Saturday, March 31, 2012

Knowing We Belong

"God setteth the solitary in families..."  Psalm 68:6 (KJV)

God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform....
(familiar words from the old hymn written by William Cowper.)

I love the magazine Country Sampler.  Any other fans out there?  I've been reading it and subscribing to it for years.  I so enjoy seeing how other people decorate their homes with primitives, antiques, and other country paraphernalia.  When it comes in the mail every other month (if only they would print it monthly!), I hold off looking at it until I have some free, uninterrupted time....when I can just relish every page and study the vignettes and styles of the homeowners who are being featured.


The other day, I was looking at the Home Tour Edition...a special issue they put out only once a year filled with no less than 12 homes to look at.  It is a primitive decorator's dream!  To see all of the great ideas people come up with and all of the latest groupings.

As I was flipping through the pages, I came across a beautifully-decorated home in Kentucky.  As I gazed at the pictures, I began to read the article that accompanied them.  Lo, and behold, the city where it is located rang a bell with me as being the place Mom's first husband, Eddie, was originally from.  Then I saw the names of the homeowners, and would you believe their last name was the same as his?
I thought...they just have to be related somehow!

So, I began my investigative work, found their phone number, and asked Mom if she had the nerve to call them.  She said she did!  She called and found them to be so friendly, warm, and easy to talk to.  At first, they couldn't make the connection, but later Mom got a phone call back from a first cousin to my four siblings!  It turns out, they are related, and have made contact with my brother, who is super-excited over finding some long-lost relatives.

I think it was meant to be.  I mean, who would have thought that out of all of the homeowners in America, I would come across one that is related to my siblings?  I think it is so neat, and it is my hope that my brother can get together with them, since they don't live so far from each other.


It seemed to cheer Mom up....a LOT....to get to talk to someone like that.  I started thinking about it, after hearing the excitement in her voice, and of course, I began to analyze and wonder what it is that causes things like that to make us so happy.  Why do we have this driving need to connect or re-connect....with those who are a part of our past?

It hit me that it is our need to belong.  Our need to feel like we are a part of something....a unit....a family.  And, even though these new found friends are not blood-relation to Mom, and are related to her only through her first  marriage, they knew a lot of the same people Mom used to know and are blood-relation to her children.  She loved talking about old times with them...hearing names that she hadn't heard in years....knowing there are still people alive who remember....who care.
It seemed to fill a deep need in Mom.

We all need a sense of belonging.  Family is so important.  The older I get, the more I realize that and long for it.  Knowing we are connected with others makes us not feel so alone.  Especially, when we live far away from where we were raised and we don't have a lot of family close-by and it is so hard to find anything familiar or from our roots.

In the Garden of Eden, after God had created a perfect paradise for Adam to enjoy, He realized that something important was missing, and He said this, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."  

God knew that Adam needed someone...to share his life, to be there for him, to fill the loneliness, to love him, to walk through life with him.  So, He brought a deep sleep upon Adam, and He removed one of Adam's ribs, and using that rib, He created a woman.  

They became a unit.  They belonged to each other.  They filled the void in each other's hearts.  
They made each other complete.

We all need to know that we belong.  That there are others who love us and care about what happens to us.  It is a deep, important yearning in each and every one of us.  
To be without that support and comfort, would make for a very lonely, solitary life.

I'm glad God, our Creator, knows what we need.  I'm glad He cares about the details.  I'm thankful for all of the wonderful people who make up the unit of my family....my heritage....where I belong.  It isn't so much a geographical location as it is a connection of hearts.  No matter the distance or how often we see each other, we always know we are related, we are connected, and we belong.  How comforting that is!


So, thank you, Country Sampler, for being such a great, heartwarming magazine....and for featuring that lovely Kentucky home whose owners ended up being a connection to the past of a lonely, elderly lady who is so dear to my heart.  

You made her smile.....and you made my day.  :)


Friday, March 30, 2012

Out of Bounds

"But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord."  2 Samuel 11:27  (KJV)

When I was attending Bible College, I would drive the 180 mile trip home on the weekends to be with Mom and Dad.  The trip included a very long stretch of travel across Alligator Alley.  It earned its name.  While driving, it wasn't unusual to look over and see an alligator sunning itself on a log in the canal that ran alongside the road.  


It used to give me the creeps.  I would often think how horrible it would be to run off the road and end up in their terrain.  It was rightfully theirs.  They were on their own turf.  For me to enter and be in their space, would be a complete intrusion, and the result of whatever happened surely wouldn't be their fault.  It would be mine....should I end up there.

As long as I stayed on the road, I was safe.  I could view them from a distance, and I could drive in peace, knowing they were where they were supposed to be, and I was, too.  

At times, I could see the alligators.  I knew some of them were there.  Others were lurking...under the water...on hidden logs....camouflaged on the bank and hard to spot.  But, even though I couldn't see all of them, I knew they were there.  To pretend they weren't....to override the warnings....to step into that water...would have been completely foolish and asking for trouble.

There are boundaries in nature that should never be crossed...such as the fence on Alligator Alley keeping the alligators away from humans.

There are also boundaries in life that should never be passed over.  There is a rightful place for each of us, and to step out of that...to go beyond it....is to step out of bounds and place ourselves in harm's way.....on the devil's turf and tramping ground.  Whatever happens after that....well, it is just too big of a chance to take.

God has placed the boundaries not to restrict our lives and trap us in, but to keep damaging influences out.  Boundaries provide an umbrella of protection.  They keep us safe.  

Unfortunately, we can't always see the danger spots.  We've all been warned to flee temptation....to stay off it's turf.  Because even though some of it is out in the open and easy to identify, what about the hidden land mines and the ones lurking under the surface that are harder to spot?  

Isn't it just best to stay inside the boundary lines?  

Wouldn't it be wise to play it safe?  To not drift across the fence?  

The grass always looks greener...until you're standing in it....looking back over the fence...at what you used to have and where you used to be and who you used to be with.

Then it doesn't look so green anymore.

If we never cross the fence, we won't have to worry about the jeopardy of being on forbidden territory or the consequences that will ultimately ensue.

David found out the hard way that it just wasn't worth it.

It all started with him looking "over the fence" at something.....or rather someone, he shouldn't have.  

Bathsheba wasn't his.  She was married...to another.  

It didn't stop him.  He gazed over the fence...at temptation.....past his boundaries....for too long.  

She was so beautiful.  His better judgment left him.  He must have her...for his own.

Soon, the fence was no longer important.  It became an obstacle that was keeping him from what he wanted.  So, he crossed over it.  He silenced his conscience, and he stepped out of bounds...way out of bounds.

Before he knew it, he had committed adultery, found out she was expecting his child, then called her husband, Uriah, home from a fierce battle to give him time with her to make it look like the child was his.  

David's carefully-laid plan backfired when Uriah refused to go home to Bathsheba overnight.  Uriah was a noble, loyal, good man.  He felt guilty even considering enjoyment, knowing his men were in the heat of the battle.  So, he slept away from home that night...in uncomfortable surroundings, just like his men were doing on the battlefield.

Now what???

It would soon be found out that Bathsheba was expecting a child.

It would soon be found out that she had not been with her husband.

Then how would David look?  

He was the King of Israel.  He had a reputation to maintain.  His sin must never be found out.

David, what were you thinking??

His next move never ceases to shock me.  

Time was of the essence.  He had to move quickly.  He sent word to the battlefield to strategically place Uriah on the front line...in a position that would guarantee certain death.  Sure enough, Uriah, being the loyal soldier he was, faithfully obeyed David's orders.  
And he lost his life.  

Ah!  Now, David would never have to look into his faithful servant's eyes and feel the guilt over what he had done behind his back.  

But, the cost?  Was it worth it, David?  Was she worth it?

Now that Uriah was out of the picture and after Bathsheba had completed her mourning, David married her.  Soon, her pregnancy was apparent.  But, no one was the wiser.  No one knew when the conception had taken place.

Except the One Who has an all-seeing eye.

In due time, the baby was born.

And as God would have it, He revealed David's deeds to the prophet, Nathan.  He came to pay David a visit and confronted him with the truth.  As was David's usual reaction, he humbled himself and came clean.  How could he hide?  For a whole year, he had lived with the heaviness of guilt and remorse and tried to keep it secret.  I think I detect a sense of relief in 2 Samuel 12 during his and Nathan's conversation...just to know that his sins were finally out in the open.  

God always sees....everything we do.  We can hide nothing from Him.

David's punishment?  Nathan told him what it would be, and sure enough, it happened.

The baby....it became gravely ill.  David's heart was broken....severely.  He spent all night face down on the earth praying and pleading to God to spare his baby's life.  For six, long, agonizing days, the child hung in the balance...between life and death.  

On the seventh day, the baby died.

I'm glad God is forgiving.  I'm glad He is merciful.  That even when we fail and fall short, He still loves us.  

He forgave David, but He did not take away the consequences of his actions.

He will forgive us, but sadly, the repercussions still remain.  The regret still torments.  The remorse still stings.

As I trace the path of David's disobedience, it amazes me how one sin just seemed to call for another.  

An adulterous, hidden, secret affair.  
An unwanted and completely unplanned pregnancy.  
Hypocrisy.
Lies and living a lie.  
Betrayal.  
A wickedly plotted conspiracy.  
Murder.  
Cover-up and deceit for one full year.
Would he have ever dreamed he would go so far?  
The day he was on his roof?  
When he spotted Bathsheba taking a bath on hers?  
Could he have even comprehended the horrific lengths he would go to in order to make her his own?  

In Psalm 51, we read the prayer David prayed after it was all over.  After the dust had settled, the lust had been satisfied, the consequences had been dealt and carried out....he was a sorry, sad, penitent man.  

Giving in to temptation always ends up hurting us in the end.


Isn't it best just to walk away from it?  To turn and run in the opposite direction?  To stay off it's turf?  To not take chances of being bit?

At the end of the day, all things considered, no matter how tempting it looks, I think it is better to do the right thing....in the first place, don't you?  











Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Thousand Words

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son..."  Hebrews 1:1, 2  (KJV)

A picture is worth a thousand words....and a thousand memories.  Just one glance can conjure up long-dead feelings buried deep within the heart.  Just a glimpse can transport you back in time...to that very moment....to that very place....to where and when the picture was taken.


Our neighbor was dying of cancer.  A short time earlier, he and his wife had bought a house several miles away from us, and in the process of their move, he was physically unable to dig up and take along his beloved angel trumpet shown in the picture above.  Soon after they left, it was in full bloom, and it was beautiful.  He was becoming weaker by the day, and he was unable to make the ride back to see it blooming one more time.

So, Kevin and I took several pictures of it and drove the distance to their new home, so he could look at them and remember how things looked outside the window of their home next door to us.  He sat in his bed and looked at the pictures for a long time.

"How are things at the cabin?" he asked as he looked up at me.

"They're fine, Ed.  Just fine."  I assured him.

The pictures were proof.

It seemed to give him peace to see something familiar....in the pictures.  He seemed comforted.  And though he couldn't go there, be there in person, it was enough.


All through the Old Testament, God gave glimpses of Himself to those He had created.  He even chose certain people to reveal Himself to in a more vivid way.  But, to actually see Him...to be able to really get a true picture of who He was...in the flesh...was just a far distant dream to those who longed to see Him and know Him on such a personal level.

One day, He was born...to a human mother....as an infant.  And in that moment, God became flesh.

He lived on earth, as a human.  He grew.  He aged.  He matured.  He laughed.  He cried.  He comforted.  He healed.  He hurt.  He loved....beyond the scope of any other human being...ever.

In the form of Jesus Christ, God presented a photograph of Himself to this world.


Those who wanted to see God, had only to look upon the human form of Jesus.  They could touch Him, feel Him touch them, talk to Him, hear Him talk back to them.  He was the living, breathing image of Almighty God.

I love reading about Him.  I wish there were more than four books dedicated to the actual events of His everyday life while He was here.  When I read the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I soak it in like a sponge.  It is a picture...of God.  Walking, breathing, living....in a body, just like yours and mine.

I'm glad I am living now....after Jesus came.  I'm glad I can pick up the Holy Bible and look at the beautiful pictures portrayed there of Jesus and His life on earth.  I'm glad I can view what the Old Testament saints could only see dimly from afar off.  And even though I sometimes wish I would have lived during those 33 1/2 years of His earthly life and been able to know Him the way Mary and Martha and Lazarus and the 12 disciples did, I am very grateful that I can at least go back and look at the pictures these dedicated writers drew through their prolific words.

Jesus said in Matthew 13:17 (KJV), "For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them."

Isn't it wonderful that you and I have such a privilege each time we open our Bible to the first four books of the New Testament?  It is just like looking at a photo album of the life of Christ.

I'm glad Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John took the time to write it all down.  There must have been so much they had to leave out.  None of them could record it all.  John said at the end of his version of Jesus' life in John 21:25 (KJV), "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."

Oh, I wish they would have...could have written more!  I read and re-read and read it again, and I am still longing to see more....more pictures of Him.  I crave more knowledge of Him.  I want to know everything about Him I possibly can.  I hunger and thirst for Him and His ways, and I long for Him to fill me....completely....with Himself....His Spirit.

Seeing the pictures just makes me want to see Him....to know Him....even more.

Right now, I see Him through the eyes of faith....looking at pictures...painted a long time ago.
One day, my faith will be lost in sight...the actual sight of Him!
Coming with tens of thousands of angels!
For me...and you....to take us home.
No more to look at pictures.....but Him...face-to-face...forever!

"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face..."  I Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

Have you looked at the pictures lately?  Is there dust on your Bible?  Feeling lonely for the sight of Him?

Why not brush off the dust and spend some time today....in His photo album...looking at the pictures?

You'll be glad you did.  :)



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All We Need To Know

"As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child:  even so thou knowest not the works of God Who maketh all."  Ecclesiastes 11:5 (KJV)

We sat trying to put our heads together, trying to figure them out.  

Zachary's math problems....they get harder by the day.

And although I had the answers, right there in plain view, in the score key, that just wasn't enough for me.  I wanted to know the "whys" and "wherefores".  It seemed that there was no consistency in a certain line of problems he had been working on, and I wanted to figure out why.

All at once, the light came on, and Zachary said, "Mama, I got it!  I think I understand!"  He then went on to try his utmost to explain it to me.  

It just wasn't clicking.  

He was patient, and after trying several times to make me see the logic, he looked at me, patted my arm, and sweetly said, 
"Mama, it's okay.  Really.  Just so I get it.  You don't have to understand."

Such wisdom he spews from his young mouth!

I guess I don't really have to understand the "ins" and "outs" of geometry.  Obviously, whatever I learned all those years ago, has long-since escaped me since I never used the information again.

But, it still bugs me.  I still want to figure out why sometimes it works out one way, and sometimes it works out another.  And why there seems to be no rhyme or reason running throughout a series of certain types of problems.  

I am very thankful God has blessed Zachary with a sharp, brilliant mind, so easy and quick to catch on to new information.  It is such a blessing and privilege to homeschool this little guy...it is one of the greatest joys of my life.  I am so enjoying re-learning things with him; actually, most of it is like learning it for the very first time.  I love and cherish every minute of it.


The one-on-one time we spend together doing school is the very best part of all.  For that period of time, we truly connect, and that makes homeschooling all worthwhile.  I wouldn't want it any other way...ever.

As I sat there listening to him reassuring me that it was okay, that it really wasn't necessary for me to learn it...just so he gets it, my thoughts began to wander to the puzzles and mysteries of life.

I always need to analyze things.  I just seem to have this driving need to know why things happen the way they do, and I am driven to figure out all of the inconsistencies and things that do not make sense.  

Do I really need to have all the answers?  Is it necessary that I have a logical explanation for all of the happenings and details of life?  Why do I feel this need to analyze it all?

God knows every "why" and "wherefore".  Nothing is coincidence or happenstance with Him.  He has a pattern, a plan, and it all makes perfect sense...from His point of view.  He understands it all.


And from His viewpoint, He assures me that everything is going to be okay.

So, even if I can't explain things, even if the rhyme and reason just cannot be found, even if I never have the answers, just so He understands...isn't this all that matters?

Why do I struggle so?

The answer hits me like a ton of bricks.

The antidote...the cure....lies in one word.

Acceptance.

I'm acceptance-challenged.

I have a hard time accepting things I do not understand.  I struggle to just take things for what they are...and then let them go.  I want all to be right in the world...right...from the way I see things.  And that is truly not possible.  Because my view is very limited.  I can only see....well, what I can see.

I see a long string of unresolved issues.  I see a crooked path, with no consistency.  I see mystery and unexplained answers.  And I can make no sense at all out of most of it.

Mom used to have a wooden book that sat on a stand on our coffee table.  It was carved to look like it was open, and on its open "pages" was written the beautiful Serenity Prayer.  Remember it?

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."

I've always found the courage to try to change things.  I seem to have no trouble in that area.  When I really know what I need to do, I draw strength from my Creator, and I do it.  I'm not so capable in the "wisdom to  know the difference" category.  I seem to think I need to figure everything out and change both the things I can change and at least attempt to change the things I can't.

We will never know it all.  We will never understand it all.  We will never be able to figure everything out.  We aren't supposed to.  We aren't God.  He is all-knowing.

I am learning as I go that God only gives me information on a need-to-know basis.

He is not going to overwhelm me with more than I can handle...all at once.

He'll let me know what I truly need to know.  The rest He will handle and take care of, and I may never know why He does what He does.

Solomon, with all of his wisdom, wrote in today's verse...."even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all."  With all of the intelligence, understanding, and wisdom he had, Solomon had to stand back and acknowledge that we will never be able to figure it all out.


So, the sooner I realize this and accept it, along with all of the things I cannot change, the better off I will be.  Some things are just way bigger than you and I.  They will never make sense to us.

But, they make perfect sense to God.



And, truly....that is all we need to know.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Eyes Of A Child

"And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great."  Luke 9:47,48 (KJV)

It seems like every time I catch the news these days, I am hearing of some heart-wrenching, incomprehensible story of a child who was abused, neglected, or worse.  To be honest, I can't stand to listen to or read the whole story.  I have to put it aside and move on...to something more pleasant.  

Because I just can't understand how this can be happening. 

It is just too difficult for my mind to take in the fact that a mother could suffocate her own child.  That a father could lock his three year old in a closet for days with no food or water.  That a grandmother could beat a baby...until it could no longer breathe.  

I find it beyond belief that anyone could harm a child....any child.  Let alone, a child that is one's own.

Children are so precious.  They are sent to us....sweet and innocent....priceless gifts from a loving Heavenly Father who entrusts us...to protect, defend, and love them.  

To do them harm, to take away their innocence, to crush their spirit, to make them feel they have no worth...is beyond my scope of understanding.


Jesus had a special place in His heart for children.  In Mark 10:13, 14, there were some parents who brought their children to Him, because they wanted Him to touch them.  They wanted Him to give them a special blessing.  What parent wouldn't?  Can you imagine having lived when Jesus walked the earth?  I would have gone to any lengths necessary to take my child to Him for Him to touch...to hold.  What a privilege that would be, no matter how far one would have to travel or what they had to go through to get there!

When Jesus' disciples saw what the parents were doing, they rebuked them for it.  They didn't want Jesus being bothered with what they evidently considered such unimportant business.  Verse 14 says, "But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."

Such a tender, loving Lord we have!  One Who cares about all of us...no matter how old or young, how rich or poor, how famous or ordinary, or how highly-regarded or downtrodden by society.  Out of every, single person who ever wanted to be near Him, to touch Him, to have Him touch them....there was never one of them who left His presence disappointed or feeling less than special.

I can just picture Him looking at His disciples with the saddest of expressions, as He watched them turning the parents away.  I imagine there was something deep in His heart that rose up to defend the defenseless who wanted to come near Him.  Jesus always did take up for the under-privileged.  He always looked out for the ones who could not look out for themselves.  He was a Champion of the underdog.

As He scolded His disciples and told them to allow the children to come unto Him, I can just visualize the little ones running past His disciples and up to Him, jumping onto His lap, as He spoke soft and gentle welcoming words...His arms outstretched.  I believe it filled His heart with unspeakable joy to wrap His arms around them  and hold them close.

Jesus realized that children are invaluable.  He knew that they are treasures sent from the heart of God...to bless, to uplift, to brighten our lives....in more ways than we could ever count.  


Children are so precious.  They are bright rays of sunshine in an otherwise clouded, jaded world.  So fearless.  So uninhibited by suspicion...and hate...and prejudice.


When all is dark, they have a special way of pointing us back to the light.  Their laughter is contagious and comforting and heartwarming.  Their simple way of viewing complicated problems teaches invaluable lessons in how we should never sweat the small stuff.

If only we could view things through their eyes.  If only we could realize how they feel.  Weren't we not all children at one time?  Remember how quickly and deeply an adult could hurt our feelings back then?  No doubt, we are all wearing emotional scars today from thoughtless words and actions inflicted on us by adults who really didn't care....who thought children didn't have feelings or worse, that their feelings didn't matter.

Perhaps the wounds went deeper than average.  Maybe things were stolen from some of us that were irreplaceable.  All the more reason for us to love, protect, and defend the children God has entrusted to our safekeeping.  After all, the wounds we inflict today, will one day be the scars they look at...and remember....and have to deal with...when they are all grown up.


They are so trusting.  So dependent.  Their view of the world so pure and untainted and unclouded by evil.

If only we could remember what that feels like....what that looks like.

Maybe we would be kinder to them, listen closer to them, speak softer to them, hold tighter to them.

Maybe they wouldn't get on our nerves so often.

Maybe we would value our time with them more, and not wish it away or long for the day when they are grown...and away...and out of our way...and not so dependent and so demanding of our time and cramping our style so much.

Speaking about today's passage of Scripture in Luke 9, Ruth Bell Graham had this to say, "When Jesus put the little child in the midst of His disciples, He did not tell the little child to become like His disciples, He told the disciples to become like the little child."  

If only all of the Mamas and Daddies in this world would take the time to look at life through their little, innocent eyes....then treat them the way they expect and deserve to be treated.  

After all, Jesus was a very busy man.  Yet, He took all the time they needed.  

If only, we would do the same.

















   


Saturday, March 24, 2012

From Test To Testimony

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28 (KJV)

The other night when I returned home, I had a voice mail from someone I have known for years, but hadn't heard from in quite a while.  I was surprised to hear from her.  She was calling to ask for prayer.  I called her back, and the longer we talked, the more she opened up about several things in her life that are seemingly falling apart...all at once.

I listened, and my heart went out to her.

It touched me deep inside when she said,
"I knew if anyone would understand, you would."

After we talked for a while, and she had cried and poured out her heart, I gently asked,
"Do you want to have prayer together?"

She said, "Yes."


So, right there...using the phone as a bridge between her and me....I dropped to my knees, and I prayed.  Earnestly.  When we finished praying, her problems were still there, she was still heavy of heart, but it seemed that somehow her burden was a little bit lighter.

I promised to continue to pray for her, and I do, each time she comes to my mind.

She wanted to talk to me and ask me to pray, because she knew that I know firsthand how this feels.
Had I never passed through the same dark places, I would not...could not....have understood what she is passing through right now.  I wouldn't have been able to relate to her at all.  But, hearing her talk, sensing her pain, feeling her heart break....was all too familiar to me.

Are you passing through deep trials?  Does it seem the night will never end?  Is your heart broken?

Do you know that God wants to turn your test into a testimony?

He is working all things together for your good.  And did you ever think, He may be working all things together for someone else's good, too?

The things you are going through today will enable you and empower you to help someone else tomorrow.


Did you ever notice how God brings people into your life who are going through some of the exact same trials you have gone through in the past?  I am amazed each time this happens.  

When we go through pain and suffering and heartbreak, we can later better relate to someone who is in the same circumstances.

When someone needs prayer, when they call for counsel, when they just need a sympathetic ear to listen...which response holds more weight and brings the most comfort to the person seeking help?  

Response #1:  "My heart goes out to you.  I'm sorry, but I have never gone through anything like what you are going through.  I really don't know how you feel.  I can only imagine."   

OR

Response #2:  "I KNOW how you feel, I've BEEN there.  I was once in your shoes, and I'm still standing.  I made it.  So will you."

What test are you enduring today?

God wants to bring you through to victory and turn the test into a testimony.

Take it from someone who's been there...."this too shall pass".
"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  Psalm 30:5 (KJV)

God has taken some of the deepest trials and darkest places of my life and turned those very tests into the ongoing story of my life's testimony.

Moments that were so hard to live through, so hard to endure, so hard to understand, are now a part of my portfolio of battles won.  To God be all the glory.

I am still standing.

I still believe.

I can tell you that there is victory ahead for you, my friend.

Don't focus on the darkness.

Look for the light.


Think about the hurting you will ease one day, simply by turning to another and saying, "I understand".

There is a reason you are in the situation you are in.  And, no I am not talking about wrong choices or unwise decisions you may have made.  It helps no one to bring up the past or tell them all the reasons they are in their current situation.  What good does that do?  What I do mean is this....don't focus on how or why you got to where you are.

Don't beat yourself up one more minute.

  Perhaps it was someone else's choices, decisions, or mistakes that landed you in a state of despair.
Maybe you had nothing to do with causing any of the pain you are experiencing.

That can be the hardest part...not knowing WHY God is allowing this.

Whatever the reasons, you are where you are.  And God wants to bring good out of this.
God sees the big picture.
He sees others who will need you to help see them through.

It is not all about you.

There is a bigger picture....a bigger plan.


Looking back, I can see why certain things have developed and fallen into place the way they have in my life.
Though I couldn't see it when the pain was so severe that I thought I would crumble, I can see it now.
God was molding me and allowing me to feel certain emotions, certain levels of brokenness, certain depths of suffering...so I can understand and better empathize with others who are passing through the fire.

So, I can say, "I know how you feel."

Sometimes, those are the five best words of all. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

A Complete Recovery

"Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep."  1 Samuel 30:4  (KJV)

Today, as I was driving down a country road, I passed a church with a cemetery in the side yard.  I noticed a car parked by the road, and then my eyes traveled beyond the car to a pitiful, heart-wrenching sight.  A woman who appeared to be maybe 35 years old or so was sitting on the ground at the foot of a grave.  She appeared to be talking to the still, unseen form buried deep beneath her, and she was continually patting the top of the ground with her hand.  

I mentioned it to Mom who was riding in the front seat beside me and hadn't noticed.  She asked me if the woman was crying.  I told her I couldn't really tell, but I commented about how she was patting the grave with her hand.  As we rode along, we talked of how sad it was, and my mind began to wander....who was buried there?  Was it her mother?  Father?  Husband?  Who?  What was the woman saying?  Why was she patting the ground?  Who was it that she had loved so much who had already made the crossing to the other side?


It was heartbreaking to imagine the cause of her grief.  

It was touching to know that she cared enough to visit the grave and remember.

  It was hopeless to think that possibly there were words she wished she would have said while the person was still alive and could hear them.

Her apparent anguish reminds me of the story in the Bible that today's Scripture passage was taken from.  

King David and his men returned to Ziklag after being gone for a period of time.  When they got there, they were met with the tragic and heartbreaking news that all of their wives and children had been kidnapped and taken captive by the Amalekites, and the whole city had been burned with fire.  Included in the captives were David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail.  

Can you imagine the shock?  When they left, their wives and children were perfectly fine.  Their homes and their city was in tact.  All was peaceful.  All was well. 

But, after they left, something terrible...sometime beyond awful...had befallen their loved ones....those who were the apple of their very eyes.  All was torn apart.  All was lost.  

They came home to the total opposite of what they left.  Expecting to find things in a normal state, probably looking forward to rest and the comforts of home after a tiring three day journey, you can imagine their shock to come home to nothing...and no one.

When David and his men saw the devastation, when they felt the loss of their wives and children, when they realized everything had been burned to the ground, they lifted up their voice and wept, "until they had no more power to weep."

That is a LOT of tears.  For a grown man to weep that hard and that long would truly require a great deal of crying.  They grieved and mourned from the depths of their soul...until they could weep no more. 

Ever been there?

To the point that you have cried until you couldn't cry anymore?

Maybe you received sudden and horrible news and the shock overwhelmed you.

Perhaps your life was left in shambles with no hope for the future and no comfort for your heart.

In a moment, your whole world was changed and turned upside down, and nothing at all was familiar.  Nothing was the same, and you feared it never would be again.

My friend, I want to encourage you that there is hope in God.  Whatever it is that you are facing today is not impossible with Him.  He may have allowed things to fall apart around you, but it isn't over yet.  

You are still here.  You're still alive.  There is still hope.


Come with me to verse six of the same chapter.  It says, "...but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God."  Everyone was turning against him, blaming him for what had happened.  Their hearts were so broken, they needed some where to place the blame.  So, they blamed their leader.

He was dealing with his own grief.  After all, his loss was as horrible and devastating and enormous as theirs was.  But, instead of totally losing hope and giving in to complete despair, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.  

He looked up.  Right there, from his point of unbearable pain.  And He fixed his eyes on the Lord his God.

Then, he took action.  Determined strength rose within him, and he asked God whether or not he should pursue the enemy.  God answered his question with a powerful YES!  "And He (God) answered him, PURSUE; for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all."  

God promised David a complete recovery!

But, he had to pick himself up by the bootstraps and....pursue.  He had to fight back.  He had to believe in the Lord his God and go forward.  He couldn't afford to give in to his pain and grief and desperation.  His whole company of men were counting on him...to be strong.  To be valiant.  To fight.  He had no choice.

So, David pursued.  Let's fast forward to verse 18.  "And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away:  and David rescued his two wives."  Did you grasp that?  

David recovered all.

Everything and everyone was restored...back to their rightful place.

This same man....this David...wrote the biggest majority of the book of Psalms.  It provides some of the most encouraging, inspiring, comforting reading available to man.  He wrote this in Psalm 42:11 (KJV), "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."

I want to remind you to do as David did....hope in God....for a complete, total recovery...of anything and everything you have lost.  Your health, your marriage, your finances, your employment, the respect of others, your respect for yourself, that child or loved one who is going astray, and yes, your relationship with Almighty God.  

Whatever the enemy has stolen from you, however final it may seem, God is still God.  

Joel 2:25 (KJV) says, "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten..."  Those wasted years. All of that time that now seems so lost and completely destroyed....God promises to restore back to you.  

Claim His Word.  

Weep until you have no power left in you to weep.

Then pursue.  Go forward.  Follow God.  Believe Him for a full and complete recovery.  


And when the victory comes, do as David did...and give God all the praise!  






Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shoulders Stronger Than Mine

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."  Deuteronomy 33:27  (KJV)

I stood at the ice machine down the hall from Mom's hospital room filling up her ice pitcher before I left for the night.  I was tired.  Actually, I was exhausted.  I didn't know how much longer I could hold up to the daily trips that were 35-40 miles one way.  Would it ever end?  Would life ever resume to normal?  

I wanted to be there for her...do all I could.  Her condition wasn't so good, and at that point, we really didn't know how things would go.  I determined to not have regrets should anything happen to her, and I was pushing myself beyond my own limits.

Life goes on in the midst of our trials.  Dishes pile up.  Laundry gets behind.  Homeschool requirements and deadlines still have to be met.  Love needs tended and nurtured.  Marriage can never be sacrificed and put on the back burner....nothing in the world is important enough to let that happen...ever.  Children need attention and reassured that all will end well.  On top of all of everyday life, there were other heavy pressures weighing like lead on my mind and heart.  Responsibilities that were threatening to crush the very life out of me.  A load too heavy for me to carry...one step further.

I felt alone and weary beyond words.  I was spreading myself way too thin....there were days I longed for a clone of myself...someone who could lighten the load...even just a little bit.  Maybe take a day here and there to do what needed to be done...so I could stay home...and rest.  

As I stood there, the tears welled up, but I felt too tired to cry.  It just took too much effort.  

Have you ever felt too drained to push the tears to the surface and allow them to fall?  

I felt the need to pray, but there was too much commotion and noise and chaos...nurses and doctors scurrying to and fro, late-night visitors walking in and out of rooms telling their loved ones good-bye for the night.  And even if I had been alone, I was too dog-tired to even attempt to pray.

All of a sudden, I felt the sensation of being lifted....like someone had come along behind me and picked me up.  Like I was being elevated up...onto some one's shoulders.  Like arms much bigger than mine had reached all the way to the 7th floor and picked me up.  I stood there and paused wondering what was going on.  I even looked around to see if there was someone behind me.  Everyone was caught up doing their own thing.  No one was near me or even looking my way.

All at once it hit me that this was not human aid or intervention at all.  This was none other than my precious Lord!!  He had come!  He was near me!  He was holding me...close....carrying me on His strong, broad shoulders...lifting me up above the pain in my heart, the exhaustion in my body, and the worry in my mind.

Had someone just lifted my name in prayer?  Did someone care?  Was someone, somewhere asking God to help me...to sustain me...to make Himself real to me?  Or did He hear the cries of my own heart...the prayer that I was too tired and discouraged to pray...was He answering without ever being asked?

Whatever was happening, it felt wonderful.  Soothing.  And peaceful.  

It gave me strength and new hope and renewed vigor.  

I walked back down to Mom's room, and I knew that no matter what happened, I was being carried.  I didn't have to trudge through this alone.  God was near, and no matter what took place, it would never be bigger or stronger than the shoulders on which I was being carried.  

A change took place that night.  The battle still waged on.  Days seemed endless and unchanging.  Sometimes, I felt like I would scream, if that would have helped any.  But, somehow, it was easier each time I remembered that feeling...of being lifted....onto His shoulders.

I knew in my heart that He would never let me down.  I knew He wouldn't drop me or tire of carrying me with all of the weight I carried.  I knew He was stronger than all of it and more than capable to take on whatever happened.  

Talk about relief!  I didn't have to shoulder it alone.  I was being carried...continually...by Someone who loved me more than His Own life.


I love this picture of Zachary and Uncle Orville.  You can't see it, but it was raining.  You don't know it, but Zach was tired.  We had been walking for a while, and Uncle Orville kindly reached down and placed him up on his strong, capable shoulders and carried him through the rain.  I love this memory.  

He lightened Zach's load.  Zach wasn't afraid.  He loved and trusted Uncle Orville.  He knew automatically that if he was holding him, he'd be fine...even though Uncle Orville is tall and Zach was over six feet above the ground....he didn't feel fear.  

My friend, we shouldn't either.  

God will not let us go.

Ever.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Strength of Horses

"An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength."  Psalm 33:17 (KJV)

Ever since I was a young girl, I have been fascinated with horses.  I've only had the privilege of riding one once in my life, and I've never personally owned one.  To be honest, when I used to visit them up close at my Uncle Cecil's boarding stable, the vastness of their size intimidated me.  But, to me, they have to be one of the most majestic, noble animals God ever created.  They are strong and valiant and sturdy-built.

When I was growing up, I liked to collect things with horses on them.  They were just so interesting, and the thing that I admired the most about them was the attribute of their strength.  There is just something comforting about seeing pictures of them running free and uninhibited.  They are spirited and proud and sure and loyal....and incredibly strong.


I love to look at this beautiful horse in West Virginia.  I admire its beauty and the stoutness of its build.  I imagine it can pull weight many times its own body weight, and its strength and power far surpasses that of several men put together.   What a powerful exhibition of God's creation!

But, with all of its strength and nobility, this horse could do nothing to keep me safe.  If danger were near, it would be powerless to defend me.  As today's passage reminds us, to depend upon this animal for our safety would be entirely vain, and it could never be counted on to deliver anyone with all of its power.  And even though it is beautiful to look at, exhilarating to ride, and powerful to pull loads, it could never bring about the peace I crave deep inside.

There are many things in this life that we can put our trust in.  Money makes people feel safe and comforted. Knowing they have a nest egg to fall back on gives a certain sense of security and peace.  But, what if the money is spent?  What if the investments don't pay off?  What if the economy crumbles, and all is lost?  There have been many who have placed their whole trust in money who have ended up taking their own lives when their source of security was taken away. 

During my career in banking, I worked in areas of considerable wealth along the "Treasure Coast" of Florida.  It never ceased to amaze me to observe the emphasis people place on their money, and the extremes they will go to in order to keep it safe and protected.  In the end, it matters not how much wealth we accumulate. When life is over, we will have no choice but to leave it all behind.

Relationships provide a sense of safety, and many times we seek a person to be our deliverer.  We think if only we can find "Mr. Right", if only he would ride into our lives on his white horse and snatch us up out of our current situation, all would be well with us.  He could deliver us and keep us safe and we would live happily ever after.  But, what about the day we come to the realization that he is human, and there is only so much he can do to fulfill us and make us complete?  What about the moment he gets back on his white horse and rides away...off to rescue another?  What if he decides he doesn't want to be our protector after all?  

Some people delve into their career with all the passion they have, and they go after promotion and prestige with a vengeance.  They spend years preparing for it, just knowing deep inside that once they attain it, once they have the title, once they accomplish their long-term goals, they will be happy.  They will feel safe...and secure...and everything will be perfect.  But, what about the day, the boss comes around to say things just aren't going as well as they expected, and the termination date is set?  What about the moment the news comes to us that the other gal got the promotion, even though we gave it all we had?  What if everything we can muster to deliver ourselves just isn't good enough?  What then?

The big house, the steady-growing bank account, our spouse, the prestigious career, the extra-marital relationship, the title next to our name, all the horses in the world....none of it can satisfy and deliver and make us complete.  


Because at the end of the day, there is a gaping hole in each and every person that only God can fill.  Only He can deliver.  Only He can satisfy.  

Things....no matter how precious to us they are....no matter how sought-after, no matter the level of clout they provide, no matter how important they make us look in the eyes of others....can never, ever totally fulfill us or make us complete.  

God reserves that role to Himself.

He is what we need....we crave...we seek for....the whole time.

Chasing after the things of this world, thinking money, relationships, careers, achievements, attainments, and prestige will make us complete is like a horse racing, panting, trying to reach the carrot being dangled in front of him.  It just never quite happens, does it?

The brass ring is always just slightly out of reach...even after we've accomplished our carefully-set goals and ambitions.  

When all is quiet, when we have to face ourselves in the stillness, the emptiness remains.  

After all of his achievements, all of his wives, everything he had accomplished, Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived said this near the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13 (KJV)  If you read this deep, insightful book, you will see that with all of his wealth and riches and sources of security, he still felt and recognized the vanity and void left by worldly things.  Only God could bring about the peace for which his soul longed.

I think his father, David, had learned the same secret when he said this, 
"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God."  
Psalm 20:7 (KJV)

I think that is what you and I should do, too.  :)




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Promise of Spring

"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)

Please take the time to listen to this beautiful song by one of my all-time favorites, Cynthia Clawson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-Hn7z9HiaY

I do believe Spring has sprung....at least it has where we live!  And although the autumn and winter are definitely my favorite seasons, I'll have to admit, spring is beautiful.  As I say good-bye to my beloved friend, old man winter (and my frequent cravings for homemade hot cocoa!), I can't help but be drawn in to the loveliness of what is happening around me.

Everything that has been dead through the winter months is waking up....to new life, new vibrancy, a new season....to grow and live and thrive.  My pretty container garden that I planted last year is springing back to life.


The cherry tree that such a short time ago had empty branches, is now covered with beautiful, intricately colored blossoms....giving sustenance to countless bees....swarming and buzzing everywhere.


Today, as I bowed on my knees in prayer, I heard the most beautiful singing.  It was coming from the little mouth of a bird outside our living room window.  It may have been the same one some friends who were visiting the other day spotted flying out from the fern I have hanging on our front porch.  I think maybe she is trying to build a nest in it.  How sweet that my plant can help the little creature along!


Before we started school, I asked Zachary to come outside with me....to take in the beauty, the colors, the breeze.  


The new life....we see budding everywhere.


I wish you could hear the enormously loud hum of the hundreds of bees swarming here....on the cherry blossoms.

God is everywhere I look.  How can anyone deny His existence?  He's been coloring our world....bringing in a change of scenery to us once again.

Today's passage contains a promise that God is still keeping.  Seeing spring come in like this, is a gentle reminder that God is still alive and well and capable of keeping to His Word.  

There is a song Kevin's brother, Phillip's group used to sing called "God's Coloring Book".  It was written by Dolly Parton.  Perhaps you've heard it.  I found a very beautiful rendition by Heather Berry, in case you would like to hear it, click here:


As I watch spring come to life all around me, my soul is renewed within me.  

I feel God.  I sense His presence.  I know He is near.  I love to see what His hand has created.  He does all of this, goes to all of these extremes of beauty...just for us.

Kevin, Zachary, and I like to color.  Zach has many coloring books, and sometimes, just for fun, we take some time out to enjoy the relief from stress just coloring in them and enjoying each other's company.   When I am coloring a picture for Zach, I always do my very best for him.  When I'm finished, I sign and date the bottom...so he'll remember who did it and the measure of love in which it was colored.  He appreciates and cherishes every, single one Kevin or I have created for him.

Today, it hit me that this is precisely what God does for us every change of season.  He creates a beautiful, magnificent world, He stamps His signature on it...no one else could create all of this...it is definitely Him...everywhere and in the tiniest of details, and He hands it to us as a precious, priceless gift.  

As you breathe in the freshness of springtime, as you observe the life being re-born all around you, why not stop and look up into the Heavens and say thank you?  To your Creator?  Thank Him for lungs to take in the air He so faithfully provides, thank Him for eyes that can see and feast upon all of the splendor He so kindly places in front of you.  And thank Him for the gift of life that He so consistently extends to you day after day...season after season.  

Sadly, many who saw the dawning of spring last year, weren't given the chance to see this one.

Another spring has sprung...you and I are still here...living, breathing, and enjoying.  

Another season, another chance, another burst of hope.  

Like the little bird outside our window, let's give Him all the praise.