Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hidden Treasures

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
Romans 11:33

God is so good.
His ways are so far above our ways.
Every now and then, He manifests and proves that fact in the most amazing of ways.

Over the past few years, we have been dealing with a problem.
It has escalated to the point of really getting on our nerves....
until it finally reached the very last nerve we had left...
a few weeks ago. :~)

Let me explain.

The land next door to us went up for sale...on the market...several years back
and was bought by a small, but quickly-growing African-American church group.
They built a church, and it has grown and prospered ever since.

At first, we weren't sure about it, because of the traffic it would create
on our country road.
But, it has never really been a problem in that way,
and we have pretty easily adjusted to any added noise or distraction it has caused.
In fact, it is nice knowing there are God-loving people who come to worship Him
every week...right next door to our house.

Not too long after they built the church, we began to notice a problem....
it was small, at first,
then got bigger, as time went on.
Rocks began to appear in our yard.
Rocks that suspiciously look just like the gravel rocks in the church yard next door.
Rocks that were impossible to miss when we were mowing the lawn.
Rocks that steadily and consistently dulled and ruined our lawnmower blades,
which, by the way, are not cheap to replace.

I have lost count of the blades we have had to spend over $40 each time to replace,
all because of those aggravating rocks.

We tried to bear with the situation,
not wanting any kind of confrontation or conflict with our neighbors.

Then one day, Zach was outside playing and thought he saw some of the children
who attend the church next door picking up rocks from the church parking lot
and throwing them into our yard....purposely and directly towards our dogs.

At the time, we had some little puppies.
Had one of those rocks made contact with one of them,
they would have been killed on impact.

I felt this warranted a phone call, so called the pastor's husband and told him about it.
I found him to be easily entreated and as kind and humble as he could be.
He apologized profusely, promising me he would address the problem
and discuss it with his wife, the pastor.

Things improved for a while.

Then a pattern began to emerge.
We would call them from time to time as the rock problem became unbearable,
the dear sister pastor would speak to her flock,
things would improve again...
then the problem would start up...again.

It has been like a vicious, unending, extremely annoying cycle.
Until Zachary met me at the back door recently.
He was as frustrated as he could be.

"Mama, we are going to have to call the police."

"Why, Zach?"

He went on to explain that he and Kevin had found a large number of rocks,
some of them very close to our house...
as if they were thrown there, on purpose, with the intention of making contact.

I had just mowed the lawn...a few days before,
so I knew these were absolutely fresh rocks.
This had just happened, without a doubt.

"We can't keep putting up with this, Mama."

"You're right, Zach.
But, I really hate to think of involving the police.
Let me call the pastor one more time, okay?"

Kevin came around the corner with a bag he had collected the rocks in.
He agreed that we needed to try to resolve this more time.

So, I made the call.

I asked them to come over to the house and look at the rocks.
They agreed and promised to be there in a few minutes.

When they arrived, Kevin asked them to come in and have a seat.

As I stood at the door to greet them, I melted.

It was something about the look in her eyes.....they were kind...and apologetic...and humble.

There was no animosity.
No confrontation.
Just a meek, Christlike spirit....
that somehow touched a chord deep inside...
and caused me to forgive...and forget about the rocks.

This woman has a reputation of warring for the souls of her congregation.
She cares...deeply...and puts her whole heart and soul into feeding and nurturing her flock.

"I'm so sorry this keeps happening" she said, as she climbed the steps to our front porch.

"It is not your fault", I assured her, as I ushered her and her husband inside.
That certain look in her eyes resonated deep.
I recognized her emotions....
from having felt them so many times through the years.
A host of memories rushed over me..
problems I have experienced first-hand in church leadership,
things for which I have been blamed, but over which I had absolutely no control,
times I have been humiliated and embarrassed by the behavior of lay members,
incidents that occurred that were completely out of my hands, but for which I absorbed total retribution.

How could I blame this precious woman...this sister in the Lord?
When, clearly, she was not at fault.
She cannot control the conduct of others...
no more than I can.

As we sat down, the awkwardness of our meeting quickly dissipated....
just evaporated...into thin air.

What followed was one of the most edifying visits we have experienced in a long time.
She poured out her heart.
I poured out mine.
Our husbands chimed in, here and there,
but I believe God knew that she and I needed that talk.

Our lives have had so many parallels.
We have been through so many of the same things.
We shared battle scars and swapped war stories.
I was amazed...and so was she.
I can't tell you how many times one of us would start to share something,
and the other would realize the similarities in the way God has led and dealt with us.
My mother died last year.
So did hers.
Both were extremely supportive of our ministries.
Both left gaping voids behind...impossible to fill.
Both of us have the blood of Jesus coursing through our veins.
We are sisters...because of Him.
There is no animosity...even because of the rocks.
No prejudice.
No racism.
It does not exist...between us.

Just two hearts....two kindred spirits....striving with all our might to go to the same Heaven...
doing our utmost to serve and please the same God....
fighting individual battles in the same war.

At one point, she said,
"Oh, I needed this so much!
Thank God for those rocks!"

We laughed and laughed.
Who would have guessed?
That a pile of rocks could bring down such a blessing?
The Spirit of God was there right in the midst of us.

We began to talk about all of the rocks and stones stories in the Bible....
how David brought Goliath down with one smooth stone, etc.
Our souls were filled by the time they rose to leave.

When we parted, we made plans to meet again.
We both need the encouragement...and the fellowship...
and the inspiration we find in each other.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17

Such true words!

Who would have thought that a pile of rocks thrown by the hands of mischievous children
would turn out to have been instrumental in arranging a Divine appointment like this?

Kevin and I made new friends...
all because of something that has been an extreme nuisance
and trial to us.

The other day, we went panning for gems.
We hadn't done that in quite a while,
and I had forgotten how much fun it is.

The guy handed us our bucket.
It was heavy.
We followed him to the panning area, 
and he got us all set up to begin our treasure hunt.

Looking down into the bucket, 
it didn't look like 
much more than just a bucket of uninteresting, ordinary sand.

Kevin and Zach dumped some of it out into our little screened-tray.

After they dumped it, you could begin to see that there was more in that bucket
than first met the eye.
There was more to the mixture than just sand.
There were other elements scattered here and there throughout.
And it soon became apparent that in order for us to separate the sand from the other particles,
we were going to have to put forth some work and effort.

Zach lowered the tray into the water trough in front of him,
allowing the water to flow over the sand-filled tray.
As the water washed over it, the sand began to slip through the holes in the screen
and be washed away.
Only the larger elements that couldn't fit through the little holes were left behind.

Zach began to pick up the left-behind particles in his hand to examine them
and give them a closer look.

It turned out that his efforts had been very worthwhile.

He discovered that buried down in the sand were the most beautiful stones,
and, after the sifting process, only the good stuff remained.
All different colors and shapes and compositions.

This was one of my favorites.

I love the turquoise/aqua color,
with the rusty-colored stripe running through it.

I think turquoise and any shade of brown goes so well together.
Also, turquoise and pink.
Just beautiful.

When we were finished, we took all of our treasures to the guy up front,
and he took the time to identify the various types of stones.
I have already forgotten their names...
I should have written them down or labeled them somehow.

What impressed me is that he knew every single one of them,
right off the bat.
Like he was familiar and closely acquainted with each, individual type.
He knew they were in there, hidden in the sand,
when he had handed us the bucket.
We had no visible proof that what he told us was true.
It required a measure of trust on our part to pay him twenty some dollars
 for what appeared to be just a bucket of everyday sand.

We took his word for it, believing there was something valuable,
and we were not disappointed in the end.

Sometimes, God hands us a heavy the form of a trial.
It is hard to carry.
We falter under the load.
We peer inside, seeing nothing valuable, or even worthwhile.
And though we know Romans 8:28 by heart,
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose",
we just can't see how any good can come 
from the things we are going through.
We wonder why we must carry our bucket....why we must bear up under it...why we must deal with it.
We question God's wisdom and our lot in life.
God sees beyond the plain, even ugly, particles of our bucket....
to what is hidden and buried....beneath the ugliness.
He tells us there is good in the bucket.
Valuable nuggets.
Hidden deep inside the trial.
We can't see all.
We have to take His word for it....and trust....
that He would never tell us something that is not true.

Our trials can appear to contain nothing beautiful...
just like the individual grains of a gem-miner's bucket.
But, in reality, there is good in every test God allows.
There is treasure mixed in every one of our buckets....
and in every one of our piles of rocks.
Even in the midst of the darkness...
that so often envelops our spirit.
There are beautiful nuggets....disguised and masked.
It will require us to dig.
And work.
And seek.
And get to the bottom of find the good.
But, God promises that good is absolutely, always there.

Sometimes, it is all about perspective...and how we approach things....
how we view the path in front of us.

Who knows?
If we keep an open mind and a humble spirit,
in our digging, we just may find something colorful or even beautiful....
like the treasure of a much-needed, sweet, new friend.

Monday, July 29, 2013

From Hearsay to First-Hand

"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace."
Psalm 37:37

When I was a little girl, I "marked" those I thought were spiritually-perfect.
I beheld those who lived upright lives and admired them...deeply.
They were role models,
people whose character I wanted to emulate through life.
I especially held deep admiration for certain men and women of the Bible,
but, there were also a select few,
those I knew on a personal basis,
who I deemed worthy of receiving such a "mark".
No one more so, than my sweet, gentle teacher, Sis. Rose.
I wrote about her here.

The word "perfect" in this verse means,
"complete, blameless, guiltless, and peaceful".

Interesting, huh?

It doesn't mean a person who is above making mistakes.
For as long as we live in this body of flesh, we will be human.
We will err.

It means, perfect.. in a spiritual sense.
It means one who lives holy before God,
whose sins are forgiven, who walks blameless in His sight,
who remains at peace with Him...and with others...
covered by His grace.

I listened to the holy ones tell of God's love...
of the peace that follows complete surrender to Him....
of the sweetness of His presence in the soul.
How He would come down and fill their hearts with such glory.
How He would commune with them...on a personal, individualized basis.
I longed for what they had....with all my heart.
I determined early on that this is the way I wanted to live life.

But, how to find it?
Hearing about it is one thing.
Living it...breathing quite another.

I struggled for so long.
I still do.
Will I ever completely reach the spiritual stature
of my childhood spiritual super-heroes?

Their kind spirit.
Their peace-filled demeanor.
Their unshakable faith.
Their resolute determination to follow God to the end of their days...
regardless of personal cost.
Their utter selflessness.
The love of God that flows so sweetly and automatically from them
and touches every, single thing they do in this life.

Today, someone called who needed my help,
and because of circumstances, Kevin and Zach were unable to go along.
It was a long drive, and being alone, it was so quiet in the car.
I was tempted to turn on some bluegrass to harmonize with and to provide some company.

But, just as my hand reached toward the knob,
my heart reached toward Heaven.

Something about being alone in that car tugged on the strings of my heart.
 The value of the opportunity dawned upon my spirit like an illuminating light.
The door was wide the throne of grace,
and this alone time could and would be best spent...
alone with God.
It was like a bonus round...
to add to the time I had already spent with Him earlier in the day.

My heart reached out to Him...from the depths of my being.
I longed for Him....
more than I longed to hear my favorite music....
more than I longed to sing along....
more than I longed to quietly think....
more than anything else in the world.

I told Him so, 
as I quoted words...from His Word...
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
  so panteth my soul after thee, O God."
Psalm 42:1

I meant the words...every bit as much as David did, when they sprang from his inspired heart, so long ago.

Another Scripture came to mind...
"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you",
words from Jesus' brother, James...(James 4:8).

What glory!
As soon as I began to draw near to God and pour out my heart to Him, He fulfilled His part.
Soon, it felt as if Jesus was sitting in the empty front seat beside me....literally.
I felt like I could almost reach over and touch sweet was His presence.

"Lord, please talk to me.
Please, Lord, I want to know what is in Your heart.
I need to hear Your voice."

What followed was enough to fill several blog posts....
enough to light the fires of a few sermons....
enough to fuel at least a few devotionals!
If I could adequately capture His words and record them here,
your heart, too, would be filled to overflowing.
Because His words are profound...every one of them.
They are life to the hungriest spirit.
They are quickening to the deadest soul.

I wish I could express His words...more proficiently.
I fall so short of being able to convey their depths.

Who could ever say there is no God?
Only one who has never experienced His reality!
Only one who has never heard Him speak!
For one who has tasted of the sweetness of His presence...
on the level of which I partook today,
could never doubt again.

"O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
Psalm 34:8

I was on a back, country absolute favorite kind.

There were hills...and valleys....and curves.
Everything was green...and blue....and fluffy, white clouds floated overhead.
I praised Him for the gift of being able to see and take it all in.
Crepe myrtles bloomed often along the way in the front yards
of manicured and well-kept houses.
The freshly-paved road on which I traveled was smooth, and driving was easy.
There wasn't an ounce of traffic.
No interference.
No distractions.
Just me....and Him.

I came to a stop sign and reached over into my purse to dig for paper and a pen.
As I began to move along, I wrote His words....sloppily....
since I didn't want to take my eyes off the road.
I was afraid of not remembering what He was telling me.
It was way too valuable to forget...or let go of.

I can barely read what I wrote now, but it is decipherable...
if you look close enough.
And what I can read is enough to jog sweet memories of our conversation.

I listened with every fiber of my being as His still, small voice whispered to my heart.
I would never have heard any of it....had I been listening to music full-blast.
I would have missed it.
It would have been a tragedy.

The communion was precious....priceless to me.
His approval fell upon my soul in waves of glory.
There was not one thing standing between my heart and His holiness.

My mind went back to years ago when I used to crave the spiritual experience
of the ones I had "marked" as being perfect role models.
It occurred to me that somewhere in between then and now,
I have gone from hearing them say how wonderful it is
to first-hand experience of knowing what it means.

It has been a beautiful transition.
I'd rather be actually seeing things from this angle
than trying to imagine the experience and view from where they stood.
I'd rather be hearing His voice than hearing them talk about how sweet it is.
This is so much more convincing.
This is me.

This is what it means.
This is how they felt.
When I would admire them and wish for what they had....
during those childhood moments,
as I watched my heroes.

Grace is something we grow into.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
 2 Peter 3:18

It doesn't happen overnight.
It takes time.
And experience.
And, oftentimes, fire.
To reach spiritual maturity.

I have so far to go.
I see so many discrepancies that need improvement.
I fall so short of His glory...time after time after time.
But, I am gaining ground.
And that is what gives me hope.
It keeps me searching...diligently.
Keeps me going back to Him again and again.
To fill my soul.
To quench my spiritual thirst.
To feed my spiritual hunger.

When I admired Sis. Rose and others,
I suppose it never occurred to me to wonder how
they had attained the spiritual level they had reached.
They seemed to have it all together.
They made it look so easy.

But, what had they suffered to get there?
How could I have imagined the kind of fire they had walked through,
the many ways the sincerity of their faith been tested,
the immeasurable losses they had incurred along the way,
and the depths of trial they had endured and outlasted?

I was young...full of hope for the future....
blissfully ignorant and naive.
I suppose I never will know what they went through to attain the relationship with God
they enjoyed....and I longed for.
I can only testify of what God has done for me...on a personal level.
I can only vouch that His promises have come to my life.
Not because I have heard them preached about.
Not because I have witnessed their fruition in the lives of others.
But, because I have lived long enough to see God fulfill them...for me.

It is good to be sitting here.
Years of living behind me.
No longer a wishful by-stander hearing others tell of the wonders of a life spent in His service,
but now, an active participant...a partaker of it all.

How about you, my friend?
What is your testimony?
Has God proven Himself real to you?

Where are you on life's journey?
Is it all about hearsay?
Or are you experiencing the God of Heaven firsthand?

You can, you know.
God is no respecter of persons.
He doesn't show partiality.
It matters not where you've been,
how long you've been there,
what road took you there,
or who is there with you.

Maybe you do not feel Him.... at all.
Wherever you are, I want to remind you that
you are special to God.
He loves you....with an unconditional, undying love.
He wants a relationship with you.
He wants to share life with you.
To talk with you daily.
To reach a level of intimacy and communion...with you....uniquely.

He wants to take you to a whole new spiritual level.
Maybe you've long ago progressed from hearsay to firsthand.
Perhaps you've walked in relationship with Jesus for years.

Even so, there are higher heights and deeper depths than any of us have ever experienced.
We will never exhaust the levels God has prepared for us.
His plans far exceed anything we can ask or think.
There will never be a point that we are so close to Him that we are unable to move any closer....
not until we reach Heaven, and we find ourselves in His very presence.

What a day that will be!
Only when we see Him face-to-face, will there be no possible way of drawing closer to Him.
While we are in this life, 
there will always be room to grow.

Maybe this finds you in a far, distant place...separated from God.
Possibly, you can remember a day when you enjoyed the fellowship of His presence...
a lot more than you experience it now.

Let me tell you, I wasn't always here either.
I remember days void of the light of His presence.
Days spent drifting....listlessly....farther and farther from the shore.

I love taking pictures.
We've taken thousands of them through our time of courtship
and our 25 years of marriage.
Several of them are scattered throughout our home,
on the walls,
on shelves and other spots.

I keep one particular picture on the dresser in our room....
for a very specific purpose.

It is there to remind me...every time I look at it.

If you ever visit our home, and I take you on a tour,
and we end up standing before this picture,
you won't be able to notice anything unusual.
You will see Kevin...and me...side by side...smiling, like always.
Looking at my wide smile, you would never guess.
But, I remember.
Only I knew.
The people around us...the people we were with....never suspected a thing.
But, deep inside, a tug-of-war was raging.
I spent that night in a lot of inward turmoil.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
Every time I look at the picture, I am transported back....
feeling the same feelings,
cringing under the same condemnation....
even though I am not there now.

We were surrounded by an atmosphere unfamiliar,
loud, worldly, charged with a lot of unGodly activity.
My heart was heavy.
I felt 1,000 miles from God.
Horror gripped my soul....literally.

And even though we didn't actually participate in the things that were happening around us,
I felt contaminated....saturated by the evil...
as we walked that Hollywood, FL beach.
I should not have been there.
I knew better.
Knew what would happen.
Knew God was not pleased.

It was a very low spiritual point for me.
By far, it isn't the only time I have drifted,
but I keep that picture where I can see if often.
I need to be reminded...
that it is up to me to stay close to God.
To keep my experience with Him first-hand....not merely hearsay.
And though I love every minute I am by Kevin's side,
that is one night I would not want to re-live.

I was in a dark place.
There was severe static between God and me.
I don't ever want to go back to a place of hearsay again.

I know what I need to do to stay here....close to Him....
under the shadow of the Almighty...
in the secret place.

Believe me, it is worth everything He requires...
 to stay right here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anguish That Brings Repentance

"Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me:
yet Thy commandments are my delights."
Psalm 119:143

Please know that I write today's post, as well as all other posts,
from a heart full of love...
and a heart-felt burden...for the Kingdom of God and everything and everyone it pertains to.
I pray I do not sound harsh,
for being harsh is never my intention.
I promise.
I have struggled with this post for days....literally.
Not wanting to hit the "publish" button.
Writing and publishing other posts instead.
Drawing back from saying what God has put upon my heart.
I do not want to hurt anyone.
But, will I become your enemy because I tell you the truth? (Galatians 4:16)
I pray not.
I wish you could see into my heart and feel the weight...
of what God has placed there.
If you could, you would know that I would rather write a "feel-good" post any day,
but in order to remain true to the Spirit of God's leading,
I cannot....
not this time.
(Ezekiel 33:1-9)
Not today.
Because if I don't deliver this burden on my heart,
I feel I will burst.

It's true that you never know what subject matter you will find here,
but the two things I promise are this....
what you read here will be real...straight from my heart,
and it will be what God has put there.  :~)

So, in order to maintain peace with God, I will go on.
Please hear me out, if you will, 
and please don't hate the messenger! :~)

I'm still thinking of the days of adversity post from the other day,
and how King Solomon instructed us to "consider" when faced with those kinds of days.
I can't seem to get away from the thought.

I don't ever remember there being a time of such adversity-filled days in our nation and world
as the days you and I are witnessing and living through right now.

You can't absorb the news without realizing days have never been filled with so much adversity.
An entire post could be written about all of the calamities,
disasters, and hate-filled behavior that fills up the evening news.
If there were ever a time in which you and I should "consider", 
it is now.
It is easy to point fingers when things go wrong.
To place the blame somewhere....anywhere else, other than upon ourselves.

I believe if we will take our eyes off what is happening in the world around us...
if we stop faulting everyone else....
if we turn our eyes inward...upon ourselves within the inside ranks of those professing Christianity,
we will realize that, in many ways, we are, in a large way, to blame.

God is trying to get our attention.
The purpose for days of adversity is to cause us to stop....and consider.

My inward soul is filled with a deep and motivating anguish,when I realize that
much of the cause of the conditions of our nation
originates directly from the conditions of the church.
My personal, heart-felt anguish causes me to fall before God and repent...
to beg His forgiveness for my personal role in all of this.

True anguish brings about repentance...
a complete turnaround from our former behavior.

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of:
but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
2 Corinthians 7:10

As Christians, I don't think we get the whole repentance thing.
We have a tendency to set ourselves above ever needing to repent....
or even "consider" the thought of it.
We take a "holier-than-thou" air and mindset,
and too often, we find ourselves looking down our noses
upon those we feel are spiritually-inferior to us.

We are a proud people.
So full of self.
So prone to putting on robes of self-righteousness.

It must be repulsive in the eyes...and nostrils of our loving God.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..."
Isaiah 64:6

As Christians, it has never been more important that we band together...
and that we stop pulling apart.

I find it beyond sad that our pride causes us to group up in little huddles,
and erect sky-reaching walls all around our little groups,
and snuggle up to those who are part of our "elite",
yet we snub and belittle and ex-communicate those who are without our man-built walls.

Man-built walls mean nothing to God.
No matter how fortified, how strong, or how high we build them.
He is higher than the loftiest of walls, and He looks low,
and He sees beyond and through the walls we build....
and He isn't pleased with them.

Because Jesus Christ is the Head of God's church.
Not a person, no matter how highly-exalted he...or
Not a denomination, regardless of membership or attendance numbers.
Not a "group", no matter how much they claim to know all of the truth.

Humans are fallible.
We show ugly attitudes.
We fail...blunder...falter....flounder...
every single one of us.

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; 
there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Romans 3:10-12

So, for God to have placed a human in charge, 
would have been extremely unwise.
God is all wisdom.
He makes no mistakes.
The Only One worthy...or capable...of being the Chief over God's church
is His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

He was...still is...and always will be, the Head.

That will never change.

And since Jesus Christ is the Head and Cornerstone of the building,
He alone is to be worshiped.
Not a legalistic set of man-made rules that have no Scriptural foundation.
Not a sect built on a set of man-made traditions that cannot be Biblically-justified...
or even explained.

God alone deserves our worship, adoration, and dedication.
And, don't we all claim to be worshiping....Him?

So, why can't we all get along?
Why can't we all love one He loves?
Why do we separate ourselves and live apart....
divided by our man-made, sky-scraper-high walls?

Some of us sing a song that contains the words,
"We reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one",
but, in reality, we do not tell the truth....
as we sing these words.

Let's face it.
A lie is, in fact, a lie.

Because, in reality, we do not reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one....
not if their hands happen to be located outside the perimeters of our man-erected walls.

God's church on this earth is comprised of every heart that has been 
cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
It matters not if you...or I approve.
No one died and left you...or me in charge.

You are not the judge.
Neither am I.

So, to hold each other at arm's length and to say,
"Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou"
creating what the New Living Translation of Isaiah 65:5 calls
"a stench in God's nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away"
is just plain wrong.
It is a proud look...
the first sin mentioned in the list of the seven things God hates.
(Proverbs 6:16-19)
It is uglier in God's sight than the sins of others 
that we are so quick to discover, point out, and judge.

This kind of mindset divides us.
It sends out to our desperate-for-hope world a message of discord and unrest.
It trickles outward to every civilized part of our society....
leaving those who are so desperate, with no all.

If we, as blood-washed Christians cannot get along,
if we refuse to allow the love of Jesus to flow through us and cover our differences,
how do we ever hope or expect our nation...our world...
 to be in one accord?

The buck stops here, my friend.
We are to blame.
In a lot of ways.

Pride builds walls.

I once did a study on a particular "group" or "denomination" of one name
that narrow-mindedly claims to hold exclusivity to being the entire earthly Body of Christ.
Within that name, I found such an onslaught of individual names,
groups, sects, and divisions,
that I left off my studying completely mind-boggled....and frustrated....and sad.

I found it so absurd...
that each one claims they are the "right" way...
the "only" way,
and if you aren't a part of "them", you are without God,
and without hope.

We cling so tightly to the theory that it is our way or the highway,
and in the process, we turn people completely off and away from even wanting to seek Jesus.
The reality is that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Is this lack of unity what Jesus came to create?
Wasn't Jesus a bridge-builder?

Didn't He turn some rugged, jagged, splintery wood and nails
into the biggest bridge ever...between God and man?
Didn't He pray that we all might be unity?
(Read John 17.)

But, how can we be one, when we refuse to fellowship those who wear a different label, 
even though their heart has been washed as clean as our own
and they teach and practice His Biblical truth?

Isn't that doing the opposite of what Jesus did?
Can we really call ourselves "Christians" and act the way we do?

It must break His loving heart, to see the way we exhibit such hate.

I never knew how severely crushing the blow really was...
until I found myself the victim of its aim....
on the outer side of man-built walls...
yet, closer to Jesus than I have ever been before in my life.

I didn't stay a victim long.
God turned victim into victor...
and filled my heart with a vehement desire 
to be a wall-wrecker....
a bridge-builder....
To Jesus loves.
To leave the judging to the Judge.

Because isn't that the only way you and I will make Heaven?

By way of the cross?
By forgiving those who have wronged us...
and pressing forward in His name,
determined to be the opposite of the "holier-than-thou"?

Jesus was holier than any of us.
He was holiness personified....epitomized.

Yet, He never made anyone feel inferior...
though He had every right.

I look at the conditions of our nation....
our world....
the church.
Anguish, deep in my spirit, produces burning, flowing tears.
I cry out to God for forgiveness...for mercy....for a miracle...
among His earthly body.

The dividing walls must come down, my friend.
Love must replace hate.
Sweet humility must replace ugly, stand-offish, superior pride.
Acceptance must replace ex-communication.
Kindness must take the place of scorn.
Repentance must take place.
It begins your heart...and mine.

It is time to stop the spiritual....and physical prejudice.

We are all trying to make it to the same Heaven.
We share at least that one common goal, right?
Can't we start from there?
And work forward?

Don't you think it is time to repent?
To fall on our knees before God and beg His forgiveness?
To come clean with God?
To stop making excuses...for our hate-filled, bitter, spiteful behavior?
To do a complete turn around?
To pick up the hammer we so skillfully use with which to knock our brother and sister in the head,
and start using it to bust down the dividing walls instead?

It would be music to God's ears....
to hear the rumble...
of falling walls.

It would bring great joy to His heart of love...
and a wide-spread smile to His lips....
to know that His people have turned around....
that beautiful, peace-making bridges are beginning to be built.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says,
"If My people, which are called by My name,
shall humble themselves,
and pray,
 and seek My face,
and turn from their wicked ways;
 then will I hear from heaven,
 and will forgive their sin,
and will heal their land."

Short version explanation:
If we fix the problems in ourselves,
God will heal our land.
See the correlation?
It is all connected.

I once heard someone say,
"As goes the nation, so goes the church."

I beg to differ.

I say,
"As goes the church, so the nation will follow."

We are the city set on a hill....that cannot be hid.
We are like an open book to the world around us.
Don't you think they know who and what we really are?
That they clearly see every shred of hypocrisy?
It isn't hidden.
None of it.
We are the light of the world.
Unity and oneness produces bright, transforming light.
Discord and division leads us into the blackest of darkness.
If we do not walk as one, with Christ, our Captain,
what should be enlightenment turns to disillusionment.

So, the world around us suffers.
The light dims and goes out.
Souls are left to struggle, with no hope.
They look to the one place they should be able to find answers,
and what they find here, in us, is more confusion.
Because they know...deep in their hearts...that what they seek
should be the church.

People are down-right sickened by what they are seeing,
and, sadly, they are turning away...
to alternate, untrue belief systems,
because they are not finding truth...and love in us.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a direct message from God....
to HIS people.
To CHRISTians.
To you.
To me.
It is not addressed to unbelievers.

We, regardless of how highly we profess, need to repent.

It all starts with the word,

Why is that so hard to do?
Are we afraid of what others will think of us?
Does it really matter?
Do you really care?
When it all boils down?
Say, you knew you were to die tomorrow,
with which would you be most concerned?
The applause of people, or the acceptance of God?

We're on the same team, right?
If we can't tear down the walls of pride that separate you and me,
how can we hope to break through the walls surrounding the hearts of those on the outside?

Do we really think they want any part of what we have?
When all they see and hear is us slandering one another,
putting one another down,
refusing to worship with one another,
standing with our arms crossed and our hearts closed....
to one another?

I have been pleading with God for a revival.
A spiritual awakening.
Across America.
That would be so far-reaching and so wide-spread,
it would touch every heart and soul on American soil.
That it would spread...beyond "from sea to shining sea",
to across the entire world.
To every nation on God's green earth.

Don't you long to see God at the forefront?
Of our society?
Of our politics?
Of our individual lives?

Does it trouble you that there is such hate-filled disdain....
for God,
for Christianity....
for each other inside Christian ranks?

Are you concerned?
Does it burden your heart?
Do you agonize in prayer over it?
Are you to the point of anguish...
that you are willing to do something about it?

Isn't it time....for a change?

It all starts with just one spark.
In one humble, repentant heart.
To light a world-wide flame.

Time is running out...literally.
Souls are dying and going to Hell,
while you and I stand apart and divided,
glaring at each other,
sizing each other up,
unwisely measuring ourselves by ourselves, (2 Corinthians 10:12)
shaking our self-righteous heads at one another,
spreading slander about each other,
finding fault,
and criticizing.

"But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
Galatians 5:15

Don't you think it is enough, already?

Where is the love?
The humbleness of mind and heart and action?

My cry is for revival.
The biggest spiritual awakening this world has ever seen.
It isn't going to come while Christians are too proud to repent.
It isn't going to happen until we stop to "consider" these days of adversity....
until our souls are bathed in anguish...
to the point of confessing our sins to Almighty God.
I am convinced of it.

As long as you and I refuse to repent,
revival will not come.

Souls will be lost.
Our nation and world will continue to drift....
farther and farther...from God and all He is.

It all begins with the church....
the visible body of Christ.....

Our pride is the real root of the problem.
It is time to lay it aside...for the sake of a greater cause.

It is time for you and I to repent...
and start loving one another,
as Jesus loved.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Letting Sleeping Memories Lie

"All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."
Ecclesiastes 3:20

God has enabled me to repress a lot of memories.
I jokingly tell Kevin that if they ever one day all come to the surface at the same time,
I will more than likely explode.  :~)

Videos are great things.
They capture the moment and store it someplace safe.

Going back to watch them opens the door to the past....
it is like being there again....
living the moment.

Sometimes that is a good thing.
Other times....well, maybe not.

I have a precious gift, given to me by Uncle John and Aunt Linda for my birthday a few years ago.
I have stored it safely away, 
glanced at its cover from time to time,
appreciated it from the depths of my heart,
but been completely terrified to actually watch it.

It is a video.
Taken throughout various visits....during happy times....
that we have spent together.

Last night, Kevin mentioned the video to Zach.

"Would you like to watch it, Zach?
Papaw Willard is on there playing his banjo...
and Nana...and Uncle John and everyone.
You could see how much you are like your Papaw Willard.
Do you want to watch it?"

Dad's old, worn, well-used, five-string banjo I cherish so much.
Sure wish I could play it and make it ring like he could.

Zach has never actually seen or met his Papaw,
because Dad died when I was 11 1/2 weeks along in my pregnancy.
He's seen Dad's banjo stored still and quiet in the closet,
seen me pick it up from time to time,
wishing I had the ability to play it,
then set it down again, frustrated because I just can't get it.

Zach was hesitant to watch the video, at first....because of me.

He knows me all too well.

Knows what an utter mess I can be,
and how I fall to pieces when I think of Mom and Dad and the past.
How the wounds are still gaping mile-wide-open, at times,
and how much it hurts to see me cry.

I've never been much of an actress.
What you see is what you get.
And even though I do my utmost to shield Zach from my emotions,
they get the best of my intentions more times than they don't.

So, I am what I am.
It is what it is.
I don't sweat it too much...because I have learned
that there are very few things I can change.

"Mama, what do you think?
Can you stand to watch it?"

I waited before answering.
Part of me wanted to see it very much.

Uncle John is very ill.
I have cried so hard wondering what his outcome will be.
I am not ready to lose him.
He is close to my heart.
There are only three of Mom's siblings left...
and I am very close to each one of them.
The thoughts of losing someone close to me again....
is utterly terrifying to me.

Because I know what grief is.
I have walked this path.
I don't want to hurt.
It feels too soon.

His condition is very serious.
But, our God is an awesome God.
He is bigger than any disease.
It really doesn't matter what name it has attached to it.
God's power trumps the strength of all others.
Only He knows the outcome.

"Yeah, I think I want to watch it."

"Are you sure?"
Both Kevin and Zach had the same reaction.
I call them my Aaron and Hur...
so precious to my heart and
so faithful to hold up my hands in life's battles.

"Yes.  If I can't take it, I'll leave the room
and let the two of you finish it."

In hindsight, I wonder if it was a huge mistake.
I wonder if I should have been content to let sleeping memories lie.

Because the feelings, emotions, and memories that welled up in me
had been long-buried and were safe....hidden deep.
Until I started watching that video, that is.
As soon as we hit the play button, there we were...all of us.
It was like I was sitting right person.
The outburst began...
like a dam breaking and the waters of the Pacific rushing forth....
over the broken-down wall.

The video started with one of our family get-togethers
in Uncle John and Aunt Linda's basement.
Singing together,
Dad on his banjo,
Uncle John on his electric guitar,
Uncle Paul on his mandolin,
Jack, Kevin, and me on acoustic guitars,
my cousin, Larry, who later played his bass,
Aunt Dorothy, Mom, Jack Worstel,
my brother, David, sister-in-law, Dorothy, niece, Vicki, Aunt Linda....

We were together.

On one scene of Dad, Uncle Paul, and Jack talking,.
I sat there thinking how all three of them are gone now....
just gone....
out into eternity...
out of our lives.
But never our hearts.

Uncle Paul was so funny.
In the midst of flowing tears, he made me laugh.
He always did.
No matter what was going on or how serious the occasion,
Uncle Paul could make me laugh.
So can Uncle Orville.
And Uncle Donnie.
And so could Dad.
They are some of the funniest men I've ever known.
Quick-witted as they can...or could be.

At one point, on the video,
I was in the middle of singing a very serious song....
one I wrote years ago, 
about a little girl they called "Rag Doll"
because she couldn't come out to play...she had no shoes, 
her clothes were shabby, and the other children made fun of her.
The air was the basement....
as everyone listened to the sadness of the words,
until Uncle Paul came down the stairs, 
grinning from ear-to-ear, dancing around, acting plumb silly.
I'm so glad Aunt Linda got it on video.
He reached the bottom of the stairs
and went over and tapped Mom's shoulder, 
scaring her half out of her wits...
right in the midst of the serious mood of the song.  

She didn't expect it at all.
It was downright hilarious.
So were other moments....on there.

The comic relief was welcome,
as I sat there watching, remembering, re-living, and bawling like a baby.

Laughter through tears is one of the strongest....and strangest emotions.

The scene changed to a visit Uncle John, Aunt Linda,
Uncle Orville, and Aunt Joyce paid Mom and Dad when we all lived in Florida.

Dad was so funny on there....saying the silliest things....
making us laugh.
I forgot how funny he really was.
It has been over 13 years....
since he made me laugh.

Wow, I miss him.
Miss them.
We were on there singing, "In Gethsemane Alone" together.
That was one of our favorites.
If I had a dollar for every time Mom, Dad, and I sang that song,
we would be rich.
I'd rather have the memories....rather have lived the moments....
than to have the money....

After it was over, I was downright depressed.
I mean, in a way, I am glad I saw it...
glad I relived it....
felt like I was right those precious memories.
In another way, I regret seeing it at all.

Because Mom, Dad, Uncle Paul, Aunt Dorothy, and Jack are all gone.
Seeing them was like an illusion.
I can't go call Mom.
Can't go out to eat with Dad.
Can't email Uncle Paul & Aunt Dorothy.
They wouldn't be there, if I went to Ohio to visit.
Jack wouldn't be there if we all got together for one of our hootenannies.

The other day, my cousin and precious friend, Julie, 
asked me a question.
"Do you ever think of moving back to Ohio, Cheryl?
You have so much family here."

I sat there and pondered her question,
then told her no....
that I didn't think we would probably ever do that.
Who knows the future, but I don't see it being in God's plans for us.
And I think it would hurt too be there...without so many from my past.
I do still have some family there.
But not near as much as I used to....
back when that video was made.

Many others have died...or moved away...
and things would never be the same.
It can't be be something it once was.
Because the people are what make it special.
And so many of the people...are gone.

Photo of Mom's beautiful funeral flowers taken by Angela Gellenbeck

Last year, when we went to Ohio for Mom's funeral and burial,
I thought I would fall completely apart.
So many places....we used to go when I was growing up.
So many scenes....kept flashing before my eyes.
The flooding of memories was almost smothering.
There were moments, surrounded by the people around me,
that I felt like I was literally going to explode...pass out...or something worse.
There was this tidal wave...rushing over me....flooding my spirit,
and I couldn't give in to it.
I had to keep fighting stay strong.

I couldn't fall I so needed to do.

I felt like screaming...and someplace alone, 
where I could just float....
on the dashing waves....
and let my emotions do what they needed to do.
Just let them follow their natural course....without restraint.

It was so hard being in the atmosphere of my childhood....
without Mom and Dad.
Knowing they are both gone...forever.
Never to make another memory...with me.
Never to sing another song....together.
Never to be there...for one another.

And now I face the uncertain future,
without their unconditional support and guiding love.

It would mean so much to me if each person reading this 
would take one moment to stop and pray for my Uncle John.

His future is uncertain....but, really isn't that the way with all of us?
None of us knows what will happen tomorrow
or what may be hiding beneath the surface...
inside any one of us.

Memories are tricky things.
After the video, 
I picked up the phone and called Aunt Joyce.

"You've got to see this", I told her through tears.

Thank God in Heaven, I can still call her.
I am so thankful she is in my life, and we are so close.
It is such a comfort to be able to be with her and Uncle Orville.
She has been through so much.
I didn't know if I would lose her.
I am beyond grateful God left her with us.
Could I have honestly endured a different outcome?
For her?

How blessed I am that Uncle Orville can still make me laugh!

Aunt Joyce said,
"We can't change the past, Cheryl.  We have to look to the future."

She's right.
Dwelling on it for too long is overwhelming.
It just isn't healthy.
Because what was will never be again.
But, there is life in front of this moment.
There are people who love us, who care, who would do anything in the world
to see us smile.

That is what we have to focus on.
I keep telling myself that.
Sometimes it sinks in...other times, not so much.

Have you ever wondered what exactly the Apostle Paul was referring to
when he wrote Philippians 4:13,14?
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

We can all speculate and interpret his words.
None of us really know everything he wanted to forget.
I don't believe he was instructing us to forget the good things in our past,
to throw away the sweet recollections,
or toss aside the precious memories.

But, I believe Paul realized that as long as we hold on too tightly to the past,
we cannot completely live in this moment,
nor are we able to reach for the future...
towards the plans God has in store for us.

As long as we stay stuck in what has been and what might have been,
we will never lay hold on or apprehend the spiritual ground God has willed to us....
up ahead.

It is okay to remember the good times,
to recollect upon the good memories.
and to cherish moments of past happiness.

But, to linger there too long,
to dwell on the pain of loss,
to rue the changes that have taken place,
is really unwise.....and unhealthy.

How could Paul have ever been what God was calling him to be,
if he had continually thought upon his own past?

He had stood by as Stephen was stoned to death,
had imprisoned Christians and ordered them killed,
all in the name of doing God's service.
God had forgiven him....and forgotten it all.
But, Paul had to forgive himself....and forget it ever happened.
He had to let it go.
Had to make a conscious move forward.
Had to lay to rest the indelible vision bored into his mind of the pain and terror on Stephen's face.
Had to consciously forget the scenes of fathers he had pulled from their families,
so he could bind and imprison them for their Christian faith.
Had to bury memories of past sins, indiscretions, and failures.
Otherwise, they would pull him down to the point of impeding his spiritual progress....
and the future God had designed for his life.

There is not one thing any of us can do to change anything that has happened.
We cannot undo anything we've done.
We cannot go back and pluck up seeds we have sown.
We will never be able to bring back loved ones we have lost
or return to any previous point of life.

It is best to press forward.
To live the life that is in front of
Sometimes that means letting sleeping memories lie...undisturbed.
To remember the good times....from time to time,
as we are able to cope with the emotions they conjure,
but, to forget the bad.
Thinking of our past sins,
wrong choices we've made,
hurts we have inflicted on others,
times we've distanced ourselves from God....
really does nothing other than to bring us down.

When God forgives, He forgets.
He casts our sins as far as the east is from the west....
never to bring them up against us again.
God never throws our past up to us.
Even when we make the same mistakes....all over again.
When we come to Him and repent He absolutely forgives....and forgets every past offense.
Isn't that wonderful?
Shouldn't we always do the our relationships...with each other?

I love the quote,
"Yesterday's history.
Tomorrow's a mystery.
Today is a gift...
that's why it is called the present."

God wants us to live in the present.
Because it is all we have.
We are not promised another day.
We can't go back and relive days gone by.
We can't fix regrets....of any kind.

It is now, my friend.
Just now.
To live...and breathe...and cherish.
To do things differently.
To tell our loved ones how much they mean to us.
To be kind and lift the load of another.
To do the things for others we wish we had done for those who have passed on.

So, how about it?
Anyone you need to call?
Any apologies you need to make?
Any regrets you can prevent?

While it is now?
Because now will not last.
It will soon be past.
Then you won't be able to change anything about all.

Jesus knew His time on earth was short.
He made the most of every, single moment.
He said,
"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day:
the night cometh, when no man can work."
John 9:4

Night is coming to all of us.
One day, we all will pass off the scene....
and all that will be left of us are memories...
that will live on in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind.

What kinds of memories will we leave?
I guess, that all depends on what we decide to do now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fulfilling the Law of Christ

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2

Seems like there has been a lot of sad news lately.

Uncle John had surgery today to remove cancer from his body.
While we praise God for bringing him through and for not allowing there to be any surgical complications,
it breaks our hearts to hear of the doctor's post-surgery prognosis.

We know God is in control, and He can do all things.
He is not affected by the name attached to a disease, 
nor is He hindered by the stage or severity.
I am asking for continued fervent prayers for his healing,
and for peace for him and his family during these difficult days.

Around the time I received news concerning Uncle John,
I got an email concerning little six year old Keke Fuller, for whom we have been praying.
If you would like to read her caring bridge page to better understand her situation,
 please click here.

The Lord called little Keke home to Heaven this morning, 
and she now rests in the loving arms of Jesus Christ.
She leaves behind her loving parents, Sean and Jillian,
and only Jesus could ever begin to understand the pain in their hearts at this time.
Please pray for them and for all other family members,
loved ones, and friends who are affected by the sad void Keke leaves behind.

Earlier this week, we received news that Mark Brodsky,
a fellow homeschooling father, member of our homeschool support group,
faithful email subscriber and loyal supporter of Homespun Devotions,
was also called home to be with the Lord,
after a very long battle with illness.
You can visit Mark's caring bridge page by clicking here.
There are lots of pictures, documenting his long, painful journey.
He leaves behind a sweetly-devoted wife, Linda, 
who put her whole heart and soul into caring for him, 
doing her utmost to improve his health, 
and who relentlessly prayed and consistently asked for prayer for his healing.
After many struggles, sorrows, and heartaches,
a few years ago, God blessed Mark and Linda with a little daughter, named Joy-Hannah.
You can order Linda's book called, "Fruit of the Womb ~ Our Journey to Joy in the Morning", here.
They also offer many other products on their website,
and your patronage during this time, would be most appreciated
as Mark has been unable to work for quite some time.

Linda is now a widow.
Little Joy-Hannah is now fatherless.
They, along with Mark and Linda's older children,
 surely and most definitely need your sincere prayers, on their behalf.

If the Lord should lead you to bless this dear family financially at this time,
you may do so discreetly and anonymously at:
Brodsky Donations.

Last night, I received word that Donald Sharp, Mom's, Dad's, & my former pastor in Dayton, Ohio, 
passed away.
I remember him fondly.
He and Dad used to have the best time playing ping-pong in our basement,
laughing, acting silly, doing funny things.
He was a solid minister, good pastor, & very devoted to his flock.
Zachary most remembers him from his visits to our home here,
his love for children,
and how he loved to play his harmonica.
Please pray for his family during this sad time of bereavement.

Pat Beal, is very ill and in need of much prayer.
She is scheduled for surgery on August 1st.

Betsy Stevenson's cancerous lung tumors are beginning to grow again.
She has two small children who need their Mama to be there...
and to be healthy.

Sarah Sanders just underwent the amputation of one leg,
and she will soon need to go through the same process to remove her other leg.
Her future is uncertain.

Mary Beth Campbell's mother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer,
and the prognosis is not good.

An expectant mother just lost her baby during her 4th month of pregnancy.

A young mother with a six month old baby was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Vaida Waid was recently diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her colon
and will soon need to undergo an operation to remove it.

Robert Brooks has lung cancer and will soon begin treatment.

Both of my in-laws continue to desperately need prayer...
for health issues,
for wisdom in making decisions,
for peace.

I could go on and on....there are so many others....
they come to my mind like a flowing stream as I am praying.
I feel like I could pray continually around the clock and still
not cover all of the needs and burdens.

Are you familiar with the prayer requests page on Homespun Devotions?
I would love to invite you to keep up with them by clicking here.
I try to update them as I receive new ones and updates to old ones.

We live in troubled times.
It is important that we be there for one another...
to lift one another up on wings of prayer.
During all of the sadness...
through all of the pain....
in the midst of the heartbreak.
We must mourn those who have gone on,
and pray hard for those who are still here....
fighting disease,
facing divorce,
considering separation,
battling wars,
dealing with depression,
and experiencing life's adversities....on countless levels.

Paul instructed us to bear one another's burdens,
because doing that fulfills the law of Christ.

Jesus is the ultimate Burden-bearer.
He cares...deeply...about every, single thing you and I face in this life.
As His children,
you and I are to enter into a fellowship of His sufferings.
To care, like He cares.
To love, as He loves.
To be His hands and feet, in a dark, oppressed world.

I don't know if it seems this way to anyone else,
but, to me, things have become way too stand-offish in our world.
I wonder if part of it is because we are so heavy-laden with our own problems,
we have no strength with which to bear the burdens of another?
And I sometimes wonder if we just don't want to get involved?

It is easier to remain aloof.
To not allow ourselves to feel.
To convince ourselves that if it isn't affecting us,
it isn't our problem.
To buy the lie that someone else will pick up the slack.

One of my favorite quotes is,
"People don't care how much you know,
until they know how much you care."

Jesus cares.
He proved it.
He showed every way...while He walked this earth.
He wasn't afraid to get His hands dirty.
He touched lepers.
Filthy, stinking, flesh-rotting lepers...
who hadn't been touched in who knows when.
Jesus touched them.
He healed them.
He ministered to the publicans.
The hated.
The outcasts.
The despicable.

He still does.

He never turns anyone away hoping someone else will come along and pick up the burden.
He picks it up Himself.
And He carries it the distance.

So, should you and I.

I have learned that I cannot be what others need me to be,
unless I keep my own soul hydrated and nourished.
Because the load is just too great...
to try to carry it in a spiritually-dehydrated and malnourished condition.

I must keep the communication lines open...
between my soul and God.
I must stay near Him...
close enough to touch...
attached to the vine.
So that I can stay strong...
in order to lift the burdens of my brother.

Kevin's aunt often prays for us over the phone.
She is always faithful to ask that God keep us strong,
so we can fulfill the calling God has entrusted to us.

I appreciate those prayers.
 I need them.

Because prayer, both my own and the prayers of others, is what holds me up.
It is what gives me my own battles,
so I can support the weak...
minister as God leads,
and have the strength to pray for others as I ought to.

I love to read the story of Moses and the battle against the Amalekites in Rephidim.
You can read the story in Exodus 17:8-12.

Moses instructed Joshua to fight against Amalek,
while he stood at the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand.

"So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek:
and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill."

And here is the neatest part....

"And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed:
and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed."

As long as Moses was strong enough to hold up his hands,
the men on the ground who were fighting had hope.
Their leader was in control.
They could see his strength.
It gave them courage.
To fight on.
To keep going.

""But Moses' hands were heavy;
and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon;
and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands,
the one on the one side, and the other on the other side;
and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."

Hands become heavy...when they are held high for too long.
Burdens become unbearable...when we have carried them a far distance.
God knows this.
That is why He places others in our lives.
To find a stone.
To advise us to sit rest.
To surround us with support.
To share in the burden...of the heaviness of our arms.
To remain faithful...and their post of duty...
by our side.

Moses' load was too heavy.
He could not bear it alone.
The men in battle were depending on him....
to keep his hands in the air....
so they could see them...
and renew their own endurance, determination, and spirit.

Why do you think God didn't send Moses to the top of the hill alone?
Why did He send Aaron and Hur along with him?
It wasn't that God was incapable of giving Moses all He needed to remain dauntless.
God Himself could have held Moses' hands in the air...
had He chosen to.
He could have infused his muscles and tendons with a supernatural strength
that enabled them to hold firm for as long as they needed to.

This was not God's choice.
He absolutely wanted to get across the point that
He chooses to meet our needs through each other.
He wants us to be our brother's keeper.
To pick up the slack when one is faint.
To support each others weaknesses.
To see the need, and to do something about it.

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow:
but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Because of Aaron and Hur's faithfulness to Moses,
"...Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
And the LORD said unto Moses,
Write this for a memorial in a book,
and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua..."

Why did God not just say, "rehearse it in the ears of Joshua"?
Why did He tell Moses to write it for a memorial in a book?

It was for you, my friend!
And, it was for me.
Bless God, it was for us!
So, we would know.
So, we can read it and see how this whole thing is supposed to work.
So, we can understand that no man in this world is an island.
We need each other.
Just like Moses needed Aaron and Hur.
One on one side, and one on the other.

God knows we need those who have our back....
in all circumstances.
Who will pray, when we need prayer.
Who will fast, when the need is great.
Who will intercede to God, on our behalf.
Who will remain in the battle, until the victory is won.
Who will stand by our side and hold up our hands,
in the heat of the day,
in the wind and pouring rain,
in the turbulence of life's storms.
Who will not back down.
Who will not let us matter how much we want to.
Who will hold our feet to the fire and hold us accountable for our post.

That is how it works.
None of us are alone.
Because God is faithful.
He, Himself, could hold up our hands.
Instead, He chooses to use the hands of humans.
Fellow travelers.
Who need us as much as we need them.

We are all connected.
Fighting different the same war.
Pressing down varying paths...towards the same goal.

Kevin, Zach, and I heard the prettiest song the other day,
called "Some Kind of War", written by Bill Anderson,
and sung by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers.
Such true made me cry.
You can listen here.

May God help us all to present ourselves a living sacrifice to Him.
Our lives are truly not our own.
Each of us is here...right now...for such a time as this...for a Divine purpose.
One that God has designed.

Who is your Moses?
Whose hands have become heavy...weary...from the toils of the day?
Who could use a your corner of the world?

On the other hand, who is your Aaron?
And Hur?
Who holds up your hands in the battles you are facing?
Who keeps you the kind words they say,
the encouragement they offer,
the prayers they pray...for you?

You are not alone.
You are supported.
"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."
Deuteronomy 33:27

God is with you.
No matter what you are facing....
whether it be cancer,
a miscarriage,
an impending good-bye,
a loved one's disease,
your own disease,
a broken heart,
your problem....
whatever it is....
it is not too big for our God!
He sees.
Don't give up hope.

If you would like to share a burden or
if there is a particular need you would like us to pray about,
we would love to hear from you through our our online contact form.

A dear couple stood in our living room last Saturday and poured out their hearts.
We had seen them before, but had never before engaged in a lengthy conversation.
Their load is heavy.
Their needs are great.
I don't have all of the answers.
I listened...we talked....for over three hours.
As they got ready to walk out our front door,
I realized I could not allow them to leave without offering the one thing I can do...
I told them I would be praying....for them.
Now that is something I can do.
That is an area in which I have lots of experience.  :~)

I may not be able to fix every problem,
but I can pray.

So can you.
No matter where you are or what your plight in life.
You hold within your power the most powerful force of help.

It will take effort.
It will take some of your time.
You will have to make a sacrifice...
in order to do it.

But, isn't it our Christian duty?
To pray for one another?
To reach out in love?
To care?

"Now we exhort you, brethren....
comfort the feebleminded, support the weak..."
I Thessalonians 5:14 (emphasis mine)

Don't we have a job to do?
To fulfill Jesus' law?
To carry on His work?
Aren't we obligated?
After all He has done for us?

"Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet."
John 13:13

Aren't we to follow Jesus' example?

The burdens are great.
Arms are heavy.
Needs are abounding.
Let's be there for one another...
as Christ is there....
for us.