Giving thanks comes easy to some while it is more difficult for others. Life’s experiences can certainly throw us some curve balls; at the same time, there are many joys to call to remembrance and celebrate.
My life may differ from others yet each of us have one thing in common: we can and will have occasional struggles. The losses of loved ones are perhaps the more difficult adjustments for us to make. Having been a Hospice chaplain many years ago, with pastoral care being given to those nearing the end of their years here on earth, I learned a valuable life lesson: relationship is what matters. Losing them, whether to death or in suffering broken communication, is where it hurts.
Jesus simplified the most important, the most anchoring, two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” [Luke 10:27 GNT]
I have not mastered either one of these commands…yet they are my ultimate grace-goals. To give Him all of my heart, soul, strength and mind risks losing control of my extremely valued treasures. I do love Him, yet honestly I do so to the degree that I am graced to put Him first. I admit my devotion is prone to wander…perhaps being tempted to let other’s opinions eclipse His. I do honestly want Him to be the guardian of my soul at the same time that my hands grip the steering wheel. I do need Him to be my source of strength–yet I still tend to strive in my own. ‘My mind….Lord Jesus…it can be a runaway stallion! I need You to saddle that filly!’
Then…to love others as myself? Well, considering the fact that I haven’t even mastered giving Him my all, what makes me think I can love others as myself? Looks like yielding my all to Him comes first if these grace-goals are to be reached. The banner held high at the finish line is: Relationship is what matters!
During a time of ministry, someone needed a word from God. Don’t we all? Just hearing a word from Him, and responding in our heart, changes our lives.
Holy Spirit said to tell this dear one, “Celebrate being chosen!” I have to admit it was a word I needed to hear myself. Celebrate. Being Chosen. In the same ministry setting, a sister shared Luke’s account of Mary’s being chosen by God to bear His Son.
This sister shared that Mary immediately went into her reasoning. In Luke 1:29: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” So human. So like the way I try to figure out what all of ‘this’ means, when a ‘this’ takes place in my life.
Pivotal is the word “but.” “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” [verse 30] Favor? How could this be ‘favor’? Mary’s previous dreams, plans, hopes, and traditions in life were changing on a dime. What’s more, Mary was facing slander. Her life was endangered; so it seemed. Favor? How could this be?
So the question arose: “Celebrate”? How was she to celebrate this radical change in her life’s goals? Would she survive this “chosen” post? Would anyone understand? Probably very few. Joseph! Oh my Joseph! What is he going to say? What is he going to do? Will he abandon me?
Father chose Mary for His plan. To celebrate would mean to observe this day as a remembrance of when He chose her to bear His plans and not her own. He favored her to carry the best: Jesus Christ. Did she choose His plan? She replied: “Be it done unto me according to Your word.” What courage it took for Mary to choose His plan–radical as it seemed–over her own reasoning–her own self-imposed safety.
Probably one of the most powerful responses we can have to Father God is: “Yes, Lord.” Still, it risks the changes of everything we have ever planned for our lives.
We can trust Him.
Four years have passed since our Patrick went home to be with the Lord. In the midst of the endearing family memories we have, I am thinking of friends who drove 3 hours to be with us just shortly after his passing. It had been four years since they had lost their daughter. Their pain still ached, though they thought of us.
The four of us sat in booths and cried together. Even though they came for us in the midst of our sorrow, they too still hurt so deeply. Unashamedly, they wept for us as they wept in their pain. How unselfish that they shared their time of sorrow with us, rather than withdrawing into themselves.
We will never forget their tenderness, their understanding, the language we parents share when one of our children has gone home. Until someone experiences it….well, I will stop here. Grief is still grief, regardless of how it got there. But grief shared somehow validates the love you have for this one you are missing.
Today, I think of Heaven. I think of the reunion we will have while I imagine what Patrick must be doing in this perfect place with the Lord. Never will I forget the portal opening just days after he passed when he spoke to me: “Mama, if you could see me now!!! All that we have believed is REAL!” Once again, so like Patrick, he had to share his joys with me.
Yes, Patrick, just as we told you and you believed as a young boy: He IS real. I can only imagine what joy it must be: now you see Him face to face. Our story is written, and it has helped so many, as God intended.
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The walk of Jesus was decisive. He walked in a specific direction and, no doubt, with a definitive pace. Each step fulfilled the stage of progress with which He intended to obey Father’s leading.
Many times I have said that, if I could remove the “rush” out of my life, it would be far more peaceful. What I am really admitting to is that I am out of stride with the Lord. He is not a taskmaster; therefore, if I listen, heed, and walk His pace, peace remains.
When I am uncertain of His leading, I am to wait. Lessons I am to learn are that steps of faith are never taken out of frantic decisions. In the face of adversity, I am not to panic nor make hasty moves.
“Whoever believes will not act hastily.” [Isaiah 28:16 NIV] The Message version [verses 16-17] reads: “Watch closely, I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: A trusting life won’t topple. I’ll make justice the measuring stick and righteousness the plumb line for the building. A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies, and a flash flood will wash out the rubble.”
Jesus waited upon His Father in prayer until each path to take was made clear. Seeing the multitude, He went into a mountain to pray. What is the multitude? It can be people; it can be things. It can be decisions yet to be made. It can come in the form of complaints, or any type of annoyance. Whatever is in large number: a mass, a swarm, an abundance, a quantity; that’s a multitude. Our minds falter and become confused by the multitude, whatever the form it takes, if we are not walking in the Lord’s stride.
Jesus knew that upon seeing the multitude through the natural eye, He could be tempted to move by that which He saw or felt. Instead, He paced Himself by Father’s will. He learned the stride of the Spirit.
On my way to church Sunday morning, I prayed to my Lord. It was one of our special times to be alone, to be intimate, coupled with my desire to re-calibrate to His standards. His presence immediately filled the car. I was undone. Truly undone.
Following His amazing presence, I was reminded of something so very practical that I had read. The advice given was to take a small tube of Triple Antibiotic and swipe the end of a Q-tip with a tiny amount of salve. Then apply the salve to the inner lining of each nostril. This was intended to ward off airborne germs that could otherwise make me sick. What a neat idea! This was something I knew I was to try.
Wait! But what does this have to do with His presence in my car? The reminder of the salve came directly behind this wonderful experience with Him. I then remembered that we communicate with this world through five senses. If we needed to carefully set a guard in our breathing passage, would we not also need to guard the eyes, ears, touch, and taste areas? How would I then apply salve to these areas?
The largest percentage of salve is made up of differing types of oils. Holy Spirit is represented by oil, among other symbolical ways. He then is also the protective guard to our eyes, our ears, that which we touch, and that which we taste; that is, when we permit Him to represent Himself in these areas.
If I need to ward off airborne germs that I breathe, I must also ward off those things which affect me within the other sensory areas. Holy Spirit is the only effective repellent to that which would make any one of my senses sick. In applying Him to each of my five senses, I will be protected from invaders.
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve [ointment] to put on your eyes, so you can see.” [Revelation 3:18]
The letter was written out of agitated emotions. Not only did I presume that I was right, I had backed my written argument with scriptures. Good ones! The kind that were intended to convict the obvious opponent.
Using God’s Word, I presumed, was surely the way to gain His approval. After all, an injustice had been done against my hubby. It was a public disgrace, and among the coup sat two Christians whom I had previously admired for their godly character. Self-justification led me to believe that I was right in calling attention to their stance against him.
His guilt? Standing up for what was biblically right. Refusing to come against a man in position who was merely doing his job, and doing it in the way for which he had been hired. The small coup of people did not like that at all. So they removed him from his post.
My selected words seared the paper as I typed passionately in defense of my husband. Waiting for him to come home from work, I rested my final copy on the desk–for his approval before mailing.
“A common symptom of spiritual pride is sincere decision-making without consulting God.” [Bob Sorge]
He read my letter. He agreed with my opinion. Yet, he said, wisely: “It’s correct in content, but wrong in spirit.” Peace came, and the letter became confetti.
Though this challenge was decades ago, I will not forget the lesson. The idiom is true: Two wrongs do not make a right. Romans 12:2 reads: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
It’s easily replaceable; it’s just a plastic, wide-toothed comb. So I wasn’t too worried about it being lost. I admit I was puzzled about the mystery as I remembered packing it before returning home from out of town. In fact, I distinctly remembered it being packed with its companion brush.
Our house guest and friend stayed three nights due to power outage, so she graciously helped me search in several places. She and I shared the same bathroom, so we looked carefully together. Hubby checked the trunk. I went through all luggage pieces. No comb. Again, I was not worried–I knew I could replace it.
The following morning, after my friend left for a meeting, the comb appeared in the most obvious place: right on the bathroom counter. I was sure hubby had found my comb, or that our friend had located its whereabouts. Neither knew anything about it.
Could I truly believe that God sent an angel to return my comb to its place? If I did, I would have to believe that God cares about something as small as a plastic comb. That would mean that He is intimately acquainted with every detail of my life. It would also mean that He wants to share His love for me over the smallest of concerns. Do I dare believe these things to be true? Yes I do.
Luke 12:7 reads: “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” If He concerns Himself about the hairs on my head, He finds joy in providing a lost comb for their care.
There are no natural explanations for this comb’s return to its usual place. Only the supernatural. My God is that personal!
Some of the most intense situations are God’s favorite backdrops. Paul and Silas were stuck in jail. They didn’t know that a ‘suddenly’ was about to change things when they made the decision to praise God. Dark backdrops set the best stage for light to burst forth in an explosion of glory.
“Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” [Acts 16:26]
‘Suddenlies’ are sensational! We love to anticipate that they will happen for us–to loose the chains that bind us. They are God’s most profound dramas. His display of wondrous deliverance defies all doubts and unbelief that had previously crept into our minds. He comes at a time when one would least expect Him to show up on the scene. The cell is dank and putrid, the stage of lost hopes and dreams. Creatures enjoy lurking about and they make sounds in our ears that scream that God has forgotten us. Then suddenly. Then immediately. Then everyone’s chains are loosed.
God’s ‘suddenlies’ always include the lives of more than an individual. His loving hand swoops down and clusters as many as possible in one given blast of power. His pageantry is undeniable. Lives are changed for eternity. Prison foundations are shaken forever as doors fly open and freedom comes: suddenly!
“Really! There’s no such thing as self-rescue, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. The cost of rescue is beyond our means….[Psalm 49:8 the Message]
On the lighter side, I am remembering our adorable young grandson, about age 18 months at the time, when he was leaving our church. We walked together down the stairs, my hand holding tight to secure him from falling. He gently persuaded me that he was quite capable of descending the stairs without falling–“Just watch me!” he exclaimed.
His hand slipped from mine and he smiled wide as he proceeded to show me his stability. While taking the first step, he reached down and grabbed hold of his little-boy tie, the length of which was no more than about 5 inches. He held the tie away from his body and as high up above his head as he could manage.
I said, “Spencer, why are you holding up your tie?”
He replied, confidently, “So I won’t fall.”
While this is one of my many favorite stories about our grandson, who is now in college, I think of how often I attempt to hold myself up by my own efforts. As cute as it was [at his age] for this little boy to try to do it himself and risking a fall, it is equally hazardous when we try to proceed forward in our own efforts.
My proverbial tie may not even be 5 inches long. In fact, the more accountable I am for what I know, the length of it seems to grow shorter. Nothing is safe but the hand of the Master.
Truth always hits us negatively. We might be gliding along at our own pace, and then whoosh, in comes truth, changing our course. Sometimes God halts our plans so that we can be moved into His.
I am learning that even the slightest thing I take for granted could otherwise be altered by the Spirit of God. Preparing to teach again a series that I had written some years ago, I assumed that it would be taught to women–as before. Title was posted, outline was prepared, and word was spread about the upcoming series. Then He spoke: “You didn’t ask Me.”
He had my attention. What was good years ago may not necessarily be appropriate for today. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…” [Robert Burns] The Spirit of God said the teaching was to be prepared and presented both to women and to men. This did not change the truth from the Word of God, but it sure changed the presentation.
Job said, “My purposes are broken off.” [17:11] No doubt Job had formed many things in his mind: the good, the natural, the religious, and certainly the enlargement of his estate. He had plans for his children to be settled. But now his plans were frustrated; he was unable to carry them out.
Preparing a teaching does not compare to Job’s sufferings; however, the principle is the same. When God speaks, the course changes. And it always bears fruit where He intends.