Monday, March 30, 2009

"Are You Joy?"

"Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free."

A. W. Tozer

I felt a gentle touch tap my shoulder, and turning to look behind, I heard a quiet, inquisitive voice. "Are you Joy?" We were in a subdued, slightly tense setting, with the typical tone that preludes a somber service for one recently passed. I had accompanied my husband there, as he was asked to speak words of comfort to a family with whom we were little familiar, not an uncommon request for those called to pastoral service.

"No, Ma'am, I'm sorry, I'm not." Looking puzzled and slightly perturbed, she said I looked like Joy and that she surely thought I was. I apologized again and turned, waiting on the service to begin.

After going home, I sat on my sofa and mused about her words. I found myself seeing a deeper meaning behind a simple, uneasy situation. Her question permeated my thoughts, somehow cut to the quick. It went beyond a case of mistaken identity. It was something more than a passing occurrence soon to be forgotten.

I was, during that time, quite exhausted. I was doing my best to be a loving wife, caring mother of two teenage sons, an ace college student and practicum teacher, all the while striving to be a perfect pastor's wife. All in my own strength. All in my own way. All in my own time. Practicing my own will.

My strength was depleted. My energy sapped. My love for God lukewarm. My joy gone. At times, I wanted to drop everything but my family and start over. At times, the stress I carried was so great that I wished I had never followed my own dreams. My own dreams. Dreams that had taken me to an utter state of physical, emotion, mental, and spiritual fatigue.

I cried to the Lord. My heart broke, for I felt the impact of my own failure in leaping into a life-changing decision without seeking God for His peace. I had reasoned my way into such resolve. It seemed so practical. Such a fruitful, honorable endeavor. A means of plenty for our family, who had long suffered from the often lean times found in the ministry.

As I sought the Lord, He sustained me and gave me strength to continue. What I had, in my own wisdom, begun, He provided health and help to complete. God is merciful. After a five year journey of pain and fatigue, with many battle wounds, God moved in a miraculous, yet unpredictable way, and delivered me from a weary war that I had started. He restored my peace and gave me His strength. My joy was renewed.

We know God's word says that His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And this joy can be exuberance, but it is, as well, a contented state of spiritual well-being. A satisfaction in Christ. And we find His joy through intimacy with Him, as we seek God's face, eat and drink His word, believe in His holy name, and surrender our lives, daily taking up the cross of Jesus Christ.

It is not perfection that give us joy. It is not success. It is not even the realization of a dream. It is simply doing our best in striving to become mature saints, who will reflect the glory of God. As we yield our lives to Him, we find peace, and through peace with our Heavenly Father, we discover joy, and this joy, this implacable gladness of heart, gives us strength to run the race with patience. Remember, it was for the joy set before Him that our Lord endured the cross and despised the shame of His suffering (Hebrews 12:2). The joy of saving our souls gave Him the strength to endure such horror and pain. What a privilege to serve Him! And how marvelous it is to walk in the joy of the Lord!

Picture is from 2004. I apologize that it's not recent, but it was all I could find this morning.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Living Water

The Thirst

When I thought life's thirsts too great for quenching,

The yearnings of a soul, too strong to still,

I saw the Living Waters flowing freely;

And drinking deeply, knew my being's fill.

Before the Throne of God I found fulfillment!

For in that flow of Heaven's joy divine,

I knew the rich infilling of the Spirit,

And claimed that Holy effluence as mine.

Within my soul, now springs a stream eternal,

Which stems from God the Son, Who dwells above;

My thirst, assuaged forever at that fountain,

Has found the potion sweet of Jesus' love!

Poem By Constance Calenberg ~Published in Our Hope Magazine, 1949.

Jesus said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drinks. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

My dear friends in Christ, the Lord's heart is open to you today. His ears hear your thirsty cries, and His eyes behold your longing for living water. He will fill your life to overflowing with His love and give you unspeakable joy, which is the Lord's effervescent river of life. As He gave this living water to the Samaritan woman and breathed on His disciples, so He gives His Holy Spirit to all believers. He is your comforter. He is your counselor. He is your conscience. And He is an unending fountain of love, hope, and faith in your life. Many blessings to you this weekend as you go in the grace of God and the love of His Holy Spirit.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Light that Kills the Shadows

"Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe."

–St. Augustine

The doors were shut. Most of the men were there. Waiting. Anticipating. Suspecting. Frightened. They had gathered in one room. Perhaps it was quiet, with only mild whispers echoing from the stone walls. Or perhaps the room was filled with voices that were planning their next move, wondering how to escape persecution, mourning the loss of the One most beloved to them.

Suddenly He appeared. He stood before them, and first assured them that there was no need for fear. "Peace be unto you." Christ then revealed to them the wounds in His hands and side. They rejoiced. They were relieved. They were overwhelmed with joy, ecstatic, that He was there, risen. He breathed on them. Perhaps He then stayed for a time, comforting them, talking with them, instructing them before leaving again. After he left, the disciples shared their joy with the one who had missed the Savior's appearance.

Rejoicing with excitement, overcome with hope, filled with faith, they told Thomas, "We have seen the Lord." It sounded too good to be true. Thomas wanted to believe, but simply taking the word of his friends was asking too much. He struggled. He admitted his doubt. "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in His side, I will not believe."

Eight days went by. The disciples, including Thomas, gathered in the same house. The doors shut, still concerned about their future, but now filled with hope in the knowledge of Christ's resurrection, they waited. And He appeared again.

Jesus once again greeted them with a message of peace, relieving them of their fears. He turned to Thomas. "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands, and reach your finger here, and put it into my side." Then, Christ spoke six words that have resonated from that time around 30 A.D. to this day. Words that were meant for Thomas, the other disciples, for me, and for you. "Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas' response, a powerful one, is a pattern for us all. In awe, in worship, in realization of the truth, he responded. "My Lord and my God!" Then Christ spoke words for us today. ". . . because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. "

Christ returned to that stone house that day for Thomas. He had heard Thomas' words of doubt. He was concerned about his faith. He saw the struggle of Thomas' mind, and he wanted to crush the unbelief in the disciple's heart. But
Jesus also went back to that house for me and for you. To give us hope. To let us know that he understands our struggle with doubt. He knows our frame. He knows our weaknesses. He wants to increase our faith. He wants us to trust His words of life.

Are you fighting with confusion today? Are you bothered by fear or doubt? Talk to Him. Tell Him about your concerns. Jesus understands. He wants to speak words of peace and comfort to you. Confess your doubt to Him. Hope in His word. He cannot fail. He cannot lie. His promises are true. One shadow of doubt is only a blip on the screen of your life once you make the choice to believe. Remember, Christ didn't give us the option to believe, but commanded, "Do not be unbelieving, but believing," and what He commands us to do, He gives us the strength to fulfill.

From John 21:19 - 29 (NKJV)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Christ of All the Corners

"Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate."
J.R.R. Tolkien

A faded little bungalow stood on the corner of the avenue that led to a still little town. Rooms were petite, with little shelves for books and whatnots, a cozy brick fireplace graced the living room, an unfitted kitchen provided opportunity for imagination. The tiny little bedrooms gave just enough room for their requirements, especially for my toddlers, who found their slanted floor a perfect place to exercise their childhood dreams and play.

We regarded the green vinyl floors that embellished most rooms as a minor nuisance. We scrubbed and polished, then finding large carpet remnants with fringed edging and a few braided rugs, softened the cold surfaces. We learned to live with a swelling in the floor that bestowed our living room with an unsightly distortion, which provided our children with unique advantages. And we became accustomed to the sounds and sights of cars and people passing by, who were frequent and always within reach of our windows.

Despite its imperfections and discomforts, the wee parsonage was home and seemed a warm refuge as my husband faithfully executed his young ministry. We were simply thankful to have a dwelling and spent sundry hours, loving our sons, nourishing our marriage, and devoting our hearts to our Savior.

My husband spent many hours at the church, a small, white, common place of worship, whose door measured about fifty footsteps from our own back threshold. Oh, the joy my little sons had upon seeing their father walk across the lawn toward home each day! "Daddy!" "Daddy!" "Daddy!" "Daddy's coming!" "Daddy's coming!" They jumped and squealed with delight and were waiting at the door as he entered. It thrilled their hearts, and my husband's, and mine, and was the highlight of our day. Our home was humble, our furnishings meager, and our income small, but our hearts knew the love of Jesus Christ and the blessedness and comfort of having one another.

God's love for us and his excellent grace provide us with everything we need. Through His bountiful blessings, we find contentment and peace in every trial and situation. His Holy Spirit teaches us, through the word of God, through the circumstances of our lives, and our relationships, how to endure hardships, financial trials, and discontent. "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (I Peter 4:12 - 13, NKJV).

My suffering during that early time of our ministry cannot be compared to those of Christ's. Yet, I did endure many heartaches and difficulties as a young pastor's wife of twenty-two. Certainly, there were many stings and arrows from those in the church, as well as my own personal tragedy with miscarriage and homesickness.

As a very young woman, a wife and mother, separated hundreds of miles from my mother and family, I did not, at that time understand the pain. But no money could ransom the suffering and obscurity of those hours. They remain invaluable to me. They eternally altered my life. For I learned to entrust my soul to my Strong and Mighty Tower. I discovered the power of pouring out my heart to El Roi, the responder to needs. I found the reality of knowing the Prince of Peace and Wonderful Counselor. And not having a dad of my own, I learned to cry "Abba, Father."

Truly, the glory of Jesus Christ is only a dream without the reality of pain. My prayer is that I will continue to rest in his faithfulness and look for him in every corner of my life, waiting, trusting, believing, knowing, that just as a shabby little house, the afflictions of a young pastor's wife, the heartbreak of miscarriage, and the loneliness of homesickness shaped my eternal destiny, further trials will continue to conform me to His likeness, so that I can reflect His glory, and one day see my Savior face to face.

My dear, dear friends, continue in the hope and the blessed word of God this day. Find him in every corner of your lives, and rest in His promise to never fail you or leave you. He is working everything you experience for your good in Him. Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Light Shining Out of Darkness

Light Shining Out of Darkness
by William Cowper, 1731 - 1800

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines,
With never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

William Cowper led a quiet life in the English countryside. His life, though, was less than peaceful as he carried the burden of mental anguish. From his writings, it is evident that he feared and worshiped God, and wanted to share his faith with the world. Perhaps his poetry gave him relief from his pain and suffering.

"Light Shining Out of Darkness" is a testimony of faith, challenging us to believe, to hope, to depend on God's grace, and trust his mighty, providential hand, even when we don't understand. Take this message of God's glorious loving care with you this weekend. Savor your time. Spend moments with your family. Sanctify the Lord in your heart. Share the Savior's love and mercy. Enjoy the many gifts our Heavenly Father has given, and worship him and give him glory. May you be blessed and find his presence at every turn.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Renovation of Old Remains

"God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain."

C.S. Lewis

A brown spot on an otherwise sterling white sink was noticeable at first glance. Thus, bleach was applied, along with other resources available in my little storage cubby where household cleansers are kept. I scrubbed, agitated, soaked. With an assortment of measures, which failed to remove the eyesore, I diligently spent time and energy, passionately pursuing a spotless kitchen sink. The blot ultimately began to wane. Bit by bit, it faded, yet still with relentless refusal, it barely clung to life, as if defiantly saying, "I will not be removed." But with time and relentless effort, I realized hope was ebbing for the blemish, and at last, the beauty of the sink would be restored.

Is our walk with Christ not likewise? We may have failures, shortcomings, mistakes, regrets. Spots. Stains. Scars that remain from our human frailties and sins. We read God's word and stand on his promises. Believe. Hope. Pray. With diligence. Until our own efforts leave us exhausted, frustrated, and confused.

No amount of human effort seems to relieve us of what remains of a long forgiven wrong. Perhaps we live with consequences of regrettable decisions, poor choices from our past. Perhaps we carry with us wounds from the offense of another. Or perhaps we are plagued with needless guilt and mindless reason. And the eyesore in our hearts stubbornly remains, refusing to be relinquished.

The old hymn "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" by Charles Wesley is one of glorious praise. It is beautiful music, with words that penetrate the soul, and, I believe, they are divinely inspired. The fourth verse raptures me each time I hear it.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

It's so true. Canceled sin, the past, can have power over our lives. But Jesus Christ can break that power, setting us free from whatever torments our minds and souls. His blood is beyond sufficiency. And it transforms our lives without any effort from us. Even those spots, the remaining scars of disobedience, He can dissolve, can heal, can blot out, restoring our beauty in Christ, giving us new life and new hope that is lived in freedom and joy.

Our lives are not like our computer programs. We cannot edit, deleting items we no longer need or deem valuable. No, we cannot change past decisions. We all have things we would "undo" or "cut" or "edit." But herein is God's grace greatly revealed.

The apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh. What it was we do not know. But we do know that his response teaches us of the bottomless well of God's grace. After seeking the Lord to remove this "thorn," God's response was "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." And Paul stated that he would, rather than allowing this thorn to torment him, glory in his "infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

To turn his weakness into strength was the apostle's choice. As it is ours. Yes, Christ can break the power of canceled sin, he can remove the nagging stains, and he can most assuredly give us grace sufficient to live with remaining weaknesses or painful memories. Do not hesitate to trust him today to take care of your frailties. Christ, our redeemer, our Lord, is waiting, ready, more than able to meet with you, and as you call on him, he will treat you with utmost care and lovingly restore you and give you grace sufficient.

Scripture from II Corinthians 12: 7 - 10

Monday, March 16, 2009

Light In A Dusky Valley

"We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat."

-Queen Victoria

Five kings stood against one man. But he was fearless. And he was more than hopeful. Joshua was full of unyielding faith, not supposing, not surmising, but knowing that his God would fight for him. Joshua remembered the deliverance of his God. The partings of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. The water from the rock. The manna in the wilderness. Other battles against fierce nations in which God brought prodigious victory for Israel. How could Joshua consider the possibility of defeat?

The battle raged. And the five armies fled from Israel. And time was on their side as they ran. In the midst of the conflict, Joshua cried to El Shaddai, the Almighty God. "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon over the Valley of Aijalon." And time stopped. Israel defeated its enemies. "There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel."

And surely such a miracle calls to us today in the 21st century, for God is still Almighty, and he loves us and fights for his children. He longs to deliver us from trouble. He yearns to hear us call his name.

What battle are you facing today? What army is waring against you? What conflicts your soul? There is a God who is Almighty. He Hears. He speaks. He delivers. He watches over his word to perform it. And he watches over you.

As you call upon him, he will hear and answer. He will take you in his arms, and he will fight for you. The times and seasons of your life are in his hands. He can cause the sun in your valley to stand still and give you light to conquer the enemies you face. So, trust in him, believe in him, call on him, fully knowing that he is waiting to illuminate the dusky road you are facing. God bless you today as you seek him, or as you pray for that one who needs his mighty hand.

from Joshua 10:1 - 15, NIV

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friendship Award

Kim of The Victorian Parlor has so kindly given me a friendship award. Thank you, Kim. I am deeply humbled and hope to continue to be a faithful friend in Christ. Kim has been a wonderful friend and has made me feel right at home on blogspot.

The recipient of the award is to pass it on to 8 other blogs. All of the following bloggers have been exceedingly cordial and have made my short time here on blogspot very pleasant. If you find your blog listed below, please copy the following text and the award picture. Thank you all for your friendship.

"These blogs are exceedling charming. The kind of bloggers that aim to be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of the prizes are cut,even more friendships are propagated.Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly written text into the body of their award".

7. Paula at

Again, thank you so much for your encouragement and kindness. God bless.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Child's Reception

"The childlike faith that asks not sight, waits not for wonder or for sign, believes, because it loves, aright, shall see things greater, things divine."

-John Keble

A garnet ring. Two fragile gold pins. A glistening rhinestone necklace I thought fit for a queen, and cultured pearls given to her by her father. Those are pieces I most remember from my mother's jewelry box. Like any little girl, I was mesmerized by my mother's jewelry. I wanted to look at it, to touch it, to wear it, and I spent hours dreaming of what it would be like to go to a place enchanting enough to use it, especially the necklace. The little square, glassy stones looked like diamonds to me. My mother assured me they were not, and I still remember the disappointment I felt when she said so.

But the disappointment didn't stop my dreams. Alas, I continued the fast endeavor of believing the worth of the necklace was far more that my mother knew. And perhaps it was, for it gave me opportunity to imagine, to believe, to live in a child's world of hope and possibility.

While the memory of the necklace amuses me now, it also refers me to the substance of childlike faith. A child's mind is an open door of trust and a gateway of hopeful aspirations. So, is it any wonder Christ would tell us that unless we approach Him with the faith of a child, we cannot please Him?

Remember the scene from Mark 10. Children were brought to Christ so He could bless them. The disciples thought of this move as a distraction from Jesus' ministry. Christ's response was a fast rebuke. He was "greatly displeased." "Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." The disciples must have been stunned.

But in seeing their Lord so greatly disturbed, the disciples must have given His words considerable thought. And I hope, today, I will have the courage to take Jesus' words to heart; for, receiving the kingdom of God as a child means coming to God with faith that is pure, hope that is not deterred, belief in His supreme sovereignty, and love that has no pretense. And at the center of a child's faith lies humility, an understanding that there are so many things bigger that oneself and so many purposes higher that one's own.

In prayerful consideration of the truth of God's word, I hope to yield myself to Him, asking, believing, trusting, that He will help me approach Him with purity of heart and humility of mind. Lord, please help me please you, at all times, in all things, that whatever I do, wherever I go, whatever I say, You will be glorified.
*from Mark 10:13 - 16, NKJV

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Woman of Means

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

- Anne Bradstreet

She was a Puritan woman, a devout Christian, who left her beloved England and manor life in 1630 to venture, along with her family, into an unknown wilderness world. Anne Bradstreet was a gifted writer, an intelligent, creative, and courageous woman, but most of all she was a woman who loved God and her family, a woman who wanted to influence the world around her.

Anne battled with illness. She also struggled with homesickness and the rustic, impoverished conditions she found in America. She raised eight children and had to deal with the typical problems of motherhood. Her husband was involved in politics and business pursuits, which often took him away from home, so Anne endured many hours of loneliness, finding comfort in her walk with God.

Anne's poetry explores her struggles, her love of her family, and her consecration to God. Being a woman in 17th century society, Anne was not readily accepted as a writer, but she was not deterred and composed many lovely poems and meditations that still inspire us today.

In July 1666, Anne's home burned, and she lost all her worldly possessions. Her response, as she struggled through grief, is a challenge to every Christian. Anne loved her home. It brought her comfort and joy. The memories she shared there with her family were precious to her. But she came to the conclusion that God was the architect of her life and that He would sustain her. In other words, when the dust had settled, God was still God, and He was Lord of her life.

by Anne Bradstreet (c.1612-1672)

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken'd was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearful sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.

I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse,
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eye aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall 'ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adeiu, Adeiu; All's vanity.

Then streight I 'gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect,
Fram'd by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this bee fled.
It's purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther's wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mary's Choice

"I say that the strongest principle of growth lies in human choice."

- George Eliot

The house is clean. The table is set. Dinner is warming. Candles are lit. There's a beautiful aroma throughout the home. Baked chicken with herbs, fresh bread, apple fragrance - all mingle, at once giving warmth and stirring the hunger of guests. All seems perfect, but you are exhausted. Stressed. Overcome with serving. Consumed by fear of a failed evening.

We all want success. We all want to serve. We want to show our love for others by providing a beautiful meal and making our guests comfortable in our home. Or perhaps we serve in other ways - teaching a class, helping others in need with errands and chores, visiting those who are ill, reaching out however we can, any way we can, whenever we can. We all give. Even when we are simply serving our family we are giving. And we are blessed for doing so. And others are richer for our giving.

You know the story well. You've read books and heard many sermons about it. Mary, the one with a servant's heart compared to Martha, the one encumbered with serving. In Luke 10:38 - 42, Jesus was in their home. They were sisters with different priorities. Both loved God. Both loved serving Him. However, Martha was frustrated and tired. She had probably spent hours preparing a meal for Christ. She wanted everything to be perfect for Him. She felt overwhelmed and wanted help, and her sister had forsaken her.

Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha desperately exclaimed, "Lord, . . . tell her to help me." Look, I'm tired. I'm doing this all by myself, while my sister is just sitting there, doing nothing. Don't you care that I'm the one bearing this burden?

What did she expect Him to say? What did she want Him to say? She wanted sympathy. She wanted appreciation and respect for the work she was doing. She wanted to be the one Jesus cared for. And He did care for Martha. Very much. But His reply to her was not what she was looking for.

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. And Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her." Martha must have felt like a dagger pierced her heart. His words hit her right between the eyes. She had not realized her own need. Martha had meant well, but she had misplaced priorities. She was distracted by her own concerns and pride, worried about impressing others, and . . . she had confused serving God with having a servant's heart. Christ told her that Mary had chosen the good part that she could not lose.

Mary chose . . .

moments of worship, rather than a lifetime of worry
thirst for Christ, rather than self-fulfilling labor
the Bread of Life, rather than just baking bread
the words of Christ, rather than the praise of men
the presence of Jesus, not just the essence of Him
the risk of offending others, rather than pleasing them

We are all busy people. We have many things that concern us and our families. And it's only natural to be caught up in our moments of life, at times becoming so occupied that as my dear grandma used to say, we "don't know if we're coming or going." Just remember that in those moments, when you are tired, consumed with activity, trying so hard to serve, to do your best, to live up to so many expectations of so many people, Jesus cares. Through your worship of Him, you will gain strength and find His purpose for your life. Your life is more than just getting a job done; it's more that simply tucking in your children at night, than pleasing your boss, paying bills, cooking dinner for your family, serving your church. It's more.

Jesus is your life-giver, the lover of your soul, and you are the apple of His eye. As your gaze is turned to Him, as you take a few moments to sit at His feet, you will find everything you need. He will give you strength, wisdom, a deeper meaning for you life. Christ will give you Himself, and He is the "good part," which you will never lose.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Someone Cares

"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."

- St. Augustine

It's burning in my heart to share God's love with you today. All morning I have sensed His presence, and He seems to be reassuring me of His great love, which no earthly experience can diminish. Our Heavenly Father cares for us so infinitely, so deeply, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can change His love for us. He stands ready to forgive our inconsistencies, and He specializes in healing broken hearts.

Below is a poem by Helen Steiner Rice, one of my favorite Christian writers. I pray that it will be a blessing to you. Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, whatever life brings, remember . . . God loves you more than you can ever imagine, His ear is open to your cry, and His arms are ready to receive you.

Someone Cares
by Helen Steiner Rice

Someone cares and always will,
The world forgets but God loves you still,
You cannot go beyond His Love
No matter what you're guilty of ---
For God forgives until the end,
He is your faithful, loyal friend.
And though you try to hide your face
There is no shelter any place
That can escape His watchful eye,
For on the earth and in the sky
He's ever present and always there
To take you in His tender care
And bind the wounds and mend the breaks
When all the world around forsakes . . .
Someone cares and loves you still
And God is the someone who always will.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lessons From A Live Oak Tree

"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars."

Martin Luther

My husband and I began our ministry in southwest Georgia. We lived near the town of Thomasville, a beautiful southern city that is culturally rich. We did our personal business and shopping there and often took advantage of that time to explore the city and its local color.

Near the center of the city lies a live oak tree. It is truly majestic. Over 300 years old, the old oak is very stately, almost daunting, with its fascinating limbs spreading 162 feet. We used to visit the old oak and gaze in awe at its grandeur. As I reminisce about the old oak, I now marvel at its beautiful spiritual analogy.

Oak trees can absorb, because of their complex root system, about fifty gallons of water each day, and the older the tree is, the more fruit (acorns) it produces. Wood from an oak is some of the strongest available, and it is resistant to attacks from insects and bacteria. These facts may simply seem trivial, but the Bible refers to the promise of Christians being as "oaks of righteousness" (Isaiah 61:3), and in Psalm 1, it speaks of them as being like a tree planted by water that bears fruit in its season.

That comparison is beautiful for Christians. An oak is strong because of its roots, its inner foundation. An oak is strong because of its ability to absorb water, which continuously feeds the roots, providing nourishment to the entire tree, which gives it beautiful green leaves and fruit. In our walk with God, we are only as strong as our root system, our inner spiritual life that is built through personal prayer and Bible study. Greater strength and maturity in our lives yield greater fruit, and our stability and integrity help us resist attacks from the enemy and the discouraging problems of everyday life.

I have been reading the book Just Give Me Jesus by Anne Graham Lotz. As she wrote about the need for every Christian to have a special quiet time with God each day, I felt convicted to be more disciplined in my personal time with the Lord. It's so easy for me to skip it when I have busy days or am not feeling well, or to hurry through it when other things are pressing. Anne Lotz says that our quiet time is an appointment with God, where Jesus is personally waiting to meet with us and that when we neglect it, we miss His voice and are robbed of true fulfillment, of joy and peace.

I want to have a strong root system, and I want my life to be like that live oak I remember. That would certainly be the best legacy I could leave my children and grandchildren. But I know to be an oak of righteousness, I must leave my own feelings and schedule behind and meet God at every turn. So my prayer today is "Lord, help me, in my weakness, to lean on You for my strength. May I never leave You waiting or disappointed. May I never neglect the most precious gift of my life, but may I always be ready to sacrifice my time and give you all of my heart."

Monday, March 02, 2009

One Smile, Twice Blessed

"God will look to every soul like its His first love because He is its first love."

C. S. Lewis

Saturday night I had the exquisite joy of my dear little granddaughter's company. Olivia, who just turned two, spent the night with her mimi and papa. Before she went to sleep, she called my name, crawled into my lap, and flashed her twinkling brown eyes at me. I gave her love, and she sat with me for about five minutes before falling asleep. My husband and I tucked her safely between us in our four-poster bed, which is queen-sized, so needless to say, we were a little discomforted, but still greatly joyed to have her with us.

I awoke a little after seven Sunday morning. Olivia was just beginning to stir. I watched her move, wondering if she were going back to sleep, but suddenly, her dancing brown eyes opened, and she looked right into my face. Olivia, lying there so peacefully and sweetly, then gave me an adorable, angelic smile. My heart melted.

I took that little smile with me all day. Everywhere I went, whatever I did, I could not escape, I did not want to escape, the morning smile of my little granddaughter. It had reached the depths of my maternal emotions and caused me to wonder. If my human emotions were so warmed by my little granddaughter's affections, how much more is God's heart pleased with our love for him? I pondered the innocence of childlike faith and the joy we give our Heavenly Father when we unreservedly and unconditionally show our love for him.

We are all human, and because we are human, we sometimes take our Heavenly Father's love and care for granted. We know He is with us. We depend on Him for protecting us and our families, for watching over our homes, for healing us, for financial blessings, for giving us friendships and success, - for meeting all our needs, for being there, when in one instant, we call His name. In our human weakness, is it possible that we focus more on what He can do for us than how we can serve him and show our love for Him?

I am challenging myself to be more conscious of God's tender loving care and His ever-abiding faithfulness. I want to start this week with a song of praise in my heart for His magnificent love in sending His Son to die for me. I want to show Him my affection for sustaining me and keeping me each day. I want to keep a thankful heart and make every effort I can to let God know I appreciate His many blessings in my life, remembering that one little smile touched my heart, moved my life, and taught me a lesson I hope never to forget.