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A THOUSAND YEARS? OR YESTERDAY?

gloryThe chainsaw lay like a ghost from the past on the hardware store counter. The salesman shook his head. “When did you buy this?” he asked my husband. “Just a couple of years ago, I think,” was his reply. With today’s computer technology, the salesman decided to see if it was still under warranty. He could hardly keep from grinning. “Sir, you bought this in 2006.” Eight years, not a “couple.” When my husband arrived home, he asked me when we had bought the chainsaw (before showing me the new one). “A couple of years ago, I think,” I replied. Wrong. By a long shot. We must be having more fun than I thought.

We had a granddaughter born recently–or so it seems. How then, did she enter college last year, and is ready for her second year? And one left last week for the Army–but how? She was just, what? Eight? Ten, maybe? When did eighteen happen? I wasn’t ready for her to go, and I’m not having fun with her missing at Sunday dinner, or swimming in the pool, watching the younger ones!

People asked, “How long have you been married?” “Forever,” I reply. Well, it seems like it. But then no, it seems like yesterday that I ran into the house, tossed my books on the piano and sat down, learning Fugues and Canons and Symphonies–that was just yesterday, wasn’t it? Or a lifetime ago?

How can the little one in the picture be fixing a tie on a child? He was just born! I remember bringing him home, and my husband fixing hot dogs (which I hate) and canned green beans! I had checked a steak on the menu at the hospital! Wasn’t that yesterday? When did he become a father?

Going back to the little home place where my mother was reared, which my great-grandparents built, I see it setting like a memorial to them, perfect logs, a tiny 2 room home on a hillside in WV; time has stopped there. It’s a hundred and fifty years ago all over again–or is it today? With drones, and hackers, and threats to security? Am I having fun yet?

That was my mom in the image I just passed! No, for a split second I thought it was she, but suddenly I realized, that was me! But I’m twenty–or I feel from the inside looking out that I am! Where have the years gone? And I realize, that is the spirit that is within us, the same spirit that God explains when a day seems like a thousand years, and a thousand years a day. And I’m not sure which one I’ve lived yet.

So I have to bring my mind back to the basics; back to what is really important since I can’t control time: what am I doing for Jesus? Will anyone be in heaven because my journey here has been long or short? Worse, will someone be in hell because of my journey here? The thought breaks my heart in two.

Paul, through the Holy Spirit, tells us in Ephesians 5:15, 16, to “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Let us be sure that we redeem this time, this vapor that is here today, and gone tomorrow. We can’t take one second back, but we can make them count. Or not. It’s up to us.

Lord Jesus, please help me make the most of the time I have, to pray fervently for those to be saved whom I love so dearly, and bring glory to You! Amen

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.

ARE WE ISOLATING OURSELVES FROM THE WORLD?

“The man who isolates himself seeks his own desire.” Proverbs 18:1a

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Few things equal the imagination of children! Being raised in a dysfunctional family, at an early age I learned the escape from reality that books afforded me. My aunt had many wonderful books, an actual series, by Arthur Maxwell, and I would sit in the corner behind a chair and read story after story. Later, my grandmother gave me a book by Grace Livingston Hill, which presented me not only with a physical book, but a way of life that grew into a hobby and collection that few rival. But my greatest feats were the fantasies I would make up as I lay in bed at night: I can still see the woods around me, the small cabin I (in my fantasy) lived in, the garden I grew, and the hermit life I lived! It was my dream–to be a hermit, away from people.

Although that didn’t happen, it has never left me, and over the years I can see our pattern of residences have almost all been on acreage. A couple of years ago it happened–as it does often to all of us who read God’s word on a regular basis–as I’ve mentioned before on other passages, that, as I started on Proverbs 18, this first verse jumped off the page and God spoke straight to me, that, in my fantasy of isolation, I was not heeding His desires, but my own. Ouch! Double ouch! We are to be “neighbors,” to “love our neighbors” (wherever we find them), and spread His word. It’s hard to do that if you don’t go into the world!

So, I rationalized. Don’t tell me you don’t do that. I do this, I do that, I minister here, minister there; go on short-term mission trips—-WHOA. Suddenly that one hit me, and for a very good reason. The last one I went on, nearly two weeks in duration, was long enough to love on the people, help with a project, eat their food, and tell my story. But, oh! was I ready to come home at the end of two weeks. I just spoke to a sweetheart of a sister-in-Christ who had gone for three weeks, which, she said, was too long. We wanted to get back to our comfort zone.

Where does all this go? If you read any of my blogs, you know I don’t take short cuts. I have to lay the groundwork before giving the interior design, and this design nearly took my peace away! You see, a short term mission trip is great because it is SHORT. We can get back to comfort zones, but also to responsibilities–I understand that. But we also miss a lot. I know–I got a letter yesterday, which some of you may have gotten also.

The letter spoke of a dire need that is never addressed in Christmas boxes, medical terminology, children’s school requirements (i.e., books, pencils, paper, etc). The need is much more crushing, but overlooked–in fact, the mention of it in a blog might be a “no-no,” I’m not sure! But a certain humanitarian organization, Gleaning For the World, addressed it in letter form, and it touched me like few things have: it communicated the crucial need of young girls when they begin their feminine cycles, and have nothing with which to keep themselves clean. They have to resort to used newspapers, old rags, corn  husks–use your imagination. They miss school, and are basically housebound for the week. As a woman, how can I NOT have considered this in the trips I’ve made to Guatemala, India, or sitting in my comfort zone, isolated? I should have thought of it in connection with the sweet young girls that were ministered to in the poverty stricken countries. Shame washed over me, and I realized a new kind of isolation had been in my heart: unmet needs that are not talked about.

GFTW has made a kit available which will help these girls. For a mere $15 USD, it will take care of six months worth of necessities these girls need. I had to come out of my isolated “studio” and put it on paper this morning before I could shake the responsibility I feel to reach out and give hope where there is none. You can go to http://www.gftw.org and read the letter, I’m sure. But along with me, let us be pro-active in reaching the world for Christ: He Himself ministered to physical needs and then taught the spiritual lessons. I pray we do that as well.

Dear Lord, please forgive me for staying in my area of comfort when there is a world who is suffering at the hands of Satan, held bound by tradition, not knowing there is a freedom that is found when they give their heart to You. Help me reach them, not only with spiritual food, but with daily needs as well. Please, God, give me love as You love. Amen

GOING AROUND THE BEND

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The dust on the road made little “poofs” as I jogged down the path, no one but me in my world at the moment. I had not alarmed the birds, who continued to sing, and I could hear squirrels as they scratched in the leaves trying to bury a late acorn–or perhaps find one. I loved being alone, soaking in the beauty, and watching the creek, out of sight on the left, gurgle over the rocks as it went its merry way. How can everything not be alright in a world like this? The day was made to be enjoyed!

I slowed to a walk to savor every moment, knowing it would come to an end soon and I would have to return to my parked car, go finish my errands, and head home. Back to the computer, back to the business, back to the “daily grind.” But wait–first let me continue long enough to see what lies around the bend in the road! Anything this peaceful has to have a happy ending.

I decided to walk lighter, not making any more noise than possible, almost tiptoeing. Why? Maybe gut instinct, which had kicked in! I had no idea how far the path continued, but time seemed to have stood still for these precious moments. As I got closer to the bend, I was still soaking in the peace that permeated the scene. And then I rounded the curve, to the unseen. There, sitting quietly beside the path, about 100 feet in front of me, sat a mama bear, with two small cubs playing happily; after all, Mama was there to keep them protected. I stopped, backed up, and rounded the bend I had just traversed, and then flew on feet that would have won a marathon back to my car. I didn’t take that nanosecond to look back to see if she had been as alarmed as I, and was giving chase. I fumbled my automatic door key, but finally hit the right button. She was not behind me–all that fear, and nothing was chasing me.

I could not help but make the spiritual analogy: it’s part of who I am. How often do we think we can handle what might be around that next step in life, when we can’t see? May we never be so arrogant that we think we can go into any situation, not knowing the outcome, unless He is leading us there to do some work for him. We have no idea what lies ahead, but “He orders our steps (Psalms)” and leads us–unless we’re set on going our own way. Then He does not stop us, but let’s us proceed until eventually we get so lost, or so in conflict that we turn back and ask Him the way.

I pray I always go no further than God leads me. He has always BEEN faithful, therefore He will always BE faithful! If I am trusting Him with my eternity, how is it that I can’t trust Him with today, here, in this “nasty now and now”? Life isn’t always about beautiful paths and peaceful scenes: sometimes–ofttimes–it’s about the bears. But He is all we need. Is He all you need?

Dearest Father, when our hearts are so heavy that we cannot lift them, we think of the beautiful Psalm, now a song: ” Many there be which say of my soul, there is no help for him in God! But, Thou, O Lord, are a shield for me; my glory and the lifter of my head [and my heart!]! (Psalm 3:2,3). Thank You for what You did for me on Calvary–thank You for the scars in Your hands and feet, and what they represent. Thank You for making Yourself so lowly and humble that You left heaven for us, who are so sinful! Thank You for the cross, Lord! Amen

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!

 

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

CLEANSE MY HEART, O GOD!

One of my very favorite theologians is Dr. Harold Willmington of Liberty University.  As Dr. Willmington speaks, he is constantly interspersing hymn lyrics from the very old favorites into his theme.  This resonates strongly within me, as I was taught how to play the piano many, many years ago by an elderly woman who used the old Broadman Hymnal as her teaching guide!  Every time Dr. Willmington begins a quote from a hymn, my mind jumps those barriers to silently quote it with him.  

As I was pondering a very tough situation today, I kept thinking of the old hymn “Search me, O God, and know my heart today; try me, O Savior, and know my thoughts, I pray; see if there be some wicked way in me.  Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.” (James Orr, lyricist).   Today I desperately needed that cleansing.

Had you asked me yesterday, I would have said I try to keep short accounts, and believed, to the best of my knowledge, that I harbor no grudges.  Do I like everyone?  No.  But a continual grudge?  I thought not.

Then, last evening an email came to me from my old hometown: it was the obituary of an aged man who was eulogized with the most flowery of terms, his good deeds enumerated in a lengthy, glowing tribute to his life.  As I read the article, my mind went back to my young years, when I was as naive as anyone could possibly be.  I was a student under this man’s leadership, and he took advantage of my innocence.  Rape?  No, he stopped short of that.  The matter came before the principal, and the teacher was let go: the principal learned I was not the only student to have suffered at his hands.

As I read the obituary, suddenly all of the righteous indignation for his actions came swirling like fog around me!  I realized I was almost enjoying the satisfaction that perhaps now he was getting his just due from God!  I rebelled inside at the thought that perhaps he could have repented and be in heaven!  It has been like a burr in my shoe during this day, as I realized I had unforgiveness for this man, and, because the situation had not been thought of in years and years, I was not aware that I had never repented of the hatred of having been this man’s victim.   I found myself wanting to write those who had sent the message and let them know that while he was wearing his coat of good deeds, he was getting by with lascivious behavior!

Today I have had to pray diligently, Lord, please take this anger away from me, and melt my heart.  I’ve done so many things that have hurt someone, how can I “throw stones”?  After a long day of struggle, God has seen fit to ease my burden, to “cleanse me from [this] sin, and set me free!”

Was it a struggle?  Definitely!  In the flesh I did not want to give in and let him “get by” with what he had done.  But my spirit is much more important than my flesh, and my heart deeply desires to be like Christ–repentance was my only option for peace.

Whatever your cross is, He will see that you are freed from the burden and will set your feet on ‘high places!’

“Father, thank you for bringing this to light. I did not even realize it was a problem, yet it was buried under the debris of living, and was deep in my heart. You had to shine Your light upon it, so that I could clearly see it, and let You deal with. I thank You for Your amazing grace that truly has replaced the animosity with Your peace. I will hang this on the cross, Lord, and pray this man came to know You before he died. Thank You for the cross, Lord! Amen.”