Monday, April 30, 2012

More Chapters Closed

"Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing:  I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.  I am weary of my crying:  my throat is dried:  mine eyes fail while I wait for my God."  
Psalm 69:1-3  (KJV)

I can say, without hesitation, that the past three days have absolutely been the most unbearable three days of my life.
The waters have come into my soul.
I am sinking in deep mire, where there is no standing.
I am come into deep, painful, turbulent waters.
The floods overflow me.
And I am weary of crying.

Saturday, I said good-bye to the one who has loved and cared about me for 45 years.
The one who stood by me, no matter how hard the task.
Mom was always there.

Whatever was going on in our lives, she loved us, she worried about us, and she prayed for us.
To know that she is no longer here, fills my inmost spirit with near-unbearable pain.

We pulled into the parking lot, into the familiar parking spot.
How many times have I made that turn?
I looked towards the familiar door, and I stared at the pretty pink and purple wreath I made for her years ago.  
She always loved that wreath.  
One time, she thought she needed a change from it, but she ended up keeping it just the same.  

I found myself see her sweet face appear in the doorway, with her frail, little hands holding to her walker for support....her welcoming smile, beckoning us to come so many times before.
What I wouldn't give to have that security, that love, that welcome....just one..more..time.

This time when I looked, the door was closed.
So cold.  So uninviting.  So final.

Somehow, I mustered courage...from someplace deep inside, and I opened the car door.
I took step after agonizing step...each one bringing me closer to the task I dreaded most.
I had hoped I would have more time...time to absorb what is happening...time to gain the strength to turn that doorknob....but it was not to be.
How could I go in there....without her?
I had no choice, no time to accumulate walk into that room.

Rent would soon be due.  The job had to be done.  Business is business.
I put the key in the door, and it unlocked.
I touched the knob and turned it until it released and the familiar blue recliner.
Sitting lonely and still...without Mom.

I walked across the threshold into the room that is filled to the brim with so many happy, sweet, and precious memories.
They flooded over me like a tidal wave, threatening to drown every ounce of crushed, struggling-to-survive hope inside of me.
Somehow, I walked to the kitchen past her spot at the table.
I stood and stared at her empty chair....and I a baby.

How can anything hurt this much?

My family rallied around me, and we trudged through the daunting task...of emptying out the place that held so much many special void of the one who made them possible.  
We took turns going to pieces...all of us....throughout the we came across her things.
They stirred feelings and emotions buried deep.
They brought them right to the surface.
We found comfort in each other.  
Time after time after time.
Until, at last, the last dish was packed, the apartment was completely clean, and the emptiness settled over me with an inconsolable pain.

Right before I turned to leave, I stood in her more the very spot her extra bed had stood for so long.  
I saw the indentations in the carpet from the bed frame.  
I thought of the many times I had sat on that bed....across from hers, and we had talked and laughed and enjoyed just the wonderful  privilege of being together.  
I thought of the times my knees had hit the floor beside it, as we agreed in prayer together for countless burdens, distresses, and problems.
As I stood there, it happened.  
I completely fell apart.
It was too much.
I felt my heart shatter...the way it has shattered countless times over the past three days.
It's a wonder it didn't make an audible sound.

Last night, I tried to sleep....I was SO completely exhausted.
I jolted awake, thinking I needed to call ICU and see how she was doing.
I remembered Amber was on duty...the dear, caring, sweet, little nurse who was there when Mom took her last breath....standing beside us...crying right along with us.
She said Mom was the best, kindest, sweetest patient she had ever had.

I picked up the phone, my hands shaking, and I called the familiar number.
I heard Amber's familiar voice on the other end.
"Amber?  It's Cheryl."
"Mrs. Cheryl!  I've been worried about y'all.  How are you doing?'
"Not too good, Amber.  I keep thinking I need to call and check on her",  I sobbed hopelessly into the phone.
"Oh, Mrs. Cheryl!  I am SO sorry."
She listened.  She cared.  She understood....this nagging, gnawing, tormenting pain.

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed to make the dreaded phone calls.
I disconnected service to the phone number I have called, literally hundreds of times through the years.
I will call it no more.
I wouldn't want to.
She wouldn't answer.
Each time I hung up....from cancelling services, making necessary changes, I realized I was closing another chapter, in my sweet Mom's book of life.

Today, Kevin, Zachary, and I pulled into the so-familiar parking lot one last time.
We needed to check her mail.
Zachary begged for the task.
How many times has he done that for her?
We walked...the three of us...hand-in-hand...each supporting the other....into the office, and we turned in her key.
Kevin and Zachary stood with me in the parking lot, and we cried, together.

We took one last, long, lingering look towards her apartment.
We cried harder.
Then we turned to go.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good-bye, My Dear, Sweet Mom

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away."
Revelation 21:4  (KJV)

How do I type these words?  

Where do I find the strength? 

My dear, precious, sweet Mother now rests in the arms of Jesus.  

She feels no more pain.  
No more fear.  
No worry.  
She will never cry again.  
People who have wounded her so deeply, will never have the chance again.
She'll never have to wonder what the future will hold for her, or how she will go on.
She will never ask for another drink of water.  
How many times has my heart broken over the past several days,  
 hearing her weak, frail voice pleading, "I want a drink of water."

She is drinking from the river of life, and finally, at last, she is bowing at His feet. 
Oh, dear Lord, how will I ever go on?  
How will any of us?  
Without Mom's prayers.  
Without knowing that somewhere she is worrying about us and caring about us and wanting everything to be okay with us.
If you still have your Mother, hold her close to you.  
Cherish every moment with her.  
Don't ever take her for granted. 
After she drew her last breath, I couldn't tear myself from my usual spot on the left side of her bed.  
I still found myself watching for the rise and fall of her chest, but she was so still.  
I stayed with her for as long as I possibly could.  
It tore my heart apart to walk away and leave her there cold, lifeless, and still.
But, that wasn't her....just the outward shell I so loved and longed to spend time with.  
The real her, my dear mother, had already flown away and began to enjoy things that evaded her here....peace, rest, and a well body.
I beg of you to pray hard for us in the days to come.  
I honestly don't know how I will get through this...I don't know how I will go on living life without her....the most precious and dearest of friends.  
Please just pray...God is our refuge and strength.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Pedestal

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..."
I Timothy 2:5 (KJV)

I had her on a pedestal.
She was the perfect woman, wife, mother to her four children, daughter, sister, friend.
Outward beauty that radiated from someplace deep.
Everything I wanted to be.
Strong, loving, loyal, steadfast, persistent, determined, full of conviction and fortitude.
Always knowing how to fix things, bring comfort, and react to every situation.

Then I found out the ugly truth.

She was human.
She had faults.
And though she had many wonderful qualities...characteristics I still admire and want to copy....
she was not perfect.

No one is.
Upon close examination, every human being has faults.
From the most obscure lay member to the most exalted preacher.
From the lowest levels of society to the most powerful king.
Everyone has issues, imperfections, and areas that need improvement.

I had only seen one side of her, a multi-faceted human being who is flawed...
like the rest of us.

There has only been one perfect human being.
Just one.
The man, Christ Jesus.
He did no sin.
Neither was guile found in His mouth.  

What you saw....that He was.
True.  Transparent.  
Genuine holiness personified in human flesh.

He is the Only One deserving of a pedestal.
Only He is worthy.
No matter how carefully you scrutinize and examine His life, you will find NO fault. 
No illusion.
No disappointment.

He is perfect...through and through.

Everyone searches and longs for a hero.
That one person who is the expression of who they yearn to be.

When the reality overwhelmed me, when the realization that she was flawed and human set in, I came to understand that it is unsafe to pattern my life after anyone else...anyone less...
than Him.
Every other "hero" is flawed.
Unpredictable.  Unsafe.  Insecure.  Hopelessly human.

To strive to be like anyone else, to seek perfection in any other, is to set myself up for a let-down.
Because in reality, we are all flawed and imperfect.

The Apostle Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 10:12, "...but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."


He had discovered and knew the truth...that there is only One Who sets a perfect standard and example.
To try to compare ourselves to others and measure ourselves by our perception of them is not safe.
No matter who we believe in, who we idolize or try to pattern ourselves after, who we look to as being flawless, we will find, upon closer examination, that their "perfection" is just an illusion.

Except One.
Jesus Christ.
He is safe to follow.

Following His flawless example and direction leads where we want to be.

Will we fail?  Will we fall short?  Will we stumble?


Will He stop loving us?


I must say, that when I saw her faults, when the smoke and mirrors were stripped away, when the pedestal was pulled out from under her, I was find that even though she appeared perfect, she wasn't.

She couldn't be.
She is not to be blamed.
And though she is the epitome of many attributes I admire, she is human.

Soon after my discovery...the emptiness left by a burst illusion was replaced with a gentle nudge in the right direction...back towards Him...the Only One truly deserving of my worship, my praise, my adoration, my reverence, my desire to imitate...and emulate.

He is my Hero.

There are no smoke and mirrors.
No facades.  No deceit.  No hypocrisy.  No illusions.

Just genuine perfection.
I long to be like Him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Tug

"...and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."  
Matthew 28:20  (KJV)

"Come on, Daddy!  It's a windy day.  Hurry!"  
Kevin was tired, after getting home really late the night before...or should I say, early that morning!

Zachary's enthusiasm sometimes causes us to do things we don't really feel like doing.  
Who could deny his sweet, innocent zest for life?  
Or the many requests he makes that keep Kevin and I going?  

Who could look into his melted-chocolate-brown eyes and say, "No."
Not Kevin.  Not me.
He is precious and the joy of our whole lives.
And if it brings a smile to his face, chances are, we are going to do everything within our power to make it happen.

How did we make it before God sent this special blessing to us?
It took so long for him to get here, but he is oh, so worth every, single second spent waiting!

He has several kites, and one day, it was a perfect day for flying his newest one.

And though, at times, during his kite-flying, the sun gets in his eyes, and he loses sight of his kite, he holds on tight to the string that connects him to his kite.  He knows that no matter what, he cannot let go.  
And, though there are times he can't see it, he knows it is still up there.
Because, every now and then a gust of wind comes and gives a gentle jerk on the other end. 
Then he knows that somewhere up there in the sky, past his line of vision, it is still flying.

Years before we had our sweet boy or ever experienced the joy that being his parents brings to us, Kevin and I learned a song called, "The Tug".  It was written by Lessie Fuller Hyatt, and the lyrics go like this:

A little boy stood gazing,
Into the clouds above,
I know my kite is still up there,
For I can feel the tug;
A smile then crossed his little face,
The tug had made it real,
That's just the way the Spirit works,
Thank God for what I feel.

Thank God for what I feel inside,
I know my God is real,
I can feel His tug from Heaven above,
My hungry soul He fills;
He gave His only Son to die,
A ransom, Oh, what love!
I know God holds the thread of life, 
For I can feel the tug.

Do you still feel the tug?
That little pull on the string of your heart, letting you know God is still up there?
That He's still listening.
That He's still holding your life in the palm of His hand.
That He's still in control.

Though there are moments we can't see His face, no matter how hard we look, that sweet pull on the inmost spirit inside of us, lets us know that we are not alone.
That there is life on the other end.
That all is not lost.

Sometimes, we drift...away from Him.
We run in the opposite direction, because we question Him and things that are happening.
We turn away.
But, no matter how far we go, or how fast we run, we will never outrun "the tug".
Because, He cares just that much.

Sometimes the wind dies down, and the tug becomes less frequent.
We start to wonder if He still cares.
We begin to feel distant from Him.
We pass through spiritual dry times, when it seems He isn't there at all.
That the Heavens are brass.
That our cries to Him are unheard and overlooked.
Hope wanes dim, and faith grows weak. 

Job of the Old Testament felt completely God-forsaken when he spoke these words,
"Behold, I go forward, but He is not there:  and backward, but I cannot perceive Him:  on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him:  He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him."
Job 23:8,9  (KJV)

Haven't we all been there?

Wasn't Jesus there....on the cross?
When His cry pierced through the atmosphere.
When He spoke those heart-wrenching words,
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Why, God?
I did it all.
I minded you....completely.
I've given everything....every drop of My blood.
All of the love in My heart.
Why, Father?
Why, now?

There was darkness over the earth for three hours that day.
The connection between Jesus and God seemed to have been severed....
as Jesus bore the blame and shame of my sin!

But, then the moment came!
Fellowship was restored!
God was pleased.
His wrath appeased.
The sacrifice was was finished.
It was enough.

When you reach your individual moments of darkness, when you are blinded by your pain and cannot see God, and you cannot find Him...anywhere,...those are the times that you must hold your lifeline...
your connection.
For dear life.
You must hold steady.
You must never let go.

Soon, you'll know....that He is still there.
When He sees it is time, He will send a gentle breeze.

All at once, you'll feel it!  A gentle jerk on the other end.
The tug!  

God is still with you, my friend.
He will always be.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Every Life

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."  
Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)
Live baby found in morgue. Shown: A newborn baby holds his mother's hand at the intensive care unit of the Marie Curie children's hospital, on March 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Did anyone happen to see this picture?  
Or read the incredible story that followed it?  

It turns out the picture shown and the story that followed are actually from two entirely different situations.  

The picture shown is of a newborn baby holding his mother's hand in the intensive care unit of the Marie Curie Children's Hospital in Bucharest, Romania.  I don't know the outcome of his fight for life.
Is this little one still alive?
Is he still fighting?
I hope with all my heart that he is!  I hope he didn't give up!
I pray that he is better by now and that God chose to heal him and extend his life.

My thoughts turned towards this mother....the one whose hand is shown in the photo...with her tiny baby's fingers curled around hers.  
I thought of all of the times our sweet boy's tiny fingers have curled around Kevin's and mine.  
I still remember the first times he did absolutely has to be one of the sweetest emotions in the world and is definitely among my most precious memories.  
The mother in the she still blessed with this privilege?  This precious gift?
Does her baby's heart still beat?  
Has she gone home with a shattered an empty nursery?  
Was this her only child?
Will she ever have another?  

The story that followed the picture was almost unbelievable.
A newborn baby girl in Argentina was born, prematurely and declared dead by hospital officials.  
Two hours after being given a death certificate and 12 hours after the birth, the baby's mother and father went to the morgue to see their daughter one last time and take her picture.  
When they arrived and found her casket, they heard a faint cry coming from inside.  
Miraculously, she was still alive!
They named her Luz Milagros, which means, "Miracle Light".  

The story touched me deeply.  
The picture made me cry.

It made me think about how precious life is.
And how God has a plan.
For each and every life.
No matter how brief or how long.

I am left to wonder what happened to the tiny baby in the picture.
I wonder if his journey is over.
And I am left to marvel at the miraculous plan God has for little Luz Milagros' life.
What an incredible story!
What a remarkable her parents...and to the world as they read and hear of her unusual beginning.

Every life has a purpose.

Remember Esther?
She was a beautiful Jewish girl who was chosen by God to fulfill a very special purpose.
After Queen Vashti failed to fulfill her duty to King Ahasuerus, he was enraged and he relieved her of her position.  She was no longer queen.
A search was conducted throughout the land, and Esther was chosen to be Vashti's successor.

God had a reason.
He always does.

There came a day that a wicked scheme was put into place that would completely obliterate the Jewish people.  Because Esther was in her rightful place...faithful in the circumstances in which God had placed her, she was able to intercede with her husband, the King, on behalf of her people.
The evil conspiracy was thwarted, and the Jews were spared.

Did she always understand God's plan?
Did it make sense that she had to leave her home and life to serve a greater purpose?
When her Uncle Mordecai spoke with her concerning what was at stake for her people, he said this, "...and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"  Esther 4:14 (KJV)

Every life is important to God....Esther's, the baby's in the picture, the baby's in the story....and yours.

Your life has a are not here by accident.
You are an integral part of a very big plan...designed by Almighty God.

There is a reason for your existence.
No matter how old or how young you are, it is not coincidence that you live and breathe.
You were brought to the Kingdom "for such a time as this".

You have unique qualities, a unique history, unique experiences...that only you can bring to the Kingdom.
Everything that has happened in your life has led you to this place...this time.

I love the lyrics to the song, "Light After Darkness".
Especially the third verse....
"Near after distant,
Gleam after gloom,
Love after loneliness,
Life after tomb;
After long agony,
Rapture of bliss,
Right was the pathway,
Leading to this."

Things may not make sense to you.
You may not be able to trace God's hand or understand how He is working.
But, you are right where you are supposed to be.

And just as He had His hand on that tiny infant...declared a casket....still very much alive....
He has His hand on you, my friend.
Trust Him.
One day, it will all make perfect sense.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In Sync

"But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him."
I Corinthians 12:18 (KJV)

I love the times when there are musicians gathered in our home playing the old songs, singing harmony, and keeping in perfect voice and by instrument..
I love how we all give way for each other, when we come to a new verse in the song.
Bluegrass pickers are just that way.
It is kind of an understood, unspoken rule...that is never broken.
The mandolin picker will nod to the banjo if to say, "You take the next verse."

The banjo picker will take off playing lead.
It's his moment to shine.
He enjoys it immensely.

Then he nods to the guitar player.
The guitarist takes off, doing his thing, making it ring.

Then the dobro player.
Then the fiddle.

Then the duclimer.
Back to the banjo...and the guitar....not necessarily in any particular order.

While the person is playing the lead, all of the other instruments play along....playing the consenting, respectful space...for the lead player.  

Their job, during those moments, is to compliment the lead player.
To make him sound even better.
To support him...adding a lick here and boost his efforts.

While the banjo picker is having his moment, the dobro player doesn't sulk.
He doesn't pout that it isn't his moment in the sun.
He does his best to add without overpowering....the one in the lead.
He knows his turn will come.  
He doesn't have to have the spotlight....right now....or all the time.

In order for the sound to be right, they must band together.
They must become one, undivided unit.
For the sake of the whole.

The result?  A unified melody that becomes a song.

There are those who can play multiple instruments and they bounce from one to the other, as the evening progresses.  They can pick one up and take off on it, put it down, pick up another and play it with the same skill and precision...flowing seemingly effortlessly.
Usually, that is the exception and not the norm.
Many times, the fiddle player can't play the guitar.
The bass player wouldn't know the first chord on the fiddle.
The banjo player only knows his banjo.
But, he knows it intimately.
And he plays it with all his heart.

What if the guitarist said, "I want to play the banjo.  And because I can't play it like him, I'm just not going to play any all.  I quit."  
What if he got frustrated, packed his guitar in its case, and went home?
Who would play the guitar?

You can't have a bluegrass band without a guitar.  
It adds its own distinctive sound.  It is a part of the definition of bluegrass.
What would it be without it?

Are you seeing the correlation to anything?
Shouldn't we learn from the bluegrass pickers?
Don't they teach a valuable lesson to the body of Christ?

We can't all be great singers...or preachers...or teachers....or deacons.
Some of us can do only one thing.
Others seem to be able to do several things, with no struggle at all....going from one duty to another, seemingly effortlessly.

But, all of us...every, single one of us...can do something.
What if because I can't do something as well as someone else, I decide to not do anything at all.
I just throw in the towel, pack up my belongings, and go home?

My place would be vacant.
My spot unfilled.
My job undone.

Remember the disciples in the Upper Room?  Acts 2:1 says, "...they were all with one accord in one place."
They all had one common goal.
Their prayers were going up as one man's prayer.
Like sweet-sounding, music, blending and ascending to the ears of God.

Not every one can lead....all the time.
But, we can all work in a synchronized effort, pull together, and do our individual part....
 to support the One Who is leading.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Clear Conscience

"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men."
Acts 24:16 (KJV)

Regret is tormenting.
It is ugly.
It pushes the point of despair.
It gnaws and nags at the inmost the brink of a breakdown of will and resolve.
It preaches "no hope", and "all is lost", and "why go on?"

Throughout life, I have learned a few things.
One of them?  
Prevent regret.  
Whatever the cost.
Do what it takes.  Fix it now.

I knew the minute the words came out of my mouth.
I shouldn't have said it.
I saw her face.  Her disappointed, wishful look.
She was trying so hard to please.
I wasn't rude.  My tone was not unkind.  I didn't raise my voice.
In fact, I said it very quietly.
But, my words weren't necessary.  They did no good.  They didn't edify.  They didn't encourage.
Instead, they made her feel bad.

And even though I wasn't feeling well, she didn't know that.
Did Jesus feel well when He was beaten to a pulp?
Yet, He uttered no word of retort.
I was without excuse.

We were eating in a new restaurant...trying it out...getting a feel for whether we would like to come back.
The waitress was young and doing her utmost to make us happy and comfortable.
She was over-eager and visiting our table often.
Our food took what seemed like an unusually long time, but finally it came, and it looked delicious.  
There was a small mix-up, but nothing major.

She placed all of our plates on the crowded table, and it hit me that she hadn't brought my salad.
I mentioned it, and soon she returned, placing it in front of me.
"Is everything okay?"  she asked in her usual chipper tone.
I barely had room to move and enjoy my salad...the table could barely hold all of the plates, all at once.
I was kind of having to sit reach the yummy-looking salad plate.

Before I knew it, I said, "Well, I just wish they would have brought the salad out first."
"Oh.....I'm sorry" the spirit was knocked right out of her

Was it really that big a deal?
Did I absolutely have to eat the salad first?

Bless her little heart, she continued right on, being sweet, over-anxious to please, and accommodating through the entire remainder of the meal.

And I sat there and continued right on....feeling bad.....inside.

Why did I have to blurt that out?
I could have dealt with having my salad come out at the same time as my food....
without complaining about it.

It wasn't really all that important that our table was overloaded to the point of me having to reach a bit farther.  

At the end of the meal, the salt was poured....right into the open, gaping wound.  Inside my guilty heart.

"You know, since I did that....about your can have a dessert...any dessert you want...on the no charge.  Would that be okay?"
 Her sweet smile sent a dagger...all the way in.

Matching her sweetness, without missing a beat, I syrupily replied
"Oh, that is so kind of you!  You don't have to do that.  Really, it's okay."

"Oh, no, we want to.  We are going to do something for you to make up for that." she was sincere and genuine.  It didn't seem all.  "What would you like?"

"Welllll,  I don't eat sugar, but maybe one of them would like something." I said, as I pointed towards Kevin and Zach.
I was feeling worse by the minute.
Zachary's eyes lit up.
He and his Daddy had already been eyeing the triple-chocolate cake on the menu.
"Go ahead, Zach, you pick" I said.
How noble of me!  
It didn't take him long....looking up at her, he said, "We'll have the chocolate cake."

She looked delighted, and soon she returned, carrying a huge slice of chocolate cake, big enough for two, with chocolate frosting and little chocolate chips scattered over it.
There were two heaping mounds of whipped on each side.
"I made it for you, myself" she said, obviously proud that she had made up for her earlier mistake.

Okay, that was enough!

Either I was going to leave here feeling really horrible, it would nag at me all night, and I would carry the guilt for who knew how long.
I would eat the bitter-tasting humble pie that was placed in front of me, I would relish in its sweet aftertaste, and I would walk out a woman with a clear and peaceful conscience.

I made the best choice.

"I am sorry I said anything about the salad.  It wasn't your fault.  I shouldn't have said that.  I'm sorry."

There, I felt SO much better!

She looked surprised.  "Oh, it's okay.  You're fine." she was quick to forgive.

I paid for the check while Kevin and Zach looked around, and I left her a very nice tip.

My conscience didn't bother me again.....not after those two all-important words came out of my mouth.

Why are they so hard to say?
I'm sorry.
Why do we think it weakens us to utter them?

Isn't it better to say them...than have gnawing regret later on?
And while I may not ever see this waitress again, our paths may never re-cross, I did not want her to walk away from our encounter feeling like I had been unkind.

I just don't want to leave that kind of trail behind...if I can prevent it.

Oh, I don't know...maybe it doesn't seem like such a big deal.
But, if it wasn't, why did I feel so bad?

l think when God allows our conscience to be pricked like that, there is a reason for it.
Maybe He wants the person on the other end of the offense to see Jesus through our humility.

I didn't announce to her that I am a Christian.
So, it wasn't like I needed to defend my "profession" of being like Christ.
It was all a matter of conscience...and me leaving there with mine clear.

I have had enough of them to know that I do not like regrets.
I don't like feeling guilt.
I love the old French Proverb that says,
"There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience."

Such wise and true words.

As I walk this winding path called life, I will do my utmost to
prevent regrets....before they happen.
To correct them, as they do.

To go ahead and apologize when I mess up.
To not let it go...and fester...and become an unnecessary burden.
To go to bed every night with a clear conscience....or as the Apostle Paul worded it,
"to have a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men."

Another of my favorite quotes is this....
"By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach."

Some things are just better left the first place.
It's just better to go ahead and apologize for some words....after they're spoken.

A clear conscience is just that important.

Ephesians 4:26 says, "...let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

In my words, fix it before the sun sets.

Then if the sun doesn't come up tomorrow....
all will be well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Arise, and Come Away

"My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.  For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.  Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."
Song of Solomon 2:10-13 (KJV)

Do you hear Him?  Calling you?
Shhh!  You must listen.
And be still.
His voice is not loud or overpowering.
It is small and still.

Winter is officially over.
Flowers appear on the earth.
The time of the singing of birds is come.  How sweet they sound!
God is present....everywhere I look, in every direction I turn my ear, and in the fragrance of each flower I take the time to stop and smell.

It is as if God is saying, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.  I manifest Myself to you through your senses...that I created.  See, hear, smell, and feel My beauty?  All around you?  Ah!  Now I have your attention!  There are things I want to share with you.  Leave everything.
Come away, with Me, My child,"

How can anyone gaze upon the newness, the beauty of spring...and never turn their hearts and minds towards Him?

How can any deny His existence?  His power?  His magnitude?  His presence?

It is hard to find peace and quiet in our modern world.
It takes effort to discover serenity.
It requires diligence to find time...and a place of solitude.
Yet, we all crave it.
We all need a place to think...and listen to God...and pray.

It is quite difficult to do a crowded, noisy place.  

So, He beckons to "come away".
From it all.
It is up to us to pay attention.
To follow His cue.

We sing a song called "Thinking of Thee".
Each time I hear it, I am compelled to come aside from the noisiness and busyness of life.  
To meet with my Beloved and see what He wants to share with me.  
Oh, it is worth it!
Here are the words...

"Alone in some secure retreat,
The sky o'ershadows me;
All nature sings so calm and sweet,
I'm thinking, Lord, of Thee."

"Thinking of Thee,
Oh, Lord of Thee;
Musing on things above,
'Til every chord within my soul,
Is tuned with Heavenly love."

I wish I could sing the melody to you.  It is beautiful.  But, more than that, I wish I could portray the picture to you....of Jesus and His sweetness.  Of the deep-seated joy He gives.  Of the profound benefits of spending quiet time...alone with Him.  In some secure retreat...with the sky o'ershadowing and nature singing so calm and sweet....His presence so incredibly near.  That you can almost touch Him.

When He calls, did you ever think it is not only for our benefit?
That He has another reason?

God created all sorts of animals in the Garden of Eden.  And though He surveyed all of His creation and called it "very good", and the animals were of every shape and size, He did not find what He sought.  
What His heart craved. 

The animals couldn't talk back; they couldn't communicate; they couldn't choose to be with Him.
Something was lacking.

God wanted a being, a creature...that wanted Him.
That longed for Him.
Desired a relationship with Him.

So, at the very end of His creation process, He created His best...His crowning masterpiece....something in His Own image.  Something that was very much a part of Himself.
He called it man...and woman.
And in them, He placed a deep longing, a keen desire....for Himself.
For time with Him.  For His approval.  For conversation with Him.
To know His mind...and His heart.

Just like our marriages and other relationships have the need to be continually nurtured and nourished, 
so our relationship with Almighty God.  

I have heard Him call to me.
Countless times....through His still, small, familiar, sweet voice.
Through the beauty of nature.
Through the site of a secluded, solitary spot.

From the strife, confusion, noise, and stress of everyday life....
to a place where He can speak...uninterrupted.
Sometimes, right in the midst of something important, and I have felt the temptation to put those things ahead of my time with Him.
Sadly, more times than one, I have yielded to that temptation.
Thankfully, some of those times, I have yielded to Him, instead of the temptation to put Him off.

It was when I made the choice, that I put Him first, that I listened to His compelling call, that I dropped all else, and came away with Him, that I have lived the sweetest moments....enjoyed the sweetest communion.

What peace He brings!
In the stillness.
With everything else shut out.
Just me....and Him.

Do you hear Him calling, my friend?

You are His love, His fair one, His child.
You are His bride, His church...for whom He gave His life.

His words to you....
"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."  
Jeremiah 31:3 (KJV)

Can you hear Him...feel Him...beckoning...drawing you?
Through the majesty of springtime?

Will you leave all else to follow Him?
Won't you arise, and come away

Monday, April 9, 2012

True Love

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it...."  Song of Solomon 8:7  (KJV)

I sat on the couch, sick and weak, my temperature rising.
Each time I checked, it seemed to have escalated another degree.
No one enjoys being sick, and it is never a convenient time to be pulled aside from life's activities.
This was no exception.

Kevin came and sat beside me tenderly pulling me to him....until my head rested on his shoulder.
He wrapped his arms around me and held me close.
He placed a cool cloth on my forehead and cheeks and kept saying,
"We've got to get your temperature down."

He looked worried.
I felt loved...cared for.....special.
That he would stop what he was doing to take care of my needs.  
As I sat there, close to him, I realized that...there....right there...
inside his arms, in that familiar spot, is the most natural, comfortable place for me to ever be.
How many times have I run there through the years?
Each and every time I have found love and refuge and a safe place to fall.

The next day, he had to go back to work.
He told me on his way out the door,
"If you need me, I'll come right back home."

I needed that assurance.  
I hated to see him go.  
Just his presence...his nearness gives me peace....and stability.  
And knowing he would drop whatever he needed to in order to be there for me meant more than words.

Life has all kinds of moments and seasons.
Things aren't always rosy and healthy and joyful.
There are rocky, bumpy spots in the stream of life that are hard to cope with and overcome.

True love isn't only for the good times...the happy, laughing moments, when all is right with the world.
It transcends outward circumstances, no matter how trying they be.

No matter what comes, or what goes, the floods of life cannot drown love.
Many matter how turbulent or uproarious, cannot quench it.  Ever.

When the going gets tough, we pull together...toward one another....not apart.
And we do what needs to be done.
We don't count the ourselves.
We look beyond the needs of the other.

When I think of marriage and true love, my thoughts turn to our dear Lord, Jesus, and His tender love for His bride, the and I.  
He redeemed us...with His Own blood.  
What more could He do to prove, to show the sincerity and genuine quality of His love?  He gave until it hurt....not regarding the sacrifice or how it made Him look.  Without a second thought, He saw hopeless, helpless, hurting humanity in need of a Savior, and He told His Father He would do what needed to be done.  
And He did.  

He left the splendor of Heaven, went the full distance, and He came down to a sinful world.  
He didn't count the Himself.
He looked beyond the needs of you and me.

He doesn't just love us in the good times or when it is convenient.  
He loves us always...unconditionally.
On good days and bad days.
In times of great spiritual success and in times of absolute failure.
When we soar, and when we fall completely flat.

Romans 8:37-39 lets us know with all assurance that there is nothing in this world that could ever separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.  Nothing.  Ever.  
No matter what we do.  
No matter how far we run away from Him and His righteousness.  
His love remains...unchanging.  Forever.

Remember the prodigal son?  
Such a sweet, accurate depiction of our Lord's love for us and how it will never change!
The son left home one day with lofty dreams and high hopes.
For a while things went the way he planned, and he was living it the fullest.
Then, somehow he ended up in a place he thought he'd never be.
He was financially broke, reduced to feeding pigs...a much-scorned occupation for someone of his culture.
One day, he came to himself, and he decided he would go home.
But, could he?  Should he?
He must have hurt his father deeply the day he left.
After all, there had been no reason for him to leave.
He had a good life...a good home...a loving father who provided and cared for him.
He had made the unwise choice to leave all of that....for a life of degradation.
Would he be welcome if he went back now?  
How would his father receive him?
After all he'd done?
Would he still love him?
Or would he turn him away?

He made up his mind that he would tell his father right off that he was no longer worthy to be his son.
But, if he could just make him a hired servant, that would be enough.
He must have rehearsed that speech over and over and over again on his long journey home.

As he trudged along the homeward road that day, his father was outside looking...watching.
How many times had he turned a hopeful eye down that long, dusty road...just catch the slightest glimpse of his long-lost son.
How he missed him!
Today, he seemed to see a traveler, walking ever so slowly, wearily, as if each step were a great effort.
As he watched...cautiously....steadily....a glimmer of hope rose in his heart!
Is that....could it possibly be....what?  Is that my boy?????

Why, he hardly looked recognizable.  
He looked so different from the way he looked the day he left.
He had lived a wild, fast life.
He had squandered away all of his money.
He had nothing to eat.
He must have lost a lot of weight.
He probably smelled bad, looked haggard, and walked with a dejected gait.

But, yet there was something about that forlorn figure, coming towards him, that he seemed to identify...relate to.
And his heart overflowed with a deep compassion...complete acceptance....forgiveness...and love!

So, he dropped what he was doing, and he ran!
Oh, it is him!
It is my son!
He is last!

Luke 15:20 says, "he had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."
There was no scolding.
No "I told you so".
No "I'm so ashamed of you."
No "Why did you do this?"
No "How could you, son?"

Just love.
Unconditional, unchanging, undeniable love.
In a father's heart....for his boy.

Can't you see, my friend?
God looks at you...and me, the same, exact way.
He doesn't mind our condition.
He doesn't recoil from the stench of our sin.
He is watching, looking down the road, casting a hopeful, wishful eye....just longing for you to come home.

He won't scold you or ask questions as to how you got to where you are.
It won't matter.
Your Father's heart is full of compassion.

Psalm 86:5 says this, "For thou, Lord, art good and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee."  

He's waiting....watching....hoping.
All you have to do is come home.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Because of Easter

"I am the resurrection, and the life:  he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live..."
John 11:25  (KJV)

Things looked hopeless.
The eulogy had been said.
The body buried.
The tears shed.

All hope was gone.

Why?  Where was He?  Why didn't He come?
They had sent word.
He knew.
He chose to stay away.
Why, Jesus?

Ah!  Someone told them He was coming!
But, why now?
Why show up today?
It was too late.

Was it?

He told them to roll the stone away...from the tomb...that surrounded the body.
When the opening was clear, He spoke directly to him.  He called him by name, specifically.
Otherwise, death would have had no choice but to surrender every dead person under the sound of his voice.
He specifically spoke the name of His beloved friend,
"Lazarus, come forth!"

That thunderous tone!
That all-commanding voice!

Some movement inside the tomb!
Someone is coming!
It's him!
He's alive!
After four days of cold, silent death....Lazarus is walking, breathing, talking!

They marveled at the miracle, because they really couldn't see....who He really was.
Though it was happening right before their eyes, they failed to grasp the full truth.
He IS the resurrection.
He IS the life!

No matter how long death has the upper hand, when He speaks, it is rendered has to go.

Later, there's another tomb.
Another body has been buried.
Many tears have been shed.
They thought He was their Deliverer...their Savior...the Messiah of Whom the prophesies were written.

All of their hopes, all of those dreams, had been crushed and nailed to an old, rugged cross.
They watched him draw His last, agonizing breath...then slump forward after saying,
"It is finished!"
They knew Joseph of Arimathea had come and placed His mutilated, blood-soaked body in a tomb.
They were aware that the soldiers had come and not only placed a stone over the opening of the tomb, but completely sealed it closed.
It was secure.
Impossible for anyone to ever remove.

Death had won.
Hopelessness enveloped...and threatened to smother..the very life that weakly smoldered within them.

They came to visit the tomb on the third day.
But, wait!  Where was the stone?
That had been sealed so carefully?
What was going on?

Luke 24:2-8 says, when they arrived at the tomb, "...they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre."
The tomb was open!
But, how?

Not understanding, hardly able to comprehend, "They entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus."

It was empty!

Two angels appeared and asked, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen:  remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again?'

Then they remembered His words.

So, death didn't win after all?  He was alive?  Oh, what joy!

Everything changed for them that day.
An eternal hope was born and breathed into existence.

Romans 6:9 (KJV) says,
"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him."

He died, then rose again, so that we could have life....a better life while here on earth and eternal, everlasting life in the end.

Jesus said in John 10:10 (KJV),
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Who are they?  These blessed, fortunate ones who would be the recipients of more abundant life?

They are you...and me....and all who will believe in Him and what happened that first Easter!

How are things with you?
Is hope gone?
Have all avenues to happiness and a better life been exhausted?
Are you tired....of always traveling, searching and ending up at a dead end?
Have you been run ragged trying to chase after life, only to find it is all an illusion?
Does it feel like death has already won?

Because of Easter,
because He burst forth from a carefully-sealed tomb on that first Easter morning,
everything changed for you, too, my friend.
You can have the more abundant life.

Parts that seem completely dead inside of you, dreams that have been shelved, flickering hope that has completely died out..all of it can be resurrected and brought back to life.

It matters not how far you've gone or how long you've been there.

He is still the resurrection...and the life.

He has a plan for you.

He is speaking life into your situation.

He's telling you to come forth....out of the ashes, the brokenness, the despair, the hopelessness, the death....
to a more abundant life!

Death has not won.  You are still here.

Because of Easter, thanks be to God, there is still hope.