Monday, October 29, 2012

Ecclesiastes 8:15

"So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun."

**The grass glistened with the light drizzle that had fallen, and it beckoned them..."come and play!"  Quickly, they stripped themselves of shoes and socks...and began to run through the plush green carpeting.  Giggling, they romped and frolicked...**

Kids can be amazing.  They see the wonder in all things.  Their eyes shine with unbridled excitement, and they don't hesitate to see the good and the joy in everything.  Do you remember being young?  The days when you would try anything once?  The days when a simple hand in yours made your entire body weak from young love?  Where does that enthusiasm for life go to?

Often, we age in our minds before we age in our bodies.  The trials and tribulations of life darken the skies, and our eyes no longer reflect the passion of youth.  The light goes out...and once out, it can be difficult to relight.  We begin to think things like retirement, and sitting back, watching life roll by.

But retirement isn't biblical.  The leaders of old led until God took them home!  He expected them to get up each day, and have renewed fervor for Him and his commandments.  He called them to do very difficult things, like lead nations, at ages we would be considering our rocking chairs.  We, too, should be so excited about our lives, which are of course, precious gifts, and each day of our lives, that we seek Him with the faith and vibrancy of a child.  Isn't that the model Jesus gave us in the New Testament?  

**Indeed, two fifty year old "children" ran through the turf, laughing in the drizzle, and enjoying the precious moment that God had provided them.  Their hearts were renewed, their souls replenished by a perfect moment grasped from the hands of the ho-hum adult world where what the neighbors think means more than appreciating every second in their brief lives.**

Tonight, become a child again.  Don't just walk through life with no energy, attack it with passion and exuberance!  

"Dance in the Rain"
I will raise up my head I will stretch out my arms 
for the Lord He is good and his love never ends.  
I will face to the heavens and circle before Him
Your love never fails and your mercies are new
Clouds they will not cover me
and the darkness will not silence me
i'll look to the sky and lift up my voice
with a childlike heart i will say 
let me dance in the rain
dance in the rain
let me dance in the rain
dance in the rain

Link to "Dance in the Rain" by the Chic Band (scroll down to find the song)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Psalm 103:4-5

"(Bless the Lord oh my soul) 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."

We are all on a quest for good things.  We spend our lives trying to amass good things don't we?  I certainly have.  When I was seventeen and ready to launch my own life, "good things" meant a place of my own, a corner office in New York City editing some national magazine, looking down on people from my ivory tower.

As I journeyed forward, I wanted a home, a nice car, pretty clothes for the girls.  But that wasn't enough.  Pretty soon, I was sitting in an amazing home with a pool, gathering more checks than bills from my mailbox and I still wanted MORE good things.

Then came the Lord, to change my perspective.  He took my definition of "good things" and turned it all around.  Two weeks with my kids on a beach, watching Mike make a perfect catch and chase down a runner, standing in the rain, watching the homeschool teens honor their parents with tributes, and being able to lead a student to the Lord at Dare2Share....those became my new "good things."

Not a new car, but a hand in yours.  Not a bigger house, but a hug from a true friend.  Not more precedence in the community, but more opportunities to serve.  God does change our perspective...and THEN and only then can He satisfy our years with good things.  He always wants to, but our viewpoints are so skewed sometimes, that though he is trying to give us so many good things, we refuse to see them.

I've learned that the following are all good things. They are more valuable than jewels, cars, houses, or money.  In fact, most GOOD things cannot be valued in dollars and cents, that is how you know they are GOOD!  

I'm sure you have good things in your life, that perhaps you have forgotten to be thankful for--never forget to thank Him.  For He is the creator of all things good.

Good Things:

The crash of a wave, and then another, and another.
The flight of a gull over the beach
The smile of a child who just found a treasure
Watching lovers walk together--who have been together for fifty years.  
A treasured family photo
Memories of our parents
A promise kept
Snuggling on your husband's chest, and feeling him breathe
Watching your child take his first steps--into the world of adulthood
Having the Word of God warm you up on a very cold morning
A good friend who comes from far to care for you
The day AFTER you have the flu...when you start to feel better
The bloom of a flower
An agate on the beach, and the SEARCH for the agate, which is better than the agate itself
A journey, any journey that involves a dirt path
The sound of a bat contacting the ball
The sight of a child in a sleeping bag
The purr of a cat
Worship so intense you feel like the heavens are opening up
A letter or card from a friend
A call from a far away child
A great doctor's report
The satisfaction that you feel when a friend has good news in their life
A strong hand in yours
A journal left behind for you to read...where you are called "honored, precious, treasured"
A moment in time where you have NOTHING to do
The sound of the wind through the trees
Your children...anytime, all the time.
Being told "thanks for making me the man I have become Mom"
A hug
Soft warm knee socks
The opportunity to make new memories
Watching the woman in front of you at church take off her shoes and worship God with all her might
The sound of a hammered dulcimer
The time spent with a piano, alone.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Romans 8:26-27 Clarity

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

A trip to the beach is always a healing thing for me.  When covered in the worries of life and suffocated by the extreme heat in Las Vegas, we would spirit away to the Oregon coast.  There, we would rehydrate, and nourish our souls among the waves and sand.

This weekend, I spent some time at the coast with my daughter's family.  We walked along the beach, we laughed, we ran, we enjoyed the salt spray.  Much time was spent walking along the shoreline, praying.

One of our family activities is searching for agates.  Agates are rocks that have been smoothed by the ocean, and they are clear.  You can see through them...they gather the light and refract it, and in their transparency they are beautiful.  They glitter on the sand like diamonds.  

As I gathered, I thought, oh, how nice it would be if my life were so clear, if I could shine like these lovely agates in the wet sand, as a testimony that my Lord always has me, that He has YOU as well, if you will accept his free gift.

I was searching for clarity--clarity in my life mission, clarity for my next steps.  I listened so closely, but I wasn't receiving any shouts from the Lord.  At one point, I put some of Layne's ashes out, and I said to God, "You want me to do all these things, but you won't show me how to get them done!  How am I supposed to get into churches to tell our story?  How am I to publish the book?  What parts of my life should be in the book?  Are you going to TELL ME?"  Then I just got on my knees and I cried...and I moaned, and I let God know I'm broken and I want nothing more than to serve Him.  I want to tell others that He has them.  But I need for Him to show me that my steps have been ordered BY Him and that I'm on the right path.

Sometimes, we don't have the words.  We have great need--a healing, physical or spiritual, a new direction, financial help.  And the needs are so great we can't even put them to words.  We are lost, and we just need our father to come along and scoop us up, and take care of us.  

It is then that the Spirit helps us.  HE speaks to the Father for us.  HE knows us intimately and can turn our cries, our sobs, into pleas to the Father.  And this is why Jesus wanted so much to send Him to us.

Today, spend some time --without words.  Reach out to God with those groanings of your soul and let the Spirit do the translation for you.  He will bring your requests to the Father, and the Father will refine you, like the ocean refines the agates, into transparent glory that shines out to those who seek.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Proverbs 3:5-6--The Long and Winding Road

A black river snaking across the landscape, inky and mysterious beckons.  Prepared for the battle, the riders take to their mounts, and pursue the journey.  Each meandering curve is a surprise, each twist excites the senses.  Too slow, and the ride will be torturous, but advance too quickly, and the path may be deadly.  A skilled rider learns to feel the road, dance with the dips and bends, and accept that though it may be faster to ride on the straight path, the education, the true high of the ride comes only by mastering the curves.

In the past week, I was on a journey.  I attended WeSTOC, the west coast gathering of the ST Owner's Club.  The Honda ST is a sport touring bike, and the first time that Layne and I saw one, we fell in love.  This was the bike that would allow us to spend time together, to grow closer together, and to find new adventures.  The bike also helped us find new friends. 

Our group meets in a different western location each year.  This year, our meeting place was Golden, Colorado, where roads lead to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  The mountains are immense, and the scenery is a visual feast.  Most importantly, the roads are far from straight.  

A motorcycle rider lives for twisties.  There is something about a curvy road that quickens the heartbeat.  It's like dancing with God.  The ride through the Rockys reminded me that clearly, riding is so much like our journey here on earth.

Reaching the pinnacle of a peak is exhilarating...but the path to the top is often treacherous.  You aren't always sure what the next corner will bring, and there are dangers throughout the ascent--gravel that can take your tires out from under you, cars that cross the center line, animals running into your path.  A rider must have faith in his gear to protect him, in his tires to hold him up, and in his ability to feel that path that has been laid out for him or her.

Our group always gears up.  And we are given armor in the Bible that will protect us from possible falls.  God knows they happen.  He knows that sometimes, we're going to overshoot a corner, or become too confident and forget the dangers.  That is why he provides us with armor, and He expects we'll wear it.  

But each mile of the journey is filled with promise, too.  Sights that you would have missed, if you didn't take the ride.  Friendships that you wouldn't have forged, moments that are so valuable, the entire journey is wrapped up in them.  To find these gems though, you  have to be willing to risk the ride, the journey.  You have to be willing to have faith that although dipping down low into the next turn may put your throat in your stomach, there will be an experience in the trip that you wouldn't want to miss.

Our lives are full of curves.  Some of them are exhilarating, others are terrifying.  But each one grows us and makes us stronger.  Without those twists, we'd be alive, but we wouldn't really live.

Layne taught me to ride.  When I met him, I was terrified of motorcycles.  He rode me around the neighborhood at less than ten miles an hour, letting me getting used to the feel of the machine and his riding style.  As time went by, he taught me to dance with the bike, to feel the road beneath and let myself lean into the curves instead of struggling against them.  

God taught me to do the same with life. I leave with you this video of one of the dances I was honored to have at WeSTOC.  May we all embrace the journey.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Psalm 103:2-5

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

Sept 11, 2001.  A call comes in from my husband.  "Are you watching the news?"

Normally, I turned the news on as I brushed my teeth...first thing. But, for some reason, on Sept 11, I had been distracted.  "No, why?"

"We are under attack"


So I ran to the television just in time to watch the North Tower of the World Trade Center crumble to ashes. I was in shock.My mind went back to a dinner that I attended there just weeks previous.  I was impressed by the sheer mass of the tower. Even the revolving doors were massive, thick, intimidating.  How could something so strong become cinders in the blink of an eye.

Immediately, I knew two things:  One, the end times are here, and I was not ready.  I was far from God, and His plans were moving forward without me.   Two, if that building was ashes, surely the life I had built and put all my stock in was nothing.  The new home we were building, the money in the bank, the "security" I felt I had purchased.

I began to question everything.  I wanted my life to be meaningful.  I didn't want to get up, work every day, and have nothing to show for it but things that burn.  My marriage was good by all outward standards, but we were very busy being busy, and had no time for one another.  I looked at Layne.  I had no idea who he really was.  

It was shortly thereafter that I asked for a divorce.  And Layne replied by asking for a month.  A month?  What good is that?  But, I reasoned, he had been my husband ten years...I owed him a month.

In that month, something happened.  He attended Promisekeepers...there he met Christ.  He began to go in our closet in the morning, and he prayed.  He poured his heart out...and he begged God for his marriage.  He  begged God to make him a better husband, a better father.  He asked nothing of me.  But he began to give.  I would ignore him, and yet, he would give, and give and give.

And he prayed for me, every single day.

And my heart was softened, and he returned me to my Savior...and walked our entire family one by one to the throne.

So while others think of September 11 with defiance, with sadness, I remember it as a turning point.  For me personally, for our family, for our country.

What did we learn on September 11?  Life is short.  God will not be mocked.  Fix relationships, it is all we have.  Love others above yourself as the rescuers did.  Hold one another tight in the darkness, for a new day will dawn.  His timing, and His promise that the unthinkable is real.

What will we do with that knowledge today?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Luke 19:1-10

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a [a]sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him [b]gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone [c]to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I [d]will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I [e]will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

For those of you who don't know...I came home this week.  I flew in the arms of my family, my friends, my heritage.  It was wonderful.

I drove to Pickerington, Ohio, and up Route 204.  I was enjoying the gentle, rolling hills, the soft curves of the road.  I was probably driving too fast, and then I saw it--a traffic light!  "Since when is there a traffic light at this curve," I wondered.  I slammed on the brakes, and thought "Wow, things have changed."

Then, I made my way to Harmon Road, which in my memory is an oiled one lane path, arched with trees.  I was amazed to find the road of my memory lined with subdivisions along a three lane highway.  

Yet, coming home filled me with warmth.  If it wasn't the houses and the streets--what could make me feel so wonderful?  It was the embrace of my brother, the smile of my sister, the voice of a friend calling out "Betty Lou!"   I haven't been called by my full name in SO long.  

As I sat one evening around a fire, chatting with my high school friends, I realized how important it is to be with people who KNOW you and love you.  They know your name, your REAL name.  They don't forget you.  You are important to them.  Your life matters.

Indeed, my life matters.  And your life matters.  And that is why in Luke, Jesus called Zaccheus by name, though he was not the most lovable person.  He was a tax collector.  He was without friends.  Yet Jesus knew him, by name.  He knew his heart. 

That is our Savior.  He's hoping that you will return home to Him.  He knows your name.  He wants to embrace you and love you.  He doesn't forget you...ever.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Exodus 19:4

 "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. "

I'm getting ready to fly.  I used to love to's faster than driving, your legs don't have to be cramped in a seat for 18 hours to get to Oregon from Las Vegas. There are even wonderful little snackies and a soda on the trip!  

Then, 911 happened.  I watched that plane fall from the sky into a field, and she who fears falling and heights began a journey with trepidation.  I get a lot of praying done on flights.  

There was the flight I prayed all the way to be at the side of my Aunt, who died in my arms hours later.  There was the first flight to Texas, to take Layne to see doctors at MD Anderson, in the hopes they would save his life.  There was the final flight home from MD Anderson, when we sobbed the entire way--and prayed for peace and strength to face the children.

I don't think it is any surprise that flight and wings have a lot of space in the Bible.  The Lord talks about lifting us up on wings as eagles to renew our strength.  In Exodus, he says he brought Israel to himself on eagles' wings.  I'm sure that the Israelites who had been in bondage and trudged through a desert for 40 years didn't feel like the trip was as easy as getting on Eagle's wings, but yet, He says he bore them!  

It's easy to forget when things are hard, that God is bearing us ...that He is moving us along to HIM.  He doesn't care if you become vice president of a company.  He cares that you move closer to HIM.  That's His end goal.  

While we are winging our way to the Lord, through all the deserts in our lives, he also protects us.  In Psalm 91, God offers protection under His wings.  So though He wants us to fly ...and be expedient in moving toward him, His wings are also protection for us.

This morning, when you got up for your flight...did you pray?  Spend some time with the Pilot today, and talk about His flight plan for you!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

1John 4:7-12

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

What does love look like?

If you watch television, you would assume love looks like 2 months salary and glitters.  Or maybe you would think it looks like a mink coat.  In the case of the Gene Simmons family, it looks like new implants!

But the world has totally confused love.  Love is an action.  It is difficult to give.  It is needed at the most inconvenient times, and one who is ready to love must be ready to give it, right then.

Love does not glitter, in fact, sometimes it is downright dirty.  It's a husband, cleaning the toilet for his very pregnant wife, so she doesn't have to bend over.  It is a neighbor, weeding a gardening plot for an elderly friend.  It is a man covered in grease, helping a young mom with her car repairs.  It's dirty and it is inconvenient.

It's also difficult, for you see, we are not just called to love the lovable.  We are called to be loving to those who are not lovable.  We are called to do the least damage and provide the most comfort.  We are called to those who are not like us, and those who have harmed us the most.  Those who make us cry, who make us hurt.  We still have to love them.  When they take, we have to say, "I don't understand you, but I love you."

Love is not fancy.  Love is not bred or dressed up.  Love is raw, it is from heaven, not from our earthly realities.  Love is a basic.  After all, God is love.  Love is a basic ingredient to all good.  It is not meant to be the icing on the cake, it's the flour in the cake.  It's the substance.

This week, love has been two friends coming to hold my hand, and to affirm that God would indeed, always see me as his prized possession.  Love has been a daughter, showing me how to can applesauce (yes, showing Mom!)  Love has been a son, flashing our family sign, and holding me up.  Love has been a neighbor, hugging me, laughing with me.  Love has been a friend, on a long road home, chatting with me and discussing theology (I still have no idea why God mentions election and free will at the same time.)  Love has been a cup of flowers, delivered to my home at an opportune time, with another reminder of who I am...

Love has been burly motorcycle men who paid my way to our yearly event and then fought over who would give me rides at the event.  Love has been my dear classmates, who are welcoming home with open arms and helping me across deep waters.

Love is....  won't you share in the comment section what love has been to YOU this week?

Friday, August 10, 2012

John 10:10

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and [a]have it abundantly.

A lot of you may know that right now, my life is a bit rocky.  I don't have all the answers...and I don't know all the why's.  I have been here before--where I had nothing BUT my faith to walk upon.  This is not new territory to me.  Given, after so much sadness, after so much loss, I was very weak in the beginning. 

I spent weeks in tears.  I spent days and days crying out to God, "WHY! How could you do this to me yet again?  Have I not done all you have asked?  When I thought, 'No, Lord, this is too much to ask of a person,' I still did all you asked.  I dragged myself from slumber and I put my hand to the wheel every day.  I kept my promises, I kept to my commitments to You and to others, Lord.  How could you allow me to be here, where I cannot keep my commitment to two little my own kids, not due to my own choice?  Why me, Lord?  

I began to see myself as worthless.  I believed that if I had value to God, others in my life who are supposed to represent the Lord would also see that value.  But it was evident that I had no value in that way.  I began to believe the voice that called out to me ...telling me I was without use.  

Yet, in reality, God was IN control.  He is still ON His throne, and if there is one thing I have learned, it is that the Bible is true.  What do we read in God's word about the adversities of life?  We read that the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy...Jesus came to give LIFE.

Therefore, we know from where adversity comes.  We know death, divorce, hate, rape, cancer, these all come from the THIEF--from the author of lies.  The one who tells us that in adversity we should run or give up.  These come from the one who whispers to us "You are worthless.  You are unforgivable."  Our Savior comes to bring LIFE.  He came to heal.  He does not deal in destruction of any type.  He deals in wholeness.  

Anything that is destruction is of the enemy.  Therefore, the hardships I endure and you endure, they are not of God.  We need not question Him and ask "Why did you do this to me."  For He did not.  

However, He can carry us through.  Adversity will come.  It will come from within the family, within the church, from the world.  God is not CAUSING the pain to come upon us.  His tears fall when we are in pain.  He wants to heal, and He CAN heal...but He will begin by healing YOU, in your soul.

So let's not shake our hand at God and say, "How can you do this to me?"  Let's see the source of all things destructive, or that kill, or that destroy as coming from the thief, and his entire reason for existing is to steal our JOY. 

Keep your joy in Christ.  If you have Him within you, you will persevere through this adversity and you will do all you can to heal.  Because that is the character of God, and if He is within you, that is what you will do.  Persevere, as your Savior did.  You will give until there is nothing left to give, laying down your life to let God shine through.  So others will say, "How did she come through that?  How did he forgive that person?  How did that person overcome that habit?"  The whole reason for our life is to take this adversity and to follow the Lord--so that others can see His miracles. 

Miracles come through YOU allowing God to work through you.  Through you not denying what you know the scriptures say you should do.  The world says one thing, but God's word is always true.  

Believe me, I know how hard it is to do what I am suggesting.  But I have had to learn not to believe the lies of the deceiver.  Do I falter?  Yes.  Have I had to do difficult things?  Yes.  I have had to do things to protect that I never wanted to do.  That tore at my soul.  But when asked to provide the truth, I had to provide the truth.  I asked the Lord, "Please take this cup...please..."  I groveled and begged at the foot of the cross.  But God said, "I did not bring this, but you must do the loving thing, and you must do the hard things."  

And in the end, I must love.  Because my Savior first loved me.  I must not deal in destruction, even if it looks pretty and comes in a pretty package, or if it is the easier thing, or costs me all I have.  And I cannot blame God.  I must place the blame where it BELONGS--with the thief.

 "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."  Gen 4:7.      

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Job 5:8-9, 16a

"But if it were I, I would appeal to God, I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted....So the poor have hope..." Job 5:8-9, 16a

Facebook is an amazing thing.  It brings together people who you never met to bring to you just the hope you need for today.  For God knows you intimately and He seeks to touch you.  He can use people you have never met, he can use diseases you have never heard of, and he can use situations you never dreamed of to change you, mold you, and let you know that indeed, you are His.

Today, I was having a "down day" time for applications, business searching, being a "responsible adult."  I began working on the book for Our Journey so that I can begin to speak.  I want to enter into churches, women's groups, men's groups....I want to tell them that Love is not a word, it's an action.  I want them to see that if they are blessed, they need to bless others, if they are in pain, that pain can be blessing to others.  Their lives are meant to reflect Christ.  I want them to see hope.  For that is God.  He is hope.

While I was taking a break, I happened upon Facebook.  There, I saw a lovely post by a woman who was having a terrible day.  She was questioning, where is God?  Does God know my kids have needs I can't meet right now?  Does God know that I'm afraid sometimes?  Does He care?   And her friend pointed out the verse above.  

Now I don't know this wonderful lady.  She is the friend of a friend.  But there, on the obnoxious little tattle-tale bar on the side, came this post.  You never know, if you are open to Him, where or how God will show up!  I don't believe in coincidence.  I think that things happen for a reason, and that God is a master weaver, who can weave into our lives threads from the lives of others.

Just yesterday, a great friend of mine and I were chatting about forgiveness.  We were talking about needing to forgive someone who is not yet done hurting you.  How do you do that?  Does the Lord say only forgive those who deserve it, or whose acts are in the past?  Or are you required, if you are truly Christian, to forgive one who is causing you every day the deepest pain you can imagine?  Perhaps they are gossiping about you.  Perhaps they are looking down on your children and belittling them.  Perhaps they are intimates who are destroying trust.  

That subject turned to Corey Ten Boom, of the Hiding Place.  Corey, for those of you who don't know her, hid Jews in World War II, and she was a Christian.  She paid a terrible price, and she later had one of her tormentors  come to a speaking engagement.  She didn't want to, but she HAD to forgive.  She had to reconcile.  She had to love that person, because Christ had loved her.  I remember hearing that story, and I sobbed like a baby for her.  I thought "How can a person do that?"  

I told my friend that he should read the book and see the movie.  He had never heard of it!  A few moments later he said "Betty, guess what?  I have the book.  It was a gift from someone a while back!  I am going to have to read that!"

There are no coincidences... God wanted that book to be in his hands.  God wanted Job 5 to be posted here.  God knows what He is doing and how He is guiding.  If we humble ourselves, He provides.  He always provides.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Genesis 3:1-6

    1Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 

"Satan got Eve to doubt God by first getting her to doubt herself. 'Eve, my dear, perhaps you misunderstood. Because I can assure you, you won't die.'" — Secure in Heart, p. 151

Boundaries marriage.  Can there be?  Your spouse is your best friend, he is your love, your life.  You are one!  But are there times you must have boundaries?  Yes.

God is first in your life.  He has to be first.  When we put our spouse above God, we make them into idols.  This can be a huge mistake that is easy to make.  I've learned much about boundaries and their importance in the past few months.  

For instance, what if a husband is viewing porn?  He begins to spend a lot of time in his office...alone.  Then one day he says, "I went to this men's conference and I feel I have to share with you..."  Wow.  Can you trust him to never do this again?  OR do you need boundaries?  Do you need to set enforcement in place to protect you, to protect the children, to protect your relationship and to hold him accountable?

What about a spouse who is abusive to you or to your children?  Now this is a sticky one.  Porn is covered in the Bible, you can divorce for infidelity, in fact!  But abuse--is it really covered?  Does a wife have the right to boundaries therein?  Doesn't the Bible say to submit?  Aren't you to protect your spouse?

Yes...and no!  The Bible says first to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength.  So God comes first.  His law must be followed, his footsteps are the ones in which we walk.  Not our friends', not our spouses,  not our parents!  

Abusing another person in any way is not permitted in the Bible.  Quite often spouses are told to LOVE one another, to protect, to lay down one's life!  A lot of abuse is very sneaky:

There is the abuse of the one who withholds himself from you, his emotions, her kindness, his money, her affections.
There is the abuse of one who belittles --who constantly reminds you that you are less than them.  
There is the abuse of not honoring you in front of your children.
There is the abuse of holding "I will leave" or "I am divorcing you if you don't..." over your head.  This one is especially horrific when the spouse is a "Christian"...since marriage is to be forever.  Not until it gets hard, forever.
There is physical abuse.
There is abuse of trust (affairs, talking to others about the spouse instead of seeking to go together to counsel, etc.)

Now there is abuse in nearly all marriages.  We do abuse one another--we are human.  We are imperfect.  We say things in anger, we lash out...but consistent patterns that emerge are important to recognize.  It is not submissive to allow someone to make you feel less than, or your children less than...  It is abuse.  It is not submissive to accept nothing while the other person takes.  It is abuse.  It is not submissive to give up your health, physical or mental for another person.  It is abuse.

And you have a right to place a boundary for protection.  God created you with a mind.  He created you with instincts that there is right and wrong.  When we love someone, it is easy to be swayed away from those instincts--it is easy to overlook things that are obvious to others.  It is easy to allow ourselves to be abused.

I'm learning so much the past few weeks.  I have met some amazing women.  I think these woman are so smart, talented, beautiful in the body and the soul--but they often see themselves as worthless.  One in particular, has become a good friend.  She told me that at one point, she truly believed she couldn't cook because her partner constantly belittled her food, and talked about how he was an amazing chef.  Yet, when the relationship was over, she realized, she was a GREAT cook, and a great mom...and she had allowed herself to be demeaned for nearly two years.  She had come to believe what he said.  It has taken another two years for her to believe in herself.

This woman is a professional, a solid member of her community, someone who you would say has all the hallmarks of success.  Yet, she had placed no boundaries to protect her soul from an abuser.  Her Father in heaven loved her, created her with talents with a good heart, with a wise mind.  She had allowed the enemy to whisper in her ear "No, what God tells you is not real.  You are not good at this, and you are terrible at that..."  And she believed those whispers.

What about monetary domination?  What about a spouse who takes his or her check and does for themselves only?  Now, life isn't all about money, but when you look at the checkbook, are the scales somewhat balanced?  Do you shower them with gifts, and do they take, but not return?  Are you dating someone who never buys?  Do they always come up a bit short?    You have a right to protect yourself with boundaries. 

Love, we are told is gentle.  It suffers much...but love that is suffering to the point that you are abused is not okay.  I wish I could take the hands of each of the lovely women in my group, and I wish I could have told them that suffering for Christ is one thing, suffering at the hands of one who denies the Lord through his actions and his abuse is not okay.  It is not expected.  

Do not let Satan whisper in your ear that you are useless, that you are not worthy, that you are less than.  You are a daughter of God.  He created you.  He made you as you are, and He sees you as beautiful.  He has given you instinct, talent, and his soft whispers.  Listen carefully to the small still voice:  "I love you, daughter.  I love you.  You are amazing because I made you so... "

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Joel 2:25

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
"Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you.

Restoration, what a great topic.  Isn't that what we all dream of--to have everything that has been taken from us, either emotionally or physically, restored?   Don't we all want for God to fill some huge hole in our lives?

Once, I had a pastor who talked all the time about the "God shaped hole" in each of us.  We each have one, a place that nothing seems to fill.  Some of us come by the God shaped hole due to terrible events in our lives.  Perhaps a man with no father, a child who was traumatized, or someone who was born with a disorder.  Some of us just have a God shaped hole because, well, there is no God in our lives.

I used to think of our lives as roads.  As we continue in life we tend to lose a few stones here, get marked up here, and pretty soon, we are damaged and covered in potholes.  They start small, but the more traffic that we endure, the deeper those potholes become.

So we hope that God will come along and fill those holes, making our road nice and smooth.  But God doesn't do that.  

What?  He doesn't?  He's a God of restoration!  

Yes..but he also goes FURTHER--he restores and ADDS!  He wants to do more than make a smooth road, he wants to overfill and mound your potholes over with blessings!  Let's look at Job.  He lost everything:  his fortune, his family, his friends and his health.  And God restored him.  BUT he went above and beyond.  He not only restored these, he gave above and beyond what Job had lost.

That is our God. Always doing more than we expect.  We put our head down and we pray in our human condition for what we feel is huge.  And God must look down at us as a loving father who is all powerful, shake his head and say to Himself, "Is that all you want?  But I can give you so much more, child.  I want to provide more."

Why do we put our human limitations on the only totally powerful being in existence?  How many blessings do we miss because we ask too small and believe too little?

Is there anything that our God cannot do?

Friday, July 27, 2012

James 2:15-17

15  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “ Go in peace, [a]be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [b]dead, being by itself.

I don't often watch the 700 Club, but when I do, I learn something.  A few days back, there was a guest on the club who had been sexually abused as a young girl.  She taught me much, and opened my eyes to how useless my hands have been of late.

She indicated that the church is mostly mute to the needs of people who are severely broken by life.  The church likes to pat their heads, say "God will carry you," or "Well we shall keep you in prayer," and not ever recognize that we are to BE the answer to that prayer.

If our faith is not including works, works that COST us something, then of what use is our faith?  If we are not brave enough to step out and DO what the Lord has asked us to do, then our faith will have no oxygen on which to survive.  Our works allow God to bless us, to increase our knowledge of hurts and injustices, and better serve his people.  Basically, practice makes perfect.  Our faith is perfected in our doing.

The child who is being abused needs a voice.  Are you willing to be that voice, make that call?

The woman who has been raped needs to learn trust.  She needs to feel worth and value, do you have a job for her, a volunteer position, time to hear her cry?

The addicted man needs medical attention.  He needs protection from the elements, and he needs boundaries.  Are you willing to give those to him?

The suicidal needs to feel value, not judgment.  He needs hope in the portion of his life he has lost hope.  Do you have hope that you can provide?  

The widow needs a caregiver, someone to listen, someone to let her cry.  She needs support for her children, time spent with them by good Christian men.  She needs someone to come do the heavy work, and to pray with her.

All these needs, and literally millions of hands that are idle.  A wise woman recently told me that instead of social clubs, the churches need to be hospitals.  We need to roll up our sleeves, scrub to the elbows and wade in.

I am not saying that you don't have many responsibilities as a Christian, surely you must first to your own walk, then to the walk of your family--being what God has called you to be.  Then, wade in, and let's do some surgery.  Let's get covered in blood, knowing that God has called us to be Samaritans, not Levites who walk by keeping our hands clean.

It's time to remove excuses, and truly claim the name of the one who walked among the lepers...risking all for those close and those near... doing the hard things, in His name.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Luke 22:48

"But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"

I have had conversations with several people, some believers, some not, about being used and betrayed by those close to you.  One woman, in particular, has become a hero to me--how she has overcome adversity and a chasm of depression, moving on to helping others by auctioning a car to help others who are suicidal.
This is a treasure, a person who has been in the depths and once surfacing, goes back into the water to save others!

What do all these stories have in common?  Are they all stories of abuse, hurt, terror?  Yes.  Were people's lives impacted and nearly destroyed due to the betrayal of others?  Yes.  Was there financial loss and emotional upheaval?  Yes.  However, the most important commonality is none of these.  The most important thread that was weaved throughout is the brokenness of the human being.

We are all broken.  Some of us hide it better than others.  Some of us are calm, business like, professional--much like Drew Peterson, who is on trial this week, others are transparent, but there is something broken in each one, no matter how well it is hidden. Peterson is accused of murdering at least two women, abusing them mentally and physically.  No one listened to the women, because he was so able to be calm and rational, until it was too late.   We look on people like Peterson as monsters, but inside each of us is a Drew Peterson.  Because we are all as filthy rags to the Lord.  We all are human and built into us is a desire for self, a desire to have our way, a desire to control others and control situations for our own good.

So how then, do we answer betrayal?  How do we respond to the person who is close to us, part of our inner circle, as was Judas, who betrays us with a kiss?  Someone who instead of coming to God, strikes out, in anger, due to inability to handle situations, due to a need for the spotlight...whatever.

We could rail against them, we can judge them, we can hate...but in reality, all of those responses hurt only ourselves.  A person who is broken will not be touched by your hurt, they may, in fact, have no empathy.  

And, when you think about it, Judas  was created by God, and his actions are  part of the redemption story.  He serves to remind us that even our Savior was hurt by those in his inner circle.  There is truly nothing in our lives that our Savior has not felt, walked and lived.

What did Jesus do at the moment of betrayal?  He simply let the person know he knew it was betrayal.  "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"   That's it.

The odds were stacked against the Lord. Those who knew the law used it against him in every way they could.  They found someone to betray Jesus, they dragged him from court to court to court, pressing false charges, using the law to undermine him.  If you were to look on Christ from a human perspective, he lost.  He was crucified for crimes that were not his.  He had loved totally and in exchange, he was scourged, spit upon, abused, and murdered.  Yet, we know that the balance of justice is not in the hands of humans or mortal courts.  The balance of justice is in the hands of the Lord, and He is still on his throne.

How much better to do what we must to protect others, to ensure that the cycle cannot continue, and then forgive.  Forgive and pray ...because as much as you have been hurt, the person who has betrayed you is in pain or will be.  They need forgiveness from the Lord, and we are all His children.  They are as YOU need of a Savior.

Once you have forgiven, you can move on to forgive yourself for being naive, for allowing yourself to be betrayed.  Then you can help others.  You may not donate a car for auction, but we can all do small things.  We each can find someone else who is walking in the path we have trod, whom we can hold, hug, listen to, dry their tears.  We can donate time and energy to an organization that helps others.

And we can be thankful that in our depravity, when we betrayed our Savior, he reminded us our sin, and called us back to him.

When offered the ability to forgive, to redeem, to restore...can we do any less if we call ourselves by His name?

My wise pastor reminded us this week that there is more to being a Christian than words.  If we don't walk in His footsteps, then no matter what we call ourselves, God knows what we are.  He knows if we have laid ourselves down for him...and are willing to do the hard things.  Forgiveness and restoration--is hard.  As it was for Him, so it is ....even for us.