Archive for October, 2010

God is good!

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I want to apologize on the world wide web to my nephew, Brad for not posting a praise report about his melanoma surgery. I sent a bulk email praising the Lord on Monday but realized last night that I had not told my web friends. Brad received the results of the path report on the margins and lymph nodes that were removed along with the melanoma last week, and all is clear! Praise the Lord! I posted on Brad’s Facebook page, as did so many others, that “God is good!” And He is!

I thought later as I read all the posts of praise that God would still be good even if the test results had been positive for cancer involvement in the lymph nodes. He’s good even when He doesn’t show up when we think He should. He longs for our praise when things turn out the way we prayed they would! He inhabits the praise of His people! But He also inhabits the praise in the bad times as well. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Do we really believe He’s good when the news is bad? I pray so. God is good! When? All the time. All means all and that’s all all means. God is good all the time.

“How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:12).

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other”  (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

We’re flying high on excitement over Brad’s results, recognizing Whose hand is at work in Brad’s life. Love you, Bradley Shawn!!

Happy Birthday to my sweet husband! Clay is the best thing that ever happened to Caleb and me. He brings to us such deep wisdom, an incredible sense of humor, and enormous strength and stability. Clay is responsible for introducing me to grace, a character of God I had not heard much about. Unmerited favor – how refreshing! I love you, Clayton Leon Houchins, Jr.!

Hope

Open Heart Surgery…

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

My faithful friend and prayer partner, Di said this morning that she has asked the Lord several times lately prior to attending  church to do open heart surgery on her. I love that! I don’t know where she comes up with her sayings, I guess in Cowpens, but I’m stealing another one.

I thought about what open heart surgery does for our physical heart. When an artery is blocked and a stent cannot take care of the problem, the surgeon takes an artery from somewhere else in the body, bypasses the blocked area and reroutes the system. This procedure is very successful and will allow the patient to live many more years. Whatever it takes to get the heart back up and going, so be it.

Our prayer should be for God to do whatever it takes to get our hearts back in line with His. If a stent will do the trick – meaning He can push the blockage away and open the area back up for use, then so be it. But if we’ve done too much damage to that area in our life, or if that area is causing damage to the rest of our body, He may choose to bypass it all together and reroute us on our journey. Whatever it takes to get us where we need to be, so be it.

Father, show me areas in my heart that need to have open heart surgery. What have I allowed in my life that has clogged my heart and keeps Your love from flowing freely? Clean me up – unclog my spiritual heart using whatever it takes. And if I’ve allowed a particular area in my life to get so out of control that it is no longer effective, then reroute me. Take me in another direction. Whatever it takes to keep me from having a fatal spiritual heart attack, I submit to Your control. Perform open heart surgery on me today and reveal Your plan. Clean me up and set me in motion for that plan. And I pray this prayer for each of my web friends. I trust You, the Great Physician.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:22 & 23).

Hope

This world is in such a mess…

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

I was reading a blog from a friend that I mentioned in my devotional early this morning. Her 47-year-old sister is nearing death after a very brief battle with cancer. I’m a little partial to 47-year-olds right now, as they’re “one of my own kind” as of my birthday last week. My friend said in her blog that on Sunday afternoon the hospice room was filled to the max with friends and family, all chattering and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. She looked at her sister lying in the bed and could tell she was in deep thought. She asked her what she was thinking and she said, “This world is in such a mess.” My friend said she remembered reading in her hospice material that there will be a “pulling away” as the patient nears death. I remember learning that in my hospice training as well. Sometimes that’s hard for us, those left behind, to accept. It is not “normal” for a 47-year-old to be ready to check out. Unless, of course, the Holy Spirit is preparing her heart for heaven.

soaring_eagleI remember Hannah pulling away. She didn’t really say much, never made a direct statement like this sweet lady did, but she alluded to it. A couple of nights before she went to heaven I was sitting in the recliner beside her couch and out of the blue she said, “You can have all the things that people gave me with your name on it.” She had a lot of “stuff” that said Hope. I answered, “Aaww, that’s sweet. You can wrap them up and give them to me for Christmas.” She smiled the sweetest smile but never said a word. Her eyes said all that needed to be said, “Thanks for trying to encourage me, Hope. But you know I won’t be here, and I’m okay with that.” Her hope didn’t rest in this world. This world is in such a mess.

Also that same night Deb wanted Hannah to see her closet. You probably remember Deb journaling about this a while back. Hannah had a small closet and someone had come in and given it a makeover. They installed wire shelves, racks, etc., and it was complete on this particular day. Deb couldn’t wait for Hannah to see it! But Hannah had no desire to see the closet. Hannah was pulling away. The Holy Spirit was preparing her heart for heaven. She was probably thinking, “This world is in a bigger mess than my closet.”

An old song comes to my mind…

This world is not my home I’m just passing through

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

I’m so thankful that because of God’s grace and mercy and strength, we can accept God’s plan to take a loved one home “before their time” – or before we consider it time. If you have a friend or family member who has gone to heaven and you’re struggling with God’s purpose, trust Him to know what He’s doing. They are with the One Who created them in a place He created for them, doing what He created them to do – praising Him for all eternity! Take shelter under His wings and allow Him to heal your heart.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

Hope

Offering words of Hope…

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

I realized first thing this morning that I did not post a devotional yesterday. I am so sorry! I was a busy bee all day, but nothing is more important than offering words of Hope to you. Excuse the play on words.

This will be short because I have a couple of visits to make first thing this morning. I’ll post more later.

“Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that…we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Already this morning I have shared verses of hope with two friends – one whose 11 year old grandson is having a biopsy today on a tumor behind his eye; the other is a friend whose sweet sister is in her last hours on this earth, dying with cancer. How can we face these storms? How do we possibly pass through the dark valleys? By clinging to our words of hope that were written just for that reason! God’s Word is our source for encouragement. Share a word of Hope with someone today!

Hope

Connecting the Dots…

Monday, October 25th, 2010

God must love to play Connect the Dots – He sure is good at it! I received an email from a Spartanburg lady who followed a story of a one year old little girl, Cora who passed away with cancer early this year. She had received a link to Cora’s blog and followed her story closely, much like she did our own Hannah’s. Last week she decided to check up on Cora’s family to see how they’re doing, now several months out from Cora’s death. She was blown away by what she read. Here are her words…

I just wanted to let you know that Hannah’s story has touched yet another life.  I have never met the McClenehen’s (Kansas), but I found them through a friend’s blog when she asked all of us to pray for their sweet baby Cora Paige.  She was a cute, chubby cheeked little girl who just celebrated her first Christmas.  After suffering many ear infections Jess and Joel returned to their pediatrician to try to get to the bottom of things.  On January 22 ~ Cora Paige was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma cancer.  Doctors thought Cora Paige had a good chance because of her age, but 17 days later she went into the arms of Jesus.  I have been in awe of Jess and Joel.  The way they have handled the entire situation.  I can’t even imagine what your families have gone through.  How your faith has been tested, but you still make sure to give Him all the praise. 

hannah-mamaws-smallWell as I was checking “in” on the family this week, Jess was talking about how her and Joel are involved in Judgment House at their church.  This is something they have done for years, but this year it was personal.  She started telling the story of Sweet Hannah!!  WOW!!!!  I know that this is played all over the country, but to see (read) it through someone I have gotten to know through a friend’s blog ~ God is amazing!!  She talked about how it brought back memories and feelings ~ they are playing the part of Mickey and Deb.

I still stand amazed at both families and seeing your faith through everything is just making mine stronger.  Thank you for being an example to all of us that God is in control and that no matter what and through HIM we can go through anything because He is carrying us.

Please click on this link and read Cora’s mother’s story. http://themcclenahans.blogspot.com/2010/10/i-saw-you-too-lord.html

The dots that I’m referring to that God is connecting are these: Deb flies to Newton, KS this weekend to be with Grace Community Church as they do Hannah’s story in Judgement House. To think that a local follower of our ministry has been following a Newton, KS story for months – having no idea the Judgement House connection – is almost mind boggling. What a sobering reminder of Who is really in control of our lives. He is connecting the dots, all we have to do is show up!

Be comforted in knowing that God is in full control today. Do not fret, do not fear, do not despair. Be strong and courageous. You serve an AWESOME God!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).

Hope

When you’re not seeing Him…

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I counseled with a 36 year old lady Wednesday night in Judgement House who was as discouraged as I have seen anyone in a very long time. She assured me she is a Christian and loves the Lord but she cannot see His hand at work in any area of her life. I encouraged her to keep on serving Him and keep on talking to Him and keep on reading His Word. The more we talked the more it was apparent that this lady was having a hard time seeing the Lord in her life because she was spending all of her time focusing on her problems.

In Grace for the Moment Max Lucado uses an illustration of how at times in our Christian life we see God so clearly – as if through a freshly cleaned window. Nothing obstructs our view of Him. But then something or someone throws a pebble into our window and it becomes cracked. Suddenly our focus on the Lord is skewed due to the crack. I thought about how often we spend so much time banging away at the crack that our glass becomes shattered, making it impossible to see anything through it – especially God.

Is that you today? Are you having a hard time seeing God at work in your life? Are you focusing on the crack that something or someone has caused in your life? Don’t spend time beating away at the crack, trying to fix it yourself. If you do, the crack will cause your entire view to shatter. Just keep looking to the Father for guidance, even when you’re not seeing Him.

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength” (Ephesians 1:17-19 The Msg).

Have a great weekend!

Hope

Nice trade-off…

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

During prayer time this morning Deb said she either heard someone say or read somewhere the statement, “As you get older you trade youth and strength for wisdom and perspective.” I chuckled just a bit to myself. Our friend, Todd, is notorious for saying, “Somewhere in the Bible it says…” I don’t know where Deb heard this but I like it. Today I celebrate my 47th birthday. Happy Birthday to me! Clay said to me this morning, “Honey, you’re getting close to middle age.” I answered, “Unless 94 is the average age for dying, I’d say I passed it a few years ago.” I feel confident that buried underneath that sobering reminder was a compliment. I’m still digging to find it. Gotta love men.

I thought about Deb’s statement and decided that trading youth and strength for wisdom and perspective is a pretty nice trade-off. We’re knee deep into Judgement House at Cudd Memorial and I’ve had wonderful opportunities to counsel with individuals ranging from age 8 to 76. I have to agree that with age comes wisdom and perspective. What is really major to a teenager has dimmed in comparison to “real life” for a 76 year old. I can see how over the last few years, as I’ve approached middle age, that I’ve gained a new perspective, and prayerfully I’ve grown in wisdom. The advice I share with my counselees has changed since my first year of Judgement House counseling in 2005. I attribute that change to age and experience…I’ve traded youth and strength for wisdom and perspective.

I hope this is true for you. If you’re still a young little thing, enjoy those strong, firm arms. They’ll become a tad flabby as you get older, no matter how fit you are. And if you’re like me and you’re not in the best of shape, they may be more than flabby. They’re more like “hangy down parts.” (I stole that from Dennis Swanberg.) But you know, I’ll trade youth and strength for wisdom and perspective any day. Because the older I get the more I need wisdom. And with that wisdom comes a deeper perspective on life. Yep, it’s a pretty nice trade-off.

“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. ’I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion’” (Proverbs 8:10-12).

“Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1 The Msg).

Hope

Love by choice…

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I forgot my Bible bag in Mom’s car which houses my NIV/Message Parallel Study Bible and Jesus Calling devotional, so I had to go to Plan B for my quiet time this morning. I pulled out my NIV Life Application Bible and grabbed Grace for the Moment Morning & Evening Edition to see what Max Lucado had to say to me. What a message on October 20th! I have to share it with you…

He placed one scoop of clay upon another until a form lay lifeless on the ground…

All were silent as the Creator reached in himself and removed something yet unseen. “It’s called ‘choice.’ The seed of choice.”

Within the man, God had placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The God of might had created earth’s mightiest. The Creator had created, not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return. Now it’s our choice.

In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado

The first thing that came to my mind after reading this was, “Wow. Love by choice.” I thought about how insignificant Clay and Caleb’s love for me would be if I had the power to force them to love me. It wouldn’t mean a whole lot. Because they make the choice to love me, it thrills my soul! When we struggle with insecurity, often we do everything within our power to make others love us. Whether it be through manipulation, guilt, pity, whatever the resource we can muster up. But none of that works. We can’t make someone love us! We have the choice to love others, and trust that in return they’ll choose to love us back.

God did not create robots to respond to His love. He wanted us to choose His love. He created within us a free will. Had He created us to love Him by default, that love wouldn’t mean much. But because we have a choice – the fact that we choose to love God glorifies Him and thrills Him to pieces! Practice that today, love by choice.

“To choose life is to love the Lord your God, obey him, and stay close to him” (Deuteronomy 30:20).

Hope

From the inside out…

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I love the song, From the Inside Out by Hillsong. Here are just a few of the lyrics…

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace…

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

A thousand times I’ve failed yet His mercy still remains. Mercy – God withholding from me what I deserve. No matter how many times I fail, He showers me with mercy. What an amazing God.

I can’t help but chuckle when I hear the next phrase, “Should I stumble again…” Should I stumble? There’s a pretty good chance that’ll happen! And when it does, waiting there to catch me is grace. What a beautiful picture! Grace – God giving to me what I don’t deserve. In our weak, tunnel-vision flesh, we imagine that when we mess up God is growling and throwing up His hands in frustration with us. That’s not what happens. Imagine yourself really blowing it spiritually. You trip over your own feet and stumble. Rather than landing flat on your face, you are caught by God’s grace, hugged real tight, then He brushes off your knees and elbows and steadies you once again.

He longs to consume us from the inside out. Oh how we should love Him from the inside out!

“If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23 & 24).

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16).

Thank you for your prayers for Brad. His surgery went well, though they removed an 8″ wide and 4″ deep area from between his shoulder blades, as well as an area around his left arm pit to test lymph nodes. We will not know the results for 7 days. Please continue to pray that none of us in Brad’s life will miss what God wants to teach us through this storm. Love to all of you!

Hope

You really do have this, don’t you?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Looking back at my journal notes from Psalm 73, I’m reminded again that God really does have this under control. When things seem to be out of control, life isn’t fair, the good die young, the bad prosper, bad things always happen to good people, and bad people get by with everything, God isn’t missing a thing. I don’t typically put a lot of scripture in my devotional, but I want you to get this message.

1Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills…

12 This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth. 13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning…

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

23 …I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (Psalm 73)

Tomorrow morning my nephew, Brad will have surgery to remove the melanoma from his back. The surgeon has said that he will cut Brad from shoulder blade to shoulder blade and all the way to the muscle. He’ll also remove any lymph nodes in the vicinity. They’re doing a nuclear test today to determine if the cancer has spread to any other areas. When life stinks, we have to remember that God is not far away. He holds us by the right hand. No matter how things appear, we must remember that God really does have this thing. He is not asleep nor has He wandered off doing something else for “more important” people. God is in full control of our circumstances and He is fully aware of what’s going on.

Don’t lose heart today. When you feel like things couldn’t get any worse, say aloud to the Lord, “You really do have this, don’t you?” Then walk off and leave it with Him.

Thank you for your prayers for Bradley. I will post as soon as I can tomorrow.

Hope