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EXAMS, TESTS & PRAYER!

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The books were right there, laying on top of the piano where I had left them the afternoon before when I arrived home from school.  I distinctly remembered  having every intention of studying, but then I pulled out the piano bench to learn “The Peer Gynt Suite” by Edvard Grieg! Where had my mind been?? SAT’s would start today! Of all evenings to have gotten a little extra cramming in, last night was the one! Trig was killing me, and physics was right behind it! Sigh. Why do some people have it so easy, while others have to work so hard for a C? Not fair! Picking the books by up, I headed out the door, already feeling the noose around my neck.

The classroom wasn’t crowded, so the teacher separated us in order to cut down on the ability to cheat. There were no cell phones in those days, and calculators or open books were not allowed in the room. Also, this teacher was a hawk: he didn’t miss an eyeball drifting sideways. I looked down at the paper, and the first problem might have been in Greek. Against the rules of the test (do each one in order), I went to the next–wow! Easy! So I zipped through the pages answering the ones I could, then going back to the ones that needed more brain time. Meanwhile, the brainy students were going one by one.

A month later the trigonometry teacher stepped into the English class and asked for attention. He gave the results of those who had scored highest in all areas. Then he stopped. “In Math, although I have no idea how she did it, considering she is failing trig, Sandy Day scored the highest.” Thank you, Mr. Whatever (his name is erased from my memory bank.) (Intentionally, probably).  I knew right then I had figured out how to take tests: go quickly through the ones you know, then go back to the harder questions. Granted, there are probably rules that prohibit doing this now in the technological age, but at that time it worked well.

No one has to be a Rocket Scientist to know that life is full of tests. Only the naive think that when they get out of school, tests will be over! The test for your driver’s license, college classes, balancing checkbooks, having quarterly reviews at work, making the outgo and the income equal out–at least in some respects,–all of those and millions more are tests. It’s definitely not exaggerating to say that each day we have tests in some form or the other. If you have kids, you have testing. If you are married, you have testing.

Recently, I found a different test–one laid out in Scripture put there by the hand of God. I wasn’t looking for it, but this, still able to be called the being the beginning of a new year, is a good time to do a self-examination, or test. I was reading Psalm 15, and was immediately impacted by the question the psalmist asked in prayer: “God, who may dwell with You in Your holy place?” (My paraphrase). And then he gets his answer: anyone who lives a blameless life (wow, can anyone do that?); who walks in righteousness; who refuses to engage in conversation that is slandering to another person; who does not listen to gossip; who does not harm his neighbor; who speaks out against sin; who criticizes those who are committing the sin (that doesn’t go down well in this age of “tolerance,” does it?); who commends (and encourages) those who are faithfully following the Lord; who keeps a promise even if it ruins him; who does not extract the highest interest rate he can get by with, thereby putting a burden too heavy to bear on those he lends money to; who refuses to testify against an innocent person even if he is bribed heavily to do so—this man will stand firm forever. Whoa!! Those are the goals of someone who wants to serve God with his entire life. This obviously was not a test where one could say, “That one is easy, that one I’ll come back to, that one I’ll never figure out,” etc.!

It is easy to see that those are the standards of someone who must have a close and wonderful relationship with the Creator God! It is, as Paul writes in the book of Romans, the reason that the commandments point us to Jesus. Just looking at that list, and then seeing where you “test” out against each one of those attributes, tempts us to throw up our hands and quit trying. That’s why we need a Savior. If there were a chain with thick heavy links holding you to God, and each link was one of the commandments, or one of those characteristics in Psalm 15, how many would it take to break chain holding you to God? Only one. Someone had to pay the price for us, or no-one would be dwelling with God in that holy place!

Hallelujah, there was Someone who was able to pay that price, live up to the standard God had set, and then paid the debt that we could never pay. Yes, He lets us sin, and no, He doesn’t like it when we do. But if your child disobeys, and then is truly repentant, you are ready to forgive. So is God. Let’s try for a “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we stand before Him, having passed His test!

O God, how we can relate to the psalmist as he cried out, “Who can abide with You?!” We see our failings–and I confess, Lord, that I am not always sorry the moment I fail You–and feel we can never be good enough.  Then I realize how badly I need Your grace, and Your forgiveness. Help me–and others–draw near to You, so that You will draw near to us. Thank You for Your grace, Lord God, and for Jesus Christ. Amen

 

© Simon Lawrence | Dreamstime Stock Photos

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

HUNTING

The woods were so frightening! Was that a giant black widow in the web above my head? Maybe a bear was behind the tree, or even a skunk. The loaded gun felt weird tucked under my right arm and balanced with my left hand, and knowing it was ready to shoot caused me fear also. I had always heard that Indians could walk so softly that no one could tell they were in the woods, so I tried my best to make no sound. Behind me, in single file, my grandpa and grandma were also walking quietly. My grandpa must love me a lot, I reasoned, to take me hunting for the first time in my life, and let me lead the way! If I got off the trail at all, he would whisper a quiet encouragement to guide me left or right, back to the trail. I didn’t have to look back to know he was there; for one thing, he was my Grandpa and would never leave me alone in this fearsome place! For another, his quiet words of command to stay on the path, though like a gentle whisper, were evidence that he was there. I didn’t know which was greater, my fear, my excitement, or my pride.

That happened more years ago that most anyone who reads this can conceive, yet I can still feel that experience as though it happened yesterday. I was maybe eight years old, but he gave me such a gift that day as he did what no one else had ever done: he showed he trusted me to handle a gun, lead our way, and listen for his voice.

Now, so many decades later, it is the end of another year and a time to look back at this past twelve months. Did you walk an unknown path, knowing your heavenly Father was behind you, never leaving you, or did you doubt His faithfulness? His still, small voice is a command to our heart if we are about to get off the path; did you listen for it? Sometimes it is a red flag of warning if you don’t want to listen–it probably means you want to do you own thing! Did you act in a manner that He found faithful to His wishes? If so, you have done well.

Some days I feel like that eight-year-old, ready to take on the world. Other days, I feel a hundred and twenty, dreading to put one foot in front of the other! But one thing I know, every day has something to teach me. There is not a day that goes by that I do not discover something new. And because of that, I can look forward to 2015 knowing that I still have so much to learn: so much about Jesus, so much about  myself, and so much about what my purpose is in living. He has plans and a purpose for me, Jeremiah wrote, and I find it only by being in the center of His will.

You may be thinking, not me. Nope, not after the mistakes I’ve made. Not after the way I messed up last year. Not after the sins I committed, when I flagrantly yelled at Him, “Let me do this on my own!” Yet Isaiah 57:15 tells us, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'” There is such hope for the backslider! All you need is a humble spirit of sorrow for what you did when you got off the right path, confess it to Him (1 John 1:9), and you are forgiven! You can start 2015 out with a clean record! How much better can it get?

Do  you have goals for 2015? It seems only once in a great while that a “New Year’s Resolution” is actually kept for the year. But a goal, ah–that’s different. That’s a commitment to stay on the path that God has for you, so that you can be more like Him. What does that look like, to be like Him? Do you actually hunger and thirst to be righteous? Do you want to let others go before you? Do you mind if someone gets credit for  what you’ve done? Do you let someone else have the last word? Do you love others more than you love yourself? Yikes. That stabs. Do you keep the church’s sticker off your back windshield so that if you cut someone off in traffic, they won’t know which church you attend? My license plate says “EL EWE.” LU. I know that no matter how I drive, someone is going to recognize that I am associated in some manner with a certain university and church, and that God’s reality in my life shows in my driving. Ouch. It causes me to drive better, I will say that!

So what about 2015? Can we make some commitments that we will handle this year better than 2014? That we won’t waste as much money, perhaps eat healthier to keep our temple in better condition, that we’ll treat our family as we treat our boss, etc? We could fill up a dozen pages. But let’s go back to a few posts to the “Do Not Fear” and pull out the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord with all that we are, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We can reduce our huge list to two things. And we can trust Him to be behind us every step of the way, whispering if we start to get off track, and loving us. What a God to walk with in the next year!

Holy Father, how we fail You, but how faithful You remain! Your word tells us that even when we are unfaithful, You stay faithful to us. You are willing to save anyone who calls on You, but how can they call unless they hear? And how will they hear unless we tell them? Give us boldness and courage to know You have our back, have ordained our path, and are accompanying us ever step. We love You, Lord. Thank You for the cross. Amen

LET IT GO!!

let it go

She looked at me with hate, viciously grinding out her words,”I’d like nothing more than to kill you!” I confess I stood for a moment in stunned silence; how many people hear this said to them? Not only said, but truly meant. That was rough. What was rougher was that this was my only sister.

Going through a bitter divorce, she and her ex wanted nothing more than to hurt each other. The easiest way to do that is to tell lies, right? Or push buttons (spouses always know where to push the hardest)! In her case, her husband told her lies about having a relationship with me (there was none), and she believed him.  Maybe you’ve been there. The problem was, because she believed him, which involved me, now she wanted to hurt me. And what better way than to do it through my children? She called my adult children and told them (I can envision her dramatic anguish at having to tell them what she knew) what she had found out, which had not a grain of truth in it at all. She had “evidence” (I never knew what, probably a forged letter), and–of course–it destroyed more relationships for many years. For more than two decades, losing not only my sister, but the closeness that had been built between two of my daughters ate me totally alive, but finally, through time and much hurt, I had to “let it go.” I couldn’t fix it, but I had to move on before it killed me.

My story is no different than thousands of others. I have come to learn that the majority of people have something in their past that is like an albatross around their neck. Maybe it was marrying the wrong person while on the re-bound, and never really having a marriage. Maybe it was having a child outside of marriage, and later having to watch a boy/girl friend abuse the child. Maybe an abortion, which continually haunts you. Maybe you gave a child up for adoption. I know what you feel: every child you see may be him/her, right? And it will always be. Somehow you have to come to the point where you “let it go” and trust God’s love for the child to be working out His plan for your child. I have lived long enough now to know most of us have to be tested by fire. Relationships are destroyed, homes are destroyed, and in the end we are tested to see whom we love the most: ourselves or the Lord.

Israel had the same problem. Adopted by God and raised as a cherished child, she became a great nation, only to fall into sin that destroyed the relationship. God had to put her through the fire in order to try to re-establish the relationship, finally sending His only Son to bear not only the sins of Israel, but the sins of those (us) who were grafted in–the Gentiles. Read Deuteronomy, the last several chapters. It sounds like the USA today!

Soon the first of 2015 will be upon us, and thousands will be making a resolution to start a new life with the new year! Putting behind us those things which bring pain, those things which cause us to harbor bitterness (which gives Satan a foothold in our lives), those things which have hurt us so badly but do not hurt the other person–now is the time to “let it go.” We don’t want to spend the rest of our lives with those feelings “frozen” inside of us, like cancers, eating us alive from the inside out! We want to be free to experience the joy God is so willing to give us. We want to exchange the sadness we feel–or have felt for years–for happiness that only comes when our lives match up with the guidelines He has laid for us.

Last night at a basketball game, I was impressed at how close the guys could come with the ball to that line that marked the court. It could bounce within inches, but they deftly caught it and kept within bounds! We need to have such spiritual tenacity that we don’t let the balls we juggle each day fall and bounce away, where we step outside the lines to grab one. That only comes with diligence and practice. Spiritual exercise, the Bible calls it. Do you know how to do it? I haven’t been very good at it either. But I know Jesus promised that if I would ask (in this case, that He help me), I would receive; if I knocked, the door would be opened; if I seek, I will find! (Matthew 7:7). So, how about if we both “ask” for God’s joy to replace the sadness of our past? And while we’re at it, we can seek that joy and find that it is only in Him–He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Not a popular statement in this day of “tolerance,” but what will you say when you die and find you were wrong?

I can almost hear your thoughts: “but He gave me a rock, when I asked for a piece of bread,” “He took my (mom, dad, whatever),” “He did this, He did that… He is not to be trusted.” And because He didn’t do life the way you wanted it done, you withdrew your trust–you decided to punish Him by withdrawing your love. Just like my sister: you were hurt, so your revenge is to hurt back. Sadly, that’s no solution at all, and the ripple effect goes far and wide. It really is time to “let it go.” Trade in your sadness for obedience and joy before it’s too late.

Holy God, the years have passed in a blur, with no solutions to the problems that have been the result of trying days. But I have enough faith in You to know that Your purpose and plans for me are not to harm me but to give me life. If I could control You, You wouldn’t be God, You would be just like man. Thank you for being the sovereign power of the universe, the great I AM, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer. I ask for freedom from past choices that I made, past consequences that were from the actions of others, and ask that You be my joy, not another person, not this short life. Help me, Lord, to let it all go, and embrace the freedom that is found in You! Amen

THE BLAME GAME!

BLAMEGRAM3

“I didn’t do it!” my child exclaimed when I called his name! Good grief, all I did was ‘holler’ for him! Parental thought: he has a guilty conscience… so I call again (against all rules of good parenting), “Come here!” I needed to source the reason for the comment. He stood in front of me, obviously wishing for a hole to open up. “What did you do?” “Nothing. Rachel did it.”  Hmmm, interesting. A counselor could make the most of this situation, but contrary to a child’s opinion, mommy’s do not come with eyes in the back of their heads, nor the wisdom of Solomon. Ten minutes later I had my answer: he had broken a piece of Depression Glass, hidden it in a drawer, and added lying to the mix.

Having just kept a young, 7 year old grandson, there was no one for him to blame when things went off course. In fact, when I picked him up from school the first day of my testing period (I would have him the whole week… only grandmas can relate here), he hugged me, got in the car, and someone flipped the switch to “on.” I couldn’t find the “off” button the rest of the week. Women obviously are not the only ones who need to get 35,000 words spoken in one day: he managed in the first evening. I figured it was a result of being the next to youngest in a family of five children, and he was suffering from “undelivered speech.”  As I was saying, he began our interaction with, “Grammy, I accidentally made Yellow today.” (Purple is best, then Green, Yellow needs work, Orange is bordering on a big problem, and Red is “call parents.”). How do you accidentally make Yellow? By the fault being someone else’s, of course. (By the way, between sermons, illustrations and reinforcing good behavior, he made green the second day and purple the next. WooHoo! Grandma’s have become wiser with age.) When he spoke, my mind went back to the forty billion times I had heard, “It’s her (his) fault” from his mom and his uncle–his mom’s brother, the breaker of the Depression Glass. The Blame Game. The truth is, the fruit falls pretty much straight down to the bottom of the tree, doesn’t it? I seem to remember saying “I didn’t do it” to my mom, and I had no one else to blame.

Lying about our guilt is pretty easy, isn’t it? I would love to see in your mind the thought that went circling through as to what you last did that you had to make an excuse for? (“I would have fixed the sink, but you wanted me to mow the yard..,” “I would have mowed the yard, but you wanted me to run to WalMart.” Our ways are a lot more subtle than saying “If you hadn’t told me you wanted me to go to WalMart, I would have had time to mow,” knowing that will 1) push a button, 2) start a “discussion” we don’t want, or…3-10,000) other reasons.

It’s easy to see why: we don’t want to accept responsibility for our actions. What is sickening is that we play the same game with our Heavenly Father! (“I would have gone to church this morning, but God, You know I had to work late, and I was so exhausted I just couldn’t get out of bed in time.”) One of my sons works graveyard, comes home on Sunday morning at 7, and by 8:15 is ready to leave for the early service. I’m so thankful he doesn’t say, “I’ve just gotten off work, Lord–You wouldn’t expect me to go to church, would You?”

If it makes you feel better–which it shouldn’t–Adam was the first to play this game, and he had the impertinence to say it right to the face of the Lord God! Genesis 3 relates the story of Adam as God calls him after he had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then asks Adam if he ate of it. “The woman You gave me persuaded me to eat of it!” he excused himself. When Eve was asked, she answered, “The serpent deceived me, so I ate of it!” And so it started… The Blame Game.

When will we grow up enough to learn to admit our failures? Failure is going to happen–but admitting it to God and moving on is growth. Being upfront about our responsibility enables us to accept that we’re not perfect, we have times when we don’t do what we should, and we should not hesitate to admit it. (“Honey, I didn’t mow the yard because I took too long washing my car. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”) Life isn’t perfect, and we aren’t either! I love the verse that tells us that “God remembers our frame, that we are but dust!” I think there’s a whole person in my house if I could just get him/her all together…

Look for ways today that give you the opportunity to blame someone else and then see if you’re big enough to take responsibility! Adults have the Blame Game perfected–we’ve had time to practice since we were kids!

Father, please help us, even in our more mature years, to learn to take the responsibility we should when we have not acted in a responsible manner. Help us to acknowledge our guilt, and then put things behind us. Most of all, help us to love the one who has blamed us for having lost out on something in life they feel they deserved; and if we know someone has something against us, give us the courage to go to them and make it right. Amen

 

WHO? ME?? MAKE A BAD CHOICE? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?

BUBBLES

It happened to another person, many, many years ago. Someone so naive that sensual innuendos went straight over their head. Whatever someone told her, she would believe, even if they were evil. She had been taught to believe in people.

When the breaking point came, and she left her home, within days her life started crumbling. For the next few years she learned lessons each and every day about the trials in life, the liars in the world, the deception Satan has on people’s lives. But she had done what one must be so cautious in doing… she had burned her bridge and there was no going back.

The God she knew could have stopped the break; why didn’t He? So she blamed her parents for not stepping in, and keeping her from making wrong choices when just a young person. Finally she realized, they did what they had been taught–so it was the fault of her naive grandparents. Realizing they, too, probably were doing the best they knew how, she eventually worked her way back to God. It was His fault. He could have stopped her from ruining her life. He could have given her different parents, a more worldly mind, have made her less trusting. The anger against herself for her choices built. And built. Like a volcano, it was going to erupt. You hate yourself so much for making a choice that there is no way to fix.

Better to die than live with this much hate. Easy to do. Take two bottles of pills and it’s done. Only it wasn’t done. There’s one step lower than the bottom: when you have to look up to see the bottom. When someone finds you, and you live. You can’t even die.

In telling this to a person a year later, they had one remark. “You really hate God,” they said. “NO! I hate myself!” Their words were darts on a shield, deflected. A month later the radio was on, and the speaker was talking of hate. “No man hates himself,” he quoted, from Ephesians 5:29. “Wrong! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” It was 1978. The book lying nearby was a workbook from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, by Bill Gothard. The page fell open. There, in black and white, was written: “If you say you hate yourself, you don’t. You hate God.” God had to say it three times before she got it: her anger and hate was not against herself, it was against God. It broke her. She could not stand to think that the God who created such a beautiful world for us to enjoy was Someone she hated. Her repentance for her hatred was genuine. The amazing part? Suddenly a “bubble” surrounded her. You’ve read of children living in bubbles because of diseases? God put a “bubble” that was–had to be!–the unbelievable Holy Spirit, and love crushed her. For three weeks, she walked in a bubble of love, and could feel nothing, sense nothing, except the overwhelming power of God in her life. I was a changed person, for God loved me. I was no longer full of hate.

What did He teach me in all this? So many things: one, that He will NOT keep us from making choices that are far-reaching, life-changing, 100% bad, when we are determined to go against His will; two, His forgiveness is beyond anything we can imagine, but the consequences are there for life. We have to “forget those things that are behind [since we cannot change them], and press on toward” life; thirdly, there is always forgiveness for shutting Him out, for being angry, even for hating Him because you feel He’s destroyed your life–but you have to ask for it. Again, if you killed someone, they won’t be raised again in this lifetime, the ex-husband remarries, the judge’s sentence may have to be carried out in a jail, but that will all pass: His love and forgiveness will remain.

If you look closely at the picture, you will see the bubbles in the hands. We have to live in this world, but its standards, its influences, its definition, as our Life Group leader at church said yesterday, is not to stain us. Is that possible? Yes! But only through being plugged into the outlet of His power source, not our own. Through the power that He gave us when we became His child, we can do all things. But not without it. By accepting His gift of salvation, His power can change you!

Have a blessed week!

JUST GET ME HOME!!!

The guy behind was so close to my bumper I could almost see the color of his eyes! Granted, I was in the left hand lane, but I had a car in front of me and several beside me, so there wasn’t much I could do. I fumed. I honestly thought about hitting my brakes but figured he was so close it might dent my bumper. Besides, we were doing 49 in a 45 mph zone! What was he thinking?? I saw my right turn coming  up, so I had to maneuver my way into the right lane, which made me more irritable, knowing he thought I was doing it so he could pass. Never. As he sped by, I have to say my thought was, maybe there’s a cop up ahead. Suddenly that inner voice spoke to my heart. Oh, brother. I had brought it on myself. “Did you even wonder if perhaps he was trying to get to the hospital, or had a really good reason?” Of course not. Then I remembered a morning driving fast to the local hospital, wondering if I would be too late, and our precious grandson, just born, would not have made it. What if that man was in a predicament like that? Ok–confession and repentance time.

Five minutes later. I take a quick glance at a lady in her yard, and pray, “Lord, please don’t let me weigh that much some day!” He spoke again….”Remember when your mom and dad were coming down to FL, and there wasn’t anything in the cupboards but a can of corn? Your family could only buy spaghetti, pasta, beans, and biscuits! Not easy to stay slim on high carbs, and you didn’t–do you remember?” Oh, yes, I did. I had judged again. Within a few minutes. Confession, repentance.

“Good grief! I can’t believe her mom let her go outside in shorts that looked … well… worse than indecent,” I thought as a mom and her teenager walked into a store. “Maybe she hasn’t had the benefit of a godly upbringing, and is looking for attention,” He said to my heart. Oh, yes–I had judged again. Back to confession, back to the Cross.

Can I not go a few minutes without sinning, Lord?? Apparently not. I thought of the woman who was going to be stoned for adultery, and how Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11). I’ve often wondered, did He mean “big” ones  or all? Yikes. I would have had to laid down in the dirt and stayed there.

Having run all my errands, of which there were many, I came out of the last department store, excited about my purchases. Finding room for the packages was a challenge, but finally they were in, and I was pouring sweat. A temperature of ninety in Virginia feels like 110 in FL, and the sun was beating down. The car felt like it was120 degrees inside, but I turned the key for a/c. Nothing. No “click,” no rat-a-tat-a-tat, nothing. Not a light bulb lit, just deafening silence. Not good. I had just driven fifty miles, and it was fine! No, to answer your unspoken question, I really did not even think of yelling, “Praise the Lord!” I felt like kicking the car, but had too much respect for it to do so. My daughter would know what to do–she runs an auto parts store, and what she doesn’t know would fit on the head of a pin. Most men assume differently. Great, she’s driven an hour and half away, to another town; my husband is in FL, so I call my daughter-in-law to come try to jump the car. She does, it doesn’t. Obviously I need a lesson in patience, in gratefulness (it didn’t happen at a stop light), and probably a dozen other lessons.

AAA later, at home, in air conditioning, now almost seven and I get lunch… or was it breakfast? Does yogurt count for breakfast? This day has come, and as the Bible says so clearly “it came to pass,” and pass it finally has. I thought once about buying a wooden cross and tacking my sins up on it, one by one, but I can clearly see that the cross would have to be massive to hold them all. Yet He would do it again, just for me. Just for you.

Thank God, He did. Thank You for the cross, Lord. Thank You for the love, when I was dead in my sins and trespasses. Amen

 

HIS GRACE STILL AMAZES ME!!

The car seemed to reverberate with my frustration: “I CAN’T go on like this! I CAN’T do this anymore! I’m burned out, don’t you understand?!” In my muffled sobbing, what could my husband say? He knew I was stressed to the max, but at this point, late last year, there was no solution. I felt like maybe God was not hearing my prayer.

We walked on into church–of course I got my halo out of the glove compartment and put it on!–and soon the service began. After a time of praise and worship, our pastor began his sermon. He had my full attention in any case, but God, just to be sure my mind wasn’t wandering, had him question, “When is the last time you said you CAN’T make it, that you CAN’T go on?” As he finished his sermon, I sat stunned. God, the Almighty Creator, had spoken through our pastor. I knew he had just spoken by the Holy Spirit directly to me, and that I could go on another day.

How does it feel when the pastor says something that seems as though he may have been in your car, under your bed, or in a room nearby? Do you heed the instruction, the rebuke, the encouragement? Or do you think perhaps it is a “Love Note” that God is sending to you?

Lest you think I believe myself to be anything except a sinner saved by grace, I will tell you the next chapter. Saturday was the culmination of a rough week, as in “No. 8” stress level. I run a large sales business out of my house, and have had to be concerned about the economy like many of you. Each week I have seen sales go down, lower and lower. It has seemed that I’ve been under more pressure over the past year that the previous five put together. I have prayed fervently–constantly! Finally, Saturday morning I got up, and there, on the computer, was a bunch of sales! I was ecstatic–until I started hunting the items that had sold, and could not find almost one-fourth of them!! I have to say, in all honesty, I felt betrayed! When my husband came in, I was sunk in the depths of despair. Being me, I gave vent to the incredible hurt I was feeling: “If I’m going to have to be so specific in praying, not only for sales, but for sales that actually end up being found, paid for, acceptable, and the customer happy, what good is praying? What if He doesn’t love me? What if I’m not saved? What kind of loving Father is that?” And on and on–never at a loss for words in my hurt and anger, I talked until it was all out.

My husband stepped up to the plate. He reminded me of my salvation, and tried to encourage me that the business could survive even if we needed to redirect some of the aspects of it. I did what I always do in order to escape the crushing reality of stress: I went to bed. I can sleep 20 out of 24 hours if I’m trying to escape.

Sunday morning (yesterday), with our pastor being out of the country, we sat down in the church, ready for the praise and worship and the sermon. But God. Don’t you love those words? But God had other plans. Turning to John 11, the preacher began to lead us through the death of Lazarus, Jesus’ beloved friend. Can you imagine? God, in the flesh, comes to the earth, and makes true friends! It’s hard to wrap your mind around that. But then Lazarus gets sick…so they send friends to Jesus, knowing He can heal the sick. He tells them, “It will be okay–I’ll be along.” When He does arrive, Lazarus has been dead and buried four days, and Mary, Martha, and their friends all have the same response: if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died. As the preacher said, “You would have been able to keep him from dying, but look, now he is dead, You can do nothing!” Despite His miracles, feeding the poor, raising the dead, walking on water, and so many others, now, they say, YOU can do nothing! No wonder Jesus wept! And the pastor continued, what has YOUR faith been up against this past week, or month, or whatever time period, when you say, “You are NOT able to help me now! You can do nothing about my situation! There’s no use praying any more, for You are not even caring enough to show up!” Can we look at the past, and look at the miracles He has provided in our lives, and still say, “You are unable or unwilling to fix my problem?”

Conviction was heavy upon me, and repentance was on the heels of it. I was so ashamed! I was truly of a “broken heart” (Psalm 51), that I had doubted that the Creator of the universe, who has acted on my behalf so many times, could do nothing for me. Or perhaps I should say “would.” Do I know what He’s doing in my business? No, I don’t–nor do I know what He’s doing in your life. That’s where TRUST comes in. Maybe He’s waiting “four days” so that others may see the glory of God! As we sing so often, “Never once did I ever walk alone! Never once did you leave me on my own! You are faithful, God, you are faithful!”

Do you believe that? I do. I was there. I was the one He was speaking to.

YESTERDAY’S—RECYCLED MOMENTS

“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!” Philippians 3:13b, 14

Attending a conference this week, I heard a speaker refer to moments that have been passed by, but not lived! What a stirring that has done in my spirit since his reference on Wednesday! Are you like me, with a life full of moments that come and go so quickly, yet you haven’t grasped them, and held on to them? The second I just lived, I will never live again. One second closer to eternity, to seeing God face to face. Do you ever wonder about the people who have treated Him with hatred, and suddenly are standing before Him?

Oh, if only we could recycle those unused, or thoughtless moments! A friend of ours, whose job involved building and handling guns and ammunition, got careless for a fraction of a second–just long enough for the weapon to misfire and render his right hand useless for the rest of his life. Just the twinkling of an eye, and doing something he had done hundreds of times, but that fraction of a second changed his life. Do you have those?

How many of the moments that we have lived could we have used to lead someone to the Savior? Once upon a time, there was a girl in my church who wanted to commit suicide. I prayed for her, but then told the Lord, “I can’t go to her house, but if You want me to speak to her, You will have to bring her to me.” I felt safe saying that, as we did not run in the same circles, so to speak. Later that very night I went into our local food store. As I rounded the check-out lanes, in front of me, not 30 feet, she was walking toward me. A divine appointment. Did I grasp the moment? I had to–I had asked God for that very thing.

Oh, that we could go back and re-live the bad choices! Have those moments back when we’ve really blown everything! Perhaps changed our lives and the lives of those we love by deciding to “do it my way,” as the old song said. But that’s not God’s plan for us. It is much bigger, and encompasses Grace, grace, marvelous grace. If we could re-live and fix mistakes, we wouldn’t need the grace; if we could do it right the first time, we wouldn’t need mercy and forgiveness. We wouldn’t need to “forget those things that are behind,” those things that Satan uses to browbeat us, trying to make us useless for God. But bless His Holy name, we can look forward to the things that are ahead, knowing that we can take the useless, unused, or messed up moments to Him, and He alone can recycle them–and we can press on toward the prize of being with Him in glory one day. Praise Him for His promise to return for us!

 

SURVIVAL: MOTHER’S DAY IS OVER!

“Will the mother stand who has eight or more children? The oldest mom…” Our pastor, along with thousands of others around the US, addressed the moms in the congregation. Not a big deal? Maybe not to you….

Thursday before Mother’s Day I attended a program where one of our first-grade grandchildren would be participating. As the little ones–so gorgeously dressed–took turns at the microphone with their tribute to their mother (“I love my mom because…. she gives me cookies; … she reads to me… she plays games with me…), my heart broke for the little ones who were making up things to say. Don’t tell me out of a group of 30 or so kids, all had their moms–I won’t believe you. I couldn’t help wondering how many were living in homes where a step-mom resided, who really didn’t like this child of another woman. For a moment I went back to a time in another century when I was responsible for my children enduring a Mother’s Day program without their mother, because I was too backslidden to be a mom. Gasp only if you have never wandered from the path of righteousness–and oh, by the way, don’t doubt for a second but that I would give my life had I never sinned, for I would–but I did. But where I am today is at the foot of the Cross, with its “Grace, grace, marvelous grace.”

As the program continued, I wondered how many were being raised by Grandma… or in a foster home… or had lost their mom to illness and death.

I couldn’t help but reflect on the moms who were sitting there thinking of a baby lost in the womb. One mom in our church has lost ten–can you even imagine the grief? I can’t. Having lost one, I can’t even begin to sympathize. How does one stand up when the pastor calls a number? What if you’ve lost three, as a good friend has, but hasn’t had a baby yet? Does that make her not a mom?

I even thought of all the women who were sitting in the audience who have had abortions; sure, there are some who go on about their lives and never give the baby a thought–but how many do you know personally? Have they ever told you that it hasn’t hurt them? I’ll believe it when they sit before me.

For now, it’s over. Another year before we have to agonize over whether to stand and count the three that we had that we lost in a custody battle, or the three that we raised afterward. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great to honor moms. But somehow the ones who should be honored may be the ones who raised their children to be loving, hard-working adults, when there was no father in the home; the ones who raised their child to remember a picture of a soldier who gave his life that our country could be free; the ones who celebrate a Mother’s Day because they’ve given up having a career that would have given them financial freedom, instead of a one-income home where food is sometimes pancakes for supper, but everyone is happy and grateful for each other–those and more need to be honored. Not how many times you’ve gotten pregnant, nor how long you’ve lived on this earth.

No, next year won’t change. It will be the same categories in all the same churches, the restaurants will be full, and many moms will not receive a card. But maybe each of us could do something special for at least one mom we know who will be alone with her children, doing her best. That would make two people have a wonderful Mother’s Day: You and Her.

Father, You have called out the best in Mothers, and given us guidelines to have life, and have it abundantly. Forgive us when we stray, when we are impatient, unloving, and place ourselves before those we love. Help us to remember that in serving others, we serve You. Bring this all to our minds next year, so that we can learn from the lessons of yesterdays. Thank You for grace, Lord. We love You.

TO SIN OR NOT TO SIN–THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Memories keep events alive in our minds, don’t they? Flashbacks will come if the right terminology, situation, person or thing passes your vision or ear! This morning as I was reading in 1 John 1, he writes in verse 8 that if we say we do not sin we tell a lie: you can’t get much plainer than that. However, it reminded me of several years ago: I was talking to my then-pastor, and made the comment, “There’s never a day goes by that I don’t manage to commit several sins!” He looked totally horrified. “What?!” he exclaimed, as if he himself would never do that, nor even think of doing that! I sat quite stunned, wondering where he was spiritually.

Just this morning, deep in work and concentration, my phone rang. My husband was calling just to say hi; he was driving to an appointment, and decided that was a great thing to do with his time on the road (we won’t go into the logistics of cell phones here!) After we hung up, I was “upset.” That’s a woman’s word for furious, but sounds much nicer. Did he not realize I would be trying to take advantage of every second of the morning to get computer work done–work that is not only necessary but time consuming, mentally challenging, and with tons of deadlines? How could he be so thoughtless! BOOM! God lowered the conviction and I breathed deeply, as my mind quoted James, “the anger of man does NOT achieve the righteousness of God!” (1:20). My husband did not sin when he called me, but I certainly did by imploding anger after the call was finished. Repentance, forgiveness, a new start, in that order. Cleansed. But how long will it be before something else happens? Probably as soon as I get behind the wheel of my car! Don’t turn up your nose–you’re right there with me.

We are not perfected yet, despite the standard the world wants to hold us to (which, of course, does not apply to them). We are “justified” (just as if we’ve never sinned), we are being “sanctified” every day (set apart from the world and having a daily cleansing), but we are not yet “glorified” (present with Jesus and with our new heart)! Oh, that we were already perfect! Like the bumper sticker says, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven!”

If your day is not spent letting the Holy Spirit convict you of activities, thoughts, attitudes, or reactions that cause a blemish on your soul, do some self-examining and make sure you’re on the right path! It doesn’t take much: just ask God to reveal any sin that needs confessing, and needs to be dealt with. He will! It will flash in your mind instantly! If nothing does, then sing a song of praise, and keep on keeping on!