Monday, May 30, 2011

Honor and Remembrance

Today we set aside a time to honor our service men and women of both the present and the past.  We take time to thank them for their service and their sacrifice for our country and our freedom.  More than any nation on earth, we have much for which to be thankful.  Because of that, we owe a greater debt of gratitude to those who have won and kept our country free. 

In light of those thoughts, I wanted to post pictures of some of my family who have served, and those who are now serving.  My heart bursts with pride to know my heritage.  I want each of them to know how thankful I am for all they have given to me and to our country.

My Sweet Nephew after Basics in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO
Caleb M. Watkins
U.S. Army---TN National Guard
2010 - Present
My Nephew-In-Love on deployment in Iraq, 2005
Brian K. Eppers
U. S. Army
2004 - Present
Currently Medical NCO · Des Moines, Iowa
Weapons of Mass Destruction - Civil Support Team

My Handsome Daddy
Van P. McDonald
U.S. Army---Sharpshooter
Koren Conflict Era
April, 1952 - September, 1953

My Great-Uncle
Ralph F. Newland
U. S. Army
World War II

Endure suffering along with me,
as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life,
for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.

2 Timothy 2: 3 & 4

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Believe...........

"That it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.:

Truer words have never been spoken; nor is any truth more essential to our right relationship with the Lord, with others and with ourselves.

Knowing that Jesus has forgiven me is the greatest gift I have ever received.  To know that others forgive me when I mess up is also a great gift.  However, the importance of both of these gifts and my ability to enjoy them to their full value depends greatly upon my own ability to forgive myself.

Matthew 6:12 says "...and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us."  This is the New Living Translation of that verse.  The Common English Bible translation puts it this way "...Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us." 

"A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression."  That is from Proverbs 19:11 in the New American Standard Bible translation.  The Message paraphrase says it like this "Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget."

Neither you nor I would argue that, as a Christian, we are commanded by the Lord to forgive others.  We are admonished by Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."  This is quoted from the New American Standard Bible translation.  It is more than clear what the Lord's will is regarding forgiveness of others.

What, then, does forgiving one's self have to do with our relationship with the Lord and/or with others?  In the New Living Translation, 1 John 1: 8-10 has this to say about forgiveness...."If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts."  Now, I don't know what that says to you; but to me it says that confession of sins to God begets forgiveness of our sins, and not only forgiveness, but cleansing.  When something is clean, what need is there to fret over it? 

Let's suppose my house is dirty.  (To be truthful, that wouldn't take much 'supposing'!)  Anyway, my house is dirty.  That's my confession.  I work hard to clean my house, I make sacrifices to be sure the job is done well.  That's what Jesus did for us on Calvary and the job doesn't need to be redone!  Now, when my house is dirty again next weekend, should I feel guilty?  Would that not be an absurdity?  Why should I feel guilty when I worked hard this weekend to be sure my house is clean?

So, my spiritual 'house' is clean because Jesus has already made the ultimate sacrifice for the cleansing.  My spiritual 'house' is clean because I've asked Jesus to forgive me and have confessed my sin to God.  Now, from time to time, my spiritual 'house' becomes quite messy and dirty again.  I allow the 'dirt' of my daily life to collect and ignore the daily tasks.  My spiritual 'house' is dirty.

When I realize that, I turn to the Heavenly Father in prayer and cry out to Him to forgive my 'dirt' and to cleanse my 'house'.  As soon as the words are uttered, forgiveness is freely given.  My spiritual 'house' is again clean.  Now, I ask you again, what do I have to feel guilty about?  As I have said before, guilt is a product of Satan.  It serves no good purpose in the life of a Christian.  Rather, the Heavenly Father uses conviction to remind us of our need for cleansing.

Once the Father has forgiven me, why would I continue to torture myself with the guilt of my past sins?  What good does that serve?  How can I be an effective Christian if I am walking around bound by the chains of guilt?  Jesus shed His blood to loose the chains of sin and guilt and to free us from the bonds of death. 

We don't seem to have a problem accepting salvation as a future event in that we are forgiven and will someday occupy our heavenly home.  Why do we have such a difficult time accepting that salvation is a present blessing.  We can live a life free of guilt, shame, discouragement and ineffectiveness because Jesus wiped all of that away with His precious blood! 

What a pity that we continue to live defeated lives when the price has already been paid for our liberty and an abundant and joy-filled life.  The Father forgives us and we forgive others; may we all begin to practice forgiveness to ourselves so we can be the kingdom heir we were meant to be!

"Yes, I am the gate.  Those who come in through me will be saved.  They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep."
John 10: 9-11   (NLT)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Believe......................

"That sometimes when I'm angry, I have the
right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the
right to be cruel."

Even the Lord Jesus became angry when righteous anger was warranted.  (See Matthew 21: 12-13)  He acted upon his anger and expressed the reasons behind it.  That is the perfect picture of how He expects His children to deal with anger.

Ephesians 4: 26-27 says it this way:  "And 'don’t sin by letting anger control you.'  Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil."  

So, the Lord knew we would, at times, become angry and provided instruction for His way of managing that anger. 

"Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry" is one of the most difficult things for me to do.  I tend to enjoy 'stewing in my own juices', as Momma used to say.  I want to enjoy my justified anger and get every drop of angst out of it before letting it go. 

However, Paul tells us the practical reason the Lord wants us to forgive in a timely manner...'for anger gives a foothold to the devil'. 

When Terry and I were first married, we made a pact with each other and with the Lord to make our best efforts at trying to obey this admonition with regard to our marital relationship.  I have often told people the two of us never went to bed angry with each other, but we sure spent some sleepless nights along the way!  And, that is the truth.  I cannot remember a time in our marriage that we closed our eyes while still angry with each other.

However, I cannot say the same in my other relationships.  While I found it almost simple to keep my promise to Terry and to the Lord to deal with marital anger in a right way, I have found it anything but simple to deal with anger in general in the same manner.  So, I press on knowing I have work to do in this area of my life.

The quotation above brings yet another factor into play when dealing with anger. I may have the right to be angry, but I never have the right to be cruel.  Even as He hung upon the cross dying, Jesus cried out to His Father "Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing".  (See Luke 23: 33-35)  If anyone at anytime had a right to be angry and cruel, it was Jesus Christ at that very moment in time!  Yet, He patterned for us exactly what He had taught.

I have no delusions, I am not Christ and I make mistakes.  However, because I am a Christian, I have the power available to me to deal with anger just as lovingly as did He.  Our problem is not that we don't have the power, it is that we lack the resolve to use that power in the manner Christ intended. 

When the Holy Spirit descended on the church at Pentecost, He brought with Him the power to live victoriously.  ("On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit..."  Acts 2:1-4a)

When I became a Christian and received the Holy Spirit, I was endued with that same power.  ("But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  John 14: 26-27)

How I use, or fail to use, that power is a decision that is wholly my own.  When I mess up, I have no one to blame but myself.

Be angry, don't sin, don't give the devil a place (foothold) in my life.  Those are simple instructions.  When coupled with the knowledge that I have the power of the Holy Spirit to do exactly as instructed, I am left with the truth that I do as I choose to do. 

Precious Father, help me do as You desire, not as I choose.  AMEN

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Any Ordinary Saturday................

This picture was actually taken about a year after we met.
 Saturday, May 12, 1973 was any ordinary Saturday at our house.  The school week was over and the year nearing it's end.  The work week was over and it was time to clean, garden, mow grass, tend to the farm, prepare for Sunday....all the usual Saturday goings on at our house.

We got up at our usual time, around 7 a.m.  Momma cooked breakfast, we ate and started our day's chores.  Momma, my sisters and I cleaned the house, did the laundry and ironing.  Daddy plowed the garden and tended to the farm animals.  My sisters and I worked together and got the grass mowed.  Everyone showered and we were off to do the grocery shopping.

This was typically the night we had supper at the little local drive-up cafe; they made the BEST burgers!  For some reason, Momma didn't want to eat out so we purchased our groceries and went home.  Also a bit unusual was the fact that we had no other errands to run.  Knowing we would be getting home early, I was planning to shampoo my hair.  It was before the time of blow dryers (well, I didn't have one, at any rate!) and drying my hair took several hours.

We got home and Momma started to prepare supper.  Around 5 p.m., the telephone rang and I answered.  A male voice came from the other end, one I did not recognize.  He asked "May I speak to Diane, please?"  I answered "This is Diane."  He proceeded to say that he was Terry Chandler and that he was a friend of one of my friends (he mentioned her name), that she was dating one of his friends and had suggested that he call me.  He went on to ask if I would like to go out with him THAT NIGHT!

I told him I'd have to ask my parents and that he should call back in about 15 minutes.  I asked Momma and she said "Ask Daddy".  Well, Daddy was out walking the pasture and I had no idea where to find him!  I ran out to the pasture and, what luck, he was right there within eyesight!  Just any ordinary Saturday.  I told Daddy what was going on and told him Momma had said to ask him.  He said it was ok with him if it was ok with her.

I ran back and told Momma what Daddy said.  She asked 1000 questions and I told her what I knew, which was very little.  She finally said "Well, if your friend knows him, then he must be ok.  Tell him you can go if you want to go"!  Now, the REAL problem presented hair!  I had showered before the drive to do the grocery shopping, but I hadn't washed my hair.  Now, I was going to be meeting a new guy and with dirty hair!

The phone rang and Momma answered...she said I shouldn't look so eager!  Aren't Mommas ALWAYS right?!  Terry went through the whole thing with her and asked her if I wanted to go, she said that I did.  He then asked her if she and Daddy were ok with that.  She said they were.  He then asked to speak to me.  He told me he could be there in 30 minutes to pick me up, would that be ok?  I asked for an hour and he said that would be good and that our friends would be with him.  Any ordinary Saturday? Hmmmm, not quite!

I tried on everything I owned looking for the perfect outfit; I put my hair in every conceivable style trying to make it look presentable.  I ended up just tossing it on my head and saying well, if he doesn't like it, he doesn't like it!  Time was nearing for his arrival and I was more nervous than I had ever been in my life!

About 5 minutes before he was scheduled to arrive, we saw a car pull into our drive.  Momma sent me to the back of the house.  I heard the doorbell and heard Momma answer the door.  There was some talking and then she called me to the living room.  Terry was standing just inside our front door, he looked a bit nervous too!  Thank the Lord!  Momma introduced me to him, our eyes met and I knew I had just looked into the eyes of the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

His eyes were kind and caring, his face was gentle and his manner was quiet and respectful.  There was pain in his eyes, pain that had been there long enough to become comfortable in.  I knew instinctively that I could trust this man and that he would protect me.  Any ordinary Saturday at our house had just become the most important Saturday of my life.

That was 38 years ago on this date.  Standing in our living room on that day, I knew I would love Terry and that he would love me and that it would last forever.  I would like to say that I had been a spiritual person and had prayed earnestly for the Lord to send the right man to me, but it would be a lie.  I had become a Christian at the age of 11 and I tried to live pleasing to the Lord, but just hadn't learned that God had a plan for my life and that I should be praying about being in his will and His plan.  I honestly don't think I had ever prayed one prayer regarding that issue.  I was 15 and not at all thinking about marriage.  But God.....

God had a plan for me and for Terry and He knew those plans intersected at that moment in time and that He was placing us together to bring us into His plan.  I am so thankful the Lord placed Terry in my life.  Loving someone for 38 years is but a splinter in time when compared to eternity....our love now lives in eternity.  Terry always signed any card, note or letter written to me with "I Love You, Forever and Always".  Indeed he has.

For so long after he went home, I couldn't remember a lot about the last days of his life.  I could remember what happened, but not what he said.  It hurt me because I wanted so badly to remember, it just would not come to me.  Then, just a few weeks ago, I began to remember things he had said to me during those last weeks of his life...specific things. 

Just before he became unconscious, he called me to his bedside.  He had been doing that, but wouldn't say anything after I got to his bedside.  I would check to make sure he didn't need anything and be sure he was comfortable and then I would just sit with him until he would dose off to sleep again.  That last time he called me, he simply called out "Di" and I went to him.  He looked up at me and seemed to want to say something but couldn't quite get it out.

I did my best to comfort him, but he would not be comforted.  After several minutes, he squeezed my hand and whispered "forever and always".  Tears began to pour across my face.  I kissed him and said "I know, you love me forever and always.  And, I love you, forever and always."  He never uttered another syllable after that, nor did he ever open his eyes again.  That was on Saturday before he went home in the early hours of Monday morning.  It was not any ordinary Saturday; it was the most precious and  extraordinary Saturday of my life since May 12, 1973.

Every time I remember it, I cry with thankfulness to the Lord for helping me to remember it and for the love He blessed me with for all those years.  Terry was not a perfect man, he had many faults.  However, he loved the Lord and he loved me, so much so that he would have gladly given his life for the Lord or for me.  I am so thankful God always knows what we need and gives us the desires of our heart, even before we know what they are.

Terry, I love you, forever and always, and I will see you again in heaven.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Psalm 37: 3-5  (NASB)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Believe...............

"That money is a lousy way of keeping score."

I did not plan this as my Mother's Day post, but am thankful the Lord always has a plan and it is always on time!

Momma used to say "It's not what you have that makes you a success, it's what you give away", was Momma ever right!  (Have you noticed they usually are?!)

We try to find our worth in so many different ways and things, when the truth is that our worth is inherent on the fact that God created us and loved us so much that He gave His only Son to bring us back into relationship with Him.  Nothing I own can make me worthy of Jesus' blood sacrifice, but what I give away has much to do with my worthiness.

Now, you may find that an odd statement and may even balk at it.  Just be patient and consider what I have to say.  When I came to Jesus, broken and hopelessly separated from God, the first thing I had to do to establish my relationship with Him was give up my pride.  I had to admit that I needed Him.  He most certainly did not need me, but He wanted me.  My relationship with Him only became real when I exchanged my pride for His grace.

Then, after giving up my willful pride, I had to give up the desires and dreams I held for myself in exchange for His desires and plans for me.  That's not easy.  Quite frankly, it has taken me my entire Christian life to begin to understand just how difficult that is.  However, difficult as it may be, it is so worth the sacrifice!  The joy I have gained for the plans I have sacrificed is immeasurable.  The peace I have when I know I have fully submitted my will to His is indescribable.

Daily I am learning that true happiness only comes when I can 'give away' a part of myself.  Sometimes, that means giving up something for the Lord; at others it means giving up something for other people.  I think perhaps Godly Mothers know more about that than anyone else. 

My own Momma gave of herself hourly to Daddy, to her children, to her extended family members, to neighbors, to people she didn't know simply because she understood the 'give away' principle.  I can honestly say I have known few people who possess the ability to give as freely as did Momma.

I believe Jesus made this point clear when speaking to the religious leaders of His own day......

When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner.
He entered his house and sat right down at the table.
The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended
when he saw that Jesus didn't wash up before the meal.
But the Master said to him,
"I know you Pharisees burnish the surface
of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun,
but I also know your insides are maggoty
with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees!
Didn't the One who made the outside also make the inside?
Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out
and give generously to the poor;
then your lives will be clean,
not just your dishes and your hands.

"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds!
You keep meticulous account books,
tithing on every nickel and dime you get,
but manage to find loopholes for getting around
basic matters of justice and God's love.
Careful bookkeeping is commendable,
but the basics are required.

Luke 11: 40-42 (The Message)

So, I think Momma was's not about what we have, but what we give away.  Thank you, Momma for teaching me to give of myself without expecting anything in return.  You may have never had great possessions here below, but your crowns were many when you met Jesus face-to-face.  It is my prayer to walk in your footsteps as I make my journey home.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Believe..................

"That either you control your attitude
or it controls you."

I cannot tell you how absolutely truthful I believe this statement to be.  Romans 12: 1- 2 from the New Living Translations puts it this way:  "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

I also like The Message paraphrase of the same reference, which says this:  "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

Ephesians 4: 22 - 24 from the New Living Translation says this:  "...throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy."

Over the years, I have found that my attitude over my day directly reflects what type of day I will have; my attitude over my relationships shows up in the actions toward those with whom I am in relationship.  It should come as no surprise, then, that my attitudes about God guide how I will relate to God and to His plan for my life.

As is true with many people, I have struggled with many demons throughout my life.  Those struggles have taught me that I choose how to battle my demons.  I am not doomed to live in unhappiness, guilt, shame, and seclusion.  God did not design me for that and does not desire that kind of life for me.  If I live there, it is because I have chosen to do so.

That seems like such an easy thing to understand and act upon.   It has taken me my entire life to this point to realize these things and to begin to move toward the true light of forgiveness and the transformation of renewing my mind and my attitudes through Jesus Christ. 

For most of my life, I had felt trapped in an unhappy place and very much a victim of my circumstances.  I am not saying I was not a victim of some actions perpetrated upon me by others who should never have done those things to me.  However, by choosing to remain the victim instead of walking in the renewal freely given me by Jesus Christ, I was also choosing to live a life of constant unhappiness and desperately searching for something more.

I recently heard Joyce Meyer say that we are educated beyond our application.  That made real sense to me.  I know the Word, and have been hiding it in my heart since a child.  However, there is a great divide between knowing it and applying it.  I think what Ms. Meyer was saying was that we know, now we must do.  The 'more' we're constantly searching for has already been revealed.  It is now up to us individually to apply what we know to our daily living and walking with the Lord.

When the knowing is applied, then the 'more' will become all that God meant it to be in us.  I am more grateful than I can express with words that I have learned that lesson.  It took many years and enough tears to fill a river to get here, but it is so worth it to finally understand! 

I pray that anyone reading this and struggling with these issues, or others, will understand that God gave you everything you need to live a victorious Christian life when you asked Jesus Christ into your heart.  Whether we take advantage of all He gave us is completely up to us.  We must choose daily, sometimes minute-by-minute, that renewing of our mind...turning our hearts, minds, thoughts and attitudes to the Lord and to His will and plan for our life.

I pray today you will choose that renewing in order to experience God in all His majesty and His plan for your life in all He meant you to be.