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.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Little Gift Turned Big


But Peter said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth’…Then, by taking him by the right hand he raised him up …So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened…” Acts 3:6-10.

It had been a rough month, one that I pray will never be repeated. I was worn out emotionally, spiritually and physically. I was at the coast taking my morning walk and ended up where I normally sit and pray. It is a bench on the second level at the end of the pier overlooking the ocean. I always accompany my walk with prayer music, and I’m sure I bring new meaning to ‘making a joyful noise’. This day in particular, I was on the bench, singing to the music and opened my eyes to find a homeless man sitting on the ground a little to my right. He began talking to me and eventually asked if he could pray for me. I’m embarrassed to admit that I felt uncomfortable…untrusting…undone. I quickly asked the Lord to give me grace and peace. I stood and accepted his offer. As if that wasn’t enough awkwardness he asked if he could hold my hand during the prayer but quickly gave me an out if I didn’t feel comfortable. I also accepted his gesture and he began to pray. The prayer that he lifted had such detail that perfectly applied to my circumstances. I knew that what he was giving me was directly from God. He continued in this prayer with one of the most beautiful prayers I had ever heard. The peace that fell over me and stayed with me that day was God’s gift through this homeless man. He had nothing to give yet he gave me everything that day. I read a while back that ‘A little gift in the hands of a big God can impact the world’ (Lysa TerKeurst). On that day, he gave what he probably thought was just a little gift…a prayer. But when he chose to bring God into the equation my entire world was impacted…I was lifted higher than my circumstances…it was a day that was enveloped in peace…it’s a day that I still experience awe and astonishment when I think upon it.

The majority of people don’t want our money, they want our respect. They want the dignity of being seen important enough for our attention. They want to be visible instead of invisible. Some need a kind smile…some need a kind gesture…everyone needs fresh hope...some need us to be courageous and pray with them, not just for them. We don’t have to look far to give little or give big with the disasters that seem to be coming back to back. We can barely catch our breath from one hurricane to a flood…from a flood to another hurricane…earthquakes to landslides…out of control fires. These are real people who have real needs and an opportunity for God’s children to reach out and actively console a hurting world.

I want suffering people to stand in awe at God’s accomplishments through the hands of His children. I want unkind and selfish people to see something different in the way we engage with them. I want people to see Jesus through our actions, and not just our words. I want all of us to engage in the suffering of another, and allow God to infuse His power to impact their world like the homeless man impacted mine that day last year.

If we all take just a little time to do for each other, God will show up and show up big. He doesn't need us to enhance His power, but He does choose and involve us to be a part of His glory. And when we partner with Him everyone wins! We may never know the impact our littles gift will have on others but God sees every act of kindness on our part.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Folly's Fruit

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing.  She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat…calling to those who pass by… ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’” Proverbs 9:13-15

I know a woman named Folly who has hung around for many seasons in my life.  She is not worthy of this blog but is introduced only for self-awareness and then dismissal.  You see, Folly is a woman without a home or country.  Folly makes her home based on invitation.  She is a temptress…a user…a poser…looks to her own interests.  She is a wandering homeless disloyal companion.  She deceitfully lures us into her promises.  She has promised me that I would feel better if I just had this purchase or that purchase.  She convinced me over and over that I had the right to hold on to my resentment.  She guaranteed that Bruce would never find out about my secret debt.  She encouraged me to take credit for things that God had accomplished.  She has called out to me so many times, and I have given her a place to stay in the past.  She is my best friend as long as I am doing things her way.  Folly offers us a bite of the beautiful apple, only to poison us with it.  Simply put, “Folly fights for ‘the now’ and cares nothing about consequences.” Steadfast Love, Lauren Chandler, p. 102.

Folly isn’t around when the marriage is in shambles from destructive decisions.  Folly is silent when the recovered addict relapses.  She disappears before the credit card comes in.  While she fought relentlessly for ‘our now’ we now fight relentlessly for ‘our later.’  We are duped over and over again. 

But God has breathed a better way to live.  He offers the beautiful life of Wisdom.  She builds her own life based on His plan, not hers.  She understands the importance of sharing spiritual wisdom with those who seek her.  She offers purity, peace, gentleness, mercy and unwavering resolve to God’s truths.  Wisdom shares her beautiful fruit with those who have invited her in.  She doesn’t fight us but fights for us.  She is given to us from God as a gift when we ask to receive it.  When we turn abandon Folly and follow Wisdom our lives will be more aligned with the life we were created to live.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.  The beginning of wisdom is this:  Get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:6-7.



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ten Looks at Christ

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-4. “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

The day that we accepted Christ as our Savior was the day that God saw our goodness over our sin. It was the day that we exchanged filthy rags for beautiful garments of righteousness because Christ exchanged torn and bloodstained clothes our salvation. This spiritual transaction gives us both authority and invitation to look to God through Christ with our sufferings. It promises that not only is God on the throne hearing our pleas, but Christ is sitting right beside Him interceding and pleading our case. The Bible says that Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). 

I read something powerful in my Bible this morning as a side note. Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne once wrote: ‘For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.’ This is so important when looking at our challenges because we will hear and believe the lies of Satan over the promises of God. When we look at ourselves and our circumstances, we invite Satan to give us his opinion on our lives. Setting our minds on things above means believing what Christ says, not what Satan says. While Jesus Christ is busy interceding for us above, Satan is busy accusing us below. Satan says you will never get a job...never have a relationship...never be healed. When things are unraveling Satan tells us we are responsible…we are ill-equipped…we are LOSING. But when we look to Christ we are reminded that we have already WON! He promises us that this season is not our 'forever'...it is our 'for now'. When life seems to be out of control we must shift our eyes from the earthly messes to the triumphant cross. When we do this, there is an unexplainable shift in our soul and spirit. It is a shift that is out of reach for the devil, a shift he despises. It is that beautiful blessing that comes from looking at Christ ten times more than looking at our circumstances.

All of us have messy, chaotic, and deceitful hearts at times so we must allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our messy emotions. ‘When my heart is a mess, I get to choose how I think. I can choose to let the peace of God control my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7). And I can choose to be thankful, even when life breaks my heart and doesn’t turn out like I wish it would.’ She Reads Truth, p. 2016.

"And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7