Archive for March, 2013

This whole faith thing…

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

If I haven’t thanked you lately for your prayers for Poppy and Grandma Ellen, thank you. They both are doing pretty well overall. Ellen had her hip replacement surgery last Wednesday, and she is now in a rehabilitation hospital for 10-14 days then she’ll be coming home. We continue to see God’s hand of faithfulness every single day. And Poppy, well we’re working to get him strong enough to undergo surgery to reverse the temporary ileostomy. He underwent a nuclear stress test for his heart yesterday and we got a call today ordering a heart cath tomorrow afternoon – on Good Friday – his 77th birthday. Happy Birthday to him! I told him today that it’s probably on everyone’s list to get a heart cath for their birthday! Clay told him he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This entire experience of bringing them down here for a broke foot only to end up with a life threatening digestive issue, then Ellen’s hip replacement and now heart tests, have mercy it teeters on hilarious, but leans more toward quite sobering. As I was telling my faithful friend, Di about the heart cath, she was just about as unsurprised as I was. But of course there’d be another hurdle. I mean, God is putting our faith to the test. He must think He needs to kick it up a notch. Either we’re not doing very well or we’re doing too well. I told Di this whole faith thing is overrated. Sometimes we need hard cold facts for proof that God is at work. Every once in a while it’s nice to see the evidence rather than having to dangle on faith. As usual she and I spent a good bit of time on that little rant.

But if I could be serious for just a moment, I’d assure you that this whole faith thing is pretty amazing. It is our walk of faith that strengthens us. The hard cold facts do not require any effort on our part. Of course we believe in something we can touch, hear, see, smell, taste. No efforts there! It’s the part of the journey that we have no idea what the next turn is, what will be waiting on us – or will be snatched from us – that grows us. It’s the unexpected phone call that says there was an abnormality in the stress test and further testing will be necessary that causes us to examine our faith. It’s the times when we think we’re about to get a little break and then the phone rings and the news says “Break’s over!” that cause us to step back, regroup and pray for strength. When understanding is out of our grasp, we have two choices. Get bitter, or choose to trust. We choose to trust.

This whole faith thing, it’s worth the trouble. My prayer for our family…

“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it” (3 John 1:3).

Hope

We’re too busy to notice…

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I was counseling with a lady today and I didn’t get a strong feel about her level of faith. She’s a believer, but I don’t think she spends a lot of time with the Lord one-on-one. She said she followed Hannah’s story and the fact that she is now an acquaintance of the family is “pretty strange how things work out in life.” I told her that the Lord is intricately involved in every little detail of our lives, we’re just too busy to notice Him at work. She didn’t respond, but she definitely chewed on it.

We’re too busy to notice the Lord at work. That’s a sad statement. We take so much for granted. God gives us so many blessings, tee-tiny ones all the way to large ones, and much of the time we miss them. We go about our day doing what comes next, end the day with a prayer of thanksgiving (sometimes), collapse in the bed exhausted from the crazy events of our day, and we completely miss God’s whispers of love to us. We completely miss His hand of protection on our physical bodies, His shield of protection around our hearts emotionally and spiritually, and the many, MANY times He reroutes us in hopes that we may catch a glimpse of His glory shining on our lives. We’re too busy to notice. Shame on us.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?” (Proverbs 20:24).

Hope

Peace in the valley…

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Today a beautiful lady from our church went to heaven, Mrs. Dianne Greene, at the young age of 65. I have never known a lady to smile and giggle and chuckle and laugh as much as Dianne did. Even when she felt her worst, she still had a beautiful smile to encourage us. When I visited her in the hospital a couple of weeks ago after her stroke, her husband asked her if she knew who I was. She looked at me with her bright beautiful eyes, laughed out loud and then shook her head no. It was too funny! She had no idea who I was but she smiled at me anyway. And today I was at the Hospice Home when they wheeled her earthly shell out and into the hearse. In the background, Peace in the Valley by Elvis Presley was playing. Dianne was a serious Elvis fan. She would have been tickled to death to have watched that procession – and maybe she was watching.

I shed tears for Dianne’s sweet husband, Robert, her beautiful daughter, Laura, her sister, her extended family, and our church family as I hummed along with Elvis. There will be peace in the valley for me. I thought about how we don’t often imagine heaven as a valley, but rather more of a mountaintop experience. The Christian “lingo” for valley typically refers to a low place in our lives. But real valleys are beautiful, with lush green grass, clear crystal water flowing peacefully down the middle, with just the right balance of shade and sunshine. That is surely what the writer of Peace in the Valley had in mind when he wrote…

I’ll be changed, changed from the creature that I am, oh yes…

There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see

There will be peace, peace in the valley for me

Dianne Greene is at peace. We thought she smiled and giggled and chuckled and laughed a lot here! She’s smiling for eternity! I have no idea what she and any of our loved ones who have gone on are actually doing. Are they fishing if they like to fish? Are they dancing if they like to dance? Are they organizing if they like to organize? Or are they just resting? I don’t know. But what I do know is the Bible tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I don’t know what the means or what that looks like, but it’s nothing but good! Present with the Lord? Oh yeah, there’s peace in that valley. Present with the Lord? You can believe there’s a lot of smiling going on. Present with the Lord? I’ll take that – whatever that is – over this life any day. And Dianne has claimed her spot in His presence. She is experiencing peace in the valley. But oh how Cudd Memorial Baptist Church will miss that sweet, sweet lady. 

“For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:7 & 8).

Hope

God is our home base…

Monday, March 25th, 2013

 

This is a good shot of them on Muggsy’s first day with us. Jax hovering, Muggsy not scared.

My prayer partner,  Di has been spending a good bit of time at the beach lately. You can’t keep a good prayer partner anymore. But we  continue to pray every week – either in person or on the telephone. Last week in her prayer she was talking about being torn between home and beach and how much she enjoys her beach house but then she said, “Lord, I’m thankful I can always go home.” I thought about a video I made of Muggsy, our malte-tzu on the first day we brought him home. He was all of 3 lbs., covered in long dark brown/gray hair, and full of life. He’s still full of life, only he weighs about 15 lbs. and has been a dirty white color since his first haircut. Anyway, the video is adorable. He was playing with Jax the Beagle, and he was very brave for his size (and still is.) He’d take toys away from Jax, run circles around him, jump up and bite Jax’s droopy ears, just torment the life out of him. But when Jax would turn on him Muggsy would run to me and lay across my feet. He did that over and over. It was as if I was home base. We (my sisters) used to play games, as I’m sure you all did, and you had to get to home base in order to be “safe.” Muggsy was playing that game, running to home base, he just didn’t know it.

God is our home base. We branch out in our independence, determined to do our own thing in our own strength. We act as though we are bigger than life. We do “nervy” things, cut up, act up, live it up, even step into the danger zone sometimes. But when life turns on us, we can run to home base. God is our refuge. He is our strong tower. He is our source for strength. He is always there, waiting for us to run to Him. Whether the trials or fears or threats are self-inflicted or completely un”solicited”, we can run to Him for shelter. God is our home base.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you…” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:3).

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!” (Psalm 84:1).

Hope

He just needs you…

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

This morning I was counseling with a man who has found himself in a self-inflicted life crisis. Due to several years of infidelity on his part, his wife grew weary of broken promises and recently divorced him. Now he’s devastated. He has no reason to live if he can’t get her back. He can’t imagine life without her. He just doesn’t want to go on. He wants her back. Let me go ahead and confess that the woman in me wanted desperately to say, “You figured out how to go on with another woman for over 3 years while still married to your wife, I imagine you can figure it out now.” But I prayed for the Lord to give me the words to say, and He didn’t give me those words. So instead I said this to him…”Stop trying to make it happen. Surrender your wants to the Lord. Not so He’ll answer your prayer the way you want Him to, but so you will find true happiness even if He doesn’t. Your happiness doesn’t rest in your relationship with your now ex-wife. You just think it does right now. Don’t sell God short. He doesn’t need her to give you a rich, full life. He just needs you.” I read back over that before I sent it to him and thought that’s pretty good! Not at all what I would’ve said but definitely a God-given answer.

What are you depending on for your happiness? A relationship? A career? A bank account? A good health report? A dream vacation? God doesn’t need any of those things to give you a rich, full life. He just needs you. Total surrender to His will for your life. It is there, and only there, that you will find fulfillment in life. He just needs you.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5 & 6).

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33).

Hope

Calm down…

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

I’ve had the opportunity to share the following scripture several times today. I’m sure glad the Lord showed it to me this morning!

“Remain calm; the Lord will fight for you” (Exodus 14:14).

We can get in a tizzy, can’t we? Nothing gets me more fired up than when I’m on a rampage about something for Caleb to say, “Mom, calm down” or Clay to say, “Calm down. You’re letting emotions get in the way.” You’re doggone straight I am! I usually don’t want to calm down. I usually want to say my piece. I usually want to fight the battle. And I usually want to win!

The Lord says to us, “Calm down. I’ve got this. I’ll do the fighting, you do the trusting.” Today I heard from a young wife and mother who is very concerned for her husband. He’s grieving the loss of a parent, frustrated with his job, hence frustrated at home with her and the children. She sooooo wants to fix him! She sooooo wants him to listen to her good godly wifely wisdom! She sooooo wants him to let go and let God take control! And I was sooooo happy that she allowed me to share my heart and encourage her to “Remain calm; the Lord will fight for you.”

The reality that the God of the universe is fighting our battles – what peace that brings! His job is to fight. Our job is to trust – and calm down.

Hope

Don’t judge the man by his pajamas…

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

This evening Clay and I were in our favorite Mexican restaurant and in walked this middle aged man adorned in Jeff Gordon #24 attire – and I do mean adorned! He had on a ball cap that didn’t just subtly allude to Jeff Gordon or #24, the entire cap had the car and the name all the way around it. He had on a tee-shirt with Jeff’s face plastered across the entire front, a “letter” type jacket with the #24 car on the back and Jeff’s name on the front, and – are you ready for this? – #24 pajama bottoms! The number 24 was all OVER those pajamas! You could not place a dime anywhere on those pants that there wasn’t either a 2 or a 4. He walked by our table and I said to Clay, “I think that guy is a Jeff Gordon fan. I mean I may be wrong, but I have a feeling he is.” Clay shook his head and said, “Nah. You’re judging him by his outward appearance. You’re not supposed to judge.” I agreed and responded, “You’re right. He’s probably a Junior fan at heart. I shouldn’t judge the man by his pajamas.” And Clay came back with, “Exactly.” I love that guy!

The conversation was fun, but there is much truth in the humor. I don’t know the man’s heart. He may not even watch racing. That entire outfit may have been given to him. The issue or matter at hand is not whether or not he’s a Jeff Gordon fan. The important thing is the spiritual condition of his heart. The Lord has a plan and a purpose for this man’s life – a plan that may have absolutely nothing to do with racing! I mean, think about King David in the Bible. The prophet Samuel was sent to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king. Out of all of Jesse’s sons, David was the least likely to be chosen. He was the youngest, just a teenager, a measly shepherd boy. Nothing about him resembled a king. Samuel thought it would be Eliab, the oldest son and the biggest in stature. Eliab looked more like a king. But God said to Samuel…

“Do not consider his appearance or his height…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

It’s a heart thing. And I’m so glad it is! I’m so thankful that the Lord looks at my heart, because a lot of days the outward appearance is a mess! He has great plans for each of us, regardless of our outward appearance.

Don’t judge the man by his pajamas.

Hope

If tomorrow never comes…

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

It’s tanning bed time for me. I lay in a tanning bed 3 months out of the year, from mid-March to mid-June. Just enough to get a base tan so as not to blind anyone with my lily white legs. Well, with the tanning bed comes country music. It just does. I can’t explain it. But if I’m tanning I want to be tanning to Zac Brown Band or Tim McGraw or Carrie Underwood or whoever such as them. So there you go. There’s my confession. Now you know my weakness :-) . Today the song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” came on and I’ve sang it all evening. If tomorrow never comes will she know how much I looooooove her (insert serious twang)? Is the love I gave her in the past gonna be enough to last if tomorrow never cooooomes (insert more serious twang)?

And believe it or not I found a spiritual application. If tomorrow never comes for me, how will folks remember me? If the last thing I say tonight to one of my sisters or my mother or my husband or my son or a friend were to be the last thing I ever say to them on this earth, how will they remember me? Tomorrow never came for us with my brother, Randy. We had no idea that the last time we talked to him would be the last time on this earth. After his death we all spent weeks and even months reliving each of our “last” conversations with him. Would I have said anything differently had I known that he was considering suicide? Of course! But those type conversations can’t come with regrets because we just didn’t know. But the type conversations we can control are the every day interactions with those within our sphere of influence. Not just family and close friends but co-workers, cashier in Wal-Mart, waitress at the Waffle House (or Country Club).

If tomorrow never comes, how will folks remember you? If they relive their last conversation with you, will it bring sorrow or happiness? If tomorrow never comes…

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5 & 6).

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

Hope

Check your connection…

Monday, March 18th, 2013

This morning when I arrived at the office I could not log on to the Internet. I growled and snarled for a couple of minutes, venting to everyone who could hear me (which was just me) that “Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!” and how badly I needed to use this rainy day as an office day. I sent a text to Leigh, my sister who works for CPC where my office is located, and asked her if the Internet was down. She responded back that it was not down and everyone on that side of the building was connected. “Well fine,” I responded to myself. And I began looking for the problem on my end. I found that my computer wasn’t recognizing CPC’s Internet. So the problem was with my connection, not with the main source.

Same for us spiritually. When things start going wrong, the first thing we want to do is blame the Source. We ask God what He’s doing. We question His ways. We wonder and often verbalize why God allows ______ (you fill in the blank). Everything is falling apart around us and we blame the Source for our help, the Source for our strength, the Source for our power. The truth is the Source is not the problem. The Source is working great! He never has a power failure! He never crashes. If there’s a problem with our connection to the Source, the problem is on our end. We’ve lost connection by getting too wrapped up in everything else to read our Bible, do our quiet time, spend quality time in prayer. We don’t lose our salvation over it. If we have accepted Christ then our eternity is secure. But we’ve lost connection to the Source in order to have the peace and strength and courage to get us through our current circumstances. God’s power is endless, His strength is endless, and His mercy and grace know no end. All we’ve gotta do is stay connected.

Feeling like life as you know it just plain ole stinks? Nothing is going right at church, the songs do not mean anything to you, the messages are missing the mark, your church friends seem to be going in a different direction than you are, and even things at home and at work aren’t hitting on much. Negativity is your best friend right now. Woe is you. Check your connection to the Source. Allow His grace and mercy and love to re-energize you. Allow His strength to be made perfect in your weakness. God’s love never fails. His power is ours to plug into.

Check your connection…(a link to a video devo)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R_ILyaz2II

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: ’Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love…’” (Psalm 62:11 & 12).

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Hope

No translation needed…

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Some of my sloppiest handwriting is when I’m journaling. I don’t know why that is. You’d think of all times I’d take my time and be deliberate in writing legibly. But it’s quite the opposite. I write my prayers quickly as I pray them, and often I look back and struggle to translate, even for myself. It occurred to me this morning that it’s a good thing God doesn’t have to read my handwriting. I may never get any prayers answered! He reads my heart, and there is no translation needed for that.

No matter how scattered my thoughts, how illegible my scribblings, how random my prayers, or how ridiculous my requests, God knows my heart. He knows my motives. He knows my agenda.He knows my inner most thoughts. It’s more about my intentions than my efforts. It’s the heart that He reads.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent” (1 Chronicles 29:17).

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23 & 24).

Thank you for your continued prayers for Poppy. You can add Grandma Ellen to your list next week. She is having hip replacement surgery on Wednesday, March 20. While we have them in Spartanburg with us, we’re giving them a full overhaul!

Have a great weekend!

Hope