Beautiful Love of God Through A Beautiful Human Heart

A woman I have never met face to face but has been a part of my life for almost a decade has said her goodbyes to family. She is currently in a nursing home and from all accounts may be nearing the end of her life. Her daughter is posting updates and each one breaks my heart.  We met online in a blogging community that started on MSN Spaces. I began blogging in mid-2006 and it would be a year or more before I would meet Nita.  MSN closed their blogging portion down in late 2010 and several of us migrated over to WordPress or Blogger but most of us ended up on Facebook. Those of us who were regulars in our blogging circle eventually found each other over on Facebook and began following one another. Facebook was a whole other ball of wax. It was not as intimate or blogger friendly and had to keep your posts short and sweet. We also got to see more of each other, picture wise!

pic1-a47When we were on MSN Spaces we each had our own approach to sharing bits and pieces of our lives and those crazy words that run through our minds, especially in the middle of the night. We were somewhat masked over there on our blogs. We could pretty much write what we wanted, post the pictures we wanted without much interference except for the occasional comments left by our counterpart bloggers. Those were the ones we made friends with and frequented their spaces to see what they were thinking that day or experiences they wanted to share or a memory from the past. Sometimes a funny story or maybe a sad story and I think there were a ‘vent’ or two.

Several of us shared some painful days on there, loneliness, the celebrations in our lives or a stirring from some inspiration. Many of us had faith in Jesus Christ in common. Some of us had, single parenting in common and some were just very talented, interesting writers.

1One such friend, I found was Nita. She and her daughter were both on there. I found a kindred spirit in Nita. She was from across the pond, England. She was a mother, grandmother, and sweet lady with a heart for the Lord and loved her children and grandchildren fiercely. How do I know this? From her correspondence and her many comments left on my site.  I found her comments endearing and so very encouraging. I came to know her daughter, Amanda, as well. I remember it was about the time I was becoming a grandmother for the first time and it was a precious thing to share with others, with her. She loves being a grandmother and it showed in her posts, pictures, and comments.

As I was reading the latest Facebook post about her status I thought back to when I first met her online. It all seems a lifetime ago, spending time writing words, sharing lives in cyberspace. To me, it was a Godsend. It brought me out of isolation and gave me a place to find some healing.  To journal out loud so to speak. I was fortunate to find others who were encouraging and kind.  Each one of them impacted my life in such a way that restored my faith in humanity. If that sounds cheesy well so be it. When you have been disappointed and damaged by another human you tend to withdraw from others. I did not want to be that person. Bitter and isolated from life, from the world. So I reached out. And she did too.

Nita was one of those humans.  Even though we never met face to face, we both said we would meet in heaven someday. Both of us were heartbroken that they were shutting down MSN Spaces because of the connections we had made with the circle of ‘humans.’  She always had words of encouragement and always left something to let me know she was ‘listening.’ But more importantly, we were communicating and fellowshipping across thousands of miles, across an ocean in between us.  How amazing is God to give us friends from so far away?

One day I wrote a post called “Filler’ Up,” it was about the guilt you feel in the choices you make as a parent and experiencing pain and regret so deep you can’t even breathe. God gave me the verse Jeremiah 17:8 that encouraged me in my faith. I was inspired to share it with others on my blog. Nita’s comment humbled me in that what I was going through I was not alone and God allowed both of us to see that and praise Him together.

“hi shell, as so often, I can relate to much of your blog. I needed to read that scripture this morning, so thank you – I have many things to be anxious about, children, grandchildren, my own health, where our place of worship should be.  I could go on, but I won’t, I prayed and tried to put it all in a carrier bag this morning and leave it at the foot of the cross. So from one anxious inadequate guilty feeling mother, grandmother, child of God, too, it seems another – OVER TO YOU LORD- God bless you and yours – nita.” – September 30, 2010, Comment on Filler’ Up

After all isn’t that what we needed. To agree to see God in the midst? To confirm that we both needed to turn it over to God? To let Him lead us in our lives as mothers and grandmothers? God did not create us to be islands. Isolated and off on our own. He created us to be in fellowship with Him and with others. He gave us holes in our hearts that only He could fill. And sometimes He uses others to help fill those needs. To be needed and to be wanted. To be of use, to have a purpose. He created us for love. To love and be loved. Make no mistake we are to go to Him first for those very things. And once we do He fills them. And I think in some cases He fills them with a kind word from a stranger or sweet comment from a fellow blogger!

“ The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

 Zephaniah 3:17 

On another blog, she commented that she was excited about the journey ahead in her life, though a little worried too, aren’t we all? What she said told me our experiences are universal. When we take time to share them with others we move them to think about their life in light of the scripture or the truth in it. She gave me an insight into her heart. She encouraged me by revealing her willingness to have faith in her day to day walk with Jesus. Which by her words was very real and exciting.

“All the detours, roadblocks or roadside emergencies are necessary for us to appreciate the actual destination.” – somehow, Shell, that sentence stands out to me most from your blog – I am feeling tonight that on my journey with the lord, all the detours and roadblocks and the endless roadside emergencies have been necessary – as will be the ones still to come, for me to appreciate the actual destination. Please, keep blogging about your journey, I for one always appreciate your blogs – I will also try to put mine into words. Tonight I feel excited too, if a certain trepidation, but Jesus travels with us, before, with and in front – what a marvelous thought.”  – May 2, 2010, comment on An Unexpected Trip

One of the things I miss about our blogging community was the intimacy with which we could discuss the thoughts or our insights. There were times when life would stop for a few minutes, in the night, when the loneliness was overwhelming, you could turn on the computer, go to your blog and read the comments left by someone who had spent time with your words. It provoked a thought or an emotion in them and in return they would leave a gift, a comment about what touched them or what they saw from their side of the life. And that, for me, was priceless. And they won’t even know how healing that was for me. I share that now because I wished I had shared that then.

I had written a post about Easter and the week leading up to that day. My life had gotten so busy and so full of the ‘cares of this world’ that I had not stopped to think about what we were going to celebrate. Nita had read it…she wrote several different comments on that one so I knew something spoke to her…and I can’t help think about the journey she will take soon…and her words from one of those comments echo what I know is in her heart but she cannot currently say…

“I have been left feeling this Easter that I just cannot fully comprehend, the incredible, the indescribable price my Savior paid for my sins on that cross – I cannot fully comprehend the room he has secured for me in heaven, with no more tears, no more pain. I cannot seem to get my mind off of circumstances and self-comfort and onto Him and have faith and realize that we are in a battle (well I do realize that) and we are fighting from victory, not to victory,  but with his help, I will!” nita  – April 3, 2010, comment Step He took To The Tomb

Did you catch that? “We are in a battle and we are fighting FROM victory, not to victory!” Wow! She gave me the truth right there and that my friend was a gift straight to my heart that night! And can I tell you that God makes no mistakes in whom He brings into our lives. If you need encouragement, a friend to help you stand against the battle or if you need to hear a word ‘fitly spoken’ to lift you out of your pit, He can and will bring ‘humans with skin on’ into your realm.  Or He will use a laptop computer and blog.

Having prayed for Nita this past year, I selfishly prayed I could talk with her and let her know what a blessing it has been to have her in my life, even if it has been from afar, by computer only. What a privilege it has been to see her pictures and hear stories about her life and family. And to be able to see God do some amazing things in their lives. I hope she knows she is loved by so many. So many are praying for her and posting their love for her!  And that she is woven into my memories, my story.

In her words from one of her first comments to me, “We have Jesus to hold our hand and the Holy Spirit to light our way,” here is the context…

“hi shell, wise words, as I read them it reminded me among other things to watch my tongue, sometimes it gets the better of me, also I am sometimes judgmental, or appear that way, without really meaning to – it is a journey, full of pitfalls and mountains and as a friend of mine would say, learning curves – praise God, we have Jesus to hold our hand and the Holy Spirit to light our way – God bless – nita”  – August 30, 2007, comment on Words, We All Have Them

What a great encourager and a sweet friend.

god-heartWhile I can’t sing it and they would not want me to, I dedicate the words to this song to her and her family. May God give Nita peace and comfort, may He wrap his arms around her loved ones! Thank you, Nita, for all your words of love, wisdom, and encouragement to all of us!

Lyrics for You Are My God by Nicol Sponberg

Breathe in breathe out

That’s all that I can do now

Hold on somehow

My world has come crashing down

And I cannot understand

How this could be your heart

Still I’m lifting trembling hands

Help me trust in who you are

 

You are my God

Here in the darkness in the night

You have never left my side

You are my God

Even when I can’t see your face

I know I’m held in your embrace

You are my God

 

I’m weak I’m torn

My tears like rain fall to the floor

But peace my Lord

You have whispered in this storm

And this is still your plan

That you would have my heart

Help me rest in who you are

 

You are my God

Here in the darkness in the night

You have never left my side

You are my God

Even when I can’t see your face

I know I’m held in your embrace

You are my God

 

Where else can I go

And who else can I turn to

Your word is eternal life

And I’m not letting go

I’m holding on to you

 

You are my God

Here in the darkness in the night

You have never left my side

You are my God

 

Greater than all the world combined

Let everything else be left behind

You are my God

 

I long to be lost in your embrace

I’m turning my eyes up to your face

You are my God

 

 

 

Rose-Colored Racism

In the beginning of a new year, one usually reflects on the outgoing year. If it was a bad year you are probably likely to say “good riddens” and if it was a good year you might linger on all the good moments with tinge of sadness to say goodbye.  For me 2015 was for the most part peaceful.  At least personally.  But out in the world, is another story.  The events of the year stirred me.  Stirred up feelings and emotions I hadn’t really explored before. It also stirred up memories.

And so this is the stirring.

In truth the race relation conversation (if you can call what we have seen in the media a conversation) have caused memories to well up within me and through these memories I see somewhat of a different world than the one I have seen in images and scenes splashed across our television and internet. I am at times perplexed by what I read and what I know to be true in my life.

When I look into the mirror the reflection does not always match what I feel inside. It is the same when I look at our world through the reflection of society.  It does not match up with what I know personally. My own understanding of world events, politics and culture come only through my experience and knowledge.

Any further understanding comes through the Lord.  It is almost as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says,

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

foggy_mirror_

Throughout the chapter he is describing what love is and what love isn’t. He then says ‘it is time to grow up and put away childish things,’ he adds that even in the growing up we will never reach the place of full understanding until we stand before the Lord, Jesus, Himself. We see our reflection of who we were as children, who we are now, as adults, but when we stand before Him our reflection will be Him, in all His glory.

That is what we were made for, to reflect His glory!

I long for that day if only to escape the discouragement and ache I feel sometimes here on earth. But then I am undone and overwhelmed by the thought that I may not be ready to stand before Him.

And oh, I so want to be ready.

These days in which we live can be so disconcerting for people on many levels. For me, the events of the world stir my heart with so many emotions I can’t seem to sort them out. I want to talk about it but the words just sit there waiting to be organized into some sort of cohesive thought. I do not want to speak just to be speaking or add to the overabundance of voices. The internet and television are so full of the noise of opinions and social ramblings, it makes me want to scream!

However, my heart is a stirring.

The one certainty patiently holding fast within my heart and mind, is the God of the Bible, Elohim, still sits on the throne.

It is to Him I speak in prayer, “God give me wisdom and understanding in the days ahead, show me the reflection of my life. What it has been and what it is now.  Show me what it should be for You!”

Maybe that is the stirring.

This stirring goes back to what my life has been.  Back to when I was a child living in America where I was learning about people. Who they were, how they were and what they were.   I saw divisions but didn’t understand them.  What I saw and what I lived did not always match the narrative of the world around me. In my earliest memories my world was framed in a small family of four. White people living in a world trying to color itself. Psychedelic, that is. Tie dye, beads and hippies. I guess that is why I love all colors now! I remember there were important people trying to bring the colors of people together! But it is vague because I was very young.

One of the colors of people I learned about was black or “colored people” referred to by older folks in my day but today it is “African American” and sometimes I am at a loss as to which to say. We have to be PC but how do you know who to be PC with? Never in a million years would I want to hurt someone’s feelings so I guess the best way to go about it is to ask. Is it even PC to ask? It’s all so vexing because when I interact with a person of color (pick one) I often do not see the color.  I see a soul that God created. Some are sweet, some are soulful, some or joyful and then there are those that are just not nice.  I have no idea what is going on in their life or heart. And so in my heart I am praying for them, wanting them to find the joy and peace that God gives. For me it is about their soul not their skin color!

As a little girl the subject of ‘colored people’ came up in conversation among the adults but I seemed to not be interested in what they were talking about because they were not speaking ugly, they were just discussing, I suppose, about the events of those days, the news!

It is true that pictures are powerful.  Especially when it came to war, protest and riots.  It was all mixed together. The black and white thing. On a black and white television for the world to see. I think, as a child, I didn’t see the significance because I was too busy being a child doing childish things but now I think back I realize that many of the people on TV were white. It did not occur to me to consider what it meant for a black child watching TV and not seeing their color represented in the daily entertainment.

As I got older I was under the notion that America was growing up as I was growing up.   In my life I was in places where I did not see much hatred or discrimination among black and white people. Yes, I read books and saw movies about it and understood it existed but again what went on around me did not match what I saw.

Maybe I did see it firsthand but did not recognize it because of my lack of experience with such emotion as hatred. Which is a credit to my parents. I saw some in elementary school coming from both sides but not so much of it that I could draw any conclusions about superiority of one race over another. It just never crossed my mind that ‘we’ were better or ‘they’ were better.  I just know I longed for ‘unity’ in those situations and at the time I did not even fully understand that word.

I remember as a young girl, my mother worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis. It was a factory. She worked with several black women who became her friends. One of her friends had a little girl who was a little younger than I and a little older than my sister.  I remember playing with her at her house. She would come to our house and play in our room where our toys were.  We played with our fake stove by putting White Castle hamburgers inside pretending to cook them. 🙂

I remember laughing a lot. I remember that she liked to sing and say the abc’s all the time.  I don’t remember our conversations and I only have images that pop up now and then but they were happy memories.  I also remember her mother. She loved to laugh and had a great smile that lit up her whole face. When she and my mother got together they seemed to joke and laugh a lot.  I have no idea about what but what a great memory to have, a memory that colored my world with a precious friendship and mutual respect. *(see below for update)

racism_by_alahay-d2cjak5

I was a part of the desegregation of the public schools in the district where I attended elementary school.  I believe God providentially prepared me for that. I went to an all white school from Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Due to my parents divorce and my mother moving my sister and I to Virginia, I was then registered at a school that happen to be three-quarters black.  I don’t remember being afraid because of the color of the kids but being afraid because for the first time in my young life I was the ‘new student’ and I missed my home, the home I grew up in. I knew no one. I did make one friend who happen to be white and one non-friend who chased me home one day. She wanted to beat me up. Looking back I can not remember why she did not like me but I do remember her calling me, “teacher’s pet.” I didn’t feel like the teacher’s pet.  She was black. Her name was Angela.

A couple of years later I moved back to live with my father.  Back to the same elementary school.  Only now I was in the sixth grade. And that was the year they decided to desegregate. Many of the kids I knew were nervous about it.  I took it in stride.  I made a few friends that year of both colors.  I also made another non-friend.  She would give me dirty looks and threaten to kick my butt. She also chased me home after school one day.  I don’t remember all the things she said to me but she also called me something similar to “teacher’s pet.”  She was white.  Her name was Nancy.

I guess the lesson here in supposedly being “teacher’s pet” is the angst it causes others! Which knows no color!

rosecolored glasses

Before our 1st black President was elected, I felt like I lived in an America where people were for the most part getting along.  I was not completely naive to think that ‘racism’ did not exist any longer or that there were not divisions in places around our country. I just thought that many in our country had moved past the hatred and the vile disdain for others of a different color. Maybe I was wearing the so-called rose-colored glasses. But there is proof that no matter the color of your skin or where you come from you can be anything you make up your mind to be. There are people from practically every racial group in America serving in the highest offices of our land. In our military. In our education system. It is the way it should be.

Through my personal experience, I have met a few ‘angry, racist black people’ and a few ‘angry, racist white people’ but that has not changed my mind about how kind and helpful the majority of black and white Americans are toward one another.  The majority of people of all colors and nationalities, that I have met, were just people living life and getting along with one another and trying to give their children a better life.

Even so I knew there were still hurts that ran deep among some black people because of the sin of slavery.  I learned about it in school. I read books and watched movies about it. But no one talked about it out loud, especially white people. As a white person I would often feel a guilt or a shame for my color of skin when I would watch the stories or read accounts of families being ripped apart and abused by slave owners but the emotion I most often felt was and is anger.  That one human being could treat another human being so abominably is unconscionable to me.

Today, I cringe and have cried hearing stories from around the world of people of all color taken into slavery today. I often feel helpless to know what to do. So I pray. And what can be done, what can I do about something perhaps my ancestors did to another group of people years before I existed? Questions have come to my mind, “What part could I play in reconciliation of our country in the area of slavery?” Is there something white people should be or could be doing to rectify those past sins?

What is it, Lord?

As I said in the beginning, there is a stirring.

I remember the very evening in 2004, when Barak Obama was speaking at the National Democratic Convention as the keynote speaker.  As he spoke a chill ran down my spine.  I audibly said out loud to one my children, “He is going to President of the United States someday.” The chill was not because I was scared or repulsed. I believe a part of me had hope. That he might be someone to bridge the gulf between two races of people who still held grievances toward one another in some places.  At least start the conversation to move us in the direction of healing.

I am not a Democrat.  I am not so sure I am a Republican any longer.  I am a conservative and I believe in what this nation was founded on, faith and freedom.  I also believe that we have left our ‘first love,’ our faith, and because of that we are losing our freedoms.  But I digress. I did not vote for Obama because of research I had done on his background.  The reason was not the color of his skin, after all he is half white,  but the content of his character.  Even so I held out some hope.  I believed what the bible says that God can move the heart of the king. For ‘He setteth up kings,’ does He not?

“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

~ Daniel 2:21

Sadly, in my opinion, he has been one of the most divisive men to serve in public office in our country’s history.  There are many people, black and white, who agree with this assessment. I am sure, many who do not. I must make clear that it is not the color of his skin that makes him divisive.  It is by his actions, his fruit, if you will. While I can not judge his heart on the matter of salvation, which only God knows, I can judge his actions. And as citizens of this nation we all should be accountable for those, even a President of the United States of America.

In my world, I have friends of all colors and nationalities. Being in the military gave me the privilege of serving alongside many of whom came from different backgrounds, race and cultures.  I loved that about the military.  It was and is the same within all the churches I have been apart of.  I believed that God prepared me for those experiences from early childhood.  My mother always taught my sister and I not to be prejudice. She explained to us what being prejudice was and told us it was wrong, period.  So we believed her. And for the most part my family lived that out in their lives. We had an example of what not being prejudice looked like. Though throughout the years there were a few who came into my life who did not believe that and well, they did not stay too long.

From a young child to now I may have put on rose-colored glasses when it came to race.  I do not know what it is like to live as a black person nor do I pretend to come close to knowing.  For that matter I know nothing of living as an oriental person, a Hispanic nor a Polynesian. Just as they may not know what it is like to live in my ‘white’ skin.  I also do not want to make light of it.  For I know there has been much oppression and difficulties to overcome because of the color of one’s skin.

But the one thing I know about all people regardless of skin color is that into every persons life comes love, joy and pain.  We all have the same blood and we all come from Adam and Eve. The bible itself never speaks of race.  Only families, tribes and nations.  At one point we all spoke the same language, that is until the Tower of Babel.  Where God confounded the people by giving them different languages and then they could not understand one another. This again did not have anything to do with skin color. Only the sin that was in each of their hearts!

I believe the most wonderful thing about knowing people of different races is the variety of color and personalities.  Over the years I have made some wonderful friends ‘of color’ and I do not just mean skin color.  Some real characters.  They made me laugh and we bonded over whatever was going on in our lives at the time.  What they have added to my life is immeasurable. I have often thought if God is no respecter of persons than why should we be? Why does man care about the outward appearance? How does that matter a hill of beans when each of us is faced with living somewhere forever for eternity?

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

~ Acts 10:34-35

When I heard about the Charleston shooting my heart literally fell.  My stomach felt like lead.  First, for the heartbreak of my brothers and sisters in Christ, for their loss.  And for it to have happened in their place of worship, incomprehensible.  Secondly, to find out this heinous crime was perpetrated by a white racist male.  Opening up wounds in our country.

No words. Just a stirring.

I hear a story, “White people will have to answer for this.” My heart races, emotions swell up and my mind tries to wrap around this statement.

Again no words, more stirring.

I hear another story, a man stands in a pulpit on the Lord’s day and says “The doors of the church are open, no evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Still no words but the stirring gets stronger.

And another man says, “What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he said. “To hatred, we say no way, not today. To racism, we say no way, not today. To division, we say no way, not today. To reconciliation, we say yes. To loss of hope, we say no way, not today. To a racial war, we say no way, not today. To racial fear, we say no way, not today. Charleston, together we say no way, not today.” ~ Jermaine Watkins, an African-American and the teaching pastor at Journey Church.

Silence. My heart is still.

Looking at the powerful photos of grief, I see past the tears to the celebration of faithful lives that have gone home to be with the Lord. Only those who believe in the Savior can fully understand how faith in Jesus and heaven can transcend a loss so great you can’t breathe. I have stood at the graves of tragic loss and now even as then, I am reminded that God is sovereign in all things.  As promised He is taking what was meant for evil and bringing good out of it. The nation witnessed faith, hope and love win through the people of Charleston.

As the story unfolded and the politics came out. I turned it off, it was and is shameful.

I see pictures of people praying. (Thank you. Lord)

Standing in a circle, holding hands with heads bowed. (I pray too)

Black, white, people of all colors coming together. (My heart holds hope)

Singing hymns. Hugging. Crying. (I cry too for God is there)

Journalist breaking down at the sight. (He has witnessed the Power of God)

People are dumbfounded. (Just wait, He has more)

They are seeing God but do not recognize Him. (God has more)

They are sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in and around His children but they do not comprehend. (Every knee will bow and every tongue confess)

And the forgiveness they have extended!  (Thank you, Father of forgiveness!)

I have said in my own life, it is one thing to say you forgive someone but you have to walk in it daily.  You choose it and then you live it out each and every day for the rest of your life.  I took a lesson from Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, she said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.  It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”   I had to do that in my own life.  Because of sinful actions against my children and myself I had to keep forgiving.

The consequences of those actions would show themselves throughout the years over and over again. And each time they showed themselves, instead of anger or bitterness, I would choose forgiveness.  Forgiving does not mean that there is no justice.  It just means that you let it go, you give it to God and there is peace.  It takes courage, faith and love to do that! I can attest to that in my life!!

The stirring has given me words and God has shown me just a little part I can play in the reconciliation of our country.  I own my sins and take responsibility for them. Confess them, repent of them and seek forgiveness from Jesus, my Savior.  I walk in His commandments and live them out daily in my life toward my neighbor.  Firstly by loving the Lord, my God, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength! And then loving my black, white, Hispanic, Chinese and all-others neighbor. Loving the hateful men, the mean women, those who do not agree with me, those who want to hurt me and finally those who hate me, my enemy. When I do that, when we all do that, there is healing.

The thing about healing is that it has to come through the love of Christ. He can heal and mend the racism in our country and around the world but He wants to do it through us.  And He can only do it if His people are surrendered to it. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the people of the church in Charleston and that community, are surrendered to Him. They are our example. They surrendered to His will.

And that is where His glory shines. Through our brokenness!! Through the darkness!! Through His people!!!

A great man once said…

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” 
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

You know, in reading that I believe his prayers were answered for so many he was marching for, bleeding for and praying for. I believe God gave him that vision, that task and that dream.  He never quit speaking truth or believing in the God of the bible. And we have witnessed the fruit of his faithfulness even to the end.

And that is what I choose to see. The good that has come from evil. The love that I have experienced from others of all colors. The success of many who in his time would not have had the opportunities they have today. I see the world in color! All colors! If that is what wearing rose-colored glasses mean then I will continue to wear them.

So in 2016 I want to walk in obedience to God’s direction for my life. I want to submit to His leading and stirring.  To not be afraid to speak out but to be sure to do it in love.

Grace to you,

Shell

“Holy, Father, stir our hearts together, as one people, who are called by your name to surrender our will to yours in bringing healing upon this country. Stir our hearts for repentance and reconciliation.  Stir our hearts for YOU!” – my prayer

*NOTE: My mom kept in touch with her friend over the years and she attended my first wedding in 1987 but life happens and they lost touch.  I always wondered what became of them. Just recently the daughter found me on FB. She actually messaged me back in December of 2014. But for some reason, which has happened before I did not get the message till a few weeks ago.  I immediately contacted her and we got to speak on the phone for several hours. It was a wonderful blessing to hear her voice, hear her stories about her life and that her mom had been trying to reconnect with my mom for many years. And in actuality it was an answer to an unspoken prayer I have had for over a year…..but since this post has been so long I will save it for another time!!!

Update to the update: Several weeks after writing this draft my mother suddenly had to have open heart surgery. I went home to be with her. I got to meet up with both her friend and her daughter and what a sweet reunion. We hugged necks and talked over lunch, sharing what God has done in our lives.  I can not even tell you what a blessing it was to see them after all these years. They prayed with me which was a comfort and an encouragement as my mom went through her surgery and difficulties in the hospital.

 

Craziness That Is Out There

What does it say about a person when they’ve enjoyed sunshine most of their life, only to be comforted when it rains? These days it is the rain that almost makes me feel safe from the world.  It is a barrier between me and the craziness that is out there. Everything has changed from when I was a child. Not only my views of life, people and eternity but the world around me is almost unrecognizable. What was up is now down, what was in is now out and what is evil is called good and what is good is called evil.

world 2Most people’s views change as they grow up and move into different phases of life and as they go through different experiences. What I believed as a young adult quickly changed as I began to see the world beyond myself.  What I understood was very, very little in comparison to what I understand now.  Yes, I know, hindsight is 20/20 but that is not what I am alluding to. You have heard the statement, “If I knew then what I know now,” well, what is the point of that statement, really? How would that even be possible unless you had a time machine. Back then the world revolved around me and I was the smartest person alive. Isn’t every teenager going out into the big, big world? Today the world is revolving all right but not particularly around me and I am definitely not the smartest person alive. I have been literally put in my place on several occasions, by Jesus!

In the first part of 2 Timothy 3, Paul seems to me, to be describing this day and age.  The last part of the chapter Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in what he has learned from childhood because it is what will keep him focused on Christ and his faith in Him. The Word is what will give him wisdom, strength and endurance for the coming persecution of his faith. It speaks to me, I am sure as it did Timothy as well, for the coming persecution of Christians on a scale like never before.  We are seeing first hand what it means to follow Christ in certain countries around the world. We are reading minute by minute the atrocities committed by those who are the enemies of God.  Be-headings, torture, sex-trafficking, sexual slaves of young girls, mutilation of their genitalia, burning in cages, hangings, on and on it goes. No end to the horror.

And here in America…where do I begin? Those things are happening here. You don’t believe it because you do not see it or hear of it.  Because the media would not have you knowing truth.  Truth is a barbaric thing to them.  It is politically incorrect to speak of such things here in A-M-E-R-I-C-A. I believe they believe we are shielded from the evil that is building in those parts far, far away from us. They believe we are safe as long as we do not speak of it. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. They focus on the inane. And while they go about filling people’s eyes and ears with the most important ideas like sex, global warming and racism we are slowly losing the ability to discern the truth. Absolute truth. Absolute truth is disappearing. And when it is gone we will have lost one of the most important things our country was founded on, Freedom.

Freedom.  What a concept!  The word itself would stir up the most passionate of men and women.  It was fought for, died for and sacrificed for throughout history. Flags have flown for it. The children of Israel fled to the wilderness for it. And the greatest experiment in history, the pilgrims of the Netherlands crossed an ocean for it. The colonies of America fought the monarch of England for it. Countries have banded together to fight wars for it. Men have died for other men so they may be called “free.” But who fights for it now? What does it even mean to us today? Today freedom is about taking it away from one man and giving it to another man and calling it “rights.”

While the world seems to be losing sight of that noble word I have come to know the word very personally.  I did not fight on a battle field nor did I have to travel far for it. I experienced F-R-E-E-D-O-M when I met the savior, Jesus Christ. Freedom from the power of sin.  At first it was a peace and realization that I did not have to carry the weight of my sins any longer. Then as I began to walk with Him I discovered another kind of freedom.  Freedom from the bondage of my sins. Let me explain.

As I learned what it meant ‘to be a sinner’ I understood that I was born into sin. That from the beginning of time, when Adam and Eve fell from fellowship with God because they disobeyed Him in the perfect place on earth. They plunged every human born after into the same sinful state, a state of death. We are basically born dead.  Our spirit is dead to God. He himself placed a spirit in us but He gave us the choice to allow Him to bring it to life. It had to be our choice because He would not force us into a relationship with Himself. That is not His nature. He desires a relationship with us but we have to want it.

Once I realized that I was sinful and dead to God, I was undone. I wanted to live. I wanted God to live in me. I wanted Him to take away my sin. To wash me clean and give me a new beginning.  To set me free.  When I asked for His forgiveness of my sin and for Him to come into my life and lead me, He did!  First He showed me who He was.  By reading the bible and studying His Word I was able to learn about the one who gave me a new life. I spent time reading, praying and worshiping the one who had to power to give life.  The more time I spent with Him, the closer we became. And the closer we became the more I was able to overcome the sin in my life.

Then He did something that caused me great pain.  At first I did not understand the pain. But then I realized that He wanted me to go deeper into our relationship by going deeper into His Word.  He wanted me to trust Him completely; To walk with Him without questioning His leading. I was a babe in Christ, as they say and I did not know how to do that fully because of the consequences of the sin in my life. Those consequences bound me up and kept me from going forward with God. They were stumbling blocks to trusting Him. The were hindrances to growing the fruit of the spirit in my life.  They kept me believing lies about myself and about God.  Because of the consequences there were powerful voices of doubt which became extremely frustrating and exhausting.

So through the tribulations and desperate cries to be free from the bondage, God led me to the truth in His word, and to godly counselors and Pastors.  Those years of wrestling with my flesh and the Holy Spirit led me to the most amazing and joyous times in my faith. He opened doors for me that I would never have imagined to be opened.  He used me in others lives to show them Christ and to find freedom in their lives.  He brought me to a place of freedom the likes I had never known to that point.  All the while preparing me for the most devastating time in my life to come.

Lighthouse in Storm --- Image by © John Lund/Corbis

Lighthouse in Storm — Image by © John Lund/Corbis

When the bottom fell out God took me by the hand and led me the whole time. It was as if I was in a bubble of peace.  The storm was raging and I was losing everything that I thought made me normal. The world as I knew it had done a 180, along with my views and new-found faith and knowledge of God.  When you are confronted with truth in a way that rips the rug out from under you, you either fall or stand solid.  It all just depends on what is holding you up.  I stood at first because God was holding me up.  I wish I could say that I remained standing through it all. But I did not.  The storm grew so powerful that I allowed myself to be taken along with the wind, tossed to and fro.  God basically yanked me back to reality in a very public and painful way. With the help of godly friends and a strong support system through my church I was able to once again stand and even to move forward.

Not without scars to show for it. Hurt and pain I never knew existed. As I said in the beginning our views change over time. If you asked me if I would want to go back and have a do-over I am not so sure I would want that.  While I hate the bad things that have happened in my life due to the actions of others or of my own accord, I love how God has taken those bad things and made something beautiful out of them.  How He has given me a new outlook on life, people and eternity.  My thoughts turn to more meaningful questions such as have I lived a good life? Have I given more than I have taken? Have I made a difference in world?

I don’t even feel qualified to answer those questions.  For what I think I am is often influenced by what I hope I am and therefore to be objective I would have to separate every thought, action and reaction I have ever had.  Then I would have to relate that information to the type of relationships I have now in my life. It is all very scientific. But in the end useless. Because as I said before it comes down to the fact that the world does not revolve around me. So what questions should I be asking?

Maybe something that is more in line with what Jesus would want from me. Have I allowed Christ to live through me? Have I given to others in the name of Christ more than I have taken in the name of Christ? Has Jesus made a difference in the world through me?  In being honest I would have to say No, not always. No, definitely not and finally, only time will tell.  The world is changing so much so fast that it seems time is speeding up.  It makes me think more of heaven and my time left here.  It gives me a sense of urgency.  As if time is running out, not just for me but for everyone.

What does it say about a person when they’ve enjoyed sunshine most of their life, only to be comforted when it rains? I think it says that you can not completely enjoy the sunshine without the rain and it is the rain that brings new life. It is God who sends the rain and He gives me safety in His Word and truth. The actual barrier between me and the craziness that is out there is God’s love, mercy and grace.  Everything has changed from when I was a child or so it seems. It is God who has actually changed me.water sun

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 His ever constant faithfulness to me no matter where I am in my walk or in the world continues to encourage my faith.  For He has certainly changed my views of life, people and eternity through His unchanging love.

My views:

  • Life is precious
  • People need Jesus
  • Eternity is closer than ever

Grace to you,

Shell

Breathing, In and Out

Today’s verse on the Thomas Kinkade flip calendar is 2 Corinthians 13:11  “The God of love and peace shall be with you.”  That is a GRRRRRRREAT reminder after posting on Monday, my prayers to God, about the anxiety I have been experiencing.

Capture
It is the kind of anxiety that you feel in the pit of your stomach and in your throat.  It leaves you taking deep breaths and your heart is racing a mile a minute.  I believe it is what happens right before a panic attack.  Some have described cold sweats, dry heaving and unbelievable dizziness.  Thank God I am not there. Yet.

I am really not sure how much I should reveal as to the reason for these current physiological occurences other than if the weekend could be over today I would be in much relief. You ever hear the saying “One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure?”  Well that could somewhat apply here.

I have experienced these very, very uncomfortable feelings several times in my life and ironically one of those times indirectly relates to this time.  It was a nightmare then. But if I am being honest I did not completely face the thing that brought on the ‘anxiety & dread’ the first time.  I sort of let someone else handle it. So I believe I have no choice but to face it square on this time.

There are some huge differences between the two events.  Back then I did not have the faith in God that I have today.  I20150128_121050 was naive and lost. Today I know a whole heap of stuff, thanks to hind sight and experience. And thanks to Jesus Christ, I am found.  The other difference is back then life as I knew it was being ripped out of my hands and I was losing everything, or so I thought. Today God has given back to me what was taken from me and I have gained everything. Including a love for Him that I would probably not have otherwise.

I am not talking about material things.  I am talking about love, honor and commitment. Those things that are contained in wedding vows.  Back then it was a little girls dream of happily ever after dying before my eyes.  Today it is about true love never fails.  To face the fear and insecurity in my heart from long, long ago again is so overwhelming. I am trying to understand why after all I have learned about my Heavenly Father the feelings have come back.

It’s the age-old question why would God keep bringing something or someone back into your life that is hard to deal with?

In my reading today I realized that even in Paul’s day Christians had to be continually reminded that the Spirit of God lives in you when you accept Christ. It is that Spirit which helps you to intimately know God, the Father and the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is that Spirit who gives comfort, strength and daily wisdom. Through the Holy Spirit and God’s amazing grace we are able to cope with those things that are beyond our capabilities. Also through grace God reveals those things in you that need to be purged. Impurities such as unbelief, sinful thoughts and selfish desires.

Those things in my heart which were from long ago have remained because I chose not to fully deal with them and put them in their proper place.  I did not put them up to the light of truth. I left them alone because they were sort of comforting to me. I chose to forgive but I did not choose to work through the fear and insecurity from loss. I chose to hang on to it because it justified my superiority over those who hurt me.  So now every once in a while I can take it out and use it to excuse my ‘anxiety.’ “Oh, Lord how weak I am.”

God has been using messages throughout the weeks and months to bring me to this new level of understanding.  David and Goliath. Jesus asleep in the ship during a huge storm.  Jonah and the whale.  Joseph, what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. God speaking to Moses in the burning bush. Just in listing these messages brings every past lesson I learned to my mind.

  • God is bigger than my anxiety
  • Trust Jesus no matter the circumstances around you
  • You can not outrun God
  • Every difficulty that comes into you life God will use it to glorify Himself and to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ
  • No matter how many excuses you have for God as to why you can’t He has one big one why you can, His power lives in you

Each one of the above lessons were learned by reading, studying and applying them in my life from the day I began my relationship with Jesus.  The journey to learn them was up and down, sometimes all over the place.  At times painful and other times extremely gratifying. But each one always came with a promise from God.  One He has always been faithful to keep.  One that He wrote deeply on my heart.

  • Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:7-10
  • “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
  • “He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

With all these promises in mind and in my heart, as I draw closer to the moment of inevitability I see what it could be through Christ.  I envision Him doing something spectacular, as He has done before.  I smile at the thought that many will witness the miraculous.  All will marvel at His handiwork, how He brings all the broken pieces together to form something new and usable.

Then again this might be something He does privately within my heart.  Through me.  Beyond me. The results will still be the same. Miraculous, I marveling at His handiwork and He forming something new and usable out of the broken pieces left inside me.

And so it could be the anxiety is merely a warning sign to beware the obstacles ahead. Keep your eyes on the road Christ has set before you. Follow His directions, obey the commandments He has given you.  Do not turn left nor right. Keep going forward walking in His steps. Focus on the destination He has given you. Trust in all you can not see yet. Know He has gone before and already cleared the path.

So heading into the unknown of tomorrow I am starting to feel the peace, the steady beat of my heart, the ease of breathing, in and out without thinking about it.

“Ahhhh, there it is ‘love and peace with me!”

air-breathe_best-love-letters-ever-written

What else do you need?

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation,and my high tower. Psalm 18:2

The end of another year.  2014.  I am finding it is true with age time speeds up and memory begins to fade.  I was just remarking, the other day, how my memories seem so distant to me.  Even just the events of 10 years ago seem like another time another place to me.  I never would have imagined the life I am now living, not in a million years.

One of the major changes this year is that Pete and I are almost “empty-nesters.” Without even realizing it, on occasion, I have found myself trying to remember what it was like to be constantly taking care of children.  The only time I get close to remembering is when I have my Grandchildren for a night and a day. 🙂

I have been contemplating what this year has meant to me, what new thing I have learned and what God did in our lives as a family this year. The year certainly went fast. As I look back through the pictures I can not believe all the moments I got to witness in my families’ life. So many to mention but I will just try to highlight a few.

The beginning of the year saw some actual winter weather in Houston. Icicles of all things. They were everywhere and soooo pretty!

One of the favorite events of the year was the Josh Garrels and Robbie Seay Band concert we attended at the Warehouse Live in Houston, Texas. Ben and Rachel introduced us to Josh’s music and we had been listening to him for a while.  He had just started touring this side of the country and Pete bought tickets for us but he could not make it because he was still deployed.  Ben, Rachel, Sam and I went. We recorded him singing some of our favorite songs so the video quality was not that great. He sounded so much richer in person. The music was incredible and we all fell in love with his music even more after seeing him live. He is very down to earth and authentic!

We celebrated Brodies’ 7th Birthday! An amazing day with a castle cake, hand-made shields, many a daring sword fights and adventures with the kids.

 

Another special day was Blue Bonnets blooming in Texas.  It is a funny story.  I told my husband before we married that he had to see the Blue Bonnets. Bragged to him how beautiful they were so we planned our honeymoon to go to a bed and breakfast in the Brenham area so we could go see them when they bloomed.  The year we married there was very little rain around Texas so the drought effected the Blue Bonnet season severely. When we got to Brenham and planned our day to go on our tour of the area we discovered there weren’t any Blue Bonnets to be found. The waitress at the restaurant had told us there were a few but did not stay long.  However we found one (1) at a nursery.  Now this year there were millions! What a joy to share with our grandchildren!

There were many other happenings throughout the year.  Everyday things like soccer games, trips to the beach and a trip up to Fort Hood to see the ‘Army Guy’ in our family. 🙂 Witnessing vows at weddings, births of more grandchildren.  Fun times spent in the back yard looking for and finding cool bugs. Spending really hot days at the pool.  Family dinners and celebrating more birthdays in the family.  If you follow me on Facebook then you have already seen the 1000’s of pictures I have posted. But here are a few that cause me to pause.

 

Notice anything about most of these pictures? Most of them are filled with little people, grandchildren.  The ‘group’ pictures are my favorite because they represent how the Lord doubled and even tripled our family.  The growth of our family, the dynamic of our family and most importantly the blessing of our family. God has given us so much this year and all of it in tiny blessings.

The pictures are not perfect. While there are smiling faces and silly grins there to are the worries, the disappointments and the losses.  But you can’t really see that.  You only see that some are posed but if you look closer you can see each personality of each person frozen-in-time.  You can’t see the little things most often missed by many too hurried to wonder about it. Like gratefulness that most of us had good health this year. That we could afford to celebrate and travel. That we could provide for our family. That in the hodge-podge, that is our family, we could be together and enjoy the simple moment-by-moment pleasure of making memories.

What did I learn this year?  I learned this year you can not hold tightly to things or people because they are not meant to be permanent. So I have let go. I learned that lessons God taught me years ago are still relevant to me today and I have to keep applying His answers to my life each and every day no matter what. So it is back to the basics in my walk with God for me.  I learned that loving your children does not mean you agree with everything they do and say and praying for them is the best way to bring about positive changes in their lives. So my prayer time will increase for sure. 😉

Even now I can not imagine what 2015 will be like. There are already a few things we have on our calendar to look forward to but I do not know exactly how they will go until we get to that time. I can not be sure of tomorrow but I can be sure that God will be there when it comes because He always is. A friend posted that she has never been sorry that she trusted in His name! I replied, “me too!”  For that is real and true, especially for 2014.

So the very best thing I could do for the new year would be to continue to trust in Him!  For He is my ROCK, my FORTRESS, my DELIVERER and my STRENGTH!

What else do you need???

Grace to you,

Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

No Matter Where You Sit Or Stand (It’s Not The Walls -CBC)

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:19-22

 

Life is said to be unpredictable.  That may be true on some days.  For the most part I believe there are some things you can count on to stay the same. People all over the world are doing the same thing mankind has been doing from the beginning of creation. They are living life, working to provide for their family and/or pursuing a dream, some are perhaps just trying to survive.  If you really think about it the changes we encounter in our day-to-day life can be considered ‘nothing new under the sun,’ as King Solomon suggested. The one thing I know for sure never changes is God.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  If we trust in Him wholly when life becomes unpredictable or is turned upside down by circumstances we have a firm foundation to stand on.  We can walk forward in confidence knowing that He who holds the whole world in His hands holds us up in a future that may seem uncertain.

Our family moved to a new house at the end of September and have been trying to settle in for several weeks.  It has significantly less wall space which makes it hard to choose what to hang where.  I had a hard time leaving the old house, mostly because of the memories contained there.  But as many of my family and friends will attest I have recorded them very well in photo books. 🙂 The holidays are coming up and I feel an urgency to get the new house all put together but temporarily I am stuck. No fear though, I have been here before because it is ninth time I have moved since moving to Texas in 2001.

Our church is moving to a new location also.  Another change. It will be the fourth move for CrossBridge. Sunday we held our last service in our current location and during the singing special by one of our dear ladies I became overwhelmed with the memories in that room.  The memories of what God has done through our little church.  Baby dedications, weddings and healing for many who have come through the doors.   I had the privilege of leading a young girl of 12 to the Lord in the little classroom.  My own family was restored there when I re-married my first husband in a wonderfully sweet ceremony.  We have prayed over soldiers being deployed out into the world.  We have begged God for healing and reconciliation of family members and have said goodbye to dear friends who went on to be with the Lord.  We have celebrated high school graduations, newborns and life accomplishments. We have poured into teenagers lives, some accepting Christ after a weekend of camping. All life changing events but each leaving an indelible mark in each of our lives as a church family.

Within those walls God’s Word has been preached, taught, sang and prayed out loud.  Our pastor often says of our church, “We are the cold cup of refreshing water to the weary and broken who have no where else to go.”  I love that, being known as a refreshment to souls.  Small in number but big in heart. Generous of spirit and encouragement.  People have come for a short time and moved on for whatever reason but for the time they were present they left their spiritual fingerprint on those of us who remain. Leaving the building, while bittersweet, means we are in forward motion.  We are stepping into a new place that we believe God has appointed. And we have been here before, stepping out in faith.  We had moved from our last location to the one we leave now.  We did not know then what time would bring, what God would require of us. Standing here looking back I could not have imagined the beauty He allowed us to behold through one another’s lives.

Changes are hard for some people.  Hard for me at times.  I have to look deep within and find the courage to let the change occur.  I have to be open to new possibilities and blessings.  For I have learned change is growing.  I have learned that while the building is where we gather it not the walls that make the church. It is the folks that come through the doors, that hug our necks, that pray with us for God to do the miraculous.  It is the people who are called by Jesus Christ to ‘assemble together’ and serve Him.  To show His love by loving one another. To show His grace by rolling up our sleeves and meeting others where they are.  To show His mercy by teaching them salvation comes from knowing the Savior intimately.  To show the world church is not about the walls, it’s about the people in it. So while the scenery changes, even the walls around us or the circumstances we find ourselves in uncomfortable the few things that remain certain is the knowledge that we are made in the image of God and we still have His purpose to fulfill. No matter where we sit or stand!

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Psalm 148:1-2, 10-14 & Ephesians 1:3

Text: Thomas Ken, 1637-1711

Music: Louis Bourgeois, ca. 1510-1561. From Genfer Psalter, 16th century.

“Open Your Eyes”

“But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” ~ John 3:21

When I post political articles and current event pieces on Facebook it is usually because something  rises up within me to shout to the world, “Open your eyes, look what’s going on!” It reminds of the song “Stop Children What’s That Sound”  The words could easily apply to today’s headlines.

Most people live their lives with their head in the sand  They think they can keep living the life they make for themselves without being effected by what is going on in the world.  They think they are immune to the crime happening in their community until it happens to them. They think the scandals and the lawlessness of our government has no bearing on their day-to-day routine until they lose their job due to a new law that has been forced upon all Americans. They pay no attention to the news of the day until they hear it is about someone they know.  They scoff at the post about conspiracy, corruption or rumors of war.  They become so busy they have no time to do their civil duty such as vote or call their local representative about an injustice or accountability. Then they get angry because someone got elected that they do not like but have no one to blame but themselves for their lack of interest.

People plan the next activity or event without stopping to look at the souls around them struggling to get through the day.  They feign their interest in the suffering of others but have no time to help out the neighbor or friend they know need words of encouragement or a hug.  They want to be comforted but have none to give, they want to be entertained and made to feel good but have no interest in serving others. They think by giving money to a group or a good cause they have done their part but do not want to leave their comfort zone. They call themselves “Christian” but have no interest in being “Christ-like” nor do they know what that even means.

The truth is many who have known Him for many years have fallen asleep.  They have gone numb from the noise of the world.  Where is the fire? Where is the revivals? Where are the men and women in the United States who would give their hearts, minds and souls to help another find His way into eternity?  The ones who live facing death daily in other countries are dying for their faith. Literally by the thousands.  Just click on this link and read the stories: Persecution  If those do not convince you that Americans are asleep then I do not know what will.

You can listen to the conservative/Christian talk shows and you will hear them go round and round about the problems our country is facing. The commentary and arguments in the media are spewing out words that have changed their meanings over the years. Facebookers post the recipes, humorous phrases and spiritual thoughts for the day all the while the powers and principalities are wreaking havoc in this world. Most folks never stop to really think about the words they put out into the infernal internet clothesline or do they?” What difference does it make?” as in the words of one who cares nothing for making a difference in anyone’s life but their own or for the lives who made a difference by laying down their life to save others.

Now before you think I am not including myself in any of the transgressions above please realize that I, myself have been wrestling with all the noise of the world as of late. The thoughts running around in my head have been very, very eclectic to say the least. Politics, religion, Jesus, children, ministry, finances, love, marriage, sickness, death, family, fear, drugs, military, salvation, war, law, citizen, teenagers, win, fail, weight, prayer, health, spring, vacation, reunion, future, recipes, bills, serve, honor, past…..it just goes on and on. I have not been able to focus on one thing other than one simple question that is causing me to wonder what God is speaking to me about. What difference am I making in the world?  My world, this world or better yet, your world?

Now that might seem to some like a question I am throwing out there for others to answer. Not at all and please don’t. Truthfully I would like to hear the answer from God. For it is not man who will judge my works or my heart when I leave this planet earth to enter into eternal life.  There are times when I believe I am asleep at the wheel, so to speak, when it comes to my walk with the Lord. I have taken inventory and discovered that the times I was gleaning an enormous amount from God’s Word and time with Him were in my loneliest and darkest of days.  Why is it then in our bright days of day-to-day living that we don’t seem to have the same intensity of relationship?  Is it the focus or the intention of the heart that is slightly off kilter? We can blame it on distractions, responsibilities or circumstances.  In truth it is ultimately our choice.  We choose to make our walk a priority, the TOP priority!

I admit there are days when going about my business I will throw up prayers to God without stopping to get quiet, bow my head or my knees.  I will say things like:  “God, stop me if this is not pleasing.” “God, am I being selfish here?” “God, are you seeing what’s in my heart right now?” “God, I can not do this on my own.” “Thank you, Jesus! You are sooo good!” But over the course of time throwing up prayers does not a relationship make and  I am not so sure that is what is meant by living with godly purpose or walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Spending time quietly waiting for Him to speak, praying our hearts cry, reading His Word back to Him, meditating on His goodness, praising and worshiping Him in song, those are relationship builders with Christ.  And those I have done but not always consistently.

But oh, it can be disconcerting to try to examine the motives or responses to each and every moment I did not turn to God, but instead to other things such as internet, a movie, a book, busy-ness or the conversation of others.  When I do turn to those things on a regular basis I become agitated, irritated and cynical. Even angry at times with what I see others doing.  Then I become a judge instead of an edifier.  I want others to know what I love not what I hate. I want to be the peacemaker instead of divider.  I want to encourage instead of the one who  criticizes.  But most of all I want to be the salt and light.  I want to be Christ-like! 

I recently was a part of an effort to reach out to some teens that happen to go to school with my son, who is in high school.  He has been inviting his friends from school each Wednesday evening for almost 2 years.  At first it was just one friend.  And then a couple came with him. Now he may have 4 or 5 any given week.  Our very small church took them camping to connect with them by unplugging and removing most of the distractions.  I felt so inadequate to be there. I felt old and had absolutely nothing to say they could relate to. The one moment I did speak it felt flat and without power to move any of them to seek Him.

However, there were moments when I witnessed them listening to God’s Word. I do not know if they actually heard what was said or if they took it in long enough to remember it.  I do know beyond a shadow of doubt that God’s Word does not return void.  And I know from first hand experience that He fills in the gaps where we as humans fail to be what we need to be in the face of ministering or witnessing to someone for eternity. After the weekend was over I gave it all up to Him to do with it what He will. Even if the teens were not moved over the 3 days I can certainly say I was. It left me desperately wanting to see Him move in those kids and in me. 

I have made more of an effort to stop, look and listen to Him rather than to keep moving forward without heed to God’s will. Which is why writing has been so difficult for me lately.  If God does not give it to me I do not want to write it down.  For the Bible says we will be judged for every idle word. The world is a different place than when I first accepted Christ as my Savior.  Back then, some 22 years ago, we could talk face to face to someone who would look us in the eye.  Now there are so many ways to communicate without ever laying eyes on another human if we choose.  We have to turn it all off.  We have to separate ourselves from the noise of this world.  We have to surrender our hearts to silence for a bit and get back to face to face.  And knees to ground.  Because until we do we will not make much of a difference in bringing others to Christ. In bringing others with us into eternity.  

My prayer:

Oh, heavenly Father, I pray you open my eyes wider to the reality that our time on this earth is short for none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Lord, help us to see past the distractions of our day, to hear beyond the noise of the world, to reach out to those who can not see.  Help us to be the light to them that they may find their way to you.  Give us wisdom to apply the season of salt to the conversations we have with others that they might understand the love that comes from your son, Jesus. Put a fire in our hearts, repentance on our lips and bring revival to our land! Thank you, Lord for hearing our cry! In Jesus name, Amen!

Grace to you friend for stopping by!

Shell

A Cardboard Shoe Box

fall autum-colours

I seemed to be at a loss as to how to share with the world all the things I was and am thankful for this year. Many had posted their thankfulness list on Facebook throughout the month of November.  I did the list last year and pretty much kept up with it each day but my heart and mind could not settle on this notion of listing all the things I am thankful for for the sake of posting, it was something more internal this year. Something I believe God wanted me to communicate with Him intimately.  And so began somewhat of a different focus on Thanksgiving.

I saw a prayer on a devotional post several months ago and it sparked something within me and so I began praying it also, “Lord, stir my heart, awaken my soul!” I told my oldest son about it and he said he completely understood.  He himself felt the urgency to wake up!  We all have been sort of asleep at our house.  As if waiting for something or someone to wake us all up with a bang.  But after some discussion we decided we did not want to be caught asleep at the wheel so to speak if it just happened to be the rapture.

After some ‘soul searching’ among us we found that we each had settled into a comfortableness, almost complacency.  For my son and daughter-in-law it was looking for the next place to be.  Somewhere else God was calling them.  The Lord began to speak to them about being called right here.  Where they are now.  So a spark was lit for them as well.  When we compared notes on the last few months we understood that God was moving us to wake up together. I believe we have been lulled asleep by the insanity of our world.  Bad news every day on every level of humanity.  We tune it out because it overwhelms and it causes us to be tempted to give in to the fear it brings with it.  We turn inward hoping it does not touch us and we begin to show the signs of walking in the flesh by the lack of concern or compassion we show others.  Our love flickers to a small dim flame because we have our eyes on the waves and not on Jesus.

We believe the themes of the messages we have been hearing are simple and back to basics.  Back to the simple gospel of Christ and the sold-out worship of Him. No idols standing in His place.  No program or plan to replace Him.  No monotonous “Christian” thing done each day of the week.  No box checked on Sunday morning. Just an overwhelming sense of love flowing from our hearts that spills onto others in acts of kindness and mercy.  We question are we grateful, thankful to the God that saved us, changed us and is daily conforming us to His image or is it because of what He can give us or do for us?  Are we living out of the gratefulness and walking thankful lives by our actions?

I heard a message on the radio by David Jeremiah and I am sure it was no coincidence, he said, “You worship the one you trust and you trust the one you know.” He was preaching from the old testament book of Habakkuk.  I love that book.  The short three chapters are so huge with a message of pure worship.  The conversation between the prophet and God about a people who turned their backs on God and hearts to idols, he pleads with God over His decision to use the Babylonians to bring judgment on  the children of Israel by taking them into captivity.  The fact is God will use any and all things to turn our hearts back to Him.  When the prophet comes to face to face of the inevitability of what he and his people will endure he still worships the one who created him.  The one he knows.

The prophet ends his rapport with God stating that if there is nothing left, there is still God.  He will rejoice in Him and have joy in his salvation.  He trusts God for his strength and he knows that God will exalt him through difficulties if he remains faithful.  Or at least that is what the Lord speaks to me through words of Habakkuk.  I know first hand the touch of God’s hand in my life. I have seen Him make me clean after a venture into sin.  I have seen Him make all things new.  I have seen Him raise many in my family from spiritual death.  I have seen Him restore to me the years the locusts have eaten.   I have seen. With all the wonders of God’s miracles in my life I still have not seen what He has prepared for me in Heaven.  But I know He has because He said so. 

If I am asleep or awake God is still present.  He speaks to me through so many things, through His Word, music, people, children, nature and circumstances. He even times His messages so that they are heard with eyes and ears that are prepared to hear and see them.  I have been asked the question, “How do you know God is there, how do you see Him?”  I believe it is like connecting the dots.  I loved doing that as a child.  I would try to figure out what the picture would look like before I put the pencil to paper. I followed the numbers with my eyes and drew the lines in my mind to try to guess the outline.  But it was not until I actually drew the line from 1 to 2 and then to 3 that I could actually realize what the artist had envisioned.  The closer I got to the last number the more clear it came into view.  And at last I could see the form.  There was some satisfaction or surprise in seeing it for the first time.  Partly because I was a part of the process, there was accomplishment and partly because I followed the correct path to the end.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.~Jeremiah 29:13

It is much like this when you seek God.  The daily readings connect to the messages heard throughout the day connecting to the conversations you have with others. Which all connects to the circumstances you travel through on your way to the end of the day.  And in  the stillness of the night or the calm quiet time you spend  with God or even during the morning service Sunday morning He brings it all together in your heart and mind.  The two synchronize the connections and voice speaks to you through the Holy Spirit of God.  He is saying, “I see you and I hear you, you are chosen and you are mine.”

That happens to me many times.  This past Sunday morning is no exception. Our Pastor had us all bring a box to church early in the year of 2013.  He called it a “Praise Box.” He wanted us to get in the habit of praising and thanking God each day for His blessings in our lives.  We were to bring notes, songs, poems, pictures, scriptures, prayers  or whatever we wanted to put in our box to praise God.  It was not to share with others but between God and ourselves. As part of our Thanksgiving  week we took our boxes this Sunday and went through them to look back on all the things we put in there through out this past year. What sweet memories there were for me in that cardboard shoe box.  Giving thanks for all God had done in my life and that of my families.  All He gave and all He took.

A wedding anniversary, high school graduation, a baby shower, a death, a celebration of a life, a birth, a son going off to Army basic training, a wedding and a few salvations.  All this year. Life in all of its forms passing from one thing to the next with God ever-present in it all.  And then as I went back through the dates of the slips of paper I arrived to the very first one I slipped into my box.  No great event happened that day, just an ordinary day but a verse that God had given me.  It was written out word for word.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12:28

I did not even notate the reason for writing it down other than the fact that it was significant that day.  The awesomeness of God, giving to us the gift of salvation that can never be taken away and a life in Him that can never be destroyed.  A God who is more powerful than anything known to man.  A God who chose me to serve Him with all my heart, mind soul and strength.  And why did I gasp when I read that verse? Because He again gave me the very same verse last week as I have been praying the prayer, “Lord, stir my heart, awaken my soul!”  What do you think He wanted me to see?  What dots was He connecting in my life?  I believe that no matter what happens in my life, no matter what losses I suffer, no matter what blessings I gain  my worship has to be grounded in humility and my walk has to be the picture of gratefulness.  Nothing else will do when my works are judged by a consuming fire the day I stand or kneel in the unshakable kingdom before my awesome God!

Grace to you all who have come here,

Shell

There Is No Luck, It’s All God!

chains

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  

~ Romans 5:1-4

There is pain, suffering and heartache around us daily.  We see it in our friends, family and strangers.  We see it in our own lives.  Why is life so hard, we might ask ourselves?

Christ calls us to minster to one another.  He calls us to give a cup of water to those who thirst.  He calls us to love the unlovable.  He calls us to help those who can’t help themselves.  He calls us to care for the widows and fatherless.  He calls us to love others as we love ourselves.  This week I have been reminded of the time in my life when I had no income, unsure of where my children and I would live, how I would feed them or clothe them.

It was very humbling to rely on others and a test of my trust in God.  It was not always easy to believe that God would bring something good from all the bad that was going on in our lives at the time.  But because of His mercy and grace, my children and I never went without one thing.  A temporary job opportunity led to the wonderful job I have today.  A brand new house, never been lived in, suddenly came open and the financial means to rent it came through the assistance of the US Army due to the circumstance we found ourselves in.  Many friends and people, I probably do not even know of, came to our aid through our church.  Not just financially but practically and spiritually. They mentored my children, prayed for us consistently and stood by us in the worst of times.

The deliverance was not anything I did but everything He did.  As a child of God, God promises to take care of us (Matthew 6:25-32), He will meet our most basic needs.  But to have God’s favor we must be walking and abiding in Him.  I can look back and see that our family did not always do that. The trials and tribulations we went through were a direct result of the sin in our lives.  My ex-husbands and later, my own.   But just as God heard the cry of Ishmael, Hagar’s son, in the desert under the bush, He heard the cry of my children and provided for them.  (Genesis 21:17)

We often wonder why some people have so little “luck.” as the world calls it. The word Luck means, success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.   I do not believe in luck because every action is a result of a choice made in the mind or the heart.  And what does Murphy’s Law say about every action?  There is a reaction.   Actions made by choices with our hearts are emotional. Choices made with our minds are intentional.  Both can lead to destruction if we are not ruled by something other than our own desires.  Both can lead to freedom and peace if led by the Holy Spirit of God.  Emotions come from the heart. “The heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9),  Thoughts (temptations) come from the mind. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-16).

God ordains every moment in our lives, from the time we are “knit together in our mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13) to the time we take our final breath.   He has set the rules of the universe that effect everything we do or don’t do (our actions).  For example,  if you do harm to others, harm will be done to you.  A more common way to say it is, ‘what comes around goes around.’ (Job 34:11)  Other principles at play in our lives is the truth about the consequences of sin.  The bible says “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Physical death or spiritual death, both is a complete end.   The book of proverbs is full of consequences to the likes of laziness, drunkenness and pride.

God allows trials and tribulations into our lives for many reasons.  We do not always know or see what God is doing but we can be sure He has our bestJesus broke the chains interests at heart. It did not always feel that way during those discouraging days. But truth is not based on our feelings it is based on God’s word. I can think of at least three that might apply:

1) As unbelievers, He wants you to turn to Him, to trust in His son, Jesus Christ,  He wants your salvation (John 13:17)

2) As believers, He wants to conform us to His image by purging the sin from our lives, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and develop our character from the inside out.  (Romans 5:2-4)

3) He wants to use our lives to show His son to the world, to glorify His name. (1 Peter 4:16)

The lessons I learned from those difficult days seem so long ago it is now going on nine years since God delivered my house from sin.  God forgive me when I lose sight of those lessons and help me to keep applying the truths I learned then to my life today, regardless of circumstances.  Let me be encouraging, a lover and lifter to others!

Thank you, Jesus, who loved me and gave your life for me, for all!!!

Grace to you,

Shell

The Greatest Gift a Father Leaves a Child

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6

Putting into words the sum of a man’s life seems more daunting when you do not really know a man.  God is the only one who truly knows the man’s heart.  I do believe that a man who has faith, who lives and walks in faith, gives us glimpses into his heart.  Without spending time with him you can not know the details of his daily routine but it is in the conversations you can know the spirit of his heart.

My dad is a big man.  Stubborn and always offered his opinions whether you wanted them or not.  In my younger years I was often intimidated by him.  As a little girl looking up at him I was looking up at a giant.  And it never really mattered how tall I grew to be he was always taller and still a giant in my eyes.  As children we seek our parents approval and in our relationship it was no different.  I was as stubborn as he was in my teenage years and I am ashamed to admit I did not respect his authority very much in those days. I quickly found when my kids became teenagers that they too thought they were as smart as I thought I was talking back to my dad.  But he loved me in spite of those years, as he did all of his children.

Over the years bits and pieces of his life and heart would be revealed through difficult relationships he had.  It was not until I found my faith in Christ that I stopped to consider what he gave me as a father.  When I came face to face with God during a devastating time in my life I often went to God the way I went to my father.  Intimidated and craving relationship.  I began to talk with God and my father in a way that was more open and honest.  Asking real questions instead of hi, how are you  and whatcha’ doing? And he began to talk to me.

It was awkward at first but after time it became the very thing I often craved as a young girl.  Moments with dad.  Real conversations. Some were deep, some were hard and some were sweet.  As in all families each of his children had ups and downs that closed down communication altogether for a short time.  During those times it was the issues in our lives or his life that turned us inward, the way difficult times can sometimes do.  When dealing or coping with circumstances beyond our control our world shrinks. I depended on my faith but I am not so sure what my dad depended on during those times.

As in all relationships we go away from each other and we come back.  We pick up where we left off.  We forgive and move forward to a new level of relationship.  The one area that my father and I never connected was in the area of faith.  He had no peace. I had found it with Christ.  He was sometimes respectful of my beliefs but he did not like hearing the truths of what I had learned.  At first I tried to win him over with words but eventually I knew it would be God, himself who would crack the hardness of my father’s heart.  So I began to pray.  And pray. And pray. And walk by example.

Many years went by.  Many relationships in his life crumbled and made his heart harder for it.  He was searching out something to make him whole.  To give him peace.  To know love.  Even though he had not found any of it he never gave up. Then God finally broke through.  By God’s divine providence he brought several people into his life and took a daughter home to heaven.  First he brought,Marilyn.  He was a romantic and it was the first time in my life I saw him show it openly.  Secondly he brought, Michael. A man of faith.  A friend who could  meet him where he was in his life, who accepted him and most importantly showed  him the love of Christ.  The third thing was my sister’s death.  For the first time in his life he questioned eternity.  He began to ask questions and seek God.

When Marilyn called me and told me he had accepted the Lord and wanted to be baptized my heart just leapt with a joy. I had prayed for 20 years for my father to find peace and forgiveness.  To find the hope of heaven in Jesus Christ.  It says in God’s Word that He will give you the desires of your heart if you will commit your heart to Him.  He surely fulfilled that promise to me and to my father.  In the song by Bebo Norman called ‘I Know Now’ he says…

I could lay my burdens down
And I never knew
Redemption could be found
But I know now

And that is what my father told me.  He found rest from his burdens, his worries and his past mistakes.  And then he would say I want that for my boys.  For my grandchildren.  I want them to know what I know.  There is no perfect parent except God the Father.  He is our Daddy.  I have been told that we often view God the way we view our earthly father.  I know it is true.  For in the beginning of my relationship with God it was tentative at best.  I was seeking approval by checking my God box.  As I got to know the Lord I began to understand His unconditional love for me.  No matter how I messed up He always forgave me and His Word told me consistently that He loves me with an everlasting love.

Now the most wonderful gift that God has given to me, my brothers, our children and our children’s children is the example of a man who lived the best he knew how to live.  Found a relationship with God the father and peace for his soul. He Learned to forgive and not only learned to love unconditionally but to say it at the end of every conversation.  As in the beginning of our father/child relationship his children sought for our father’s love and approval.  And at the end we received it.  What better gift could a father leave his children?

Our father ended well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Larry Dale Leach

October 8,1942 – July 3, 2013

Online Obituary

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 2 Thessalonians 2:16