Patience is a Tough Nut to Crack!

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I feel badly that I haven’t been very reliable in writing lately. The past three weeks plus have been a challenge. I am still with my parents, away from my husband and church home.

Uncharacteristically, it has been raining – a lot while I’ve been here. So much for walking off pent up feelings and frustrations.

My mom has been in the hospital for a week, then two emergency visits in the span of these twenty-one days. So much for routine.

My Dad’s declining hearing has made for challenging exchanges. So much for flowing conversation.

Life is unfamiliar right now as all my routines and responsibilities changed in the matter of a few hours, as long as it took to make a reservation, get on a plane and fly to my childhood home.

I’ve heard the phrase that the baby-boomers are now called the sandwich generation. I’m not quite sure I get it. While we are quite involved with our son and his family, we do not have responsibility in his life, other than we are doing our very best to be good examples for children and grandchildren. I do, however, understand the vagaries of being available for elderly parents. Hmmm, I guess that’s the point; sandwiched between two very different generations, attempting to make connection and sometimes provision, with the folks we love most.

I’ve been here just shy of a month now. There have been mostly daily battles, rising and falling emotions, not unlike the tensions of the tides, rushing in, pausing to determine whether to push forward or to retreat, only to eventually fall back and allow myself to rest in the deeper pools of known waters.

I’ve learned some things about myself. I’m not by nature a caregiver sort of person. When God gave out the gift of hospitality, I must have been off playing somewhere and missed notice I was to be there in line! I did, however, receive the gift of administration. Ample dosages. Maybe a double portion! I can get things done and I’m a fixit person to the depths of my soul. I’ve come to the conclusion the Lord needed me to, once and for all, hear Him in the fact that just because I can orchestrate and line things up, not all things are to be fixed by me. Yes, it’s been an interesting month.

I’m here this morning in an uncharacteristic lull. Savoring. But it’s going to change in a few minutes as the troops are moving in the background and a grocery shop is on the agenda. Once the ship is in motion well, I might as well give in and go with it.

God is good…all the time! While this has been a challenge, I’m alive and well and forging on. My Lord has provided even when I’ve lost sight of my own abilities to cope with these fast-changing hurdles. I’ve failed, but fairly quickly I’ve realized He’s been here through it all. Humbling. That’s ok, I’ll survive.

The grocery store calls. Off we go once again into a day of unknowns. Remember awhile back when I confessed I didn’t like change? God had a good laugh over that one. And this particular morning I’m kind of snickering with Him. I’ve learned I can make adjustments, and quickly if I need to!

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Thanks Lord. The patience nut has been cracked!  Blessings on your day.

Be Careful Who (or What) You Worship

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It’s been one of those days.  I had a plan.  It was a pretty straight lineup of things.  Tonight as I look back over the day, the path, instead of a straight line, took on the look of a crazy squiggly line, up, down, around, and around, up and over and back again.

Once again I am with my elderly parents, 500 miles from home.  My Mom had a heart attack a week ago.  She’s home again thankfully after six days in the hospital.  God has been so faithful in healing her, in holding my Dad in His palm, and in lifting me up by the prayers of the saints back home in my church.  It’s been a difficult week but we’ve made it.

This morning we ended up back in the emergency room.  Mom wasn’t sure about sensations on her right side and we had to make sure we weren’t dealing with a clot.  After four hours, numerous blood tests and a EKG she was released home: all was fine.

Well, you know or can imagine, I’m sure, what this morning might have felt like for my Mom, Dad and me.  All my plans for the day went flying out the window as fear attempted to rush right into each of our minds.

Being in a different town, away from my husband, home, and my church family leaves me in a sometimes precarious place.  More than once this week I’ve had to face issues I’ve never dealt with before.  In spite of moments when everything in me wanted to either panic or cry uncontrollably, I got through.  Wait.  Correction.  In spite of those moments GOD strengthened and brought me through!

Tonight I decided to attend a prayer and worship time at a church we attend when we are in town at my parents’.  I attended last Sunday when they announced this special time but evidently I got the time wrong – I arrived an hour early!  Sigh.

I sat down to listen to the worship team practice and decided to take a look at my devotional today, the one I missed due to rushing off to the emergency room right after breakfast.  I was met with this verse:

“Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!  There is no want for those who fear Him.” Psa. 34:9

Tonite I’m realizing that fear has been trying oh so hard to throw me off track.  Every day for the past eight days I’ve been confronted, in one way or another, by fear.  So many questions and doubts, all laid into my Lord’s lap because I don’t know where all this is going for my Mom.

No, I must wait for each day to unfold as it will.  And here is where I must choose.  Will I fall into fear’s waiting arms?  No, not this time satan!  I know where that path leads – more fear and torment.

Instead I’m choosing to fear God.  I know He’s not happy when I succumb to the enemy’s ploys.  Why?  Because He has provision for me, no matter what I face.  Tonight I’m choosing to fear my God, as one of His beloved children.  And what does the Word say about that?  Back to Psalm 34, where David tells us that there will be no want for those who fear the Lord.

That’s all I need tonite.  I’m not going to be tripped up by fear!  Instead, I’m here with fellow saints, getting ready to worship our God.  His provision is here tonite, just as it has been all week long!  Accept my offering Lord, of my love to you as I lift my voice in worship to You!

Oh, it’s so good to be in the house of the Lord!  And it is here I’m provided for in whatever comes my way.

 

Life Can Be…

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…messy!  I don’t much like the days that are messy.  I received a phone call from a dear friend last night and her news was, well, messy.  Not the fact that she called but that she needed a friend to talk to about life that had suddenly turned messy.

This morning I read, “For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.”  Psa 48:14

Sigh!  I am grateful for this particular scripture today.  When life gets messy…seek God.  He loves it when we come.  He will guide us, through the thick, the thin, the smooth and the messies.

However, the absolute best part is this:  this is our God, forever and ever!  He is here, with you, with me, always.  I suspect He is grieved by us at times but He promises to be our God, guiding us through the hard days and the sweet days.

I’m not sure what you’re facing today, but I pray God’s love and covering over you.  Remember you are not traversing this alone.  Change the way you think this day: while the trial may be difficult, you are not alone.

I’m reminded of a song I love from days past.  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

We are not alone.  Our God who loves us is here, right in the middle of our mess.  And if we keep our eyes upon Him, He will guide us through this one!

Turn your eyes upward today.  He’ll show you the way through…

God Loves…You!

There are a number of keys hidden away in the Bible.  It used to seem odd to me that the Lord would hide things in the Bible however, over the years, I’ve discovered a few of them and I think I have better understanding as to why they were hidden in the first place.  When something is given to us, we tend to not take as good care of it as something we’ve had to work for.  Now I realize that may be an overstatement because there are always things given to us in our lives that become treasures.  But, as a general rule, I’ve found I take better care of those things I’ve worked and/or searched for.

When it comes to my faith, I feel I’ve had to scratch and work at every bit of truth I’ve learned along the way.  I was one of those skeptics; “Lord, you prove to me that you’re real and I’ll follow you!”  Yes, I was a hard case.  But, true to His nature, He actually answered the hard cries of my heart and my skepticism melted away.

So this is it. God loves me.  Not because I worked for it, but because He loves me and He gave the gift freely.

Let me explain. The Bible is full, literally overflowing with God’s feelings toward us:

-You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psa. 139:1
-I am familiar with all your ways. Psa. 139:3
-Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. Matt. 10:29-31
-I chose you when I planned creation. Eph. 1:11-12
-You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psa. 139:15-16
-And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. 1 John 3:1
-Every good gift comes from my Hand. James 1:17
-My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. Jer. 29:11
-My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. Psa. 139.17-18
-I will never stop doing good to you. Jer. 32:40
-I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul. Jer. 32:41
-If you will seek me with all your heart, you will find me. Deut. 4:29.
-I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. Eph. 3:20
-For I am your greatest encourager. 2 Thess. 2:16-17
-When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psa. 34:18
-One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Rev. 21:3-4
-And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth. Rev. 21:3-4
-For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. John 17:26
-Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 2 Cor. 5:18-19
-I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. Rom. 8:31-32
-If you receive the gift of my son, Jesus, you receive me. 1 John 2:23
-My question is…will you be my child? John 1:12-13
-I am waiting for you.” Luke 15:11-32
Excerpts taken from “Father’s Love Letter” by Barry Adams

I could go on and on, quoting scripture after scripture of what God has to say about us. He didn’t say it just to me, but to you too!  And while I was the hard case, I really didn’t work for this truth…it was there all along, just for the acceptance.

God loves you. Tomorrow marks the day that Love came down, from heaven to earth, to serve us and become the sacrificial Lamb so we all might live. I pray that this, the Christmas truth, will somehow touch you. Is there more to this story? Oh yes there is. But you must make the first move.

He’s waiting for you. Will you come?

Merry Christmas my friend.

It Was All Carter’s Fault!

Sometimes the most wonderfully unexpected things happen by means of surprising circumstances!

Our grandson came to stay with us this past summer.  He’s 12 1/2 years old and quickly approaching the age when it just won’t be cool to hang out with Mamaw anymore.  At least this is what my logical mind keeps telling me.  I cherish my time with this young man for he is quite wonderful and amazing.  We both love to laugh at things.  When he was little, I would often launch into absolute buffoonery just to make him and his sisters laugh.  Carter has the greatest dimples and when he laughs long and hard, he often says he’s having a dimple freeze meaning his face hurts from so much laughter.  That’s what I always hoped for; dimple freezes translating into we are having laugh attacks together.

Well, during that week he showed signs of wanting to hang out with Papa some and so they did some landscaping work with a bobcat tractor that Carter got to drive for the first time.  He was loving it and I might add, he took to it more readily than grandpa did when he learned!  Not surprising with today’s youth who grow up on technology, video games and joysticks.  He rambled around the yard with absolutely no problems!  Then Papa gave him a few lessons in the art of the golf swing and they spent a few hours throughout the week up in the shop, swinging away at the little white ball into papa’s golf net setup.  Seems Carter has his daddy’s natural ability to have a pretty hefty golf swing; Papa was impressed.  They also shot at targets with a 22 pistol and all these things added up to wonderful “guy time” for Papa and Carter.

As usual Carter and I had a few laughter moments (the old girl still has the knack!), but sadly, I had to work a bit harder to find the silly space between us.  My moments with him came in dreaming up meals that I knew he would appreciate or at the very least like, helping to plan out what we were all doing, and in confounding the boy by trying to turn facts into secrets or silly untruths.  He’s got me figured out pretty well at this age!

Then came Saturday.  Papa was going to be gone at a golf tournament that had been planned prior to our knowing Carter was coming to stay with us.  What were we going to do for the day?  Carter was pretty agreeable to most anything we discussed and then he had an idea.  “How about we do another one of those treasure hunts Mamaw?”  This statement caused no small amount of contemplation on my part.  You see, a treasure hunt is something of a spiritual exercise.  You pray beforehand and ask the Lord for clues to help you find people who need prayer.  Clues can include such things as colors, locations, body parts (meaning a limp, a cast on a wrist, a brace of some sort, anything physical that can be seen), specific articles of clothing, or any other thing to help you find God’s treasure (the person) for prayer.  We had done one of these with all three of our grandchildren about three years before; the results were pretty outstanding and the day made a lasting impression on these kids.  Shucks, they made a lasting impression on us adults as well!

So, Carter wanted to do another treasure hunt.  As wonderful as they are, treasure hunts can cause issues.  Issues like fear, insecurities, and other such distracting things to surface.  And, since it had been quite awhile since I had participated in a treasure hunt, all the uncertainties of treasure hunts started screaming in my head.  “Oh my goodness, I have to muster up courage to approach people!”, “what if someone yells at me?”, and a myriad of other objections wouldn’t leave me alone.  And yet, here is this 12-year-old looking at me with all the confidence in the world that his grandmother is going to take him out on a God adventure and we’re going to pray for people’s needs.  I simply could not let this moment and opportunity pass.

So, off we went into town, armed with our individual lists of clues that included mostly colors, articles of clothing, and a person with a limp.  First we went to one of the grocery stores in town that is situated in a strip mall.  We took our dog with us since she usually is a people magnet.  No one approached us; the dog was not working her charms that day!  We spotted a couple of people with the right color or piece of clothing, and even a man with a limp, but I couldn’t bring myself to chase them out in the parking lot as they approached their cars.  With much frustration, we commented to each other that this was turning out to be harder than the last time we did this.  Finally, we saw a friend leaving in her car and we promptly waved her down to talk.  We told her what we were doing and she told us we could pray for a need she had this day.  With our pump primed now, she drove off and we decided to go to another store in town.

We left Sophie in the car and went inside.  Looking down the aisles, we finally noticed a woman with a gray sweater, two of the clues on our sheets.  We approached.  I excused my intrusion and waited for the woman to acknowledge me.  She continued staring at the shelves of items in front of us.  Inside, I was dying!  “Oh my gosh, this woman thinks I’m a fruitcake!  We should just walk away,” I bemoaned to myself.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see Carter, waiting for his grandmother to launch into action.  How could I bolt with those eyes upon me?  And so I launched into my speech: “Hi, this is my grandson and we are on a treasure hunt today from the Lord.  You are wearing a gray sweater and that was a clue He gave us this morning as we prayed about how we were to find folks who need prayer.  We believe you are one of God’s treasures.  Do you by chance have a need today that we could pray about for you?”  The woman had remained looking straight ahead at the shelves until I finished talking.  She finally turned to look at me, smiled, and said, “oh I don’t think I have any needs today.”  I thanked her, apologized for interrupting her shopping trip and wished her a blessed day.

As we walked off, Carter said, “well, that was awkward, wasn’t it?”  I couldn’t have agreed more.  I felt that this was a bust idea, but for Carter’s sake I never let on how insecure I was feeling at the moment.  We looked for more treasures for another ten minutes or so and I finally said we should head for home.  I was so disappointed.  I had been sure the Lord would use us because He knows how tentative a 12-year-old’s faith is and I didn’t want the enemy to win.  Somehow my disappointment was quickly being transformed into thoughts of failure, all tied up with my fears and doubts about my own courage in this experiment.  We slowly walked out the door.  Off to my right was a pharmacy walk-up window and there, standing against a short wall waiting her turn at the window, was an older woman in a blue shirt and a flowery, knitted cap, more of our clues.  I knew in my heart that this was a woman going through chemo and the hat was covering her bald head.  I motioned to Carter that she was one of our treasures and he agreed; we approached the woman.

Once again, we introduced ourselves to her and told her of our purpose; “…you are wearing a blue shirt and a flowery cap, two of our clues this morning as we prayed and we wonder if you have a need we could pray for today?”  She looked at us and quickly answered, “I do have a need.  I have cancer.”  I asked if we might pray for her there and she told us yes.  And just like that, the day was transformed from an awkward personal challenge into a total victory for the Lord.  Did He heal her?  We don’t know.  But did He touch her?  I think so.

My day began as most others save for the fact that our grandson was visiting with us.  Carter, with a childlike faith to be used by God and his trust in his grandmother’s ability to lead the way, transformed the day into something magical.  I have every confidence that the Lord smiled down on all of us that day.  The woman in the gray sweater may or may not have had any needs, but I’m positive God will use the moment to cause questions to rise up in her thoughts about people, their willingness to reach out, and about this God who gives them courage to do so.  For the woman with cancer there may be healing or any other number of possibilities only He knows, the least of which could be encouragement on a rough day from two strangers.  For a grandmother with a very trusting grandson, I am humbled.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the treasure hunt.  Once begun, I felt I was failing God miserably with my fears and lack of courage.  But in the end, the Lord turned it all into victory.  A glorious, full-of-God possibilities, wonderful, victory for two women, a hesitating grandmother, and a brave hearted, God loving 12-year-old.  It was all Carter’s fault!

Without Faith

Out of “Experiencing God Day by Day”:  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).  Whenever God reveals something, He expects us to believe Him and adjust our lives accordingly.  What does this mean?  It means we trust Him implicitly for all of our needs because He says He will provide (Phil. 4:19).

Are you trusting God?  I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this at times.  Oh, it’s pretty easy to trust God when things are going OK.  It’s when things get sticky that my faith can go right out the window!

I had a realization today.  Years and years ago, I had a dream.  My dream came about when I was a little girl.  Some 20-plus years later, my dream came true.  But in the interim, my faith flagged and actually failed.  I didn’t believe anymore that the dream was possible.  The interesting part as I thought about this today is that the dream was actually a catalyst to remove me from a very dangerous period in my life!  Even though I had given up on the dream, God hadn’t.  And the dream I wanted in my future was able to catapult me into a new reality.  God used the dream to remove me from a dark future and place me in new surroundings with a fresh outlook.  That was all it took and my life was forever changed.

Romans 14:23 says, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”  What has God planted in you?  What dreams did he plant in you years ago?  Are you allowing the enemy of your soul to cause you to sin by not putting your faith in God?  I’m guilty of this but I’m getting stronger and stronger in believing that God will do all that God says He will do.

All things are possible is more than a scripture to me these days…I realize that the strength I carry and walk in is not of my own anymore.  He is able, He goes before me, and He will see me through it all!  Blessings on you this day and may the Lord increase your faith to astounding levels of new joy!

I’m Walking with God

I’ve arrived at a place in my life that I’m more and more in awe of God.  I have struggled with the fact that God loves me.  I could think of thousands of ways that I’ve disappointed, disobeyed, and otherwise disengaged myself from the Lord.  Oh yes, I knew that the Word, His Word, says that He remembers my sins no more as soon as I repent of them.  I’ve had plenty of practice with that.  But I’ve never truly gotten it that God loves me with a love so huge, so all encompassing.  Something always fell short inside.  “Oh, I’ve messed up again.  God can’t be very happy with me again.”

You see I was having a love affair with a God that I didn’t really understand.  He’s for me, not against me.  He’s always urging me on.  He’s used me in times when I figured I wasn’t very usable.  I always looked past what the Word said, and configured in my own mind this God who couldn’t possibly be happy with me and if He wasn’t happy with me, then He must not love me.  Unfortunately, these feelings come from our circumstances rather than truth.

Last week I had an experience that helped me see, I mean really see, just how much God loves me.  I was in a situation where folks around me were talking in a critical and judgmental way.  I recognized it immediately and decided that I didn’t want to go there.  Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to remove myself.  The next day, the same thing happened, but this time I joined in with the criticism and gossip that followed.  Just that quickly I slid into sin.

Later in the evening, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my mistake.  It was as if I heard Him tell me, “Linda, you saw it yesterday, identified it correctly, and chose not to participate.  Yet, today you joined in the fracas.  Why?”  The conviction cut me to the quick.  I was so quickly filled with remorse and sorrow.  I prayed, asking God’s forgiveness of my sin, and that He help me in the days to come not to succumb again.  And do you know what?  He answered my prayer!  The situation didn’t change much over the following days and yet God helped me to simply sit back and not participate.  It was absolutely stellar!

I’m beginning to see that the shift I’ve mentioned before has to do with my perception of God and His position in my life.  I’ve followed the Lord for a good many years now.  In spite of the fact that I feel so many of those years were for naught, God is showing me new things about myself.  He’s showing me that He loves me in spite of myself.  I honestly don’t know what has kept me following Him all these years, but I’m so glad I never gave up.  My understanding of who God is and what He’s about in my life is shifting from head knowledge to heart knowing.  I never before quite got it what loving God was all about.  I wanted it, I just didn’t know how to do it.

I’m coming to a new understanding about God’s promises for my life and where I stand in His eyes.  He loves me with a love beyond anything I can think or imagine.  He knows I sin, and yet He loves me anyway.  He uses me in circumstances where I feel I’ve completely failed and yet, I can look back and see situations now where I know He used me to change something in someone else’s life.  Guess what?  He loves you the same way.

Take a moment today and consider what your thoughts are about God and your love of Him.  You may not be able to quite say that you know He loves you completely and unabashedly and, you may not be able to say that you love Him in the same way.  That’s OK.  As long as you keep on the road, as long as you confess your sins as soon as you become aware of them and ask Him for His forgiveness, as long as you keep trying to follow Him the best you know how at any given moment…well, God will continue helping you grow and moving you along the continuum.  How do I know?  Because that’s exactly what He did for this woman who didn’t understand His love and yet kept walking with Him.

Many years ago, not long after I was saved and asked Jesus into my heart, I heard someone talking about the fact that “they walked with God.”  That statement astounded me.  I didn’t get it and I’d never heard of such a thing before.  But do you know what?  Thirty-five years later, I understand that statement completely.  I’m walking with God.  I pray you will continue walking with Him too…He really is crazy about you!  And if you’ll keep walking, He’ll keep moving in your life.  I pray your journey won’t take 35 years like mine did to get the fact from your head to your heart.  Why don’t you talk if over with God today?  He’s waiting to hear from you…