Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What DO You Know?

If we're honest, I don't think we like to admit that we ask questions. We especially don't like to admit that we ask questions of God, or about God, right? Somehow it appears much nobler and stronger to say that we believe God one hundred and ten percent, and never question anything. We spout platitudes like, "I don't know the answers, but I know the One Who does".

But what about those times when no one else is around? What about those days when we're alone with God and we can't keep silent any longer and the questions spill out on the floor at His feet?

The world around us gives us plenty to question each day. Why does God allow injustice? Why do such heinous, horrible things advance the cause of evil in our day? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people die before their time? Why are babies lost and people murdered and businesses fail? To say nothing of the questions that pose themselves concerning our own situations, trials and tribulations.

A good journalist will ask five questions when sitting down to write a news story. Who? What? When? Where? and Why? I'm having myself a good laugh here, because those are the very questions I ask God. Not everyday, mind you. Some days I try and be strong, buckle up by faith belt and not ask. But other times, man! I can't help but ask! More times than not I get crickets. Zip. Nada.

We ask questions about life and God's plans for us going forward. In many areas of our lives we're living in the dark with a future as clear as mud. Most days, when I hear the silence, I feel that God is saying that I just need to trust Him. I close my Bible and say that's fine and go on with my day. But sometimes, when I ask the questions, and I hear myself say, "I don't know", God says, "What DO you know?"

What DO I know?

I know that God is good.
I know that God has been faithful to me.
I know that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forevermore.
I know that God loves me.
I know that He has a good plan for my life, one to prosper me and not to harm me.
I know that God will never leave me or forsake me.
I know that God will supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory.
I know that my Heavenly Father knows my needs before I ask.
I know that Jesus died for me and I am forgiven of all of my sins.
I know that it is well with my soul.
I know that I will spend eternity in Heaven with Him.
I know that He who did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for me, will also freely give me all good things.
I know that He is coming soon and will set all things right in this world.
I know that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all I could ever ask or think.   
I know that I could go on and on.

Those, and many more, are the things that I know. Those, and many more, are truth. Those, and many more are the answers I can carry with me this day. Maybe the only answers I will get for a long, long time.

The prophet Habakkuk questioned God when the power of Babylon was growing. He questioned God's justice in allowing evil to go unchecked. God's answer to Habakkuk revealed the truths of Who He was and that He certainly knew what He was doing. Because of what he DID know, Habakkuk was able to pen these words:

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen 
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
(Habakkuk 3: 17-18) 

Like Habakkuk, we may not know the who, what, when, where, or why of our situation today. But because we can call to mind the things about our God that we DO know? We can rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God our Savior. 

What DO you know today?  


 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Coming Out of the Dark

Wow! It has been more than a minute since I've sat down at this keyboard to write "Tuesdays with Jesus". Over a year, for sure; maybe two. What a couple of years it's been! For those of you who don't know, my husband, my dear groom, passed away on January 17, 2015. After a very shocking, short, but hard fought battle with liver cancer, the Lord took him home. I have lived 479 days without him. Just so you don't think I mark those days on my calendar, there's an app for that.

I'm not using that as an excuse for not writing. It was certainly why I haven't written for the last year and a half, but before that, I just didn't write. I don't know why. I just didn't. Right there, is where I want to thank you. I want to thank the ones who emailed, messaged, and approached me in person or on Facebook, to ask when I'm going to start writing again. I heard you. I just turned you off. Thank you to those who are still on that email list to receive my posts every Tuesday morning. Thank you to those who "follow" my posts on the blog faithfully. My numbers never went down. You are still out there. Thank you to that lady in another state, no one I knew, whose private message I found last month, in that "hidden messages" thing on Facebook, asking if I moved the blog somewhere else, because you wanted to read more. You were like the voice of the Lord to me. Thank you!

So here I am. I'm alive. I survived. Some days I even thrived. Others, not so much. But after 479 days, I believe I've learned a few things and I want to share those with you in this first "Tuesdays with Jesus" back.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4) 

I've received no small amount of comfort and guidance from the Father of compassion during the troubling times before and after my husband's death. In that verse, He commands me to take that very comfort, and comfort someone else.  So what He has given me, I give to you.

Now, please don't X out of this post or close your email. You may not have suffered the death of your spouse, but that doesn't mean that you've never experienced a loss or great trouble of some other kind. If you're a human being walking sod on planet Earth, you've lost something, you've decided your prayers go unanswered, or you are walking in the dark of some trial right now. What is it they say? You've either had a trial, are in a trial right now, or about to be in a trial soon. So what I have to share is for you, my friend. I know I've been long-winded, and I promise after this week I won't make you read so much, but I had to say all of that to get me here.

Here is what I have learned in the deep places of darkness. Here is the answer to you who say I'm so strong, and how do I do it? First of all, I'm not always strong. I'd be lying if I even tried to make you think I was. This has been the worst, most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching time of my entire life. That being said, I've lived and breathed some foundational truths that have kept me from giving in, giving up or losing my ever-lovin' mind. My prayer is that you will consider making these truths your own, and that they will be the ground beneath your feet when your trial is making you feel like you're standing on quicksand.

Surrender Yes, I said, surrender. Take your problem to the Lord. Pray for your desired outcome. It goes without saying that I wanted Chuck to live. I prayed every single day that the Lord would heal him and that he would live with me for many more years. Of course, I did! But there came a point in time where I had to get down on my knees, sometimes multiple times a day, and say, "Not my will, but Yours be done." I'm talking full wave the white flag surrender. Not surrendering while keeping one hand on the problem. Not having a Plan B. Not my will, but Yours be done. 

Don't be mad if the outcome isn't what you wanted, yearned for, or prayed for. This one piggy-backs off of the first one. If you get angry at God when it doesn't turn out the way you wanted, you never truly surrendered in the first place. I can honestly say that I have never been angry at God for taking my husband home to be with Him. Sad, yes. Lonely, yes. Angry? No. That's how I know that I truly surrendered the outcome to Him. My loving, sovereign, Heavenly Father made His decision, for His reasons, and I accept that. I surrendered. 

Ask God to glorify Himself through what has happened. Ask Him to work out even this thing for your good (Romans 8:28), and for His glory. Ask Him to display His works and make Himself famous through it all. If God doesn't get the fame and the glory for what happened in my life, it was all just some heinous, horrible, random act. I continually ask Him to display the treasures found in darkness, and the immeasurable wealth found in tribulation. It may be your example to others going through a hard time. It may be to provide you with an opportunity to minister to someone who has suffered the same thing that you have. It may be an overwhelming sense of the Holy Spirit's power in your life. It may be that you are now closer to the Lord than you have ever been.     

Look for God's faithfulness specifically to you. I prayed for one specific thing before Chuck died that I never, ever shared with a human being. God was so faithful to answer that prayer above and beyond what I had prayed. He did it so perfectly that to this day, I can't help but smile up at Him in delight and amazement. There was no doubt He answered my prayer. Though I had plenty of opportunity to seek human aid or manipulate the situation, I kept it between me and my God. He answered, and there is not a single doubt in my mind now that He hears and answers my prayers. I'm not advising going it alone all the time. There's just some things that need to stay private between you and your Abba. And when He answers, you'll never doubt His faithfulness to you again. Remember all of the ways He has come through for you in the past, and feed on His faithfulness.

Find promises in the Word that are specific to your situation. Search for those healing Scriptures, those promises of provision, protection, strength, and peace. Read them, write them, and speak them out of your mouth, out loud. God's Word is power. It's alive and active. It's breathed from His very lips. It will renew your mind and replace the lies of the enemy who is whispering defeat in your ear. Jesus said that His Word is Truth (John 17:17). Feed on the certainty of His truth. 

There you have it. This is how I made it. This is how I'm still making it to this very day. 479 days. I haven't done it perfectly. Quite the contrary, I've spent more than a few days as imperfect doing this thing as you can imagine. But underneath me are my Father's everlasting arms and under my feet is the firm foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word. When my feet and my faith fail, He never does, and I go back to these truths over and over again. Aren't you glad He's a God of second chances. And third and fourth......?

I am honored and privileged to give to you what God has given me. I pray this helps you in whatever situation you're in.

"Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6) 
  
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Christmas Dinner In A Chinese Restaurant


I'll start by explaining what we were doing in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. Twenty-four years ago, I was pregnant with my fourth child, Kyle. My three oldest were gone for the first time ever on a holiday, spending the day with their Dad. Chuck and I were alone. All of our holiday celebrating had taken place on Christmas Eve. We decided to go out for dinner, quickly finding out that this was not going to be as easy as it sounded. Who knew that there wasn't one restaurant open on Christmas Day? Don't people have to eat on Christmas too?

After driving all over the proverbial half-acre, lo and behold we found a place to eat. Much to our delight we learned that there ARE establishments open on Christmas Day...Chinese restaurants! I remember feeling a little like a loser. As I looked around the room at the other patrons, I remember wondering what their stories were. How does one find them self in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day? No family? Family doesn't want anything to do with you? Or, like Chuck and I, maybe they had celebrated the day before. Whatever the story, there were a lot of folk in that restaurant, on that Christmas day, twenty-four years ago. And every Christmas Day since then.

We decided to make this a Christmas tradition. We haven't missed a Christmas Day dinner at Wong's Garden .. not once. I remember the first year we took Kyle. He was only nine months old and I'm putting it nicely when I say that his behavior was abominable. Most years it was just the three of us. There was one year when my daughter Kelly joined us because she and I had spent the afternoon in the ER with strep throat, and she didn't go to her dad's house. My brother joined us one year, our son Brian another. But Chuck and Kyle and I have faithfully taken our egg drop soup together at Wong's for twenty-four years. That night was no exception.

The scene was the same. In the far corner was a large family, adults and little ones. Many tables were full with couples and foursomes. There was a line for carry-outs. The Christmas tree was up. It's been the same tree every year. A large statue of Buddha sat in the same corner as always. Kyle remarked that he couldn't understand how anyone would worship Buddha. Good question. Christmas music was playing overhead. WNIC...100.3. Waiters and waitresses bustled about and seemed particularly busy and disorganized this year. The owner was helping out and took our order.

A couple of tables away sat an elderly women with gray hair, at a table for four, all alone. She caught Chuck's eye first, and he said that he would really like to pay for her dinner. I asked him if he was sure that she was alone. He was sure. He had checked it out. She was actually done eating and getting her traditional carry-out containers to take home. Our hearts were touched by the sight of her, alone for dinner on Christmas Day. Now I can vividly recall years when we were counting our last dimes to make sure we had some money to carry on our tradition. In those days we would be cut short until the next pay day for sure, but we weren't going to miss this dinner. And there were years we barely had enough. This day, to God be the glory, He is so faithful...we had enough to buy this women's dinner and ours. So it wasn't about sacrificial giving. But it was definitely about something.

When the owner took our order Chuck explained to her that we would like to pay for the elderly women's dinner. No problem. We watched from a couple of tables away when she explained to her that her bill was taken care of, but we couldn't see her face. Here's where it gets good. She bundled up her coat,taking her carryout containers in hand, and proceeded to go out the door. One of the waitresses started screaming for her to come back! She thought the lady was skipping out on her bill! The table next to her started yelling, "No, No, the boss lady said that someone paid her bill!" Whew! Out the door she went.

Once she was gone, "boss lady" came to our table to ask if we were a relative of the woman. Now if we were, don't you think we would've been sitting with her? Anyway, she told us that the lady had begun to cry when she found out that someone had paid her bill. It turns out that her husband passed away two weeks ago, and her son was a no-show for this very Christmas dinner. Sweet Lord Jesus! I mean that! Sweet Lord Jesus!!

Over two thousand years ago, God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, Jesus. Jesus ... Immanuel...God with us. Over two thousand years later, on a cold Christmas night in Michigan, He is still God with us. He was God with that elderly woman. And He showed her, up close and personal, how much He cares for her. What I didn't tell you is that we almost didn't go to dinner last night. We almost got carryout. But something inside of me was saying that we should go and not break the tradition. Oh, thank you for the promptings of your Holy Spirit!

Do you see how our God cares so deeply and personally for each and every one of us? He knows how many hairs are on that grieving woman's head. Her name is engraved on the palms of His hands. His voice spoke from Heaven. He chose to come to her intimately, in the middle of a Chinese restaurant filled with strangers, and tell her... "I love you daughter. You are not alone. I am with you." And I'm humbled and so intensely grateful that He chose to use our little family to bring His message.

When all was said and done, "boss lady" told us that she had told the woman that God was looking down on her. I don't know if "boss lady" is a believer, if she just said the word "God", if she's a Buddhist, or what. But she gave "God" the glory and so do I. She also told us this, "I have never before seen people like you."

Oh, boss lady, I have never before seen anyone like my Jesus!

 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."
 


 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Leave The Scars

I met her one day when she came to help out at a rotating homeless shelter I was coordinating at my church. She had volunteered to spend the night with our guests, even though she attended another church.

It wasn't five minutes before she showed me her arms.  Arms wrecked and ravaged, indented and disfigured. From injecting heroin. For years.

She told me a brief tale of her journey through her own homelessness, drug abuse and prostitution, for forty something years, all the while holding out those arms and smiling.

Smiling.

She wanted me to know just what Jesus did for her. She said that.

"Look what Jesus did for me!!"


I grew to know and love this woman over the next few years. We laughed together, cried together, did church and Bible study together. I have NEVER EVER met another human being who loves Jesus more, who trusts Jesus more, or who fleshes out Jesus' command to be like little children in our faith, more than this precious daughter of God.  

She will never, ever, be able to hide those scars. And you know what? She never wants to. They are a minute by minute, heck! Second by second, reminder of what Jesus did for her.

She's not ashamed of those scars or what they represent. Because, you see, they don't ever allow her to forget where she came from. They don't ever allow her to forget what Jesus brought her through. They don't ever allow her to think more highly of herself than she ought. But oh! Think highly of her Jesus! You betcha!

You and I may not have visible scars. But you and I have been somewhere. We've been through some things. We have a past. So why do we act like we never did? Why do we act like our only life is the life we've lived after Jesus. Why, oh why, do we not ever let anyone see our scars; the visible manifestations of where the Lord has delivered us from? We never tell our story. We never testify, saying, "Look what Jesus did for me?"

Yes, the past is behind us, but it doesn't mean it never happened. It's a part of who we are. It's a place we've been. Our wounds can be healed, but that doesn't mean we were never wounded in the first place. Our sins can be forgiven, but that doesn't mean we never sinned.

I've grown intolerant of the bright and shiny people lately. Those who forget they ever had a past. Those who want everyone to believe they've always been this holy. I can't even teach them anymore, if I'm being honest. They have ears but don't hear. Eyes but don't see, and hearts that receive nothing.  Hiding in their circles with those who are just like them. There's no power in that. There's only judgement.

The very minute you forget where you came from, and what Jesus has delivered you from, is the very moment that you cross over into judgement of anyone who isn't living the way you think they should. And judgement, friend, has never contributed to helping a lost sinner find their way to Jesus. 

It only pushes them away.

No wonder Jesus was the most comfortable hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. He had no tolerance for judgmental Pharisees. And the sinners flocked to Him. The self righteous made Him sick.

I want to hang out again with the broken, the smelly, the dirty, the lost sheep who desperately need a Savior. I've always been so comfortable there. Comfortable among the ones the bright and shiny run away from. I won't have one iota of effect, if I carry my bucket of judgement to them. But if I come with love and a testimony of where my Jesus has brought me from, I believe they'll listen. I believe they will get a taste and see the goodness of the Lord and be encouraged that what He did for me, He'll do for them. I'll show them my scars. I'll tell them how much I love Him because,

"She who has been forgiven much, loves much!" 

Loves Him. Loves others. Overcomes by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Oh, Jesus! Heal my wounds, but leave the scars. Let them be a testimony to your amazing grace and forgiveness and deliverance. Use every last bit of who I used to be, to bring you glory for where you've brought me from. May I never forget. Ever. Send me to the lost, the broken, the ones this world has discarded like trash, and make me bold and unashamed to share my testimony, show my scars, and lead someone straight to You.  

In Jesus mighty Name, I pray.
Amen.