Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Shady Situation

Well, there is one thing that pretty much everyone in Texas is opininated about in one form or the other: the heat. And we certainly have a lot of it in here Texas. (The heat, that is... although we also have a lot of opinions, too!)

I'm one of those weirdos that loves the heat. Give me a good 97 degree day, my bathing suit, a big shade tree, and a little bit of a breeze, and I'm set. Add a pool or the lake to that and I'm in heaven. My youngest boy, Saxon, is the same way... the heat doesn't daunt him a bit. So, he often requests to go on a walk when it is the hottest temperature, during the stillest part of the day.

So, recently, I went ahead and gave in and thought oh, we'll just go on a little walk down the street, take a peek at the cows, and turn around. He apparently had other ideas. We walked to the Christian school down the street from us, wandered around their property checking out rocks and acorns, and then began to return home right about 5:00. You know... that time of day where there is no shade because the angle of the sun manages to dip right under all the trees and is just over all the tops of the houses. So, even I will admit that it. was. hot.

He made it pretty far before stopping and asking in a worn out little voice, "Hold?" So, I picked him up to carry him the rest of the way home. As I carried him, I felt bad that the sun was still beating down on his face, so I tried to angle myself in a way that would block at least some of the sunbeams from his face. Sure, it was his "fault" that we were out on this walk, but nonetheless... I love him and I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible in this not-so-shady situation. And I tell ya... the spiritual truth of that moment poured over me the way I wish a big ol rainstorm would at that moment.

This is what God does for me.

So many times I have gotten myself in a "hot" situation, and He has shaded me from the full heat of the blast. So many times I have felt that the consequences of my actions were so difficult that my soul was going to spontaneously combust into an explosion worthy of the 4th of July... but it didn't. So many times I have felt that I didn't get the full consequences of some choice that I made... and although I could feel that burning shame, it did not consume me.

And now I can picture myself, walking along in the spiritual realm, with my God walking alongside of me, angling himself so that the full heat of sin did not burn me. Looking down at me with a mix of pity and love. Protecting me from the wiles of Satan as he tries yet again to incinerate my heart. 

And God does all of this... Because He loves me. Because He cares for me. Because He protects me.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:19-23

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Be Amazed

“Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." -Habakkuk 1:5

Like so many others in our world today, I have wounds from my biological father. Deep emotional scars remind me of a fatherless past wrapped in loneliness and despair. When I was just a girl, after years of emotional abuse, my Dad chose to leave his post of fatherhood. Statistically, I am not suppose to have the life that I lead. Rather than being a happily married woman with a stable home and  three well adjusted children, my life should be a cautionary tale. But that was not my fate. Even before I knew how to pray, the LORD sheltered me with His presence. And as I strived to find my way, God's amazing love led me to a new life with the man I now call my husband.

My story is, unfortunately, not an exception in today's culture. Far too many of us have experienced hurt and pain as a result of actions by an broken earthly father. The LORD gives fathers a unique privilege in His divine plan for the family. It is a  father that initially points his children to God's love. It is a father who models servant leadership and sacrifice. It is a father who protects and provides for his family. To be sure, a good father is dangerous to the enemy and his schemes to destroy mankind. Therefore, the enemy spends considerable time attacking fathers and their children.

In my lifetime, the enemy's assault on fatherhood has been fairly successful. Statistics are sobering regarding the number of children growing up in our country without a father. To be sure, fathers today face tough challenges and must overcome many temptations and distractions if they are to fulfil their God given responsibilities to their families. Unfortunately, many fail and leave it all behind. Consequently, their children are left exposed to the vicious lies of the enemy. Lies designed to act as venom to a young spirit. "You are unlovable. Unwanted. A burden." All are wicked lies straight from the depths of Hell. Truth, found in the scriptures, tells us that God is a Father to the fatherless. (Psalm 68:5). Even in our most difficult circumstances, we have a Heavenly Father who calls us His (Romans 8:17) and promises to never forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Where man fails, God prevails. That is especially true in regards to God's children. As a girl, I would quietly sit and dream about the man with whom I would one day start a family. Loving. Trustworthy. Gentle. Protective. Tender. Good. A man with whom our home could be a sanctuary. The qualities I sought for the father of my children were not that extraordinary, but I secretly wondered if anyone could possibly possess them all.  For almost twenty years, I have had the awesome privilege of sharing my life with a man among men.  Because God did something new in my life, I have the love of an honorable man and my children have a wonderful father.

Still, at times, I feel a bit sad that the man God chose to be my biological Dad simply threw away his opportunity to be part of my life. I bear my father no ill will. I understand that he made his choices with the emotional skills that he had at the time. Long ago, I made the decision to forgive him for the pain his shortcomings caused in my life. After all, faith and unforgiveness cannot dwell in the same heart. Still, Father's Day is a bit bittersweet, as part of me grieves for the father/daughter relationship that will never be.

This past Sunday, on Father's Day, that all changed. In a single unexpected moment, God turned a day of loss into one of gain. Our pastor asked the men in our congregation to stand if they were prepared to "man up" and lead their families with God fearing strength, integrity, and character. My sweet husband was one of the first to stand. That was no surprise to me, for that is exactly the man I know him to be. However, I did not expect my fourteen year old son to stand almost as quickly.

For the rest of my days, I will remember the glorious sound of my husband and teenage son pledging in unison to lead their families with God given courage and faith. Truly, the desperate prayer uttered long ago by a broken and desperate little girl received a double blessing.The LORD,  in His goodness, placed not just one godly man in my midst, but TWO! As a girl, I prayed for God to change my father's heart. When things only got worse, I cried, "How long,  O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" (Habakkuk 1:2) But things were not as they appeared. Like every good Father, the LORD refused to give me anything less than His very best.

In that sanctuary on Father's Day, my heart heard God whisper, "I answered your prayers, dear child. Out of the ashes and ruin you gave me, I made something new and it's all for you. It's my best for you."  HIS best. It's more glorious than anything I could have imagined for myself when I was a child. Never before have I been more amazed by my Heavenly Father's great love for me.

Today, in whatever challenges you are facing, be mindful of whose you are. Remember that you are a child of God and that He is for you. He has not forgotten you or His plans for your life. Sit in His presence. Give Him your heart. Take in His love and acceptance and believe it is unconditional. Trust in His care and provision. And know, in His perfect timing, the LORD will do something truly amazing simply because He is God and you belong to Him. Draw near to your Heavenly Father, dear one, and be amazed.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quiet Time

Quiet Time

Before I became a Mommy, I didn’t always use my time efficiently.  I did lots of good stuff…just never really spent a lot of time alone with the Lord.  I mean…any time I am alone, I am alone with the Lord.  And I knew that, but it wasn’t really intentional.  Now…I would give my left arm for more time alone with the Lord! 
Even when I was Mommy to one…I spent time journaling and praying.  I had my coffee and devotional.  I got to really enjoy that intimacy with Him. 
Now with two kids…well…I just don’t get it.  I realize I haven’t had my coffee yet when my caffeine – withdrawl headache kicks in at noon.  I eat my breakfast in a hurry.  I potty with company.  I dress with an audience.  I shower with many interruptions.  There is hardly ANY alone time.  And often…at the end of the day…when the (amazing, wonderful, blessings from God) children are in bed…I stare at the wall exhausted.  Or I want to do something to keep my mind from thinking at all – like watch a movie. 
This has started to REALLY bother me…so I set out to make a change.  I decided that I WOULD make time like I used to…time alone with my creator!  So…I did.  I got the kids occupied with a movie and got all my stuff ready…sat down…deep breath…open the book…and can you guess what happened???  Mmmmm Hmmmm….the kids went CRAZY!  There was fighting and yelling, and toys being thrown.  There was lots going on – none of which involved me and what I had planned.  After several times trying…I gave up.
Well, I kinda gave up.  I had Gracie sit in her bean bag.  And I had Owen sit in his.  I sat on the couch.  And I used what I learned from my counselor friends!  I had each of them take turns praying and then I prayed.  It didn’t take half an hour…but it was time with the Lord.
It was enough to get me through the day anyway.  And I just reminded myself that this is a season in my life.  There will be a time again where I can have my peaceful, quiet, beautiful coffee breaks with Him.  Being all upset and frustrated that that time isn’t now…isn’t helping anything. 
We pray together every day now.  Gracie takes even days and Owen takes odd days to determine who starts first (another suggestions from my counselor), so there isn’t any fighting over that.  And they get to hear their Mommy pray – which can only be good.  I also remind myself through out the day to pray and get little moments with God.  I have scripture posted around the house so I remember to read it.  And I don’t beat myself up about it anymore.  I am pretty sure God wasn’t very happy about that anyway!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Just One

*This was written in October 2011 but was never published on this blog....

Have you ever thought about how much God loves each one of us? How He goes out of His way to make Himself known to every person? How He sent His Son just for you?

For Believers, I think we all understand on some level that He cares about each of us individually, but God has been speaking so clearly to me about it in the past few days. In BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), we talked about how in Acts 8 God sent Philip specifically down a certain road to meet up with an Ethiopian eunuch in order to help him understand what he was reading so that he might know and be saved. As I thought about it, I was reminded that God is a personal God--He cared so much about that one person that he changed someone's path so that they could meet.

I've also been thinking about our friends who received the referral for their adoption this past week. Their daughter-to-be is 13.5 months old. They had been on the wait list 16.5 months, so they were put on the list 3 months before she was born. If the adoption process hadn't slowed so dramatically, she wouldn't have been placed with them because their minimum age requirement is 13 months. But God knew. He knew that she was to become their daughter, and He worked it out in His perfect timing. He cares about their family, and he knows that this little girl belongs in their family.

I have also thought back to my first trip to South Africa. On that trip, I was sick a lot, I barely had a voice, and at times I wondered exactly why God sent me. And then, near the end of the trip, we watched the Jesus film, and I was able to pray with a girl to receive Christ. He placed me in the exact spot at the exact moment when I needed to see a girl whose heart had seemed hardened suddenly become broken as she watched the movie show what Christ had done for us--for her. And I had the privilege of being there when a girl's life was changed--because God cared so much about her.

I know that God is the God of the Universe, and I can't even begin to fathom how He keeps track of us all,--other than to say that He's God and He just can--but He is more than just this guy up somewhere watching it all play out. He CARES about us. He goes out of His way to show us who He is and how important we are to Him.

He cares about you as you cry yourself to sleep. He care about you as you celebrate your victories. He cares about you as you wonder how you could've ever fallen so far. He cares about you when you wonder if He's real. He cares about you--no matter what. And even more, He LOVES you. And He loves me.

The God of the Universe sent His One and Only Son to die on a cross so that we might live. You see Jesus died, but He didn't stay dead. On the third day He rose again, and He did it all for you. He did it for me. He loves and cares for each one of us.

As our pastor said recently, Jesus + nothing = everything. Jesus is more than enough. Do you know Him? I promise you, He is worth the risk. And He wants a relationship with you. Every one of you. Will you give Him a chance?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Some Gave All

I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit the American Military Cemetery in Colleville, France on Omaha Beach.  It was an AMAZING experience, to say the least, and much more emotionally overwhelming than I though it would be.
As a little background, the cemetery is located just above the beach where the American forces landed on D-Day (June 6, 1944) at the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.  There were thousands of men that died that day on the beaches.  Many of them were in their early 20s, one (who had lied about his age) was 15 years old.  The cemetery has almost 10,000 graves of those soldiers that gave their lives from June 6, 1944 and the following 11 or so months.
As I walked through the cemetery, I was overwhelmed at the price that was paid for my freedom.  So many men, willingly gave their lives, so that I could live the life I live today.  My life would be so different if the Nazis had remained in power and continued their rule.

This is also the same price my beloved Christ paid for me.  His death on the cross, was the ultimate price for my freedom as well.  He gave me freedom from my sins, so I can live in freedom today.  Again, my life would be so different if sin continued to rule my life.  I only pray that I would recognize this daily and be overwhelmed by the sacrifice He made for me.  It was not a sacrifice that was made lightly and may we all remember the cost.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trust and Obey

Returning to an old hymn today. Last Sunday, this was our theme in KidzWorship. Trust and Obey. 

As often happens, our motions included the sign language for "trust" and "obey." With three different songs on the same subject matter, we did those motions a lot, and I started wondering why. 

Why is this the sign for trust? 
Why is this the sign for obey?

So, trust is like you are grabbing a life line, a rope and holding on to it. The illustration doesn't show it, but we do this motion right over our heart.

For obey, you are making an o at your forehead, then a b as you reach up to heaven.

An interesting truth there. Trust comes from your heart. Obedience is a choice you make in your mind. Neither comes naturally or easily. Both have to be learned and practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

On Trust ...
Psalm 28:7
New International Version (NIV)
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

On Obedience ...
John 14:23-24
New International Version (NIV)
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

On both ...
Isaiah 50:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.

And the song that started this whole thought process ... lyrics by John H. Sammis

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

I have been singing this song in church since before I could see over the back of the pew. My Dad was the music minister at the church I grew up in, and this must have been one of his favorites because I remember singing it often, probably 1st, 2nd and last verse. 

But today, how that 3rd verse grabs my heart. Not a burden, not a sorrow, not a grief, not a loss, not a frown, not a cross goes unblessed if ... IF ... we TRUST and OBEY.

Do you trust God? Will you obey Him?

I'm gonna ask one more time. 

Do you trust God with everything? Will you obey Him in all things?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Inadequacy and Fear

Several Sunday's ago Pastor Lee spoke on the topic of fear. There isn't a person alive that hasn't struggled with fear. In his message he asked us to reflect on our own personal fears. Did you take the time to figure out what fears may be holding you back from being all God wants you to be?

One issue I deal with is the feeling of inadequacy. This surfaces as a fear of failure. Often this will keep me from trying new things, and I know I miss opportunities for God to use me. I remind myself that God used people like Moses. Moses became afraid because of a feeling of inadequacy. We all know how mightily God ended up using him. In fact, I remind myself that MOST people God used felt inadequate. It's like a prerequisite. The whole reason that fear can become a temptation in our life is because God often calls us to perform in areas where we don't feel good enough. It is one way he can use us for his glory. He won't ever forsake us in these moments where we must step out in faith. His glory is at stake. Our feelings of inadequacy do not need to surface as fear!

Moses didn't miraculously become eloquent when God began to use him. I don't think he ever did become that way. God enlisted Aaron to help him! What happened was Moses allowed God to use him in spite of his inadequacy. He overcame the fear and trusted God.

I know if I just step out in faith in those instances when I feel afraid because I am not good enough, yet still feel the Holy Spirit urging me, that God will give me the ability to succeed. He will do the same for you.

The next time fear wants to cripple you,  recall the promises of God. In 1 Peter 5:7 the Bible says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." We are also told that with the help of Christ we can do everything he calls us to do. And lastly, here are some words from the psalmist."I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold...In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall." Psalm 18:1-2, 29