Thursday, December 24, 2009
One day you can seem to be fine, the next day you can learn you are dying.
One day you can be enjoying coffee with your husband, the next day he can be gone.
One day you can enjoy being a mom, and then suddenly learn your child has a dreaded disease. In just a few short months, you find your arms empty again.
One day you can be employed by a company you have given 25 years to, and the next they can hand you a pink slip.
One day you can live in a nice house, drive a fine car and live the good life. Then with the turn of a bad economy, you can suddenly find yourself living on the street.
Yes, life is uncertain.
None of us are promised tomorrow. In fact, none of us are promised the next second.
But, lest you think this is a terribly morbid blog, CHRISTmas comes to remind us of a few certainties.
Here are a few you can take to the bank.
God is real. God is love. God loves YOU!
The penalty for sin is DEATH. Everyone sins.
Someone MUST pay the penalty. You can either choose to pay it when you die, or you can allow someone else to pay it for you.
JESUS came to pay that debt. He paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.
CHRISTmas is God's ultimate gift to us....the gift of LIFE through JESUS CHRIST.
Our life has a beginning and an end.
We will either die at some point OR we will meet the Lord in the air when He comes to rapture His church [all believers...not a building].
Make no mistake...HE IS COMING AGAIN!!
If this life was all there was, we would be most miserable. But it is not.
CHRISTmas reminds us that the BEST is yet to come!!!!!!!!!!!!
That baby in the manger was our downpayment for a future with God in Heaven.
But remember...that baby...as precious as He was... is NOT still in the manger. Nor is HE on the cross. He is alive!!!!!!!!!!
He offers to you the gift of CHRISTmas....eternal life through Jesus Christ.
As you celebrate CHRISTmas this year with your family, I pray that you will remember that JESUS is the GIFT and I pray that you will receive the greatest gift you've ever received by receiving that GIFT.
Because life is uncertain.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I asked for the privilege of presenting Mamaw’s eulogy because I wanted to honor her for the blessing she has been to me, personally, and to our entire family.
Many people make jokes about their mother in law. And, although Mamaw has given us all cause to laugh many times, I can honestly say that none of the bad "mother in law" jokes ever applied to MY mother in law because I have been blessed to have the best mother in law in the world.
From the moment I met her almost 40 years ago, she treated me with love and kindness. Although I will say that she never quite forgave me for taking away her "baby". Even as recent as just a few weeks ago, she introduced Larry to Amanda’s boyfriend as her "baby" and me as the one who stole him away. But I jokingly reminded HER that I had taken good care of him and she agreed. Tom, her favorite son in law, said the second thing she said to him after being introduced was "What can I get you?" So typical of her…always reaching out and wanting to do something for someone else.
She was always so good natured, able to take a joke and able to kid as well. Even as sick as she was just days before her home-going, she told a tall handsome doctor who asked her how old she was that she was probably just 5 years older than him (and he was only about 40!) She loved life to the fullest . Whether it was riding a roller coaster or tickling one of her grandchildren til they squealed with laughter…even if they were an adult….she had a way to make you smile.
She loved people not being able to guess her age. She had aged so beautifully no one ever knew how old she really was! Even at 95 she was always so concerned about her appearance. She worked hard to coordinate her outfit, her jewelry, her shoes and always wanted her hair fixed and her make up on. Last night as many came to pay their respects, we heard time and again how beautiful she was…how young she looked and how sweet she was.
As she grew older, of course, like all of us she had her aches and pains, and more so in the last few years. But she never lost her sense of humor. Oh the stories we all could tell!! And oh the stories she used to tell our kids about the "good old days". She would have them begging for more. She’d put on their hats and pose for the camera and make us laugh so hard the tears would roll.
She never met a stranger so could strike up a conversation with anyone. For many years she loved playing all the games on the radio. She would have several radios throughout her house so she could not miss an opportunity to make the call. She was on a first name basis with many of the disk jockeys, especially Andy and Debbie of Kix 106, because she wouldn’t just call and answer whatever trivia question they asked, she would have to talk to them a bit first, telling them in detail exactly what she’d been doing all day. And she won money and prizes, too, more times than I can count!
A few Christmases ago she asked Amanda if she had a boyfriend. Amanda said ‘no’. To which Mamaw replied, "Well you know…. a good man is hard to find" and then she broke out in song. She sang an old, old song about a good man being hard to find. It was a very popular song during her teenage years and she had not forgotten a single word!! We asked her a few weeks later while at our house one night to sing it again for our kids. She never batted an eye, but sang every word!!! My only regret is that I did not record it.
She loved wrestling and Memphis State basketball. She loved to sew and can and bake…especially for others. She was the hardest worker I’ve ever known. Even at 95 when most have taken to their rocking chair, Mamaw was still going strong….maybe a little slower, but she was still going. There was not a lazy bone in her body. Just 2 weeks ago she was raking leaves in her yard and early last week when she first became sick, I had dropped by to take her birthday gift that had been late arriving. She greeted me at the door, but soon told me how bad she felt and about her having been sick since the day before. Yet as we moved into the den, there was her ironing board and she was ironing curtains! And not just any curtains, mind you…these were the ruffled variety that were a pain to iron if you felt GOOD. But…she wasn’t just going to sit around doing nothing even if she was sick. She was going to accomplish something out of her day.
She was fiercely independent, one of the things I loved most about her. She still lived alone at 95 and was driving up until just a couple of years ago. I remember several years ago we were going to cook out at her house for someone’s birthday and it came a rainstorm that day. I talked to her early in the day and asked if she had been to the grocery yet. She said ‘no’ and I told her that I’d go for her so she wouldn’t have to drive in the rain. She said "Well, if it doesn’t stop…" So I called back about noon because it had still been raining pretty hard. She had already been to the store. She did not want anyone to do anything for her that she could do for herself. Not that she didn’t appreciate your help…she was always VERY appreciative of anything anyone did for her, but she preferred to do it herself whether it was getting her groceries, cleaning her house or driving.
Mamaw without a doubt had the gift of mercy. She was always doing for someone else. I truly believe the Lord allowed her to remain on this earth as long as He did because she was such a blessing to so many. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys visiting a nursing home, yet Mamaw could go and stay for hours, visiting first one and then another. It did not matter if she knew them or not. If they looked sad or lonely, she was going to pull up a chair and visit, and if they were lucky, she’d also leave them a loaf of banana nut bread.
Up until she had to give up driving, she was quite a regular at the nursing home as well as visiting the shut-ins. She was older than most of them, yet that did not matter to her. She wasn’t sitting at home waiting on someone to come to her. She was more interested in how she could bless someone else.
She was not rich by the world’s standards, but she was so rich in so many other ways. She was rich in kindness, compassion, gentleness and forgiveness. She was one of the few people I’ve ever known who did not ever hold a grudge or harbor bad feelings toward anyone. No matter what had been done to her…if her feelings had been hurt, she had been offended, she had been let down or even if she had been done wrong, Mamaw forgave. She did not have a mean bone in her body. She never saw the bad in anyone…which got her in trouble at times. She was so trusting and I can hear her now if we scolded her about it, saying " But…he was SO nice".
She recently had some work done on her house and the men who came to work on it stayed all day. She noticed that one of them had a lunch and the other one didn’t. Most of us would have said "too bad…hate it for ya". Not Mamaw. She fixed him lunch and after he tasted how good her jelly was, she ended up selling him a pint to take home!
In going through her address book Sunday night to be sure we had contacted everyone, I found an address label on one of the pages. Beneath it she wrote "This is the address of a friend I’d never seen before and she ate lunch at my house and then sent me a real sweet card in a few days and I want to remember this." I had to smile when I read it because that was CLASSIC MAMAW. A friend she’d never met. I later learned that the woman had come to visit with a mutual friend and ended up having lunch with Mamaw. They had such a delightful time that Mamaw did not want to forget her new "friend".
She was a natural born saleswoman. She sold her wares at the Fair on the Square from the very first one til just a few years ago…32 years! She was well known for her banana nut bread, her fried pies and her canned goods. And everywhere she went she managed to tell whomever she was with about them and usually made a sale. After all, who could resist that sweet white-haired angel with the beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes?
Yet for all the joy she brought to others and all the fun she could be, she had not lived 95 years without her share of heartache and sorrow. She lost a brother when she was younger and saw her family home burn. She lost parents and all of her siblings but one. She endured still crueler pain in losing her husband, a son and a grandson. As the years have gone by, she has lost friend after friend after friend. Still her own personal pain never stopped her from giving of herself to others nor did it ever make her bitter.
She has opened her home to many over the years. She has tenderly cared for sisters and brothers, children and grandchildren. And even if she couldn’t care for you personally, she called and sent cards, but she was always displaying her gift of mercy
She loved her family with every fiber of her being. Every single one of them. And she would be quick to tell you that she did not love one more than the other. And she didn’t. She loved each one and talked favorably about each one. They were all special to her from her oldest son to her youngest great-grandbaby….they were ALL precious in her sight. The love of her family was reciprocated to her this week, as grandchild after grandchild and great-grands as well, gathered around her hospital bed.
And that is what endeared her to me the most…her love of family. Oh how she loved each of us!! Not only was she a wonderful, caring, loving mother, but she was an awesome grandmother! After all she made home-made cookies and play dough!! She always made time for her grandchildren…whether little or older.
I will never forget how she used to come over almost every time one of our kids would return to college just to tell them good bye and bring them some cookies to take back to school. And she always wanted me to call her and let her know that they had made it back to school safely. She attended ball games, piano recitals and church programs. She not only loved her grandchildren, she enjoyed them.
But my favorite memory of all was when Curt was little. No one loved digging in the dirt more than Curt…he still does! Mamaw would give him an old spoon to dig with and I can hear her now saying "Son…I don’t care how deep a hole you dig, just fill it up when you are done." She wasn’t worried about him messing up something. She just let him be a little boy and enjoy himself. A couple of years ago, our granddaughte,r Kyleigh, was over at her house and she was following us around in the backyard. Next thing I know, here comes Mamaw with a spoon and little bucket so Kyleigh could dig under her tree. The dirt was hard and Kyleigh was having a hard time. So Mamaw stopped what she was doing, came over and got down on the ground with Kyleigh and got a hole started for her, showing her how to dig.
This week in the hospital her room has been filled with family and friends. She was affectionately known as Momma, Aunt Ruby, Mamaw, or Miss Ruby because all who knew her loved her. There will be a huge hole in all of our lives without her, but oh how much richer and sweeter our lives have been because of her. This Christmas will be especially hard without her yet I want to share with you what I think she would say about that if she could….
I’m spending my first Christmas in Heaven
A glorious, wonderful day!
I’ll stand with saints of the ages,
Who found Christ the Truth and the Way.
I’ll sing with the Heavenly choir.
Just think! I, who longed so to sing!
And oh, what celestial music
We’ll bring to our Savior and King!
We’ll sing the glad songs of redemption,
How Jesus to Bethlehem came,
And how they had called His Name Jesus,
That all might be saved through His Name.
We’ll sing once again with the angels,
The song that they sang that blest morn,
When shepherds first heard the glad story
That Jesus, the Savior, was born.
O, how I wish you could be here.
No Christmas on earth could compare
With all the rapture and glory
We’ll witness in Heaven so fair.
You know how I loved Christmas.
It seemed such a Wonderful Day,
With all of my loved ones around me,
The children so happy and gay.
Yes, now I can see why I loved it.
And oh, what a joy it will be
When you and my loved ones are with me
To share in the glories I see.
So Dear Ones on earth, here's my greeting:
Look up till the day dawn appears,
And oh, what a Christmas awaits us,
Beyond all our partings and tears!
Yes, Mamaw loved the Lord. She had walked with him for most of her life. Her witness was a quiet one, lived out day by day. She prayed faithfully for her loved ones and any who needed prayer. She would often say when we complained about the weather "Well that is the Lord’s work. We can’t complain about that." After I am finished speaking you will hear her favorite song "He Touched Me". I hope that you will listen carefully to the words, for it is Mamaw’s testimony. It speaks of one whose life has been changed by the touch of the Master’s hand upon their life. She is in Heaven today because Jesus touched her and changed HER life and I know that she wants to see each of you there some day as well. She did not get to heaven by being a good person, although she was one of the best. She did not get there by doing lots of good works, though she was known for them. She did not get there by being a faithful church member, although she was one. No…. she is in Heaven today because as the words of this song attest, one day the hand of Jesus touched her and she was no longer the same. I urge you to listen to each word of the song that follows and if you do not know Mamaw’s Jesus, I pray that you will give your heart to Him today.
Yes, my mother in law was priceless…a one of a kind…a rare jewel.
I think Proverbs says it best :
"Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies,…..strength and honor are her clothing and she shall rejoice in time to come….in her mouth is the law of kindness. She looks well to the ways of her household and eats not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed…………Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou [RUBY THOMAS] excel them all!"
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I thought about how parents...especially mommas....begin almost immediately to plan and prepare for their baby's nursery from the moment they discover they are expecting. I know I did! I knew in my mind exactly what I wanted although I had never actually seen it. And when I found that PERFECT wallpaper, I knew it was THE one!
Our family has welcomed two precious granddaughters in the last 3 years. Each time the big topic of discussion among us females was "how are you going to decorate the nursery?" Oh what fun it was as the girls began to pick out the colors, the bedding, the crib and all the other "essentials" to make it just perfect!
Our daughter had the first baby and as soon as they discovered it was a girl, I was very anxious to see what she had in mind as she HATED pink!! (God DOES have a sense of humor, doesn't He?) She did end up using some pink, albeit NOT baby pink. She is not a "fru-fru" person, so she opted for geometric shapes in lime green, hot pink and a tiny bit of yellow. She did all the drawing and measuring and it was ADORABLE!! Our son commented upon seeing it that the baby would never sleep because it was SO loud..HAHA!
Then last year came our second grand angel. Our daughter-in-love also began the search for the perfect color scheme and decor. She opted for chocolate brown and pink. Our daughter helped her measure and paint the stripes of hot pink, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. (You can't tell that I'm a chocoholic by the names of the colors, can you?) Our son once again gave his astute observation, stating that he'd be hungry every time he walked in his daughter's room because it looked like neopolitan ice cream!!!
Yes, planning and preparing that nursery is just one of the many aspects of all the anticipation that precedes the arrival of the little bundle of joy. And, today, most babies have the luxury of having their very own room!
Not so with a friend of ours who suddenly found herself expecting baby number 4!! So being the creative soul she is, she utilized a large walk-in closet and fitted the baby bed inside in order to give the baby some measure of solitude and quiet. It became quite the joke after a year or so as people began to ask her if her had "come out of the closet yet?" But, you do whatever works!
A missionary family that our Sunday School class supports lives near Mozambique. Although their accomodations are not primitive in the sense of them living in a grass hut....they are not what most of us enjoy today. It is small and simple by today's standards in America. But it is home to them. They had completed their family of 3 children....or so they thought. Then this week we got a letter from them stating that Baby #4 is on the way!!! Seems God had other plans. I'm wondering where this baby will sleep? Will they plan an elaborate nursery as mommas here do? Or will he/she have to be fitted in the best way possible..possibly in a corner of a sibling's room or maybe even a closet?
For all we do to prepare and "make room" for a coming arrival, how much do we do to make room for Christ in our hearts? Especially this time of year?
I know that personally my calendar is running over with things TO DO. In fact, I was recanting to a friend tonight all that I have TO DO in just the next 5 or 6 days and as I did, I began to feel a sense of panic creeping into my mind, wondering how I would ever get it all done, especially since my mother-in-law was also admitted to the hospital tonight and I do not know where that will lead. Decorating to finish, parties to prepare and cook for, a 2 night event I'm committed to at church, doctors appointments, shopping still to do, CHRISTmas cards to address and mail, CHRISTmas letters to write and send, and the list goes on and on and on..........
And before I know it, CHRISTmas morning will be here and it will all be over. And, as much as I love it ALL...........where do I fit Jesus in the midst of all that activity? Have I made room for Him...or have I been like the innkeepers in Bethlehem and found NO ROOM?
I realized that as I heard and contemplated that little phrase from the CHRISTmas carol tonight that I needed to make a conscious effort to slow down and acknowledge the REASON for all this hustle and bustle. As fun as it is, as much enjoyment as it brings, I must not....I MUST NOT lose sight of the ONE around whom it all revolves. Because if I do, then it has all become a huge waste of time.
As our women's ministry leader reminded us tonight....If we are to give ourselves to anything, let it be these:
GOD....HIS WORD.... and SHARING HIM WITH OTHERS
for in the end...NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!
For the remainder of this season, will you make a conscious effort to MAKE ROOM IN YOUR HEART FOR JESUS?
I pray that every time you hear the carol, JOY TO THE WORLD, for the rest of December, you will be reminded to
Thursday, December 3, 2009
She said her daughter was a student at Ole Miss. She had called her earlier in the week and asked if her Mom could quickly mail her one of her CHRISTmas sweaters. The reason? She needed one to wear to a CHRISTmas "tacky" party!! Ouch!!
I love CHRISTmas and for years I had quite the collection of CHRISTmas sweaters....pullovers, cardigans, and vests. I loved having something CHRISTmasy to wear every day of the month. It seems the tradition started quite a number of years ago when everyone was decorating sweatshirts. There were these iron-on appliques that you then outlined in glitter paint. Oh they were quite the craze!! My favorite was a deep blue sweatshirt with a huge Santa and sleigh with all the reindeer climbing into the night sky with all the stars aglitter above. I got many compliments on it every time I wore it. In fact, I wore it out! Now I wouldn't be caught dead in it.
I'd begun to notice over the last few years....even before my conversation with the Ole Miss mom...that only people MY age were wearing the CHRISTmas sweaters. So I had narrowed my collection down to the more subdued ones and to tee shirts with just a little something on them.
I got to thinking about how fads come and go. One year something is so the rage and the next year you better NOT wear it or you will be a fashion disaster. I know that Stacy and Clinton just go nuts every time they find a CHRISTmas sweater in someone's closet!
Lots of things besides CHRISTmas sweaters come and go. Car models change from year to year. Remember the llllooooonnnngggggg cadillacs of years past? Just look how far we've come from the Model T!
Decorating styles change in our homes. If you had a kitchen in the 70's, you had orange, avocado green and gold. (Hopefully none of you STILL have that !! HA!) My mother built her house in the mid 60's when turquoise was the "in" thing. She still has her turquoise appliances and every time someone sees them they are amazed because you never see those any more. And, yes, they still work!!!
I remember growing up seeing some people with the aluminum CHRISTmas trees. There was a multi colored light that swirled beneath it to make it change colors. Now you can get trees in every color under the rainbow. I have even seen trees that hang upside down!
Change .....it is part of life.
But there is one constant in our lives that never changes. JESUS. He is the "same yesterday, today and forever." (Heb. 13:8) And, His Word never changes. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Matt. 24:35)
Isn't it wonderful to know that JESUS will never go out of style and that His word remains the same? We do not have to constantly be checking for revisions. There are no amendments to His Word.
You can buy a computer today and by tomorrow it will be obsolete. You can drive off the showroom floor today with a $50,000 vehicle, but by tomorrow it will have already begun to depreciate. Yet Jesus just gets sweeter with time. The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows!!
The CHRISTmas story never grows old. God sent His only begotten Son in the form of a baby, to be born in a manger, born of a virgin so that He could be our Savior. Think about that story today and thank God that it never changes.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
On November 8, 2009 in South Asia, I and two other pastors from The Austin Stone, were robbed and attacked by a small gang of South Asian youth. Unexpectedly, one of these youth sliced my left cheek with a straight razor. The wound was 5 inches long and an inch deep. It spanned from about my left sideburn to the left corner of my mouth. Fortunately, the two other men with me were physically unharmed. We ran for safety in the middle of the city, pleaded with locals for help, and finally ended up in the emergency room at a local hospital where a doctor stitched up my face with three layers of stitches.
After arriving back home, I realized that this attack was a catalyst to great spiritual and emotional growth. After a week long of reflection, I have outlined below the lessons that I have learned. I hope my story and these lessons will encourage others to radical obedience to Jesus and mobilize them to the mission of God.
* The straight razor that scarred my face has become an altar of intercession for those South Asian youth who attacked us. My face is the sacrifice that was put on this alter. I doubt if any prayers have ever been lifted to the Father for those youth, that is, until they attacked us. Almost immediately, we began praying for them. Since then, thousands of people have interceded for them, for their joy. In this way, therefore, God turned their sin of unjustly attackingus into a great blessing for them.
*The Lord brought me to Psalm 97:11 a few days after the attack: “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” I realized that the straight razor was not only an altar of intercession for those youth, but it was also a plow, tilling the soil of my body and prepping it for sowing. The straight razor plow opened the way for The straight razor plow opened the way for the seeds of joy and compassion for those youth to be sown in the soil of my heart. My wound, therefore, is now a memorial repository of joy in God and passion for the joy of unreached peoples.
* The sowing of my soil - my face -also meant uprooting some of my weeds. On the car ride to the emergency room, I distinctly remember feeling sick about my sin. I was horrified that even in amoment of intense suffering, the weeds of pride grew. For a moment, I saw that the nasty roots of my sin ran deeper than I could fathom.
*This past week, I was blown away when I realized the sowing of seed and the sprouting of the plant have onething in common: the breaking of the soil. That is amazing! The breaking of the soil is twice the key moment in the process of harvesting a plant. In a garden, the soil is broken with hope! In my situation, the breaking of my face at the plow of those South Asian youth was outwardly quite grotesque, but spiritually it was a natural and good gift from Above, opening the way for future fruit bearing!
*Suffering is a natural part of being sent on mission. The Lord revealed this to me a few days after the attack. When Jesus sent out his followers on their first mission, he told them that they were going out as "sheep in the midst of wolves" (Mt. 10:16). For Jesus, suffering at the hands of the wolves was part of the sending! The apostle Peter says that we have been "called" to unjustly suffer (1 Peter 2:21). Therefore, trials such as ours in South Asia are not abnormal to our lives as Christians; rather, they are a very normal and very necessary part of our calling as Christians. Unjust suffering is not "strange" when you walk the Calvary Road, so let's not treat it as such (1 Peter 4:12).
*God kept all of His promises to us, even while we were attacked. Immediately after our attack, while still seeking help from local authorities, Psalm 34:19 came to mind and comforted me in prayer: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." A few days later, the Lord led me to Ps. 97:10, "He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked."
*Yes, the Lord preserved our lives and delivered us from further affliction. If the straight razor hit me a few inches lower, it would have sliced open my neck, leaving me near death. If ithit me a few inches higher, it would have taken out my left eye. The wound missed my major facial nerve by probable millimeters. If this nerve was severed, I would have been paralyzed on the left side of my face. The path ofthe straight razor was perfectly guided by my heavenly Father to thwart away these afflictions.
*Sometimes the Lord might keep us from feelings so that we will rely on simple faith in His written promises. Immediately after the attack, as we ran for safety and sought medical care, I wanted to feel the Lord's presence with us. Our hearts were racing, our emotions were barely steady as blood gushed from my wound onto my shirt and pants. I wanted the physical comfort of the Lord's presence. But I did not feel it; rather, I had to believe it. Where my feelings failed, my mind thrived. I remembered Scripture and believed it. My heart followed the leadership of my head and believed in the Lord's comfort and presence even when I did not feel it. This experience encourages me to memorize more Scripture, so that in my next trial, my head will be fully armed to lead my heart.
*I am so deeply grateful for the gift of our suffering in South Asia because I think it has led me one step further to obeying my life verse, given my by parents when I was an infant: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Josh. 1:9). I feel bolder in my proclamation of the Gospel. What can someone do to me now? Knife me? Been there, done that.
*I learned the irreplaceable worth of comfort from Christian brothers and sisters. The two other pastors with me were by my side in support throughout my immediate physical recovery. I cannot thank them enough for their sacrificial care for me. They are true comrades. The prayers and encouragement of many all over the world have been deeply comforting and encouraging.
Our suffering in South Asia was a "gracious thing" inthe sight of God! It was a gift of grace! Listen to the profound message of 1 Peter 2:19-21: "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps."
*I don't want to waste a good moment of suffering. The legacy that I want to leave on this earth and to my family is a heap of stories of radical, simple devotion to Jesus! I am learning that the Calvary Road is not a path merely to endure; rather, the Calvary Road is to be embraced with joy and hope! The Calvary Road is a "gracious" road! That straight razor may be the greatest blessing of the year for my family and I as it leads me one step further on the Calvary Road - the Road that my Lord embraced on his way to die for thugs like me and the South Asian man who knifed me.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Every day will I bless thee and I will praise thy name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised and his greatness is unsearchable!!
One generation shall praise thy works to another and shall declare thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty and of thy wondrous works.
And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts and I will declare thy greatness.
They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness and shall sing of thy righteousness.
The Lord is gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy.
The Lord is good to ALL and his tender mercies are over ALL His works.
All thy works shall praise thee O Lord and thy saints shall bless thee.
You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in ALL His ways and holy in ALL His works.
The Lord is night unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry and will save them.
The Lord preserves all them that love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and forever. " Psalm 145: 1-10, 16-21
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
What about just a bed? Many in the world don't have one, you know.
A hot shower?
What about just running water IN your house? Our ancestors didn't have it and there are millions around the globe who still don't.
An ice cold COKE?
Many would thank God just for a clean drink of water.
The home you live in...whether 1000 square feet or 5,000.
Many tonight are living under a bridge, in a ditch or under a tree. They have no place to actually call home. Many more are in shelters or missions because of a lost job and financial ruin due to the economy. Others are living in their car with their children. Where are YOUR children sleeping tonight? Do you live in a safe neighborhood or do you constantly flinch at the sound of gunfire? Are your children able to play in your backyard or are you afraid they may be shot if you let them out the door?
For someone to hug and who hugs you back?
There are many who NEVER receive a hug from anyone...day in and day out. They never are touched in any way of affection. They never hear the words "I love you". And no one ever utters their name in prayer.
For your food?
No, seriously. Even if you say the "blessing" every day, do you ever really stop and realize what it would be like to not have ANY? Worse yet, can you imagine what it would feel like to not be able to feed your kids?!! We will throw away more food tomorrow left on plates than many people eat in a week.
For the USA?
Our freedoms are precious and we better be careful to thank God for them for many of them are hanging in the balance. Our freedom to worship God, to speak of Him, to proclaim His word is a gift many in other parts of the world would give anything to have. Instead, they must meet secretly to worship, and hope that they do not get caught, for if they do, they will be imprisoned and tortured unless they renounce the name of Christ. There are more people martyred today for their faith around the world than at any other time in history!
Your children and grandchildren?
Yes, that seems like an easy one, but sometimes the most obvious things go unmentioned. Thank Him for the sweet, cuddly babies that are impossible NOT to love. Thank Him for the busy toddler who is wearing you out. Thank Him for the rebellious teen who is trying to figure out who she is. Thank Him for the adult child who has made you proud. Thank Him for the prodigal who keeps you on your knees. Thank Him for the precious grandchildren who bring you so much joy and mean that you have lived long enough to acquire them. Verbally thank Him for each one. There are some tonight whose arms ache for theirs because death has snatched them away this year or because they are far away or estranged. Cherish every moment you have with them!!!
So much to be thankful for. God daily loads us with benefits. Today take time to stop and really think about how blessed you are. Take time to thank Him the One from whom all blessings flow.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Moses killed a man, ran for his life and hid in the desert for 40 years til God spoke to him from the burning bush and sent him to Pharoah with stammering lips and a rod in his hand. He also went into the mountain of God and when he returned his face shone from being in the very presence of God. What a life of ups and downs he had. God used him in a powerful way, but then the day came when he lost his temper, struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded and he forfeited his opportunity to see the promised land of Canaan.
We would see that as total failure. He blew it big time. The very thing he had been aiming for, struggling to achieve and waiting a lifetime to see he lost in the strike of that rock. As you read God's pronouncement of the consequences of his action, you almost get the feeling that God says "OK, Moses. I'm done with you. You blew it. That was your last chance." Somehow we get the feeling that God just sort of wrote him off at that point. We would have.
But praise God He is not us.
Hear instead what God did. He took Moses up into the mountains overlooking Canaan and showed him what he would miss. Then He said,
"'This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, Isaac and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed. I have caused thee to see it with thine own eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.' So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab [NOT Canaan], according to the word of the Lord. And HE [GOD] buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor; but no man knows of his sepulchre unto this day. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old whne he died; his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated.....And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord KNEW FACE TO FACE!" Deut. 34: 4-7, 10
After all the times Moses blew it....after all his failures....even after God had to exact punishment on him that must have broken His heart...God took him up and let him see what he was missing. Then, not to leave him behind while the others got to go forward, God took him home and tenderly and personally buried him Himself. Then He recorded for all time that there has not been a prophet since in all Israel like Moses who the Lord knew FACE TO FACE!!
Not a bad epitaph for one who made so many mistakes. Sure wouldn't mind having that written on MY tombstone!
But Moses was not the only one that God used and favored in spite of their mistakes and failures.
Abraham ran ahead of God and had a child by his handmaiden [with the help of his wife of course]. He lied about who his wife was, not once but twice. Yet God called Abraham his friend.
David committed about every sin there is....yet God called David a man after His own heart.
Those are just to name a few.
So today if you feel like you've just blown it AGAIN and that God must be getting pretty tired of your miserable failures. Take heart from these and know that GOD LOVES YOU!
He loves you....
IMMEASUREABLY...........there are no limits to His love.
INFINITELY............forever and always
UNCONDITIONALLY.........no strings attached. Not "I'll love you IF" and not "If you do this wrong, I'll stop loving you". HE JUST LOVES!!!!!!!!!!!
His patience is not like ours. He never gives up on us. He never lets go.
Take heart, my friend. God isn't finished with you yet!!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Waiting is something no one likes to do, yet we all find ourselves having to wait from time to time.
We've all known what it is to wait in line at the grocery store, Walmart or the fast food place. You stand in line behind the skinny kid with stringy hair, chain dangling from his ripped back pocket and ear buds from his big ears so long that you could retrace the pattern on his wrinkled tee shirt in your sleep. But.....you KNOW that sooner or later you will reach the point where you pay and get to leave. Why? You always do.
You are rushing to your destination when suddenly traffic slows to a crawl then ultimately stops dead still. You crane your neck out the window and all you see for as far as you can see is a winding loop of cars and trucks. And...no one is moving! So you do what everyone else is doing...the only thing you CAN do. You wait. Why? Because you know from experience that eventually the wreck ahead will be cleared and traffic will once again move and you will be on your way, albeit two hours late.
The waiting room of a doctor's office is duly named. Because there you KNOW when you arrive you are going to wait. And, if your doctor happens to be one in particular that I know but who will remain unnamed, you KNOW that your wait will be at least four to five hours. And as frustrating as that is, you do know that in the end you will see him. How do you know that? Because you always do.
Being in God's waiting room is different. You do not always know what the end result is going to be. In fact, we rarely do. Nor do we know how long we are going to have to wait.
Take Abraham for instance. God told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, yet year after year, Sarah remained childless. Old age came upon them and it appeared that God had totally forgotten His promise. But then, at the ripe old age of ninety nine, the waiting ended and Isaac was born. Abraham was in God's waiting room for a very, very long time.
The children of Israel are another prime example of being in God's waiting room. When God led them out of Egypt he promised them a land "of milk and honey" in Canaan. It was a short journey from Egypt to Canaan, approximately 150 miles, and should not have taken them more than a month to get there had they taken the most direct route. But, God had other plans. His ways are not our ways. He had much to teach them along the way and, because they were slow learners, it took them forty years to get there!
However, the Jews that marched around Jericho for seven days...the Jews who blew the trumpet and shouted on the seventh day according to God's command....the Jews who saw the walls of Jericho fall down FLAT...were not the same Jews who left Egypt. They were not the same Jews who complained to Moses that they had been brought out in the desert to die. They were not the same Jews who complained about the food, longing for their leeks and garlic from Egypt. No, these Jews had seen God move in ways they had never dreamed. They had seen facets of His character never known to them before. They had learned that, indeed, he truly WAS the great I AM.
That was God's goal all along. It was not just to get them from point A to point B. It was to reveal to them His character. And when we are often in His waiting room, that is still His plan today.
God's character is multi-faceted just like a beautiful diamond. And every way you look at it reveals a different hue, a different dimension. He wants to reveal Himself to us so that we might enjoy the totality of WHO HE IS.
It is difficult being in His waiting room. We pray for some situation or someone we love, and then we wait....and wait.....and wait.....and wait. Sometimes we wait a short period. Sometimes it is for years. God does not keep us waiting to frustrate us or make us miserable. He waits to be gracious to us. I know...I know...it doesn't feel very gracious when you are the one waiting, I agree. But Isaiah 30:18 reveals God's purpose in waiting, "Therefore will the Lord wait, THAT He may be gracious unto you and therefore will HE be exalted that He may have mercy upon you..........blessed are all they who wait on Him."
So, the next time you find yourself in God's waiting room, know that He has you there to teach you more about Him and to glorify Him. After all, He knows the end from the beginning and He knows the plans He has for you, good plans, plans to give you a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Therefore, My Friend, "wait on the Lord; be of good courage; and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait I say on the Lord." Psalm 27: 14
Friday, October 30, 2009
Well, maybe that is the wrong question to ask. Instead of asking God "What am I going to do?", maybe our question should be "Lord, what are YOU going to do?"
When the children of Israel left Egypt at God's command, they soon found the Egyptians hot on their heels. They had left Egypt excited to be out from under the bondage of the cruel Egyptians. God had promised them the "milk and honey" of Canaan. Now as they heard the pounding hoofbeats following close behind them with a vengeance, fear struck their hearts and they began to cry out to Moses:
"Because there were no graves in Egypt have you taken us out into the wilderness to die? Why are you doing this to us...........Didn't we say to you in Egypt 'Leave us alone'" (Ex. 14: 11, 12)
In essence they were saying "What are we going to do!?"
But Moses replied,
"Fear not! Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which he will show to you THIS day, for the Egyptians which you have seen today, you will never see again! The Lord shall fight for you and you shall hold your peace." (Ex. 14:13, 14)
They did not ask what God would do, but Moses told them anyway!
And God then showed them! He moved the pillar of cloud from in front of them to behind them so it formed a shield between them and the Egyptians...a cloud of darkness to the Egytians and light to the Israelites, "so that one came not near to the other all night". (Ex. 14: 19, 20)
God put the Shekinah Glory between them and their enemies and even though they could not see what was happening, God was at work. The next day, Moses parted the Red Sea and they walked through on dry land. The Egyptians followed them and God released the wall of water and they all perished....every last one of them!
When Abraham was instructed by God to take his only son...the son he had waited almost 100 years for, Isaac...up the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice to God, Abraham did not question at all. In fact, scripture tells us that he got up the next morning and immediately sat out on the journey!
Glynnis Whitwer writes of that event,
"It had to be the darkest day of Abraham's life as he trudged up the mountain, with firewood strapped to his son's back. Every step took Abraham closer to what he believed to be the sad ending of a hopeless situation---the death of his son. Yet in spite of his sorrow, Abraham trusted God. His heart wasn't soaring with joy. He wasn't dancing up the mountain. But he put one foot in front of the other. Walking through the darkness of the situation, obeying His God's commands.
Unbeknownst to Abraham, something else was walking up that moutain. Quietly. Out of sight. On the other side of the mountain. Something else was putting one foot in front of the other. Only Abraham couldn't see it.
For every step Abraham took, a ram on the other side of the mountain took a step.
All Abraham saw that day was his solitary journey of pain. As he got closer to the top of the mountain, his dread must have increased. I wonder if he asked himself any questions. I would have. I would have wondered why hadn't God intervened? Why hadn't God stopped this testing? Couldn't God see that Abraham was a man of faith? Why test him in this way?
But there was no answer. There was no voice from heaven. And so Abraham kept obeying his God's command. He put Isaac on the altar and prepared to sacrifice his one and only son.
And just at that very moment, at the very last second, when it looked like the end had come, God spoke, stopping the sacrifice. Abraham looked up and there caught in the thicket was a ram. Abraham took his son off the altar and replaced him with the ram, and offered the sacrifice to God.
[This] was written so that you and I today would read it as we face our own hopeless situations. It was captured in print so that you and I would know that God is already planning for our provision. We don't see it. We don't hear it. But we can trust that our God is at work. On your behalf and on mine......A ram is on the way." (Proverbs 31 ministries)
I'm sure in his heart Abraham must have been crying out "What am I going to do!!?" or maybe not. Maybe he was crying out "Lord...what are YOU going to do!?"
When our situations appear hopeless, maybe we need to start changing the question we ask God. After all, everything that threatens to be over our head, is already under his feet. He has the answers. He is in control. He works all things for our good. So we don't need to ask what WE are going to do. We need to start asking what HE is going to do and then wait for our ram to show up!!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Today I want to just bow at His feet and adore Him for WHO He is..........
King of Kings
Lord of Lords
Alpha and Omega
Beginning and the End
Rose of Sharon
Bright and Morning Star
Lily of the Valley
My strong high tower
My shield and defender
The lifter up of my head
He is all this and more and yet He knows me by name. (Isaiah 40: 3).
His thoughts toward me are more than the sands of the sea (Psalm 139 : 17)
He is my hiding place, the one who will preserve me from trouble (Psalm 32: 7)
In Him I am abundantly satisfied (Psalm 36: 8)
He sets me before His face forever (Psalm 41:12)
He commands His lovingkindness toward me in the daytime and at night His song shall be with me (Psalm 42: 8)
He knows every tear that I cry...He records them in His book of remembrance (Psalm 56: 8)
He loads me with great blessings daily (Psalm 68: 19)
He has been my hope since I was a child (Psalm 71:5)
He is good, plenteous in mercy and always ready to forgive (Psalm 86:5)
He rejoices over ME with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)
I am one among millions on this planet Earth, yet my God knows me and loves me. I am precious in His sight. What an awesome thought!!!!!!!! Who am I that He...the great I AM...would love ME? Would care about ME? But, He does! Praise God...He does!!!!!!!!
Who am I,
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Yet in the midst of this dismal dawn, God speaks.
The raindrops hang from the lacy Japanese maple like diamond crystals from a chandelier. There is a stillness........a peaceful calm that belies the heavy downfall that has come and gone and yet may come again today, filling ditches and creeks to overflowing, in some cases flooding river banks and wreaking havoc.
And through the stillness of this gray morning comes the sweet song of a little bird....most likely a sparrow...just outside my window. Some birds squeak and squawk. Not this one. Her melody is sweet and she seems to be singing with all her heart. She is not daunted by the gray skies nor the fog that hangs heavily in the air. It was as if she were serenading me with her song.
Sometimes gray skies permeate our life for a season. Storms may come and go but the gray skies seem endless, day after day after day with little or no sunshine. We feel as if the clouds will never break and the sun will never shine again for us.
It is then we must remember that God is Lord of the darkness as much as He is Lord of the sunshine. We must remember that He sings songs over us (Habakkuk 3: 17)....beautiful melodies of love to assure us of His great love for us, His tender mercies that are new every morning.
There is a song that says it best, but before I share that with you, let me tell you about the woman who sang it best....Ethel Waters.
Ethel was born in 1896, the product of a rape. Her mother was 13. She had a violent, impoverished childhood, never living in the same home for more than 15 months. She said of her difficult childhood, "I never was a child. I was never liked, coddled or understood by my family." She married at 13, but soon left her abusive husband and became a maid for $4.75 a week. She went to a costume party at a nightclub on Halloween night in 1913. She sang two songs and was offered a professional job at the Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. Thus began her life in entertainment.
She played in black vaudeville, went on the carnival circuit for a brief time, and sang the blues in various nightclubs. In 1919 she began her acting career as a black faced actress in Hello 1919. She would go on to play Broadway, at one time being the highest paid woman on Broadway. She won a Grammy Hall of Fame award, was nominated for the Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Member of the Wedding, and had the starring role in a short run television series, Beulah.
But even with all the success she garnered as an African American star, her personal life was anything but glorious. She had several failed marriages. She lost tens of thousands in a robbery where cash and jewelry was stolen. The IRS hounded her. Then her career began to fade. But then something wonderful happened. She met Jesus Christ. She began to sing a song which echoed her life's story as she sang so poignantly His Eye is on the Sparrow and also wrote her autobiography by the same name in 1950. Soon after, she began to sing with the Billy Graham Association at evangelistic crusades. Although she died in 1977, she was inducted into the Christian Hall of Fame in 2007. (Wikipedia)
Here are the words to her best loved spiritual:
I sing because I'm happy
Friday, October 9, 2009
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 56: 8:
"Thou tellest my wanderings; put thou my tears into your bottle. Are they not in your book?"
Some view tears as a sign of weakness, but God does not turn His back upon our tears. He knows every tear that falls from every eye. He has them recorded in His book of remembrance as surely as He numbers the hairs upon each head.
Hezekiah wept and God responded by extending his life:
1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David. II Kings 20: 1-6
David was a man after God's own heart. He is my favorite character in the Bible because I relate to him more than any other. I camp with him often in the book of Psalms, and he expresses my feelings so aptly at times. David was a crier, and so am I.
"Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; mine eye is consumed w ith grief..." Psalm 31: 9
"O Lord my God, I have cried unto you and you have heard me." Psalm 30: 2
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30: 5
"Unto thee will I cry O lord, my rock; be not silent to me, lest if thou be silent to me I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplication when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle." Psalm 28: 1,2
"Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. " Psalm 6:8
Yes, God sees our tears. He is moved with compassion for us. He is not a stone that cannot be stirred by our weeping. He loves us and He cares for us.
Jesus himself wept. (John 11:35) He wept at the death of a friend, but more because of their unbelief in his ability to raise him up.
Tears come for different reasons. Grief. Sadness. Loneliness. Hopelessness. Anger. Inexpressable joy. Compassion. Empathy. Sympathy.
As I said, I am a crier. If you cry, I will cry. I cry when I pray. I cry when a song moves my heart. I cry at sappy movies. I even cried at the end of Home Alone I! I cry at Hallmark commercials. I cry when my heart is broken. My daughter says there will be no tears in Heaven because I will have cried them all.
And that is a promise that God makes to us...that He will wipe all our tears away one day. (Isaiah 25:8) One day there will be no more crying, no more heartache, no more sadness or loneliness or hopelessness. One day all of that will come to an end. Praise the Lord!! What a glorious day that will be.
Friday, October 2, 2009
To all of you who have prayed, THANK YOU is totally inadequate to express how much your prayers have meant to us. We knew you were praying. We knew we had a prayer covering and rested in the peace and security of that covering. Believe me when I say, the VERIZON network has nothing on the power of a prayer network such as we've had the last few weeks.
It has been an amazing journey and I just wanted you to know how effective your prayers have been. Often we pray for folks and never know the results. I want each of you, our dear and faithful prayer warriors, to KNOW!!
For those of you reading this who may NOT know, my husband and I left 2 weeks ago for Chicago where he was scheduled to have total hip replacement. We travelled out of town for this surgery because of the type of surgery which is not available in the area where we live. Going through surgery is a difficult thing no matter where you are, but facing it away from home and family and your support system is extremely difficult. We knew we needed even more prayer than usual for these difficult circumstances.
Our journey began the morning of September 19. As we were on no set schedule, we did not rush to get up and leave at the crack of dawn. We knew we had a long day's drive ahead of us as we were going all the way to Cincinnati on the first leg of this journey. We left home around 10:30 am.
We had not gone very far from home when we encountered the first proof of God's amazing protection over us. We were approaching a bridge and noticed that the truck coming towards us was crossing the yellow line. In what seemed like minutes, but was actually only a few seconds, he continued to cross into our lane as we were nearing the bridge and my husband tried to get over as far as he could but then came the CRASH!!!!!!!!!! When the dust settled, we quickly realized that all that had hit was our mirrors, but the impact of how close we came to a head on collison was as jarring as the crash. I knew in that instant that God was protecting us and that the prayers of all our prayer warriors was definitely in effect!!!!!!!!!!!!! I truly believe God allowed that mishap just to show us that prayer covering we were under for this trip. We had been literally inches away from disaster yet God shielded us and held us in His mighty right hand!
We drove through rain and construction the remainder of the day. On Sunday we toured the Creation Museum just outside of Cincinnati and again we were overwhelmed by our great God as we saw with intricate detail all that had occurred with the flood of Noah's day, the enormity of the ark, and the explanation of Biblical truth in regards to creation.
My husband works for a Kellogg plant in Memphis and as we were going north, we had wanted to arrange a tour through the home base of Battle Creek, Michigan. His first attempts had not gone well in setting this up, but then God began to open the doors and through the kindness of several wonderful Kellogg employees, it all fell into place. Another prayer answered. We had a great tour and my husband truly enjoyed getting to see how another plant operated.
Before leaving town, some pre-op tests had come back with abnormal results regarding his blood clotting process. With the surgery he was having that was incredibly critical. We were beginning to fear that surgery would not be able to go forward as planned. Yet on the Friday before we were to leave, results of a 3rd test came back normal and we were cleared for surgery!!!!!!!! More in depth testing was also done at this time but we would not get the results til on in the week after we left. However, we got those results on Tuesday and all was confirmed well. Another answer to prayer!!
Surgery was planned for Friday and we decided to take advantage of the few days leading up to surgery by taking in the sites of Chicago. On Tuesday we took the train into town and toured the Shedd Acquarium, seeing all the amazing varieties of marine life that God had created and marvelled at the beauty and uniqueness of each one. Just a testimony to the creativity of our great God! Then we went on to the Field Museum. There we saw an enormous skeleton of a dinasaur that was unearthed in North Dakota. We read that this dinosaur had been covered by "millions" of years of sediment. What was amazing to us was that he was found with his tail up over his head. Something evidently "cataclysmic" had caused him to be buried that way. Hmmmm...wonder what it could have been!? Our trip through the Creation Museum had definitely provided the answer to that question. The horrific flood caused by the tsunami-type upheaval of the deep had no doubt upended him and buried him beneath the onslaught of earth and debris. Everywhere we looked we saw reminders of our Great God!!
Then we beheld a breathtaking view from the top of the John Hancock tower. Very interesting as well, as we listened to an audio tour about the creation of many of the buildings and landmarks we were seeing. As I had been to Chicago before, one of the main things I wanted to do was eat at the Cheesecake Factory (there was piece of chocolate cake with my name on it!!) I had no idea where it was and we were hoping to find it at some point while sightseeing one of our two days there. As we left the tower, we decided to try to find a place to eat before heading to Union Station to catch the return train. We walked out of the door and guess where we were standing? Right in front of the Cheesecake Factory!! Now tell me God is not good and that He does not see to our slightest need. That is just how personal He is! Tears came to my eyes as I realized once again how much He loves us to provide even such a tiny detail as this for our enjoyment and pleasure.
On Wednesday we finally met with the doctor and were both extremely pleased with him. Up to that point we had only read about him and talked with him once on the phone. But our personal meeting with him solidified our confidence in him and we both left with a real peace that this was indeed what needed to be done and this was the surgeon to do it. However at this meeting we also learned that there was a possibility that my husband might not be in a private room in the tower if it were full on Friday. So once again, I sent out a prayer request through our daughter that we needed to be put in the tower following surgery so that I could stay with him.
Friday arrived and we were met at the hospital by a tremendous staff of caring people. We had prayed specifically for kind, caring staff who would make our stay as pleasant as possible. I can say that we did not meet a single Loyola staff member from the lowest to the highest who was not kind, caring and who did not go out of their way to help us.
It was customary for the patient to be taken up for surgery ALONE. Yet I wanted to go with him as far as I could and to be able to speak with the doctor once more before surgery so that we could pray over him. The transportation courier allowed me to go all the way to just outside the surgical suite with him! God was guiding us all the way. He knew that I needed that as much as my husband did. I was able to speak with the doctor, and we were able to have prayer together before they took him to the OR. Another praise!!
Being alone there I had no way to communicate with those back home except by phone and email updates that our precious son-in-love graciously provided those first few days. Not wanting to lose all my battery, I knew I could not possibly call everyone, so I only called my children and our mothers and the rest of our prayer network received Josh's emails. How thankful I was for that and how grateful I am for all of you who requested to be put on that list. Knowing that you were praying as I waited for news from the OR was incredibly sustaining.
Finally surgery was completed, all went extremely well, no blood transfusions were needed and he was moved to a room....IN THE TOWER!! Another praise went up. We were amazed and extremely pleased with this hospital. Clean, spacious rooms, hardwood floors and a sofa that made into a bed were all waiting for us. Later that night the nurse would bring me linens for the bed including heated blankets!! So much attention to detail. You would have thought we were in a hotel with the service we received instead of a hospital!
My greatest concern had been that my husband not have pain. The doctor had assured me he'd provide adequate pain management. He was right. They were very attentive to that and although there was some, it was manageable. Our night nurse, Lindsay, was absolutely precious!! We could not have asked for a kinder, sweeter girl to take care of us. By late afternoon the day of surgery, they had my husband sitting on the edge of the bed!
He made swift progress over the next few days, amazing the physical therapy staff at how well he was doing. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel for 24 hours then we could head for home. I called to make a reservation at the same hotel we had been at, only to learn that the only room available on the first floor was a jacuzzi suite, which was more than I wanted to pay. I pressed for something else, and the manager finally said "You come...we will find your something if we have to move someone." When we got there we were given the much pricier jacuzzi suite as a "complimentary upgrade" for the same price as the regular room we had had earlier. God DOES provide!
Finally it was time to come home...the day we had both been looking forward to! Our plan was to drive about half way on that day and half the next. I had mapped out several different hotels along the way so we could stop at any point he felt we needed to. We had a beautiful day to drive. After days of rain before we left home and nothing but gray skies in Chicago, we were both so happy to see the sunshine!! We drove through beautiful fields of corn and soybeans...the heartland of America!
We both love Cracker Barrell and had lamented we had not been able to find one on our trip so far. My husband commented that maybe we'd find one that night. I love fast food, but by now was pretty tired of it. The thought of chicken and dumplins made my mouth water. I began to pray that God would graciously allow a Cracker Barrel to be at our hotel stop. Suddenly my husband shouted as he pointed to a sign for our exit. It was a billboard for a Cracker Barrel!! Again...just how personal and loving our Great God is to us!!!!!!!!!!!! Again tears filled my eyes as I drank in the reality of that great love for us!! Just as we love to give good gifts to our children, so God loves to give to us...even in the form of chicken and dumplins and fried apples!!
We finally made it home Wednesday afternoon and were joyfully greeted by our daughter and granddaughter who had prepared a delicious meal and homemade cookies....Papaw's favorites.
We also learned from our daughter who had continued the email updates with our support group that several people had offered to prepare meals for us. We have been overwhelmed by the love and support from those we love.
Yesterday was my husband's birthday and he received many calls and birthday wishes all day. Then good friends brought a luscious dinner complete with birthday cake and candles!
Yes, we are overwhelmed by the goodness of our great God, our Father who loves us SO much!!!!! We have basked in the security of His presence. We have rested beneath the umbrella of your prayers for us and we are thankful beyond words.
We have been blessed on this journey to see Him up close and personal, in big ways and small ways and we are humbled and grateful for the part each of you has played in our journey. May God bless each of you abundantly above all that you could ask or think for loving us, caring for us and most of all for being the avenue through which He blessed us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I was a real daydreamer as kid and on into my teen years. I am an only child so I had lots of time to fantasize about what my life was going to be like when I was finally an adult, living on my own. In fact, I had such detailed daydreams that I would fall asleep in the midst of one and pick up right where I left off the next night!
I can remember seeing this house in a magazine, the House of Angles, it was called. I thought that was the most beautiful house in the world. I cut it out, houseplans and all....that was my dream house. And in my daydreams that is the house I lived in.
Did I ever build that house? Of course not. In fact, very little of what I dreamed actually ever materialized.
Our pastor began a series last week on marriage as part of a Wednesday night study. To make a point of how we all bring different expectations to our marriage, he had his wife to share what her dreams and expectations had been prior to marriage...what she thought marriage would be like. Then he shared his. Of course they were worlds apart. For the most part, their expectations did not become reality.
I think many of us get our ideas of what life will be like from the movies. No matter how difficult the pursuit, the guy always gets the girl in the end, and they live blissfully happy for the rest of their lives. If you think about it, most good movies end with a tender embrace or two people who have found each other at last, but it does not show the aftermath. The movie doesn't go on to show the hardships they face, the struggles they endure, the heartache they encounter along the way. That would sort of ruin the movie, wouldn't it? But that is exactly how life is.
I think we all strive for the "happily ever after", yet our great expectations usually fall far short. As I look around, I know of very few people who are not struggling in one way or another.
I began leading a new Bible study last week. As the ladies in my group introduced themselves, I asked each to share about a journey she had taken. Most did not tell stories of a favorite vacation, but rather a journey they were on in their personal lives. Journeys filled with health problems, broken marriages, the loss of a parent and financial crisises. I seriously doubt if a single one of them ever dreamed of those circumstances as young girls.
As I was thinking about this yesterday, I realized that our mistake is not that we dream, but that our dreams are about what WE want in life, not about what God wants for us. I can vaguely remember telling my kids they could be anything they wanted to be, but more than that I distinctly remember telling them that the most important thing in the world was for them to find what GOD wanted them to do with their life and follow Him.
I think what I want to tell my granddaughters is this: Give your dreams to God. Don't "pre-plan" how your life will be. God's plans for each of you is different. Be open to whatever He puts before you, realizing that it will include good times and bad, storms and rainbows.
I saw a TV show last night about a family who found they were about to give birth to a baby with Downs Syndrome. The dad was devastated and didn't want "damaged goods". Someone explained to him that his baby was a gift from God and each package comes wrapped differently.
Our lives are gifts from God, too. And each of them comes wrapped differently, with different instructions for the journey He has mapped out us personally.
We may have dreamed of a blissful life, but the reality is that life is hard. But, it is in the storms of life that we really connect with God, and we understand ultimately that it was never about US! When we received Christ as our Savior, we gave our lives to Him and along with our lives should have gone our expectations!
Eric and Leslie Ludy wrote a wonderful book, When God Writes Your Love Story. I highly recommend it to young people who are searching for their life's mate. But the premise of this book leads me to think of what our true mindset about life should be. We should hand God the pen of our lives...our total lives, not just our love lives.... and let Him write our story just the way He wants to do, understanding that HIS plans are best for us even as twisted and chaotic as they may sometimes be, because as HIS child, He desires nothing but the best for us.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
John Piper wrote "I have found in [my disappointments and discouragements] there is a great power of encouragement in keeping before me the life of men who surmounted great obstacles in obedience to God's call by the power of God's grace.
One of the pervasive marks of our time is emotionaly fragility. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition."
If Piper is correct, and I believe he is, then what sort of men went before us?
William Carey is a good example of what sort. Piper writes of him, "For his first two years in India, [he] got no mail. During his first seven years he got no converts. After nineteen years of hard labor a fire destroyed his precious manuscripts....and ten versions of the Bible. He had an accident and was lame to the end. He lost two wives to death...and he never went home...for 41 years!! So what kept Carey going? Incredible faith in the sovereign goodness of God.
When I left England my hope of conversion for India was very strong; but amongst so many obstacles it would die unless upheld by God. Well I have God and his word is true. Though the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; though I was deserted by all and persecuted by all, yet my faith fixed on that sure Word would rise above all obstacles and overcome every trial. God's cause will triumph.
When he saw the smoldering fire that destroyed his work, with tear filled eyes he said, 'In one short evening the labors of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God....The Lord has laid me low that I may look more simply to Him."
Now there was a man who made no acquaintance with emotional fragility!
Lest you think, however, that there are no lionhearted saints still left, read on....
"A thirteen-year-old Nigerian Christian has told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) sources how she was forced to watch her pastor’s murder, and has also spoken of her four-day ordeal as a prisoner in the besieged compound of Islamist group, Boko Haram.
On 26 July, Mary was in church with her pastor, his brother and an older Christian woman when a group of fifty militants broke in. She and her pastor hid as the group killed the pastor’s brother and dragged the older woman out of the room. On discovering their hiding place, the militants cut off her pastor’s hand to stop him holding on to her, then hacked him to death with machetes before setting him on fire.
The girl and the woman were dragged to Boko Haram’s compound in Maiduguri’s Railway district, and were placed in a room with around 100 other Christian women and girls. They were all asked to renounce their faith or face continued imprisonment, while Christian men were given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying.
Mary vividly describes how she was forced to wash the blood stained clothing of Boko Haram fighters. She was in the camp for four days, but managed to escape with a few others when military forces intensified their attack on the compound.
Mary’s pastor was one of three Christian ministers targeted and killed by Boko Haram during last week’s violence. Photographs showing the corpse of one murdered pastor from the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Rev Sabo Yakubu, indicate that his heart may have been ripped out.
Stuart Windsor, CSW’s National Director said: “CSW is deeply saddened by the appalling nature of the crimes committed by this sect against innocent civilians. Local Christians have also expressed disappointment that some western media have disregarded the targeted nature of attacks on their community, and the brutal murders of Christian pastors. Unless this aspect of the violence is recognised by all and dealt with effectively, people in Northern Nigeria will continue to suffer because of their religious beliefs”.
As we stand on the precipice of the last days, will we be like William Carey and Mary, or will be the poster child for "emotional fragility"? Maybe it would behoove us to check ourselves to see if perhaps our diet is too full of "junk food" instead of feeding on the solid meat of the Word of God so that we can be workmen who need not to be ashamed.
Monday, August 31, 2009
"There shall be a performance" Luke 1:45
"My words shall be fulfilled in their season" Luke 1:20
Let faith and hope arise and plume their wings
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
People have been drinking coffee for ages, so what's the BIG DEAL?
I am convinced that Starbucks is NOT about the coffee...it's about the comraderie.
You rarely see people drinking coffee alone in Starbucks, unless maybe they are waiting on someone to join them.
Starbucks has become the local "watering hole" so to speak. The place where friends gather to chat; business associates make deals; couples share a quiet moment.
Do you like yours black or with lots of sugar? Prefer espresso or latte? Straight up or flavored? Doesn't really matter....just as long as you have someone to share it with.
In years past, neighbors used to chat over the back fence. Old retired gentlemen gathered at the local drug store. Women caught up on the gossip at the local beauty parlor. In the 21st century, people do Starbucks!
Again, the key element, however, is not the coffee, it's the connection.
I am blessed to have a host of friends and acquaintances. Some go back to my childhood, others are new. But all are blessings. And, I enjoy nothing better than having lunch with them. It always brightens my day.
So, you ask...why all the talk about Starbucks and coffee??????
I don't do Starbucks. Nothing against Starbucks, but I usually only drink one cup of coffee a day, and that is first thing in the morning. I DO share with a friend, just not at Starbucks.
You see, I begin my day having coffee with God. There is no better start to the day!
When I was a teenager, I discovered a little devotional book entitled Open Windows. It came at a time when I really needed encouragement. I still have many of the devotional pages that were so meaningful to me at that time stored safely away in a file. But I don't have to look at them to remember what many of them said.
One of my favorite ones I had taped to my dresser mirror for years. It was one phrase: