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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 30, 2009

Roses In December

When God created roses, He did so with both beautiful blossoms and thorns. The past several days have been very thorny ones for me. In spite of the joy of the Christmas season, a heaviness weighs in my heart. Yes, I rejoice in praising God for the matchless gift of His Son. I love hearing the Christmas carols sung by the choir and over the PA system in the stores. Christmas movies on TV are fun to watch again and again. Wrapping gifts and praying for the recipient is a joy. Baking cookies fills the house with festive aromas.

But memories lurk in the midst of all the holiday cheer. Everyone has memories of Christmases past, but there is one I wish I could forget. The memories are so painful, I believe my heart bleeds every time the pictures manifest themselves in my mind. The ache is so real I can well imagine it showing up on an x-ray. Knowing the countdown to these horrible memories is drawing near makes enjoying the holidays a challenge.

Seeking solace from the pain, I took myself away for a day to a place of sanctuary—a place where I could hear God’s whisper. But God did more than whisper, He sang.

There is a quote I remember hearing one time. Some attribute it to Sir James Barrie, a British playwright, and others to Italo Sveno, an Italian novelist. Whoever said it first isn’t important. The words slipped through my mind like a song that echoes and repeats.

“God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.”

At first I didn’t understand the correlation. Whatever blossoms dare to remain on the bushes in December are ugly. The roses in my backyard have all wilted from the freezing temperatures. There is nothing pretty about a rose whose petals are browned and crumpling. They are almost as ugly as the memories I’m trying to blot out. I told God I didn’t want the memories that so haunted me from that December four years earlier any more than I’d want to pluck a bouquet from my frozen rosebush.

Tenderly, as though He were singing a lullaby, He reminded me of the beauty. The roses of summer rival every other flower in the garden with their delicate radiance. The memory of those roses resembles the treasury of promises He’s kept and prayers He’s answered in His way--miraculous ways. Sometimes our greatest blessings, the most complete healing, can happen because of prayers that weren’t answered the way we wanted. Glory began seeping into my soul and I stood in awe of His goodness. How could I have forgotten? How could I have allowed the harshness of the climb to eradicate the exquisite sweetness of the view?

Then He showed me one more promise. A tiny, unopened rosebud…in December. He isn’t finished yet. There is more to come; more beauty to anticipate; more glory to grasp. Roses in December.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

At this time of year, our "To Do" list can be longer than some of the lines we find ourselves standing in. So many things to do, gifts to buy and wrap, boxes to ship, decorations to hang, events to attend, special dishes to make, menus to plan, and envelopes to address, our fear (and many times our focus) is trying not to forget anyone or anything. At night we collapse in our bed, exhausted, only to lie awake thinking of all we still need to do.

If this is an accurate description of you, don't feel guilty. Our fast-paced, 21st century lives have done this to us. We've simply been sucked up into the rush by virtue of the fact that have families and friends, and we're involved in church. Those are all good things. But if we aren't careful, they can be the very things to exhaust us in the midst of a time when we should be quietly examining our hearts, clearing out the clutter to ensure Jesus has center stage.

I'm certainly not advocating foregoing family celebrations or church events. No, we need that corporate worship time together, bonding as one in grateful praise for the Baby who came to die for us. Taking time to focus on the coming of Jesus in our family celebrations can teach our children to understand that Jesus is more important than Santa Claus. I am reminded of the Christmas story we read every year. The words are so familiar, we sometimes blur over them without stopping to study their full meaning or consider the depth of the circumstances.

Take, for instance, the innkeeper in the 2nd chapter of Luke. Nothing is actually said about him. We assume he was a gruff sort who waved Mary and Joseph away, growling that there was "No room in the inn". I've often wondered if that man ever knew Who he turned away. He had no way of knowing Mary carried the very Savior who could save him from his sins. Did he ever find out later? Did he regret not making room for them? Could he have given up his own bed?

Now, put on the garb of the innkeeper. The city is all a-bustle with people coming for the census. Crowds are pressing, tired children are cranky, people are weary and their feet hurt from standing in line, they're hungry and trying to find a place to eat, and they all have an agenda. Sound familiar? And here you are, the innkeeper. Your stress level is at the breaking point, you're exhausted from serving these demanding people, and late at night you hear another knock on your door. You heave a sigh. No, go away, there's no more room.

Fast forward to the 21st century. You have more shopping to do, if you don't get this box shipped today you're going to have to pay through the nose to get it delivered on time, your Sunday School classes is having a party and you have to bring two dishes, your in-laws are coming for dinner and you still haven't cleaned the house, you have to run to a different store because your regular store was out of an ingredient that you must have, one of the strings of lights on the tree has quit working, you just found out you're supposed to bring an exchange gift to that Sunday School party, the Toys For Tots commercial on TV pinches you with guilt, the Salvation Army guy ringing the bell looks at you expectantly and you don't have any cash, you just remembered you forgot to get a gift for a certain person who will be offended if you don't give them anything...and there's a knock at the door. Not the front door of your home, the door of your heart.

Joy to the world, the LORD has come, let earth (us) receive her KING.

Will you clear a space? Will you find room? Will you give up your own place? Is Jesus more important than Santa Claus, menus, shopping, or agendas? Maybe the innkeeper didn't know Who he was turning away, but we do.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

God's Dashboard Light

I just returned home from our trusty mechanic, Mr. Ken, to find out why Jarhead's (that's my car's name) "check engine" light keeps coming on. At first Mr. Ken thought it was just a loose gas cap, but now it turns out that it's something in the emissions system that is going to cost $500. Oh, goody... I can think of lots of ways to spend $500 that would be a lot more fun or practical.

The good news is that Mr. Ken assured me that I don't need to do this immediately. It won't cause the car to quit or leave me stranded on the side of the road. He told me I could wait until after the holidays to have this work done and it wouldn't hurt anything. It's just that annoying light on the dash--my gaze keeps glancing down to look at it, as if staring at it will make it go away. Then I thought of a way to fix it for a whole lot less than $500.

I gathered a few tools: a screwdriver, snips, tape measure, electrical tape. I've never been mechanically inclined, but I was fairly certain I could perform this task. Sucking in a deep breath and with confidence building, I gathered my tools and marched to the garage. I could do this.

First, I extracted the tape measure and ran it across the space on the dashboard to calculate the measurement. Then, with the screwdriver, I poked a hole in the cellophane packaging around the electrical tape and pulled it off. So far, so good. Carefully transferring the measurement I'd taken earlier to the electrical tape, I snipped off a precise piece of black tape. I took another deep breath to steady my nerves--I'd never attempted this before... Finally, I lined up the tape and placed it strategically on the dash, covering the "check engine" light. Problem solved. I felt like a mechanical genius.

There have been many times in my life that I knew God was trying to tell me something. Sometimes I listened, but other times I ignored Him or offered a flimsy excuse for not heeding His counsel. Brushing aside God's nudging is like covering the "check engine" light with electrical tape. I can't see it, but it's still there. Hiding it won't make it go away, just like ignoring God's direction won't render it non-existent.

Instead of disregarding the touch of God's finger on my heart, I can see it as a comfort that God won't leave me alone. If I peel back that black electrical tape, that silly dash light is still there and it will continue to remind me that I need to address this problem. God's Holy Spirit stays with me, whispering to my soul until I follow His leading. I may think I've effectly blocked out His voice, but His love can never be silenced. I know this because He continually sends me little mercydrops to demonstrate His everlasting presence in my life.

At some point, I will have to decide to have Jarhead's problem fixed. I know this. When God speaks, I have a choice. I can say "Yes, Lord, I'm listening" and then obey what He is telling me to do. Or, I can say, "Not now, I'm too busy, ask someone else to do that." It's my choice. Following God in obedience always results in a blessing. Making a poor choice, like ignoring God's nudging, might not leave me stranded on the side of the road, but it does mean loss of fellowship with Him--something that grieves me as much as it does God. Knowing He is always as close as my breath and my very heartbeat is a comfort beyond description.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Snuggle Time With God

My cat is mis-named Sweet Pea. In hindsight, I should have waited to name her until I learned her personality. Had I done so, I might have named her Tasmanian Devil. Oh well, she does have a sweet side when she feels like showing it. One of her "sweet" habits is jumping up on my desk and putting her paws on my shoulder, meowing and begging to be held and petted. She demands her snuggle time, but it's usually while I'm trying to write. For some reason, she thinks my writing chair is the only place snuggling should take place. She meows until I pick her up and lean back in the chair, at which point she lays on my chest and kneads her paws into my neck. It's really hard to type in this position. She even takes her paw and gently bats my face if I try to look at the computer screen instead of her. She wants ALL my attention.

Isn't this what we do with God sometimes? When circumstances aren't what we hoped, or adversity surrounds us, we cry out to God and demand His attention to our problem. And this is a good thing--God wants us to bring our burdens to Him. But what about the other times? What about trudging through every day dealing with the mundane or routine? What about those busy days when we have more to accomplish than time allows? How about those unexpected distractions that jerk the rug out from under us and we feel we have to scramble to address them?

This morning as I was trying to work through some revisions on my latest chapter, Sweet Pea kept insisting on some one-on-one time and wouldn't take no for an answer. She wasn't in distress or pain. She didn't have an earth-shattering problem for me to solve. She simply wanted to be with me, face to face. She wanted to know that I saw her, I loved her, and she wanted to snuggle. And I realized something this silly cat was teaching me, however unknowingly. God wants the same thing from me. He wants me to stop what I'm doing and just spend time loving Him. I need the same kind of "snuggle time" with God as Sweet Pea was seeking with me. He doesn't want me to be distracted with other things. He wants ALL my attention, my love, my adoration, my praise, my worship.

I realized something else. It's somehow easier to brush God aside than it is to brush the cat aside. The cat is insistent. God is patient. The cat meows in my face. God whispers to my heart. How sad it must make Him when I allow the things of this world to take center stage and I neglect to spend snuggle time with Him.

I think I'll log off Facebook and email, and set aside this chapter I'm working on for a while, and just climb up in God's lap and love Him.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Questions You Want To Ask God

Recently I was sitting in the waiting area at Jarhead's doctor's office. (Jarhead is my car, and he needed an oil change.) Jarhead's doctor, (my mechanic) is a wonderful Christian man, so we were chatting about different things God was doing in our lives. He mentioned to me that he had posed this question to his Sunday School class: If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

I grinned and replied, "I'd be willing to bet 98% of those questions began with the word "Why". He chuckled and admitted that, yes, most of them did.

God created us with an insatiable sense of curiosity. By the time a toddler is three years old, their favorite word is "why", not because they necessarily want to know the reason for something, but because they have learned asking why will generally result in a parent communicating with them. That same desire is inherent in us as we grow in our faith. Yes, we love it when God communicates with us, but that curiosity has deepened by the time we reach adolescence, resulting in an unquenched thirst to understand things beyond our grasp.

Over the past five years, I've asked God more than my share of WHY questions. When we walk through a difficult valley, WHY hovers overhead like a stalking vulture, and the accompanying frustration of not receiving the answers to our questions makes us ripe for buzzard bait. So, not wishing to remain vulnerable, I simply asked God to speak to me. I wish I could say I never demanded answers from God, but that would be a lie.

When exhaustion spent my demands, I was finally ready to listen. What God communicated to me was enlightening to say the least. He gently told me that He doesn't owe me an explanation. (blink) Well, no, of course He doesn't. But then He spilled out His grace and mercy over me, and I realized something else. In my humanness, I don't have, nor will I ever have this side of heaven, the ability to wrap my mind around God's reasons. My finite mind isn't capable of comprehending all that God comprehends. (lightbulb moment) Oh, so that's why He doesn't consult with me before allowing circumstances into my life!!

Since God created me as a finite creature, He knows I could never understand the answers to the WHY questions. That's why He doesn't expect me to understand, He doesn't call me to understand. I am not required to understand all that God does in order to have fellowship with Him. Now that is something I CAN wrap my mind around.

The questions were still there, but the frustration of not knowing the answers dissipated, because when it dawned on me that I didn't HAVE TO understand, that realization was so freeing, and NOT understanding became okay. The fellowship I enjoyed with God was sweeter, and my time with Him was uncluttered.

My demands were swept away and I was able to see more clearly what God did require of me. He may not call me to understand, but He does call me to trust. I can do that. As a finite, sinful, broken person, I can trust, because it takes all the responsibility off my shoulders and allows me to roll it onto God.

So my questions to God have changed. I want to know WHEN--When will I go to see You, Father? When will You come back?--And His answer tarries in my heart: Not yet. Wait. Okay, I'll wait. I can do that, because the joy of God communicating with me makes the wait bearable.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sticking My Neck Out

When something incredible happens, some deep desire of our hearts for which we've worked and prayed, words often fail us. Such an event occurred three weeks ago that so blessed my socks off, I'm still blinking in awe of God's unfathomable grace. I've tried to describe the joy--the pure exhilaration--and fallen short. It's all about God's fingerprint on my life, but it was a very mundane scene the other day that drew it all into perspective for me.

Now, some of you who live in sprawling urban areas might not "get" this analogy, but try to hang with me. I live in a rural county in north Georgia where there are probably as many horses and cows as there are people. A few days ago as I drove down one of our country roads, I noticed three or four cows with their heads stuck through the barbed wire, munching on grass on the outside of the fence. With all the rain we've had lately, the pasture grass was thick, green, and lush. But these cows wanted something they considered better, and were willing to endure discomfort to obtain it. Wouldn't you think the barbed wire sticking into their necks would discourage their greediness?

In the book of Hebrews, the writer (probably Paul, but we don't know for sure) points out the promise God made to Abraham, saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:14-15

Now I'm not implying that the cows patiently endured to obtain the promise of better grass, but the sight of them with their necks stuck out made me smile. As writers, sometimes we have to stick our necks out and become vulnerable to rejection, criticism, and disappointment in order to achieve our goals. All the while, we endure. As one wise counsel once told me, if God has called you to write, don't you dare quit. So, even though I sometimes questioned my own motives, not to mention my own sanity, I stayed the course, not knowing if the gratification of having my work accepted would ever happen. But I wanted to "obtain the promise", so I stuck my neck out trying to grasp all that God had for me, keeping in mind another scripture, also written by Paul: "...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I PRESS TOWARD THE GOAL for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Last month, while attending the national conference of American Christian Fiction Writers, God blessed me when I least expected it. I was awarded a book contract with Barbour Publishing. Even now I am in awe of God's goodness, because it's all about Him. He simply allowed me to go along for the ride. Yes, writing is hard work, but every word I write belongs to HIM, not me.

For several years I have "grazed" in green pastures, continuing along the path where God led, until at some point, I stuck my neck through the fence wanting all that God had for me. However, there is one more critter analogy to present. Along the way, I've entered my writing in contests and picked up a few awards. I allow myself a minute or two to bask in the glow and admire the certificate, and then I stick it in my Dumb Donkey file. And what exactly is a Dumb Donkey file, you may ask? When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and all the people shouted praises to Him and threw palm branches and garments down in front of Him as a demonstration of honor and worship--wouldn't it have been ridiculous for the donkey to think all the shouts of praise were for him? Lord, never let me forget I am just the dumb donkey You have chosen to carry the message.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peeking Around The Curtain

When my sisters and I were children, my parents had a tradition of waiting until we went to bed on Christmas Eve before they put the presents under the tree. Then they hung a sheet across the doorway that led to the living room, so when we came downstairs in the morning, we still couldn't see what was under the tree. My mother insisted we eat breakfast first before she finally said it was time to enter the living room. Sitting at the dining room table, too excited to swallow, but knowing we couldn't go into the living room until we'd eaten was almost more than a 6-year-old could bear. We usually would try to peek around the edge of the sheet when Mom wasn't looking, trying to catch a glimpse of the presents. The anticipation of knowing there was something in there that was mine was beyond delicious. Having to wait a little longer to possess it was excruciating.

Jesus is speaking in the gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 15. He says, "All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." The concept is too precious, too sweet, too glorious to say out loud. I feel like I need to whisper it. Jesus is taking what is His and declaring it to be mine--His strength, His love, His heaven, His eternal life. Oh, the anticipation of knowing it's mine! I just have to wait a little longer before the promise becomes manifest and God allows me to step into glory.

God gives us lots of practice waiting. One of my earliest recollections as child is having to wait my turn at the bathroom door. As we grow we learn to wait for birthdays and Christmas, family vacations, or an much anticipated outing. We wait for our first date, first car, first kiss; wait for the promise of a life mate, and the birth of a first child. I'll never forget waiting for the doctor to make the announcement, "You have a son." I remember the impatience of waiting for the closing on our first house. We've waited for answers to prayer and petitions for God to lead us in the way He wants us to go.

But sometimes the waiting isn't so sweet--waiting with dread for a phone call you know is coming with news you don't want to hear, or waiting by the bedside of a loved one, knowing their final breath will be soon. I've spent time in those kinds of waiting rooms, and every time, I was held in God's loving arms. I was able to walk through those difficult times because of those gifts God has already given to me. Jesus declares that what is His, He gives to me--His provision, His peace, His mercy, His hope, His love, His inheritance. All are gifts I enjoy now. But His ultimate gift--His Home, is one for which I must patiently wait.

We can peek around the edge of the curtain for a far-off look at all that He has for us in glory. But for now, He simply wants us to feast at His table while we wait until it's time to pull away the curtain and enter into all that He has promised. Knowing there is something in heaven that is mine is too awesome for words. Waiting to possess it makes it all the more precious.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Uh Oh, She's Awake

I often receive emails geared to inspire or uplift, or designed to challenge the reader to greater heights of faithfulness. There's nothing wrong with this type of email--the message gives me something to think about and encourages me to persevere in my daily walk with Jesus.

Occasionally, I open my inbox to find one of those emails that tells me I must forward this email to at least ten people and something good will happen to me in 24 hours. Or if I don't hit forward, it infers that I don't love Jesus. I hate those. Maybe it's the stubbornness in me, but I never forward them because I refuse to be manipulated. If people don't know that I love Jesus by the reflection of my life, then telling them in a forwarded email is a pretty pathetic way to communicate it.

I read one this morning however that made me want to pass it on--at least one of the sentences. After several statements about what satan cannot do, because he isn't as powerful as God, there was a word picture at the end that made me sit up and take notice. It said, "Live your life in such a way that every morning when your feet hit the floor, satan says, "Uh oh, she's awake."

This morning, an announcement was made at church that a dear, sweet saint of God went to heaven just a couple of hours earlier. Her name isn't important. What was important about this lady was her quiet faith and her incredible power as a prayer warrior. There are few people on this planet who spent as much time in prayer as she did. She also had a ministry of letter writing. Old-fashioned? Maybe. But when I opened a card from her, sweet blessing washed over me with the knowledge that this dear lady prayed for me. When I heard the news about her Home-going this morning, it made me wonder who is going to take up the slack.

I'll never be a charismatic speaker or inspire great multitudes with the wisdom of my words. Millions of people won't know my name, and I'll never make history in the Christian annuls of time. The only power I possess is the power God gives me through His word, His promises, and His Spirit. So if I want to be one of those people who makes a mark worth remembering, I need to put my heart and soul into learning to be a prayer warrior. Millions of people still won't know my name, and that's okay. I still won't make history, and that's fine. But if I can give satan a bad day because I've learned to pray like a warrior, then praise God. When I get to the point where my fingers can't type out the words of a manuscript, I can no longer work behind the scenes at church, and the strength to do the things I used to do for the Lord has slipped away, I can still use my waking hours to pray. Oh, that God will fill me with His power through prayer, and when my feet hit the floor in the morning, satan will be annoyed and say, "Uh oh, she's awake."

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Remembering. . .

I've wrestled with my thoughts for over three weeks, wanting to publish a special post dedicated to my mom, but struggling over exactly what I wanted to say. Last month, I traveled to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and her family, and to see my mother--one last time.

For the past three years, every time I visit, I've wondered if Mom would remember who I am. Alzheimer's is an insidious disease--stealing tiny pieces of a loved one a little bit at a time. When our son was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, we decided not to tell Mom, because it would have been too difficult for her to remember who Jonathan was. So every time I visited, I stepped into her room at the nursing facility with a bit of trepidation, wondering if this would be the visit when she wouldn't know me. Early in June, the visit that I dreaded happened. No recognition lit her eyes. The disease had robbed her of her speech. A veil seemed to be drawn between us.

My sisters and I spent our visits with Mom talking about "the old days". "Mom, remember the time we went to the beach and we buried Daddy in the sand?" "Remember the time Pam told me to drink vanilla extract because it smelled good?" "Mom, remember the time you tried to fry eggs on the grill and they all slid off?" "Remember the snow coaster slide Daddy built for us, and you rode down the slide with the dog in your lap?" Laughter and tears punctuated our time together. Memory after memory carressed my heart as I shared them with the woman who helped make them. As I knelt by her wheelchair, I started to remember some precious times of my own.

My mother was never idle. When there was work to be done, she plunged into each task with energy. Her smile was given readily. She loved to laugh. Endless patience defined her as she gently guided me through the process of learning to be woman. But I think most of all, I remember my mother's hands--work-worn, gnarled by time, and twisted by arthritis, her hands held mine when I was afraid, they hugged me to celebrate joyous events, held me to soothe away my tears, and applauded for me when she felt I'd accomplished something significant. My mother's hands, by example, taught me how to pray. Those memories are forever etched into my soul. The sweet times we once enjoyed can never be lost--not even to Alzheimer's. All that we love deeply becomes a part of who we are.

Three weeks ago, as I knelt beside her, my mother's fingers wrapped around mine and wouldn't let me go. Did she know who I was? Did she know I was there? I couldn't be sure. But on my last day there, before I left, Mom grasped my hand and pulled my fingers up to her lips. Was she trying to say goodbye? Did she know it was the last time we see each other this side of heaven?

Almost two weeks ago, June 25th, my mother took her last breath and stepped into glory. Oh, how I wish I could have peeked into heaven to witness the reunion with people she loved: my father, her parents and grandparents, her sister, my son.

The tears I've shed haven't been ones of sorrow. Yes, I miss my mother, but I've been missing her--the person she was, the person we've been in the process of losing--for more than five years. Our prayers for my mother were answered exactly as we prayed them. God reached down and gently, sweetly took Mom home. My tears were a demonstration of gratitude, relief, and joy. I'll see her again soon. And the next time I see her, she'll know who I am.

I love you, Mom.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Looking For A Miracle

I could hardly believe my eyes. The other morning, I went out to do some weeding around my roses. My one and only white rose bush (Iceburg) was covered with buds and glorious opening blooms. Every year since I planted it, it's been my most prolific bloomer with clusters of snowy white blossoms cascading over the fence. But this year, I was amazed to see blood red blooms on my white Iceburg rose bush.

Not being an expert on rose horticulture, all I can do is surmise that the bees cross-pollinated my white rose bush from the red ones nearby. Or maybe God just leaned down and kissed those roses to give me a sweet mercydrop.

* * *
Have you ever prayed for a miracle? A specific, God-breathed occurrence so bound in your heart that every prayer you uttered included a petition to see that miracle take place? I did. For eleven years, I prayed that I would see my son come back to Jesus after he turned his back on God and his faith. He'd so hardened his heart, I knew it would take a miraculous touch from God to turn him around. So for eleven years, I begged God to let me live long enough to see "my miracle". Four years ago this week, May 15, 2005, God granted my prayer and I saw my miracle. The joy that burst forth from my heart defies description.

Ephesians 2:13 says, "But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." That's what happened. That was my miracle. My son was far off, but Jesus, in His astonishing and unending love, paid the ransom with His own blood and drew Jonathan back. My praise will never be the same. Seeing the miracle for which I'd begged God for so long changed forever the way I praise and sing to my Lord.

Something that is miraculous to us is not a staggering event to God. No sweat moistens His brow, no complicated logistics cause Him a headache. He doesn't wring His hands with worry over the details. He breathes His miracles into existence.

So the other morning when I saw red roses blooming on my white rose bush, I was astounded, but only for a moment. God can do anything He likes.

Thanks for letting my share my heart.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Open Your Mouth In His Name

As children of God, we are meant to be encouragers. One of the joys of adoption into His family is fellowship with other Christians, as well as the opportunity to reach out to those who've not yet experienced the bonding of their soul with the Savior.

Such an opportunity arose a few days ago. A friend--a wonderful Christian lady-- posted an email, and I could hear her pain and confusion, I could feel the tears that tightened her throat. She was asking some of the same questions I asked when our son, Jonathan was diagnosed with cancer. "Why?" "How can this be?" Back in 2005, I couldn't understand it all when the doctor made his diagnosis, and I asked "Why, God? I don't understand what You're doing. How can it be that my strong, handsome, healthy son is inexplicably stricken with cancer?" At that time, God sent a special friend to minister to my heart and show me God's incredible mercy. Throughout our cancer journey, God taught me new dimensions of His grace that I might not have learned this side of heaven had the doctor's diagnosis been different.

When I read my friend's email, I wanted to be an encourager to her, especially since I'd asked the same kinds of questions she was asking. When Jonathan was faced with his own mortality, he had a great need for healing--not just of his cancer, but of some deep scars on his heart and soul. We asked God for a miracle for Jonathan.

What we didn't understand at the time was God has many ways of healing. When God grants His healing touch, it is absolute. Jonathan was healed of some deep mental and emotional scars that had created roadblocks in his walk with God. We celebrated the breaking of that bondage he was under, but his physical healing was different. In our humanness, we have a finite understanding of the definition of healing. We believe it is freedom from a particular disease or disability. Well, that IS the kind of healing Jonathan received. He is forever free of cancer. He is not in remission. He doesn't have to fear the cancer coming back or resurging somewhere else. He doesn't have to undergo any precautionary treatments. He is HEALED for all eternity. It was an understanding of true healing that we couldn't grasp at first. But I finally realized that none of us are ever truly healed until we step into glory.

God sometimes grants us gifts of earthly healing so we can continue to be used of Him free of the encumbrance or limitations of a disease or disability. Other times, our prayers for healing take a different turn. Sometimes it's God's plan to use the vehicle of disease to work miracles beyond our realm of understanding. In Jonathan's case, God used his cancer to draw people to the same Jesus Jonathan loved. Every time Jonathan opened his mouth in Jesus' name, God was glorified. And God continued to use Jonathan's testimony even after he died.

Every time we open our mouths in His name, we fulfill God's desire for us to be encouragers. Psalm 63 says, "My lips shall praise You, thus will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name...and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips." This is what Jonathan did. He praised God while he lived, he lifted up his hands and his voice in Jesus' name. And he did it with joy regardless of the disease.

God, grant me the opportunity to open my mouth in Your name today.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Making The Old New Again

A friend of mine is in the process of purchasing a 100-year-old house. This thing has three stories and eight bedrooms, and eventually will have something I've always wanted--a gazebo. She sent photos showing the intricate woodwork, unique window casements, and quaint claw-foot bathtubs. There is even a "maid's room" that she has already claimed as her office. My friend has picked out wallpaper and paint colors, and has planned renovations and restorations that will enhance the historical ambiance of this century-old treasure. Making the old new again, but clinging to the history.

What if we treasured the things we learned over the years the way we value antique architecture? When we see a wonderful work of craftsmanship tooled into a house, we admire not only its beauty, but also the skill of the carpenter. Aren't the nuggets of wisdom and experience taught by God's patient hand worthy of praise? These lessons aren't easily caught. Many times God has to carve them into our being, like a craftsman honing a piece of art. God's masterpiece is the life and heart of a servant designed and reclaimed for His glory. Much like my friend's 100-year-old house.

She excitedly emailed her friends and family with pictures of the place, but included descriptions of what needed to be torn out, rebuilt, added on, and changed to make the house what she and her husband want it to be. There are plumbing problems and missing trim work, and the layout of some of the rooms needs to be altered. But the planned repairs and renovations have not dampened her enthusiasm. She is looking forward to plunging into the work.

Along our Christian walk, we sometimes get side-tracked or lazy. Disappointments or wounded feelings can make us bitter, attitudes can become ascerbic or cynical. Disagreements can weight us down and hang baggage around our neck. Sometimes work is substituted for worship, with the inevitable burn-out to follow. We can find ourselves like my friend found this house: old, tired, in need of a loving hand to make the old new again. God desires the same thing for us. He sees the rust and the corrosion from years of wear, ugly attitudes or distractions we've used as excuses to justify straying from our first love--worship and praise offered to our Savior. But before we can return to that first love, God has some repairs and renovations to perform. He tears down the ugly, the worn out, and the ill-constructed additions we've installed. He uses the sandpaper of repentance to uncover the original work He did, then uses His mercy and grace to polish and refine what was once a masterpiece designed by His hand. But he also preserves those experiences we used in a wrong way.

This same friend who is buying the old house once told me that God never wastes a circumstance. God chisels those lessons we misused into the mantle of our lives, but He doesn't intend for us to hold on to the hurt or the inappropriate feelings. Once we give those things over to Him, he sculpts them into an art called wisdom. It would be a sad thing indeed to forget those things we've learned by experience, especially if we repeated the same mistakes. God never assumed we would go through life without making mistakes. His mercy and grace repairs and rennovates the time-worn places and makes them new again, ready to be used.

I hope I can have a small hand in helping my friend make her new, old house bloom into a gentle look over her shoulder into the past. It would be fun to find out who lived in the house and filled those walls with the joys and sorrows of their lives. But wouldn't it be even more precious to look back and see God's hand using the circumstances of out lives to carve His masterpiece?

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Handfuls Of Mercydrops

Sometimes it's so easy to forget God's goodness. When times are tough and the future is uncertain, fear and doubt can loom large--like a hulking shadow or circling buzzards. We fight against the tide of tangible things--unemployment, unpaid bills, broken relationships, health issues, elusive goals. But the intangible can be even more frightening. Loneliness, grief, feelings of inferiority, and disappointment attack the most vulnerable places in our hearts, especially if once-faithful sources of strength and encouragement evaporate like morning mist. We cry out like the psalmist, "How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1)

A few months ago, my husband was laid off. Given today's economy and the unemployment numbers, it wasn't exactly unexpected. Like thousands of others, the jobless status walked into our lives. We just threw ourselves at the foot of the Throne of God and trusted Him to carry us through a difficult time. What we didn't expect, however, was a new job in less than a month. God gave us a miracle, and we were staggered by His goodness, handfuls of mercydrops raining down upon us, each droplet a kiss from God saying, "I know your need. I've not forgotten you."

About three weeks ago, my car started making a very expensive-sounding noise. The ominous clunking sound grated on my nerves every time I turned the key, and all I could think was--this engine is going to blow, it's going to throw a rod. If that was the case, we were faced with a decision, and we only had three choices: have the engine rebuilt ($$$), have a new engine installed ($$$$) or buy a new car ($$$$$$).

I drive a 1997 Toyota Rav4. It has 159,886 miles on it. Was it financially prudent to invest so much money either rebuilding or replacing the engine, especially since the cost of the repairs would most assuredly exceed the resale value of the car? But there is one more thing I didn't mention about this car. It's not really MY car. It was my son's car. When he died, I started driving it. So it's really Jonathan's car. I'm just taking care of it for him. I affectionately named the car "Jarhead" since Jonathan was a Marine. How could I even consider trading his car in and getting something else to drive? Every time I slide in behind the wheel, I can almost catch a whiff of Jonathan's aftershave.

So it wasn't with just a little apprehension I took the car to our favorite mechanic, "Jarhead's doctor", Mr. Ken. I described the noise and left the car in Mr. Ken's capable hands. One the way home, I talked with God. "God?" I said. "Jonathan's car has a problem. I'm not really sure what it is, but You know what I'm afraid it is. You also know how special that car is to me. If it turns out to be the worst case scenario, please help us to find the means to fix it so we can keep Jonathan's car." I needed a mercydrop. No, I needed a whole handful of mercydrops.

Mr. Ken kept the car for two days. When he called me yesterday, he told me he was positive it wasn't a rod, it wasn't anything internal in the engine. In fact, he was fairly certain it was just a spring on the starting motor. Mercydrops began showering down. I raised my face toward heaven and let the droplets splash over me. How good God is to give us exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we ask!

Jarhead is sitting out in the garage with a clean bill of health, a tangible witness of God's goodness and mercy. In the times of drought, when tears fall unbidden, loneliness is my companion, and disappointment shadows my steps, I have only to lift up my head toward heaven. As the prophet Elijah declared in 1st Kings 18:41-- "...there is the sound of abundance of rain." Handfuls of mercydrops, each droplet a kiss from God, saying, "I'm here. I know your need. You are not alone. I'll not forget you or forsake you. It is my delight to bless you."

Thanks for letting me share my heart.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I've Never Seen Tomorrow

I’ve never seen tomorrow. I only have today.

Why is it when our loved ones are gone, we never think "I wish I’d spent more time worrying about tomorrow, or next week, or next year." "If only I’d stressed more about my job." "I wish I'd thrown myself into more activities outside the home." Inevitably, we wish we’d spent more time loving and laughing with that person we miss.

Planning for the future is a wise thing to do. We open savings accounts and 401Ks, we make sure our insurance coverage is adequate and our wills are up to date. We consider where we’d like to be a year from now or five years from now. We consider our spiritual growth and what God desires for our lives. We educate ourselves and our children so we might be successful in whatever unfolds in God’s plan.
As prudent as it is to plan, prepare, and organize, if the planning takes your focus off the things that are most important—family & friends—then I need to take another look at my motives.

I’m a planner, an organizer, a list maker. People roll their eyes at me when I tell them how far in advance I plan for holidays or events. They think I’m obsessive compulsive when I describe how I organize the small details. They’ve even made unkind remarks behind my back about how they think I’m showing off.

But they miss my point altogether.

Throwing myself blindly into the activity of planning or organizing is not my goal. The goal is to unclutter my schedule so I can take time to hold hands with my husband, pet the cat, sit back and gaze at a picture of my son, and reminisce. I can take a day to drive up to the mountains and lean against the same tree my son leaned against and appreciate the view he loved. If the youth group needs a batch of cookies, I can make them. My friend wants to meet for lunch, I’m there. My sister in Christ has a heart-wrenching prayer request? I’m on my knees. I have time. Tomorrow will never be as important as today.

I’ve never seen tomorrow and neither has anyone else. By the time tomorrow arrives, it’s today. So why do we focus so much attention on tomorrow? Take care of today, because tomorrow isn’t a promise. If resolutions are in the making, make this one:
Let all your plans and all your work for tomorrow have one goal: to unclutter tomorrow so you can make a precious memory today.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

(In memory of my son, Sgt. Jonathan Paul Stevens, USMC; 6-22-77 ~ 1-10-06)