Thursday, December 31, 2015

Let Love and Faithfulness...

Never leave you...

As I write this, the evening is drawing to a close on the last day of the year, 2015.  What a year it has been. Some very wonderful and some very terrible things have unfolded over the course of this past year.  The world often seems to be spinning out of control.  Unimaginable evil is broadcast all over the television screen and in the newspapers around the world.  If that is all we see, all we think about, it is impossible to have peace and not be filled with fear.  As I was thinking about all of this recently, I found the Lord turning my heart and mind to the scriptures.  In this case, the one about what we should think about!

As I turned in the direction of God's Word, I realized this was one of the strongest themes and leadings God had given to me this past year.  As I obey this simple teaching, I find myself resting in His arms and in His love.  In the picture above, the image of the little girl climbing on the gate, curious about what's on the other side, captured my attention.  I think that's how God sees me.  I am just a little girl trying to find my way, lost without His leading.  How about you...

Here are a few other lessons He has been teaching me in the School of the Lord, this past year.

He sings over me...

For a woman who has known the heartache of divorce and neglect, to even think that God, Himself, rejoices over me is an incredible picture!  I hope you will let this beautiful and glorious scripture settle into your soul.  The Lord our God is in our midst!  He wants to quiet you with His love.  He is exulting over you with loud singing!  He isn't shy about declaring His love for you and me.  He knows where we've been, what we have been through, and what it has done to us.  That doesn't stop Him in the least!  Oh, how I love this beautiful and powerful, life changing truth.  GOD LOVES YOU!  Listen for His song - He is singing it just for you!

I am not a woman who trusts easily.  But, the Lord has taken me on a journey of learning to trust Him more and more deeply, this past year.  It has taken every minute of every hour of every day to begin to break down the concrete walls I erected to protect myself, in order to begin to trust Him.  What I am probably the most amazed at is that He even cares.  That He cares for me in this way, is such a testimony of His unconditional love.  That He pursues me when I am pushing Him away, simply amazes me.  Why, Lord, do you care, is my often unspoken question.  The answer I always hear is that He loves me.  Just that.  He loves me.  How incredibly humbling...

This has been a year of discovering that God is for me, He loves me, He has met my every need and then some.  He surrounds me with His love and protection constantly.  He showers me with His affection.  He meets me where I am and calls me to rest in Him.  He gave me a job to met my needs, He has restored a long lost relationship with someone dear to me.  He has been with me through the journey of loss of my brother and a dear friend this past year.  He has led me deeper and deeper in my relationship with Him.  He is there for me when no-one else is.  He is there.  How very grateful I am for that reality in my life.

He knows me.  He knows my struggles.  He loves me anyway!  He is my Everlasting Father, my Wonderful Counselor, my Prince of Peace.  He is the God who I can't push away.  He just won't leave.  I thank Him today for His love, His mercy, His faithfulness, His tenderness, His understanding, His constant love and care.  What He is doing in my life, He will do in yours also. Look up and see your Savior.  He is in your midst...

He keeps me.  He keeps me in the morning when I don't want to get out of bed.  He keeps me in the darkness of loss and grieving when I am close to giving up.  He keeps me when I am angry and want to throw a fit.  He keeps me when He calls me to forgive what I have decided is unforgivable.  He waits for me to catch up.  He keeps me when everyone else has left.  He keeps me when the sun goes down, when the storm is raging, when fear takes over, when the enemy attacks.  He keeps me.  Or where, oh where, would I be?

There are so many other lessons He is teaching me, too many to include in this post.  I may come back to this subject again over the next year.  Mostly, though, I am humbled by His constant care for me, His patience with me, His tender leading me along, one tiny step at a time.  My prayer is that I will follow Him more closely this year, love Him more dearly and hear His voice singing His love song over me every step of the way.  May God bless you, keep you, and lead you along His path for you in the coming year.  God Bless you in 2016!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

His Name is Wonderful!


I am so captivated by the names of Jesus!  Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon, on the subject of His name is Wonderful.  I hope it touches you as it does me.  Nothing touches me like Jesus.  His name is truly Wonderful.  For in it is the majesty, the glory, the riches of God's love poured out on us in the presence of Emmanuel. Worship Him.  He is worthy.  He is worthy.  He is worthy.

Master of everything... Jesus my Lord...

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 19, 1858, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens

"His name shall be called Wonderful."—Isaiah 9:6.
NE EVENING LAST WEEK I stood by the sea-shore when the storm was raging. The voice of the Lord was upon the waters; and who was I that I should tarry within doors, when my Master's voice was heard sounding along the water? I rose and stood to behold the flash of his lightnings, and listen to the glory of his thunders. The sea and the thunders were contesting with one another; the sea with infinite clamor striving to hush the deep-throated thunder, so that his voice should not be heard; yet over and above the roar of the billows might be heard that voice of God, as he spoke with flames of fire, and divided the way for the waters. It was a dark night, and the sky was covered with thick clouds, and scarce a star could be seen through the rifts of the tempest; but at one particular time, I noticed far away on the horizon, as if miles across the water, a bright shining, like gold. It was the moon hidden behind the clouds, so that she could not shine upon us; but she was able to send her rays down upon the waters, far away, where no cloud happened to intervene. I thought as I read this chapter last evening, that the prophet seemed to have stood in a like position, when he wrote the words of my text. All round about him were clouds of darkness; he heard prophetic thunders roaring, and he saw flashes of the lightnings of divine vengeance; clouds and darkness, for many a league, were scattered through history; but he saw far away a bright spot—one place where the clear shining came down from heaven. And he sat down, and he penned these words: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined;" and though he looked through whole leagues of space, where he saw the battle of the warrior "with confused noise and garments rolled in blood," yet he fixed his eye upon one bright spot in futurity, and he declared, that there he saw hope of peace, prosperity and blessedness; for said he, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shad be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful."
    My dear friends, we live to-day upon the verge of that bright spot. The world has been passing through these clouds of darkness, and the light is gleaming on us now, like the glintings of the first rays of morning. We are coming to a brighter day, and "at evening time it shall be light." The clouds and darkness shall be rolled up as a mantle that God needs no longer, and he shall appear in his glory, and his people shall rejoice with him. But you must mark, that all the brightness was the result of this child born, this son given, whose name is called Wonderful; and if we can discern any brightness in our own hearts, or in the world's history, it can come from nowhere else, than from the one who is called "Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God."
    The person spoken of in our text, is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a child born, with reference to his human nature; he is born of the virgin, a child. But he is a son given, with reference to his divine nature, being given as well as born. Of course. the Godhead could not be born of woman. That was from everlasting, and is to everlasting. As a child he was born, as a son he was given. "The government is upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful." Beloved, there are a thousand things in this world, that are called by names that do not belong to them; but in entering upon my text, I must announce at the very opening, that Christ is called Wonderful, because he is so. God the Father never gave his Son a name which he did not deserve. There is no panegyric here, no flattery. It is just the simple name that he deserves, they that know him best will say that the word doth not overstrain his merits, but rather falleth infinitely short of his glorious deserving. His name is called Wonderful. And mark, it does not merely say, that God has given him the name of Wonderful—though that is implied; but "his name shall be called" so. It shall be; it is at this time called Wonderful by all his believing people, and it shall be. As long as the moon endureth, there shall be found men, and angels, and glorified spirits, who shall always call him by his right name. "His name shall be called Wonderful."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Crooked Places...

Crooked Places in my heart
The stones and thorns are everywhere
They hurt me, they cut me
They own me, you know...

There is one that cuts me so deep
Each time I step on it, I weep.
It's been there forever and there it will stay
Unless, do you think there's another way?

Hoping to find the narrow way,
I heard it is the one to seek.
But mountains too high to climb
Surround my heart and laugh at me.

A mountain of anger I keep in my heart
Don't ask me why we do not part.
I planted it there so long ago
I want to leave it, but can't let go...

The stones I trip on everywhere.
They are so deep in my heart
I've lost my way.
I pick them up to throw them out
And put them back for another day.

The stones are really my pets you know
I call them by name and keep them for show.
They are really little trophies of  battles I have lost
They have no value, but oh, how much they cost.

They cost me my peace.
They cost me my joy.
They cost me all hope.
They cost me my friends.
They cost me my children.
They cost me my Savior, my Jesus, my Friend...

Oh Jesus, come, oh come to me,
Smooth out the places that keep me in chains.
I beg You Lord Jesus, remove from my heart,
The mountains that keep me from finding my way.

Level the crooked paths of my heart.
 Make my way clear, narrow and straight,
Help me prepare a place for You, Jesus.
That my heart overflows with your beauty and grace.

I love Thee Lord, Jesus,
I need you today.
I cling to You, Jesus, 
Keep me, I pray.

I am a little sheep,
Eyed by the wolves to soon be their prey.
I wander and trifle with going their way.
Keep me, oh, keep me,
Oh keep me, I pray.

You are the truth
the life
and the way.
I trust You, Lord Jesus.,
To keep me today...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Sweet Auntie NoNo!

The dearest compliment I could ever pay you - 
When I looked in your eyes
I saw Jesus staring back at me...


She never drove a car, never owned a home, never married, although she had one son. She stuttered when she spoke and seemed to be afraid of shadows somewhere lurking that I could not see. She was a young woman when I was a little girl, but to me, she seemed to be the oldest person I knew. She was one of my father’s four sisters who were still living. His favorite sister, Margaret, had died before I ever met her of diabetes, coupled with out of control drinking.

This sister of my father, baptized with the name Eleanor, was the only one of his sisters that I ever even came close to knowing. This is what I remember about this little jewel who touched my life briefly and then disappeared for some mysterious reason not known to me.

Auntie NoNo, as my father affectionately nicknamed her, and I, had an instant bond. I loved her kind and gentle ways, her humility and her generosity. Eleanor worked as a cleaning lady to rich people in downtown Chicago, a very common job for the daughters of Irish immigrants at that time. She traveled everywhere on public transportation and knew the city like the palm of her hand. She would come to our house on her day off with her son, my cousin Tommy. She wanted me to join them for an adventure in the city – usually some movie for kids that she thought Tommy and I would love. She hardly spoke at all really. When she did, her head would shake with tremors as she tried to utter the words that stuck in her mouth, unwilling to form the sentence she was trying desperately to speak. I am sure I stared at her, embarrassed for her, not understanding what the problem was.

Eleanor was the daughter of Irish immigrants who had not assimilated well into their new home in America. Her father, my grandfather, was also an alcoholic and, I am sure, was not the parent she needed him to be. My grandmother never spoke that I knew of – at least I never heard her, if she did. She bore the telltale markings of a woman in an abusive marriage – very withdrawn and isolated. To me, as I look back, I am amazed that my dear Aunt Eleanor was able to overcome all of this and make a life for herself and for her son.

At the time in my childhood that all of this was happening, I was probably about 5 or 6 years old, maybe a little younger. I had one sister, two years older than me, and four brothers, a twin and 3 that were younger. None of my siblings went along with Eleanor. I don’t know why she singled me out for this, but, oh, how much it meant to me. To my Auntie Eleanor, I was special. And she was special to me and always will be.

I don’t remember too much about where we went or what we did. But, I remember her coming for me, picking me up at my house to go with her on the bus or the train to “downtown”! I remember being amazed at how well she knew how to get where she was going without a car. This little lady – to me an “old woman” was in reality quite young, struggling to overcome the odds in her life that she would never make it, never be someone important, never amount to anything. Yet, she had a fierce determination to make a life for herself and for her much loved son. And, for some reason, she brought me into the circle of their love. How could I ever forget that?

Looking back, I realize now that Eleanor was one of those miracles that God used along the way to encourage me to wonder at the love that He poured out on me, through the gentle kindness of this little Godly woman who the world, for the most part, ignored and rejected. Although there were others who touched my life as a child, Eleanor was and is, one of my favorites. She was there for me. She must have known that I needed that affection from her, and so, she got on the bus, traveled across the miles to our house, spent her hard earned money on me and, very simply, without any fanfare, loved me as a mother loves her little girl. I remember feeling very safe with this dear, humble, down to earth, servant of God. Because of her, I believe that some of the dearest to God must be His servants clothed in rags, with broken speech, and shaking hands disguising a heart that overflows with His love and kindness.

Eleanor taught me that it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference in a child’s life. She taught me that, even in poverty, we can pour love out extravagantly, as a mama bird feeds her little birds in the nest, from her own mouth. She taught me that poverty doesn’t define us. Love does. She had more of that than most people many times her superior in the riches of this world.

The magical trips on the train to downtown Chicago, safe in the care of an Aunt that loved me, ended almost as quickly as they began. My mother was not fond of any of my father’s siblings and didn’t like Eleanor coming over. So, just as suddenly as her visits began, they ended. I looked for her, as children do, wondering where she had gone. It was quite a while before I realized she wasn’t coming back. It was only for a brief and lovely season. But, it was long enough to cement my love for her in my heart for a lifetime…

I will always treasure the memory of this brief episode in my childhood, touched by the beauty and the grace of God through the unlikely person of my shy and struggling Auntie NoNo. Thank you, Father, for sending me your love through Eleanor. You were all over her, Jesus. Disguised as a beggar, a cast away, a reject. I saw You. When I looked in her eyes smiling down on me, I saw You. And I have never forgotten...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Deliver us...

from evil...

Watching the funeral of Deputy Darren Goforth yesterday, I had so many conflicting feelings.

Seeing his grief stricken young widow and two young children, my heart went out to them.  A little boy, dressed in the Captain America shirt that matched the one his daddy wore under his uniform, in his casket, a teenage daughter who has lost her hero, a wife, wearing the badge of her husband over her heart, dressed in dignity and grace that stood in stark contrast to the evil that murdered her husband.  I watched with the eyes of a woman whose daddy had served as a police officer for his entire career,  Visions of my own father, a very human man, with flaws and short comings of his own, ran like a tape recording through my mind.  He was a police officer, a cop, a flatfoot, a copper, a "pig" to some.  To me, he was my father, my daddy, my hero. I believe Deputy Goforth was exactly that to his precious children, who have now been robbed of ever seeing him again, this side of heaven.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit..."

Psalm 38:18 NKJV

I have many conflicting images of my dad, as a Police Officer. Memories take me to the evening I was about ten years old, excited to be going to the carnival down the street to ride the rides, eat the cotton candy and popcorn and try my hand at the many games of chance that were smashed inside the space that was allowed for carnival goers.  My friends and I were caught up in the fun and "innocence" of the carnival when one of my friends screamed that there was a man with a gun trying to steal money from the vendors.  As my child's eyes scanned the area to see what she was talking about, my heart stopped. There, only feet away from me, was my father, gun drawn, in hot pursuit of the would be robber.  I had never witnessed my father in pursuit of a criminal.  I had seen him in uniform leaving for work.  But, I had never seen him in a confrontation with evil.  Yet, evil unmasked was running through the "party" threatening to erupt in a tragedy right before my child's eyes. Evil knows no boundaries and mocks what we hold sacred and dear.

What stopped my heart was the realization that my father was doing a dangerous job that could take his life, right in front of his children, for we were all attending the carnival and I'm sure he realized that.  A young man, well built and six feet tall, what I saw as I watched him that night I had never seen before. Fear for his life was stamped across his face. His heart was racing, he was sweating profusely, and he was shaking. His life was on the line and he knew it.  So did I.  I will never forget that sight. The man I knew and adored as my father was on the firing line of someone who would take his life in the blink of an eye.  

Why did he take those risks then and why do police officers do it today?  Pastor Ed Young, speaking at the funeral of Deputy Goforth, talked about Jesus delivering us from evil.  Describing the cloak that Jesus wore as blue, not red, he said that the priests of the Old Testament wore blue as a symbol of their call to stand against evil.  Comparing the thousands of police officers in attendance at Officer Goforth's funeral to Jesus, he said, they have been called and sent forth to stand against - to "deliver" us from evil.  

There is indeed a thin blue line that separates the good and the evil in society. Deputy Goforth was one of those who stood between you and me and the evil that is out there, which, mercifully, we seldom encounter.  That night, many years ago at the carnival, I watched my own father stand between the children and party goers and the evil that visited itself upon us that evening. As God allowed, my father gained the victory that night and went on for many years after that. Tragically, for Kathleen Goforth and her two young children, her husband did not survive his encounter with evil. May God be their refuge and their strength as they go on to live their lives without the man they knew and loved as husband and father.  Please pray for this family and for our country.  

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, 
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day
Our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
For Thine is the Kingdom
and the Power
and the Glory

Note:  Written in memorial to Houston Deputy, Darren Goforth, as well as a tribute to the many good men and women who risk their lives to serve and protect us every day.  God bless you all.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lions and Tigers and Bears...

Oh, MY!

Driving through the woods last year, on a vacation with my daughter and her husband, I sat in the back seat enjoying the beauty of God's world all around me. Looking out the window lazily, I was startled to see a huge black mass of fur strolling through the trees, sure enough, as if he owned the place! Right in front of me was a living, breathing, black bear, on whose land I believe we were trespassing! 

I had seen wood carvings in all of the tourist shops in the area that proudly announced to the tourists, "You are in BEAR territory!" As a city girl, I found it mildly amusing, didn't take it too seriously. I had heard many a bear story, but, to me they were little more than myth. Until I looked one right in the eye. I held my breath as he stopped the traffic while he sauntered across the road. Crossing directly in front of our car, he turned and looked in the front window, as if sizing us up as tourists not worth eating today (thank the Lord!). I believe he was more interested in going fishing in the twinkling waters of the stream that wound itself around the trees and rocks that were strewn like so much confetti all along the side of the road. This was God's creation, A world of extravagant beauty splashing and shouting its abandon all around us. 

That's me in the back seat!

I treasure the memory of that sweet interlude in my life, provided by God through the hands and generosity of my daughter and her husband. I delighted in the beauty of the world they had given me an opportunity to see. The gorgeous beauty of the trees, changing their clothes to fit the season - sometimes, ruby red, sometimes glittering gold, sometimes fading green, or popsicle orange, on their way to the forest floor to sleep before the winter snows blanketed the world. 

There were only about 3 or 4 of us in the church as one of the ladies visiting, like us,
sat down at the old, rickety piano, and sang Amazing Grace with the voice of an angel.
I remember thinking of all of the believers who had worshipped and died and were buried in the back of the church, who were now in heaven witnessing that their church is still being used for God's praises, hundreds of years later.  Amazing, indeed...

I remember with great affection the loveliness of that sweet vacation. The beautiful little church from the 19th century where I was one of a tiny gathering of spectators to a choir of one who sat down at the old church piano and filled the hills with her beautiful voice, singing Amazing Grace. I treasure the memory of the evening my son-in-law drove high up into the hills on a night that showcased the stars like diamonds freely thrown about against a blackened sky. Simply breathtaking is the beauty of the world God has created!

"The heavens declare the glory of God
and the firmament displays His handiwork..."
Psalm 1:1
There are countless memories I have from that time with my children. But of all the memories and wonders I treasure, the one that warms me like a fire on a cold and snowy night, is the memory of the love so freely and joyfully bestowed on me with such abandon. Loving each other extravagantly, and letting their love splash all over me, was really the greatest gift I received from these two co-conspirators in love and generosity toward me.  

Many are the wonders of God's creation.  From the breathtaking beauty of the world He created and freely gave to us, to the beautiful voices raised to sing His praise, to the majesty of the wildlife, fish jumping in the sparkling spring waters, black furry bears strolling on their way to somewhere, yes, of all of these wonders, there is one even more captivating to me. The wonder of love that bursts out of our hearts for another.  The sweet, life changing gift of love, from the One who says He is Love itself.

What a joy to have sat down at the banquet table of the Lord with my daughter and her husband, who served me up heaping portions of His love, and never left a tab.  Yes, I enjoyed everything I saw. But, mostly, I loved watching you. Sharing with you.  Being loved by you.  Did you know you are, to me, a reflection of the best there is in this world?  Did you know, I was basking in your love?  If not, I'm telling you now...

Amen... :)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

If There Be Anything...

Think Upon These Things...
Lately, it's becoming harder and harder to obey this scripture. Judging only by the headlines on the evening news, one is tempted to believe there just isn't any longer anything true, honorable, right, pure, or lovely to think about.  We see babies being dismembered and their tiny little body parts sold to the highest bidder.  Politicians are labeled liars and who cares - its what we expect anymore.  Terrorists commit crimes against humanity that are unthinkable and yet, tolerated by the world - there seems to be an international conspiracy of silence against the truth.  In some universities, students are no longer allowed to use gender based pronouns, as if there is no such thing anymore as male and female!  

In the midst of this cultural moral decay and cowardice, I often think, is there anyone willing to speak the truth? In the filth and garbage that is being celebrated as the new normal, is there anything pure, anything lovely, anything honorable, anything or anyone worthy of praise?  This beautiful little scripture, like so many others in the Word of God, directs our steps, in a world filled with horrors and evil that threaten to drown us in the muck and garbage that surrounds us. 

God is not surprised by what is happening in our world today. He knows full well the evil that assaults us from every side. Like a loving daddy who knows what His child will see and hear in the world as he grows up, He gives us clear and pointed direction - "if there be anything...think upon these things." He seems to be saying, "Look for these things. Dig them out. Savor them in your heart and in your mind. Hold on tightly to these things. Discipline your mind!" He is teaching us what He already knows.  The battleground over our thoughts is won or lost by how much we choose to obey this scripture.

We can choose to dwell on the ugliness and the evil that is out there.  Of we can choose to savor that which is beautiful, lovely, pure, true, honorable and worthy of praise.  Not sure where to find it?  Sink yourself into the Word of God and let it wash over you like a refreshing spring rain.  It will give you hope, peace and joy that cannot be found anywhere else.

Does any of this really matter, in the big scheme of things? Oh yes.  I believe it does.  I believe that what we choose will determine our destiny, spiritually and emotionally.  It is really our very life that is at stake...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Press on to Acknowledge the LORD!

Press on...

Lately things have been pretty tough in my little corner of the world.  Maybe compared to some others, my troubles would seem like nothing, but, to me, they have brought me down, fried me, inside and out, and left me feeling like a kissing cousin to Job.  I won't bore you with the details of my trials and tribulations, because I'm sure you have enough of your own. But, suffice it to say, I have struggled to put one foot in front of the other lately. Sometimes, I was so miserable, I couldn't see the truth of God's love surrounding me.  I couldn't hear His voice calling out to me to come and rest in Him.  I forgot my identity as a treasured daughter of the Lord.  In many ways, I was numb.  And that was a better alternative than feeling anything. Because then, I felt the pain.  

I thought it was the pain of the loss of a loved family member, followed by the pain of family wars that divided us further, followed by the loss of a dream I was treasuring that fell by the wayside, followed by housing problems where I live that made me not even want to go home, followed by financial stress brought on by the housing problems and on and on and on.  Job, I decided, had nothing on me.  I knew exactly how he felt.

In the midst of all the struggles just to get up in the morning, God sent me a tremendous blessing through the hands and love of some of my children.  It amazed me and touched me how tenderly God ministered to me through the love of my daughter and her husband. But, almost as quickly as the blessing came, I fell back into a morose, dark foreboding, as if God had abandoned me.  In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I knew I was all alone and nobody cared.  Where did I get that idea?  Whose voice was I listening to?

Mercifully, God breathed His love so directly on my face, I could not miss the sunshine of His grace. I finally realized that God was loving me through it all.  He had never lost sight of me, abandoned me, thrown me overboard, or left me for dead.  He hadn't done any of that.  I had.  I had decided that I would listen to the wrong voice, follow the wrong signs, go in the wrong direction, abandon the lessons He has so lovingly and tenderly taught me.  I chose to leave Him, not the other way around. When I read the book of Hosea, a picture of God so patiently and painfully calling out to Israel to return to Him, I hear Him calling to me.  It's still the same today, thousands of years later, isn't it? We are so capable of leaving Him behind when we are hurting, to seek comfort in the wrong places.  

How lovingly, how faithfully, how constantly, how patiently, how tenderly, but, firmly, He called to me by name and drew me back to Him.  As soon as I turned toward Him and saw the beauty of His face smiling down on me, all of the pain dissipated.  It was Him I needed, plain and simple.  It was Him.  His presence. His love. His tender mercies.  Nothing else comes close.  Nothing else.

I have not enjoyed the storm I have been through.  I really haven't. But, I am learning to be grateful for the rough winds and the turbulent sea that brought me to my Savior.  "Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee..."

Friday, July 3, 2015


"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, 
for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation: 21:4

The God of Every Grief…

My heart stopped beating yesterday
So why does the earth still spin today?
I don’t want to eat, or laugh or play.
Somebody rock me, hold me, take the pain away.

Why doesn’t the sun stop shining for you
The way it has for me?
Why is everyone still smiling
Pretending they don’t see?

Why are the moon and the stars
Still dancing in the sky?
Aren't they brokenhearted
Knowing you have died?

Loving you and losing you
Has left its mark on me.
A stranger in a foreign land
Is what I seem to be.

I sought to be comforted
And couldn’t find relief
Until I poured my heart out
To the God of Every Grief.

He sat with me, He wept with me.
 He joined me in my pain.
He smiled at me that tender smile,
And called me by my name.

He doesn’t need me to pretend
As many others do.
In His love and kindness to me,
In the depth of my grief, I knew.

Grief is an ache all over
That only God can heal.
He gently took my mask away
And allowed me to be real.

 He stepped into the mine field 
Exploding with my grief,
He cradled my face to look in His
 To find such sweet relief.

 I want to believe His promise
 To wipe away every tear.
Oh, Jesus, help me trust You
 When you whisper "do not fear…"

Until the day I see your face again,
I have decided to entrust you
To the One Who promises to keep us all, 
To hold us 'til the end.

Until that day, 
My dearest dear,
 I trust you 
To my Friend…

Note:  This is an original piece written by me in memory of my dear brother, Pat, who went home to be with the Lord recently.  Lovingly dedicated to Pat, and to all those whose hearts are broken by the loss of a loved one.  He will wipe away every tear...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

They Shall Be Satisfied...

Following a day of routine work that left me tired and somewhat bored, I had been asked to fill in for a couple who host an English Speaking class for Internationals from all over the world. I had put together a few questions to help us get to know each other, since everyone except me is new to America.  I had titled the list of questions "Getting to Know You" and break into the first few lines of that famous song from "The King and I," one of my favorite movies.  The class begins to laugh and tells me that, no, not a single one of them has ever seen that movie!  Having seen that movie many times over, it surprises me that none of them have seen it. This is my first real clue that we come from vastly different worlds...

Surely, my God has a great sense of humor!  Here am I, not knowing a word of any language except English, never having traveled further away from America than Canada, yet, I have often found myself fascinated and mesmerized by visitors to America from foreign shores.  I have mentored many students from China and India, worked in International Student offices at the local university, and now, find myself sitting in the teacher's chair of an English Speaking class for Internationals. And loving it!  Only God could place me here and only God could accomplish His purpose well beyond what I can do with my english-only tongue!  

I watch and listen with amazement and awe as one of the ladies answers my question, "What do you like most about America?" Without pause, no sooner are the words out of my mouth, than she responds "The freedom to think what you want to think!" I have never heard it put that way, but, there it is.  She expounds for quite a while, explaining that in her native country, the government took away all of the freedoms the people enjoyed "after the revolution." She refers repeatedly to the revolution, something I remember reading about, but, here, right in front of me, sits a woman whose family fled their native land to come to America to have freedom. As she speaks, others in the class nod their heads up and down in agreement, repeating out loud the word "freedom."  Yes, they say, it is freedom that they did not have in their homeland and freedom they most treasure about America.  

Moving to a gentleman in the class, I throw out what I think is a fairly innocent question: "What brought you to America?" Expecting him to say family or a job opportunity, he responds in broken English, with a story of loss and heartache that leaves me speechless with an awareness of what courage it took for this man to leave his native land and travel thousands of miles to America.  

He explained that, while working as a lawyer in his homeland, he also served on a commission to investigate human rights abuses.  In the course of his work on that commission, government corruption was uncovered involving the murder of some innocent citizens who never had the opportunity for "due process under the law."  As a lawyer, of course, he was trained in the law and understood the full range of implications in uncovering this abuse.  His investigation led to a report of the corruption and murders and resulted in his life being threatened to the point that he had to leave his country, just to survive.  Leaving a young family behind, he fled for his life. 

As I sat listening to his story, I struggled to comprehend what he must be going through in a completely foreign country, living without his family, without his career credentials to get a job, not even recognizing his language being spoken by anyone around him from day to day.  This is a man who has suffered for righteousness and continues to suffer today.  How many are there who could not get away and lost their lives paying the price for speaking out against a corrupt government that murders its citizens at will?  How many have fled to America to taste the sweet, sweet fruit of freedom that they cannot have at home?  How many of us, who have lived under that freedom since birth, never give it a thought until we encounter a visitor, new to America, who finds it priceless?

This man, broken and humble in such a beautiful way, has a long journey ahead of him, and he isn't yet sure of where it will take him or his family.  Sharing that he is a Christian, I spoke to him of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and assured him of my prayers for him as a brother in Christ.  What does God have planned for him?  Why did God bring him here?  What will He do for this man who has a heart for God, for truth, for justice and for freedom?  What will God do? I do not know.  I only know it was a privilege to sit in that class and hear his story.  It is a privilege to witness courage under fire.  It is a privilege to watch God work in this man's life. It is a privilege to pray for him and his family.

For me, it is a constant wake-up call to come out of my slumber and be a part of what God is doing in His church right under my nose.  I thank Him for the privilege of being a small part of anything He is doing.  May I have the strength and the courage to walk the walk when it is a path of fire.  

Thank you, Lord, God, that You are able to use me in spite of my weaknesses and that, in Your hands, they melt away.  Thank You, Father, God, that you are the God who hears us, the God Who Sees Us and the God who has promised to fill those who suffer for righteousness, for Your name's sake.  Thank You, Father, God of All Mercy, God of All Grace.  We need You so...

Please remember to pray for the persecuted all around the world.

Friday, April 3, 2015

In the Depths of His Love...

"He hideth my soul
in the depths of His love
covers me there with His hand..."
Hymn "He Hideth My Soul"
by Fanny Crosby

It is Easter weekend in the United States this week.  This picture poignantly portrays to me the loneliness of so many who have lost a loved one. When facing a holiday alone, it can feel like someone ripped open our wounds all over again and poured a bucket of vinegar all over them. There is a stinging, throbbing pain that surfaces when we least expect it.  It can feel like the world stopped spinning on its axis and nobody but us has noticed.  Grief can be very, very lonely.  People may avoid us, not knowing what to say.  If the loss is very new, we may still be in shock.  If the loss involved a spouse, we haven't even begun to figure out how we can make it without him or her. We may have been married for many years and now, suddenly, we find ourselves single again. How do I do that single thing after all these years?  I don't want it.  I didn't sign up for this...

Even after many years of living without a loved one, holidays spent with them, either good or bad, bring a rush of emotions that come with remembering the past.  We can feel lost, overwhelmed, unbearably lonely, and just want to run away.  I have been there.  I know it is extremely painful and not something we can talk to everybody about.  In fact, it can seem like people avoid us just wanting us to "get over it, already..." People are poor substitutes for God...

People may push us away, ignore us, pretend they don't see us.  They may reject us, avoid us, pressure us, be irritated with us, even sometimes laugh at us, partly because they can't handle the depth of our grief, or because they simply don't understand.  At times like this, it is so important to know what God has to say to us about who we are in His eyes, how much He cares for us, that He deeply, deeply understands our suffering and our loneliness.  He is a "man of sorrow, acquainted with our grief." Isaiah 53:3

This Easter, the world may seem to be dancing all around us, but, take stock of what is really going on in the world.  It is swinging wildly out of control all around us.  Do not be deceived by what appears to be a perpetual party.  We weren't made for that.  Especially at Easter, as we remember the unimaginable suffering and death of Jesus, we must chose to remember, in our own grief, that He is with us - He suffered and died an excruciating death to walk with us through it all.  The Resurrection of Jesus tells all of us who are wounded, grief struck and lonely that there is Hope. That He loves us more than we can possibly imagine.  He is holding on to you and me when we are overcome with grief and loneliness.  He is hiding you "in the depths of His love..." And the same hands that were pierced for us are covering us, protecting us, loving us, holding onto us.  He hasn't let go just because we're angry or depressed or cursing the world for our loss.  He is holding on to us and I don't believe He will ever let go.  You are more precious than diamonds, more beautiful than velvet, more treasured than gold. 
You are loved...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Always Dependable Love...

"For You have been a safe place for me,
A good place to hide.
Strong God, I'm watching You do it,
I can always count on You, God -
My dependable love..."
Psalm 59:16,17
The Message

What a winter this has been. All around me people are dropping like flies to some mysterious upper respiratory infection that hits hard and stays much longer than expected.  For many elderly people I know, this infection hit unexpectedly and invaded the lungs with a ferocity that sometimes stole the very breath of life from its victims.  I have several friends that did not survive the attack of this deceptive and dangerous invader. 

Battling this infection myself, I found myself sitting in the cold, sterile halls of an emergency room recently for over five hours. Silly me.  When I arrived at the ER, I noticed with relief that there were only three people sitting in the waiting room ahead of me. Ahh, I said to myself, I will be in and out of here in no time! Five and a half hours later, I finally went home.  Grateful to have medicine in hand and a relatively non-threatening diagnosis, I was grateful to be going home and not to a hospital.  It seems like hospitals are some of the most dangerous places to be if you want to survive. 

The kernal of this story that I want to tell you about, though, is how God met me in the cold, lonely halls of the Emergency Room and cared for me and "loved on me" right in that place when I needed Him most.  It is an experience I do not want to forget...

To give you a little background, I do not live close to any relatives, none of my children or grandchildren are close by for me to call on for help at times like this.  Not wanting to pay for an ambulance to take me there, I drove myself to the ER and sat alone in the waiting room and then in the examining room for what seemed to be forever.  Time passes very slowly when you are alone and not feeling well.  A perfect set up for a pity party.  Of course, I began to consider my circumstances, and, finding them very bleak, began to feel very, very alone in the world and, being sick, I felt extremely vulnerable.  Ever been there?!

Not one to stop at the first sign of trouble, I forged ahead in my imagination, filling my mind with "what ifs" to keep me company.  What if I need surgery?  What if I have cancer? Or, Pneumonia (the untreatable, fatal type, of course!)  What if I don't make it?  After all, I have several friends that did not.  I could go on and on, but it is enough to say, I got myself pretty wound up with all of the possibilities of certain disaster waiting for me around the corner.  What made it all worse, though, was that I was feeling distinctly Alone, with a capital A.  To drive that feeling home, the doctor taking my history looked at me and asked, as if he, of course, could tell, "Do you live alone?!" That confirmed it. Everyone knows I'm all alone!  I didn't like answering that question in the affirmative.  It only drove home my feeling of isolation when I so wanted to be loved and cared for at that very moment.

As the doctor left the room for another hour saying he would be "right back" I was overcome with feelings of needing comfort and love.  My heart turned in the direction of the Lord.  I do find that it is when I feel the most desperate and in need of help, my prayers are the most honest and real. Speaking to God as my dear friend, I asked Him to help me in that situation, admitting how alone I felt and how overwhelmed.  Immediately, I mean immediately, Jesus spoke to my heart as clear as if he was standing right next to me.  In fact, that is exactly how I felt.  He told me I was not alone at all, that He was right there in that room with me, taking care of me, holding on to me, owning me as His own.  I kid you not, I broke out in a huge smile and instantly began to feel His Presence comforting me and loving me more perfectly than I could even imagine.  I knew that He was with me. I was not alone and I knew it very deeply.  The nurse came in to take my blood pressure which had been slightly elevated when I first came in and told me it was the lowest it has been in many years.  She must have wondered what had happened to me in the time since she had seen me earlier! I almost could not stop smiling!

I hope today, wherever you are, whatever you are going through, you will turn your heart in God's direction and listen for His voice singing His love song over you.  You are never alone with God. He is a "safe place" in the middle of whatever storm you may be facing.  He loves you.  You can depend on it.  He is right there waiting for you to turn to Him.  He is our safety in the time of trouble.  A hiding place for us to run to and rest in until we are recovered.  He is "my always dependable love..."  May you call out to Him and find Him right there, holding you, comforting you, washing you all over with His love.  You are safe in the shelter of His wings...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Is That You?

'Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah,
that Ahab said to him,
Is that you, O troubler of Israel?"
1 Kings: 18:17

O troubler of Israel!!  I so love that title for the great prophet of God, Elijah!  I will not go into the details of this story of the battle between a pagan king and a prophet of God, but, if you are not familiar with it, read chapters 18 and 19 of 1 Kings to see what unfolds.  It is a fascinating story of human nature on display in all of it's brokenness and the God of all Kindness and Mercy.

My purpose right now is to draw some striking similarities to our lives, our struggles, our disappointments, and how God, in His lovingkindness ministers to us in the midst of them.  I'm quite sure there are many theological riches to be gleaned from these passages, but, for me, I just want to pull out some of the jewels I see that feed my soul with their beauty.

Elijah, following a spectacular victory over the enemy of God, responds to the threats of the madwoman, Jezebel, to murder him within a day, by running for his life and hiding under a tree and, finally, retreats to a cave to nurse his emotional wounds.  He is all alone with his thoughts and they are not good.  He decides that he is so miserable that he would like to die and asks God to let him do so.  He thinks that no-one has followed him, that his ministry has been a colossal waste of time - after all, he "is the only one left."  He is exhausted, worn out, lonely, more than ready to give up. To use our language, he's reached the end of his rope, he's had it, he's "done"! 

    "So he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts,
for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down
Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone
am left, and they seek to take my life. 1 Kings 19:10

Well, he does have a point!  I mean, I can relate!  Here he has been laboring and fighting the evil King Ahab and the prophets of Baal, he has pulled off a fantastic victory (or, rather, God has pulled it off!) and what does he get for it?  The evil Jezebel is planning to kill him.  It's just too much for Elijah.  Of course, we know how the story turns out, so we can stand above it all and wag our finger at Elijah for his lack of faith.  But, if I am really honest with myself, I am all too sure, I would have done the same. In fact, I have!  But, what I want to pull out of this story is the beautiful way that God receives Elijah, and loves him back to sanity and to ministry!  God doesn't beat him up for being so short on faith.  He listens.  He understands.  He loves him through to recovery. I absolutely love that picture of our God...

God reaches out to Elijah in the cave.  He sees him hiding in the dark.  He knows he's afraid.  He knows he's exhausted.  He knows, Elijah.  He knows exactly what Elijah needs and supplies his every need.  Elijah has lost his way.  He has come through a battle with great victory, but all he can hear is the sound of terror, threatening his life.  He hears her screaming her deadly threat.  He hears Ahab demeaning and mocking him.  He cannot hear God. The other voices are too loud in his head. 

God comes to him in exactly this state and in this "god-forsaken" place. But the truth is, there is no such thing.  God will visit His child wherever he is in need.  In prison, in a deep, dark pit, in a dark, cold, isolated cave, in a divorce court, in a hospital room where death seems to be having its way...There is no place God does not go to rescue his lost child.  Or we might say, His depressed child.  His suicidal child.  His terrified child. His desperately lonely child.  Elijah was all of those things.  Hiding in the cave, very likely trembling in the cold.  Hungry, lost, depressed, despairing, wanting to die.  

In this state, God moves in on Elijah.  He speaks to him lovingly. He calls him to come out of the place he is hiding.  He asks him, as if He doesn't know, "What are you doing here, Elijha?"

Then He lovingly directs Him to come out of the cave and into the Presence of the Lord.  As the story goes, Elijah goes and looks for God in the storm, but, God isn't in the storm,  He looks for Him in the fire, but, God isn't in the fire.  It is in the stillness, the quiet, that Elijah finally is able to hear God's "still, small voice!"  And it is in the Comforting and Reassuring Presence of the Lord that Elijah rediscovers who he is and who God is. As God comforts Him and reminds him of his calling, Elijah begins to recover and come back to his place in the Lord's arms.  God visits him with His Presence.  And in His Presence, every need is met.  In His Presence, is fullness of joy...

God corrects Elijah's distorted vision of himself ("I alone am left..." 1 Kings 19:10).  He calls him out of the darkness of the cave, of his deadly thoughts, and into His arms, into His Presence, and into His calling on Elijah's life.  I love this.  God doesn't stand outside the cave, wagging His finger, bemoaning what a mess Elijah is, and, that, after God had fed him and sent His angels to minister to him!  He understands how lost Elijah feels.  He comes right to where Elijah is and meets him there. He doesn't "preach" to him, telling him when he gets his act together, then, maybe, God will consider a visit.  No, He visits him there, right smack dab in the middle of the mess and the misery.  
I find enormous encouragement in this beautiful story of God's love for his imperfect, sinning servant.  He doesn't require perfection.  He requires honesty.  And certainly, Elijah was that and then some!

I love this story because it is such a beautiful picture of The Lord's love for his servant.  He knows Elijah from years of the two of them walking together and talking things over.  Yes, Elijah has served the Lord.  But it was the Lord, Himself, who called Elijah and who then enabled him to do what God asked of him.  But, God doesn't just use Elijah to do His bidding.  No, this is a picture of a God who knows his servant, in all of his weaknesses and loves him through and through.  God knows Elijah's deepest need, even when Elijah doesn't or isn't able to think clearly enough to remember.  Elijah needs the Lord, Himself.  Desperately.  He cannot go on any longer without a visitation from the Lord that he loves.  That's you and me.  We may have food on the table and a beautiful home with every physical need met, and still be in despair.  We need Him. More than anything else, we need Him... 

My hope and prayer for you is that you will find Him right there with you, wherever you go to hide from the storms and the raging fires in your life. May you find Him in the still small voice that is calling you to come out and return to the One Who Loves You more than you know. He is right there.  In the middle of the mess...