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DOES GOD STILL SPEAK?

DOESGODSTILLSPEAK

Her Christmas sweater was finished: a beautiful pink, with inlaid floral print. Rounding up my sewing items, I missed my needle. I looked everywhere, checked the sweater, checked the floor–and finally gave up. I was so happy with what I had made, and could hardly wait for her to open it, even though I wouldn’t be there. You see, she was so upset with me, not on her own account, but taking up the offense of someone else. I did everything I could to be sure I was kind, but she was so angry. This gift was my way of telling her I still loved her. As I lay down to sleep, I knew my mom and dad would be taking the gift home the next day; it was packed in the car, and waiting. As I slept, I dreamed of the sweater: I saw the sleeve, with the needle stuck in it. When I woke, I thought about the dream. I knew that if that had really happened, she would never believe that I had not left it there on purpose, in order to hurt her for being angry. All morning I thought of it. Finally, minutes before my folks left, I told my mom. We went out to the car, and I felt so stupid! I got the package out, unwrapped it, and carefully checked the sleeve. There, right as in my dream, the needle was stuck. I never doubted the Lord was keeping me from a worse relationship with my beautiful niece.

You’d have to know me, you see. I can be obsessively, compulsively, disordered! If I cross stitch, it is not enough to have the thread colors I need: I get them all–someday I might need them. I sell on eBay, big time. Seven a.m. comes, and I boot up the computer, and by 8 a.m. begin work. I shut it down at 8 p.m., and so it goes, 6 days a week. Sunday mornings before church I answer questions, and after lunch, begin work. OCD. ADHD. If I have to list twenty, I list fifty. OCD. I never meet my goals, all self-inflicted.

This year, as a study focus as I read my Bible, I began early looking for the answer to one question: WHY did the apostles ask Jesus to teach them to pray? Nehemiah prayed “HELP,” so why did the apostles feel insecure?

Genesis began my conflict, but not with prayer: as the Creation took place, God rested. It was before the fall, before anything bad had entered the garden, and He rested. I struggled with the why. He seemed to be saying, “Sandy, when do you rest?” At night, Lord. Not good enough. He rested at night as well. I tossed and turned, metaphorically speaking. Uncomfortable with the computer on Sunday. Not because of the computer, but because I knew I was addicted to working. Workaholic. So I asked my honest husband. “Are you concerned about the work you do on Sunday?” His answer shook me, for we had not discussed this. “Yes. The past two or three weeks, I’ve been trying to cut out my work and rest.” Ugh. Now I was really uncomfortable. I turned the radio on a couple of days later. Sure, the preacher I “happened” to turn to was preaching on resting one day a week. I called a minister’s wife, an older-than-I-am woman whom I know to be godly, and put it to her. Yes! She and her preacher husband take a day a week to rest–if they can’t get a whole day in, they take two half-days. My discomfort turned to churning. I was recognizing that God was choosing my path. The Bible Study began in September. Hebrews! Great, I love that book! Lesson 2: resting one day a week as God did. Are you seeing a pattern? Everywhere I turned, I was facing giving one day to God. Talk about sacrifice! For me, to not work, to not be productive, is a sacrifice! But I was hearing, and I was listening. Struggling big time, but knowing I was going to have to be obedient. My main concern? What am I going to do? How can I fill hours doing nothing? Daunting. To a couch potato it probably sounds like heaven, but to me it sounded terrifying.

A month ago, the call came. Would I take on a project for church, listening to the sermon, and then writing a discussion for people who want to use the sermon as a topic to teach their children, to discuss and grow as a family, or to have a group meet in their home. I can’t begin to say how honored I felt. How amazed I was. And how I saw that God had been preparing my heart to leave eBay alone on Sundays, and do this for His glory.

The first and second Sundays took all afternoon, until evening. Today was not quite as long, but the joy in knowing that He loves me so much that He “spoke” to my heart about the lack of resting from my work, and then filling the gap with His work was so awesome I was speechless as I ever get.

So for me, and for many others, yes! He does speak, He does love, and He is active in our lives, in our dreams (yes, there will be those who doubt that, but not me!), and He gets all the glory! His grace, as always, still amazes me.

 Holy Father, that You can take someone who is so taken up with meaningless things, and use us, is totally beyond our comprehension! Thank You for Your love, Lord. Thank You for using vessels of clay to hold Your marvelous works. Amen

picture compliments of © Dennis Sherman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

DEATH BY EXPERIMENT

 

 

deathIt was my husband’s idea. His chess-mentality is always thinking several moves ahead. It was quite natural for him to contemplate our age, and wonder whether we would know what to do if something happened to the other one of us. A “dry run,” he called it, where we would each “die” for a week, so the other could see what types of problems might arise that would be unexpected or unprepared for.

Our daughter said, “You can’t do it.” A blanket prediction for the first week. Nevertheless, we thought we could. After all, when I get “upset” I can be quiet for quite a length of time.

Monday morning he came in the door from our son’s house, where he had babysat overnight. It was weird not to greet him, or to have him cross my littered floor (work items) to give me a kiss good morning. I usually have things to tell him to start the day, but not today–you don’t talk to dead people.

He later got his tablet, paper and whatever, and headed for his normal McDonald’s breakfast. There was no ‘goodbye,’ no ‘see you in an hour,’ just… walking out the door, driving off. I could tell this was going to be harder than I thought, but maybe it was just me, I decided. By the time he had come back home, I was gone to pick up some items for the work I do from our house, so he came in wondering where I had gone. You don’t leave notes for dead people. Upon returning, I didn’t tell him all the things I normally would, the amount I had saved on gas with a coupon, the conversation at the bank, just little common, ordinary tidbits of communication. Soon he had to leave again, with no goodbye, so I went downstairs to do some cleaning.

I rounded up a load of throw rugs, adding the ones I had kept in the car for the past two years while I procrastinated. I didn’t want to break my washer (again) from washing rugs, but making time to go for 2 hours was difficult for me. Wow–I couldn’t believe the cost of a trip to the laundromat, and would have loved to have told him! However, when I arrived home, he had left for another meeting, and besides, I couldn’t talk to a dead person.

By this time in the late afternoon, I was getting miserable. It was nice to have a clean kitchen (he’s actually quite good about it), and the Bible does say “where there is no ox, the stall is clean!” Obviously my “ox” was being quite concientious for he had not left any mess! “Miserable” had now dropped down to about a 5, and I was at an 8 or so on a scale of 10. I had run into a couple of situations that I knew were a little out of my experience, but overall it was just the tremendous loneliness that settled around me. How, I wondered, do people make it when they lose a partner who has been there for years, knowing there will never be another day spent on earth where you can sit and talk, or go out to eat.

Our daughter called a couple of times, more because she knew I was feeling very lonely than any other reason. Finally I decided to close down work and head for bed. I left a note. Laying it on the floor where he would see it, I wrote, “I’M NOT HAVING FUN! 😦 ”

Sure enough, when he arrived home, he saw it. Writing one back, he brought it into the bedroom; it asked “Do you want to quit?” “YES!” I shouted. We had not made it but 13 hours rather than a week. How do people do this? Especially when death comes unexpectedly?

It was a big learning experience. Rather than the secular incidents that we expected, we were destroyed by the need of all humans: the interaction with someone who belongs to you. It was amazing how relieved I was that we were quitting. I don’t think I could have gone another day. And just as important, he felt the same way. He said he had been miserable. It was an eye-opener for both of us! In fact, I was so relieved that it didn’t even bother me to tell our daughter we quit, so she could get the satisfaction out of saying, “I told you so!”

Will we try again? Probably not. Maybe those things are best left with the Lord, and let Him be our strength if the time comes when one of us has to leave this earth. But as for now, I will bask in having a live husband, and we each have a better appreciation of our marriage!

Lord, this has been a different experiment, but one that has taught us much! One thing we’ve definitely learned is how true–again–Your word is, as it tells us ‘don’t worry about tomorrow, today has enough of its own troubles!’ So we leave our lives in Your hands, to do Your will until the day You call us home. Amen.

“IF…………….”

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Our family had just finished memorizing James 2:1-13, where James instructs us to pay attention how we treat those who have less than we do–or for some reason do not meet our standards. We were doing well at homeschooling but–“Sunday was a-comin’!” Morning service was special, as always, and suddenly it was time to go back for the evening message. As we sat down, our six year old daughter said “Ewww, Mommy, look over there: look how dirty those people are!” She was right. It was a young couple, girl and boyfriend, and they were dirty. I’m not sure what brought them in, but they had entered our little Baptist Church that normally had maybe 30 in attendance on Sunday night and sat in the back. Our daughter’s face was scrunched up in disgust as she observed the couple. I leaned over and gently reminded her of the verses we had just learned about how to treat people who have almost nothing, and God used His word to break her heart. She immediately was shocked to put the truth of the Bible up against her actions.

That next week she busily worked on projects. When Sunday rolled around again, Rachel took her gifts to church, hoping the couple would come. They did, that night. She went up to them and told them she had made them some gifts–I don’t even remember what they were. The couple was overwhelmed that a small child had thought of them all week, and prepared gifts she felt were a representation of what Christ would have done. It made such an impact on them that they made an appointment with the pastor, told him they were living together but after that night would sleep in separate areas (the bed and the couch), and set a wedding date. They had a time of cleansing their little place, throwing rock albums in the trash, and came to know the Lord. Rachel made them something for their wedding, and decorated the communion table where they would say their vows before the pastor and his wife.

“What if” our daughter had not been moved by her callousness at someone’s “dirty raiment”? A small phrase–what if– but one that changes the course of human thinking. A new sermon emphasis in our church is causing many of us to question our “what if’s!”

You may have lived a great life. I seriously know people who have: they have married high school sweethearts, their family came along, the job was secure, and life was good. I’ve often wondered what they did that made God give such grace in abundance to some, while others are born into a family where abuse prevails, vulgar language is the norm, learning in school is difficult, and by teen-age years everyone in the community has labeled him/her one to be avoided. Did either of them ever wonder, “What if..?”

For the majority of the rest of us, our life is filled with “what if….”! What if… I had had a mom who guided me; a dad who loved me; a mentor in my life who encouraged me to do my best. What if… I had used wise judgment throughout life; had made wise choices; had taken advantage of life’s offerings?

Or are you straddled with “If only’s”? …. you had not taken that job, your marriage wouldn’t have failed, your daughter wouldn’t have rebelled at a new school and gotten into the wrong crowd; if only … your extended family had tried to eat healthy so your husband didn’t have a heart attack; your friend didn’t drink so heavily that he killed someone with his car?

We can live with the “What if’s” and the “If only’s” and drive ourselves crazy. So we do what the apostle Paul told us, and “forget those things which are behind,” because they can become traps Satan uses to make us ineffective as we live our lives for Christ.

So “What If” turns from being a “sin that so easily besets us” and becomes a role model, if you will: “What if” we saw the person in front of us at WalMart counting their pennies to pay for some vienna sausage, and we reached in our wallet and told the clerk, “Here.” What if we carried tracts that were simple, beautiful, and designed to help any adult discover that Jesus loves them, and gave them to the person when we did an act of love like paying for their small amount of food? What if we really did become the person God had in mind when He hung on the Cross?

We may not be able to change the world, but we can impact our neighborhood, our community, or–to some extent–our town. What if the person who visited in the service or in Sunday School was invited over for Sunday dinner? What if they weren’t dressed well? Would we still have them? Would Christ have still died for them? Then prepare something extra and ask them if they can come share your meal. Scary, isn’t it? But what if you did? You may be entertaining angels unawares! More importantly, what if you asked your neighbor of ten years to share a meal? Or the new hire at work that is in a lowly job? Don’t do it for someone who can return the favor–do it for someone who will be shocked at your love.

What if our actions caused two people to come to know Christ this year?

Father, help me to be willing to be used. In Your Name, Amen.

Image:© Paul-andré Belle-isle | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Sunday’s a comin’, SM Lockridge

DROUGHT… A BIG DEAL!

DROUGHT

When is the last time you took a drive through some of the states, and began to notice how many areas have succumbed to the lack of rain? In Florida, it was not unusual to see docks standing at the back of someone’s yard, with the canal or lake many feet away from the bottoms of the pilings, no longer able to be used by their owners. The water used to be almost to the top of the dock. This isn’t a recent occurrence, but has been gradually happening over a period of many years.

When is the last time you had a drought in your life? A time when you didn’t feel as though you were connecting with God, and no matter what you did, you couldn’t feel His presence? Feeling as though your “prayers hit the ceiling”?

Have you taken time to really let His word wash over you, and made the choice to stand on His promises? He tells you that He will never forsake you, nor leave you! So–if you feel like He has, which one of you is wrong? The bottom line becomes, can you believe Him or not? If you can’t, you probably need some serious time of reflection, of self-examination, to see what is wrong. The Bible says that your iniquity can separate you from God–not that He withdraws from you, but you have erected a barrier between you and Him, a barrier of sin, and its consequences are that you will no longer “feel” Him there.

If you can believe Him, then make that choice to do so. It’s been an arid week for me–you can always tell, because there may be days when I will write even twice–and then a gap comes! Is it a drought of God’s work in my life? Not usually, but sometimes the busy-ness of daily activities leaves one’s mind so wrapped up in mundane priorities that the day can go by and nothing has been done for His kingdom. Time to shift priorities, wouldn’t you say? Isaiah 58:11 tells us “The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” That’s a promise!

Are you aware that the Bible tells us that in the last days–and by the way, the last days of America can be very different from the last days when Christ returns!–there will be a drought of the Word of God? Amos 8:11 says, ““Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” That drought will be so severe that God’s word will be hard to find. It better be in our memories now!

That is the other drought we can see as we go across America. A drought of moral values (have you see the television shows that have come out? God forbid that Christians should watch tv porn), of filled churches, or caring Christians–but everywhere a lack of standing up for what is right. We are losing our country due to a drought of holy living.

Like the movie “Courageous,” let us stand up and be counted, not fearing to be different from the world, not fearing rejection, not ashamed of God, but putting ourselves on the front line–standing in the gap for the souls of those going to hell because no one asked God to save them. And while we’re praying, let’s ask God for blessings to rain down, and relieve the drought in our lives!

Father, we can see drought even as we watch the faces of those who are entering the church doors on Sunday: their faces do not reflect peace, but inner struggles, and their lives are full of conflict. Please let us feel Your comfort as we draw near to You by choice! Amen

BURDENS TOO HEAVY TO CARRY

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Her wedding day! What joy, what wonder! She has kept herself pure and now the fulfillment of her dreams from a child through her youth and young adulthood is about to be a new reality. Can one do anything except be gloriously glad for her? Ahh, but there’s a thorn with every rose, isn’t there? Notwithstanding today’s horticulture, that was a truth that endured for centuries. Her thorn is that her precious momma, always there, always loving, never anything except the epitome of a great wife, a great mom, and a loving, generous person, contracted ALS two years ago, and can’t walk up the aisle tonight. She will be in a wheelchair, and has held on to life for this beautiful day. The day of wonder, but great sorrow–sorrow almost as great as death, for there has been nothing except a downhill spiral in health for her mom for two years. A disease worse than dementia, for the victim understands the pain being inflicted on their loved ones.

Have you noticed there is a growing desperation on all sides? It seems there is depression inherent in daily life like never before for most of this generation. Yes, there are a few left who can remember the “Great Depression,” but most of those are gone now. It seems we’re going through a new one–one for this generation.

And so we turn to God’s Holy Word for some reassurance, for comfort, and for hope. And here we find it! David, the great king of Israel, in spite of his sins, himself suffered depression as heavy as any we bear. In Psalm 77 we see immediately that he, in his life, was no different than we are in ours! He tells us that he was having troubles so great that no one could help, so he cried out to God, and God listened. How is that different from what we do? We may not pray a lot when things are going well, but oh, let trouble come, especially things too heavy to bear, and things we cannot control, and we turn to God! David said he would lay awake at night, complaining, and his spirit was so overwhelmed he could hardly stand it. In verse 4 he tells us that he couldn’t sleep, and was so troubled he couldn’t speak. Have you been there? Someone asks how you’re doing, and you don’t even feel like answering their question for fear of breaking completely down! Who wants to say “Fine!” when you’re on the bottom?

David goes on to say that he thinks back over better days, and remembers when he was happy. Now he feels deserted by God, completely cast off, and wonders if God is so angry with him that He has withdrawn His grace and mercy. Is that us? You?

But as David reflected, he began to make a choice to praise, rather than despair! He decided to consciously recall the great and mighty things God had done in his past, and in eternity past, as well. He retreated from the depression and began to list the goodness of God, and the great things He has done!

That is not easy when your soul feels as though you would rather cease living. It takes inner strength to make the choice to praise. God will give you that strength if you begin to reflect on His character, His attributes, His longsuffering, and His love!

The choice is never easy. Pilgrim, in Pilgrim’s Progress, fell into a Slough of Despond. He wallowed, but he got out. We may have a broken heart for some reason, but let’s make the choice to give it to God, the healer of broken hearts. Don’t try on your own–He’s as near as you will let Him come!

Father, thank You for Your wondrous love. Thank You for Your promise that You will never leave us, nor forsake us. You tell us to draw near to You–THEN You will draw near to us. Help us make that a conscious choice! Amen

FEAR NOT!

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Smoke billowed out around the edges of the bedroom door as we looked down the hallway, frantic! About the same time we realized the second bedroom had smoke coming out as well. My husband was yelling, “Dial 911!!” I looked at the brand new phone in my hand and the black screen facing me. Had it been my old phone, there would have been no problem, but the shock of knowing our house was on fire was short-circuiting my brain, and I could not remember how to get it off screen saver. Between the smoke, the fire, my husband yelling, and the new phone, I was rendered incapable of doing what should have been easy! And because my hair is strawberry blonde, it became a joke in our family over the past two years that “Mom’s so blonde she couldn’t dial 911!” All the peripherals were not mentioned!

Paralyzing fear in a situation can cause even a very cool-headed person to shut down on normal reactions! Fear or its climax can render anyone unable to react, and often does.

Have you ever considered the number of people in the Bible who were told not to fear? Joshua had to be told over and over in the first chapter–four times he was told not to be discouraged, that the Lord would be with him; Mary, when met by Gabriel as he foretold her coming pregnancy, told her to not be afraid as he came to her. Abraham, Hagar, Gideon, Elijah–and so many more, our “cloud of witnesses,” all were told in various ways not to fear. Why? Because fear renders one incapable of doing what should be easy! God’s will is thwarted and Satan wins.

How so? Well, why have you not told someone in the family that they are on the road to hell? Because you fear a severance in the relationship! The same could be said of your co-workers, your neighbors, or someone close to you in relationship. What is always the response? “Well, only God knows their heart, and we are not to judge.” Well, half-right  is better than all wrong, I guess, and the truth is, we can’t judge their heart, but we are to be “fruit inspectors.” “Every tree is known by its own fruit” Matthew writes the words of Jesus. A saved person may be in sin for a season, but if so, he will be miserable, enduring discipline from the Lord, and eventually back on the right path.

Does fear cripple you when you think of telling someone about the wondrous things God has done for you? It should have no power over you. Discipling someone, counseling someone, praying with someone, do those possibilities make you tremble? God is with you, my friend! Or how about an example closer to home: do you hold your tongue because you are in an abusive relationship and don’t want to set someone off? That person then has complete control over you. Get help. You can’t? Why? Oh, you’re afraid you will lose the kids, lose….. Are you a parent who sees your spouse belittling one of the children, but you don’t interfere? You will let someone destroy a child, why?

For just one day, write down the times you hold your tongue because you fear the consequence. It may surprise you that victory is so close and yet so far. Memorize the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of a sound mind,” and then–as fear comes into a moment–start praising God for His goodness at all times.

Father, please help us remember that You have not sent a spirit of fear into our lives, even today with all of the atrocities going on around the world. We know that You are still on the throne, guiding all the nations as we watch and marvel of Bible prophecies being fulfilled. Help us to not fear to tell those in our family who are facing hell, that You alone are truth! Amen