“I have him,” He said to me

 

Have you ever experienced a perfect day yet felt some sort of unknown angst in your spirit and you didn’t exactly know why?

Today was one of those days. The weather forecasted light rain coming in from the Gulf off and on all day. Navy clouds hovered over east beach early this morning but by 8:00 they had dissipated and the sky was soft blue with puffy clouds over us all day. The wind blew in from the east; something that had not happened nearly all summer. One of the ladies I met at the star gazing party a couple of weeks ago said when the wind blows in from the east the fishing is the best.

My husband  and I headed out to the beach this morning rather late for us; he on a walk, and I on the mountain bike. I was going to try to go further on the sand on this bike and I did! I learned that cycling closer to the surf was better; the sand was packed down much harder than the lighter sand closer to the dunes. It was a great ride.

My son called to say hello shortly after I returned from the bike ride. Seems he is frustrated at his job, the one that was practically handed to him from above back in mid January. But no one even says hello to me, he complained. Remember how hard it was to get work the first time, I reminded him. He was now considering how great it would to travel as a missionary for eleven months in eleven countries. Well, I said, it’s grueling hard stuff too. And not everyone likes what you have to say, the weather and terrain can be mean and nasty and yes, you have to raise your own support and it’s hard work. I kept thinking, he has such great ideas, but not always willing to work at making it happen. When it becomes hard, well, I’m done he seems to have a habit of saying.  Later in the afternoon, I saw his Facebook post: “Today is my last day.” That’s exactly when the angst hit me.

As we began digging the four holes at the back of our beach home property for the crepe myrtles my husband and I found on sale for 5 bucks a piece at Lowe’s, I just couldn’t shake the uneasiness. How good you are to Beloved and me, God, I kept thinking. Why don’t I have some peace about it? And then I asked Jesus, “Help me know your peace.”hand-on-shoulder He did. He told me down deep in my spirit, “I have Joe.” And then, I sensed such a relief. His hand was on my shoulder, comforting me. I knew then, as I had not really cared to know down deep before. I owned it now, the reality  that He, Jesus,  has my son. There’s only one thing I, the Mom,  can do for him. Have been doing for him. Praying for him. Lifting him up in prayer nearly all day. Even before I saw that post.

I have this, Jesus says. I have your son. I, the Lord, have you. I have your burdens. I have it all. So you can rest in me. Only me. Right now. My son has chosen to hang on to his job and continue to learn, focus, and be content where he is. Learning process.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

 

Choosing the Best over the Good

two-women-talking

As Susan opened her door for me to come in, she sighed and said, “Aren’t we just so crazy?” She laughed and we hugged. I went in to her den and found the two white poster boards in which she had penned the words to Hebrews 11:6 so beautifully in royal blue. Large. Legible. One for each team.  The children will easily see and memorize. “Oh, Susan, this is perfect! Thank you!” I exclaimed. As I picked them up she and I began to laugh about how utterly overflowing our plates were. Wasn’t summer a time for relaxing, we both wondered.  She, being tugged to Oklahoma to be with her working husband on weekends; her many grandchildren, whom she cherishes beyond words, off and on with her nearly all summer with their activities; and now, she is taking on presenting the Gospel in Summer Good News Clubs at an apartment complex and the YMCA one hour each per week for six weeks. And don’t forget VBS. And “cousins’ camp.” And…….on and on. I looked at her as she began to apologize for not being at the first Good News Club because her husband needed her with him this week.

“Wait,” I said, looking into her lovely burdened eyes. “Your husband is far more important than this Good News Club! Our marriages are what God instituted first. The church came next. We have plenty of leaders. You go with no guilt. He wants you. Needs you. Go be with him.”  She looked at me and smiled. “You’re right, Dianne. So right. What I do for and with my husband is speaking volumes to my grand children. They are watching and if they see that busy church work is more important to me than their granddaddy, then I’ve really made marriage look less important and greatly dishonoring to God.”  We looked at one another somberly. I understood her struggle to please her husband and yet to do busy gospel work. My husband and I had just purchased a beach home, something we each couple-in-galvestondesired to do some day in the future. Now the future was present. And we were planning to spend some weekends there fixing it up as well as relaxing together. Yet, I was the one who brought Child Evangelism Fellowship to the attention of our Missions Pastor a few months ago. My fault! I was in all the way this summer. No wonder my neck was stiff and my head throbbed. But, I also knew the huge importance of my being with my husband. He is my covenant partner for life. My man. I’m his only one. There are others to fill the shoes of sharing the gospel for awhile. But to show the world that doing church work at the expense of being with my husband these few weekends in the summer is truly slamming the whole idea of what Christians preach about marriage being so paramount in God’s eyes. Well, it IS paramount. It is the picture of a relationship between a man and a woman, fully committed to one another as God is committed to His people. His people to love and obey Him.

Susan and I also knew that on the other side of the coin, our men had given each of us a lot of room to go and do all year; mentoring school age children, greeting folks on Sunday mornings, teaching Vacation Bible School, presenting the Gospel once a week in the local elementary school. We were not shunning church work totally. We were struggling to live in balance. My husband has his competitive pool league. I have my young mom’s group. We have separate interests. We also serve together when our friends or family have needs. We come together when needed. Our men need us now. So we go. No guilt. We pray for others in the church community to come along side us and fill in when needed. We come together and help one another out and to lift up those whose husbands have called us wives to be with them. It is a huge witness to the world who sees marriage as less than important in the culture, both in the evangelical community as well as the world in general. We cannot let that happen. Oh, Father, help all of us to see how much you desire us to hold tight to our covenant marriage and treat one another with Godly respect and to be that picture of His love for us. “Marriage should be honored by all.” Hebrews 13:4

Come as a child

The disciples were regular men like men are today. Full of themselves. Did I say that? Yep. Here they were in the area of Capernaum,  three of them having just witnessed the mountain top experience of the Transfiguration;  the others down below not able to heal the man’s son because of their unbelief, and when they finally got alone with Jesus they asked Him, “Jesus, who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Not too full of themselves, right? Boy, did they have a pride issue! Pride was exactly what got the angels who sinned out of heaven!

Jesus, calmly went over and sat among the people and called out to a child who was nearby and asked him to come to Him. He gathered him in His arms, smiled at the child with those “I love you” eyes, and then looked up at his disciples and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4). Unless you are converted or changed; turned around; repentant. I like what a pastor said once about the word “repentant.” – Rethink. Rethink the direction you are headed.Jesus with a child

Jesus chose to use a child to help his self-centered disciples get the point. We aren’t to be childish as the disciples who quarreled over who would be the greatest, but rather child-like. Humble with a sincere heart.  Jesus also took a child, who, in those days, had no rights according to the Law, and stood him in front of Him and told not only His disciples but those all around him, that greatness in the kingdom is not based on works or words, but on a childlike humility of spirit.

 

Children. Young. Innocent. Full of wonder and excited about life around them. Also they are teachable; complete sponges. What did Jesus mean? Jesus takes those who come  with total abandon. Unconditional love and trust; humble and simple faith, forgiving, gentle and kind.

But isn’t it like all of us who want to be known and  have some notoriety even among other Believers? But over and over Jesus demonstrated as well as used His words to convey to these men that to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven was to be a servant. To be unknown. To be humble of heart and spirit. He must increase, John the Baptist said, and I must decrease. (John 3:30).

What does that look like in the everydayness of our lives?  I come as a child in abandoning my failures, my inhibitions, my fears and toss them all to Him and then experience His gentle hand upon my shoulder when I have taken back my angst over my searching son and hear Him say, “I have your son.” And resting in His promises that He does! He really has my son, so that I can truly experience the joy He promised. “I came,” He said,” to give you life and to have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). It means watching to see where my guest sits at the round tables at Bible Study and sitting with her, even though I had wanted to sit up front so I could see. It means taking a meal, or praying for the mom who is in front of me  in line at Wal-Mart, struggling with two busy, tired kids at the end of the day.Maybe even give her an understanding “I’ve been there, too” smile.  It means……you know what it means. Stepping back and giving someone else their due. It means closing your mouth before you say something saucy. woman lifting up hands two

It also means that it starts all over again the next morning. That coming to Jesus, opening up your arms and giving it ALL. All to Him. Surrendering. It means asking Him to be real in all those moments and putting yourself aside. Your pride. Your self-centeredness. Let’s face it, Girlfriends (who are generally the ones who read this blog). We are just like those disciples who asked Jesus who was going to be the greatest. We are.  Take some time today and ask Jesus to convert you. Rethink those places where pride is lurking and give it to Him so you can truly experience His presence. His joy. Because you’ve chosen to come as a child. Humble. Simple faith. Totally trusting. Unconditional love.

Now may you…..Go out with His joy and be led forth in peace. Isaiah 55:12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What drives me?

Lately I’ve heard several folks share of their feeling depressed. Down. Sad.  No energy. Despair.  These feelings were linked to improper meds, stress, loss, grief, loneliness.

And I get it. If someone were to tell you they had never been depressed a day in their life, I’d question it. Seriously.  Everyone at one time or another has had some type of depression, sadness, despair. It’s part of our humanness. Part of that “I’m-not-completely-content-with-my-life” attitude. I do believe a lot of depression comes from unmet expectations. We were expecting life to be this way and it turned out to be this way. I also believe we have put a lot on our plates. Daily. We get up with a long list and expect to have checked off everything on that list by bedtime. Or……or we’d feel let down. Disappointed. Unmet expectations. And then a bit of stress lingers through the night, whispering such things as “you know you didn’t quite get everything done. You’re not measuring up. Certain friends and family are going to be disappointed in you.” Then some depression sets in.

This morning I was directed to read a familiar Psalm – 42. You may have heard some of the phrases. “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O my God.”  Have you ever truly “panted” or longed for something so bad that you couldn’t focus on anything/anyone else? David felt that way when he penned this Psalm. It’s not real clear when he wrote it. It doesn’t matter to me, really. What matters is that he longed for the presence of God in his life right then more than water to drink. He longed for the comfort and presence of God. I wonder what that means – longing for the Creator God to be real in your life right now. More than anything else in your life.

I don’t know if many Americans in the twenty-first century get this. We are so driven by so much technology pulling at our thoughts, time, emotions, drive, that truly, how many of us have really taken the time to be still and know God? To be centered on just thinking about Him. Aboutchange - open arms His creation. His power. What His Son did on the cross so I could be forgiven of my sins. Have you just sat somewhere and put down your phone, computer, i-pad, coloring book, and turned off the TV and just sat still? Have you ever thought about His power?

I have. But it seems I’m not very good about thinking about Him for very long. Yet, David said, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”  Hope in God. Hope. Believing in something you can’t see but just know will come about. Hope in God. Well, personally, hoping in God means I hope in the One who created the Universe; who created my children; who created me; who brought my husband from New Jersey then Tennessee all the way to Houston so we could meet one day and fall in love and marry.

Hope. Trusting in. Believing in. And resting in. All His promises. Do you get that? It does take quiet. It takes refocus. Off self and on Him. On His provision. On His Presence. On His promises. All of His promises are true and He keeps all of them. When I quiet my thinking and focus on Him, I begin to praise Him for what He did for me. I begin to thank Him for keeping His promises. I begin to thank Him for creating me and for giving me my sons. And do you know what begins to go away? Despair. Disappointment. Depression. Oh, it takes time. But when I take some time to focus on Him. And thank Him and praise Him (praising means bragging on Him) then that negative stuff that stresses me and burdens me and brings me down begins to lift. Little by little and it is amazing how much my world seems to be more bearable.

So the daily list; the one you’re supposed to have checked off by bedtime? When your focus begins to be more on Him, your Creator God and His Son Jesus, then, you’re not so worried about getting every single thing done.  You realize that perhaps not all of that was so important anyway. The dishes don’t always have to be put away by bedtime, or the bed made every morning, or even that you prepare a nutritious dinner (pizza once in a while isn’t so bad!) or that you did indeed eat that last bite of cake and blew your so called diet. The things you think are so important are not always the most important. Remembering to tell your children you love them, counting to ten before raising your voice, breathing and walking away before raising your hand in anger. You just begin to relax more and see the beauty of the important things.

The reality is…..He loves you so very much. He is the One who desires that relationship with you……just as you are. He just wants you to pant after Him every once in awhile until you just want more and more of Him.

God bless you!

Covenant: Do we MEAN it?

Back in the day a man’s handshake was his word. That was enough. No papers to draw up, or lawyers to get involved; just two sensible men or women making an agreement and sticking with it. Period. It could be the sale of a vehicle, or  a trade, or even where the fence was supposed to go between two properties.

Further back in the day, say, around the centuries that the Old Testament was lived out and then documented, two tribes would come together and make an agreement and live by it, whether it was a good one or not. They called it a covenant. A covenant was a binding agreement made between two men or two tribes, or even between God and man.

This morning I read of an uncomfortable covenant. That is, it was most uncomfortable for the Israelites who were busy conquering the tribes in their newly given Promised Land by their Holy God, Jehovah. The land was not too huge. Word got around quickly, even without cell phones and texts, that the Israelites who had come across the Jordan River not too long ago, were killing the kings and their people and taking over the land one tribe after another. Of course there was great fear. We would be afraid, too, if another people group were coming in to our country and just taking over one state at a time, leaving only a burning heap of rubble.

The folks in Gibeon had heard what was going on. They had heard that this leader Joshua and all his Israelite warriors had conquered the kings of Ai and Jericho. They devised a plan. They “acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended; and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled.” Joshua 9:4-5.  They journeyed over to Joshua’s camp at Gilgal and they said to them, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” Joshua 9:6.

Now a covenant was nothing new to the people of that day, both to the tribe of Gibeon and the tribe of Israel. Folks had been making a covenant over the ownership and use of a well. (Genesis 21:22-34). They had made a covenant between two families and their lands (Jacob and Laban). So when the men of Gibeon came to Joshua asking to make a covenant, they knew one main thing. They knew it would be a binding agreement that would last forever. They knew it would not be broken. To break the covenant would greatly dishonor their name. The people of Gibeon knew that the people of Israel would not risk that dishonor. Even though Joshua asked them who they were and where they had come from, he believed them and did not seek out the counsel of his God. “The men of Israel took some of their provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.”( Joshua 9:14)

Joshua made peace with the people of Gibeon and made a covenant with them, to let them live and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. They made this covenant without the consent of the Lord, didn’t exactly check out their story and now, after the covenant was made and the oath was sworn, the Israelites learn that the people of Gibeon are their near neighbors. They have been had. They know that when they have made a covenant, even without seeking the counsel of the Lord, it is a binding agreement that has been made before the Lord God Almighty. And so the Israelites cannot touch them. They let them live among the Israelites but they made them their servants; hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation. Though it may not have been exactly what the Gibeons wanted, yet they lived.

covenant promiseThese days people make a covenant. It’s a marriage covenant and it is between two people and in the presence of a man of God and it is supposed to be a forever binding agreement no matter what. As you all know, sadly our word, even our “covenant” before a crowd of any size, before a man of the cloth of any persuasion, even before one another is just not meaningful anymore. Even though the Israelites had been deceived, they kept the covenant and let the Gibeons live. Though they made them to be servants they kept the covenant. A covenant was more honoring as it was sworn before their Lord God than whether the Gibeons were honest or not.

Folks, you and I know our home and marriages have fallen prey to the enemy called “feelings” and “happy” and “convenient” for far too long. I know that this little blog is not going to change our society’s way of thinking on marriage, but perhaps it will encourage Believers in the Lord God Almighty to rethink. To repent of the idea that marriage is forever until someone better comes along. Marriage, for good or bad, is to be forever. Until death do you part. You know that our marriages are the truest picture and testimony to the world of God’s seriousness of a covenant. Of His promises. Of His hand in what He deems important and He so deems marriage and the home as just as important or more so than the church. It tells the world that a covenant is forever no matter what.  Just as His promises are forever. No matter what. He keeps His end of the bargain. He is forever with you and your spouse. In sickness and in health. For richer or for poorer. Forever. I will never leave you or forsake you.covenant with rings

Well, there’s got to be some encouragement here to those whose marriages for whatever reason are no more. And there’s many. So many single again folks. To you the Lord says, repent, rethink what choices have been made and return to Me. Seek me and I will fulfill you and be to you the husband or wife you had but don’t anymore. I’ll be to you the comfort and peace you should have had in that marriage. You see, though God truly does hate divorce, yet, when we return to Him and seek His forgiveness and seek Him as our refuge, because He is a faithful and forgiving Father, He draws us back in and we can experience His comfort and presence in our lives. Turn to Him, my friend.

Could we commit to pray for our families, our marriages, our homes, that we would take seriously what covenant we made before the Lord God almighty no matter whether we feel happy at that moment or not. When we seek Him, in the midst of our marriage He will draw us back to Himself and to one another. Marital breakups are far too easy in this country. It’s become the norm to be unwed, divorced, in another “relationship” than it is to be happily and forever married to the person you made that covenant with in front of all those witnesses! Come on, people, let’s return to the reason for that covenant. A binding agreement before God. No matter what.

 

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You can’t disappoint God

It was not a great day for walking, unless fog and clammy fits your mood and you just head out. It was one of those mornings when I put on way too many clothes for this mild January morning and walked out on my usual stroll through the neighborhood then out to the greenbelt alongside our gully.

“Lord, though I don’t SEE you, I know you’re there, ” I said aloud. It was a great morning for just talking to Him out loud. All of a sudden out came my neighbor rolling her trashcan to the street for pickup. “Good morning!” we both sang out to one another. “Will you come in for coffee?” she asked. “Well, I believe I’ll pass this morning. Just out for the morning walk before I run some errands.” She laughed lightly then said, “Well, truth be told, I’m really heading out to work.” She grinned. It was all perfectly fine. I asked her what work she was heading out to this morning, knowing full well she was long into retirement. “My husband is trying to sell his business and it’s not going too well right now.” We talked about it a few minutes before she said, “But you know, our devotional this morning was on hope. We have a “hope rope” to heaven. We don’t need to be weighted down by our circumstances but keep our eyes on Him, our Hope.” I nodded in agreement and smiled. It was exactly what I had thought of saying to her. Keep our hope and eyes on Him and let the circumstances fall where they may. She had talked of his regretting that he had not sold it five years ago. “Shoulda’s are so destructive,” I responded. “That’s the past and there’s nothing we can do about it.” She nodded in agreement.

And then I remembered something I had read earlier this week. “You know, Dear Neighbor,  you really can’t disappoint God. He is not surprised by what we do. After all, He made us and He knows exactly what we’re going to do before we do it!” She smiled as she began to head to the back door. It was getting closer to the time she needed to be off to work – supporting her husband in his business endeavors at this time.

I thought about what I had read in “Altar’d” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. “You may sometimes have the feeling that God is disappointed in you. “How could He not be disappointed?” you reason. “I let Him down again and again. I promise and then I fail.”

She says, “I don’t believe God is ever disappointed in you. What does it mean to disappoint someone? it means that you have failed to meet that person’s expectations. For you to disappoint God, He would have to think you were going to behave one way, then be surprised when you behave another way. God knows you better than you know yourself. “He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14. I had thought of this all week, and actually, it became more and more freeing as I realized that yes, God loves me immensely and knows before I take the next breath what I’m thinking or planning or going to do. And still He is with me and will never ever forsake me.

I waved at my neighbor and said a prayer for she and her husband that his business would sell to the right person and that they would be able to move in their retirement, free from the burden of his business.arms outstretched

 

Change is uncomfortable; but necessary

praying together one Our small group has been meeting together far longer than when my Beloved and I joined. They tell the story of a morning when one of the men was out walking and his neighbor's cat was out? Was lost? Something. The cat was the catalyst for the men's encounter that brought them and their families together for what turned in to seventeen years!
"You and your wife come over and have coffee next Tuesday night," the walker said to the cat owner. They met and discovered they had much in common, including their church home. Let's invite some others. They did. By the time my husband and I came to their church about 5 years ago, the group had grown profoundly into 13 couples.
Over the years, the couples had seen one another through a daughter's brain surgery; parents' illnesses and passing away; rebellious sons; job searching; retirement anxiety and questions; moving away. Through all the issues of life we came together to pray. Our hearts, so knitted together under the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ's profound love, submitted to Him each and every Tuesday evening, knowing deep deep down that He was hearing. He was seeing. He was loving. And He was moving. And oh, how beautiful to watch Him work! It was glorious! To witness the healing of her daughters brain surgery; she, who is now mother of 5! To look around the crowded room of family and life long friends and see 11 completely new friends at my father's memorial service! Friends who had never met my father! Still profoundly moved at their heart and presence! To hear that their 30+ something year old son, who struggled for years to find a job was now not only gainfully employed but praised by his boss! Only God.
Lately, though, it seems that our group has had several move on to other groups within the church. Another couple moved to another town. Logical reason for leaving our group. But several others have moved on for what? Other ministries. And few new folks have come into our group.
Funny. This new season is groaning with questions. Are we still a group? What is God doing? Are we asking God that question or are we just getting irritated that folks are leaving our group? They're all great couples. Salt of the earth. Still very involved in other areas of the Body.
Change. Uncomfortable. Inevitable. Necessary.
Like pruning. When I get the garden clippers I'm quite deadly. As I was clipping the browned rose blooms, I got a bit hasty. Yep. Clipped a bud with two new buds yet to open. Bill noticed and grimaced. Pay attention, he said with his face. Oops. I brought the bud inside and stuck it in the middle of the carnations. It opened beautifully.
change- life is beautiful
What’s next for our group? Prayer. We meet and pray and discuss the question. What does God have for our group who have met for so many years? Personally, if they asked me, since we are in the midst of those retiring years, wouldn’t it be great to see the Lord bring in some young couples to our group to pray with? To encourage. To let them know that through their life issues, our God is with them. Seeing. Hearing. Loving. And yes, moving. And watch what God does to this next generation. For yes, though change is surely uncomfortable, it is so necessary for growth. I don’t really want to “die on the vine.” I want to be nipped and moved so I can bloom somewhere else! For my Lord!
Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace!
change - open arms