Friday, December 9, 2011
I have just finished weeping my tired eyes out before the LORD over our finances. My husband's check just came in and my job is to wisely spend it. We are at the tail end of the year. The property taxes, home owner's insurance and car insurance are all due. So are the light bill, the water bill, and school tuition. Groceries and gas must be included, as well. Our God, Jesus Christ, is The God of Miracles. Our trembling before our problems He calls "faithless". See here what I mean:
"When they arrived at the foot of the mountain, a huge crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or the water. So, I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him."
Jesus replied, "You stubborn, faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me." Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment on the boy was well.
Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, "Why couldn't we cast out that demon?"
"You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them, "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Matthew 17:14-21 NLT
This was not only MY reading this morning, but my husband's, as well. We found this out after our Bible studies this morning over a quick goodbye prayer. God has us on the same page.
There is no money to slather thinly in all the areas I mentioned above. And the part that brought me to tears is this: The Christmas Expectation.
I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was not planning on putting up the tree until someone in my family finally mentions it. Deep inside I am hoping that all the holiday cheer out there will be enough for them in here. No. Last night the youngest Morris asked, "When can we put up the Christmas tree?". I asked in return, "Why do we need a tree at home, when we can enjoy so many different beautiful ones everywhere else?" The answer: "Because WE NEED PRESENTS UNDER OUR tree."
And THIS is what broke me this morning. The presents. What presents? Where will these presents come from? How can I make that slather any thinner? And moreover, WHAT do any of my people NEED in addition to ALL that we ALREADY HAVE???
I felt like that was a heavenly question as I blubbered on my knees. And then it came to me; a Christmas Inventory. So, I wiped up and sat down here at the computer and typed out the list. I made four copies; one for each member of my household.
And once these are all filled out in quiet honesty by each one of us, I will gather them up and see what else is truly NEEDED under this wonderful roof my Miraculous LORD has supplied. And a more marvelous thought came to me (from Him, I'm sure). After the tree is put up, I am going to request that we display some of our favorite things under the tree as a sweet reminder of what we ALREADY HAVE. How's that for a Christmas Inventory?
How many pieces of clothing do you have? ________________________
How many pairs of shoes do you have? ________________________
How many books (not Bibles) do you have? ________________________
How many DVDs do you have? _________________________
How many computers are in your home? _________________________
How many CDs do you have? _________________________
Please name the number of times you have gone
hungry and without being able to eat this year: __________________________
How many vehicles do you have? ___________________________
Please name the number of times you have gone
without shelter this year? ___________________________
How many toys do you have? ___________________________
How many Bibles do you have? ___________________________
How many times have you gone to the movies this year? ___________________________
How many times have you eaten out this year? ___________________________
Please name the number of eyes you have that work: ___________________________
Please name the number of ears you have that work: ____________________________
Please name the number of arms and legs you have that work: ___________________________
Please write the number of times you eat and drink daily: ____________________________
Please guess how many steps you take each day without effort: ___________________________
How many days this year have you gone without a shower or bath
because of lack of water supply? ___________________________
How many times have you thanked God this year? ____________________________
What do you NEED that you do not have
right now? _______________________________________________________________________
Jesus said, "Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith (Jennifer)! And don't worry about food - what to eat and drink. Don't worry whether God will provide it for you. These things dominate the thoughts of most people, (just go to the mall and watch them) but (Jennifer) your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
So, don't be afraid, little flock (Morris Household). For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom." Luke 12:27-32 NLT
I love living on the edge, by the way. I love knowing God is my supplier and not numbers on a perforated piece of paper. I love going to my piddly little part time job, donning my hair net and knowing that God has me right where He wants me...not for the money, but for His purpose. He has asked me to go there and pray. And it is my joy to have the privilege to do it.
Forgive me, dear Savior, for my faithlessness and forgetfulness for all the provision You have faithfully supplied my entire life. Thank You for the Christmas Inventory. May we rejoice in Your kindness and spend our days looking up in remembrance with a smile on our faces. Thank You for coming and dwelling among us and for agreeing to submit Yourself for The Sacrifice. Your Holy Blood makes a way for me and mine...and any one who will believe. I love YOU! Amen.
Monday, August 22, 2011
"She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard." Proverbs 31:16
There are many daunting passages of scripture for women and Proverbs Chapter 31 is, perhaps, at the top of that list. Verse ten begins with a mother's question to her son: "Who can find a virtuous wife?" Oh dear, yes...indeed...who can? The description laid out by King Lemuel's mother suggests the impossible woman. Who can find her? Does she even exist?
Isn't it just like our LORD to keep the bar raised high? The challenge put to His daughters starts with a simple question. It grabs your attention, the question WHO. It seems to be a list of qualities in a woman that is utterly impossible to obtain. I have prayed over this list for years now and have asked the LORD just what those verses mean to me today. What does GOD want from me as a wife for his son? What does GOD expect of me when I read this beautiful description of The Virtuous Wife? Because, I want to be her. And if you are married and a woman, don't you desire to be her, too? Husbands, don't you want her as your wife?
Over the years, I think God has revealed different aspects of this passage to me. But, last week...I think He gave me the absolute clincher. And I HAVE to share it with you...man or woman...married or not...it doesn't matter. You will see the magnitude of it.
I have listened to many teachings on Proverbs 31:10-31. I have read books, ad nauseum regarding it, as well. As I said, I have prayed and pondered and wondered all about those things I do not fully understand. What, in essence, is the gist of it all?
Love God, Serve Him with a loyal and willing heart. Stay humble. Stay close to Him. Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you. Take the utmost care of those He has put in your charge. Do not fret, it only causes harm. Worry is like sitting in a car, needing to go, but without any keys. Praying is like having the keys to the car. You can go. Worrying is silly and accomplishes NOTHING. Prayer is POWERFUL and accomplishes MUCH! Without Jesus, you can do nothing. With Him ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.
The Virtuous Wife knows these things and lives by them. So, with the understanding of that info above...that is where I am now. But lately, I have been asking God for a whole lot of financial help. I have been asking Him to help us get ahead instead of just the daily bread. Is that wrong? I don't know. I have asked Him to forgive me, if it is. I fully realize that He gives us just what we need and when. I will share an absolutely marvelous example of this with you. Sit down. (Or you will fall down, if you are standing.)
I was going to start this sentence with "Rod and I", but I know who makes these decisions...so that wouldn't be fair. I decided to stop our tv service with a wonderful Christian company called Sky Angel. We used to get this service thru a satellite dish. It was wonderful. Several years ago they changed their technology and told us that they would no longer use the satellite dish but they would give us the service thru our modem and use the high speed internet to deliver our tv programming. We got a new receiving box and that ugly dish sat on our rooftop without any use. (No biggie, really).
For us, the new IPTV (internet provided television) thru Sky Angel was an absolute disaster. The feed skips constantly and there was no enjoyment in Christian TV anymore. Every other word was "buffering" or "retrieving". Watching TV was like listening to a broken record (or for those of you who do not know what a record is....think: a skipping CD). The service was $25.00/month. It was no longer a good deal and proved to be a big pain. So, after months of phone calls to their tech support...we finally gave in the towel and canceled our service. We had been with them for more than five years. We were all bummed out. Especially Gracie who is six and really grew up on Sky Angel. She loved all the Jesus cartoons and Bible stories. Rod and I really missed Christian World News. It was a total blessing hearing the news from a Biblical perspective.
I got on Sky Angel's facebook page to see if we were the only ones with this problem. No, many others were also having the same issues with the "improved" technology. One lady said she had switched to DirecTV's "family package". I looked online and within two days, after discussing it with Rod, we signed up...a two year contractual agreement. For just $10.00 more per month we could have some
Christian channels and some kid-friendly channels (or so I thought at the time) for Gracie. You know where this is going, don't you?
Now, before we got Sky Angel...we had NO TV service for three years. We had not seen network TV since 2003. A LOT HAS CHANGED ON TV SINCE 2003!!! Apparently, you can say or do or show ANYTHING you want to now on TV...even in commercials. Everything we saw was smut, indecent, inappropriate, full of innuendo, godless, despicable, raunchy or vulgar. The "kid-friendly" networks provided continuous lessons on being deceitful and also disrespectful to not only your siblings but also to your parents. And all the parents are total boobs. The kids are brilliant in the most devious ways. The reigning authority on all kids' programming seems to be the ever-present worldview "Do what you want if it feels right to you." Gracie's behavior began to repulse me and shock me. And it was my own fault. I felt like we allowed a demon to move in to our home. And I felt obligated to "entertain" this demon because we were paying for it.
Two months. It took us two months of being continually upset over WHAT NOT TO WATCH that I finally said to Rod, "I'm getting rid of it." He said, "You signed a contract, didn't you?" I said, "I don't care. Whatever it costs to get out of it...will be money well spent. This was the biggest mistake we have ever made. We are using God's money to be entertained by watching people sin." It sounded like words coming from God's lips. I knew I didn't make that up myself. And those words rung in our ears for days afterward. Rod even used them in his class at the Mission with the guys in the recovery program. It was the LORD.
Guess how much it cost to get out of the contract? $440.00. No kidding. They told me they would give me discounts and rebates if we would just stay. I refused. I stayed on the phone that night until Midnight with a customer service rep who could not understand that we did not want the service...even if it were FREE. I told her we made a mistake. It is not right for our family. It is not right for us as Christians who desire to please God. Every channel is laced with impropriety in some sort...even the FOOD NETWORK. Why do you have to have your cleavage spilling out towards the camera to make "Everyday Italian" food? Why? "Because sex sells, Mom". That was Rachel's seventeen year old wisdom.
We didn't have $440.00 to pay the bill. They assured me they would debit the money from my card they have on file. Great. It's a debit card. No money in the account equals...many problems. Of course, I prayed like mad that God would forgive us for our incredible stupidity...mine especially. I prayed that He would cause them to reduce the early cancellation fee. But, His Divine answer found it's way into my tired ears that night on the phone..."No". Okay, if He says "no" then, it doesn't matter. He has a lesson to teach us. It's an expensive lesson, but we will manage somehow. I was sick about it, but soooooo relieved to remove the demon from our home.
I prayed for days. In the meantime, my mom returned a gold bracelet to me that she had borrowed. I had plans (more like a fantasy) to sell that bracelet so that Rod and I could go to the beach. I knew it would not pay for a whole beach vacation, but it probably would have contributed to a nice dinner out in St. Augustine (ahhh, someday). I left the bracelet in it's box and decided to just forget about selling it. I actually forgot about the bracelet, too.
And then my mom called one afternoon last week. The EXACT day I got the bill from DirecTV...$447.36. UGH! I hated that our overdraft was going to be used for THAT, but whatever. My mom asked me what I had done with that bracelet. I told her where it was. She told me to get it right away and take it to this man she had just done business with. "He will give you a fair price, I promise. I bet you'll be able to pay that dumb "cable" bill."
I ran right home. I got the bracelet. I took it to the place she suggested and they said, they could offer me...$440.09. TEEEE-HEEE! With God All Things ARE POSSIBLE. If they had reduced the amount of the early cancellation fee, then I would not have been praying so hard that God would help us. It's true. So, I am utterly convinced (yet, once again) that God is absolutely sovereign over all that happens and He is totally in control. Hallelujah and Amen.
So, what does this have to do with The Virtuous Woman? I have been praying this prayer, "Please multiply what we do have. Please teach me to be financially wise. Please give me wisdom to "consider a field and buy it". Teach me to make a good investment that pays off in the end." So, I'm thinking real estate or a small business of some kind. I don't know. But, I've been keeping my eyes open for that field. A field. Some kind of field to purchase after I've considered it. I've been praying for wisdom regarding the field. And of course, I've been hanging out in the Book of John. Can't stay away from there. I can't even tell you how many times I've read it.
John considered himself to be one of Jesus' best friends. John completely loved his Jesus. Jesus must have considered John to be his best friend, I think. Because He entrusted John with the responsibility for the care of His own mother while dying on the cross. Like, He made His will out...then and there... as the Firstborn Son of the family. Why didn't Jesus entrust Mary to one of His brothers? Have you ever thought about that? He said He didn't entrust HIMSELF to any man because He knew what was in the hearts of men. (You know...that gross truth from Jeremiah 17:9..."The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." I say: "Yick and YIKES" to that!
Consider a field. Jesus said, Consider the lilies, how they grow. They grow in a field. Jesus talked about a field. He talked about a field being white and ready for harvest. But, the laborers are few. And...we are supposed to pray to the LORD of the harvest to send laborers......consider a field. She considers a field and buys it. She buys the field. She pays for the field that is ready for harvest.
And then my dear friend Kim Pavlich went on a mission trip to Guatemala to help orphans there. She urged me to follow her trip by reading her blog. I read it and I prayed for her and then she began posting pictures of these orphans. Smiling...all smiling and calling her "Mommy". And that night, I sat here at my computer and just lost it completely. I haven't had a crying jag like that in ages. (I had been praying that God would break my heart again because I had been feeling lukewarm after all that TV watching!) So, I'm looking at these orphans and weeping like a waterfall and I send a message to my full-time missionary friends, Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon (also stationed in Guatemala). I told them about my blubbery ordeal looking at Kim's pictures and they both sent me emails telling me I wasn't losing it, but perhaps God was trying to tell me something. Dennis encouraged me to remember that the GOERS are not more important than the SENDERS.
And then the LORD revealed it to me...She considers a field and buys it. Jesus said, "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored and you have entered into their labors." John 4:35-38
He also said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
Ding-dong...I hear the door bell. Oh, look, it's Jesus! He has not asked me to sit back and enjoy my stay here in the "waiting room". He has asked me to be a servant. The virtuous woman is as busy as a bee. She does not eat the bread of idleness. And she is secure in the winter because her home is covered in scarlet (the blood of Jesus). The "field that I am to consider for purchase" is to use God's money to support the gospel...it is an eternal purchase where moth and rust cannot destroy. You can never ever take away a person's salvation. It is the gift of God and it is irrevocable. Those orphans may not have much in this world, but they could have everything God has to offer in His Kingdom...IF I would only consider the field and buy it.
Email me, if you'd like at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God bless you.
Thank you for reading and praying.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Here is a copy of the first post on my new blog: My Sugar Free Kitchen. I will be making a recipe post this week (Sugar Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies...they were the Bomb, by the way)! Here is the link. Let me know what you think!
I have had some comments from my readers that making an actual "comment" on this blog is difficult. From now on I will leave a link to my mail box so you can comment that way, if you'd like.
God bless you and thanks for reading!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."2 Corinthians 5:1
I sat in my bed, this morning, sipping my coffee as I was reading my devotional. My study is anything but common and today, I hastily ran to my laptop to share what God has given me, so that you can carry on from here, hopefully filled with a greater hope than when you first came.
Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman is my volume of choice. This is the gem I encountered:
"The owner of the house I have lived in for many years has notified me that he will do little or nothing to keep it in repair. He also advised me to be ready to move.
At first, this was not very welcome news. In many respects the surrounding area is quite pleasant, and if not for the evidence of a somewhat declining condition, the house seems rather nice. Yet a closer look reveals that even a light wind causes it to shake and sway, and its foundation is not sufficient to make it secure. Therefore I am getting ready to move.
As I consider the move, it is strange how quickly my interest is transferred to my prospective new home in another country. I have been consulting maps and studying accounts of its inhabitants. And someone who has come from there to visit has told me that it is beautiful beyond description and that language is inadequate to fully describe what he heard while there. He said that in order to make an investment there, he has suffered the loss of everything he owned here, yet rejoices in what others call a sacrifice. Another person, whose love for me has been proved by the greatest possible test, now lives there. He has sent me several clusters of the most delicious grapes I have ever eaten, and after tasting them everything here tastes very bland.
Several times I have gone to the edge of the river that forms the boundary between here and there and have longed to be with those singing praises to the King on the other side. Many of my friends have moved across that river, but before leaving here they spoke of my following them later. I have seen the smile on their faces as they passed from my sight. So each time I am asked to make some new investment here, I now respond, "I am getting ready to move." selected, October 21
As I finished reading this, I sipped the last of my second cup of coffee and wondered to the LORD, "Do you have coffee there?" Immediately, I imagined my dad sitting at a big round table, with his right leg thrown across the knee of his left, slurpping his coffee loudly. (That was his style.) Seated next to him was dear Linda, Rod's mom. She had a glass and not a cup and it was filled with Coke with ice. My sweet Corrie ten Boom sat next to her, grinning broadly over her white mug. Ruth Graham was laughing a musical laugh, her head thrown back in joy. Her cup was raised with a bent arm and then she sipped. My wonderful Catherine Marshall was there, with her automatically brewed cup, too. My old friend William Mayhew and his beautiful wife Brenda were there at the table. William cackled loudly as Brenda's dimpled cheeks grew into dainty half moons.
Do they have coffee there? I don't know if they do or not. I wasn't really expecting to have this tear-inducing imagining, but my precious Jesus was right there in the middle of the conversation. And what a blessing that will be, coffee or not. Moving day is coming. The King has not told me when. He just told me to be ready.
Each of these people I imagined at that table have helped me to pack.
My dad gave me some bubble wrap in which was tucked everything in the world that money could buy. And then he handed me another piece, which had a film about the end of his life. Here he found the true riches he was looking for in a Savior who tapped him on the shoulder in the middle of the night and told him it was time to make a decision.
My mother-in-law recommended the Mover to me. Although she had already moved by the time I met her son, her faith and persevering prayer-life resonated loudly through him. Her short life so filled with love for the LORD, is still reaching converts today. In my family, Linda's fruit trees are always producing a harvest.
Corrie ten Boom gave me the strapping tape sticky enough to handle any situation. She taught me more about trusting God through her book Tramp For The Lord, than anyone else ever could. She read her Bible and took God at His word. She stepped forward and moved out when every circumstance and situation warned she should stay. That will STICK with me forever.
Ruth Graham gave me boxes. Inside one of these was a note addressed to me that read, "Being a mom is hard. It's okay to mess up. God still loves you and He's got great plans for His kids. You just keep praying." I love the story she tells about how she locked Franklin in the trunk of her car one day. He was in the backseat on their way into Asheville from Montreat. Young Franklin was mercilessly picking on his sisters. Ruth pulled over, opened the trunk and demanded he get in. He did and Ruth drove all the way to the burger joint they were headed to, ordered for him, gave him his lunch and drove him home still riding in the trunk of her car! Of course, she'd go to jail for that these days. But, look what God turned that rebellious kid into! And her gravestone really does read, "Construction is now complete. Thank you for your patience." What a great reminder of what we really are: God's building projects. He's not finished with me, yet.
Catherine Marshall gave me a marker and encouraged me to write. "Write it down," she said to me in my heart, "and share it with others. Tell your testimonies as they come along. When you share your trials with others, you light the way for them to follow along in your footsteps of faith. God will never leave us nor forsake us and God can never fail!" In one of her non-fiction books she tells of how the making of the coffee every morning was eating into her Bible study time. So she searched out and found an automatic coffee maker and situated it in her bedroom. She inspired Rod and me to get one of these, too. So, we don't waste any time in the morning fiddling around with coffee making. We get right to the sipping and the reading! And my reading leads to writing, which leads to more reading.
My old biker pal, William, gave me a pair of really comfortable jeans to wear while packing. Embroidered down each leg in large red capital letters is the big question: DO YOU KNOW JESUS? He showed me how to be bold and feel at ease while witnessing to others. William was not the most gentle-spoken guy around. In fact, he was what some would call crass. But, his favorite question of salvation to anyone standing near was uttered from a heart of love, I'm certain.
His sweet Brenda gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye. She told me to give my hugs and kisses away to others every day. When she left I realized that she was the first one to love me like Jesus does. She broke through my hard, hard shell and loved the me inside that had never been reached before. And she did it with Jesus' love. In the beginning of my walk, I tried to avoid her welcoming embrace upon entering church. The more she watched me avoid her, the more she tracked me down to do it. Frankly, I thought it was maddening that this complete stranger insisted on hugging me every time I came to church. One morning while embracing me tightly she said, "I know you don't like this, but you really need it." She was right, I did. Now, I have to do that same thing on a regular basis to one beautiful blonde girl I know. She doesn't like it, but I know she needs it.
Of course, these people aren't the only ones who've provided me with moving supplies and I don't know when it's going to happen. My Mover just said to be ready. So, for now, I'll be busy packing because "I am getting ready to move."
Sunday, July 17, 2011
You know that old saying, "You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!"?
I think this is great advice to all of us who call ourselves by the King's great name. My sinless Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly died a vicious, agonizing death on a cross to pay the penalty of the crimes of His people. He did not rot in His grave, but rose victoriously on the third day. As Christians, we should be trusting for our salvation in "nothing but the blood of Jesus". But it seems that there are times that we try to trust in THAT plus..........our own self-righteousness. Eeeew. Not good.
Do you ever watch other brothers and/or sisters in the LORD struggling with some visible sin-issue and you sort of sidle up to the LORD, shoulder to shoulder and cluck your tongue, shake your head sadly and say to Him, "Just look at that. Pitiful, isn't it? They just can't seem to get it together, can they?" Of course, this is a total fantasy and not reality at all. You are still a sloppy sinner and so am I. Gulp. I hate it, but it's true.
I ran into an old friend of mine recently. She and I used to go to church together. I fondly remember many conversations we had when I was a new believer where she encouraged me with scripture to keep seeking the Lord and not get bogged down in my failures. I thought of her as a great joyful encouragement. But, this day, she was so different. Her eyes were dark and sad. Her beautiful hair now hidden with a cloth. She smiled but it was joyless. She and her family no longer attend our fellowship. They prefer to "worship in a different way".
Months before, I ran into a mutual friend of ours. I considered this woman to more than likely be her best friend. She told me that she and this friend of mine no longer saw each other or talked anymore. I wondered why. When I saw my friend that afternoon, I realized there was some kind of icky wall there. She looked at me as though I was "missing the mark". I saw her as though she were in a cult. When we parted my heart was heavy with a great sadness. And it's been plaguing me ever since. What happened? Why is she and her whole family trying to keep the Law, all of the sudden, when Jesus died to free us from the law of sin and death? She knows the scripture but she's choosing to believe new and strange doctrines that ultimately promote: Jesus death plus your good or acceptable behavior/lifestyle = Salvation. My friend won't even speak the Lord's name anymore, other than the Hebrew pronunciation. Our once sweet fellowship seemed only a fond memory. It was a heartbreaking encounter that afternoon and I was sick about it.
But, honestly, I went home and I asked my Lord to forgive me if it offends Him that I refer to Him as Jesus, Lord, God, Father or any of the other terms of endearment that I use to speak with Him. Did I need to do that? No, but you know, I do love Him and I never want to offend Him. And He offers grace to those who ask for it honestly.
I know of other women (and men) who seem (to me...let's get that straight) to be trusting in not just the blood of Jesus but in their own self-righteousness, also. We should not be obedient to God and His word because we want to "earn" brownie points with Him towards our salvation. But, we should be obedient to the lifestyle that He calls us to (according to the Holy Bible) because we LOVE Him and we want to show Him that we love Him by our desire to be obedient (according to His word) and not according to the teachings of men that do not line up with Scripture.
Every time I read the book of Galatians I remember that God has not called me to become a Jew to please Him. He called me His daughter knowing I was a Gentile. He is reconciling the whole world to Himself. If it were only Jews that He was interested in, then that would be a pretty small party in Heaven. God does not want anyone to perish but that all might receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The next time you are tempted to think that you are "in" with God because of your self-righteousness plus God's work on the cross, just remember:
"God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT
That "special favor" the word speaks of is GRACE. You know, God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Let's not forget that our righteousnesses (even after we are trusting in the blood of Christ) are still as filthy rags to God. See Isaiah 64:6
When you are standing next to something that stinks, all you want to do is: GET AWAY FROM IT, right? Our self-righteousness is actually pride and God resists the proud!
So, the next time I sidle up to God (in my mind) and cluck my tongue and shake my head about my stumbling brother or sister, I will remember that that attitude is like filthy, nasty, stinking rags to Him. I will imagine God running away from me in disgust. I will remind myself of all of my weaknesses and how God is not finished with me yet, either. I will pray for my siblings. I will continue to humble myself to my God Who is able to do exceeding above all that I can imagine. And I will cast down as sin that high thing that exalts itself above the knowledge of God. In other words, I will check myself before I wreck myself and continue to rely on "nothing but the blood of Jesus".
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Two weeks ago I just couldn't shake the thought of running away...to the beach. I spent three hours on the internet searching for just the right getaway location when the time finally comes. I knew the general area I'd like to go to. And I knew the MAN I wanted to run away with, but the timing remained a mystery. Kinda hard to check out rates when you don't know the dates. So, I got myself all excited about getting away and then like a child's balloon let go...it flittered all over the place and turned into nada. Bummer.
I prayed in earnest: LORD, if You don't have it in mind for us to go to the beach this year, then please take this desire away from me. Please, Jesus. Thank You. Amen.
Rod laughs at me: "You pray about everything, Jenn."
"Yes, dear...remember we're supposed to "pray without ceasing"?
So, then the bad thing happened. Well, it wasn't that bad. But last Friday, I had to take Rachel to the airport in Greenville. Now, every time I go to Greenville, SC I always think to myself, "We're almost there." (Meaning the beach.) It's not really true. It's a five and a half hour trip to the beach, but after the first hour in the car you are in Greenville, so this is why I associate it with a beach trip.
After Gracie and I watched Sissy's plane taxi out, we headed to the Greenville Zoo for a quick outing. I lost Rachel's car keys at the park afterward and I called Rod in a panic. "I lost Rachel's keys and I'm in the park IN GREENVILLE!!!" So, I prayed and Rod prayed and there, just as sweet as can be were the car keys on a bench. Thank you, LORD JESUS!
We drove home, had a rest, and before you know it I was on the internet just checking to see if by any chance there were any deals for a quick weekend getaway. Now, I was in the car at 5:30 am that very morning driving to Greenville. We were home in Asheville by 1:30 and I want you to know that I found a great deal on a mom and pop motel on the ocean at Myrtle Beach. So, by 8:00 pm that night we were driving by Greenville again on our way to THE BEACH!! (TEE HEE!!)
When we checked into our room at Midnight, all Ocean Boulevard was in near riot state. The high schoolers had just graduated that day and they were blowing off some very loud steam. Four girls were getting kicked out as we were checking in. The big bald security guard had very little to say as he politely carried their bags to the curb. Rod rolled his weary eyes at me. "Why do I let you talk me into these things???" I patted his arm and lightened his load..."Now don't you worry. They got rid of those trouble-making girls. It's gonna be all right." I had to shout this above the din of booming stereos and a bevvy of cruising teenagers reveling in the hot beach air. I couldn't even hear the roar of the surf.
But, our room was immaculate. Thank you, LORNA, our housekeeper at The Admiral Inn. The beds were comfortable and somehow the LORD allowed us to drop off into a drooling slumber even though it sounded like the end of the world outside the door.
Saturday morning we woke up to birds singing and sun shining and waves rolling gently onto the beach. After a smashingly good breakfast at Mammy's Kitchen we spent the rest of the day on the beach. Gracie dug holes to her heart's content. (I am convinced she just might reach China someday.) I thanked God a whole bunch throughout the day. I just couldn't believe we weren't sitting in our living room in Asheville on a Saturday.
The weather was perfect, the water was wonderful. Gracie was thrilled to swim in the ocean between Mom and Dad. I held her as she clung to me like a barnacle on the dock as we rode the incoming waves. I kept looking for that old feeling to come back.
That's what I was really after...in desiring the beach. But, He kept showing me that He isn't in a place, He's just with me.
I know I've written this before. And many of you have read it already (all right, already...we get it!) I love the ocean because I fell in love with God there. I miss the ocean because I want to get that old sweet feeling back. But, you know...God was showing me something there in Myrtle Beach this time. I have to go with the new sweet feelings He gives me and stop trying to relive my past. The past is over. And that's not a bad thing.
On Sunday morning we planned to head on over to Calvary Chapel Myrtle Beach for the 9:30 service. It is on the way out of town. I knew once we got out of the service we would have to leave and go home. So, I begged Rod to please let us just worship the LORD on the beach. He acquiesced to my request.
Suddenly, I thought of a passage of scripture and I opened my Bible to John 21. Here is what the New Living Translation says:
Later Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several disciples were there -- Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing."
"We'll come, too," they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
At dawn the disciples SAW JESUS STANDING ON THE BEACH, but they couldn't see who He was. He called out, "Friends, have you caught any fish?"
"No," they replied.
Then He said, "Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you'll get plenty of fish!" So they did, and they couldn't draw in the net because there were so many fish in it.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the LORD!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and swam ashore. v.1-7 (emphasis mine, of course)
Okay, so I'm sitting there reading this WONDERFUL passage of scripture...my sweet Jesus is standing on the beach watching his dear disciples trying to live the old life. And I happened to look up and this is what I saw with my own two (four) eyes:
I took his picture. He cast his net again and again. I got closer and closer with my camera and kept snapping. It was such a blessed moment. I finally got so close that the young man stopped what he was doing and I had to tell him what this crazy woman was doing stalking him on the beach with her camera.
His name is Killion. I told him how Jesus told a story about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a fisherman who cast his net into the sea. He caught all kinds of creatures. But he only kept the good, the ones who know Jesus as LORD, and the rest he threw away. Killion said he was baptised only three weeks ago. I said, "Praise God. That's wonderful!"
He caught nothing with the net, but he did throw in the line and caught a fish. It looked to me like a baby hammerhead shark. But, I could be wrong. (I wondered if it had a gold coin in its mouth...it was THAT kind of morning!)
By Noon, THIS is what our back seat looked like:
A Rapid Retreat was a wonderful getway and guess Who was waiting for us in our living room in Asheville when we got home? Isn't He marvelous?
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I think perhaps this may be too personal to share with strangers, but my friend, Liz, said, "You are going to blog about this, aren't you? I mean, every mom out there can relate, Jenn." Hmm. I suppose she may be right. And if you haven't been where I just came from; you might have to go there. And maybe if you read this before you go; it will be easier for you than it was for me. So, Liz said you can relate and that it might help someone. This might be just for you. And maybe it applies to dads, too. I don't know. I have no idea how it feels to be a dad. Anyway...for anyone who has had to wrestle with God...this is my advice to you.
It all started last February when my youngest daughter, Gracie, had a ruptured eardrum. This is when there is so much fluid built up in the eardrum that it actually bursts and bloody fluid comes out of your child's ear. You mustn't panic because now the child is in a lot less pain. You see your child's blood...coming from her tiny ear and you want to call 911 or rush to the ER. Her accompanying fever of 105 finally broke after two days, too. Bottom line...in February, my Gracie was very ill. Of course, we prayed and many of you prayed via this blog, Rod's facebook, and our church's prayer chain. Thank you. As it turned out...Gracie needed to have surgery anyway. She needed to have her adenoids removed and a second set of tubes placed into her six year old ears.
I knew about the surgery in April. I didn't blog about it. I didn't really worry about it, too much. I just gave it to the LORD and expected Him to do His thing. He always does. We had already been through one ear tube surgery when G. was two. It was "a piece of cake". Our adoption wasn't even finalized, yet. The DSS caseworker was there with us (at that time DSS was listed as her legal guardian...can you imagine?). So, this time, I was so nonchalant about Gracie's surgery that I FORGOT to put it on the prayer chain at church.
But there's more than that...I have been struggling with my own head-cold and have been trying to keep Gracie from catching it. I didn't put my silly head-cold on the prayer chain, either. I didn't feel an urgency. I was just enjoying a sweet passing by of my first week at home with Gracie since she graduated from Kindergarten last Friday.
Gracie's surgery was scheduled for this past Tuesday, May 24th at the outpatient center here in Asheville. She had to be there at 8:45am and the actual surgery was scheduled for 10:30am. Rod had to work (just started his new job). The procedure was only to take 15-30 minutes. My mom, Patricia, went with me.
Let me back up just a minute. The week or so before, I felt a terrible heavy oppression about Gracie. This happens from time to time and I have to realize that fear is a present from the enemy of our souls. God does not give us a spirit of fear, right? (Check 2 Timothy 1:7.) Every now and then, last week, I got this sense that her end was here and then, I would dissolve into a snuffling puddle of tears about Gracie dying.
Now, I have to admit this to you (you moms out there...do you do this? Have you done this? Are you in the midst of this?) I find myself having to ask God to forgive me for worshiping my child. No, not bowing down and lifting her up, but in my heart....loving her more than ANYTHING kind of worship. We are to love the LORD our God most and best. That takes sincere discipline. I think it is a hallmark of growth in the Christian walk.
And I have found myself loving Him more and more deeply over the last couple of years. I long for Him in the dark night hours when everyone else is asleep. I find myself praying constantly and praising Him as though He is very present. He is the first person I talk to each morning and the last one I speak with as I drift off to sleep. Believe me when I tell you, I know when I am worshiping my child above God. And last week, I was doing it again. And the thought of being separated from her...EVEN THOUGH I am absolutely certain about where her eternal destination is as much as my own...was tearing me apart.
I confessed my idol worship to God and repented (again). Tuesday morning came and they called Gracie back to begin the pre-op. They gave her an oral sedative to drink with the intention of calming her down before they gave her laughing gas and finally inserted the IV for the anesthesia. So, three drugs before surgery: oral sedative (the nurse called it "happy juice"), laughing gas, and whatever they gave her in her vein.
The happy juice went down quickly. It's concerning to me that my girl is so used to downing liquid meds that she resembles a college student taking a shot at a frat party. Ten minutes later the first of our trouble began. Gracie was anything but happy. She began fearfully crying out and clawing at her little hospital gown and matching pj pants. She ripped off the socks they gave her and cried and moaned pitifully. Her eyes rolled around in her head and she clenched her teeth at me with a wicked far off look in her eye, snarling: "I don't want to have the operation!" She tried to crawl out of her caged up hospital gurney. My mom blocked her at one end and I did the same at the other. We cooed to her, petted her (she swatted our hands away forcefully). It was about this time that I began kicking myself for NOT sending her surgery down the prayer chain.
About forty-five minutes of this went on until the surgical nurse finally came in to announce that they were ready for Gracie in the OR. The anesthesiologist had already seen Gracie both before and after the initial sedative and did take note of her cough. Yes, she has a horrible rattling cough. She had it before I got sick but I have to admit that it did not subside after I got one, too. I really half-expected the doc to put the brakes on the surgery because of her cough. Part of the pre-op phone call I received a few days before was a question as to whether Gracie had been around anyone who was sick for the past two weeks. I answered truthfully, "Me. But, she's been spending lots of nights at my mom's to try to keep her from catching my cold." None of us have had a fever, since Gracie's back in February. Are we wrong to assume you are not contagious unless you have a fever? (I'm sure Dennis will chime in and say I am wrong to assume so. Dennis?)
I think all mothers should attend nursing school to the very end during their pregnancy...so that all the myths we've been told can be squelched and the truths can make their mark. (I realize nursing school takes much longer than 9 months, but when your kids are sick...you are really flying blind. At least that's how I ALWAYS feel!)
Back to Tuesday...so Gracie does go back into surgery. Mom and I wait in the lobby. I begin listening to the voice that tells me how stupid I am not to send this down the prayer chain. I battle back telling the voice that this surgery is a "piece of cake, just like the last time...in fact: easier because Gracie is OLDER now and she is less fragile." (That's my mom-reasoning.) I pray and tell the LORD again, "Please don't take her today. I can't make it if You do. I can't make it without her, Lord. I can't. Don't do it to me."
He didn't say anything to me. I expected words of comfort but there was only His big silence. I never like that. So, I panicked again and the tears began to flow freely as I sat there in the lobby. The war was on, but I was in denial. "Piece of cake. Piece of cake. Piece of cake." I prayed. "What more can the prayers of others do? I talk to the LORD all day every day. How are other people's prayers going to be more intense than mine? I'm her mother." (Being brutally honest here.)
A voice again..."How cavalier of you to think that your prayers about Gracie are the only ones that matter. You didn't send it down the prayer chain."
I want you to know that as I type this I now see the "accusatory tone" there. But, while I was sitting there stewing in my juice, I didn't notice my enemy beating me over the head with it.
I just kept begging God not to take my idol away. I'm not exaggerating here. I really was begging Him to let me keep her (for myself). I'm in love with Gracie. I'm in love with having her in my life. I love the way she looks, smells, sounds. I think she is so funny and smart. She fills my life with meaning. And on Tuesday morning...that was all I could think about. How my life would mean nothing if she were not in it and there is where I got stuck. I was in the middle of the battle and the heat was on. This is NOT what God wants from me. HE wants to be my everything. Not Gracie. She can't be my everything...because she isn't everything. But, HE IS. At that moment, I disagreed with Him on this point. Bad place to be. Hard stuff was coming my way.
The first phone call came to the registration desk for me. The surgical nurse was calling to tell me that Gracie was not recovering well from surgery and she was on oxygen at the moment. Her oxygen levels were only good as long as she was given oxygen. They would keep monitoring her and let me know how she was progressing. I thanked her and sat back down. The registration clerk kept looking my way. I got the feeling she knew something I didn't.
The second phone call came fifteen minutes later. I heard the registration clerk say something like this: "Linda Morris' mother? Yes, she is...you can do that? I mean she can do that? Is she allowed back there? Oh, okay. I'll send her back right now. I'll tell her how to get there. Okay. I'll send her right back."
There are two or maybe three recovery units at the outpatient surgical center. The first one is right out of the OR. No one is allowed in there. The big red sign on the double doors says STAFF ONLY. This is where they sent us. When we came in I heard my girl moaning angrily and muffled behind a curtain. A man was rushing behind that curtain with an X-RAY machine. I recognized the radio-active sticker and the big black plate-looking thing in his hand. They're X-Raying my kid. The nurse came over and ushered my mother and me away back towards the double doors "for safety". I couldn't speak, folks. I just stood there waiting for the ball to drop.
The X-Ray guy left as quick as he came. They spread the curtain open a little and beckoned us in. Two nurses were frantically pulling tubes and pushing Gracie's hands away from the oxygen mask strapped to her tiny face. Gracie's eyes were closed, her gown was drooping off her little white shoulder and she was angrily howling, "Get it off me! Get it off me!" If you know this kid, you know how sweet she is. You know how gentle she is. You know how much she loves life and adventure...how much she gets in trouble for dancing all around church and giggling oblivious to any adults around that she might just run in to! This was not the same girl. Oh, she looked like her, but this wild cat reminded me very much of another wild, high girl I met during a DSS "family team meeting" a few months after we took Gracie home from the hospital. You're catching my drift here, right?
The anesthesiologist was standing there almost shouting over the goings on with Gracie telling me that they've just done a chest X-Ray because she's had some kind of "respiratory episode". They weren't sure if she was showing signs of pneumonia or she had aspirated some blood or fluid into her lung or something else. Huh? "We have to get her oxygen levels up and she needs to calm down so we can keep her safe. Can you get in bed with her and get her to calm down. She needs to keep that mask on." (Gracie is batting wildly and now punching at the plastic mask on her face: "Get it off! Get it off!")
My mom went to one side of the bed and took her tiny hand. She started cooing to Gracie as she bent over her. The doc asks my mom, "Are you in the medical industry?" I suppose she noted my mom's (hospice) bedside manner. I didn't let my mom answer...I said, "She works for hospice." I realized what I had just said (ie...she helps people DIE) and I blurted out: "But not today. Not here. Not today. She's off today."
Gracie was stoned out of her gourd and oblivious to my mother's pleas. With one swift move she had the oxygen mask yanked off her head and had thrown it down. The recovery nurse pulled a large reclining chair towards me and patted its center. "Sit here, Mom. Let's get this girl into your lap. You can hold the blow by oxygen near her face. We'll get her numbers back up." It was a command and not a request. I obeyed the nurse. My mom looked at the numbers on the monitor. The anesthesiologist barked at my mother, "Don't look at that monitor!" It was too late. My mom grabbed the abandoned oxygen mask and put it to her own mouth. Her eyes kind of rolled and her hand began to shake. The other nurse looked at mom and said, "She's gonna faint; get her on the bed!"
Now, my mom was on the bed and Gracie was laying on top of me. The nurse strapped the oxygen mask to my mother. Gracie's face was towards the ceiling and the back of her head was laying on my sternum. I had my left hand around her waist and my right hand held the blow-by oxygen tube near her nose and mouth. Her tiny feet came down to the middle of my shins. I recognized her forty pounds was not much more than my down comforter and quilts at night. What on earth was happening?
My mother moaned under the mask. Gracie batted at the cool air spewing from the blue tubing and she moaned. I held her little hand down and kept willing her to be still and accept the air. The whole entire time I am fighting with God. "Don't do this to me. Please, God, don't take her now. Please, I can't make it without her. I can't do it. Please don't do this today. So, what? You've given me six and half years and that's it? Is that all I get? Please don't do this. Please, don't take her away."
I could only see my mother's feet, which were strangely stiffened and lifted above the bed from the knee down. I kept wrestling with God. The doc came back and said, "I think we're gonna have to admit Grace to the hospital and keep her overnight."
"Oh, God. What are YOU doing to me???? Why this? This was supposed to be a piece of cake. Please don't take her from me. Lord, have mercy on me. Have mercy. Please, please have mercy on my Gracie!"
My cell phone began to tinkle its little chimey sound. I had already called Rod earlier in the day and told him I forgot my cell. But, that was my ring...coming from the depths of my large purse. I was wrong. It must have been Rachel. She must have been locked out of the house. She was expecting us home hours ago. "Oh, Lord. What else?"
No one got the phone. My mom was as still as a corpse. Gracie was moaning and I was still frantically begging God to let me keep my daughter. And then, when the ringing stopped I saw myself, in a memory but like a vision. I was in Times Square Church. I was seeing myself from the front and very high above myself. I was on my knees with my hands raised in the air. I was weeping and I was telling God, "I surrender. You can have all of me, LORD. You can have my whole entire life. I am Yours. You can have my husband, my children, my parents, my health. I will go wherever You want me to go and I will do whatever You want me to do..." And as I remembered my promise to God that I made in 2008 on my first "mission" trip to the 50th anniversary of Teen Challenge in NYC...I realized, I already told God He was the Boss of my whole life. I committed myself to Him that Thursday afternoon. And I knew that it was too late to take it back. I made a promise to Him and I couldn't break it. Even now.
"Okay, LORD. She's Yours. She isn't mine. You have loaned her to me for six wonderful years and if You're gonna take her now, then just do it. Take her. I won't leave You. I won't stop loving You. I'll stay and I won't be mad at You. I love You and I trust You. Take her. She's Yours. Take her. I surrender. You win."
The minute I prayed that prayer my mom's feet relaxed into the bed and she let out a big sigh. Gracie went limp and began to snore. I was grief stricken for a minute and then I looked at Kathy, our recovery nurse. She smiled a sweet and wonderful smile at me. "That's good. She's sleeping. She'll get better now. Look at those numbers. She's at 96 already. (When mom looked at the monitor it said her oxygen level was 70.) Ideally, it should be above 90. By the time we left that afternoon Gracie was breathing at an average of 116 for over an hour all on her own without the assistance of any oxygen.
The victory was in the surrender.
Mom sat up and dug through my purse to return Rachel's call. Rachel put the whole issue down the prayer chain. Pastor Billy called my cell phone next to ask what floor we were on at the hospital. I told him we were at the outpatient surgery center, not the hospital. He said he'd be there in a minute. (I thought he meant literally. For those of you who know Pastor Billy, you should be smiling about now.) I didn't want him to trouble himself by coming. The doc had already told us by then that we would be taking Gracie home within the hour. She had made a total rally. God did it. I know this. Our brothers and sisters were praying. And God had accepted my surrender.
My one worry about Rod not coming was that they would expect me to carry Gracie. I cannot lift her anymore. Not after my surgery in October. And when we did (victoriously) walk out the door, there was Pastor Billy standing there in the hot sunshine with a cup of coffee smiling broadly at Gracie. The nurse chased us out and gave Gracie a great big hug. She said to me, "She can't walk because of all the medicine she's had today." Before I could say anything Pastor Billy scooped her up with his free hand and carried Gracie to my car. Praise God, at that moment he was my hero! My mom was spent. I was spent. Gracie was groggy but very much alive.
And God had to win the battle.
Because the battle belongs to the LORD.
My victory was in my surrender.
So, moms and dads, and maybe anyone else who is guilty of turning a loved one into an idol, my advice to you is to surrender them to God. Let Him reign supreme in your heart. Make Him the most important love of Your life. That's all God really wants from us anyway...our love. After all, we are made in His image and isn't that what every human being wants more than anything else? To be loved?
Little Gracie is two days away from surgery now. She still has a cough and she is on antibiotics. She sat in the back of my car this morning and said, "We are all God's children, aren't we, Momma?" I said, "No. The Bible says that if we have Jesus as our Savior, then we are God's children. And if we don't have Jesus, then we aren't God's children at all." My window was open. We were stopped at a traffic light and the car next to me had a woman driving who also had her window down, too. She seemed surprised at my statement. As we both turned left when the light turned green, I knew she read my license plate: PRZJESUS. I hope she will and I will see her later.
Thank you friends and strangers for reading and for praying for us. Mostly, I feel burdened today to tell you that God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross so that the payment could be made for any sinner who believes and accepts His death as the payment for their sins. Even you. Jesus isn't dead in a tomb, though. Three days later He rose from the grave. He sits at the right hand of God making intercession for you and me. Intercession is praying. Jesus is praying that you will believe in the gift God gave you: the free gift of salvation. Salvation is escaping the coming wrath of God due to every sinner who does not accept God's way of mercy. Jesus Christ and His work on the cross equals mercy from God for those who believe. And for those who don't believe the wrath of God abides (stays) on them. It's not something to fool around with. You never know how long God gives you until your days are over and you must give account to God for everything you've ever said or thought or done while in your body on earth.
If you do believe that Jesus is God's Son and that He died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the grave on the third day but you have never told God that you believe that and that you want Him to forgive you for your sins...please talk to Him. Tell Him that you believe and that you want to be forgiven. When you do this, the Bible says that you are "born again" and that you will have eternal life in Heaven with Him. Don't wait. Don't put it off. You are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Listen to these last few verses of the Bible that speak about Heaven (and Hell) and who goes where:
"I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever."
And the One sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!" And then he said to me, "I am the Alpha and the Omega -- the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
But cowards who turn away from Me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars -- their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death." Revelation 21:3-8
Your Victory is in your Surrender.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Good News! Good News!
Christ died for me!
Good News! Good News!
If I believe!
Good News! Good News!
I'm saved eternally!
This is my Wednesday night class at church. I get the privilege to be with three young saints who have all professed their faith and love in Jesus Christ! And that IS Good News!
Each Wednesday it is a challenge to come up with a craft lesson that two (almost) six year old girls and one eight year old boy will enjoy AND remember! The first week we studied Samuel and how he "heard from God". I really don't like glue, so our crafts have to be glue-free. We made BIG EARS and tied them around our heads with the words written up the side: "Samuel heard from God and so can I!" They liked that one very much. (It was painfully easy and I was so happy.)
The next time we studied Esther and how she asked the Jews to join her in fasting and prayer for courage to go see the king. And how the LORD used the scroll records to remind the king of a kindness that he had not honored and had forgotten. So, our craft was to make a scroll with a half sheet of paper (cut lengthwise) and two straws. We printed out Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path." After reciting this verse several times, the memorization was well embedded in their little hearts and minds!
Rod and I had a conversation this week about an impact that a couple had made on him as a child. They drove a "Good News" bus and came to all the neighborhoods in Holtville, CA where he grew up. The couple donned a hand puppet and sang the kids the good news song. To this day, Rod and some of his other Holtville grown-up buddies still remember every line in the song! They could not tell you the names of the people, but they heard the gospel (Good News!) and they believed. I kept thinking this would have to be something my kids would enjoy learning.
God (have I told you how absolutely WONDERFUL HE IS, lately????) gave me a great idea for a quick hand puppet craft idea. And as He would have it, I had all the necessary supplies. So, this is what those puppets look like that we made last night in class:
We talked about the Gospel (The Good News). What is the Gospel? Gracie said, "It is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus!" Amen. Last night's class was another smashing success. A great time was had by all.
More Good News? Rod got a job! After more than a year of unemployment, Rod finally landed a full time job. It is a good job. The pay is good. The hours are great. The work is hard. And he is old. So, please pray for him! (Insert big cheesy-Jenn smile, here.) I say, Praise Jesus! Of course.
Just when I was wondering how on earth we were going to handle summer with both kids home (well, actually, the teenager DOES NOT want to be home) with me working and Rod working...God handled it and I am now part, part time. Three short days each week over the summer. I am so glad my boss decided to keep me instead of let me go. I feel like the LORD has really given me favor there. I have developed a great rapport with my co-workers (always praying that they see HIM and not me when they look at me, and that they will have a hunger and thirst for Him when I'm gone). It is a ministry banquet!
I was so afraid to work in a secular environment, but God has shed His love abroad in my heart for each of my precious co-workers and I am in deep prayer for them. Some more than others and at different times...the burdens change. It is wonderful! Because God has given me favor there, they are open to it when I quote a verse of Scripture. There have been some very intense conversations about controversial subjects ("God made them that way") to which I have been used by Him to lovingly point out that God made them male and female and that is the Truth. Man may like to try to change the way all of society views certain sin, however, the Bible is a reliable plumb line of Truth that never changes. No one argues too long after you give them a verse in a loving way.
I know it is the Holy Spirit at work. He loves these people and He wants them to have eternal life with Him. I pray every day that He puts His words in my mouth and a guard over my lips. And that He will take everything out of me that He doesn't want there and put everything in me that He does. And that He steps inside my body and lives out my day as He intended when He knit me together in my mother's womb.
I can't tell you exactly what's happening, but I can tell you for certain: SOMETHING IS HAPPENING and that is Good News, too! Be in prayer for my co-workers in the deli. God knows who they are. You can call them "Jenn's friends". I don't know how much longer God will keep this door open for me. I am grateful He opened it. You know, I went in to find a little cashiering job a few mornings a week and they asked me if I'd like to make salads and sandwiches in the deli. I love feeding people. Love preparing food and I thought, "Okay, LORD...if this is where you want me, I'll do it." Now, I know what He was up to. It's so exciting!
We're still here basking in the goodness of the LORD. Rachel, my photographer daughter, FINALLY gave me a digital camera. Have a gander at some shots I took in our yard.
May you see the goodness of the LORD in each and every picture.
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man that trusts in Him!" Psalm 34:8
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, "The Lord has need of them, and immediately he will send them."
All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
"Tell the daughter of Zion,
'Behold your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.'"
So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.
They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.
And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
"Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!"
Matthew 21:1-9 NKJV
At the dinner table recently Rod asked little Gracie, "What exactly is the Gospel?" She sat quietly thinking intently about her answer. She took a deep breath and correctly said, "The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord."
Every day the Gospel message is being presented all over the world. Every day eternal addresses are being changed from hell to heaven. Every day people are saying "YES" to Jesus! Every day countless others are rejecting this life-altering message of salvation for all eternity. Every day when people suppress the "measure of faith" that God our Creator has given to "each of us" they are REJECTING JESUS. This spells "the second death" for the unbeliever.
I once was one of these. For years I suppressed the measure of faith that God had given me to believe the Gospel message. But, God in all His infinite mercy gave me more and more chances. In my sin I flirted with death on a frequent basis. I drugged and drank. I partied in the dark and slept with strangers. God in His kindness kept me safe for the day when I said "YES" to Him and "NO" to my past.
Oh, PRAISE JESUS! Hosanna means "Save now". On that day in September of 2002 I heard my husband give the Gospel message to his step-daughter. She rejected the saving knowledge on that particular day, but I sank to my knees...listening secretly from a room down the hall and realized my need for the Lord's kind forgiveness.
You never know when someone else is listening to you. You never know when the words that fall from your lips that declare the Lord's kindnesses to you will impact a hidden listener. You must declare your testimony. You must declare His goodness. HE MADE THE WAY WHEN THERE WAS NO OTHER POSSIBLE WAY!
A couple of weeks ago the devil was having a real good day with me. My husband was gone...across the country for a week. I was (once again) living the hard life of a single mom. It was weird how that independent lonely feeling came back in almost an instant. I knew (hoped) that he would return, as planned.
But, on that day, my great enemy wanted to see how far he could get with me. It was soooo windy. I had grocery errands to do (I do run from store to store saving pennies here and there only to waste money on gas...it's a very old and probably bad habit.) After a stressful shopping experience with my very animated six year old, I was putting the first set of groceries in my trunk when a wild wind whipped up and slammed the trunk of my car into my head with great force. It literally knocked me for a loop. My vision temporarily blurred and the pain stunned me to tears instantly. I couldn't even get my car key into the hole to unlock the door. Meanwhile, Gracie was dancing all around (oblivious to my pain) asking for this and that and the other.
And I heard his evil whisper, "Next time you'll have to deal with two kids by yourself instead of only one."
When I finally managed to get us into the car, I sat in the front seat weeping loudly like a child who'd just wrecked his bike and skinned his knees. Man, I hate Satan. He is the meanest, cruelest, most despicable thing in all of creation. He never takes a break, it seems. Did I remember the victory of my Beloved while I cried in my car? Nope. My day of agony rolled along to the next stop and the next. I was wading in quicksand and by the time we got home I was spent. Praise God, my mom came and took Gracie for a "Grama day". I laid on the couch and FELT SO BAD.
Rod called. He was full of the joy of the LORD. A long-time dream had finally come true for him and he was sitting gleefully in his hometown gushing to me on the phone about what an indescribably awesome time he had with the LORD that morning. Every bit of elation he had on the West coast was equaled in full measure with the amount of suffering I was going through here on the East coast. But, we're one flesh. How can that be? After he told me all of the wonderful things that were happening with him, he asked me how I was doing. By then, I realized it was stupid old Satan oppressing the snot out of me. (We're one flesh, my husband and I, right? Why wouldn't he try to "mess with me" like Pastor Bob Wilson likes to say.)
Rod prayed for me and rebuked our enemy. He boldly cancelled Satan's assignment against me in Jesus' name and plead His precious blood over me afresh. I listened with cloudy ears. My head was still stinging. It was a miracle that the skin had not been broken. I decided to begin counting my blessings after we hung up the phone.
I laid on the couch and tried, but I fell back into a loathsome despair. I climbed into the shower and began to sing:
Holy and Anointed One.
Your name is like honey on my lips.
Your Spirit's like water to my soul.
Your word is a lamp unto my feet.
And Jesus, I love You.
I lo-ove You.
I sang it again. And again. And then, I became acutely aware of His presence. I squeaked out this honest statement:
"Lord, I have a hard time believing You are IN me, because I FEEL SO BAD."
I heard Him say these words,
"I FELT SO BAD in the Garden. And I AM GOD."
Instantly, I cried tears of great joy. Suffering is part of my journey home. And I remembered how only a few days earlier while I was having my morning Bible study and read about how we WILL suffer as Christians that I said to the LORD, "I don't know if I've ever experienced much suffering. How can I identify with Your suffering?"
Um. By the way...don't pray that. Don't ask that...unless you want an object lesson from the Lord. But...actually...I'm glad I had the lesson. Because honestly, all the torment that stinkin' Satan put me through that day was NOTHING (Zipola) compared to the tremendous rush of love I felt from My Saviour when He identified how He FELT in the Garden and HE IS GOD.
I'm telling this story about what happened to me a couple of Saturdays ago to impart this message. Once you confess your sins, accept God's perfect way of salvation (JESUS) and begin your journey with Him...ETERNAL LIFE BEGINS.
When He spoke to me in the shower that afternoon, I heard His precious voice with the most intimate clarity. He said, "My sheep hear My voice and they know Me." I have "That's me." written in my Bible next to this verse.
But wait, there's more. I didn't speak to Him about my fears of being a single mom again. But, He knows it all. So, after He told me how He FELT, He said this to me:
"Tell you what. I promise you, I will never leave you no matter what happens. Never. Okay?"
Friends, I was laughing through tears in the shower. I knew that already, but it makes all the difference in the world when you hear Him SAY IT. He knew the fear in my heart: after my husband preaches the Gospel He goes HOME and here I'm left behind.
But, I am blessed to have two husbands at once. Rod is my temporary husband...here on earth for a determined amount of time. God decides how long that will be. But, the LORD is my FOREVER HUSBAND. So, it was only right for Him to make me that promise. This is what He says of Himself in Isaiah 54:5
"For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth."
He is gracious. He sent my Rod safely home to me after a mountain-top (actually, it was more like an Oasis-in-the-desert) experience in Holtville, California. Part of his heart and mind is still very much there. So much happened. So many blessings. So many wonderful kindnesses provided by God through His people. But, my husband's beautiful body is here. His precious face and soft sweet voice are here with me, safe and sound.
I'm telling you the straight truth. I never, ever miss my old life without Jesus. I pity all those who hear the salvation message and reject it.
Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened in all the world!
He is our only Hope and new life with Him begins when you say
YES! Hosanna! (Save now!)
Praise Jesus with me! Thanks for reading. Love, Jenn