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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
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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
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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Walking In Soul Dust

dirt road dry fence footprints
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We live life and we love…we love deeply.

I loved my Grandma Keen and everything about her.  I loved the way she laughed, with her hands to her mouth, giggling about what tickled her soul.  I loved the way she would sip her saccharin-sweetened coffee and enjoy a piece of toast with it.  I remember sitting at her kitchen table, with my own coffee and piece of toast —- she would pour the last gulps of coffee into a saucer and dip the toast — I would do the same…thinking I was such a big girl to sip coffee and dip toast.  Even today, when I sip my morning coffee —no saccharin, but Stevia — I remember back to those summer mornings and I feel so blessed to have known that precious woman.

I loved my Daddy…a man who chose to adopt me and make me his own.  I remember how proud I was when he wore his police uniform…wondering if anyone else’s Daddy was a giant like mine.  I can still smell the aroma of Christmas breakfast that he would cook us each year — oh, how he loved Christmas.  I cannot but think of that giant of a man, whose heart was even bigger, when we decorate the Christmas Tree and enjoy Christmas morning breakfast.  I remember his sheltering arms when I wept over my Grandma dying or my childhood friend dying.  He loved me and those memories are profound to me.

I loved my Momma!  Certainly the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to whisper through cascades of grief and questions and regret.  Regret that I did not try harder to understand her.  She was so fragile and yet so strong — much like the Live Oaks that line the streets of my now home, Sanford.  When I am overwhelmed and yet survive the hurt, I think of her and I’m grateful that some of her got left in me.

I’ve stood at two graves of young friends questioning the short length of their paths.  I’ve stood also at the foot of friends who lived long and had much to leave to the world in years and family and experience.

God created us for relationship!  He gave us fathers and mothers and siblings and grandparents and friends and love so that our journey wouldn’t be so long or laborious.  He gave us moments of laughter and the gift of grief and tears.

The Bible says that “the steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.  (Psalms 37:23 NASB)  So then, grief is a gift because it means we loved someone and we walked with them in those established steps.  We had the grand privilege of sharing in their delight along the way.  And, as we loosen the earth and lay them gently to await the coming of Christ, we get the privilege to bring others along our journey while we walk in the soul dust of those gone on before…I’m so grateful for that soul dust and the footprints!