Immanuel Gives Me A “Yet” Praise

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines;  even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength!   He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.  – Habakkuk 3:17-19

The prophet Habakkuk sums up life, doesn’t he? 

On this Christmas Eve morning, I have been thinking and pondering the things going on around me.

  • Wrapping gifts for our family members, and remembering that, once again, we won’t wrap a gift for our son Bryan.
  • Unanticipated hits on our budget this year.
  • Friends who lost their daughter last night, a mom who won’t see her children grow up, and won’t see them open Christmas gifts.
  • The state of our country, in light of the Word of God.
  • The endless political drama.
  • Several mass killings this year.

I could go on and on, and many of you could chime in quickly, adding your difficulties. There have been some very good places, but 2017 has been challenging.  Yet, while it might seem crazy to some, I still have great hope and faith, that God is the strength of my life.

Sometimes it feels like we are on shaky ground, and that at any moment, the earth will open and we will be swallowed up.  Habakkuk reminds us that God will cause us to be sure-footed in the treacherous places.

Habakkuk also has a “yet” praise!  I choose to have a “yet” praise!

It’s easy to praise and be joyful when things are going well.   But, the truth of life is, that life won’t always go well, even when we serve God.   When we face sickness, hardship, challenges and unfairness, and still offer a  “yet” praise, it shows that something supernatural has occurred in our lives.  It shows that the living God is within us.  He is Immanuel, the God who is with us!

Immanuel is with me today!  I will celebrate what I DO have this season and not focus on what I DON’T have.  Immanuel is with me today!  In this season, I choose to go deeper in experiencing the love of the Father who gave His only Son so that I can truly LIVE!  Immanuel is with me today!  I have received the greatest gift of all – Jesus! I therefore embrace this Christmas season with unprecedented joy!  I will have a “yet” praise!

“‘Believing God when “the chips are down” is one of the most difficult things that we will ever be called to do. Yet if we trust the Lord only when things are going well, then we do not really trust Him at all. When things are good, let us thank God for His blessings, but also ask Him to sustain our faith if we face real hardship. As we walk through dark times, let us ask Him to help us rejoice in Him and remember that He is our exceedingly great reward.”  – R. C. Sproul

It’s A Great Question

Recently, I was reading an article, and the writer repeatedly asked the question WWJD (what would Jesus do)? The writer was using the question to push an agenda, and quickly became  a travel agent for guilt trips. The one who penned the thoughts, was saying to readers, how could you make these good people feel bad?   They are such nice people.  They are good people.
 

So, I asked myself, WWJD?

Jesus would care deeply about all humanity, but Jesus had no problem standing up for the Word of God, even when unpopular. I so want to cite examples here, but then I would be accused of selecting my favorite controversial scriptures.  Take time on your own, and read the words in red, the words that Jesus spoke.  

Like Jesus, we must treat all people with care and integrity. The Word of God is not a license to call people disgusting, or to be rude to them.  NEVER!

The emotional guilt trap others try to place us in, is not a reason to disregard scripture.

I am going to give one example to make my point: Jesus made it clear that there is a heaven and there is a hell. He also made it clear that a person does not automatically go to heaven. He also taught that God so loved the world, He gave His only Son as the Savior, so that no one ever has to spend one moment in hell.

Jesus astounded people with his love and compassion. He healed the sick, lame and blind. He cared for the downcast. He always spoke of  God as his Father who loves each of us beyond comprehension.  He came to seek and save the lost.   As believers, we should do the same.

Jesus told us that the reason He came was to save us from our sins so we could have eternal life with Him. Most of us are familiar with the wonderful promise of John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

WWJD? He would love people, be kind to people, care about people, have compassion on people and speak the truth to people.

WWJD? He told us exactly what He would do in John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”

 

 

Does Time Really Heal All Wounds?

Time heals all wounds, we are told, but that is not totally true.   What we do with time determines the healing process.

On the left is a picture of my air boot on the first day I was fitted.  The picture on the right is the boot three weeks later.  Notice that when I first put the boot on, I could not pull the strap very far across my foot.  There was still so much swelling and pain in the foot.   On the right, three weeks later the strap is well over an inch tighter.  It’s amazing what can happen over time.

I was given clear instructions of how to continue to promote healing, and to begin to walk again.   There have been days I have wanted to do anything but go to therapy, exercise my foot and ankle, or practice walking on one crutch.  But, I want healing; therefore I use my time to walk towards healing.  I go through the pain of pushing through the parts of therapy that hurt, some of which almost bring me to tears.   

As times continues to tick, I expect total healing, because of what I am doing with my time.

Where are you wounded?  Was it from childhood abuse?  Church hurt?  Rejection from a spouse or friend?  Food addiction? Grief?  There is healing, but we must remember that healing is a process, not an event. 

If we continue to walk out healing, healing will come.  I don’t know why God doesn’t heal all our hurts,  or for that matter, stop them from even occurring.  But, this I know about my God: He is a healer.   Trust the process.  Use your time to walk towards healing, not to stay stuck.

Remember, healing is a process, not an event. 

Let’s Be Honest – Sometimes We Have No Answers

 
 

Great sorrow has been my friend as I have watched the videos and pictures of the devastation caused by Harvey and Irma. I have seen video of the hurricane and earthquake in Mexico.  I’ve watched as over a thousand were killed, and thousands displaced because of flooding in India.  And, wildfires are plenteous in the west.  I have more questions than answers as a Christian.   Being truthful.  

Some “prayed the storms away” from their dwelling, yet the same storms destroyed another family’s home, and they also prayed.  Innocent children in poverty-stricken areas are suffering.

I am so very grateful for those who were spared ruin and devastation. I am also so very heartbroken for those who had a different outcome. Some of them were friends, good devoted Christian friends.

Let’s be honest, sometimes we have no answers.  I do not embrace that one area had more faith or favor than another. We don’t have the answer to the why, except that we know we still live in an imperfect world.  

I am a woman of faith. I was a woman of faith last week; I am a woman of faith this week; I will be a woman of faith next week.

I have no words to give that will mean much. In times like these I can only let His words speak.  Oh, God, we are speechless. We have no words from man’s perspective. So we speak Your Word:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” – Psalm 116:1-2

“The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” – Nahum 1:7

Father, we thank You that You hear our cries, and that Your mercy will be at work.

 

When Your Life Is Interrupted

“We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you this important announcement!” Sound familiar?  And, does it seem to always come at the best time in the program?

I love summer.  I LOVE SUMMER.  It is my favorite time of the year. 

I love:

  • No coats or jackets.
  • Warm weather. NEVER being cold.
  • Early evening walks. Daylight!!!
  • Lots of cooking on the grill.
  • Sandals and flip flops.
  • Parks with the grandchildren.
  • No coats required for the grandchildren.
  • Festivals and markets.

On July 21, I broke my ankle and leg, while in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   Since that time, I’ve been out only for the drive back to Birmingham, and trips to go to the doctor.  I’ve been in a chair with my leg propped up, and watched through the window as the days got shorter and shorter. 

My season was interrupted. 

Life is filled with interruptions, inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected events. Things break (including bones). Accidents happen. The phone rings as soon as you get in the recliner at the end of the day. Appliances break.  Stuff happens.  Interruptions come without invitation!

When my season was interrupted, I was less than happy.  Surgery, pain and dependence on others became part of my world.  I remember lying in a hospital bed, and talking to God.  “Lord, I don’t want to be ungrateful, difficult, and angry because my season changed in a moment of time.  Walk with me through the season. I trust You with this interruption.”

In scripture, there were people whose lives were interrupted, and they became life-changing moments.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, had her happy life interrupted by an angel.  She later gave birth to the Son of God, who would change the world.  Saul was interrupted on his trip on the road to Damascus.  He would later become Paul, the apostle who would write more than half of the New Testament.   Their interruptions became their new “to-do-list” from God.

When our great season becomes not-so-great, God will use these times to stretch our faith.  He can do a new thing in our lives.  An interrupted life can reveal whether we are standing on the Rock or sinking sand.  Do I trust God with the details of my life, and the interruptions?  Is His grace sufficient?  Will I find that He is enough to sustain and give strength for the season?  Yes, yes, and yes!

What will you do with your interruptions?  I hope you will lean on these words. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” – (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

 

 

 

 

Faith To See Yourself Through God’s Eyes

While visiting a friend in Florida, we went on a little shopping spree.  I love to shop with people, if it’s people with whom I love to shop.  (You know what I mean!)

My friend wanted a new television for her bedroom, so after much searching and researching, we found the right television at a good price.   The television was loaded into her car, and off we went, ready to set it up immediately.  Being single, my friend has learned a lot about setting up electronics correctly.  I’d be lost!

Once the new flat screen was ready, she wanted to know how it looked.  I stretched back on the bed, reclined against the pillows and looked at the television.  I hated to tell her, but the screen was terribly blurry. 

After telling her how blurry the screen was, she redid the cables and we gave it another try.  After three times of this, it was disheartening. Alas, she had a bad television!

I sat up to help her get the box, so we could take the television back to the store.  I looked at the screen one more time, and it was crystal clear.  Then, I realized, while reclining on the pillows, I was looking at the television through the bottom of my bifocals. That  part is for magnifying the letters so I can read.  It is definitely not good for media use!

There was no problem with the television.  The problem was I needed a correct focus.

In talking with many people, I find they are so hard on themselves.  Raise your hand if that is you!  (I am raising both hands, one leg and one broken leg!) 

Too often we see with blurred distortions. Remember this:  What I see is not always the same as what actually is. 

Emotions are such a wonderful part of life, but emotions are not always accurate.  There are days that our vision tells us that we are worthless, ugly, useless, less-than, a failure, unwanted and a host of other things.  Our emotions might tell us those things and even more; but that doesn’t mean it’s so.  Emotions can cloud our view of the accuracy of what God says.

Too often our spiritual eyes are blinded by what others say about us or do to us.  If we are not careful we will hoard hurtful comments, and feast on them day after day.  We will watch television and think that is what life and love are really like.  As we view social media, we will think, somehow we missed the boat!   

We must have the vision of God, and that only comes through His word.  He speaks truth.  I want to live by His words and dwell on them alone – “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God” (Psalm 139:17). 

Today, change the focus.  Get a clear vision of what God says about you. That is truth.   Adjust your spiritual glasses and see clearly.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  It’s time to believe that. Have faith to see yourself through God’s eyes.

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31 

 

Do You Want To Get Well?

Dealing with a broken leg, foot and ankle has altered my lifestyle tremendously.  Most of my days are spent sitting with my leg elevated, occasionally using a wheel chair or knee scooter for the trip to get my lunch out of the refrigerator, or make my way to my bedroom at night.

My doctor’s instructions are that I am to put no weight on my foot for six to eight weeks, and keep the leg elevated.  It sounds so simple, but I am so tired of the routine. Some days I just don’t want to do what it takes to get well.  Yet, every day I obediently do my part.  Why?  Because I want to get well.  I want to walk again.  I want to get back to living again.

I want to get well.

Chapter five of the book of John relates quite a story of a man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years.  He spent his days lying on a mat.  Many scholars believe it was probably a small 3’ by 5’ mat that became his world by the Pool of Bethesda.   He would lay there daily, hoping that it was his day of healing.   

Enter Jesus.

Jesus asked an interesting question to the man in verse six, “Do you want to get well?”  Really, Jesus?  What a silly question!  Perhaps it wasn’t so silly.  The man’s response was to give all the reasons why he couldn’t be healed.  He lived in captivity to a 3’ by 5’ world.

As I talk with people, I’ve been tempted to ask, “Do you want to get well?”  I hear reason after reason why they can’t get beyond the prison of their 3’ by 5’ world. 

I get it!  I really do.  I’ve known sexual abuse, miscarriage, the loss of a child, and a score of other things – things that invited me to live in a 3’ by 5’ world.  It’s often more inviting to do mat time, than to walk the process of healing.

My heart is gripped when I listen to the painful stories of people’s lives.  Life can be brutal.   I believe many must answer the question, “Do you want to get well?”  Sometimes the journey is slow and difficult.  As with my leg, we will sometimes still feel the pain while awaiting the healing to be completed.

Jesus came to deliver us from a 3’ by 5’ life.  We won’t always receive instant healing.  We certainly can’t turn back the clock and erase what brought pain and brokenness into our lives.    Jesus sought out a man who needed healing.  Jesus is always seeking those who are broken, and need His healing.   

Jesus is still asking the question, “Do you want to get well?”

Let’s try to unpack this question by looking at it in a different light. Perhaps Jesus was digging deeper and asking things like: Do you really want things to change? Are you ready to leave behind all of the excuses? 

Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a 3’ by 5’ world?  Enter Jesus!  There is a big world out there, so don’t let pain and brokenness keep you on the mat.   Jesus is ready to help you get off that mat, and walk into healing.

As I stare at this elevated, black-casted leg, I wish it was instantly healed.  I wish I could turn back time and change that moment that brought such pain and discomfort to my life.   It would be easy to wallow in my sorrow and pain. 

But … I want healing.  I want to get beyond the pain, and off the limitations of a 3’ by 5’ world.  I do the things I need to do for healing.  Therapy is down the road, and I will do the things I need to do for healing.  I want to get well.   Do you?

“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” – Jeremiah 17:14

 

 

Try A Little Kindness

I still remember how it felt when I missed the final step and went sailing into the air, landing on my right foot.  As I lay in all my glory on my son’s living room floor, with the whole family as an audience, I knew my foot was severely injured.  While I won’t bore you with the whole story and all the details, suffice it to say it was a long night in the hospital in Baton Rouge.

At times the pain was breathtaking, and I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. Everything in me felt like saying, “Hey, I’m in pain over here. What’s the holdup!”  I could roll my eyes, sigh with exaggeration and demand to speak to someone. That’s what I felt like doing.

I sensed the Lord was telling me to be nice, but I didn’t feel like being nice!  I knew God was saying, “Don’t sacrifice kindness on the altar of your pain.”

While in severe pain, I made up my mind that I was going to be nice to all the personnel who would be assisting me that night.  We were in an emergency room, with a lot of people waiting.   That meant lots of needs, lots of pain, lots of impatience.

The choice was mine.  How would I act and how would I react? 

It was a long, painful night, with lots of slowdowns and lots of beating around the bush as to what should be done with my broken toe, foot, ankle and leg.  I chose niceness.  I was in enough pain to want to be anything but nice, but nice and treating people respectfully would be my choice.

After many hours of dealing with many different people, which eventually turned into several days of dealing with different people, I made a decision daily and sometimes hourly to just be nice and kind.  I expressed my needs, my pain and my desires, but nicely.

One day, a caretaker said to me, “I wish all of our patients were like you.  Sometimes we get “cussed” out for things we have no control over.  Sometimes they yell at us for telling them the doctor won’t be here for another thirty minutes.  I have no control over the doctor.” 

Another marvelous thing happened:  some of the employees would come by and visit. Some began to share their stories, and I was able to talk about the power of God.  I thought one worker would have revival in the middle of the night!

Don’t miss the point of this short blog.  My purpose is not to pat myself on the back.  My purpose is to remind us, that God is with us in our pain.  God will bring healing to our pain, and in most instances, it will be a journey, that seems slow and never-ending.  (My days of immobility seem soooooo long.)  But, God will bring healing to our pain. 

Whether to scream at everyone, take it out on everyone, and be rude to others is a choice. 

As  you read this, I am in no way minimizing pain, any kind of pain:  physical, betrayal, emotional, grief, marginalization.  Pain is real, very real.   And sometimes we do cry out because of our pain, and hopefully we have people with whom we can share our pain.  So this is not a guilt trip blog.

My goal, as a child of God, is to let God do my talking, not my pain.  I trust God with the pain.  He sees. He cares. He wipes tears. He heals. 

In the mean time, try a little kindness.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”- Colossians 3:12

 

 

Old Green Eyes

“Grammy, watch me.” 

“Grammy, look at what I built.”

“Grammy, watch me jump in the pool.”

This summer, Gaylon and I  have spent a lot of time with grandchildren.  Tucker, from North Carolina, spent a week with us.  Our Louisiana girls, Madison, Alana and “Erin” were just here.  “Erin” is a foster child, but has been in our family so long, we claim her.  And, Joseph, Andrew and Luke, live about twenty miles away, so we are blessed to see them most weeks. 

One of the things I often encounter with these precious children, is that they want my attention.  They yell to be sure I see what they built, how they went down the slide in the park, how they jumped in the pool, and on and on.

Recently, one of our grandchildren had snap-together blocks and began to build things.  Literally, every two minutes, I heard, “Grammy, look.”  This went on for a while.   After about thirty minutes of this, Grammy redirected the child’s interest.  It was impossible for anyone else to get attention, or much to get accomplished because it was all about seeing what that child accomplished.

Now, that’s cute when  you are a child, and understandable when you are a child.  It’s not so cute, when as an adult, it’s all about ME!  Let’s call it, the “Watch me jump in the pool” person.

When serving God, there is a temptation to want others to notice us.  “Watch me jump in the pool.” We don’t say it, but perhaps we demonstrate it.  It can especially be difficult, if we are hearing how great someone else is diving into the pool.  It is tempting to say, “Hey, watch ME jump in the pool.”  

It is very easy for old green eyes to show up.  The green-eyed monster of envy loves to get its grip on us.  Even John the Baptist was tempted to get caught up in envy.  In the gospel of John, the disciples of John the Baptist come to him with words that seem tailor-made to provoke envy. “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness — look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him” (John 3:26).   

What a moment of decision for John the Baptist!  He could fix his eyes on how many baptisms Jesus was doing, and lose sight of being faithful in his own calling.  He could have thought, “Hey, watch ME jump in the pool.”

John’s response was so mature, “John answered, “No one can have anything unless God gives it. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ – John 3:27,28.”

John simply accepted his call, and was faithful to that call.

Beloved, let’s accept who we are in Christ.  Let’s use the gifts He has given to us.  Let’s be content to be who He has called us to be.  If we get caught up in, “Hey, watch ME jump in the pool,” we might find ourselves drowning.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

“I Got You, Baby!”

Joseph hangs out at our house at least once per week.  He and his brother Andrew, take turns spending the night, and being spoiled at Papa and Grammy’s house.   

Five-year old Joseph continues to amaze us as we watch him press through difficulty.  Autism makes things a little more difficult for this little guy, but what a champion he is.  One of the things we have all done, is stand right by Joseph’s side, as he tries new things.  Many, many times we have said, “I got you, baby. You can do it.  I got you, baby.” 

As Joseph was with the occupational therapist recently, she had him try a new thing in the gym.  He was to walk a circular, slightly elevated “plank” on the floor; the object was to not fall off.  Occasionally, he’d almost lose balance, but he’d steady himself and say, “I got you, baby.”   The OT chuckled and said, “This boy has been taught that somebody has him.” 

Joseph steadied himself and confessed, “I got you, baby!”

In short time, Joseph totally mastered the walk.  He could have fought against the walk required of him, but instead he trusted. He had learned that when the path gets a bit tricky, someone is standing there to catch him.  He declared what he knew, “I got you, baby.”  When it seemed he would fall, he steadied himself and continued the walk.  “I got you, baby.” It was his assurance that no matter how scary it felt, he was not alone.

My mind immediately thought of walking the plank of life.  There are times, that it seems impossible not to fall off; but, as a child of God, I hear my Father say, “I got you, baby.”  I steady myself and remember His words.

The circle of life presents challenges.  As believers, we sometimes need to stop, steady ourselves, and remember we are not alone. God has us.  “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

Perhaps today you find yourself in a place that seems a bit shaky.  Maybe you have health issues, family  issues, work issues or financial issues.  Maybe God has been asking you to take a leap into deeper faith, or to serve beyond what you think you are capable. Or, He’s asked you to lead, and you’ve always followed.   Stop, steady yourself, and remember that your heavenly Father is saying, “I got you, baby.”

When life pushes you to the edge, trust God fully.  He will catch you when you fall, or He will teach you how to fly. Either way, God’s got you, baby!