Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To God Alone be Glory

I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Isaiah 42:8

God alone deserves all the glory.  In that wonderful devotional by Charles Spurgeon called Morning and Evening  I read these words for August 16:

God's glory is the result of His nature and acts. He is glorious in His character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that He must be glorious. The actions which flow from His character are also glorious; but while He intends that they should manifest to His creatures His goodness, and mercy, and justice, He is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to Himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. 
The last statement really hit me. "The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High."

Something clicked inside me. The basis for all the chaos, the fighting, the murders and in general all the misery of this world comes from the fact that one day in eternity past, God's most highly created being in a moment wanted glory for himself instead of giving it to the Most High.

In that minute, angelic rebellion started and it carries on to this very day. But lucifer wasn't the only rebel. One third of the angels joined him, and every day, we either join lucifer in his lie that God doesn't deserve all praise, or  we stand with God and rightly praise Him as the only One deserving glory in this entire universe.

The Lord revealed something ugly  lurking inside of me. Oh, how I hate to even admit it, but if it helps someone else who is struggling, it'll be worth it. That little ugly sin called envy was festering inside my heart of hearts.

On Monday, I realized this fact when I wrote this Proverb in my journal:

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but ENVY* makes the bones rot. Prov. 14:30 (my emphasis)

Suddenly, it hit me... Envy was causing me to spiritually languish, rotting inside. Ouch. Should I agree with that one who cannot even speak the truth by being envious of some other person's blessings?

When I read Spurgeon's words about there only being room for one glory in the universe, it connected in my soul. If I am envious of someone, I am telling God that what He gave me was not enough, that somehow He passed me by, made a mistake, call it what you will. Somehow I think that I deserve better than what He gave me, and the old bones start to rot. I am looking to glorify myself, and acting like the archenemy of God.

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?             I Cor. 4:7
Reading and believing that verse quiets my soulish longing for recognition by people in this world. Any talent I have is solely His gift to me, and there is no room for boasting in my flesh. Did I do one thing to earn or deserve it? No way.

 In the past, I didn't understand why God demands all the glory. Dare I say I thought it was selfish of Him?  That only proved my ignorance of knowing Him at all.

God alone deserves the glory because He humbled Himself more than any creature in this universe, to the point of being born in a dirty cattle trough, being misunderstood and abused when He went about doing only good, and as a thanks for all His gifts and healings was hung naked on the cross and suffered the punishment we all deserved, as us, instead of us. (See Phillipians 2.)
"In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God!"
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God."    II Corinthians 5: 19-21 NET
If we look at a flower, or a bird, or behold the blue sky or the stars in the heavens, they in their beauty, even in this fallen world, will attest:

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.    Revelation 4: 11

Even as we sing this beautiful chorus in the local assembly, one day soon all of God's children will be falling on our faces and singing it to the Lamb of God, the One who deserves the glory because He alone took away the sins of the world. Amen.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Numb in Laodecia

... you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.    Revelation 3: 17-20

I am numb. This world around me is dying and mostly I care for my own pleasure if I am honest about it.

Jesus stands knocking at the door of my heart, in the day of being connected 24/7. The Lord of the Universe waits, asking for permission to come in and fellowship with me, but I am too busy.
Maybe I have ear buds on or am catching up on the latest movie from Netflix.

People outside the church are hurting, looking for love in all the wrong places. I am too quick to point my finger and judge them rather than to show them God loves them and cares. 

It's easy for me to love others when they love me back. But what if they don't, how do I go on loving them? Facing that failure reveals how little I  do love with His agape love and not my own human love. I am numb.

Technology exploded in my lifetime. They forewarned of it in books like 1984 and Future Shock. But nothing could fully prepare us for this time in human history.  My humanity is only capable of so much expansion at one time even as the world goes on  with  attempts to "better" God's creation. In spite of microchips and bionic brains, in my spirit I know that will not solve the problem of human loneliness.  Our technology does not answer this great need of man, but the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ does.
In dying for me, He made a way for me to be with Him forever. The one who loves me unconditionally proved it by dying for me and all mankind on the cross.

 That same Lord knocks at the door of my numb heart.  Every day a plethora of choices comes my way for books to download on my device, movies to watch, songs and news shows to listen to.  Every single day they just keep on coming, hounding me to take a detour from the moment by moment fellowship with God. But still, He waits.

 Maybe I hear a knock right now, in spite of the buzz all around me.  God of the Universe is asking my permission to fellowship with Him? How can that be? Yet how patiently He waits until I realize that nothing else in this big ole world will fill the crater inside my stony heart.

If I let Him in, at times He  rebukes and disciplines me. It's for my highest good, not my destruction. Better for me to get the discipline here in time than at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Oh Lord I am numb in Laodecia. It's about me, myself and I and You are so often shut out. I live in the richest nation in the world and all the pleasures it gives does not fill the void inside without You.
Yet by faith I can answer that door for You to come in and give me peace, blessed peace. Oh Lord You wait patiently, but opening the door is up to me. Amen.

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: 
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.

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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hand in Hand

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. Ps. 138:7

A couple of weeks ago, I held a sweet, chubby little hand. It was the hand of my grandson, who lives far away and who I don't see often. I had the special treat of visiting with him and his family for an entire week. It was hard for me to say goodbye and return to the cold north.

Last night I held another hand. It was an old hand, a cool hand with fragile skin that displayed many marks of aging, yet in many ways it reminded me of the little hand. Mom was worried about many things last night, about how the rest of her life will go and I suggested we pray together before she went to bed. Together we prayed and I asked the Lord to give her a restful sleep. Then, together we prayed the Lord's Prayer and she seemed to relax as she recited that prayer she's known so long.

One week after I came home from my vacation in Texas, my life changed dramatically. I now live with my mother in her rural log cabin home. No one prepared me for this, but each day I look to Him and He gives me strength. 

In Texas, my grandson and I walked up and down the streets in the neighborhood, in search of "treasures." In the same way, Mom and I walk slowly, her holding onto my arm whenever we go outside or on an errand. I hope she is learning to trust me, that I will look out for her in our new relationship of me caring for her.

She is weary and misses my Dad so much. It seems the only thing that really lights her eyes is to see my own grandchildren, her great-grandchildren. Two of them are close enough to come and visit, and the oldest of them was glad to snuggle with her on her recliner. Her great grandson whom I visited from far away said hello and that he loved her on Skype. How she loved to hear him tell her about his snail collection and watch him eat his lunch.

Little things charm my grandsons. Snails, acorn, dandelions, fish in a pond, chickens and tractors seem more important to them than fancy toys. It doesn't take much to keep them happy. 

Oh, if we"grown ups" could also be that way, satisfied with the little blessings God bestows on us daily. Even though my life is uprooted, I do have all that I need as I take on this new role. God has promised it to me in the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Late Pastor R.B. Thieme translated this Psalm 23:1 like this:

The LORD is the one who keeps on shepherding me, I cannot and do not lack anything.*

It is quiet and the days can be long, but Mom and I are getting to know each other in a new way. Laughter seems to keep us going when we disagree. Caring for her is a privilege, not a duty, I remind myself.

Just as I treasure my grandsons, I will treasure this time with Mom. Help me Lord, to honor mother and take care of her just as she once took good care of me.

*From the booklet, Psalm Twenty-Three, R.B. Thieme, Jr., R.B. Thieme Jr., Bible Ministries, 2007.  (All material can be ordered from the ministry free of charge.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Choosing God's Thoughts

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD."For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.   Isa. 55:8-9

This was my view as I flew to Texas in early March for a trip to visit my beloved son and his family. Up there cruising  above the clouds, I happily remembered that the sun always shines, even when below it is gloomy and overcast.

I enjoyed having a window seat both coming and going, and couldn't help but to keep craning my neck to enjoy the view. "How great is my God!" I thought to myself when I gazed on these puffy clouds like a giant snowy castles below me while the horizon faded into pure azure blue.

Surely God knew each puffy cloud and the thunders and lightnings that might blow up inside them. And He knows little old me, and every thought of mine before I think it.

You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. Ps. 139: 2-4
God knows all.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there." Ps. 139:17-18

On the way home, as toddlers cried and newspapers were rattled I witnessed the sun slowly descending over the western horizon as we headed north to home. The sight took my breath away, even though my camera's batteries were dead. The violets, the reds in the atmosphere, and the huge lone star that sparkled brightly all served to again remind me that I serve a magnificent God, one above all gods.

I chatted with some of the fellow passengers both coming and going. Each of them had their own unique story and background and I couldn't help but think of the great love God has for each one of us, no matter where we are in life. He is just tapping His holy toes, so to speak, and waiting for us to acknowledge Him. 

One girl was completely immersed in a movie on her cell phone. I felt bad that she had missed God's work of artistry in the sky. How we are so bound to this earth and forget God's majesty.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. Ps. 19: 1-2

Looking at the beauty I saw around me, how glad I was to remember that God's thoughts are not my thoughts. My biggest focus in life is not to stew and worry how things will turn out with all the details of my life, but instead to get God's thoughts constantly into my thoughts.

Today I celebrate double nickels of existence on this planet. (What a long, strange trip its been...) When I think about it, that is a long time. Many people don't make it that far. And then I realize there is only a limited amount of time left for me to get God's thinking into me.

 I realize that every minute I get to choose what to think. If I think a thought of self pity, there is no help for that thought but to tear myself and others down as well. If I think about preserving my own comforts and dignity before others, it will be but wood, hay and stubble at the Judgment Seat. 

But if I get so familiar with God's thinking through His Word that it abides in me, I will prove to be His disciple. To think with God in many ways reminds me of the picture of the clouds in the airplane. They soar high above this earthly sorrow and all the world's problems. Surely God has an answer for each one of the troubles left to me in my life.

But I need to find them. They are only in one place: His treasure trove, of course.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13