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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.

MOVING THE MOUNTAINS!

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I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains; from where does my help come? It comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1, 2 NAS

Somehow the scene just popped out at me! How appropriate–the beauty of mountains sticking up out of the foggy valleys! What a glorious time God must have had as He painted this picture so early in the morning for me, the only person around! Climbing up onto one of the guardrail posts, in high heels, I did a balancing act while taking this picture of a scene that took away my breath. How amazing, and what a spiritual truth lay in the beauty!

Raised in the “hills” of West Virginia (America’s “Little Switzerland,”), mountains have been my love for all of my decades. It was sheer agony for me as our family drove our now-vintage vehicles, loaded with a week’s worth of necessities, to spend a week on the beaches of North Carolina. The heat, the sand spurs, the sand, the tides–none appealed to me and I longed to return home to my beloved mountains. Later, as a move to Florida came about, I thought my life had ended: as you top the small ridge on the Interstate and enter Florida, your vision feels as though it is going for miles and miles in a straight, flat line. Once, when my youngest son was about four, we were driving. As we went over a speed bump on a street, he looked back: “Was that a hill, Mom?” he asked.

Later, moving to Central Virginia, I would awaken to the gorgeous beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, drinking in the cool air, the wonder of the loveliness, and the grandeur of the height and depth of the terrain. I have never gotten enough of the view, no matter how often I awake to it.

Now, mountains and valleys have become my daily expectation. Oh, not the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, but the ones that come with regularity into my life: those people who are seem to delight in making our lives miserable, whether in the workplace or a social setting; the load of work that has to be completed by a certain date (have you ever noticed that we refer to the files on the desk as a “mountain” of work? Or, a “mountain” of laundry?); the deadlines set by someone who expects actions to be accomplished yesterday, and on and on. Then the valleys: our spirit gets low, Satan steals our joy, unexpected bills are due, we find one of the children is being bullied, someone we love has a terminal illness, and again–on and on. Sometimes, as in the picture, the fog is so heavy in the valley that we can’t see our way. Do you call on the Shepherd at that point, or has He been walking beside you all along?

Last year, after reading my Bible through for the umpteenth time, as I came to the verse in Matthew, “If you have faith the size of a  mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and nothing shall be impossible to you,” (Chapter 17:20 NAS) suddenly I was struck by the word ‘mountain.’ Now probably you, if you’re theologically taught, have already realized that was speaking metaphorically, but for me–well, I had always thought there would have to be a mighty good reason for the mountain to move, and I had never had that practical motivation, although I felt my faith was solid. Suddenly, I saw the metaphor, and realized that I could have enough faith to move a mountain of heavy burdens, a mountain of tasks, a mountain of responsibilities…and so much more. Why had I thought it had to be a physical mountain? Because I’m a black and white person, I guess. I have to really work on seeing gray areas. God opened my eyes, and the word popped out! Don’t you love it when that happens?

So today, you can move a mountain! Not perhaps all at one time, but you can start with the first wheelbarrow full of dirt. Does your spouse or family member have a mountain of bitterness against you? Then start moving it! Do you have a mountain of work at the house that it seems it will never get done? Then start with one square of 4×4 ft. space. Tomorrow do another square! By the way, leave one mountain in place, so you can go to the top occasionally for a real “mountaintop” experience! And while you’re there, remember how many valleys God has brought you through. Even though Christ was talking in Matthew 25 in a parable about servants and faithfulness, it is easy to apply it to Christ Himself: if He has been faithful in your life to bring you through the many small things, will He not also bring you through the big things, the mountains, if you will? Of course He will! Your faith only has to be the size of a grain of mustard seed!

God, You are so tremendous! What a glorious world You have given us to enjoy, with the beauty never-ending! Yet we know this world is going to wear out like a garment, but we don’t have to fear: You have gone to prepare us a place that is beyond our imagination. Meanwhile on this earth, Lord, as we sojourn here, let us be good and faithful servants, even unto death. Thank You for Your nail-scarred hands, and all that they mean to us! We love You, Lord! Amen

 

 

JUST WHEN I NEED HIM MOST!

You may not have been raised “old school” where the hymns were the basic doctrine for almost all of one’s theology, but if you were, you know there was (is) a hymn for every situation! My son once said, “No matter what I do, you have a Bible verse for it!” Believe me, that was not meant as a compliment! But there truly seemed to be an old hymn for however one was feeling and you would find yourself humming or singing the one that fit your mood! “What A Friend,” “The Old Rugged Cross..” so many great hymns. This week God reinforced the beautiful one that said “just when I need Him most!”

My son-in-law posted that he had had a week of four Mondays… someone else said he was about the fourth person they had heard that from–and I made a fifth! Do you have those weeks, when it seems as if every day brings a crisis, an unexpected bill, a sickness, or worse, a dry, spiritual river bottom, rather than a flowing stream? Your prayers don’t seem to go through the ceiling, and God seems silent. Not a good week.

But He knows our weakness, and oh! the reassurance in the reminder that “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are but dust!” (Psalm  103:14). He hasn’t moved one inch… He’s just waiting for–well, what? Us to get quiet? To draw near to Him? To get to the end of our frayed rope? To call upon Him in the day of trouble? Yes, these and more!

One Monday after another for four days, and then suddenly, like a flower opening in the sunshine, He sends down some blessings to remind me–and you–how special we are to Him. Like a child who comes to you in loving obedience, and suddenly you forget the misdemeanors for the love, just as suddenly you forget the faithlessness of wondering if He really cares as you bask in the love that He’s showing. Problems that were stressing me all week disappeared as He acted: sending answers to prayers that had been fervent all week. And I wonder, why did I doubt that He would? I am so often truly a “double-minded man [woman], unstable..” in so many ways! And yet He remains faithful. Again I rest in the Scripture: just because I am faithless, does not make HIM unfaithful! (2 Tim 2:13.)

We serve an Awesome God! One Who has our best interests at heart, but is not persuaded to act when it’s too early, just because we are stressed. His answers come “just when we need Him most!” And when they do, we forget the pain, for the gift of life that has come again to us! (John 16:21, with apologies to John for taking it slightly out of context!) He has answered with love and kindness, miracles that are so special they show me they are “Love Notes” directly from the heart of God–straight to my path.

Forgive me when I waver, Lord! Keep me on the straight and narrow path, even when the world tempts me to get busy and forget my first responsibility is to hunger and thirst for You, O Lord! Thank You for Your love, Lord, and thank You for the Cross! Amen

PRAYER–YOUR FIRST OR LAST OPTION?

Sitting by the bedside of her only child, my friend stated in grief, “There’s nothing left to do except pray!” I heard what she was saying, and I knew she already had been praying, but what she was really saying was “It’s totally out of my control, the doctors don’t know what else to do, and God alone is my only hope.”

There’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, that’s where we should have been every day since the birth of any of the ones that God has given into our hands! Yes, sometimes we mess up–sometimes we make mistakes and there’s no going back because none of us are perfect, or even ‘good’–but we keep on giving them into the hands of the Savior. But when it has come to the point where no one can help, we turn to God in a different way, don’t we? We pray with an intensity that is fervent (and yet we all know that God still sometimes says “No.”)

Have you read the book of Nehemiah lately? His life of prayer gives us so many insights into his character! He had gone to Jerusalem after the captivity of Babylon, and was going to oversee having the wall rebuilt, but there were many enemies! Now turn that into your own life: you’ve had a difficult time going through a valley, and you start trying to rebuild: maybe a relationship, a life that was almost destroyed.. it can be almost anything! But when you start to rebuild, you find there are many “enemies.” These may be in the form of discouraging words from family members, friends that turn away, Satan’s devices to use obstacles that seem so terrifying, and you have a decision: do you keep on re-building or give up?

Nehemiah didn’t give up; he gave us a set of steps, and if we can use them, it might turn our valleys into mountaintops. First, he assessed the situation. He really wanted to know what was involved in the rebuilding, but the enemies were so many that he took only a couple of men and in the quiet of the night took a tour around Jerusalem to see what needed to be done. Secondly, he prepared a plan. He didn’t tackle this on his own–his narrative is filled with the prayers he prayed continually, asking God’s help, but he also involved the people. Not just any people! The people who “had a mind to work!” Surround yourself with friends who will encourage you, no matter how small the number, and who will be praying. Thirdly, while they were praying, they also worked: in fact, you will see if you read Nehemiah that the enemies were so great that while some worked, others were on guard with weapons! Choose friends, pastors or others whom you know who will be praying a hedge of protection about you and your friends as you rebuild! “Do not be afraid of them [the enemies]; remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your [family]!” (4:14b). Let others help you! Delegate the problem to those whom you can trust. And lastly, some of the workers worked with one hand, and held weapons with the other! Just because you have done your ‘homework,’ gotten people to pray and help you, you can’t relax your vigilance while you are rebuilding your life, your relationship, or whatever you are trying to repair–especially if it is going to bring glory to God in the end–you have to remember that Satan will try to attack in every way he can. So have your guard up, don’t be afraid, put your faith in Christ and Christ alone, and know you are fighting a spiritual battle at the same time you are re-constructing!

Read Nehemiah sometime! His is a story that is a definite guide to walking so closely with the Lord that his life gives us a guide to follow.

Father, if someone reads this and is trying to get a broken marriage back together, restore a child to the family, or rebuild a relationship for your glory, please give them wisdom, send friends who will intercede and fight on their behalf for victory, and shield them from the power of the enemy. Put a hedge of protection around them, and let them enjoy the days that You have made! In Christ, Amen

Tunnels!!

The bridge between St. Peterburg, FL going south toward Sarasota was long and very high when we lived there. One day, going across the bridge, I glanced over at my husband only to see his eyes shut! He has a phobia about heights–and tunnels! Going through Baltimore’s tunnels, I have to keep an eye on him, hoping he’s not freaking out while driving!

That’s how this year has been for me–how about you? As you could see, I had this grand plan for a sequel book, when our lives became one very long tunnel, filled with a few bridges in between–and they definitely were not mountaintops! But out of all of that, God has worked miracles, and more importantly, taught us more of His daily love, that He is beside us through every valley (or tunnel or bridge!)

Out of it has come three more books that are in the writing mode, so I’m excited about that! So if you were looking for more “Love Notes,” don’t give up on me–they’re still coming! Also, I have been part of the writing team for Thomas Road’s daily devotional, “MY TIME,” which is not only a smartphone app, but can also be accessed online. You can have this free added devotional by going to http://www.mytrbc.mobi.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his paths. Definitely I have learned that no matter how much I think I’m fulfilling His will, He may have plans that are very different from mine! He had things to teach me this year, which hopefully will make the next books more applicable to those of you who are in valleys!

Thank you for hanging in there with me! If, by chance, you read “Am I Missing Love Notes From God?”, would you take just a couple of minutes and go to Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com ) or Barnes & Noble ( http://www.barnesandnoble.com ) and write a one or two sentence “review” as to whether you were touched by it–or not!–so that I can move forward on the next book? It would be greatly appreciated!

Father, thank you for the faithfulness You’ve shown this past year as life has been going so fast, with so many detours that seemed insurmountable! Thank you for holding our hands through the tunnels and valleys, and breathing new life into us! In Your Name and Your Son’s Name, Amen!

Waiting Patiently or Taking Control?

Do you get frustrated waiting for God to answer a prayer?  Lately I have been more and more aware of the “control” I want to take when things do not go the way I wish them to!  Yet at the same time I’m fully aware the Bible tells me to “wait patiently on the Lord, and He will bring it to pass.”  Why, then, is waiting so hard?

Obviously, part of the reason (maybe the main one!) is that we live is a society that is geared to NOW: we go through the fast food restaurant when we feel hunger pains (and get upset if the line is more than 3 cars long!); we hit ‘enter’ on the computer and then get irritated when the circle spins for more than ten seconds; we pull up to a red light with our left foot on the brake, the right on the accelerator in order to hit it as soon as green appears, and on and on.  Control in our eating habits, control on the road (and don’t we holler at other drivers–since they can’t hear us!–when they make us five seconds later than we want to be?!), control over the computer, —control, control, control.  You would have a hard time convincing me that most of our frustrations do not arise out of losing that control.

God does not work on our time table.  That may not surprise you, but at the same time, have you accepted it so that you can trust in peace?  Lately it has come to me as I’ve been reading in the Old Testament, trying to absorb the culture as I read that I do not have the faith of the old time saints.  Noah was faithful, spending many years building a boat–did he know what a boat was?  Did he know what it was for?  Did he understand rain?  I’m not sure–perhaps his faith was so great that he didn’t care about the unknown, since he had heard the voice of God telling him to build the ark.  How long would we have worked, while people jeered and taunted us for doing something “stupid?”  A day?  A week?

Abraham was told by God to go away from family to a place God was going to give him and that his descendants would outnumber the sand on the seashore; ten years later the covenant was renewed, and yet it was another fourteen years before Isaac was born.  Twenty four years!  It’s not a wonder that Sarah got frustrated with waiting, but yet there is no indication Abraham had anything except total trust in God.

David was anointed king by Samuel.  Did he take the throne immediately?  Not by any means!  He even was ‘hired’ by Saul to play on his instrument in order to quiet the insanity of Saul–an unknown king consoling a reigning king!  He had to run for his life for years before being anointed king, and then served faithfully in Judah before Israel became part of his kingdom as well.

All of these patriarchs point out that God definitely does NOT see as we see, nor is He tied to a time that says “do this immediately!”  Yes, there are times He acts quickly: Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king, showed a sadness in his face when he came before the king: an act that could have gotten him killed.  The king asks, “Why are you sad?” and Nehemiah prays! All he has time to say in his prayer is “HELP!”  He did not have the luxury of waiting ten minutes before answering the king! I’m convinced God gave him the words to speak truth to the king and gave it to him at that moment.  But that was God’s timing!

What can we learn from these?  That when God promises something, He will do it!  Which is more important to us–that we submit our will to His, or that we control God to get it done sooner, rather than later?  If I can order God around, He is not the right God!  My God does what He wants, when He knows He needs to, and not one second sooner.  He gives me faith to continue to serve Him even when I see nothing happening–or do I?  These are hard questions.  St. Augustine, one of the most famous of the early church fathers, had a mother who prayed for his salvation night and day–never giving up, never letting go of the hem of the garment of the One Who brought salvation, and eventually her prayer was answered.

It is a light-bulb moment for us when we realize that inactivity drives us up a wall, and that waiting patiently is adverse to everything in us: waiting for God to act seems fruitless when days become weeks, and nothing seems to have been done! So we say to God (perhaps not aloud!) “Here, just give it back to me, and I’ll work on this problem while You do something else.”  And God usually does! He’ll give it back, watch our fruitless actions, and wait patiently for us to come to the realization that all we’re trying to accomplish is only resulting in unrest, a lack of peace, and NO productivity! Years ago in high school I remember the analogy the teacher used for work: was pushing against a boulder or a building, with every muscle in you, pouring sweat in the process, red in the face, work or not work?  It was not work because it would end in nothing being accomplished.  So it is with our activity when it’s outside the realm of waiting on God.

May He find us faithful as we wait for Him to answer our prayers, our pleas, the desires of our hearts.  May we have enough trust in Him that we can rely on every promise He has ever made, knowing somehow good is coming from the waiting!  May we continue steadfast as we lift us wayward children who may be destined for hell, husbands who may be playing at church, fathers or mothers who want nothing to do with God, siblings who fight against serving God, and neighbors whose lifestyle slanders everything He is.  Let us serve Him for He is Holy, Faithful, and deserving of all we can give Him!

Father, I’m probably the worst of your children who gets impatient with waiting.  Help me to realize the stronghold this can have in my life, and let me give my problems completely over to You, and then wait patiently for You to bring good out of them! Send sowers to those we love who will plant seeds, water, fertilize and get the Gospel into their hearts, so that You can bring them to fruition!  Increase our faith, Lord! Amen