Sunday, December 2, 2012

Belatedly Thankful

My Thanksgiving week trip to Virginia has come and gone, and I still haven't settled down long enough to blog about it.  I can't justify doing any serious blogging until after finals, which are this week. I just wanted to take a minute to touch base and tell my readers--if any--that I haven't forgotten I have a blog.  I love writing, but I have been so very busy before and after the trip. I am about to do some serious studying this afternoon, and for the next couple of nights in preparation for the dreaded finals that are looming ahead of me. First, though, I want to list some things I am thankful for.

I am so thankful that I had safe and uneventful flights out there and back.  No missed flights or running through terminals like the family in Home Alone, just trying to make my connecting flights like I have in years past. If you've read my blog for a while, you'll remember the missed flight in the Atlanta airport in 2007.  Oh how silly I felt when I realized I had not set my watch ahead to eastern time, before the days of smart phones, which automatically update. Then there was the trip back from Williamsburg in 2010. I was so excited about connecting in Detroit, because I had never been to Michigan.  That is, until I realized I had only an hour layover, which, as anyone who flies much will tell you, is practically no layover at all.  By the time you deplane and get to the gate for your connecting flight--invariably at the other end of the terminal--your flight is boarding. I made it, barely, and even had time to stop and buy a spoon for my collection. Thank God for moving sidewalks.

I am thankful for the time I got to spend with my son and his wife.  Until this trip, I had not seen him since June 2011, and I hadn't seen her since the summer of 2010.  We skype regularly, but it's not the same. It was a blessing to spend an entire week with them.  We got caught up on each others' lives, saw lots of historical places, and quoted many of our favorite movies from over the years.  Everything reminds either Jeff or me of a quote from a movie, and off we go on a "quote-fest."  It's quite fun. 

Finally, I'm thankful for the rich history we have in this great country.  I am humbled by the monuments and memorials I visited.  I cherish the freedom that was bought for me by the sacrifices I saw represented there.  I do not take it lightly.

There will be a blog or two in a few days, when finals are over and I can breathe again.  For now, I am belatedly being thankful for the trip and all it represented.  Details will be coming soon!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Come to Me

This will be a shorter blog than usual. I just have something on my heart I need to share.  I had something else in mind to blog about tonight, but felt led to post this instead.  Maybe someone needed to hear this, maybe I needed to hear it!  I don't know why, I just turned to a familiar scripture tonight:

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."  Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

Perhaps because the load has seemed particularly heavy lately I was in need of reassurance that someone cares about what I am going through.  Yes, He has invited me (and you) to bring all our worries and problems to Him and leave them with Him. This is easier said than done, though, and I find myself fretting over the same stuff this week that I did last week. I am getting better about coming to Him, but I still struggle with leaving everything with Him.  

So, even though I have talked to Him several times today, I talked to Him all the way home from church tonight.  I feel better.  Sometimes something as simple as a few minutes of "venting" is enough.  A couple of good things about venting to Jesus:  He's not going to tell anyone, and He can actually solve our problems!  Not that it's wrong to unload on your spouse or a good friend, but those are not always options.  

So, when's the last time you just told Him everything that's bugging you?  
What about now?  Give Him a chance to show Himself strong in your life.  What have you got to lose?    

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bless the Lord, O My Soul!

"I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart." Psalm 34:1 NLT

According to this scripture, we are to praise the Lord no matter what is going on in our lives. This is easier said than done, but I am making a concentrated effort to do it. The truth of the matter is, I don't feel like praising God right now. I feel like curling up in a ball and crying until the pain is all gone; until God finally heals my heart. But I am learning not to let my feelings control me. If I gave in to my feelings, I would never be free. The enemy of my soul, the devil, does not want me to be free, so he whispers lies to me; lies that sound like truth until they are compared with the Word of God. I cannot listen to his lies! I have to take authority over my feelings and speak the word of God. The truth according to God's word is that He is taking care of everything that concerns me. There are too many to count, but a few of them are:

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." Isaiah 43:1-3 NLT

"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands." Psalm 138:8 NKJV

"I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:9b-10 NIV.

I have these and many, many more in the Bible that tell me God is at work on my behalf. He is taking care of me; He is working everything out that concerns me. I don't need to worry, God's got this. So, I am choosing to praise God TONIGHT, even though I don't feel like it.

"I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.
 I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High."   Psalm 9:1,2 NASB

"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:1-3 NLT

But perhaps the one that fits the best is Psalm 103:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
 Who pardons all your iniquities,
 Who heals all your diseases;
 Who redeems your life from the pit,
 Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
 Who satisfies your years with good things,
 So that your youth is renewed like the eagle." Psalm 103:1-5 NASB

One of my favorite worship songs is right out of this Psalm. It has become my theme song. I'm going to sing it in spite of how I feel, because the Lord is worthy of my praise.

And while I'm singing and praising God, one of these days I'll realize my heart has been healed. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Falling Leaves

If you have read my blog before, you will notice that I changed my background. You see, we are getting into my favorite time of year, and I'm so anxious for cool weather, I decided to set the stage on the blog in eager anticipation.  I know, a lot of you like summer.  Well, it's no secret that I don't; in fact I can hardly stand summer. I don't like it above 70 degrees outside, and I hate to sweat.  So I mostly stay inside for the duration of the sweltering Arkansas heat.

If you have been reading a while, you know I have been in a dark time in my life, and most of the time, I have limited my posts to those that could edify or encourage those that come across my page. I'm not sure if this post will be encouraging or not; but I have decided to be real with you. I am starting to come out on the other side, seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. I have not arrived, though. As Joyce Meyer says, "I'm not where I want to be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be!" 

I have come a long way over the years, and this latest dark time is the most challenging one yet. So it was an especially big deal when, during the beautiful, cool Saturday that we just had, I was able to raise a window in each room while I was cleaning house and doing laundry.  The breeze blowing through the house was comforting to me; I think maybe it took me back to a simpler time in my life.  All I know is, I was suddenly aware of how good I have it. I am blessed, regardless of what my feelings tell me.  My feelings are crushed, my heart is still broken, but I have the joy of the Lord in my heart. And I CHOOSE to be happy, because I am truly a blessed woman. I am casting my cares on Jesus; they are falling off me like the falling leaves of autumn. I rejoice in His love and mercy. The season is about to change, and I welcome it, in the natural and in the spirit realm.  

“This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

"Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:4,5 NLT

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Knowing the One Who Knows

I read something tonight that totally resonates in my spirit: "Be satisfied to know the One who knows, even if you don't know." Joyce Meyer said that, and it is SO for me. As I have mentioned before, I have been in a deep, dark valley for the last few months. Many times I have asked God to reveal truth to me and to cause me to know the answer to a very puzzling and heart-breaking situation in my life right now. 


I have begged Him to enlighten me as to what--if anything--I have done to bring about this situation.

[insert crickets chirping here].

He simply will not tell me or show me anything. I have had answers to many other prayers lately, but for some reason He is remaining silent on this particular "need" (or is it a "want?"). At times, it has seemed like I couldn't bear the pain...and yet I have somehow managed to. Jesus has carried me through.

Morning after morning, I start my day with Him, bringing Him all my needs as He said to do. I then wait, for as long as I can before I have to go and get ready for work, to hear what He is saying to me. This time with Him has become my lifeblood. I can't live without it, without HIM. I have grown so much closer to my Lord, so dependent on Him for everything.

And then it came into focus what an amazing thing has happened to me in these recent months: I have learned that if I have an actual need, He will provide it. For instance, I asked Him for help with painting my bathroom. HE literally was the one to help me; He gave me the physical stamina and ability to do it myself. I have asked Him to grant me the ability to do several other things that have always been outside my comfort zone, and He has.

So, just now I was thinking about the fact that He hasn't answered the big question mark that is looming over my head lately, and I then I realized...I don't need to know. If I did, He would have told me already. He has chosen to keep me in the dark, and I have finally accepted it. I'm learning to "accept the things I cannot change," and to "change the things I can," and He is giving me "the wisdom to know the difference."

He asked me just before I started writing this if I trust Him. Do I trust Him to lead me in the dark valley of "not knowing?" I can't see where I'm going, but He can. I have to trust that if I needed to know, I would. Maybe I need to NOT know. Maybe it's an exercise in learning to trust Him even when His ways do not make sense, or seem fair. Perhaps it is His way of teaching me to hold His hand and walk close to Him, since He knows the way and I don't.

So my answer to His question, "do you trust Me?"

Yes I do.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Void Within

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Interlude ~ Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT) 

I have followed Jesus for almost 18 years, and yet I am still learning some very basic truths. For instance, I have found that though it is certainly helpful to creatures of habit like we humans to establish a routine, it is not in the mere repetition of coming before Him every morning that changes us. We could get up at 5 every morning and still not be any different if we have the wrong attitude. So, we must realize that it is in the attitude of the heart. 

Also, we must acknowledge that our needy soul, that cavernous emptiness inside us, can only be filled by God. As long as we try to get our needs filled by other mere humans like ourselves, we will always feel empty. We will never be satisfied, because God created that void in us especially for Himself. If there is a void in our hearts big enough for God, what makes us think we can fill it with people or things? This is really absurd when you think about it. It is only when we come to Him can we be filled. Only then are we truly ready to face the day.

People told me this over and over, and I thought I believed it. But it wasn't until He revealed it to me by His Spirit that I really saw my emptiness. In a particularly dark and painful time in my life recently, I came to Him with my broken heart. I had nowhere else to go; I had run out of options. He then removed the scales from my eyes and I not only saw my neediness, which years ago, in my fallen and sinful state had manifested itself as a need for affirmation, but the root of it all, which originated from rejection in my childhood. He has delivered me, not from being needy, but from feeling like I have to have a human being to fill that need. HE is now the first one I run to with all my joys and heartaches. Sure, I can still share with friends sometimes, but I'm not doing it out of a need to be affirmed but to simply share. It is so hard to explain the difference, but in my time with Him each day, He fills and equips me for whatever I need that day. He has become the "rock of my strength" and "my refuge."

So, take it from someone who knows. Family and friends are wonderful; God certainly put them in our lives to love and enjoy fellowship with. But never make the mistake of thinking that any person, no matter how much you love them or how good a friend, family member, or spouse they are that they will be able to fill the longings of your soul. They will never be able to do it. Only GOD can do that. 

And by the way, don't think of it as a punishment from God if you happen to be single and didn't really think you would be at this stage of your life. Instead, think of it as a treasure; a time for you and God alone. People used to tell me this all the time and I thought they just didn't understand. But HE has opened my eyes and my heart to it. What riches await you in your time with Him! I am only beginning to learn this, for I, too am single again at a time of my life when my children are grown and I had envisioned growing old with my husband. Cease striving--or "stop squirming" as we might tell a child who had trouble being still--and know that HE IS GOD. He has so much He wants to share with you. Come to Jesus and let Him fill your emptiness. He is the only one who can.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Leaning on Jesus

What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear? Leaning on the everlasting arms.
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarm;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

That song came to mind on my way home from church last Wednesday night.  The first and last verses are very relevant to my present circumstances.  I am in a battle right now.  Who isn't, right?  It seems this battle I'm in--we'll call it "Battle 1" has been going on forever.  Then there's "Battle 2," which has been going on for several months.  Suddenly this second battle is now raging in full force.  It is starting to look doubtful that this second battle will come out the way I had hoped. Today I started to give in to this fear after hearing some rumors that were unsettling. 

I remembered that in Psalms 138:8 it says "the Lord is perfecting that which concerns me," but I also know that He is shaking everything that can be shaken in my life. I prayed about it on the way to church. In the end, I told Him "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in my life."  We had a really powerful worship time; the presence of God was so strong. So I know He is with me; I know He is in control of the situation. All this didn't sneak up on Him.  He knows what He is doing, and I think He just wants me to trust Him.

So on the way home I sang that song, over and over, as a declaration of faith. I am not going to dread or fear, because He will do what is best for me.  I have to trust Him. 
He is my only hope. He alone can calm the storm in my life right now.  Actually, the storm continues to rage, but He has calmed me in the midst of it.  "You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3

When this battle is over, I don't know what will be left after all the shaking.  I know one thing that will remain; Jesus my Rock.  I will be clinging to Him with every fiber in my being.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

In Memory of Mama

The following was a facebook note that I wrote in May 2009.  On this Mother's Day weekend, I felt it fitting to repost this in memory of my mom.
"Maw" with the kids in 1986
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) On this Mother’s Day weekend, I would like to honor the memory of my mother. She died in February of 1996, but the impact that she had on my life and my kids’ lives continues. She was a Godly woman; a prayer warrior grounded in the Word. She was not perfect of course, though we tend to forget the bad the longer a person has been gone. She made mistakes, as all of us humans are prone to do, but the good things she put into our lives far outweighs the mistakes she made. She worked hard when I was growing up to help make ends meet; a working mom in an era where that was the exception and not the rule. She did not complain, but instead worked alongside my dad as the helpmate that God intended she be. She retired at 62 to be home and spend more time with my dad, whose health was not the best. Three years later, he suddenly died. She remarked to me once that though she took a smaller pension to retire at 62 instead of 65, she had no regrets because she got to spend time with the love of her life for those 3 years.

After she retired, she got to spend a lot more time with my kids. Sometimes when they were small life could get overwhelming for me. That’s when she would show up at my house to lend a hand or just to talk to me. From the time Jeff was born in 1982 until he started first grade in 1988, I was a stay at home mom—without a car of course. Did I need to take one to the doctor? Mama showed up at my house to take us. Did I want to do some PTA volunteering at Jeremy’s school ? Mama showed up to stay with Jennifer and Jeff and let me take her car. My mom was such a tremendous help and friend in those days. I’m sure she never took a love languages quiz, but I know what hers was. Her love language was gift-giving, with quality time as the secondary language. She lived to buy stuff for the kids, which of course she really couldn’t afford. I’m not talking stuff like iPODs and computers (which didn’t exist anyway). No, she totally spoiled my kids by buying them necessities of life, like clothes and shoes. We took lots of shopping trips which for several years included one in a stroller, and we always ended up at Wyatt's Cafeteria in the mall. When they got a little older, she and the kids started playing board games. I still have the Monopoly game that they just about wore out. She was delighted to have them come and stay the night with her. They would play games or watch movies and just have a great time.

This may sound a little random, but I’m typing as I remember. When I awoke this morning, it was just in my heart to write a tribute to my mom. Her love language was not physical touch or words of affirmation. I don’t remember her saying she loved me, but I know she did. However, she instilled in me what was important in life, taught me manners and rules of politeness by which to conduct myself, and guided me in how to relate to others. After I became an adult, she became my best friend. A greater or more trustworthy soul never existed. If you told my mother something and told her not to tell, she didn’t. She literally took those secrets to the grave with her. The most important legacy she left, though, was her love of Christ. She brought me up to love and honor God and read and obey His Word. She was a great lady, and I didn’t tell her that as much as I wish I had when she was living. So on this Mother’s Day weekend, here’s to my mother: I love you, Mama. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cleaning the Closet

My spring break ended last night.  For some it was probably not the best, because it rained every day until Saturday.  I kind of like rain, though, so it wasn't such a bummer for me.  I worked really hard on projects around the house, since I couldn't get outside anyway.  I moved into this house 2 1/2 years ago,  but some stuff just got shoved into the back of a closet where it sat undisturbed until last week.  I am pleased with my efforts;  In addition to reorganizing the spare room closet, I went through everything in my bedroom closet.  I knew I had too much stuff, and I really felt God was saying to reduce by half the amount of stuff I had crammed in there.  I had a decent-sized pile when I was done, which I took to charity.  At least someone will benefit from my gluttony in the area of purses, shoes, and clothes.

If it ended with the stuff to give away, that would be great, but it didn't.  From the start, I knew I wouldn't get away with simply giving away some clothes.  While that did need to be done, there was more in that closet than an excess of clothing.  Way at the back, there were boxes of crafting supplies, some books, and some boxes labeled "memorabilia." I knew deep down inside that I had to go through those things, and I was dreading it.  I managed to go through the craft supplies and books quickly, and found I wasn't as attached to those things as I had been at one time.  I was feeling pretty good; knocking this chore out.

The memorabilia, though, was a different story.  There were so many emotions surrounding these things, it was really hard to sort through.  I went through a couple of boxes of childhood keepsakes from my childhood and from my kids' childhoods, as well as a box of things I found when I cleaned out my mother's apartment after she died.  I smiled at some things; I cried at others.  I mostly cried, though.  My mother died 16 years ago, and I still miss her.  When she started having some dementia a couple of years before she died, it broke my heart.  I watched her slowly slip away by degrees.  I grieved over losing the part of her that was dying before she was gone.  She stopped laughing with me over our inside, family jokes, like the light that was in her eyes--but only when she was sitting up in her cot and looking straight at it--when her, my dad, and my brother and I went camping one summer when I was a teenager.  See--it's not funny to you. Literally, you had to be there.  I'm the only one left out of those that "get it."

I also had to cope with the pain of losing the one person who loved me no matter what. I know she did, even though she only said those words to me once that I remember, and once in a birthday card, which I found in the keepsake box. She was an awesome woman of God and an intercessor; and I'm sure she prayed for me and my kids every day.  I know without a doubt she could be trusted to never tell something if I told her not to.  She was the most loyal person I have ever known, and a faithful friend.  She was always on my side, always believed in me, and was crazy about my kids.  She was my best friend, and I mourned deeply at her passing. She died suddenly of a heart attack, following my brother's death 3 months earlier.  It wasn't a good year for me.

I guess it's a depressing blog, isn't it? It took me several days to write it, and I debated about posting it. It is one of the most personal glimpses into my heart I have had the nerve to put on here.  I finally decided I would;  I needed to tell someone. Writing it out helps me to process it and let the pain go. After 16 years, it was time.

There is a bright side to all this.  I try to end on a positive note when I blog.  It is my hope that someone can be encouraged by reading about my struggles, because I have hope; all of us in the human race do.  Even though I am technically an orphan, I am not alone.  None of us who have put our trust in Jesus as our Savior are ever really alone.  The Bible says, "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close." Psalm 27:10 NLT. Even though I've lost my mom and dad, been through a divorce, and all my kids have moved quite a distance away, I am really never alone, because Jesus is with me always.  Put your trust in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and you will never be alone, either.


"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all." 
Psalm 34:17-19 NIV.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hold Me, Jesus

This is a blog post from back in 2009, three years ago.  I wrote this when I was still using facebook's notes feature to blog.  For some reason, I came across it tonight and I feel I need to share it.  While I'm in a different place than I was that night 3 years ago, I still cry out to Jesus to hold me on a regular basis. I don't think I'll ever be to the place where I don't need to be held. I'm not sure we are supposed to be totally self-sufficient.  We need God; He designed us that way.  And He wants us so much, much more than we need Him. I guess I'll never fully understand why He loves me, but I know He does. He told us "cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). I know He delights in me and longs for me to come to Him. 

April 2009--It's hard to put into words sometimes, even for me. I am a person of words; somewhat of a writer and yet words fail me tonight. Even if I could express it, of course I wouldn't post it for all the world to see. I wouldn't post even this, but I have come to know from experience that when these times come, God pours into me for me to share. I don't have the right to not share what He so generously gives to bind up my wounded heart. Believe me, I am a private person; I don't bare my heart like this unless I have been directed by the Holy Spirit. So I hesitantly let you have a peek into my pain in hopes that you will be encouraged to hold on to my savior Jesus. " The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) Let Him hold you; let Him bind up your wounds. He loves you. 

The closest I can come to expressing the depth of what I feel was written in a song by one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived: Rich Mullins. He summed it up like this:

Well, sometimes my life just don't make sense at all

When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark

It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me

I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn

And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

I'm singing hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

You have been King of my glory

Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Copyright 1993 - Edward Grant, Inc.
Words and music by Rich Mullins

Friday, February 10, 2012

Positively Focused

This time of year, with its hearts and flowers, is my least favorite, as I have said before.  This past week, smack in the middle of my least favorite time of year, I had some minor surgery, which as it turns out, had a major impact on my life for such a minor procedure.  Physically, I have been down, in some serious pain, and literally flat on my back.  Something happens in your psyche when you are in pain.  For me, the constant pain caused me to take stock and see what is really important.  In one day, I went from planning a minor bedroom redo to praying for God to help me get from the couch to the kitchen.

Thank God, I am finally on the mend.  The turning point came a couple of days ago, and I am very glad to be more myself.  During the down time, though, I had some very intense talks with God, and He showed me some things that I hadn't seen before.  He showed me that I have spent far too much energy disliking the 2 or 3 weeks when the whole world seems to be caught up in hearts, love, and all that mushy-goo to which I have developed such an aversion over the years.  Until He revealed it to me, I didn't realize how much negative energy I had focused on the very event I have told myself I was avoiding.  Instead of focusing on what I don't have in my life, I should instead focus on what I do have.  I have made a list:

I have a relationship with the God of the Universe and my name is in the Lamb's Book of Life.  If it ended there, I would be blessed far beyond what I could ever hope for or desire.  But it goes on.

I was married for 24 years, and have 3 wonderful children from that marriage. I love my children, their spouses, and my granddaughter with all my heart.

Within a half-day's drive is my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.  I am blessed to be able to see them every month or so.

My son in Georgia and my son and daughter-in-law in Virginia, while both a two-day drive away, are also accessible by a 1/2 day plane trip.  I thank God for providing for occasional air travel, and the chance to see somewhere different in the process.

While I'm at it, I also thank God for Skype, and the ability to see and talk to my kids on my computer screen frequently.

I have the best church family EVER.  I love them as if we were blood kin. God knew what He was doing when He placed me there in 1999; He knew my family was moving farther away, and He compensated for it by giving me a close and loving family of brothers and sisters.

I have a great, God-given job, and my work family is a wonderful and close-knit group.

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.  I am blessed, and I am choosing to no longer focus on what I lack, but the wonderful blessings that God has given me.

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." 
~ Philippians 4:8 NLT

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cold and Calloused

Sometimes, it seems like my heart has callouses.  I've asked the Lord to cleanse my heart, remove the old oil--the bitterness--and fill me anew with the Holy Spirit. I believe He has done this, but still I know there are hard, crusty places that He needs to work on.  I still have a struggle with being hard-hearted at times.  In other words, sometimes I'm more like a cold-hearted snake than a caring, compassionate believer.  How did this happen?  I have a theory.

The cold and unfeeling state is my normal state if I allow genetics --the flesh--to be in control.  I never met my paternal grandmother, she died many years before I was born, but I'm told that she was a little on the hateful side.  In my younger days, I'm afraid I was pretty hard on her.  I didn't know how she could be so cold and still claim to be a Christian.  Oh the foolish words of youth!  I'm sorry I ever judged her, because now that I have experienced more of life I have discovered something about my grandmother from examining my own character.  Even though I never met her, I have a feeling that she was simply reacting to the storms of life.  She developed an edge because life ran over her, then backed up and ran over her again.  She had it really hard, in a time when women weren't treated with very much respect by our society.  She was a single mom and did the best she could with what life gave her.  She just ended up a little hard and calloused in the process.

How did I figure this out? The revelation came to me as I was praying a little while ago.  Lately, I have been asking the Lord to show me the truth, and set me free.  Well, the truth I saw tonight wasn't very pretty.  I saw that I have been living in circumstances similar to my grandmother.  She was divorced when my dad was a teen.  She lived with some of the same heartbreaks as I have.  She made the best of a bad situation, just as I have.  I'm sure she made her share of mistakes, as I have.  I am humbled by the picture I got when I realized this. 

I have a granddaughter now, and I don't want her to look at my life when she's a little older and say I am mean-spirited and bitter.  The hard truth is, in an unregenerated state, our flesh will repeat the patterns set in place from previous generations.  Without the Lord's saving grace and regeneration of my heart,  I would be doomed to live in a state of misery, not allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my heart to transform me and the end result would most likely be very much the same.  Thank God for the cross of Jesus Christ!  Because He took the curse of my sin on Himself when He died for me, I don't have to live in that cursed state.  

So, as I spend time in His presence, the hard, calloused places in my heart will soften.  I will be become more like Jesus as I spend more time with Him. It's a work in progress, denying the flesh and living in the Spirit, becoming a "new creation in Christ."  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." Romans 8: 12-16 (NIV).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Hope Is You

1 In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. 2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.~ Psalm 25:1-3 (NIV).

This is how one of my favorite scriptures, and perhaps my very favorite Psalm, begins. In earlier posts, I have touched on this Psalm and mentioned that it is very special to me.  Tonight, however, I am going to reveal a little bit of what this Psalm means to me. Anyone who has walked with the Lord for any length of time will encounter some scriptures along the way that have deep and special value for them.  It isn't usually a happy time, though, that causes them to become so special.

Adversity, pain, sorrow, brokenness--I could go on, but you get the idea.  Yes, the entire Bible is our love letter from God, meant to be our roadmap, our instruction manual, our final authority on life and how to live it.  But we are basically a stubborn lot; we seldom learn anything the easy way. So many times in life, it is those scriptures that we find ourselves clinging to for dear life, the ones that we use to hoist ourselves up out of the pitfalls we find ourselves in--those are the ones that have special meaning to us. And so it is with Psalm 25 for me. Let me explain how it came to be so personal to me.

When I was first saved, God showed me very clearly that He was calling me to be an encourager.  He often gave me words of knowledge and scriptures to encourage others.  He put the desire in me to write, and use writing as a tool to be this encourager He had called me to be. But the storms of life blew, I went through a divorce, and my world came crashing down around me. Instead of continuing to fulfill His purpose in me, I wandered into a spiritual desert, away from the calling He had put within me.  I justified to myself that I couldn't encourage anyone, since I was divorced.  I fell for the lies of the enemy, and I began allowing his venom to poison my thinking.  

As I wandered along in this wilderness, I lost sight of God's plan for me. I was a Christian, blood-bought and heaven-bound, but I was so full of pain.  I had been hurt so much by life, and the damage was probably fairly obvious to others.  Those were dark years, and at times I felt I was suffocating in the fog of depression and fear that surrounded me.  God sent people along the way to help me find my way out of the bondage and help me realize I was free in Christ, and I accepted some help here and there.  I was so severely depressed, though, that I lashed out at the very ones that were trying to help me, as is often the case with people in pain.  It grieves me to admit this now, but though I was called to encourage I allowed my warped perception of my life to affect my ability to hear from God.  Instead of lifting others up, I started inflicting damage with my words.  And so, the writer's pen turned poisonous. It appeared that satan had won, and had disabled me from ever doing any good again.

When I realized that I had used for evil the gift of writing that God had placed in me, I was distraught, and was determined never to write again. One day, I was at an all time low as I turned to God in my prayer closet seeking direction, asking forgiveness, trying to figure out where to go from there.  That day, in my daily Bible reading I came across Psalm 25. Suddenly it became alive, a Rhema word from God.  His Spirit was a very real Presence in that little closet that morning.  The words jumped out at me, and I realized I did have hope.

"In you, LORD my God, I put my trust, " I read.  Yes, I do trust You, Lord I told Him.  I knew He  was all I had. I was drawn to read more: "I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me." Yes Lord, I prayed, please, PLEASE do not let the gift You gave me be used by the enemy ever again. Do not let him win!

"No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause." HOPE.  The word "hope" went all the way through me in a flash.  I hope in GOD, and HE will not let me be put to shame.  There it was, the promise straight from God. Like a bolt of lightening, God's Spirit touched my heart.  Tears sprang to my eyes when the truth suddenly came alive to me. I was sobbing as I continued reading:

"Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."I knew I definitely needed God's guidance and to be grounded in His truth. I was on the right path, at last. I knew the Lord was going to lead me out of the desert and do a miracle in my heart and mind.

I continued reading, and came across verse 15: "My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare."  Not only would He forgive me and not let me be put to shame, but He would untangle the mess I was in and get me out of satan's trap. "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish." Even though at that moment I couldn't imagine not having a troubled heart or being free from anguish, I took the words to heart and chose to believe them to be true.

I have never been the same since that day in my prayer closet.  Things didn't get better overnight, but little by little, God's redemptive work began to unfold in my life. It was several years before I had the courage to write anything again, but I am happy to report that I am once again writing, pursuing God's purpose for my life as He gives me words of encouragement to share.

But there's one more wonderful thing that God did for me through Psalm 25.  Not only did He touch my broken heart and start the healing process through His word, He did something very personal for me, something that I know He did to give me hope and show me that He was with me:  Our praise team started learning a new song that week at practice.  Perhaps you have heard it.  It is Third Day's My Hope Is You.  Years later, I still cannot sing that song without tears, and extreme gratitude to God for what He has done for me.

If you are hurting as you read this, let me encourage you to put your trust in God.  Your hope is in Him, and Him alone.

"No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame." Psalm 25:3