Beauty for ashes

…….to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness of instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.” Isaiah 61:2.3

True Life: Our beach home was brought to life when two young boys and their older sister bounded into the den followed by their mom lugging the bag of beach towels and snacks. My husband and I were delighted to have them spend a weekend with us playing on the beach followed by a simple supper of kids’ food – spaghetti and meat balls that evening.

As the boys were being entertained by my husband downstairs in the garage and their sister was in the bedroom listening to her i-pod, mom was sharing with me a little of her life story. “I wouldn’t be here today if my wise church lady friend hadn’t told me to get into my Bible and claim a verse, and make that my scripture for life. I was to lean into it when things got very messy; to go to it daily and to believe it. The Lord gave me Isaiah 61: 2. He will bring me beauty for ashes. And Dianne, He has. I cannot tell you how many answers to prayer; the healing that is going on with my children; His provision over and over. That truck for our son that was GIVEN to us! He is bringing the beauty from all the muck of the mess my ex-husband made in our lives. He, the Lord is right with us!”

I stopped what I was doing in our kitchen and just looked at her, tears welling up in my eyes. She was truly radiating God’s presence within her. She was a living example of the blessings of God and His hand in a precious life who went to the Word and sought after Him. She didn’t run to anyone or anything but Him.

The Lord gave me a song to cling to back in the day of rejection in my former marriage. Through the simple lyrics of “I am loved,” He was reminding me that yes, He the Lord loved me, even through the pain. During the separation and following, He brought a sassy wise church lady into my life and led me back to the deeper places of the Word, always reminding me that I was loved.

https://youtu.be/jfMm6cHPjzE

True Word:  In my pain and rejection I sought the Lord and He heard me and brought me out of the despair.”  Psalm 77:2. This Psalm of David reveals a time of deep soul-searching in David’s life. Faith is hard to grasp but faith can find a solution, which is in the sanctuary. God always hears when a soul-seeker comes to Him. Meditate on all that Lord has done for you, His mighty deeds and give Him praise. He promises to draw you close when you seek to draw close to Him. His faithfulness never fails.

True Hope: To those who may not have been led to a “wise church lady” in your hurting rejection days, here is the word; run to Jesus. Run into the Word made flesh and ask Him to cover you with His presence; to lead you to the verse for you. He will. He promises that He will. It is also my personal hope that more churches all over the country will open their hearts to the single moms in their community. We mentor moms with Moms@Midweek welcome any mom who comes through the door on Wednesday nights between six and eight with a light meal, fellowship and solid teaching from God’s Word. You may find us at www.hnw.org/women. mom-at-beach

Prayer for this day: Lord Jesus, life is hard. You know that. You also hear. You see. May we seek your face daily and lean into your promises and watch you work in our lives, as we surrender to you. Your word never fails. You, Almighty God, never fail. May we never forget to draw close to you. In your name, Amen.

Your faith inspires!

Have you ever been amazed at the Lord’s work in another’s  life? Here at the end of the year, as folks are making and sometimes sharing their new year’s resolutions (usually broken by February), two young moms shared their reflections over this past year of how God was moving in their lives. These two moms testified in their email to us this week, they have grown closer to God through fellowship with other Believers, in our little mom group, other Bible Studies and the worship services. Their individual struggles may not have diminished at all, but their hope in the God who loves them and their children has grown. Here’s a comment from each of them.

“Anger made me feel powerful but now I feel untouchable through prayer.”

“I am more mature in my faith and I’m striving to be the best mom to my kids.”

You may remember the story shared here on this blog that three years ago our church began a single mom’s ministry with a few mentor moms who listened to the Holy Spirit. He told the five of us to go upstairs to that vast room in our church and begin loving on some moms, expressing how much God loves them. So we did. There have been Wednesday nights when just a few women showed up for a light supper at six followed by a Bible Study. We had even heard of several moms who had attended our Sunday morning service and written a note to our staff asking about our group and have shown up, but then…..we didn’t see them anymore. Shallow commitment to church meetings and groups is the norm. It has not discouraged us in the least.

But these few comments from two of our precious young moms encourages our hearts deeply as it says to us that we are on the right path. Teaching our women to hope in God and Him alone.

Our mentor moms may not know the struggle of each of our single moms, as some of us have never journeyed that path. This week I received some texts from two other moms struggling over their former husband’s handling of their children versus their discipline approach. One honestly wrote: “this is the part of divorce that is just so hard.” Of course. So I stopped what I was doing and prayed for her, her children, and her ex-husband. This is “the faith” that is the stuff of living out the daily life – through prayer to our Lord, voicing that we are so powerless without Him. The struggle hasn’t gone away, but the hope has grown stronger. They are not as anxious.

Another mom had some extra money come her way after the sale of her home this fall. She texted me one day and said she felt led to bless some moms in our group for Christmas. She brought fun, self-indulgent, “I-really-don’t-have-to-have-this” gifts to four moms this season anonymously.soli-deo-gloria-two

We cannot help but give praise to God alone -soli deo gloria. We do look forward to this next year with eager hearts to see what God will do in and through our ladies as they learn to walk close to Him daily.

“And you shall the love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your heart.” Deuteronomy 6:5

This year go out with joy and be led forth in His peace.

 

 

 

Amid the Stuff……Abide

vine
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4
I finally get why some folks like to close down the routine of mid-week church meetings. December gets crammed full of extra stuff!! A lot of extras! It’s overwhelming!  Some even close down Sunday church just so they can go do the other stuff – the stuff that comes only once a year (thank you, God!) and fills our cup for a little while – you know…..those once a year concerts. Those parties. Those family “I-better-show-up-or-my-name-is-mud” gatherings!

I may get why folks want to close down the routine but I don’t agree with it. Personally, I thrive on routine. Keeps me sane. I need church! I need girl-time fellowship! So, as much as some folks’ decisions reign over mine, and that’s clearly okay, I have to let you know how I feel ’cause here is the encouragement:

Whatever you do this season – whether you go to all the stuff or if you choose to stay home and watch Christmas movies (not a bad thing!) – please know that our Lord and Savior is with you! He, God with us, gets the craziness of the month of December. He knows that we will get caught up in it and He is okay with that as long as……..you continue to have some time with Him! Here’s the deal: Abide with Him – spend some amount of prayer/Bible reading time with the Lord and He will abide back with you! Abide means “to remain.” The Lord is with you no matter what, but we are the ones who get mightily distracted. We are the ones who need that time with Him to remind us of who we are in Him and what He desires of us – our love and obedience to Him.

May I suggest you reread slowly and carefully the Christmas story. Start with Matthew 1 and 2. Then go to Luke 1 and 2. Ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to know from the story. Such as, do you see what Jesus’ main purpose is for even being born as a baby? Or look at how Joseph, who isn’t the real father, handles the situation. Or look at Mary and notice how she gives the praise to God for choosing her.
May you continue to hang in there with the Lord – time with Him is so very precious! How He loves to hear from you!

Paul Harvey, a famous radio news broadcaster, shares his rendition of the Christmas story.   Short and poignant. Worth sharing with your children.

https://youtu.be/S_aeYN1CBt4birds-in-snow

Merry Christmas and God’s glorious blessings to each of you!!!

Hey! Unto you a child is born!

It’s all Beejai’s fault. My all time favorite blogger of The River Walk has prompted me to write this response to his series  “Twenty-five songs of Christmas.” In Song #7 – “Angels We Have Heard on High” he talks about how he would prefer another word than “sweetly” to describe the angels’ singing. I agree. If, as the Scriptures indicate, the heavens were filled with the mighty angels proclaiming the birth of the Son of God, surely they wouldn’t be “sweetly” singing as if they were cooing a baby to sleep! They made some noise! Loud noise! They woke the shepherds up! They frightened them!

It does seem like we have sweetened up the whole Christmas story over the centuries with saccharine images and messages. We’ve watered down the story  to a comfortable, safe milk toast middle class America in the 50’s view.

After reading Beejai’s very well-written blog,  I picked up my all-time favorite Christmas story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson to freshen up my memory of how six street-smart kids learned of the Christmas Story and took it out of its starched stuffy church play and into believable characters!the-best-christmas-pageant-ever-cover

Singer, song-writer and author, Michael Card said that there are stories in the Bible that should bother you. Bother in the sense of mystery, of not making any sense. It bothered the Herdman children that Joseph and Mary were led to the back of the inn to the barn to stay the night they arrived in Bethlehem, even though she was pregnant (as opposed to “great with child.”) And, they learned to their complete horror, that Mary had nothing to lay her new born baby in but a feed trough! “We laid Gladys in the bureau drawer ,” Imogene volunteered. It bothered them that the gifts the Wise Men brought were “not practical.” What is the baby going to do with oils? they had cried out in alarm. We get a ham every year from the fire department.

What makes this story so timeless to so many of us is that there truly are children all around us who have absolutely no idea what the real meaning of Christmas is. They see Santa Claus’s everywhere that they’re supposed to believe in, sitting right beside a plastic nativity scene with figurines all dressed in some centuries old costumes that have no meaning to them and some are told at church that they’re supposed to believe in them. Really? Why, they wonder. The Herdman’s had not been taken to church all their lives. They demanded that the  director of the Christmas play tell them the story. And so much of it bothered them. Did it bother the rest of the church children who had heard the story all their lives, that Mary had to lay her baby in a feed trough? Did they get that the Angel of the Lord, played by Gladys, broke through the pre-school angels from the back of the stage that night and hollered out, “Hey! Unto you a child is born?”

We who’ve been around awhile think we know the story and the way it’s supposed to be told as if it was a layout for Southern Living Magazine. Everything in its crisp,starched, perfect, most proper place. But not people friendly. Made to be a picture to just look at but not be moved by.  The Herdman children remind me to look at the story from a fresh “I never heard the story before” approach and consider that Jesus was indeed born for us. All of us. Into this very unfair, imperfect world to bring us His salvation from our own sins and to love us just as we are. I believe He came! I want to know the child who was born! Thank you, Barbara Robinson, for bringing the Herdman’s to life and to question what really happened that night so long ago. Hey! Unto YOU a child is born!cast-of-best-christmas-pageant-ever

 

 

God is your helper

“Oh blessed by GOD! He didn’t go off and leave us!” Psalm 124:6 The Message

It’s Wednesday, December 7th! Pearl Harbor Day where 75 years ago our country was attacked by Japanese who flew bomber planes over Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and killed over 2000 of our country’s navy men. President Roosevelt told the nation over the radio that this day would live in “infamy,” meaning being famous for something not good. In-famous. A blight on our nation’s history. We honor those who served in World War II by remembering the sacrifice they and their families made from 1941-1945.

Dad was a pilot who flew bombers over Europe during WWII. The Germans had invaded Poland in 1939. America did nothing. Germans invaded the Netherlands. They invaded Denmark. Then they flew planes over the English Channel and attacked England. We were angry. We couldn’t sit this war out. Hitler was serious about taking over the free world. By this time we were involved in fighting against Japan in the Pacific.

On one particular mission as he and the crew were headed back over the English Channel from taking fuel to our military in France and part of Germany, they were hit by flack – the Germans were firing at them from the ground. Dad had to make a quick serious decision. Jump or try to land the plane. Dad prayed to the Lord he had trusted in when he was only eleven years old but had wandered away from in his devotion. “Lord,” he said, “if you help me get my crew safely back to land, I’ll serve you the rest of my life.” In the cockpit in front of him flashed a word over and over as a neon sign: “JUMP.” He knew it was a message from the Lord. He ordered his crew to jump and they parachuted down on English soil to safety. The plane crashed in an open field so no lives were lost. My dad did serve the Lord through his church and then in leading Bible studies to men in prison. He was a radiant Godly fun-loving man all his life.

The word this week is God is our helper. Psalm 124 says, “God’s strong name is our help, the same God who made heaven and earth.” The Message.

Praise be to God that you are my help! Even though I cannot see you, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you, God, exist and are walking alongside me all the way through the muck of my everyday life; through the joys, through the hurts and through the pain. You are beside me. I know. He’s invisible. This is where audacious faith comes in! “Faith,” says Eugene H. Peterson in his book The Long Obedience in the Same Direction, “develops out of the most difficult aspects of our existence, not the easiest.”

The other day I had the joy of sitting beside a friend in a school meeting for her child. I never said a word during the meeting. Just prayed. Listened. Heard. It wasn’t necessary that I say a word. It was necessary that my presence was there. And my friend knew it. Was comforted by it. His presence is with you. Be comforted by it.

So, believe and then just KNOW in your spirit He is there. Right beside you. And, like my dad in the hour of his greatest need, you call on Him. He will make His presence known to you in the ways that bring you His peace and comfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


	

Simply touching the Soul

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

Generally, I’m not a great shopper. I have to be “in the mood.” Especially in this season. For the better part of Saturday I was content to unwrap the decorations and place them around our home. I had Keith and Kristyn Getty singing their Christmas music at full throttle.

Finally, needing to just get out of the house, I made a short list and headed out to the store. Now, my lists are not necessarily accurate and rarely do I look at a list oncesmiling-shopper I’m in the store, because I can surely remember everything I need. Right. I got to one store and after a few minutes of looking at literally every aisle for something that was clearly not on the short list, but suddenly I was reminded that I would eventually need that item, I went about looking for it all over the store. It wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed at the materialism. Eventually, I found something (on my short list!) to go on the tree that made me smile. I did turn to the young teen beside me and wished her a Merry Christmas since she had helped me get the item off its hanger without knocking anything else to the floor!

Next stop, the Dollar Store where the cashier was actually smiling at each one who passed through her line! Suddenly someone rocked her merry boat a little and the smile slightly faded. I heard her tell someone she had only been there about a week. No wonder she could still smile! She hadn’t gotten jaded by the long hours of constant standing or the whiney customers or the endless stocking! As I took my bags I looked at her darling young face and encouraged her keep it up! You’re bringing some joy to these folks, I had said.

A smile costs nothing! It’s amazing at how the corners of the mouths of nearly every person I make eye contact with and smile at begins to turn up their mouth! And their eyes dance a little. This time of year can get even the most optimistic down! It’s hectic. It’s sometimes pointless. It’s endless. but……it’s what we Americans do this time of year.

I wonder  what  simple simple gifts that touch the soul look like:

a smile, eye contact, genuine

a song, sung outloud with abandon! Or hummed softly in the quiet

a prayer, a blessing

a touch on the hand, rubbing those gnarled hands with lotionrubbing-an-elderly-hand

an act of kindness,  a kind word in gentle tone of voice

a ride to the store, the hospital, the mall, or the doctor then…….going inside and staying with them til you take them home

a drive to see the Christmas lights!

hot chocolate and perhaps a plate of cookies?

extra tip, whether deserved or not

a phone call – my husband reached out to his 93 year old aunt just now who lives in another state. I could just see her smile on the other end of the line!

A Christmas card, personally signed with a note!

Forgiveness

Who would receive such simple gifts? Anyone. The folks in the highways and hedges; those in whom we’ve lost touch; not necessarily those regular Facebook folks. Or even those relatives who are “expecting” something under the tree. The blessings come from the unexpected. And the serendipity comes when we aren’t looking for it! Unaware.

These are simple thoughts for making our Christmas more. More than the commercialism  it seems to become whether we like it or not. More than laissez faire, but intentional in sharing the inner Jesus joy with whomever comes before us. More than staying in the safe places, but venturing out to those places where folks are struggling and joy is hard to come by. Even a smile. More. Together. You and me. sharing-christmas-with-a-homeless-man

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 

 

Freeing

birds flying free  There’s a freedom I really haven’t experienced in so very long until about 2 months ago. That’s when I finally decided to stand up to those dark, long-held grudges and anger toward some relatives. Down on my knees at the foot of my red recliner I cried and asked the Lord to forgive me for holding on so long and not forgiving and moving on to love unconditionally. I asked Him to  take away all that junk in my dark soul and then almost immediately,  like years of wax built up in my ears, finally being pulled out I heard the sound! Oh the sound of relief!  Of music! Truly! Of freedom, as the flight of the birds winging gracefully over the highways. Far above and out of reach of the chaos.

I know the freedom now  and what it means to just LET IT GO! I got on my bicycle and rode down the track – my get-a-way retreat. And my heart soared for love of my precious family who so long ago “meant well” when one sweet relative asked me if there was anything she could do for me when I came home from having given birth to our first-born. Came home with empty arms as he was so early. Well, I stammered, running through my muddled mind, “some diapers”? After all, I hadn’t thought to purchase diapers six weeks early. “Well, you can get those at the store,” was her not so warm reply. Well, then. Yes, I thought. So, what were you thinking to do for me, then? I mean, okay. I’ll go to the store. Thanks for your offer “to help.” And never again, did I ask her for help. But I had held on to the hurt……and other things from time to time. Those memories are now scattered in the air.

The proof. Thanksgiving Day at my brother and sister-in-law’s lovely home on the other side of town. The usual family. The usual spread of delicious home-made dishes atop the usual lovely table decor. Gone, though, was the usual grudge and inner resistance to totally love from the depths of my soul. The love for my family – all of them – this year was deeply genuine. I love them. Each of them and harbor absolutely no animosity, jealousy, ugly guilt. Nothing. Is this then, truly the love of Jesus from me to them? Oh, how light and joyous I felt all day and into the evening. Was it the letting go? It was. It was also the confessing and leaving that hurt right at my Savior’s feet. Sigh. Yes.flying birds

But there was still some deep down pain inside coming from something or someone else. My precious cousin and college girlfriend. There was that time when we were close. Weren’t we? I mean, I remember each of them on an occasion saying, “Best friends forever!” Being the Amelia Bedelia minded, I took that literally. Forever. Always. But, like mine, their lives are so busy in their far away towns with their own families.

Why have I held on to the expectation that they write???? That they call and just say hello? I don’t know!! Is it because it’s not a two-way street? And I’m tired of always initiating?  Do I particularly enjoy this feeling of gravel in the pit of my stomach? This “I’m owning this relationship and you’re not and I want you to and it’s painful and still why don’t you write. Was it something I said? I feel so INSECURE about our , well, is this still a relationship? Has it truly gone sour?”

I stood in the middle of my den and out loud proclaimed, “I let you go, sweet cousin. I let you go, sweet girlfriend from so long ago.” Go. Be free. And I will too. You who are so very far away from me and seem to choose to be. You who have so much on your plate. Always have. Always will. but no where on your plate is there room for me. It’s all okay now.  I let you go and I will clean out my belly of hurt, emptiness over a lost whatever this was and like you, move on. Oh, I’m still here. In the same house I’ve lived in for the past 18 years. Going nowhere soon. You have my address and phone. But you no longer have my heart. If you never bother to call it’s okay. If you don’t ever text or email, no problem. May the Lord continue to take good care of you and your family. Love you. Bye.

I do have some very precious friends right here in front of me and I know now that the enemy of my soul has been successful in making me feel less content, less fulfilled because two very precious folks are not in the forefront of my life right now.  Their presence in my life was rich and I am grateful for what we had. But now I choose to focus on the friends I have here. In my life right now. I choose to encourage them. Love on them. Treasure them as they are but having held too tightly before, I know now to always, always hold my friends loosely. With air to breathe. With freedom to come and go and be real and up close and far away and to know that from me, it’s okay.

bird in handRecently, in prayer group, some were discussing some long-ago friends who had been a part of the group (long before we came in) and had moved on. But there had been some small degree of dissension.  You know, one quipped, we can be Believers and not all agree on everything and it will be okay! Consider Paul and Barnabus; Paul and John Mark, I responded. Not even the early Christians got along with one another! We’re all human, she returned. And we’re going to have some strife and struggles along the way or, we’re going to move away from some friendships and that’s okay, too. We’ll all sit at the feet of our Savior one day! And then, it won’t matter anymore if we got along on the earth or not!

Holding tightly to anything will bring hurt and a stabbing pain. Open the hand and the joy will be everlasting! Because of the first Love. His love. Deep inside, wanting to be free and expressive. Loving this flight! I believe it’s time to take another ride down the track by the gully!

May you go out with JOY and be led forth in His PEACE!