Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Flow of the Dance

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17.

One of the most burned images in my mind is the image of Michael Jackson dancing his way from one illuminated square to the next in the Billy Jean video.  (I had to go watch it just now for old time sake!)   The image of him moving through the city lighting every square with each step made for a great video.  I read that he was told ahead of time that only certain squares would light up, so the dance moves had to fit within the confines of the tiles that would illuminate.  Being the talented dancer that he was, he created moves that looked as if Michael himself was causing them to glow at his touch by an act of will, when in fact not all tiles were designed to light up.  He was directed in the flow of the dance by the desire of the outcome.  While it was permissible for him to dance on any tile he wanted, it would not create the benefit of his goal for the video.

I was comparing this to a principle that God included in His word.  1 Co 10:23 tells us that ‘Everything is permissible (lawful), but not everything is beneficial.’  If that is the case then how do we navigate through life only choosing the things that benefit us?  We must allow God to light up those areas in our lives that have been wired for our benefit.  This was made very clear to me over 14 years ago in my weakness to secretly overspend.  It was perfectly acceptable to go shopping, but for me it became a stronghold instead of an activity.  For me to go shopping during a time when I was lonely, sad or confused was definitely not beneficial to my growth.  Even now God places certain tiles around my weakness that keep me dancing on the right ones...a husband who will hold me accountable…my testimony that would be affected by my stronghold…my desire to please God who has taught me a better way.  We all have our tendencies that are not beneficial to our lives and are contrary to our dreams.  We are all moving and living within our own video, and need the direction of the Holy Spirit to illuminate our way.  Choosing tiles not yet lit can lead us away from our desired life, detouring into darkness.  The Holy Spirit
will direct the flow of our dance if we wait on Him to show us the beneficial and perfect will of God for each of our lives.


I know what I’m doing.  I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” MSG, Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Best Welcome Ever!

When the council members heard Stephen’s speech, they were angry and furious. But Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked toward heaven, where he saw our glorious God and Jesus standing at his right side. Then Stephen said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!’ The council members…started throwing stones at him. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, please welcome me!’” Acts 7:54-57.

There were three different times in my life when I truly believe the divine peek into heaven that Stephen experienced also was experienced in the life of my family. Grandmother, Daddy and Beth all had those last days when their lives danced on the edges between heaven and earth. Those times when it appeared that they had already seen the glory of heaven and no longer responded to us. In all three instances as I sat there beside them I intently watched their movements. I remember Grandmother actually raising her hand up in the air as she lay there unresponsive. This wasn’t odd to me because I had spent my life periodically standing beside her in church, watching her little arm raise up in approval to the music, and honor to her Father.

Another time, my dad seemed to be asleep near the end but was moving his mouth and speaking whispers with his face towards heaven. He would raise his eyebrows and make gestures that I had watched as a daughter my entire life. As I sat beside Beth near the end, her face towards heaven, a smile would break across that beautiful face with her eyes closed, and hand gestures were made. Beth always used her hands when she would tell a story or having a conversation with someone.

I am convinced that all three during those times were peeking into their new home, and seeing both God and Jesus standing there welcoming them. I can just imagine the open arms of God welcoming grandmother home as His daughter who He lent to this world for 101 years. Oh, how He must have missed her so! I can see a crown being held up for my dad to come and receive for the many years he worked tirelessly in CEF, a ministry bringing children to Christ who didn't know Him. I’ll bet there was a crowd of those whose lives were impacted by Daddy’s service. And I would like to believe that as Beth was peeking into heaven, God was showing her the beautiful garden He had assigned to her. Boy, did she love those flowers and digging into the beautiful soil of the earth.

We have a personal God who personally deals with each of us in love, motivation and blessings both in heaven and on earth. I see heaven through dreams sometimes when I dream of those who have gone before me, but I stand on my spiritual tiptoes as I walk through this world. I don’t want to miss something in the spiritual realm because I was focusing on some silly thing in the earthly realm. I want to peek into heaven at any point that God wishes to reveal its beauty to me. I try to remember the radiant and joyful beauty on the faces of my loved ones as they were peeking into heaven. I don’t think they ever looked back.

Who could blame them?

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.' And the One seating on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' Then He said, 'Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.'" Rev 21:3-5.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Racing to the Altar

The boy Samuel served the LORD. Then the LORD called Samuel…He ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, because the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. Once again, for the third time, the LORD called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’” 1 Samuel 3:1-7.

I am sitting here with a smile on my face as I am picturing myself as a young 8-year-old girl in our small church in Graham, NC. Every Sunday the preacher called out to the congregation to give our hearts to Jesus and follow Him. These calls always felt very personal to me, as if that man behind that stand knew every wrong thing I had done or thought that week. When he would call out for the opportunity the weight of that calling was always heavy on my heart. More times than not (almost every week) I would bolt down the aisle to give my heart to Jesus…again…and again. Like little Samuel, I really didn’t know who Jesus was at that point or to where I was following Him. My Jesus lived on a felt board in Sunday School, but His Dad called out to me every Sunday to come to the altar. My mother still says that the people in that congregation must have wondered what on earth I was doing away from church to have to run down to the altar weekly.

Samuel eventually grew into a man full of the Lord and was used divinely as a prophet. God had big plans for Samuel through their fellowship, and He has big plans for each of us. We tend to be like the boy Samuel, running towards the things of this world as they beckon our name. We tend to be unable to recognize what God is saying to us as the world screams something different. But thankfully, we have a Father who is relentless in His pursuit of us, motivated by His lavish love for us. He will continue to call out to us until we recognize His voice. He is both consistent and persistent so that we don’t miss His urging and inklings through the gentle nudge of His Spirit. We must take the time to posture ourselves in a position of listening so we can recognize when Jesus is calling.

Some days, I still feel like that little 8-year-old child running towards the altar, needing God to forgive me for unlovely thoughts or behaviors. But that is the beauty of the cross…Jesus went to the altar for us once and for all. For that, my heart is full and our eternity is guaranteed. Oh, what a Savior!

Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’" John 19:30.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

God's Perfect Memory

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a darling child…I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him," says the LORD.” Jeremiah 31:20

I'm going to begin by just saying that Kristen, Michael and Caroline are dear and darling to me! They have grown into awesome adults with hearts of gold. (No bias there!) When they were very young I learned early as a mother that there is nothing sweeter than the affirmation of love between a parent and a child. Even though they are now adults with lives busier than they should be, and life tougher than it ought to be our times together are just as special as in their childhood. When I think of them I think of ways that I can bless their lives. I remember those things that bring them joy, and still try to incorporate that joy in adult ways. There are still times when they need their mother’s touch and encouragement…their dad’s wisdom and humor. When they reach out it strikes that tender parental spot in my heart that takes me back to sweet and gentle times. I love the ‘do you remember when’ stories that offer laughter, love and fellowship. Some are precious and some are heartbreaking but they all involve trust, love, and promise.

Like my children are to me, we are to God as He parents us. We reminisce with Him about how He acted on our behalf in ‘that’ season. We thank Him with deep gratitude for getting us through ‘this’ season. We come to Him with our unanswered prayers in hopes of getting that gentle touch…those encouraging words…His wise advice… that joyful peace. More times than not, in the Bible when Scripture says ‘God remembers’ it doesn’t mean that He forgot. It usually is a precursor to God’s movement in that situation. God never forgets His plans for His children, and yearns to move in our circumstances, hurts and dreams. We are darling to Him, and so dear to His heart.

He hasn’t forgotten the couple who longs for a child. He remembers the prayers for employment and the purpose it will bring. He hasn’t forgotten how to reconcile marriages and bring home wayward children. He remembers how to cure cancer, and relieve the pain of medical challenges. He hasn’t forgotten that our hearts are grieving for our loved ones. He remembers how desperate we are for that relationship to come along. He has a perfect and beautiful plan for all of us, and longs to give us what makes our heart sing. He knows when we are ready to receive that blessing, and what needs to be arranged in our circumstances before He can give it to us. He hasn’t forgotten you or your circumstances, and has you constantly on His mind and in His heart. He states it over and over again in His word if we will just spend some time with Him. He is always there waiting for time with His dear children.

For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.

Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD…and the LORD remembered her.” 1 Samuel 1:19.

“…and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you” Genesis 9:15.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Day Creation Groaned

We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains…until the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly…the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23.

Yesterday was the first day I had the opportunity to walk on the beach since Hurricane Irma. It was truly a humbling experience as I saw that Irma’s relentless power had flattened the beautiful dunes. Previously, beach sea grass stood at attention atop these dunes swaying in the breeze of the coast. Walkways on beach accesses had been torn apart and scattered like pick up sticks. The beach was peppered with numerous starfish ripped apart. I know that we were spared in a miraculous way and cannot imagine the lives that were torn apart like those wooden walkways. I began thinking of the devastation of creation, and how it must be groaning as it limps along to recover. Previously, the beautiful waters calmly sneaked up on the shore, and then just as quietly retreated back into its home. But on that day when Irma struck their world became tumultuous and filled with floating debris dangerous to its residents. Marine-life that lost its fight in a violent end was evident along the stretch of the beach.

We all have Irma’s in our lives that come in with such relentless power disrupting our lives and bringing dangerous circumstances into our waters. Our emotions and fear rise into unprecedented swells that threaten the beautiful shores of our lives. It commands our attention and washes away those earthly anchors in which we place our hope. Just like those dunes, earthly anchors get flattened in the storms. Just like the starfish, we are ripped apart in our suffering feeling as if we are left for dead. But the good news is that God comes along in our storms, and if we cannot get back to our calm waters He will pick us up with His gentle hands and return us to calm seas. He is our anchor and our hope, and we can count on God calming every storm that may arise.

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107:29-31.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Beauty in Pain

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1

I can’t even imagine John having to sit down and allow his heart to be broken all over again… rehashing his experience with Jesus after so many years had passed. Their introduction must have been quite special as he was only a 16-year-old boy. He laughed with Jesus, probably cried with Him, watched miracles, heard parables and no doubt had many private talks. His calling was to put into words the life of his dear friend…his most loved treasure…the Son of God. He had to picture Jesus on the cross again, as Jesus looked down asking him to take care of His mom. The images he worked so hard to erase would once again be placed at the forefront of his mind. The task was daunting and the heart would have to feel all over again. But John took on the impossible task and because of his sacrifice and obedience the Holy Spirit took his pain, and inspired one of the most beautiful books of the Bible…the Book of John.

I remember after our sister Beth died I was trying to process what we had just experienced. It was a whirlwind of 11 months. She had been diagnosed with Bile Duct cancer the year before and we had set up a Caring Bridge website for her. The family took turns posting morning updates and devotionals, inviting its followers to post their encouraging thoughts and prayers. The year following her death I had plenty of time to consider her life, and the experiences we had shared as a family. I felt the urging of the Holy Spirit to outline a writing project of that season. It is still an unfinished project called Living in the Hourglass. I have reached for those Caring Bridge books several times which document our family’s daily walk through this time. It is like visiting a cemetery, going from one headstone to another. The diagnosis…the treatment…the shattered hope…the funeral…daunting to relive… heartbreaking to reread. But the Holy Spirit does not disappoint and I felt led to share its introduction written a few years ago, but still remains unfinished work of God. 

"Our Dearest Beth Ann,

In April of 2008 life turned your hourglass over and grain by grain the sand began working its way through the tiny neck, pooling at the bottom. With each day, the sand at the bottom seemed to mount as we watched the sand at the top disappear. There were days when the sand seemed to stand still as if the neck was blocked, while other days the funneling was so quick we dare not look away. As fearful and devastating as it was for us to watch, I cannot imagine the hourglass from your view.

We began as a band of four sisters, and I never dreamed that would alter so early in life. But once the hourglass was flipped over, life was interrupted and turned upside down. While we watched the sand filter down, we approached this journey with optimism and hope in the Lord with our faith to carry us through. For me, I realized very early in our journey that you refused to die with cancer…you had chosen to live with cancer. The difference between the two is the attitude of the mind and heart; and well, my dear…you have always had attitude! You showed me several things through your responses in our journey. You displayed love and laughter even as the last few grains were finding their final resting place. You taught me that hope can reside in the mind and heart, no matter what the circumstances may show.

Today is your 47th birthday and our Father has called me to spill my heart onto paper, so that those who face a similar journey may be encouraged by our story. Just as He called you home, He has called me to recall and recount ‘Living in the Hourglass.’"

I know that you too have a story to write of shock, pain, hope and despair. Whether it is on paper or written only on the heart the Holy Spirit will use it, heal the pain and turn it into a beautiful story of healing and eternity.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tarrying With the One

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…And the voice I hear falling on my ear The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” C. Austin Miles, “In the Garden.”

Well I certainly wasn’t prepared to be undone this morning as I began my morning. But, when the echoes of our childhood reverberate in our hearts tears flow, hearts awaken from a long winter’s sleep, and comfort and peace can be ours alone. This morning I was texting with someone I love who is awaiting some medical resolution. I had just expressed how, for myself, the wait gives gifts like no other. For all of us it is so hard living in the tension of what may be and what is not yet known. That is when we must take our fears and circumstances to our beautiful Father. And then out of nowhere came this song above. I can still close my eyes and see my dad sitting at the piano in the living room striking the ivories to this beautiful song. He knew right where to pound the keys to deliver its most powerful affects. But for the first time ever, I noticed a certain line that delivered the punch… ‘And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.’

The image of being alone in the garden with the voice of God seems so peaceful…so comforting…so intimate. It sings promises of long walks together, private talks that no one else can hear. He reminds us during these garden times that we are His own, taking as much time with us as needed…never tiring of comforting our fears. He knows that our circumstances feel like forever, but He uses the time of tarry to fellowship with us. The time of tarry teaches us things we don’t know about ourselves and our God. The time of tarry are times of reminders that He is in total control of our situations. The gifts of tarry are joy when things don’t feel happy…peace when we have no reason to feel peace…promise when things look dire.
Some of the most wonderful things are things shared with another. Even the tough times are less tough when we go through a difficult time with someone who loves us. God loves us so much more than anyone could ever dare. As we tarry in the garden with the One who knows our tomorrows, may we all experience the joy that can only come from above. As our circumstances shift like shadows among trees, may we keep our eyes on the One who remains constant in the garden.
The image of being alone in the garden with the voice of God seems so peaceful…so comforting …so intimate. It sings promises of long walks together, private talks that no one else can hear. He reminds us during these garden times that we are His own, taking as much time with us as needed…never tiring of comforting our fears. He knows that our circumstances feel like forever, but He uses the time of tarry to fellowship with us. The time of tarry teaches us things we don’t know about ourselves and our God. The time of tarry are times of reminders that He is in total control of our situations. The gifts of tarry are joy when things don’t feel happy…peace when we have no reason to feel peace…promise when things look dire.

Some of the most wonderful things are things shared with another. Even the tough times are less tough when we go through a difficult time with someone who loves us. God loves us so much more than anyone could ever dare. As we tarry in the garden with the One who knows our tomorrows, may we all experience the joy that can only come from above. As our circumstances shift like shadows among trees, may we keep our eyes on the One who remains constant in the garden.


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” James 1:17.