That Name

As I was reflecting on this Easter Day before bed, I was reminded of a song I learned just after my parents became believers. The Gaithers, one of the first contemporary Christian music groups, would sing it. As a child I would swear the angels stopped to listen and then sing in agreement.
As you end your Easter, may you join with me in singing these words whose truth has echoed through the ages.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s just something about that name

Lyrics by Gloria Gaither

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Easter 2014

While watching Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille I was struck by the way that God used all of His story, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, to point the way to Him.
After the final plague comes through Egypt the Pharaoh releases the Israelites from their bondage. They were free. It made me think of how we, as Believers, are released from bondage by the blood of Christ.
Over the years I have learned a number of different things about the Exodus. The plagues themselves were against the idols of Egypt. The Egyptians worshipped the river gods, frog gods, sky gods, snake gods, certain animals, etc. All of these things were destroyed because of Pharaoh’s hard heart. During the last plague the blood was placed on the door posts in the same places of Jesus’ pierced hands and feet and where the crown of thorns was placed on His head.

There are so many amazing ways the God proved He was the One True God.

The best way though comes tomorrow– Easter Morning… The tomb was empty then and my heart is now full.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah. The tomb is empty, Jesus lives.

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Coffee

No, this is not an ode to that magical bean that can make cranky people nice in the morning.

I had coffee with a good friend last Friday. Our lives are busy and full of many things that have kept us from catching up until then.

Her mom is ill and now in hospice care. I asked how she was handling this last portion of time with her mom.
“God is meeting all of our needs and the cries of my heart.”

My friend shared how her mom is growing in faith and understanding of God’s character and how encouraged both of them are by His faithfulness.

She asked how I am doing lately. I smiled and held up my left arm to show her the words I recently had tattooed there. Beloved Believe.

After my struggles and difficult days I wanted something to remind me that God saw things differently from Heaven. The tattoo artist was going to place the words so they faced away from me, but I said they were for me to see and be encouraged by. My friend smiled, she has been there and understood.

After a couple hours, we left to go home and I left thinking of how full I felt. One cup of good coffee and a chocolate croissant were good, but the company and conversation were better.

Don’t put off your cup of coffee any longer. Call the friend you’ve been meaning to see, put that time on the calendar and don’t let anything prevent you from meeting. You will be the richer for it. (See Proverbs 17:17 and Hebrews 10:24-25 for more encouragement).

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Walking in the dark

Years ago, when I was a new believer, I had my faith challenged. I was presented with the reality that I could either trust that God was Who He said He was or dismiss His abilities to help me walk through a devastating season.

During the same time I started listening to a Christian singer named Wayne Watson. Many of his songs resonated with my difficult season, but none more than Walk in the Dark. The song embodied all of my fear and also my desire to still walk with God. I hope you are encouraged today by these same words.

Walk in the Dark by Wayne Watson

Where are you taking me-why are we turning here
this road is strange to me-this path is not so clear
must be the place where my doubt turns to faith
where I close my eyes and take your hand

CHORUS:
I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus
Than walk in the light on my own
I’d rather go through the valley of the shadow with him
Than to dance on the mountains alone
I’d rather follow wherever he leads me
Than to go where none before me have gone
I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus
Than to walk in the light of my own

I’ve made some plans you know-mapped out a strategy
Somebody tell me where did the seasons go-have you forgotten me
I’ve heard the darkest hour is just before dawn
And wherever you are the sun will shine

CHORUS

There will be shadows-but I won’t be shaken
‘Cause you’ve never forsaken a vow
You’ve never failed me before this I know
And, Jesus, you won’t fail me now

CHORUS

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Striving for steadfast

This past week has been spring break at my house. It’s been a wonderful time of no alarms, casual clothes, and visits with friends and family. Yesterday as I prepared for church, I felt myself growing anxious about returning to work and for my sons return to school. I tried to shake it off and focus on worship, but it seemed almost a Herculean effort to hear the words of the worship pastor and others as they sang.
Later as the evening began, I found myself again feeling anxious. Again, I cried out to God asking for a heart of peace. Philippians 4:6 came to mind, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything , by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I also thought of the next verse, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
I found some peace as I let the truth of those words fall over me.
This morning I woke up and soon after felt the anxiety returning. However, this time I am determined to not let the sense of dread and worry overshadow a new day. If I do, I may as well go back to bed.
During my quiet time I saw this verse from James, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 ESV).
That’s how I want to live, striving for steadfastness in trials– real or imagined– and trusting in the very God who promises in Hebrews 13:5 to “never leave you or forsake you.”
God is steadfast– He is immovable, unshakeable, un-changing. He is the “Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End, my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and Friend” as the worship chorus goes.
I need Him. I need to operate during the day– and even as I sleep– as someone who is promised in Scripture to be given all I need (Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 9:8) by a God who has everything.
So I strive. I strive for deep breaths as I go forward today, strive for joy and not sadness, faith and not fear, belief and not doubt, to trust the unknown future to a known God.
My prayer for you is that you will do the same.

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Seasons

The snow is melting here, which means all of the debris from the fallen leaves is now visible. When I look outside I find myself disgusted by the yuck and muck. Why can’t we just go from winter to summer? Why do we have to go through the mess of spring first?
I felt God smile as I thought this and then say to me, “It’s just like the Christian walk, ya know.” I realized He was right. When we accept Christ we are made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Once we take this salvation in and fully grasp it, we see the areas which need adjusting or cleaning up with God’s help. This is where the spring season begins.
Spring is crucial for a Believer. In order to grow as God designed us to grow, we need to get rid of the “debris” of our past lives– our old thoughts, actions, ideas– and replace them with new ones (2 Corinthians 5:17 and 2 Corinthians 10:5).
Summer, following the metaphor, is when we see the healthy growth and efforts we have made come to fruition as we continue to mature in our faith.
And finally, autumn comes, when we see the harvest of God working through us for His purposes.
Once more I see how God uses His creation to explain more about His character and plan for us.
I may never grow to love the mud and muck or spring, but I will choose to see it as a promise of the good that is to come.

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Fruit

When I was young girl, my mom bought a record that was called Music Machine.. The album was story about a young brother and sister who discover an unusual machine, “like no the gadget that you’ve ever seen.”
The theme of the album was the Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” It has been over 35 years since I listened to the album and I can still sing the songs about love, patience, etc.
As an adult, I came to see the verses as more than a catchy song. I realized when Paul wrote the letter to the churches of Galatia, he was describing the evolution of maturity in a Christian. When we first accept the love of Christ as presented on the cross for us, we cannot help but develop Love; Love for our fellow man, love for God and His Son. As we mature further, the Love grows into Joy. Joy for all the ways God loves us, blesses us, and grows us.
From Joy comes a Peace, something that goes deeper than a “cup-of-tea-and-a-good-book” kind of peace. This is the Peace described in Philippians 4:7 “which transcends all understanding.”
Patience is next, out of patience one can develop Kindness and so on. You see, Self-control cannot be developed unless you have matured through the other Fruit. Now, that doesn’t mean they cannot develop simultaneously. It just means that the natural maturity of a Believer comes as he or she grows in each part of the Fruit.
A final thought. Note that Paul didn’t call them Fruits. He called them Fruit because they are all a part of one thing. Our walk. If we are truly one with the Holy Spirit, there will be proof. This Fruit is part of the proof.

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Beloved believe

Many of my posts have been about struggles and faith and doubt. I have been in battle with my thoughts and feelings, striving to put “every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Some days I succeed and some days I don’t.
I am reminded of how God protects me (Psalm 91) and how peace is available through the Holy Spirit, who is called our Comforter (John 14:16, 26).
The father, who came to Jesus to ask for healing of his son in Mark 9:14-29, spoke honestly with Jesus and cried out to Him saying, ” I believe; help my unbelief!”
God promises to give us wisdom if we ask (James 1:5) “But when he asks he should believe and not doubt, for he who doubts is like a wave blown and tossed by the sea” (verse 6). I don’t want to be blown and tossed by the wind, I want to feel the weight of my Anchor holding me steadfast.
There is a new song on the radio, Oceans by Hillsong, that speaks clearly to my situation. I will post the lyrics below and hopefully it will encourage you too.

All we are called to do is believe. We are His beloved.

oceans
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet my fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surround me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes ago the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

(songlyrics.com)

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Cancer

I have just learned that a dear and precious friend has advanced stage brain cancer. She is a fabulous, fun, intelligent, beautiful woman. I am wrecked.
Cancer stinks. There are no two ways about it. Cancer has taken my friends and my family and touched many more. I hate the disease. I find myself alternating between crying hard tears and calling out to God.

More than twenty years ago, my dear aunt Arlene was diagnosed with cancer. One of the verses my mom and I found during those months was Romans 8:26. “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our times of distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (NLT).

That is what I am feeling right now. I have no words. But the Holy Spirit does and it will intercede on my behalf. And on my friend’s behalf too.

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All things…

Yesterday as I did chores around the house, I found myself complaining in my head and ultimately, in my heart. I was listing all of the struggles, strife, frustrations, loss, and failings that have happened–in my life and within my family–over the past four years. As each thought came to mind, I found myself growing more and more irritable. “What makes so-and-so think I shouldn’t be angry? Look at all of the stuff I’ve been going through!”

I still felt resentment by the time my dear husband came home from work. He asked what was wrong and I couldn’t explain why I was so “cranky.” I had forgotten how I grew so angry, I was just angry.

Later that night, my husband asked me to find our “praise journal” so he could take it to his Bible study on Monday. He explained that a friend needed some encouragement in a difficult situation and my hubby knew the journal might help.

The praise journal was a wedding gift, nearly 17 years ago. Every blessing, every gift, every “God-thing” we as a couple have been given or experienced has been recorded in this journal. As I read my entries I realized I had more to be thankful about than I did to whine about in my life.

Scripture says, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

I am so grateful for the praise journal; it reminds me of the ways God has cared for my family. Do you have a journal? I recommend getting one. Just as the Israelites in the Old Testament would gather stones to mark places where God provided (see Joshua 4:1-9), so should we mark times and places when God provided. These markers will remind us of His faithfulness in the past and encourage us for the future.

In all things.

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