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The Hope of Pain

Suffering and pain come to us all from time-to-time…we are all familiar with its ache and sting. It is very non-discriminating when it pierces us and it is quick to try and leave us with no hope.

Many of the things going on in our world at this time are hard to bear up under. Without ruminating too much, the folks on the west coast of our country have certainly had enough of the flames that are greedily snuffing out lives and homes. I am sure many of us have never seen the likes of those fires that are raging so adamantly in California, Oregon, and Washington…I pray we do not see them again. It must seem to be adding insult to injury in the midst of a virus that is claiming so many lives and changing the way we have always lived and worked and loved. The folks in Louisiana are desperately trying to pick up the pieces of their lives shattered and ravaged by a ruthless hurricane.

I do not know why God allows such suffering to take place and with what may seem to most as holy silence. When I search His Word, I long for an answer to the suffering and only one thing has stayed constant in my wonderings…He is sovereign, He is holy, and He is just. He is most definitely not unkind or cruel…I know this to be true in my own life. However, how do we answer within our souls the questions of why or why not? How do we reconcile the pain and ache or even help someone else to reckon it out?

The great theologian, Charles Spurgeon, said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” Spurgeon spoke these words because in his own life he suffered from the pain of deep depression, darkness, and the incomprehensible ache of aloneness. Yet, he understood that Hope, if to be found, was found in our suffering. He said, “Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.”

There are things we think we cannot bear. We do bear them…we can bear them…because He bore our sins. Isaiah told us:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Many of the great giants of the Bible suffered with physical pain and souls that anguished from depression or moments void with hope. David said of his pain,

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. Psalms 27:13-14

We all have read of Job’s pain and heartache…great heartache and suffering sought him in his life. He never cursed God in this, but he did ask God why…he sought an answer to this question of suffering. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and then Job…reconciled his questions by proclaiming to God:

Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6

David’s suffering and Job’s suffering are no stranger or more painful than our suffering is now. The ache and sorrows of life overcome all of us…but we do not have to languish in that hurt. There is Hope…it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is truly acquainted with the heartaches we feel that weigh so heavily on our souls. He suffered loss, as we see when He wept at Lazarus’ tomb — his friend — and yet while He was fully man and fully God, He wept so that we would know that He truly understands.

Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They *said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” John 11:32-36

Truly, as Isaiah said, He has bore within His body our grief and our sorrows. He bore within His flesh the punishment of our sins. He bore our stripes and was stricken and smitten of God. Why? Why would Jesus come from His throne on high in the form of a man to bear so much for us? He came so that we would be redeemed…that we would dwell with Him for eternity, if we served Him as Lord. He reconciled us — He bore our sin and shame — because He loves us.

So — as ashes fall from the skies on the west coast and as we learn to live in a world that is plagued with bacteria that seek to kill us — remember that these are so very temporal. Trust Him — trust Him with today…with your pain and heartache…with your life. Eternity is a moment away — just a moment away. Trust Him with your eternity. For now, allow Him to bear your pain and suffering for tomorrow we will live forever without it in His glorious Kingdom.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. Revelation 21:1-7

It will be glory — for our good — and only for His Glory!

Soli Deo Gloria

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The Other Side of Jordan

 

Sunset

My aunt, who is in her 90s, just celebrated her birthday.  She has had a long life that has been full of joy, laughter, love, and at times pain.  She was born in 1928, almost a decade after World War 1 had ended, in a deep hollow of the Appalachian mountains.

She and her family were hard-working, but like most folks, the Great Depression hit them hard and then another World War.  Some of her brothers fought in that war and the man she would marry in 1948 lost one of his legs in the Battle of the Bulge.  Work was scarce in those hills of Appalachia — mostly only coal mining, which was a very hard life for men.  So, they along with other family moved to Richmond for better opportunities.  My mother once told me that the only thing you learned in school was reading, writing, and the road to Richmond.

My aunt and her husband, Hallie, made a good life for themselves in Richmond.  Many of her siblings, including my mother and her mother, came to Richmond.  Her Daddy passed in 1953 and so my grandmother needed to come to a place where she could work and finish raising the children still in the home.  My aunt sheltered many relatives and friends who found their way to the big city until they could find their own homes to call their own.

The long years have passed since that time…meandering with turns and dips and climbs like those rugged mountains.  Parents and children and spouses have been laid deep in the earth to rest — leaving a dark void in the lives of those left.  The memories of leaner and harder times stick to the soul like the sap from a Maple tree and one-by-one the calls come that yet another loved one has crossed over the banks of the Jordan.

I was talking to my aunt last night and she shared with me that her dear friend and husband’s cousin crossed that river just a day or two ago.  She shared with me how her friend had stayed with them when she first moved to Richmond.  She remembered her kindness when Hallie was dying and birthday cakes she had made to bring joy to them.  Her grief looms largely and her soul seems so barren.

It is so very difficult to say goodbye to these souls who have peppered our lives with their presence.  More difficult still when we are left, after so many years, waiting to join them again on the other side of the Jordan where there will never again be sickness or pain or heartache or goodbye.  We have this hope because Jesus died for our sins and when we repent, ask forgiveness, He will save us.  Therefore, we can live knowing that because we are saved, we will see our loved ones again.

Like Abraham who lived a long life, then died and was gathered to his people, so shall we be gathered to Heaven, our home.

These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

Then we will be face-to-face with Jesus and He shall wipe the tears from our eyes, as we enter into eternal rest with Him.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2-4)

Beloved, as you wait for that glorious day that you too will cross to the other side of Jordan, do not lose heart.  Use this time you have to tell others of this eternal hope that you have in Christ Jesus so that they too can enter the holy city…the new Jerusalem.

I am looking forward to the blessing of seeing you there!

Soli Deo Gloria

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 

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Worn-Out Shoes

Photographer: Dave Provencher 2020

As Samuel unpacked his tattered suitcase, he remembered how he had always wanted to be a missionary — always!  A husband and wife came to his church when he was nine years old and told of their adventures and time in the jungles of Ecuador.  He was captured instantly when he saw their photographs of native Indians, age-old tree hammocks with their vines sprawling with such density you could not see the villages from the plane they flew over those villages.  Sam decided right then that he wanted God to use him in such a place to share His Word with those who had never heard it before.

As soon as Sam graduated from high school, he set off to a mission training school with a fresh heart and mind for Christ.  He plunged himself into language school and Bible studies…and Ginny.  Oh, how he loved Ginny.  She had beautiful brown eyes and hair the color of cornsilk — and, well, she shared Sam’s passion for bringing others to the Lord.  He knew that he needed Ginny beside him and he married that beautiful girl.  These two knew where God was leading and they stepped forward together to another jungle far away in Papua New Guinea.

When they arrived at their “new” home, they were met with wonder.  The native people had never seen such fair-skinned and funny dressed people in their lives.  The men stood off and observed Sam and Ginny, but the women began gathering around Ginny like butterflies.  They too loved her fairness and beautiful cornsilk hair of which they’d never seen before.

Sam began the work of learning the culture from the men — gaining their trust and earning their respect.  The men would laugh, as his hands tried to learn how they fished or hunted or built a hut.  Ginny set up their humble hut with just the bare necessities of life and began learning from the women of food and children and life.  The children flitted around her and followed her to the river and the gardens.  Ginny soaked in the sounds of their foreign tongue and set to writing them in a book each night as she learned them.  Slowly Sam and Ginny began building a bridge that would carry God’s Word into their hearts from the words and dialect they used.  It was a painstaking task, but they remained diligent in their work.

As days and months followed into years, they hedged a life with these beautiful souls.  Sam and Ginny birthed five of their own children, brought men and women to the saving knowledge of Christ, and wept and prayed for those who seemed forever frozen in the world of darkness and superstition.  Tears and laughter and hard work and life and death were their companions for more than 40 years in those hidden hammocks of Papua New Guinea.  Now the time had come to return to their home far away in North America.

Sam and Ginny left men who were capable of carrying on the work as ministers to the people…new and younger missionaries came in…time had turned its full rotation and they were confident in God’s Word “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Ginny packed their few, small bags because all things couldn’t return with her.  She left one of her own children buried in the deep, mountain soil of that place they called home for 40 years.  She took with them only their Bibles, their tattered worn-out shoes and clothes, and a handful of pictures they had managed to capture over those years.

They said tearful goodbyes to these they loved knowing they would not be left abandoned because He promised to never leave them nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5), and His promises are sure.  They were showered with hugs and kisses and smiles and waves knowing that so many they would see again on the Bright Shore of Heaven.  It was not goodbye at all, but “until then.”

When they were home, the house of Sam’s parents was quiet.  The furniture covered with stark, white sheets to keep the dust away.  His parents were home with Jesus, his children were around the world in their ministries, and he and Ginny were left in the quiet.  Sam opened his tattered bag and put his old things away.  He sat on the edge of the bed and looked down at his feet and his old, worn-out shoes reflecting on the life journey.  Tears dropped quickly and spattered on those old shoes.  His heart was full with no regrets.  Ginny walked into the room and he took her hand and they, for the first time in 40 years, were still.

“How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

 

Writer’s Note:  This story does not reflect that of any living missionaries and is a work of fiction, however, it does reflect the stories I’ve heard from many missionaries who have served in many parts of the world.  I’ve written it to honor their lives, which have been given so freely for God’s use and Christ’s sake.

Photo By:  Dave Provencher © 2020

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The Missing Piece

assorted puzzle game
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Have you ever sat down to put a jigsaw puzzle together?  You work for a long time, days even, to put a beautiful picturesque scene together and just as you are finishing it up there is a missing piece.  Your heart sinks in disappointment because it can never be finished.

Life can be so much like that jigsaw puzzle.  You strive and work and press on to great achievements.  You pour into your life, your family, your jobs, and you give it all you have.  You think that life is so good and it could never be better…or worse.

Then you hit a wall — a new day dawns and suddenly a piece is missing.  The thoughts whirl inside of your head…processing what could have gone wrong…why now??  Maybe its the loss of a job or the death of a loved one.  Maybe your child has wandered away from the Lord and the values you instilled in him.  The day awakened and yet you are in the dark.  What happens now?  A piece is missing…it is an important piece and now you feel that God is not being fair or He is being unkind.  How could He let this happen??  You’ve worked hard to live life right and He abruptly halts production!  Now what?

We are told of a man that this very thing happened to in God’s Word.  Job — he was doing life the right way.  He had a good wife, healthy and happy children, riches, and land…Job had it all!  He was the man on Life’s “Man of the Year!”  Job was a big success and seemingly with no worries at all.  Job was the Joneses next door — Job is you!  The epitome of the good life.

Then one day dawned and it was all gone.  Every last thing — ashes.  His children had perished, his riches stripped away, and he cursed the day he was ever born!

Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ “May that day be darkness; Let not God above care for it, Nor light shine on it. “Let darkness and black gloom claim it; Let a cloud settle on it; Let the blackness of the day terrify it. “As for that night, let darkness seize it; Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; Let it not come into the number of the months. “Behold, let that night be barren; Let no joyful shout enter it. (Job 3:1-7)

“Whoah, Job, aren’t you being a bit rash here?”  Was he?  Have you ever been rash when it all seemed to be falling apart?  I have! Job also did something that I have done…he started questioning God!  He interrogates God on one hand and praises Him for who He is on the other.  His friends give him poor counsel, as does his wife.  His wife told him to curse God and die!  “Wow, Mrs. Job, that’s some support your offering your beloved!”

I think what is really remarkable about this whole account is that God entertains Job’s interrogation…He listens to Job.  Did He have to??  Well, actually, no!  He is God…He is a holy and sovereign God…no, He didn’t have to listen at all.  BUT, He did!  Why?

Because God loved Job.  He simply loved Him and understood that his questions came from a deep source of loss and pain.  While Job was not entitled to ask the questions, God was gracious in hearing them.  Then, when Job was done, God spoke…

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? “Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? “Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’? “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? (Job 38:1-13)

Oh, my friend, this goes on through chapter 38 and 39 and finally in the first two verses of chapter 40 God says,

Then the LORD said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.” (Job 40:1-2)

Job is quite humbled at this point and declares to the Lord:

Then Job answered the LORD and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.” (Job 40:3-5)

Then, and then, God continues to challenge Job through the rest of chapters 40 and 41.  He has spoken, and Job is left.  I do not believe Job was left defeated at all…God had given him the missing piece.  God showed Job that His sovereignty over Job was perfect and there was in fact no missing piece at all…it was missing understanding of who God is and His love for him.  I absolutely love Jobs response and repentance to God:

Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

My friend, that should be our response too.  When we feel defeated and life has chewed us up and spit us out, we can turn to God and not be afraid to ask the hard questions.  However, we must also be prepared to hear the answer.  We also must be prepared to turn from this place of brokenness and sin so that God can restore us to Himself.  Satan petitions God for us, but when we are in Christ, satan’s petitions are not going to produce ugliness.  They will fall in the heap of ashes and those things meant to destroy you will not prosper because of the Blood of Christ and for His sake!  Will it be easy?  Absolutely not!  Yet, you are not left alone to figure it all out on your own!  God will answer you through the whirlwind from His Word, as He did Job, if we sincerely and humbly approach Him and with a repentant heart.

I pray the void and brokenness that you are feeling will be soothed with the balm of His love for you.  If you have not been born again and would like to understand the love of Christ that was poured out for you on Calvary…message me.  It would be a privilege to share Christ with you.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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Turning a Heart Toward Home

 

Today’s blog is a feature story from a dear lady that I have had the privilege of knowing.  This is her journey to homelessness and back.  I am grateful for Debra’s willingness to share a piece of her life with my readers.  Homelessness is an epidemic in our country and I hope through Debra’s story, I can bring greater awareness to it.  I encourage my readers to get involved with homeless ministries in your communities.  Also, if you have a local crisis pregnancy center in your community, see how you can support them.  Be the hands of Christ to bring the Gospel and healing to those who have lost their way.

 

Telling my story is long overdue and I don’t tell too many people because of judgment. I was born in a small town in West Virginia.  At the time, my mom wanted to go back to work and my parents wanted to move to Connecticut.  So I went to live with my grandparents when I was 6 weeks old, while my parents and siblings moved to Connecticut.

My grandparents eventually adopted me when I was 6 years old.  Believe me, they tried getting me to stay with my parents but I wasn’t having it.  I loved my grandparents, so don’t get me wrong, but I always felt like something was missing.

My grandparents always put me on this pedestal, and that I did no wrong; I was always afraid of letting them down.  This began the pattern of me not wanting to let anyone down.  When I was 18 years old, I left home to go live with my dad, step-mom, and step-siblings in Connecticut, where I met my first husband.

My husband was abusive both physically and mentally. We had together three children, two girls, and one boy.  I was a good mom and love them very much. However, I lost them after my husband attempted suicide. I found him in our basement hanging.  This is not a sight you ever want to witness.  At this time, we have been married 10 years and it’s been hard living with this abuse with no one to help or turn to.  My grandparents had passed on and my parents had their own life.  I could not turn to my husband’s family, as they were very controlling.

I tried to keep my family together and make it work, but my husband was even more abusive after his suicide attempt.  He attacked me while he was in the brain injury hospital and this led to a divorce, which was not an easy decision for me.  I ended up with sole custody of my children to only screw it up. I met a man and he moved in with my children and me.  I didn’t realize it, but he was doing drugs with his friends in my basement. My sister-in-law gained custody of my kids. I tried to fight for them, but I was just really in no state of mind after everything.  After all the abuse from my ex-husband and fragmented life,  it built up inside me over the years and I was mentally exhausted.

Well, after losing custody of my children, I eventually moved to Florida with the guy I lost my kids over; and that’s when I started using drugs. Everyone back in Connecticut thought that I was doing them there; I wasn’t.  We lived homeless in Florida.  That is when I met this nice lady, Patty Holland.  She was part of a ministry who fed the homeless once a month; and, that’s how I came to know First Baptist Church.

The boyfriend that I came to Florida with went to prison.  It was then that I met another man and became pregnant by him.  We decided that it would be best if I had an abortion, as he already had four children that were being raised by his parents and then my three in Connecticut.  However, I just couldn’t abort my baby and so I went to The Pregnancy Center in Sanford and met Andrea.  God knew I needed my baby, Lexi, and that is when my life turned around.  I grew up in church and had a foundation, which I believed helped me get through everything that life has brought to me.  God took the things that were meant to destroy me and used them to bring me back to Himself.

God also brought a man into my life and his name is Ken.  We met while we were working together at Goodwill.  When I met him, Lexi, was three-years old.  I married that man and I now have a husband who loves Lexi and me.  He faithfully provides for both of us.  I have also made a little progress with restoring my relationship with my other children and want so very much to reunite with them and pray that will someday happen.  I know I can trust God with those details.

This is but a small expression of my life, I could probably write a whole book to share all that God has brought me through.  God is good.

 

“This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.” Psalms 34:6-9

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Who Is Married to the Proverbs 31 Woman?

23 years of marriage hands

Now that is an odd question, right?  Seriously, though, have you ever sat down and thought about who her husband is??  I never really have thought about him much — I always captured on her perfection and my imperfection — has that always been your takeaway too?

However, today I have taken the time to sit down and find out who this man is!  He must be Mr. Wonderful because his wife is amazing.  But, first, let us take a quick glance at her and then we can meet him.  So, meander over to Proverbs 31 with me — you know, the last chapter in Proverbs.  A bit of a sidebar here, I find it interesting that Solomon told us of her last.  I’m sure he contemplated it quite a bit — after all, he had many wives and concubines — but I digress…that is a lesson for another day.

From the onset in verse 10, we are told she is excellent and he cannot even measure her worth.  As I read it, I find a crack in my mirror already!

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. (Proverbs 31:10)

Next, we see that he trusts her. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:11-12) His trust, however, has been earned because the rest of the chapter shows why he trusts her.  You can read about all of her excellent ways in the remainder of the chapter, verses 12 through 31.

Well, that brings us to this mystery husband…who is this man?  Down in verse 23, we are told that he is known “in the gates.”  He also sits among the elders!  Certainly, her husband is well respected.

Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

He supports his wife, and rightly so, as she does her work diligently, loyally, and lovingly.  Because of her hard work and thriftiness, she shows her community what an excellent man her husband is — after all, I think it would be very difficult for me to work so hard if he were abusive.  Not once in Proverbs are we told that she minds doing all that she does.  She does it because she loves this man God has given her and he loves her as God would have him to.  I remember when my Grandparents were in their 90s and Papaw would come in to sit at the kitchen table to share a meal…he would sit down and Mammaw would look up and he’d say, “How you?” and smile.  She would sweetly smile back and say, “Fine, how you?”  Through the 70 plus decades of loving each other, respect and love still thrived.  I smile thinking that they may have been Mr. and Mrs. Proverbs 31.

I am blessed to have one of these “mystery husbands” too.  We, women, strive to be that efficient wife whom our husbands love and respect.  But, to have these types of husbands, they must first have a close relationship with our Savior.  I like to call my husband an, “Ephesians 5 Husband.”  He is!

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27) [Emphasis mine.]

Mrs. Proverbs 31 is married to a man who understands how to love her and appreciate her.  He loves her as Christ loves the church and she honors him in the same fashion.  Paul makes it so very clear…

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. (Ephesians 5:28-30)

It is important, dear ones, that we keep Christ at the center of our marriage.  He must be Lord over all we do as man and wife.  When we do, and when the rocky, hard times come, our Anchor is sure!

Lastly, I cannot end this blog and not touch on these two other matters that are blaring red lights.  I know that there are many women (and men) in marriages where only one has surrendered their life to Christ Jesus.  I have several friends who are living this reality daily.  I encourage you, wives (and husbands), if this is your marriage, there is HOPE.  Peter encouraged wives of unbelieving husbands.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Pray for your unbelieving spouse — take him/her daily and boldly before the throne of God.  Plead for his/her salvation.

If you are in an abusive relationship, reach out to your Pastor or a sister in Christ that you trust.  There is help available.  Also, young, single women (and men), be certain that the person you’ve chosen to marry is a Christ-Follower…that he/she is born-again in Christ.  This is not only important for a good marriage, but it is commanded.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Marriage is a wonderful gift from the Lord…it is work and sometimes things don’t always run smoothly in a “good” marriage.  However, the joy that a family-centered in Christ brings is worth it all.

 

 

 

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When Faith Meets Fear and Suffering

 

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As I was reading in Matthew’s gospel today, the Lord softly revealed a new understanding to me.  Before I continue, allow me to share the account with you.

“When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He *said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

There have been many sermons preached from this text with regard to fear, and there is a huge lesson here regarding fear and trust.  However, what I saw differently today was what Matthew says in the first sentence:  “When He (Jesus) got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.”  They followed Him!  He certainly didn’t drag them onto the boat or bribe them or coerce them…they followed Him.  The seawater is calm and the Lord is doing the leading…what’s to fear, right??

Well, what was changed quickly, and what was becoming became paramount to them all…except for Jesus.  He rebuked the wind and the sea and it became perfectly calm.  BUT, Jesus did not rebuke them…He just asked them why they were afraid…why were they being faithless?  In their following Jesus wherever He leads them there had to be faith.  Because fear would come and with fear a certain amount of suffering.  If I had been on that boat, I probably would have been puking over the side of it from all of the waves and wind rocking us about. They were fearfully suffering.

You see, when we decide to follow Jesus, He doesn’t promise a smooth sail.  Times will come when we are afraid, or sick, or depressed and any other way one suffers while sojourning here.  Suffering is quite inevitable, but Jesus is ever-present.

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.” (Psalms 46:1-3)

The righteous cry and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
(Psalms 34:17-19)

When your suffering is long and your fear is overtaking you, cling to Him.  He cares for you — Peter said to, “Cast all your cares upon Him for He careth for you.”

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”
(1 Peter 5:6-9)

 

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Morning Mercies

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It just doesn’t happen every day.  No, some mornings barge in without yesterday completely being put to bed.

The sun peeked up over the horizon early this morning (really not any earlier than it does any other morning) and I was not ready for its perky light.  It stretched up over the houses behind ours waking the morning dove and sandhill cranes.  From a distance, I could hear the cars driving by carrying unreluctant folks into their Monday and work schedules.

My Minature Schnauzer, Maggie, was curled up tight against my body to stay warm.  We’ve had our windows open during the night to enjoy the crisp cool air.  I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and gave the sun a bemoaned look while Maggie grunted her displeasure along with me.  I quietly prayed, “Lord, I’m not ready to face today — please teach me to be grateful for this day.”

My husband sauntered out of our closet — dressed for work.  He greeted me with his perpetual smile and came over to kiss me.  He cupped his hands around my head and gently pulled it to his chest…and at that moment my heart betrayed me as a tear slipped down my cheek.  I think he sensed the betrayal and gently held me a bit tighter.  I wanted to scream, “please don’t go…don’t leave me today.”

I quickly moved into the bathroom and brushed my hair and teeth then made my way upstairs to our den.  I sat down and it just felt so difficult to breathe the air that God had so graciously provided for me that day.  David came upstairs with a hot cup of coffee and I tightly wrapped my hands around the warmth of the cup and smiled at him.  And, as he gently kissed me on the cheek and said, “Goodbye, ” I was alone.

We don’t always get up in the morning feeling grateful and alive and ready to take on the day that is so mercifully and graciously provided by our Heavenly Father.  When the living is tough, the days run quite unmercifully together and grace seems foreign to a day that won’t end.  However, God is not foreign to the day or what He has planned for us that given day.

You see, ours isn’t mere survival — although it often feels like it.  Our lives, intertwined with others, is a gift.  It is given in love and graciousness.  Resting in the understanding that I am tired and He is good — well, it can be work.  I always know He is good — “all the time,” but my energy and light abandon me and so I have to know (not feel) that He can be trusted regardless.

As I continue to hold the warm mug of love that my husband prepared me, God whispers to my heart that His mercies are new each morning.  Thank you, Father.

But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from GOD. Lamentations 3:21-26 (The Message)

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Faded Quilts

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I have a quilt that my Mammaw made over 30 years ago.  It is a patchwork of squares made from her dresses that had worn thin and threadbare.  She sat many a night working on that quilt — each stitch sewn with love by hands that always worked so hard.  It is certainly a treasure and heirloom to have such a gift now that she has passed to Heaven.

That quilt laid on my parent’s bed for at least 25 of those 30 years, keeping Momma and Daddy warm.  Momma kept it there long after Daddy died — comforted by the love of Mammaw and her memories of Daddy.  I can only imagine the security she must have felt underneath of it — after all, we kids were all grown and moved away and had families of our own.  When Momma finally joined Daddy and her parents in Heaven, I became the owner of that beautiful quilt and all of its memories.

Sadly, that old quilt is threadbare like the dresses from which Mammaw fashioned it.  I have it put away “for keeps” so that it will pass on to my child.  I have asked around on how it might be mended, but have been assured that to mend it would take away from its original work…and so, it must stay tucked away.

This quilt conjures memories — it is a reminder of love.  Each stitch into each square sweetly fashions images of a home that lives in my heart.  The old folks are leaving us so quickly now  — the church bells toll more frequently with their mournful songs of buried love.  Each grave, each soul — it takes one of those stitches out of the quilt that is family.  Then, as we age ever so quickly ourselves, we find that we are getting a bit threadbare here and there.

It is good that God gives us blankets of family — quilts sewn through the ages — kin and kindred.  We are all unique like each square in that quilt Mammaw fashioned.  We are blessed to have known such love…and loss.  We grieve — then when the grieving is not so raw, we take that quilt and place it gently in a box so that the next generation will have a bit of fabric that was us.

I hope that as we journey into the coming holidays that we all will be thankful for God’s gifts of relationship and love.  More importantly, I pray that Christ Jesus will fill your heart with His merciful love.

Soli Gloria