A Look Into Hell

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The realization that the blackness was no longer consuming me was slow in coming. My eyes slowly opened and took in the bedroom, but my mind was still trapped in the screaming I had heard, and the coma was still trying to pull me back into it. I had been close to a huge arena of darkness, and although I could see shadows of heads on thousands of people, they were all screaming without stopping. Cold sweat dripped off my body, and I was so afraid. My eyes could move around the small bedroom now, but I wasn’t able to move my body yet. The screaming was starting to get fainter, and I rolled onto my right side slowly, and let myself fall off the mattress to the floor. Crawling on my stomach to the next bedroom, where the phone was, took all the strength I had, and I didn’t think I’d make it before the tiny light inside me went back out. I reached a hand up and pulled the phone to the floor. My hand shook so badly, but finally I hit the “O” and an operator came on the line. I had no breath, and my speech was so slurred. “Hos—pit—al.” She recognized honesty when she heard it, and had an ambulance on the way in seconds. “Stay on the line!” she instructed. “Where are you?” “Will–they–pump–my–sto–mach?” I stuttered.

Soon I heard a crashing as the paramedics broke the door in and ran down the hall. As the coma started closing in again I heard one EMT tell another, “Get her an IV as fast as possible!” I struggled. “I—can’t.”  They stopped. “Why??” they asked fiercely. “That’s–an–In–ter–Con–tin–ent–al–Bal–lis–tics–Mis–sile.” (ICBM, for military language.) It was over, and I was gone.

The next morning I opened my eyes. Hooked to numerous tubes, laying in a room full of beds with patients, I must have made a machine go off, for a nurse was at my bed instantly. “Oh my! How glad I am to see you! We lost you so many times last night, we almost gave up. It is a miracle you are alive this morning!”

So it wasn’t over. It was even worse than before; at least prior to overdosing, there was hope of getting out of Life. Now, even that hope was gone. I couldn’t even kill myself. If I just hadn’t dialed that operator! But having seen hell, heard the screaming going on and on and on, had apparently sparked a tiny ember that said it wasn’t the right time. Don’t ever think suicide is the easy way out–it takes tons of courage, tons of grief, and a loss of hope that things will ever be better, to go through with it. To mess it up was the ultimate loss. After that I referred to myself as the “Walking Dead,” long before any movie, book, or tv show ever used the term.

That picture will never leave me. Now we’ve just come through another tragedy in America. “Orlando/2016” happened yesterday and I had to relive the scene above, knowing many of those people may have been going into that dark, screaming hell where there are no parties. Blame is being cast as I type, and threats are being made, fingers are pointing, and division in America is rampant. Who is ultimately to blame?

Do you ever have a moment when a verse of Scripture comes alive? Oh, by the way, yes, I lived. And yes, I got my life right with the Lord. Yes, He had been with me all the time, and had never left my side. No, it wasn’t my time. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know there were more children I might have, a husband who would love me, and a church that would make me welcome. Most of all, I didn’t know that God had hung all the sins I had committed, would ever commit, and was committing, on His Son, Jesus Christ as He hung on the Cross at Calvary. And yes, I have found Him loving me all these years.

As I meditated this morning on 2 Chronicles 7:14, I read, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” Wait. Whoa. What happened to the “God Bless America”?? This verse didn’t mention that if the lost in America get saved, He will heal our land. Nothing is mentioned in that verse about saving the lost! It’s talking about “those who are called by His Name!”  If CHRISTIANS in America will humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face…. Those who are sitting in the pew on Sunday, then turning on their R-rated movies (“I will put no evil thing before my eyes”), pornography after the kids go to bed; who think it’s okay to do things behind closed doors; who have an abuse percentage greater than the world; who gossip, covet, lose self control, who live so that the community doesn’t want to be like the church–those people? Ouch. That makes me frantic. Are we talking about everyone? Certainly not! But over and over in Scripture, Christ likens the church to a body, and if one part hurts–or sins–it affects the whole body.

How can I say, “Church, WE have let America down! It’s not the unbelievers–it’s us! We are not doing fellowship well together, serving and loving the community as we should! WE are not standing on the Word of God, under the Authority of God, and on a Mission to change the world for God! WE have become comfortable, and now our children are becoming complacent! WE don’t stand up when we should, be quiet when we should.” I myself buckled under this morning to a daughter, just to keep peace. All day long it’s haunted me. Why didn’t I tell her to stop being angry at God because He let someone make a bad choice? It’s the price of peace. Lousy reason.

Church, let’s humble ourselves! Let’s pray!! Do you know most Christians pray–if at all–only if they’re desperate? What about praying so that we are thankful, grateful for blessings, for life, for everything He does for us? Let’s seek His face! How do we do that? If you seek the face of someone you love, you spend time with them. How much time to you spend with Jesus? Let’s turn from our wicked ways! That’s those movies, tv shows with blatant sex, cursing, immorality, —you know what you’re doing wrong, and don’t need me to point it out.  If we do these things, we have a promise: THEN I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their SIN, and I will HEAL THEIR LAND! Does our land need the healing touch of God? You bet.

Then it has to start at the house of God. Today is a good time.

© Andre Klopper | Dreamstime Stock Photos

RUNNING WITH THE HORSES…

dreamstimefree_65987Barney. If you’re not around horses, the word probably does not mean much. Maybe you think it means an idiot. Wrong (at least here). BUT… if you’re on a horse farm, if you ride the huge animals, or interact with them, it has (or did have, at one time!) a whole different meaning: it means a horse that senses his rider is a novice, is fearful, and decides, on the spur of the moment, he’s had enough of this greenhorn and is going back to the barn–with or without the rider. That was me.

Riding for the first time, this “sweet-spirited, gentle” (quote, my sister) horse would be just the one that I could ride without falling off the saddle from shaking with fear. We got in a line, about six riders, ambling down a path through woods near the farm. The rural countryside in Wake County, NC, was (at that time) beautiful, sparsely populated, and serene.

The horse probably knew the instant I was helped onto his back (believe me, I did not mount correctly) that he had a total newbie on him. It is said that an animal can smell fear. I’m certain his large nostrils were filled with it, and if he could have, he would have asked for a breathing mask.

Halfway through the ride he decided he had had enough walking, decided running might be more fun, and if he were going to run, he might as well head back to the barn. His speed rivaled any horse in the Preakness, Kentucky Derby or on any race track. At least it felt that way to me. I had enough awareness of my situation to know that if I let one of the hairs of his mane slip through my fingers, I would fall, probably to my death. It’s a wonder his mane did not come out. I have no memory of the halter, or anything leather in my hands. Just hair.

I’m sure the screaming in his ears didn’t help any, but after miles and weeks of running at the speed of light, he rounded the corner into the barn. I laid on his back and bawled until several hours later when my sister, family and friends arrived back at the farm. Okay, maybe it wasn’t weeks and hours. Life should not be measured in hours, days and weeks, but in experience. This was one of the “thousand year” times.

All that to say, this morning when I staggered into the kitchen for my first two cups of coffee, which are in one mug (when news came out several years ago that more than two cups of coffee weren’t good for you, I increased my cup to one that holds 20 ounces. So I still drink two “cups,” it just happens to be 40 ounces), I saw an unusual sight: two box fans, on the floor, blowing on high speed, the mop standing there, a shiny, clean floor, and the frig (by the standards of a housewife) not straight. About that time my husband came up from the lower level–a shock, since he sleeps a full two hours longer than I do. The ice maker had poured water out of the ice section (not the gadget side for water), somehow missing the connection of flowing in to refill the ice tray. For who knows how long? Long enough to flood the kitchen. Great. At least he had risen to get a drink of water and found the situation before it leaked through the floor to the lower level. The maintenance agreement ran out in March. Is that predetermined or not? By the time I got around to chugging down my coffee, if I remember correctly two hours (or ages) ago, we were having a “negative fellowship,” since I wasn’t moving the frig correctly, wiping the floor right, and all those other things that might be said when two people are under duress, and one doesn’t even want to be spoken to until coffee has gone from mouth to stomach, stomach to brain.

As I calmed down, I could not help but reflect that nearly every day brings a crisis of one type or another. Some days it might be a small one, other days it’s a big one. I start my day with quiet, coffee and my Bible. Today didn’t start like that. I was frustrated, irritated that the frig wasn’t doing its job, and antagonistic because I was having to “hit the ground running,” rather than having a peaceful quiet time. The Scripture hit me between the eyes, “If you can’t run with the horsemen, how are you going to make it when you have to run with the horses?” (That’s a very loose paraphrase of Jeremiah 12:5).  In other words, if I can’t wake up to a flooded kitchen, how am I going to react when I wake up and something has happened to one of my children or grandchildren? Or news of a terminal illness comes our way? I was not running well with the “horsemen” this morning, so how am I to keep up when I have to run with horses?

Sunday’s sermon came to mind. (You knew it would come to this, right??) Matt Willmington, at Thomas Road, preached on what a Christian really is. That means in the midst of trials, persecutions, hardships, etc., we don’t forget Who we’re following.  We act like a Christian, talk like a Christian (no profanity, sorry folks, but that’s what the Bible says), no saying “Oh, my god” and taking His name in vain (sorry, folks, but that’s what the commandments say), but we realize this trial is momentary, a “light affliction,” and developing patience in us (James, chapter one. Read it, he’s terrific).

Matt laid out some facts that were humbling: if you made more than $5o,000 last year, you’re in the 1% bracket for the world’s wealthiest people. So all those “rich” folks you’ve been frustrated with now includes you; if you made $25,000, you’re in the top 2% wealthiest people in the world. At just $12,500, you’re in the top 13%. That’s $6 per hour, if that helps. Does that put things in perspective for you? It did for me. I was complaining and whining about my frig (“do all things without grumbling and complaining.” Sorry, folks, it’s in the Bible), when really, I have a refrigerator and most of the world does not. I want days without crises (plural), but it’s not going to happen. I need to exercise my spiritual life so that I can keep up with the horses, even when they’re barney.

I need to take the crises of life, turn them into reasons to be grateful, and thank my heavenly Father for His daily care, His daily love, (He gives me daily bread–and since HE is the Bread of Life, He feeds me with Himself daily), and remember to be grateful that I have a frig. Car. Gasoline in it. Breath. Fresh air. Good health. “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”

Thank you, Father, for life!

Sunday sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church: http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive

© Raoul Nijst | Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

MUD, MUD AND MANURE…

I looked at my watch: there was just enough time to run home during lunch, not to eat, but to check on the cow who had given birth in the night. She had seemed “not right.” It was still freezing cold, late February, and I had worn an off-white wool suit to work, needing the extra layer of warmth.

As I pulled into the yard, I looked out over the rolling hills, trying to spot that particular cow. The herd was about half way down the back pasture, at least a quarter of a mile from the house. I threw off my heels, pulled on tennis shoes, and took out, knowing I had to to ease my concern before heading back to work. She was a beautiful cow, and worry would be in the back of my mind all afternoon if I went the rest of the day not knowing if she was doing well.

Ten minutes later I was among the herd, looking desperately until I located her at the back fence, far from the others. Hiking up my skirt, I quietly hurried toward her, trying to talk calmly as I got closer. She was gently shoving the babe with her nose, pushing to get him to stand up. It was obvious that he hadn’t been on his feet yet, even hours after his birth, or been nursing as he should have.

Looking down at my suit, then back at the baby, it was a no-brainer. Still talking quietly to the momma, I carefully lifted the baby, and began the long trek to the barn. She followed, understanding her little one (ha!) was in no danger, and lowing to me as we walked. I didn’t think I could make it. The pasture was wet from melted snow, and the calf was heavy. Nothing but sheer determination forced one foot in front of the other as I made the long journey up the slight hill.

Finally I reached the barnyard, walked through the gates that were open into the barn so the cows could get shelter if they wanted, and headed for a stall to set down my burden. At the very last moment, almost the last step, when I could “lay my heavy burden down,” (as the song goes), I slipped. Every ounce of energy suddenly focused on getting that baby down carefully as I went down as well–backwards, flat on my back, in the mud and tons of manure, in my off-white suit.

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There wasn’t much I could do; after making sure the little one was standing and nursing, I ran back to the house, showered, changed clothes and grabbed my suit. Putting it into a bag, I rushed out, heading back to work. I ran into the dry cleaners, gave them the bag with the smelly suit and gamely said, “Don’t ask.”

What good are trials, accidents, and things you wish had never happened unless you look for the lessons they can teach you? Not much, so I did. Suddenly I saw several.

In Matthew 18, Jesus illustrates a parable where a shepherd has a large flock, and one goes astray. He said the man would leave the “ninety nine” to look for the one. Are you possibly the one Jesus would look for, who has strayed away? This wasn’t  a sheep belonging to someone else, this was one of his own. The animal had chosen to walk away from the others, doing his own thing, looking for greener grass. The shepherd went to bring it back to himself. I went to find the one who had given birth, and bring her, now with her calf, back to the herd. Is Jesus looking for you, even though He has thousands of other followers?

I also thought about the mud–well, let’s face it, the manure. Smell? Wow! Any farmer knows how overpowering it can be, which is why stalls have to be mucked out on occasion! But I didn’t care about the mud, the manure or the weight of my burden: I was concerned with bringing the little one to safety. Did I wait for a warm, sunny day, when I had “barn” clothes on? Or wait for the rain to wash the baby clean? Hardly. I was concerned only with bringing him to shelter while there was yet hope. Jesus is waiting for you, just as you are, with all your past sins, present lifestyle, and “hurts, habits, and hangups,” and holding out His arms to gather you to Himself, and bring you back to the safety of His love. He doesn’t care that you are covered with the sins of the world–He will clean you up. Wash you, so that you will be “whiter than snow.” Would you, in your hurry to run from Him, scorn His love? You’ll never find safety outside of His care.

It was also a matter of urgency. The longer the calf was without sustenance, the less chance he would have. With the signs of the times indicating major turmoil ahead, we have so little time to find the lost ones and show them the Savior who loves them. Are you one being sought, or one who is seeking? We may not have much time.

Lessons are on every hand. Are you looking for them as you go through your day–or are you just going through the motions? Don’t be like the man in James 1: he looks in the mirror, sees himself, but then goes away and forgets what he saw. Look for the Love Notes God is sending you today. You will surely see them.

 

© Sandra Day, by Kessler Photo

THE MOUNTAINTOP

It’s been more than forty years, and I can still see the mountainside when I close my eyes. No water bottles, no candy bars, backpack or intelligence, apparently, just a hillside in the mountain range. West Virginia’s state song refers to those “hills, those beautiful hills.” The fact is, those hills are part of several huge mountain ranges, but are still referred to as “hills.” Now I was looking at a mountain higher than any I had ever seen when I had lived in my home state.                                     

dreamstime_l_545824224   My tennis shoes grabbed hold of the dirt or stones, trying to find a small foothold; my hands didn’t dare let go of the tiny roots that grew within reach of each step upward. It didn’t seem so hard at first: energy and adrenaline flowed strongly enough to give some deftness to the climb. That lasted about ten minutes. I clung to a small tree base long enough to turn my head, and the bile rose in my throat. What had I been thinking? It looked straight down, although the incline had to have been at least 60 degrees. I knew if I let my hand slip, I would not stop until I hit bottom. After only ten or fifteen minutes, I couldn’t have been too high up but it looked like a mile. By half an hour the bottom was about as far away as the top. Only will-power kept me going. Sweat ran down my entire body, part from stress, part from workout. The fun had stopped long ago.

Eventually, with much internal conflict, the top came into view, and after another year of time, reached. As I sat looking at the gorgeous sight, I felt my spirits rise in cadence with the beauty my eyes were feasting on. Nature at its best can be seen from the top of a high mountain. But my joy was dimmed as I looked at the only way back down, deciding there was no way I was going to take my chances on leaving this secure seat for a death ride. I would rather sit at the top until an airplane spied me and made a recovery, or I died from starvation. As evening wore on it became obvious my only option was limited to going back down the mountain. I would rather have been shot, but there was no one in sight who had a gun.

“Don’t look down, don’t look down,” became my mantra as I descended the hillside. Looking down would do me in. You can’t throw up easily while hanging on to every root and stone available. My hands were bloody, but I wouldn’t look down. At long last the valley floor began to make itself felt. Now, these decades later, I have never been tempted to do anything so foolhardy again. Climbing Stone Mountain in Georgia is the closest I have ever come to duplicating that one day, but Stone Mountain didn’t leave me with nightmares.

In Christian circles we talk often about “mountaintop experiences.” Those who have them mean they have had some type of encounter that has left them breathless with wonder and blessing. Wonder at the goodness of God, and blessings that have been given to them at a time when they needed them. But did you ever wonder how they got to that mountaintop? Believe me, I know.

Mountaintops are reached by going across a valley. Some mountains are not so high as others, so it’s not as far down to the next valley, but most of the time you have a very long trek as you leave the floor and start to climb. It’s hard, stressful times that you go through to reach the top. A mountain by the very nature of its name indicates a tall, steep side. Spiritual or physical, mountaintops are reached by hard work. Coming down can be just as taxing. You can do as some do: sit on your bottom and take your chances of stones and thorns! Others, like me, come down slowly, never looking to see how far it is. But you’re going back to the valley.

Our Lord didn’t promise to keep us on a mountaintop. He didn’t–as His disciples Peter, James and John–suggest that we build a tent and stay there. He brings us to a mountaintop by bringing us through the valleys, and up the steep slope. The valleys are often dark, but He’s beside us. The slopes are slippery, difficult and sometimes we think we can’t make it, but He’s right beside us, comforting, encouraging, or giving strength when ours fails. In other words, He’s never left us, whether in the valley or the good times, and He isn’t going to start today.

That’s where people make mistakes. They think life should be all mountaintops if you serve Him, call Him Lord. That’s not the way it works. Mark tells us we will be tried by fire. That hurts, burns. And if our faith is shallow and made of hay, it will evaporate into ashes. If it is made by trusting Him whatever the circumstance, we will come forth “as gold.” If you think about it, every valley you come through should make you less fearful and more trusting. Every steep slope you climb to get to the top of a mountain gives you more stamina. Spiritually speaking, every day we should be able to look back at the path we’ve come and see that we have a faith stronger than we did yesterday, or a month ago, or maybe a year ago.

And as always, we have a choice. Stay in the valley, climb the mountain, or leave the whole situation and decide He’s not worth it. I’m so glad He did not look down from the Glory He had in Heaven and decide we were not worth the sacrifice He made on Calvary. I hope you’re glad as well–and willing to walk with Him wherever He goes.

 

 

© Angelaciudad | Dreamstime.com – <a href=”http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-man-climbing-climbs-hill-formed-stones-middle-forest-image54582422#res6282368″>Man Climbing A Hill Photo</a>dreamstime_l_545824224

 

TRUSTING.. OR NOT

WORRY2 Don’t get me wrong–I love my son dearly. I’m just saying… sometimes there are lessons we miss that illustrate how to live the life of a Christian, and sometimes we actually get them. This time I got it. I don’t always connect the dots, do you?

You see, it started when he decided to take his wife on a surprise trip to Europe. The first thing he did was to make certain that we would be looking at an empty calendar that week, so that the children would be cared for. Brownie point–or, in this case, Scout point. Then all the arrangements started being put into place, passports, luggage, hotels, cities… the whole “nine yards.” She realized he was planning some type of trip, so the question was “Where???” “Colorado,” he replied. (Off the top of his head. Who goes to Colorado when they can’t ski?) She didn’t believe it, but figured, like Delilah, she could wear him down. Thirteen years of marriage hasn’t taught her she can’t. She didn’t.

The weeks have gone by and the time was arriving. He meanwhile gave us tons of instructions for the kids: when they had this practice, that test, did their homework, had their showers–a whole list. Scout point 2. Great dad.

By the time the day before leaving arrived, he had gone over every list conceivable to raising children. They are not babies, but 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. And we raised him. But the details were written down, talked about; food for the week was bought (would grandparents let them starve? Ok, so he doesn’t feed them junk food, but we eat reasonably healthy). I was amazed that their mom, his wife, had said nothing–and I mean NOTHING–to me about the kids!

The morning we picked them up to take them to the airport, I asked her, “Why haven’t you given us any instructions for the kids?” She just looked at me. “I’m leaving the kids with you two. It didn’t occur to me to worry about anything.”

As I pondered her reply, the spiritual aspect hit me between the eyes. What an example of the way we should trust God! Our daughter-in-law knew we would have the kids, and whatever happened–even a crisis–they and their safety would be our first priority. When we give our greatest possessions or worry to God, we should have complete confidence that He will place a priority sticker on it. We don’t have to fret about it any more. Our son, on the other hand, did what we usually do with God: he made sure that we understood how their schedules ran, what they ate, when they slept. That’s fine–and good that he was so concerned, because ultimately he was trying to make it as easy on us as possible. But still, I believe we do that with God: we give Him the details of how we want Him to take care of a situation, and make sure (in our hearts) that He understands this is how is usually works.

Did we follow his schedule? Well, we tried to. Sometimes we did, and sometimes we wanted to build a memory, not just a regular week. Ok, maybe a little bit more pizza, or fun, but we’re the grandparents, so there’s a latitude that is unwritten. I’m sure God does the same thing. There’s our schedule–then there’s HIS schedule. His takes precedence when we’re turning it over to Him.

The thing is, we need to let Him do what we’ve asked, with complete confidence that He will do it His way. And it will be right–and maybe fun.

Just like our week has been!

 

© Lisa James | Dreamstime Stock Photos

POURED OUT AND OVERFLOWING–The Aftermath!

The pick-up truck pulled in beside the bins, just another vehicle in a long line. An elderly gentleman and his wife got out of the truck, walked to the back and started taking boxes out. There were sheets, dinnerware, comforter sets, crib sets, canned goods and health products. They filled one of the bins completely full, got back into the truck and pulled off. They had smiled and nodded at the workers, but made no show of their generosity.

The large group of college students jumped out of the bus, tools in hand or tool kit, gloves and boots on, ready to work in one of the more damaged areas. They started cleaning, hammering, fixing–anything that needed to be done. At lunch they stopped for a short break, ate their packed lunches, and went back to work. Some of the students circulated among the householders, trying to find out if there were immediate needs that required priority. They weren’t pushy, obnoxious or arrogant; they were just a large group of students helping out in a neighborhood full of needs, to the best of their ability.

A group of teenage girls came from a local youth group, cases of crayons, books, puzzles and more, ready to entertain children, calming them while their parents needed to get their lives re-arranged after a tornado. The girls were sweet, caring, and helpful with the children. They had come to do a job in loving their neighbors, and were doing it the best way they knew how.

This community is like thousands of others around the nation. People who have had their lives completely blindsided, being helped by other people whose only motive is to make things easier for those suffering during a time of disaster.

The humanitarian organization was there, handing out water, blankets, food, and other essentials. They, too, were serving. They, too, were motivated by concern and love.

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You look around at the lives interacting, and see the services offered in love, see those who need love at the moment, need comfort, encouragement and physical needs met, and you have to ask–where did these people come from, the ones who are helping? They’re not military, nor paid workers–just ordinary folks like you and me, alert to a time of tragedy and how they can help. It’s love in action.

At a time in America when Christians are taking the flack for everything from reading their Bible in public to having their social media censored, these people aren’t letting it bother them. One looks at them, not trained, but helping without being asked. You look beyond where the vehicles are parked and see van after van, a bus here or there, all with church logos on them. All putting their faith into action.

Did they stop and ask those who need help if they are worthy? Certainly not! Did they bring up anyone’s lifestyle, their hobbies, their language, their race, their looks? Certainly not. These people did nothing to deserve the help, material items or love brought to them: they received it because they are made in God’s image, and the church is to love them. To show love such as Jesus would show. To perhaps cause one of them to question, “I thought Christians were hypocrites, were judgmental, and arrogant because they say their sins are forgiven! But you aren’t acting like that. Can you tell me why?”

If they, as ordinary human beings, can serve and love their fellow neighbors like that, without asking “are you worthy for us to help you,” how much more does the God in heaven love them. He doesn’t judge them by their past or their present, either. If they decide they want to believe that He is the Son of God, turn from their sins, and follow Him, every sin they have ever committed is instantly forgiven! A debtor whose debts are paid, and a bill marked “Paid In Full” hand-delivered by Christ to them.

For those of us who have loved Him for years, we have found Him faithful. He has never left us, never moved away–through the hurts from the world, through the evils that have occurred because the world truly is full of evil, through the bad times and good. He has carried us, held our hands, snuggled us closely while we wept, and carried our burdens. Is life always easy? Absolutely not. But the advantages of being a follower of Jesus Christ–and having a relationship with Him–is so overwhelmingly in our favor that it’s hard to understand someone rejecting Him. He is good, He is faithful, even when we are not. How much more can you ask?

Don’t get your eyes on people who fail you, for there will always be those, both inside and outside of a church building. Get your eyes on Jesus, knowing He will love you through it all. But He’s not a Genie to be used only when you need a favor–He’s the holy creator of the universe, the One Who spoke the world into existence. He has plans and a purpose for you, if you’ll trust Him enough to take His hand. Just do it.

 

© Angela Farley | Dreamstime Stock Photos

FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE..

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The clock said it was a little past 2:30 p.m. Almost time for the grandchildren to get out of school, but it was really getting overcast. I hate to have them out in a storm anytime, even just running for their daddy’s car. The weather was acting crazy, and yet the forecast had been for storms along the coastal area, several hours to the east of us. Still… The wind began picking up, and soon the rain started. I looked at the clock again, 3:15. The kids would be safe in the car–or maybe running for it. Why didn’t I think to turn on the radio? Because it’s not a normal part of my day, that’s why. I went back to work at the computer just in time to hear a storm take over. Wow! Water gushing, wind howling.. but I still didn’t connect the dots. 

It wasn’t long before emails started coming through: Route 460 closed. Tornadoes in Appomattox, Concord, Red House. Destruction everywhere. Power out. The feeling of reality didn’t hit, because we had been on the storm’s edge. I couldn’t put pictures with what I was hearing. In a little while a pastor-friend called; he had heard we had a generator, he had his grandchildren, and no power. Come and get it! He did. We wished we had had a hundred to give out.

Today, in the aftermath of twenty-four hours ago, the destruction is like any place where a tornado has left devastation and destruction in its wake. Homes demolished, cars wrecked, trees down–only if you’ve been in one, or been through an area immediately following a tornado can you picture what the reality looks like. But what a picture it is!

Do the homeowners have to worry, while they are adjusting to their lives being turned upside down, that thieves will come in and vandalize their homes? Probably. This is today’s world. Riding by, you feel the helplessness and lack of control to “fix” everything. But then… you start seeing with eyes that are really open, not just topical observation at the mass destruction. You begin looking more closely. Look! Those people had … and you find yourself looking deeply at the inner lives of those who lived in some of the homes. Things they would not have exposed to the world in a normal time. Things that would embarrass them, or cause them to be ashamed. Oh, not all, of course! Just “some.” But to those people, it was the baring of their souls—this showing to the world what was inside their home, which they could keep hidden on any given day. Now it was exposed for all to see because some part of their exterior had been torn away.

And yet… does it take a rocket scientist to realize that, with God, all of our lives are like that? We are thinking we have the outside looking great: we’re dressed right, our hair is in place, nice shoes, nice car. We go to church or meet together, and are we glad they can’t see our thought life, our inner heart, our motives? But what if some of that exterior were stripped away and suddenly everyone could see those thoughts, those motives? Would they know some may covet their money? Or their car? Or perhaps her figure? Or their power? Or fame? Does “so and so” pick up that they are barely tolerated, wishing they’d move? What happens behind those closed doors of the outside shell?

Yet, just as the world could now ride by those homes and see right into them, so God looks right into the closets and crevices of our lives, and nothing is hidden from Him. Yet so many go through life acting as though everything is private, and no one knows anything. He is the only One who matters–He will be judging everyone eventually, whether anyone wants to believe it or not. There is nothing in our dirty, wind-blown, tornado-ridden heart that He does not see and know intimately.

How ashamed we should feel, right? He loves us so much, and wants, as He said, to “gather us as a mama hen wants to gather her little chicks, but [we] would not.” Like our parents wanted to do but it embarrassed us. Ahh, we need to confess every sinful act, every sinful thought, and anything that would hurt our relationship with Him, and run into His arms, asking Him to be Lord of our life. Let Him be the Father He has promised to be. Let Him be our Guide and Shepherd and Savior.

In the joy of that type of relationship, we won’t have anything to be ashamed of when our lives are opened before Him.