Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's a Small World After all!

 This tune repeated itself madly through my head when, as a young teenager, I had the opportunity to ride this amusement park ride at Disney World. Over and over again, the children's voices rang out this truth: It's a small, small world! This morning, we talked about that a bit--here we are, nearly 40 years after that first initial ride, and the song still rings true. The world and its inhabitants grow closer and closer together, yet the heart remains farther and farther away.

 This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a living museum park in our community. Within its gates, visitors could read about the "good old days" of moonshiners, revenuers and religion. Most folks stayed within a 100 mile radius of their birthplace. Running shine was a very large part of the economy, and other than the government, whom the locals felt had too much meddlin' in family life, no one, not even preachers, seemed to mind.

 Someone had the common sense to interview several survivors of the Great Depression and share the interview with the town. One such survivor admitted that he'd never heard of "Santa Claus" until he was well into his 30's, and the birth of Christ was foreign to him, as well. Sure, he read the Bible, but it was just one of many hundreds of verses in that book. Lots of stories in there, but none were celebrated. He had little contact with the outside world, and the local news didn't go much farther than a couple of states either. How different life was back then!

How different it is today! Just this morning, I was able to open up the laptop and have a video chat with friends from all across the state. We've also video chatted with friends from other countries, as if it were no big deal! We laugh, share culture stories, but most of all, we share Jesus. I still know some old-timers who want nothing to do with "that blamed contraption" (referring to the Internet) yet think nothing of picking up the phone and dialing out. I imagine there were old timers back in THEIR day, who wanted nothing to do with the "modern contraptions" back then, (ie. cordless phones) that current day old-timers rolled their eyes at.

 Yet, for all the instant communication and instant information, mankind just can't seem to get it together when it comes to "world peace". Not only do people have quicker means of contacting more of humanity, we also have quicker access to share our faith--regardless of the faith, with other people. Sadly, people are people. Pandora's Box just grows bigger and bigger, or man's weakness, sinful nature, whatever you want to call it. Wars and rumors of wars still haven't ceased, even with all the instant gratification we have.

You and I don't have to be a part of the war, or the rumors of wars. Why not be part of the Thanksgiving group instead? King David said he had never seen the righteous forsaken, or His seed begging bread. This world needs hope--and someone needs to remind them that our hope is in nothing less than Jesus Christ. Yes, the smaller we become, the more hateful we're apt to become (Because he isn't like me), out of fear of just how the other person IS. Maybe they're out to get us?

Yet, what does love do? Love is patient. God is love, so therefore, God is patient. (Thankfully!) Am I? Love is kind, God is kind, so therefore, God is kind. Am I? Love doesn't boast, it's not envious. God is love, therefore God doesn't boast, He's not envious (Envious of what, for crying out loud?!?!) Am I? Love isn't proud. God is love, therefore God isn't proud. Am I? (Ha! Which day of the week??) Love is not self-seeking, is not easily angered. God is love, so therefore God isn't self-seeking, nor is He easily angered. Am I? (Man--this is getting rather painful!) I'm going to stop here--but you can read the rest of the "love is" description in I Corinthians 13. The bottom line is, as we come into contact with more and more people, we have a greater risk of being hurt, but we also have a greater opportunity to love as God loves. Without the Holy Spirit living inside of us, that's not going to happen. Just something to think about....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Confident in God's love

Nothing says confidence in God's love than pitching a blue living fit at God, and knowing you're still okay in His book.

Our family has been going through some serious issues of a health kind. Well--a financial time as well. Not to mention coming up on Empty Nest Syndrome. Of course, being a Christian family, we took it all in stride, and showed elegance, patience and kindness through the entire ordeal.

Okay--this is where you're supposed to start laughing.

Personally, I did none of that. I tried to put on a good show during the first part of the trial. Really? In view of what other people are going through, this trial isn't anything. But it wasn't just anyone's trials. It was ours.

We honestly tried to do everything right. Called the right people, filled out the right forms, graciously understood when we were met with, "Sorry, we can't do that because....." after all, this is how Christians act, right? We're not the only ones going through trials. We're not the only ones having doors slammed in our faces every time we try to move forward. But it's our job to make sure we handle everything with grace.

One such night, not too long ago, I experienced the proverbial straw on the camel's back. I was fed up. I had had it up to my ears and higher. Calling the pharmacy for refills, I was prepared to push all the right buttons for the animated operator. This has been done a million times before, not a big deal. Of course, that night, when at the end of the rope, fate decided to not play nice. I kept typing in the wrong information. It wasn't MY fault the numbers were rubbed beyond recognition. After several unsuccessful attempts, I gave up.


The phone is hurled across the room and shatters into a hundred tiny pieces, but I didn't care.   This has been the month where NOTHING has gone right, and I couldn't take much more of it.

Honestly? I blamed God.

Granted, He didn't CAUSE our trials, but by golly, neither did we! God didn't cause them, but He sure didn't seem to be in any hurry to fix things, or at least change things. I had held it in long enough. That night, glaring at the shattered phone, it all came out.

Is God even AROUND anymore? Does He even care?!?! We have done everything by the rules that the corporation has given us,  we have been patient, we have been courteous. God, we have TRIED to trust You, trust that You knew best, trust that You would have our backs, but now that our backs are against the wall, where ARE you, God??

During my whole rant--and mind you, this was not a soft spoken, "Our Father, Who art in heaven...."type prayer. This was a fall on your knees, I-have-had-it kinda prayer. During the entire rant, I never worried about God zapping me. I never worried about Him turning His back on me while I pitched a hissy.

Why? Simple. He's my Heavenly Father.

There was a time that fear kept me from being totally honest about my true feelings at any given time concerning God. If He didn't like something I said, or worse, thought--He'd disown me, or at the very least, take out one of the stars in my crown--or so I thought. Yessiree, that was a time of constant ulcers and anxiety attacks.

Not so, anymore. God has opened His heart to me, and allowed me to see that He loves me based on who He is, not based on what I did. Sure, I'd given lip service to all that before, but it was never a reality in my life until I started understanding the New Covenant. God used these guys to set me on that journey, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

According to this verse:

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

I needed help, and I was confident that God still loved me.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
God already knew our sins, and He took care of them. He didn't wait to be asked to take care of them (back in the Old Covenant days), but rather, at the right time, He sent Jesus. Motivation? Love for us. That was a universal love--He loves everyone. I needed an intimate love from God. He loves me when I'm behaving, or misbehaving. Not because of me, but because of Himself. He loves you, too. Even in your misbehaving ways, you are still wholly loved by God. You and I can't sin enough to make Him hate us. Ever.

After my rant with God, I calmed down a bit. The prayer softened some:

God? Remember that time You helped me find my text book? Remember the countless times you gave me nuggets right on time? Remember when You had the azalea bush of Granny's just burst forth with blossoms to calm my broken heart? Well, I really need you now--if You are REALLY part of this whole ordeal, if You honestly do a plan for all of this, and us, please let me know You're really involved in our lives. I need a sign. Let this laptop connect already!

Immediately the laptop connected to the wifi. Another proverbial straw was a new laptop that wouldn't connect. Why should it? Nothing else had gone right. Numb with frustration, I was all set to box it back up and return it. Call me crazy, call it a coincidence, but God truly did something intimate just for me, to show me that He's still involved in my life, and that yes, there's a plan going on that I'm not privy to. It's time to trust the Creator of the Universe that loves me perfectly, to know what's best--even if it drives me up the wall. 

God hadn't left me. In the midst of my rant, and raging temper, God was still there. He promised never to leave me nor forsake me, and by golly, He keeps His promises. 

What about you? Does it seem like nothing has gone right in your life, with no sign of letting up? Cry out to God. No, seriously, cry out. Scream. Yell. Accuse. He can take it. Don't be scared to let Him REALLY know how you feel--as if He didn't already know? When you get done with your temper tantrum, He'll still be there. He may calm the storm, He may calm you. Either way, you'll settle down and be able to go just a while longer. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

God Honestly Never Fails

Deep within my heart, beats the sound of gratefulness. Once again, God has shown me just how intimate and serious He is about our relationship.

Let me back up a little bit. Way back to the beginning of this school year. We all knew that this would be our most challenging year ever, due to changes in....well....everything. This year separated me from all I held dear: family, ministry, friends and relaxation. After months of crushing pressure, I finally snapped.

No more.

I am a child of God. That is one identity that will never change. It took long enough, but God finally convinced me that yes, His grace is sufficient for my needs. Every need, every day.

Enjoying a few weeks of newfound bliss, in the midst of a trying year was short lived. We are in the homestretch now, and blue skies ahead.

So I thought. An injury at work put me out of comission for about a week. Some dental issues had my husband out for a week. Neither of us were much good to the other. Adding to that, two sons with injuries of their own.

Helpless. Not an emotion I'm familiar with. Resentment threatened to overwhelm me. Since I was out of work, couldn't I at least get some computer work done? No. Too much pain. Too much effort to do the most trivial things.  Resentment threatened to be to overtaken with guilt. Where was the "I'm in God's hands, nothing can hinder this" mindset I had only a week or so ago?

Just as things were starting to settle down from really being bad to sort of almost being on the mend, I receive a phone call that my Mama is rushed to ER. Really?? REALLY LORD?? HOW MUCH MORE?!?! I knew I was being a whiny butt. In every thing that happened, a voice was telling me it could be worse.

God never left me. God never forsook me. Through all the pain, all the guilt and resentment, He sprinkled little bits of encouragement. Throughout my whole attitude, I knew I was still in God's hands, riding out the storm. The storm, however, was getting tiresome. Calm waters would have been so welcomed at this point.

Then, the Grande Finale of God's encouragement through this trial. An aunt that I only talk to on occasions called to see how Mama was doing. During our conversation, she reminded me just how much God loves us, how He is our provider, and in Him, we place our dependencies. What a breath of fresh air! I knew this of course, but it was just so refreshing to hear someone else confess that truth as well! We have a close knit family--as in we can not speak for a year, then pick up right where we left off. Scattered throughout the country as we are, it's hard for us to get together, so this phone call was extra special.

This is what God was reminding me of: it is HE that encourages us and it is up to HIM to decide what/whom to use. So many times we may come to depend on our families, our church families, our work family, and almost "expect" for them to step up to the plate in our time of need. If we do that, we're letting ourselves up for disappointments big time. Not saying God couldn't use the above mentioned families, but if God wants to use someone new, will we miss it, because we're being so disappointed that people didn't help the way we expected them to? I would have never guessed in a million years that Aunt Judy would call me. What a wonderful encouragement she was!

God has this. No matter what happens, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has this.

What about your trials? Does God have your back? Can we trust that even when things don't go the way we want them to, that He's still working things out?

His grace is indeed sufficient for us!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

God works in interruptions.

Watching this video really warmed my heart.  This morning in Jammie Church, several of us were thinking of the various interruptions we have in our lives. One brother is seeking employment, and has been for some time now. Another brother is in chronic pain due to health issues, with no solution in sight, a sister is stressing over the "maybe" you have cancer visits from her doctor, as well as wondering if her doctor has her best interest at heart, or do they simply see dollar signs? Myself, I'm simply battling the yearly spring fever. Pollen is so thick in the air it wrecks havoc on my breathing. I'm sure that issue is a dime a dozen in this world. Another brother had his nephew undergo an emergency surgery this week that would change the lifestyle of the nephew. Our brother is a favorite uncle, and it was easy to see his concern.

One huge interruption we spoke about was the "white elephant in the room". We had a situation in the past concerning some of our other brothers that we were kept in the dark about. There was no way of knowing what was going on, and we were quite simply told that we wouldn't be told what was going on. In spite of that, we reaped the aftermath of the situation, something we had no choice in, couldn't understand, so we simply tried to sweep it under the rug and carry on.

Until this morning. This morning we shared our hearts concerning this white elephant, and for one, I was crying inside because of what had taken place. Although it was in the past, there were still bummed out feelings years later.

God knew what I was feeling. He knew what my other brothers and sisters were feeling.

I honestly believe He pushed my desire to do a search on this, and landed on Mark Lowery's video.

God works through interruptions. We go on about our life, with all our plans of grandeur of what we're going to do, the effect it will have, and how we'll deal with the intake. Of course, I don't know about you, but for the most part of my life, things never go as planned.

But it's okay. God works in unemployment, health issues, insurance issues, and pollen issues. Those things don't bother or hinder God in the least. When we have an interruption in our lives, we'll do well to remember my sister Pam's favorite verse: Romans 8:28

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.