Who Do You Turn To?

It’s 8:30 at night – I’m sitting in my recliner – in my pajamas – and I’m crying!

The tears are partly a result of the tension of the past few days.  For over a month I have been planning a women’s retreat for my church.  With the guest speaker, who is my youngest daughter, I have brainstormed picking a theme, planning the lessons, the decorations, the music.  I so wanted it to be a success.  But as the weeks went by I had to ask myself – why do I want it to be a success and what needs to happen for me to consider it a success?

I have questioned my motives.  Do I just want to impress everyone with how smart I am?  Do I just want everyone to see what a great speaker my daughter is?  Do I want the women of my church to be encouraged and help them better understand God’s Word?  Do I want to see spiritual growth among my “sisters?”

Will it be a success if we have a large number show up?  Will it be a success if everyone has a good time?  Will it be a success if someone really is encouraged, really does develop a greater desire to know God, have a better appreciation for God’s Word?

So I have prayed that my motives would truly be pleasing in God’s sight and that there would be nothing in my efforts that would desire anything other than that God would be glorified and lifted up.  I have prayed that there will be a good response, that the women will show up, will enjoy, but most of all will draw closer to God as a result of the weekend.

Then, there was the worry of getting it all to come together.  Finding the right decorations to set the scene (but at a cheap price as I promised the church board it would not cost the church anything so the expenses are on me).  Getting volunteers to bring food for our Friday night snack and breakfast and lunch on Saturday.  Will I have enough food?  Finding volunteers for the skit I want to do on Friday and for worship on Saturday.  Praying for my daughter as she prepares the lessons I have asked her to do.

In the middle of all this I start having terrible pain in one of my teeth.  I had it filled last year but the dentist told me the tooth was really bad and he was not sure the filling would hold. A call to the dentist and off I got to get it pulled.

I’m feeling great!

Everything is coming together!

I have my tooth pulled on Wednesday.  Dentist tells me I can expect pain, bruising and swelling.  But here it is Friday.  I have had no pain, there is no sign of swelling or bruising.  My husband says it’s a God thing.

I truly believe my heart and my motives are right – that my desire is only for God’s glory.  I find most of the decorations at the Dollar Store – budget saved.  Tables are decorated and the room looks great.  My daughter sends me her notes for the handouts and they look perfect.  Volunteers have all responded and the skit, the worship, the food – it is all on track to be a great event.

Oh no!

Friday morning I start cutting up veggies for the Saturday lunch.  Suddenly my carefully laid plans all seem to come apart.

My husband comes up from the family room in the basement and he looks white as a sheet.  He tells me he almost passed out and off we go to the doctor’s office.  After examining him and talking to his heart doctor, we are off to the emergency room for further evaluation.  He had a heart attack in 2009 and has had 4 stents put in since then so the fear of another heart issue makes me very nervous.

Now I’m getting up tight.  Clearly I need to be here with my husband, but what about all the things I still need to do to be ready for tonight?  Is he going to be okay?  Is he having a heart attack?

While waiting for the doctor to evaluate the EKG and the blood work I pick up my cell phone to start calling our kids to let them know their dad is in the ER.  Before I can dial out, my phone rings and it’s our son.  When I answer he tells me that he has just had a call from his wife and he is rushing to the ER in their town.  Their daughter has been in a bad car wreck.  He doesn’t know more than that but wants me and his Dad to be in prayer.

Now I’m really stressed!

I try to hold back the tears as I think – “What do I do?”  I have to tell my husband, but is that going to add to his stress and cause a heart attack?  After sharing the news with him, we hold hands, crying and calling out to God for our granddaughter.

I watch the clock waiting for the doctor’s evaluation pulled between needing to be with my husband and needing to get back home and finish final preparations for the night session at the retreat.  Of course, my husband keeps telling me I need to go on and get ready for the evening and I keep telling him no way I’m leaving him until we find out what is going on with his heart.

And we keep waiting for our son to call with more information on our granddaughter.  How badly is she hurt?  Is she going to be okay?

He’s going to be okay

The doctor finally comes in and tells us that he is not having a heart attack but they do want to keep him overnight for observation and possibly do some tests in the morning.  When I am assured that he is in no immediate danger, I finally leave, hurrying now to get cleaned up myself and get to the church to finish final preparations.

We finally hear from our son.  Our granddaughter was hit in the passenger side by a young man drunk and high on drugs.  He hit her at such a high rate of speed it flipped her car over twice, crushed in the front and they had to pull her out through the windshield.  But, miraculously she has no broken bones, no life-threatening injuries, but is terribly bruised and some cuts on her arms from being pulled through the broken windshield.

While working with my daughter to put the finishing touches on everything at the church, we get a text from my son.  He has sent us pictures of my granddaughter’s car.  When we see the pictures my daughter and I both began to cry and to spontaneously praise God.  From the pictures of the car we realize we have seen a miracle.  There is no way anyone should have walked out from the car alive.  The whole front and right side is smashed in, the windshield completely broken out.  We get pictures of my granddaughter’s neck and front of her chest.  She looks like someone who has been severely beaten.  Clearly she has subsisted some terrible bruising and will be in pain for some time.  But no broken bones, no concussion.

As we praise God, I feel the tension drain from my body for a moment.  Then my husband calls.  They are going to do an angiogram tomorrow morning.  Doctor thinks they may be more blockage.  I start to get uptight again, but I’m reminded in my spirit that the same God who protected my granddaughter is the same God who will be with my husband in the morning.

Long day at hospital

But now, of course, I cannot be at the retreat on Saturday.  I know between my daughter who is speaking and the women who will be leading worship I don’t have to be there.  But I’m disappointed.  I have enjoyed watching the women in our Friday session and seeing their hearts being opened to God’s Word – just as I had prayed – and I really want to be there Saturday to share with them.

But I know there is no question about where I belong.  I love my husband – my best friend – and I not only need to be with him, I want to be with him.

The procedure is done and they have to put in another stent (his fifth).  The doctor shows me an area where there is a 50% blockage but says he will not touch it until it becomes blocked enough to be life threatening.  Because of its location it will require open heart surgery.  This makes me nervous.  How will he know it has become life threatening until it is life threatening?  On top of that they had trouble getting the bleeding to stop and have had to put a pressure cuff on his groin which is pushing down and is very painful.  While normally a person has to lay on still on their back for two to three hours, he lies all day – over six hours – not being able to move from his back and having this pressure cuff pushing down on his groin.  A rough day for both of us.  Since he cannot sit up, I help him try to get some food down.

The day is over!

Granddaughter is very sore – will be out of commission for a few days – but she is alive, she is going to be fine.

My husband is out of immediate danger.  He has to stay overnight in the hospital just to make sure he does not move too much and the bleeding stays stopped.  But, all is well with him.  I can bring him home tomorrow.

The retreat appears to have been well received by everyone.

Who Do I Turn To?

So, I need to be rid of all this tension.  What do I do?  Guess I could pick up a glass of wine.  I could put on a favorite movie.  I could take a hot shower, a sleeping aid and go to bed.

But I turn to the one I have always turned to.  My Savior, my Lord, but also my friend.  I put on a CD by Selah, lean back and think of all the times in my life – when my father walked out on the family, when my first husband was accidentally killed and my daughters came home and found him dead, when I was diagnosed with cancer and told I did not have a very good chance of making it – and so many other times when crisis came and how Jesus has always been there.  Giving me wisdom, peace, comfort.

And as I meditate on His goodness, His love to me, the tension drains from my body and my tears become more than just tears of release.  They become tears of love and gratitude.

I turn to Jesus.  Who Do you turn to?

When I’m far away from home
And the cold wind starts to blow
When I’m empty and alone
I turn to You

When there’s hardness in my heart
And I can’t see the truth
And I’m wondering in the dark
I turn to You

And here in Your holy presence
It’s all that I can do

For the faith to move ahead
And to let go of the past
And to see me as You do
I turn to You.

I turn to You, Jesus
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do
I turn to You

You alone are worthy
The one and only God
The Ruler of the nations
And Father of my heart

I turn to You, Jesus
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do, Jesus
I turn to You

Selah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold the fort!

fort

Defensive mentality

An old hymn of the church which I always disliked tells much about the mentality of the church in years past.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

For many years the church has seemed to view the return of Jesus and our future home in heaven as the primary goal of the Christian.  I remember attending several Bible conferences where people taught eschatology using material from authors like Hal Lindsey and his book “The Late Great Planet Earth.”   A few years ago people were fascinated by the “Left Behind”  series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

While I totally understand the need to study Bible prophecies of the future, it seems to me that while the church taught of the return of the Lord and often suggested that time was very soon, it made little difference in how the church members actually lived their lives.  The general feeling seemed to be that we needed to make sure we were ready for the return of Jesus so we could go to heaven.  Maybe we should also warn others that if they did not get right with God, they would be going to hell.

But our daily lives were not really changed.  We were basically living in a fort, trying to defend our self from the sin of the world and waiting for Jesus to come and rescue us.

I often have wondered “Is this what being a follower of Jesus is all about.  Living a defensive life against Satan and hoping I can hold out until Jesus rescues me.”  I remember hearing testimonies (at the time when churches actually had a time for members to “testify”) of how rough the week had been, how hard Satan had attacked them, but thank God they were hanging on.

As I wrote earlier this week, I believe the church has not truly understood that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives now.  Active Anticipation

God’s Kingdom is here!

Through God’s Spirit in us we are to live out the Kingdom values and teachings now in this world.  That means we need to live together as brothers and sisters of God – not separated by race, gender, economic status or any other barrier.  When we get a glimpse of heaven in the book of Revelations we see that there are people from every “tribe, tongue and nation” worshiping before the throne of God.  If we cannot do that now, how will we be able to do it in the future?

That means we do not live defeated lives, but through God’s Spirit we find the strength, the courage, the determination we need to not only overcome difficulties in our lives, but to reach out and be a source of strength, courage and determination for others who are struggling.  That does not mean we will not have times of weakness and discouragement.  But I think it should mean that we always recognize we are children of the Kingdom and have God’s resources to draw on in times of need now.

The best defense is a strong offense!

This statement or basic concept has been attributed to George Washington as well as others and is often used by football teams.  While it is not always true in all situations, I do believe the church would benefit by recognizing that God’s Kingdom is in us now.  If we would more actively study and follow the principles of God’s Kingdom that Jesus taught while he was on earth and begin to allow God’s Spirit to strengthen and guide us, then we could really show the world what God’s Kingdom would really look like.   As the world saw us truly love others, truly work to heal the hurt of others, truly enjoy the peace of God, they might began to want to be a part of this Kingdom also.

David’s example

In 1 Samuel 30 we find a great example of allowing God to strengthen and give us victory.  David and his men had gone into battle.  When they returned, they found that a band of Amalekites had burned their town and taken their women and children captive.  The men wept until they could not weep any more.  They became angry with David and began to talk of killing him.  What a time of discouragement.  But I love what the Scripture says about David in this time of great distress.

David found strength in the Lord his God.

Like all his men, David no doubt was worried.  He had wives and children that were also taken captive.  His leadership was in question, even his life in danger.  But David called on the strength that comes from God.

He then asked for direction from God as to what he should do.  I love what God spoke to him.

Go after them.  You will surely recover everything that was taken from you.

My prayer in this Advent season is that we as the people of God will seek God’s direction for the difficult situations in our lives.  Then, with His guidance let us begin to go on the offensive and pray prayers of faith to reclaim what Satan has taken from our church, our family, our nation.

Let us “get out of the fort” and interact with God’s love, wisdom and strength in this world and show them what God’s Kingdom is all about in the here and now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restless Hearts

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Advent – time of longing – waiting.

Everlasting God in whom we live and move and have our being, You have made us for Yourself so that our hearts are restless until they rest in You…..Augustine of Hippo

 

The Power of Our Words

 Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me!

Growing up, I heard that phrase several times when I was upset about something unkind that someone had said to me.  Sadly that is not true.  Words have such power – power to build up, power to tear down.

Thoughts from the Bible

Recently in my Bible study I was impressed with how many times God’s Word speaks to us about the power of words and warns us of being careful how we speak.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25;11

Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.  For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.  Ecclesiastes 5:2

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.  Proverbs 18:8

Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time.  Proverbs 15:23

Thoughts from the famous and not-so-famous

After reading the thoughts I found in the Bible on using our words, I began searching for what others have said about the power of words.

I found some very wise advice from famous and not-so-famous people.

If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.
Earl Wilson

A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Advice I wish I had followed

Looking back over my life, I realize that I have spoken many times when I should have remained silent, have given my opinion when no one really needed or wanted it and sadly, have hurt those I love.  Oh, that I had followed this advice:

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.  James 1:19

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.  Orson Rega Card

We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.  Winston Churchill

A time to speak

But there are times we need to speak and unfortunately, we remain silent.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  Edmund Burke

This verse from the Bible really makes me think about my words

Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.  Matthew 12:36-37

My prayer about my words

This is now my prayer”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Thank you Dad!

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Growing up, what was your experience with prayer?

This was a question asked at a recent Bible study I attended.  Sitting at a table with eight other women, we went around our table, each woman sharing how prayer did or did not play a role in her family as a child.

As I shared my story of the very important part prayer played, I realized how blessed I was.  Prayer was a very significant part of my home life.  We prayed before each meal.  Those prayers were not memorized or short “Thank you for our food” kind of prayers.  Each family member took their turn in praying for a meal and the prayers were spontaneous – from the heart prayers.  At bedtime we all gathered in our living room, knelt down by the couch or a chair and our Dad would lead us in a prayer.  Any time I was not feeling well or had a problem at school, Dad’s solution was prayer.  We did go to see a doctor when sick, but prayer always came first.

One memorized prayer

Being the youngest in the family, my first prayer at mealtime was a memorized prayer.

God is good, God is great!

And we thank Him for our food!  Amen

At mealtime I would pray my simple prayer first, then another member of my family would say an “adult” prayer.  Shortly after I turned five, my Dad decided I no longer needed to pray that childish prayer, but could just take my turn with the rest of the family praying at mealtime.  However, he did not explain that to me.  We sat down to eat and Dad called on my oldest sister to say the prayer.  She prayed and everyone began eating.  After a few minutes Mom noticed I was not eating and wanted to know what was wrong.  “I didn’t get to pray” was my response.  How could I eat my meal without thanking God for it?  After Dad explained that I did not have to personally pray for the meal before I could eat and that going forward I could take my turn and pray a “real” prayer rather than the memorized one, I was content.

My Dad was my hero!

As a child, he was my hero!  I thought he could walk on water and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.  He not only taught me the importance of prayer, but he gave me a love for God’s Word.  My earliest memories are of Dad, after a hard day’s work, sitting at the kitchen table reading the Bible.  Along with prayer, reading and studying the Bible was a high priority with him.  He taught me how to use a Bible dictionary, a concordance and commentaries.

Then my hero was gone!

When I turned 14 my father made a 180 degree turn in his life.  He deserted my mother, my sister and me and turned his back on all he had taught me.  Refusing to pay any child support and showing no affection for me, he broke my heart.  My hero died.  As I entered the world of teenagers and then a young adult, one of my greatest desires was to regain a close relationship with my Dad.  But sadly, it never happened.  He remained very critical of me and everything I did.  Every visit I had with him seemed to end up with me either crying or running out of his house in anger.  How I longed for him to say he loved me or to give me a word of praise.  But sadly, it never happened.

Then he was REALLY gone!

A few years ago my father died.  I had long ago forgiven him for deserting me, had long ago forgiven him for his unkind treatment to me.  So when he died, I thought all would be okay.  Surprisingly, I found myself filled with the greatest anger I had every known.  I felt hatred for him.

I struggled with this and prayed for deliverance from this pain.  How could I feel more anger when he was dead than when he was alive?  How could I feel hatred for him when I never felt that emotion when he was alive?  After many months of soul-searching and prayer, I realized that as long as he was alive, I had hope that we would somehow become close again.  That one day I would visit him and hear him say that he loved me or that he was proud of me.  But now, that would never happen.

Anger and hatred finally gone!

After months of prayer, I’m grateful that the anger and hatred subsided in my heart.  But all that was left was a sense of great loss and sadness that the memories of my father were not pleasant ones.

Thank you Dad!

But then, I attended the Bible study on prayer and listened to myself tell how my father taught me the importance of prayer.  What a great gift he gave me!  Although my memories of my dad when I was a teenager and later, an adult, were not pleasant ones, and I never received the love and approval from him that I so desired, I do owe him a great debt.   He taught me one of the most important lessons a person can know – that God loves me and He hears me when I pray.

So – I have a great inheritance for which I am thankful.  It’s my choice to cling to those memories and be grateful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Knees are Coming!

As I age, I am battling “Old Man Arthritis.”  Some days when I get out of bed I can hardly walk.  After a trip to the bathroom and then to the kitchen for my cup of coffee (which my husband always has ready for me), I began to lose some of the stiffness and I am ready to face the day.

Sitting down on the floor is almost an impossibility.  I can get down okay but the getting up is a killer.  Having a four-year-old granddaughter who loves for Grandma to play with her makes things a little difficult.  After struggling several times to get back up, I have finally explained to her that we will have to play on the coffee table or the kitchen counter, that Grandma cannot get on the floor with her.

At first, she was puzzled when I said I could not get on the floor because I could not get back up.

“See – Grandma.  I’ll show you how.”

Saying this, she quickly sat on the floor and then proceeded to show me how to push up with my hands and get back up.

“Sweetheart, Grandma knows how to get up.  I simply cannot get up.”

Explaining to her that my knees simply are getting old and do not work right, I could see the wheels turning in her little mind.

When we sat down for the meal, she wanted to pray over our food.

“Jesus, make Grandma’s knees feel better.”

A few days later she was taking a walk with her mother.

Mommy, someday God is going to make us new bodies.  Grandma will get new knees and they will work right.

Yes, Zoe, someday this old body will not be stiff and painful any more and Grandma will be able to run and sit with you on the floor!

Until then, I’m thankful for a little granddaughter that already knows how to pray and already is concerned about her grandmother.

I’m not quite ready to get my new body – still want to see that little girl grow up.  But sometimes when the pain and stiffness are great, I do think how great it will be when I get my new knees!