Monday, April 27, 2009

Hang On...and Keep Looking Up!

"God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
Okay, so if you've read my past posts, you know I've often pondered buying a BB Gun to battle our backyard enemy...the squirrel...who just loves our bird food. However, today I just had to share a few words of following the example of that bushy-tailed sunflower seed eater!
At one time or another we've received the same basic cry for help from each of our girls...and I mean "cry" in the literal sense. It may have been at exam time, near the due date for some huge report, in a relationship crisis, or some other stressor, that we hear sobs and the words, "I can't do this!"
I believe that each of us have probably uttered those exact words. I know I have...more than the span of my (almost) 50 years. Our circumstances can often overwhelm and defeat us. We can be blindsided by curves that life can throw. But we must not give up! Nevah, nevah! (Winston Churchill)
We have got to hold on...even if with our very toenails! (Look back at the squirrel.) What do we hold onto? Truth! God's Word. We have got to be tenacious in seeking guidance, strength, comfort, and peace that only God can give us. He is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Deliverer! (Psalm 18:2)
No matter how heavy the burden, no matter how tough the fight, we've got to keep "looking up." (If a squirrel can do it, surely we can!) We must keep our eyes on Him...the perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8
Our Heavenly Father, thank You for Your presence...for Your Holy Spirit that lives in us. Lord, help us to cling to you. Help us to seek You first (Matt. 5:33) and keep pressing by day...hour by hour...minute by minute... through the help of Your Word. And when we aren't inclined to look up, please be the lifter of our heads. Thank you for your great love and compassion.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Word from "Dirt"

"Oh Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your Name. Give Your servant success today by granting him favor...." Nehemiah 1:11a (NIV)

The words from the heading of Beth Moore's devotional on April 17 (In Praying God's Word-Day*By*Day...fabulous book) said, "Without the Potter, clay is just dirt." Those words struck a chord with me...and have stuck with me. Oh, let me just say...from one who is purely dirt...that I am so thankful to have The Potter living in me!

God really "granted me some favor" this week as He heard and answered my feeble prayer for help! My class (of adorable kindergarteners) had gone outside to play. I glanced at my lesson plans to see what I needed to accomplish in the remainder of the day. I still had the Bible lesson to teach. That is one of my favorite things to do! Seeing those little 5 (& 6) year old faces respond to the truths in God's Word...eyes wide open...and sometimes their they drink in every detail. (Oh, that we could be that way!) Most of the subjects that we focus on are stories that we tend to know by heart...Adam & Eve, Noah, Joseph, Moses, and so on. I have lots of picture books and other resources to share with the students.

However, as I saw in my plans that day, the lesson was on Nehemiah. I thought, "Hmmm, now what do I know about Nehemiah? There was that building the wall thing. Just what did happen to that wall anyway?" I went to my shelf of resources...nothing. I glanced back at my lesson plans. The only thing written there was, "Include Nehemiah's prayer." Okay, that was a start. I got my Bible and turned to the book of Nehemiah. Fortunately Nehemiah's prayer was right there at the beginning of the first chapter.

"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love him and obey His commands, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against You. We have acted very wickedly toward You. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave Your servant Moses."
"Remember the instruction You gave Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'"
"They are Your servants and Your people, whom You redeemed by Your great strength and Your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."

I quickly lifted my own version of that prayer up to the Lord. I asked Him to grant me favor...although I didn't deserve it...and help me to share the truths of His Word. Would you believe that He gave me a three point "sermon" and a great story at the end? (You must understand that my Daddy and my husband are among the greatest preachers out there!! I've had the privilege of "sitting under" the best teaching around!!!)

Here are His highlights!
1. Nehemiah started his prayer with the recognition of who God is..."great and awesome!"
2. Nehemiah confessed his sin...and that of the Israelites.
3. Nehemiah reminded God of His promises...His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands. (Did God need the reminder? No, but we need to recount those promises for ourselves.) He asked God to grant him success on acting on behalf of those people and show him favor as he went to the king.

God just blessed me with His Word...and equipped me to share it with His children. Precious.

Oh! And for the great story at the was fun to share about the Nehemiah's "cupbearer" to the king...a yummy job...but one with huge risk!

As I was wrapping up, I glanced to the end of chapter 2 and saw the words, "The God of heaven will give us success." (v. 20) I breathed a prayer of thanks...for His faithfulness. He took this "dirt" and shaped a lesson for little hearts (and that includes my own).

Father, You are truly "great and awesome"...and so gracious and merciful! Lord, forgive us for forgetting just how faithful You are. Forgive me for the depths of my sin. And, Lord, thank You for washing it away...and keeping Your covenant of love. Thank you for Your Spirit that indwells us and equips us to be the vessels You intended. Please continue to show us Your favor as we seek to do Your will.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Is She Here Yet?"

"We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:8

"Is she here yet?" Melea kept asking. Her big sister, Carrie (and her husband, Todd), were coming home for the weekend. Carrie had called to say that they were about 10 minutes away...however the rush hour traffic would prove her wrong. So, Melea kept asking, "Is she here yet?" And I kept getting up and walking over to the windows to see. The "10 minutes" became an hour. We watched...and we waited for a long time. Melea never tired of asking, "Is she here yet?"

While we were waiting, I was struck with the sweetest thought.

Our dear friend and relative, Mrs. Annabelle Smith, went home to be with the Lord on Good Friday. Her body had held the most beautiful spirit for over 92 years, and it was time for that "earthly tent" to be laid to rest and her spirit to move on to a new home...a heavenly one. Miss Annabelle was the most joyful person I've ever known. She loved freely and fully...her family, her friends, and our Lord. No matter what her circumstance, no matter how feeble her body became...or how many blood transfusions she needed...she fought valiantly, no matter what fiery trial she faced, she walked victoriously and she maintained an attitude of thankfulness and praise. She loved being on this earth, but I believe that in those last days she was "longing to be clothed with [her] heavenly dwelling." (2 Cor. 5:2)

As we waited for Carrie, I had the most precious vision. I could almost see those who had "gone before" Mrs. Annabelle, along with all the angels, and Jesus, her Lord, whispering to each other, "Is she here yet?" I chuckled to think of the question being asked over and over...and all of them watching and waiting...on the "big front porch" of heaven. (Remember the hymn "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me; See on the portals"...sounds like a big white columned front porch to me!... "He's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me. Come home, come home, Ye who are weary come home.") Yes, I believe that they kept asking...and watching...and waiting...until that sweet face with that wonderful smile and her twinkling eyes finally appeared. I know there was a grand celebration upon her arrival...and lots of shouting, "She's here!!"

We miss her here. But I know that she is surely preferring being "at home" with her Lord. And I think that she'll be one of the best watchers, waiters, and whisperers asking, "Is she here yet?" when it's our turn! Oh, we love you, Mrs. Annabelle!

Our heavenly Father, you must surely enjoy having Mrs. Annabelle with you! Hug her for us! We thank you that we have been "given...the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Cor. 5:5) for us who believe...that we know that we'll see her again...and that we, too, will rejoice in Your presence! Thank you for waiting, for watching, and for calling us to come home.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Glimpse at Shared Suffering...Just a Glimpse

"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV)

The Holy Week is different for me this year. I feel a heaviness...a sense of sharing in the sadness that Jesus felt as he rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday. Dr. Luke gives us added insight in his account in chapter 19, verses 37 and following:

"When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"...
As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it...." Luke 19:41a (NIV)

Do you note the contrast in emotions of the disciples and that of Jesus? They are singing and praising and honoring Him. But Jesus sees past the praise. He sees the heart...and He weeps.

Jesus could see the hearts of those who loved best they could...with their limited understanding of the depths of His love...of what He would soon suffer on their behalf. He could see the hearts of the Pharisees...religious leaders...those who in their pompous ignorance were out to take His life. He could see the hearts of those who "didn't have a clue"...who were swayed toward acceptance or rejection without understanding or conviction of their own, just following the crowd. He looked over the city...the masses, the throngs...and wept.

I wonder if He has relived any of that sadness this He looks over our "city" and sees our feeble attempts at we go through the motions...or focus on the production. How does He feel about self-serving attitudes of Christians...even those in leadership...arguing over doctrine and denomination and style of worship. And how His heart must break at the multitude of those who are so easily led astray...because of their own choosing...or because they just don't know better...some who have never even heard that there is a Savior.

Can you imagine the sorrow when the president of the USA declares that "We are not a Christian nation."

A couple of lines from songs came to mind this morning:
From the hymn, "Come Thou Fount," the reminder, "Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be." Oh, what a debt I owe. And His blood was shed to cover the cost.

I long to praise Him properly and whole-heartedly, as "I'm coming back to the heart of worship and it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus. I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it, when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus." (Michael W. Smith)

I want my heart to be right. I long for Him to look at it and smile...not weep. I want to worship Him and Him alone. I want Him to take my heart "and seal it...seal it for [His] courts above."

I want to be ready to rejoice! Because...He rose! He conquered! He reigns!

Jesus, forgive us. May our hearts overflow with thanks for Your love, Your sacrifice, Your desire to draw us close to You. Help us, Lord to make Your heart glad!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Coffee Cups and other Prayer Prompters

" day and night I constantly remember you in my prayers." 2 Timothy 1:3b

I normally fight the temptation to check my email before I get in the Word in the mornings...I can be a little legalistic about it sometimes...but this morning I felt prompted to do so. It was clearly God's leading. There was something there I needed to email from a dear friend. Her words were desperate. She was weeping. She needed prayer. She didn't call because it was 6:30 on a Saturday morning. She didn't want to wake me.

Before I even got out of bed, she was on my mind. She had asked me to pray for her as she had a speaking engagement today. After I saw the email, I got on my knees and, again, approached the throne on her behalf.

I try hard to be faithful when a friend asks me to pray. But I know that there have been many times that I've forgotten...and failed. In these mid-life years, when my memory just isn't what it used to be, God has shown me a little system of prayer prompters...visual reminders that help so much!

First, there are the coffee cups. The cabinet that holds them reminds me of a box of assorted chocolates. They come in all shapes and sizes...and will contain something delicious and delightful! I love a good cup...or three...of morning coffee. One of my favorites is a cup from Sonny's Grill in Blowing Rock, NC. My dear friend, Joyce, gave it to of the most thoughtful gifts of all time! We shared fun memories there. One is a red cup with the word love on it. It's from my sweet friend, Marsha. Another is from our loving friend, Cindy. It has grapes on it. We both have our kitchens decorated with grapes. A couple are from conferences that my wonderful husband has attended...not always the most beautiful mugs, but still hold that yummy goodness perfectly.

Whenever I look into the cabinet to choose, I think of each of these friends (and my hubby)...and pray for them. I even ask the Lord to guide me as I pick the one that really needs a little extra boost for that day. I pray for them again when I load them in the dishwasher or put them back in the cabinet when they are clean. I love those reminders!

A funny prayer prompter is the concealer that I use to cover my red nose. I have a dear "sister" that shares the same nonconformity. (I'll not mention any names....You know who you are! Just know you're prayed for...each time I cover my nose!!)

Another of my prompters are Sebring convertibles. My brother has one. Anytime I see one...or almost any convertible for that matter...I pray for him and for his family. God has even been so good to cause there to be one that I see almost every morning on my way to work, and to keep one parked on the street that's perpendicular to ours so that I see it, and pray, each time I take our dog out.

I also have a business card from another Cindy friend. I keep it tucked under my garage door opener in my car. Anytime I open or close my garage door, I say a prayer for her.

Ever since last May 21, the day that Maria Chapman, daughter of Steven Curtis and MaryBeth Chapman, died tragically, I pray for the Chapman family everytime I put my car in reverse. I keep a check on them through their blog...and SEE that they survive the pain because of the faithfulness of God, and those that keep them lifted to His throne.

There are other prompters in and around my home. I think you've got the point. In a time when our lives are filled with so many distractions, it just helps to be reminded to be "faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12)

What can God use to remind you to pray?

We need to remember to "pray for each other....The prayer of a righteous man [or woman] is powerful and effective." (James 5:13-16)

Our loving Father, the One who calls us by name, who loves each of us...Your children... unfailingly, help us to be faithful in our intercession. Help us to remember to pray on behalf of those You've placed in our lives. Use those utterings to bring others closer to You, to experience Your great love, comfort, healing, mercy, grace, and strength.

Here's a great resource for strengthening your prayer life...check out My friend, Tara, is a treasure!