Thursday, April 21, 2011

Godly, but human, mothers...



Sarah, Jochebed, Hannah, Mary...

Four extraordinary women noted in the Bible for their devotion to their Father, chosen to be mothers of sons that would be crucial to God's promises fulfilled.

Today, I find a hilariously funny twist on their stories.  Please don't be offended.  I believe our God created a sense of humor and I think He is laughing as He reads this...He knows my heart:)

Sarah loved her miracle boy, yet when he was in his teenage years, she sent him out with "Daddy" to go up a mountain to be tied to a rock and almost sacrificed!

Jochebed was given the gift of nursing her own son even after she sent him down a river in a basket to protect him, but when he was 2-3 years old, she gave him back to the princess of Egypt.

Hannah wept desperately for a son, and she was granted her request. But, when he was 2-3 years old, she took him to live with Eli at the temple.

Mary knew her Son's destiny would save the world, but when He was entering into His teenage years, she left Him at the temple with the teachers while she and Joseph traveled back to Nazareth.  It was three days before she returned for Him.

ALL MOTHERS CAN RELATE!  We love them more than ourselves, but there are two seasons in the lives of our children we would like to let someone else have a turn for awhile...the terrible two's and the terrible teens!  Perhaps this was God's way of giving a heed of warning to us mothers as our children approach these ages!

Now, don't get me wrong...I know it was out of their obedience and faith and all part of God's plan that these occurrences ACTUALLY happened, and I hope I only have to imagine their hurts as they longed for their boys; but having survived 3 through the twos and in the midst of my youngest being two, I chuckle as I  remember their stories, wondering if the thought ever crossed their minds, "Whew!  I need a break!  Will somebody please take these children!"

I think it's His will and a part of God's plan for my four precious sons that I so dearly love and cherish, to be offered to their Mammie, today.  I will faithfully obey out of my deep devotion to my Lord:)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I AM...the fulfillment of all that is needed.

As I read the words in the Gospel of John, a resounding rings in my heart from the familiar words that God spoke with definitive authority yet infinite conclusion...I AM.

He spoke them to Moses when he needed an identity.  I AM, that I AM.  He spoke to the woman at the well who came seeking water.  I AM the living water. He spoke to the crowd when their hunger was filled with bread.  I AM the bread of life. He spoke to Martha before He resurrected Lazarus from the dead.  I AM the resurrection and the life. He spoke to the disciples regarding a blind man seeing nothing but darkness.  I AM the light of the world. He spoke to the Pharisees, upset that He healed on the Sabbath. I AM the door of the sheep...by Me, if any man shall enter, he shall be saved.  I AM the good shepherd, I care for my sheep even when the hired help (referring to the Pharisees) flee.  He spoke to Thomas when he needed to know the way.  I AM the Way...

Over and over, I AM what is needed.

Moses needed an answer.
The Samaritan woman needed water.
The crowd needed bread.
The blind man needed light in his darkness.
The sheep needed a shepherd.
Thomas needed direction.

Jesus supplied their physical needs...but He also gave the answer that fulfilled an even deeper need...and to the greatest extent.

In Exodus 3:14, I AM that I AM, I AM is translated from the Hebrew, Hayah, meaning to exist, to be, and in the Lexical reference, to become, to come to pass; to be done, to happen, to be finished.   It is closely related to havah, meaning to breathe.

I AM the beginning and the end. I AM the Living Water. I AM the Bread of Life. I AM the Light of the World. I AM the door of the sheep.  I AM the Good Shepherd. I AM the Messiah.  I AM Jesus of Nazareth. Before Abraham, I AM...  I AM ALL you are, I AM ALL you know, I AM ALL you hope for, I AM all you NEED!

He IS the breath within us.  He IS what fills us.  He IS what satisfies our longings.  He IS the answer to our every question. He IS our guide when we don't know where to go or can't see to take the next step. He IS the Rock on which we stand.  He IS the hope of our tomorrow.  He IS the Promised ONE that redeems our every SIN.  He IS our ever-present help. He IS our comforter, healer, friend.  He IS the Creator of our being and with His last breath the completion of all that was and is and is to come.  He IS my portion and all that I need. He IS.  He IS.  He IS...my everything.


Do you have a longing?  A need? A direction? A hunger?  A thirst?  An unanswered question?  A hurt?  An eternal emptiness?

What is it that you are seeking?

JESUS

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

History

Photo taken by Jim Bounds

She holds her hands to her mouth as if she cannot begin to speak of the horror she has been through.  The pieces of her life lay broken and scattered, some never to be found again.  I imagine she went from tea party to destruction in about 3 minutes as the home in which she used to play was completely ripped apart as it spun in the wrath of an angry wind.  What would she say if this doll could talk?  And how about the little girl that held her?

As tornadoes swept across the Southeast this weekend, hundreds of families are now left to, literally, pick up the pieces of their lives, torn apart by these raging storms. Devastation is a mere, meager word to describe the damage, both materialistically and emotionally, that these families face. 

What a gift I received today as women from my church and family came together and lent a helping hand to some of these hurting folks.  Some of us laughed as our years of motherhood earned us our PBJ degrees and we considered ourselves peanut butter and jelly pros!  A small gift of love to share a bit of kindness to those with a much greater need than lunch...but we wanted to do something.

Operation Peanut Butter/Jelly Drop was well underway when a beautiful revelation was shared by one of our sweet, wise ladies (one I affectionately call, Mama)..."The lunches are nice, but the real ministry here is allowing these hurting folks to tell their stories."

They need to tell their stories...

A man nearly ripped from his single-wide trailer describes his fear with lips still trembling.  A wife shares of her husband being thrown from wall to ceiling in the metal shed where he was working as it twisted up into the storm, him holding on for dear life to a cabinet as their dog was carried off.  (The dog later returned home for a happy homecoming!) An eighty-nine year old widower that bunkered in the bathroom of her home as boards flew from one end of her home to the other, merely missing her by a closed door. A family hosting a birthday party for their child tried to protect the eight little guests by laying on top of them as the tornado took a wall from their home. Frightening...dreadful...painful...but they need to tell their stories.  

We all have a story.  And as we begin the healing process of the painful wounds that are embedded in the moments of our lives, we must often reopen them to clean the infection of our devastations.  We need to tell our stories...to share our hurts, to convey our fears...we must tell them to often realize the blessings hidden within the underlying fact that, though we have pieces to clean up, we were given the incredible gift of surviving the storm and the opportunity to tell about it.

Perhaps God has allowed us to survive for the purpose of telling HISTORY.  HIS STORY.  When we accept His story for our own, we realize that He can calm the storms of our lives even when the destruction seems too much to bear...and we can see that His purpose for our story is entirely for His glory.   


...She holds her hands to her mouth as if she cannot speak of the horror she has been through...or perhaps...she folds them there in prayer, thanking God for His mercy and grace in allowing her to survive the storm, begging for that one person who will take the time to listen to her story... 






Lighting Candles


Have you ever had something so overwhelmingly fill your spirit that it brings you to uncontrollable tears?

I recently was seeking discernment from the Lord on a decision to go or not to go to Africa on a ten-day mission trip to serve a native tribe there and bring them the love of Christ.  My man, knowing the burden of my heart to hear,  gave me a few quiet moments to myself and took my boys fishing. I decided to brew a pot of coffee and have a nice heart-to-heart with my Savior.  I sat on my sofa, sipped my mocha and prayed for God to reveal His desire for me in regards to this trip.

For some unknown reason, I grabbed the remote.  I NEVER watch tv, so this in itself, was an odd enough behavior to be Spirit-compelled...but I went with it and scoped out His message for me on the TBN channel where a godly pastor was preaching the WORD.

On the stage, he had forty unlit candles.  After a very moving message encouraging believers to help the hurting, he then spoke Words from the Father, straight to my heart.

He said that every 60 seconds 100 people will die not knowing Jesus as their Savior.  Each of the 40 candles represented 1 minute that he had been preaching.  In the short 40 minutes of his message, already 4000 people had died, not knowing Christ.  As each candle was lit, the pastor gave a compelling challenge to believers to reach out to these lost.

Fifty children from Africa then appeared on the screen, dancing and singing praises to the Lord.  After their worship, the pastor explained that these 50 beautiful children were orphans; their parents, victims of HIV.  He looked straight into my eyes and said with command, What are you going to do to light the candle for these children and teach them that though they may be without parents, they have a heavenly Father who holds them in His hands and a Savior who died for them?

I found myself prostrate on the floor, weeping, sobbing in answer to His call...and then he heard me. The enemy heard my heart's cry out to Jesus...and he came quickly, hissing lies into my soul.

He has made me question my responsibility and the safety of my own children and their futures if something happens to me on this trip.  He has caused unrest in my family as concern for me dwells in their hearts.  He has assured me that it is utterly irrational for me to financially commit to the cost of this trip. He has beaten me with attacks of doubt, bitterness, inadequacy and guilt, and I confess, he almost won.

I was at my wit's end with the whole thing and ready to give in, when in one last breath of it, I whispered a prayer and begged God to seal it one way or the other for me. In my very next steps, I walked into a neighboring church and wandered into a room filled with the most gorgeous paintings...all of precious children from villages in Africa.  The missions room, declaring loudly, "Here am I, Lord, send me."

Some don't understand how I can go...I don't understand how I can't.

When the Lord calls, we have a choice.  We can question His call, or we can obey it. 


If I say I trust that Jesus died to give me life, yet don't trust Him with my life, is my heart truly His

I pour out my life for my children daily: serving them, nurturing them, teaching them...teaching them to obey out of their love for the Father.

I am so unworthy of His love, yet He pours it out for me daily as His blood covers my wretchedness.  And out of my love for Him, how can I do anything but what I have taught my children to do...obey.

And as they bow their heads to pray, they open their sweet, trusting hands and offer their Mommy to teach the children in Africa about Jesus...not afraid, not offended, not abandoned...but with the faith of angels, they dwell in His presence and teach me simply to obey.

Acts 13: 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: " 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' "

 He has ignited us to light candles.  
What will you do to answer His call?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Building Towers part 2



A few years ago, for Christmas, my Mother gave my brother, sister, and I each a brick from the hospital in which we were born.  The hospital had been torn down and rebuilt at another location, and the bricks were sold as keepsakes.  Mama had a metal plate engraved with the name of the hospital and our birthdate on it to make it extra special for us.  Oh, how I treasure that brick!  What a gift!

Looking at it, though, made me realize that the building was not what made that hospital brick a sentiment...it was the people there who had poured out their lives for the lives of others...for my life, as I came into this world...and those who continue to do so...not building towers for themselves, but investing in saving the lives of others...

Isn't that how God wants us to build, investing in saving the lives of others?  He has given us a very well-defined blueprint...His Son...two boards, three nails, and His Son.

Jesus Christ is the foundation.  He is the Rock on which we stand.  His birth, life, death and resurrection were all for the purpose of investing in saving the lives of others.  If we build with any other purpose, our work is in vain.
For no other foundation can any one lay that which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ, Messiah, the Anointed One.    1 Corinthians 3:11

The Lord promises us that when we build the Kingdom on the foundation HE has laid, we have a house built for eternity!
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heaven.   2 Corinthians 5:1
The earthly places we build will be one day torn down, dissolved, just like that hospital.  But God has called us to a greater task...Building the Kingdom.


For me, in this season, God has called me to the task of Building His Kingdom through raising children.  Though my days seem monotonous, redundant, exhausting...and even pointless at times...God has laid the foundation in their little souls and I am to continue on in the work He has given me.
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching...But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. II Tim 4:2,5
From their very conception, they were given the inherent longing to worship, the need to know their Creator. He has given me the task of building upon that foundation with eternal blocks of truth, teaching them to stand on the Rock which was given for them.

I can teach them math and manners...but if I don't teach them to use those things on the foundation of Christ and for Building the Kingdom, I have only taught them to live this temporary life.

All of our work will be put under the test of fire.  Only what's done for Christ will stand.  And,
If the work which any person has built on this Foundation--any product of his efforts whatever--survives this test, he will get his reward. 1 Corinthians 3:14
Seeing 3 of my four children come to know the Lord, I am seeing a glimpse of that reward and realizing what matters is their eternity and the eternity of those to which they may one day minister.  That is so exciting, to think that my blocks will have an effect on the blocks that they will build for the Kingdom!  It also gives me a greater urgency to know that my blocks are of eternal value...not man-made bricks!

Whatever the tower He has called you to build, build it not for yourself, for you are a temporary building. Build it for the One who has laid down His life to become the foundation on which our promise of eternal life stands.  Build it not with man-made blocks, but with blocks of truth that will last forever.  Block upon block, investing in saving the lives of others for eternity.









Friday, April 15, 2011

Building Towers-part 1

photo from www.thenaturaltoybox.com

Having little boys, over the years, I have gained a liking to playing the mind-occupying game of building tall towers out of colorful wooden blocks. It is very relaxing as I can focus all of my attention on completing one-single task and even a challenge to see just how tall I can get that tower before it tumbles to the ground...either by some law of physics or by the hand of the innocently mischievous by-stander who looks on with anxiousness while role-playing the familiar story of the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing to blow those pigs' houses down...

Recently I was reading to my boys the story in Genesis of the Tower of Babel.  In just a few short verses, I found a jam-packed passage on God's design for building towers. Take a moment to read it...

The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel--because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Let me first mention, the people were led at the time by King Nimrod.   And, they were all speaking the same language.  When we begin a task, we must be speaking the same language with others on our team...on one accord.  If there is disgruntling in our hearts, our tower will fall.  These descendants of Noah were speaking the same language and their tower was reaching high.  So what then was the problem?

In one language, in one speech, they said to each other, "Let's make bricks..." The next sentence begins to reveal to us their destiny to fail. They used brick instead of stone.  They used what was made by their own hands, instead of what God had made for them.  They began on their OWN agenda.  This unfolds in their vision declaration, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."  They wanted to make the bricks themselves, so that they could get the credit.  They wanted to build the city FOR THEMSELVES so that they would receive the glory.  They wanted to build a tower so tall, everyone would see it and know by whose hands it was made, so that they could get the fame.  


They wanted to build a place where the world would seek their people instead of their people seeking the world..  Note at the end, their consequence from the Lord was the one thing they feared and the reason they began this self-edifying project...their people were scattered. 


How much of what we do is of our own agenda instead of His?  Do we use bricks that hold our own fingerprints of workmanship or are we building upon the Rock of His design?  Do we build towers so that others will see us or are we building an alter where we sacrifice ourselves so that they may know HIS sacrifice? Do we want the world to know our name so that they will seek our face or are we declaring from the rooftops the name of JESUS so that the world will seek only HIM?


Don't be confused like the Nimrod who tried to build a tower for his own glory and fame instead of building his Kingdom on the foundation of the Master Designer.  We cannot build our tower to the heavens with manmade bricks...We can only trust in the Christ that built it for us with two boards, three nails and a pouring out of love beyond anything we could ever imagine. 


"Blessed be the Lord, my strength...My steadfast love and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and He in Whom I trust and take refuge, Who subdues my people under me."  Psalm 144:1,2

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sculpted


I love the story of the sculptor that made a beautiful statue of an elephant. When asked how he created such a perfect masterpiece, he replied that he took a rock and chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant.

Recently, I have been convicted with the chaos that I cause in my life and in the lives of others around me, because of the multiple balls I try to juggle.  An inability to say "NO" is a weakness of mine. I think its called Superwoman syndrome!  I am a perfectionist.  I've learned that wanting to do tasks with excellence is a strength...But when I am doing too many things to do them all excellently, it becomes chaotic and stressful  and almost always ends in failure.

The Master sculptor has whispered gently in my ear, "Let Me take the rock and chip away everything that doesn't look like Me."

I realized that first, we are beginning with my full plate.  God is putting me on an "Uncalled Task Fast", taking my schedule and cutting away all of the things that He hasn't called me to in this season.  There are many things that are good, and I often get caught up in doing those things because I think they are good, instead of asking God if it is what HE has for me.

Living life with purpose...and my purpose MUST be Him.

In cleaning out my attic recently, I had box-after-box of just plain junk to go through.  I needed the containers to be free from clutter so that those containers could be useful.  I threw out all of the things that were taking up space without a purpose so that I could make my attic a place that was free from unnecessary chaos, a place that could be used.

That is what God calls us to do in our lives as we
...purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  2 Corinthians 7:1
We have to get rid of the junk that is taking up space in ourselves...emptied out so that HE can fill us with holiness, because holiness is our purpose!

Perhaps you need to clean out your schedule to free up space for His work to be done, like I do.  Perhaps your thoughts are filled up with junk that needs to be gotten rid of in order for Him to renew your mind...thoughts that aren't useful for His purpose in you. Or maybe He is just wanting to chisel away at that heart of stone that you have and make it look more like His.  Whatever it is you need to do, begin with me today to perfect holiness out of reverence for God.

Make a list of all of the tasks that take up time in your day, thoughts that occupy space in your mind, or emotions that fill your heart. Be sure and include good things and not-so-good things. Pray over each one and ask God to reveal to you what He needs to cut away that doesn't look like Jesus, or that doesn't fulfill His purpose for your life in Him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Detoured by His direction

Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

I've heard it said that the shortest distance from A to B is by going in a straight line.  But, that's not always the route we travel.  I remember going to camp as a little girl in the mountains of North Carolina.  My parents decided one year to take the Blue Ridge Parkway to give us a little taste of God's beauty.  Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the wonder and awe of God's creation...but as a kid, I would have just as soon drank motor oil for breakfast!  I wanted to get to where we were going the fastest, quickest way possible.  The Blue Ridge Parkway was a torturous excuse for my father to have a legal reason to drive 45mph and we thought we would end our trip heading to the psych ward of the nearest hospital!

The Israelites had just been freed from the Egyptians and crossed the Red Sea on dry land, witnessing the mighty hand of God in all His incredible power.  Talk about a Faith Booster!    Their destination:  The Promised Land of Canaan.  Their guide:  The Lord Himself, in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  The way from Egypt to Canaan was a pretty direct route, but God, their FATHER,  led them on a detour...deciding to take "the scenic route."  

He led them instead to the wilderness of Shur.  They had traveled 3 days in the wilderness and found no water.  I can imagine they were all dressed in their cranky pants at that point and well on the verge of going crazy!  FINALLY, they found water.  But when they drank of it, it was bitter.  They called the place Marah, meaning bitterness. (Same thing Naomi called herself when she was in the pits of her own seemingly hopeless circumstances)

That just beats all, doesn't it!  Life is so mean sometimes!  It seems to bring on the rain in pounding storms and when we finally catch what we think is a break, it's just another bitter circumstance to attack our discouraged spirit.  

I mean, why would He do that?  Why wouldn't He want them to take the easy way?  Why wouldn't He give them a road without bumps?  Why would He go off the direct route and take them into a place where they were hopelessly thirsty?

Oh, I've had questions like this in my life!
And like the Israelites, I grumbled and complained, forgetting to trust God's purpose...forgetting that His mighty hand has brought me that far. 

 Exodus 15:24 tells us, "They murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?"  Let me clarify...They didn't ask God, they murmured against Moses. They didn't get on their hands and knees and ask the One who could provide miraculously for them.  They fussed and blamed the one trying to obey God's call.  

God heard Moses' cry on their behalf and provided a tree that he cast into the waters and to make them sweet.  Then God gave them an ordinance and took them to Elim, where there was water in abundance!  

God took the Israelites on a detour of dependence.  He took them to a wilderness where they had to trust totally on Him...where they could do nothing in their own strength.  He took them to a place where only His hand could make life sweet!  And when He had their attention and they communed with Him there, He blessed them abundantly. 

Are you in the wilderness wondering WHY GOD brought you to that difficult place?  It is not a hopeless detour without direction.  Perhaps He is trying to teach you to depend on, and trust in Him. Don't grumble and complain to others, look to Him, the One that has brought you this far.  Only His hand can make the bitter waters sweeter.  





Saturday, April 2, 2011

A bitter cup of coffee


Ever have one of those mornings when it takes every ounce of energy you can muster to just--only--barely-- make it to the coffee pot?  With one eye open and one still closed, you attempt to shuffle around the kitchen tuning everything out around you until you've completed the absolutely necessary-for-survival task of perking the pot. As the aroma of freshly brewed java fills the air, the other eye decides its okay now to join you in welcoming the morning.  The perk, the pour, ahhhh...the perfection as the creamer swirls into a paisley design of deliciousness.  The mouth creeps into a bit of a smile as it anticipates the first wonderful sip into morninghood...and... Pftuweeeeeee!   YUCK!  Gross! Awful! It's bitter!  That's just mean!

This is truly one of those moments I pull out my sword and begin to rebuke the enemy from my kitchen and yell at him to get behind my coffee pot declaring outloud as my kids watch in amazed horror, "Just because you ruin my coffee doesn't mean you can have my day, Satan!"

There's just nothing else you can do with a bitter cup of coffee but pour it out and start over.

Naomi knew bitterness.  In fact, she even changed her name to Mara, meaning bitter.  Losing her husband and two sons in a land where she was a foreigner and a stranger left a bitter taste of agony in the depths her soul.  She declares in Ruth 1:20-21,
 "The Almighty has made me very bitter...I left full and the Lord has brought me back empty...The Lord has pronounced judgement on me and the Almighty has afflicted me."  

Have you ever been in a place like that?  The circumstances of life can be hard.  Challenging.  Disturbing.  And it can seem like the Lord is against us.  Any of us could understand Naomi's thoughts, feelings, and actions.  But, let's dig a little deeper and take our eyes off of Naomi for a moment.

In Naomi's loneliness, God PROVIDED a companion in her daughter-in-law Ruth. He also led them back to Bethlehem, a town whose name means, "House of Bread."  There He PROVIDED food in abundance as Ruth gleaned the wheat and barley fields of Boaz.  God Protected Ruth in the arms of Boaz and POURED out His blessings on them in marriage and with children (their great-grandson would be King David!).

God PAVED the way for and PROVED His PROMISES!

Through Naomi's tough circumstances, she went back to Bethlehem, the HOUSE OF BREAD, where through the lineage of Ruth and Boaz, our Messiah, the BREAD of Life would be born with the fate of the world on His head.  It is through the tough circumstances of Naomi, that God's plan would unfold and the world would be saved.

What if, we pour out ourselves in our bitter circumstances and taste the sweetness of God's plan unfolding through them?  What if we take the focus off of us and try to see our circumstances through His eyes?

In Scripture, there are numerous stories that tell of difficult life situations that could rightfully leave the "victim" feeling bitter.  But, every single word in the WORD points to Christ.  What if for a moment, we imagine that what we are going through, may somehow point someone else or even us, to Christ?

Wouldn't our cups be filled with the sweetness of a delicious, refreshing cup?

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