Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Season of Change, Signs of Hope






I love fall.  I love the colors, the chill in the air, the feeling of anticipation that comes with the approaching holidays...everything about it gives my heart joy.  The colder temps are more difficult for my old body these days, but I still enjoy the nip in the air and the feeling of life it gives my spirit.  The thoughts of the old things dying out and the preparation for the new things to be born in my life fill my mind and give my heart a lift.  It is an amazing time of the year to me. 


Times of change.........that's what I like most about fall.  Change is an odd thing.  Some people hate it, dread it, run from it at all cost.  Others love it, eagerly look for it, approach every opportunity with joy and a sense of adventure.  I am of the second sort; I always have been.  I always liked working with a temp agency because it offered the opportunity to change my routine, meet new people, learn new things.  I suppose that's why I love fall so much.  Changes abound!  Greens turn to golden yellows, brilliant reds, bright oranges, every hue of brown possible and even various shades of green appear.

 

It's somewhat like that with my life.  My settled and satisfied shades of green become pools of troubled waters, shifting to shades of green not yet seen.  Some transform to peaceful waters of swirling golden yellows, times that soothe my soul.  Others become deep, brilliant reds, times that invigorate and prepare me for the adventures that lie ahead.  

Still others transition into bright oranges, pure joy that carries me through the sometimes dark days of the winter seasons.  Then, of course, there are the browns, the times that test my spirit and try my soul.  Seemingly dark days that push me to stretch my faith and flex the trust that lies within me.

So much promise, so much opportunity, so much assurance, so much earnest availability in our covenant with our Lord.   I don't see fall as dreadful or looming with the dying of summer, I see it as joyful and hopeful with the coming regeneration of winter and the promise of the newness of spring.  

My colors change and I am suddenly bright as I prepare to enter the quiet time of renewal and regeneration necessary before I can experience the NEW, the future, the vow of spring in my soul!


Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God....
 Ephesians 4:23-24a (CEV)


 With all my heart I praise the Lord,
 and with all that I am I praise his holy name!
With all my heart I praise the Lord!
I will never forget how kind he has been.   
The Lord forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick, 
and protects us from death.
His kindness and love are a crown on our heads.
Each day that we live, he provides for our needs
and gives us the strength of a young eagle.
For all who are mistreated, the Lord brings justice.
He taught his Law to Moses and showed all Israel 
 what he could do. 
The Lord is merciful! He is kind and patient,  
and his love never fails.
The Lord won’t always be angry and point out our sins;
he doesn’t punish us as our sins deserve.
How great is God’s love for all who worship him? 
Greater than the distance between heaven and earth!
How far has the Lord taken our sins from us?
Farther than the distance from east to west!
  Psalm 103:1-12  (CEV)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Trouble Tree

A Facebook Post by Russ Sites
 
 
I hired a plumber to help me restore an old farmhouse, and after he had just finished a rough first day on the job: a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric drill quit and his ancient one ton truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation.. His face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.
 
 
Oh, that's my trouble tree, he replied 'I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, those troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children.. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then in the morning I pick them up again.' 'Funny thing is,' he smiled,' when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance. We all need a Trouble Tree!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Mr. Sites was indeed correct.  What an inspirational word for all of us from our Heavenly Father.  When we leave our troubles, our burdens, with the Lord, He takes care of them for us. 
 
Very often we attempt to retrieve those troubles once we've laid them at his feet.  In so doing, we insult the Lord.  We must learn to walk past our Trouble Tree each new day and allow the Lord to hold on to those problems.  Only in so doing can we hope to find lasting peace.
 
When we leave our troubles with the Lord, He cleanses our hearts of those worries.  In due season, the worries exist no more.  Then, when the new seasons of our life begin, hope springs eternal with new growth awaiting the privilege of collecting our troubles and again taking them to the Lord. 
 
The circle of life....leave it and never try to retrieve it for He will remove it when we allow Him to do so.
 
 
"Casting all your care upon him;
for he careth for you."
 
I Peter 5:7 (KJV)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding What I Never Looked For

Jerry and Diane Durham
April 22, 2013
Our Wedding Day

I have been trying to write this post for some months now.  I have had a difficult time getting my thoughts together and conveying what I want to say. 

I posted a while back about one of the lessons I learned from the film A Walk To Remember.  I reiterate that I have watched that film many times in the past.  It speaks to me on so many different levels.

Several weeks ago, I did something I have never done in my life; I mailed a fan letter to Shane West, the actor who portrays Landon Carter in the film and I emailed Nicholas Sparks, the author of the novel from which the film was adapted.  Whether either will ever see or read the communications, I know not.  However, there were some things I wanted to say to each of them. 

It has been over 10 years since the release of A Walk To Remember and perhaps neither of them will remember much about the film at all.  However, I wanted both Mr. Sparks and Mr. West to know that their God-given talents made an impression on my life.  An indelible mark was left on my spirit by the way each developed and interpreted the character of Landon Carter in both the book and the film. 

I know that any successful actor or author has to work hard at honing their skills in order to be successful in their chosen field.  By all accounts both of these men are successful. 

Mr. Sparks has written more than 17 best selling novels and has co-authored one other.  Of those, nine have been adapted to film, with the latest being released this year.  He is a philanthropist and is generous with both his time and his financial resources.   In 2008, Entertainment Weekly reported that Sparks and his wife had donated "close to $10 million" to start a Christian, international, college-prep private school, The Epiphany School, which emphasizes travel and lifelong learning.  This is just one of his philanthropic gifts.

Although I know little about Shane West and his personal life, I do know he has been a very successful actor, having had a recurring role as Dr. Ray Barnett on the NBC series ER for three seasons and who is currently cast as Michael in the CW network series Nikita.  He has been fortunate to have come of age in the era of the teen movies of the early 21st century and was always busy.  He has managed a transition from teen idol to a serious adult actor well.  He starred opposite Sean Connery in "A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and has many other film and TV credits.

When it all comes down to it though, what really defines success?  Some would say financial security, some would say job security, some would say having the 'things' one has wished for, some might even say having the family one has wished for.  For me, true success comes when I know I am living in the center of God's will for my life.  For too long, I was not.

Losing Terry was an horrific and devastating event in my life.  The grief overtook me, even when I was acting 'normal', inside I was very 'not normal'.  I smiled, I laughed, I stayed connected to friends and family, I made a point of being out and about...I looked like any average person on any average day living any average life.  Inside, I was broken in so many ways I could barely function.

Sadly, that was my life. I got better as time passed but I held on to a place deep within my heart that just would not let go, seemingly could not let go.  Watching this film helped me finish the 'letting go' process.  The last vestige of holding on was the pain I felt because Terry won't be here to help me through my own dying.  I cannot tell you how many times I have cried into my pillow with bitterness because I wasn't going to have him with me when I needed him so badly.

I honestly don't know exactly what it was about this film that helped me let go of that.  But, it did.  In that closing scene when Landon is on the boardwalk and gazing out over the inlet as the sun sets, we hear his voice as he talks about how Jamie saved his life and changed him and how her love was like the wind, he couldn't see it, but he could feel it.  That's exactly what it is like. 

At that moment, after seeing that same scene many times, it finally clicked in my heart.  Terry is in heaven; I have loved him since I was 15 and will continue to love him, but it is time to release all of that to eternity and live again, not just SAY I'm ok, but really BE ok.  I honestly had no tears at that point.  Instead, I smiled because I knew my heart had finally healed.  God had brought me on this journey, had been patient with me as I learned my lessons and had now given me that one last little nudge I needed to finish the journey.

Some will think it absurd that this film could do for me what four years of grieving could not do; what four years of seeking the Lord through His Word had not done; what four years of prayer had not done.  To those I simply say this........God knows my heart, He knows my needs, He decides what it will take to get His message to me.  He has never let me down and He never will.  Do you know why?  Because He understands me; He created me and He gives me what I need, when I need it, in order to further my walk with Him and draw me into closer relationship with Him.

I never knew God could be like this.  I had Him closed up in some little "God box" that was, if you really think about it, an insult to Him and who He really is.  He works so differently than I have known or understood for most of my life.  The events of these last weeks have been as much of a surprise to me as to anyone.  I honestly thought I was doing fine with grief.  The enemy had me convinced that this was as good as it gets after losing someone you love to death. 

I will always miss Terry, I will always love him; I will no more languish in sorrow and yearning for what was or close myself off to life.  That is an insult to the Lord, to Terry and to all that we shared together.  So, I move forward, really move forward. 

Life is an adventure that only gets better as we go if we allow it to.  How do we allow it to?  We yield ourselves to God, ALL of ourselves....our pain, our disappointment, our pride, our anger, our bitterness...yes, all of that; but also our false sense of security in our relationships, our dependence upon what we have (people and/or things in our life) for happiness and peace, our hope in anything temporal.

To that end, God changed my life drastically once I let go off ALL that lay behind me.  Within days of taking off my wedding rings and opening myself to new experiences in this new life God was birthing within me, I met the man that would forever change me and the way I see myself.  For the second time in a lifetime, I had a lifetime love.

I re-connected with a man whom I had known since we were both 13 and met at church.  We were in touch over the next 4-5 years and then went our separate way after high school.  I married Terry and he moved on with his life, ending up in Texas and building a very happy and successful life there.  For the next 35+ years, I heard nothing from him.  He found me on Facebook in the late summer of 2010 and we re-connected as friends.

I was still grieving the loss of Terry and was involved in caring for Daddy, who was dying at the time.  We were very casual friends and enjoyed the occasional hellos from each other.  Then, after I was willing to let go of what was behind me, God brought him back into my life in a very different manner.  We began to  chat on Facebook and felt something more than friendship growing between us.

Within a couple of months, we knew God had brought us together again and that we were in love.  We married on April 22 of this year.  He is a wonderful man with such a good heart and a pure love for me.  He has been hurt deeply in the past and knows the pain of that hurt.  Our hearts are connected on so many levels and we have that early history to draw us together.

Unless I had found the grace of God to guide me into this new life, I would have missed this wonderful man and the amazing love he gives me.  Jerry is in my heart for eternity, and I know I am in his.  It is an awesome experience and an amazing God who brought us back together.  Every day I question what I ever did to deserve this love and I don't know, but I do know I'm thankful I did it!  I could not imagine my life without Jerry in it.  I could not imagine growing old alone now.

Terry won't be here to walk with me, but Jerry will.  God gave me what my heart yearned for in a way I could never have imagined or planned.  Every day I am in awe of Him and His love for me.  He is, indeed, an awesome God!

Jerry
Smoky Mtns. Vacation
May, 2013


Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Psalms 37:4   (NLT)



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Home........





"This Is Home"
By:  Switchfoot




 
This Is Home For Me
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
 
 

"Home".....don't you think that's a beautiful word?  Home for me leaves a connotation of all that is good.....love, security, warmth, peace, solitude, joy, serenity, calmness....all that says welcome to my weary body when I've been away too long.

Just one step inside the door and that sigh escapes my lips...I am home.  Then, there are other times when this feels more like a prison than home.  My soul gets sick for my real home, my heavenly home.  That place that Jesus has prepared for me that will be perfect in every way and meant just for me.

Home, where I belong.  I remember those old hymns about home when I was growing up in our little country church.  Oh Think of the Home Over There....Home of the Soul....Precious Memories (...and old home scenes of my childhood in fond memory appear...)....I Feel Like Traveling On (My heavenly home is bright and fair, I feel like traveling on...)...and this was my favorite, Going Home.  Momma and Ms. Dean used to sing it often.

All those things make me lonely for a time that has passed and a time yet to come.  I cannot go back and I cannot remain here; it is the future that beckons me to my heavenly home.  As this old song says...."What a day that will be, When my Jesus I shall see, And I look upon His face, The One who saved me by His grace; When He takes me by the hand, And leads me through the Promised Land, What a day, glorious day that will be."  Then, of course there's Won't It Be Wonderful There!  ABSOLUTELY!!!

So my heart calls me home, to that place I've never seen before...........Beulah Land.  "I'm kind of homesick for a country to which I've never been before; no sad goodbyes will there be spoken for time won't matter anymore...."  I am longing for that day, but until then I have a mission to complete here.  I must not allow the home that awaits me to distract me from my journey's mission...to tell those who have no hope that all hope begins and ends in Jesus.

I see those poor souls on the street and I think how blessed I am.  I have a home, a roof over my head, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  I am protected from the elements....wind, rain, snow, ice, humidity, extreme temperatures....yes, how blessed I am!  When I see them, my heart aches for them.  I don't know their stories, but maybe their story isn't the important part.  We all have our own story to tell, but we also have a commonality among us from which no one is immune...we are sinners, either saved by grace or still searching for grace.

Dear Father, help me to be vigilant to lift my neighbor and help to make their 'here' better so they can care about their future.  Help me to help them to see that nothing in their past, present or future can stop the love of God from reaching them if they ask for it.  Help me to speak kindly, to treat them with respect and dignity, to love them unconditionally and pray for them continuously.  I am them....but for the grace You gave me. 

Yes, this is home, but it's only temporal; that home awaiting is my goal.  May I ever be careful to remember that each day I travel my journey.  My highest calling is to sacrifice so that others may know His love, His mercy, His grace, His presence in their life.


The Lord is the one who keeps you safe.
So let the Most High God be like a home to you.
Psalm 91:9   (NIRV)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Leaving and cleaving.........



My Maternal Grandparents
Lula Mae Sisco Howell & James Elbert (Elb) Howell
50th Anniversary Picture, 1984

On February 15, 1934, Lula Sisco left her parent's home with her beau, Elb Howell.  Telling her parents Elb was going to take her for a haircut, she sneaked away and the couple were married on that date in the Courthouse in Ripley, Tippah County, MS.  Seventy-nine years have passed since then.  Though both have passed, their love and commitment remained true until the day they left the earth.
 
They had nine children:  Cecil Edward, Bobby Gene, Thelma Mae, John Thomas, Donald Ray, Shirley Ann, Glenda Jo, Kenneth Wayne and Sandra Kaye.  At the time of their 50th anniversary they had 26 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.  Those numbers have increased substantially since that time, now having added great, great-grandchildren to the family. 
 
Grandma could neither read nor write.  She stayed at home with her children and tended house and helped Grandpa with the farm work.  Grandpa raised farm animals, grew crops and worked a full time job at the local hide tannery.  Momma spoke of having gone days without seeing Grandpa removed his shoes.  He would work his factory job at night, come home and work on the farm and sit in a chair to take a nap before having to go back to the factory.  With eleven mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, there was little time for anything but work.
 
Over the years their hearts were broken many times by loss through death.  Grandchildren were stillborn or lived only hours.  A daughter, Shirley, had suffered through the devastation of divorce.  Their oldest child, Cecil,  died in January, 1993 from heart failure.  He had been on the waiting list for a transplant for about one year when he died.  Their 5th child, Donald,  had also died of heart failure in March, 1996.  A granddaughter's (Judy, daughter of Donald) life had been forever altered by the effects of a car accident that left her in a coma for many weeks and which caused the death of her unborn daughter.
 
Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and they had to be admitted to a nursing home.  Grandpa said goodbye to Grandma in June, 1999.  Grandpa lived to be 93 and died of natural causes in a hospital room next door to the room where his 4th child (John Thomas) was dying of liver failure.  Uncle John died approximately one hour prior to Grandpa in November, 2005.
 
There were also moments of triumph over the years.  After raising 7 of their children into adulthood and the other two quickly growing in that direction, they were finally able to purchase their own home somewhere around 1969-1970.  They had survived a burn out in their earlier years together and had lost every material possession they had.  Thankfully, lives were not lost, nor was there major injuries.
 
They lived to see retirement together and traveled some within the country.  Family gatherings were filled with laughter and joy as everyone came home.  Grandpa would always make his famous vegetable soup for those occasions.  His greatest joy in life was his family; that, and a good Rook game or some checkers from time to time!  He loved life, my Grandma and all of his family.
 
Grandma and Grandpa now rest with the Lord.  I can only imagine the joy and beauty of being in heaven together after loving each other for so many years hear below.

 
 
I Can Only Imagine
Mercy Me
 
 
 
4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied.
“They record that from the beginning
‘God made them male and female.’”
5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man
leaves his father and mother
and is joined to his wife,
and the two are united into one.’
6 Since they are no longer two but one,
let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
 
Matthew 19: 4-6  (NLT)


 
 
 
 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Meditation on the Word

 
 
 
 
 




May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:13-14   (NLT)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When God Runs............


A Walk To Remember
Mandy Moore (Jamie) and Shawn West (Landon)

 
For the past several days, I have been absolutely drawn into the movie "A Walk To Remember". The movie came out in 2002 and is an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' novel of the same name. The lead roles are for teens of about 18 years of age, one male and one female. The male is a good looking young man, very popular in his school, rebellious and the typical 'bad boy' image. The female is a cute girl whose father is the local Reverend. She sings in her church choir and is a sweet and plain young woman with faith and values.

So, there's the premise for the entire movie. What will we do with these teens? They've grown up in small town America and have known each other since Kindergarten, but have taken much different paths. Through a series of events, they are thrown together in a more intimate environment and the story begins.

It is evident from the opening scene that the young man has the nucleus of a good heart, with compassion for others but he cannot overcome his desire to fit in as a member of the 'in' crowd and allow that heart to be nurtured. As the movie progresses, we see the young man's heart softening for the young woman. Still, he struggles with what his friends will say if he professes his affection and attraction for the young woman.

Finally, the inevitable happens and the two young people declare their affection for each other and become a couple. As in life, the other shoe drops and all is in turmoil when tragic news is learned. The remainder of the film deals with two young people, very much in love, dealing with very adult issues, the most painful of which is death.  Throughout this movie, I kept thinking "God is on that young man's trail"!
 
 


Isn't that just like life?  We go about thinking we're doing as we please, that all of our decisions affect no one but us.  Then, something happens that reminds us of our connection to countless others.  We step back and take account of our life and find that God has been running after us for most of our lives.  His only desire is for us to find Him dear to our heart; to love Him the way He created us to; to love each other as we were created to.

God runs after us before we accept Him as our Savior because He wants us to accept the free gift of salvation Jesus Christ has paid for.  We become Christians and He continues to run after us to convince us that it lies in our best interest to be committed to Him and to His way as we live our lives. 

He has a purpose and plan for each of us.  When we walk outside that plan, He runs after us to try to draw us in to the plan that will best glorify Him and give us joy and peace.  Even when we're walking in His plan, He continues to run for us in order to bring us into more intimate relationship with Him, to draw us into Himself and into the depths of His love for us.

So often, we live very surface Christian lives because we refuse to give up what our friends, neighbors and/or family members might think of us if we become 'sold out' for the Lord.  He pursues us, He guides us, He does all He can to entice us into that deeper relationship, yet we turn from it for our own selfish reasons.

Yet, in all of our confusion and downright rebellion, He continues to pursue us, running after us to remind us of the blessings we leave behind when we choose to walk away from a God that has, from the beginning, pursued His people and who will continue to do so until He calls us home.

When is the last time God ran ofter you?  Can you identify it or did you run so hard from Him that you've forgotten what you were running from?  For me, the last rebellion was a bout with grief that turned out to be not about grief at all, but about surrender...submission...letting go....trusting my Creator God to know what is best for me.

God is closing some doors in my life.  Not necessarily places I should not be or go or even people I should or should not be in contact with.  The most poignant has been a clear and definite instruction from God to put my wedding ring away.  I fought that one hard!  I felt as though putting my wedding ring away would feel like I didn't love Terry anymore or that I had forgotten all we shared.  It does neither, rather it only opens my life for new directions and a new way of serving.

I thought I would not be able to be without my ring and determined that I just could not do that.  Then, I began to forget to put my ring on before leaving my house.  I would get half way to where I was going and find I had forgotten my ring.  At first, I was so upset and almost turned around and headed back home just to get my ring.  Something (God?) would not let me do so. 

It doesn't make practical sense to me to put my ring away.  I have loved Terry since I was 15-16 years old.  What sense does it make to put my ring away now simply because he lives in heaven and I'm still here on earth?  Frankly, I don't know.  However, I have learned a thing or two about serving God.  The first is that, God often does not make human sense.  Why should He?  He created me; why should the created expect the creator to explain himself to us?  THAT makes no practical sense either, right?  Right.

I don't always under stand His way, but I understand that He loves me and ALWAYS, ALWAYS does what is best for me and what will allow me to bring more honor to Him.  Sometimes I forget that my purpose here is not to have a good time, or enjoy the ride.  My purpose here to is accomplish the plan He has for my life.  I don't know why wearing my wedding ring interfered with that, but it did. 

So, I put my ring away.  I don't know if this means never wear it again; but I know it means don't wear it for now.  I don't like it; but I'm accepting it and I will like it because I am commanded to revere and honor the Lord.



37 Jesus replied,
“‘You must love the Lord your God
with all your heart, all your soul,
and all your mind.’
38 This is the first
and greatest commandment.
Matthew 22:37-38  (NLT)

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Depths of Love



His hand reached farther down than I could reach up.....


"You're an ignorant woman!" That was Terry's last words to me before he settled back into his chair to sleep this morning..........I was cut to the bone by the comment, but I quickly reminded myself that it was not Terry talking..........I wanted to sit down and cry, but I knew it wouldn't do any good. It's just the beginning of what could become a very long and drawn out path on his journey home. 

Quotes from my blog post of January 21, 2009, The Journey Home...In The Beginning.  Little did I know I was within five days of releasing Terry to heaven.  It's been four years and I love him even more now than I did then.  It's has not been an easy road, but it does get better as time passes. 

I have been going through a difficult period and thought it was all about grief.  It was not.  It has been the Holy Spirit drawing me away to Himself, preparing me for the road ahead.  Exactly what that road will look like, I do not know.  I know this....wherever it takes me and whatever it includes, my Lord has a plan for me.  I surrender myself to His plan, knowing that my soul is at rest in Him and that my future with Him is secure.

I will miss my husband until the day I see him again in heaven.  However, death is but a time of waiting for me and a time of revelation for him.  At the appointed time, I will have my own revelation of the fullness of who God is and all He has prepared for me. 

I read something written by a 17 year old young woman earlier in the evening.  She said that we search for love and long for it, yet we cannot see that not only is God love, God CREATED love.  Wow!  Now, that is wisdom for anyone at any age; for a 17 year old, that is witness that she has a heart surrendered to the Lord!  Thank you to my friend and sister of the heart, Cheryl, for sharing what her niece had written.  She is, indeed, an exceptional young woman!

So, I move forward one day at a time, knowing God loves me, that He created love just so we, also His creation, could know the depth of His desire for our relationship with Him.



Your love is a treasure,
and everyone finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7   (CEV)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mercy




Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me.................
 

We talk about grace and mercy a lot in the Christian community.  It is what Joyce Meyer often refers to as our 'Christian-eze', that language we speak that makes us feel superior, very anointed, yet is so often not understood by those who need Jesus the most.  With that in mind, I would like us to think about mercy and just exactly what mercy is.

MERCY:
Noun
  1. Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm;
  2. An event to be grateful for, esp. because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering.
Synonyms
pity - compassion - clemency - grace - charity

You will note that grace is a synonym of mercy as thus defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.  As we consider these definitions, what can we glean about God as He offers us mercy?

Compassion or forgiveness offered to someone over whom one has the power to inflict punishment or harm.  That certainly defines our relationship in regards to God.  He is our creator and has the power and right to punish us or harm us at His will.  Yet, from the beginning, He has gone beyond what would humanly be considered reasonable to offer us compassion and forgiveness.

In the garden, with a perfect paradise surrounding them, Adam and Eve chose sin over obedience.  In spite of that blatant act of disobedience, God offered a way of repentance and redemption, a way of restoration for Adam and Eve in their relationship with God.  The God who gave them life, who provided their every need, was willfully disobeyed yet it was this same God who reached out to Adam and Eve in restoration.  What an amazing act of mercy from the very beginning!

Mankind continued their willing walk away from the God who created them, who loved them so unconditionally.  Every imagination of their heart was sinful.  Of all mankind, only one man could be found faithful, Noah.  Because of Noah's faithfulness and obedience, he and his family were chosen by God to play the role of the redeemer of mankind.  Noah, his wife, three sons and three daughters-in-law were the only individuals of the human race allowed to survive the Great Flood.  From their line sprang the new line of humanity that re-populated the earth.

The scarlet thread of redemption continued through the ages and the lineage of Hebrew people.  Moses, who was the prince of Egypt by purpose and the redeemer of the Israelite people by plan.  David who was the child king of the Hebrew people, who was a man after God's own heart, who was offered redemption after willful sins and who became the father of the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Esther who became the redeemer of her people by marrying the Babylonian king and walking in a manner that might seem contrary to God's law to us, but which was ordained by God Himself as a way to redeem and restore His people.  Deborah, the judge, who walked out before the Hebrew army and proclaimed the way of the Lord for her people and led them to victory, again in what might seem contrary to God's will, but so obviously in the very center of His mercy.

All the way to a pure young virgin named Mary, who heard from the angel and submitted herself to God's perfect will and His seemingly strange plan.  And Joseph, a young man who loved Mary and had been promised her as his bride.  Who accepted God's strange plan and submitted to God's will, who loved our Savior as his own son while all along knowing he was the Son of the Most High God.

Then there is Jesus Christ, the living Son of the Most High God; Immanuel, Counselor, Redeemer, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  A man who was at once God and man; who knew no sin, but knew every temptation mankind can face.  A man or sorrows and acquainted with grief, yet who walked the streets of heaven both before and after his time here.  Who now awaits the opportunity to welcome His bride home.  Who bore my sin in His body; who knew death and the grave so that I might never have to experience the sting of death.

Above and beyond the mercy of salvation, are the manifold ways God bestows mercy on me every day of my life.  Blessings of peace and contentment in even the most trying of times; a loving family who watches over me; faithful and true friends who pray for me and encourage me; financial supply for my daily needs and many of my desires; His Word to guide me as I go and give me encouragement and hope....the list goes on and on.

MERCY....unwarranted favor from someone who has the power to punish and/or cause pain yet who chooses to give forgiveness and restoration; who gives blessings to numerous to count...  THAT is JESUS to ME!


22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.

[a]Hebrew reads of the Lord keeps us from destruction.
 
Lamentations 3:22-25   (NLT)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barren...or Dormant?



A time of unfruitfulness can be beautiful
if you know the secret to loving that season.

I wonder if you've ever been in what you considered a dry and barren land; a time of life when there seemed to be no justice, no sense of fairness, when it felt as though the whole world was resplendent with blessing and your were alone with none.  Your dreams had fallen apart.  Your plans had become nothing more than disappointing daggers of doubt to your soul.  The wicked seemed to flourish even as you gave your best and had no reward whatsoever.

I have just lived one of those times.  Why God, why?  When God, when? How God, how?  Where God, where?  Just let me in on your plan, God; just let me in!  Lost in despair and feeling as though there could never be light or blossoming again.

Then, I began a study in Habakkuk.  It was not what I wanted to hear, but listen I must because I knew that's what God wanted me to hear at that time.  We were coming up on a study of the Minor Prophets in our Sunday Connect Group and I had decided to do some study on them in preparation.  Habakkuk help my rapt attention.  I could not turn away.  I woke from sleep during the middle of the night knowing in my spirit that I must read Habakkuk.  Over and over again I read.

The Holy Spirit began to show me things that I still do not have freedom in my spirit to share.  Perhaps someday I will; or perhaps what I learned was intended for no on but me.  Time will tell.  I do know that the verses quoted below became almost like a battle cry for me.  I can't see it right now, but I will praise the Lord anyway! 

Sometimes, the real beauty lies within the barren season.  What would spring be like without the winter?  Are my barren seasons really barren, or only dormant?  They are definitively separate things.  Barren is defined as unfruitful or unproductive, dormant is defined as latent but with the possibility of becoming active again.  I am only barren if I allow the enemy to make me see myself that way.

The last sentence of this book says "He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights."  I WILL tread the heights, both here and hereafter!  Incredible opportunities have been opened to me; opportunities that I never dreamed could be available to me.  I was not prepared to feel worthy of those opportunities.  I had to reach the realization that, although nothing I do makes me worthy, the fact that I am a child of the King of Kings makes me worthy of every blessing He places in my life. 

Through a series of adversities that have been in my life since childhood and moving forward, I had taught myself to feel 'lesser than' and completely unworthy.  Every time I lost something or someone important to me, I knew I deserved to lose that.  Habakkuk taught me a valuable lesson about what I deserve.  I can look more objectively at my life now and realize that, when Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust, He was not referring me when He referred to the 'unjust'.  Honestly, I am 55 years old and I have just come to that realization.  I knew in my head, my heart did not know, could not accept that fact.

I am the JUST because Jesus lives in me.  I deserve the blessings He places in my life because I love Him and He lives in me.  I will tread the heights as I make this trip home because He lives in me.


Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.
Habakkuk 3: 17-19   (NLT)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thy Word.........


 
 
 
 
I worship you
with all my heart.
Don’t let me walk away
from your commands.
I treasure your word
above all else;
it keeps me from sinning
against you.
I praise you, Lord!
Teach me your laws.
Psalm 119:10-12   (CEV)
 
 
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:13-14   (NLT)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Walking.....


The road to nowhere..............

The road to nowhere....that's exactly where I feel like I am these days....going nowhere.

January is the anniversary month of Terry's home going...Jan. 26th to be exact.  It will be four years; four long and overwhelmingly dreadful years. I am overwhelmed with sadness.  Tears wash over me at any and every unexpected moment.  I cry day and night.  I am hibernating and praying no one comes to my door.  I don't want to see people; I don't want to talk to people; I don't want anyone dialing my phone and asking what they can do.  There's not one thing anyone can do for me.  You can't bring Terry back; you can't release me to go to him; you can't make the pain stop; you can't make the pain less than it is.  I love each of you for wanting to help me, but you can't. 

I've taken a hiatus from Facebook.  I know the only source of help and/or hope is through Jesus Christ.  I have to focus all of my attentions on HIM.  Sometimes I forget that; I forget that only He can give me what I need to face all of life's trials, including the grief of releasing my dear husband to heaven. 

I have not always walked as closely with Jesus as I should have; but I have known Him since I was eleven years old.  Believe me, there were times in those years gone by that I tried not to know Him.  I worked very hard at being lost again.  If I were 'lost' then I could just get 'saved' and have a clean slate.  Oh how I longed for that clean slate!  It just doesn't work that way.  Once He's in your heart, He's there to stay.  You can't walk away from Him and He won't walk away from you....you are s-t-u-c-k! 

As sad as I am, I'm thankful I'm stuck with Him.  Wouldn't it be a sad day if the Lord just decided to walk away from us when we're so ugly....to Him, to His children, to His creation?!  I don't want to walk away from the Lord, I just want to undo some things, just take a few steps back.  Is that too much to ask?  I just don't understand. 

Terry and I had dreams, so many dreams.  We dreamed of children, yet we never were able to have them.  We dreamed of a retirement together and traveling to see our country afterwards.  No, that's not gonna happen either.  We dreamed of perhaps doing some missionary work on a foreign field after retirement.  You got it, ain't gonna happen. 

Even years before any considered retirement, we knew those dreams were gone when his accident happened.  He wasn't drinking or drunk, he was tired.  Tired from having worked weeks on end at least 60-70 hours per week.  For the first time in weeks, he was headed home to a 3 day weekend off work.  The new program had been put to rest; the product was overwhelmingly successful with each client who came to review it.  He had been promoted and given a hefty raise because of all his hard work on this project.  I still have the commendation letter from his company president thanking him for the innovative and creative work he had done. 

It was now time to rest, to go out together, to enjoy church together, maybe even spend some time with friends.  Perhaps we would even take a get-away weekend.  We had talked about that as he was preparing to leave for work that Thursday morning.

Before he even made it home that afternoon, all of our future plans changed in just that few minutes it took him to fall asleep and hit that tree head on.  That's not fair!  What makes that fair?  So, we rearranged our lives according to our new 'normal'.  Our dreams changed but that was okay.  We were together and any dream was good as long as were doing it together. 

When we were told he was dying neither of us quite knew what to make of it.  How could this be?  We had been very near death and had looked him in the face more times than one and stared him down.  He left us and we moved on.  Surely we could do that again....surely.  It couldn't be the end for us.  We hadn't had our lifetime yet.  Wasn't that how it worked? 

God set him down in my doorway and delivered me from the hell I was living in after the sexual abuse.  He gave back to me all the enemy had taken from me.  It didn't happen all at once, but over time he was God's instrument to bring healing to my fractured soul and wounded spirit.  Why would God give him to me and allow us to have this love that seemed to transcend all earthly understanding and then take him from me long before we had lived our lifetime together? 

It makes no sense.  I know the right things, the 'Christian' things to say and do.  I am well versed in 'Christian-eze' and can meet you step for step, word for word, scripture for scripture, with that.  What do you do when all of that doesn't even begin to answer your questions or heal your wounds?  Where do you go then? 

You go back to the source of life; you go back to God.  You shower yourself in His Word, you immerse yourself in prayer, you make deliberate decisions to trust Him and you wait....That's the hard part, the waiting....waiting for God to work in me what He began when I was eleven years old. 

Oh dear Lord, please hold tightly to me while you're working or I may just fly to pieces and never be back together again!


Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
“His faithful love endures forever.”
“In my distress
I prayed to the LORD,
and the LORD answered me
and set me free. 
The LORD is for me,
so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?” 
  Psalm 118: 4-6   (NLT)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Give Me Jesus


 
 
I am more sad than perhaps I have ever been.  My heart is broken, my spirit is broken....I feel as though whatever it is that makes me 'me' is oozing out, never to be recovered.  My only thought is "I want to be with my Jesus and I want to see Terry again".  I know all the Christian-eze 'right' things to say and do and I'm not going to commit suicide, but I would so welcome the Lord's call at this very moment. 
 
Yes, when I rise, give me Jesus;
when I am alone, give me Jesus; 
when I am dying, give me Jesus.......
you can have all this world, give me Jesus.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Are You Ready For Some......IDIOCY?!





Just a few observations here.  First of all, I don't like professional sports.  No man or woman on earth is worth what those people get paid.  Secondly, I don't like college sports.  Multiple millions of dollars are poured into schools to support a sports program.  I wonder how much the library gets, or the chem labs, or the computer labs, etc., etc.....Thirdly, I don't like reading the events of the game play-by-play on my Facebook feed.  I couldn't care less who is playing and/or winning.  It's a GAME folks, a GAME!

Back during the election season, I was posting often regarding political facts and figures and/or attitudes or candidates I support.  I got so many remarks about how folks couldn't wait for it to all be over and all the political stuff would be off Facebook.   Really? And it's better that we spend our time screaming and taunting our loved ones, friends and neighbors over a GAME?!

Policemen, firemen, emergency response personnel, military personnel and others, like teachers, place their lives on the line every day and make minuscule salaries when compared to the money thrown away in sports.  Coaches are courted, paid ridiculous salaries and staffs of their own choosing to teach young men how to play a game.  I wonder how much the science professors are making?  Or, how about the librarian or sociology professors?  I can guarantee it is laughable when compared to those coaches.

Young men and women involved in sports are pampered through college so they can meet the guidelines and play the game.  No worry about an education, just keep 'em in the game!  They are spoiled with all kinds of things.  Oh no, you say, that's illegal!  Oh yes, of course it is.  (wink, wink!) 

If you are a great sports fan, please don't be offended; that is not my intent.  I'm just speaking my mind and living my life.  Feel free to do the same...on your own blog and not in my Comments section! 

You say, it's just clean entertainment.  Really?  So, tell me wives and/or significant others, how are those Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders lookin to you today?!  Personally, I think Victoria sold them her secret and now they're displaying it for free for the whole world to see!

Oh, and how about those guys in the very tight---tights (?), I'm honestly not sure you could call them pants.  Thank the Lord for those cups or we'd all be gettin a show that I'm sure most of us didn't bargain for!

And, how about the biased rules and regulations?  A nice young Christian man drops to one knee to whisper a quick prayer of thanksgiving to his God and he's crossing the line of separation between church and state or he offends John Q. Public.  However, another seemingly nice enough young man sports hair down his back and gets fouls called on his opponents when they grab a handful, even if by accident.  Put the stuff under your helmet if you don't want your hair pulled!  Or better yet, visit the barber!

Now, here's my personal favorite.  Several men dressed in official uniforms run up and down the field to make judgements regarding the rules.  One group of young men pounce upon another landing in a big heap.  All of a sudden, whistles are going off in every direction and yellow rags are thrown hither and yon.  Somebody gets penalized and we're off again.  This time the pile up looks just like the one before, yet there are no whistles or yellow rags.  What's up with that?!

So, there's my pile of opinions on professional and/or college sports.  For what it's worth!  Perhaps they are all Christians and are only trying to obey the Lord as He speaks in Amos 5:14a; ya think?!


Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live!
Amos 5:14a    (NLT)
 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Four Years...............


Terry, August 2008


The following was copied from a post I made on January 10, 2009. For a few years we had known my husband was terminal due to NASH cirrhosis. His liver was failing and growing continually worse. This portion of that post deals with the events of January 6, 2009; what I describe as the beginning of the end. Within 16 days of my post and 20 days of this event, Terry would move to reside in his heavenly home. 

"The day for the second appointment arrived, January 6, 2009. He was even more bloated than ever and almost completely unable to take even a shallow breath. Of course, he was unable to keep his appointment. So, I called 911 and ordered an ambulance. They took him to the ER. He was assessed and they immediately wanted to take him to radiology to remove some of the fluid from his abdomen. They removed well over 2 gallons of fluid and then took him to his room on the surgical recovery floor.

We spent the night and were discharged late the next afternoon. We were referred to Hospice Home Care. Terry's liver no longer functions at all. Whatever lies ahead is simply the time it takes for his body to stop functioning now. It seems the final chapter of the Roller Coaster ride has now begun."

I had started writing on my blog in November, 2008 as a way to express myself during those 'dying days'.  As I look back, I realize that it was God's open door for a way to deal with my grief, but also a way for me to connect with others who understood what I was going through.

As time has passed, many have told me I should write, perhaps a book.  I have resisted that because I keep telling myself that I can't do it; I don't have the proper education for such an endeavor.  People have continued to insist I should write.

So, I was recently put in contact with WestBow Press, a sort of clearing house for those hoping to get their manuscripts published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  I don't know where this road will lead, or how this venture will turn out, but I am now convinced that writing my manuscript must come to be.  I don't know what God's plan is in all of this, but I know he has a plan and my only desire is to be obedient.

So, I press onward and will begin to write this book in earnest.  Should it turn out to be in God's plan for me to be published, Thomas Nelson would be a wonderful organization to be affiliated with.  We'll see how and where it goes.

Whether anything ever comes of the book or not, I am thankful for my blog.  I have often neglected it, yet have found it to be a source of reassurance when I have something in my heart that needs to be said.  Whether anyone else reads the blog or not, I will have received from my experience manifold blessings that encourage me as I make this journey.

One of the greatest blessings has been a group of Christian women from around the world who come together under the umbrella of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf.  Through my blog, I was introduced to these women and was soon afterwards asked to join their Sisterhood.  These women have been one of life's greatest blessings for me.

It's been four years.  The years have not been easy and moving forward has had many steps in the wrong direction.  However, with the Holy Spirit guiding me and with my family and friends praying for me, I know I am progressing even on those days when it feels as if I am moving backwards. 

Four years........in the beginning I could not imagine actually living a year without Terry.  The truth is, I haven't lived one day without him since the first time I met him.  He has lived in my heart and has owned my affections. 

I never dreamed four years ago that this simple little blog would open my life in so many directions and bring people into my life that have helped me to grow beyond what I ever imagined possible.  All things considered, it has a been a good four years; I look forward to what the Lord holds in store for me over the next four years.


He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
The Lord leads with unfailing love
and faithfulness all who keep his covenant
and obey his demands.
Psalm 25:9-10   (NLT)

Holy Living



"The grass withers and the flower fades......"


 
13 So think clearly and exercise self-control.
Look forward to the gracious salvation
that will come to you
when Jesus Christ
is revealed to the world.
14 So you must live as God’s obedient children.
Don’t slip back into your old ways of living
to satisfy your own desires.
You didn’t know any better then.....
 
 
23 For you have been born again,
but not to a life that will quickly end.
Your new life will last forever
because it comes from
the eternal, living word of God.
24 As the Scriptures say,
“People are like grass;
their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And that word is the Good News
that was preached to you.
 
I Peter 1: 13-14; 23-25   (NLT)