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 precious 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.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Sudden Storm

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits' end.  Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.  Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107: 27-30

I had no special plans for today when I got a call that my Mom needed an antibiotic. Rather than wait til we did errands tomorrow, we decided to drive the seven miles into town to get it. Just as we were loading up the garbage cans to take down the hill with us, I got a call that a bad storm was headed our way, even a tornado watch.

I probably should have waited, but we were ready to go and so I backed the car out of the garage and the rain started to pour as we drove down the steep hill.

I crept along the road and the rain kept coming harder and harder. We got her prescription (thank God for drive through pharmacy pick ups) and then we started to brave our way through the overflowing roads back home. At one point the rain came down in sheets, so strong that I pulled over. How could I drive when I couldn't see in front of me?

It took me a lot longer than usual to drive back out into the country to her house, and all along the way we saw evidence of the ground being oversaturated as muddy water flowed into the roads.

Isn't life often like a sudden storm? We think we have it all planned out but then a tragedy comes along and we feel like we are drowning in the midst of a huge deluge. It's easy to panic when these things come our way. That's my usual reaction, stopping to think my way through a crisis is not easy for me.

I knew my parents were getting old, I was helping them out by weekly visits and cleaning, going along for Mom's doctor appointments, etc. But then suddenly, Dad fell from a tree during a hunting accident last fall. A storm descended upon our family as we all gathered around his hospital bed, hoping desperately he could pull through. But God called him home four days later. 

Now I work with my sisters and we all take turns caring for mother, and sometimes I feel I am in a storm again. I had no idea a year ago that I would be living with her,being her caretaker. But God prepared me for the storm even in some of the things Dad said to me before he passed.

Just knowing that God is sovereign above all things is of such encouragement. Dad's "accident" was no surprise to God. It was appointed that my father would leave us then, even if it is so hard to accept, when we see so dimly on this side of eternity.

We have no guarantees of smooth sailing through life. Jesus promised us there would be trouble. How could there not be when every creature in this world is affected by the fall of man in the Garden?

Yet even in the midst of all the trials, the heartbreaks, the sadnesses we see in this vale of tears, we can be assured that God is still in control, that He watches over His children, that precious in His eyes is the death of His children. I know he rode with Mom and I in the storm today. 

Just one of thousands of His precious promises He gives to His undeserving children:

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. Psalm 91:15
Even if His way of delivering us is our death in the midst of the storm, God is still in control. He has taken the sting out of death, remember? 

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" I Corinthians 15: 54-55

My comfort is in knowing that even if I don't know what tomorrow holds, I have a Savior that loves me, who never abandons me. Life is confusing, with its sudden twists and turns, but as a child of God I settle down and rest in His promise:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ladies Study...Then and Now

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus 2: 3-5

Yesterday Mom and I  drove an hour  to attend a ladies study by my friend Judy. There were working ladies, widowed ladies, married ladies that attended. Yet the message Judy shared with us was the same message she taught many young wives and mothers thirty years ago.

The lessons are life changing, no matter whether one is married, divorced, widowed, working or staying at home. For though it is mainly about our relationship with our husband, it can be applied to anyone we meet in daily life.

Back then, Judy found herself in an impossible situation as a young mother in her own marriage relationship. In the midst of her trial, one day she heard the Lord ask her if she was so sinless she could throw stones at her husband. Her mouth (of accusation) was suddenly shut and their relationship became transformed. During this time, she asked God to show her everything the Bible had to say about  the role of the woman in marriage. She learned the secret that saved her marriage: submitting to her husband as unto the Lord, no matter where her husband was with God.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. I Peter 3:1-2

The fruit of this study has been written in a simple booklet (and now an ebook too.) At that time, I was a young wife and mother and when I was going through a particularly hard time (insomnia before the birth of my last child) I went up to Judy in church and asked her counsel. A couple of months later, after pleading with my husband, I ended up hauling my three young children and driving across town to hear words that saved my marriage. For though I was married, I thought my ways were the best ways and the result was my husband and I often disagreed.  The resultant friendship and godly advice I received from Judy helped me so much, I hope now in some small way to pass on to others who may struggle, especially now that I am getting to be "an older woman" myself!

Yes, the message is about submission. But the thing is,the only way we can do that is to look, really look,at the cross of Jesus Christ. On that cross, He submitted to His Father's will and took the weight of all mankind's sins. But not just mankind, but each of us personally. In believing this, I find courage to forgive myself when I fail and start each day with a clean slate. I don't have to carry around the baggage of yesterday's mistakes. If I forgive myself and get ahold of the fact that He loves me, I can forgive others also.

 God does not ask us to do anything that would ever be bad for us. So if submission seems like an impossible thing, first we must learn that it is for our good, and because God loves us so much He wants us to be in a place of protection.

It all starts with a  relationship with Christ through trusting that He paid for our sins on the cross. Through that, we become brand new creatures with a new nature. That's just the beginning, though. When we enter into that new relationship, we receive the Holy Spirit and the ability to manifest the love of God to others who hurt us.

I found myself rejoicing yesterday, that God has seen fit to keep me close to Him all these years now, even if I have made mistakes along the way. I was glad my Mom could hear God's message of unconditional love as well, as she struggles through the grief of widowhood. Most of all, I rejoice God's provision for the woman is still the same, no matter how much the world has changed.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In Dire Straits...

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Psalm 119: 71-72

Dire straits is not such a bad place to be. Hard times stretch our unworn spiritual muscles, make us cling to the Word of God for dear life. God shows me His faithfulness in these times, times where I am being stretched beyond what I think I can take.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years complaining and grumbling. Then, they did not even get to go into the land, after all that. They died in the desert and their children got to go in instead.

Paul told us in I Corinthians 10 that their story was written for us, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. So I began to think about my life and my own wilderness journey. I have been a Christian for most of my life. But I think nearly forty years of my own have come to pass where I spent a good deal of the time grumbling and complaining.

Grumbling and "venting" feels good for the moment. But it never gets me anywhere, never gives me any solutions, except to commiserate with others who are also struggling. It doesn't build me up, it doesn't build them up either. 

Did you ever think "if only" something was going the way you wanted, you could then be happy? I know I have believed that lie so many times. If only so and so liked me, if only I had done this instead of that, if only I hadn't made that mistake way back when, or was "there" instead of in the place where I am now.

You know what? The list of "if only's" could go on forever. Here is a shocking revelation: I don't have to have any condition outside of myself in which to be happy. Happiness comes from a source way beyond myself, if only I will avail myself of it moment by moment. It comes from one constant unchangeable fact: that God of all Gods looked down from eternity and saw us in our misery and decided to do something about it by taking all of our sins and guilt onto Himself at the cross. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loved us by dying for us on the cross.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

I need to spend the rest of my time here on earth just going and learning what all that really means, unwrapping this wonderful gift of salvation and walking in fellowship with my blessed Lord and Savior. It makes my life worth living. It is the only thing that does. 

If I love Him, then I can I trust Him that He will take the hardest and most trying times of my life and work them together for my ultimate good. It is to this simple fact that I am clinging.

Lately it seems that so many of God's children are going through difficulties. Are you trying to lean on your own understanding? You will never understand why all these bad things happen except that to see that they are the only way that God can get our attention, wake us out of our spiritual stupor and cling with all our might to the Lover of our souls.