Drawing Near

“There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God. A place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God”. (Near to the Heart of God by Cleland B. McAfee).
In good times we rejoice and experience great joy in our Christian life, and in times of heartache and trouble we find peace when we stay near God. Troubles try to pull us away from God but we must draw nearer still. 
Lord I pray today for those who are hurting and experiencing difficult times. Life is not always easy.  You have promised to be with us through whatever storms arise if we will yield it all to you and follow.

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Again Lord I Call

I find myself, once again, on my knees calling out to God with the same heartache and requests. How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?  (Psalm 13:1-2 NIV)

It’s hard to find answers to some of life’s problems.  About the time you think a situation is starting to turn around it takes another nose dive.  I was asked yesterday how I keep from going crazy.  At last!  A question that I can answer.  I trust in God and renew that trust daily.

I don’t know what today or tomorrow will hold in store.  However, I do know that just as God has given me peace about things that happened yesterday, He will give me peace and strength to get through whatever comes.

Just as one of my favorite songs expresses:

“Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken”
(Recording Group: Building 429)

What Should I Do?

Worry is always waiting around the corner.  Go to bed at night thinking you have placed all your cares into the hand of God and are leaving them there, only to wake up with feelings of defeat staring you in the face.

The bible says not to worry.  How can anyone do that?  We have responsibilities that often overwhelm us.  We have children who are living dangerous lives.  We have the reality of old age sneaking up on us.  After all, there’s only so much time do get done the things that need to be done.  Now!  That’s the point.  What things really do need to be done?

Let’s just try to put worries into order of importance.  First thing on my mind this morning was finances.  My business seems to be losing ground and I need to find ways to make it more profitable and relevant to my customers.   I wake a lot of days with my business on my mind.  This doesn’t mean though that it’s number one in priority.  I think that I wake with those thoughts because I have to start with motivation to get to work.  That motivation alone though will not produce a successful work day.  In order to succeed at my business goals, I must first take time to spend with God.  If I just jump right into work, I almost always find myself overwhelmed and feeling like I didn’t do enough by the end of the day.

This morning for instance, I opened my bible and was about to turn to the chapter that I’ve been studying, but the verse that was before me on the page I opened to was “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” Isaiah 55:1a (NIV)  So I read on.

The worry that I felt when I awoke caused that verse to catch my eye.  I was worried about money and business.  However, as I read on, the really deep concern of my heart rose it’s head.  In Isaiah 56:8 it says “The Sovereign Lord declares—he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”  This spoke the answer to me about the salvation of my children.  That, my friend, is my greatest concern.  Last week I heard a minister say “don’t ever say (or think) that your children are too lost to be saved”.  God is able to save!  However, I have felt defeated because my testimony doesn’t seem to resonate with my children.  I think they see me as foolish.  Of course, that is a whole other blog post that will wait. (i.e. 1 Corinthians).  When I read today about gathering the exiles and God will gather others to them, I felt as if God was confirming to my heart that I need to give of myself to serve those who are in need.  I have people all around me that are feeling exiled and lost.  As I focus on others, God will work on my children’s hearts in His time. 

As for my business concerns, I will keep on working and tuning my skills to keep up with the changing methods of advertising.  My business has been built on working hard for my customers and my passion to do that is still there, so off to work I go.

Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (NIV).

 

Refreshing

I had found myself in a bad place.  My heart was discouraged and pretty much giving in to pity parties on a regular basis.  Although I knew that God loved me, it felt that I was being forever punished for the sins of my youth.  “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”  (Psalm 13:1-2 NIV)

One of the struggles that I deal with in my walk with the Lord is feeling that I am walking alone.  That’s a pity party in itself!  I attend church with two of my siblings and several nieces and nephews as well as have a close relationship with my youngest sister who loves the Lord.   My heart, however, longs to talk about God’s goodness at my dinner table and with my children.  I want to have prayer times with my husband and talk about what God has for us in this life.  Yet, because of my own decisions, I am not married to a Christian man so that is not part of our home life.  I believe that God has blessed me with a wonderful husband who has been a big part in my settling down and not running in circles any longer.  I know that God’s plan was not for me to marry a non believer, but He works plan B when we make decisions that abort plan A.  It wasn’t until I married this man that that I stopped wandering around lost and took time to fully listen to God’s instructions.  He filled me with His Holy Spirit and has enabled me to be a good wife as well as work in the church albeit as a separate part of my married life.  I still have hope and pray that someday, my husband will come to a place in his life that he reaches out to Jesus. Until that time, I will continue to love my husband and take comfort in having someone who is as honest and trustworthy as they come.  For someone who doesn’t believe in God working in the lives of people, my husband, however unknowing, is a vital part of God’s blessings to me.

This explanation of how I got here has actually cheered me up counting my blessings!  Now let’s get back to the heartache.  I have children and grandchildren who are far away from God.  Some are trying to find acceptance in all the wrong places.  Some are working in societies fight to break down the absolute truth of Christianity.  Using the sins of people who have claimed to be Christian, they are pointing fingers saying that Christianity has caused much division and hate in the world.  That breaks my heart because I know the Love of God and feel like I have to race to His defense when I hear people accusing Him of hate crimes.  Yes, that is how it feels to me when people say that it’s all about JUST love one another and accept everyone’s differences as their own journey to their own God.  I emphasis JUST because we are called to love everyone but it’s not the only thing we are called to do.  We can’t just love people and “let it be” so to speak.

God is the creator of all things.  He created the world to be in perfect harmony.  The trouble began when man exercised their “rights” to disobey the creator.  That is the reason there is rebellion and strife in the world.  It is not that people who were trying to please God messed things up, it was that people who tried to “be God” caused a rift between that perfect harmony and us.  God is love and has offered a way of redemption back to that place of perfect peace with Him, but we have to bow down and submit ourselves to Him. Even today, that is the place where people find difficulty.  It all boils down to us wanting to be in control rather than releasing control to God.

We must hold tight to the Holiness of God’s character that cannot tolerate sin.  I can love you and be kind and reach out to help wherever I can, but don’t ask me to stand up and defend your way of life if it is contrary to God’s laws.  I will defend your right to make those choices for yourself if they only affect your life.  I cannot sit back and condone your “right” to say have an abortion because that is taking a life of another.  I know there are many arguments that sound “right” such as someone being raped should not be forced to carry and give birth to a child that brings her pain.  My answer to that is that she will have pain regardless of whether or not she carries that child until birth.  That person needs to have lots of support and love to get through this tragic time of her life.  She does not need the added pain of one day realizing that in her time of pain she took the life of another.

I’ve had an abortion.  That can be a very traumatic experience and one that can haunt you forever.  I was a single mother of three.  My children’s father did not visit or support us in anyway.  It was a time when I was rebelling against God because what I thought was going to be my Christian husband and family turned out to be a lie.  I began dating several men and not planning to commit to anyone again.  When I found myself pregnant, a girlfriend of mine immediately told me that there was no way I could have another child.  She said that she would come take me to a clinic that could end the pregnancy.  It all happened so fast that I don’t even remember making the decision.  My friend made the appointment and drove me to the city.  I remember going into a small office for a few minutes alone while my friend sat in the waiting room.  A woman, who seemed rude and rushed, gave me something to read and she asked me a few questions that seemed to be statements of fact needing my approval.  After signing several documents, I was taken to an examining room.  I remember laying there with my feet in stirrups just like I was having a pap smear.  As soon as the suction began though I felt the life being sucked from my body.  It was a horrible feeling.  I felt lifeless myself for the trip home and the tears began to fall.  Many tears have fallen over that child since that day.  As I watched my children grow up; the two girls so close in age and my son a few years younger, I often wondered if I had robbed him of a brother that would be right there pushing those hot wheels beside him.  I have a history of molestation as a child and rape as a teen, but I can tell you that the haunting of taking that baby’s life is much greater than the memories of abuse perpetrated to me.

This blog post has brought up many topics that prompt more posts.  I know that even mentioning “hot wheels” when referencing my son, brings up thoughts that will require a post of their own.  However, it’s past time that I leave this chair for some productive time for my business.  Before I end, I need to get back to the heartache and the wonderful time of refreshing I experienced yesterday.

Earlier in the week, my grandson told me that he had decided to be a Christian again.  My grandson is on the autism spectrum and processes ideas in his way and time.  He grew up wanting to me to tell him his favorite bible stories and loved going to church with me.  In the last few years he has struggled with ideas of faith and had decided he didn’t believe in God.  So, you can imagine my relief and excitement when he announced at the beginning of our date night that he was a Christian again.  However, the last ten minutes of our evening was spent in heartache because he stated that I had tried to push “religion” down his throat all his life.  Just the fact that he said that would not have sent me into such a downward spiritual defeat in itself, but I have been feeling alienated from other children and grandchildren also.  That night I sunk so low that I told my husband and my daughter that I wish I could just turn my back on what I knew to be truth so that I could live in harmony with my children.  It was hard for me to understand how God could really love me and be working in my life when it seemed so many I love think of me as an unloving bigot because I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven and righteousness.  It’s a terrible feeling to believe so strongly that God is truth and the things I have learned from His Word are causing me to appear to be intolerant and unloving to those who I have helped raise.

Then yesterday, I went to my Aunt’s funeral.  My Aunt loved God and lived a life working in church ministries such as bus ministry to children, prayer groups, and she and her husband gave of their time and money to help start a church in their town that is now serving a large congregation and leading many to the Lord.  As I sat and listened to the story of her faith in Christ, my heart began to be uplifted and encouraged.  While a young lady, who had been one that was won to the Lord because my Aunt began taking her to church as a child, was singing a song that I remember my mother and her sister singing, God reached his arms around me and lifted all my cares onto His shoulders.  He enveloped my spirit with His and renewed that joy and assurance that regardless of how dim things seem at times, He is in control and will ultimately bring about results as I submit to Him daily.  Thank you Lord for your amazing grace and love.  “Until Then” my heart will go on singing.  “What a Day that will be” when my Jesus I shall see.  Even though it doesn’t seem like many around me are interested in hearing my story of salvation right now, I know that if I am faithful (and I will be!) God will work out plan B to His glory.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12 NIV)

 

Heartache

Whoever has children knows heartache.  I love them with all my heart, but I sure feel like I have let them down too many times.  I worry about them and pray for them daily.

Many times I have felt inadequate as a parent and now as a grandparent.  It breaks my heart that I have not managed to share the love of Christ effectively with them.

When I read the bible scripture about the seed producing fruit, I really feel that I have missed the mark.  “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

I have heard the word.  I am applying it to my life and living by it as best I know how.  How long must I wait to see the fruit?  That is a rhetorical question as I know that God never even promised that I would see the fruit, just that there would be a harvest and that God’s Word (when shared) would not return void.

Today, one of my own told me that I had tried to force Christianity down their throat.  Lord, forgive me if that is how I have presented the gospel.  This child has autism and often doesn’t see things the way it is intended, but even so, have I been overbearing in my attempt to lead my children to God?

Lord, please show me how to share Your great love in a way that is clear.  I know that I am imperfect but Your Word is perfect and I trust You to overcome my blunders.  I submit all of myself to You and hope for the day that all things will be made clear.

Protect those I love and guide them into Your perfect will.

Death

Today a beautiful woman passed from this life into the arms of her Savior. Aunt Ruth spent her life doing the work of the Lord. She and her husband raised their four children to know the love of God. As her mother aged and had lost her husband, aunt Ruth took care of her with love. She later spent several years as a sorority house mom at the University of Oklahoma. She was truly a servant leader throughout her life. As she lived her life there was always the coming appointed time that only God knew of the day she would close her eyes in death.

I wasn’t there to see her eyes as she left this life, but I have confidence that they were looking into the face of Jesus.  There is a mystery we all feel as to what the end of life will be like. When I heard “the news of Ruth’s passing today I felt a peace. I have been at the side of three mothers at their final hours and have sensed that peace out poured from heaven. 

There’s no need to fear death. Put you trust in Jesus and experience that hope for better things to come. With that trust comes a relationship that results in a life lived more and more like Jesus daily.

“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

The Journey

We are all on a journey.  Maybe not all headed to the same destination but on a journey just the same.  There are pitfalls along the way.  How we handle those bumps in the road will ultimately determine how much peace we have along the way.

Starting point

When my journey began

  1.  Birth (or even before).  Of course I don’t remember the beginning but I’ve seen pictures and heard the stories!  Mom always told me that I was the first one of her then five children who was planned.  That was always hard to believe because after five “surprises” who would plan more.  Especially when money was tight and there wasn’t even a farm that needed additional hands!  In any event, there I was, in my mother’s womb where my Heavenly Father assures me that He was at work knitting me together perfectly.   “For thou hast possessed my reins; thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”  (Psalm 139:13-16 KJV)
  2.  Early years. I feel that I was blessed by being born into a Christian family who took me to church faithfully from the first week of my life.  Not only was I raised in church, my home life was immersed in prayer and right living.  It wasn’t until later in my preteens that family life took a turn and I saw a different side of life’s journey.   That’s a story for another time.
  3.  The wrong path. During my teen years, I tried to stay true to my Christian roots.  I loved God and wanted to find a Christian husband.  That dream feel apart (again, a story for another time) and in my disappointment I rebelled against God and tried to find happiness down roads that ultimately lead to disaster.  How sad it is to travel the wrong roads and ignore the warning signs.  Too many people take the wide road and must suffer the consequences of those choices.  I am one.
  4.  Restoration. Thankfully, God is faithful to extend grace and provide u turns in the road.  It took me a lot of years to completely surrender my life back to Him, but oh how thankful I am for that restorative power.
  5.  Lighter load. The longer I travel down the right road, the easier the load becomes.  That doesn’t always feel like the case actually.  The more I see the trends of the world shoving aside the message of hope, the deeper the ache in my heart for all things to be made new. “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” (Isaiah 61:11 KJV)  It may not make sense, but even though my heart hurts because of the rebellion against God, I always have peace along the journey.
  6.  Survival. How long before God makes all things right?  No one knows.  My survival skills include much prayer and studying the Word of God daily.  I pray for my children and my children’s children.  I pray for my husband.  I pray for extended family and friends as well as strangers that I hear of in need.  Now if you chose to follow me on this journey, I also pray for you.  We are all standing in need of prayer and in this process of life together.  May God enrich our lives and direct our steps.

“In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV)