Thursday, March 15, 2018

Waking from Winter Slumber

"Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
"He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.
"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." Hos. 6:1-3

It is a yearly ritual, when the warmth starts to tease us for a day or two but winter won't quite let go. I know they will be there...

 I search for my tiny purple snow crocuses that faithfully return somewhere between winter and spring, even if only for a couple days. And there they were, waiting for me.

The day I took this picture, I was awaiting a big operation, one I was not relishing. Just a day or two later I was under the knife for more than four hours as the surgeon fixed my hiatal hernia and took biopsies. You see, my breath had become shorter and shorter as of late. Even walking up a flight of steps was so tiring. I've been winded for years, but not like this. I had this funny bump on my forearm for over a year and finally went to the dermatologist. I thought it might have been precancerous or something but it came back as sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis, how come I had never heard of it before?

Thought to be somewhat like an autoimmune condition, these non-caseating granulomas start to grow in your body. The main place they attack is the lungs. When I saw a CT scan filled with nodules, we wanted to find out for sure if this was sarcoidosis and not cancer. 

Now we have a diagnosis, and will try to treat it with the help of my pulmonologist. Hopefully  medicines will calm the little buggers from growing anymore or invading any more organs.Yet having this diagnosis has not made me cry, not really. After many years of choosing worry over fear, this time I choose not to fear, but to live in the reality of God's unfailing love.

 A couple of posts ago, I wrote about numbering my days. At the time, things hadn't flared up yet with my lungs. Now I see why I wrote it. The Lord really does want me to number them, because just like those little friends that popped up from the cold, barren ground to say hello to me for a day or two, human life is just as fragile.
"Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain." Job 14: 1-2
The first couple of days home it was all I could do just to lie in the recliner most of the day. But it hit me, if my days are numbered (and they are) then what really matters?

There are too many choices and distractions, but One book and One Person whom my soul longs for. Every time I long for Him, He is there, faithful, while the things of the world seem so empty.

Outside my window today I hear the winds roaring, just like the March lion. My tiny friends are slumped over in the grass. 

I face a tough road ahead to try and get this mystery disease under control. But I thank Him for it all, because He is using it to awaken me from my own winter slumber,  to know what it means to abide in His love, to have that perfect love cast out all my fear.

His love has allowed this, I will not ask why. Just as those tiny crocus displays His glory, it is my prayer that I will too. 

If there is something big looming in your life right now, I know He will show Himself utterly faithful as you simply trust Him. He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Life-Saving Cross

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified... I Cor.1:18-22a

We all are given the gift of twenty four hours each day. How we spend them is up to us. In this busy world of multi-tasking  it "seems" foolish to spend a chunk of time each morning reading the Bible and in prayer. But in this time, I find daily rest for a soul that is so weary of this world.

My sister is weary of this world too. Just yesterday I encouraged her to come away from it all and to take the time just to be with Him, just to hear His voice and find refreshment for her struggling soul.

The Word is the only protection we have against the lies ready to bombard us from the media and in the world in general. It is also our protection against our own efforts to be "good" in and of ourselves.

And why can't we be good? The Bible tells us flat out that there is none good in Romans 3:12. 

As I have been faithfully taught, we can't "do" right if we don't "think" right first. But how can we think right if we are fallen beings, prone to the constant lure of sin and doubt?

The answer is taking His cross.

The blessing of this is that I apply this cross to my own right to form my own opinions and judgments of others, or even to how I think God thinks of me. I may think I "know" how a person is (as if I'm omniscient) or how a certain situation may unfold. But the Word tells me, not to be saved, but if I want to be a disciple, that I must lose my own life and take up my cross daily to follow Him.

That sounds hard, right? Taking up a cross daily? But really it is grace, because it saves us from ourselves.

If we look at Matthew 11: 28-30 we see that cross is really our salvation from the tyranny of our old person who wants to stay on the throne and have his own way.

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30

Many years ago, I  questioned if that statement was really truthful.  Deep down, I believed the Lord was a hard taskmaster, demanding things just too hard for me, walking around in constant condemnation. I figured in my heart that this could not be true, but until I understood that it is grace from start to finish did I grow to love this passage.

"Come,"# 1204, deuro,...calling or encourageing and may be translated, "come," "come hither" as an exclamation or an imperative (command) 

EW Bullinger in the Companion Bible says of "come" : "Here Christ refers, not to sins, but to service, not to guilt, but to labour; not to the conscience, but to the heart; not to repentance, but to learning; not to finding forgiveness, but to finding rest."

of the word all, Bullinger continues that this word is limited to those seeking "rest"

Heavy laden: is the Greek word #5412 phortizo*, "to load up" overburden with ceremony (or spiritual anxiety): be heavy laden, load.

rest is the word anapauo, #373 "to repose... to refresh--... relax (give, take) rest. When used as a noun, it means "rest, quiet, from occupation, oppression, or torment."*
Bullinger says of rest: "Ours must be found in His gift. We have none to give."

Take is the Greek word airo "To take up and place on oneself, to take up and bear, meaning to bear, carry His yoke.

Learn is #3129, manthano: "ask, learn, study, be taught...particularly: intellectually, from others or from study or observation."  
A disciple is a disciplined learner.

Jesus said He was gentle. #4235, it is defined praios, or in the ESV, # 4239 praus, an adjective meaning meek, mild, gentle

The Creator of this universe is meek, mild and gentle toward us, and pities us in all our troubles. 

Humble is #5011, tapeinos- primarily signifies low-lying. This same thought of Christ's humility is expounded in Philippians 2.

In verse 30 is where is where this passage really encourages me, for:

 His yoke is #2218 zugos: serving to couple two things together is used 1) metaphorically, of submission to authority... not simply imparted by Him but shared with Him.

This yoke is easy. This word is #5543, chrestos: easy, good, kind. 
In speaking of Christ's yoke, "as having nothing harsh or galling about it."

and His burden is light, #1645, elaphros: light in weight, easy to bear.

This Savior that I speak of longs for this intimate fellowship with every one of His dear children. When I find myself out of fellowship with Him, I simply can ask myself how I went off His path of an easy yoke and a light burden? I confess it, knowing it's already paid for, and again take up His gracious, life-saving cross.

"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." Psalm 119:18--  consider in light of this wonderful passage. 

I pray that God might bless anyone who reads this who may be worn down and burnt out, to find His yoke easy and burden light today. Amen.

The Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates
Zodhiates, AMG's Annotated Strong's Greek Dictionary of the New Testament
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

Monday, February 12, 2018

Magnificent Monday

So happy with the beautiful colors on my first bed sized quilt.

As his divine power has given to us all things which relate to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us by glory and virtue,through which he has given to us the greatest and precious promises, that through these ye may become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  II Peter 1: 3-4 (Darby)

"Monday, Monday,"goes the song by the Mamas and the Papas. How often I have dreaded the day called Monday. For it ended the recreation of the weekend, and time to go back to school-- (grroan! way back when!) or back to work. As if God would not be faithful in the challenges of the new week. To be honest, don't a lot of people hate Mondays?

I thought about it: One seventh, or approximately 8 years of my life so far has been composed of Mondays. How many have I wasted in dread?

Today I put on my bed the quilt I've made over the last six months or so. It is my first bigger one and there are many mistakes, if you look on the back. I mainly used scraps of fabrics I had on hand.  Like on the quilt, I got to thinking about the many tints and colors of God's grace, bestowed upon me in this life. As the lovely pastel colors, the promises of God are variegated and beautiful, covering all the needs I have. In I Peter 4:10, we learn about this many tinted grace:

As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

The word for manifold is poikilos. It is #4164 in Strong's and is defined this way: 

ποικίλος poikílos, poy-kee'-los; of uncertain derivation; motley, i.e. various in character:—divers, manifold.

Getting back to Mondays ,this morning I realized instead of just asking God for things I wanted, I could instead give him thanks for things, and turn all my requests into thanksgiving. In this way, I could demonstrate that I knew ahead of time He would take care of all the things I was concerned about. So instead of making my usual requests, I would say, for example, "Thank you for how you are working in so and so's life, in spite of the fact that I don't see by sight any answers." More and more things to be thankful for came to mind.

I decided on Mondays it would be a good day to give him thanks for all His blessings in all of my life. Just thank Him for physical blessings, for who He is, for all the  things I take for granted everyday. Just about every request I had could somehow be turned into a way of praising and thanking Him instead.

I need to tell you this was not my original thought, thanking instead of always asking. Long ago this was suggested to me by a dear friend who not only gave this advice, but lives it and demonstrates it before others. As a result, she radiates peace and tranquility even in the midst of storms.

Eureka! Mondays are a day to give Him thanks. Instead of groaning facing a new week, I can instead praise Him. When I look at it in this wonderful new way, I realized that Mondays are indeed magnificent.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Really Loving Myself

So shall they fear The name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19

Have you noticed  the enemy raging against God's children in a present day tsunami? Have you sensed that something has changed, that life is not going on as usual? Especially around the time of the holidays I feel it in my bones: desperation as people search for happiness anywhere, everywhere, except the one place where they really could find it.

I used to think that loving myself was to indulge myself, to be a little selfish and to put myself first. That's the world's way, looking out for number one. But I find there is a different way to love myself spelled out in the Bible. In a simple Proverb, we learn that to love ourself is to allow our mind to be saturated with His mind.

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8
 If I love myself, I'll acquire wisdom. The only wisdom there really is comes from God and we are all given enough time to acquire it, that is, if we want it. But how easily we find other things that are more important. But the time is short. The accuser storms in like a flood. How can I ever resist him?

I overcome him by taking time to feed myself in the Word of God. It is not just a good idea, it's our life, especially in these last days. Jude 1:3 tells us we must earnestly contend for our faith. Satan is pulling out all the stops, how can we ever resist his wiles? How did Jesus resist him?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "          Matt. 4:1-4
Every word of God is important. I have one life, one life only. I was thinking the other day, I am in my midfifties. Say I live another twenty years. Roughly, I have about 7500 days left. That isn't a whole lot of days after all, is it?

Jesus mastered the Torah by the time He was twelve, so much so that all the teachers were amazed by His knowledge. One might object, "But He was the Son of God."

In Philippians 2:5-7 we are told that in His first appearing, Jesus laid aside His prerogative as Deity to fully identify with us as a man. If that is true, He did not use that Divine ability in learning the Torah, but His humanity learned it. And if He mastered it, then He wants me to do the same thing, as demonstrated in the story of Mary and Martha:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
"But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42
The part Mary chose, sitting at Jesus' feet and learning from Him, was the one thing that would not be taken away when she reached the end of her days on earth and faced eternity.

 My mind is not quite as sharp as in my thirties and forties. Today,  I was visiting Mom and stooped down to get something off the floor and I had to grab hold of something in order to pull myself back up. That wouldn't have happened ten years ago but each day a tiny bit of the physical vitality of the young me fades away.  Yet God's Word gives me spiritual vitality in spite of increasing frailty.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

A complex time on Planet Earth requires God's Divine solution: humbling myself and my own preconceived notions and ideas and learning and leaning on His mind instead. That's what I'm here for, the one thing that will stand the test of time and eternity.

"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  John 17:3
He is the One I long for. To love me is to learn Him while I have my being. 

Dear Father, I ask that You would graciously incline our hearts to want to know You first and foremost in our remaining days. For the glory of Your name, Amen. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Me... and a Key

God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend.
For He says to the snow, 'Fall [on] the earth'; Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.
He seals the hand of every man, That all men may know His work.  Job 37:5-7

 This is a story about losing a key twice, and how God is faithful and cares even about little trifles like losing keys, especially ones that are quite expensive to replace. You see, I have two keys for two cars on the same key ring. A couple months ago, somehow part of the chain that carried the key for the smaller car became separated from the main ring. That key was for the little car, but I was driving the big car that day and did not realize the little chain came off the big one. The next time I looked down, I realized part of the keychain was missing and with that the expensive car key for my little car. It was on a Sunday and I took my Mom to church that day.

I think it was a day or two later when I noticed it missing so I tried to backtrack in where all I had been since then, calling the diner where we had breakfast and the church. No one was at the church at the moment, but I did get hold of the pastor at his home number. I asked him if anyone had turned in some keys or if he had found some but he reported no. I told him thank you and told him not to make a special trip out there to look for it, as the weather was not the best that day.

I put a little note on my facebook with a small request that prayers could be made to find it, even saying it was a dumb request. Many wrote they were praying, and that it was not dumb at all to ask for prayer for such a tiny little thing as a lost key.

Though I thought the key was a goner, when my cell phone rang it looked like the number I called before. The pastor called,  he kindly went out of his way to go over and look for the key and found that it had fallen off my keychain just where I parked the car on Sunday morning. It was just laying there in the gravel and had my husband's tag on it, so there was no question it was mine. He gave it to my son, making a special trip to their house to give him the key. I thanked him profusely when I saw him the next Sunday and breathed a big sigh of relief.

You would think I would have learned my lesson, then, when I got my oil changed the other day and had to take the key for the little car off the ring.  Even though I could almost here a little voice saying, "You'd better put it back before you lose it," I put it off. I decided to ask my husband to do it because it is hard with small fingers to get that thick key back on the ring. I even put them out so he would see them, but forgot to ask him.

The next thing you know, I had to run an errand and needed to look for something in the little car before leaving in the big one. ] I looked for my item and then put the single key in my jacket pocket because I needed to leave. Little did I know but the key slipped right out of my pocket into the space between the driver's seat and the console.

Yesterday, when I realized it was gone, I went out into the bitter cold and looked everywhere in both cars for the key. It was so cold I could not stay out there long but finally my husband said to come in, that was enough looking though.  I stewed and stewed over the loss of the key until finally I realized I should just commit it to God.

 After I thawed out a bit, I again asked facebook friends to pray a second time, a few months later,  for that same lost key. I was so touched that many people responded and told me they were praying. Indeed, a friend from a writer's conference wrote out a beautiful prayer to God right then and there asking God to directly lead me to the key so that I would be able to go and do the things He would have me to do. I was touched by her taking the time to write that out and her faith that God would answer.

This morning, my husband again encouraged me not to worry. I put on my clothes to face the elements to look a second time and I decided to pray the same prayer silently that my friend had written on facebook.

 And then God came through, just like we asked Him. I climbed in the driver's seat, looked down in the little space between the chair and the console, and saw something black. I forced my hand down and the item moved, so I knew it was not part of the seat itself. I scrounged my hand around and picked up a very cold black car key.

I thought about it a bit. Here I put my dilemma out for so many to see on facebook. I thought that maybe when God answered, it would not only be for my sake but for the sake of others too. For my friend prayed specifically and God answered specifically. Not because I deserved or earned it, but because He is in control of all the details of our lives, even our stupid mistakes.

He showed me and my praying friends He is Immanuel, right there with us in all the little details of our lives. He not only answers the big requests but also the ones due to our own carelessness. After all, He is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our distresses.

'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.' Jer. 33:3