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DO NOT FEAR!

DONOTFEARAs the group sat in a circle around the room, everyone spoke of their experiences raising an adopted child. We sat and listened, occasionally looking at each other obliquely, as we heard all the terrible situations they were enduring. These people were going through fire in many cases. It was not a support group, but a group formed of parents who had adopted, and had been invited by the state to come together and tell what raising a non-biological child could entail. They were, in effect, warning those of us who had been approved for adoption how traumatic it was going to be.

Finally, as the time was winding down, my husband and I joined the conversation. “We have two young biological children,” we informed them. “Children who were prayed for before conception, wanted as much as any of you wanted the child you adopted. We have nurtured them, loved them, and not exposed them to anything we felt would be harmful to their well-being. In spite of all of this, our children are going through the same problems you are having with your adopted children. This may shock you, but we feel that perhaps what you think of as a result of a child being adoption, is not the case. We believe that what you are seeing is a child, acting like a normal child!” Although the parents were almost unable to grasp what we had said, it relieved the fears of many of them (to the aggravation of the state workers, I might add!) that they would never have the family they had desired. They had thought all their problems were the result of adoption.

Fear today has become a daily, constant companion, have you noticed?! The economy has left millions concerned for their jobs, concerned whether their income will pay the bills, and dreading–or living in fear of–unexpected repairs to cars or homes, or medical emergencies. Not only the economy, but life in general has become fearsome. Relationships are being subjected to turmoil because unhappiness at home, for whatever reason, creates an environment where we want something different–and the kids live in fear that mommy and daddy will divorce. There is no end to fear. The story above illustrates for me what we see happening in America through situations that all around us. In other words, we zero in on what we think is the reason for our problems, when in fact it probably isn’t. Fear that most people still have huge racial hang-ups may not be the case as much as it is just the few who are causing problems the rest of us do not feel at all. Most people are open to living agreeably with their neighbors, but if you are of another ethnic background it is easier to believe everyone is against you. And fear of not being accepted by those you admire creates a lifestyle of engaging in activities to make you look like Hollywood’s version of what is acceptable, leading many down an empty path of searching for something that isn’t going to be fulfilling.

That is not how God intended us to live. We are to love our neighbor, which is not Hollywood’s take on love, but showing through our actions the type of love that Jesus portrayed while He was on the earth. He ate, walked, healed, and loved the sick, the wounded, the outcast, the afflicted. We want to love those who can love us back. Shame on us.

God’s plan for us is not fear, it is peace, love and a mind that is not swayed by wrong values. Do we believe that? Do we practice that in our lives? Do we stress about money? Yes… then trust Him. He will not give us what we want, but He will definitely provide our needs if we trust Him. And, as He told Joshua time and time again, “Do NOT fear!” Fear is not His best for us, whether it’s the economy, raising our children, facing obstacles in our family situations, relationships at work, our job…. keep going. We are not to fear. We are to rely on the plans and purposes He has for us, and rest in His everlasting arms. They hold us up, and we can relax in them.

Wow, you’re getting preachy, you say! Yes, sometimes life is not all dessert, but meat. Check out God again–this time with your heart. The thing that amazes me is that people say the Bible is full of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” Christ said there are two things that are important: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as [much as you love] yourself. Two things, and we have peace. Then let us go do them.

God, forgive us for taking the easy way out. For answering back in anger, for not seeing truth where it is, for wanting an easy life. You didn’t promise us that, and Jesus certainly didn’t experience that! Give us the faith to trust You as we go about our daily routines. Please–help us to glorify You. 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

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…………….”

2GIRLWHATIF

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

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

 

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

FACADE…… OR FAITH?

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The smell of brewing coffee seemed to seep under the door to the hotel bedroom, enveloping the room in the ambiance of a European coffee shop, and even though I had had very little sleep, the odors pulled me from the warm covers toward the kitchenette. I didn’t even take time to get my glasses, without which nothing is clear.

The coffee pot was full, sitting on the counter next to the stove. But there–on the back burner–sat a full cup, and even though my husband had gone, his thoughtfulness in making me a cup of coffee, ready to drink, was just too sweet! I hoped it was still piping hot, and, picking it up, took a nice big “swig.” If you’re familiar with Jesus’ return, you’ll know the meaning of a “twinkling of an eye.” It took less than that to realize I had taken a nice gulp of grease (I won’t think about the “juice”) from the cooking hamburger the night before, when they had all had spaghetti & meatballs for supper–before I arrived. The turn from the stove to the sink about four feet behind me took even less time as I gagged, all my reflux actions in perfect working order. It wasn’t pretty.

Adding insult to injury, the grease, besides making me sick as a dog who eats grass, left a taste that HAD to come out of my mouth! So I grabbed a clean cup, looked quickly in the frig for a creamer, poured a good ‘dollop,’ and added the coffee from the hot pot. Aahhh. Taking a big swig of that should fix the taste in my mouth. It did. If you’ve been to Europe you’ll know that for every 5 oz. size cup, there’s enough coffee to grow hair on a bald man’s head. This made European coffee bland by comparison. Later, I learned my married daughter–not a coffee drinker–had made it for me, so pleased she could do something special for mom; in that situation, you read directions. One “scoop” of coffee in the filter per cup, for a 12 cup pot, is great if you have a scoop, but if you’re operating in a hotel suite, really, only tablespoons are available. So, just to be on the safe side, she “rounded” the spoonful, making each tablespoon probably equivalent to 2 scoops of coffee. Twenty four. Even in my sleep-deprived, grease-tasting state, I almost gagged again. Then, part of my brain (fried by the grease) said “dilute it,” while the major part of my brain went by forty years of habit, and rather than turning to the sink to add water, I did what I do at home: I added more coffee to my cup. By the point at which I had done this maybe four times, my caffeine overdose was taking effect, and I realized what I was doing. Also by then I was shaking so badly I couldn’t hold the cup anyway. Even my son (her brother), who drinks his very strong, came in rather soon after all this and filled his cup, only to spit it out in about a second flat yelling, “That’s the worst coffee I’ve ever had!” He took out the filter to make new, and there, in the filter, you could see a slight circle of white barely above the grounds. A filter full of grounds. Her good intentions were completely appreciated but I’m afraid the results were poured down the sink.

God doesn’t waste lessons with me. Immediately (as in once I had stopped shaking from the caffeine, and stopped gagging from the grease), I began to see the similarity to our Christian walk. As I’ve written before, (probably), we smile and send a big friendly handshake or wave to everyone we know as we go into church, or when we’re out in public. We talk like Mr. or Mrs. Super Christian before the world, but when God looks at us, as He did with the Pharisees, does He see the outside of the cup being clean and beautiful, but the inside being something He wants to gag out of His mouth? In the semi-darkness, with no glasses, the grease on the back burner passed for a clean cup of coffee! The relationship I had with the grease, as fast as it was, let me know I wanted nothing to do with what it held.

The same was true for the other cup, the one that could have been taken out by the spoonful, each added to a cup of  hot water, and made a good cup of coffee (that’s what I actually did in Europe). But are we strong for other people, always trying to encourage them, display our efforts on their behalf, but inside have nothing that God wants to use? We have to ask ourselves these questions!

The Pharisees, as we say here in Virginia, “kinda, sorta, figured” that He was speaking of them when He pointed things out. Do you wonder, when you hear the pastor preach something that might possibly apply to you, if it really does? That’s probably the Holy Spirit.

And He’s probably saying, “This is for you. Listen. Learn. Apply.”

God, what a lesson! I’ll hate grease the rest of my life (whether I have much left, or not). Help me, please, to be sensitive to the lessons You have for me, so that I can be beautiful for You on the inside, so that You can use me in any small or big way to help someone who needs to know You better. I love You, Lord. Amen!