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Pine Needles, Hot Chocolate and Home

white ceramic mug with brown liquid and pine cone
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Christmas whispers of home — we all long for those familiar sounds and smells and love.  I received a text message today from a dear friend of mine, April.  She sent me a picture of their Christmas Tree — all decorated and ready for the celebration to come!

April shared that she and her family went out to the forest and brought that tree home…I’m sure the  smell of pine and trail left of pine needles was a welcome grace to her.  You see, they used to live here in Florida — missionaries to this hot, tropical paradise — but April never really acclimated to Florida.  She absolutely hated the heat — hated the lack of season changes — missed her home up north.  Oh, she served faithfully here — jumping in and being and loving and “suffering” for the Lord…smile!  However, this was never home for her and now they have returned to the Land of Winter!

All of this made me homesick for my own “northern country” of Virginia.  My heart began longing for the cold weather, the smell of fresh pine needles, hot chocloate, and family.  I wonder, if like April, if I were allowed to go home, would I be more content — happier — at peace, than I am here in Sunshiney Florida??  Maybe, but probably not!

I am homesick for another place — my real Home, Heaven!  I can almost smell the aroma of peace and love and wholeness that Heaven promises.  My mind wanders a little and I tiptoe into the “I wonders!”  Will there be the scent of pine needles, hot chocolate, Cinamon, or even Nutmeg?  I remember hearing a story on a Gaither video about a little child that asked her Daddy, “Will my puppy be in Heaven?”  The father wasn’t quite sure how to answer such a question and so he said, “Honey, you imagine Heaven the best that it can be and I promise it will be so much more!”  What a wise and discerning answer to offer that child, as he didn’t promise what he could not know, yet afforded HOPE!  No, I’m sure Heaven will not have these things of human wont, but it does offer us something far better.

What will there be?  Jesus — there will be Jesus!  His glory will illuminate this heavenly Home.  Oh, Scripture tells us a bit of Heaven’s glory — streets of gold, the crystal sea, and so much more that we cannot even image.  In fact, John told us this in Revelation:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
(Revelation 22:1-5 NASB)

Oh, that will be glory!  As long as I sojourn here on this ole’ earth, my heart will long for that Heavenly place, but I’m so thankful that God, in His infinite wisdom and sovereign love, allowed April and me the smell of fresh pine needles, snow, hot chocolate, and most of all love and relationship with kindred spirits.  Merry Christmas, April!

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Gingerbread Houses and Hot Apple Cider

I don’t know about you, but the pressure and rush of the holidays leaves me feeling a bit depleted and often inadequate. I allow myself to get caught up in what Ms. So-and-So is doing…her beautiful decorations, her picture-perfect meals, and her charming family photographs. I see them all and I tell myself that I cannot compare or measure up to Ms. So-and-So!

Frankly, social media does not help with these feelings of inadequacy and self-condemnation.  You know what I’m talking about!  Ms. So-and-So is on all the current social media sights posting her sublime life for everyone to see.  (I’ve been guilty of this myself!)    Wanting to seem like we have it all together with our pefect children and adoring husbands is quite the temptation.  Honestly, who wants to post pictures of dirty floors, a sink full of dishes, the kids bickering over the last piece of fruit, or the perpetually late husband coming in the door two hours after he was due home??  I’ll raise my hand first…not me!

How do we overcome this need to impress and compete with Ms. So-and-So?  How do we live authentically among the mess and noise and chaos that constantly presses in on us?  How do we overcome that staggering, self-imposed obligation to please?

Well, first we have to understand who we are trying to please!  Who am I trying to impress and why?  I posit that it is not the Lord, but those millions of people on social media, who may or may not know me.  Why do I do this to myself?  Probably because I want to be liked, thought well of, and respected.  Oh, the conviction I feel for trying to set myself up on the pedestal of popularity!

I sought the Lord — I asked Him to help me change this desire to please others and not Him.  He swiftly turned me back to His Word…chastising, correcting, and then restoring me to Himself.

The Apostle Paul challenges me to be an imitator of him, just as he also is of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB)    Over in Ephesians, Paul exhorts: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NASB)  A “fragrant aroma” to the Lord.  Oh, yes, please Lord!  Help me to set aside myself so that my life can be an offering and a sacrifice to You as a fragrant aroma.

Remember this:  Ms. So-and-So is trying to please self and the unknown  masses herself.  Ask God how you can encourage her to be still and allow her life to be fragrant to Him.  I encourage you also, beloved…don’t get so caught up in the aromas of Gingerbread Houses and Hot Apple Cider that you have lost who you are in Christ Jesus.  Make your home this Christmas season warm with love…let the Gingerbread and Apple Cider be a beautiful reminder that you are His…your family is His…that is a fragrant aroma to Him!

adult beverage breakfast celebration
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Thin Patches of Ice

It’s so easy to go along not realizing the danger you are in or about to face.  Often life will give us subtle warning signs…other times there are glaring warnings…DO NOT ENTER, DANGER, or DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS BARRIER.  Those are the easier ones to avoid, but what of the ones we never saw coming?

When I lived in Virginia there were times I had to drive to work or the store after a hard snow or ice storm.  I would go slowly and keep a good distance between my car and those around me.   However, there was a time or two that I would hit a patch of ice — you really could not even see it — your car would slide — it really wasn’t that difficult to panic and over correct.  Well, usually the only place you would wind up then is in the ditch!  I tried very hard to anticipate the thin patches of ice, but there were times it would sneak up on me and catch me off guard.

Life is that way, too!  We putz along taking care of the endless details that need our attention.  There are bills to pay, kids to feed, letters to answer, laundry to wash, and all of the other busy-ness of the day-to-day grind.  I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in all there is to get done in the time allotted me that I will not pay attention to the catastrophe I am about to encounter.  Before I know it…I’m flat on my face and stunned by the impact!  I cry out to the Lord, “How did I miss it?  How did I not see this coming directly toward me??”

I am learning to prepare for these thin patches of ice by surrendering my busy-ness to Him.  I’m not much unlike dear Martha running around with all the preparations of putting supper on the table and not realizing the importance of sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to Him.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NASB)

When I am distracted with all that is going on around me and not keeping my eyes on Him, I’m bound to hit those thin patches of ice…I’m bound to be planted on my face…I’m bound to find myself grumbling as Martha did about Mary.  It is imperative that I not distract myself with busy-ness — I must be like Mary and choose the good part…Jesus said, “[It] shall not be taken away.”

Yes, there will still be times that things catch me off guard and throw me for a loop!  However, when my focus is on Him, those times will be less traumatic…there will certainly be a lot less time in the ditch!

My prayer for you during this season of busy-ness is that you will take time to be still and meditate on Him.

landscape photography of snow pathway between trees during winter
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com
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Grief Packaged — Memories Unpackaged

Along about this time of year — when joy and goodwill exude from the masses…shopping carts are filled, Christmas cards are written, Menus are planned, Christmas Trees are dressed in their finest, and packages wrapped with love are placed under them — my heart “catches.”

Oh, I do get lost in the magic of Christmas — I adore the reasons we celebrate in the first place ~Jesus~ and I love to watch my son get caught up in the decorating and lights.  His requests for favorite dishes never escape my notice and well, the glimmer in his eye captures my heart!

However, a tsunami of grief breaks over my soul and a deep longing settles within me.  I became a bit more acutely aware of that grief today when I was messaging with my friend, Shelby, in Virginia.  We were sharing our Thanksgiving plans and the putting up of Christmas Trees — admittedly what is supposed to be a joyful conversation — but for both of us it turned into tears.

For Shelby and me, our parents have passed away.  We reminisced on how our Momma’s would put into our stocking an Orange, an Apple, some Walnuts, and for me a big Candy Cane….there were other little things, but that’s what Shelby and I have in common…two Virginia girls whose Momma’s loved a similar way.  The specialness of what was is now gone and we are grown and we have our own children and grandchildren to share all that love with during this Season of rejoicing over family.

How, though, do we package the grief — the loss?  As the tears flood in, I must confess that I haven’t quite figured that part out.  God sewed into my life such sweet and kindred relationship with my parents — a tenderness not found in another soul or relationship.  He wove a lifetime of memories and experiences that cannot be replaced — mimicked, yes — not replaced.  Parents are afforded a unique relationship with their children — it is honestly irreplaceable.

Shelby said, “Oh, I didn’t mean to make you cry!”  Oh, she didn’t make me cry at all  — the truth is that I was on the precipice of tears for days.  She only identified with my soul — God allows people to do that — so we have Christ-like relationships in good friends…sisters — we reflected what was in our hearts —- grief, joy, and Jesus!

I think we can both say, with the same assurance of Job:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 NASB)

It’s not easy to say goodbye — its difficult to journey on without those familiar, kindred spirits when the aromas and sounds and laughter invade the home — but we must — for our good and for His glory!

~Soli Deo Gloria 

 

brown pinecone on white rectangular board
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

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Thanksgiving Pardon

I can almost smell my Momma’s Turkey roasting in the oven for Thanksgiving.  I remember Momma putting it in around mid-night on Thanksgiving Eve…it would roast all night, as she would get up every two hours and baste it.  There was really nothing better than waking up on a cold, Thanksgiving morning as it permeated the house.

Momma and Daddy (and all of my grandparents) have passed on and I’m left with just the memory of those days.  I miss the smells and laughter and joy that those days brought to our family.  I miss the coming together and how the love melted away the stresses of the year.  I find my heart longing for what was…playing with cousins…laughing as Pappaw would try and chew our ears off…safety.

Our President has a tradition each year of symbolically pardoning a Turkey…the Turkey probably was unaware of his fate in the first place…but in a gesture of good-will he is pardoned none-the-less.  He gets to gobble back to his abode and live his worry-free life and hope that next year he will be as fortunate.  How ridiculous, right??

Well, it could be considered ridiculous to pardon a Turkey — save him from the roaster — give him a second chance!  However, as I thought more about this gesture, God reminded me of His pardon.

We are all like that Turkey — headed for a certain death and the all consuming, punishing fires of hell.  However, God, in His great goodness, compassion, and mercy through the abundance of His Son’s shed blood on Calvary pardoned us!  To the glory of God!  Scripture tells us in Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (Titus 2:11 NASB)  His love for us reaching down into the depths of wretched hearts and saving us!

Unlike that old Tom Turkey, we are pardoned once and for all!

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
(1 Peter 3:18 NASB)

I am grateful and thankful that God loved me so!  My prayer for you, this Thanksgiving season, is that you will surrender everything and make Jesus Lord of your life.  Repent and Believe on Him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 107 1 10142018

Suffering, Uncategorized

Earnest HOPE in a hopeless world

But God

 

To hope … how does one find hope in a world that seems to be ripping apart at the seems?  How do you explain hope when all seems so bleak and dark???

The last few weeks have seemed pretty dark here in a country that sells the “American Dream.”  You really can’t find a lot of good news, really, you can’t!  We are bombarded on every side — seemingly thwarted in our pursuit of happiness and the American Dream.  Political advertisements that run hatefully, hourly, and quite destructively.  Hostility is at a premium…you can get some here!

Let’s not forget the refugee crisis and the sea of people flooding across the desert mountains of Mexico…all looking for a better life, hope for their children…the American Dream.  What does that look like for them??  A home with a two-car garage, good schools, plenty of food, healthcare, and a reason to hope?  Hope in what???  When you are fleeing life, there isn’t much to run to…or hope in…is there??

I don’t think so…what about the poverty-stricken imprisoned within our own borders?  What of the children who go to school every.single.day with their bellies hollow and their hopes even hollower.  Where is their American Dream and apple pie and healthcare and hope??  Where do they flee to and who would open their arms to receive them???

It’s down right bleak, huh?  I guess if you look at it the way I’ve told it, it is the epitome of hopelessness.  Yet…and yet, there is HOPE!  There is…just look:

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20 NASB)

Jesus is Hope — He is Hope every time for every need through every heartache.  Hebrews tells us of this Hope.

Did you read that weary one??  We who are refugees have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.  It is an anchor for us — sure and steadfast — Jesus is our HOPE!

So, as you sojourn through the desert mountains of Mexico,  in the traffic jam in Los Angeles, the remnants of Hurricanes and Tsunamis, the lava flows of Hawaii, the fire-engorged valleys of California, out on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic, at the foot of your beloved’s casket at the cemetery, in a divorce court you never thought would come, in the confusion of political ads and double-speak…take heart…Hope in Christ.  He came to make us refugees no longer!  He bought us with a great price.  Earnestly hope in Him — when you feel there is no more hope — Hope in Him!

 

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Job! Thy Wife is Called Faithful

Tams roses

I haven’t often thought much about Job’s wife…really…a couple of days ago, if you had asked me, I would have said, “She told him to curse God and die!”  I’ve never given a lot of thought to Job’s response to her or what happens to her in the end…until this morning!

This morning, I was drinking coffee with my 19 year-old son and we began talking of Job.  His great suffering…his well meaning friends…his loss…and, well, his questions to God and God’s responses Job!  But, what of Mrs. Job….?

Sidebar:  We’ll have to call her Mrs. Job from here because God does not share her name with us anywhere in the Book of Job.  I did some research on her name and Rabbinical scholars had some ideas, but it’s not in the Holy Scriptures, so we’ll just give her Mrs. Job for the purpose of this blog!

Well, the first we hear from Mrs. Job is in chapter 2, verse 9:

“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!'”
(Job 2:9 NASB)

Ok!  Stop the presses!!!  What did she say???  Let me do some modern-day translation here:  “Job, come on now…husband…no one expects you to have integrity now!  Why don’t you just tell God He wins…I give up…and die with your integrity intact!  I wouldn’t blame you…no one would!”

Job sweetly…well, righteously answers her and says, “Lady — quit acting like the other foolish women.  Are you going to take only good things from God and not also accept adversity?”

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10 NASB)

She does not answer, we hear nothing further, and that is the end of their love story! Well…..not so fast!  A lot happens between chapters 2 through 42…here’s a recap:

  • Job has some good friends come by and sit in the ashes with him…
  • Job laments to God of his humanness and that he should have never been born…
  • Job’s friends start giving Job their two-cent advice…
  • Job questions God and this goes on for awhile…
  • God answers Job (I just really love this discourse between God and Job)…
  • Job confesses, repents, and acknowledges that God is sovereign and that he has spoken of things that were too big to understand for himself…
  • God rebukes Job’s friends and this brings us to the end Chapter 42!

The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. (Job 42:10-12 NASB)

Wait a minute, though!  I don’t want you to miss the best part because you think you know or understand what God did in the last chapter.  Something very important happens to Job’s wife, too:

He had seven sons and three daughters.  He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. (Job 42:13-15 NASB)

God restored everything to Job…fields, donkeys, money, servants —- but he gave anew to Job and Mrs. Job sevens sons and three daughters.  Mrs. Job was restored too!  She didn’t just exit left stage, after being rebuked by her husband…no!

What I have always failed to see is that Mrs. Job lost the same amount of everything that Job had lost.  Her children were killed, grandchildren, livestock, servants, and she is left with a husband sitting in a heap of black ashes talking a bit suicidal…about never being born.

I imagine, as a woman, after that rebuke from her husband, she probably returned to the house that no longer existed and began picking up what was left.  Bring Mrs. Job back forward to the 21-Century — someone runs to tell you that all of your children were killed when a great wind came in and destroy their home and taken their lives.  You run home and it all destroyed….those you love….all dead….you fall to your knees…you bury your face in your hands and cry out the most blood-curdling, deep-throated cry of pain that is felt by all around.  Mrs. Job’s chest felt that it would implode, as she goes from child-to-child —- oh, the memories of their childhood…the laughter on their wedding days…the joy of babies…grandbabies —- now all.gone.

As she swept, it must have run through her mind…”curse God and die women!”  He has taken everything…there is nothing left.  It would be better if my dear husband and I were dead.  Can you not feel this dear woman’s heartache and pain….meanwhile, her husband is still sitting in ashes…despairing…and Mrs. Job is alone.

However, just like Job, Mrs. Job has not been forgotten…she too was given more children from her husband.  God blessed Mrs. Job again, as much as blessed Job.  Her heart and her grief and her fear did not go unnoticed by Jehovah God…not one minute.  God understood her heart — her fear.  Wait patiently my child….wait and see what I am about to perform!  God had restored a faithful man and his faithful wife!

There are many other things we can learn about Job’s wife….Mrs. Job….but I’m thankful God showed me her value….value like not leaving Job when the going gets tough, not blaming Job…value in her stick-to-itiveness and persistence.

The Book of Job end beautifully:

After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.
(Job 42:16-17 NASB)