Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thus Far Has The Lord Helped Us

Last fall, we were seriously entertaining the thought of moving out of the place we've called HOME for the last 22 years.  One morning, the weather had become too cool to have my quiet time on the patio, so I was cozy in the back room of my house, window cracked, a blanket on my lap, looking out of the huge window that overlooks that patio. With the thought of not having another spring and summer to sit in my backyard during my quiet time, I began to weep. 

"We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God's hands". (Proverbs 16:1 TLB)

As it turned out, we didn't move. God would have us be here, in this place, at this time. He has assigned us this portion and this cup for another season.

Fast forward a few months to this morning. As I arranged my journal and my Bible and my devotionals, I sat back with my hot cup of coffee, and wept again.

If I've ever doubted the faithfulness of my God, all I have to do is look around me, at this place, at this yard, on this patio. It has become my Ebenezer.

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us." (1 Samuel 7:12)


This is my Ebenezer.
Here is my memorial.
Here do I see
"Thus far has the Lord helped us."

I don't need a journal to be reminded of the years I have spent here on this patio. There were days when I laughed out loud here. There were days when I cried out loud, afraid the neighbors would hear. 

I've prayed hard here. I've sobbed here. I've fought for my marriage here. I begged God for my children's lives here. I've prayed for wombs to be miraculously opened. I've implored God for babies to be okay. 

I've asked for guidance when I had no idea what to do. I've laid out fleeces before the Lord here. You know, "if you'll do this Lord, I'll know it's YOU." Ministry and service to God were birthed here. Ministry and service came to an end here. 

My knees have literally been on those bricks, promising to have no other gods before Him. I've met with Kelly Minter, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Jennifer Rothschild here, as they led me deeper still through their knowledge of Scripture. I wrote parts of my book here.   

I mourned my grandson, Noah here. 

I prayed here when I was terrified. I prayed here when I was paralyzed with fear. I prayed here when I was hopeless, helpless and oh. so. weak.

I've prayed here for starving children in Africa, for villages full of people drinking mud instead of clean water, and eating dirt to squash hunger pains. I've prayed for Muslims in Yemen who just want to hear about Jesus. 

I've cried out for healing. I've screamed for deliverance. I've prayed for employment for my husband. I've begged for provision when there was none to be found. 

This place is sacred.

This patio is holy ground because God meets with me here. 

In twenty- two years, He has Never let me down. You heard me, Never!

If the Lord assigns this place to us for the next twenty two years,  I will continue to pray here. I will continue to laugh here. I will continue to cry here. 

I have pressing needs right now, but I will not despair.

This morning, the Lord was here. He came to remind me that He has never left me or forsaken me.

This morning, God, my God, hugged me with His faithfulness.


Thus far has the Lord helped me! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Purpose In Our Pain

Israel's trials in the desert kept their attention on their Provider. Because the manna didn't last overnight, each new sunrise brought the need to look up to the God of Heaven for that new day's sustenance.

There is purpose in our adversity. There is purpose in our pain.

God wants to get our attention. He wants to keep our attention. He wants to remind us of His love. He wants us to know Him more intimately. He wants us to examine our ways.

When I say, sing, and pray, that I want to know Jesus more fully, more deeply, and more intimately, it would only follow that I must encounter Him somehow. I must encounter and go through some things, to give Him the opportunity to show Himself to me.

If I've ever prayed for that kind of closeness with God, my trials could actually be the answers to those prayers. How else would I know? I could only hear and read about Him, but I'd never EXPERIENCE Him. The wonder of Him. For myself. And because He is faithful, He will always show Himself and He is all good.

How could I know that He is a Provider, if I've never been in need?
How could I ever know that He is a Healer, if I've never been sick?
How could I ever know that He is my Strength, if I've never been weak?
How could I ever know that He is my comfort, if I've never mourned?

I must go through what He wants me to go through so that I can see Him clearly, trust Him deeply,  and be prepared for the inevitable trials of the future. I will remember His faithfulness today and be encouraged tomorrow.

I can only depend on God, if I have faith in God. Faith in His ability. Faith in His character. I must believe that God is Who He says that He is. I must believe that God can do what He says He can do.

And He says that He daily bears my burdens.
He says that He daily loads me with benefits.
He says that He is my Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
He is my Friend who supports me day after day after day.
My Friend is exceedingly, abundantly faithful, able, and competent to accomplish whatever concerns me today.

Do you know Him today, as that kind of Friend? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Learning Your Lesson

I remember hearing these words when I was a child about to get punished. "Maybe this time you'll learn your lesson." I also remember the dreaded words that my father would speak when I asked how long my punishment (aka grounding) would last. "Until I say so". That could mean until the end of the week, until the end of the month, or until the end of time itself.

When I had children of my own, I'd like to think that I handled things in a kinder way when it came to discipline. I would ask, "And what lesson have we learned?" Why did I use the word "we"? Like I had a lesson to learn? Surely not! I was the know-it-all parent, saying those words in a condescending, sing-song tone of voice.

Discipline is hard. It's hard to receive it and it's hard to mete it out. It doesn't get any easier as we grow older. It does remain necessary, no matter our age, and it may show up disguised as hardship, trial, or adversity.

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children."  (Hebrews 12:7)

Did you know that God sees redemptive value in our trials? He accomplishes great spiritual work in our adversity. Just like Christ, on the cross, "who for the joy set before him [he] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12: 2) For the JOY set before Him. Jesus suffered willingly, endured selflessly, even unto death on a cross, for a redemptive purpose. My redemption. Your redemption. 

What looked like a total defeat for the Kingdom of God on that day, a total set-back for the Heavenly team, was a set-up for the salvation of all who would later call on His Name to be saved. 

God is so much more concerned about your heart and your eternal destiny, than He is about your circumstance or your comfort. He wants to do a work in you. He wants to do a work in me. 

There has to be meaning in our trials and adversities, or it would just be cruelty, meted out by a cruel God, wanting us to suffer for suffering's sake. 

 "God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."   
(Hebrews 12: 10-11)

Take some time today and ask the Lord, "What changes are You trying to make in me? What lesson do You want me to learn? In what areas of my life will I grow through this trial? "

Then make those changes. Start making the right decisions and the right results will follow. That's the natural order of things. Right decisions produce right results. That's the God-order of things. He wants us to learn our lessons.

I don't know how long our trials will last. It may be until the end of the week, the end of the month, or until the end of time itself, but what I do know, is that they will produce holiness, righteousness, and peace, if you and I allow ourselves to be trained by them.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness and A Christmas Story in a Chinese Restaurant

My post is part of Wayman Publishing's 
"The Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest". 
Head on over for free e-books, a book fair, and great stories about random acts of kindness. 

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Click Here: The Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest

I'll start by explaining what we were doing in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. Twenty two  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? Just sayin'.

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 two 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 nineteen years. Last 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. Yesterday, 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? Just sayin'. 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."