Wednesday, December 14, 2011

His Desires More Than Ours

I think of this scenario every year about this time.

I am a teenager, perhaps sixteen or seventeen and it is Christmas.  My father is going to give me money with which to go Christmas shopping, but he has a twist on the request.  I must write on a slip of paper how much I am requesting.  He writes on his own slip how much he is willing to give me.  The twist is that he will only give me what is on my slip of paper, regardless of what is on his, only I don't know that at first.

I only remember once my father did this to me.  Once was enough. I recall feeling a dilemma about what to put on my paper.  I didn't want to ask for too much, but I wanted to ask for enough to buy all the presents I wanted to buy for my parents, grandparents and siblings.  Oh, and my friends, too.

I thought about it for a while and finally wrote down my number.  He had written his down immediately.  I handed him my slip of paper, he looked at it, nodded his head and said, "I'll give you that much."

Then unfolding his own piece of paper, he said, "Now see how much I was willing to give you."  His amount was much, much more than the amount I had written down.  I knew my father well enough to know that no amount of pouting, cajoling or begging would result in the additional cash being removed from his wallet, so I didn't even try.  I learned a valuable lesson that day about my father, one that eventually transferred to my Heavenly Father.

My father was willing to give me so much more than I thought he was. . .he was willing to give me more than I was willing to ask for.  I underestimated his desire to please me and to meet my needs.  Isn't that true of what we often believe of our Heavenly Father as well?  I heard a preacher say once, "God desires to answer our prayers more than we desire to ask them."

So many times in my life this has been true.  I have been unwilling, unbelieving perhaps, or maybe just afraid of being presumptuous - as I was with my earthly father that afternoon -- to ask for the really "big" things, to ask for those answers to prayers that we really desire. . .but our prayers are His delight and He wants to answer all our prayers that are in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.

So let us approach our Heavenly Father with the assurance that it is His "good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

"Delight thyself also in the LORD;
and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 
Commit thy way unto the LORD;
trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." 
Psalms 37:4,5

Monday, December 12, 2011

Included in Him

Once a month a group of us go to the Rescue Mission in the downtown part of our city for a church service.  Three of us lead the music, one gentleman preaches and the other two or three gentlemen come to meet with the men there and offer their support.

When we arrive at the door, we are required to sign in.  Last month, John, the gentleman who preaches, was signing in first.  When someone else motioned toward the book to sign in, the man at the book said, "The rest of you don't need to sign in because you are all included in him," motioning toward John.  Because we were with John, we were accepted to come in on his behalf.  His signature granted us admission.

This picture is so clear throughout Scriptures,  as in the story of Noah.  God told Noah to build an ark and said that He had established a covenant with Noah:

"But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife and thy sons' wives with thee."

Those that were with Noah -- as we are with John each month -- were accepted to come into the ark, not because God had established a covenant with them, but because of His covenant with Noah.  They were accepted on Noah's behalf.  Noah was accepted and they got to go along because they were considered part of Noah.

Once we accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior and Lord, this is also true of us as well.  We are "found in Him" and because we are found in Him, we are "accepted in the Beloved" according to Scripture. 

When that great day comes for us to stand before our maker, there will be no need for us to plead our case as to why we should be admitted into the realms of Glory. . .we will simply be told that He is enough for our admittance.  The nailprints in His hands and the mark of His Spirit upon our hearts will be more than enough, no other ticket will be needed.

How glorious that as the old hymn declares, "Nothing in my hands I bring, only to Thy cross I cling,"  He has done it all, provided it all, and now waits to usher His children in to a long and glorious eternity.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope 
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, 
and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation 
ready to be revealed in the last time."

 I Peter 1: 3-5

Monday, November 14, 2011

Only One Evening

 “He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” (Matthew 27:58-60)

“And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19: 39, 40)

It was a tiny little body, easily fitting into the palm of my hand.  He wasn’t as tall as my cup of coffee and weighed only three ounces.  And he was perfect. 

Perfect miniscule fingers, perfect tiny toes, beautiful little lips, flawless miniature eyelids. . . every detail present and perfect.  Except that those little lungs would never breathe the smell of a rose or freshly cut grass.  The little hands would never throw a baseball or bounce a basketball.  The little feet would never be tickled or run around bases.  The eyelids would never flicker in sleep.  The eyelids of this little boy only knew the sleep of death. 

I cradled his perfect little lifeless body in my one hand as I washed it with baby bath, to give him the “baby smell” mothers love and babies aren’t born with.  Then I carefully dried the fragile skin, lest it should tear from the effort of drying.

I took his tiny little feet and made footprints for his parents, little footprints only as big as the print of my little finger, as a remembrance that this child was.  I put footprints on handkerchiefs for the grandmothers who would always remember the grandson they could only hold for one evening.

I dressed him in the tiniest of day gowns and wrapped him in colorful baby blankets.  These tiny clothes and blankets are hand sewn by women of large hearts who themselves have had those hearts broken by loss.  They sew clothes for the babies of others, knowing from experience how much it means to have a baby – no matter how tiny – dressed like a baby.

Then it was time for pictures.  These would be the only portraits this child would ever have.  I would have to roll baby pictures, kindergarten graduation, high school and college graduation and wedding pictures all into these few pictures.  With each click of the shutter, I tried to make a memory for parents who would have none others.

When finished, it was time for our little baby to spend time with his family.  This would be their only time with their son, their grandson, nephew, cousin.  This would be the first and last time for them to love him.

When Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus, and prepared it for burial, they must have had much the same thoughts and feelings.  They must have believed that they would never again see, touch or hear the Lord Jesus.  With what great reverence, love and respect they must have applied the mixture of spices and wound linen cloth around His tortured body.  They  must have believed this was the last act of love they could do for their Savior.  Little did they understand that in three days their Savior would dispel the power of the grave and destroy the threat of death by rising from the dead.  

In doing so, He offers hope to all of us that, with the Apostle Paul, we may shout, “O death,where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55).

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Impact of Love

As I grew up, my Uncle Buddy was a part of every major event. He remembered every birthday, every graduation, every wedding.  When he would call to speak to my father, his older brother, he would talk to me -- the baby of the family -- for twenty minutes, as though I were someone.  In fact, Uncle Buddy always seemed to make everyone feel as if they were "someone".  He and my Aunt Mary have been married as long as I can remember.  They are two kind, thoughtful and loving people.

Aunt Mary always took care of Uncle Buddy, her children and everyone else who needed care.  The two of them reached out their arms and their home to others to give love and support and shelter.  Now Aunt Mary  mainly takes care of Uncle Buddy. 

Time has ravaged my Uncle Buddy's sharp mind and the man who remembered everyone's special occasions no longer recognizes any of us.  But Aunt Mary recognizes him.  She goes to the veteran's nursing home each day to feed him breakfast and lunch.  She talks to him as she has for decades, sharing the moments of the day with him.  She feeds him, bathes him, in essence, she loves him.   She loves him as she has done for years and years and years. 

Aunt Mary probably has little thought that the care and love she bestows upon her husband ripples past the room of the nursing home where he lives.  But it does. It flows as a small stream flows to the river and the river flows to become the ocean.  Her love, manifested in her faithfulness in being there, and her faithfulness in caring, has had a huge impact upon others.  I know because they have told me so.

Last week I was present at a Men's Prayer Breakfast to sing with my husband.  These men know that my father was one of the men who started the Prayer Breakfast and they know that Buddy and Mary are my Uncle and Aunt. Each week they pray for Uncle Buddy and Aunt Mary.

Before I left, man after man came to tell me of Aunt Mary's faithful love and care of Uncle Buddy and what a testimony it was to them.  Their respect and admiration were apparent in how they told their story and in how important it was to relay the story to me, Buddy's niece. 

While loving my Uncle Buddy is something my Aunt Mary can't conceive of not doing, her choice to do so, and to do so in practical ways, speaks volumes to those who watch her do it.  Her love in those daily ways are an example to us all that love must be shown not only by what we feel, but by what we do.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 
But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, 
and was made in the likeness of men. 
And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, 
and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." 
Philippians 2:6-8

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Remember Us

Our son Noah will be leaving the country soon on his second deployment with the United States Marine Corps.  His children, five year-old Jackson, and four year-old Emma, have been used to him going away for a weekend now and then for what they call “Marching”.

Last week, our son sat down with Jackson to tell him that he would be going “Marching” for awhile, and that he was going far away.  Upon hearing the news Jackson, who has just begun to learn to write in kindergarten, asked his daddy for a pencil and a piece of paper.  When Noah asked him why he wanted it, this was Jackson’s reply:

“I want to write down my name and Emma’s name so you don’t forget us.”

As much as that comment wrenches my heart out of my chest, imagine how Jackson’s daddy felt.  He quickly assured the little boy that he would never, could never forget him.  Jackson has no idea how much his father loves him, thinks of him, and wants to be with him.

And neither do we.  How often have we felt forgotten by our Heavenly Father?  How often have we felt we needed to write our names down so He “wouldn’t forget us”, and yet our names are written on His very heart.  The love that our son Noah feels for his son Jack is just a tiny shadow, a tiny picture of the love our Heavenly Father has for us.

He will never leave us or forsake us.  He has given His most beloved to assure we can remain with Him throughout all eternity if we will only accept the free gift of salvation offered through His Son.
So the next time we feel forgotten by the Lord, let us remember that He isn’t our God alone, He is our Father and His love for us is greater than the love of any earthly father could ever be.  His faithfulness “reacheth unto the clouds.”  

“Be content with such things as ye have: 
for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” 
Hebrews 13:5

Ayez la foi en Dieu toujours pour l'avoir nous avons tous
Have faith in God always for having Him, we have all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A YES Through a NO

A bride and a groom kiss.                           Image via Wikipedia
This past weekend, Glen performed a wedding ceremony for a sweet Christian friend of ours.  We had come to know her when she was in her twenties and in the ten or so years since then we have never completely lost contact with her.  Glen was delighted when she contacted him and asked if he would perform her wedding ceremony, especially since her wedding was on his birthday.

Doubtless our friend, whom we shall call  Mary, prayed for many years for the Lord to send her a husband who loved Him.  I am sure that her husband, whom we shall call John, prayed a similar prayer for a godly wife.  But the answer to John’s prayer for a wife came through a lack of answer to another prayer.

You see, John was trained to be a meteorologist.  However, there were no jobs available for him in his field of training. Economic times being what they were, he took whatever work he could get and for him this happened to be selling shoes.  Selling shoes at the very store where Mary sold china.

For five years John sold shoes and Mary sold china to new brides and nothing happened.  Then one day, a mutual friend suggested they should date.  And they did.  And they did again, and again.  Then they fell in love, and love led to a wedding.

Had the Lord not said “No” to John’s prayer for a meteorologist’s job, it may be that John and Mary would have never met, never have fallen in love and never have had such a beautiful wedding on the most gorgeous of October days.  The Lord knew He needed them to have that shared bond of friends and work as a seed from which their relationship would grow.  The “No” led to two “I do’s”.

The Lord knows not only the desires of our hearts, but exactly what it takes to bring about those desires, exactly what it takes to will and to do of His good pleasure in our lives.  So the next time we are tempted to look a prayer which has for a long time had an apparent “No” for an answer, let us remember the beautiful picture of John and Mary standing at the altar.  Our Lord sometimes says His best “Yes’s” in the “No’s.”

“Delight thyself also in the LORD;
and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the LORD;
trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”
Psalm 37:4,5

By the way, John and Mary will be living in Texas after their wedding because John is now working there as a meteorologist.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Heal me!

“You are just the person I was waiting for! Heal me!”

These are the words I rasped out to my physician as she rounded the corner at work yesterday.  After being sick for more than a week, I knew I needed more than I had to make myself better.  I was powerless to accomplish any real change in my condition and she was the only one who had what I needed.

I felt like the leper who said to the Lord Jesus, “If thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” 

I knew she could heal me because she has done it before.  In fact, last year, she treated me for the very same thing in the very same way, except that day, she was the one that took me to the office for a shot of antibiotics and a shot of steroids.

Twenty-seven hours after having my backside filled with healing drugs, I am glad to say I am much, much, better and I can see a full recovery at the end of the tunnel.

All of us at some point in time are in need of healing – physical, emotional or spiritual, and we all need to reach to the One beyond ourselves who alone has the power to do so.  There have been times of deep grief in my life, when my mother was dying of cancer, for example, that my heart was so full of pain all I could do was cry out, “Lord, help!”  And like my kind physician-friend, He was there with His love and comfort and peace to heal my broken heart.

Sometimes it is a loss we are suffering.  In fact, when I was suffering this week from my respiratory infection, I was also from a heart grief.  My friend had not died, but our circumstances have changed to the point it is not likely we will be seeing much of each other, and not in the way we had hoped.  Our situation and our expectations have been lost.  We are grieving and we are in need of healing.

There is only One who is the Great Physician, the One to heal us wherever that pain, that loss, that ache exists.  He knows our every sorrow and has been touched with our every infirmity in some glorious heavenly way we cannot understand.  Whatever our pain, whatever our loss, we must take it to the out-stretched hands of the Lord Jesus who waits to heal our broken hearts, to ease our lost expectations and to fill us with the joy of Himself in ways we could have never imagined.

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion;
slow to anger, and of great mercy.
The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works.
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”
Psalm 145:8,9  Psalm 147:3

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Shovel, Loppers and a Broken Axe

I don't really like azalea bushes. 
 AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 05:  Azaleas are seen in  ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
That's not a good statement from a girl who lives in a city known as the "Azalea City,"  but let me qualify my statement. I like azalea bushes when they grow wild and free, as you might find them out in the woods.  I do not like them when they have been carved into symmetrical boxes or rounded globes.

That is what prompted the removal of the azalea  bush, or perhaps I should say tree, from the front of our house. It was nineteen years ago this week we moved into our house and I don't remember how tall the azalea bush was then, but it had grown to my height and nearly obscured one of our living room windows. 

Now it is gone.

My husband, using his bare hands,  a shovel, a pair of loppers and a broken axe, removed the huge bush.  Most people when removing a 100+ pound root ball, choose to tie a rope to it and pull it out with a truck or a car, but not my husband.  He did it with those strong arms of his.  I sat in amazement watching as he hacked away at it.  Surprisingly,  the best and most frequent tool he used was the broken axe.

The axe blade was sound, but the handle was split in two.  My husband completely broke the axe handle until it was more like a hatchet with one huge blade.  He used that to free the tangle of roots entwined under the azalea bush.

What a wonderful picture that was to me of our Lord. 

How often our lives present a tangle of twisted roots and thorns and all we have to offer Him is a broken axe.  We look at the mess we have made of ourselves and doubt that the Lord could ever use us in any way whatsoever.  Sometimes He must "break us" a little more before we can truly be useful, removing all that will not conform to His purpose.  Then in His strong hands and through the power of His might, our broken little axe becomes a mighty tool to accomplish His eternal purpose, not only in our lives, put also in the lives of others.  While we may often doubt our own ability, we must never doubt His.

 "Being confident of this very thing, 
that He which hath begun a good work in you 
will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"
Philippians 1:6

 "For it is God which worketh in you 
both to will and to do of His good pleasure." 
Philippians 2:13

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Feet Under the Table

There were seven pairs beside my own, and they were all different.

One pair of sweet little feet wears clear Princess shoes.  One small pair dangling from the chair  wears tennis shoes.

Two large pairs meet the Scripture's description of "beautiful" because they are ministers of the gospel of Christ.  One pair travels into the courtroom on heels to plead her case and fight for the rights of her clients.

One pair wears the boots of a Marine and can stealthily capture you without your knowledge, until it happens.  The last pair wears heels or flip-flops and captures you with a camera lens instead.

Different feet, but all a gift.  The most precious gift I was given the night of my birthday was to have these seven people, all of whom I love dearly, rest their feet under my table.  To have my husband, all my children and grandchildren and our dear friend to share the evening with me was something I had desired so much and it gave me incredible joy.

There were gifts on the table --gifts I truly loved -- but the the best gift, the gift I will always cherish, were those feet under the table.  As we bowed our heads for prayer before we ate, I thought of how blessed I was to have these very special, very wonderful people in my life.  Each of them is so incredible in their own right, my heart was overcome with thanksgiving and love.  There was no way I could come close to expressing what I felt that night, not then and not now.

As much as I feel emotion toward that experience, it points my mind toward another supper with another family, yet to come.  There will be a day when the Lord Jesus shares a supper with His family and I know He is desiring that moment as we are.

Before the Lord's Supper He told the disciples,  "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer," (Luke 22:15).  Now He waits, I believe with that same desire, to share the Marriage Supper of the Lamb with His children.  Perhaps He waits to see all His children's feet under the table as I did that night, to have them all home, safe and under His wings.  It reminds me of the last line in the hymn, "Brethren We Have Met to Worship":

Then He'll call us home to Heaven, at His table we'll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." Revelation 19:7-9

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Friday, September 16, 2011

User Error

For three years I worked in my hospital's computer department.  I had been "loaned" to them, much as one department loans another an IV pump or a pulse oximeter.  It was a challenging and stimulating time during which I learned much that I use to this day.

One of my duties was to take calls from the nurses in the hospital on computer problems.  Over fourteen
laptopImage by utnapistim via Flickryears ago, our nurses were new then to computerized documentation and to dealing with computers on a large scale in their workplace.  When one of the laptops they used for charting would not do what they wanted it to, I would often hear the same thing, "It's broken."  No detail would be given because many of them just didn't understand it enough to give me any detail.

The great majority of the time when I heard this, the issue actually ended up to be what is called "User error".  Which simply means the person using the computer did something wrong to receive the error message or lack of response they did. (I can't tell you how many times the problem was simply that the computer needed to be turned on.)

It was often impossible to convince the staff that "User error" could be the problem, however.  They believed and expected the computers to break, to malfunction and to just be ornery and hateful to them.  I learned it was futile to try to convince them of the "User error", so I would just go about fixing the problem.  They began to call me even when I wasn't on call.  In fact, even after I had stopped working in the computer department and returned to Labor & Delivery, one nurse in another unit called L&D one night to get my home phone number.

"She knows how to fix our computers," the frantic nurse told our L&D night shift nurse.  I was so glad our  nurse knew better than to give out my home phone number (which would have then been posted in nursing units throughout the hospital).  She protected me and I appreciated it.

The nurses would have been much better off if they had adopted the attitude that the computer doesn't usually malfunction, that it isn't really ornery or out to get them.  I have been able to help facilitate this attitude in L&D and I frequently hear "I don't know what I'm doing wrong" instead of "This computer is broken!"

Sometimes when we open the Scriptures we read things we don't understand or can't explain.  We are so much better off if at the very beginning we confess to the Lord that we agree with the Bible when it says,  that "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times," (Psalms 12:6).

We are better to believe the problem is not with the Scriptures, but with our limited understanding.  I have often heard it said that the Bible is the only book which comes "with it's Author", and we know the desire of the Lord is that we understand and apply His Word to our lives.  So if we find a passage that is difficult or confusing to us, let us follow the advice of the Apostle James:

 "If any of you lack wisdom,
 let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, 
and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." 
James 1:5 
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