Sound of Home and Echoes of Love

11403482_10206511947775451_6927342666903943814_nThere are days that I get so caught up in the minutia of life…teaching, working, cooking, cleaning, solving teenaged problems, and paying bills that I miss the blessings that God rains down through it all.

As I sit here at the desk and begin organizing all our tax documents, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Listen!”  “Listen to what, Lord?”  He answers, “Listen to the love?”  I promptly stop what I am doing and listen and I hear…

…Finches singing and squawking orders at each other

…Violins, Flutes, and Cellos effortlessly playing concertos

…Maggie and Millie barking at passersby on the front sidewalk

…David and Joshua clowning around and laughing at each other’s next antic to one-up the other…

and then there is my computer grinding away, as I tap, tap, tap on the keyboard, the ice-maker dropping freshly made ice in the bin, the washer and dryer running in the laundry room, and a fire-truck blaring by on the road.

I guess during the minutia, frustration, and hurriedness of the day it can sound like noise, right? Today the Lord reminded me that it is not noises at all, but rather HIS blessings on me.  If I count those blessings I see and hear nothing, but the blessing of home:

Blessing One:     A home…when there are those who are homeless.

Blessing Two:     Beautiful Finches, created by God, singing His praises and dogs barking, which means I have pets…when there are those who aren’t allowed a pet for whatever reason.

Blessing Three:  Music to calm my spirit, which means I can hear…when there are those who’ve never heard a sound.

Blessing Four:  David and Joshua who fill my life with laughter and love…when there are those who are lonely.

Those blessings lost in the minutia of an ordinary day …not counted…overlooked…taken for granted!  The hymn writer, Johnson Oatman, Jr., wrote the following hymn in 1897 recognizing that in America we take many things for granted:

“Count Your Blessings”

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done

Chorus

Count your blessings, name them one by one:
Count your blessings, See what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
I am grateful for Johnson Oatman, Jr.’s hymn and the reminder to count our blessings.  However, I more thankful for the Holy Spirit’s prompting of me this morning to stop and listen to the sounds of my home and the beautiful echoes of love in it from HIM.

“For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6

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Life in Perpetuity

Perpetuity — that is not a word you hear every day, now is it?  Oh, but it is in our everyday vernacular…just see:

“Will this week ever end?”

“I can’t take one more day of this…!”

“How much more, Lord, how much more?”

“Will one more thing go wrong this week?”

You see…we live in perpetuity…as Chuck Swindoll says, “Life is so daily!”  However, we are not the only ones.  The Psalmist, David, lived that way, too.

      Please, GOD, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. Treat me nice for a change; I’m so starved for affection. Can’t you see I’m black and blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? GOD, how long will it take for you to let up? Break in, GOD, and break up this fight; if you love me at all, get me out of here. I’m no good to you dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb! I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights on the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope. Get out of here, you Devil’s crew: at last GOD has heard my sobs. My requests have all been granted, my prayers are answered. Cowards, my enemies disappear. Disgraced, they turn tail and run. Psalm 6 (The Message).”

Wow — David was messed up, huh?  Can you get any deeper into the depths of despair?  And, the drama!  Goodness!  When I read it, I see David standing in a dark room holding a pistol to his head screaming, “God save me now before I do the unthinkable!”  God heard him, too…it says, “GOD has heard my sobs!”  There are not any sweeter words in Scripture … ”GOD has heard my sobs!”

Scripture is flooded with the promise that God hears us:

Psalm 66:19  “But he most surely did listen, he came on the double when he heard my prayer.”

Hebrews 4:16  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Proverbs 15:29  “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things…”

All of these, given to us by God, so that we would not grow weary.  He is near to us, dear one.  When we are caught up in the mundane, the daily-ness, and the perpetuity of life, we can rest in Him knowing that He does not grow weary or tired.

I am so thankful for our untiring, daily, and gracious God.  Turn to Him and don’t grow weary….

HOPE

Some days hope seems elusive…like a long lost friend.  I nearly lost site of it.  The pain is deep…it gets deeper still…but God sends HOPE in the strangest of ways, through the strangest of means, and by an unexpected messenger.

I needed HOPE today — a day of deep regret and shame.  Then GOD whispered to me through hope-driven crocuses.  My sweet Joanna shared this picture today on Facebook…as you look at it and listen to it…lean in…can you hear, smell, and see HOPE?

HOPE says that shame, buried deep, can still break through — like crocuses planted months ago, which had been buried in snow, burst forth and reached to their Creator begging to bloom.  You can hear the dirt move aside, as their arms reach Heavenward.

HOPE is like that…even in years of shame…HOPE moves the shame aside…HOPE is Jesus.

I know that Joanna didn’t know that when she shared this picture that it would keep one “crocus” from giving up in despair…I’m certain of it.  But,God…in His infinite wisdom, uses crocuses bursting forth and unsuspecting Joanna’s to deliver HOPE to unsuspecting souls who’ve lost all hope.

Winter is not over because Jesus has not returned to take us home.  However, these hopeful crocuses, which may get buried again in the harshness of snow still HOPE.  So, for another day…so will I.

Though HE slay me, yet I will trust HIM…HE is my HOPE.

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HOME

Home is such a lovely word and brings to mind precious memories to many.  For me, Home is a place I have never been — a longed for place that my soul misses — a place of rest, a refuge.

Today my quiet time and Bible Journaling was in this passage in II Corinthians 5:1-5:

 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.(Emphases mine).

I am groaning — groaning for HOME — groaning to be with my Savior.

I am groaning and burdened by this world and wait, impatiently, for HIM to come and gather me away to my Heavenly Home.  I am groaning to be swallowed up by LIFE because it says, “HE has prepared me for this very thing…and given me the HOLY SPIRIT as a seal!”

I am burdened…come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly.dogwood

…but, for their salvation and HIS Glory?

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Is the suffering worth it, if they come to Christ?

That was the question…”Is your suffering worth it, if just one comes to Christ?”  He answered my question with a question.

My question, “Why does God allow people to suffer and die?  Why does he allow little girls to be molested and sexually abused?  Why does he allow boys and girls to be human-trafficked?  Why did he allow the last two years of her life to be filled with pain and suffering? Why did HE allow a young man to put a gun in my face and threaten to kill me?”

I supposed I was asking a rhetorical question…one of those, “Yes, I know God is sovereign…yes, I know He can do as He pleases…yes, I know about Job!”  But, my heart screams, “WHY?”

He answered with a non-rhetorical question…a question rightly deserving the right answer…a question that really asked what God asked Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8)  Dave asked, “Tammi — is the suffering worth it, if one comes to Christ?”

Like Job, I felt shame…who am I to question a holy God?  Yes, of course, Dave…of course, LORD, it is well worth it!  Just at the time of the hurting and the darkness and the unending pain…at the time of utter exhaustion and grief and devastation…I forgot myself.  Instead, I sought HIM…I begged of HIM…why, LORD, please help this child understand?

In complete surrender, I bow and confess my ignorance:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked,’ Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions.’ You give the answers. I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. (Job 42:2-6)

I don’t think God really minds my questions…HE certainly understands my heart…HE gave us Job’s account because HE understands that we would ask from time-to-time.  The lesson to be learned is that God does know, HE is not unaware of the suffering, and HE is acquainted with our sorrow.

Suffering has a purpose…it is for our good and HIS GLORY!  In Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said it best, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.'”

The truth is that I am not Job or Joseph…I’m just Tam.  My heart hurts for so many things and I don’t have all of the answers to all of the whys…I don’t even really have some of them.  I only know that God must love me quite a lot to allow HIS Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross of Calvary for me.  He has entrusted me with the Mysteries of Himself and then, in that great love, has allowed me and others who know HIM to suffer a bit so that others can witness HIS grace and love measured through us in that suffering.

We are funnels of HIS love — we were created in His image to KNOW HIM and then to love others by allowing them to see us walk through the messes in life…somehow with grace…but all for HIS Glory.  So, the question is….

IS THE SUFFERING WORTH IT, IF THEY COME TO CHRIST?

ANSWER:  YES, LORD, YES!

The Father’s Restoring Love

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The Holy Spirit has been impressing on me the Father’s restoring love.  Throughout Scripture, in the testimonies of His saints, we see His restoration…His love.

The particular passages that led me to these thoughts were those of Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones.  There are so many lessons to feast upon in Ezekiel 37; however, I think Ezekiel’s tellings of God taking him to the Valley of Dry Bones is so rich.

BEFORE CHRIST (B.C.)

There is such a beautiful picture in this passage of our lives before repentance…when we are dead in our sins.  Without Christ, we are dead…we are dead spiritually…there is no life, no hope, and we are nothing but a Valley of Dry Bones.  BUT GOD, sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16) because He loved us.  He desired in that GREAT LOVE to restore us to Himself through the death and resurrection of Christ.  He pursues us, relentlessly, because He desires a relationship with us.  When we repent of our sins and allow Jesus to be Lord of our life, He restores us…completely…and finally.

IN CHRIST (I.C.)

Restoration doesn’t stop after we accept Christ.  Chuck Swindoll once said, “Life is so daily!”  I love that because it is true!!  Life can sometimes come crashing upon us and shaking us to our very core.  It can be finances, the death of a spouse or a child, a job loss, or, even as we are facing today in Florida, a Hurricane Matthew.

Sometimes these “shakings” can seemingly plant us right back into that Valley of Dry Bones…we might feel that God has forsaken us..but I assure you HE.HAS.NOT.  He said, “I will never leave you; nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  This is a promise with certainty.

Keep pressing on…God has promised that He will restore you…as He did with the death of His Son…but He also promised it in Ezekiel.  When you feel that you have no usefulness to God or even, as sometimes I can feel, unworthy to be used of God, don’t forget that He has set you a part…He has called you out of that valley.  He is our Restorer.

Sometimes He allows us to walk through valleys to teach us –to make us stronger–we need to be refined.  However, He DID NOT call us back to that valley of dried up bones…HE.DID.NOT.  We are no longer dead…we are ALIVE in Christ Jesus…”O you dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!  Don’t just hear it only, apply it!  God is not slack concerning His promises.

Fall into the Father’s Restoring Love –let Him breath a fresh wind into your dried up bones!