Thursday, August 30, 2012

For I Am Persuaded...

"The Gospel is able to take us all the way home..."
Allister Begg, Truth for Life Ministries

This week has been like riding the waves of a tsunami, as I have tried to absorb the news that one of my brothers has been diagnosed with lung cancer.  He is four years younger than I am and has had a difficult life.  He is scheduled for surgery to remove a growth from his lung in October.  He was scheduled this week but cancelled it out of fear that he would not make it through the surgery.  My heart goes out to him, but he must have the surgery if he is to have any chance at all of beating this.

In my brother's case, he was in denial pretty heavily when he called me to tell me he has cancer.  He spent most of the hour long conversation joking about inconsequential things, while avoiding the matter that was most on his mind.  I had no idea what he was dealing with.  At the very end of our conversation, just before we hung up the phone, I "happened" to ask him what I thought was an innocent question about his health.  He answered instantly with the blunt statement "I have lung cancer."  I had to ask him to repeat what he said, to be able to absorb the shock of what he had just told me.  He said it a second time and then waited for my response.  

There are some moments like this that take us beyond our ability to express in words what we are feeling. Without prompting, completely unbidden, a rush of memories flooded my heart of my brother as a little boy; as a handsome young man at his wedding; later, watching him holding his new born babies in his arms...

Of course, not all of my memories are happy ones.  My brother has had more than his share of heartache in his life from the very beginning.  In many ways, he has never healed from some of the most painful experiences he has gone through.  Remembering those moments makes me cry with him for things that happened that never should have...  I remember it all...  And I close my eyes and wish it wasn't so.  

There is an old saying "If wishes were horses, beggars would fly..."  But we don't live in a world of fairy-tales and castles, and beggars that fly.  We live in a real world that hurts us and fails us sometimes, worse than we want to admit.

What are we to do when the heartache overcomes us?  When we wish it were different, and know it is not?  I am convinced that it is at these times that the Gospel of Jesus Christ matters most. When we can't fix life, explain it away, or stand the pain that we are carrying, we need the Gospel. We need to know this just isn't all there is.  We need to know there is a God who sees us and understands the depth of our pain.  We need to know that He is able to carry us all the way home.  

I am in the middle of one of those times with my brother.  I do not know if he will make it through the surgery in October.  He has a myriad of health problems that have weakened him even before this diagnosis.  I would be a liar if I said I am not afraid for him.  I am. Right now, in the midst of my anguish for my brother, I am doing the only thing I can do for him - I am carrying him to the Lord who has a hold of him when I do not.  I stand at the foot of the cross and claim the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for my brother.  

I heard a teaching recently by one of my favorite preachers, Allister Begg, of Truth for Life.  I don't remember a lot of what he said, but I remember these words.  "The Gospel brings us all the way home.  Do not fear and tremble in the face of death if you know Jesus Christ.  For there is not one bit of you that will end up in the trash bin of the universe except your sin."  I love that.  And tonight, I find great comfort in the truth of those words.

My prayers are with those of you who are going through something in your own life that has rocked you to the core.  And, if you would, lift up a prayer for my brother.  That God will be with my brother through the surgery and through all of his tomorrows. 

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created things, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."  Romans 8:38.39  NKJV

Written on My Heart...

"He has written His signature
 on my heart..."

A pillar of salt, I don't want to be! I listened to a speaker (Janet Davis) on Moody the other day. She was discussing her new book, My Own Worst Enemy. This is a book I haven't read yet, but am planning to very, very soon.  In the interview I listened to, Janet offered us a peek into the first chapter of this book on the subject of Lot's wife.  

I share some of her unsettling questions and insights here, for you own consideration.  Trust me though, proceed with caution.  If you're anything like me, you might get seasick feeling your boat feverishly rocking beneath you!

Lot's wife, someone we usually hear so little about, is a tragic figure mentioned briefly in scripture (Genesis: 19), as the one who looked back as they were leaving Sodom and was instantly turned to a pillar of salt. I have always run past that story as quickly as I could, not wanting to linger too long over the picture of a woman whose life was destroyed instantly. Janet slows us down and invites us to look and learn. Once again, I was amazed at what she saw that I never did. Janet draws a comparison between us and Lot's wife. She asks us to consider some hard questions in our own lives. Here are some that I recall.

Do I count the cost of “staying where I am”? Of refusing to move forward to where I know God is leading me? Is it hard for me to “let go” of the past? Am I willing to do the hard work of moving forward with God? Do I shut down the future God is offering me to stay with the familiar past, even if I know it isn't the best for me? 

Am I willing to ask the hard questions about where I've been (my family of origin)? Do I cling to anything that God has told me to leave?  Are there any dysfunctional patterns in my life that I excuse because "that's the way we do it in our family!" What is God asking me to admit that I am resisting? 

Janet suggests that refusing to face the hard questions stifles our growth. We "forget who God made us to be."  Who will I be if I refuse to move into where God is calling me to go? What do I forfeit? Where is the “deadness” in my life? Do I discount my passions, for fear of the risks I will have to take to develop them?

I found this to be a compelling interview that shook me up in the “little safe place” where I prefer to live most of the time.  Nothing wrong with safe, right?  Or, is there...?

How about you? Do you recognize His voice calling you out of something “old” into something new that He has designed just for you? Are you afraid to let go and move on?   What's the thing that scares you the most about "letting go"? What might you have to do to move forward?  Do you discount the unique gifts God has entrusted to you in order to fit the mold assigned by your family, your parents, your friends, even the church?  

Only God has the right to define us. Not even our parents have the right to do that in our lives. We should not give that power to anyone but God.  As a parent, do I claim that power for my own in my children's lives (including my adult children)? Or do I "set them free" to be what God uniquely created them to be? Ouch!  Janet, please stop stepping on my toes...!

At the end of the interview, Janet gave a little assignment for us to explore. She suggested that we list ten things we feel passionate about. Here's the list I scribbled pretty quickly (less than a minute!) in no particular order. Creativity, in all it's forms, tops my list.  The question is “Do I value the passions He has written on my heart?"  Or do I discount them in ways I'd rather not admit...?  I refuse to answer on the grounds I may incriminate myself...!

Try making your own list. See if there's anything there that takes you by surprise!

What Am I Passionate About?

Jesus Christ and His Gospel
Family, Kids, Grand-kids
Beauty in Nature
Hurting People of all Ages

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

With Lovingkindness Have I Drawn You...

"The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying,
Yes, I have loved thee with an everlasting love;
Therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn you..."
Jeremiah 31: 3

If God is Good is the title of a new book by Randy Alcorn. I am wading my way through this challenging book and hope to bring to this blog some of the issues he discusses regarding the very human questions we ask when we encounter evil. 

If God is Good, the skeptic will say, how can there be evil in the world? If He is all powerful, why doesn't He intervene? If He loves us, how can He allow us to suffer? We can avoid the questions and throw scriptures at the dissenter to silence them, but, when suffering hits us directly, when pain overwhelms our senses, when unimagined evil invades our own lives, we struggle to find an answer that calms our fears and satisfies our trembling heart.

For anyone who has suffered from pain and suffering without understanding why; for those who have suffered the severing of a relationship that was more precious than life; for those who have never experienced the joy of human love that was their birthright; for those who cannot even imagine a God who loves them, I hope to bring to this blog the reality of God's unspeakable love for you, no matter what.

I do not speak to you from “above the fray.” I speak to you as one who has been there myself. I have had my own struggles, my own fears, my own doubts. I have wondered, especially regarding children, how could a loving God allow a child to be born to abusive parents? If God is love, where is He when an innocent child is trashed and beaten by the very parents that were supposed to protect him? Where is God? He knew before hand that this would happen in this child's life. Why did He allow it? Would it not have been better for the child to never have been born? Pro-abortion proponents have used this as an argument to end the life of the child. Even Job, in the depths of his suffering, cried out that he should never have been born. (Job 3:1)

As I was wrestling with my own doubts recently, I asked God that very question, He shocked me with His answer. “I looked beyond the pain and saw a child I would call My own...” That's what He told me. He so deeply wanted a love relationship with the child that He gave him the opportunity to breath – to live – to find God along the way and fall head over heals in love with Him. To have a love relationship with the Father that transcends any evil that he/she would ever experience in this life. To live with Him, in the shelter of His love forever, no matter what happens this side of heaven.

Does God see us when we are abused, rejected, treated with cruelty by those we thought would love us? Does He care? Or, is He the author of the abuse? I believe He sees us and He loves us more than we can even begin to understand. He is with us in it all. He is irrevocably on our side. He is praying for us. He is drawing us closer and closer to Himself. Sometimes, it is exactly because of the pain that we begin to turn to Him for comfort in our agony.

This is not a fairy tale. This is Truth speaking to us over the Lie. This is the triumph of good over evil. Of love over hate. Of hope over despair. This is the God who loves you...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


"Lord, when did we see You hungry
or thirsty
or a stranger...
and did not minister to You?"
Matthew 25:44

They are everywhere these days,
Begging on every street corner.
Waiting for a handout, they seem to have no shame.
I always wonder when I see them,
Why can't they get a job?

I work for my money
I earned it all myself,
I never took a handout
I always “helped” myself.
Thank God I'm not like them.

On my way to work today
He asked me for a dollar.
I looked him over carefully
To see if he was worthy
To see if I should bother...

He failed to meet my measure,
He just looked so lazy, so worthless,
So far from where I knew that he should be.
Nickels in my pocket, beside the bills I treasure.
I threw them in his bucket, and saved the rest for me.

I saw another one rolling down the street
In the dead of winter, sandals on her feet.
I hesitated when I saw her,
In a moment's weakness, I stopped and gave her thought.
I had to shake myself to wake me up and remember what I was taught.

There are places for these people,
There are places they can go.
There are places that are good enough.
Places they can take a shower, once a week, or so.
Places that are meant for them, but not for you or me.

I do wish they all would go there,
So we didn't have to see
Their empty eyes,
Their filthy clothes,
The terror on their faces.

Life is what you make of it, that's what I always say.
God helps those who help themselves.
I read it in the bible, just the other day...
Or did I make that up myself?
Oh, well, you catch my drift...

Something happened to me suddenly,
I didn't have a choice.
They fired me, they let me go,
They cancelled out my voice.
I lost my job, my car.
Today I was evicted.

They say that it's the economy.
It's really not my fault.
Everyone is hurting.
But, its the first time I ever found myself
On the other side of certain...

I haven't had a bath in days,
The stench of shame encircles me,
It follows me everywhere.
I know there are places I could go
But, that's for “them” you know.

Not for me, not for me,
Oh, please tell me I'm not like them.
Please tell me that I'm better,
I'm not like all the rest...
Tell me, when you look at me, 
You see the very best...

I'm not like “them”, 
I'm not like them,
I cried in my despair.
I looked in the mirror and saw “them” standing there.
In a broken voice I whispered out a prayer.

Dear God, forgive me
For my cold, indifferent heart.
Forgive me, Lord, forgive me,
Oh, give me eyes to see,
My desperate, needy brother
Is just the same as me...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tell Me The Story Of Jesus

I wrote about this yesterday, but forgot to include the video, so here's it is.  Just one version of this beautiful old hymn, but, it's a good one.  I hope it touches you as it does me...

If there's a better story to tell, I don't know it.  Some days, its the only story I want to hear...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tell Me the Old, Old Story...

Lately, my mind has been traveling back to days gone by and stories of yesterday, some good and some tragic. I am a story teller by nature and I love both the hearing and the telling of good stories. Stories that draw me into the picture and make me feel as if I am a part of what is going on take me to another place and, ever so briefly, allow me to burrow into the luggage and go on a trip to places I have never been.

My own life is filled with bittersweet moments of joy that bordered on ecstasy and moments of pain that took my breath away and threatened to crush me under their weight. Only by the hand of God's tender mercy and grace have I lived to “tell the story.” As any good story teller will tell you, it's important to answer the question, 'why' in the story.  But, in reality, truth is stranger than fiction, sometimes harder and more evil than any of us would ever have imagined.  In the end, I often cannot find the why.

An innocent, child, at the dawn of life, is abused or neglected, maybe even murdered - sometimes, by his/her own parents. Why? A young mother is diagnosed with an incurable disease and dies within months, no matter the prayers that everyone around her prayed for her healing. Why? A loving father driving home from working his second job is hit by a drunk driver and killed instantly. Why? Never even got a chance to say goodbye. A baby, much desired and prayed for, is born dead to the brokenhearted parents. Why? A sixteen year-old, innocently praying with her group before school one day, is savagely gunned down in the hallway on her way to class. Why? A single mom, desperately in need of her job, is “let go” suddenly, to “plump up the bottom line.” Too bad about the kids at home that won't understand why their mother can't afford to feed them anymore. Why? Why? Why...?

There are no easy answers to the pain we all experience to one degree or another as we try desperately to stay in the boat hurtling headlong over the rapids of a world gone wild. In my own life, I have unanswerable whys that have cut very deep and left their scars. 

This week, I found myself in circumstances that have brought a lot of those questions to the forefront of my mind. Pictures in my mind I would rather erase. Memories I wish I never had. Losses I can never recover. Answers I don't expect to find, this side of heaven. Were do we go at times like these? Where do we run? Who is there that can comfort us in the midst of the wreck of our lives when it all catches up with us? There is only One and He is there with His arms holding on to us in the storm that threatens to throw us overboard. I “go to the Rock” and I hide in His sheltering arms until the winds settle down and the waters are calm again. He is the Only One who can get me through the memories, the pain, the losses, the heartache of evil that has had its way.

Today, after a week of facing some of the “unexplainable” but real evil I have rubbed up against in my own life, I found myself listening and weeping to the beautiful song, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story”. I could not contain my heartache at the pain of abuses I have witnessed and experienced first hand. And I knew... I knew that He was singing over me His unspeakable love in the midst of it all. It is ironic that it is the pain of His love that washed over me and brought me to my knees in worship. Maybe that's at least a partial answer to my whys. In them, I find Him...

“I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true.
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story. Twill be my theme in glory...
To tell the old, old story, of Jesus and His love...”

“I Love To Tell The Story”
by Catherine Hankey, 1834-1911

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More Precious Than Diamonds...

"For I know Whom I have believed
and am persuaded that He is able
to keep that which I have entrusted to Him
until that Day..."
2 Timothy 1:12   NKJV

Is there anything in your life for which you would lay down your life? There are few things in life that most of us would count that precious. But, in my life there are at least five. More precious than diamonds, the Lord has entrusted to me, from His storehouse of treasures, five irreplaceable jewels. Make no mistake about it, I am jealous for them, as He, Himself, is. They are my grandchildren. I am jealous for them, indeed. I have planted the banner of the Kingdom of Christ over them. Of all that I hold dear in life, nothing matters to me more.

Of the many prayers I have prayed in my lifetime, there are some prayers I never stop praying. They are for my grandchildren.  As I look around the world we live in, to be honest, I fear for them.  More and more, the world seems to be hurtling headlong toward self-destruction. 

The boundaries that were traditionally taught and respected in our society have been ripped to shreds and thrown out like yesterday's garbage. There are no boundaries. Do whatever you like. Who can say there's anything wrong with it? The idea that God is the One Who defines the boundaries and the One Who will hold us accountable is considered obsolete – laughable in our schools and news media.

The list goes on and on. Atheism is now extolled. Only fools believe in a Supreme Being. As a parent and grandparent, I watch with horror as the evidence of moral decay slithers across the T.V. screen nightly: murder on a grand scale, dubbed “terrorism”; sexual exploitation of innocent women and children in sex slave trade; killing of the innocent unborn, justified as a “woman's right”, mass re-location and persecution of Christians for their faith; economic collapse of the world markets, including our own; “wars and rumors of wars” abound.

What are we to make of the frightening signs of moral decay and collapse that are all around us? I have had my share of panic attacks considering the horrors of the “godless” world my grandchildren stand to inherit. But, recently, the Lord calmed my fearful heart with a vision of what He sees for my grandchildren. He asked me many questions, and, like Job, I was humbled to acknowledge, I am not God.  He is.  Here is some of what I recall from my midnight meeting with the Lord.

“What makes you think that I have left them on their own to cope with all of this? Are college dormitories and school classrooms beyond my reach? Do you really think there is any place where My Spirit is unable to go? Because they have posted a “no prayer allowed sign”, do you think I obey that? I move on the hearts of men, women and children, whenever I please, wherever I please. I AM the Creator, not the creature – I AM ABLE to overcome what needs to be overcome.”

“Do you think when they falter in their faith, I won't be there to bring them through? Do you think I never anticipated the world they would grow up in? Are you imagining that I am surprised by all of this? I have planned everything for them. I have fashioned them for My glory. There is nothing I don't know about in their future. Did you imagine that I wouldn't be there because you won't?”

“If I call them to suffer for Me, would you take that from them? You do not know the crown of glory I have planned for them to wear. Step back, let go and release them to me. Before and after they belong to you, they belong to Me.”

“You are not God in their lives. I AM. They will face trials you  know nothing about. Stand as the watchman on the wall. Pray. While the enemy encamps around them, they stand in the need of prayer. Carry them to me in prayer. Whatever it takes to get to Me, do it. Lower them to Me through the roof. And stand and see the salvation of the Lord...”

For my grandchildren and yours. Let us pray...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Finding the Way Home...

"Jesus said, "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me."
John 14:6  NKJV
I had a conversation yesterday with a woman who is a new acquaintance to me. She tells everyone who will listen about the many serious illnesses she has had in the past few years, so serious that it can only be by the mercy and grace of God that she is still walking around to tell the story. But, this is someone I do not know well. I do not know if she is a believing person. I do not know if she credits God with her survival or not.  If she does, I haven't yet heard her acknowledge His hand in her healing.

Yesterday, when we crossed paths briefly in a parking lot, I was shocked by the story she told me of her plans for her burial. I never asked her about that – but this is what spilled out when I complimented her on her outfit and asked if her favorite color is blue. This is what she said.

“Oh, yes, I do love blue and choose it a lot. But, my favorite is pink! I have selected an absolutely beautiful pink gown to be buried in! I also have a pink slip I want to wear under it! Then I found the perfect pink blanket and had my name quilted on it, which will cover me half way in my casket! I will be wearing Mickey Mouse socks on my feet! All of us (me and my sisters!) will be wearing Mickey Mouse socks in our caskets!” 

She told me all of this with great excitement, as if she cannot wait to get there. As if it is the prom she is preparing for instead of her own funeral. I admit to being blown away by the cavalier, superficial way she seems to have prepared for her death. She seems to be thinking of this as another party she gets to plan. Another opportunity to shop til she drops and make a fashion statement, one last time. 

This is a woman who, although deathly ill in the past couple of years, has substantial wealth to buffer her from the reality of death and what that really means for her. She seems to have buried her head in the "stuff" she surrounds herself with, like a child who pulls the covers over his head to keep from going to school in the morning.

I cannot adequately describe her thrill in telling me all of this. She spoke as if she delights in imagining herself in this setting, perfectly outfitted and the envy of all who would gaze upon her. In her casket. A tiny little detail that she has minimized to the point of insignificance.

Has the thought occurred to this dear lady that underneath the perfect, pink dress and the perfect pink slip and the hand-quilted blanket and the Mickey Mouse socks, her body will be dead? Does she realize that her body will already be corrupting underneath the perfect pink outfit and that no-one would even come near her were it not for the skills of an undertaker who is able to mask the odor of death, briefly? Does she realize that faster than she can even say “Mickey Mouse” she will be in the presence of her God to give an account of the life she has lived? Does she realize that there are a few issues a bit more serious to deal with than the socks on her dead feet? Has she planned for where she will spend eternity as carefully as how she has planned for how she will look in her casket?

Admittedly, I do not know this lady well enough to answer these questions. But, I fear that the reality of death is eluding her, even after serious illnesses that should have gotten her attention.

I am reading a book right now by Randy Alcorn, If God is Good. In this book, Alcorn proposes that God may sometimes allow suffering in our lives as an act of mercy. To wake us up. To give us an opportunity to experience, ever so slightly, what hell will be if we die without Jesus. Could it be that God, through the shock of suffering in illness, is constantly laboring to get us to the point of finally choosing Him over all our other “toys” while there is still time?

Without Him, we are lost. We are headed to hell. Forever. We will not have the comfort of friends to cheer us. We will be utterly alone. We will not have pretty things to distract us. Our suffering will not end. Nothing – money, clothes, vacations, friends or loved ones will be able to rescue us. It will be too late. Dressing up in pretty clothes and wearing Mickey Mouse socks won't help us to deal with the issue of where we will spend eternity.

Only Jesus saves. THE most sobering reality there is...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jesus Wept...

Many years ago, when I was shocked and angry that my father had died even though I had prayed for him to be healed, I found myself (a relatively new christian) reading the bible trying to find some comfort from the Word. I was bouncing back and forth between anger at God and desperately seeking His comfort. As I was reading, the short little verse in the book of John, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) startled me into a realization of just how human Jesus really is. He cried at the death of Lazarus and all of the pain that his death had caused people that Jesus loved, even though He knew he was going to raise him from the dead! Still to this day, I am captivated by a God who allows Himself to feel our pain. That was a choice He made. He didn't have to feel any of it. He could have remained above it all. But, this is the God we serve. A flesh and blood Jesus, who bleeds with us, suffers with us and weeps with us, uncontrollable, wrenching sobs of grief over our pain and our losses. I am so very comforted by that truth as I look around me and see the suffering of loved ones who are in pain, suffering through illnesses that seem to be hopeless, that may even take their lives. Jesus wept then and He weeps with us today. We do not need to pretend we are above the pain to “prove our faith.” Even though we believe, like Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, we weep over the suffering and death of those we love and hold very close to our hearts. The amazing thing is, we do not weep alone. Jesus wept...

This young mother and her little boy stand outside their house that has been destroyed because she is married to a young pastor (only 31 years old), who has been faithful to preach the Word of God, in spite of repeated beatings and arrests.

I believe He also weeps for the many, many men, women and children who are suffering for the cause of Christ all over the world. The following pictures are taken from publications from Voice of the Martyrs, asking for prayer and support for these suffering and wounded believers in the Body of Christ.

This young girl has made her way to a refugee camp in South Sudan.
She has been displaced because she follows Jesus.

What can we do to bathe the wounds of the Christ who suffers in the bodies of the Persecuted Church? Do we really understand that when they suffer, we do also? Do we really care? The other day, as I was listening to christian radio, I heard a Christian pastor from a far away place, crying out in agony and protest about the church in America. I only heard a bit of what he said, but I was transfixed by his message and rebuke to America. He said: “The Church in America has gorged itself on pleasure and self-centered materialism. The American church is content in her affluence, oblivious to the desperate needs of the Body of Christ around the world.” He said we are going to be shocked when persecution arrives on our shores, as it is surely coming. I thought, how sad that we would hear this kind of an indictment from a christian brother looking across the sea at the wealth and seeming indifference of the church in America. I believe he spoke a prophetic and correcting word to us to wake up while there is still time. It could be that Jesus weeps more for a fat, overstuffed, lazy and self-centered church, than He does for the suffering church who glorify Him in their suffering. We just may be the most to be pitied...

In 2011, militant Muslims burst into this young mother's home in Iraq and tortured and murdered her husband while his wife and children were locked in another room, listening to his cries until his life was snuffed out, for nothing more than believing in Jesus Christ.  She holds a picture of her young family in happier times.

Please join me in praying for our persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters around the world. Visit their web site (linked below) to read more or to contribute financially to the needs of these poverty stricken, hungry and desperately wounded brothers and sisters in Christ. They are part of our family. We cannot look the other way. It is Christ who is passing by...

A 64 year old former communist, this man will not stop smuggling bibles to believers in Laos. He says: "Even in prison, I knew that God was with me and I knew what He had done for me on the cross.  It is greater than what I have been through in prison."
He sends this message to Christians in the West:
"Thank you to my brothers and sisters in America, Canada
and other countries for your faithful prayers.
I know that I am still alive today because of your faithful prayer.
I now share my testimony because of your powerful prayer."

All photos and captioned information

Used by Permission The Voice of the Martyrs
PO Box 443
Bartlesville, OK 74005

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In the Rustling Grass, I Hear Him Pass...

"This is My Father's World..."

This has been one of those years I will remember for the many challenges to my faith and my commitment to Christ. It has been anything but fun. Health problems; loss of a job and the ensuing change in my financial stability; loss of family that moved and no longer live close; vision problems that required surgery - all changes I did not plan on and definitely did not welcome. I am not a hero or a saint, by any stretch of the imagination. I am reminded, when unexpected trials invade my comfortable, “safe” world, that I have feet of clay. I do not suffer well in silence, but find myself escalating my protests until, surely , they reach the ears of God (and everyone else who happens to cross my path!) I must have kept God Our Father up many a night, weeping and gnashing my teeth. It didn't help me to read the Word of God, which informed me, rather insensitively, I thought, that 'His strength is sufficient for me.' Decidedly NOT what I wanted to hear!

It truly is not a case of me handling it all well. But this week, I realized all over again just how much I feel the smile of God on my face, even though I have been an uncooperative, even rebellious and difficult child in His household. He has never put me out! He has never closed me off. He has never told me to stop whining. Instead, He has pulled me close, like a mother wanting to comfort her hurting child. He has done just exactly that. He has comforted me in my losses, over and over and over again. He has lifted my head to look in the eyes of Love that knows no bounds.  He has held onto me tightly and would not let me go. He has patiently led me to a place of rest and recovery, uniquely fashioned for me, in ways that take my breath away. For that, this day, I am incredibly grateful and humbled, all over again, by the Love of My God.

Nature writes on my heart the signature of God.  I find Him everywhere I look in the beauty of His creation. Surely, He who  made me to love Him in that way, knows that about me even better than I do at times. As if in a coma, sometimes, I actually forget how much I love the creative world that surrounds me.  This week, He brought it all before me in a way that I couldn't miss it - He is in the game - He hasn't left the house - He loves me and is healing me.   I decided, just "out of the blue" (God must laugh at how lame I am at catching on to His healing hand in my life, sometimes!) to take an art class that is just pure joy for me to be part of. One of my assignments was to “just go outside and photograph nature” in order to study different forms for drawing. So I grabbed my camera and hung out at the park today. Here are a few of the beautiful and funny pictures I took today. 

Now, while I was walking in the park, basking in the simple and spectacular beauty all around me, there happened to be a free concert from a christian group playing in the background. I laughed to myself, realizing how perfectly God, the Master Artist and Music Maker, had orchestrated this day to custom fit me as an instrument of healing and loving me. I am going to share some of those shots with you here. I hope you enjoy them and see the Magnificent Beauty of Our God, and even, the God of All Laughter, smiling down on you as He did on me today. This is how God is loving me back to life right now. How about you? How do you find Him loving on you, healing you, encouraging you, comforting you in your losses and your struggles? Because He is you know. 

I love to look around me and be surprised to find Him looking back at me!  Do you see Him over there - spreading His beauty out for you to see?  Do you see Him waving to you in the branches of that gorgeous tree swaying in the wind? Do you feel His kiss on your cheek in the warmth of the noonday sun? Do you hear Him singing to you in the music that is winding itself around you everywhere?  Do you hear Him, now?  He's singing a love song over you today.  He's saying, "I'm with you in it all...don't be afraid...I have you covered...I am the Maker of the wind and the stars and the sea...they all know Me and answer when I call.  Trust Me.  Run to Me.  I love you more than all..."

"...and to my listening ears, all nature sings..."
"and round me rings the music of the spheres."
"The morning light, the lily white,
declare the Maker's praise..."
"I rest me in the thought, of rocks and trees,
of skies and seas, His hand the wonders wrought."
"This is My Father's world - O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet."

(All of the above captions taken from one of my favorite hymns,
"This is My Father's World, by Maltbie D. Babcock, 1858-1901)

This is just a funny picture of a gnarled old tree that, if you look real closely,
you can see eyes looking back at you!
I do believe I even see a wink!!
I love the quirky things I see in nature that make me think
God must have a sense of humor!
"Just another quirky picture that appealed to my sense of humor!
Made me think of the truth that God writes his loves letters to us all the time -
but He doesn't use straight lines...!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Without One Plea...

Here is a re-post of one of the earliest poems I wrote that is a favorite of mine.
(Re-titled from Standing in the Need of Grace)
It expresses the wonder of how it is that God profoundly loves us and pursues us even while we are pushing Him away, pounding our fists at Him in anger and frustration and wallowing in our sin.
I love Him for that...

I reached for You when I was lonely,
Pushed You away when I was hurting.

I rejected who You are.

I screamed at You for leaving me alone and fearful for my life.

I blamed You for my screw-ups and all my failures too.

I kicked You when You touched me and rejected Your embrace.

I swore at You profanities, I decided You deserved.

I ran from You,

I hid from You.

I bartered You away.

I covered my eyes when You went by and looked the other way.

I mocked You.

I spat my hatred in Your face, every chance I got.

I ignored You, denied I ever knew You.

I worshiped other gods before You, stole Your glory for my own.

I cursed You for not loving me the way that I defined.

I heard You knocking at the door and locked it even tighter.

I covered my ears to keep from hearing You calling out my name.

I played religious games with You and thought You'd never see.

I so much wanted to hurt You for what they did to me.

Where were You Lord, when I was lost?
When those I loved ignored me, rejected and abused me?

Did you stand by and watch from a distance, enjoying all You saw?
Where were You, Lord? Where were You?

Did You love me then as now?
Did You see my heart was breaking -
I wonder, did You care?

I kicked at Him and screamed at Him
Until I couldn't fight Him anymore.

He followed me, He followed me,
He chased me everywhere.

He loved me, He loved me
He bled with me, He hurt with me,
He came inside my pain.

He washed my wounds and covered me
With love that never fails.

It never seemed to bother Him
That I rejected Him to choose instead my sin.

He covered me over with His love
He pulled me to Him constantly
And understood my need.

How desperate was my ache for Him
But I could not find a way,
To tell Him that I needed Him
I had no words to say.

He wrapped His arms around me.
He knew my need before I spoke.
He chased me down, He captured me,
He loved me anyway...

I wondered how it was
this God that I abhorred
Could ever have pursued me
or loved me anymore?

I am the one He rescued
When I didn't have a plea...
I will praise His name forever
That He loved someone like me...

Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so..."
Psalm 107:2  NKJV