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.

Getting To The Other Side. . .

“In order to receive real comfort and move forward, you have to let the false comforts go. Simple as that. Yes, it takes courage. It can be scary and hard. But say to yourself that you are willing to go to the other side of hard. That is where your reward is. It is waiting for you. All it takes is a commitment to forward motion, step by step. And you will get there!”

Philippians 3:13

Excerpt from Day 4 of You Version The Weight Loss Scripture Devotional by Kimberly Taylor

One thing

“But say to yourself that you are willing to go to the other side of hard. That is where your reward is. It is waiting for you.”

That sentence made me wake up, literally.  I was asleep and the  alarm went off on my phone. As I was turning it off I noticed the reminder for Day 4 of my devotional popped up and so before I put my feet on the floor I read it. When I got to that sentence I had to go back and re-read it.  Because at that moment I was sore from the three days of exercise I had begun on Monday. I had made a commitment to get up and do more exercise before going to my doctor’s appointment and then on to work.

Oh, how I didn’t want to do it. But God used those words + scripture to speak to me specifically. He was reminding me He is with me, giving me strength and encouragement.  He is giving me an open door of opportunity to go forward in what I know is the right thing to do. He is giving me a choice.  A choice ‘to go to the other side of hard.’

So I got up, put on my exercise clothes, started the DVD and did the hard.  And you know what, when I was finished it did not feel like it had been hard.  It felt good. Then I was encouraged that it was a new day, full of mercy and grace.

I was rewarded with the news that I have lost 6 lbs.  So there you have it…the other side of hard is GOOD NEWS!

Now to do it again. 🙂

Keep this in mind….

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I can choose to eat healthy food but I also can also get lazy or in a hurry and ‘want it now,’ so eat what is fast.  Neither which give me satisfaction, only guilt. If I prepare a table (plan my meals ahead of time) and give every minute and second to praising God I can then ask for strength, endurance and a vision for the blessings to come from right healthy choices.  He says when we ask, in His name, in His will, with thanksgiving He will do it!  I believe that for I have seen Him do it over and over in my life. And He has never failed me.  God forgive me for failing you!

I have to keep in mind I am either building up or tearing down.  Both can be used for God’s glory when ‘renovating’ because after all to renovate you have to tear down to rebuild, right?

PS

Somebody tell that to my aching legs from ZUMBA last night! 🙂

And it begins…

Deuteronomy 30:19-20New King James Version (NKJV)

19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

 

shootingscale

 

 

Being transparent isn’t easy when you struggle with things you know are not pleasing to the Lord.  Making your commitment to stay on a path of obedience to Jesus and His principles is even more risky when you make it public. But today I choose life, blessing and change within my heart.

 

– just as a side note to those fb friends who like to post pictures of yummy food dishes, those will not be a help to me!!! LOL

“Call me back.”

Father’s Day.  Last year I called my dad on Father’s Day but he did not answer his phone so I left him a message, “Was calling to wish you a Happy Father’s Day, call me back.”.  He called me back but I missed his call so he left me a message, “Michelle, this is your father, I called you back, call me back.” We finally connected later on that day.  He thanked me for the Harley Davidson Coffee Mug I sent him and we chatted about this and that. He told me what his day had been like and then we hung up.  I talked to him one more time after that.  It was Thursday, June 27th at 8am. My commute was often an hour or more and because it was early I knew my dad was up. So as was custom I would call him and catch him up on the family happenings on my way to work in which I did that morning.

School had let out for the summer several weeks before so traffic was not as heavy as it was during the school year which made the trip a bit shorter that day. My memory has been very vivid where this particular phone conversation is concerned. Normally our conversations would consist of the goings on in my life and his life. Then we would exchange opinions and factoids on the current events and politics. One of the special things to me about these discussions was that during this time in our lives we seem to agree on many issues.  Which was a far cry from when I was a young adult or a teenager when we did not agree on much.  Looking back it was probably because I did not understand what was really going on in the world so I could not discuss most subjects with him intelligently. Which most assuredly frustrated him.  To have these discussions now was very gratifying because I could appreciate his wisdom and opinion and secretly loved the fact that my father would actually want to know my opinion on a matter.  He would actually acknowledge some of the wisdom or knowledge I had about a subject.

This particular conversation was just a bit different, however. He seemed to be out of breath and I inquired as to why.  He said he had just walked up the stairs. But his breathing never got better as I chatted on and on about each one of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He asked about each one. My son, Esteban and my nephew, Austin had graduated high school several weeks before so we told each other about the event. Esteban in Texas and Austin in Missouri. When we had finished I changed the subject to current events and he said, “That stuff doesn’t matter, you know, lets talk about the kids again, there is a lot going on.”  So I paused. Then he started listing the events coming up for our family during the summer he remarked on the blessing of it all.  A newborn baby coming, a wedding, a son going into the Army and my husband deploying overseas. So much was coming.  And little did I know at that time he would be going.

I told him to get to the doctor and he told me he had an appointment on Monday.  We said, “I love you” to each other though he was out of breath I sensed he was emphasizing his words.  After I hung up my first thought was, ‘how strange for him to repeat everything I had said was happening with the kids this summer and he said it was all a blessing.’ I realized at that moment that I didn’t think I had ever heard him say the word ‘blessing’ before. The conversation has stayed with me every day since.  Even now I hear his voice.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and in eighteen days it will be the one year anniversary that my father went to heaven.  It is hard to think about that for too long without the tears welling up.  Initially I am happy for him, celebrating Father’s Day with his heavenly Father.  I can’t even imagine what that day will be like for me.  I try to but it is just too much.  My dad had not known Him long but for the time he did he was a changed man. And that thought alone makes me smile.  Makes me want to fall on my knees and give thanks for my heavenly Father who made it possible for my earthly father to experience peace, love and joy. For him to be able to recognize the ‘blessings’ in his life. So while I can not call him tomorrow to say Happy Father’s Day, I can call upon the Lord to say thank you for answering my prayers of salvation for the dad God gave me.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. ~ Romans 10:13

Larry Leach

Larry Leach

You Do Not Stop Being A Mother When Your Children Are Grown!

images (20)

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
22 Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.

Psalm 33:20-22 (NKJV)

Many times I have written about being a single parent of four children. I have written about the difficulties we faced as a family and the doubts I have had as a mother. My time is growing short as my last child is finishing up his high school years. We have a couple of years left and it is increasingly getting more difficult in some respects and somewhat exciting in others. The difficulty lies in letting go and letting God deal with those things in my children’s lives that I see as potential danger zones.  As a mother I see all the possibilities, good and bad. I see their potential in God and their vulnerability to the enemy.  I want to scream at them, “Watch out, you are too close to the edge!”  But then there are moments where I joyously want to say, “Yes! Way to go!!”

It never ends, being a mother. When they are grown you are still their mother. You are just more of an observer until they invite you in to speak to their circumstances and choices. It is hard to know sometimes what to say and when to say it. I don’t think I have erred with God’s Word by reminding them the bible says or God wants you to ______! (fill in the blank)  I think they hear me as long it is said with love and concern and not said with anger or bitterness to turn them away or a ‘I told you so’ attitude.  My inner heart says, “check your attitude at the door and love them.” Boy oh boy, I fail miserably.

I have to admit, on occasion, fear still wells up inside me where my children are concerned. I remember so many prayers prayed in tears over them at night for years. So many times begging God to protect their hearts spiritually, asking Him to fill in the gaps left open by actions or words. When fear welled up this morning I had to immediately go to God. I had to fight the thought with His truth otherwise it would have brought me down. They each are responsible for their relationship with God and the world. And when I see danger or neglect creeping into their life it grips my heart. This quote caught my eye this morning and I believe it is the Lord speaking through another confirming my urgency to keep my grown children in prayer.

“No matter how good a parent you have been, your adult children can still be impacted by the dark side of today’s culture. We must keep in mind that the magnetic draw of the evil forces of this world is strong and presents a constant battle for our children. We have to continually pray that they’ll be strong enough to resist this unrelenting encroachment of the enemy into their lives.” Stormie Ormartian

The verse above speaks to the trust and hope that I have kept within my heart as I was thinking back to the days when my life was about raising children and caring for my household as a stay-at-home mom and through the single parenting years. I can attest that I have seen Him answer so many of my requests in their lives. Through many trying circumstances He gave me strength to keep hoping when I thought I could not go another day. He provided for us when it looked like we had nothing left. I learned to trust Him to do what He said He would do.  I believe He is still working to bring it all together for good in His time. I may not see exactly what He is doing in their lives but I usually did not see what He was doing in my life until He did it! And it was always amazing!

The new season I am in today is that of a grandmother.  Four little ones to love on and cherish.  To pray for and beg God for His protection over them. God reminds me daily, that while our stations may change our obligations certainly do not. Trusting and hoping in God means communicating with Him our hopes and cares. Prayer is the means by which we do that.

Do you know the only weapon we can own and have complete control over in our lives is prayer. It can do much damage to the camp of the enemy if we wield it with confidence and in agreement to His will.  The only cost is our time and the return is immeasurable. We do not know when, where or who God will raise up to change the world for Him.  It could be one of my children, one of my descendants or one of yours.  When they look back at their family tree wouldn’t it be awesome for them to find a grandparent who prayed for them by name!  A grandparent who stood in the gap or interceded on their behalf to the throne of grace for them. Oh I want to be that grandmother!

My soul waits, He is my help and my shield. I rejoice in Him. Because I trust Him.  “Lord, God let your mercy be upon me and mine as we HOPE in YOU!

Ft Benning, GA - Dec 2013

Ft Benning, GA – Dec 2013

…That Both You and Your Descendants May Live!

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

I have a new grand-daughter! Her name is Melody Adeline! She is beautiful, head to toe!  I do not just say that because she is my grand-daughter but she is a wonderful creation. Black hair and dark eyes.  Her name means music, song and it rolls off your tongue like a song. Her middle name, Adeline, means noble. In German it means of nobility and pleasant. How sweet!  She is our ‘noble song’.  She is the smallest of all babies born into our family, 6 lbs. 9 oz. Look at her sleeping like she is praying!  I love this picture!

Melody Adeline

Melody Adeline

Holding her yesterday she was so content, curled up in a little lump laying on Grammy’s chest.  I could have held her all night long. Her big sister Daniela Jade, our little “jewel,” came and went visiting with me.  It wasn’t but three and half years before I was holding her the same way. She is a big girl now with her funny way of talking to all of us. She is precocious at times but she is an innocent little girl with eyes wide to the world around her. She mimics the adults around her and wants to be seen.  There are moments I see her vulnerability to the harshness of the world. As we all are vulnerable. But she has a sweet heart. I pray God protects that! I pray for both of them the way a Grandmother’s heart does. First to see God in all things and know Him in their lives.  Melody is my 4th grandchild and just like the ones before her I have sung Psalm 103 over her so she could hear the words and they would cover her heart and soul.

 

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I heard a message on this passage the other day.  And I loved how the preacher listed the benefits when we honor God.  I had read them, sang them and prayed them but I am not sure I really stopped to list them on paper as they applied to my life.

1) He forgives my sins (when I ask & repent)

2) He heals my diseases (mental as well as physical)

3) He redeems my life from destruction (many times over)

4) He crowns my life with love, kindness and tender mercies (His daily grace)

5) He satisfies me when I am hungry for something to fill my soul which in turn renews my strength & ability to serve Him (if and when I go to Him only for satisfaction)

All these benefits are mine daily if I do something first. Bless Him with my life. Honor Him. Walk in His ways. Give Him praise & worship.

And sometimes I am overwhelmed by these truths and the simple fact that God loves each and everyone of His creations in this way. So this is the prayer for each one of my grandchildren.  Brodie, Ann Marie, Daniela and Melody, that they would bless the Lord with their lives and would partake in the benefits He gives, so that they may LIVE well!

 

Finding A Piece of Destiny

Suddenly a memory pops into your head.  It isn’t a smell or an image provoking it, it is just a thought.  A thought popping up much like those annoying ads on websites you go to.  The site loads and up pops this little box trying to force you to sign up for something. This has been happening to me a lot lately.  My sister’s face comes up in dreams and in thoughts.  Yesterday it was my sister and my dad.  Last week it was my grandmother on my mother’s side.  They are bringing with them remembrances that are sweet and make me smile. With it comes a huge ache in my chest.  I miss them all.

Popes AnniversaryI think it is because in researching my ancestry I have made some very interesting and exciting discoveries that I would love to share with them and I can’t.  It seems those around me are not as excited about the pieces of treasure I have uncovered.  I want to call my sister and tell her what I found.  I want to call my dad and share with him the stories that I have read.  I would love to sit down with my grandmother and share with her the history of her family.  I wonder if she knew that her family founded the very town she raised her children in. Both my mother and my aunt had no idea so I believe she did not. What a shame to not know how your family staked a claim that future generations would call home.

I learned that three men, a father and two sons, set out from Tennessee to go West.  The father, William Murphy, was from Richmond, Virginia and was a Baptist minister. He and his family had settled in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War for a short time. The three men decided go a little to the south-west into what was known as the Louisiana Territory.  They were adventurous to be heading into the unknown. Reports say this was in the year 1798, which means the territory was under Spanish control, having been previously owned by France some 35 years before. The men arrived in what was known as Ste. Genevieve (Upper Louisiana) or later to be known as the south-eastern part of Missouri.

While everyone in the area was french and said to be very hospitable, no one spoke English. They had to send out for a man who could interpret for them. The man took them to his home and spent the rest of the night telling them about the area and where the good land was.  The next day with the assistance of an indian guide each of the men found land to claim. They filed their claims and the land was granted by Spain. They headed back to Tennessee to retrieve their families, however the father did not make it home. They had stopped at his son’s house in Kentucky and it is told he died there.  The brothers did however make it back to Tennessee and soon started back to their claims along with another brother who would work their father’s claim.  Later their mother, a woman named Sarah Barton Murphy, followed with the remaining family.

Sarah was a woman of faith.  And fearless it seems.  She took her remaining household on a trip in a keel boat that began on the Holston River, to the mouth of theOmaha keelboat Ohio River and eventually up the Mississippi River using ropes and poles.  She and her traveling companions managed to pass in the night the areas inhabited by hostile indians. They stayed close to the bank during the day for some concealment.  At the end of the trip on the river they walked another 28 miles over land to the final destination. It is calculated they traveled over 1000 miles and when they arrived, those greeting the party gave them a standing ovation.  They arrived June 12, 1802.*

Even though France took back the Louisiana Territory in 1800, it was done in secret, so it was still under the Spanish law until 1803. During the time of Spanish rule, it was against the law to worship God as a Protestant. So those who had lived there spent many years without corporate worship or fellowship. That did not seem to stop Sarah. Being a Christians lady, she would not have the men doing such things as fishing on the Lord’s day so she began a bible study.  The first one west of the Mississippi.  There is a monument to her today in the town of Farmington, Missouri to attest to the fact.

“On this spot the first Sunday School west of the Mississippi River was organized and taught by Sarah Barton Murphy in the year 1805 in the Old Log Meeting House, which was the first Protestant Church west of the Mississippi.” 

sarah barton murphyI have spent some time reading and re-reading the accounts of this family.  The family who worked the land and created what was known as the Murphy Settlement. And then later called Farmington, Missouri.  There are many more stories I want to explore and search out. But just gaining this knowledge has inspired me.  It has given me encouragement that each one of us has an opportunity to stake a claim for our family. We may not head out into unknown lands or have to travel under dangerous conditions to get there.  Maybe it is staking a claim for the Lord.  A claim to His promises to bless those who serve and honor Him.

I made such a claim years ago when I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I wanted to raise my children in the ‘nurture and admonition’ of the Lord. My desire was to make a change in the way my family had lived.  It now seems my family had grown away from the Lord in the generations since the Murphy’s. While it is exciting to learn of the Christian heritage I have, I did not learn of it until about 7 or 8 years ago.   I had already made the claim years before when my life was falling apart around me and I turned to God for help.  The heartache and destruction of alcoholism and drug addiction had been passed down in my family but can not be sure of who it started with or when. I take comfort in knowing that there may have been one, two or more Christian men and women praying for their descendents.  And those prayers found me when the bottom fell out of my life.

Finding Jesus and learning more about Him literally saved my life. It impacted my life in such a way that it changed the lives of those around me.  My children know God, my father came to know God, my 1st husband came to know God and now my grandchildren are learning of God.  Like finding an ancestor that made a difference in their time, changing the course of the lives around them by pointing them to Jesus. What a treasure to have knowledge of this. I know our focus should not always be on the past.  I know God is wanting us to keep our eyes focused on Him in any and all endeavors.  So I praise Him for showing me these new things. How good of Him to reveal the little details of our past weaved together for His glory!

God has been speaking to me about serving in the moment.  Not waiting for an event, or planning a program or praying about it….He wants me fully engaged NOW! Moment by moment being Christ to the world.  Serving Christ in my church daily not just on Sunday.  In my workplace, in my home and even in my commute.  But most importantly serving Him in my relationships.

As I get older I am understanding more the loneliness of age.  When we are young, we set out to connect with others in the world.  Our lives are weaved with relationships that either bring a balance to our lives or ones that knock us off course.  While we alone choose the people we keep in our life there are times when we have no choice whatsoever on who is in and who is out.  We can try to keep some in but if they want to leave we have to let them go.  We can try to leave some but they won’t let us. As we get older the relationships seem to thin out.  People die or move away.  Our kids grow up and have their own lives to attend to. Those connections I have to my childhood are getting fewer and fewer each year.  Maybe that is why Facebook is such a novelty to some of us. It has allowed us to reach back to the years through friends and acquaintances we had during that time. I think in some ways it validates a time stamp.  “See, we were there.”  “I lived there.” “I was connected there.”

I believe the desire to search out the stories of my ancestors is perhaps a tug of my heart to find a connection to destiny.  Or maybe it is the words of my great-grandparents prayers they offered up to God, to Jesus that someday their descendants would see that they were there.  That they lived and they served Him. That we would be connected to the very same God they were connected to. That their worship and service was not in vain. I want to know that too as I offer up prayers of my own.

The thought overwhelms me that the Murphy’s looked at the same moon & stars,  warmed their  faces under the same sun and kneeled to the same Lord of Lord and King of Kings and some day when I am present with the Lord I pray my great-grandchildren will do the same!

“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

Christmas Heart Ache

One of the things I love about Christmas is the lights.  I love the colors, the twinkle and the beams that bounce off the shiny ornaments.  As a little girl I would sit in the dark living room with only the tree lit. The bulbs were big and bright. Tinsel covered the tree. Bulbs hung along side hand-made ornaments my sister and I had made with our mom or in school.  My mother and father worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis.  Mom had brought some clear light bulbs home without the innards. Only the bulb and the metal end.  She put us at the table and showed us how to apply glue and glitter to the inside of the bulb.  Then we took a small picture she had cut out of us into the shape of an oval and we taped a string to the back side of it.  My mother put the picture and string inside the bulb and attached it to the metal part which she glued onto the end of the bulb. Viola! A beautiful light bulb ornament. I still have it today and it hangs on my tree.

1967 Shell GE light bulb ornament

1967 Shell GE light bulb ornament

When I left home to go into the Air Force, my mother began to send me an ornament every year.  Some were bought and some were hand-made.  All were a memorial to the year being given.  I kept every one of them and have hung them on my tree each year.  I even began making some of my own to commemorate some major events of the year. But I still continue to add them to mark a specific family event.  For example this year my son and his wife gave birth to a baby girl, Ann Marie.  My daughter got married and my third child, though now a man, graduated from high school and then 6 months later graduated Army Basic Training.  All very proud moments for me.  So I plan to hang three plus one for my fathers’ passing in remembrance.

This is the 1st Christmas without him.  It is surreal to come home and find him not here. I am staying in his house. The house he and his wife bought several years ago.  A beautiful Victorian style home.  It is in the center of the town off the main street.  I sense him all around us.  The ache in my heart of missing him but knowing he is celebrating this season in heaven with my sister.  What a thought, worshiping Jesus on His birthday in Heaven. Wow!

It is more difficult for his wife, my step-mom.  She sees him everywhere she turns.  He loved her so much and she knew it.  He took care of her and she misses that. Being taken care of and loved by a man who had searched for love his whole life.  The coolest part of their relationship was that not only did they both find a special love, he found Christ through her love.  I can not begin to tell you how special that is to me.  An answer to a 20 year prayer.  In her grief she is comforted by the fact she knows where he is but the ache is more real in the absence of his touch and his daily concern for her. Grief does not have a calendar or clock.  It knows no boundaries. It takes its time in the humdrum days of loneliness! I pray she finds healing in moving forward and focus on Christ who fills the emptiness left by my dad. I am glad I was here to share these days with her.  I believe it brought some ease to both of our hearts.

I did go to the cemetery to put flowers on my sister’s grave and my fathers’. He has no headstone yet but the grass has grown over him. The small blades of grass resemble moss, revealing to those who come to visit a fresh grave.  There is always a breeze there when I visit.  A warm, hot breeze on the day of his funeral.  But today very cold and brisk, making my eyes sting with tears.  Memories are a funny thing. Standing there I remembered I was the last to leave his casket waiting to go down into the ground.  I almost could not leave him.  I knew it was just his body, not him.  Something in me wanted to stay. I guess it was the finality of it all. I think that is why 1st anniversaries after a loved one passing on is so difficult.  It is the final remembrance of all the years you spent before.  Everything reminds you of what they did the last time you opened presents or sang Happy Birthday. The end of their living life.  The beginning of recalling every last word spoken.

I have noticed that there are memories that do not really come alive until your loved one is gone.  Is that what ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ means? The memories are more vivid and emotional.  I guess it is the heart and the mind that bring them together much like a photo album with dates and places written underneath the pictures. A slide show perhaps.  I like to make memorial videos of people and their moments. I have made several for myself, friends and family of special events we have shared.  I load all the pictures, put them in sequential order and then add music.  I try to add music that speaks to their life, their memory.  It is amazing how it all comes together when it is completed.  I watch them over and over. They make me smile.

I did that for my father.  I enjoyed looking at all his earlier pictures.  When it was finished and I watched it all the way through I realized how adventurous he was.  Motorcycles, boats and hobbies he had throughout the years.  He smiled a lot when he held his children and grandchildren. That was very cool to see.  The end was harder to watch because the pictures were more recent.  Even so he ended well.

I am wondering what the memory of this Christmas will be in a few months.  It was full of what is important.  Family.  Loving one another unconditionally and cherishing each precious moment the Lord allows us to share with those who make our lives full and rich.  Never mind the junk because really the junk is the reason Christ came. To take away the junk and replace it with gems.  His precious gift of a redeemed and restored life! And that is what I remember today of my dad. A gift from God. Redeemed, restored and at peace!  Thank you Lord for filling our minds with memories and hearts with love!!! Thank you for turning heartache into joy when we turn our hearts toward you!

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

Grace to you

Shell