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Questions

Dad Brought Me

How did I get here?

When I was a child and teenager, the “how did I get here” questions of life never crossed my mind. I suppose it’s because there wasn’t enough history to my life to think about how I got somewhere. If I was ever asked that question, it usually was in reference to how I got to school, a friend’s house or park for a party. Why it was obvious how I got there – my dad brought me. My dad brought me everywhere: to softball practice, youth group, family gatherings, and doctors’ offices when I broke my arm or got bitten by the neighborhood dog (strange thing, that dog was a labrador retriever – not a dog that would typically bite someone!).

Life has a way of taking you places; at least it seems as if life has taken us places. Actually, it’s the Father, our Heavenly Father, Who has brought us places just like our natural fathers brought us places when we were younger. Places that we go don’t seem to mean very much early on in life but as the years pass, we can look back and see that Dad brought us there for a reason. There was something to learn, a person to meet, schools for the children, and churches where we learned to worship.

You aren’t where you are, none of us are, by mistake. We’ve been brought by our Heavenly Father on trails that, for whatever reason, were part of our lives’ journeys. Those trails are often difficult and we wonder, “How in the world did I get here? How am I going to get out?” The answer is very easy, the same Dad Who brought you in will walk with you out.

I’ve wondered these past couple of years, “How did I get here?” Then I remembered, Dad brought me.

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Uncategorized

The Good Life

Have you ever heard about “The Good Life?” When enjoying something like a vacation or new car, one might say, “Oh, this is the good life!” In this present world economy people ask, where is the good life? At the first of the year, like this year, we hope for a better year. We amass wealth, goods, knowledge, relationships, and properties to ourselves and find ourselves simply running in circles worrying about how we can lose all of them at once.

We’ve all been tempted to fear when thinking of difficulties we are experiencing currently or are going to experience in the future. The “what if” thoughts assail our minds seemingly out of nowhere! This tendency to look for the worst to happen is exacerbated by media – programs on TV foretelling doom when the great asteroid will hit our planet or if a plague comes and wipes out ½ of the world’s population. Then, when that disaster doesn’t pan out, the media will almost seem disappointed.

We mothers, wow, we can be especially vulnerable to this to the point that we want to put our kids in rubber rooms. I confess to this fault. I’ve felt nervous watching my kids play in public playgrounds, wondering what germs lie there and even tried to avoid it for fear of “what they may catch” when touching that dirty equipment…yup, I have been a “helicopter mom.”

More often than not, our human nature of trying to fix things automatically kicks in without thought of what God would say in the situation. This often leads us to try and muscle our own way through life, leading to disaster upon disaster. Wow, taking things in our own hands – how is that working so far? Fear of the unknown future can hold us captive to something that may or may not happen.

Some of these bad things do come to pass, some others don’t. Then there are those unexpected calamities that assault us. The good news, despite this heavy cloud of imagined and real difficulty hovering over humanity is that there is One whose help we can count on. Consider the author (John) of Revelation and what he must’ve felt when he saw his vision that he recorded in Revelation. Life was extremely difficult for Christians at the time of this writing, history tells us that believers were heavily persecuted at that time, and in this setting of great persecution he sets to comfort the readers of his book:

Rev. 1:16 NLT “He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.”

Then he goes on to say:

Rev. 1:17 NLT “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last.”

The hand that holds the seven stars, the churches here in scripture; it is that hand that is laid on each of us and to each of us He says the same, “Fear not.”

Look at 2015, listen to Him – don’t be afraid. You can face whatever comes that powerful hand is backing you.

Categories
Motives New Year Fast

Choices

I woke up facing lots of choices today: whether or not to ignore my alarm, whether or not I’m going to wear my glasses, brush my teeth, the list goes on. Some of those choices I don’t consider choices unless I think about them. i wouldn’t imagine going the day without brushing my teeth or wearing my glasses (or contacts). Not choosing them would have more negative than positive consequences for sure.

“IIsaiah 58:6a NASB “is this not the fast which I choose…”

Usually in reading the above verse about fasting, I go on and read the description of what happens when I fast. But I was stopped in my tracks this morning when I read the first few words: “Is this not the fast which I choose…”

Fasting this time of year is nothing new to me. We have had a first-of-year fast for all of our married lives. Every year, we discover our Father fresh and new when we fast. And then this morning, at the first of this year’s fast, I read “the fast which I choose…”

Every year I choose a certain way to fast. Some years I’ve done a total fast for the first few days and then modify it afterward, or a Daniel fast, or a media fast. There are many choices I’ve made over the years we have fasted – but this year I began to ponder my choice of fasting. What will my choice be?

The past weeks as I’ve considered the fast, I was a bit taken by how much we tend to magnify the effect on our bodies while we fast. Yes, there’s physical effect on our bodies – but this year I want to concentrate less on how I feel physically and more on how I grow spiritually.

This year, this is the fast which I choose: to be closer to Him, to think less of myself and how I feel, and to think more about Him and how He feels.

This is what I choose.

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Motives

Fire and Water

I’ll do anything! Go anywhere for You God!

Many of us have, at one time or another, uttered those words. In moments of great blessing, when we’ve seen God come through for us in a great way or in moments of personal commitment to Him, we’ve declared our deep desire to please Him and do what He desires. I have quoted Jesus’ words, “Not my will but Yours” not realizing that He is so very ready to take me up on those words. Do I really want to do His will and not mine? When the rubber meets the road and I’m faced with a “real life” challenge, I’ll find out what my real motives are!

I would rather curl up and lick my wounds.

I would rather withdraw from people because people can bring hurt with them.

I would rather figure out life without being bothered to tell others about the hope I have in me.

It’s too inconvenient and dangerous to really do His will and not my own.

Psalm 66:8-12 ESV “Bless our God…who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. For You, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; You laid a crushing burden on our backs; You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; yet You have bought us to a place of abundance.”

It seems there’s a process here of “fire and water” that ultimately leads to abundance. When reading Psalm 66 the trend seems to be difficulty over blessing. I don’t believe He prefers difficulty over blessing – I believe He understands that in this fallen world we are surrounded by a world that rejects Him and has rejected Him for generations.

2 Corinthians 1:3,4 NCV “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”

When we have trouble, when we are going through the “fire and water” He has mercy and brings us comfort. Maybe in the form of someone coming along to provide support or a scripture or a message preached on a Sunday morning. He faithfully brings opportunities for comfort and we, in turn, become that vessel of compassion for Him when others are going through their own fires and waters.

Victories aren’t victories if they aren’t fought for and won. However, the process of the battle is painful and messy.

“There are no victories at bargain prices.” Eisenhower

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New Year Waiting

Unfolding

Laundry is on my mind.

Yesterday I had a moment with my laundry and it seems to be a theme for me that is running through today. I did so much laundry yesterday that I ran out of laundry soap and dryer sheets. I was first frustrated that the dryer sheets ran out and then I remembered that I did laundry for 25+ years in Africa many times without the coveted dryer sheet. In fact, it was only in recent years that I would bring dryer sheets back with me in my suitcases whenever we traveled stateside. I loved lining my suitcases with them; it kept the cases smelling fresh.

One of the worst things that can happen after spending hours washing, drying, sorting, folding, and putting laundry away is to drop the basket where all the nicely folded, clean laundry is, and see it fall all over the floor. That’s not the kind of unfolding I appreciate! If I am to unfold my laundry, I want to unfold it when I need it – not prematurely. That makes a mess.

Psalm 106:13-31 NIV vs. 13 “But they (the Israelites) soon forgot what (the Lord) had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold.”

Anything that is opened or forced out into the open prematurely is messy. Like laundry falling all over the floor that needs picking up, refolding and putting away. It gets you behind schedule!

This year, while I’m excited for the new and exciting to unfold, I’m purposing in my heart to wait for His plan to unfold. One of the things I need to do is not forget what He has done in the past. He has “bailed me out” so many times – I trust Him more than anyone else in this world. Since this is the case, I shouldn’t worry too much about His timing. Time and again I’ve proven when I take things into my own hands, it spills on the floor and takes effort to sort and put away.

This year, I don’t want to spill it all over the floor and delay His plan – I want it to come as He has designed it to come.

I will wait.

Categories
The Unexpected

The Last Load of Laundry

I originally wrote this two years ago and it feels like yesterday. I am still missing Matthew.

_________________

I wasn’t expecting this today.

It’s New Year’s day, 2015. My little one is 7 and has been getting over a tummy bug so I kept her home today and spent the day housecleaning. The kids tease me about my cleaning obsession – but I don’t feel at rest when the house is upside down, My husband and son helped as well and cleaned the garage.

Something I hadn’t considered when asking them to clean the garage was a suitcase filled with my brother’s clothes as well as a bag of clothes he wore to the hospital last year just before he died. I had placed these two items, the suitcase and plastic bag in the corner behind some boxes a few days after he died. Someday, I thought, I would pull those things out and wash them. I knew my father wanted some of the things at some point – I just didn’t know that today I would confront the suitcase and plastic bag.

His passing last February was unexpected, quick, and of course very sad and traumatic. The events that occurred after his passing, the memorial service, closing of his affairs, are all a bit of a blur. Five days after he died, life called and I picked up the pieces and carried on with meetings, visitors, and raising my little one.

Every once in a while, during these months, the suitcase and plastic bags would catch my eye. The laundry needed to be done.

Bills began pouring in and we began the long process of notifying all creditors he had passed. It took a number of phone calls over the course of several months to convince the hospitals and physicians’ offices and labs that he had indeed died – I faxed and refaxed and even asked a friend to help fax the certificate multiple times as proof of his death. The phone calls, despite our concerted efforts to let everyone know in a timely fashion of his passing, seemed to be unending. Finally, the final death certificate was faxed, the last phone call was made and all notices of collection stopped.

He had nothing left from his estate – how could anyone collect something from nothing?

So this morning when I went to the now clean garage, I saw the plastic bag and suitcase sitting conspicuously out in the open.  I knew it was time to do the laundry. I sat on the floor and opened the bag and suitcase. I remembered seeing him in the outfit I pulled from the bag, the shoes were worn according to the way he walked and I pictured him as I best remember him: on the track field.

My brother, Matthew, was a runner when he was younger. He still holds a local 5k record – a fact that I quickly announce to any running enthusiast who will listen.

I pulled shirts, shoes, trousers, shoes and a belt from the suitcase and tried to smell them to see if the scent of the cologne he loved lingered in them. No. They smelled musty from being in the garage. My eyes then moved to the airline sticker still on his bag from his last flight to Florida. I cried and remembered that he came back to Florida just weeks before he died.

As I loaded the washer with his clothes, I said, “Matt, this is the last time I’m doing your laundry!” As kids I would often wash his clothes and was always irritated when mom asked me to do his laundry. There won’t be another load, there won’t be another stain to treat.

Matthew’s home now. That’s what I texted to our family members the night he died and that’s what I type today to remind myself that all is well with him.

But I still wouldn’t mind doing another load of laundry for him.

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Uncategorized

Spend it All!

Every day comes with its own currency. Every New Year we celebrate new beginnings, but in reality, there are new beginnings for us every day:

Lamentations 3:22,23 NKJ Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Every morning is a fresh start – because of God’s mercy I made it and woke up this morning! With this new day, this new year, comes a new currency to spend. How I live life today is the only real currency I have – I had better spend it wisely.

2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJ “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…”

I’ve been in the mall before and seen items that caught my eye. If something is nice enough to make me stop, I’ll check the price tag and see if it is worth the money I have in my pocket. Most of the time it’s not unless it’s on the clearance rack. You know the clearance racks that are in the back of the store where the for sale items are? The rack of clothes that are on “final” clearance: 60% off of the 60% off! When I leave a store having only paid $6 for a pair of jeans that originally were $40 – I am satisfied. Never pay full price on anything!

But the currency of daily life never comes cheap or on clearance. We always pay full price for today’s items – for loving God, loving our families, and this world that is so lost! The great tragedy is ending a day with currency left in our pockets.

Did I love God as much as I could?

Did I love my family and friends without condition?

Did I love this world enough to spread the Father’s love to them?

This year, I want to spend! I want to spend every day’s currency fully and not save a penny of it. I want to spend until I can’t spend any more each and every day. Because today is all I have to spend and I am determined to spend it all!

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Uncategorized

Living in the Shadows

I have been looking forward to today! This year, 2014, has been a challenge. I remember on New Year’s Eve 2013, I was full of anticipation for the coming year – and now a full year later I look back with amazement simply because I made it through! My final Bible reading for the year brought me to the end of Proverbs 31:

Proverbs 31:25 NIV “She [a wife of noble character] is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

For some months I have silently lived in dread of what “might happen” or what will happen “when the other shoe will drop.” That kind of unspoken fear wound me up in knots. The past few days, however, God has been untying the knots and giving me the assurance that even if the other shoe drops He can fill my mouth with laughter. Not only if/when something happens but in the face of the unknown – what will happen in 2015 – He can make me laugh.

It’s not logical, it doesn’t fit into the “norm” to laugh at uncertainty – but I had to ask myself, “What’s the alternative? Living in dread and fear?”

Fear isn’t a pleasant feeling and when you combine that with dread, a gloomy shadow is cast over everything you do. I’m tired of living in the shadows – I think it’s time to laugh.

Happy New Year!

Categories
New Year

End of year musing

My Bible reading brought me to Proverbs 31 today which extensively covers “the Proverbs 31 woman.”. I’m always very challenged when I read these verses. Most of the time when reading them, I’ll think “Wow, whoever that lady was…she was amazing.”

At our wedding, just before I walked up the aisle, my husband read Proverbs 31:10-31. I thought at the time, “What a declaration of faith!” At that time of my life I felt far from the reality of those verses and thought they were more of a poem, an aspiration, a far-off hope that was virtually unattainable.

Some of the challenging phrases of that passage that I read once again this morning were:

– She selects wool and flax…

– She is like merchant ships…

– She gets up while it is still night…

– She considers a field and buys it…

The majority of this list (and it is long, these are just a few points) centers around this woman’s capacity to take care of her family and plan for the future. As a young bride I was hoping to be the one taken care of but God had higher hopes for me than I had for myself!

This passage challenged me fresh and new today. It dawned on me that I actually could be like this woman who “considers a field and buys it” and from the proceeds she plants a vineyard.

Society says what is mine is mine and not ours. God says, what’s mine is used for us – and I love that. God’s idea of success excels by far my ideas and with Him I’m able to do much more than I could do by myself.

This coming year, for the first time ever, I think I might just “consider a field and buy it” and from the proceeds of that field I might just plant a vineyard. Who knows?

Tomorrow is my last reading for the year and the end of the Proverbs 31 list waits for me – I’m excited for what He may say through it to me!

 

Categories
New Year

Great Joy and Great Sorrow

It’s been a year. A year full of activity. It was the first full year we pastored here at TCI in Lake Worth, a year of transition and change for this great church. A year of personal tragedy as my younger brother passed away suddenly. A year of challenge when my husband was hospitalized for five days. A year of love when our daughter got married. A year ending with great joy at the birth of our first grandson.

The emotional energy I spent this year has left me somewhat drained. The good, the bad, and the ugly have taken their toll and I find myself in need of a freshening up spiritually.

My brother’s death is never far from my mind as it was also a year of firsts without him. Our daughter got married just six weeks after he passed; such happiness on the heels of such sorrow.

I think of my mother who passed away in 2009, wishing she would’ve seen the wedding, been with us at the hospital when our grandson was born.

The brevity of life, it’s sorrows and joys, seems to have been the theme for this year. The lesson I’ve learned is to soak in all the joy. Retain it. Savor it. In a moment all we may have are memories.

So come 2015! I’m ready for a year of refreshing. I’m ready for a year of renewal. I’m ready to embrace the joy and bear any sorrow.