Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Something Beautiful

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time..."
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV)

You know, it never ceases to amaze me how God can 
take our mess and turn it into our message.

He can take a life that has been shipwrecked beyond repair
(at least through human eyes),
and He can put all of the pieces back together again
and make it altogether new.  
He can take the very things that have ended us up
in the "damaged goods" bin of life
and turn those things into a useful message
that will enlighten and uplift the lives of others.

How could you and I ever relate to the broken ones
if we were never broken?
How could we learn to show the love of Jesus,
if we had never experienced His healing, tender love....
on the most intimate, personal of levels?
How could we understand heartache,
and loss, and hurt, and devastation,
were we never waylaid by the destructive storms of life?

I don't know how God does it.
Where I see useless rubbish, He sees a thing of value.
Where I see unnecessary pain, He sees hidden character.
Where I see a hopeless mess, He sees an amazing message.

It is all in the eyes of the Beholder.
He sees beyond the surface, not the artificial mask that is ugly and unbecoming.
He sees today as the beginning, not the end.
He sees the beauty of the finished product,
not the jumbled mess in His hands.

I look at trials through the fog of misunderstanding and tears.
He sees them as learning tools that will shape my future.
I perceive my mistakes, blunders, and failures as disastrous stumbling blocks.
He sees them as enlightening stepping stones.
I imagine that all is lost.
He sees a perfect victory.

How can this be?

Mom and Dad Smith's house is an older home that 
was built back before closets were considered a necessity.
There is very little storage and no place to hang clothes.
My father-in-law came across some walnut boards, 
and from them he created this beautiful wardrobe.
Had I found the same boards lying in a pile of wood, 
I would have undoubtedly left them there, 
not knowing what to do with them.
In my hands, they would have had no potential.
I would have seen nothing more than plain, unfinished boards.
But, when those same walnut boards were placed into the hands of a lifelong carpenter,
something wonderful and beautiful and useful was crafted and created.

God is the Master Builder.
He sees potential in every scrap heap of human brokenness.
He finds worth in every damaged life. 

"Man's way leads to a hopeless end;
God's way leads to endless hope."
Author Unknown

I have struggled to make sense of situations through which 
I have been left broken....
shattered to bits.
I have cried and prayed and questioned,
only to come up empty and void of answers.
I have honestly wondered if there was any hope left.
If there was any use to anticipate good coming out of all of the bad.
If evil really had won.
I hate to admit it, but I have even wondered
if all things really do work together for good
to them that love God.
I have entertained the thought that maybe I should just give up, 
and stop looking for a brighter day.
To just accept things the way they are...
to somehow become comfortable...
here on the scrap heap.

Just when I nearly caved,
right when I was on the verge of giving in...
to those awful thoughts...
of accepting utter hopelessness...
it happened.
The most tender and loving of hands 
gently picked me up, 
softly blew away the accumulated dust,
and held me close.

Someone else would have just passed right on by.
Those with less compassion would have counted me out.
Less observant eyes would have missed me altogether.
More critical onlookers would have written me off....
as being down for the count.

"Just another shipwreck on the turbulent sea of life",
they would have said as they shook their heads and walked on...
anxious to get away from the awful scene of ugliness and wreckage.

But, He....
oh, He!
He saw that under the pile of mess,
I was there.
Still breathing,
still longing to be useful to Him,
still craving to be beautiful...
in His eyes.
He heard the hushed sobs...
wrenched from someplace deep....
that only He knew about.
And He cared.
He stopped...
He stooped....
and He listened close.

He couldn't pass me by.
He saw the potential...
of a message...
not the hopelessness...
of a mess.

I am different now.
Changed somehow.
Not as full of spunk and spark as before.
A little more jaded on this side of the trial.
But, I am in the hands of the Master.
He is putting the pieces back together....
little by little....
bit by bit....
ever so gently.

He encourages me daily, by the sweetness of His presence.
He binds up my wounds, in the tenderest of ways.
He lets me know that all is not lost.
That there are brighter days coming.
That one day this will all be a distant memory.

He makes all things beautiful....in His time.
Not ours.
We want to be whole...instantly.
We want all to be right....immediately.
We want restoration.....now.

What a jumbled disaster we would make of things...
were it left up to us.

In His wisdom...
in His time...
something pleasing will emerge.

It will all make perfect sense.

The mess...
yes, even the mess of me....
 will be made beautiful....
in His eyes...
in His time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Welcome Home

"Well done, good and faithful servant....enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Matthew 25:21 (KJV)

We have an old, child's rocking chair that is very weathered looking.
We bought it for Zach, when he was real small.
It has been through the mill...literally.
Besides all of the wear and tear 
from our sweet, little toddler rocking in it on the porch
between Kevin and me,
it has taken a real beating over the years.
Our dogs chewed it in various places
while they were cutting their teeth.
They also enjoyed pulling and tearing and....
well....mutilating the webbing on the seat, 
until there was an enormous hole....
where the webbing used to be.

One day, I decided to repurpose it into
something primitive looking.
I bought some flowers, planted them in a green plastic pot,
wedged the pot into the enormous hole in the seat of the chair,
hung a little rusty star on one corner and a little primitive welcome sign on the other,
stuck our little "welcoming squirrel" in front of it,
and there you have it....
something that says "I'm glad you're here" in the sweetest of ways 
to the three of us as we walk up the driveway towards our front door.

We have another very weathered looking chair...
a wicker one.... 
also a victim of our teething dogs and their overzealous curiosity.
I threw an old, comforting looking quilt over it
that beckons "come and sit a spell" 
each time we walk past it to go in the front door.

Beside the chair sits a neat, old, antique doll stroller
that my Uncle Orville bought for me at a yard sale.
Each time I look at it, I think about his thoughtfulness
and how special he is to me.
He knows I love old stuff.
I planted some vines and flowers in it,
and Kevin added a bird's nest 
left by a mother bird in a hanging fern on the porch
 earlier this summer.

There's really no place like home.
And nothing that says, "Welcome Home"
like our own personal things.....
things that have personal memories attached.
Things that mean something to us.
They may be old and worn
and may not mean a thing to someone else,
but they help make home the special place that it is....
just by sitting there....
being there....
to welcome us back.

I am a true homebody.
I don't like to leave home.
There is no where on earth I would rather stay...
or be.
Even though I love to travel,
and see and experience new things,
I am always very reluctant to leave home.
Because this is....
well home.

Home is a special place.
Its definition is very different for every one of us.
But the feeling in the heart is the same.
Returning to that place...
of familiarity,
our own space,
is one of the best feelings in the world.

But, you know, no matter how precious and special your home is,
and no matter how safe and content it makes you feel,
are you sometimes filled with the sense that this is not really home?

I love this quote by CS Lewis.

“If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, 
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

I think I know what he meant.

I love to read the 14th chapter of John.

It was one of Mom's favorite chapters.

Jesus said in verses 2 and 3, 
"In My Father's house are many mansions:  
if it were not so, I would have told you.  
I go to prepare a place for you.  
And if I go and prepare a place for you, 
I will come again, and receive you unto myself; 
that where I am, there ye may be also."

Mom used to tell me,
"None of us came here to stay always."

I always knew she was right.
I just didn't think she'd go when she did.

I always loved going to see her and Dad.
I always felt welcome...
and loved and wanted and needed.
They were always so glad to see me....
so thankful I was there.
They always welcomed me home.
Wherever they were, was home for me.

There is another home....
beyond this world....
a place so special that Jesus Himself is preparing it for 
each and every one of us.

That's why we have that deep-down sense 
that this is not all there is.

Sunday night, Kevin and I sang this song in church.
We found it on page 362 of Mom's old Evening Light Song book.
The words are still ringing in my ears.

"Heaven Holds All To Me"
Written by Tillit S. Teddlie 

Verse One 
"Earth holds no treasures, but perish with using,
However precious they be;
Yet, there's a country to which I am going,
Heaven holds all to me.


Heaven holds all to me,
Brighter its glory will be; 
Joy without measure, will be my treasure,
Heaven holds all to me.

(We both broke down on this verse...)
Out on the hills of that wonderful country,
Happy, contented, and free;
Loved ones are waiting and watching my coming,
Heaven holds all to me.

Why should I long for the world and its sorrows, 
When in that home o'er the sea;
Millions are singing the wonderful story?  
Heaven holds all to me."

It truly does.

As dear as home is to me here on this earth,
I know there is an even better home waiting...
over there....
the one Jesus is preparing.
The one where Mom and Dad are
"waiting and watching my coming".
I can just see both of them standing there....
peering through the gates every now and then...
hoping, longing, wishing I would be there....
walking towards the gates...
towards them.

I can see Dad now, kind of pacing back and forth,
and I can hear his voice,
"Mom, is she here yet?
Did she make it?
I wonder what's keeping her so long.
I sure hope she doesn't give up the fight.
Do you see her yet?"

Oh, I don't know exactly what it is going to be like.
None of us do.
We all have our own ideas and opinions, 
because in reality, 
there aren't a lot of specifics about it
in the Bible.
Just glimpses and hints...
enough to make me know for certain
that I sure don't want to miss it.

Some think they are just resting over there...
in a place of complete peace, without a care....
without thought of the ones here on earth.

I like to think they really are waiting and watching my coming.
I like to think that when I make it,
they will both be there....
with open arms....
standing next to Jesus....
surrounded by the saints of all ages and a million singing angels....
saying, "Welcome home, Cheryl.
Welcome to your real home.
The one you never have to leave."

What a welcoming committee!

Yes, Heaven holds all to me....
now more than ever.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hand In Hand

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, 
as though some strange thing happened unto you:  
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; 
that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. "
I Peter 4:12, 13 (KJV)

"Be still sad heart and cease repining;
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life a little rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I am so thankful God initiated the institution of marriage.

I love being married.
I love sharing life...
the good and the bad.

Every, single day I give thanks 
from the bottom of my heart to God 
for allowing me to walk through life....
hand in hand....
with such a kind, gentle man.

It matters not what we are doing,
or how hard it is.....
just so we are together....
I'm content.

Today, we mowed the yard.
Of course, Kevin always gives me the easier end of the load.
I rode the riding mower,
while he used the push mower to cut close to the fence and trees.

He always takes the first few rounds on the riding mower
to clear a path for me....
to make it easier.

As I rode, and he pushed,
we came across each other's path several times.
Each time we did,
Kevin would throw up his hand
and give me one of his sweet smiles.
And each time,
my heart was filled with love and appreciation....
for all he does for Zachary and me.
But, most of all...
for him...
the person he is.

I prayed for him a lot today....
while I was mowing.
I do a lot of praying on that riding mower.
His clothes were drenched with sweat,
and he looked so tired.
My heart was moved with compassion for him.
He works so hard,
both on his job and here at home.

He loves gardening and working in our yard.....
planting trees, shrubs, flowers, and plants.
We enjoy watching them grow as the years go by.
When Zach was a baby,
he and Kevin bought this crepe myrtle for me for Mother's Day of 2005.

Kevin planted it at the corner of our garage.
Seven years later, it is now taller than our garage.

I think the best gift a wife can bestow upon her husband...
is her prayers for him.

As I watched Kevin mow and work so hard today, 
I begged God to help him,
to give him strength, 
to have mercy on him.

I asked Him to bless the work of his hands.

For no matter how hard we work and plant and sow,
it is always God Who gives the increase of our labors.
I'm thankful He sends just the right balance of
sun and rain to make things grow and prosper and thrive.
Too much of either would damage the plants
and stunt their growth.

It is the same way in life.
God faithfully balances the sun and the rain.
Too much of either would damage us
and stunt our growth.

Looking back over our 24 years of marriage,
Kevin and I have had a lot of both...
sun and rain.
We've enjoyed sunny times 
when everything went smooth, 
everyone was well,
life was easy.
And there have been rainy days
when nothing went right,
sickness was rampant,
and life was so hard we honestly didn't know if we could bear any more.

Isn't that the way it is in all of our lives?

Peaks and valleys...
good times and bad times....
sickness and health....
sun and rain.

Through it all,
we've held on tight....
to each other.

He patiently shared the pain of infertility with me....
for years.
When we first got married,
he dreamed of having four children.
He didn't bargain for all of the problems I had conceiving a child.
Never knowing if we'd have a child of our own,
he unconditionally loved me, 
all the while knowing the inability was on my end,
and at the same time, realizing it wasn't my fault.

He shared my unspeakable joy when God proved He still performs miracles
and sent us a sweet, healthy, baby boy....
in spite of medical wisdom and diagnosis.

He stood by me as both of my parents drew their last breath of life.
He comforted me in the aftermath....
of sorrow, and anguish, and overwhelming grief....
when I fell completely apart.
He never scolds me for crying or 
chastens me for grieving too long.
He dreads the day when we get the news...
about his aging parents.
One thing for certain,
if God spares my life,
I will be there for him....
just like he's been there for me.
I'll understand...
what it feels like...
to hurt that much.

One thing I've noticed about life is that
when it seems the rain will not let up
and we are nearing more than we can bear,
God is faithful to send a reprieve of sunny days.

I recently heard a minister say,
"Our trials may seem unreasonable,
but they are not without reason."

It takes both the sun and the rain....
hand in hand...
working together in healthy amounts...
to strengthen us,
to build our character,
to make us grow.

I guess it is good that it isn't up to us.
More than likely most of us would choose too much sunshine.
and withdraw from rain every time.
Who wants to suffer?
And cry?
And hurt?
We all know too much sun isn't healthy.
Yet, in order to avoid unpleasant circumstances,
we'd overindulge in the sunshine.

I've been thinking about today's Scripture a lot lately
as trial after trial seems to come our way.
Sometimes, I wonder if the sun will ever shine brightly again.
But, Peter said not to think it is strange.
He had learned to accept the rain as a part of life.
He expected the fiery trials.

The NIV translation of this verse reads like this,
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

The sooner we realize there is a purpose for the rain....
for our trials,
the better off we will be.
The sooner we settle in and say,
"Thy will be done, Father",
the sooner the victory will come.
Our external circumstances may not change,
but our outlook certainly will.

When we suffer and go through the hard times,
we can better know and understand our dear Lord.
We can relate in a very small way
to how He felt.
This sharing of His pain brings an intimacy with
Christ that nothing else ever could.

It invites us to walk closer to Him...
to walk through the sun....
through the rain....
and face it together....
hand in hand.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Vanishing Breed

"I say then, Hath God cast away His people?  God forbid....God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.  Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias?  How he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.  But what sayeth the answer of God unto him?  I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
Romans 11:1-5 (KJV)

The other evening after Kevin left for work,
Zachary and I felt the need to get out of the house.
So, we went to one of our favorite restaurants about six miles from home.
It is a buffet-style barbecue place
with the most wonderful homemade tomato pie.
I would be willing to pay the full price
if that were the only item on their buffet bar.
THAT is just how good it is!  :)

One time I asked for the recipe,
and they sold it to me for a quarter.
Of course, when I came home and tried making it, 
mine didn't quite taste like theirs!

I have tried making a quick version of it
by placing two pieces of white bread on a baking sheet,
spreading mayonnaise on them,
placing fresh garden tomatoes on top of the mayonnaise,
then putting a layer of cheddar cheese on top.
I put it under the broiler for about three minutes.

It makes the bread just crunchy enough to be scrumptious,
and it melts the cheese over the tomatoes.
Actually, it is quite delicious....
but not as good as the tomato pie at the barbecue place.

While we were eating,
while I was relishing every blissful bite,
I happened to look over and see a sight that
warmed my heart and almost made me cry.

There was an elderly couple seated several tables away from us,
and they were sitting on the same side of the table,
very close together.
They were holding hands,
and both of their heads were bowed in prayer.
He was praying out loud.
I couldn't peel my eyes away from them.

Quickly, I whispered,
"Zachary, look!"
We both sat there, mesmerized,
watching them,
and as we watched them,
I prayed,
"Lord, bless them."

I turned to Zach,
and in a sad tone of yearning, I said,
"Zach, people like that....
those kind.....
are a vanishing breed."

It did my heart so much good to take in that scene.
Made me think of Mom and Dad sitting there.

He prayed for what seemed like a long time,
there was nothing hurried about them.
They took their time,
and when he finished,
they both turned to face each other, simultaneously,
like it was something that came as natural to them as breathing,
like they had done this a million times,
like it was second-nature,
and they kissed each other on the lips.

The woman looked my way,
caught me staring at them,
and she smiled a sweet, little sheepish-kind of smile....
I felt like I had been peering into something sacred...
something very private...
and intimate.

I smiled back...
a smile that I hope conveyed my admiration,
my appreciation,
my gratitude...
to them for being old-fashioned
and for speaking volumes of Godliness and love
by their simple routine
before mealtime.

After Zachary and I finished eating,
we had to pass by their table to leave the restaurant.

I just couldn't help myself.

I stopped.
I told them how much it had meant to me to see what they did.

He said,
"We do that every time we eat a meal.
There is never a time that we do not do that."

I told them how much I long to see things like that.

She spoke up and said,
"I love the old ways.
The old ways are better."

I agreed.
Oh, how I agreed!

He told me he is 87 years old, and she is 78.

Their love has stood the test of time.

I thought of all of the broken homes in our world.
How young people seem to go into marriage with 
the mindset that it is disposable.
That if it doesn't work, 
they can just toss the relationship away,
and move on....
to greener pastures....
and never look back.

Whatever happened to keeping one's vows?
What ever happened to longevity in relationships?
Where a couple stays together....
for life?
Through wealth and poverty,
health and infirmity,
good times and bad.

Without a doubt, I'd say that little, elderly couple have weathered some storms.
They've undoubtedly gotten on each other's nerves...
at least a time or two.
They've tended to one other's sicknesses...
probably more than once.
No doubt, they've hit some financial snags,
faced some disappointments,
mixed some tears.

So, what keeps their marriage strong?
How do they do it?
How have they done it all those years?

I have a strong suspicion
that the answers to every one of my questions lie....
in their little mealtime routine.
They seemed adamant about never missing that.
I'd venture to say they've neglected that habit
very few times through the years.

That is what has held them together.

It is hard to fuss and fight....
when your heads are bowed close together in prayer.
It is impossible to be mad.....
at the one who is asking God to bless you.
It is difficult to not feel pity...
for the one who has prayed you through time after time.

"The family that prays together stays together."

Why have we gotten away from that?
Why don't families pray together anymore?
Why have we forsaken the family altar?
When we know in our hearts,
that is what works.

Praying with Kevin is one of my favorite things in the world to do.
Seeing a grown man on his knees,
praying to God....
without shame,
without reservation,
without fear...
touches a place deep inside of me.
Makes my respect and opinion of him soar.

Kneeling in our living room with Kevin and Zachary,
taking turns pouring out our individual hearts to God,
approaching the throne of grace....together...
are some of my sweetest moments in life.

Praying together creates an atmosphere of peace...
and love...
and respect...
for God and each other....
and in the home.

I'm glad there are still people left
with this mindset...
who still place a strong emphasis on their faith in Almighty God
and the power of prayer.

Sometimes, I fear that they are becoming extinct...
that they truly are a vanishing breed.
I get depressed and feel like Elijah in the cave,
when he felt that the whole world had forsaken His God.
God opened His eyes to see
that there were 7,000 just like him...
who still held to the old paths...
who still stood firm in their belief in Him.

I'm glad that every now and then God opens my eyes, too,
and lets me see people like the sweet couple....
to let me know that the faithful still remain.
Who aren't ashamed to pray over their food in public.
Who would die before they forsook their convictions.

I'm thankful we can learn from their stalwart example.
That we can follow in their footsteps...
that we can keep the tradition of prayer alive...
in our lives and in our homes....
and we can know that our outcome will be the same as theirs.

The formula still works.

As I looked to the older couple....
yearning, longing, wishing to see a Godly example,
to see someone holding to the old paths,
perhaps there are others....
with this same craving.

I wonder if there could be someone who is looking to me...
to be the example....
to shine the light....
to let them know that
faith in God is not extinct....
that it still works....
that the vanishing breed is still very much alive.... 
and well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I'm Glad He Knew

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee..."
Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)

I already miss hearing Mom's stories.
I wish I would have listened closer to them.
I have this fear of forgetting them
or at least forgetting parts of them.
I wish I would have written things down.

One of my favorite stories that she used to love to tell me
was the one about when she was carrying me before I was born.
Early in her pregnancy, she felt sure that she was with child.
But, for some reason, the doctor contended that she was not.
He was convinced that the cause of her symptoms 
was an ovarian cyst.
He told her that if she was expecting a child,
as the pregnancy progressed and the baby grew
the cyst would also grow,
and that it would burst and kill her and the baby.

Terrified, she was taken into surgery.
She went under the surgeon's knife,
and what do you think he found when got in there?

An ovarian cyst?
Not hardly.
Just a four-month-old-female fetus,
an unborn baby girl...
fighting for life,
and probably squirming as far away as she possibly could...
from the surgeon's knife.

Mom came through the surgery just fine,
and, amazingly, so did I.
I've thought about that story many times
and considered all of the things that could have gone wrong.
The trauma could have caused Mom to miscarry.
The scalpel could have slipped.
Since he didn't truly believe there was a baby in there,
could he have made the incision at the wrong place?

All I know is that Mom continued to carry me full-term,
and I was born on a Saturday morning that following September.
A healthy, bouncing baby girl...
full of zest for life and hope for good things to come.

I love to take Zachary's baby book out now and then
and look at his ultrasound picture.
I don't suppose they had those options
all those years ago when Mom was expecting me.
I marvel at modern technology
and how they can now see inside
a woman's womb.
How they can tell the baby's gender
and even see its features.

On Zachary's ultrasound,
it looks like he is smiling.

I remember looking at that picture countless times
when I was pregnant, and feeling like I could not wait until
the day he was out of my belly
and into my arms.
I couldn't wait to see that round little face, in person,
smiling up at me....
brightening even the darkest of days.

I thank God for every day of life He has given.
I am so grateful for His all-seeing eyes
that were upon me in my mother's womb.
That were upon Zachary in my womb.
We both survived a lot to get here safe.
I don't think so.

And, even though there were no ultrasound pictures
to confirm my existence before birth,
God saw me.
He knew I was there.
I was being looked after
long before I knew I needed to be.
He had a plan,
and I was a part of it.
He kept me safe from harm.
He spared my life.

He told Jeremiah,
"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."

Isaiah said,
"The Lord hath called me from the womb;
from the bowels of my mother hath He made mention of my name."
(Isaiah 49:1)

God has a special plan and purpose for every life.
His eyes are upon every unborn baby in the womb of its mother.
He already knows each unformed embryo.
He sees the end of our life from the moment of our conception....
 and every moment in between.

Just as God knew Jeremiah,
set him apart for His use,
orchestrated a unique course for his life,
designed a calling that only he could fulfill....
God has a plan for you, too.

Just as God called Isaiah from the womb,
and made mention of his name,
He calls to you, too.

Before you were formed in the belly,
He knew you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Healing Waters

"I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely."
Revelation 21:6

Recently, we visited a placed called "God's Acre Healing Springs".
Supposedly, the water has wonderful, healing components in it
that have been known to heal a wide spectrum of ailments and diseases.
We purchased some gallon jugs at a Mennonite store nearby
and filled them with the cool, crisp water coming out of the spring.

There's a sign there that reads,
"According to tradition, the Indians reverenced the water
for its healing properties as a gift from the Great Spirit.
They led the British wounded to their secret waters during
the American Revolution, and the wounded were healed.
This historical property has been deeded to God  for public use.
Please revere God by keeping it clean."

On another part of the property, we discovered this monument.

It reads,
"God's Acre Healing Springs
deeded to Almighty God
to be used by the sick and afflicted
by L. P. "Lute" Boylston
July 21, 1944
The most precious piece of earth I have ever owned."

I thought of the Indians who cherished these healing waters,
and how they led the wounded soldiers there to be healed.
I don't know how the property ended up in Lute Boylston's possession,
but his vision for it was selfless and giving.

It was very noble of him to deed the land and the springs back to Almighty God.
For, if the water that flows there truly does possess healing capabilities, 
we all know Who added the healing ingredients to the water.

As I stood there,
I felt like I was standing on sacred ground.

I wonder how many sick and afflicted people have visited
these grounds and gathered water over the years....
searching, hoping, longing
to be healed of their infirmities.

It is my heart's hope that each one who came received what they were seeking.
I hope every, single one of them were completely healed
and that they went on to live long, healthy, thriving lives.

We felt thirsty.
Zach didn't want to wait,
so he cupped his hands and drank
until he was thirsty no more.

The water was clean and clear....
it was refreshing...
to look at and drink.
It has been there for many years,
yet it still flows.
It still contains the same quality of life-sustaining water.
People still come there from countless places far and near
to take a drink...
and take some home.

That same day we cried a lot....
missing Mom.
She would have liked being there with us.
She would have enjoyed the water.
And though our physical thirst was quenched,
it had no power to heal the pain in our heart.
Even though we were no longer thirsty,
we still longed for healing as we drove away.

Made me think 
of another healing water source.
A source that permanently quenches the spiritual thirst of all who drink it.
A source that has flowed for centuries,
yet is still infused with the same quality,
the same consistency,
the same potency...
as always.

It has never run dry.
It has never come up short.
It has healed countless millions who have sought a cure in its waters.

I wonder just how many sick and afflicted people with shattered lives have visited
this fountain over the years....
searching, hoping, longing
for their lives to be changed.

No one....
not one person,
has ever walked away disappointed.
No one has ever left thirsty.

One day Jesus was tired and sat down on Jacob's well.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water,
and Jesus asked her for a drink.
She was surprised, because the Jews didn't have anything to do with the Samaritans.
There was an age-old, unresolved feud between the two.
Jesus came to change all of that,
and He began a conversation with her.
He told her that He had living water,
and that it would be
"a well of water springing up into everlasting life"
in the heart of all who drank it.

The woman believed on Jesus that day,
took her own spiritual drink from the living water He provided,
and her life was never the same.

Do you know that after all these years,
that same living water is still available?

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,
and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat..."
Isaiah 55:1 (KJV)

This is an open invitation.
An offer too good to be refused.
To anyone and everyone....
at no charge.

There are no restrictions.
It is a universal appeal....
it is free.

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.
And let him that heareth say, Come.
And let him that is athirst come.
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Revelation 22:17 (KJV)

There are many wells in this world....
both physical and spiritual.

Wells that offer a cure for thirst...
comfort for a broken heart,
a fix for the deep longing inside all of us.
But every cure this world offers is only a temporary solution....
to a permanent problem.

When it wears off,
we find ourselves empty-handed and unfailingly thirsty again.

There is something more.
There is a permanent quench for the most deep-seated thirst
in the heart of each one of us.

Jesus called it living water.

The offer He made to the woman at the well,
still stands.
The invitation will still be honored....
for you and me.

There are healing properties in this water....
that Jesus offers....
for the whole human composition.
Yes, it absolutely cleanses the heart from the darkest, most ugly sin.
But, it also heals the internal wounds that are hidden far beneath the surface.
A drink from this water will calm the most rattled of nerves.
It will soothe the most torn, raw emotions.
It will heal....everything in need of being cured.

It is living water.
Just one drink fills the heart with hope...
and a sense of deep-settled peace.

We came home from God's Acre Healing Springs,
and I went to the fountain....
this spiritual healing stream...
that I have visited and resorted to so many times.

It is the fountain that Zechariah prophesied about
in Zechariah 13:1.
The one that Jesus opened in the house of God
when He shed His blood on the cross
and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

He died so that we might have life.
He opened the fountain, so we could come as often as we need to.
There is no limit on the times we can visit.

I hit my knees, and I prayed.
I took a plunge....
into the healing water.
I felt His tender hand gently
cleanse and tend to the deep wounds in my heart.

I am healing.
I still cry.
I still fall apart.
Some days are much better than others.
But, each time I feel the need,
I visit the place that I depend on.
The place that has never let me down.
The sacred fountain that never leaves me thirsty.
That always quenches the most dry, parched spots deep inside.
That ministers and nourishes and applies a healing balm
to all that ails me.

I'm thankful for the healing waters flowing from God's Acre Healing Springs.
I want to go back...and get more of the water.
I'm glad it's free.
I'm glad there are no limitations or restrictions.

 I'm most thankful for the healing waters
flowing from the side of my blessed Lord.
I want to go back....
and bow at the foot of His cross...
as often as I possibly can.
I'm so thankful it's free...
and unlimited...
and open 24/7....
to "whosoever will come"
and take a drink.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our Refuge and Strength

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:10 (KJV)

There are moments when I feel completely overwhelmed....
don't we all?

It is in these moments that I miss Mom the most.
One of my first instincts...
one of my first knee-jerk reactions....
was to pick up the phone and call her.

One thing I never had to question with Mom,
is that no matter what was going on,
she was in my corner.
She cared....from the heart.
And somehow, I could count on her
to snap me out of my doldrums
and point me back to the path of faith...
every time.

Did you ever notice that when you are at your lowest point....
when your composition is most compromised....
when you feel the weakest and most vulnerable....
the smallest thing can seem more than you can bear?
Something that wouldn't seem like the smallest challenge at any other time,
seems impossible and far beyond the range of your own capability.

We all know that our archenemy, satan, 
does not cut any slack when the chips are down.
In fact, that is when he seems to hit the hardest...
with the most force....
and violence and cruelty.
He is unfair.
He plays by no rule book.
He always kicks you when you are down.
He is an unfair opponent.

I guess you could say this hasn't been my week..

I have missed Mom....so much,
I've been fighting some physical ailments,
and I've been feeling so anxious and uncertain.

Zachary went lizard-hunting on our front porch
and nearly put his hand directly on a snake.
It was coiled in one of my plants 
on a table just outside our living room door.  
It was the second snake we have found
on our porch within a few weeks' time.
Kevin killed it and was almost certain it was poisonous.

I have no words to thank God enough for keeping His eye on Zachary.

The engine in the pressure washer I bought Kevin for Christmas blew up.
We've only used it one time.
Now, we have to deal with warranties, hauling it to the repair shop (it's heavy), getting it fixed, etc.
Just the thought of dealing with the hassle
seems to almost put me over the edge.

Our computer crashed...almost completely.
Thank the Lord for RescueIt.
It looked pretty hopeless last night and this morning,
but they came through this afternoon and discovered and fixed the problem.

Then, I got a disappointing email today.
It was kind of like the last straw.
Oh, it was nothing that would seem at all earth-shattering....
to anyone else.
It's just that a project that I've been holding out a lot of hope for...
something I've been looking forward to....
concerning the fruition of a dream,
was completely shot out of the water today.
A door was closed.
My dream shattered....
in that email.
Working on it has kind of helped me get through the last few months, 
and now it is over and it seems that all of my careful effort was in vain.

And there have been other things.....
one thing after another....
small things....
that when weighed against the heavier things of life
 seem trifling and unimportant.

I know we aren't supposed to sweat the small stuff.
I need to take my own advice.

Nevertheless, when you compile enough fragments of small stuff....
all of it together can pile up to big stuff....
and seem even bigger.

I am not complaining....honest.  :)
I am very thankful.
In fact, my heart is full of gratitude to God.
I worship and praise Him,
and I appreciate Him and every blessing in my life....
with all my heart.

It has just been very trying lately, and during the course of things, 
I've had the impulse to call Mom
even more often than usual.

Knowing she isn't there....
to call....
sure is hard to accept.

She was a pillar...
that I...
and several others....
leaned on for support.

I was praying.
Telling the Lord all about how Mom was my pillar,
how much I miss her,
how I wish I could ask her to pray for us, 
when He came to me.
He stopped me in my prayer, 
and in my mind, He showed me a large, white pillar.
It was at the corner of a building....
helping support its weight.
I realized that pillar symbolized Mom...
her strength,
her faithfulness, 
her love,
her prayers.

I saw the pillar removed....
taken out of the picture.
The building didn't fall,
even though the pillar was no longer there
supporting its weight.
I looked and wondered, 
but not for long.
Because behind the spot where the pillar had stood,
standing strong, firm, and solid....
was none other than Jesus Himself.

I saw that He had been there all the time.
That He had been the One all along....
who was standing behind the pillar....
supporting the building...
holding her up....
so she could hold us up.

He was the Source of her strength.
He gave her what she needed,
so she could pass it on to us.
He was her Rock.

Jesus said,
"Child, I've always been here....
behind the pillar.
I'm still here."

I saw Him.
I saw Him standing there,
even though the pillar is gone.

He gives the sweetest invitation in Matthew 11:28-30.
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; 
for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."

He made the sweetest promise in Matthew 28:20.
"...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

Sometimes, He wants us to get to the place where we rely solely...
upon Him.

There are times in each of our lives,
when He gently removes a pillar.
Something or someone we have trusted in....
and leaned upon....
to get us through.

Because He wants to show us...
in the most personal, intimate way....
that He has been there all along....
that He will always be there.
No matter what else changes.
No matter what other means of support is removed.
No matter what direction the winds of change may blow.

He is the Solid Rock.
He is the foundation upon which every pillar rests.
He is the source of all strength.

And when our leaning post gives way,
He'll still be standing there...
behind it...
arms wide open....
to break our fall.
To hold us up.
To make us stand.

When every earthly pillar is removed,
the foundation will still stand...
He'll still be there.