Receiving Jesus

Posted by admin on January 2, 2015 under Encouraging Words, Journey Through John | Be the First to Comment

I woke up early, determined to start my day with Scripture reading and prayer.  So I reread some journal entries from a special retreat last summer with Soul Shepherding ministry leader Dr. Bill Gaultierre–the retreat where I heard this word from the Lord: “Be Christ to your husband.”

Since that retreat, I had surgery to remove a possibly cancerous tumor from my left leg (but it was not cancer, thank You, Lord), then hospitalization for cellulitis in that leg, an allergic reaction to antibiotics that sent me to the ER, and numerous doctor visits to try to close a deep hole from the incision.  Meanwhile, my husband suffered increasing disability from spinal compression, was in the hospital nearly a month after spine surgery, my dad fell and broke his hip, and my sister discovered her Stage IV cancer.  We also celebrated in subdued fashion Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

How did I deal with all this?  By the Lord’s grace, I relied on Him for a good measure of strength and patience, but not all.  I also turned back to Egypt, to food for comfort, and gained a good deal of weight.  I spent mindless time sitting around in front of the TV or the computer.  Now I have to get back in a program. But I need more than a program.  I need more than a miraculous healing of the hole in my leg or the holes in my heart.

I need You, Lord.

How often I have read these words with amazement:  “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.  He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” John 1:10-11

But, truth be told, I too, His own, do not always recognize Him or thank Him for His Presence, for His creating, saving work in my life. I do not always receive Him.  Instead, I suck in the world and try to fill myself with its emptiness.  Yet I am Your child, Father, and You are always with me.

Heavenly Father, cleanse me anew today.  Fill me with Your Spirit, with Your HPIM0146.JPGgrace and truth, Lord Jesus.  Make me a fit residence for my King.  Let me receive You in a new way in this new year, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Oops!

Posted by admin on January 7, 2013 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

The number on the digital scale flashed up at me–Oops!  Even though I worked out on the treadmill in the icy atmosphere of the garage, those two fig bars and the extra handful of nuts confronted me. Not to mention the bread sticks and salty soup at the Olive Garden.  Or the extra piece of cheese.  Or . . . .

I wrote down every calorie I consumed, but  I missed my weight loss goal for the New Year.  Alas!  I was too confident, even cocky. 

I have lost 80 lbs., donated my plus-size clothes to charity, and trashed a chocolate cake that tempted me.  But I still ate too much during the holidays. 

That ominous verse reverberated in my head: “Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12 HCSB)

For the past two weeks, I let go of my support system–the weekly report and phone call with my weight loss counselor.  I can do this on my own, I thought.  As the days progressed, I regressed from taking thought to being thoughtless.  I lost my focus on the Lord, self-discipline, and healthy, balanced living.  Celebration turned to self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-deprecation.  Self, self, self, the prison of self.

Like a toddler who has fallen on her head, I can only crawl back to the Father.  Take my hands, Abba.  Help me up.  I can walk again with Your guidance.  With my eyes on You, I can reach the goal.

Some time in the future, when I lose all my fat, I won’t need to report in every week to a counselor.  My healthy habits will be more habitual.  But I will always need a support system of family, friends, and wise counselors–and I will always need to rely on my Daddy.

Maybe you too are experiencing frustration over goals, resolutions, habits, sins, and failings. 

The Lord is compassionate.  “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.  God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13)

What is that way of escape?  The renewal of our hearts and minds.   

“Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. . . put on the new self who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. . . And let the peace of the Messiah control your hearts.  Be thankful.” (Colossians 3:2,10,15)

Ah, that is the key.  Be thankful.  Be content.  The Lord is in control.  God-power, not just will-power.  I am satisfied in Him. 

So be it, Father, so be it.  Amen. 

 

      1. Kids Sing For Every Prison There's a Door
  a song about the way of escape!

Satisfied?

Posted by admin on November 8, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

“O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”  Psalm 90:13    A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God

In the desert of Sin (Exodus 16:1) there were two parties at odds with each other–and the leaders Moses and Aaron comprised the minority!  The majority were “the whole congregation of the sons of Israel,” freshly liberated slaves of Egypt. They didn’t trust Moses and Aaron,  and they didn’t trust God, even after He parted the Red Sea for them.  

They had eaten up all the unleavened bread.  They had livestock, but they must have balked at slaughtering those.  So they berated Moses and Aaron, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!”  (16:3)

Like the disciples facing hungry multitudes in Jesus’ day, Moses and Aaron could only appeal to God for provision.  What a patient, loving God He is!   He replied to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.” (16:4)

Then all Israel looked toward the wilderness, “and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” (vs.10)  God had heard their grumblings.  He had been there all along.

Flocks of quail descended on the camp that evening; in the morning manna fell like dew.  The people gathered it in jars to make bread with it, bread that tasted like honey cakes.  Manna leftover on the ground simply melted away!

Perhaps the prophet Jeremiah recalled this story when he wrote, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

In the morning only God will satisfy my hungers.  The blessings of His Word and Presence must be gathered in that quiet time, for in the heat of day I forget them.  Then I am tempted to fill myself with whatever distraction is at hand–work, food, entertainment, shopping, friends.  Or worse, I begin to grumble, worry, and feel sorry for myself.

Jeremiah, persecuted (and eventually put to death), had reason to lament.  In the darkest hours, however, he reminded himself of God’s goodness.  “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore, I have hope in Him.’  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” (3:24-25)  

C. S. Lewis observed the dilemma:  “We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay. . . out of the time which ought, we feel, to be ‘our own.” (The Problem of Pain, chapter 5)

How much better to remember, as Lewis continued,  “that the soul is but a hollow which God fills.” (ch. 10)  We will never be satisfied apart from Him.  He is the Father who made us, the Son who saves us, the Spirit who fills and empowers us!  

Forty years later Moses instructed the people,  “Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness. . .  that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna . . . that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Yes, God created me to be hungry.  He created me for the liberty of dependence.  I am His child; He will feed and protect me.  I need not fear or fret. 

Jesus said, “”Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink . . . Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-26, 32-33) 

Father, thank You for being so loving and patient with me.  Forgive me when I complain and worry.  Forgive me when I try to fill myself with the world’s goodness.  Lord Jesus, You are the Giver and the Gift, the Manna of life to me.  You are My Shepherd in the wilderness; You restore my hungry soul.  You prepare a table before me– morning by morning, let me feast on You.  I delight in my hunger for you.  May I never be satisfied in myself but only by Your Presence!  Amen.

Good Fences

Posted by admin on May 20, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

“Good fences make good neighbors.”-Frost

Every spring in New England the first objects  squeezed through the frigid earth are rocks.  The muddy fields are dotted with these “outcroppings” which have to be dug up before anything can be planted. 

Farmers once used this bounty to build handsome houses and barns.  They piled rock on rock to create low stone walls dividing field from forest.   Such fences were no protection from predators, but they did mark boundaries.  That was important to landowners who had claimed and tamed the wilderness for their own.

Many of those rock walls and houses still stand today.  That was the  kind of shelter and stability I longed for as a child, moving  from place to place, without parents.  Fear and loneliness drew nightmarish pictures in my head.  Sometimes I dreamed I was living in a three-cornered room–not a triangle but a rectangle with one wall missing.  A barren shanty that hung out over the street.  I cowered in one corner because I couldn’t get out and a monster might come in! 

I still don’t like to leave things open-ended.  Shut the door.  Closure, please.  Bring me inside and let me know what’s happening.  Show me the boundaries, and I will know where I am.  

Ezra and Nehemiah recognized this need for boundaries.  Jerusalem had been conquered, and only a remnant remained to mourn their losses.  The city walls were shattered; the Temple lay in ruins.  Their culture, faith, and God were mocked on every side.  Almost nothing was left to remind them of their hope and heritage.

The last thing their enemies wanted to see was the city walls rise again and the Temple rebuilt.   But “the Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus of Persia” to release the captive Jews from Babylon.  (Ezra 1:1b)  After 70 years in exile, they headed home.  Ezra and Nehemiah rallied them to restore both the walls and the house of worship.  Then they discovered a treasure: the ancient scrolls containing the Word of God. The people stood all day at the dedication ceremony as the entire book of the Law was read aloud.   They wept when they realized how far they had wandered.  They repented and vowed to love and obey the Lord once more. 

This is such a season of rebuilding in my life.  It is time to remove “rocks”–attitudes and behaviors that make me stumble–and, by God’s grace, turn weaknesses into strengths.   It is time to restore boundaries and ask God to repair broken walls.  It is time to restore the temple of praise in my soul.  I cannot do any of this by will-power, but the Spirit intercedes for me.  I have a hope and a heritage to share.

What needs to be rebuilt in your life?  Have boundaries broken down?  Has the enemy invaded?  What rocks have surfaced that need to be dug up?  What walls must be restored, what secret places in the heart need repair?  “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.” (Philippians 2: 12b, 13) 

If you belong to Jesus, you have a hope and a heritage to share.  

“For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.  To You, my strength, I sing praises, because God is my stronghold–my faithful God.”  (Psalm 59:16b, 17)

Father, You never give up on me.  You are at work in my life and my world.   You made me Your child through the sacrificial death of Your Son Jesus for my sins.  Through His resurrection, I am raised to new and eternal life.   Your eternal Word and faithful love are my foundation.  Build up the boundaries of my life again.  Restore what was lost. Give me courage to say “No!” to distractions and doubt and “Yes!” to Your life-giving Spirit.  Complete Your work in me and through me to the praise of Your glory. 

Amen.

Note:  In 2002 I wrote an exciting kids’ musical Built on the Book, based on the often-neglected stories of Old Testament heroes Ezra and Nehemiah.  Music from the play will soon be available on this website.

Too Too Solid Flesh

Posted by admin on February 28, 2012 under Encouraging Words | 2 Comments to Read

I love to eat.  My childhood memories are sweetened with the fragrance of  fresh sugar doughnuts, sizzling fried chicken, and gravy-laden mashed potatoes.  Christmas brought few gifts but lots of cookies in festive tins.  To a lonely little girl, few things were as exciting as food. 

But at family dinners, when folks should have been celebrating, pie was served with a heaping helping of discord, and guilt on the side.

To ward off depression and boredom I began to sneak treats, but being a bit pudgy increased my sense of isolation. 

Only as a teen did I discover, alas, that calories count!

I can’t claim victory yet after a lifetime of diets and exercise.  However, as a breast cancer survivor since 2008, I have been working earnestly to turn this area of my life over to the Lord.  I don’t want the testimony of God’s work in my life to be overshadowed by my bulk.  I want to be healthy in every way. 

Hallelujah, I no longer have to shop in the plus size department!

I still love food.  But I am learning to refute the illusion that it will satisfy my longings.  So many things are more filling than food–worship and prayer, time with family and friends, ministry, teaching, music, writing, a good walk, a good laugh, the comfort of cats. 

In the movie A Beautiful Mind the schizophrenic genius John Nash nearly loses his family and career to illusions.  He is continually visited by hallucinations, fantasy friends that lure him to destruction.  But over time he accomplishes what many schizophrenics, like my mother in her mental illness, could never achieve:  he distinguishes fact from fiction.  With Herculean exercise of self-control, he chooses to live in reality and ignore these harrassing “friends.”  He will always “see” them, but he walks the other way.

So it is with every thought that would take us captive–something as innocent as a child consoling herself with candy turns into years of  regret.  The more pernicious the pleasure, the greater the bondage.  Still we have a choice.  Temptation will always be there, but we can repent and walk away.  As the apostle Paul said, we can “flee”!  Whatever our besetting sin, whatever failure, God is greater.  His Holy Spirit in us is stronger.  But we must practice the presence of God and secure the help we need from others, so that when temptation calls, we can turn from insanity to the truth. 

Satan tempted our Lord Jesus Himself to “turn these stones into bread,” to serve Himself and misuse His power.  But Jesus rebuked him: “Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  Waiting for the Father to provide His needs, Jesus chose to feast first on the Word of God. 

Father, I confess that I have often run after good things like food, wanting more and more, instead of coming to You, my Creator, with the emotional and spiritual longings of my heart.  Thank You for all the ways You are teaching and healing me.  Help me to be obedient to Your Word, to take care of the life You have given me, to trust You to provide.  Thank You for daily bread and for the Bread of life, Your Son, Jesus Christ, offered up for me.  Holy Spirit, fill my soul.  I choose to feast on Your love today!   I am satisfied in You.  Amen.

The Cross On Jesus’ Back –a song about love and forgiveness, our greatest need.