Archive | March 2014

Hymnlines: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” Part 2

Lion Roaring

Lion Roaring (Photo credit: lukiffer)

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.  1 Peter 5:8-11, The Message

It’s easier to share someone else’s story than my own. If you read the background story to the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in Part 1, you know the words were written from a painful heart. This is one of my favorite hymns which intertwines with a story about God’s grace, mercy and protection when I needed it most.

Friend or foe? Is it not true that a roaring lion roams the cobbled streets and dusty paths of planet earth seeking to devour human flesh? He’s a man-eater alright . . . woman and child too. Not a nice picture for sure, but sadly, it’s true. Even if one harbor’s the belief that the Bible is irrelevant in today’s society, it does not change the fact that we have a devil roaring about in rage. He’s not dressed in red leos and carrying a pitchfork either. That idea lingers on from Greek mythology. The real satan blends in well. You could be looking into demonic faces on the busy streets where you live, in the work place, or from a pew in church. He is well represented everywhere on our planet; a planet in chaos or has that reality escaped you? Certainly not.

Some time ago, I was invited to speak on the topic of suicide at a Christian women’s retreat. I prayed about it and felt God nudging me into unfamiliar territory; to share my story which I had never shared publicly before. Naturally I was hesitant, terrified actually, but I had promised God that I would do whatever He asked me to do ~ to help bring glory to His name by reaching out, as it were, with His hands, feet, and heart to comfort those in grief  ~ to give hope where hope seems impossible ~ and to keep alive the memory of my precious son who is forever in my heart.

All went smoothly until the night before I was scheduled to speak. It was after midnight and I was in deep slumber when suddenly I was awakened. Paralysis was creeping upwards from my feet! Within seconds I was completely frozen. I could not move. I could not speak. Frantically I sent a desperate plea for help to God in my mind. Somehow my roommate, who apparently was a light sleeper, realized I was in need and started to pray aloud. Then, she began to sing,

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

By the time she started to sing the second verse, the numbness had receded from my head down past my throat and I was able to join her,

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

I was puzzled. Why would God allow the enemy to frighten me like this when I thought I was on His mission? I paced the floor until my racing heart had calmed down a bit, then I crawled back under the covers and began to pray. I asked God, “Why did you let the enemy attack me? Was this trip not Your idea?” No response came other than, “You must speak about this in the morning.” “But that is not possible,” I argued. (I guess I assumed I knew more about this retreat than God did). Again the same response came to my mind, “You must tell about this in the morning.” Clearly no sleep would be coming until I gave in. “Okay,” I sighed. “I will sit on the front row, but You will have to take it from there. You’re going to have to give me the words to say.” And He did.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Long story short, what came to my heart to share the next morning was this: We are doing something right if it makes the devil worried enough to attack; to show up and attempt to frighten a speaker into silence. We needn’t fear the enemy for we are surrounded by holy warring angels sent for our protection when we are doing God’s will. Many women in attendance were suffering personal sorrow. Some had lost children recently and to suicide. Some were there because family and friends had condemned the suicide death and they ached for assurance and hope.

God spoke His words of comfort and I left feeling blessed and reminded that even though the enemy plotted evil against me, God turned it into something good (Genesis 50:19, 20).

Though we contend with the enemy of our souls on earth, God still rules the Universe and He will have the last word!

And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Romans 16:20

Let’s listen in on Jesus’ conversation with his disciples: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

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This entry was posted on March 28, 2014. 2 Comments

Lifeline

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see . . . So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.  Hebrews 11:1, 6 NLT

“Your faith in God today is your lifeline to His heartbeat.”

“Faith is the hand that reaches up and takes hold of God’s promises and gathers in the spiritual treasures that are found in Christ. Faith sees the sunshine of God’s face, even when there are dark clouds all around.

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It is quite an experience the first time someone flies in a plane. The sky may be covered with dark clouds, but soon after takeoff, the plane breaks through the clouds. The passenger quickly discovers that the sky is still blue and the sun is still shining, even though things look quite different below. What things are possible for you today through faith? All things are possible, because your faith is in the God who knows no impossibilities.

*When the things that you are experiencing don’t make sense, faith says, ‘God knows what He is doing.’

*When your resources don’t match your need, faith says, ‘God is my provider.’

*When you are fearful to take the next step, faith says, ‘God will not fail me.’

*When you’re not sure what to do next, faith says, ‘God will guide me.’

*When you are in a situation that seems impossible, faith says, ‘Nothing is too hard for the Lord.'”

*  *  *

I remember my first flight. I was in high school and I was flying from the Midwest all the way to California! I was petrified and exhilarated all at the same time. Butterflies filled my tummy as the pilot picked up speed to get us off the ground. I was surprised by the G force and the speed at which trees and cars flew by and then we were airborne. How can one describe the scene outside the plane window? The thick fluffy clouds looked like a carpet that I could walk on and not fall thru. The blueness of the sky with filtered rays of the sun . . . it was too much to contain. I wanted to be out there!

Some day we will be up there. We will be able to fly anywhere. No gravity will pull us back to earth. Until then, we live by faith in the One who is our lifeline.

~shared devotional from “Today Is Your Best Day” by Roy Lessin

Hymnlines: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” Part 1

A beuatiful rose for my beloved friends

A dear friend of mind loves this hymn. It is one of the “ancients” still  found in most hymnals today and has been popular since first written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven.

A modern arrangement is sung by Bette Mittler to the tune of “The Rose”. Bette’s rendition is a haunting melody that does not weaken the beauty, (drives me to tears) but brings it back to mind over and over. Both can be found on YouTube. Each one offers something different. The original hymn was written in the style of the past, but both resonate with those who are acquainted grief or carry heavy burdens.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

To share a little history about Joseph, at age 25, this Irish-born young man was in love and planning to marry. The day before his wedding, his fiancé died in a tragic drowning accident. Heartbroken, Joseph left his homeland and traveled to Canada to start a new life. While in Canada working as a teacher, he fell in love once again and became engaged to Eliza Roche, a relative of one of his students. Unbelievably, Joseph’s hope and dreams were shattered once again when Eliza became ill and died before their wedding could take place.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Although one can only imagine the heartache within Joseph’s heart, history tells us that his faith in God sustained him. Soon after Eliza’s death, he joined the Plymouth Brethren and began preaching. He never married, choosing to spend the remainder of his life giving of his time, means and even the clothes off his back to help someone in need. Above all, he sought in every way possible to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Around the same time that Eliza died, Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was ill. He could not travel the distance to be with her, so he wrote a letter of comfort and enclosed one of his poems entitled “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. Over thirty years later, noted musician Charles C. Converse (1834-1918), put music to poem giving us the beloved hymn we have today.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

To this day, no one knows for sure if Scriven’s death was accidental or not. A friend said that he had been in serious depression before he died. “We left him about midnight. I withdrew to an adjoining room, not to sleep, but to watch and wait. You may imagine my surprise and dismay when on visiting the room I found it empty. All search failed to find a trace of the missing man, until a little after noon, the body was discovered in the water nearby, lifeless and cold in death.”

Joseph Scriven’s authorship of his poem was discovered by accident shortly before his death in August, 1886. His story would probably have gone unnoticed in church history if it were not for this hymn that ranks among the ten best known and loved hymns of all time.

Perhaps you have a tragic story to tell. Perhaps you, too, survive someone you loved. Joseph’s life story gives us an example of a heart that was open to God’s love, giving back in many ways including the writing of this beloved hymn. Whether our stories are stored in the archives of history or not, they still matter. Every word and action we had with our beloved is treasured in our hearts still pumping with life.

My dear friends, we must love each other. Loves comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life. We are now God’s children, and we know Him.  1 John 4:7

 

(Photo credit: Jose Luis Mieza Photography)


			

In Reckless Abandon


When Simon Peter realized it was Jesus, he left his buddies to work the fishing nets and dove into the sea.  John 21:7, paraphrased

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Peter couldn’t wait for the boat to be rowed to shore where His Master stood.  In reckless abandon, he dove into the water and headed for shore. No thought of his clothing, hair and make-up (from a female viewpoint) or whether he could swim in the frigid choppy waves.              

He had only one thought on his mind ~ he dropped everything to see His Master . . . his best Friend.

Is that what it takes, Lord? Absolute, earnest, utter, even reckless abandonment of myself to drop at Your feet in complete and total surrender of my will? You mean I have to give up everything?

This is not about my emotions or circumstances or surroundings. This is about looking eyeball to eyeball ~ Creator to created ~ and finally realizing there is nothing, positively nothing I value more than being Yours.

I have a desperate need and only You can fill it. So give me the courage to dive headlong toward You. Help me keep my eyes on You, stroke by stroke, until I stand before You, dripping, breathless, but ecstatic. I’m ready. Take my will, Lord. It’s Yours.

Love,

Your Daughter

My Dear Daughter(s),

Of all My disciples, Peter was the most impetuous. He could make Me laugh until My sides hurt! But he grew up from his impetuous and self-centered nature to total abandonment in his love for Me.

I see you standing before Me dripping wet ~ with your eyes bright with excitement and love. This world is harsh and often brutal with temptations, so do not take your eyes off Me. In My power and strength, I will guide you to where I am.

Love you,

Jesus

~from, “Shattered by Suicide” by G. Thompson

Tickle your funny bone

“Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.”  Norman Cousins

By Tina Phillips, published on 02 April 2012 Stock Photo - image ID: 10078542

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since I spend more time inside than out, I get what Norman is saying. One has no excuse for not getting exercise even if only by laughing out loud! I like Norman Cousin’s philosophy and I can relate. Since we really don’t know each other, I will turn the tables on myself since I can “step in it” with the best of them. Just ask my hubby. He watches in amazement at my bumbling in action and gets his internal jogging more times than I can count. It’s my red face, but you cannot pick me out in a crowd so I’m safe to reveal, right? If funny has no place in your life right now, you will not hurt my feelings if you hit the delete button. No internal jogging for you, but if you are slightly curious, then proceed . . . at my expense.

The sound of knee-slapping, uproarious laughter is not only contagious, it increases our face value. When we share funny stories over and over with others we are privileged to hear their laughter and laugh along with them, making the story into a priceless memory.

Laughter is healing. Even if you disagree today, that’s okay. I have shed plenty of tears over the last 9 years, but crying is draining. Sometimes if there is something that tickles the funny bone it gives respite to grief and a breath of fresh air to sorrow. I did not find anything funny after my son died. It was months, even longer, before there was even a hint of a smile on my face, but over the years since, I am grateful to see the humor in life. I believe it is one of God’s blessings. And so with this backdrop, I will venture into familiar territory to share some of my faux pas with you. Unfortunately they are all true (sigh), but maybe my embarrassing moments will bring a little comic relief if needed and even help you to remember some of your own. We’ve all had them from time to time. Admit it!

* * *

I don’t drink . . . but this particular day you might say I “wore” the influence. Many years ago my hubby and I were approaching the checkout lines at our neighborhood grocery store. It was cold enough for a coat and probably approaching the holiday season since the aisles were bulging with sweet temptations. I was pushing the cart from the back as hubby guided the overloaded cart from the front into the narrow passage so we could check out, which would have been a piece of cake had it not been for the tipsy wine display to my left. Well, the “left rear” side of my coat caught one of the wine bottles and, you might say, it unleashed a downpour. In seconds the whole stack of nicely arranged wine bottles began to jiggle and then tumble down, breaking and spilling all over me as they went south. Hubby saw it as if in slow motion. His face said it all, but he did not come to my rescue . . . oh, no . . . or he’d risk guilt by association. So instead, he played “Mr. Cool” but I saw right through his thin veneer ~ as his chest heaved up and down in his attempt to choke back laughter. What’s so funny? I was unhurt, but my jacket wreaked with the smell of alcohol and hubby gave me a wide berth as we left the store. Somehow the humor escaped me then, but over the years it has found my funny bone.

 * * *

I might as well say that in most of my stories I have an accomplice who is a hindrance to my anonymity and is more than happy to remind me of the details later. But that’s a good thing since this is about laughter, after all.                                                                                                                                                    

 Have you ever taken your hubby shopping and found yourself in a moment of mistaken identity? I can’t count the number of times I have done this. Why does it always have to be me? Why can’t I have the pleasure of enjoying him squirm a little? I know. Stop whining and just tell the story. Today was grocery day and apparently grocery day for a zillion other people, since the aisles were crowded with shoppers going every which way. At least it was mostly silent. Pause to think how loud and obnoxious it would be if carts had horns?                                                                                                                

Hubby pushed his own little cart, keeping him occupied getting his favorites. I was in the zone with my list; trying to doing some serious shopping in the produce department. My “wifie” antennae assumed that hubby was nearby since I had sent him off to bag some apples. A minutes or two later as I circled the apple display I noted that there were several varieties all with the same price tag. Since it was all about the price and intending to be helpful, I reached out and touched his arm, even stroking it a little as I offered, “Honey, did you notice that there are several varieties of apples all the same price?” Only then did I realize that I had a hold of a stranger’s elbow. He turned and looked down at me with what can only be described as a “deer in the headlights” expression since I fail to find words that fit better.

And no surprise. Hubby witnessed it all! I looked passed the stranger, which I had quickly let go of by then, and saw him grinning from the other side of the display. It was obvious he loved every second of it ~ watching me grasp the elbow of a stranger ~ probably thinking, why save her? This is too good not to enjoy! The stranger’s expression softened in relief, once he realized I was related to the guy laughing. I overheard him speak to my husband as I inched away, “I guess she doesn’t think I can pick out my own apples! While they enjoyed a little male bonding over the wife’s case of mistaken identity, I took my red face to the nearest cashier. Pricey apples!

* * *

I seem to be on a roll for “mess-ups” with strange men. Take the other evening for instance. I was on the phone with a friend when in the middle of conversation, I got a “power surge” (and menopausal women know what this is). So while chatting away, I stripped down a layer to cool off. Of course the doorbell rang . . .and rather insistently. I excused myself from the caller while quickly fumbling to get my shirt back on and answer the door.

There stood a man who could advertise for “big and tall” clothing. He cleared his throat stating, “I am here for our 5:00 appointment.” To which I replied, “I’m not aware that we have one.” Standing up to his full height which was high, he complained earnestly, that he had traveled many miles braving winter weather just to keep our appointment, but it had to be with both of us. I was relieved that he wouldn’t be stepping over the threshold this evening, but it was an awkward moment where he wanted to get out of the cold and I was home alone.

Then, pointing a finger in the general direction where my hubby usually parks, he noted, “I see someone driving in now. Is that your husband?” Since his car blocked my view and since I was only too eager to steer this tall man in a trench coat carrying a bulging briefcase elsewhere, I quickly responded, “Sure, it must be him. Go talk to him!” In haste, he headed for the driveway and it was then . . . and only then . . . that I noticed it was not my husband, but the man next door, borrowing our driveway because of too much ice and snow on his! And I’m thinking . . . just about now, the salesman is finding that out . . . as I see him make an about face and head back to the porch . . . and to me. But he eventually left in hopes of returning another day. I suppose I could just not schedule…

Only later in playing back this scenario to my hubby (who missed this one) did it become funny. I think there is an apology in my future. I must apologize to my neighbor who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it did work to get rid of the salesman. Actually, come spring, I think I’ll ask my neighbor about that conversation. Should be interesting. Hope he remembers.

* * *

I know. This post is a long one, but can you “jog” just a little longer? It is about birthday time for me. The years rush by all too quickly and the numbers ascend all too quickly too. I have a sister two years older than me therefore she has her birthday first and mine follows. I know her number and that’s how I keep track of mine. Who needs math? I knew she was approaching the big “O” and I felt sympathy for her plight. I purchased a humorous card that I thought would cheer her up. I didn’t sign the inside, jokingly telling her in a letter that she could “re-gift” if she liked. We are at the age when it makes sense to be practical. Of course I included appropriate comments about her big “O” hoping she would forget and not retaliate when it came my turn. But I didn’t get that far.

Calling my sis to congratulate her on her birthday, I asked if she had gotten my card in the mail. She had not. As we conversed, I mentioned my “sorrow” at the number she was approaching. In surprise, she retorted, “I’m not turning 70! What are you thinking? I’m only 69!” I was shocked at her response. I had been “living 67”. . . maybe all year? (a rush of thoughts tumbled passed . . . had I filled out medical documents with the wrong age on them? Who knew?) My sister brought me back to the present with this: “Sis, how could I be 70 if you are going to be 67?” I was mute. Stunned. Slowly the realization sunk in. I had missed a whole year being 66 and she was happily avoiding the big “O” for another year. Who knew you could actually be younger than you think!

 I asked for it and she remembered . . . so I’ll share the card that arrived on my birthday. The message read: “An elderly woman called 911 on her cellphone to report that her car had been broken into. ‘They’ve stolen everything! The radio, my dashboard compass, even the steering wheel!!!’ 

The dispatcher responded, ‘Stay calm, a police officer is on the way.’

Minutes later, the office arrived and radioed in. ‘Disregard that last call . . . she got in the backseat by mistake.'”

Oh, yeah. And to be sure that I got the message in depth, she added a little math equation: current year – birth year = correct age. The good ending to this story is that I get to be 67 for another year. It’s like Groundhog Day!

“Mirth is God’s best medicine,” Harry Ward Beecher

If you are cheerful, you feel good; if you are sad, you hurt all over.  Proverbs 17:22, CEV