Hello? Can You Hear Me?

The other day a friend and I agreed to meet for lunch.  The night before our lunch date my friend phoned me.  “Hello,”  I answered as I picked up the phone.   I recognized my friend’s voice as she said,  “Hello?  Hello?”  “Hello, I’m here,” I answered again.  I could hear my friend saying once more, “Hello?  Can you hear me?  Hello?”  Over and over I spoke into the phone, telling my friend I could hear, but it was obvious by the repeated attempts, that something was wrong with our connection.  I hung up and tried to phone her.  The same thing happened.  Oh well, I thought to myself, we agreed to meet so I’ll be there tomorrow.

The next day, sure enough, my friend arrived at the restaurant the same time as I did.  We laughed about the phone call.  She said, “I was calling to confirm, but when I couldn’t get through, I just came anyway because we had already made our agreement.”  Our lunch was most enjoyable.

As I later reflected on that episode, I thought of a verse in Lamentations 3:8, “And though I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayers.”  Have you ever felt that way about God?  You call out to Him.  You feel no response, so your heart tells you that He isn’t there. You begin to believe that God is ignoring you, that He has no interest in listening to you.  Therefore, He is not going to help you.  Ever had those thoughts?

Those are the very thoughts that the enemy, Satan, wants of you.  He does everything he can to cause you to believe that God no longer cares; even perhaps, that He never cared in the first place.  What cruel lies.

You see, my friend arrived at the restaurant without being able to reach me the night before, because she knew we had already made our agreement.  She trusted that I would honor that agreement and be there.  It’s no different in our relationship with our Father.

When you call out but it appears He’s not listening, please remind yourselves that the agreements have already been made and your Father will never go back on His word.  For example, He has already told you that He will never leave you or forsake you.  He has already told you to cast all your burdens upon Him because He cares for you.  He has already told you that His unfailing love never ends and His mercies are new every morning.

He has already made His agreement with you.  Therefore, when it seems He can’t hear you on the other end of the line, please go ahead and behave according to His promises. He definitely gets all your messages and all your pleas for help.  He’s listening and responding to you as specified by all His promises.  Therefore, please show up to meet with Him regularly, because of a certainty, He is listening, already carrying out everything He has promised, moving you in the direction to receive all the good plans He has designed just for you.  Never despair at what seems like a bad connection; of a certainty, He is there, honoring his Word.

 

The Pearl Ring

The other morning when I woke up, I did as I usually do; I put on my watch and rings.  On my right hand I wear a pearl ring set in a silver heart.  My parents gave that ring to me on my 15th birthday.  That took place a long time ago, meaning not only is my ring officially an antique, but I am too; however, moving right along, every time I stop a moment to gaze upon my ring, my heart warms with the memory.

I know my parents didn’t have much money at that time, so when I opened the little box they gave to me, I was, at first, without words.  I remember looking from one to the other, watching their own smiles as I stood speechless with my beautiful gift.  My father said to me, “we thought it was time our daughter had something fitting for a young woman.”  I still still feel the elation that swept over me with his words.  There was my father, recognizing that I was no longer a little girl, but one growing into adulthood, and he was pleased with me.  Oh, how I was thrilled and touched beyond measure at the meaning his words held for me.

Then my mother asked, “do you really like it?”  Her eyes shone with an anticipated joy; a hope that I, too, would feel their love in receiving the gift just as they had expressed their love in giving it.  “Oh, yes!” I replied, “I love it! Oh, thank you!”  I pulled them both in a hug, tears blurring my vision.  I don’t know exactly what the pearl ring is worth in monetary value, but to me, it is priceless, because true love can never have a value set upon it.

The other morning, as I was taking this sweet trip down memory lane, another thought came to me about something Jesus said to His followers in Matthew 13:45-46, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.  When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it.”  The treasure our Father has given to us through His Son is priceless, too, because His gift of eternal life with Him, quite literally,  is out of this world!  A thrilling shiver travels through me with such anticipation — to be with our Father in perfect joy and peace — forever!

Our Father’s priceless gift, given with His perfect love, is available to all.  Just take it.  Call upon His Son right now, ask for and receive both His forgiveness and His promise of eternal life with Him.  There is no gift to ever compare.

Why Me?

Recently I met with an elderly man.  He is 93 years old, frail in body; in fact, wracked with pain, but sharp and alert in his mind.  His parents were believers and passed on to him a deep love for God.  He told me the following story which touched me deeply.  I thought you might like it too.

He told me that he was captured in WWII and was held a prisoner in dire conditions.  His guards would taunt him, feeding him spoiled food, and even then, only every several days.  His water was dirty but he had no choice but to drink it.  He had dysentery but was not allowed to use a toilet.  He wasn’t even given a pot or bowl, not that having one would have really made much difference.  He lay in his own waste for days, not knowing what the end would be like for him.  The stench gagged him.  He vomited often and had to lay in that, too.  His cell was so small that he could not get away from the filth.

I listened and watched his expressions as he told me the story.  Then, after pausing, perhaps reflecting more on the severity of what he lived through, I saw a glimmer of a twinkle appear in his eyes.  I waited, intrigued at what I might hear next.  How could these memories provide a smile for him?

“There are people,” he began, “who know God, but when something uncomfortable happens to them, they cry and ask, ‘why me?'”  He paused again and I waited, not wanting to interfere with this moment.

“Once,” he continued with his story, “when I was so hungry and feeling myself grow weaker, I remembered a song.”  He stared at the ceiling as if trying to recall the words.  He hummed a bit but I didn’t recognize it.  “It was a favorite of my parents.  I learned it as a boy.  It tells of God’s unfailing love and of His faithfulness.  So, I started to hum and even to sing the song in my prison cell.”

I leaned forward, straining to make certain I didn’t miss a word.  I sensed something of great value coming.  I was not to be disappointed.

“I could have cried like many and asked God,” why have you let this happen to me?  Why am I sleeping in my own waste?  Why am I hungry and drinking dirty water?”  He paused again, letting a great smile form on his lips, reaching his already twinkling eyes. “But as I sang and hummed the song, its truth took hold of me.  I could feel God’s presence in my prison cell.  His love was greater than the filth around me.  His light shone peace into my weary soul.  Yes, His peace can reach anywhere, but we have to take hold of it.”

Once more he rested before continuing his narrative.  I wanted to say something, but I could feel this was a precious, and yes, a holy moment, so I just smiled with him, enjoying God’s presence that filled the room.  Suddenly, as if someone had pushed a button, he sat up straighter, looked at me and said with the most tender smile, “when I think of all God has done for me, saving me from myself and from my enemies, promising me life eternal no matter what I have done that has been wrong and sinful; well, it is then that I, too, have to ask the question, “Why me?”  He chuckled before adding, “and I know the answer; it is because He is my Father and a good father will always tend to the needs of his children.”

I left this man with a feeling that I was walking on air.  The poignancy of his story and the wisdom of his words has stayed with me.  No matter outward circumstances, no matter how hard Satan tries to make us fall, the truth still stands; God is greater than anything and will be our everything.

“But the Lord is good; He has cut the cords used by the ungodly to bind me.”  Psalm 129:4

When A Crash Is Inevitable

In amazement and dismay I watched a car weaving in and out of thick traffic at a great speed.  Is the driver crazy?  I thought to myself.  Upon further thought I decided he’s probably not literally crazy, but certainly someone who has lost ability to see danger lurking.  There was very likely no thought in his mind that he would loose control of the car.  Perhaps he even pictured other drivers admiring his skills.  The way he was driving was definitely dangerous, not because he didn’t know how to drive, but because he didn’t know how to properly control the driving.  Control is altogether important.

There are many who want to throw control out the window, thinking that to be a controlling person is a wrong thing.  Quite the opposite is true.  To be in control of good, common sense is a very good thing.  To be in control of one’s desires, looking to God for help, when evil would tempt and overtake, is desirable.  To try and control another is never good, but to make right choices for one’s self, to be so in control of one’s thoughts that all thoughts lean toward God Himself, that is the safest place to be in.

When we try to make our own choices with no thought of God, we are like, as David Jeremiah wrote in his book, Is This The End? Signs of God’s Providence,“without God at the wheel of the human heart, we are like a driverless car careening down the freeway.  A crash is inevitable.”  Like the man who was weaving in and out of traffic, putting aside a good choice of safety; when we leave God out of the equations of our lives, we also step outside of the safety of God’s protection.

I love what David wrote in Psalm 25:10, “The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness, all those who keep His covenant and obey His decrees.”  God has given every one of us the right to make our own choices.  We are in total control of what we choose; but what we choose will control us.  Will the choice be God at the wheel?  Will it be our own selves, driving madly through the uncertain highways of our lives?  If the latter, be aware, a crash is inevitable.

“Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.”  Psalm 25:5   Now, that’s a good choice to be in control of, choosing to ask God to do the driving.

A Promised Reunion

This week I attended the funeral of a very dear friend.  When I was much younger I dreaded the very thought of a funeral.  It seemed a scary thing to me.  Now, my understanding has deepened.  I have come to understand that for the one who personally knows Jesus, a funeral is not merely an acknowledgement of death; it is a celebration of life lifted to a new height.  The spirit has left earth to see the face of Jesus.

What a promise to everyone who knows Him.  Just think, the moment we exhale our last breath on earth, we inhale our first breath in sheer paradise.  Sickness is suddenly vanished.  Tears are no more.  Pain is gone, never to return.  Grief, despair, tiredness have all ceased to exist.  Loneliness can never be known again.  Feelings of low self esteem and rejection will never touch us.

When we try our best to imagine this reality, the very thought sends, what I call, joy bumps all over.  Someone we love may have passed on to their new life and we are saddened not to see them for awhile; but indeed, it is only for awhile.  Parting is not forever for those who are counted as God’s own children; it’s just a temporary separation.  It’s a time not to dwell on the departure, but to look forward to the reunion.

That must be why Paul could say in II Corinthians 5:8, “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.”  Our earthly homes are just a part of our pilgrimage as we pass through life on earth, en route to our final destination, which is to behold the face of the One who made the only way for us to have eternal life with Him.

As the old hymn 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.”

Traveling In The Dark

I enjoy reading about the origins of words and phrases; for example, do you know the origin of the phrase, “good night, sleep tight?”  In times past, there were no box springs as we have today.  The mattress would lay across a myriad of thin ropes which, after every night’s sleep, would have to be pulled tight before a person crawled into bed the next night.  If they didn’t, the mattress would sag, making for a very uncomfortable sleep.  Hence, the saying of well wishes for the person to have a,  “good night and sleep tight.”

I read of something else very interesting to do with the verse found in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  During Bible times, when caravans would travel, perhaps from Egypt to Jerusalem, bringing their goods for sell and trade, they would travel day and night to get to their destination.  In order to travel at night they would have their servants go before the teams of wagons and horses carrying lamps to light the road ahead.

At times when individuals traveled through the night they would actually attach lamps, by way of a leather holder, to the front of their legs while carrying a lamp in their hands as well.  This helped the traveler to better see the potholes or large stones in their way.  Without the lamps they could easily fall and get hurt or lose their way altogether.

When the writer of Psalm 119 wrote, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” the reader of that time would know exactly the importance of that verse.  Just as lamps were a requirement for safety to the night traveler, God’s Word offers the same safety as we travel through the darkness of this world.  How easily we can fall when temptations roll onto our path, like a huge stone on the road, ready to trip us and cause us harm.  Often times we don’t know which way to go in our lives, what decisions to make, but with the light of God’s Word, we can better see the direction we should take.

God’s word is the light that reveals truth, that shows us the way, that points to peace, that shows us how to obtain the very strength of God when our own resilience fades away.  When we are in the darkness of despair or sorrow, God’s word lights our difficult path, guiding us to find the answers, granting us wisdom on what we should do, filling us with a holy comfort that the world alone cannot give.  God’s Word is the only light that can pierce any darkness found in this world.

We must all walk through the dark, but we don’t have to walk without the light.

 

 

Beautiful Like An Eagle

I was cutting our grass yesterday riding the tractor lawn mower.  I love being outside, riding and thinking, enjoying being immersed in the nature around me.  At one point a shadow quickly passed over me.  I looked up.  Oh!  An eagle or a hawk!  Probably a hawk, I mused as I watched the magnificent creature glide on the thermals, wings outstretched in splendor.  My heart was filled with an excited joy just in observing this impressive bird.  But, wait!  What in the world!  That’s not a hawk!  That’s a vulture, doing what vultures do, seeking death to satisfy their appetites.  I stared long and hard as the bird dipped and soared higher and dipped again.  How easily I had been fooled.

Then I thought how easily God’s children can be fooled, too, in our spiritual worlds.  Someone comes along, for example, and proclaims himself or herself to be a Bible teacher.  They use their words with authority.  Something doesn’t seem quite right as we listen, but we don’t want to be judgmental, so we quash our thoughts, chiding ourselves for our distrust in this  “brother or sister.”

I’m not talking about making a mistake in Scripture interpretation.  We’re all learning throughout our walk on this earth.  I’m talking about consistent inner feelings of unease that come whenever we hear the words of a particular someone who is proclaiming God’s words.  May I encourage you; don’t forget that the Holy Spirit is residing in you.  He is your best teacher as you listen to others teach and as you study the Scriptures for yourselves. When something isn’t quite right, the Holy Spirit will prick your conscience with unease.  I urge you, brothers and sisters — investigate!  Ask Father to lead you into His peace as you seek truth.  Remember, He has promised that if you seek you will find.

You see, Satan is out to conquer and divide.  He is the greatest illusionist of all time.  The Scripture warns us of him in II Corinthians 11: 13-15, “There are people who are false apostles.  They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.  I am not surprised!  Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So, it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

These are perilous days.  One has only to listen to the national and world news for a few minutes to know that countries everywhere are in political, moral, and spiritual disarray.  Therefore, Satan and those who follow him in this world are having a heyday, inserting doubt where truth abides, painting themselves as colors of light on canvases of darkness, fooling the fainthearted, seeking to destroy the faith of all God’s followers.

Do not be one of the fooled ones!  Do not accept everything you hear as truth!  Importantly, do not quench the nudging of the Holy Spirit when He warns you of danger lurking!  Pause, pray, seek truth.  You will find it, for that is the promise of the Holy Spirit  to all who come searching for Him.

Remember: not every large winged bird is an eagle, and not every man or woman speaking in the name of Christ is a follower of Him.  You need not be troubled by this fact; you need only be looking diligently, entreating God with an earnest heart, and He, by His sweet Holy Spirit will lead you into His truth.  You may stand alone in your discoveries but do not shrink back in fear of what others think.  It only matters what your Father thinks.  Stand firm in His truth, and His peace will wrap itself around you all your days.

 

Wounded Warriors

Last week, while taking a longed for road trip across America, my mother and I stopped in Dallas, Texas to visit the Presidential Library of George W. Bush.  We both especially wanted to view his portrait gallery of wounded warriors.  It was a moving experience.  As we gazed into the painted faces, listening to the stories of these courageous people, tears would spring to our eyes.  Some were amputees, some suffered PTS (post traumatic stress).  Others had brain injuries.  Their physical injuries varied but in spirit they were the same — they all pressed on.

I couldn’t help but think of my own father.  He was also a wounded warrior.  He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was there during the TET offensive.  He was wounded there and evacuated to Honolulu, Hawaii for surgery.  Most of you who knew my father probably never knew that he, too, like many wounded warriors, suffered PTS, but like the other heroes — he pressed on.

I remember a day when I was sitting in his office.  We were just chatting, talking about many subjects as we often did.  Somehow the conversation turned to the days of the Vietnam War.  I asked him, “Dad, did any of the people you knew over there ever get killed?”  I can still recall the goose bumps that sprung to my skin at his one word answer — “everyday.”  There was a faraway look in his eyes for just a moment and then he came back to present day and we talked of other things.

There will always be wounded warriors who suffer for the cause of their countries.  Proudly they serve, knowing what could happen to them at any given moment.  It’s the same with spiritual warriors, too.  We serve lovingly and joyfully, knowing also that during any day, an attack of darkness against light could befall us.

We may be happily going about the business of the day, when in an unexpected moment, tragedy strikes.  A phone call comes of an accident to a loved one, a doctor’s report of a terminal illness, an unsuspected pink slip shatters a work day, the bank informs of overdraft, divorce crushes the heart, unfaithfulness strangles joy in a second, death takes away.  Every morning when we awake, none of us knows what form of adversity may come crashing into our world.  No one is exempt,  but like all wounded warriors — we can all press on.

All wounded warriors are created in the image of God.  What does that mean?  It means we were created to cry like Jesus cried, He felt everything we feel, He was tempted in every way that we have also been tempted, He was angry at the money changers in the temple, He was disheartened when friends did not stand with Him.  I often think, too, about who Jesus’ friends were: fisherman.  Can’t you just imagine the fish stories that were told around the camp fire?  Don’t you know Jesus laughed along with all of them?  He laughed and He cried. Jesus was a wounded warrior.  He felt pain, endured tormenting emotions and temptations.  He cried in grief.  Above all, on the cross, He was wounded for our transgressions, but like all heroes, He pressed on, choosing to do the courageous thing.  We can, too.

When we hurt, or are reminded of the scars we carry from our personal wars, or cry out in pain of desolation, we also have the strength to carry on.  It’s a strength that comes from God Himself.  We are created in His image; His strength is our strength.  That is why Paul could say in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, this one thing I do; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.”  This doesn’t mean that we literally forget the wounds that have come to us, but it means we don’t allow what happened in the past to define what we can become today.  We are all wounded warriors, but let us be warriors of courage and defiance to what would hold us back.  Like all heroes — press on.

 

 

 

Aaaaah — The Shower

It has been a good day; in fact, a most enjoyable day, but by the end of it a great wave of tiredness swept over me.  It was like, one minute I was full of energy, and the next I felt so weary I just wanted to find someplace to stretch out and close my eyes.

When the moment came to do just that, I was then faced with a decision: take a shower before resting or wait until the morning.  I toyed with the choice I had to make.  A small thing, but in the moment of growing fatigue, the matter loomed large in my brain.  Take it in the morning, my brain whispered encouragement to me.  You’ll feel so awful sleeping dirty between clean sheets, indecision shouted loudly.  Indecision won.  I put myself in the shower.

Ohhhhh, how good that felt!  Hot water beat down onto tired muscles, soothing away aches, replacing weariness with new vigor.  Why did I ever even think of waiting till the morning?

Why do we toy with the same thoughts in our spiritual worlds? When we discover that we’ve let something into our lives that takes us a step away from closeness to our Father — why wait to make it right?  When temptation wins a battle — why wait in misery before we take that spiritual shower, letting the Holy Spirit wash away all that is soiled in our lives?

Spiritual dirt is no fun.  Just like physical dirt makes us feel yucky all over, so it is in our spiritual worlds.  The longer we wait before taking a spiritual bath, the deeper grows our misery.  Why do this to ourselves?  Never wait till morning to take that shower; jump into Father’s arms right now with a repentant heart.  Let His love and forgiveness replace your weariness with His own joy and renewed vigor.

To all who consider delaying that needed spiritual shower, consider the words found in Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.'”

A Pony In The Junkyard

My mother and I were away for the fourth of July.  It was nice where we stayed but it had an unfortunate view of a junkyard across the street.  That evening we gazed out the window and noticed a pony.  We felt sorry for him as he meandered around rusted pieces of cars and other scattered metal objects.  Even so, he seemed content munching on patches of grass around the pieces of junk.

That evening it rained, which put an end to any fireworks, but the streaks of lightening and booming thunder made up for it.  As we peered out the windows to watch the storm, we noticed the dear little pony.  He was trotting in haste, jerking his head from side to side with every rumble of thunder.  We could see a shelter at the end of the small field.

“Get in the barn!  Get in the barn!” We both yelled to a pony who couldn’t hear us. We felt absolutely helpless to offer any assistance or comfort to the frightened pony.  There he was, soaking wet and overcome with such fear, that he was blinded to the shelter within his reach.

I couldn’t help but think how we are so often like the frightened pony.  There we are nibbling on patches of goodness when along comes a storm that shatters our peace of the moment.  Suddenly, overcome with anxiety from the chaos that enters our world, we run around hoping for a way out; but everywhere we look, we see nothing to help us.

Our heavenly Father offers us shelter at any time of day or night.  When we are scared of what tomorrow might bring; when we feel hopeless to find an answer to what is unknown; when we long for an end to our turmoil but there is none in sight, all we have to do is succumb to the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  

It’s really so simply, isn’t it?  We can run in circles, focusing on the pieces of junk in our world, running in terror at thunderous problems that appear insurmountable; or, we can run to the safety of our Father.  No matter the conflict, no matter the fear, no matter the unknown; our Father offers His own peace in exchange for all our stress.

Poor little pony who was so focused on the thunder that he forgot the shelter available to him.  Poor you and I who become so focused on the troubles of this world that we forget the spenders of heaven that are available to us, just for the asking.