Friday, December 14, 2018

A Christmas Fix-it Project...Me

Love is fixing me.

I have been reading a great deal of Lysa Terkeurst lately, on disappointment.  It has hit home in so many ways and has been such an encouragement as I am well aware of those times I need to be fixed.  At times everything gets out of emotions, my focus, my expectations.

Christmas is a time of great disappointment for many; those trying to push through a holiday for the first time without a loved one, and something they certainly never expected they would so soon have to do.  Neither is it any less painful or any easier to deal with the hurt and loss just because it is somewhat expected. Relationships end, people find themselves in financial straits and thinking “Christmas just won’t be what it usually is.”  The disappointments loom large, maybe even larger at Christmas.

Sometimes it takes these very painful and personal experiences to bring Jesus and His healing touch to the forefront.  For me it was just a matter of being able to accept a situation I could not change. I wanted very much to be willing, and thought I was until the opportunity to move back to my normal seemed like a very real possibility.  When that didn’t happen I was quickly before the Lord asking Him to help me re-adjust my perspective, change my focus, desiring to be abundantly satisfied in Him regardless of my circumstances, and knowing that is His desire for me.  I needed Him to heal my disappointed heart so that I could move forward.

I love Christmas, and I am so grateful that it comes this year at a time when Jesus is “fixing me”.  Because all that Christmas is, makes shifting my focus so much easier, but I must choose. And it is a choice. You, and I, must choose to shift our gaze and dwell on the divine, not the disappointments.  I am praying you choose joy, that same joy heralded by the angels to frightened shepherds, deep joy that a Savior was born.  Yes, Christmas is about us and our need to be saved from the sin that enslaved us. The Savior came, lived and died, then rose again to bring us abundant life here and eternal life with Him when this life is over. Choose to rest in the peace that the gift of Christmas provides,the peace of a quiet but powerful presence, the very presence of God, with us. Choose hope, the hope promised Mary that she grabbed hold of that enabled her to accept her very frightening, confusing, precarious, unbelievable situation.  That same hope is available to us. It is Christ Himself and the riches of His great grace, grace that does not abandon but overshadows. Yes, it overshadows all our sorrow, all our need, all our disappointment, all our confusion and fear. Choose to adore Him for this wonderful gift, a gift of unconditional and forever love that never disappoints.

Mary was told, “For the Word of God will never fail.  Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant; let it be to me according to your word.”  

Abundant satisfaction comes at the moment we surrender to God in faith, accepting whatever He is doing (or not doing) in our lives at any given time.  For Mary this was demonstrated in a lifetime of hope, hope in the very child she had born, one day seeing him die for her as the very son of God, her Savior and mine.  For us, it is sometimes easier experienced though, than explained to others.

In the mid 1980’s, Mom and Dad Harding (my in-laws) found themselves without a ministry, with no income, and facing the loss of their home and a move to, well, somewhere.  We were there the day all their furnishings were auctioned off, personal possessions that could fit in their car and ours were packed, and a lock put on the house. They came to stay with us for a while, until another ministry opened up.  It was a time of healing from the hurt and loss. But they kept joy and hope that God had plans. They eventually did find themselves in another ministry but not for very long. Dad’s health worsened and the Lord finally took him home in March of 1991.  Mom was left alone. She still had her children, but they were scattered and living lives of their own, and except for Roger and me, not living for the Lord which was a continual heartbreak for her. But I remember hearing her the morning of the funeral on her knees in her bedroom crying, and praying a verse of Scripture from Isaiah, “Lord, please be my husband. I don’t even know what to do next.”  (Isaiah 54:5 For thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.) You see, for years, Dad had been Mom’s eyes. She has suffered with retinitis pigmentosa for nearly 40 years, progressively going blind. In Dad’s last years, as his health deteriorated, he had encouraged her to go through the training to use a low-vision cane and she had done that. Little did she know it would be guiding her as she walked everywhere after Dad was gone.  And finances? Now what would she do? Well, the Lord had been working even when she was not aware and Dad’s time in the military would end up providing for her for the rest of her life because of an injury he had sustained that eventually contributed to his early death. The Lord put just the right people in her life that asked just the right questions and made the inquiries for funds that she would never have imagined would be available to her after Dad was gone. And now? After a year alone in Ohio, we were able to have Mom come to live in Beckley near us, in a senior independent living facility.  And she did just that, lived independently for 19 years before coming to live on the farm in a second home on the property, the farm we purchased five years ago. After two major life-threatening surgeries in 2017, and a fall in July of this year, she is now living in our home with me as her primary caregiver.

Why share a bit of her story?  Because Mom could have lived a life of self-pity, indulging in the lie that God had abandoned her but she has always chosen to see the good in every situation, or that God could bring from every situation, even losing her husband and home (Mom has never again owned another home). Mom is no saint. Neither am I, but she is an example of how God has a way of making a way for His children, sometimes in spite of us.  Choosing to trust opens the door to being abundantly satisfied in Him. There continue to be daily struggles and challenges for sure. They do not just go away. This is not about finding some source of freedom from fiery trials. No, it’s about being abundantly satisfied in Him, living life by faith with joy that gives strength to keep living by faith with joy….abundantly satisfied in Him.

This Christmas season finds us under a great deal of pressure, dizzy from being pulled in different directions, having to adjust yet again to major life changes and roles.  But choosing to accept what God is doing in our lives right now rather than fume or fret over it brings that abundant satisfaction. There are some tears no doubt, and lots of prayers, but at the same time confidence in His great faithfulness.  

He is in the business of fixing the broken focus. He fixes me, every.single.time.

I can not but adore Him.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Flawed, but Fiercely Loved"

The words from my morning devotional gripped my heart; “flawed, but fiercely loved.”  Part of me was overwhelmed with my failures and inadequacies as I zeroed in on that word that I understood so well…flawed.  I could relate and was certainly feeling the weight of them as I approached the Scripture that morning. Even my prayers were flawed.

I stammered and attempted to verbalize to the Lord just what I was dealing with but the words wouldn’t come.  I asked for forgiveness. I had not willingly or knowingly tried to dishonor Christ in any way, but my heart was heavy with the weakness and waywardness of my thoughts. Such unrest in my spirit that morning.

And then, almost at the very same moment I was overwhelmed with His great love for me.  A fierce love. A pursuing love. One that doesn’t let go. All the flaws make His love for me an even greater wonder.  “Jesus loves even me”. The old hymn came floating back into my memory. Even me. I needed it, wanted it, but still had moments of struggle accepting it for what it is, just pure, unadulterated love.  

Gripped by this great truth I was awed at the greatness of His patience with me.  Patiently allowing me to wallow in my whirlwind of emotions, Patiently waiting for me to lift my eyes off myself and back to Him.  Patiently waiting for me just to come with a heart of worship, not “woe is me”.

According to the powerful Truth of His Word, I am eternally held.  I am forever accepted. I belong to Him. I came to Him in belief, trusting Jesus that HE is Who He says HE is and that He died for me….in my flaws and failures.  He embraced me in them, lovingly accepted me in spite of them. Who He is and what He did is what mattered, This faith journey did not begin and does not rest on what I have ever done, or what I can or cannot do.  My belief brought me to Him, but it was His death and glorious resurrection that saved me.

As if saving me was not enough, I can bask in this fierce love, eternally held, daily carried.  And this Truth lifts me above my flaws and empowers me to live for Him, this great Savior. I am not defined or deterred by my flaws and failures.  They are His because I am His.

“Flawed, but fiercely loved!”  This may just be my new battle cry to shout in the face of Satan when he would attempt to defeat me with self-pity, discouragement and doubt.  The banner of Jesus’ love is lifted over me, His Truth goes before me, putting Satan to flight. “Run devil! Yes I am flawed, but fiercely loved!”   

The sunrise that morning was breathtakingly beautiful. Just a simple little reminder from the Creator that I am fiercely loved.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Struggle is Real

The last day of Summer.  I was sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee, contemplating how quickly things can change. One hot day in July, in an instant, I was in a new role.  My mother-in-law fell. Just last year I was challenged to care for her through two major surgeries, staying with her and juggling work for several weeks each time as she transitioned back home. But now it was clear she could not live alone any longer. The decision was made to move her in with us.  But, this meant our son and his family that currently lived with us would need to move into her home. Major adjustment and transition for everyone. It was just across the driveway, but it may as well have been 500 miles for what it involved!! Well, that’s an exaggeration of course. But it was definitely an undertaking to move two families at once and made quite the spectacle at times as we drove everything from beds to boxes across the yard in the back of our gator. As if that wasn’t humorous in itself, It took the dogs and the two younger grandkids a couple weeks to figure out what had actually taken place and where they actually lived!  

And now, here we are.  We’re all settled and the arrangement is working very well. I am not back to work full-time yet but doing a little here and there part-time.  So in the last four months we’ve made a major ministry move, moved Mom in to provide round-the-clock care, and my work situation changed drastically which in turn affected our financial situation as well.  Just when you think life is getting somewhat routine and boring….umh, that was sarcasm by the way.

I’ve found myself struggling a bit to just sit back and well, not do much.  And I’m used to doing a lot, all the time. Being home everyday, and as Mom has improved,  I’ve actually been able to do a lot of things I haven’t had time for before like organizing closets, cleaning out drawers, sorting through stuff (you know, all that stuff that can accumulate that can actually be thrown out if given any attention) and, sitting on my front porch sipping coffee.  So there I was, sitting and sipping, praying, and trying to process it all. I turned my head and wow, the most beautiful sunburst was peeking through the trees. I couldn’t pull my gaze away. But I didn’t just see sunshine. I saw rays of hope bursting through the morning mist. I prayed a prayer of praise for the awesome reminder to keep the eternal perspective, and asked the Lord to just help me stay in step with Him through all the changes.   

The Struggle is Real

Don’t lose sight of the eternal in the middle of the NOW struggle.  

The “now” struggle is very present and pressing.  It is real. But, so is the eternal. So is Jesus!

Yes, Jesus is very real and very present in your present struggle.  He is ready to calm your heart, quiet your fears and help you rest in His unfailing love for you.  

In your confusion, as you are hurting, as you wonder what the future holds and what your next step will confident He is loving you still.  He has not abandoned you to yourself or your circumstances.

Whisper His name.  Let your heart sing if your lips cannot.  He will fill you with His peace and the overwhelming sense of His purpose in it all, even if He does not immediately (or ever) reveal to you what that purpose is.  

It is enough.  HE is enough. That is the essence of hope in the struggle.  

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18*

“Let your unfailing love surround us Lord, for our hope is in you alone.  
Psalm 33:22*

“Jesus...our Hope”  2 Timothy 1:1*


Friday, May 11, 2018

Getting a Grip

"I just need something tangible to hold on to."

The woman that spoke these words was raising three children by herself after losing her pastor/husband to cancer.  She was hurting, and searching for answers.  In trying to encourage her to hold onto her faith, the well-meaning Christian cliches she was getting from some weren't helping.  The reminder to "just hold onto your faith" wasn't enough.  What that really meant was now being questioned.  Thankfully, there were those that came alongside her in her pain, in her anger, in her confusion, and just "did stuff", living out the Truth she knew.  The tangible evidence of God's love expressed in human action became a guiding light as people did yard work, went to her children's ballgames, took a teenage daughter shopping, brought ice cream late at night and pigged out on the sofa with her.  It allowed her a chance to grieve, to breathe, to question without being judged, to find her faith path again, to be patiently guided back to God's Word and the truths that brought comfort, calmed fears, gave wisdom...answers, and peace, all the eternal blessings of being a child of God.    

"You have endowed him with eternal blessings, and given him the joy of your presence." Psalm 21:6

This is the epic essence of live experiencing eternal blessings, to know the joy of Christ's presence as an always present reality and how that impacts my daily life. Eternal blessings...not what we would label just good things, but things of eternal value.  These things are not tangible, but they are just as real.  Things like unexplained peace and joy in loss; wisdom that enables you to "just know", even against the odds; a calm assurance in what seems an impossible situation.  It's about living in the heavenlies, having an eternal perspective, seeing God at work in every circumstance, and rejecting mere happenstance.  From the mundane to the magnificent of this life it all reflects the Savior's hand and His heart for His creation.  We just have to strive to see it with His eyes, His patience, His hope, the Hope of eternity that brings meaning to this madness.  And sometimes it takes a tangible expression of His love for the eternal to be recognized.  

As eternity grips the heart, directing the focus back to the heavenlies, the earthly resolve is strengthened.  You can trust.  You can move forward.  You can wait.  You can let go of what you cannot control.  You can laugh.  He wants to give us eternal blessings that guide the heart and give hope and meaning to this life.  It is powerful and empowering to grasp the gravity of the eternal.  This life was never intended to be just an existence, but rather a purposeful passing of time and relationship, with God and others, full of meaningful (and fun!) experiences. 

"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to Him.  Psalm 24:1

Not everyone understands, acknowledges, or accepts this great truth.  They don't know the Creator God in a personal way through the saving grace of Jesus.  Some know it but lose sight of it in the moment.  But He knows them.  He knows, and He loves.  He works through people, through situations and circumstances, through His creation, through His Word, to draw our focus back to those eternal blessings...what really matters and gives greater significance to the life we are living.  

Are you seeing something of eternal blessings in your daily routine? in the hearts of your children as they play?  in painful or challenging circumstances?  in relationships?  in your physical surroundings?Take a moment to seek God, asking for a glimpse of the eternal in this moment, this situation, this day.  

Get a grip on the eternal.  It will change your today.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

Determined to Love

Waking up to a snow day today.

The battle of the emotions can be a fierce one at times.  Thankfully most days are good ones, but some days the emotions conquer.  I read last night of love, and went to sleep asking the Lord to just help me love better, and more like He loves. 

So maybe the snow day is just what God did for me today.  It's a beautiful reminder of His blanket of love covering me, cleansing me; a reminder of His great grace covering all and making all "whiter than snow".

Colossians 4: 5-6 says to "Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone." 

That's definitely a challenge when the emotions are running high.  But it's not impossible with God's help, when you love the way He loves. Consider the opportunity you have with your family, your loved ones, the person in the long line in the grocery store...a treasured and timely opportunity, not one to be wasted with hurtful words and harmful attitudes, or trivialized with carelessness.  Moments matter.  They become a lifetime.  Treat them with significance, knowing you might be the light or hope someone needs in that moment. 

And if you blow it?  Allow God to deal with your own heart first, finding His readily available love and forgiveness.  Then, fix it if you can.  And if you can't, do your best to learn from it and go on, stronger and more gracious and caring because of it.

Determine to just love. 

"Someday, after mastering the winds,
the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness
for God the energies of love, and then,
for a second time in the history of the world,
man will have discovered fire."
                                     -----Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Daily Thing

“Praise the Lord, praise God our Savior!  For each day He carries us in His arms.”   Psalm 68:19

On any given day I may fail miserably and feel dejected, allowing those feelings to control me and defeat me.  But knowing the Savior carries me each day gives hope.  It means each day is a new chance for my daily experience to be full of joy and expectancy.  It means not living in that dejection, but rising out of it and moving forward.  And I don’t have to make this happen on my own.  Christ does it.  He carries me.  

And I allow Him to.  I give myself to prayer, and time in His Word.  And I wait for Him to work.  Even on the darkest days when I don’t have it in me to pray, I know the Spirit of God is praying for me, taking my heart cries to the Savior (Romans 8: 26-27, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”) I also know when I can’t even bring myself to pick up a Bible, He takes the Word that is hidden in my heart and puts it to work, making it a reality as the promises come alive in me, refreshing my soul, restoring my spirit.  God does this!  

Daily, He gives us what we need to live, love, forgive, overcome, wait, or whatever the situation calls for.  Daily, He gives courage to face the demons of doubt and failure and move us upward and onward to a deeper state of grace.  Daily, He takes the weaknesses and failures that would so easily cripple us and makes them the very things that strengthen us, and the resolve to trust Him all the more.  Daily, He takes the tendencies to be self-assured and arrogant and shows me the incredible heights of humility.  

This walk of faith is a life journey, but we live it a day at a time.  There are bright days and bad days.  Don’t let the bad days set you back or have you believing it’s over.  Just remember, “each day” He carries us. Get up each morning, regardless of what yesterday held, with praise on your lips and gratitude in your heart declaring, “this is a new day!”  Let the Lord be in charge and carry you where He will.  You’ll be amazed where it takes you.  

Keep walking, it’s a daily thing.    

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Facetime with my Friend

I woke at 5:10 that morning, strongly impressed to spend some extra time in my Bible "seeking the face of God". I had been reading a George McDonald novel before bed and that particular phrase in a character conversation had stayed with me. Unable to fall back asleep, I grabbed my phone, my Bible, fixed a cup of coffee and headed to my quiet place. Since my devotional app is on my phone I grabbed it first. Immediately I saw notifications from Facebook and without really thinking I clicked. No sooner had I started to scroll and a thought broadsided me and stopped me mid-swipe,  as strongly as if God had spoken audibly.

 "I said seek MY face, not Facebook." 

Okay. I have learned over the years on this faith walk to not disregard these gentle promptings of the Spirit of God. After all, walking with God is about my very real and personal relationship with Christ, or it should be. And what kind of relationship stays strong when one side doesn't listen!

I had recently noticed that on occasion, especially when in the car, my husband would be saying something to me but because I was texting, surfing, or on Facebook, it might be a moment before I even heard him. It was frustrating for him and wrong for me to make him have to repeat himself. He deserved my undivided attention. So, I began listening more determinedly, and intentionally putting my phone down when he started to say something. Wow.  What had we been missing because he saw me absorbed on my phone and decided not to bother?

This morning?  Here I was doing the same thing to God! I knew in my heart the prompting to rise early and spend time reading my Bible and praying, had come from Him. I was going to need what His Word would say to me today.  Thankful He got my attention, I did not have to think about what I would have missed otherwise.

Two lessons learned; first, how easily we are distracted and drawn away.  Just like my relationship with my husband is strongest when we are communicating, unselfishly and considerately giving each other our attention, my relationship with Christ needs my determined and intentional effort to see it flourish, staying strong and close to Him. It's too easy to just drift, only to find yourself far away from each other.  Christ knows me so well, loves me so much, and as my personal Savior and Friend, desires time with me...quality time, my undivided attention, when I get to know Him better, when I am strengthened and encouraged, given the rest and peace my tumultuous soul so desperately needs in the crazy and chaotic world we live in. The 2nd lesson was the one He had for me in the first place.  It was the reason He stirred me to get up and meet Him in the quiet of the morning.   I would have missed out had I engaged in Facebook instead of "facetime" with my Savior, not leaving time for Him before having to plunge into my day.  

The passage my devotional took me to was three short verses in 2 Kings 4: 42-43.  Someone brought loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn to Elisha and the sons of the prophets.  It was a small amount compared to the need, but Elisha instructed the man to prepare it for all 100 or so of them.  The man was astounded to think this small gift would feed so many but did as he was instructed.  Elisha's response?  "for thus says the Lord, they shall eat and have some left."  Somehow over the years this miracle had escaped me.  I did not remember it.  I was thrilled to read as if for the first time that God had so wonderfully and abundantly met this need for His children. It was a reminder of His promised provision and care for His own, at a time when I needed that reminder.   

God knew I needed the reminder.  And He was waiting for time with me to reassure me through His Word that He had everything under control.  I just needed to "seek His face", pursue Him, be attentive to what He had to say, in one of those moments when seeing His face is all that mattered.    

"You have said, 'Seek my face.'  My heart says to You, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek."  Psalm 27:8

Facetime anyone?