Sunday, August 26, 2012

More Than just a Plate of Baked Beans...

     This morning, our Rat Terrier, Lilly, who is 14 years old, woke me up at 1 a.m.  She has trouble holding her bladder and lately she's been waking me about 3 times a night, wanting to go outside.  She's been a faithful companion and watchdog for us so we feel an obligation to take care of her and as the guys like to remind me, I am "mommy" to everyone, including the dogs (!) in the house!
    After letting her out,  it took me a while to go back to sleep and then when the alarm went off this morning, I  turned it off and went right back to sleep and as a result, Phil and I missed Sunday School.  Since I'm the one who usually yells, um, calls our son to get out of bed on Sunday morning, I felt really bad about not getting up and getting us all going. David had to be at work early this afternoon so we already knew he wouldn't be in the worship service and now he wouldn't make it to Sunday School, either.
   But when I checked his room, he was already gone!  He did make it to Sunday School and that, as a mom, is something that I cherish. Even when his decrepit, sleep-deprived parents missed, he still made it.
   Fortunately,  Phil and I made it to worship which was truly a very sweet, very precious time with the Lord and so once again, even though the morning got off to a rocky start, I had something to be thankful for.
   Then I went to Healing Waters in Shannon Hills, where our GED class is held on Wed. nights, and I got to see their food bank in operation.  From what I could tell, they had a handful of dedicated people serving  a fairly large crowd in a short amount of time in the cafe area while others were handing out boxes in an adjacent part of the church, boxes filled with everything from canned goods to frozen chickens to diapers.  As I looked at the people streaming in, asking for a plate of sloppy Joes and baked beans and then showing appreciation for what was basically a simple, but filling meal, all kinds of questions ran through my mind.  Can all these people be out of work?  How many of them know the Lord?  What other problems are they coping with?  How did they reach this place in life?
     And then I think God gently reminded me of a time, 40 years ago, when my mom and I were living in a mobile home in, of all places,  Shannon Hills. I was regularly babysitting on school nights and on Saturdays in order to earn spending money. My mom, after being a stay-at-home mother for almost all of my life, was trying to make it in the work world but her health was so bad at that time that she finally had to give up and wait until UAMS could work her in (since she had no health insurance) for a badly needed, long overdue hysterectomy  which came not too long  after an emergency gallbladder surgery the year before.
    During this time, we went on food stamps, which helped some but didn't provide enough food for the month by any means, and I also transitioned from high school to college where I worked a full forty hour week to supplement my tuition scholarship.  During this time, mom began to hemorrhage and was finally taken in by UAMS on an emergency basis where they had to build her up for a week before they could do the hysterectomy  because she was so weak from blood loss. And during this time, my father took an early retirement and skipped the state so that he would not have to help me with college in any way, shape, form or fashion.
    And during this time, right before Christmas, my mother's Sunday School class handed her a check and a sack full of groceries. At first, we were stunned and also, frankly, embarrassed.  We knew things were tight. (Mom had had the garbage pick-up canceled - you could do that back then; she'd had the phone service canceled; our night-watcher turned off, and the paper stopped.  And she had had to borrow money from my great aunt in order to pay our taxes that fall, a big whopping 40.00 bill which we didn't have and couldn't scrape together even though  we were both very saving with money.  She had also sold some extra furniture that we didn't really need). 
    And so, sometime in December,  we stared at a grocery sack full of canned goods, things like ham, cookies, vegetables as well as  items in plastic bags like rice, flour, brown sugar, etc. And we were humiliated. Honestly.  Our first reaction was shame and for a while, we just left the sack sitting where it was on the kitchen counter, untouched.
    After a while,  we repented of that attitude and asked God to give us a thankful heart, which He did.    And then mom used some of the money that they had given her to go out and buy some plastic Christmas decorations at Sterlings that had been marked down half of half off two weeks before Christmas.  They were cheap and barely made a dent in the money the class gave her but they made Christmas for us that year and I still have some of them. In fact, one of them, a round, red plastic ball with half of it cut away so that you can see a brown plastic deer feeding on flat plastic snow - well, it may not sound so wonderful the way I've described it - but that ornament, chipped though it may be, is still my favorite and it goes on the tree first, before any of the other ornaments. And as I hang it on a fake limb, I remember my mom spreading all our half-of-half off ornaments on the bed and asking me which one was my favorite and I remember how we joyfully sat on her bed and discussed the merits of each design and  which one represented the essence of Christmas to us the most.  And I remember her saying that the one word which described Christmas to her the most was "joy" while I said that the one word I would apply to the season was "light".  And that's why the plastic deer on plastic snow in a plastic, cut-away red globe is the first ornament on my tree every year,  always hanging  in a position of honor, higher than most of my Keepsake Hallmark decorations.
     As I recall, the rest of the money she received went to pay medical bills and we thoroughly enjoyed the extra food that came our way that winter.
     I also remember another time, when she was mostly bedridden for a while, and our television went out.  To this day, I can see a man from our church, Life Line Baptist -  a deacon who limped because he'd had one foot amputated due to diabetes - and I can still see this man, humbly, cheerfully, bringing us a t.v., which meant the world to my mom at that time since about all she could do was watch t.v. or read until her phlebitis went away.  I remember vividly that the man seemed just thankful that he could be of service and I also remember that no one (that I knew of) grumbled about why we wanted such a frivolous thing as a t.v. when there were probably so many other things that we needed.
      So these memories - and others - came back to me this afternoon as I helped ladle barbecue baked beans and some salad onto paper plates for people who were total strangers to me.  People with lined faces, some of them, that spoke of hard living. Others with unlined faces who maybe think that around the next bend in life's road, they'll get what they need - a job, a bit of money laid by, the medical bills paid, the  divorce behind them, whatever it may be.
      I don't know what they were thinking because I don't know their stories.
      And yet, once upon a time, I did.  I knew their stories because I lived through a similar time in my own family life. Way back before I got my degree, before I got a job, before I married, and before I launched a successful career that spanned 31 years.
      And if we had not swallowed our pride back when our need was so great, if we'd not had extra groceries at a critical time, if we'd not had a deacon helping us, if the church had not been there to minster to us - I'm not sure what we would have done -  a teen-aged girl and a divorced, middle-aged, mother whose health had taken a series  of nose-dives in a relative short time just as I was getting ready to go off to college.
      So I didn't just ladle baked beans onto paper plates today.  Or wonder about the strangers who crossed my path for just a few moments while they received the food that the church and the community was providing for them.
      No, I also gave thanks that this time, almost fifty years later, I was on the giving end instead of the receiving end.
       Truly, I am grateful.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What came for you?


     Something came in the mail today.  For me.
     Something that another woman halfway across the world held in her hands, shaped with her fingers, probably while laughing and talking with the other women in her group; maybe even  while shedding a few tears.  Maybe while praying for the one who would receive it.
     The something I received looked like a necklace but really... it wasn't.  I promise. Don't tell anyone but it's true: appearances can be quite  deceiving!    Sooooo... just between you and I, this is what I really received:  one brightly colored, highly visible end  of an invisible, carefully crafted chain that stretches for literally thousands of miles, all the way across an ocean, stretching  from her work-worn hands and heart to my soft, take-it-easy ones.
      She has probably known prostitution and abuse.  I've known tremendous comfort and actually, on many days, longed for more.
    Some day I will see her and I think we'll know each other:)  Instantly.   Talk about joy!!!!    We'll look at each other, my Ugandan sister and I, there  in Heaven and go, "You?!"  "You were the one who purchased my necklace?!"  
   "You were the one who made my necklace?!"
   "So you knew my Savior  back then, too!!  He is awesome!!"
    And maybe we'll laugh and hug and then we'll sit down and share our stories. I can't wait!
    Something eternal came in the mail today.  For me.  From her.
    What came in the mail for you?




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's all relative...

     I know everyone is just waiting to hear about my pet peeves.   So, unwilling to keep you in suspense any longer, here is one to whet your appetite for others that may (or may not) follow.
     It really bugs me to sit in a Bible study and hear every verse about hardship, difficulty, etc turned into a political commentary on how tough it is here in the U.S. because food prices are going up, taxes are going up, this political leader doesn't do this and that political leader won't promise this and how, basically, it is all about us.  I'm sorry, it just does.
    When I read of Christians being crucified in Egypt, of believers in Nigeria being blown to bits while simply attending church, of Christ-followers in Syria coming out of situations that are so frightening they can't even talk about it, I think this is what Jesus was talking about when He admonished us through Hebrews 13:3 to remember the prisoners as if we were in prison with them, being ill-treated (tortured) right there with them since we are also still inhabiting our human tents of flesh as they are.
     In other words, we should be able to identify with them and we should be praying for them. Almost every time I think to ask God to show me what is dear to His heart, He brings to mind the suffering church.  Unfortunately, I don't think to ask Him that very often.... which is "shame on me" for being as insular in my thinking as anyone else, now that I think about it... =/
    Suffering is relative and we all do it.  No one (that I know of) gets off the planet without some suffering time.  (As E.V. Hill used to tell his congregation, "If we don't get some suffering time in here on earth, when are we going to do it?  We won't be able to do it in Heaven...  So when are you going to suffer for the Lord?")  Suffering for the Christian, like the non-Christian, is inevitable.  For the Christian, however, it is not without purpose and can bring great rewards.  But there are degrees of suffering and we here in the US have not hit the top of the persecution-o-meter when we realize a politician has lied to us (again...) and the cost of living is going up (again), etc.
    So, still thinking randomly here and wandering all over the page - will there come a day when we'll be standing (hovering????)   in a long line of sisters and brothers from different races, tongues and tribes, who will stand before the Lamb of God and hear, "Well done for being faithful, even unto death..."  "Well done for carrying on even after burning oil was poured on your feet and still you carried the good news to others... well done."  "Well done for refusing to renounce me through years of imprisonment.. Well done."
    And will we hear those relatives of ours say, "It wasn't enough time to suffer for You, Jesus.   I'd gladly do it again."  "Lord, it was a privilege.  The time in prison went by faster after You taught me to pray for my persecutors as well as for my brothers and sisters back in the West who are in bondage to luxury."  "Lord, thanks for being with me in solitary confinement.  When You released me back into the world, I missed our quiet days together, just You and I."   "Lord, thanks for allowing hardship because that's when I realized I wasn't just shopping Christianity but I was living it."  "Lord, thanks for giving me a platform from which to lead many people to You."
    I'm not trying to minimize suffering here in the West; just sayin' that if you are in a Bible study group with me and we come across  a verse about suffering hardships like a good soldier, please don't start moaning about the price of milk going up or gasoline going through the roof and/or about the crazy  (insane, detrimental) things our government is doing.  I don't like those things either and will moan right along with the best of you on those issues - promise!  Just not in the context of verses about suffering for Jesus' sake.

  By the way, if you have 10 minutes to spare, would you do something for me?  Would you go to the website and listen to  testimony #32?  The man speaks clearly even though he has a slight accent.   If you don't recognize some of the religious terms he uses in the first minute of his talk, hang in there - you won't have any trouble with the rest of it.   Plus he and the others on that website risked their lives to share their stories so you know what they have to say is valuable.  I mean, who else are you going to listen to today (including me!) who can honestly say, "I just had to tell you about this awesome thing that Christ has done for me even if it kills me!!!  Literally...."

Monday, August 20, 2012

REalistically speaking...

     Hmmmm...  I don't like pretense and I can't seem to pretend that I do :)
    I once was in a workshop involving teachers from several districts.  I ended up in a group with a woman who said (more than once) that she couldn't stand clutter, that her kids understood that and kept their rooms clean.  And that at the end of every day, when she made an inspection of her house - once she knew for sure that everything was in it's place, she was fine.  She reiterated this theme and elaborated on it by saying that as long as her house was picked up, she had no worries, no problems, none at all.  Some in the group quizzed her about that:  no worries?? no problems???  But she stuck to her guns: dirty socks in the dirty clothes bin = life is good.
    As I heard her speak, I remembered that joke about denial is not just a river in Egypt...  As she proceeded to tell us how smooth and trouble -free her life was (and had always been), I remember thinking, "You have more than one child. You have at least one kid who is an adolescent.  You are approaching middle age.  You teach full time.  And the biggest problem in your life is making sure that the house is completely tidy before you go to bed??"
   Some things are just hard to believe.
   Most people I know are pretty realistic about the problems and issues that they face in the everyday stress and strain of life.  In fact, this woman's statements stand out in my mind many years later simply because I'd never heard anyone take a stand like that and hold onto it.  Most teachers, at some point in time, will tell you teaching is demanding, kids can get on your nerves, the pay check doesn't always stretch - sometimes it snaps, and dirty socks are usually not at the top of the problem-solving list for each day.  From what I've seen, most teachers are positive, encouraging, and  nurturing but also ...realists.
   What I mean by that is this: they don't go to school singing, "I love that beautiful feeling that I feel when I get together with the State Depts'. wonderful children..."
    And yet, that's exactly what we do sometimes when we cross the threshold of the church - we put on our happy faces and act like our biggest problem in the world is making sure all the socks in the sock drawer match at the end of the day. (Actually, that's a major problem around here!  Or was.. until we discovered Sock Cops...  But that's another blog... Ha!)
    I believe if there is any place where we should be able to go just as we are, without one plea -it should be church.  I don't mean that we should go to church and bombard people with our problems.  But  I do mean that if we are sad, scared, or lonely, we shouldn't feel like we have to go in with a smile pasted on our faces in order to ward off criticism or rejection because we are somehow "lacking"
   I once heard a man share in church how upset he was because his brother had died unexpectedly and his estranged sister-in-law, an avowed atheist, refused to honor her husband's last request - which was to have a Christian funeral. I vividly remember this man standing up in front of about 300 people and saying something like, "I know I shouldn't feel this way but I'm so angry right now I don't know what to do and honestly, if my sister-in-law were to walk in front of my truck right now, the way I feel, I'd run over her."
   Wow... talk about "let's do church".. we did!   Elders and friends gathered around him right then and there and prayed for him, putting themselves, through prayer, under this abnormally heavy burden of grief and anger that he was carrying, fulfilling Galatians  6:2.  The man recovered from his grief in time and was strengthened in his faith.
   Another time, when we attended a small group Bible study that for some reason wanted to stay strictly on the surface of things, I distinctly remember when the group (which ultimately dissolved) failed big time. One lady in our group was going through an unwanted separation and divorce. To complicate things, she had a two-year-old son.  One night we had our Bible study and, as usual, ran out of time for prayer.  So with ten minutes to go before we were to disband for the week, the leader told us:  tonight we're just going to go around the group and voice a sentence prayer of thanksgiving.  Without giving time for anything else, he started to pray when this young woman called out in an anguished voice, "Wait!  Please don't pray yet!  I need..." and here she started sobbing.  She had been served with divorce papers that day and her young son, sensing tension in the home, had been acting out all afternoon, leaving her emotionally drained.
   I've never forgotten those words either - "WAit!  Please don't pray yet!  I need..."
   This woman went on to do well -  but in a different church.
   Many times  I do love the feelings that I feel when I get together with God's wonderful people - but not always.  And  never do I feel comfortable when I think others are faking it until they can make it because they are afraid of rejection.
   Our church does "real" and that's one reason I love it.
   I'm pretty sure Heaven does "real" too and that's one reason I look forward to it -not because all my socks will match, but because all our tears will be acknowledged and wiped away by Jesus' nail-scarred hand, leaving unalloyed joy in our hearts.
    But before the joy,then as now,  there is   the cross, the loss, and the pain.
     And what should be the most hope-filled words ever: "Let's do church."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Christ Over My Fears, Offering Rest Today

     Okay. Our male rat terrier is the biggest coward in the universe.  He acts tough... but he isn't.  He throws himself at the front door, barking furiously - so much so that his feet come off the ground momentarily.  But when we let him out and he actually sees the garbage truck coming down our street, he does an instantaneous u-turn and starts scrabbling frantically at our front door, desperate to get back inside.
    So he's afraid of garbage trucks - if I were his size I would be too.  But flies?  If there is one in the house, he will retreat to the laundry room and hide behind the dryer, completely out of sight.  I guess it's good that he doesn't know that flies have thousands of lenses and can see very well, even during reconnaissance missions through the laundry room...
    He's also afraid of Phil at times.  As the guys say around here, the dogs know who "mommy" is and so when Buddie wants to sleep in our room at night, he will wait until he hears Phil snoring - I'm serious-  and then scratch on the bedroom door, knowing that if he keeps at it long enough, "Mommy" will get out of bed and let him in.  I don't know how many times Phil has awakened and said, "What? Is the dog in here? How'd he get in here?" and as soon as he starts speaking, Buddie hides. (Fortunately, Phil is a sound sleeper and never remembers these monologues).
   And then there are those  times when Buddie is just too lazy to jump on the foot of the bed. So he comes to my side of the bed - never Phil's!  Again, he will tap on the side of the bed or on  my arm with his paw to let me know, "I want a boost up!"  If he does this in the middle of the night, I'm not that nice to him but still...he knows that underneath the choice words I may call him (thankfully he can't speak English), I have a soft heart and so he does this time and time again.  And it works time and time again.
Not our dog... Buddie didn't want to pose
  Yesterday morning, I felt a tap on my arm and I immediately awakened, lifted the dog and started saying soothing things to him. It wasn't that I was thrilled to be awakened by our spoiled canine. It was that as soon as I opened my eyes, I heard tremendous thunder booming and saw eye-popping lightening illuminating everything in our room. Instead of irritation I instantly felt compassion; I know Buddie is literally terrified of storms.  When he is shaking in fear, my heart always goes out to him - I can't help it.  Even in the wee hours of the morning, I want to comfort him.
   And it hit me this morning, could God do any less?  If I, being selfish, can't keep from reaching out to a dog who is afraid, could God keep from reaching out to me, His beloved child, when I am afraid?
   The on-coming garbage trucks in my life may look (and be) huge.  The uneasy fears in my life may twist my gut at night when I can't sleep. The all-out storms of life may leave me shaking from fear.
   Yet I know that the One who said, "Comfort , O comfort my people" (Is. 40:1, II Cor. 1:4-5) meant it and that He is there for me. When I'm in the fetal position, He is there with me because He has promised that once He comes into my life, He will never leave me or forsake me  (Heb. 13:5-6).
   When the flies of "what if" are upsetting me in the middle of the night, I can know that He is at my right hand and as I focus on Him, I can know that I will not be shaken. (Ps. 16:7-8)
    When I am tempted to second guess my future, I can be assured that He will work all things out for my good as I surrender them into His hands.  (Gen. 50:20, Romans 8:28)
    I heard someone once say that our life here on earth is like a dot and eternity is like a never-ending line and I believe that.  The speaker  who explained this finished his talk by asking us, "Which are you living for:  the dot or the line?"  It's a good question.
    Living with my eyes fixed on the dot - which I do a lot - increases my fear exponentially. Always.  What will happen tomorrow? To me? To my kid(s)? To my spouse?  To our possessions, etc.
    Living for the line, reminding myself that countless thousands of Christ followers have gone through trials and come out well on the other side, either here in this brief life or There which truly is forever - that helps.  But having enough sense to crawl out from under my fears and tap on the arm of my Savior - well, there is nothing like an all-powerful,  loving hand reaching out to secure me, to hold me in the dark moments  of life.
   Thank You, Abba.
    Romans 8:18, 26
    II Cor. 4:16-18

If you can't stand, just come out from under your fears and get to Him the best way you can...
Christ Redeems All Worries Literally

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trusting 101

      I know of several families who are going through difficulties right now, not because of anything they have done wrong but because this is just life.  Illnesses come unbidden and unwelcomed and take center place in the home, even when people take every precaution they can - still disease can knock at our door at the most unexpected times.    Hostile bullies exist and they make trouble for those who are just trying to do the right thing, trying to be a blessing to others. If a person is walking the narrow path, they will inevitably encounter opposition.  Some adults struggle with depression and despair  while family stands helplessly by, not knowing what to do.  And then, even in advanced countries,  there are people who, although highly qualified, simply cannot find a good job  while many in third world countries can't find enough food.  As if all this weren't enough, many people live with the faint and not-so-faint sound of war drums in the distance - they live in the shadow of real or impending conflict.  We live in a complicated time. Surely we need to pray and not faint, lifting up our brothers and sisters here and abroad who are in need.
       Right now, I remember what Miss Johnson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship, wrote in her autobiography while she suffered from bone cancer.  (The book was published in Nov. of 1982 and she died in Dec. of 1984.)   She had lived through a lot.  A sister who had a nervous breakdown.  Health issues even before she went to China as a young missionary.  An operation shortly after she got to the mission field that nearly took her life. A second surgery without anesthesia to try to save her from infection.  The trials of learning a new language and a new culture.  And then the advent of civil war followed by the Japanese invasion and  years spent in a concentration camp.
       Finally, in middle age, she came to the States where she began a teaching career that would affect hundreds of thousands and lived to experience the joys and trials of growing older while traveling and speaking, praying and teaching.
      IN her book she wrote these things:
       "Upon  arriving in Shanghai, we found our mission directors making plans for future eventualities of war. So severe was the fighting in the city that the C.I.M.  set up a second headquarters...Life goes on even in the midst of war.  Some parts of nearby Shanghai  were safe, and I was able to take advantage of some free time to do some shopping for dresses.  Shanghai had a good tailor whose unintentionally humorous  advertisement, splashed on his window in big English letters, we all enjoyed:
         LADIES HAVE FITS UPSTAIRS."  (p.   135)
         After WWII took off and she spent almost  three years as a prisoner, during which time the prisoners received one gift - a roll of toilet paper which the prisoners promptly termed "The emperor's Gift" -  she was repatriated back home. On the voyage back home, the boxes she had which contained all her possessions - those were lost on the way. This was, oddly enough, the straw that broke the camel's back.
         She wrote:  "My mother had died while I was in China, and also one of my sisters and my closest friend.   There had been other painful bereavements.  I had been ten years without a furlough, and all I now possessed was in those three lost boxes!  I am ashamed to say that I thought to myself, "I have been in China ten years and nearly three years in internment camp.   I was unconscious and in sick-bay on the last boat, so could not look after my possessions.    Really God, You might have looked  after my precious boxes!" ... I was now Eyore!  I was sore and bitter, resentful and weary.  While everyone else was exclaiming in joy, I was wondering how I would manage when we reached England on November 11!  I knew  it would be bitterly cold.... I would be a "charity case".  This was not how I wanted to return home!  I sulked before the Lord....
         Early next morning about six a.m., I got up to walk across the wards through the large front door, out across the lovely lawns... and down to the ocean's edge.  For almost three years I had not been alone nor been able to pray aloud.  I always felt nearest to God  in the high mountains or by the sea... How good to be alone, to pour out my heart aloud to God in the midst of His exquisite creation.   There was no one to hear except the ocean - and God!  As I looked up to my Father, I remembered  all His tender lovingkindness to me  every day of the internment camp.  It had been rugged... Yet God's lovingkindness was in everything... All my years in China  I had lived by faith in Him, not knowing how the next need would be fulfilled but knowing the complete faithfulness of God.  How could I doubt Him now?"  (p. 160-161)
       After this time of pouring out her heart to Him,  God provided a beautiful winter coat for her in an amazing way and she arrived at home looking like anything but a charity case! In fact a fellow missionary sized up her attire while Miss Johnson was speaking at a meeting  and thought, "Hmmmm. .. where did she get a nice coat like that!"
       To sum up that time in her life, Miss Johnson wrote, "Another point needed to be emphasized.  WE had all feared the suffering of internment, even when we expected it to last for only six months.  Also the circumstances were worse than we anticipated.  There is a certain advantage  in going through calamity and proving that God's compassion is sufficient.  I spoke to an audience that had weathered terrible calamities in England, and I wished to end on a positive note.  Even today as one recognizes the possibility of nuclear war and other catastrophes, to those who have weathered calamity and proved God's compassion something of the fear of the future is gone. In every calamity God has ways of caring for His own."  (p. 164)
      Sometimes life is like a roller coaster and as the cart you are in slowly chugs to the top of this seemingly impossibly high hill, the best thing you can do - really the only thing you can do -  is just hold on and go with the flow, trusting in the ride to get you safely to terra firma again. Which means basically you are trusting in the engineers, although you've never seen them, who designed the ride.
      We all have times when, after we've done the best we can do, we reach the place where we have to relinquish control and trust in the Engineer of our lives, knowing that one way or the other, He will bring us safely through and that at some point we will be able to look back and say, "He was with me all the way."
     I'm not writing this as someone who has mastered this lesson - I still balk at roller coaster rides along with the best of them.  I'm writing this because I believe it is true and right and because I need to keep going back to this lesson myself over and over again.

       This song has been going through my mind this week but I couldn't find a recording I really liked on You tube.  So here are the words.
     Be not dismayed whate'er betide, 
 God will take care of you; 
 beneath his wings of love abide, 
 God will take care of you.

 God will take care of you, 
 through every day, o'er all the way; 
 he will take care of you, 
 God will take care of you.

2. Through days of toil when heart doth fail, 
 God will take care of you; 
 when dangers fierce your path assail, 
 God will take care of you.

3. All you may need he will provide, 
 God will take care of you; 
 nothing you ask will be denied, 
 God will take care of you.

4. No matter what may be the test, 
 God will take care of you;
 lean, weary one, upon his breast, 
 God will take care of you. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Looking around...following behind...

     A person can give me directions... but that doesn't mean I can follow them! I have no internal GPS and on days when I don't feel good or I am deep in thought, I can suddenly realize I'm in Timbucktu when... I meant to be in Cabot...
    I suppose I will have to bow to the "inev" as Bertie Wooster would say, and buy a GPS.  I know the rest of the Western World has them already. But honestly, I'm still trying to figure out how to make my Kindle Fire work.  (Somedays I just long for an electric highlighter that I can hold in my hand.. .sigh... and run over the words I want to shade.  Yellow, blue, pink felt tips that occasionally bleed through the pages...  I miss them!)
    But I digress...
    What I really want is not an impersonal GPS saying "Turn left" but a flesh-and-blood guide.  When I go into a gas station to ask for directions, the words, "I am going that way myself... Just follow me." - although seldom heard - are like music to my lost ears. I want a guide - someone I can see moving ahead of me.
    The same was true in school. Verbal instructions meant little to me.  Written directions were somewhat better. But if there was an example on the page - now you're talking!  (Although why Dick and Jane  seemed so happy to be going to school and talked in such strange sentences:  See Spot run!  Run, Spot, run! - that I never figured out... I mean, why would you tell the dog to run when the poor mutt was already legging it as fast he could?)
    But I digress again...
    It's that kind of a day apparently :)
    My point is this - when Jesus (through Paul) tells us to walk by faith and not by sight and when James tells us to have a faith that works, that doesn't help me a lot. I need to see it in the flesh. I know Jesus  lived it out here on earth.  But He was perfect. Sometimes I just need to see an imperfect fellow traveler faith-walking before me, taking God at His word and living that Word out in daily life.
    Hebrews 11 is exactly that - the examples  on the page - showing what the instructions are trying to tell you. I love that chapter and refer to it frequently.  Coupled with James 2 - the instructions - I pretty much have what I need in order to know how to faith walk through this life.
   But God graciously goes above and beyond by allowing me to see others who are way ahead of me in faith walking.  Parents who have adopted a son who is blind and far behind age-level in motor skills development. They are doing an awesome job.  A couple who have been in ministry for 30 years, opening their home to countless internationals and leading others to do the same.  I'm grateful - truly thankful - to know them.  A young (by my standards!) couple who have served God in various, often difficult locations through music, teaching, counseling and leading by example - and who are now transitioning to an unknown future, trusting Him to continue doing for them what He has done in the past, just this time without a guaranteed salary.  A person whose mobility is sorely limited as time goes by but whose faith soars on the printed page day by day.  Although life appears to be limiting her, it just can't be done. Parents (more than one set) who have turned the loss of a child into an avenue of blessing for many others.  On and on the list goes.
    Walking by faith.  It's there on the printed page, spelled out for me - James 2 (instructions) + Hebrews 11 (how-to examples).  But it's also written in the lives around me.
     As if, on the days when I am standing around looking (and feeling) lost, they are beckoning to me - saying, "Come on! I'm going that way myself!"
    Thanks, guys!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Running along side...

    Jesus is the answer to every problem of the human heart.
    This morning I believe that.
    Just a few evenings ago, I didn't.
    While I was shedding a few tears several  nights ago over some "unanswered" requests, unknown to me,  God was even then  changing at least one circumstance.

    I recently told a friend that if we could visibly see the love of God - if it were something tangible streaming down from Heaven to earth like  rays from the sun -  I felt sure  that  all our conflicts with each other -every single one; all our heartaches -every single one; and  all our faith struggles - yes, every single one beyond question - would simply melt away.  Disappear.  Vanish.

   Wrapped in a blanket of His love, warmth, peace, and joy... how could I hate anyone - even those who have hurt me or my loved ones?  Wrapped in His acceptance, how could I wallow in self-reproach for the wrong things or stupid things  I've done (of which there are plenty...)? Basking in  His overwhelming compassion, how could I question  His motives regarding those mysterious times when  I have asked for all the right reasons  but He has seemingly not given?  

   When someone is running in the Olympics, we know how to cheer them on and encourage them with our words, our tweets, our FB updates,  or even our presence. And we do that because we want to do it. Because it is something that blesses us even as we bless others.  

    Jesus also knows how to encourage His children and He is present even now as I write this,  watching each of  us  run our daily race.  When we stumble, He is there to cheer us on because He wants to be. When we rely more on His Spirit than we ever thought we could and faith it more profoundly than ever before, He rejoices and celebrates with us. When we suffer an injury, He is there to heal us.  When we have pain that goes deeper than any human answers, He is there -  where logic cannot reach - to quiet us with His embrace.

   However  because we do walk by faith and not by sight,  there are those times when we need other runners to come alongside of us and cheer us on as well.  We need them to point us toward the finish line, to remind us to "look up" to our faithful but for now, invisible, God and  to tell us to hang in there!  To remind us that in  returning to Him in quietness and trust we find our strength - if we are only willing. (Isaiah 30:15)

                  Cheering each other on....
That's where I want to be today.



Friday, August 3, 2012


       I once heard our pastor share this story.  At that time, we attended a church that was somewhat secluded, surrounded by trees and water - a really beautiful natural setting.  For days and then weeks, two cars would park on our parking lot, side-by-side, right at lunch time, Monday through Friday, like clockwork.  Immediately,  a woman would hop out of her  car and  join the man   in the other car.  Clearly all they did was eat lunch together but as this continued day after day, the staff began to wonder what was up.
     Finally the senior pastor walked out to the car, knocked on the driver's window and introduced himself.  They seemed happy to  meet him and shared their first names, shook hands, etc.  Then he said something like, "I know this is crazy but I'm wondering... are you guys married?"  They eagerly said yes and held up their ring fingers to show that they were.
     Then he asked them if they were married to each other.  They didn't look quite so eager and   admitted that they weren't - that they were, in fact,  married to other people. Still, they were in love and planned to get a divorce some day so it was okay.
      The pastor told them as nicely as he could that God really wasn't for extra-marital affairs.  They responded by looking at him as if he'd grown two heads or something and at that point, pinned in the "headlights" of their disdainful stares, he said he really wished the heavens would open up and a loud voice would bellow out, "He's right, you know!"
        I think we all have days like that, where we'd like a little more sight-walking and a little less faith-walking -  where what we say is backed up by something so supernatural that it gets everyone's attention and proves that faith is, in fact,  the sensible way to go.
       Right now, I'd like that to happen for a variety of reasons.
       For one, I'm tired of hearing about homosexuals and chickens and hypocrites. I'd really like for a Heavenly voice to sound out on this issue and I really believe if that happened, it would be in line with the first chapters of  Genesis as well as  Romans 1.
       I also believe it would be accompanied by earth attention-getting pronouncements affirming the Biblical stand on gossip, all types of immorality, lying, lusting, cheating, stealing, lack of faith, selfishness,pride, anger, and so on.
       Homosexual, heterosexual - is one group better than another, nicer than another, etc?  Does either group have a monopoly on hypocrisy or sin?    I don't think so. The Bible basically says we are all in the same boat (sin), rowing to the same tune (I, me, my, myself).
      For the Christians who ate chicken yesterday across the nation, this issue is not about hypocrisy or the lack thereof. It's not about chicken or even really about sex. It's about three little words:  The Bible Says...
      Sometimes you have to take a stand for what you believe to be the truth and that's what Dan Cathy did. The rest, as far as I can tell, is verbiage, clutter.
      Do you have the right to take a polite, verbal stand for what you believe is the truth?
      If you don't, then we're all in trouble.