Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Freedom to Mourn

Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"
1 Corinthians 15:55 

"...Where, O death, is your sting?"  Paul laughed in the face of death.  He certainly understood the riches and communion with God that awaited him on the other side of leaving his fleshly body here on Earth and entering into the arms of Our Savior.  This scripture is written to encourage followers of Christ and when you allow it to take root in your mind and heart it soothes all fears of death.  Many parts of Heaven are unknown to us this side of death.  But, as we read our Word we learn enough about Heaven to know that it is a glorious place that no one should have to miss.  It is something to be celebrated.  Those that understand this, face it with great anticipation.  Those of us left behind until our appointed time, face the sting of loss.

Death.  Where is it's sting?  I'll tell you where it is...

  • It's in the grief-filled heart of a woman that suddenly loses her husband in an accident.
  • It's in the confused eyes of that woman's two little girls as they struggle to understand why daddy isn't coming home.
  • It's in the silence and darkness of the night when you lay your head down to sleep but memories and thoughts relentlessly flood you until you feel as though you're suffocating under the weight of it all. You throw off the bed covers in hopes it will help.  You end up in the recliner staring at the darkness.
  • It's in the helpless realization that you can't control any of the situation.
  • It's in your pursuit of escape, whether it comes from reading, working, the Internet, TV, drugs, alcohol, music...whatever...just make it loud and fast.  Keep the distractions coming!
  • It's in the screams and anguish of a parent that has lost their child.
  • It's in the knot that forms in your throat and threatens to choke you to death.
  • It's in the deep breaths you find yourself taking because reality has knocked the wind out of you once again.
  • It's in the uncontrollable, unannounced outburst of, "No!" "Stop!" "Wait!"
  • It's in the drowning tears that come without warning.
  • It's in the "What might have been..."
  • It's in the deep grief that makes you want to melt into the floor.
  • It's in the anguish-filled eyes of a man that can't say "My father knew the Lord."
  • It's in the crippling pain that stops you in your tracks as reality plays out before you.
  • It's in the question, "Why?"
  • It's in the weary eyes of a woman that is facing the impending death of her once strong and full-of-life daddy.  The sadness is overwhelming.  No little girl ever wants to watch her daddy decline...much less say "goodbye".  He was supposed to always protect her, now she finds herself protecting him.
  • It's in the eyes of that woman's son who has always had a rock in his grandfather but now he must face being a father to a new daughter in a matter of days....possibly without his grandfather.
  • It's in the eyes of that woman's daughter who only thought she was prepared to celebrate her grandfather going Home.
  • It's in the eyes of two men that have been greatly impacted by the powerful and loving mentor and father-figure they both desperately needed.
  • It's in the eyes of that man's son that will bury his father within days of remembering the 1-year anniversary of his wife's death.
  • It's in the sadness of the future here on Earth without them him.
I say this all on the heels of my grandfather's impending death celebration.  Anguish.  Anger.  Hurt.  Sorrow.  Helplessness.  Fear.  Sadness.  Guilt.  Desperation.  These are all things that have run through my veins over the past few hours.  I have been preparing myself, for his death, for well over a year now.  I have thought that I would be ready.  In all honesty, I'm very excited for him to experience the freedoms and joys of Heaven.  Oh to bask in the tangible presence of the God that you have served all of your Earthly years.  To finally hear, "Well done my good and faithful servant!"  It sounds wonderful because it is wonderful...until the day is within reach and your flesh and heart want to mourn. They want to throw on the brakes and say "NO!"  I, in my selfishness, want to keep him here.  

If you're reading this and thinking that I'm going to wrap this thing up with a sweet little verse and a nugget of truth...well...you may get to the end and be disappointed.  I'm writing this so I can work through my grief.  Grief that will soon become joy because in the end, I know the Truth.  Until then, the Holy Spirit (and the confirming word of my irreplaceable friend) gave me permission to mourn.  He (and she) reminded me of Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus.  Who would expect that the shortest verse in the Bible could bring some of the greatest freedom...the freedom to mourn.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One Tough Job...Parenting

"Mom, my tooth really hurts."  I had suspicions that the tooth was beginning to bother him.  I had heard him mention it a couple of times over the past couple of weeks.  We had rescheduled his dentist appointment to have the last two cavities fixed when he got sick the day before his original appointment.  Now, his new appointment isn't for another two weeks. Great.  I have a new employee coming in for training tomorrow, and I'll be gone for another week next week.  Rich operates on appointments and is booked through next week.  Oh, and then there's the problem that we have such a great pediatric dentist that it's hard to get an appointment with him.  Mix all of that together and you still have an 8-year-old boy with a toothache.  A toothache that he's been hiding from us because he thought we would be upset.  (This is where I lose it and just sob and sob.)  We've never displayed frustration or anger when he's sick.  Or have we?  Maybe he's overheard us trying to work out who was going to stay home with him when he woke up sick or who was going to take off work to take him to the dentist or doctor.  Maybe he's heard us talking about the costs.  I just don't know.  Wow.  I never ever want him to feel like he can't tell us things.  Particularly regarding his health.
He's been through a lot in his 8 short years of life.  He's had injuries, illnesses, allergies, ADHD, Aspergers and severe acid reflux.  We battle the last four on that list, every. single. day.  And because of the last three, we also struggle with his teeth.  He's had too many cavities for his age.  He grinds his teeth at night, will only drink bottled water (because of the Aspergers), loves candy, eats in the middle of the night (because he's always hungry due to acid reflux) and vomits often (due to severe acid reflux).  Put all of that together and you have the perfect formula for cavities. 
No parent wants to hear that their kids have cavities.  It's hard to not take it as a personal judgement against your parenting abilities.  At least that's how I feel.  I can hear the disappointment in the dentist's voice which sends me out with such guilt and shame.
Almost every day is a challenge.  I absolutely hate to say it's because he has special needs.  I never want that to be a crutch...it's just a reality.  A reality that can often times be lonely.  Not many understand.  So here I sit feeling like a horrible parent.  Full of guilt and shame that I can't even take care of my child's teeth.  Feeling as though I'm fighting a battle all alone.  Sitting in the home office, sobbing as I type this...while sounds of playing come from the living room.  (Hold one moment while I blow my nose...)  So...I guess that tooth doesn't hurt anymore.  So maybe all of his teeth aren't going to fall out of his head after all.  Maybe I should gather my composure and make a plan to call the dentist's office tomorrow.  Maybe they can fit him in next week and Rich can take him.  (The dark clouds are beginning to part and the damning voices are quieting down.)  My sweet, wonderful friend just called me...for something completely different.  Her few words were certainly encouraging.
Parenting is tough but satan is a liar.  Guilt and shame do not come from the Lord.  Yes, we have made mistakes as parents.  Careless, stupid mistakes.  I have been walking in hurt, anger, frustration, defeat, guilt and shame for several years.  Some of that stems from things I should have done differently.  The rest stems from things I had/have no control over.  Both of our children have experienced some bad parenting.  BUT, I am not the author and finisher of my children's lives.  I am called to love them, guide them and care for them.  I will not be perfect.  Where I fail, the Lord will protect and restore.  I have to believe that...otherwise, the guilt and shame rush back in and the crying starts all over again.
I must dig down deep and get rid of this guilt and shame once and for all.  I have carried it long enough.  It's time to lay it down at the foot of the Cross.  Tomorrow is a brand new day.  I have 1.5 hours of this day left with my son and hopefully a bit more time with Tori before she goes to bed.  So if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go beat my boy in a game of checkers. :)
Thank you for listening...whether it was by choice or not.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seniors...And I'm Not Talking Geriatrics

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always.  As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."
Senior 2013.  I've seen that phrase many, many times over the past couple of months and every time it catches my breath.  I feel like it reaches up off the page and grabs my heart with an unforgiving grip.  My baby...my sweet little girl is graduating in 8 short months.  I've been told to "hang on tight" because the senior year is wild and crazy.  So far, it is certainly living up to its reputation.  As though the reality of the first week of her senior year was not enough, we had to go ahead and order her cap and gown...the very first days of school.  I breathe in with a slight twinge of anxiety on that one.
Tomorrow, I will be forced to dive even further into the reality of how little time I have with her.  For tomorrow, we take senior pictures.  I want so much to enjoy these times with her.  How does a mother separate her sorrow from her joy?  I look forward to seeing her have fun posing for my good friend Donna Evans.  Donna is so good and will have her laughing in no time. Tori has such a great sense of style and knows exactly what she wants.  Helping her choose her outfits has been fun.  (Except for last night when she started having last minute wardrobe anxiety.)  But honestly, she would make a potato sack look good! (I suppose I'm a little bias.) I just know the pictures are going to be wonderful.  As I stand to the side and watch my daughter blossom in front of the camera, I'm sure reflections of the past and dreams of the future will be running through my mind.
She has a promising future ahead of her.  She has set her eyes on a college that we are very happy about.  (Now we're believing God will provide a way.)  She has a great head on her shoulders, as they say.  She is a girl young woman that lives her life for the Lord.  She is a growing leader.  She loves with her whole heart and is loyal to the end.  She is everything we could ever dream of...and we can take very little credit for it all.  We stand in wonder at who she has become.  The future for her is truly exciting.  I can only imagine how she is going to change the world around her.  She's special.  No really, she. is. special.  I can't help but believe that the Lord has a big plan for her life.  I know.  I'm her momma.  Of course I think those things.  But if you know her, you believe it too.
Fear.  That is what Rich and I battle.  Fear that she will meet a boy, fall in love and then move far away.  (Far = anything further than our backyard)  Fear that she will get herself into a situation and not know what to do.  Fear that she will carry on with her life and forget about us.  Fear that we won't play an intimate part of her life anymore.  Fear that she will go to Wal-Mart without us, in the middle of the night.  Fear for the first time she is sick and I can't get to her to help take care of her.  (Thank God for our close friends the Kennedys that will take really good care of her.)  You want them to grow and become rock-awesome adults, but a part of you wants to hang on...forever.  But that's not healthy and we know it. 
Trust.  That has to be the new word of the day.  Trust that the Lord will condition our hearts and minds as He takes her hand and walks her through life.  He's always been in control...we just forget it sometimes.  Trust that we have raised her to make wise decisions.  Trust that she will be safe.  Trust that she will call home.  Trust that she will want to come home for weekend visits.  Trust that she will continue to be upfront and honest with us.  Trust that she will continue to open up to us and have those deep, intimate conversations with us.  Trust that our relationship is going to strengthen, not weaken.
I know these things can be done.  I've seen mother after mother do it.  I've seen some do it better than others.  I want to be one that does it well.  I need His wisdom and comfort as we travel into new waters with our "Senior 2013".  
Lord God, may they be a graduating class that turns the world upside down for You.  May Your glory and anointing be peculiarly strong upon them.  May their hearts be made of good soil.  May Your Word forever be rooted deep into their hearts.  Protect them all Lord.  Us mommas and daddies are scared spitless.  Comfort us so that we do not all try to move into the dorm room across the hallway from them.  Thank you Father that You knew this day would come and nothing in the future will be a surprise to You.  Hold her hand and guide her with one hand, and hold ours in the other.  We all need everything You've got as we transition into a new way of life.   May we learn to look forward to upcoming celebrations.  May the remaining days at home be filled with love and laughter.  Amen.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Title Worship

The gift that is on you will destroy you if what is in you cannot sustain you.  ~ Christine Caine
I'm in the middle of a project at work that requires me to interact with many types of people, throughout many places in the world and from all walks of life.  As I work so closely with these people, I'm beginning to know their character.  Many of them hold titles that are highly revered in the world.  Some "wear" the title better than others.  Most of them do not know the Lord and although it turns my stomach to see someone think so much of themselves because of their education and/or title it does not surprise me when they act this way.  However, true sadness and frustration sets in as I see people within the Body of Christ acting the same way.  What is it about a title that makes us forget Who's we are and how our Father expects us to act? 
One of the things that has been instilled in me since I was a young child is respect.  You respect your elders.  You respect those in authority.  Overall, you show respect to people...period.  I try my best to live by those teachings, but it isn't always easy.  You see, as I've grown older I've become less and less impressed with a title.  I've discovered that a title does not necessarily reflect a person's character.  You would think that it would...and it absolutely should.  However, I've seen many people whose character far exceeded their title...and many who's fell short. 
For instance, there is a wonderful woman of God that works on our custodial staff at work.  Now for some, it would be easy to just walk past her in the hallway and not think a thing about her.  But taking the time to talk to her has enriched my life.  She is a woman of the Word.  She always has a book she's reading (right now it's on fasting).  She always has her bible with her and you can find her reading it during her break time.  She is loving, friendly, humble and hardworking.  She speaks to everyone.  She shows kindness and concern to all.  She takes great pride in doing her job well.  Her inner beauty goes before her and the Spirit of the Lord is all over her!  Her character far exceeds her earthly title. In the eyes of many, she's at the bottom of the totem pole.  But do not be deceived!  Ms. Barbara holds a high position in the Kingdom of God.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will one day hear the Lord say, "Well done my good and faithful servant."  She certainly makes it easy for me to show her respect.  She always brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart.  
Others do not make it quite so easy.  Sometimes I have to dig really deep (and pray a lot) to muster up the respect that the Lord expects me to give others.  Their lack of character does not give me a right to disrespect them.  It is crazy to let their sin push me into my own sin.  It's like reaching into the pig pen to pick up some mud to sling at the pig, just to fall into the pig pen myself!
No one in the Body of Christ should ever, ever, never-ever find themselves slinging mud at one another.  We should also keep in mind that no one person/title is greater than the other. Romans 12:3-8 tells us, "3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."  Jockeying for a title should never be on our "to do" list.  In fact, we better approach a new position with sober judgment.  To whom much is given, much is expected. (Luke 12:48)  The gift...the title...that is on us will destroy us if what's in us can't sustain us.  Let's not worship a title...let's worship the King.  If we will set our eyes on Him, He will place us in the right place at the right time.  And when we get there, let's not forget Who put us there!  Let's not seek our own recognition.  Let's make sure He always receives the glory.  Let's not treat someone else as though we are greater.  Let's not get too big for our britches...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's Time for a Baptism

Once upon a time, there was a 12-year-old girl that was raised in church.  One day, she was moved to walk the aisle and pray "The Sinners Prayer" as us Christians like to call it.  She was baptized and later prayed to be filled with Holy Spirit.  Everyone in her family was happy and felt safe that if she passed away she would spend eternity in Heaven.  Since this little girl has been raised in church, she knew all of the right things to say and do in order to be a good and proper Christian.  The only problem was, there was no change inside of her.  She did not grow in her relationship with the Lord.  She did not spend time with him.  She simply lived the life of a typical, young teenage girl.  In fact, as she hit her teenage years, she became angrier and more rebellious than ever before.  The sin in her life grew to such heights that she hurt many, including herself, before falling from the top of her sin mountain.  She was 28-years-old when she hit rock bottom. 

All the while, thinking she was a child of God.  She attended church.  She served in the church.  She was a leader in her church.  Yet, something was very broken inside of her.  She was dead on the inside and all of her efforts to act like a true Christian were nothing more than words and works.

That girl was me.

In 2001, I attended my first ladies encounter retreat and that weekend...that was where the true change started.  That is the point that I can say, "The Lord did a deep work inside of me and I have not been the same since."  That was my true point of salvation.  However, for years I have believed and testified that I was saved back when I was 12-years-old.  I looked back over those years of turmoil, pain and sin thinking I had simply "lived in the pig pen" like the Prodigal Son. 

I literally have stood in pulpit after pulpit sharing my testimony that way...believing it.   I remember one time, many years ago, as I was preparing my testimony for a ladies encounter retreat, that I stopped and wondered if I was really saved back then.  But I quickly rationalized that thought away.  I didn't think about it again for several years.  Well, I started questioning my point of salvation a couple of years ago.  I discussed it with my husband and some close friends, but we always walked away thinking I was just being over sensitive.  That the enemy was trying to create confusion.  But from time to time the question would arise again in my mind. Why it isn't something that has been burning inside of me all along, I do not understand.

Bro. Bill has been teaching on baptism and salvation (true salvation).  I've been doing one-on-one with some ladies and the baptism and salvation lessons have stirred my mind yet again.  And it has recently been on my mind night and day.  Well, a couple of weeks ago I'd had enough.  "Enough is enough and I can't stands no more!"  I asked, "Why am I flip flopping around with this?"  When I look back at all of the things that I called Christianity, those were nothing more than works.  No real change happened in my when I was 12.  Salvation came for me in 2001. 

Whew...that's settled.  Yes, the way I share my testimony has officially changed...

BUT WAIT... after salvation comes baptism.  Um...I'm realizing that in order to be obedient to God, I should have been baptized 11 years ago.  Great.  That's just great.  (In walks pride and shame.)  I have been ministering to people and I've even baptized someone, yet I myself have not followed through with what I should have done 11 YEARS AGO!  Oh my word.  How could I have been so foolish!?  I have walked so closely with the Lord since 2001...why is it JUST NOW grabbing hold of me like this?  It's been bad in the past week.  So bad that one night I cried out, "Lord, just let me go outside and baptize myself in the pool!" (No one else was home...)  Oh how I wish it had been this strong in me 11 years ago when I returned from the retreat.  I hate that I missed this every important moment.

I have repented for being foolish.  I have repented for not listening to the still small voice that has tried to show me that I needed to recognize when I truly surrendered my life to the Lord.  I want to be obedient and my pride certainly is not happy about it.  (That's one reason I'm posting this on here for all 10 of you to see! :)  So I will be scheduling a baptism for myself.  I can't imagine the questions it will stir up.  (Oh, there's that pride again.)  I pray that this does not hurt anyone.  I pray that the Lord uses me...this new twist to my testimony... to set others free.  I pray it will start a revolution in the lives of those that hear about this.  Please God, use this like You have used the rest of my testimony to set captives free!  I pray that Christians will come forward for baptism.  I pray that those that have pridefully fought-off the reality that they were saved at a later time than they have declared - and have not been baptized - that they will surrender their will and allow the Lord to do a mighty work through the obedients of baptism.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Towel folding can lead to adultry

I know.  That's one of the craziest titles I've put on this blog.  I promise that I'm not taking hallucinogenic drugs.  I know you're wondering what the two have in common, and maybe you're wondering if you need to do a little something different with your bathroom laundry rituals.

It's not about the act of towel folding, it's the attitude. (So don't run in and refold all of your towels!)  Let me expand on my our Rich's thoughts. (Yes, he was the mastermind behind this crazy example.)

Rich and I attended the wedding of a wonderful couple that are looking at many years of blissful marriage - as they take each "marriage hurdle" in stride.  Those hurdles, no matter how small, can either be an opportunity to grow and get stronger as a couple OR they will trip them up and be the cause of injury and a failed marriage.  Small hurdles such as how to fold towels.

"Hogwash" you may say...if you're from the South.  If you are from other areas of the country, you might simply choose to say, "Nonsense".  Well, let's see...

Anyone that is married remembers those first months of "true discovery" after the wedding.   In those first few months, all masks come down and get shoved in a drawer.  You begin to see each other with bed head and no make up.  You end up picking up each others dirty underwear out of the floor.  You  pull your jeans out of the washing machine with pink streaks on them, because they were washed with red towels.  Those, as shocking as they are, do not stand up to the most revealing things that can rock the world of newlyweds.  No, sometimes it is the fact that "she" doesn't make pot roast exactly like your mother or "he" doesn't know how to fix the toilet anything like your dad.  Or, maybe it's that the other doesn't ever make the bed unless you are having company and he/she DOESN'T FOLD THE TOWELS RIGHT!! (Gasp)

Such shock and frustration comes when we discover that every household in America doesn't fold the bath towels exactly like Momma taught us to fold them.  And we are certain that WE do it the right way.  Remember how you would go in and pull them out of the cabinet and refold them?  (Maybe you didn't, but let's just say that someone in our house did...)  Small things can grow into great points of contention.  Little hairline fractures begin to show up in the marriage foundation.  Our attitude towards our spouse begins to sour.  Add that to the discovery that he/she doesn't handle finances like you and you've got yourself a problem.  Suddenly her prince charming on a big white horse begins to look like a hobo riding up on a donkey or his Juliet begins to look and sound like the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.

Ephesians four is a great chapter in dealing with this sort of problem.  Ephesians 4:2-4 says, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  That is certainly one of the main goals within a marriage but that isn't always easy when selfish desires and pride step in the way.  When something isn't done the way we think it should be done.  When living with someone in peace, love and unity turns out to be way more difficult than we expected.  Even when we do all the right things before we get married (abstain from premarital sex, do devotionals together, have all the needed deep discussions, do premarital counseling, establish the habit of praying together every day etc.)  "Little" hurdles become massive chasms.  Ephesians 4:26-27 goes on to tell us, "26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold."

It's easy to blow up on your spouse about those towels being folded the wrong way.  In that angry outburst you say all the wrong things in all the wrong ways.  Anger is not a bad thing, it's what you do with it.  It's towels.  Really?  Is it really a battle you need to fight?  Maybe you're a stuffer so you stuff that frustration and anger deep inside to be used as a weapon at a later time.  We easily find ourselves getting angrier and angrier over unmet expectations.  Each and every instance gives the enemy a foothold in our lives.  And when we hang on to that anger a root of bitterness begins to grow and the enemy ends up with more than his foot in the door of our life.

Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) says, "15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many."  A poisonous root of bitterness.  Another translation said to, "watch your thoughts about others".  The poisonous thoughts that we start having about our spouse over small hurdles, such as folding towels, will lead to bitterness and will poisonous us and many around us.  Not only will the enemy take us down but he'll take down many people around us.  That foothold he has because of our anger and thoughts about some silly towels will turn into a stronghold in our mind which ends up leading us deeper and deeper into sin.  Those poisonous thoughts will lead us into believing that our spouse will never meet our needs, we'll never be happy with them, this marriage is a joke, etc. etc. and before you know it, we're looking for someone else to fulfill our needs.  In walks adultry. (Or some other type of sin.)

The enemy loves to sneak into our lives through our thoughts.  The next time you get angry about something your spouse did or didn't do, take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to bring truth and revelation to you about the situation.  When you let Him lead you, those small hurdles will bring growth instead of injury.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What's Your "But"?

"Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria.  He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper."  2 Kings 5:1 (NKJV)

My sweet, sweet friend gave Reid an awesome children's bible story book for Christmas.  We love books at our house, so books are always a welcomed gift.  She gushed about how great this little book is at teaching our children about the stories in the Bible while tying each story to Jesus.  I thought, "Oh, that's nice."  Well...let me tell you that little book ROCKS.  By the end of the first story I was fighting back tears as we read about how our sweet and wonderful God already had deemed Jesus as Saviour of the World as He created the Earth.  Good, good stuff...

So the other night we read about Naaman's leprosy being healed in 2 Kings 5.  After I put Reid to bed I went down to the office and pulled out a New King James Version bible and read the chapter for myself.  I just couldn't leave this story alone.  I needed to get the intricate details of the story.  (The world can say 'the devil's in the details' but let me tell you that our intricate God is most certainly in the details of our lives...the little details can often bring the greatest revelations.) I started reading the chapter and verse one immediately grabbed my attention.  I managed to read the rest of the story but immediately went back to verse one.  I could not get past it...still can't...here's why...

According to the verse, Naaman was a great man.  He held a very high, powerful and prestigious position in his country.  He made a very nice salary every year and lived in a nice home with all the servants and things a person could want.  He was seen as great and honorable in eyes of the King of Syria.  Meaning he participated in exclusive meetings and parties and had the favor of the country's leader on his side.  He was well known every where he went. He was very good at many things.  He was very smart, very strategic and probably very charismatic.  People listened when he spoke.  He was a mighty man of valor meaning he was brave and had boldness and determination when facing danger, particularly in battle.  Life should have been good...perfect...easier to live than most...

"...but a leper."


That one little statement had huge implications.  He was unclean.  He was hindered.  He was held back from being even greater than he already was.  He couldn't impact the world around him as much as he wanted.  He walked around every day knowing there were greater things locked up inside of him that could not be utilized because of his leprosy.  He had a vision of what the future could be but knew the leprosy would always hold him back.  

I imagine that Naaman was a bit of a prideful man.  He probably thought that he would overcome the leprosy by his sheer will-power.  He probably tried to cover it up and ignore it.  He was determined that nothing would stop him.  But in the end, each and every time, his own power was not enough to overcome the power that leprosy had on his life.  He needed to be healed but didn't know where to find it.  So God brought a precious little Israelite girl into his life.  The answer to his problem came from the most unexpected place...one of his servant girls.  And his healing would come from the land of Israel, which he had recently raided and plundered.  (That's a whole other blog in itself.)

Out of desperation, Naaman followed the girl's word and went to Israel.  Once he arrived in Israel, Elisha sent for him and gave him simple instructions to be healed... "Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean." (Verse 10)  He argued.  He rolled his eyes.  He threw a two-year-old tantrum.  He was disgusted that he had come all that way just to take a dip in a nasty river where commoners often bathed.  He tried to talk Elisha into letting him wash in a cleaner river...one he preferred and viewed as more respectable.  He got so mad he decided to storm off and forget the whole thing.  Fortunately, the Lord used his servants (once again) to speak wisdom to him.  He finally did as Elisha said and he was healed.  Pride, it will certainly stand in the way of our healing.

We are like Naaman.  We are great at this or that.  We are favored in the eyes of our leaders and friends/colleagues.  We live comfortably.  We have a blessed family.  We have all this potential.  We have a vision or a promise that the Lord has given us.  We may already sit in the high places in our jobs, community or country.  We may be mighty and full of valor.  We have people shouting our praises, saying how great we are.  But within us we know we are...

...but a leper...

That thing...that sin...that illness...that hurt...that (fill in the blank).  Whatever it is that is holding us back.  That part of our life that we've tried to overcome through our own power or tried to ignore out of pride.  That ridiculous part of our life that will not let go of us and makes us sick when we look in the mirror.  That thing the enemy uses day in and day out to bring condemnation and shame to our lives.  The thing that we immediately think about every time someone gives us accolades. Maybe the people around you know about your "but" or maybe you're still able to hide it.

Whatever the case, it is time to take a dip in the Jordan.  There is power and healing at that place the Lord has told you to go and in the things He's told you to do.  It's all about faith and obedience.  The two go hand-in-hand.  James 2:20 tells us that faith without works is dead.  I don't want to be held back any longer...I'm jumping in...how about you?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's In Your Refrigerator?

It's hard for me to believe that it has been nearly four months since I've posted a blog.  I've certainly thought about it several times but really didn't have anything I wanted to share.  Maybe it was because I was far too busy or too tired.  Probably it was because I didn't need to say what was on my mind.  Some things are better left unsaid.

For the most part, I'm an internalizer.  I perceived early in life that it was better safer to keep my thoughts to myself.  If you don't say anything, you are less likely to look foolish, dumb or (fill in the blank).  For someone with low self-confidence, it only takes a few times of getting mocked, questioned or berated for your thoughts before you learn to just keep them to yourself.  Others question you so you begin to question yourself.  I was the best of the best at keeping everything inside.  I would crawl into my little prison cell and slam the door shut behind me.  And good luck to the person that tried to drag me out.  I had no self-confidence, but I didn't want anyone to know it.  I had a lot of sin in my life and I certainly didn't want anyone to know it. (And I'm sure it was a "secret"...cough, cough)

Many years ago at the peak of battling so much sin in my life, something happened that planted a seed that would help me break free of this internalizing prison.  I went out to dinner with a church group.  There were probably 10 people at the table.  The leaders of our group ran into a couple they knew from out-of-town and invited them to eat with us.  As we sat around the table, the leaders and this couple caught up on each others' lives.  Some of the others in our group joined in on some of the conversation as well.  I barely said a word outside of introducing myself.  As we were leaving the restaurant, the man from out-of-town looked me square in the eyes and said, "You know a lot more than you share, don't you?"  I simply nodded my head, smiled and said, "Yes I do."  To most that was a generic comment...it was life changing for me.

I know in my "knower" that message was two-fold and it continues to ring in my head every time I try to crawl back into my "safe place".  The Lord had him plant that seed in me.  I'm certain that gentlemen does not remember me and I probably could not pick him out of a line up today.  However, his His words rested in my spirit.  I did know more than I was willing to share (in more ways than one).  Those words also told me that I was not as invisible as I felt.  At that time in my life, I was looking for love and a fulfillment in my spirit that only the Lord could give me. I had no self-confidence.  I was broken.  I was a cesspool of sin, yet my spirit was crying out for my Abba Father.

I thought internalization was my friend, but it was certainly poisoning me.  Internalizing everything is like keeping your refrigerator full of food.  All food has an expiration date.  If you don't open up the refrigerator and take the food out and use it to feed yourself or someone else, it simply begins to rot.  No matter how good or healthy that food was in the beginning, if it just sits in there for a long time it becomes stale, useless even poisonous.  It begins to pollute the refrigerator.  Maybe you put something in the 'frig that was bad in the first place.  It will never be healthy for you or someone else.  It immediately taints the other items in the refrigerator.  And just because you try to hide it and pretend it's not there...it still pollutes...it still stinks...it's still there....it's still damaging the 'frig and everything in it.

Now I am certainly not saying I should share everything that is on my mind.  Heaven help us if I start sharing everything I think.  Some things are certainly better left unsaid.  At times, I struggle knowing what to say and what to internalize.  Times like these are better handled by the Holy Spirit.  I often ask Him to be the helmsman of my tongue.  If I will listen to Him, He shows me when to speak and when to be silent.  What freedom there is when you have the confidence of the Holy Spirit backing up your words or silence!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hope Beyond Measure

What, what would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living!
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.  Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.
Psalm 27:13,14 (amp)

Hope...a word that we throw around without regard to its power.  "I hope you get to feeling better."  "I hope things work out for you."  "I hope my insurance covers this medicine."  "I hope I don't have to stand in line very long."  "I hope my son has friends when he's older."  Hope is powerful.  It's so powerful that medical professionals recognize it as an crucial element in the healing process for patients.  It has been studied and documented that patients with hope outlive those without hope.  And woe to the person who has no hope!  I have someone in my life that claims to be an atheist.  Recently I thought about her and how hopeless of a life she must lead.  She believes she has no savior...no God at all, there's no concept of redemption from sin, no eternal life to ponder...we just cease to exist when we die (or so she thinks), no one to lean on when people have betrayed or deserted her.  No one to call out to when disaster hits. Nothing. Just her and the temporal things she can lay her hands on here on this earth. 

According to the world, hope is a feeling...a wish or desire that something will happen (or not happen).  But as followers of Christ our hope is far more foundational than a simple feeling.  Our hope is rooted in a God that has proven His love and devotion since before the days of the Earth.  Hope for us is a trusting expectation that the Lord is going to stay true to His promises.  That He truly is the same yesterday, today and forever.  That the same God that parted the sea for Moses and the Israelites can also hear our prayers and move mightily on our behalf. 

I love how David talked about hope in the above scriptures.  David certainly understood what it meant to hope in the Lord.  When you consider his life, how else would he have made it through that life had it not been for hope?  And realize that he didn't lose hope when things didn't turn out as he thought they should.  When, in the natural, it seemed that God had turned His back on David.  In fact, David got up each time, dusted himself off and continued to follow God.  THAT is when you realize that hope is more than a feeling.  If hope was merely a feeling, David (or we) would never get back up, with trusting expectation, after something didn't go as we expected.

Hope is not a feeling.  Feelings are temporary and can misguide us.  Hope, the kind that comes from a relationship with Christ, is a deep-rooted, trusting expectation that my God will be our rear-guard.  He will cover us in times of trouble.  He will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory.  He will give His angels charge over us.  He will go before us and prepare the way.  He has equipped us with everything we need to fulfill our purpose.  He will rebuke the devourer from our lives.  He will bless us exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever imagine.  He will love us with an agape love so deep that we can never reach the end of it.  He will forgive our sins and never recall them again.  He will heal us.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He has given us victory through Jesus Christ...and He has prepared a place for us where we will spend eternity with Him.  (Whew)

Here's the thing.  I came out here today to blog...not really knowing what to say.  When I opened blogspot I noticed a new blog in my feed about children with disabilities not having friends once they reach about 10-years-old.  This struck a nerve with me because that is one thing that is a concern for our son.  I began reading it and thought, "Where is our hope for his future?"  Aspergerians struggle with maintaining close friendships.  We've known this but have hoped that he would be the exception to this because he is so high-functioning.  But within seconds my mind was hijacked by the enemy and I began playing out all of the "nightmares" and "what ifs".  Then, the Holy Spirit said, "WAIT..STOP THIS FOOLISHNESS!"  A blog by another mother of a disabled child nor the diagnosis made by a doctor have any bearing on what the Lord says about him.  We have hope.  True hope that he will have friends.  He will not be lonely.  He will not turn to addictions to cope with being "different".  He will not run with the wrong crowd.  He. Will. Not.  The Lord has already blown our minds with how far He has taken Reid and how He has used that little fella.  He turns 8 next week.  We will continue to "wait for, hope for and expect the Lord" to continue what He has started in Reid.  We look forward to his future with hope and great expectation.  Our hope is not a feeling...it is a foundational truth in which we can stand firm and believe that God has carved out a very special place in history for Reid.  Afterall, the Lord spoke to Richard before we ever conceived and told Richard that he would have a son and his name would be called Fearless.  That doesn't sound like an unhappy, lonely boy to me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Man Made vs. God Made

This past weekend we were tremendously blessed when a friend of mine gave us two tickets to the 2012 Cotton Bowl where our beloved Arkansas Razorbacks were playing Kansas State at my hubby's dream stadium.  It was too good to pass up!  We threw our plans together and rushed off to Dallas bright and early that Friday morning.  We joined a convoy of many other Hog fans phenatics on I-30 all the way into Dallas.  We were excited and felt completely honored to be among the 30,000 - 40,000 other Arkansas fans that weekend.  The excitement gushing from Rich was almost more than our little Honda could hold.

This was a dream come true for my man.  As much as he loves the Razorbacks, he equally loves the Dallas Cowboys.  He has followed them since he was 3-years-old (No exaggeration...watching the Cowboys with his dad are some of his first memories!)  How much better could you get than your home team playing in the stadium that you have been dreaming to see...for the Cotton Bowl!?  It was as though God had reached down and created that very situation just for my man.  Although I've told my friend a hundred "thank you's"...she just really doesn't know what this meant for us.

As we arrive at the stadium and begin to walk around we begin to understand the size of this place.  It is huge.  No really...try walking around it...it's huge.  And everything about it is proportional to its overall size (including the price of a hot dog and Coke Pepsi soap in a can 20 oz cup loaded with ice.)  When we first get inside we are overwhelmed with smells from concessions, lights, noise of the sound system and voices.  And then we see IT...the megatron TV screen suspended above the football field.  It's quite impressive as you're able to see every pore on every face that hits the big screen.  It became clear throughout the game that nothing goes unnoticed on that screen.  Every look...every word muttered...every glance of the eyes...every furrowing of the brow...every type of body language...every missed call by the referees was very apparent...no one could escape.  It was simply awesome!  Suddenly our 46" TV seemed so small and insignificant. :)

But that's what Jerry Jones is known for, is he not?  (Well, that and apparently a lot of other things according to my Texan friends.)  Jerry does it big....go big or go broke must be Jerry's moto.  I bet there were a few times this past year that the "go broke" part was a little too close for comfort with the NFL union battle battle of greedier vs. greediest.  But Jerry takes it to another level in whatever he does.  He likes being at the top...owning the best...being the best...He's kind of like the godfather of the NFL.

As I was sitting in the stadium, I could not help think about this...there is no comparison between mad-made works and God-made wonders.

God has given man the ability to create wonderful things.  Many of them beautiful.  Many of them more powerful than we often know how to handle.  Some of them larger than life...some smaller than the eye can see.  None of them as amazing as God's creation.  Try as we may, no man-made creation will ever trump this creation...

While a 160' x 72' TV is impressive...God's creation is where I want a front row seat. 

What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.

Psalm 104:24 (Msg)

How amazing is His creation!  What a wonderful gift to His children.  For thousands of years we have been trying to discover all there is to know about this complex world our God has created.  We have yet to scrape the surface.  He is intricate in His creations.  He takes nothing and makes it into stunning beauty.  He simply says the word and it is done.  He moves His finger across the sky and paints a picture that Michelangelo could only dream of painting. 

He did not create it so He could become greater and richer by "charging" us to enjoy His creations .... no, it is a free gift to us.  Just like His precious Son.  Free.  Everything free.

The heavens are the Lord's heavens, but the earth has He given to the children of men. Psalm 115:16

May we always remember to stop and enjoy this God-made creation.  May we never take for granted His Free Gift.  And may man-made works never be more glorified in our lives than God-made wonders!