useless.  When we, through faith, accept His gift of life through Jesus, then we begin to blossom with new life.  May we never wither or fade away, but bloom and send up a sweet smelling fragrance to Him each day.
Father, may your true children, given life through the precious blood of Jesus, accept Your calling and bloom plenteous blossoms to send up a sweet fragrance to Your nostrils and place a smile of joy on Your face.  May our heart desire always be to be pleasing unto You. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Love Cannot Quit

I remember sitting on the couch in the livingroom with Daddy reading the Bible aloud and the rest of us reading along in our Bibles. Daddy would read a verse and then explain it to the best of his ability.  The problem was, I didn't always agree with him in his assessment.  I remember one time in particular when Daddy read about gifts of the Holy Spirit and said they were no longer relevant. I had not yet given my life to following Christ Jesus, but I believed the Bible as the true word of God.  I remember thinking, "If that is true, then something has changed and it wasn't God.  So what was it?"

I the LORD do not change.  Malachi 3:6
The only conclusion I could come up with was, "God doesn't change, so we must have.  He doesn't draw away from us, but we do draw away from Him.  We must have drawn so far away as to make it impossible to receive His gifts."  I found what was to me proof of my thought processes. 

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.  Deuteronomy 31:8
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6
I continued to reason that if it was our drawing away from God that robbed us of the ability to receive His gifts of the Spirit, then drawing closer to Him would make it possible for us to receive once again.  After I decided to follow Christ I thought back in amazement that I had had these thoughts even before I received Him as my personal Savior and Lord.  The better I get to know Him, the less I am amazed by it, but instead see that it only makes sense.  He was wooing me to Himself in love. 

Before going any further, as he continued studying God's word, Daddy changed his mind about the Holy Spirit giving gifts to believers.  He was simply regurgitating what he had heard being preached commonly at that time.  The reason for this was the big charismatic movement of the day made people fearful.  Some said you had to have particular gifts of the Spirit or you weren't God's true child.  Others said that if you had these same gifts, you were being deceived.  This battle and others like it still go on today, even though God's word warns us to stay away from these types of disputes.
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. II Timothy 2:23-24
However, there is a gift of the Spirit that God tells us we must have or we are none of HisHowever, it is not "speaking in tongues of angels," "gift of healing," "gift of evangelism," or any other the other wonderful gifts mentioned by Paul in the New Testament.  It is the greatest gift of all - Love - agape love - God's love.

If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers  ( the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.  I Corinthians 13:1-3
Without love (agape - an act of self-sacrifice, not a feeling. There's no such thing as agape without action.) every other gift is a waste of energy.  Without love, we cannot walk in wisdom.  When I came to this realization, I wanted nothing more than to receive God's love and to walk in His wisdom rather than my own.  I had been walking in my own long enough.  It had gotten me nowhere, but had given me some special gifts, like fear, anxiety, a feeling of belonging nowhere and to no one, the need to do more, be more, prove myself, etc.  Once I cried out to God for forgiveness and asked Him to pour out His love and wisdom on me, fear was replace with passion for God's word, anxiety was replaced with the peace of knowing that I did indeed belong to Someone and there is no one greater than He.  I no longer had to prove myself, but learned to accept who I was created to be and marveled that He found me worthy of His calling on my life.  Life, though it still has ups and downs, became a journey of excitement and seeking adventure at every turn.  I learned that there is always good to be found in every situation if we will but ask Him to help us find it.  I am not saying that I never experience fear, heartache, bereavement, etc. but rather that He has given me the sense to know that even in my worst of times He is with me, carrying me, loving me and giving me the strength to carry on. When my beloved daddy passed away on my son's wedding day, I wanted to simply collapse in my bed, cover my head and sob.  Another part of me wanted to run to my momma and throw my arms around her neck and sob. I cried out to God, felt His presence and was given words of comfort and then he sent one of my nephews and his family to our door. Peace and joy flooded my heart and even though I was almost overwhelmed with grief, because of God's presence, I was able to go to the wedding with a smile on my face. 

Without knowing Him I would be unable to see the love He has for His creation, especially those He created to spend eternity with Him, and I would not sense the longing He has for them to come to truly know Him and experience His grace.  Nor would my heart ache in love so that I am obliged to tell people about His love for them and I would stand by and simply watch them choose to spend eternity without Him in misery.
Paul was not simply making a generalized comment when he wrote, "Now abide these three: Faith, Hope and Love; and the greatest of these is Love." I Corinthians 13:13  Without love, faith and hope are dead.
Father, You are the only One that makes this life worth living, for You are Love.  Without You we are lost, fearful, wandering around forlorn and feeling forsaken.  You have made it clear in Your word that this is not Your desire for us.  You want us to spend eternity with You beginning now, not some time in the distant future.  We sometimes get it into our heads that we have to struggle through this life on our own until we get to heaven.  It makes us want to give up and quit.  We do not have that luxury.  Time is short and most are headed for an eternity without You.  They do not even fear that because they do not understand what that entails, because they do not know You.  If they realized that eternity without You means eternity with everything that is opposite of You, fear would draw them to You.  This is partly why You have told us that "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  Proverbs 9:10.  Understanding that You are everything good from the tiniest thought of goodwill to the extravagant love lavished on mankind through Jesus' death on the cross, brings us to the conclusion that without You there is only evil, hatred, pain, loneliness, fear, agony, every other negative thing we can think of and much much worse.  The fear of not having You in our lives should dominate our thoughts and actions and cause us to strive all the more to reach others for Your kingdom.  Quitting brings only loss.  You have told us that the victory is Yours and has already been won, therefore we cannot, we must not give up and quit. When we are tempted to give up, help us recognize our responsibilities and keep going unless and until You give us the signal to pack up and leave.  Help us to rely on Your strength rather than our own, for You will never fail us, for You are love. 
God is love  I John 4:8    Love never fails.  I Corinthians 13:8

Monday, October 14, 2013

Only a Portion

Inheritance - we inherit things, traits, ideals, belief system......but how do we feel about them?  How do we treat them?  Physical items of inheritance such as houses, furniture, money, etc. may be treated with respect, admiration and protection, OR they may be sold or given away due to taste preferences.  Family traits can be admired and maintained or changed through surgery.  Ideals and belief systems can be built up and strengthened or squashed through disillusionment.  There is, however, an inheritance that can never be changed.  This is about a portion of that inheritance.
As I write this, my little niece, who is not even a teenager yet, is going through a health trial.  She has been told that her heart has stopped beating several times, which is what made her pass out a few weeks ago.  Her momma was told that it was urgent she get her to a children's hospital and have a pace maker put in.  It was supposed to be done today.  However, the hospital refused to see her as the doctor had not sent the information needed.  She was told she would have to wait until Friday.  Calls to her doctor have availed nothing. 
My niece has inherited this heart problem.  My mother, her grandma, has seven different things wrong with hers.  However, the inheritance that cannot be changed is in place.  My mother is 83 and doing well.  I anticipate my niece living just as long and eventually much longer.  Why?  She has an inheritance with God.  As His child, she has health assurance that goes way beyond anything earthly health insurance can muster.  Not only has she received it, but it has been paid for, free and clear.  All she has had to do is accept it.  It not only covers the cost of any and all sickness, disease, injury or accident, but it assures her that no matter how things look, she is safe within the loving arms of Jesus - the One Who paid the price.  This means that even if she were to leave this life, she has eternal life with Him.  I have this to cling to as well, as I have the same assurance.  No matter how long either of us remains here, we will be with each other forever after all is said and done.
It is extremely difficult to not know all the answers of the whys and wherefores of this life.  We want to cling to what we have that is tangible and within our visual sight line.  The only way to look beyond this life and begin (and begin is all we really ever do) to understand that life on this present earth is not genuine any longer, but has been mutilated by the evil one beyond recognition from what it was originally intended, is to begin to know the Creator.  He has a definitive plan that cannot be changed and that will pour out an inheritance on all His beneficiaries that will mind boggle the recipients and place terror into the hearts of those not belonging to Him. Knowing this gives us a peace that cannot be understood, even by us when heavy trials beset us. 
My sister (niece's mom) is hurting and frustrated by this entire situation, yet she has a peace and hope to cling to and is striving to do so.  She knows that if she continues to hang on to them, victory will be won.  Grant you, she doesn't know exactly how, but victory will come indeed. 
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.   Acts 20:32

My sister will cling to this hope by going to her heavenly Father and pouring her heart out to Him, seeking His will and direction.  She will also begin to devour His Word until she is more than satiated by it.  She will sing His praises until the tears of healing begin to flow freely. This, along with the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, will build her up to receive her inheritance along with all the rest of us, God's children through faith in Jesus' death and resurrection.
Father, I lift my sister and her baby girl into the palms of Your hands.  Hold them there until the day of Your deliverance from this trial.  Help them remember that there is nowhere they will ever go that You haven't traveled first in order to clear the path for their safety.  You will never leave them nor forsake them, for You have promised it in Your word in Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.

May all Your children cling to You in this hope and trust You to never let us go anywhere You are not.  Help us to love You by walking in love at all times and seeking to know You more fully daily. In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Simply an Echo

Our oldest granddaughter spent the night last night by herself for the first time.  She has always been scared to do so in the past.  She is ten years old.  Why did she fear?  She has known us all her young life.  We are her grandparents and she knows we love her dearly.  Why?  I think she may have been scared that by herself she would be rejected.  I know that is how I felt as a child.  However, a couple of months ago she spent the night here along with a girl cousin.  I spent hours with them teaching them to crochet circles and helping them make a small purse for her little sister's doll.  Her Kpa spent time fussing over them with treats, hugs and laughter.  She is no longer afraid.  She knows us better and has discovered that we truly love her just because she is our granddaughter.  That's all she needs to be in our eyes.  Now that she is convinced, she no longer fears and actually asked to spend the night - by herself.
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:31
Yesterday our pastor told a true story of a little orphan boy who kept asking Tommy Walker if he remembered who he was.  Tommy would answer day after day that indeed he did - Jerry.  The boy would then ask, "We're friends, aren't we Tommy?"  Tommy would always reply that indeed they were.  When Tommy realized the need in this boy's heart was for someone to recognize him as worth something by knowing his name, he sat down and wrote the song "He Knows My Name."  This young boy's fear came from not having parents to reveal to him his worth here on earth.

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call
I was once asked by our then school counselor why my children were so well behaved.  I answered that they knew they would receive more discipline at home than they did at school if they caused problems and more than that; I was blessed that they had all received Jesus as Savior at a very young age.  I might should have added that parents are the example makers and setters. It is our actions rather than our words that teach our children the most valuable or the most hurtful lessons in life.
As I was teaching Sunday School recently (kindergarteners) I asked the children what kind of things parents worry about.  Money, children getting sick, losing their job, child getting hurt, big animals hurting someone and fire were just some of the answers I received.  It hit me rather forcefully that children pay much more attention than we dare think.  It also hit me and made me a little sick to my stomach that what we are teaching them when we worry is that, in our opinion, maybe God isn't big enough, strong enough or loving enough to take care of us.  It may not be what we believe, but it may very well be what we are teaching.  
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7
In his message this Sunday on Psalm 23, Pastor Kenny talked about walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  He told how there are deep valleys in Israel with such high cliffs of either side that the sun hits the pathway only at high noon.  The rest of the time you walk through them in virtual darkness.  They are places where lions loves to hide.  Their roars echo for miles there.  He compared this with life, as did the Psalmist - David, in that we all go through dark, seemingly treacherous places in life, but the Shepherd is always ahead of us and knows what is coming before we do.  We shouldn't listen to the lion's roar as if it were possibly more than one, and should realize that our Shepherd is in front with His rod and staff to guide and protect us.  He will bring us through to the other side unless we give up.  If so, we are asking to be devoured by the enemy. 
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  I Peter 5:8
There is no doubt that we will have fear come upon us in this life.  The key, where our children are concerned I believe, is to admit the fear to them and pray with and/or in front of them for God to continue shepherding us through this difficult time and to give us the strength to not give up and give in to the enemy roaring at us.  We then must not give up or give in to the enemy when he roars words of condemnation, destruction and fear in our ears.
Father, Your word contains every answer to every problem, but we have to want to see, understand and obey.  Grant us willing hearts to study Your word for answers, understanding to grasp them and diligence and determination to follow through in obedience, trusting You as our Shepherd and Guide all along the way.  Help us shepherd our children in a way that causes our lives to shine forth as a beacon to them, guiding them to You that they might come to understand and cling to the knowledge that You will never leave them or forsake them, even if everyone else should choose to do so.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What a Pay Day!!

Last evening my husband and I shared a giant Payday candy bar. If you have never had a Payday, they are simply caramel dipped in salted peanuts.  As I walked this morning it hit me that this candy bar is aptly named.  Pay days in life are a whole lot like them - sweet, yet salty.  It is sweet when we receive that pay check, but then we think of the next day we go back to work and it becomes salt in a wound. I realize there are some out there that absolutely love their jobs and live to see that next day of working, but most of us can relate to this scenario.  Even if we do love our jobs, if we have a family, we still have to leave them each day so that we can provide for them.  Not an easy task when you love your family.  Because of this, we long for something more.  Every once in a while we get it - recognition.  I worked a particular job for almost 18 years.  I had many people tell me I was doing a great job, but the only real recognition I received was at the end of each year when evaluations were done.  I always received "exceeds expectations."  It was always nice to see, and for a brief instant, I actually felt almost appreciated.  However, in the back of my mind I knew that I would be quickly forgotten when I left and someone took my place.
The story is told of a missionary and wife Who came home on furlough.  They didn't know it, but Teddy Roosevelt was on the same ship they were.  When they arrived in America there was great fanfare for Roosevelt, but no one to even meet the missionary couple.  The man turned to his wife and said, "I should get some recognition for forty years in the Lord's service."  His wife gently reminded him, "But Henry, you aren't home yet."
We must remember that our pay day has yet to arrive!!  One day Jesus will return and those of His who remain will be instantly changed.  This old earth will receive a do over and become one with heaven and we will dwell eternally with God!!  What a pay day that will be!!
As I walked this morning, I was praying for all God's people who are sick, injured, diseased, dejected, etc. and I was reminded of the Payday candy bar.  The thoughts I wrote above flowed through my mind like a rippling stream.  I told God what a marvelous day that will be when He takes our hand....and then goose bumps covered me as I envisioned His hand reaching out and taking mine. I nearly burst with joy at this thought, "There is no more greater pay than Your hand!!"  Imagine Christ Jesus welcoming you home with His outstretched hand!  The very hands that were pierced with nails on your behalf are now reaching out to you to draw you not only into His presence, but into His arms!!  What a pay day!!  I can think of nothing better!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

What a Heritage!!

This week started out like any other.  We got up Sunday morning and happily went to church.  We worshiped and led Sunday School with kindergarten and then took two of our grandchildren out to Subway and home with us until their mom was finished with the Arnold Days Parade.  Both parents were in the parade, one directing the band and the other marching with their third child with the JCYA cheerleaders.  We only had a short time at home with them before their mom came and got them.  Then my back started hurting.  The next morning I had all seven grandchildren all day due to professional development.  They were exceptionally well behaved and we were having a great time, though I was limited in activity due to my back.  One of my granddaughters came to me and said that she was itching all over.  I was alarmed only because they were taking care of a puppy to see if they would keep him.   I thought she might be allergic, so I cringed inside as I checked her back.  You will think me strange perhaps, but I was actually relieved to discover, of all things, chicken pox.  I texted her parents who could not conceive it.  She has had both vaccinations, so how could she have them?  I went on line to discover that 8 of 10 do not get them once they are vaccinated, but those other least it is a much milder case.  However, she has been with her siblings and 4 of her cousins all day.  Then my oldest grandson came and showed me his hand.  Long story short, it was broken out in no less than 7 cold sores.  I medicated his hand and bandaged it so he didn't spread it to the rest, gave my granddaughter a mask for the pox and sat in my husband's chair with a heating pad on my back until the pain eased.  The amazing part to me is that I never once felt constricted in my chest, frustrated in any fashion or even irritated in the least.  Instead, I had to laugh.  They say mishaps come in threes.....I had my three!!
I remember back to about 7 years ago.  I had just taken an early retirement in order to care for my grandchildren so their parents could work.  I was missing seeing the 650-700 kids I cared for daily.  That might sound ridiculous, but I received many hugs daily and I am one who gives and receives love through hugs.  It was important to me to show love to many children needing hugs because they were so rare in their young lives.  If you've ever worked in the public school system, you will know what I am talking about.  Many times I came home and cried for children who had confided their hurts to me.  Getting back on track....Going from that many children to taking care of only four should be a breeze, right?  100% wrong!!  Not only was I taking care of them, working with them on preschool activities, healing their boo-boos, making sure they got their naps, changing diapers and general all round care, I was trying to keep my house in order.  I was used to going all day with a clean house and having minimum clean up in the evenings. I felt like I was in a first. 
I prayed about this on almost a daily basis.  I didn't want to feel this way.  I wanted to be joy-filled with my grandbabies.  Truth be told, I looked forward to the days when there was no school so I could be alone.  Then a day came when one of them moved on to kindergarten.  I was down to 4 and found myself missing my oldest grandson and granddaughter.  Then an addition came along and I was back to four.  The following year another left for kindergarten and my heart saddened, but then along came my youngest grandchild and I was right back to four!! This pattern continued and each time my heart broke when they went on to kindergarten.  I am down to one now and am enjoying every moment of my days.  I look for the days when they will all be here, but for a different reason than before....I MISS THEM TERRIBLY!! 
God is so marvelous.  He searched my heart, found the love He placed there for my grandbabies, caused it to grow beyond measure and turned me completely around.  I no longer care if my house gets destroyed during the day.  We had fun getting it that way and that is what is important!!  Children grow up too fast to begrudge them being around.  We need to seek that place of refuge found in God's word that declares:
Children are a blessing
    and a gift from the Lord. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.
Psalm 127:3

Children’s children are a crown to the aged,    and parents are the pride of their children.Proverbs 17:6
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 18:10
I can say from experience, it is so much more fun to be here than where I was at first.  God truly is our Refuge, HIgh Tower and Fortress.  In Him we can be certain of safety from feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, over worked and so very much more.
Father, thank You for hating all the things in us that draw us to self rather than to You.  Thank You for being willing to walk through the muck of my heart and cleanse it from the heaps of self worship that try and make their dwelling there.  Continue revealing in me any area that is trying to imprison me and always keep me free in You.  Thank You so very much for that freedom.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Safe Arms

And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the Lord's priests.  So David said to Abiathar, "I knew that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul.  I have caused the death of all the persons of your fathers house.  Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe."  I Samuel 22:21-23
Yesterday my littlest grandson in age and stature, but not so little of heart, asked me why I must sometimes be alone at home.  I explained that Kpa has to go to work and I stay at home to get the things done that need doing.  He was so serious and a little sad about this, but then smiled and said, "Yes, but I am here on those days!"  I told him that was true except on Fridays.  He became solemn again, then smiled and said, "But we could maybe go out to lunch together or something on Fridays?!"  My little protector.  How proud I am that he wants to make sure I am safe and never lonely!  It makes my heart sing..........(if I knew how, I would put music notes here).
I have many protectors.  Our oldest son has a standing offer for me that when his dad gets called out to work at night, I can either go see them, or they will come see me.  I have actually taken him up on it a couple of times, just because I missed them.  Our daughter checks to make sure I don't need anything or want to go out with her and our youngest son volunteers their home as a refuge as well.  My children-in-law and heart are always more than willing to be there for me if I need something and my husband?  If I am going out even just to pick up milk, he tells me to take my phone in case I need him for anything.  My neighbors keep an eye on our home and inform me if they see anything they even wonder about.  The marvelous thing is, on those rare occasions when I actually do feel lonely or insecure in any way, I have an even more secure refuge to go to.
There was a night a few months ago when I was at home alone and thought I would be so until early morning hours.  I couldn't get to sleep.  those are the times Satan takes advantage of and does his best to distort things and make them seem so much bigger than they really are.  Thoughts flashed through my mind of mud walls caving in on top of my husband (this has happened), of a drunk driver ignoring the flag men and hitting him, of electric lines being miss marked and him striking one (this too has happened) and more.  My heart began to pound and I began to pray.  This is my secret refuge, my hiding place....Jesus!!  I told God how I was feeling, how I was being attacked and that I chose to trust Him to care for all the men working and then I boldly asked that, if it were possible, for Michael to be able to come home earlier than he thought they would be.  I then closed my eyes and started to drift off to sleep.  Just as I felt that floating feeling I get just before I crash into oblivion, I heard a key in the door lock and in he walked!!  Over 2 hours early!!  I climbed out of bed, gave him a big hug and told him I love him, climbed back into bed and went into a snug, deep sleep AFTER telling God how thankful I was!!
I am thankful I have so many who love me and want to keep me safe, but they know as well as I that my only real safety comes in having Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.  We have a false sense of security in many areas.  Not that we should be neglectful or negligent in any way, but rather we should understand that every form of protection comes from God.  It is God who places the desire within us to protect in the the first place.  If we, as mere human beings, possess the desire to protect those we care about, how much more does our heavenly Father, our very Creator desire to protect us?!
So Father, I chose to place my trust and confidence in You.  You are my true Source of security.  I can live my life according to Your will in safety, knowing that You are beside me, in me, all around me.  What better security could I ever ask for?!!  Yesterday little Kian said he wants You to be in complete control of his life.  I desire this as well Father, for only in Your arms am I truly safe!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Living on the Edge of Life

As a child I loved to get on a swing and fly just as high as I could go.  To tell the truth, if they made swings to fit adult bottoms, I would still be doing so today.  However, it is rare to find a swing big enough, even for those of average size.  Swinging through the air and feeling the drop in my stomach as I hit the top of the arc and begin descent backwards is a thrill of joy better than a roller coaster in my eyes, and I do love a good coaster!!  My youngest granddaughter feels the same as I.  I love to watch her soar; her grin filling her face and her eyes seeking the sky as she goes higher!!  It takes me back and I can feel what she is feeling; joy bubbling inside and ready to burst forth in a giggle; some of it sometimes escaping.  You want to hold it in though.  It makes the bubbles from the backward drop more exciting, so you simply grin all the wider until your face feels as if it will split in two!!  What joy!!  What exhilaration!!  There is no fear.  We are clinging to the chains that hold the swing up!!  Some call us thrill seekers.  I call us admirers of trust.  We trust the swing to hold us up and are thrilled that it does so over and over and over again no matter how many times we pump our legs up and down or stop, get off and then get back on again.  If we did not trust the swing, we wouldn't get on. 
There are times in our lives, whether of our own accord or not, that we are thrown into situations that we can either choose to jump on and swing or we can cower behind a tree watching as others jump on and enjoy the ride.  I have done both. 
I have shared in other blogs that I am rather an introvert.  When invited to a party, shower, wedding reception, etc. where I know I am going to know only a couple of people there, I tend to not want to go.  Many times I have been "rescued" from making a decision by my husband having to work or making other plans.  The rest of the times I have had to decide what to do.  I, with shamed face, must admit that many, many times in the past I have chosen to hide behind fear as others experienced the joy.  The times I have chosen to force myself to go have rarely caused me any hardship and usually brought me great joy, so why do I hide?  I know why - I was that child on the playground at school who played alone.  If I had one person each year that chose to be my friend, I felt extremely blessed.  I remember my first grade year.  I didn't go to kindergarten.  There was a little girl named Kathy who was all bubbly and cheerful where I was solemn and quiet.  She sidled up and asked to be my friend.  We were inseparable until the fatal day her family moved out of town.  For the rest of the year I played alone 99% of the time.  I was always looking for a friend.  I'd search the playground for someone else who was alone, but couldn't find anyone.  Everyone was playing with someone it seemed.  So I would go climb the monkey bars, or if I was really "lucky," a swing would be free.  On a swing I could reach to the sky and fly.  It didn't matter if I was alone.  The thrill was all I needed.  the monkey bars were my second favorite because I could go to the very top and see everything everywhere it seemed.  Later I learned to do flips on the horizontal bars and spent many recesses there.  That needed no company either.  These are the ways I "fit in."  No one noticed I was alone, so maybe I was more acceptable was my line rationalization.
I am not telling this to gain sympathy, but understanding for those who are out there like myself.  I know they exist.  I have talked to many.  Others called us loners.  We knew we were lonely.  We were called snobs.  We knew we were simply unsure of what to say.  We were called losers.  This we agreed with in many ways.  All this due to fear and worry.  The funny part is, our fear of not being accepted is exactly what separated us and caused us to be unaccepted.
When I accepted Christ as my Savior, many things changed in my life.  The biggest change was to stop allowing fear to rule my life.  I am not saying it came all at once, but there was an immediate loss of fear in the area of death.  I no longer feared it.  I knew Jesus had defeated it in my life and I would and will live forever with Him.  I carried so many other fears though that I am still being delivered of some.  The first step is God pointing out to me that I have a certain fear.  Some of the fears I used to carry seem frivolous to me now, but I assure you were very real at one time.  One of the first I had to deal with was introducing myself to someone.  It was only a very short time after I accepted Christ that a new person joined our youth group.  I knew what I needed to do, so I was one of the first to walk up, shake his hand, force myself to look him in the eye and smile and simply say, "Hello."  I gave my name, said I was glad he came and sat back down.  My heart was pounding in my chest, but I had done it!  After that it became easier and easier to do the same.  Now I can introduce myself to anyone and have a short, or sometimes I am surprised by a long conversation with them.  Sounds silly, doesn't it?  How many friends have I missed out on having because I was too scared to simply introduce myself?  I may never know.
Our pastor is preaching a wonderful series on the 23rd Psalm.  There are 5 more weeks to go on it and I don't want to miss even one.  This past week he shared that he had done an in-depth word study on the word "worry."  He had looked it up in different languages even.  He wanted to come up with his own definition.  Here is what he came up with: self-inflicted torture when our thoughts and emotions go negative about the uncertainties of life; self-inflicted strangling.  I nearly jumped from my seat.  This is exactly what I needed to help me defeat the rest of the fear in my life when God points it out!!  He didn't stop there.  He went on to say something God had been whispering in my ear for quite some time.  "The root of all worry is is lack of trust."  Worry is fear - fear is worry.  God commands me not to fear several times in both the Old and New Testaments.  Since worry is a lack of trusting God, it is a faith battle; one which has already been won by Jesus on the cross.  I simply need to walk in it - the victory over fear and worry.  How?  Through prayer.  There was a time in my life when I would cry out to God for more time to pray.  I reasoned that if I only had more time to pray, I wouldn't walk in fear so much.  God has shown me that there is always time to pray and Pastor Kenny wiped out any possibility of denial of this in one fell statement: "We all have time to pray, because we all have time to worry."  I simply need to jump into prayer the moment fear and worry try to push me off the swing.  It's the only way to keep soaring!!
Father, when fear and worry try to push me off or prevent me from getting on the swing of trusting You, help me hang on tight to the chains, refuse to be dissuaded and keep on soaring with You.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Child Like Faith

Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?  For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"  I Samuel 17:26
Two days ago my three (almost 4) year old grandson asked, "Can God pick up the ground?"  I replied, "Well, He made the ground, so yes, if He wanted to He could pick it up."  He immediately bowed his little head and asked God to pick up the ground.  When he looked up I reminded him that picking up the ground would move the earth and might hurt someone.  I asked if he thought God would want to hurt anybody.  Of course he said no, but was a bit disappointed.  He explained that he wanted to see what would happen.  I assured him that I understood, but that God always wants what is very best for us and picking up the ground and moving it was probably not it.  He cheered right up and went about his play.
The faith of a child is wonderful, isn't it?  I wish my faith was as perfect as theirs.  In this passage David is no longer a child, but a young man, but you can see and hear his great faith.  he never lost that child-like faith, but carried it throughout his lifetime!!  How did he do it?  He spoke what he believed, when he heard it, he believed all the more.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.  Romans 10:17

Evidently David understood this concept much better than I.  He taught himself daily the word of God through psalms (songs) and prayer.  When it came time to battle Goliath, he spoke words of God's promise to Goliath himself.  He did hold back in fear and trepidation, but boldly went out.  Why?  He had been going from man to man asking what would be done to the man who defeated the giant.  He continued doing this and saying that God would deliver them until he eventually was taken to King Saul.  He then proclaimed one more time God's ability to deliver, then went out and won the battle in God's strength!!  My personal belief is that David was doing his best to encourage the Israeli army to do battle.  When all refused, he then went to do it himself, but he had spoken God's promise aloud so many times that it had become faith in him.  He did not go out in that field trusting in his own might, but in God's as can be seen by the words he spoke to Goliath:
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” I Samuel 17:45-47
Some things I notice about his words are 1. He never claims victory in any other name than God's. 2. He gives a definitive reason why God will deliver Goliath into his hands - not to glorify David to prove he was right, but rather to prove that God is God alone and He was ruler over David's heart and the army of Israel. 3. He took no credit for victory, but gave God all the glory stating that regardless of physical weaponry, God would deliver the Philistines into the Israeli army's hands.
For three days God has been speaking to me on the importance of speaking aloud His promises.  Why?  So I can learn from them.  I have made an amazing discovery in my prayer life.  When I pray aloud God's promises I hear them and believe them to be true.  Please do not get the idea that I am saying we should claim things.  I realize there are many who believe that we should, but I honestly can find this no where in scripture unless I take scripture out of context and distort it a bit.  However, there are many promises that we can speak, listen to and pray until we take them into our hearts where they can never be stripped from us.
Victory is an awesome promise to claim.  The problem is we must remember that victory comes spiritually before it comes physically.  A great example of this is my Dad.  Right before he passed away he had gone to his pastor and asked him to pray with him that God would expand his boundaries for reaching the lost.  Shortly thereafter he went to be with the Lord.  From a worldly stand point people would say God failed him and there was no victory.  However, if you know where to look you will make the discovery that God did indeed expand his boundaries through his children who became burdened to reach out to more people on a more regular basis, through friends he had led to the Lord who felt compelled to do the same and through church family who suddenly felt the burden to get back to working for God's Kingdom.  His going home expanded his boundaries in an exponential manner!!  Am I glad he is with the Lord?  Yes, but I miss him terribly.  But I know that I know that I know that it is not the end of our relationship.  I will see him, hug and kiss him and have long talks with him again when I reach our heavenly home. 
On a side note, as I was contemplating writing about this topic, I went out to my car to pick up Mom and take her shopping.  I turned the radio to Joy FM and the words being sung were: Let my words be life, let my words be truth.....I burst out in laughter!!  I told God that I would indeed write whatever He placed in my heart to write.  So I must ask myself: Are my words words of life and truth at all times, or do I sometimes speak word that bring death and encourage the lies of Satan?  Am I speaking words of encouragement and victory through Christ or defeatism? 
Lord God, may the words of my mouth be words that bring life, joy and victory in You.  When I am tempted to cry out words of frustration and defeat, remind me of David and the victory You gave him all because he refused to believe the lies Goliath spewed forth and chose to believe and trust You instead.  Help us, Your children, learn to bite our tongues when tempted to derail someone of their hope, and instead offer prayers of support and guide them to Your Word.  Help us to rear our children with words of love and confidence in You rather than berating them for not being perfect.  Help us to remember that neither are we perfect, so why do we expect it of them?  Make us wise in You, Oh God!!  We cry out to You for wisdom and understanding!!  Each day is filled with lies and death all around us.  You have promised that it shall not touch us if we trust You.  We need to remember that nothing in this world can take us out of Your hand.  We have life eternal regardless of our circumstances!!  Thank You for victory over sin and death through the resurrection of Jesus and His free gift of salvation through faith in Him.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Who am I?

Who am I?  I have asked myself this question many times in my life.  Today I read a bit about David's young life as a shepherd.  The focus was on the fact that shepherding was not the glorious job we tend to make it in our imaginations.  Because Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd (John chapter 10) and the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13) we tend to think of it as a profession that was considered noble and rather sought after.  Truth be told, the shepherds were considered the lowliest of the low. 
“The Mishnah, Judaism’s written record of the oral law… describes [shepherds] as “incompetent”… says no one should ever feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit… Jeremias documents the fact that shepherds were deprived of all civil rights. They could not fulfill judicial offices or be admitted in court as witnesses.” ~ Eternal Perspective Ministries
“Shepherds of Jesus time were considered, by the general populace, generally untrustworthy… Even worse, their work made them ceremonially unclean… because they had daily contact with carcasses of animals and came into contact… with all sorts of unclean animals… So, surprisingly, when the angelic announcement arrives, it comes first to the social outcasts of Jesus’ day.” ~ Holy Ordinary
This was a job usually given to the youngest son in the family, as was the case with David.  While most were relieved to give up the position when a younger brother came along, David doesn't seem to have minded being a shepherd one bit.  Rather it appears he used it as an opportunity for getting to know his God better.  Shepherding was a lonely, dirty, rather dangerous, (when it came to protecting the sheep from predators) and sometimes boring position to hold.  When we read the Psalms David wrote, especially the 23rd, we see that he did not look down on shepherding, but compared it to God's love and protection he received on a daily basis.  David knew who he was, accepted the fact and chose to be glad in it.  So again I ask myself, who am I and do I choose to be glad in it?
I am a mother.  Today it is considered a little more admirable to be a stay at home mom than when I became one.  As a matter of fact, I was once asked why I chose the easy way out and stayed home with my children?  It was asked by a sister in Christ no less.  I realize now that she was simply regurgitating what she had been led to believe as she went through schooling.  In fourth grade our daughter was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She replied, "A teacher."  The teacher who asked looked at her and asked, "Why?  You can be anything you choose to be.  Why would you choose teacher?"  My daughter was quite hurt by this.  I told her that her teacher was quite correct.  She could be whatever she felt God wanted her to be and if that was a teacher, then so be it.  She should follow her heart and do what God asked of her or she would never be content.  She is a vocal choir teacher in a middle school and gives private voice and piano lessons, is quite content and does a remarkable job.  God has worked through her to bring about many first place trophies in choir to the school district and she has been asked what her secret is.  Her answer?  She doesn't have one - she simply does the best she knows to do and expects the best her students have to give, which is exactly what God wants of us - our best in whatever He gives us to do.  Going back to the question I was asked - I gave no real reply.  I was dumbfounded by the question.  I personally thought and still think (as I have been both a stay at home mom and a working outside the home one) that it is much more challenging to stay at home and care for your children than to go to work each day and lay the responsibility of child care on someone else.  In today's society, with the economy the way it is, it is almost impossible for moms to stay at home though.  Instead they are forced to try and find a trustworthy caregiver for their child and often find quite the opposite.  Which comes to another me.
I am a grandmother.  I have the joy of being trusted with my grandchildrens' care.  I have been doing this for going on eight years now.  I took an early retirement in order to be there for my children so they could financially afford to have a family.  I am now down to caring for my currently youngest grandson 99% of the time.  There is a day here and there that I have more - when someone gets sick, there is a professional development day, etc. When I first took on this responsibility I had forgotten just how much work is involved in all day caring of children.  Yes, I worked with over 600 children on a daily basis when working for the school district, but it is completely different.  Yes, it made me tired, but my patience wasn't tried on a moment by moment basis as it is when you are caring for children you love more than life itself for a ten hour day.  When you are mom and at home, it is a 24-7 job of emotions running up and down, patience being shredded, housework being destroyed and redone, cooking and feeding, diaper changing, and so much more!!  I remember when I first became a mom, my husband would come home and ask what I had been doing with my day.  I wanted to slap him!!  What hadn't I been doing would have been the better question!!   Anyway, it took almost two years before I realized once again that, even though it is exhausting work, there is nothing that brings greater satisfaction and joy than giving your all to those you love.
I could list many more of the who I ams, but my favorite is wife.  Anyone who has read what I have written in the past knows the truth of this. There was, however, a time when it wasn't my favorite.  I was selfish and thought my husband's world should revolve around me.  Going to work all the time, taking every call that came his way, always seeking ways to help others seemed to put me in last place.  When I was finally slapped in the face with the reality that everything he did was with me in mind, my perspective changed.  It is the same with God.  Everything he does is with His children in mind.  It may seem at times like we are forgotten.  We want it to always appear that we are the center of God's world, when the truth is, He should be the center of ours.  We are already the center of His.  He tells us we are the apple of His eye, (For thus says the LORD of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. Zechariah 2:8) our name is “engraved on the palms of his hands.” (Is.49:16 )  He is always thinking about us, but is He our Center? 
If Christ is my Center, I should never look down on any position in which He places me.  I should not look on anyone else' position as being greater than the one He has given me. Rather I should be looking for ways of knowing Him better through it.  Who am I? A child of the Most High God....what better position is there to be?  What difference does it make if I am the youngest in faith and therefore doing what may be considered the lowliest of the lowly jobs or the eldest in the faith and holding many positions?  Does either place make me any less a child of the King? 
Father, may I learn to respect any and every position You place me in.  May I grow in grace and faith because of it.  Help us, Your children, learn to love and respect the jobs You give us and to honor those who seem to be doing less in the world's eye view than we may be viewed as doing.  May we never look down on each other for holding different responsibilities or look down on ourselves, holding others  as being greater than ourselves due to the positions they hold.  Help us take great joy in knowing we are of any use to You at all and revel in knowing that You are thinking of us at all times, even if it doesn't always feel like it.  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2  May we walk in faith rather than by sight.  In Jesus' precious name.