Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Glad Reunion

Aren’t those scenes where people run to reunite embracing, tears filling their eyes, voices quivering trying to get words out, and hugs that wrap from head to toe just precious? Perhaps where you saw the scene was at the airport. Perhaps it was in a hospital corridor or the final scene of a great movie. Or even the foyer at the church around the holidays when college kids come home and friends see one another after months of being apart; there is often a squeal of glee involved as well. They are soul-stirring sights. Strangely our heart feels it deeply, even if it is only watching from a distance. Somehow you know inside the feeling that they are feeling, or you imagine how good it would feel for someone to express their love for you in such a way or be so thrilled to see you again.

I was in Keswick, England a few years back where I watched lifetime friends reunite after years of being apart. They were ministry friends that had scattered all over the world. It was a big “family” event that they all made whatever arrangements necessary from wherever places around the globe to come celebrate. I saw them run into each other’s arms holding tight and laughing with delight. It was beautiful to see. Although I knew none of them, tears would fill my eyes just watching them!

Last night I dreamed I was walking in such a place again. People were finding one another like they had been separated for long periods of time. It was beautiful. I was observing the reunions. I thrilled from viewing the panorama of joy around me. It was mothers reuniting with daughters and grandchildren; they were holding one another and the mothers were brushing back the hair from the children’s faces looking at them with intense love and deep delight. I could only hear a few lines in the background of “Oh, I’ve missed you so much” sort of conversations. It was so beautiful I awoke teary eyed. I was feeling the joy of having been apart and the overwhelming sensation of being loved in reunion back into someone’s arms.

I remember I had told someone a story the day before of such a scene that as I told her, I fought back tears to finish the story. Buddy told of the account in a sermon, but it is so beautiful I think of it often. I may have shared it before, but it is like a favorite song that you sing over and over—I tell myself this story again and again because I enjoy it so much. The story is familiar, but has a tear jerking twist. Briefly it went like this…

Back in California in the late 1800’s, when there were only telegraph systems for communication and railroads for transportation, there was a young man that had taken his inheritance and traveled far from home, squandered his fortune, and feeling the peril of his ways, he had decided to return home. Wondering if this father would accept him back, the son had written a telegram: I was wrong. Would like to come home. Tie a yellow ribbon at train station if I can come home. Unsure of the father’s forgiveness, the young man grew anxious with each passing mile wondering what his father’s response would be. Would the father hang the ribbon? Could he come home? His anxiety mounted as he began to recognize the terrain of his homeland. As he neared his hometown, he saw from the window of the train not one ribbon—but hundreds of yellow ribbons hung from trees and poles for miles out, along the train tracks to the station. The father’s forgiveness was evident and abundant! His welcome was overwhelming and sure—the young man was loved and forgiven.

As soon as I woke up, I read in scripture the story of the children of Israel not following after God. They sought idols and God’s anger was provoked. Yet He invited them to “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments”, but they did not. He said they were stiff necked and feared other gods and followed the statutes of the other nations and secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right. It is a long story in 2 Kings 17. I ached with God to see the poor choices of Israel, how He longed to be near them but they chose disobedience. Sin had separated them from God. God shows us what happened in the past for us to learn so that we can chose to avoid those same pitfalls. Much like we tell our children stories so that they will learn from others’ mistakes and failures so that they can avoid the pain or loss as they chose their future direction. So? Sin can separate us from God.

Do I have a stiff neck, seek my own ways, or make plans according to the statutes of the nation around me? Have I secretly not believed God? Perhaps that longing for the reunion scene that is so beautiful is put in us by the Father who longs to be reunited with us, to show his delight and brush back the cares from our faces and kiss them in delight like mothers/grandmothers (Ya Ya’s ) do their children/grandchildren. I love nothing more than when the grandchildren run to me, jump up into my arms and wrap their arms around me calling my name. We twirl and hug and laugh with delight. Is it so I can understand the love of Abba for me? Do we understand that’s what He feels for us?

I think that instead of ribbons hung to welcome us home that assure us we are loved and all is well between us; oddly enough, I see the trees in our Georgia landscape to be the ribbons. What if every tree was a reminder of the cross, an “I love you” ribbon from God? An “all is forgiven” lining the homeward tracks of life for miles on end? Do you feel His arms encompass you? Can you jump into His arms, twirling in glad reunion? Can you feel His delight and know all is well between you? Maybe that is why we love those sorts of scenes so well! It is created within us to impose all of those emotions into seeing Him one day.

I know it was just a dream, but one day there will be a reuniting beyond any scene imaginable. We will really truly meet our loved ones again; we will meet Him! We will run, jump, hug and twirl in His arms; won’t that be grand? May you be blessed and overwhelmed by the anticipation of that scene, that glad reunion.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Free or Frozen - You Choose!

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but it is not until something goes wrong that we even realize how wonderfully it all works. Such has been the case in the past few weeks; well, make that the last month, maybe even plural—months. You may have heard that last March I broke my ribs. It was a really, really painful experience since there is no way to sit, stand, or lie down to relieve the pain. It seems that all movement is connected to your ribs because any motion causes pain. Some activities hurt more than others, and I learned not to do those things or move in a way that caused pain so that I could keep going (a problem I have: going, going and going; I have a sort of mental aversion to resting).

I quickly learned that the more I used my left arm the more it hurt my left broken ribs. So I did not stretch, twist, reach, or make sudden movements for the 3 months that my ribs were healing because my body would make quick haste to tell me –stop! But after 3 months of healing, and despite my efforts to be careful, I was now suffering from more intense shoulder pain. Hmmm? That’s weird, I thought. I suddenly remembered that I had fallen down eight steps while carrying a box downstairs and hit the wall with my shoulder about 10 minutes before falling and breaking my ribs on the garden tub. Hmmmmm, I guess I had hurt myself worse than I had thought. This is kind of interesting because at the time, I remember thinking how glad I was that I didn’t hurt myself! It had gotten to the point where my arm activities were really being limited, and my range of motion was restricted because of intense pain. While I was healing in one area, I was weakening in another….

I realize that I am running the risk of sounding like a complainer to talk about all these ache and pains, but stay with me. None of this is really about the hurt—it is what I learned through the hurt. I am getting there, but it takes a minute. So please stay with me.

As weeks passed, I finally succumbed to going to the doctor. After cortisone shots, an MRI, and x-rays, I found out that I had something called a “frozen shoulder”. Nothing was broken or torn. Scar tissue from the fall and muscles had frozen together locking the joint. Thankfully, they hoped no surgery - just rehab to see if it could get loosened up and get back into the full range of motion. It sounded dreadful considering the fact that I could not move my shoulder without pain. I could only imagine the torture ahead—moving my arm up and down. But anything is better than surgery. I made the appointment to begin the therapy needed.

Just as I suspected-------YEEEOW! Talk about pain! To the best of my understanding the therapist explained to me, that the muscles around my ribs had gone into such spasms that it made other muscles draw up tighter, which in turn, pulled other muscles until it actually pulled my bone so tight into the joint that it rubbed bone to bone in the socket. Ouch. No wonder the pain was so excruciating! Sometimes the pain would make my knees buckle. In certain positions I wanted to drop over. But the bad news was this: the less I used it, the worse it got! But it hurt so much that I could not use it! So there I was, stuck in this awful cycle.

I went to a wonderful therapist named Eric who began working out the spasms. As he worked on me, I was surprised to find that I had incredible pain in areas that I didn’t even know were injured. It took all I could do to keep breathing. The pain made me hold my breath and tighten up—a reaction that defeats the whole therapy. Tears ran down my face from the pain in my ribs, and by the time he got to my shoulder, it took all I had to stay still. I wanted to jump up and run. I started laughing. Eric asked me how I could laugh in the midst of crying with pain. I realized that for the first time since I had been a kid that I wanted to start hitting someone. THEN IT DAWNED ON ME… the need for the healing of my physical body was no different than the need that I have for the healing of emotional pain and bad memories in my life.

Not only are there memories in my head that I need to let go of, get healing from, and forgive the hurts of the past (like we were learning in Chillville this summer from Donna’s teaching). Sometimes we are unaware of why things hurt or why we feel restricted, and we get into a crazy cycle of being less and less useful because of the past hurts that it involves. We might not know or remember what caused the original fall. But when we do, we don’t think it affected us as much as it did. Sure, I had fallen and hit a wall that same day, but I really thought I was fine. That’s when I realized that maybe those muscles that began to spasm had masked me from further pain at the time. Then, as time went on, the other pain came out and got me out of whack to the point where I shut down all use of my limb. I froze myself. I think God was teaching me this: I had hidden shoulder pain that couldn’t have been revealed until my ribs had begun to heal. How often do I handle my emotional pain and inside feelings in the same way that I did my shoulder – freezing up and/or shutting down in an attempt to avoid the pain? Does that make sense to you?

Perhaps, in this life, there are genuine breaks, tears, and hurts that have healed over time. But as we continually experience life, we are constantly faced with “spasms” that surface from the past. We realize that we have drawn up and tightened ourselves. And maybe God is using this new situation to unmask these hidden areas of pain that we might not have known existed. Just like my “frozen” shoulder. I’m talking about areas that send shooting pain into your heart and mind, or cause you to hold your breath and tighten up. Perhaps “freezing” has been your defense mechanism, but little do you realize it’s a vicious cycle that can’t get fixed until you get help from someone who has the knowledge, the expertise, and the gentle hand that can truly heal you. When we tighten up and shut down, all we do is hold on tighter to those hurts. We resist. Avoid. Tense-up. Instead, we should let God work out the kinks; because if we don’t, then it isn’t long at all before we are in a mess of pain.

God is the Master Therapist. He has the hands of experience and can put His finger right into the painful area—not to make it hurt, but to RELIEVE the hurt in the long run. He loosens those knotted areas. And He loves us back to health in order to make us move freely again! But we must ask Him, “What do you want me to know here? What is this really connected to?” Then breathe in the Holy Spirit in those times and not hold on to the old mess and hurt. Breathe it out. Tell God what you are feeling. Expel it. Let God use the situation to help you be more like Him. Avoid the temptation to get up and run or fight back! Don’t let it spasm further. He wants you healed. And not just you, He wants you help others heal too. He wants us to touch hurts in the lives of others and He wants to use us to help free them.

I am now looking forward to my sessions, not because they are pain free (they’re not); but because I can see the results of healthier living! I can hardly wait for my therapist to find another place that is in need of being released from those spasms that keep me bound. I am so surprised at how I can move more and more—and with less and less pain! My shoulder has almost full range of motion. I can reach and stretch and almost extend my arm straight up—what progress! And no surgery! I decided that it was better to relax and let Eric get to those painful spots rather than tighten up and hold on to the pain longer. How stupid would that be? Don’t get me wrong it was hard not to yell STOP! UNCLE! (I realized I would not do well being tortured. I’m afraid I’d spill it all—the CIA doesn’t want to recruit me!) Even after my sessions, I found that I was tender to the touch, and I had to take anti-inflammatory medication to make it through. But it has been well worth it! It is still not easy to go through my sessions without resisting my therapist. It still hurts. But I want to be well (and healed) more than I want to escape the pain or loose the use of my arm. Have you come to that point?

Are there areas in your life that hurt? Do you face situations that you have withdrawn from because of the pain? God wants to set you free, heal you, restore you fully—let go! Let go! It is only hurting you, holding you back, restricting your usefulness, and taking the passion out of your purpose. Once you are set free you won’t be able to hold back! You will swing your arm just because you can! You’ll be able to stretch and be stretched. Truth will set you free and you will be free indeed! You will live in health; doesn’t that sound inviting?

In 2 Corinthians Paul puts it this way, “Blessed be the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Our frozen times (or painful joints) are so that we can tell others that they too can be set free. That just like there is an Eric—there is a Master Therapist that knows just how to set you free. And He can and will have you ready to move freely and be pain free again; He knows just the places that are in need of His touch. Will you let Him? Will you chose to be still when He is working? Will you take time to meet with Him? Will you let go of past pain and release what is holding you back? When we do this (and let God do this in us), then we can help those that are hurting around us by using our arms to stretch and reach out to a community that is in desperate need… giving them a deeper hope and a better understanding of the King and His Kingdom. Satan’s plan is to bind you in pain, live constricted, and in spasms so tight that you can’t think straight. Which sounds better to you?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

For the King and His Kingdom

The more titles after your name, the more places Satan tries to lie to you. Like wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, southerner/northerner, teacher, manager, or whatever may follow your name—it all gives more room for lies to be heard.

“You are so bad at being his wife.”

“Someone else would be so much better at mothering these kids.”

“Look at the way you just behaved, and you think you should teach someone?”

It is also gives more places to get hurt. “They didn’t…” “They said...” “I felt…” “I can’t…” I can get so sidetracked and feeling worthless in the mix—seems like out of nowhere! Bingo! Right where the Liar wants me to be---useless--- on the sidelines licking my wounds. Stung and swollen, distorted by the bites from the one who has the sting of death. I am so glad to start realizing these are lies. To learn to hear God’s truth is life changing. It puts things back into shape and removes the stinger. And all its effects are declared null and void.

Buddy and some of the guys that live with us downstairs are talking in the living room—it’s been hours now, and it is presently 1:30 a.m. I am enjoying hearing them talk. I hear the truth of God fill the air; it is beautiful. To hear their eagerness, their zeal, their experiences abounding in service and sharing with others the life changing truth of the Word. Watching it spring up new life in them as well, it’s truly breathtaking. As they spoke, Drew, the college pastor, said in agreement to something Buddy had just said, “Yeah, when Jesus heard the Father say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” that is when His ministry broke open.” He went on to say that until we hear that from the Father and begin believing we are beloved, accepted, and the Father finds us valuable and pleasing, our ministry to others cannot really take off. (Or perhaps it takes off and lands and repeats until people bail from the insecurity of the flight.) I really loved the thought and will meditate on it more.

But sometimes, in the moments as life is happening, it is hard to figure out how to neutralize the pain right then and there. To believe you are loved and treasured by a King… Situations erupt, things are said unknowingly; the person talking is often unaware that what it being said is being heard all twisted. I think if we could actually see words, we could see them being misshapen and warped as they go through the air into our ears, while the prince of the power of the air laughs in delight that he has once again scored; he has once again disfigured and mutilated relationships—sometimes beyond recognition.

There are no magic words or incantational prayers that I am recommending, but I have found a phrase that seems to work like an after bite stick. You know the kind I mean? After a bee sting, you can carry a stick like a pen in your purse that you open and rub on the sting and it neutralizes the poison and keeps the aftermath to a minimum if not unaffected at all. Well, what if we carried a “truth stick” that was standard gear in our medical bag? Kind of like the old scenes of the family doctor coming to make house calls with his big black bag that fixed everything? This is so much more compact and unencumbering; it’s never in the other purse or out in the car when you needed it—or out of batteries. What if, as soon as we heard a lie, we learned to apply truth right then and there before its toxins began to seep in and take their toll?

This “truth stick” I am referring to is a phrase that Buddy had us repeat back to him as he taught a few weeks back; he would pause and we would say “For the King and the Kingdom”. It has stuck in my head. It seems when the gnats, mosquitoes, or bees of the day take their toll on my overly sensitive heart, I am learning to say, “For the King and His Kingdom” to my bitten heart, and it dissipates the poison of the lies that hurt me, and swells ‘til I cant think straight. It is for the King and His Kingdom! That truth washes over me like a balm that totally soothes the sting and I, “Ahhhhhhhh” in relief. All else seems to fade in light of that truth. Was I not asked to come? Not asked to be a part? My opinion not valued or sought? Not invited? Disregarded? Unnoticed or unwanted? If I understand that the Father is my King, and He has said, “This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased” what does all of that other matter? If it is for the King and His Kingdom—then I can be good with it. It takes pre-judging and competition, recognition and pride away. They are like four fangs that tear apart people and relationships. The King is in control; He has kingdom plans I do not fathom or understand. Isaiah knew it, he declared: “His ways are higher than my ways; His thoughts higher than my thoughts. Even as the heavens are above the earth, so are His thoughts from my thoughts and His ways from my ways…” (Isaiah 55:9 paraphrased) Abraham believed it, ‘Will not the God (King of the kingdom) of all creation do right?’ (Genesis 18:25b) And Moses realized God saw the children of Israel in their captivity He heard their cries He cared and He came to rescue them (Exodus 3:7-8)—He is that seeing, hearing, caring, and coming kind of King that knows his daughter and loves me dearly. He always does right and always has it all under control.

How much more attractive is that? Are wounds and bumps, sores and scabs attractive to the world around us that bears the marks of the same nibbler gnawing wherever he can, baring his fangs in the night ripping our hearts, dividing us from the very ones that love us? They would not want to hurt us in the slightest. Our families or friends don’t mean to hurt or even know they did! Sometimes it is mere words that are used to puncture and tear into the deepest tender places of a heart. You may have seen a picture of a straw driven through a telephone pole during a tornado? It is with that sort of force a word can pierce even a tough heart. Holding hurts can have corrosive effects like acid if we hold on to it; how much better to release it as soon as you feel the bite occur?

My husband and kids can walk outside and get bitten within seconds, I, on the other hand can go all summer and perhaps only get a single bite. Spring gets whatever the latest idea advertised to rid them of their stings or prevent them from attacking. Sprays ointments, gels and this summer—a wearable fan that dispenses protection around you but doesn’t stink you up! It’s been great. I can’t really relate. I do see the whelps afterward, though, if they do not wear some sort of protection. It looks awful and seems so irritating and painful as they scratch and itch. Some people are more prone to being bitten for whatever reason—the theories abound in speculation as to why or why not a person is bitten; they can get pretty hilarious.

I think it may be true spiritually too. Or perhaps it has something to do with personalities. No doubt there’s a psychology test that helps decipher it all, but my observation is that some people are more prone to being bitten than others by the poison of the Liar. Or some seem more prone to hear or believe the venomous lies that insidiously destroy them slowly from within. You may not relate to these lie bites, but you may see them hurt and swell in others, whelping, itching and aching them from deep within. But I believe that it is treatable and we can even overcome the gnatty, pesty, buzzing that distracts the snot out of us. We can breathe this in if the bite has already come or breathe it out so the bites won’t even come your way. Say it with me; see if it does for you what it has done for me…FOR THE KING AND HIS KINGDOM! Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Sync

I have noticed that sometimes the picture I am seeing and the words that I am hearing can be out of sync. It really is troublesome. Sometimes it is just enough out of sync that I think my hearing is delayed. But upon prolonged exposure, it becomes more apparent that indeed it is out of whack and someone with some technical skills needs to step in and put it back together.

You have probably experienced it in a movie or on television. Whenever it happens, it is annoying enough that you can't really continue to watch it. Especially if it is an important scene, it really messes up the impact due to its distraction. You focus on the timing rather than what is being said. I am quite sure you know exactly of what I speak and have been equally annoyed.
Another occasion that can occur is seeing a picture on a screen and the words ticker along the bottom, but the words seem unrelated to the visual images. For instance, it can be during a romantic comedy like Sleepless in Seattle on a TV network with Meg Ryan saying something funny, but the words across the ticker roll across the bottom of the screen saying, "11 dead in a tornado in Arkansas" or "earthquake rumbles in Indonesia at 5.2 on Rector scale thousands feared dead" or "mudslides in California, kills 4 teens camping on Boy Scout outing". These sorts of words have crossed too many screens, reporting too many tragedies. Those kinds of words suck the air out of any movie, no matter how funny or beautiful the picture above.

It happens not only on a screen but also in real life. It happened to me just last week. It had been a lovely day; the grandbabies were at the house with their moms and dads, and we had all had a delicious dinner together. The little ones had their baths and were all snug in their beds. Things had gone from the chaos of four little ones running and a new puppy chasing them at full throttle to that blissful quiet of each tucked into bed, and a worn out puppy lying at our feet. The sound of adults enjoying one another’s company in late evening chatter, catching up on the happenings of the day and the expectations of tomorrow---all was well; the day was done. We had even made homemade peach ice cream earlier and were about to hit round two in a midnight invasion of the freezer. The scene was good - really good.

I picked up my computer and began the task of catching up on emails after being out of the country. As I maneuvered my way through, the ticker along the bottom of this beautiful scene sucked the air out of me. The eminent death of someone I cared for was on my screen. As I scrolled the words, hurt like deep scratches clawed my heart. It squeezed the air out of me until breath itself was difficult--I hurt for my friends. I imagined their circumstances; I exchanged places in my mind--in a flash I was in ICU--I heard the sounds of the machines, I saw the spaghetti of tubes and IVs. I smelled the sterile environment and felt the chill of the air-conditioned halls. The words I read did not match the comfy, content cathedral of my home and family in which I sat. Through the night, I awoke thinking of them and all they were facing. And although we have been down this road with others, the path to losing a loved one is neither easy nor unfamiliar.

Our visit the next day put further distance between words and worlds in sync in this bubble of pain. The rest the world was gorgeous outside; a beautiful sunset filled the canvas of sky out the windows of the hospital corridor. Magnificent in color, all seemed as if we should be standing on a beach in Key West--not outside the door of death. The same people that had gathered for football games and laughter, Bible studies and church, parties and cookouts, were now gathered in a hospital hallway. The worlds seemed too much in contrast to be on the same page. We hugged, cried with them, and spoke words of comfort. We recalled memories and listened to the pain in their voices as they had reached the time that their loved one would be departing from them. One of the friends gathered mentioned that the “ticker” of the screen of life did not match the picture. It seemed as though once spoken, it identified my angst. That was it; I had only felt it, but could not put my finger on the problem. Once it was stated, it all went back into sync.

For me, my emotions and reality were out of rhythm. My picture can reel ahead, but I need to keep in mind and heart that the King and the Kingdom aren't always apparent. It looks like one thing, but something entirely different may be going on. The disciples had the same trouble...it looked like a huge storm was about to make them capsize, or the man was yelling too loudly from the crowd, or the children should leave Jesus alone so that He could attend to more important tasks at hand. They thought one thing was the reality, which resulted in their emotions and thoughts carrying out that action they believed, but what they did not see was that Jesus operated in a whole other realm--the Kingdom was about to break into those areas. The winds and the water would obey Him; the blind were about to see, and children were the prizes - not the problem. His actions followed what He believed. They were in sync - He knew the power, the character, and the plan of the Father and because of that, He conducted His life according to the King and the Kingdom.

We are to learn from the disciples, yet not reenact their lack of faith. They had not yet seen the cross. They had not seen the empty tomb yet, and they did not have the Holy Spirit or the entire body of scripture to read in much of what we see in scripture about them. But just after the cross, resurrection, and the Holy Spirit being breathed upon them, Jesus said to Thomas, just after he believed, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) All along they had trouble with the words and pictures not matching. They did not understand what Jesus was speaking; they did not understand the Kingdom of which He kept talking about. Many of the other people were expecting Him to be King. Such a great king He would make--true. Talk about solving problems! Healthcare? Solved! He could just heal them! Hunger? Solved! He blessed five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand--He could feed them. Power to rule? Solved! He made even nature obey Him with His words. What they saw was that their world problems could be solved, and they shouted, "Save now!" But what they saw did not fit with His actions. He did not take charge; He did not even stop the arrest. He did not take on the authorities they saw. The crowd yelled, "Crucify Him". He did not do as they expected—so the people just killed Him.

What they did not know is that He had to die to restart, reconcile, and restore what He had made and begun, clear back in the Garden of Eden. For it was there that the picture and the words first got out of sync. It was there that mankind doubted the goodness of their Creator and committed treason against the King. Another world - a world of shame and death began with all its rippling effects. It has so broken the world we still live in. What we believe and what is reality is dramatically out of whack. The King will take back and restore all that seems wrong and lost. But until then, Jesus spoke words like,” Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” (John 14:1) "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)." "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) And "Peace be with you". (John 20:21)

He not only knows that we are out of sync, but He also shows us how to get back and remain in sync. What we believe is what carries out into how we behave. Sin is wrong thinking about God that leads to wrong actions. When we believe rightly we can behave rightly—then we get back into sync. We must know Him, know His character, know His Word and believe it! What we see is not all that is going on-- look further - see Him always a work. Join Him and pray along with Him..."Your kingdom come, Your will be done..." This was not just a model of words, but also of belief. The King will make all things right no matter how messed up they may seem for now. Believe Him; receive peace; act out of that peace - get in sync with the big picture. He is a Master Technician: the words and the picture will all match soon; sight and sound will come together at last! "And I SAW a new heaven and a new earth…and I HEARD a loud voice from the throne.” (Revelation 21:1,3)... Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who sits on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21:3-5a)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Face to Face

Every year around this time, I can’t help but remember an experience…

It was in July, about 6 years ago; I found myself trekking 60 miles in the Peruvian Andes; clearly out of my usual comfort zone in which I live. Way out. No roads or road signs, no hustle bustle, let alone any decorated rooms, or fresh sheets washed in Tide and Downy, no feather beds, no hot showers to start and end your day, no cute little capri’s and summer shirts with the matching earrings, bracelets or necklace which of course coordinate with a favorite pair of flip flops—nothing remotely like that! Stark wilderness, snow capped mountains, silent serenity interrupted occasionally only by the sound of an avalanche thundering in the distance. Here and there were faint footpaths. Our gear included muted colored sleeping bags and earthy green, brown and gray tents. Our clothes looked like they were out an REI catalogue shoot—like zip off hiking pants and clunky climbing boots, bandanas, and Patagonia jackets.

Furthermore, I had never camped out in the backyard let alone in high altitudes! I had wondered if I could even “survive”. The whole time I trained prior to our arrival, I would get bouts of fear. But it really surged terror through me when this athletic, young, twenty something cross country marathon runner passed out face first in front of me onto a rocky street while we were just unloading the bus to go into the mission center! Yikes! I am going to die! If she doesn’t make it getting off the bus, how will I ever climb mountains? I have no hope! She is young and fit—ught oh, what does this say for a body with patina, to put it in a nice decorating term? I don’t want to find the ground by planting my nose in it. Help!

That was only the beginning of many similar thoughts throughout the days to follow. Over and over I contemplated death— I knew I was surely going to perish before I got home. In a moment of brilliance, I realized that because I was so green to the whole trekking, backpacking, tent thing, I needed to look for someone who had experience and previous knowledge of survival in such conditions. Out of our team, I, along a handful of others, was by far among the older generation—and I was totally out of my element—did I mention that? Sooooo far out, like another galaxy.

I spotted a young man in his early 30’s (I guessed) that was incredibly kind that obviously had done this hiking thing before. His compassion oozed as I saw him rescue some man that was clearly as much or more of a novice than I—which was hard to imagine. But he didn’t even train or break in his boots before coming. He was wearing brand new boots—another whole story. But just a snip it of it… we had all gotten spaced apart as a group, and I heard someone crying behind me, but no one else was in sight. Just then, over this ridge, this guy (perhaps my age) came into view; he was the one that was crying! Oh great! The only person in sight, and it’s a crying man! This is not good. I am going to have to help him—me, the going to die any minute one!! We glopped through some mud that just about sucked the boots off our feet until finally we came upon the other part of the team, taking a break. So this angel sort of man—Kevin, helps this guy undo his boots and bandages his bloody feet. Okay, I have seen movie heroes, but here was a real life super hero—Kevin was my new best friend.

More than I can write about, I saw Kevin help other team members through all sorts of crisis as the week went on. As much as possible I walked with Kevin. I not only walked with him, I imitated him—when he ate, I ate; when he drank water, I drank water. When he pulled off his jacket, I took mine off—Kevin knew how to make it in this alien world of narrow foot paths, high mountains, and walking 12 miles a day. He knew which rocks to cross a stream on, when to rest, and how to assess the land ahead. I was so glad to be with him—he had done this before; it was second nature to him. No panic, no sniveling, and no tears. We talked endlessly in that week. Mostly he was in front of me and I kept my eyes on his feet as we climbed increasingly higher. When I thought I could not take another step, I would just watch his feet. I would put my foot where his foot just had been. Each step he took gave me strength to step one more. Sometimes I was too tired to talk—that’s really tired for me!
But I got to know him, more than any one else on the team because I stayed with him. I knew I needed him. I had way more questions than we had time or energy to find out while we were trekking. You can imagine my delight to hear that he was going to speak the night we returned to the city. We were all gathered in a huge squished circle in the house where the missionary lived, and Kevin began to tell his story. I was across the circle from him, and as he shared, I realized I was familiar with his voice and some of the story, but not his face. I watched his expressions and his laugh and thought “ Hmmmmm, I didn’t know that is what he looked like when he said those words or laughed; I only know him from behind, only his feet, not his face. That’s funny; I have never met anyone in quite that style. Usually you know someone by their “face first.” I realized I thought I was enjoying his face more than anyone else; I knew him best. I knew a lot of his story already, and now I could see his face. It was so surreal connecting it all and enjoying it so much, him sharing things I had wondered about, but could not ask it all and still walk. I automatically loved his wife and children because that was what he loved, sounds pretty strange, huh?
Minutes later we began to worship, and I heard God begin to speak to my heart. He said. “One day your walk will be over, Jody. One day that trek through hard places will end. You know how it felt foreign and you didn’t know how to do it so well? Well, you will be home and rest will fit you well. The cries, the bloody feet, the fears, the panic will be done. You have walked with Me. You knew you needed Me, I’m so glad you chose to follow Me. My steps showed you where to walk. You saw me lovingly care for others. You imitated Me—you made it! You knew I was the only One that knew these paths, these mountains, and how long each daily journey would be. But Jody, there is one more thing; you have only known My voice and My feet— one day you will know My face. And you will enjoy it so much. You will see my face as I speak your name, you will see My expressions, you will see My face curl with laughter and the lines form around My eyes as I delight in my creation. You will sit with Me as I tell stories and we will enjoy one another fully forever face to face.” Tears filled my eyes; I went upstairs to be alone. I cried uncontrollably until I could cry no more. The sweetness of that thought still overwhelms me years later because it is no less true, in fact, we are that much closer to that moment, and I can hardly wait. He alone knows the way; He’s done all this before. There is nowhere and nothing that throws Him off. There is nothing to fear.

Weary? Afraid? Nothing look familiar? Do you feel out of your element? Do you feel alone or abandoned? Your feet bloodied and your shoes hurt? Are you out of shape for the journey ahead? Is your patina showing? What ever it is, keep your eyes on His feet, listen for His voice, and know one day it will be His face at which you gaze. Our faith will give way to sight! Our journey over and we will be with Him forever—face to face.

Now we see through a glass dimly but then face to face…

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Clutter and Kudzu

“Every rejection we experience, until forgiven and healed, we will project onto another. Such pain and anger has to go somewhere.” How does that sit with you? That hit me like a wrecking ball to my chest—wham! Partly a surprise and partly “That is absolutely true!” Fortunately reading that line only made the huge ruckus inwardly, but if it could have been heard, it would have awakened the dead. Why so much noise? The blow was so great that it rocked through decades of my life. I think it is a statement I have been living out for years. I have made up answers and even “dealt” with it—or so I thought—but what is the answer to this? What do you do with anger, rejection, and pain? It has to go somewhere but—where?

I noticed it years ago in a funny sort of way. I was cleaning and thought about how much I hate clutter. The clutter that just comes with life; the kind that is “Honey…”, or “Hey, Mom…”, where did you put the yellow paper that was lying here last week? I left it right on the table—where did you put it?” I would answer to my husband or kids, “Have you noticed how many meals ago that was, Sweetheart? Last week, that was like a light year ago! No, I am sorry, I don’t know…” That is never where it ended. Clutter seems to grow like kudzu once it takes root—it grows and before long it takes over and covers everything.

So as I thought about clutter around the house, somehow I realized that there is emotional clutter. And just like I hate physical clutter, I hated emotional clutter. I found out that I hid it, stuffed it, or tried to let it go. I noticed it never really went anywhere though, that it either oozed out or fell out or dropped out at the most unwanted times. I spent years memorizing and meditating it away. I think I reduced the size but never got rid of it. I organized it, decorated it, shifted it, and got it out of sight but “it” was still lurking about. Rejection doesn’t go away; I think it may even develop into anger.

I remember Buddy preaching on floating hostility. I thought, “You know, I think I deal with that, I wonder how do I get rid of it?” So I tried harder and harder and harder till it gets really old trying so hard. I think I got so good at getting rid of it that I thought it disappeared when perhaps I only got it out of my sight into some floating balloon that didn’t appear to be there at all, floating higher and higher until you think it is gone it is so high. Until… you go through some low spaces or rough ceilings or storms gather atmospherically and ka-boom! Anger is dripping all over surprising the daylights out of me. I thought it was gone only to find out I tied it to something or another—like an old memory. And when I went through some prickly circumstance the balloon was likely to pop even though I had no idea it was even still out there.

So how do you get rid of it? And not only anger, but also whatever the junk of life that litters your space. Bag it? Then what? It is piles of trash bags. The cure is so simple: it is overlooked and underused. Confess it! That’s it—confess it? Yes, and confession is just saying back to God what you believe to be true that is not necessarily truth. Our feelings feel true, disappointment, worthlessness, abandonment—they may even be true like sadness, but what we believe about it is generally a lie. Whatever lie we believe we act upon—true or not. We begin to live that truth out which may lead to wrong actions because wrong belief leads to wrong actions.

So, to confess it we can sit down, close our eyes and tell God what we believe, even when it is not accurate—it does not surprise Him—He already knows. But as we confess this and give it to Him at the cross, these are the things that He already died for so we did not have to carry them and be filled with the pain and the filth they cause. We give them to Him, and they are GONE. Not rearranged, resorted into a closet or stored in the attic, but removed! That’s when 1 John 1:9 becomes so real—“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Recently we had to have the roof replaced on the back sun porch area. They brought in a dumpster but only partially filled it so there was all this space left in it. As I looked at the dumpster with space to spare and the potential to remove clutter from the garage into that dumpster, I couldn’t help but start cleaning and cleaning and cleaning some more. I had a hey day throwing things away, which led to doing the same in a half a dozen other places throwing, pitching, removing junk—it was wonderful! It was all hauled away—gone! Not just rearranged or resorted or stashed somewhere else but really cleaned away. Several closets, the storage shed, and the garage are better than new, functional, and a pleasure to be in. It was transforming; the difference was good enough to have been on a television show or a magazine article with the “before” and “after” shots. We can actually park cars in there! Novel idea.

That is what it was made for but not what it was functioning as; I think lives can be that way as well: we are made for God’s pleasure and to fellowship with Him, but we get so much junk and clutter, we can hardly even operate for that which we were made. We need somewhere to get rid of it all. We need to agree with God that we do not want it anymore, that it is garbage, and take it to Him. Give it piece by piece to Him at the cross; then feel the joy of it being removed and that it is no longer yours to manage or carry. Experience the clean. Experience the load lifted. And experience functioning as you were made to be. What joy and delight is yours for the taking, taking it to the cross emptied from you onto Him the One who died so you could live unhindered, fresh and pure. Why would we trade that for filth, junk, and piles of garbage unable to be used for all that we were created to be? Sounds like a no brainer to me.

The day we finished the garage overhaul happened to be the night of two of the grandbabies birthday parties. It was going to be in their backyard, but it was one of those spring days that poured 30 minutes, then the sun shined, poured again, and back to sunshine, being quite unpredictable. One of our adult kids called, “If we could have it out in our yard, we are prepared, but if it is raining at the time of the party, the house would never hold all these folks. Would you consider having it at your house? “Okay, how many are you expecting?” “About 20 something kids from 2-4 and a little more than that in adults.” she said. I told her, “You won’t believe how great a space this newly cleaned area would be for all the kids to play—in the garage! Would you be insulted if we had the party in the garage? It is clean enough to eat off the floor!” With the doors opened it made a perfect place for 23 kids under age 4 to play plus 27 parents to watch as they ran in and out, rode toys in the driveway on their riding cars, scooters and strollers. It was a perfect place for a party—it would have never even been considered before the big redo. It had been too full of other stuff to even be considered.

Could we be missing out on some really great things God wants to do because we have all the junk of life, piling up stuff that only renders us useless compared to what God really intended? Don’t you want to get rid of all that so easily weighs us down?

I think I had a spiritual garage full of clutter; I may have unknowingly kept the clutter of unforgiveness, rejection and hurt. They piled high, and I had nowhere to get it removed, no one seemed to be able to tell me where the dumpster was located; it seemed to return or be stuck. Why was that? Pain varied. Sometimes it was tears, sometimes it was anger, but almost always it hurt. It projected itself onto others and into relationships. Did I want that? No! Did I try to remove or replace it? Yes! Then why was it still there?

Somehow it was still me trying to deal with it, shuffling it around, like trying to make the nut disappear from under the cups by shuffling them faster and faster like spiritual magic. I had always wondered why the cross never really made me cry and why I did not seem to cherish it like some I knew. I believed in it; I believed Jesus died on it; I believed He died in my place—so I could go to heaven. What I seemed to miss is that it is where you dump sin, deposit garbage, and receive new truth for your old bag of lies. It was a place to look at Jesus to see His death, His bloodied body: His pain was for my junk. I could leave it all there. It was not a one-time visit only. It was more than getting the house in heaven; it was the daily way to stay relationally whole. It was part of daily living not just for salvation but a place to be daily freed from the messy, smelly affects of life in this world. Now I LOVE that place! I am so grateful for its power! Ahhhh, the cross. It brings beauty; it is the place to leave all those unwanted pieces of broken life. It is a place to realize He wants to relieve us from it all. He knew how awful this all would feel, so He took it for us and wants to not only carry it for us but also give us truth.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Nominations had been made, the court was selected, and escorts had been asked. The big question was looming, and it was nearing the final vote. Who would win homecoming? Although years have come and gone, and it has become a blip on the screen of life, right then it was as important and talked about as the presidential elections. This was a small town, and not a lot of news came down the pike. The cows and corn stood in the fields, and anything that altered the daily routine in the slightest became news worthy. Homecoming was the big event, and who would be crowned Queen her senior year was the fairy tale we all dreamed and waited to see to whom such an honor would be bestowed. It was the culmination of our high school career, speculated about, and commented on endlessly—we had our own version of CNN way back then and there were voices that were the authority on the pick. It was voted upon by our peers and counted by the student council, but endlessly bantered about with all the details as if it were Entertainment Tonight at the Oscars. There were four finalists. It was American Idol—who would be the winner—who would be left standing in the spotlight? The air was electric with the excitement—today was the big vote.

As you may have guessed this was not just any vote—they were voting on me! Sadly enough, I had all my worth wrapped up in it—no one was there to balance that voice, and I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. I was nervous, excited, and ready for the results. As is the case in most hand counted ballots, those who did the counting were the first to know the results. AND they happened to be friends that knew I would be excited, so they did what a good teenage friend would do. They called me after school to let me know that---I had won! Seriously? I was in shock. Wow! It was hours before the announcement at the football game, and they couldn’t wait to tell me. I think they were as excited as I was. So I got ready and waited for the official announcement, determined to act surprised.

The halftime came, and my football hunk escort escorted me out along with 3 of my friends, the other candidates. The 3rd runner up was announced and applauded, and we all hugged her as she joined the other representatives from the freshmen, sophomore, and junior class. The 2nd runner up went her way as well. Then it was just me and Mary left, and although I already knew, it was still heart pounding as the stadium shook with whistles and cheering. The voice continued, “The 1972 Delavan Darien High School Homecoming queen is… “Mary______”! True to plan, I acted surprised—but it was no act. We hugged, and the crowd stormed the field, and tears were on everyone’s faces, but my tears were of a different nature. I managed to keep my smile and soon my friends that “knew” approached and hugged. They were stunned and so apologetic that they had given me the information ahead of time, and they were mad; they knew she had not won. They had counted the votes themselves. They saw and knew the injustice. Mary had not gotten the most votes, but welcome to the real world. They went to the supervisor of the student council to get answers. Although we did not believe in child sacrifices in my town, and no one had ever literally slain a child on an altar, I believe they did slay me in a figurative way that day. I felt that I was sacrificed on the altar of injustice. What they were saying in doing this switch was that money had more power than the vote, that social status was exalted, and that factory workers of my father’s position were not honorable enough; and coming from the wrong side of town had its penalties. The altars of worshiping the dollar, the social strata of valuing some over others, and rigging elections took precedent over the one man-one vote, in which our country firmly believes. It was wrong plain and simple.

It finally came out that Mary’s father was a prominent businessman that was well known for his generous gifts to our community. As the years have passed, I understand what really happened and even agree with their choice. Mary modeled a much better overall package than I did. She was an ideal girl and held up the image well to the community of brains, beauty, and money - the things for which we bow down as a country on the whole. I, on the other hand, was from a home that was quite the opposite.

I understand it now, but at the time, Satan used it to wrap me in chains. I became in bondage to lies. They became my truth—not real truth, just my perceived truth. They have entangled, chaffed, and clanged in my ears for years. That is until just recently. True truth has been unlocking one bloodied chain after the next. I had fought them, pulled on them and yanked at them, but I think I finally gave up. For they seemed to almost become as accepted as a necklace of ornamentation of my identity. Their clanging and rattling noises became the comfort sounds to which I walked and slept. These lies told me who I was and what I was worth. Thankfully, God was not satisfied with letting me remain enslaved to my lies, and He has set me free. I have known verses and tried to use them to file away at the chains, but they were as iron. Many friends through the years would appear to tell me I was bound, but they proved to be quieter voices than the sounds wrapped around me. Then God used a friend to speak truth, and as iron sharpens iron, it became a key to opening me to run unfettered and unshackled and free. It was my appointed to time to hear truth to be set free.

I knew there were lies around me; I just didn’t know how to get set free. As freedom came, the lies are now more easily recognized, and I can reject them and cling to truth, and allow my heart and mind to be filled with truth. As I do this, it changes what I believe and what I hear and how I react. It is a wonderful place.

My dear poor husband has watched and listened to my lies and has been trying to point them out and has loved me well through them, but for whatever reason, I could not believe him. All of his, “You are beautiful” were only because he loved me and not real in my ears and head. I feel so bad for him and so thankful at the same time. He has been so patient and truly loving. These chains, no doubt, caused many a bruise to him. O dear, my children as well have no doubt been hit (not literally) with a flying chain on occasion! It is no wonder that the sins of the mothers are passed down to their children. They had to put on chains to defend themselves from my chains and on and on the story would go it there were not a way to stop these generational sins!

God arranges things to show us His love and demonstrates His wisdom in circumstances. Last night, I had dinner with a friend in Virginia at their home with her kids and husband; it was a lovely meal, but beyond the meal I observed her wise mothering style and well-behaved, kind children. I was blessed by dinner discussions and the evening routine of homework, playing outside, emptying the dishwasher, and taking out the trash done by her kids without an attitude or cross words. I spoke with her this morning as she told of how her mom taught her and guided her through being a young mom. I was staying with her mother and father in their home, and I could see the blessing of being raised in this home. I realized that that is what He desired for me too. That is how He meant for homes to look like; what children should know, and the identity that they need to have. It affects how we think of ourselves and how we behave; it is what we believe.

As I write this, I am well aware of how many of you are mothers and have children growing up in your homes. Do you believe lies? Are you dealing with chains from incidents in your past that form chains around you? Are your children hearing the same lies? Wouldn’t it be great to be free; to hear truth and operate out of truth instead of lies; to be able to let them hear and experience a healthy happy home? Some of you are doing just that; I am so proud for you. But some have chains that you carry and lug around weighing you down, struggling to be set free. Have hope! Freedom is possible.

Isaiah is filled with wonderful phrases and verses: “I have chosen you” “thus says the Lord, your Creator, …and He who formed you, do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine.” “…I love you” “I am with you” “I am the One who wipes away your transgression” “my servant whom I have chosen” “you will not be forgotten by Me” “I will go before you…” He wants you to operate in truth and so do I; it is for truth that you have been set free. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. YOU ARE CHOSEN BY GOD. The vote may have been rigged against you too. Satan means for you to stay bound by feelings of rejection, inferiority, and abandonment, but that is not what God has for you. Saturate yourself in the Word, call and let us pray with you. Let’s see what God wants to do to set you free. Come run with me in the wide-open spaces of freedom God longs for you to hear truth, fill your mind with His Word, and feel the presence of God with you. Chosen by God - aaahhhhhhh.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There is nothing like a best friend! Agree? Girls need best friends. Someone that speaks your language, hears and knows your heart, and wants to be together as much as possible—you know what I am talking about.

What are your thoughts on a best friend? I am curious, what makes a best friend for you? Someone who is loyal? Someone you want to talk with? Someone who is completely honest? Someone who is excited about the same things that you are? Someone you can have meaningful conversation with? Someone who is not exclusive in friendship; that shares friends but you know deep down they love you best? Someone you can hardly wait to share news with big or small? Someone who will share deep heart thoughts? Someone you can tell your deep thoughts to and they will still love you? Someone that encourages you to be your best and sees your strengths even if you don’t see them yourself? Someone that laughs with you over life?

I Facebooked this question: What does a “best friend” mean to you? I loved the answers! A best friend is: Someone who looks out for you. Someone who has endurance, presence and laughter; someone who has seen you through it all and loves you more because of it; someone you feel at home and comfortable with; someone who just “gets you”; someone who knows the ugliest part but loves you anyway. These are so great.

Here are some more. A best friend is: “…someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you the way are today”; “someone who goes to the end of the earth again and again and again never asking why just because they need you to be there with them”; and “friends know your flaws but a best friend sees them as growth spurts”. I love these. How about... “A friend hears what you say, but a best friend also hears what you don’t say”? Or “a best friend knows not only that you like tea but from which cup is your favorite.” Lastly, “a best friend is a friend for life—no matter what.” Thanks for your thoughts; they are really beautiful. So what?

Maybe you have a best friend; maybe you have had one; maybe you have only dreamed of such relationships. It may have been in childhood, in high school, or college, or perhaps you are still hoping for a best friend like that. Think back to some of your best memories with a friend, laughing so hard you could not breathe or so eager to make that phone call to tell them some earth shattering news of the day. Perhaps it was places you went together, the things you did, or conversations that you had never shared with anyone else before, and instead of thinking you were weird, they loved you all the more. Best friends are a category all of their own, don’t you think? Rare, wonderful, and a gift from God.

I have heard that there are multiple best friends - a best friend for different areas, one that makes you laugh, one that you like to walk with, one that challenges you, one that comforts you or whatever. I don’t see that so much as a best friend but just simply multiple friends. There is plenty of room for opinions, and there is no one right answer, I know, but best friends are best overall. Some think you grow out of it and that adults have many but none “best”. Mates are great and best friend mates are special, but another women as that best friend is a remarkable thing. Those moments that you know not to look at them or catch their eye or you will burst into laughter. Best friends have moments and memories that are frozen in time. I will never forget a high school friend who gave up being on homecoming court that she had been on before so that I could have a chance at being homecoming queen. She wanted me to win.

I was thinking about best friends from the past and found myself crying this afternoon. Perhaps it’s because Buddy is gone on a trip and I am feeling lonely, but I think it is God at work in me. I think feeling sad is sometimes His invitation to show me truth. Where are the best friends now? I just heard that an early childhood best friend is now near St. Louis; another best friend is in New Hampshire; a high school best friend lives in Wisconsin where we grew up—(literally, she bought the house she grew up in!) A few years back, we sat in her old room where we used to talk ourselves to sleep till wee hours. That room is now her daughters’ room—it was a really wonderful time of reminiscing. We lay on the beds and laughed of old times escaping ever so briefly into being kids again. It seemed like her mom was about to poke her head in any minute to see what on earth all the ruckus was about. We visit by phone, but the distance and the years of going our separate ways have left blank spaces and gaps. Best friends are not so “forever”. Life seems to change and we do too, not so intentionally, but stages change, and time together is gone.

I always wanted my sister to be a best friend sort of person—that was not ever going to happen. One of the worst hurts of life is loosing a best friend. Whatever the reason, a move, a marriage, dreams divided, or circumstances of life. There is a loss. But that place is not wasted. God wants you to know truth where you have let lies fill in. Lies that make you feel worthless, unloved, or alone. Been there? Still there? What is the truth? There is “He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”. There is “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He is everything you want in a friend. There is nothing He is going to find out about you that He will ever like you any less. There is no length He is not willing to go to be together with you for eternity. Satan drowns out the truth with raging lies, frenzied falsehoods, and terrorizing tales or whispers and daggers of doubt. Sometimes so subtly that we almost don’t realize the lie and swallow it until in pollutes our very insides poisoning us from within. We wonder why we do not feel well; we have eaten the rot of unbelief. Sin is corrupting our thinking. Sin is thinking wrongly about God. Our thoughts carry out in our actions and we deny what we believe by how we live.

“The Lord delights in you”—He enjoys your company. “You are precious to him”—He thinks you are special; there is “unfailing love” found in Him alone—it never wanes or wobbles, “He lifted them up and carried them through all the years” through all the stages and circumstances He is there, He never bails on you—you are never too much or too difficult. “I am on your side”—He is loyal. “With everlasting love”—He does not love conditionally or if your performance has been good enough. “I am the One who comforts you”—He always knows just the right things to say. “ I said I would do it and I will”—He is reliable and has never lets us down. “ I cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age” He is not just a childhood friend that has lost track of you or no longer has things in common with you—this is a forever friendship. He has been there all along you never have to catch Him up on what is going on. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am the Lord your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”—Because He is with us, nothing should be too scary, too depressing, or too wearing. We are on the winning side we never have to feel like losers. “He never grows faint or weary”—He is always strong and able despite our condition. “I know you well—your comings and goings and all you do.”—He is interested in us; He is not surprised. “No matter how deep the stains of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool.”— Do you know any friend that can do that? He is an awesome God.

Sound impossible to have all that in one person? Nope! He is all that and more! “ I have called you friend,” you know, that is not to be taken lightly. He is your best friend. “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” The term BFF is more than just a texting phrase: He wrote it to you and about you long, long ago. He wants to be best friends forever. Who can pass up a friendship like that—who would want to?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fall Down Like Rain

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? I have had the most beautiful song stuck there all week! I don’t even know all the words, but I have had only a few lines running over and over again. I found my heart humming it, desiring it deep within, and washing my mind with it as well. “Fall down like rain, I don’t want blessings—I want You…” So I guess this is why I have been all the more aware of rain as I was reading scripture this week. This must also be why I became all the more blessed with the rain this morning falling gently from the sky. I feel like it has been raining inwardly all week—this soaking, gentle sort of rain. Today I can see how my inside has felt all week. It’s funny because usually I don’t care for rainy days. They seem depressing and sad. My own way of making rainy days happy was to wear fun rain boots and use happy umbrellas.

Previously, I have put crying and rain together, but this week it has been different. For some reason there are no tears involved in the picture. It is more like health in that just as rain is needed for the growth of the barren trees and bushes surrounding us, bringing about spring, so too does my soul need rain—I need God! I need blossoms and new growth. I see the earth about to erupt with the tiniest buds of twisted green or red, waiting to unfold their beauty and grace us with those fresh garments of spring. To hang God’s majesty beautifully draped in greens and yellows, pinks and reds dripping from every tree and rising out from the very ground beneath us. Reminding us of He is creativity and taking our bareness like the gray trees, and astounding us with a fresh new leaf or bud at every turn and twist of our branches. I want that sort of life. One that is fresh and blossoming, full of health and vitality—alive with the display of God at work.

“Rejoice…for the rains He sends are an expression of His grace.” How beautiful is that?! Not weepy, but full of rejoicing! Rain is an expression of His grace. Saturated, and fully absorbed by His grace. Isn’t that the sort of rain that makes you want to go for a long walk in it? It makes me want to go barefooted with no rain boots, raincoat or umbrella, but to let it thoroughly drench and soak me to the bone. Saturated in grace, ah, what a lovely thought. Do you feel it with me? It is not the ugly, cold winter rain. It is that perfect temperature rain that is almost warm. There’s no chill, or anything that distracts from enjoying every drop. Each drop makes you crave the next. It is designed for growth, not destruction, ruin or fury.
Whenever rain falls onto a plant, it causes it to grow. If it falls on weeds—weeds grow. If it falls on potatoes—potatoes grow. “Plant the good seed of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of My love.” How amazing! I have heard “righteousness” defined as right thinking. Inserting that into that verse reads: “plant the good seed of right thinking and you will harvest a crop of my love.” Does that speak anything to you? It does me. For one, if you read it conversely it is: “Don’t plant the good seed of right thinking and you won’t harvest a crop of my love.” That seems like a waste of a perfectly good harvest. Secondly, it says to me that right thinking about God produces a harvest of love, which seems too good to pass up! Do you ever feel like you know God loves you biblically or in your head, but you do not feel He loves you in your heart? For you, it may not be feeling unloved; it may be feeling unaccepted or uncared for. Each of us has some sort of lie we believe that affects how we are behaving. According to this verse, planting the seed of right or wrong thinking may be how we are thinking about God. Wrong thinking about God hinders our ability to feel in our heart what our head says or reads in scripture. We have to think right about Him.

As we think right, the rain will fall on those seeds—even if at first they are only as small as a mustard seed. They will grow and multiply. I don’t have mustard seeds in my pantry, but I do have flax seeds. They are soooo small. It is befuddling to my brain that God would even be aware of something so small in me—that little bit of faith honors God! With that little bit, He sees it and has something to water and work with—He, with something that small, can move mountains! It reminds me of those tiny little specks that you put in water to soak and they grow to be the size of the bucket. Or those Chia-Pet things that look like nothing but become a crop of “fur”. Our faith can virtually look like a speck or a baldish form, but when permeated and filled with God, it becomes enough to move what seemed like a mountain of unbelief and not just a bucket full or a fluffy fur ball.

It is no wonder that Satan keeps our unbelief or wrong belief about God his number one priority. It has been his method of operation since the beginning of time—he is not creative. I have had wrong thinking about Satan as well. I realized that I thought he was creative but realized that only God has that character—He alone can create out of nothing. He shares that creativity with His creation…us! I think Satan only has the same old bag of tricks. He is not creative—crafty, yes but not creative. I have given him too much credit. He hates us to expose his lies, but the best way to expose them is with the light of truth for he is a liar. When he speaks, he does so with his native tongue. There is no truth in him at all (John 8:44).

I just read a definition of righteousness: “right action”. I have a problem with that! I cannot do right unless I think right! My doing is contingent on my thinking. I carry out what I believe. What we believe affects how we behave. To say behave right without believing right is impossible. Wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior. We must think right to behave right. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” It is even more than what you think in your head, it says, “As he thinks in his heart”. God knows we can think one thing in our head, but our heart is really where we confirm or reject it—so it is with what we believe. That is why when I read another definition of righteousness: “right thinking about God”, it rang true. If I think right about God and believe, this produces right actions. It may be put: “right beliefs about God in our hearts that lead to right actions in our life”. It is in right belief that more right belief is produced. OR in wrong belief, more wrong belief is produced. What is being watered is what will grow. If I accidentally put corn in the row of beans, corn is going to grow there. If the packet was missed marked as being beans rather than corn, corn is still going to grow. It is what is inside that makes the difference.
Yesterday was a gorgeous day. The rain of the previous day turned into huge snowflakes outside our window, piling up in a most beautiful way. As our hunger grew, we all decided chili sounded like the perfect meal. I made it, but it wasn’t as great as I had hoped. No one really remarked that it was all that delicious so I threw away the rest of it and chalked it up to finding a better recipe next time. However this morning as lunch grew near, people started looking for the chili to reheat. They were so surprised to hear that I had thrown it out. “Why did you do that? We wanted it! We were looking forward to warming it up today.” My wrong belief—that they did not like it—led to the wrong action of throwing it away. What I believed affected my actions. Wrong thinking led to wrong actions. What we believe wrongly about God affect our actions. What we believe wrongly about our mate, our kids, or our chili affects how we behave as well.

Believing wrongly about chili has little overall impact. I can make some more. But believing wrongly about God can have huge ramifications. He is the only God there is! People that worship idols become what they worship (Psalms 135:18). If they worship a god that cannot hear, they become deafened to the needs of others. If they worship a demanding god, they too become demanding. Do you see what that means? If you have wrong beliefs about God, it will affect how you relate to others. If you feel God does not accept you as you are, you’ll have a hard time accepting others as they are. If you feel God does not have power over things, and that He has not been powerful in your life, then you will step in and try to take control of it yourself. Our wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior—it waters it in us and it grows a distorted, perverted, messed up god. Notice I did not capitalize god there because it is a false god—not the God Almighty, Maker of the universe, Lover of our soul. Then that is not honoring to God, it is not who He is. He is whole and true. There is nothing messed up about Him. He wants us to know Him for who He really is, what He is really like, and how He really feels about us. He is crazy about us. But don’t believe it because I said so—listen for yourself. Ask Him “True Lord Jesus, what do you want me to know?” Let Him rain down on you, allowing truth to grow in you, through you, and around you. Let’s see what blooms of beauty will grow in more than just our yards and trees this spring. Are you ready to sprout?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

From Head to Heart

Sometimes there is a disconnect between what we know and what we really know. We know things about God and the Bible, yet we don’t live in the knowledge or appropriate it in our day-to-day life. It’s as though our knowledge about God is checked in upon arrival to church and then checked out before we go—or as if what you are learning from God is confined to a day or a place. That is sooooo not true! We are to take what we know with us and live it out daily. How do I know you have that problem? It’s because I have that problem too!

I can know that God is Creator. I can know that as Creator, He made everything: “without Him nothing was made that was made” John 4:1-3 or “Everything has been created through Him and for Him” Col.1: 16 But knowing that He made it and thereby He owns it is quite a difference. And add to that a personal aspect of that He made me thus He owns me makes an even bigger difference! We live this out and connect it in other areas: we all understand copyrights. If you write a song, it’s yours. If I create something, it’s mine. We would all hold that to be a valuable truth. But apply that same truth to God and people fuss, squirm, and get uncomfortable. So to know it and to live it out can be disconnected unless we spend some time getting things connected. You really believe this whether you have thought about it or not. Perhaps a minute to connect some things may be worth your time.

How good is electricity if it is not hooked up? A house can have the greatest and the latest, it can have all the night-scaping and automatic timers and task lights and mood lighting, timers, switches and remotes, but without the connection it is lost. So too we can have information about God without connecting it to life, and we are in the dark! Loosing out and breaking our noses as we run full steam into a wall, or stubbing our toes on every unseen obstacle along the way is not how God wants us to live.

So spending time connecting what we know to how we live seems logical and practical indeed. We know about God—much, much more than he is our Creator. He is all knowing, all-powerful and present everywhere at once. He is Love, our Father, Provider—the list is endless. We know about Jesus. He is the visible image of the invisible God; he is Savior, Messiah, the Prince of Peace, Healer, Redeemer, Restorer—on and on the list could go. I know this, I try to live it out, and it is not too weird or uncomfortable to my thinking. But go one step further…

That Holy Spirit part can get trickier. I am even good with the “Holy” part but add “Spirit” and all of a sudden things get wigged out in my head. I am not sure if it is a block or too many Scooby Doo and Casper programs as a kid. But recently as I was preparing for the retreat, I saw a simple aspect of the Holy Spirit that I had never really applied to my living that has had such impact. To remain disconnected kept me un-empowered, which is Satan’s strategy, and he uses fear of the unknown to keep it going.

Upon beginning my studying several months ago, I saw that the Spirit is the very breath of God. (Which is no doubt why Satan has an all out attack on Him). As I meditated on Him being the breath of God, it really filled and blessed me. There is nothing weird or spooky about breath—I get that, and I can live out a truth like that. As I thought about it, I saw some wonderful things I would love to share with you…

*The Holy Spirit is as there as air. Air is all around us and is everywhere we go—so is the Holy Spirit.

*The Holy Spirit is as necessary as breath. We can do NOTHING without air, not less or little—nothing can be done without breath.

*The Holy Spirit is as available as air, He is not tricky or limited; He is and has been since before the foundations of the world. He was hovering over the darkness and ready to move into action; that is still what He can do.

*The Holy Spirit takes life and health to every part of us; there is nothing he is not interested in. He wants to be in every part of your life, like breath takes oxygen to every part of us to bring life and health—that is what the Holy Spirit does in us.

*The Holy Spirit is unseen but real. There is a lot we know that is unseen but real—that electricity I mentioned earlier, air or wind are unseen—but try to convince people in New Orleans wind is not real. They saw the affects they know—we know. We just need to apply that reality into our everyday life. The Holy Spirit may be unseen, but he is not unreal!

*The Holy Spirit needs to be as regular as breath in our lives. We don’t store up air to use later; we use it all day as needed. Everyday, all day, breath and air are needed—an unlimited resource is ours for the using, no cut backs needed–use all you want!

*The Holy Spirit is given upon new birth just as we received breath once upon birth physically. He is within us forever. The more we breathe out, the more we can breath in.

*The Holy Spirit is re-freshened within us, like breathing out the old self and breathing in the fresh air of His strength for each new minute we face. It is a constant exchange of breathing out our own desires, control, and inhaling His will, His control and His desires—because it is God’s breath in us. How healing and good is that? You make your own list and let me know what God reveals to you, its beautiful, enjoy it with me.

I think Satan is out to create disunity, delusion and distortion of the Holy Spirit because He is whom Jesus gave us as a gift to us as our helper. Who could not use a helper? We all desperately can use some help! Am I right? Jesus said in John 16:7 it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t the Helper won’t come. If I go away, he will come…” another word for helper here has the idea of a counselor. How helpful would a hotline to a counselor be for you? I would love it! I have it! I have to by faith breathe that in and ask God for whatever need I may have and believe that God will answer in His words or breath into the Holy Spirit which is in me. I have to listen to know what God has to say. How unifying is that—we all breathe, all ages, all races, all countries—all-living!

So much of the time we have these clogs that we cannot hear through or blockages that distort or deafen God’s voice to us. Sometimes it’s ignorance or wrong thinking or sin that keeps us out of touch with reality of who He is. I hear in word pictures as I listen, and evidently, I have made some really inaccurate pictures that explained what I told myself. I would hear “be filled with the Spirit” and I would make up things that could be filled to demonstrate that in my head. I tried a tank. Like gas in a car, I tried filling up on the Spirit and ran my life until He was all used up. Unfortunately, I had more life than I had tank, and I’d find myself out of gas all the time, needing to haul my sorry self back for a refueling with people going by shaking their heads—poor ignorant thing, didn’t she know she needed gas? She should have stopped sooner. I would think, “How did they not run out, what was wrong with me?” This is not at all scriptural, but rather living in a lie that I had made up as truth. Confusing.

Or I had a bottle picture that I had to fill up. Then, decide when and where I would uncap and use the Holy Spirit and still have enough left for the rest of the day. Like choosing to fill your water bottle and rationing it out all day only when it was really needed—that is not what scripture says about the Holy Spirit—but that is what I was living out. Distorted.

My other picture was a bucket. Scooped up fresh, full, and ready to use but my bucket had holes and I leaked it out and ended up short, empty and dry—unable to patch or even identify all the holes in my bucket. Not at all what the Bible uses as an illustration of the Holy Spirit. I got nearly delusional with the difficulty of bucket living. What a wonderful welcomed reality was John 20:22 “And he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” How wonderful and how simple—breathe. I can do that without striving.

Do you, like me, have some out dated, early childhood drawings of some tremendous truths that need updating? Why keep those—other than to relate to others—they are useless and you are living from pictures that are not accurate. Let’s open the Bible, dig in, and discover what is really available and ours! Check out the Bible for yourself.

I wondered if it were like being born under the water and living in a world that was not where and how we were made to live? The distorted view and the difficulty it would take. But upon becoming believers you were transported to this world where you could breathe freely and wholly, able to move about in freedom. What a new life that would be! The Bible likens it to living in darkness and being transported into light—imagine how glorious that would be! That is what a difference we can live in, the light of a personalized light within us, “His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path”. Psalms119:105 It brings light—even the very first words spoken by God is “let there be light” Genesis 1: 3 It is His very first breath we have recorded; the very thing the breath of God desires for us is light to know and understand Him through His breath. Perhaps this is over simplified and something you have grasped and lived in all along—God bless you. But perhaps some of you have been making up some pictures that need some revising and an accurate edition. As we read, study, and hear from God, may we know Him better, clearer, and in truth. May we never hesitate or hold on to misconceptions, traditions, and deceit, but be eager to understand, unite, and cling to truth.

My prayer is: True Lord Jesus, may we know all that You really are. Free us from the lies that we have heard or have told ourselves that are not truth. Reveal Yourself to us. As we see error, give us desire and willingness to grab onto truth and realign ourselves with You. Show us where we are off the mark. Satan often makes the lies so close to truth that it is just a shadow of the truth and not a bold face lie, so give us clear vision, and don’t let us settle for anything less than truth. Help us to walk in that truth that will go from our heads to our hearts and pump life and health into all that we are. In the mighty name of Jesus, would you come and fill every breath and change us from the inside out. May we better friends, better moms, better wives, better women, a better church and a better community because you are breathing in and through us. All glory, praise, and honor to God and peace be on us. Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let It Go

I get so excited when I know the babies are on their way over to the house. I love to hear the door open and them call, “Ya Ya…” waiting for my response. Everything in me delights at the sound of their voices. The other day they were there waiting for me when I got home. I was carrying in groceries, and my hands were full, and River came running and hugged me around the legs until I almost fell. I couldn’t get to the table with the groceries, and I had to stop right where I was, put everything down, and scoop her up. She hugs the best clingy snuggly whole body hugs I have ever received! But in order to receive that hug—I had to let go of everything else in my hands.

In order to receive something, we have to let go of something. That is so simple. I think the same is true with exhaling the past to receive the future. Do you suppose God waits for us to let go of what is in our hands so that He can give us fully what He means for us to have? As a young first time pregnant wife, I was so sick that I was out of commission. I heard a Pastor on the radio say that if we could not afford the things we wanted perhaps they were things God did not intend for us to have at that time.

It means letting go of “I want” and believing that He wants what is better for you.

It was the first time I had ever even considered that. Could there be things I want that He would not want for me? I let go of my dreams of furniture and decorating and decided that this little baby would be my priority as a gift given by God. And when God was ready for me to have the other things, He would give them—I was going to be good with that. I let go.

Through the years, there has been plenty more I have had to let go. Buddy and I were in our late 20’s and had been pastoring for 6 years. The church was growing, and we were so thrilled. All the things we had originally verbalized on the way to Boise were actually happening. People were coming to faith, lives were changing, homes were growing stronger, and we even had respect from the community. Buddy woke me up in the middle of the night in like the end of February and said he thought God had told him to go to back to Atlanta! “Oh surely not,” I said in a daze, “Go back to sleep and listen again…”. In the morning, he was even surer that God had said we were to move back! I knew that if we stayed where God did not want us to be, it would not be pretty. I loved the community and my family too much to not listen to God, so just like that, my heart said okay, and I let go of my dreams for there and believed God for what was to come. Letting go of one thing made room for God’s plan to come. To not let go of Boise would have made us miss out on Grace and all that God has done here for nearly 26 years.

How foolish would it be to hold on to your breath for fear there would not be another? The very nature of breath is that you let go and take another. Are there things you need to let go? Do you need to let go and believe God has a future and a hope for you? It may not happen right away—there may be parts that are delayed indefinitely or it may be just no. But every time I want something, I think, “If God doesn’t want this for me, do I really want it?” But then I exhale and realize I only want what God wants me to have—no more, no less. One time, I wanted a car really badly. It is the only car that I have ever had an accident in—I think it is not worth having what you want if it’s not when and what God wants. I want God things to be so OBVIOUSLY Him that I do not have to wonder.

It is letting go of “I can’t” and believing that He can.

One time Joy was doing her study abroad in Italy. She loved it there, but she really wanted me to come to be with her. She was sure I would love it. I laughed, “Oh sweetheart, it is taking everything we have for you to be there. I could not come too.” We talked a while longer and I said, “Let’s just pray and if God wants me to come, let’s pray that He would make it SO obvious there would be no doubt.” Almost simultaneously a lady called me about some artwork. She asked if I would paint a cover for her book. I told her no—she argued that she was sure God wanted me to do that. She continued persistently over the next few weeks. Finally, I agreed that I would ask Joy to do the cover—she had a professor that could oversee her work and make it quality enough to make a book cover. Me? I had no experience or training and could not do justice to her book that she had labored so diligently to write. “I can’t” played over and over in my head. Long story shortened is that I ended up having to do it because the publishing company pushed up the date to a time that Joy was unavailable. God had SO obviously provided from such a bizarre occurrence that it had to be Him. I exhaled the “No, I can’t do it” and inhaled the attempt and found myself in Florence. We have to let go of disbelief and breathe in the possibility and give God the opportunity to do so much more than we would have thought or done.

It is letting go of past hurts.

Sometimes letting go is a difficult thing. Sometimes it is letting go of a past hurt that is still hurting you. Words can hurt a long time and actions can about do you in. I have a friend that was driving a tractor in Illinois clearing some land at his hunting camp. The weeds were so tall that he couldn’t tell there was a huge ditch or ravine. He rolled through it, and it flipped the tractor on top of him trapping him under the huge machine. He was there 45 minutes before anyone realized what had happened and was able to free him. He was so tough that he got through it without being hospitalized, but he had broken ribs and had a bit of a time recovering.

We thought all was done and he was okay… several months passed and he noticed he was not able to breathe well. His shortness of breath was checked and rechecked, but nothing could be found. Finally a doctor noticed a thickening in the walls of his lungs. The lining around the lungs had become hardened and calcified. And his lungs were no longer able to expand and contract easily; they were becoming encased and hardened, not allowing him to breathe freely. Obviously my description shows I am not medical, but it is not the medical aspect that I see. The doctor said that this was caused by a previous extensive injury that had hardened so thick and hard that it was like breathing in a metal can that was getting smaller and smaller as the calcification got thicker. Have you been so injured you have hardened walls lining your ability to breathe in?

If I say hot, you say cold. If I say up? (Down) Black? (White) Inside? (Outside) Big? (Small) God? No! It is not Satan! God has no opposite. He is the biggest, the greatest, and the most powerful! As wonderful as God is, Satan is not equally bad, or oppositely powerful in horror and mayhem. He is not a foe too big for God. God takes what Satan means to ruin us and turns it into beauty. He is able to make those things enhance us not encrust us. God wants to take the things that are crusting over your heart and remove them so you can breathe freely and take in all that the Holy Spirit has for you.

It is letting go of bad thinking. Ephesians 4:23-32 and Romans 12:1-2

My dad had lung cancer; I’ve seen what not being able to breathe can do. Another friend’s brother just died of lung cancer. It ate through an artery and he bled to death right in front of her. I know people with emphysema that need to be on oxygen. It is hard to not get the air you need. Before we knew about the cancer, my dad started seeing things and acting strange. It was horrible. It broke my heart to watch his mind get messed up. About 6 months later, we found the tumors in his lungs and realized it had been affecting the amount of oxygen to his brain. Perhaps your injuries have affected your ability to think clearly? Perhaps you are not able to get enough of the Holy Spirit that you need to have healthy thinking? The difficulty that kind of incapacity can cause on you and your loved ones is not what God means for you to continue to live like.

God is bigger than whatever the pain and injury was; He wants to rid you of breathing in the tin can, He wants you to know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Who is truth? Jesus says I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. Jesus is truth.

Like enzymes break down our food and nourish us, or take air into every part of our bodies, the Holy Spirit nourishes us and breathes air into every part of us so we can function at our best. The next time you begin to cower in the corner or under a blanket afraid and hurt, tell Satan he is a liar and then let go of those thoughts; breathe in the truth of the Holy Spirit.

Could I say that I have been overwhelmed at trying to figure out how to help women? I want so badly to help your hurts and for you to live happy healthy lives. I try to figure out Bible studies and events and challenges and meetings and praying, but I really know that I can’t fix you. I am not a spiritual surgeon that I have the confidence to say, “Oh just listen to me, read this or attend this and all will be well.” But I do know God can. He is your answer. Hearing from Him will scrape the hard shell encasing you. He can remove your hurts and set you free. You do not need me or someone you think has a hotline to heaven—you can hear from God yourself. He wants to speak to you. He loves you. He says you are precious; believe truth, my dear friends. Let go of all that separates you from the love of God. Romans 8:35-39 “Can anything separate us from the love of God? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or when we are persecuted or hungry, or destitute or in danger or threatened with death? No… I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, angels or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow-not even the powers of hell… no power in the sky above or in the earth below” The only thing that separates us is our will. It is our choice to respond to Him or not. He does not rob you of your choice. Won’t you choose to breathe in all that you can and let go of all that contains and hinders you?

Her Worth is Far Above Rubies

Buddy's Mom was graciously released from the prison of her body several years ago. As sorrowful as we are to have her gone from us, we are overjoyed to have her well and home. I'm so glad that Buddy had the opportunity to do his mother’s funeral and honor her in such an amazing way. He did an incredible job, and I am so proud of him. Not only did he do so by what he spoke that day, but also, and even more importantly, by the way he lives daily.

I'm also glad to have the opportunity to honor Mrs. Hoffman on this special day.

Frances Hoffman was quite wonderful. It’s true! I know it’s hard to believe we could all think so, that perhaps we're just glossing over things, but quite truthfully, words aren't even adequate to tell what she was like and how much we adored her. Given the shortness of this space, I have to share only in part, many of you have heard me tell this, but I never tire of the telling any time I can--she changed my life.

We sat and looked through her old prayer journals of the last twenty years. Talk about riches - we felt up to our elbows in a treasure chest of jewels! What beautiful nuggets to find my name written to our Father, offered up in prayer, blessings and requests on my behalf. Not only us as parents, but prayers for our children...prayers that we have seen God answer. How precious an inheritance - how valuable beyond price.

These are the pages that I didn't know about: prayers I never heard. I look forward to discovering each precious one in the days to come. But so far, my favorite is still the letter of more than thirty years ago, sent me just after our engagement. I remember it often...I can still feel that day. I feel the warmth of the sun and the shady confusion in my heart, contemplating my past and my future. Not confusion over the engagement, but I could not for the life of me figure out why this wonderful thing was happening--to me! How? How did I find such a Prince? Why would he want to take me away on his white horse? (Or a dark chocolate brown Nova Super Sport, as the case may be) Why were my dreams and prayers coming true? My parents had not a dream come true, quite the opposite - these were nightmare days for our entire family. My brother was in deep difficulty; my sister had long given up on fairytales, how could this be for just me?

Many a day had I pondered these sorts of questions before, more questions always than answers. Why did I have such a heart for God, was always my biggest question. It was not a heart cultivated by parental example or encouraged and nurtured by them; they were busy trying to figure out their own mess. This seemed to be a heart beckoned and drawn like magnetic filaments from an unseen giant magnet on the other side. It was an irresistible delight and joy in my heart from the time I could begin to speak. My mother says it creped her out a bit when I was so young. She says I had tea parties with Jesus, and would speak to Him as if I could see him. Where was this desire from and why only in me with such intensity? I knew it was not of my own goodness; I knew it was from somewhere else.

As I had sat in the sun mulling over such, I noticed the mail carrier had delivered the mail and ran to see if the carrier pigeon had brought news from Prince Charming. To my bigger surprise was this letter from Mrs. Hoffman. In fairy book script, it began, "My Dearest Jody" my heart melted with the love that oozed from these pages. She wrote answers to questions that she never knew I was asking. As the letter unfolded, she told the story of her prayers for me since she was pregnant with Buddy. She said that she would hold him as a newborn rocking him and praying for me. Praying for the little girl that would one day marry him. She prayed she would have a heart for God and that she would make good choices. She prayed wherever she was that she would follow God and at just the right time, they would meet.

My heart leaped inside, so this was it! So this was why! She had been praying for me! This is where that heart came from. This is why I was drawn to God. This is why I would pour over the pages of my Bible and find scripture that would feed my soul, guide my way, and develop a hunger so strong that only God himself could feed it. She had prayed this into me.

The confusion and shadows once cast over me was now flooded out by the clarity of the letter and her prayers for me over those many years. For the first time it made sense. Then it absolutely overwhelmed me that prayers for someone you had never met or ever knew could change their life. How grateful I was. How valuable this woman and her prayer for me. How priceless is that? Proverbs says..."her worth is far above rubies".

May this encourage you to be in prayer for the ones yet unknown that will one day be your sons or daughters-in-law. They are wonderful to meet, and even more wonderful to know, I thank God for each of them. (And look forward to meeting the other, wherever he may be).

Mrs. Hoffman, I will forever be grateful; I love you. Thank you for changing my life with your prayers. Jody