Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sparrows

"Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."  Matthew 10:31 (KJV)


I was walking through the room as Zachary and his cousin, Austin, were deep into a conversation.  I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I overheard them talking about birds.  It had started snowing the evening before, continued snowing all through the night, and left a beautiful, soft, white blanket on the ground outside.  Earlier we had gone out and built a snowman, then we'd come back in to warm up.  Now the two boys were raring to get back outside...this time to look for birds.  I heard them mention sparrows.

Always eager for an opportunity to insert some valuable spiritual lesson, I stopped what I was doing and said, "Do you know God sees every time a sparrow falls to the ground?  He cares THAT much about sparrows.  And Jesus said YOU are worth more than many sparrows.  So, if God cares THAT much about a little, tiny sparrow and you are worth more than many of them, just imagine how much He loves YOU!" 

I love those moments when I can really connect with them, and this was one of them.  I had the full attention of both boys.  They sat there listening as I continued to elaborate on God's love for them and how valuable they are to God, and when I finished, I said, "Don't ever forget how much He loves you."  They both agreed that they would never forget.  I felt satisfied that I had gotten my point across, so I left them to their outdoor plans.  May God help me to never miss one of those rare moments of opportunity to get across some profound truth to their formative hearts and minds!  They are so precious!

God loves you.  Perhaps you've heard that before.  We live in an age of time that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is widely proclaimed....radio, television, internet...modern technology has provided many mediums through which we can hear the old, old story of Jesus and His love.  We hear it often...God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  He rose from the dead on the third day.  He went away to prepare a beautiful place for you.  One day soon, He is coming again to take His children home to live with Him for eternity. 

As I walked away from those precious boys, I wondered how many times in my 45 years I have heard every one of those statements.  I wondered if we've all heard them so much that they have become commonplace and the depth of their meaning has been lost to us?  Could we have become what we refer to as "Gospel-hardened?"  Where the effect of the Word has lost its impact?  Do we really believe it? 

Then I thought of my own feelings of unworthiness.  I realized right there and then that my opinion of myself and God's opinion of me are worlds apart.  I measure my love-worthiness by my failures, the times I have fallen short, and the many times I have let Him down.  He measures my worth by a completely different standard.  Romans 8:35-39 names off no less than 17 things that could threaten to cause God to stop loving us.  It pretty much encompasses every possible element in this life, and then it assures us that NONE of them "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (verse 39) 

In other words, it doesn't matter who you are, where you are, how you are living, what you have done, how far below God's standards of holiness you have fallen....one fact remains the same, my friend.  God loves YOU.  YOU are worth more to Him than many sparrows.  Your current condition does not alter the amount of love He bestowed upon you when He sent His Son to die for you.  Jesus knew where you would be on October 30, 2011 when He hung on the cruel cross.  It didn't deter him.  No, my friend, it compelled Him...it made Him want to die for you all the more, because He knew YOU were going to need a Savior.  Nothing you have done or will ever do will alter the fact that He loves you.  I hope you never forget.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Foggy Conditions

"And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them..."  Mark 10:32 (KJV)

The early morning West Virginia fog thickly surrounded us as we wound our way through the mountains.  I was driving, and at times, I couldn't see two feet in front of the car.  Kevin and I talked of how it looked like a good morning to see deer out and about, so I was trying to be extra careful.  During the particularly dense spots, there was one thing that kept me moving forward and continually let me know it was safe to go on.  There was a car ahead of us, and I kept my eyes on its lights.  I knew if there was an obstacle, the car in front of us would encounter it and have to deal with it first.

It reminded me of our lives lately.  We've hit some pretty foggy spots of uncertainty.  At times, we really didn't know where our next footstep would take us, nor could we see anything ahead very clearly.  One thing has kept us moving forward.  We are following the Light.  Jesus said in John 8:12 (KJV), "I am the Light of the world:  he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." 

Jesus is walking in front of us.  Whatever is out there, it comforts me to know that He will deal with it first, and I know we are safe following Him.  He told His disciples in Matthew 6:34 (KJV) "...sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."  In other words, just deal with what is in front of you today; it is enough to handle without worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow.

Sometimes, I want to see the big picture.  I want to know why?  And how long?  And what's next?  The future direction of our lives looks so foggy and completely uncertain.  But, what a comfort to know we are "following the Lamb whithersover He goeth"!  Revelation 14:4 (KJV)  We are not leading, stumbling along in the dark, hoping we don't trip or crash into something.  The precious Lamb of God goes directly in front of us, and we are following His light.

If I couldn't see His light, if I couldn't sense His presence, I would be completely immobilized by fear and unable to go another mile in my Christian journey right now.  But, "He leadeth me, oh, blessed thought!"  He goes before us, and nothing touches us that doesn't touch Him first.  By His grace and strength, I am determined to follow the Light and press on. 

What about you, my friend?  Have things been predictable for years, and now, suddenly you have found yourself in strange, unfamiliar territory and circumstances?  Is everything foggy ahead, unclear and uncertain?  Are you afraid of what's going to happen next?  Maybe you are awaiting results of a medical test for you or a loved one.  Perhaps you don't know where the next mortgage payment is coming from or how you will continue to feed your family.  I want to encourage you to keep your focus on the Light.  He already knows the future, and He is prepared and capable of handling it with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you!  Hebrews 13:5 (KJV) 

In today's verse, Jesus went BEFORE His disciples. He had a rough road ahead of Him, and He knew they did, too.  If you continue reading, you will see in verses 33 & 34 that He told them what He was facing.  You will also see further in verse 32 that the disciples were afraid.  Things looked foggy before them.  I don't suppose there is any greater fear, than the fear of the unknown.  We all experience it, and Jesus understands. 

So, take heart, my friend!  Jesus overcame - you will, too - if you continue to place your trust in Him, focus on the Light, and let Him lead.  Do not be afraid of tomorrow; He is already there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our Footprints

"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children..."  Ephesians 5:1 (KJV)

Someone is stepping into the footprints we are leaving behind.


One day, I heard Zachary say, "Daddy, you're my hero.  I want to be just like you!"  It touched my heart, because there is no one on earth I would rather he would pattern himself after than his Daddy.  Kevin is the kindest, most gentle, and in every way the best man I know.  I am so thankful Zachary wants to be just like him.

As I listened to Zachary talk, I realized what a monumental responsibility it to is to have someone want to be "just like us."  No matter who we are, we are influencing someone.  Our actions are having an impact on at least one other person.  We are teaching by our example, whether good or bad.  Especially, if we are parents.  Our children look up to us.  We are their role models; it automatically comes with the territory. 

Nothing in my life has ever helped me as much spiritually, as having a child.  Not long after he was born, I remember rocking Zachary one day and looking down at him, realizing that I was responsible for his spiritual training.  Never mind all of the other responsiblities of parenting; this one left me feeling the most overwhelmed.  How would he be most strongly taught?  It would be by the example Kevin and I set before him...just by our lives lived in front of him every day.  "More lessons are caught than taught" and "Children learn what they live"...how true! 

As a homeschooling Mama, I feel the weight of making sure Zach receives a complete and adequate education.  I worry that something may be omitted that he will really need someday.  I try hard to give him a good balance and not let my personal opinion of certain subjects affect the way he learns.  I take it very seriously and place strong emphasis on the huge responsibility of homeschooling our child.  But, what if I am falling short on him seeing a true, living example of Jesus Christ?  How could he be better introduced to Him than by seeing his Mama and Daddy presenting Jesus in a real Christian life every day?  Whew!  May God have mercy and help me where I fall so short!

No man is an island...whether a parent or not.  I love the saying that says, "To the world you may be just someone; but to someone, you are the world."  Having Zachary makes me strive to be a better person...a better Christian.  And now I ask, who motivates YOU?  Take a mental assessment of the people in your life and evaluate your performance.  Does your daily example point them to be better?  To be more like Jesus Christ?  It isn't easy to take an honest look in the mirror, but it is necessary.

One day when our children are grown, if we live long enough, we will see what they become.  And no doubt, we will recognize fragments and effects of ourselves mirrored in them.  Will we be proud or ashamed?  These are hard thoughts to think, but they are important.  The Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 11:1 (KJV), "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."  As adults, we can distinguish between whether or not someone we admire is following Christ and whether it is safe for us to follow their example.  Our children automatically follow us without realizing they need to make that distinction.  While they are still formative, we can change the outcome and prevent regrets. 

Dad used to tell me when he was correcting me that a child is like a twig planted in the ground.  It is bendable, and whatever direction it is bent as a twig will determine the direction it grows as a tree.  He and Mom had to "straighten" my behavior many times.  I'm really glad they did. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In His Image

"So God created man in His image...male and female created He them."  Genesis 1:27

In HIS image.  In the image of Almighty God.

I stood on the scales and dreaded to look down at the digital numbers that were staring up at me.  I had tried...hard.  I had deprived myself and purposely made wise choices.  But was it enough?  I summoned the courage to look....slowly I peered at the number.  Less than one pound lost!  Actually, it was exactly eight ounces!!  My heart sank, and my whole day took a decidedly negative turn.  Why couldn't I lose weight?  What more could I do to make it happen?  I began to scold myself and feel very worthless.  Some very self-berating thoughts were going through my head. 

My dear Lord began to deal with me, and I began to feel condemnation for the self-deprecation I was inflicting.  Should numbers on a scale define who I am?  Should seeing them determine whether I am going to have a good or bad day?  In the grand scheme of life and eternity, is it really all that important?  Sure I feel guilt over allowing myself to gain the amount of weight I have gained.  I am very aware that I should definitely take better care of the temple in which God's precious Spirit dwells, and this is an area that I desperately need more self-control. 

But, it occurs to me that who I am...who I truly am...the real me deep inside is loved and cherished by my Creator.  He doesn't look on my outward appearance.  He looks on my heart, remember?  I Samuel 16:7 (KJV) says, "...for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."  Oh, what a blessing!  My failures do not alter the fact that He loves me...unconditionally...no matter what. 

My thoughts turn, as they so often do, to Zachary.  I am so glad God chose to allow me to assist Him in the miracle process of creating a new life!!  How hurtful it is to hear him put himself down and make degrading remarks when his performance is less than he knows it could have been!  It hurts because I am his mother, and he is a part of me.

How it must hurt and grieve our Heavenly Father when we degrade ourselves, and we despise the physical bodies He so carefully designed!  Psalm 139:14 (KJV) says, "I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."   Instead of focusing on the outside flaws and imperfections and areas that need improvement, I need to praise Him for the healthy body He has given and all of the amazing blessings He has bestowed.

II Corinthians 10:12 (KJV) tells us that "comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise."  When I compare myself to those around me who are thinner, prettier, or even more spiritual, I am using an unwise and man-made gauge that is not used or even recognized by my Creator.  Society places unrealistic demands and generates pressure on us, especially as women, to conform to earthly "images".  This takes our focus off of the real Image we are created in, and the Image we are endeavoring to be more like.  

So, I will continue to try hard to lose this excess weight.  I'll do the things I know I need to do...drink more water, exercise more often, and continue to endeavor to make healthier eating choices.  And I will remind myself often that God is more concerned with how closely I am conforming to His Own image than to external, fleshly standards.  And I will try to remember that even when I mess up and fall short, He loves me just the same. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Super Heroes

"And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:  for as a prince has thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."  Genesis 32:28 (KJV)

Zachary loves super heroes.  He loves buying the little action figures, and I enjoy hearing his imaginary battles with them.  He has quite the imagination!  Sometimes, the battles sound pretty intense, and I am always wondering who will win.  The super hero or the villain?  Usually, it sounds like the good guy wins, and the bad guy is destroyed.  He seems happy with the outcome....after all, he can control it, so the end result can be whatever he wants it to be. 

All of these imaginary super heroes have their own special areas of strength and power, and there is a  story behind how each of them acquired it.  Some of them have been given new names after they became who they are now.  It is something Zachary is very interested in, so I listen to his stories and watch as his face lights up with the joy of telling me things I do not know.  It is important to him, so I make it a priority to listen.

As he talks, my mind drifts off...to real-life super heroes I know and have known.  The ones I consider to be spiritual giants, who have encouraged and strengthened me in my walk with Christ.  The ones I admire and look up to as living much closer to God than I do.  Sometimes, we look at our spiritual super heroes, and all we see is their individual strengths.  We see their courage and valiance in fighting and winning battles against the enemy.  We see where they are today, but do we ever stop to wonder how they got there?  What did it cost them?  What did they go through to attain such strength and power with God?

Today's passage of Scripture speaks of Jacob, and the verse above follows an intense battle he waged with an angel.  He wrestled all night, and he made up his mind that he would not let the angel go, until he received the blessing and "power" he was seeking.  Just before daybreak, the angel gave him what he wanted, and he told him that "as a prince hast thou POWER WITH GOD and with men, and HAST PREVAILED."  What glory must have fallen on Jacob when he heard those words!  His life was forever changed after that, and the angel even gave him a new name, the name of Israel, to mark the difference!  It wasn't just any name - there was a distinct difference in the meaning.  Jacob means "supplanter" or "deceiver".  Remember how he deceived his father, Isaac?  His new name, Israel, means "a prince of God".  Jacob was changed!  Old things had passed away; behold all things had become new.  (II Corinthians 5:17)

Every battle we wage against the archenemy of our souls, (this "villain" with whom we are constantly at war), is working for good in our lives.  We will never become stronger in God or reach higher levels of spirituality by sitting on the sidelines wishing we could be like "so and so", because they are so filled with God's power.  We can look up to them and want what they have, but we are going to have to fight our own, individual battles in prayer and against satan to achieve it. 

So, who are your super heroes?  There are many spiritual giants, both in the Bible and in my personal life, who have had a profound impact on me.  Some of them have already won their ultimate battle and attained eternal victory, but many of them are still a very integral part of my life.  I look back on the ones I have studied and known through childhood and up until today, and I thank God for allowing them to be a part of my journey.  They have influenced me to go deeper in God, to be more like Christ....just by their presence in my life.  I love to read and hear their stories.  Sometimes, I just want to pull them aside and ask them how they got to where they are, and allow them to show me their battle scars.

Recently, I had the great opportunity of sitting and visiting with an older saint who has an in-depth understanding of God's Word.  It seemed that every question I asked was answered, emphatically and quickly.  I wonder how long it took him to get to where he is and what it cost him? 

I ask myself and you, my friend, do we aspire to be spiritual super heroes?  One of those giants in the faith?  Are we willing to lose a night's sleep to "wrestle" with God in prayer to get what we crave and are seeking from Him?  How bad do we want it?  It will cost us something.  The school of hard knocks is not an easy instructor.  But, as I ponder some of my spiritual super heroes, and I realize how much I admire them and the power they have attained with God in their personal lives, I come to the conclusion that it is worth it. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Storms In The Night

Storms In The Night

“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”  Psalm 34:6 (KJV)

One night, I awoke to realize it was nearing early morning, and Kevin was still not home from work.  He had told me he would be home at a certain time, and that time had passed.  I called his cell phone, and when he answered, I could hear a horrendous storm raging on the other end.  It was about 4:00 am, and he was traveling at about 25 miles per hour, trying to make his way through the 29 miles he had to drive from work to home.  There were limbs of trees strewn about in the road, a transformer exploding behind him, and torrential rain pouring down. 

Needless to say, I hit my knees.  I began to cry out to God to protect him and bring him home safe.  I started wondering why God had let the storm come now.  Why couldn’t it have waited until Kevin was safely back home?  Immediately, I heard God’s still, small voice comforting me.  He gently said, “Child, I let it happen now so that you would see that I can bring him home safe to you under the worst possible circumstances.  And I want you to know that I can carry you through the worst possible storm life may bring your way.” 

As I knelt there listening to the voice of my Heavenly Father, a sweet peace washed over me.  I could hear the storm reaching our house and the rain beginning to fall.  I opened the front door and watched as the tree branches began to sway in the ever-increasing wind blowing around our home.  I didn’t feel afraid.  I knew God had spoken to me, and I had nothing to fear.  Soon, I saw the headlights of our car in the driveway bringing Kevin home…a bit rattled, but safe and sound through God’s providential care.

I love the saying “Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes He calms His child”. 

One day, Jesus got into a boat with His disciples and He told them to pass over to the other side.  (Mark 4:35-41)  He then commenced to fall asleep in the back part of the boat, completely relaxed and calm.  A great stormy wind arose, and the waves beat into the ship.  Jesus’ disciples were terrified, and their fearful cries awoke Him.  He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still”.  The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

My dear friend, Wendy, sent me the words to a wonderful song today.  They go right along with this devotional, and I wanted to share them with you. 

YOUR CRIES HAVE AWOKEN THE MASTER
(written by Sonya Isaacs & Becky Isaacs Bowman)

VS. 1 
CROSSING THE CALM SEA WITH JESUS,
THE DISCIPLES WERE GETTING CONCERNED,
THE WINDS STARTED VIOLENTLY BLOWING,
BUT HE WAS ASLEEP IN THE STEARN;
DOES HE NOT CARE THAT WE PERISH?
WE'RE HELPLESS AND WE'RE SO AFRAID,
JESUS AROSE WHEN THEY CALLED HIM,
AND SAID TO THEM WHERE IS YOUR FAITH?


CHORUS:

BECAUSE YOU'VE PRAYED ALL NIGHT,
CAUSE YOU'VE HELD ON WITH ALL OF YOUR MIGHT,
CHILD YOUR CRIES HAVE AWOKEN THE MASTER. 
OH HE KNOWS YOUR VOICE,
LIFT YOUR HANDS IT'S TIME TO REJOICE,
CHILD YOUR CRIES HAVE AWOKEN THE MASTER.

VS. 2
 
IT HIT YOU WITHOUT ANY WARNING,
THE STORM OF YOUR LIFE HAD BEGUN,
SEEING NO HOPE IN THE DISTANCE,
YOU'RE FRIGHTENED AND NOWHERE TO RUN,
BY NOW YOUR VESSEL IS FILLING,
AND YOU'RE THINKING THAT YOU'LL SURELY DROWN,
YOU CRIED OUT FOR HELP FROM THE SAVIOR,
AND YOU KNOW YOU CANT GIVE UP NOW...

REPEAT CHORUS

VS. 3
 
YOU'RE UP THERE WORRIED THAT HE'S FAST ASLEEP,
THE WINDS ARE SO DEADLY, THE WATER'S SO DEEP,
BUT TRY TO BE PATIENT, CAUSE SOON HE'LL BRING PEACE,
JUST ONE WORD FROM HIS VOICE AND IT ALL MUST CEASE.

The most important thing we can ever do in the midst of one of life’s storms is to do what Jesus’ disciples did.  Cry out to Jesus!  It reminds me of when Zachary was a baby.  All it took was a whimper.  I could be in the soundest of sleep, but that sound would awaken me instantly.  Never mind how tired I was ….he was my child, and he needed help.

It may look like Jesus is sound asleep and that He is not aware of your situation.  But, I want to assure you that He sees you, and He can hear you…even the faintest whimper.  Sometimes the fear is so great, there are no words…just tears.  Once He hears that cry for help, you have His full, undivided attention, and a change will come to your situation.  He knew that storm would come up that day on the sea, and none of the storms in our lives ever surprise Him, either.  He is always in complete control, and as He showed me that night on my knees, He can carry us through the worst of life’s storms.  All we have to do is put our trust in Him.  That fearful night on the sea, Jesus calmed the storm; the other night on my knees, He calmed His child.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts of Autumn

“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22 (KJV)

Today, I took down the summer wreath hanging on our front door, and I replaced it with a grapevine wreath covered with fall foliage, a pretty green birdhouse, and a sign that says “welcome” at the top.  I’m a little late on catching up to it this year, but it is official at our house!  Fall has arrived, and I am loving every minute of it!  There is a special beauty to every season of the year, but my personal favorite is from the beginning of autumn until Christmas.  There is something so special about the chill in the air, the beauty of the leaves changing and falling, pumpkins and fall decorations everywhere, and the warm feeling of looking forward to long winter nights and the holidays up ahead.  There’s a song I love called “A Change In The Air” written by Clint Black and Hayden Nichols.  It pretty much sums up my feelings right about now.

There's something talkin' in the wind
Whispering through the trees
That feeling in my bones again
Just puts me right at ease
It takes me back to all the times
I've been here before
But crossroads, old familiar signs
Tell me there's something more

Can't explain, there's something strange about the early fall
It's a comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

The leaves are turning, soon they'll fall
There's a norther blowing in
The memories flow when I recall
Those changes in the wind
But I can never try to understand
It's nothing you can hold in your hand


Can't explain, there's something strange about the early fall
It's a comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air


Just as God has planned out the seasons of the year, so He has planned out the seasons of our lives.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV) says, “He hath made everything beautiful in His time…”  Each season we experience has its own unique fingerprint of God’s beauty.  I have now lived through childhood, teens, 20’s, 30’s, and am well into my 40’s.  Looking back, every season has been beautiful.  There were ups and downs, good times and bad, tears and laughter, but through it all, God led me gently by His tender hand.  I love the verse in Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)  What a comfort to know that He plans each one of our individual seasons!

Ah!  The blissful season of youth!  It is then that we sow seeds, not giving much thought to the harvest or “autumn” of our lives.  It seems so far-removed from us, at that point.  But, when we reach a certain age, we begin to recognize that we are now reaping a harvest…what we have sown has grown.

Kevin loves to garden, and I often watch him and think about the laws of sowing and reaping.  Before we head to the farm supply store to buy seeds and plants in the spring, he carefully plans out what he wants to reap when harvest-time arrives.  We know that if he sows tomato seeds, we shouldn’t expect cucumbers to come up.  If he sows watermelon seeds, we need not look for carrots.  It is the same in life.  All along the way we are sowing seeds.  Once they are sown, we cannot go back and remove them.  They will grow, and they will produce exactly what we planted.   I found a little plaque in a primitive store that is so fitting.  It says,
“Speak kind words; receive kind echoes.”   

So, even though it is a bit belated, I wish a "Happy Fall" to all!  As we enjoy the beauty of this crisp, yet heartwarming season, let us ever be mindful of the harvest we want to reap in our lives….and let us choose and sow our seeds accordingly. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Twenty-One Days

"Then he said unto me, Fear not, Daniel:  for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand...thy words were heard..."  Daniel 10:12

Miracles never cease...not when you are serving the one, true, living God!  It had been a very long 21 days....for Mom and for all of us.  At 83 years old, she had undergone emergency surgery, then spent three weeks in the hospital, and we were all utterly exhausted.  When she came home on the 21st day, it occurred to me that there is something about 21 days...3 weeks, and how it seems to come up in our lives a lot.  My thoughts turned to Daniel and how he was in the battle and fasting for 21 days.  (Daniel 10:2)  On the 21st day, the angel showed up and told him that he had been hindered in getting there sooner, but he made it clear to Daniel that God had heard his prayer the VERY FIRST DAY!!

I believe that this was true in Mom's situation.  I know God heard us on that very first day, when our hearts were broken, and we had prayed so hard for her.  I remember that night in the Emergency Room when the surgeon came in to talk to us.  He was a big, tall guy with a commanding presence.  I was sitting down as he was standing there talking to me telling me they couldn't wait until morning to do the surgery.  I said, "Do you mean you are going to do it TONIGHT?"  He said, "I mean NOW."  I felt so helpless, with him looming above me telling me they were taking Mom away in a few moments; that if they didn't, her intestines could burst at any time. 

As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, the devil reminded me that in 2008 when Mom had her colon removal operation, the surgeon had told me she would NEVER put Mom through another surgery...that she just couldn't withstand another bout of anesthesia, etc.  All of THAT came back to me with such force, and I really thought the end for Mom had come. 

The surgeon stood there and listened as I repeated all the other surgeon had told me three years ago, and when I was finished talking, he said the most amazing thing.  He said, "You're praying, aren't you?".  I stopped and looked up at him, and I said, "Yes".  He said, "WELL, it's all gonna be all right then."  I felt ashamed inside and thought, "Wow!  Where is my faith???"  This renowned surgeon is standing there reminding me that if I pray, everything will be okay.  How he knew I was praying, I do not know...but he knew.  I have a feeling he is a Christian man, and I just imagine he knows the outcome is never in his hands. 

There is a beginning and an end to every trial we go through.  Sometimes, they are 21 days long, sometimes much shorter, and many times longer.  But, Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith....in EVERY trial and situation.  (Hebrews 12:12)  He doesn't check out when we walk into a trial and leave us in the fiery furnace to suffer alone.  He walks into the flames with us, He stays in there the whole time, and He walks us out on the other side....no matter how long it takes. 

Seeing Mom come into her little apartment on that 21st day was a modern-day, divine miracle.  It reinforced my faith in a very profound way, and it reminded me that I serve the same God Daniel served.  God is not a respecter of persons; He doesn't love one person more than He does another.  (Acts 10:34)  The main thing He is looking for in us is faith and persistence like Daniel had to keep praying, even when it seemed that nothing was happening.

Do you have a burden upon your heart?  Does it seem the night will never end?  Have you prayed for a long time, only to feel that your prayers are not being heard?  I want to assure you that God heard your cry...the very first time you prayed and every time after that.  He is always listening.  He never sleeps.  And just because you haven't seen the answer yet, doesn't mean He is not working on your problem. 

God is still the same, and He still answers prayer.  May we never forget that!  Daniel's prayer was heard that very first day, even though he didn't realize it.  He kept praying and fasting and interceding to God for the burden that was upon his heart.  God knows the outcome of every situation in your life, my friend.  You may not see immediate results, but I promise you the answer is on its way.  Keep praying and knocking on Heaven's door.  Who knows, today could be your "21st day!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Last Quail

“…But (Christ) made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”  Philippians 2:7 (KJV)

He made Himself of no reputation.  The Son of God.  The Creator of the Universe.  The Lord of lords and King of kings made Himself of no reputation.  He was in Heaven living in a perfect world, at one with His Father.  He could have stayed there and empathized with mankind from a distance.  Isn’t that what we would all rather do?  Empathize from a distance?  But, He made the choice to leave Heaven, come down, and do what?  Live the life of a king?  Be born in a palace with servants to do His bidding and live all of His days in luxury and peace?  Is this what Jesus did?  Quite the opposite…He made Himself of no reputation.  He laid it all down.  He took upon Him the form of a servant.  Lowered Himself to the lowest station in life…intentionally. 

Have you ever felt walked on?  Abused?  Neglected?  Totally disregarded?  Like your opinions don’t count, your feelings aren’t important, and it doesn’t really matter to others how they are treating you?  Please allow me to share a lesson with you that God got across to me a while back.  I was in a very trying place, endeavoring to do my utmost, yet completely trodden down by the ones around me.  The devil was really having a “hay day” bringing a lot of non-Christlike thoughts to my mind, and I was feeling like I should maybe stand up for myself.  To stop letting people treat me as if I were invisible and as if my opinions didn’t matter, though I was in a position where they should have had the utmost regard. 

One day, I was doing school with Zachary, and he was studying the pecking order of quails.  The top quail can peck all of the other quails, but none of them are allowed to peck back.  The second quail in the pecking order can peck everyone except the first quail.  The third quail can peck everyone except the first two.  On and on it goes, until we reach the last quail.  The very last quail.  This quail can be pecked by ALL of the other quails; yet it cannot peck back.  No matter what.  The still, small voice of our loving Lord spoke to me that day, and He said, “Child, that is you.  You are the last quail.”  I thought, “But, Lord, that is not fair.  They are not doing me right.”  And, I went on and on trying to convince our all-wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father that surely there was a mistake.  I should not be going through all of this.  That it was too much.  That I didn’t deserve it., and how hard I was trying to do my best.  On and on I talked, when finally, gently, God spoke to me and reminded me of the cross!  Of Jesus hanging there, though He didn’t have to.  Of the self-sacrificing life He lived so that I could have this great salvation!

I felt so ashamed.  How could ANYthing I ever go through compare even in the smallest degree with what He suffered for me?  He MADE Himself of no reputation.  When the abusers were inflicting their injustices, He didn’t cry out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing???  Do you know Who I am???  You have no right to hurt Me.  I created you.  I shouldn’t be serving YOU.  You should be serving Me!”  The Bible says, He answered not a word.  Not a word.  No retaliation.  No pecking back. He was a servant to all of mankind…by choice.  It is hard for my mind to comprehend that. 

So, who am I to retaliate and want my “rights”?  When I am being “pecked” repeatedly by those who really don’t care about how I feel or what is going on with me, do I really have the right to peck back?  Am I not called a CHRISTian?  Doesn’t that give a clue as to how I am to respond?  How short I fall in my endeavors to be like Him!  If being “the last quail” makes me more like Christ, then my heart says “amen”!  And, look at Him now!  He is seated back in Heaven at the right hand of His Father!  One day, by His grace, by following the same path He did, I plan to be there with Him.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Grace


“But He giveth more grace…”  James 4:6 (KJV)


I remember the first time I met her.  I knew the minute she walked in, she was not your typical, run-of-the-mill customer.  She sat down across the desk from me, and it didn’t take me long to realize I was going to need “more grace”.  The average amount it took to get through a day in my job as a bank Customer Service Representative was just not going to cut it in my present situation.  I took a deep breath and settled in for whatever abuse she decided to inflict. 

One of the aspects of our training taught us that people have one of four predominant personality types.  The driver is the strong, bossy, take-charge type who takes command of any situation and expects everyone else to follow their lead.  The promoter is the energetic, optimistic type who could sell just about anything by their enthusiasm alone.  The socializer is the outgoing, friendly, social-butterfly type who never meets a stranger and would rather be doing just about anything other than working.  And lastly, there is the thinker.  This is the serious, studious type who loves details and never makes a decision on impulse.

I figured out pretty quickly that the lady seated at my desk could have been the driver poster girl.  She continually commanded her poor husband to do this and to do that.  Evidently, he was used to it, by the way he so quickly complied to her every whim.  It occurred to me that he had probably learned long ago that he would never win an argument, so he may as well cooperate. 

We settled in to the transaction, and it turned out that this was not a financially-deprived couple.  She tossed a check onto my desk with an amount that made me take a second look.  I began to make suggestions based on what I thought would be their best investment opportunity.  No matter what recommendation I made, she quickly found something wrong with it.  Nothing pleased her.  She fussed and fumed and complained over pretty much everything I said.  I knew what was on the line – this was a lot of money, and it was my job to not let it walk out the door. 

I was fighting impatience and frustration over the apparent impossibility of pleasing this woman.  I had just about run out of ideas, and she still wasn’t satisfied.  It was then that I felt it – an internal infusion of God’s answer to my silent prayers.  And how welcome and timely it was!  God gave “more grace”.  Oh, how good God is!  I turned to look at this obviously miserable woman, and this time I tried to see her through Jesus’ eyes.  I listened to her, and I gave validation to her complaining.  The wonderful grace of God eased the tension, and she ended up opening the account and leaving happy…well, as close to happy as this sad woman was capable.

That transaction began a long-standing banking relationship, and as time went on, I saw her often.  Each time, she was complaining and very, very hard to deal with.  For some reason, she began to trust me.  She even got to the point where she would call me just to talk.  None of my co-workers could tolerate her belligerence.  I would listen and empathize with her.  It turned out that she was harboring a lot of bitterness.  She had wanted children, but due to circumstances beyond her control, that dream had never become a reality.  She had been hurt and mistreated and abused.  The wounds had turned her into someone who continually did the same hurtful things to others. 

God kept giving “more grace”, and over time, we became friends.  She invited Kevin and me to her home for pumpkin pie and coffee, and she and her husband went out to dinner with us.  There came a day when I was transferred to another branch, and slowly, I began to hear from her less and less.  One day, I heard the news that she had gone into a restaurant, fallen suddenly to the floor, and died instantly. 

Memories flooded my mind of the first time I met her up until I stopped hearing from her.  It was then I realized God’s grace is sufficient in every circumstance, with every person, no matter how difficult they may be.  (II Corinthians 12:9)  I feel like God placed a challenge in front of me with this customer, and He wanted me to go the extra mile to prove the sufficiency of His grace.  It was a challenge I was incapable of rising to on my own, but the grace of God did what I could never do.

Do you know someone who requires “more grace” in order to get along with them?  God’s well of grace never runs dry.  It will enable you to be kind, no matter how you are being treated.  We never know how long we will have to “put up with” a difficult person.  But, no matter how long they are in our life, God’s grace will be there.  When you feel you have reached the end of your endurance, and you are ready to quit, remember God still has “more grace”.  No matter how much grace you’ve used up, He will always have more.  And He always gives it when we need it most.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Broken Hearts

Jesus came “…to bind up the broken hearted…” Isaiah 63:1

I sat in the hospital waiting for the staff to return my mother from the radiology department.  They were doing yet another CT scan to further understand her condition.  I listened to the constant hustle and bustle of the doctors, nurses, Xray techs, CNAs, and lab employees going back and forth past the room.  Medical technology amazes me.  Solomon said in Ecclesisastes 7:29 that man has “sought out many inventions”.  They have invented diagnostic machines to see inside every internal organ of the body….right through the layers of skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments…right down to the bone. 

As I waited, I began to ponder the current events in our lives and things we are going through.  It occurred to me that there is a part of me that will never show up on an Xray, CT scan, PET scan, MRI, or Ultrasound.  It will never be able to be diagnosed by a doctor, because even he/she cannot see it or identify my condition.  I can describe it to him/her, I can name out all of its symptoms, but it can’t be seen with the human eye or a machine.  Therefore, they can only speculate and prescribe some form of medicine to treat and mask the symptoms.  But, I know what it is.  I don’t need anyone to tell me.  I’ve had it before.  Since I’m a survivor, I know very well, firsthand how to recognize it.  I have a broken heart.

There’s only One Who can diagnose my condition; and only One Who can heal it.  He sees through every layer within me, not just physical layers of this mortal body that will one day return to dust.  He sees through the layers of emotional “muscles” that have been torn, feelings that have been crushed, heartaches that have been inflicted, right down into the inside of the broken pieces of my heart.  I mean that innermost, deepest part of my being that only God can see.  He has never relinquished that knowledge to mankind.  I’m kind of glad He hasn’t, because how sweet it is to know that there is something only He can do….with His Own two nail-scarred hands.

I love today’s verse.  In fact, I love that whole passage of Scripture in Isaiah 61:1-3.  It is a prophecy of Jesus Christ, and it gives the whole reason for the Messiah being sent to earth from Heaven.  Read this first verse, as if HE is saying it to YOU, because in reality He is…you are the one He is speaking to today.  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…” 

When I was little, I thought there was no one in the world like my brother-in-law, Bruce.  He had married the sister who was closest to my age, and he made over me like I was someone special.  One time, we were having a family picnic at the park.  I wandered off alone on my bike, ended up going way too fast down a hill, flipped over the top of the handlebars, and landed in the ditch.  I was terrified and shaking, as I walked my bike up the hill to where my family was.  Bruce sat me down on the picnic table and checked out my injuries.  It turned out I had a severely sprained wrist that would plague me for weeks to come.  But, somehow it didn’t hurt so much because Bruce took the time to care.  Comfort and kindness goes a long way in the healing process.

You say, “No one knows what I am going through.  No one sees the tears, and even if they do, they don’t understand.”  Ah, yes, my friend!  There is One Who does understand!  We don’t have a high priest Who cannot be touched with our pain!  He was tempted in ALL POINTS when He was on this earth, and through it all, He never sinned.  (Hebrews 4:15) 

Do you know that Jesus suffered a broken heart?  Why do you think He groaned from the depths of His soul on the cross and said, “My God!  My God!  Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  That cry wasn’t because of the gaping wounds from the scourging.  It wasn’t because each time He tried to take one more agonizing breath, His torn and mutilated back was raked back and forth across the wooden splinters of the cross.  It wasn’t because He couldn’t reach up and wipe away the continual flowing of blood into His eyes from the crown of thorns that was pressing down into His skull.   No, my dear friend, it was because He felt forsaken.  Alone.  Abandoned.  The deepest part of His being was crying out to His Father for help.  For answers.  For solace. 

Jesus’ very purpose in coming to this hurting world was to BIND UP OUR BROKEN HEARTS.  Why would He leave the perfection of Heaven, only to come to an earth where He was rejected, tormented, persecuted, and eventually killed?  He came to receive a broken heart so He could heal ours when they break.  Can you imagine?  What would drive such a decision?  How can you even measure that kind of love?  To intentionally and voluntarily suffer the pain of a broken heart, just so you can have a deeper empathy and heal someone else, goes beyond any love man has ever known. 

Do you have a broken heart?  Is there a place inside you that hurts so much you feel you can’t take anymore?  Do you cry in silence, feeling no one sees or even cares?  Have you tried to explain and no one understands?  Don’t give up!  There is hope!  It is in One Person.  It is in the One Person Who loves you so much He died for you.  He didn’t promise our hearts would never break; He promised to bind them up when they do.  And He came to prove it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Missing Dad


“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5 (KJV)

Today is Dad’s birthday.  I guess I will always think about him a little more than usual on this date every year.  Not that he isn’t always a part of my thinking, and not that he doesn’t always occupy a precious spot in my heart reserved just for him. 

Dad was a very humble, unassuming man, and he never cared much whether we made an occasion out of his birthday or not.  But, Kevin and I always tried to make his birthday extra-special.  Dad loved to eat, and we spent many happy birthdays in restaurants he enjoyed. 

Dad and Kevin had a special bond.  Long before the “redneck” jokes, Dad would often call at suppertime and ask Kevin, “Jeet jet?” (In everyday English, did you eat yet?).  It was a long-running joke between the two of them, and that is just the way Dad spoke. 

Dad has been gone from us for over 11 years now.  His home going to Heaven left a huge, gaping hole in all of our hearts.  It is amazing how much I still miss him.  He had suffered with so many physical ailments for so long, it came as such a shock when he left us.  I guess we had become accustomed to his chronic illnesses, so we assumed the last time he entered the hospital would end like all the times before….he would get better and come home.

One of the most perplexing mysteries of my life is the fact that Dad never got to meet Zachary.  I was 11 ½ weeks along in my pregnancy when God called Dad home.  I remember the day Kevin and I knelt by our sofa, praying to God for our unborn child.  Dad had just died, and our hearts were not only grieving over losing him, but over the fact that he would not be there when our baby was to be born six months later.  I remember how hard I cried as I listened to Kevin asking God to somehow let the spirit of the unborn child he was sending to us connect with Dad’s spirit that had departed and was on its way back to Him.  I guess it sounds like an unusual and far-fetched way to pray, but it was so heartfelt and somehow, it comforted me to think that their paths could possibly cross.  Zachary and Dad would have loved each other so much.  I am amazed at how much they are alike, and how much Zach reminds me of Dad.  So, maybe somehow, God answered that prayer.

I miss baking Dad a birthday cake and doing little things for him.  I know he is enjoying eternal bliss far beyond anything I could ever do for him, and the treasures of Heaven far outweigh any earthly joy.  I know he would not come back if God gave him the choice, and he is in a place where there is no more pain.  If he could send me a message, I think he would tell me not to grieve.  I can just hear him urging me to stay true to God and to be faithful, because he surely wouldn’t want me to miss what he is enjoying right now. 

I can only imagine his face when he first saw Heaven.  One time, he flew from where we lived in Florida to his home-state of Tennessee to attend a funeral.  I remember he was so excited when he called to tell me about the flight.  He kept saying how I wouldn’t believe it and it was just gigantic.  Imagine how he felt when he first saw what God has prepared for those who love Him!  I don’t know all of the ins and outs about where we immediately go when we die in the Lord.  I’ve heard many theories, but we know that believers, who die, definitely go to a place of rest.  And we know that on that final Judgment day, Heaven will be their eternal home.  It gives me great comfort to know that Dad is resting, that he isn’t hurting, that the deep worry lines on his face have all been erased, and he is safe with Jesus.

I guess I would never bring him back…even if I had the power.  It would be a most selfish thing to do, when I consider the troubled life he had to live.  If anyone ever deserved Heaven, it was Dad.  I miss him terribly…but I am so thankful to know Jesus is looking out for him now.  He would have turned 77 today.  Now he is in a place where he will never grow old. 

So, “Happy Birthday, Dad”.  I wish I could sing it to you, one more time.  Lord willing, one special day, we will sing together again….with the angels. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Picky Eaters


Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:  for they shall be filled”  Matthew 5:6 (KJV)

I sat at the table, frustrated as I urged Zachary to eat for the umpteenth time.  “But, Mama, I don’t like meatloaf!” he piped back to me….for the umpteenth time.  I then commenced into my speech of, “I can’t cook more than one meal at a time.  You have to eat what is put in front of you.  When I was little, I had to eat whatever my Mom put on my plate.  There are starving children in other parts of the world.  They would love to have your meatloaf”….you know, the over-used phrases we all quote to our children, because we worry they aren’t eating enough and getting proper nutrition.  As usual, my speech didn’t work, and I ended up giving his meatloaf to the dogs. 

We all know what goes in to making a meal for our families.  And how frustrating it is to come to the table, only to find out they don’t like what we cooked.  Or worse yet, when they come to the table full because they have been sneaking snacks in between meals!  How fulfilling it is to our nurturing, wifely, motherly hearts for our families to come to the table hungry….and liking what they see when they get there!  It just fills us up with joy to watch them relish every bite, and to see them go back for seconds…well, that thrills us beyond words! 

I thought about how hard it is to cook for a picky eater and how frustrated I get repeating over and over “but this is so good for you” and “just try it” and “please just take a bite to see if you like it”.  Then, I thought about our Heavenly Father.  He sets a bountiful table before us each and every time we sit down to read His Word or sit through a sermon at church.  Do you know we can be very picky spiritual eaters?  God knows our spiritual nutritional needs, and He plans our spiritual meals accordingly.  But sometimes when we get to the table, we don't like what we see, or should I say, hear.

You know, sometimes we don't want to eat what is put before us, because the presentation isn't exactly what we had in mind.  How many times have I missed an important spiritual nutrient because I just didn’t like the preacher?  Maybe I had noticed somewhere down the line that they were human, and I reasoned away their message by zoning in on the fact that they were flawed and imperfect.  Or maybe I just really didn’t want to hear that I lack patience, or I need to spend more time in prayer, or I need to be more dedicated. 

So, I pushed back my spiritual plate, and I sat there with my arms crossed, making up my mind that I was not going to “eat”, much less digest, what God had so carefully planned for me and what the minister had labored many hours to prepare.  There are many ways I can reason it away and justify myself.  If one excuse or alibi doesn’t work, well, I can quickly come up with another one.

Preachers are human.  They are chosen instruments God has called to bring forth His Word and necessary truths to the people.  They aren’t perfect, by any means.  They all have different methods of delivering the burden God has given them.  But, whether or not we like the minister on a personal level, we will still be held accountable for the truth they put on our spiritual plates. 

God sets the table before us, and He loves to see us come to the table hungry.  He loves for us to soak up His Word and rake it in, no matter who presents it to us or how He gets the truth across to us.  Some of His Word is more easily chewed than others.  We all love to eat up sermons on God’s love for us and how special we are to Him.  But, what about when the message He sends is about loving those who hurt us; laying aside sin in our lives so we can draw closer to Him; or resigning our will to His in order to accomplish what He wants to do through our lives?

God will feed us if we are hungry.  And, it isn’t always in a traditional setting, like our personal devotions or sitting on a church pew.  Remember when the children of Israel asked the question, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” Psalm 78:19 (KJV)  It seemed incredible to them, but they found out that He absolutely could!  Right there, in the most unlikely place, He fed them and cared for their needs. 

Through the years, God has spoken to me through some very unlikely channels.  And, I have been spiritually fed and nourished in places far removed from church buildings.  I have learned to open up my mind and heart to listen and to recognize when it is Him endeavoring to meet my spiritual needs.  God knows where we are deficient, and He faithfully "sets a table before us" filled with all the goodness and bounty Heaven has to offer!  The rest is up to us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Heavenly Places

“…And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”  Ephesians 2:6 (KJV)


What elevation!  What wonder!  To think that God would reach down to sinful man and raise him up, bring him into contact with others who have been raised up, and that He would allow us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!  It is glorious to read about, to dream about, to wish for….but, when it happens to you, it is a wonderful, life-changing experience.

I just experienced one of those heavenly places.  I found myself surrounded by people who were some of the most sweet-spirited, full-of-the-love-of-Jesus, Godly people I have ever met.  People who were so filled with the Spirit of God that there was an actual heavenly, holy atmosphere surrounding them.  People who made me want to dig deeper in God to attain the heights of spirituality they have achieved.  People who aren’t afraid to freely worship and praise God!

As I sat there basking in God’s glory, drinking it in like a very thirsty sponge, they began to sing the beautiful, old hymn penned by Doris Akers, “Sweet, Sweet Spirit”…

There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place,
And I know that it's the Spirit of the Lord.
There are sweet expressions on each face,
And I know that it's the presence of the Lord.

Sweet, Holy Spirit, sweet, Heavenly Dove,
Stay right here with us, filling us with your love,
And for these blessings, we lift our hearts in praise,
Without a doubt, we'll know that we have been revived,
When we shall leave this place.

I have loved this song for years, but it truly took on new meaning to me when I heard it this time.  Being there, hearing firsthand the voices of God’s people singing it out of pure and clean hearts that had been completely filled with the precious Spirit of God, almost overwhelmed me.  This was real.  The people singing these words were singing from true life experience of knowing and walking with the Spirit they were singing about.  We were sitting together in a heavenly place in Christ Jesus.  It spiritually refreshed and revived me more than anything has in a very long time.

As I thought back over those precious services and the powerful blessings I received, I began to ponder on how they happened.  What was the component that had been lacking in my worship for so long?  The thought came to me that God inhabits the praises of His people.  (Psalm 22:3)  To sit in a heavenly place in Christ Jesus, to be elevated up into that realm of worship, we must praise God.  We must worship Him and exalt His name. 

Too many years, I sat through so-called “worship” services, only to feel underlying tension, resentment, and discord in the spiritual atmosphere of the congregation.  Those types of services are earthbound, and my soul longed and cried out for heavenly places in Christ Jesus!  I yearned to rise above the carnal…to reach the spiritual.  God inhabits praise!  That is where He dwells.  That is what He deserves.  To enter those “heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, we must praise.  That unlocks the door!  David had discovered this profound truth when he wrote, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise:  be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.”  Psalm 100:4 (KJV)

Man was created with a longing that only God can fill.  Our immortal souls cry out for intimacy with our Creator.  He has so much for us!  Heaven will be beyond wonderful, but we can have a foretaste of Heaven right here by entering these heavenly places in Christ Jesus!  I am so grateful to be a part of the earthly body of Christ!  It transcends denominations, sects, man-made creeds, groups, and labels.  It is hard to leave the kind of atmosphere I described above, and it saddens our hearts to part ways.  But, just think!  One day there will be no good-byes, and a “heavenly place” will be our permanent home!