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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Losing Heart, But For The Goodness Of God

Three and a half weeks ago, my husband called me from the office with the words so many people are hearing these days: "I've been laid off."

My first thoughts were, "We've been through worse than this. God carried us through turmoil and grief in the past. We have no reason to believe He won't do the same now."

I'm reminded of a couple of verses in Psalm 27: 13-14. "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!"

How many folks have been handed a pink slip in the past few months? The news reports are full of troubling numbers and dismal predictions. We watch and listen, shaking our heads over some the decisions made by our elected officials and praying that those unemployment statistics don't come knocking on our door. When it happens, you regard the news reports with a different viewpoint. In our humanness, we wonder how we'll pay the bills and provide for our family. If we take our eyes off the One who has taken care of us through every trial, every tragedy, every hardship, we can indeed lose heart.

Life sometimes has a way of knocking our feet out from under us. It reminds me of the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Remember those? No matter how hard Mr. Coyote tried, the Roadrunner always managed to slip away. You'd think the poor coyote would have given up and thrown in the towel. "Forget it. This is too hard. I'm tired of trying and failing. I give up. I'll never succeed." And he drags his tail off into the sunset, never to pursue the Roadrunner again. He's lost heart. That's how a lot of people feel these days. That's how we could have felt, too, except for God.

When adversity comes to your house univited, you have two choices. You can give in to fear or bitterness, or you can take Mr. Coyote's approach and never give up. The day my husband came home unemployed, we just looked at each other and said almost simultaneously, "God will get us through this. He's always taken care of us before. He will again."

So we determined to trust God with this current circumstance. Within two weeks, my husband got an interview, and ten days later was employed with a new company. Given today's economy, the grim unemployment statistics, and the depressing news reports on TV, getting a new job in less than a month is nothing short of miraculous.

Before anyone thinks I'm bragging, let me tell you--yes, I am. I'm bragging on God, because He is the One to whom all praise is due.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Lost Holiday

Let me make one thing clear right up front--I love Christmas. I'm a Christmas freak. I'm one of those annoying people who actually enjoys seeing all the Christmas decorations in the stores in September. They make me smile. They call to me and invite me to pick then up, handle them, turn them over and look at the price tag. Yes, I love everything about the Christmas season, from the decorating to the music, the wrapping of presents and the baking, the holiday specials on TV and the programs at church. I love the idea of hearing Christmas carols--songs about our Lord and Savior-- being played for six to eight weeks on the PA systems in the mall. (Ever hear Easter music being played? Or Labor Day music? Fourth Of July music?) There is something distinctly special about Christmas. Even though the retailers try to commercialize it, the reason we observe the holiday still manages to come through.

That said--I must say there is a disturbing lack of focus on another important holiday: Thanksgiving. Yes, there are decorations in the stores, miniature pilgrims and lovely cornucopias, fake autumn leaves and pumkins, pretty autumn tablecloths and napkins, and giant platters large enough to hold a turkey on steroids. But what I long to see and hear are people excited about Thanksgiving, not just because Grandma is making her special cornbread dressing or Mom is planning on making a pumpkin pie from scratch, but rather because the holiday is an opportunity to focus on what God has done for us.

My son, Jonathan, back when he was battling cancer, uncovered a few verses in Psalms and latched on to them: Psalm 66 verse 5 and verse 16. He proclaimed God's goodness and mercy for him to anyone who would listen. "Come and see" he declared. "See the works of God--He is awesome! Come and hear, and I will tell you what God has done for me." For Jonathan, every day was Thanksgiving. His heart's desire was to communicate to young people, teenagers and young adults alike, and urge them not to waste a day. He wanted them to understand that their youth doesn't guarantee that they still have many years down the road, years when they can love and serve God AFTER they've done the things they want to do. Jonathan desired for people to wrap their minds around the concept of the awesome gifts God gives us every day, and exercise a spirit of deep thankfulness. Nobody is promised tomorrow.

God desires our praise every day. In Jeremiah, chapter 33, God says, "Again there shall be heard in this place--the voice of joy and the voice of gladness--Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever--bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord." This kind of praise, this voice of joy and gladness, is generated from a heart of GRATITUDE.

So often we get bogged down in the stress and preparation of the day. Did I remember to buy crecsent rolls? Should I make that same green bean casserole again? How should I arrange the seating around the table, because cousin Mildred doesn't like Uncle Harry so I can't have them sitting next to each other. I have to make sure dinner is over by 3:00 because that's when the big game comes on. Thanksgiving is more than turkey and dressing, or football games, and Thanksgiving is more than the kick-off for the Christmas shopping season.

This year, let's celebrate Thanksgiving like Jonathan did. Search deep in your heart and allow God to reveal reasons to be grateful for all the things He's done for you. Bring praise into the house and worship God for who He is and what He's done. Give yourself to a spirit of thankfulness for your every breath and heartbeat, for blessings that we barely acknowledge on a daily basis, for the grace He offers to carry us through adversity and the mercy He pours out when our circumstances threaten to drown us. Lay your heart open and ask God to fill it the voice of joy and gladness. Use the holiday of Thanksgiving to develop a fresh awareness of gratitude.

Christmas is a precious time as we reflect on the coming of our Lord Jesus to this earth. But let's guard against allowing the excitement and planning of the Christmas season to overshadow the spirit of praise and thankfulness of Thanksgiving.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How To Become Invisible

How many times have you wished you were invisible? The time the elastic in the waistband of my slip decided it was never going to work for me again stands out in my memory. Or the time I was singing at a friend's wedding and forgot the words. I've wished the floor would swallow me more times than I can count.

But how about the times you've bent over backward, knocking yourself out for the people most important to you? What about the days you've neglected to do what you wanted to do and did without something you desired so you could meet the needs of your family? Did they notice? Not likely. When was the last time your spouse or your children showed their gratitude for clean laundry in their closet or a nice meal on the table? Feel invisible?

I watched a Youtube video recently by a motivational speaker. What she said really opened my eyes. Watch and listen for yourself:


There have been numerous times in my life when I felt invisible. Most of those times, I whined to God about it, complaining that I was unappreciated, and stupid for allowing people to take advantage of me. "Doormat" was my middle name. The people I loved the most were the worst offenders. I grumbled under my breath, muttering that these people wouldn't be able to function if it weren't for me.

When the threads of my life began to form what I saw as a hopelessly tangled mess, I accused myself of not doing my job as wife and mother properly. I pointed the same blame at myself that I'd leveled at my family--if it weren't for me. . .

If it weren't for me failing as a wife, maybe my husband wouldn't have lost his job or maybe we wouldn't have had that arguement. If it weren't for me failing as a mother, maybe my son wouldn't have strayed from God. If it weren't for me failing as a Christian, maybe a particular friendship wouldn't have crumbled.

When my son, Jonathan, got sick and I became his caregiver, I accused myself almost daily. I wasn't just his caregiver, I was his mother. I was supposed to be able to fix him, but I couldn't. There were many days that I felt invisible and ineffective in the face of his disease. I didn't care what the statistics were, I didn't care what the doctors told us, I should have been able to do something to turn around this evil monster called cancer.

It wasn't until I spent an agonizing night of crisis at Jonathan's bedside that God explained something to me. His finger pressed squarely in the middle of my heart as He pointed out to me that I must think a great deal of myself if I thought I could change the course of my son's illness by being some kind of super-mom. I was taking on burdens that weren't mine to carry, and my knees were buckling under the load. But like any good mother, I took a deep breath and pushed on, determined that my efforts, my care, my hands, my sleepless nights, my sacrifice would culminate in my son's healing.

But that one sleepless night at my son's bedside swept the scales away from my eyes, and I saw that my hands were broken, my efforts were impotent, and my sacrifice was dust. This wasn't about me, and it wasn't even about my son. This was about God and the way He carried and comforted me, about the way He worked in me, for me, and through me. It was about His masterpiece: the breathtaking beauty of a heart that God has reclaimed for His kingdom. God took all the prayers, all the tears, and all the little invisible things I did, and sprinkled them over Jonathan's heart. Then He scooped up the prayers of hundreds of other people and layered them around Jonathan like bubble wrap. Finally, he nudged the servant's heart of one man whom He used to speak the words to which Jonathan listened. If any of those ingredients had been missing, the end result might have been different. When God revealed this truth to my heart, I was so grateful that He allowed me to perform all those little invisible tasks. In the end, God was glorified.

In our humanness, we sometimes complain that nobody appreciates all we do, who we are, or our importance in the grand scheme of things. It's not until we put everthing in the right order and see ourselves as God sees us, that we understand the priority. The role of a parent, spouse, sibling, friend, neighbor, coworker, or church member is not given to us so we can be put on a pedestal. The speaker in the Youtube video makes an enlightening point. If you do your job right, nobody will notice except God, and He's the only One who matters.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.


Monday, July 14, 2008

What Legacy Of Faith?

I heard something recently that gave me pause.

>This moment will never come again.<

Not exactly earth-shaking. It's a fact of science. You can never reclaim lost time. Parents, teachers and preachers have used this statement for generations to encourage and motivate others to greater achievement. But then I heard something else not long ago that, when coupled with the above truth, can define the very shape of our faith.

>We pray that God will use us until He takes us Home, because after that, it's too late.<

I had to disagree with that to some degree. Whether or not God uses us is really up to us. We can allow God to use us, or not. But if our life is given over to Him as a vessel for Him to fill and pour out, He can continue to refill that vessel long after we leave this earth. Once God takes us Home, we no longer have the opportunity to commit acts of service or obedience, but that doesn't mean God won't continue to use our testimony.

Think of some godly person who's already gone, who left a legacy of faith behind for others to follow. Every time we remember that person, we remember their faith, their depth of trust, their degree of hope and their faithfulness. We remember how much they loved God, and their testimony becomes a roadmap for us to follow, encouragement to persevere in the midst of adversity, and a pattern to trace when we falter. God can continue to use our testimony even after He's taken us to heaven. But it all depends on what we choose to do with this moment that will never come again.

When the sun shines on an object, its shadow is cast in the same shape. Looking at the shadow, we know what the object is without looking at the actual object itself. After God takes one of His children home, the legacy left behind is much like a shadow. There's no need to see the person to understand their testimony. We can trace the shape of their faith by simply remembering how they loved God and how they served Him.

Every day is a new opportunity to do something for God. But one doesn't need to stand in the pulpit and preach to thousands, or go to the mission field and suffer hardship to reach the lost in order to be used of God. As wonderful as those callings are, an act of service or a tiny step of obedience can also be something as small as smiling at a child, comforting a grieving friend, responding in kindness to someone who lashed out at us, or giving the proverbial cup of cold water to a thirsty soul. Allowing Jesus to live through us, those fleeting moments become part of our shadow.

What legacy of faith am I leaving behind? While it may be the desire of my heart for God to use whatever feeble efforts I give as an offering in this finite body, what I leave behind is far more important. If my family and loved ones are going to know what defined my faith after I'm gone, it is vital that I leave a roadmap--a shadow shaped like Jesus--for them to follow. In that way, God can continue to use me after He's taken me home to heaven. Oh how I pray I don't squander the moments.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Choosing A Birthday Gift

When we become parents, we tend to measure time by our children. When we think of a certain date or event, we pinpoint in our timeline by remembering how old our children were at the time, or what phase of their development or spiritual growth they were in. I still do that. Birthdays are especially significant.

I remember two years ago when my son's birthday was coming up--June 22, 2006. It was the first birthday we spent without him. He would have been 29 years old. I considered spending the day like a hermit, closed off away from the world. But that wasn't Jonathan's way, so neither would it be mine. I didn't want to slink back under the covers and pretend the day didn't exist. So I decided to face his birthday in a positive way.

In the days leading up to this milestone, I thought long and hard about what I might have given him for his birthday had he still been with us. Clothes? Electronics? Something for his apartment? But those things all seemed so shallow and trivial. I wanted to give him something with more lasting value--something for which he did not need a receipt so he could return it.

So I pushed my mind outside the box of traditional thinking. If Jonathan could be here for one more birthday, I'd want to give him . . . laughter and joy, peace, and . . . time.

But as I pondered each "gift", I came face to face with my own human fallibility. Yes, perhaps I could have done something for him to make him laugh or give him joy. Then I remembered a dream I had not long after he died. I dreamed I heard Jonathan laughing. The pure sound of it was an incredible, exquisite, joy-filled laugh, and I simply had to know what it was that had brought my son such joy. So in my dream I followed the sound of his laughter until I found him. He was on his face before Jesus, bathing Jesus' feet with joyous tears and kissing the nailprints. How could I ever expect to give my son a gift of laughter or joy that exceeded the joy he was already experiencing with Jesus?

My worldly gift of peacefulness also shriveled in the light of restful serenity that only comes from God. His peace is not like any other, certainly not like the peace the world gives. Our concept of peace is that of calmness and quiet feeling of satisfaction. In my humaness, any element of peace I might have given Jonathan would have been inconsequential, temporal, and superficial.

My last intended gift, the gift of time, surely must have had the angels in heaven scratching their heads and wondering, "What is she thinking?" How preposterous! Why would I want to give my son more time on this earth after he has tasted heaven? Then I realized this gift was not for Jonathan. It was for me. I wanted more time with my son. My motive was purely selfish.

James 4:14 says that our life is but a vapor that appears for a brief moment, no longer than a single heartbeat, and then it vanishes. But the stretch of time called eternity has no end. Jonathan is enjoying laughter, and joy, and peace--for timeless eternity.

These gifts I wanted to give my son for his birthday--gifts that sounded so noble and lofty coming from my lips--fell worthless into the dust of this earth. Jesus has already given each of these gifts to Jonathan. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..." James 1:17. The gifts Jesus gives are permanent, eternal, rooted and grounded in God's love. And Jonathan doesn't need a receipt so he can exchange them for something else.

Happy birthday, son. I pray you will have the most joyous birthday ever.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Miracle Of The Oil

There are numerous accounts of miracles in the Bible: a blind was made to see, a lame man walked, the sun stood still in the Book of Joshua, Lazarus was raised from the dead in the Gospel accounts, 5000 people were fed from five loaves and two fishes, and Jesus rebuked the storm and said, "Peace, be still", and it was so.

In the book of 2nd Kings, there was a widow woman who had no money, and her creditor was coming to take her sons to be his slaves as payment of the debt. She needed a miracle, and she sought God on behalf of her sons. Elisha, the prophet of God, asked her what she had in the house. All she had of any value was a small jar of oil. Elisha's instructions were to gather up as many vessels as she could find, and he admonished her, "Do not gather just a few." Then he told her to begin pouring out the oil from the small jar into all the larger vessels. So she poured out the oil until every vessel was filled and she said, "There are no more vessels." And the oil ceased. God gave her a miracle to save her sons. I wonder if she had gathered dozens, or hundreds more vessels, would God have filled them all? Yes, I think He would.

For eleven years, I prayed for "my miracle". My son, Jonathan had turned his back on God and denied the Savior he once loved. In anguish, I pleaded with God for Jonathan to come back and kneel at Jesus' feet once again. The deepest desire of my heart--my miracle--was for my son to return to the Lord. Sometimes I grew weary in well-doing, and God asked me, in essence, what did I have in the house. There was nothing I could do in my own strength to change Jonathan's heart. Everything I had fell away--worthless. Only in the power of the Holy Spirit of God would my miracle be possible. So I began gathering vessels in preparation for the oil to pour out, and I kept on praying for my miracle.

Then, in April of 2005, Jonathan was diagnosed with cancer.

Faced with his own mortality, he heeded the whisper of God's voice. A dear friend, Brother Tim Butler, drove several hours to come and spend time with Jonathan and talk to him about his relationship with God. The oil began pouring out into the vessels, and I kept on praying for my miracle.

On May 15th, the phone rang. Jonathan called to tell us he had kept a divine appointment with God. Weary of running and powerless to change his life, he fell at Jesus' feet in repentance and faith. He cried out to God like a drowning man, and God restored the fellowship between Himself and my son. And the oil did not cease.

Jonathan did not try to "make a deal" with God, promising to serve Him in exchange for healing. No, he determined to praise God regardless of what happened with his cancer. The oil overflowed onto everyone who knew Jonathan or came in contact with him. Jonathan's life reflected the Savior, and my miracle was a reality.

In January of 2006, Jesus came and carried Jonathan Home. I miss him more than I can describe, but the pure joy of my miracle springs up within me and spills over my being. The miracle of reconcilliation and restoration is a promise from God, and because of that miracle, I will see Jonathan again--when God calls me Home.

Miracles happen. Mine happened on May 15, 2005. Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Come Away With Me

Last week was my husband's birthday. I wanted to surprise him with something special (other than the new laser-guided mitre saw I gave him--so many power tools, so little time!) so I made reservations at a lovely hotel in the North Carolina mountains. When he arrived home from work on Friday, I said, "Get in the car, we're going somewhere." He had no idea where we were going and tried to guess a time or two, but eventually I could see the stress lines on his face begin to smooth out as he leaned back and enjoyed the ride. When we arrived at the hotel, we were delighted to find our beautiful room featured its own private balcony that overlooked the river. We slept that night with the balcony window open so we could listen to the soothing rush of the water over the rocks. Sometimes getting away from the daily pressures and tension is the best medicine.

Jesus says in Mark 6:31, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while . . ." When life becomes brutal, a temporary reprieve for a breath of fresh air offers the opportunity to seek out the sanctuary of God's grace. We've all heard it said that God won't ever put more on us than we can bear. If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it. After a while those statements begin to sound like over-used cliches to the one going through the difficulty. When we find ourselves drowning in stress, we don't need cliches. All we want to hear is the whisper of God's voice telling us to come away for a while, rest in the comfort of His sanctuary, refresh our spirit and renew ourselves in His presence.

During the months I was caring for our son during his cancer battle, I was "on call" 24/7. Taking a physical vacation was out of the question. No force on earth could have torn me away from him. But I still sought the rest and sanctuary of God's presence. In the midst of the the ravages of my son's disease, the long hours, the sleepless nights, the grim faces of the doctors, and the intimidating side effects of my son's treatment, I could stay within God's sanctuary. He walked with me through every aspect of the disease, and as long as I didn't run ahead of Him, I could remain in His shadow. Only if I strayed would I be vulnerable.

When my strength and endurance fails, I have an advocate. His is my refuge and rock. He is my shelter and strong tower. When I feel like running away from home, I run to Him. The best news is, I don't have to make reservations or an appointment, I don't have to fill out insurance forms or sit in a waiting room, and nobody will ask me for my credit card number. He is near, closer than my own breath. When I am confronted by fear, weariness, dispair, or just plain day to day stress, where else would I go but to my God? He is calling to me to come away with Him for a season--a respite of renewal, a safe place in the shadow of His wings.

Thanks for letting my share my heart.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Constructive Convalescing

Experiencing hurtful circumstances is like going through surgery. There is pain, fear, and a tense time of waiting, but there is also reassurance from the surgeon, comfort from the nurses, and get-well wishes from friends. Sitting in a waiting room while surgery is performed on someone we love can be just as painful, sometimes more so, than undergoing the procedure ourselves. Afterward, there may be physical therapy along with a period of slow healing. The eventual outcome is a healthier person.

Spiritual surgery isn't too much different from the physical type, except the roles are played by Someone we can't see. The Surgeon who cuts away the harmful or destroyed tissue doesn't have an MD next to His name. He is higher and greater than any physician on earth, and His name is Jehovah-Ropheka, the Lord our healer. The role of the nurse who administers physical comfort is now taken over by the Holy Spirit, the One whom Jesus sent after Himself to be our Comforter. As we submit ourselves to the ministrations of God, we can expect a transformation, but it's rarely a season of ease. Most often, this operation is an ordeal of painful consequence, but one of necessity. The spiritual waiting room can be lonely and frightening unless we allow God to shed His light around us.

God has brought to my attention recently, something of which we are all aware, but often lose sight of. It's easy to forget that others are struggling through difficult circumstances when our own situation looms as a daunting mountain. All around us are people who have lost loved ones, perhaps they are fighting to keep their head above troubled financial waters, watching disturbing events unfold in their lives and having no power to change them, or experiencing the ache of watching a child make unwise, and potentially disasterous choices.

When God allows us to walk through a dark and frightening valley, of course we can rejoice in the comfort of knowing He is as close to us as our very breath. There are others around us, traveling through similar pain, but our focus is on ourselves, our loved ones, our situation, and hopefully our God. If I've learned nothing else in the past three years, it's that God never wastes a hurt, and nothing takes Him by surprise.

During our time of healing, the blinders fall away from our eyes, and we become aware of those hurting people around us. Their situation may not be exactly like ours, but their pain is just as real. As our surgical scars begin to heal and God brings renewed strength, we are confronted with opportunities to be a blessing to others. It might be a ministry we didn't desire or choose, but one for which God prepared us through our own journey through pain.

Those who struggle around us take on a new importance. We are given a fresh look at the pain of others. Because we've been there ourselves, compassion loans us insight into their struggle. Allowing God to use us to minister to these is akin to working side by side with the Holy Spirit as He pours out comfort, mercy, and grace.

When we enter into a time of spiritual surgery, we need do so with a watchful heart. No doubt God is preparing us to be a vessel for His use. It's up to us whether or not we allow God to fill us and use us. What a waste it would be if we discarded all that pain and heartache we encountered and let the memories of God's comfort and mercy crumble into dust.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I can't, but HE can

Have you ever been faced with a monumental task and thought, "I can't do this!" Sometimes God asks things of us that we view as arduous or intimidating, but which He intends as an opportunity. A situation that is far beyond the safe confines of our comfort zone can stretch our faith and strain our capacity to trust to a tenuous degree.

When we find ourselves in this position, we have a variety of choices. The easiest choice is to simply refuse delivery. But saying "no" has its consequenses, the least of which is loss of a blessing and the most grievious being loss of fellowship with God.

We could step tentatively along, agreeing to follow God's leading, until the pressure becomes too intense, at which time we find, or invent, an excuse to discontinue participation. But that, too, would fracture our intimacy with God.

What if the request is someting about which you feel passionate, but the circumstances to fulfill the task cause you to quake in your shoes?

I was reminded this week by a dear friend that when God directed Moses to confront Pharaoh and be a voice for the people of Israel, Moses responded with an excuse. He told God he wasn't a good speaker and didn't know what to say. So God asked him, "Who made your mouth? Was it not Me, the Lord?" Then God directed Moses to go, and He would tell him what to say.

This week I was asked to appear at the Georgia State Capitol and speak to the Senate Sub-Committee regarding an issue about which I feel passionate. The Cancer Treatment Centers Of America asked me to testify to the members of this committee about the incredible treatment my son received at their Tulsa facility. While I was elated at the prospect of Cancer Treatment Centers Of America locating a new facility in Georgia, the very thought of speaking to senators and congressmen filled me with such a dread, I nearly forgot how to breathe. But I said "yes" wondering at the time if perhaps I'd lost my mind.

When the day arrived, I thanked God that one of my best friends volunteered to drive me to downtown Atlanta, because she knows of my phobia of Atlanta traffic. (Thanks, Suze!) One prayer answered! Then, because the sub-committe's docket was so full, they limited the number of people who could speak. So I was asked to go down to the offices of the senators in our district and speak to them one on one.

"God, I can't do this!" I repeated it silently every step of the way down the stairs and the hallway. "God, I can't do this! You know how I stutter and stammer when I'm nervous. These senators will think I'm nothing but a blathering idiot. That won't do CTCA any good. They need someone who is eloquent and articulate. I can't do this!"

And God said, "I made your mouth. Now go. I will tell you what to say."

And I said, "But God, I can't do this!"

And God said, "I know, but I can."

At the end of the day, the vote was taken and the sub-committee voted 9-5 in CTCA's favor. I was thrilled, but the vote wasn't the reason why. God allowed me to do something I never believed I could do. By clinging desperately to His hand and trusting in His power, for the first time since my son's initial diagnosis, I felt like I was doing something important to help defeat this evil and brutal disease. But it wasn't me who did it. God just used my mouth, and my heart, to speak to these men and women, to somehow convince them how much we need a facility like CTCA here in Georgia.

It wasn't me, it was Him. And a special thanks goes to Josh, my son's best friend, for reminding me Who God is, and who I am. Thanks Josh. I owe you the best dinner I know how to make. Your choice.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Extreme Makeover--HEART Edition

I love the show Extreme Makeover--Home Edition. The Makeover team arrives at someone's house and calls them outside and tells them the good news: they're going to get a beautiful, brand new home, and while it's being built the family goes on vacation. Many of the stories submitted by the families are heart wrenching to say the least.

After the family leaves, the demolition begins. The family watches via video camera, as their old house is torn down in a matter a few minutes. Sometimes the expressions on their faces range from joy and excitement to pain or sorrow or even regret depending on the memories the old house holds. But the tearing down must take place before the building up of the new house can happen.

When God views our old heart, I wonder what He sees. Decay and crumbling structure due to sin? Weak, vulnerable places due to neglect? Broken places due to sorrow and heartache? He sees all that and more. He also sees a heart with possibilities. He looks beyond the present and conceives a dynamic heart filled with joy and praise, a heart of worship linked to a life lived for Him. He sees past the ruin and waste, past the tears and brokenness to a heart that can be renovated, rebuilt and restored. But the tearing down of the old must take place first before God can renew the heart.

God's Makeover Team consists of Himself, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Together they do what no man can do. God can intervene in a life regardless of the condition of the heart, and create a beautiful new heart--one that beats in synchronization with His. Sometimes the demolition process is painful. Bitter memories are cut away. Regrets are torn down. Anguish and disappointment are raked away. Grief and mourning are burned off. Then, in the midst of the ashes and debris, there emerges the new. A new-found joy, a new song, new praise, and new mercy. New glory rains down, new strength rises up, and new comfort sustains.

For the TV show, each family must make a video and send it in along with hundreds of recommendation letters written by other people declaring support for the family. To receive God's makeover, all one must do is ask, believing He will keep His promises. There are no screaming team members or huge crowds. But I'd be willing to bet the angels in heaven are doing some serious rejoicing. When God takes an old heart and makes it new again, that's what I call an Extreme Makeover--Heart Edition.

Thanks for letting me share my (madeover) heart.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Homecoming Day

I was going through a box of photographs yesterday and found a picture of my son, Jonathan, and his date, all dressed up for homecoming. The photo was taken in 1995. Handsome rascal that he was, his heart-melting grin warmed me as I gazed at the picture. Back then, homecoming meant pep rallies and week-long festivities, football games, topped off by the homecoming celebration held in the school gymnasium with the kids dressed to the nines.

Homecoming means something else entirely now. January 10, 2006 was Homecoming Day for Jonathan. God reached down and cradled my son in His arms and took him Home. Jonathan left behind the pain and brutality of cancer and took up residence in heaven. He's home, he's safe, he's whole, he's cancer-free.

While he lingered on this earth, his days centered around medications, treatments, doctors and hospitals, side effects, and pain. Now his days are filled with singing and praising the One who died so he could have life. The place we call heaven, my son calls home.

When I am out and about, people sometimes comment about the Marine Corps shirts I often wear. They ask if I have a son in the Corps, and I tell them yes. Then the next question is always, "Where is he?" When I tell them he is in heaven, they always say how sorry they are. I tell them, "Don't be sorry. I know where he is, and I know I will see him again some day. 2nd Samuel 12:23 says that my son cannot come to where I am, but I will go to where he is."

We try to imagine what heaven will be like through scripture. We talk about streets of gold and gates of pearl, a land where there is no night because Jesus is the Light that illumines heaven. We try to picture heaven in our mind, but I don't think we can truly know until we get there ourselves.

I'm anxious to go. God has blessed me beyond measure on this earth, but I can't wait to go Home. I want to see Jonathan again. I want to be where he is. I want to laugh with him again. But most of all, I want to be where Jesus is. I want to fall down and worship Him. I want to sing His praise and kiss the nailprints in His feet. Who can imagine the glory of Homecoming Day?

My son is living it.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My God Is An Awsome God

Recently on Fox News, the hosts of the morning show Fox & Friends read a list of words or phrases certain intellectuals have requested no longer be used by talk show hosts. While I agreed with a few, some bordered on the ridiculous. However, it reminded me about the words and phrases I hear on a regular basis, that I wish I didn't.

For example, how many times do we hear the word LIKE in casual conversation? "That outfit is like, so like, 20th century. Like, I mean, like where does she shop? Like, at a thrift store?"

Okay, like that might be a like poor example, but like you get my drift. Doesn't it just make you want to grab the person by the shoulders and shake them till their teeth rattle. Or better yet, doesn't it make you want to run out and buy them a thesaurus?

Another phrase I hear regularly that I wish I didn't is the use of God's name as an exclamation. If someone desires to cry out to God in a time of crisis, then using "Oh! My God!" might be appropriate. Is it a heartfelt plea for God's help and presence in a time of danger or dispair? Is God's name used in an attitude of reverence and awe? If not, then perhaps this person too, is in need of a thesaurus.

One of the most over-used and mis-used words today is AWESOME. There is little on this earth that I see as truly awe-inspiring. Our English language is loaded with superlatives that are much better choices when discribing a performance, something we have read or heard, a song, a friend, or any material item. A car is not awesome. A house is not awesome. They might be amazing, grand, unsurpassed, beautifully designed, or breathtaking. A song or a performance might be entertaining, energizing, soothing, stirring, or majestic. A book might be inspiring, well-written, hilarious, or bold. A friend can be described as treasured, esteemed, or a soul-mate. But awesome? Do we truly understand the concept of awe?

When I come before God in all my human frailty and attempt to wrap my mind around the wonder of His greatness, then I can truthfully say I am in awe. I stand in awe of a God whose power, knowledge, wisdom, and presence is beyond my comprehension. I stand in awe of a God who holds me in the palm of His hand. I stand in awe of a God who loves me despite all my shortcomings.

Let the words of my heart be filled with praise for the Holy God who knows the beginning from the end, who created the world and all that is in it with a spoken word, and yet still pours out caring and comfort to my wounded soul. There is only One who fills my heart with awe. We truly serve an AWESOME God.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.