Archive for October, 2012

I am washed by the water…

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

A young freshman college student who lost her mother to cancer four years ago to cancer posted these words on Facebook this morning, “Even when the storm comes I am washed by the water.” She was quoting the song, Washed by the Water by NeedtoBreathe. What a beautiful picture of what God’s purpose and plan is and has been for this sweet girl. She was only 14 when her mother passed away. I’m so thankful that she sees God’s hand at work in her life. At a very volatile age she could have chosen to see it as abandonment by God, she could have turned from Him and been very bitter. But instead she proclaims to all on the world wide web that even when the storm comes she’s washed by the water.

What this means is that if we will allow God to work in and through all of our circumstances, all our hard times, all our disenchantments in life, all our heartaches and disappointments and failures, all our grief and devastation, He will use the waters from the rains of every flood, every storm, to wash us clean. He’ll purify us and get us fit for His kingdom if we’ll allow Him to.

Even when the rain falls

Even when the flood starts rising

Even when the storm comes

I am washed by the water

Caleb’s favorite scripture…

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…’” (Isaiah 43:1-3a).

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, 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).


Ahead of the storm…

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

A friend who is battling cancer posted on her Facebook page yesterday concerning her timely trip home after surgery in New York, “God’s provision brought us home ahead of the storm.” I had to steal it, and I confessed the thievery before doing it.

God’s provision brought us home ahead of the storm. You and I talk a lot about weathering the storms. We talk a lot about God’s grace and strength and comfort and mercy in the midst of storms. We talk a lot about not being able to avoid the storms. But this statement takes us in a different direction. How many times has God brought us home ahead of the storm? How many storms have we escaped because of God’s provision and protection on our lives? How many storms have been in our path and God redirected our steps so that we could get home ahead of the storm? How many times have we found shelter just before the storm hits, thus not being impacted by it at all?

Let me answer each of these questions with, “More times than we could ever count. More times than we even know about.” Many times God’s plan is to protect us as we weather the storm. But more often God’s provision has brought us home ahead of the storm, and we are blessed to escape it. Amen for every single one of those times.

“Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you” (Psalm 25:20).

“Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you” (Psalm 5:11b).

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).


Down to your best option…

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I was texting with a friend who is very helpless in a family situation that is completely out of her hands. After many text conversations back and forth, she responded, “I just don’t know what else to do!” I responded back, “When all you can do is give it to the Lord, you’re down to your best option.”

How often do we exhaust all options before giving up and giving it to the Lord? I can only speak for myself, and my answer is “far too often.” We try it all. We talk until we’re blue in the face. We argue back and forth because we know our answer is the right one. We wring our hands in anxious worry. We cry. We lose sleep. We try it all. And when all options have been exhausted, we find we’re down to our best option. We’ve gotta give it up and give it to the Lord. He will either fix the problem or give us grace and strength and mercy to withstand it.

Are you down to your best option? Good. Now God can work on your behalf.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).


Be still but don’t be lazy…

Friday, October 26th, 2012

I was privileged to go to Albany, GA with Alexia Newman and a couple of her Carolina Pregnancy Center employees, where Alexia spoke at Sherwood Baptist Church’s Alpha Pregnancy Center’s banquet last night. We had a great time, and Alexia did an incredible job speaking. She did so well mixing in humor throughout, yet delivered such a compelling message on pro-life. We were so proud of her! The Lord has richly gifted Alexia with the ability to comfortably and fluently speak to hundreds or to an audience of one. I’m still floating high on the good time we had.

Through Alexia’s connections, I had the opportunity to meet with Alex Kendrick. If you’ve seen any of Sherwood Pictures’ movies, you will know Alex as the dad in Courageous, as well as key roles in the other films. I shared a little bit of Hannah’s journey with him and our work in making her story into a motion picture. Alex listened intently, gave me his undivided attention and intent eye contact. He offered some great words of wisdom, but the one piece of “counseling” that hit me the deepest was, “Be still but don’t be lazy.” He asked if I knew what he meant by that and I answered “Be still and allow God to move, but don’t sit on my couch with my feet propped up doing nothing until He opens a door.” He laughed and said, “Exactly.” He went on to tell me about their struggles with their first film, the fundraising headaches, the disappointments, the doors that opened and later closed. He encouraged me to keep working but not to kick any doors down. Just wait on the Lord, be still but don’t be lazy.

Are you waiting for answers from the Lord? Are you working really hard toward a particular goal but feel as though you’re spinning your wheels in the same spot? Be still but don’t be lazy. Be still and listen for God’s direction, but keep working toward your goal in some fashion. Keep things moving along until you get a definite green light. But don’t kick any doors down. If one closes, turn away from it and seek God’s direction.

That’s good advice for us all, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I had these past couple of days. God is good!

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).

“He keeps close watch on all my paths” (Job 33:11b).


Do you have to introduce yourself?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

This morning I read this story by Max Lucado. Max was in a breakfast deli, standing at the counter waiting for his order when a guy dressed like a prophet approached the counter. He was dressed in a long robe, sandals, long hair and beard, carrying a rake and a Bible. He introduced himself as a prophet, sent to share Jesus Christ. He responded to all who spoke to him with, “I bless you in the name of Jesus Christ.” The story was much longer but I’m summarizing it. The guy acted quite strange and all whom he “blessed” reacted with discomfort. Then as Max turned to leave he ran into a friend from church who is a pro-football player, big brawly guy full of the love of Jesus. He embraced Max with a big bear hug, they chatted for a short time, and then parted ways. As Max left he said he realized the huge contrast between the two guys. One dresses like Jesus, the other one acts like Jesus. One introduced himself as an ambassador for Christ; the other didn’t have to.

Man, I pray I don’t have to introduce myself as an ambassador for Jesus. I pray my life reflects Christ in my actions more than my words. I pray when I walk off from spending a couple of minutes with someone that they feel like their life has been enriched because of our encounter. I pray I never walk off and leave someone feeling uncomfortable. I pray others see Jesus in me, not because I dress like Him, but because I act like Him.

Do you introduce yourself as a follower of Jesus? Or do you not have to?

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22).


Your grace still amazes me…

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

My phone rang pretty early this morning, and it was a friend sharing some good news. Now that was a refreshing phone call! She told me that as she was driving down the road yesterday getting anxious about what could be bad news, Amazing Grace came on the radio. But the bad news ended up being good news – praise the Lord! Then just a couple of hours later I called the lady who I was scheduled to visit at 10:00 to be sure she was up for company, and we had such a sweet conversation. Sure enough she was exhausted and wanted to sleep a while longer, but then I couldn’t get off the phone with her. She talked about how amazing God’s grace is and has been throughout her journey. She’s in her early 40s and in the last stages of breast cancer that has metastasized to the brain and bones. In the course of the conversation she told me that she lost a brother to suicide in 2010. !!! Really, Lord??? She and I had a good little cry of praise and thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace through every single journey of our lives. We’re not always aware of the grace, sometimes we get too focused on the circumstances. But if we turn our hearts and minds to the One who ordained every step, we become keenly aware of the grace that carries us. No matter how many times we run face to face with grace, it still amazes us every time! I don’t want to ever get over that amazement.

Oh Lord, your grace still amazes me. In my mind this morning I’ve been hearing Seth sing this song at Hannah’s celebration of life service. Hannah listened to it on CD a lot while she was sick, and Seth did a beautiful job on it. As we sat on the pew holding hands with family members, looking past the beautiful white casket that held Hannah’s earthly shell and to the pulpit that held family and ministers and friends who gave of their time and hearts to make that celebration service so special, we could not help but join in songs of praise and thanksgiving that Your grace still amazes me!

Almost six years later, we’re still amazed by that same grace every single day.

“The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you” (2 Corinthians 13:14 The Message).

“Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves” (Philippians 4:23 The Message).


Homecoming – 6 years later – Welcome Home Poppa!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Dear Jesus, You continue to amaze me! You continue to amaze me! Oh Jesus, I do not want this suffering to be wasted! I desire to cooperate with You at every turn. You continue to open opportunities to share this journey of faith.

Last Saturday night I shared in Florence, SC. It was a beautiful evening – tables all decorated by the ladies of the church – each unique – I hadn’t been there very long when a lady approached me, grabbed my hand and began telling me about her daughter. As she spoke, I noticed a button on her blouse with the picture of a beautiful girl with long brown hair and brown eyes. She began to tell me that a year ago in June her 22 year old daughter, Devan, had been the victim of domestic violence. Devan had been strangled at the hands of her husband and it was almost a week before they found her body. Oh Jesus, very quickly You reminded me of my complete dependence upon You. I knew that You would have to speak Your truth and peace and grace. I knew there was nothing I would be able to speak to her. But I knew that You had ordered both of our paths there that evening. This week I received an e-mail from her – You are bringing healing to her broken heart and I pray that You will bring forth much eternal fruit through her testimony of Your daily sufficient grace. Her heart cry is that others will be spared from the domestic violence her daughter suffered.

The date of that evening was October 13 – exactly six years since Hannah had been crowned Homecoming Queen at her high school after fighting for her life for the previous 5 months. I marveled at Your timing – I marveled that You were still allowing me to share – I marveled that You were still bringing forth eternal fruit from Hannah’s life – I marveled that You had brought this mother to share the evening with us.

On the way back to Sumter to spend the night at the home of friends, I reflected on the evening as I turned up the volume on the praise music and sang my heart out. As I got closer to the home where I would be staying, I pulled out “Hannah’s Song” – written by Scott Robinson, unknown to us at the time, about Homecoming 2006 and about Hannah’s heavenly Homecoming. Every time I listen, it blesses my heart! I know You anointed the song Lord – it is so powerful – and brings heaven so close! At the end of the song, the voice of 7 year old Grayson says, “Welcome Home Hannah!” Bless the Lord – yes, Welcome Home Hannah!

I sent a message to Joni, Scottie’s wife, who sings Hannah’s Song to tell her that I had been sharing that evening in Florence and that it was the 6th anniversary of Homecoming. Joni told me that I wouldn’t believe where she was – she had been at the hospital all day with Grayson because Grayson’s Poppa was taking his last breaths on this earth and Grayson was taking her Poppa’s death pretty hard. Joni asked if I would call Grayson – Oh my word – would I call her – absolutely – You had used Grayson to shower me with Your blessings and comfort as I listened over and over to her little voice say, “Welcome Home Hannah!”

We had the most precious conversation as I encouraged her that when her Poppa took his last breath on this earth that Hannah would be waiting on him at the gate to tell him, “Welcome Home Poppa!”  You are so amazing Lord!  You are so amazing!  You are continuing to teach me how You never miss connecting a thread – You always tie every single knot – You always dot every ‘i” and cross every “t.” Nothing goes by unnoticed by You!

The next evening I received word that Poppa had gone on into Your heavenly kingdom, Lord. He was home – home with Hannah and the crowd of witnesses that had gone before him and once again “Heaven Became” a little more real!  Heaven is becoming more and more real every day!

Last evening I spoke with Angie – a precious friend from church. Angie’s 21 year old cousin MeMe went to be with Jesus this week after a 4 year battle with cancer. They live in Winston Salem. And of course it just happens, Father, that we will be in Winston Salem this week for the game and I am praying You give me the opportunity to meet David and Sharon – MeMe’s parents. I will hug their necks, I will hold their hands, I will cry with them and I will pray with them and we will together ask You again to bring beauty from their ashes and bring forth abundant eternal fruit!!  That is what You do – that is who You are!! And You will once again write on our hearts that heaven – eternity with You – is just around the corner! Thank you Jesus!  I love You! Amen!

Order my steps…

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

This morning during my quiet time I was praying for several individuals who I was hoping to make personal contact with today. I prayed specifically, “Lord, please establish the work of my hands today. Order my steps. I don’t want to go before you or lag behind. I wanna be in step with you.”

I waited until around 10:00 to place calls to two individuals who are battling pretty ugly cancer. I didn’t want to chance on waking them. One lady said a massage therapist was coming today and that she’d be wiped out, but would love for me to visit tomorrow. The other one, Nancy, didn’t answer the phone so I left a long detailed voice mail at her home. Nancy is a volunteer at Carolina Pregnancy Center and has aggressive cancer in several parts of her body. When I hung up I said, “Well Lord, I’m 0 for 2 right now. I sure would love to have an opportunity to see Nancy.” I had been doing a good bit of running around at that point and had about an hour to spare before going to Mary Black, so I decided I’d swing by the office and see what CPC could tell me about Nancy’s condition and where she lives. I hope you’re sitting down for this, because as I walked into my end of the building, one of CPC’s employees was telling a couple of the ladies that Nancy was in the lobby. I could not believe it. We all hurried to the lobby and had a hard time finding Nancy because she was surrounded by a group of CPC ladies, most all of them wiping tears as Nancy updated them on her condition. Her sweet husband was standing next to her chair, seemingly soaking in every word she was saying. I spotted my baby sister, Leigh – the new Office Manager at CPC, leaning behind Nancy with tears flowing. We all circled around and as she talked, I whispered a silent prayer for the Lord to open a door for me to be able to encourage her somehow. I didn’t at all feel like I needed to insert myself or my “counsel” as the ladies at CPC have that down pat! But I sure did want to share some of the scriptures and thoughts that have helped us over the years. Not to my surprise at all, Alexia asked if we could join hands and pray with her and for her. Of course Nancy was all about that, and Alexia said, “Hope, do you mind leading us in prayer?” That Lord, you can’t do a thing with Him! What an incredible opportunity to pray for Nancy, prayerfully encourage her heart, and the hearts of any of the other ladies who may have needed to hear that our hope does not rest in our circumstances. Our hope does not rest in treatment or surgery, but in our personal eternal relationship with the One who will never disappoint us. I cried during the prayer, which I don’t do often, but all I could see was God’s hand ordering my steps – steps that led me to my office at the exact time Elizabeth was gathering everyone up to see Nancy. Had I been a minute later I would not have known Nancy was there. Had I decided to run another errand or grab lunch rather than swing by the office I would’ve missed that amazing time we had with a sweet lady. And steps that led Alexia to call on me to pray, of all the ladies standing in that circle who she could’ve asked – or certainly prayed a heartfelt prayer herself. And steps that ordered Leigh to a career that will undoubtedly change her life. That Lord.

Have you asked the Lord to order your steps? Have you asked Him to guide you and protect you and lead you by the prompting of the Holy Spirit? He’ll do it, you’ve just gotta ask.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21).

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4 & 5).

I had a couple of other opportunities today, but I’ll save those for another devo.


Hanging out between the storms…

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Saturday I was talking to my good friend and neighbor, Wendell, and he asked how my sister Leigh is doing. Leigh got married on September 29 to a wonderful man, Tyler Ellisor, who has already brought so much stability and love to her and the girls. Then last week she was hired as the new Office Manager for Carolina Pregnancy Center – which means she works in the same building as I do. That Lord, you can’t do a thing with Him! I responded to Wendell, “Leigh’s doing great. Life is good right now, she’s just enjoying hanging out between the storms.” Wendell chuckled just a bit, then he looked off into the distance with the most pleasant look on his face, nodding in agreement. Wendell and his beautiful family have certainly had their share of storms, but I imagine that right now they could consider themselves as hanging out enjoying life between the storms.

You and I have talked many times about how common storms are in this life. We’re either on our way into one, in one, or on our way out. Storms of life will not go away until Jesus comes and takes us Home. They’re as much a part of life as eating. Our test is not just how we respond during the storms, but how do we spend our time between them. Do we recognize those times of “peace and quiet”? Do we see the tweener stage as time to refuel, time to get to know the Lord more intimately? Or do we spend the calm seasons depending on our own strength, since after all we’re not in crisis mode depending on the Lord for rescue? The Lord wants to be Lord of our life. Period. Not just during the desperate times, and not just during the good times. He wants to be Lord of our life. Period.

Are you hanging out between the storms? How much time are you spending getting to the know the Lord just a little bit better so that when the next storm moves in, you’re able to trust Him just a little more?

“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).

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8).


Our permanent travel partners…

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

During our prayer time this morning Di and I spent a few minutes talking about this verse. As I thought through the meaning, I caught myself staring out the window of the beautiful prayer room at the office, imagining goodness and mercy following along behind me. I’m glad it doesn’t go ahead of me, assuming I could keep up. But rather it follows me around, cleaning up the mess I make. If I completely blow it, goodness and mercy clean it up. If I veer off the main path, goodness and mercy follow me. If I find myself in a very dark valley, goodness and mercy follow me. If I am afraid, goodness and mercy are right there, following behind me. They have my back. And as Di pointed out, goodness and mercy are there to catch us when we fall under the load of life. What a gracious, loving God. Only He would think to assign permanent travel partners, following us around all day long. 

Goodness: kindness, generosity.

Mercy: Compassion, forgiveness.

We ought to be able to live victorious Christian lives when we allow this truth to soak in. Kindness, generosity, compassion and forgiveness are pursuing you and me every day, all day. All we have to do is accept them.