Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sufficient Grace

A couple of months ago I committed to speak to a youth group that would be volunteering at the ACTS4 building this week.
The director, Laura, had sent out an email to see who might be interested in having a part in working with them.
I immediately felt moved to volunteer to, at least, share something with them.
Today was the day.

This week I wondered if I should just be committed.
My energy level is just about zilch and my thinking isn't much better.
If I could have gotten out of the commitment, I would have, but I wasn't about to leave them in a lurch.
So I just lurched in there and did my best.

Really I simply committed the time and effort to Papa.
It wasn't and isn't about me.
It is all about Him.

Yet, how easy it is for our flesh, the human side, to want acceptance and approval of those around us.
I mean really, who wants others, especially people who don't know us, to think poorly of us?

Normally, I am thinking about what I will share many days, if not weeks, in advance and then jot down a brief outline to remind me of the key ideas. When the time comes I am confident of what direction the talk is going and how Papa with fill in the body of that outline.  His grace is always available.
This time I gathered a few thoughts together less than twenty-four hours in advance, which left me feeling a little uneasy.  I was speaking to them about how to approach those who struggle with addiction and so it was a very familiar subject, however, I wasn't certain of what my God really wanted me to focus upon.  All I could do was commit it to the LORD with the prayer that His will be done.  I knew I could trust His grace.

Meanwhile, thoughts kept coming of how ill-prepared I was and how bored the teens would be and what would the youth leaders think??

I arrived at the building and had time to chat briefly with a couple of friends, which put me more at ease;
then the teens arrived and we gathered for our time together.
Once again I felt unsettled, but that went away the moment I opened my mouth.
As usual, I am not sure of all I shared, nor what anyone thought, but felt the peace that Jesus promises.
His grace at work!

Afterward one of the youth leaders, a woman, approached me to share her concern for a neighbor who is an alcoholic.  She asked for prayer for her neighbor and also for herself as she seeks to be a positive force in the woman's life. She said that it was no accident that I shared what I did on this particular day, as a fresh incident had just occurred and I was a help and encouragement to her.

So whether anyone else gained anything from what I shared, I do know one did and that makes it all worthwhile!

Walking with Jesus opens the way to so many opportunities to touch lives.  Actually, it is Him touching others through us.
Years ago I would spend time plotting what I would do and say in any given situation to steer conversations around to Him.
I have learn that what I was doing was pure manipulation, plain and simple.
Now, when I remember to keep it simple and just hang out with Jesus, I find that He stirs hearts without any need of me doing any of the stirring!
Yes, He can work even when my thinking is fuzzy and my body weary!
That's one of His specialties.
His grace is always sufficient!

My heart echoes Pauls' words in Second Corinthians, Chapter Twelve, verse Nine,
"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness."  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Something's Wrong

There seems to be something wrong with my blog.  Viewing it is the problem, which I am sure you have seen...
There are a number of lines that are highlighted in white; I cannot find the help needed to correct this, so if anyone reading this has an answer, please let me know!

I wonder if this blog is simply reflecting its writer's current condition?

For a while I have not felt like myself, not at all!

At least I know what resources to tap to figure out what the problem is and then address it.
Unlike this blog's problem!

We never know what new challenge is going to come our way, do we?
The wonderful thing is that we do know the One who willingly goes through it all with us!

Our God is on His Throne and is the Omniscient One.
Nothing takes Him by surprise.
And all that He allows to come our way has a good purpose.

We often may not be able to see what those purposes are, but we can trust His Loving Hand.

As I promised in my last posting I want to share how He is always poised to bless each one of us, for His compassions are new every morning.

The Eighteenth verse in the Thirtieth chapter of Isaiah caught my attention,
"Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him."
Can't you just see Him on the edge of His seat, as a loving Papa, watching and leading us to all He has for us in any given moment?  It is ours to claim, if only we long for it and Him!

That little boy's hand didn't only pluck my rose, but opened the opportunity for me to hear from my LORD.
He had a few thoughts to share with me.

Yes, I grieved that lovely rose, but it is just a flower, which is not meant to last.  It had just about reached the zenith of its beauty.
Imagine Papa's grief when the beauty He desires to develop in us is hindered?

Yes, that little boy was a bit out of control, which I am sure his mother knew, but would they have needed to hear that from me?
No, it was an opportunity to demonstrate grace, which we all need to experience as much as possible!

So where was the blessing for me?
Well, I got a fresh glimpse into my Savior's heart and the opportunity to let a little more beauty take root in my life!

My journal reflects my response to something I read by Brennan Manning this morning,
"If I have been taken in by the Gospel, then grace will mark my life; its actions and attitudes. 
Yesterday I had a wonderful visit with my friends at the rehab.  Our discussion centered around the truth that "if God is for us, who can be against us?"  We were very engrossed in the topic when one of the older counselors came to inform me, with a disapproving scowl, that I had overstayed my visit and was hindering them from beginning their group session.

Being not up to my usual chipper self, I was taken back for the moment and felt beaten down.
I needed to hold onto the fact that God is for me too!

Later on He used Psalm Sixteen to remind me that He is my portion,
"The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me."
In reading further in that Psalm it tells us of many of the blessings that are wrapped up in our inheritance.

Yes, my heritage is beautiful to me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beautiful Flowers

Isn't it interesting how our brain can connect the dots so quickly and lead us
to a memory that has long been buried?

While driving Ray to the gym I noticed the plethora of Queen Anne's Lace that ran along the roadways.  It is one of my most favorite wildflowers.  Its intricate, delicate design intrigues me.
Their beauty always reminds me of their Creator and causes my heart to rejoice.

Our God is so generous!  He did not need to share so much beauty with us.
Of course, He had to share it because His generosity is motivated by pure love.  His heart couldn't do otherwise.

As I reveled in the greeting of row after row of those glorious wildflowers, a memory from over twenty-five years ago arose out of the memory banks. 

I have never been very successful at growing roses.
Yet, though that statement holds true to this day, there was one exception.
Actually, I think it was the Master Gardener at work, but either way, it was in my garden!

The bush was remaining healthy, which was the first sign of a miracle!
The instructions had said that only one bud would appear at a time and that said bud would take its time opening.  The owner was to enjoy the journey, as every day would hold a new dimension of beauty.
Sounds like a metaphor for life doesn't it?

Well, true to their promise one little bud appeared and thus began the adventure of joining in the journey of this little one.
Every day I would go out to discover what changes had taken place.
First the bud grew in size, day by day and then it began to open.
So very slowly.

It was thick with petals, rich coral colored petals.

One morning it was evident that within a day, two at most, the precious bud would be fully open.
I decided that the following day would be the day that I would cut it and place in a lovely bud vase that I had so I could extend its life a little longer.
It was the heat of summer and I knew that the sun would end its life in no time at all.

Later that day one of our boys had a friend over to play.  It was the first time this little guy was over and I quickly learned that he was not use to being still for even a moment and that he was also use to doing just what he wanted.

Needless to say that I was kept busy during his visit and not a little glad to see his mom arrive!

While she and I chatted for a moment he continued to zig and zag throughout the yard.

I guess one of his zigs took his alongside my rose bush.

Yes, he reached his little, sweaty hand out and plucked the rose.
Just the flower itself.
Sans stem.

He ran up to his mother and tossed her the flower.
Such a casual action.
One repeated often between mothers and their children.
A flower for their mommy.

I grieved that rose the rest of the day.
I can still taste the disappointment of that moment.

Though I would have liked to shriek (and my son was standing with aghast anticipation of just such a reaction) I exercised restraint.

One who was acutely aware that she had received an abundance of grace herself could do nothing else.

Just this morning Papa reminded me how He is always poised to bless each one of us for His compassions are new every morning.
There is a tie between my little story and that truth, but I will save that for the next time I post to this blog!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Choosing Sides

It has been too many days since I visited this blog, but life has a way of using days up at an amazing pace!
We arrived home five days ago and, of course, hit the ground running!
Well, maybe not running...

My honey doesn't run these days and his honey has been worn out.
To be honest I have spent a good bit of my time resting this past week.
And to be even more honest I have been doing quite a lot of resting for many weeks.

Blood tests are scheduled for this week, because this lady has a few issues going on at the moment.

Papa has given me peace and I am resting in Him.

Meanwhile, life does go on and though I have had to pace myself, I am still involved in a few things, as He leads.

It is such a joy to be able to rely upon the Spirit of God to do the leading.
There is definitely a pattern to His leading in my life....

A Christian festival called City Fest was held yesterday.
A number of tents housed different ministries with a variety of offerings for those who attended the festival.
The intend was to be an outreach to those who were in need of a good dose of hope and love.
And it was!

I was able to give a couple of hours in ACTS4's prayer and information tent.
Let me share a sample of who Papa brought across my path.

A woman who loves Jesus and is in recovery.
Her son and one of her daughters are in the grip of addiction right now.
The boy's father is also.
This precious woman has had a struggle staying clean and sober, but has had victory for a few years now.
She is looking for a Bible-believing fellowship that understands the struggle and is able to come alongside her.  That is a tall order.  Not many do understand.
However, it is not too tall for our God!
The two of us spent some time in prayer together and I have committed to ongoing prayer for her.

A young man came along asking for prayer for his entire extended family.  His heart's desire was for them to come to know Jesus as he does.
I was glad to join my heart and voice with his!

Then there was the young woman who desired to experience a foot-washing with prayer.
A bit unsettled at first, she seemed to settle down as I held one foot at a time in my hands and washed it as I lifted her up to the One seated on the Throne.
How Papa blanketed us with His Presence!
It was a very humbling, blessed experience.

I am reminded over and over of the importance of prayer.
It paves the way for all God intends to do.

He calls us to join Him in what He is up to and the joining begins with prayer.
I am convinced of this and that is why I have, what I call, a prayer team.

Each week I send out an update after I visit the rehab.  Those prayers are moving mountains one subtle shift at a time!

This morning I was reading in the Fifth and Sixth Chapters of Joshua.
Joshua was walking near Jericho and most likely reflecting on how to conquer the city, when he spotted
" a man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "'Are you for us or for our adversaries?'"
What was the man's response?  He said,
"No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD."
He was saying that he was not taking sides apart from God's.

Joshua responded by worshiping and asking for his marching orders.  With that it became evident that it was the LORD who was addressing him!

As I read this exchange, I realized that it is each one of us who must choose sides, not God.
We are either on His side or not, not the other way around.
God does not move.

The really cool thing is that when we choose God's side we find that He is for us and that we are now in the company of a great host!

Hebrew tells us that we have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.
I have heard the saying that with God each one of us are a majority.
As I head anywhere I remind myself of this truth.  I am never alone.  I never have to face anything alone, nor do I need to accomplish anything on my own.
I am in a great company!

Part of that company are those who faithfully pave my way with prayer.
And as a member of His great company I also gladly lift my voice in prayer for them too!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great is His Faithfulness!

While traveling to West Virginia with my honey I received a long-awaited phone call to my cell phone.  The call was the culmination of twelve months of communication, which had caused me much frustration and stress.

I know I have mentioned here the battle with my husband's employer regarding charges for benefits.  Each of the past twelve months brought us a bill of differing amounts ranging from a few hundred dollars to four thousand dollars over the basic charges.  I paid the true balance while continuing to petition them to address the problem. Their system was awry, but they seemed unable or unwilling to correct it.

Two months ago they decided to discontinue our medical insurance for nonpayment.  It came down to the wire, but they finally relented.

Last week I finally got them to give me a breakdown of the amount they purported we owed.  I then did my own research and discovered the error which had triggered this ongoing problem.
They were not convinced.

Meanwhile, Papa and I have been wrestling with the whole issue of trust.  Each time I received a bill or call that was upsetting, I would allow it to do just that-upset me.  Then I would bring it to my LORD and "turn it over" to Him.
Just to take it back for the next round.

Last week Papa paved the way for me to hand it all to Him beforehand.  With opportunity for some sweet time at His feet I was in the correct posture and found it easy to leave it all to Him.
So as I entered into the battle afresh, it was from a position of rest.

The result came with the call.  The woman informed me that they had discovered that "You are right."  Three very lovely words to my ears!
Three words that came, I believe, because my God is able.  I just needed to get out of the way.

Previously I had seemed to give the problem to Him, but really was just asking for His stamp of approval for me handling it in my flesh with a thin veneer of Christianity over it (I treated all with kindness, even while seething inside!).

Life brings its challenges on a regular basis.  With each one comes the opportunity to learn more fully how faithful our God is to us.

Recently I had been wondering just how much effect my prayers have on all the details and people that fill my life.

True prayer is where we listen to His Spirit's leading and our heart joins His in agreement.
That happened with the above issue.  I listened and recognized that He was poised to move in hearts for me.

This past week I have had many evidences of answered prayer.  Papa has revealed these to me without me asking, because He knew my heart had been wondering.

Every year, as many of you know, I sit with my Jesus and claim Scriptures to pray for each of my children for the given year.  As I was praying through the selection for our Tim the other day I came across one note alongside a number of claimed verses.
It said "To be a man of integrity".
My heart leaped!

Last Saturday when Timothy spoke at the men's barbecue he opened with an explanation of why he was standing before them to speak on that particular day.  He said that he had agreed to do so and though many, very attractive invitations had come since his accepting, he chose to keep his word because he chooses to be "a man of integrity."

As I realized that my son had claimed for himself that which I had prayed for him, I felt the pleasure of my God and we both rejoiced!

I could list many more evidences that I became aware of just this week, but I want to end soon and go join my West Virginia son for brunch!

One passage that I have claimed for myself seems appropriate to use to close my thoughts.  It is found in the Sixty-Sixth Psalm,
"Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul.  I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue.  If I regarded wickedness in my heart, the LORD would not hear; but certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.  Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, not His loving kindness from me."
Know why He hears my prayers?  Because His Son, Jesus Christ, paid the price for all the wickedness that ever could fill my heart and has made the way into the Holy of Holies where my prayers are not only heard, but answered!

It is my joy to proclaim the Good News of such a faithful God!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

True Freedom

"For you are called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
I have been meditating on these words of Paul's, which are found in the Fifth Chapter of his letter to the Galatians.

What do his words mean?

First, I am not to abuse my freedom.
Yes, I am in His Kingdom and nothing can change that fact, but I need to live accordingly.
To do otherwise is to become "subject again to a yoke of slavery."

Those yokes come in many forms.
One of them for me is the yoke of admiration.

People look up to me.
Some even attempt to put me up on a pedestal, as if I can do no wrong!
I tell them to stick around for a short while and they will witness me falling off said pedestal!

It is tempting to accept such attention.The ego loves it.
The ego is the flesh.

The only way to battle such temptation is to keep one's eyes on the One Who sits on the Throne.
To receive and cultivate the mind of Christ and ask for His heart to become your heart makes that yoke of admiration less attractive.
It is my desire that people would see Him in me and not even notice the One whom He indwells.
Well, at least, not too much.

To allow oneself to be elevated is to rob God of His due.
He alone deserves the honor.

The second thing about this freedom is that I am not to keep it to myself, but to us it to love others.
Truthfully, if we really grasp what we have been given, we will not be able to keep quiet!
I know I can't!

As I was thinking on this an idea came to me.
To share this freedom with one is to share it with many.  For all they know will then be touched.
One person, one home, one street, one neighborhood and on to the ends of the earth!

And to touch another life is to touch Him.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the Twenty-fifth Chapter, fortieth verse, we read Jesus' Words,
"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"
Whenever I read of an account of a woman ministering to Jesus, I think of what a joy it must be to do so.
Well, according to Him, I am free to do just that as often and as many times as I like!

Another thought on this freedom has occurred to me.
Because I am His I am free to be me, fully.
No posing, no people-pleasing; I am free to be comfortable in my own skin wherever I am.

For many years that was a foreign thought to me.
I felt far from comfortable with myself and thus was very ill at ease around others.
I was always in the self-protection mode with tall walls in place.
Walls so high that I couldn't see over them myself!

Encountering the Love of God began a change, a very radical change in me.
Bit by bit Papa's love and acceptance coaxed me out from behind those walls and set me free.

That is the freedom that I love to share!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Grateful Giggles

My funny bone is super-sensitive today.
You might say I am feeling slightly giddy.
Giggles keep rising to the surface and bubbling over.
Then I plop down in exhaustion.

The exhaustion is both physical and emotional.

The sun rose on a new day yesterday and I quickly arose to greet both the sun and the day.
It was to be an extra-special day.  More special than I could have imagined!

My friends from the rehab were coming to the church grounds for a men's barbecue being held just for them.
This is the second annual barbecue and it went off without a hitch.
Well, maybe with a hitch or two, but nothing major!

One such hitch involved the canopy that we set up to shelter the family trio called The Ragamuffins. It attempted to move to the church roof a few times with a little help from the gusts of wind that would suddenly come flying by!
I couldn't help but smile when the musicians would stop mid-song to grab a corner of the canopy before it could get away!  I must say they were quick!
After a couple of those interruptions we found a few pegs to hold it down in spite of the wind!

Thanks to a lot of help from my friends we were able to offer haircuts to the guys, as well as a few gently used items of clothing.
That is not all!
Food and beverage were in plenty and thanks to an anonymous donor the main meal included steak, much to  our guests delight.
The goal was for them to realize that they hold as much value as anyone else.
Especially in Papa's sight and we represent Him!

Midway through our time together we had a special speaker.
A very special speaker.
Our son!

Tim spoke from his heart to the group of twenty, mostly young, men.
Every eye was on him the whole time.
Some were not dry.  Mine especially.

There was no doubt Who put the words in his mouth.
It was the One Who rescued him.

I have worked with this segment of society for many years and have never witnessed such a response before!
To a man they were moved and most were eager to respond when given the opportunity to do so.

Is there a greater joy than to have the privilege of seeing the fruit of praying for your child in such great abundance?!

As he shared I was reminded of where he and our family have come from and with it emotions were stirred up.  Tim told me later that he would not have been able to keep it together if he had looked at me.
It was the first time that I have heard him speak, as he had been hesitant knowing I would cry.  :)

I have booked him for all future barbecues!

Papa had a few lessons for me to learn as I observed how my son presented the Good News.  I am glad to accept them and will happily apply them!

Both Tim and I give God all the glory.  Without Him we could do nothing!!

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him; bless His name.  For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations."*

*Psalm 100:4-5

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One Nation Under God

I pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all. 
Whether the pledge is quoted with the phrase "under God" or not, He alone is the foundation that offers a nation and its people true freedom.
"Now the LORD is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty."* 
"Correct me, O LORD, but with justice; not with Your anger, let You bring me to nothing."**
On this day, the anniversary of our independence, remember to pray for this great nation!

Let Freedom ring!

* 2 Corinthians 4:17
** Jeremiah 10:24

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gospel For Sale

Signs are appearing alongside the road and in front of church buildings.  It is the season for Vacation Bible School!
One sign in particular caught my eye, as I drove past it.  I wasn't certain that I had read it correctly, so I went back to verify what it said.
It was a typical sign advertising an upcoming VBS.  Well, not really....

You see there is a fee to sign your child up for this specific offering.
Twenty-five dollars to be exact!

I guess it was just a matter of time before a congregation would come up with the idea of charging for their services.  After all parents get a little time for themselves while their children attend VBS.

Certainly there are expenses that come with offering such a program.  Congregations budget for it and those who staff the program often dig into their own pockets to be able to make it extra-special.
Money and time are both needed to put together a successful VBS.
While the actual program might last for about three hours each day, the workers spend quite a bit more time than that preparing lessons and material.  Everything else is put on the back burner while one takes part in this outreach.  Most are a week long, while other brave souls hold a two-week VBS!

The rewards far outweigh the cost.
Quite a few years found me taking part in presenting the Good News to fresh young faces.
Many precious children met Jesus before the program ended.  Many still do.

Often the adventure began by gathering up neighborhood kids and bringing them with me and my boys.
I remember one year we pretended that my van had wings and we would swoop and soar our way to the church building.  It went with the theme of that year, which I do not recall.
VBS is fun, fun, fun, but with a purpose.

It gets children thinking about the things of God.  They hear that God loves them and would never leave them.  Many had never heard this before.  Of course, most had heard about God and even knew that Jesus was His Son, but what that was suppose to mean to them, they had no clue!

What price could we ever put on such a privilege?  Charge people who bring their children to hear such Good News?
This brings to mind the picture Matthew draws for us of Jesus in the temple turning over the money changers' tables.
Here's what He had to say to them,
"And He said to them, 'It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a robbers den'."
Jesus loves all children.  Mark shares Jesus' words,
"Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." 
So charge for the opportunity to hear of this love?  Charge and thus hinder some from coming to Him?

God forbid!
I do believe He agrees!