Monday, July 17, 2017

Eight Years Ago...By His Mercy

...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit                   Titus 3:5


By His mercy eight years ago today I started this blog called inchristalone-byhismercy.

By His mercy there have been 240 posts, in which my goal was to glorify my Lord and Savior in some small way. Even if one person was directed to look away from themselves and unto Him for salvation it would be worth any time or trouble on my part.

Eight years ago when I started this blog I was not yet a mother in law, or a grandmother. I did not have an empty nest.

I was still working part time, still coloring my hair, still in my forties!

Where has the time gone? Day by day and moment by moment it's slipped away.

My father is gone now, and we are busy helping my mother into an assisted living facility in the next few weeks.

By His mercy, the day I was baptized at Northgate Bible Baptist Church, the pastor quoted this Titus 3:5 verse before plunging me into the water. That was over thirty years ago, but  still I remember it.

How I loved hearing that verse, not by works of righteousness that we have done...

It was like drinking an ice cold glass of lemonade when my soul was parched with trying to be "good enough."

It is the same way with my Christian life too. It is not by deeds of righteousness that I do that I grow in grace and knowledge of Him but simply according to His mercy.

Mercy in the Greek is eleos. In Vine's Expository Dictionary, the definition of mercy starts with: 
ἔλεος
ELEOS is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. It is used... of God, who is rich in mercy, Eph. 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men, Tit. 3:5, for Jews, Luke 1:72, and Gentiles, Rom. 15:9. He is merciful to those who fear Him, Luke 1:50, for they also are compassed with infirmity, and He alone can succour them...

Any progress I have made between then and now is by His mercy. I hope, when I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be evidence of some. Yet consider this thought, which made me stop and think, for 7-17 in None But the Hungry Heart:

It takes more to break inertia than to ease momentum. Misdirected zeal is more easily corrected than inert sloth...

It is possible, and very humiliating, to be awakened to the fact, that though we have had a measure of zeal for the Lord, that we have barely known the things we should have known, nor the behavior that is becoming to us in this marvelous day of grace.  

But it is the love of the Lord Jesus that would lead us on, through the judgment of ourselves and ways, into deeper communion with Himself to be better representatives of Him here in whose likeness we shall soon appear. 
I could have done more in this eight years worth of time, but  I press on. I want to simply show the world by my words and actions that He is worth knowing, worth pursuing with all my heart.  Think back to where you were eight years ago. Are you where you want to be now? Let His love motivate you to press on. In the end, it is all that matters.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3: 13-14




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Losing, Loving, and Waiting for Departure

 My dear  Mom at a park near her house. She didn't me to take a picture but I told her I wanted a memory for when she was gone.


Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22


A sweet writing friend just lost her mother. I felt stunned hearing how quickly her mother passed, but rejoiced that she went peacefully. I know that day of losing my own mother looms, and I  wonder how long it will be until she joins Dad in heaven.


Mom is in the midst of deep grief from losing her partner and best friend of 58 years. Now my sisters and I have made the painful decision to get her a little efficiency at a senior care home not too far from my home. It wasn't our first choice, but there seemed to be no other good option, and even mother realized that this must happen and agreed to it. Mom can't live alone in her home in the country when winter comes, so she must say goodbye to her home too. My heart aches.



How the words in Proverbs which say, "do not despise your mother when she is old,"  cut me to the quick at times when I grew impatient with her slowness getting out the door, or repeating herself, or hearing her complaints. It must be easy to despise people when they are old or Solomon would not have written it. 

We all love babies, so innocent and sweet with their fresh skin and wonder at the world. But loving the ones that are vulnerable on the other side of the spectrum? In this culture we live in, youth are exalted but the old and grayheaded are easily despised. In other cultures it isn't like this. 


When I was younger  I thought I knew so much. I assumed old people didn't know a thing. I thought I would do better than my parents did when I had my own children.


One day I sat on the floor with my baby and played with him, attempting to stimulate his little brain for learning. I suddenly realized how woefully unprepared I was to be his mother, to raise and nurture him, teach him what he would need for life. But there was no manual to read to make myself ready.


Rather, I was in for a rude awakening. My own rebellious heart haunted me when I saw it in my children. Over time, my heart softened toward Mom and Dad and their imperfections.

They were just two hurting human beings who got together and decided to have a family. They were going to have a boy and a girl but did not get what they ordered and ended up with us three girls. I think Mom often felt overwhelmed, and when I had my three, I often felt overwhelmed too.

Our parents had wounds that carried over into their parenting of us. The wounds were passed down, and somehow, without ever wanting to, we passed them on to our children. 

It comes right down to the fall of mankind, and the sorrow we all inherited from Adam.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and no one really loves our kids the way we do. But one day they grow up and move away and the difficult process of separation must begin. 

From that day on we can't "go home" again. Once I married and moved away, I struggled with resentment.  Then one day I too found myself a parent and had a newsflash:   parenting was not easy, not at all.

All too soon my "chippies" (as we called them) left our nest, and I was only left with memories, just like Mom had memories of us girls and the things we did that made her crazy. We begged her to stop reminding us of our stupid mistakes.

She finally stopped reminding us now. Instead, she talks about having a recurrent dream of seeing my Dad looking for his mother in heaven. She  slows down more and more, mostly just resting in her chair for most of the day.


She longs to go and be with Dad. How can I blame her for that?


Now it feels like I parent her more than her parenting me. All the nights I  spent with her, I tucked her in, and kissed her on the head and told her I loved her.


As I walked out of her room I heard her say, "I love you too honey."


Parenting came full circle. 


I prayed for clear direction, and God provided a comfy private room at a nice place not far from me available. God made her willing to go, instead of demanding she would stay "right here" in her present home. Now I trust that God will continue to lead us.  Mom will finish tredding her own journey, and then meet Jesus (and my Dad) again on the other side.





Friday, June 30, 2017

Don't get too comfortable, there's a new world coming.

Years ago this was the place of labor for a Midwestern farm family. 

"Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them." Psalm 39:6




In the winter of 1980, when I was a senior in high school, we received sad news  that my Grandma Clara from Iowa had passed away. I begged permission to accompany my parents to the funeral, even if it meant  missing school. In years past I'd always cried when we came home from visiting her in summer. But now suddenly, she was gone and I wanted to pay my final respects to her, the one I remembered knowing only from a distance.

Mom and Dad said no to that request, though afterwards they said regretted it. When they arrived home, I asked all about the service. Mom said the minister emphasized the theme: "All things come to pass."

The land Grandma labored over, now farmed by another. Her days of labor, straining over  rich Iowa soil only a memory.

 My life comes to pass before my eyes. Living with Mom these last months while we make arrangements to find a place for her, I gaze on the beauty of her place. Dad worked so hard here, but he is no longer to here to enjoy it. He amassed riches and did not know who would gather them...


I look at the beauty of her blue eyes. Soon her retirement home will be no longer be a part of our family. But it's just a "thing," and all "things" come to pass.

I hold her fragile hand. How did it get so withered and tiny?

My days of having Mom in my life are coming to pass.  One day will be my last day too, and the riches I've gathered will be given to strangers. None of it will come with me.

Only the treasure of the Word that I store in my soul will make it with me to the other side.

 We are eternal souls, and though our earth days come to pass, we will live on forever. If we have Jesus in our life and in our thoughts, the best is yet to come.  C.S. Lewis said:

"There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."


Time dragged when I was little, I thought I'd never grow up. I wanted my parents to live forever, I dreaded saying good byes. 

Now each day just melts into the next. One moment we celebrate, a family together.  Next thing it's a year later, a decade later, a lifetime later.The older I get, the more "goodbyes," the more life changes.

Life on this  broken, fallen sphere is filled with breath-taking moments, but something much, much better is coming. No matter the awe of this world, it's thoroughly contaminated with the plague of sin, death and destruction. Magnificent wonder is God's creation, yet a cry of despair when humanity touches it, ruining it.

Things aren't yet what they should be, the way God wants them to be.

Life is nothing, nothing, compared to what God has in store for us when He recreates the New Heavens and New Earth. In His mind, we're already there. 

We are just travelling through here, so let's not get too comfortable.

One day new life will dawn. God Himself will wipe the tears from our eyes.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad Listened to Me

"We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." Psalm 78: 4, 6-7


One of my favorite memories that I have of  my Dad is the night we discussedthe book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.  We were all in our Apache popup trailer,  in the midst of a campground out in the Midwest,  tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.  Before drowsiness consumed us  the topic of possibly living in the end times came up. Dad had recently borrowed a copy of the book from his realtor.

My sisters and mother  dropped off to sleep and finally it was just me and him talking. He was eager to discuss it, and I felt elated because I wasn't sure at that point if he was saved. That night was such a blessing, sharing about things that are prophesied to happen, that will happen, things that were not mentioned in our ritualistic, formal church.

Dad liked to talk politics and such with my older sister. My own thoughts and opinions were drowned out as they got into heated debates. Of  course, her attitudes came to align with Dad's once she grew into adulthood, but back then I always felt like I didn't have much of a voice, that is, until that night in the trailer.

So began a tradition of rich talks with my Dad that lasted up until his death last fall. Dad was from the Midwest, and in the year 2016, he made two last trips out to see his family: one in the early spring and the last one late in the summer. I went with him and Mom on the first trip, and my younger sister went on the last one.

In spite of being eighty-four years old, Dad did almost all of the driving on that trip. In order to keep  awake at the wheel, he enjoyed conversing with me, even in spite of my mother's protests that he was talking too loud. Again we shared much about our faith, the nation of Israel, politics and then he began to tell the story of his army days to me. I learned how he "broke rank" in order to be transferred to a civil engineering unit in Germany and the hard lesson he learned from that. I learned how an older engineer mentored him and taught him how to be polished in the business world. This was all information I never heard before. Finally, I grabbed a notebook to write it down. In the back of my mind was a question, "Dad, why are you telling me all of this?"

Fast forward to a year ago, June 2016. My son and daughter in law paid a surprise visit to my parents home to introduce them to their new great grandson. My strong father was amazed to hold the newest member of the family. I looked at the two of them together, and in spite of Dad's great strength, noticed how much weight he had lost. Somehow I just knew his time was coming.

I think he knew too. He made a point of getting all of his affairs in order, and showing us where things were. But most of all, Dad had ensured that the most important transaction of all had taken place: Dad placed his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation, and never was afraid to share that faith with others. The day he had his hunting accident, his neighbor and friend found that Dad had a copy of Billy Graham's Decision magazine up there with him in the tree stand. One of the last things Dad looked at on this side was to read about his great Lord and Savior. That magazine is tucked away in the drawer upstairs, too precious to be thrown away.

Dad eagerly  shared his faith with family members, neighbors and friends from the business world. He shared it with his grandchildren, the generations coming after him. This is my first Father's Day when I have not been able to give him a card and a gift and tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. 

With tears in my eyes, I still thank my Heavenly Father for giving me the gift of a wise earthly father, and cannot wait to see him again when we are reunited in heaven. Dad wasn't perfect, but he gave me an inkling of how great our Heavenly Father is by his own example. The most profound of those lessons was...Dad listened to me. If he as an imperfect human showed so much care and love for me, his whining middle daughter, how much more does my Heavenly Dad care about all of us unworthy yet adopted children?
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah  Psalm 62:8  

If you have not yet come into the family of God, what are you waiting for? You too can be His adopted child, with all its rights and privileges simply by trusting in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.


"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17
Abba Father, thank You for giving us earthly fathers that can represent to us just a glimpse of the depth of Your love for us. Thank You for making a way that we can be reunited with them once again on that great Resurrection day. Amen. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Serving with Helplessness


For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor. 12:10 


I don't like sitting around doing nothing. I don't like feeling helpless.  But for the past couple of days, that is exactly what I have been doing. I am recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand yesterday morning, and also still having some pain from the surgery I had on my right hand almost two months ago. Using my hands in normal daily activity is painful in even simple chores.

My husband said to take it easy. So I have, but sometimes it is hard to sit when I think of all the things I should be doing. Like cleaning the house, or starting a new writing project, or.... the list goes on.

I have spent the last couple of months taking care of Mom, that throwing my normal life off schedule. Half of my stuff is at home, and half of it is at her house. I will be here a couple more days recuperating then back to her place, then back here when my sister comes, and on and on for this summer. It hurts to see her unhappy and saying she just wants to die.

I have never felt this unsettled. Never. I don't know what the future holds, it seems so uncertain. And more and more, the Lord shows me my own helplessness to even pull out of the rut I seem to be in.

One thing is certain. I cannot face the things ahead alone. I need Him desperately. Do you need Him that way too?

I used to think that was a bad thing, but now am learning to rest in it. He isn't expecting anything from dust like me but to look up in faith to Him.

Last week, on a farm near Mom's I saw a poor cow that had fallen down in the mud. The farmer tried several times and in different ways to lift the cow out of the muck but it just kept falling down again. I could not help but cry looking at that poor helpless cow, with udders full of milk, unable to lift herself or flick away the many flies assaulting her. In vain she swished her tail and lifted a leg. But it was of no use. A couple days later, I saw her lifeless body being hauled away on a truck from the neighbor's farm.

If I could have pity on that helpless creature how much more does my Heavenly Father pity us as His weak children?  I used to think that if only I tried just a little bit harder, then certainly I could succeed in the Christian life, and pull myself out of the pits I dig for myself. Now I rejoice to know that only when I am weak will His strength be shown in me. He can be glorified even in a weak vessel like me.

Just before I was ready to sign off tonight I found this little quote from None but the Hungry Heart (edited by Miles Stanford) for today, June 10. It encouraged my weary and discouraged heart. Maybe it will encourage yours too:


“Two glad services are ours, Both the Master loves to bless. First we serve with all our powers, Then with all our helplessness.” 


Saturday, June 3, 2017

All this and Heaven Too

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." Lam. 3:22-24


I have been thinking about probabilities, choices, and the opportunities or the lack thereof each of us gets in life. Is there ever a reason for us to be bitter about our circumstances, about our lot in life?

Some might say yes, when you think about the poor of this world and there lack of opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. Doesn't that prove God is unjust, and therefore not worthy of our praise and devotion?

And then I think about the wealthy of this world: the movers and the shakers, the people who have the goods of this world and all their luxuries freely at their disposal. Doesn't that guarantee that they of all people should be happy?

But I thought some more. They have it all, the poor are envious of them, but that is no guarantee of happiness. In fact they can be most miserable in the midst of having great prosperity.

And then I think about opportunities: the chances to go on a trip of a lifetime, being the owner of a fantastic piece of real estate with the best view, having a spouse who agrees with everything you say and goes along with whatever it is you want to do.

Does that guarantee happiness?

Being honest with myself and the world around me, I say, "No!" We walk around and look at others who appear to have more than we have and we think in our puny minds that "those people" must really be happy while we stew in our own miserable situation. Then I realized that is just a complete lie of the enemy which he uses to hold us in bondage to fear and envy and, most importantly, the lack of being able to be content with just what we have.

I love the portion above from the Prophet Jeremiah. Talk about going through things. How about being dropped in the bottom of a miry dungeon and no one believing your message of impending judgment? How about being overcome by weeping as you see your nation going down, being carried away into captivity?

Yet Jeremiah said that the Lord was his portion, even after going through all those things. Today, Mom and I drove just a couple miles to go to the park and sat at the marina. There was much more to the park: biking, camping, swimming, picnicking, but we just chose to go to the marina, sit on the bench, and listen to the clinking of the ropes hitting against the poles on the sailboats, and hearing the swish of the greenery from refreshing breezes.

I thought to myself, "Maybe I should have come here more, maybe it would be nice to be the owner of one of those boats." But then, reality of the Word came back to me. There is no guarantee that anyone in one of those boats is truly happy. I can be just as glad to sit on the shoreline, watching everyone coming and going. I can be just as happy sitting on my back porch meditating on the Word of God than I could be if I was on the most fantastic cruise in the Carribean.

That is one of the biggest lies that keeps us in bondage and never content. The lie says someone, somewhere, is better off than you, so therefore you must be miserable. But Jeremiah, in the most depressing situation still knew that the Lord was his portion.

If we have the Lord as our portion, it is enough for this life and the one to come. Every experience now just flees away, but the realities of God's preparing a home in heaven for us (one which will never be corrupted) is reason to be more than satisfied for whatever happens to us on this side of eternity.

As we sat on the bench and read our books, I commented to Mom that if it could be this beautiful in a corrupt, depraved, sin-filled world, what does He have in store for us once we get to the other side? What beauties we'll enjoy, what pleasures we will have when we enter our heavenly home for all eternity.

It hit me. I can joy and revel in my Lord and Savior, and all that He has given me even though my circumstances might not be as outwardly pleasing as others. I have Him! This beautiful day will come and go, but I will still have Him. The rains are predicted to come for tomorrow, but I still have Him, and all that He died to give me is mine freely, without my earning or deserving it.

Many years ago, when another pristine day was being enjoyed by yours truly, I remember Mom saying when I remarked that it was a gorgeous day, "Yes, we have all this and heaven too."

While we are still on this side, we have good things, we have hard things, but we will always have Him and heaven too, if we have taken the free gift of salvation that He offers to one and all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

His Light is Breaking Through

But I, through the abundance
of your steadfast love, will enter
Your house. I will bow down toward
Your holy temple in the fear of You. 

Psalm 5:7







Yesterday God demonstrated His "dunamis" power to me in a small but magnificent way. I've been staying with my mother for a few months now, caring for her since our Dad passed away. There have been times when I felt as if I wanted to run away, and it's easy to fall into a self pity trap.Yet I felt no burden of that when I arose from bed on Tuesday, only the peace of God.

Mom and I were going to Ladies Study, just a group of women from different areas of our city gathered together in Jesus' name to learn about respecting our husbands and loving our families, but really about letting God live through us, whether married, single, divorced or widowed.  This study only "opened up" recently, shortly after I arrived at Mom's. At times, "getting out the door" makes me anxious when Mom's sense of timing seems off. I dressed myself quickly and put on a dab of lipstick.When I went downstairs I saw that Mom already put on a pretty pink sweater and pants and was almost ready to go. There was no frown, but a smile on her face.

Without any cross words or impatience we both made it into the car early enough for a time cushion for our commute. So far, so good. But it was the message of the study that really got hold of both of our hearts.

Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness for people who don't deserve it. Because none of us deserve anything from God but He died on the cross to give us all things. Every day can be like Christmas with the free gift of God's salvation and the blessings He wants to shower us with.

All of this so that we don't have to continue on in the same old miserable rut we feel helpless to escape.

 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases ,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
          Psalm 103: 1-5

He comes along and releases us from the heavy burden of wanting to do whatt's right, but finding it utterly impossible when we try in our own strength to do it.

At study, we read  letters that talk about these life-changing principles. Judy Seligman wrote the letters nearly thirty years ago when she went through a severe testing. In this trial, God personally taught her that He would come inside her and love the unlovely through her, and demonstrate to men and angels the power of Christ'slife lived out in a weak and fragile vessel. Back then, the message was powerful, but now there is even more to receive from this godly woman who has continued in the grace of God and exhibits the joy of the Lord more than anyone I know.

Mom has  come with me for a few weeks now to study , but the first couple of weeks she could barely hear. Her face showed frustration, and I probably showed it too. I wanted her to feel a part of things, but she was having trouble processing it all. Judy knew it was hard for both of us, but this time, Mom seemed to be actively participating, smiling and laughing, and then she perked up enough to share something from her own heart to the group.

In her own lovely way, Judy told Mom it was a wonderful thing to contribute . A light flashed on, as it were, in Mom's soul. I love this verse, and feel it explains the mini-miracle I witnessed yesterday:
Psalm 34: 5-6  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

Suddenly, I realized that Mom was not again saying she just wanted to die. She was brightened and encouraged by the word of God's grace. When we went home, she looked at her Bible even more and re-read some of our study material.

Then it occurred to me. God wants Mom to have this chance to hear the grace message, maybe in a new way. For many years she may have labored under wrong concepts, but God wants her to be free. None of this would have happened if God had not allowed the circumstances of the past year to happen in our lives.

Every day, it seems her spirit seens to lift a bit more. A hard yoke becomes easy for both of us when we take the burden of the One who gave everything to redeem us.