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...