Archive | May 2013

Fighting for our lives

I could not improve on what John Eldredge shared in my reading today, so here is his devotional. Spiritual warfare may come as a surprise to some. Please read on . . .

Each war is different, each war is the same

Each war is different, each war is the same (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

“Until we come to terms with war as the context of our days, we will not understand life. We will misinterpret ninety percent of what is happening around us and to us. It will be very hard to believe that God‘s intentions toward us are life abundant; it will be even harder not to feel that somehow we are just blowing it. Worse, we will begin to accept some really awful things about God. That four-year-old little girl being molested by her daddy—that is “God’s will “? That ugly divorce that tore your family apart—God wanted that to happen, too? And that plane crash that took the lives of so many—that was ordained by God?

Most people get stuck at some point because God appears to have abandoned them. He is not coming through. Speaking about her life with a mixture of disappointment and cynicism, a young woman recently said to me, “God is rather silent right now.” Yes, it’s been awful. I don’t discount that for a moment. She is unloved; she is unemployed; she is under a lot. But her attitude strikes me as deeply naive, on the level of someone caught in a cross fire who asks, rather shocked and with a sense of betrayal, “God, why won’t you make them stop firing at me?” I’m sorry, but that’s not where we are right now. It’s not where we are in the Story. That day is coming, later, when the lion shall lie down with the lamb and we’ll beat swords into plowshares. For now, it’s bloody battle.

It sure explains a whole lot. You won’t understand your life, you won’t see clearly what has happened to you or how to live forward from here, unless you see it as battle. A war against your heart.”

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.  2 Corinthians 4:3-6, The Message

An excerpt from “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge

If only . . .

I heard an interesting statement recently from a movie. It was said during a conversation between mother and grown daughter. It has been rolling around in my head since and I wonder if you think it is true or just Hallmark’s clever use of words? Also ~ does it relate to Joni’s comments below? Please, dear readers, share your thoughts?  Here is how mother responded to her daughter:  “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.”  Hmmm.

Shared from Joni and Friends ~

Arcadia Child My photos that have a creative c...

Arcadia Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  Colossians 2:9-1

Life Would Be Great If Only . . .

“What do quadriplegics (people whose hands and legs are paralyzed) daydream about? Running a marathon? Ballroom dancing? Climbing a mountain? Many of us have scaled down our fantasies. In my weaker moments, I’m tempted to think life would be great if only I were a paraplegic — then I could use my hands. I see paraplegics transfer themselves out of their wheelchairs into their own beds, reach for items in the refrigerator, wash dishes at a sink and quickly sort through the mail. Then old feelings of disappointment start to slink back into my heart.

Even able-bodied people look at others who seem more attractive, smarter, richer, healthier, and who get all the breaks in life. In comparison, our minor defects begin to look like deformities. Thankfully, the Bible has good advice for people prone to compare. Paul tells us we have been given “fullness in Christ.” In other words, we are complete in Him. We have everything. We lack nothing. There’s no need to compare. Once we comprehend this truth, our so-called defects become reminders of how “full” we are — because we have “fullness in Christ.” The inferiority complex releases its grip. We become content.

In what ways do you feel incomplete, inadequate, or less than you had hoped? Rather than seeing these as insufficiencies, realize you are lacking in nothing. Why? Because Christ dwells in you.   Bask in that knowledge for a few, quiet moments and feel yourself relax into contentedness.

Lord, help me to keep from drumming up “if only” scenarios in my mind. Fill my thoughts with satisfaction in You and in whom You have fashioned me to be.”

In step with friendship

I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  John 15:15

Friends are special gifts, especially those who will walk beside us thru thick or thin. Some can’t stay after tragedy. I miss them, but I understand that not all folks are meant for the long haul. Some go in and out of our lives leaving footprints in our hearts that may leave both good and not so good memories behind. I have learned during this grief walk that friends do come and go, but no matter how long they stay, I always seem to have at least one who is a heart-2-heart friend. I call this a “God thing”. For He seems to bring someone along side who may have suffered tragedy like mine or tragedy of a different variety. No matter. They are willing to be “real”; to go deeper in the heart than an a mere acquaintance. If they ask, “How are you?” They mean, “How are you ~ really.” And they sincerely want to know and be a part of your life.

Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden

Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good friends come in all shapes and sizes; from younger to older. It does not matter. What does matter is that they have a heart that desires to be connected to our heart. They may be just a phone friend I have not yet met in person or they may be someone I have known of for years, but never got passed a friendly wave.

Recently God has brought a new friend along side. She was seeking to make a friendship contact from among her church members. I had no idea we would be hooked up since I was not looking and had only recently joined her church. After a few formalities and light conversation we both realized that we had many things in common, not the least of which we both like to walk. It so happens that I have a nice park nearby with wide, paved sidewalks, so the stage was set.

If you are struggling to make a friend, ask God to bring one. I’m not kidding! He cares about the details in our lives. He can provide someone who listens, who enjoys the same things you enjoy and who can be there for you when the bottom drops out of your life. Jesus knows we need God “with skin on” and He will provide.

I love this quote from Max Lucado. He puts words together than are clear to my mind and go deep into my heart. Perhaps this will be meaningful for you today. It’s all about the names of Jesus, our Friend.

“And the more God’s people came to know him, the more names they gave him.  Elohim, strong one or creator.  Jehovah-raah, a caring shepherd. Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides. These are just a few of the names of God which describe his character.  Study them, for in a given day, you may need each one of them. God, the shepherd who leads, the Lord who provides, the voice who brings peace in the storm, the physician who heals the sick, the banner that guides. And most of all…He Is!”

~The Great House of God

Sifting around for hope

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5

There is a world-famous daily facial moisturizer cream called “Hope in a Jar” by Philosophy. It’s too pricey for my pocket, but I am curious about a product that claims, “Where there is hope there can be faith, where there is faith miracles can occur.” Sounds nice. Wonder what it smells like? Wonder what it would feel like on my skin? Don’t worry. I’m curious, but not that curious. Maybe it would be a total disappointment and a waste of money.

Hope cream is vastly, unspeakably different from sifting around in layers of debris; searching for signs of life, signs of hope, and at the very least coming up with a child. Your child. With no sign of life. Just that morning he gulped down his breakfast, grabbed his book bag and headed out the door as you blew him a kiss and told him to have a great day at school. He skipped down the sidewalk as his school bus braked to a stop. The day was off and running on normal cycle. Why would we expect anything different?

F5 tornado damage in Barneveld, Wisconsin (Cou...

F5 tornado damage in Barneveld, Wisconsin (Courtesy of NWS Milwaukee) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But today there is no street signs, no homes, no schools. The land has been both swept and convulsed by a giant, writhing monster which roared through town, trashing everything in it’s wake and leaving unimaginable pain behind. Today is a new normal. An ugly, horrific new normal. This town claims it will rebuild into a new town. Street signs will return. Homes and schools and other buildings will take shape, but mourning will not soon end.

How do these people survive? I’ve heard them talk of their personal faith and looking ahead to rebuild their lives brick by brick, mortared together with hope. Real hope can’t be purchased. It is something that sprouts in the heart; a solid like faith. It’s believing that God will supply every need. And God has been sending volunteers working around the clock to help their brothers and sisters do what they cannot do for themselves. Bless them.

Devastation is cruel. We have no doubt. We call it “mother nature”, but it is simply nature turned in on itself in a fury. It’s the elements God has created as the firmament (Genesis 1:8) which are being disgraced by the enemy bully for his own cruel, heartless purpose. But we will continue to hope through our trials growing in strength toward salvation. We will not be disappointed. Hope will hold us until we meet the God of Love one day soon.

I could think of no better way to end this piece than to share two verses from John Newton’s Amazing Grace. Hum along as you read.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Outnumbered

When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:15

I don’t know about your yard, but everywhere I look, I see little maple seedlings. You know, those little seeds that spin and twirl through the air on their way to covering grass, flower beds, roofs in a blanket of off-white snow? The eaves are full, the porch is covered and it’s still snowing! Our cats sit in the windows, entranced by the whirligigs, as we call them. As inspirational as nature’s helicopters are, our maple trees produce thousands too many; each winged seedling hoping  to embed itself in yards, flower beds and grow up to be giant maple trees one day. And if left alone, reproduce a forest of maple trees forcing us out of house and home. Can’t let that happen so before long the back-breaking work will begin. I will be uprooting the little suckers before they set up housekeeping and push their thirsty roots deep down in the soil making it more difficult to extract them.

Norway Maple tree seeds.

Maple tree seeds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there a spiritual application here? You may or may not agree, but perhaps these tiny one-winged airplanes resemble sin at first blush. They are little, cute, innocent, beckoning,  and fun especially if shared with friends. But let’s not be fooled by the enemy who seeks to destroy each one of us by “simple” sins. Most sins start out as tiny, even insignificant, controversial “gray” areas of debate or little white lies. It’s still sin, but it sounds so innocent and unworthy to be called sin, especially when prefaced by two words, “little and white”. The language implies, “Don’t worry. What you are doing can’t be considered sin. Just relax.” But the devil, the prowling lion, never relaxes his grip. Once we are caught in his web of deceit it doesn’t take long before we are tangled so tightly that it requires great effort to break free ~ much worse than digging out a maple sapling that has spread its roots deep into the soil.

Often we make choices that entice us into sinful habits. We may even convince ourselves that what we are doing is not really bad and is winked at by whoever is our higher power. But we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). The God of heaven is crystal clear about sin. He leaves no wiggle room.

The Old Testament for instance, is full of stories about those who sinned and punishment swiftly followed. These stories exist for our understanding and growth as we struggle to navigate dangerous waters in our individual lives. We can learn from them and choose to follow God’s leading instead. Our sins may be hidden from our view, but they are not hidden from God. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?

Such strong language makes us stop in our tracks and ponder our next move. We have been given freedom to choose, but within that freedom is a built-in guideline. There is a fork in the road. Which way will we choose? The narrow way is curvy, rocky and often laced with trouble, but ultimately leads to eternity. The other road is wide,  gently sloping, and pleasant, but ultimately leads to our demise. Death. This blue marble we call Earth, has God’s eyes roaming it; always searching to draw us to Himself where He extends forgiveness and pardon for our sins and a freedom we cannot know if we choose the easy road.

Build on the Rock

My Child, You must listen to My Words in order to heed their teachings. And if you do, you will be like the wise person who built his house on a firm foundation by digging down deep into solid rock. He is prepared when the flood waters rise and break against the house. It will stand firm.  Luke 6:48

English: Rock outcrop on Newquay beach. The pr...

Rock outcrop on Newquay beach. The private house built on the rock is linked to the mainland by a suspension bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other hand, if you just read My Words and don’t work them into your daily life, you are like the foolish carpenter who builds his house on a sandy beach. When a storm rolls in and the waves come up it will collapse like a deck of cards.  Matthew 7:26-27

Consider the first house with a firm foundation. This person reads and heeds My Words, sweeping his new house clean of all evil. It is kept clean and tidy . . . but empty. The enemy keeps watch. He loves empty and he will return to that same house bringing more demons with him and the condition of this man’s heart will be worse than if he had never built it on a firm foundation in the first place.  Matthew 12:43-45

You see, My Child, I know the condition of your “house.” I know when it is swept clean but remains empty. And I long to fill it with My love and power, but you must first let Me in. “I stand at the door and knock.”  Revelation 3:20

I won’t barge in against your will, but the enemy will. He’ll peek in the windows and if he sees that your house remains empty, he’ll return and force his way in with  many cronies in tow in his attempt to completely destroy you. Please, let Me in. Let’s study and learn together. Let’s put your firm foundation to good use. Let Me save you from destruction.

Your Friend,

Jesus

All scripture paraphrased

~shared from “Shattered by Suicide” (sold on Amazon)

Eternal Will and Testament

Last Will And Testament

Will And Testament                                        (Photo credit: Ken_Mayer)

We are in the process of updating a legal document for our family. We realized that we had not done so since our firstborn died; actually this will be the first update since it was first written. I don’t know if you find yourself in a similar situation, but this devotional was timely for me to read and perhaps it will be informative for you as well.

~100 Favorite Bible Promises explains the biblical legal document for our understanding ~

Because Christ offered himself to God, he is able to bring a new promise [testament, covenant] from God. Through his death he paid the price to set people free from the sins they committed under the first promise. He did this so that those who are called can be guaranteed an inheritance that will last forever.  Hebrews 9:15, GW  

Words like mediator, covenant, and inheritance in the book of Hebrews give the impression of a legal document. Actually, the entire book of Hebrews differs in writing style from the rest of the letters in the New Testament. Its unknown author presents a thesis-like case, methodically stating why faith in Jesus is a logical and God-designed spiritual progression from Judaism.

The verse at the heart of what the author wanted his readers to understand proclaims that Jesus is both a mediator, “someone who makes peace between two parties,” and a testator, “someone who determines the conditions and benefits of the inheritance he leaves behind.” The words testament and covenant are interchangeable. The Old Testament and the New Testament could just as easily be called the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, since the two parts of the Bible really focus on covenant. Under the Old Covenant, or Old Testament, God accepted the sacrifice of animals as a way to cover up the wrongs people had done. Under the New Covenant, the wrongs were permanently erased by a different kind of sacrifice ~ Jesus’ gift of his own life.

A will and testament is only valid after someone dies, and then it is irrevocable. That means Jesus’ death guaranteed your inheritance. Jesus saved your life by substituting his own in payment for every wrong you’ve ever done and ever will do. Because of this, you will receive what you never could have earned on your own ~ the ultimate freedom of living a life that never ends. Jesus’ testament to you is not only a guarantee, but it is also a true source of encouragement. When God makes a promise, it’s like a legal document. He will fulfill every word. Amen

Tribute to Mothers this Mother’s Day

Many women have done noble work, but you have surpassed them all!   Proverbs 31:29 GW

family feet

family feet

The days and months tick by and another holiday is upon us. To all you moms out there, I wish you a happy Mother’s Day with your families. Whether you have outlived your children or still have them and their offspring gathered around you, you are always a mother and greatly blessed.

If I may, I choose to devote this piece to moms who live with daily heartache after the loss of one or more of their children. Every holiday brings a stab of pain. We can’t help it. We love all our children; they are most precious, but we will never forget the one we no longer can love and touch, noting their shared characteristics. I love the resemblance. But at the same time it stings and I wince just a little. Do you? Has the pain ever lessened?

No matter how many years it’s been and perhaps this is your first, we get through them and even have some moments of pleasure surrounded by those we love. They yearn for this day to be special. They will for us to go on; to find them to be enough. We love their intent and we try our best to be the special mom for this special day so that they are comfortable. But where is the deep comfort we long for? Not the superficial stuff just under the mask, but the deep heart stuff. You know what I mean. You know where it is. Most often it’s just too painful to poke around in there too much. We imagine it to be ten times worse than a root canal without Novocaine, and I’m sure it is.

Love is Pain Tattoo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I ponder this question spiritually speaking, I wonder about God. Does the pain ever lessen for Him? He’s on a grief journey too. His loss is constant and unfathomable to me. If He has been present at every birth and every death since the beginning of time, that is too much grief for my mind to process. But it beckons consideration, doesn’t it? Our heavenly Father poured Himself into His Son, Jesus Christ, who poured Himself out for us. If He had not died on the cross, we’d be without hope and most miserable in our sins. But there was no heavenly system failure. Jesus followed through on what He came to do. He showed us what His Dad is like and He did not turn back from death. I get a lump in my throat when I think about my Friend dying for my sins and dying as a common criminal, a dirt bag, scum of the earth, if you will. His own people relished the kill, wanting it so badly they were willing to own it and even shouted, “His blood is on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25). Haunting words that continue to ricochet down the halls of time. They got their wish.

So God did a wondrous thing when He made Mothers, creating within them the ability to make new life. We are the product of a loving Master Designer and He does not make disposable. Ever. He loves us more than we can understand His pure love, but He has designed mothers to love deeply their unborn child as it begins to grow and kick. And then to hold their baby for the first time, and look into that sweet, puckered little face with eyes trying to focus while squinting against the harsh, bright delivery room lights. Almost immediately we begin the juggle of meeting their most basic needs with loving care which soon turn into car pools and packing lunches. We lie quietly in bed, listening for gentle breathing before we nod off, dreaming of all the special things we want to teach them before they fly from the nest in preparation for an exciting future bursting with promise.

That’s the ideal. That was God’s plan. As we look at this sweet babe, who could imagine God killing the baby He just gave life too? God makes babies. He does not kill our children. This has always been the work of a murdering thief (John 10:10). It is a complex study of God’s Word; comparing scripture with scripture and asking God to reveal His purpose in  bite-sized portions so the “light will come on” in our minds and we can begin to comprehend it, for His thoughts are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). But He has not neglected us and He never will. He loves us and desires that we love Him back and as we do a tiny seed of faith begins to sprout and the heart is stirred into hope, and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

This mother’s day will be different for me. I have hinted [strongly] that I want to spend time with my family of avid golfers on the course, watching them chase a little white ball which never became my passion, but it is theirs and I want to watch their joy in the sport. Perhaps your family will carve out something different from the usual if the usual is too hard to bear. But no matter what, we are mothers. We have spent our lives investing in our children. We are entitled to have this day. We’ve “paid our dues” with bitter-sweet tears. But through it all, isn’t it better to risk the pain that is love?

The arms that held and rocked our sweet babies now ache from loss. I look forward to the day when I get to squeeze the stuffin’s out of my boy who will be all brand new.  And no more death. . . . ever again. It will be a reunion of families like no other!

 

On aging gracefully

Cover of "Calendar Girls"

Cover of Calendar Girls

“The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. In each phase of their lives they become more radiant, but the last phase is their most glorious . . . [and then they go to seed].”  ~John Baker (quote from the movie, Calendar Girls.)

John Baker was a real person with a real life in Yorkshire, England. Then cancer came and a real battle ensued until it took his life, but before he died, he shared these beautiful words with his lovely wife, who after his death wanted to raise money for something to provide for additional seating for friends and families who spend so much time with their loved one in  the Leukemia wing of the hospital where she had spent so much time with John. It’s a good movie ~ if you can handle a wee bit of skin.

Speaking of skin, mine has stretched to cover my growing muffin top ~ which truthfully I fear has gone to seed. It’s difficult for me to see how this stage of life is most glorious. I know what I need ~ I need to trade my sweet tooth in for a savory pallet. Perhaps God has this in mind for me in His long range goal for my life. Every low in my experience as driven me (yep, I’m back behind the wheel) to seek something sweet to quench the painful reminders when my heart shattered like splintering glass several years ago when tragedy struck me down. I fell of the shelf and crashed into a million pieces. No repair possible. God would have to recreate me and thankfully He has begun a good work in me.

A blueberry muffin in a paper muffin cup.

A blueberry muffin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But back to the muffin top which seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. I know I choose what goes in. and when I give in the pallet yells, “more, more!” My spirit is weak, but He is strong. He won’t take it out of my hand, but first I have to unclench my fist to get my hand out of the cookie jar! Enough said? If you can relate out there in cyber world, here’s where we can mentor each other ~ when I am weak, you are strong and the one to give advice. Victory will be sweet enough.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6