A Psalm for Saturday

Today’s blog comes in a little differently than others. I found this in one of my many writings. There was a time, and I possibly need to get back to it, when I would just read a scripture passage and journal how it spoke to me.

This particular one was written out on January 31, 2015. Interestingly, as I read through it today, it resonated with me and I found myself thinking, ”Yep, what was true four years ago is still true today and I needed this reminder.”

Here’s the scripture reading:

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God, I cried for help. From his temple, he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Here’s what God spoke to me through this passage.

As my rock, you are my protection and you are not removed from my presence. If there’s any movement it’s on my part, not yours. You are my constant and unyielding even when things around me are unsteady and shaky; You are NOT. You are my rock in both good times and bad because You are constant and unchanging. My emotions sometimes gets the best in me and I waver and wane. You keep me steady.

I need You in both good times and bad times, maybe I need You and your stability more in the good times. Why? In good times I find my self more self-reliant, more pious and more complacent when things are seemingly well- that’s why!

In times of struggle, whether brought on by my own foolish choices or circumstances beyond my control or tragedy, I run to You. I cling to You. I depend on You to pull me through. I want and need Your help.

The paradox- in both good and bad, I need to run, cling, depend on and want your help.

You are my shield. You protect me. You stand between me and my enemies, most of which are in the battlefield of my mind. You are my stronghold and so worthy of my praise and adoration.

God With Us

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention on Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth! John MacArthur

Think about this with me for a minute. The three words. ”God with us” or the singular word, ”Emmanuel”. The implication of these words means we have to look beyond the manager and the infant. We have to look beyond his ministry. We have to look beyond the cross, beyond and the resurrection. What do we need to look at?

We need to look to before the birth of Jesus and after the resurrection. What we need to understand is that Jesus lived in glory with God, the Father. He was the complete deity. He chose to give up his diety to come to earth. He chose to come in the form of a babe. Why? He knew there would be no other way to save us. He knew by taking human form, He could relate to us. He would endure the things we endure. He could relate to all of humanity. He could live and walk among us. The difference being He would be without sin.

So, He chose to set aside His crown and come to earth to live and walk among us.

But it didn’t stop with his birth. The child grew and grew. Then at age thirty began His ministry. For three years, he ministered to people, people like us. He didn’t turn anyone away that would listen. Money didn’t impress Him. Status didn’t mean anything to Him. People’s hearts and lives were of utmost importance to Him. He was mocked and ridiculed. He was misunderstood. Yet, His purpose was clear and He didn’t waver. He came to die.

On the cross, he bore the sin of the world. He took our punishment on himself. Interestingly, years before the prophet Isaiah penned the following words,

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

However, He didn’t stay on the cross, just like he didn’t stay in the manger. His broken body was wrapped and placed in a borrowed tomb. Yet again, like the manger and the cross, the tomb could not hold Him. He didn’t stay there either. On the third day, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Jesus is alive. Jesus then ascends back to His place in glory and the crown is placed back on His head.

While it is good for us to celebrate and talk about the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding His birth. Our primary focus needs to be about His deity. He is fully God and fully man. He is, ”God with us” The choice to come as a babe in a manger made that possible.


O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of Hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

O come, Thou Day-Spring

Come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heavenly home

Make safe the way that leads on high

And close the path to misery

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height

In ancient times did’st give the Law

In cloud, and majesty and awe

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

Merry Christmas to all.

I Thought We’d Have More Time

All week long, we’ve been warned about the infamous Diego aka Snowmageddon 2018. The name was given to the winter storm that has pummeled the south this weekend. We were prepared. We have plenty of non-perishable food and bottled water. We had enough bread, milk, and eggs on hand but like Terry says, “If the power goes out, bread is the only thing that will keep, unless you have a generator.”

We sold our generator before we moved. Did we think we wouldn’t need one? Not necessarily, we simply don’t have room to store one and we’ve braved many power outages without a generator before. Besides, our new hike is highly enemy efficient and we have a gas log fireplace. We also have a gas grill and can cook on it, if needed.

The snow in our sleepy little town of Landrum didn’t start until around 5:30 pm yesterday. Considering the favorable temperatures, sticking began almost immediately.The picture was taken about an hour after the snow began

In fact, the snow was so quiet and beautiful it was like going outside and standing in the middle of a snow globe. A little after 11:00 pm, this is how it looked,

After watching the Christmas Chronicles on Netflix, which is a must see, we opted to watch one of our faves, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. We both fell asleep in our recliners before the movie ended, that’s what happens when you get older. We are awakened by the startling noise on Terry’s phone telling us our power was out. Evidently, it went out around 1:00 am and Duke Energy sent us an alert. As we sleepily trudged toward the bedroom with the flashlight in hand, Terry exclaimed, “Well dang, I thought we’d have more time before the power went out”.

When we got up both of us were dreading the fact we couldn’t make coffee. We didn’t care about the heat. We knew our gas logs would be effective. We just don’t function well without coffee. We are definitely coffee lovers.

Finally, around 1:00, we ventured out. The roads were horrific; however, we were able to get to the local gas station, which had power, and get coffee. We came back home fully rejuvenated and caffeinated up.

We ventured out again around 3:00 because our local Pub was opened and we wanted some hot food and watch football.

Once back home, we pulled out all the candles and cranked up the gas logs. Then to our surprise, around 5:30 pm our power came back on. What a welcome surprise; but, we were prepared and not fretting another night without power.

As I think back over the events of the past 24 hours, I wonder how many of us think the same thing Terry did, ” I thought we’d have more time.”?

In the Bible, we are told we don’t know the time or day of Jesus’ return, but He is coming back. Are you ready? Have you prepared? Do it now because you don’t want that day to come and say, “Well dang, I thought we’d have more time.”

A Tiny Pinhole

The tiniest pinhole can wreak havoc. Fortunately, the damage, not severe or too costly, was relatively an easy fix. However, if I’d driven my car much further the damage could have been irreversible and very costly.

Several weeks ago, I was driving home. It was around 9:00. I stopped by to chat with a for a few minutes before heading down the mountain. On the way home, I returned the phone call of another friend and was chatting with her. As I neared the Columbus exit, I heard an odd sound. At first, I ignored it because Terry frequently tells me “You hear car noises which have no relevance to issues. You dream up noises” Surprise. Surprise. Continuing my phone conversation, the noise happened again only louder. Oh, it was definitely my car. I didn’t panic. Which is all together surprising. I kept driving and talking. As I drove up the Landrum exit, the noise became louder. Then I smelled oil burning. I didn’t have far to go and prayed as I turned off the exit ramp, “God, please get me home.” I was also grateful to be on the phone with someone……just in case.

I made it. Pulled safely into the garage, saw smoke, smelled the burn and lifted the hood. All the while, chatting with my friend, who was totally oblivious because I never told her. I didn’t want to concern her. Besides, I was home.

The next morning, we called and had the car towed. We both knew it wasn’t in a drivable state. In fact, we were concerned the motor has blown. Fortunately, once our mechanic took a good look at it, he said the oil hose had a pinhole puncture which caused the oil to spray and the noise was the pressure that caused the oil lifter kit to explode.. Needless to say, not only was oil saturating the undercarriage, it was heavy and thick on my back window. Gross.

The interesting thing about this was when I asked my mechanic so show me the problem, he pulled out the faulty oil hose and pointed to the pinhole but it was so tiny, I couldn’t see it. Also, he told us that the car has two oil hoses and both were a high density plastic, which is likely the cause of the pinhole. So, he replaced them with metal oil hoses.

Do you know that the schemes of Satan are much like that tiny pinhole? He is crafty and sneaky. He maneuvers and works his way through the tiniest pinhole of weakness he can find in us only to reek havoc. It is his chief goal and desire. John 10:10 (ESV) “The thief (devil) comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. And sometimes, because we are not equipped well to handle his schemes, it’s much easier for him to work through and wreak havoc. However, when we’ve chosen to be fitted with the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-19) we have weapons to defend against his attacks.

Taste and See: A lesson from The Tom and Debbie Portion

As a young child, I had (still have) these incredibly awesome people in my life, Uncle Tom and Aunt Debbie.

I was the flower girl in their wedding. Funny story for another time, I threw the flower petals after the ceremony not as the bride was coming down the aisle.

After they were married, they lived in Tennessee, while the rest of the family lived in the Brevard/Rosman area. So, they always made an effort to ensure they bonded with all of us. They did this by taking us home with them for a week every summer. In fact, for most of us (cousins) spending time with Uncle Tom and Aunt Debbie, was a highlight of our summer.

Anyway, I clearly remember the first time Kristi and I went for a week. We sat down to the table to eat. Food was plentiful. However, Kristi and I didn’t like everything set before us and turned our noses at a few items. That’s when it happened. Aunt Debbie announced the following, “When you are visiting us, our rule is that you take a small portion of any food placed before you and try it. It’s called the Tom and Debbie portion.”

Guess what happened? I learned to like some food I’d never tasted or tried before. (Maybe that’s why I like food so much now). I also learned there were foods I just couldn’t stomach. Sometimes I could tell after the first bite if I liked it or not and sometimes it took the whole portion before I decided. In fact, there were times I may have to try it again and again before I could make a call.

As I’ve pondered this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that God issues the same invitation to us. He invites us to try him. In fact the scripture says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” Psalm 34:8

Isn’t it interesting that David issues this invitation to us? Just like the Tom and Debbie portion invited us to taste a little of everything. You may not like what you taste and the great thing about God is that He will never force his way in. He will wait patiently and you may have to taste more than one bite to determine if it’s good. In fact, you may have to try Him again and again and again before you see how sweet and pleasing and good He is.

Straddling the Fence

Avoiding the inevitable, that’s what I do best. I would much prefer the easy over the hard any day! Truth be told, the majority of folks feel the same way. The reality is most things take work, hard work, failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment and heartbreak after heartbreak. If I’m being honest, I always shy away from these particular posts because they depict much of my humanness and pride gets in the way. I’ve really had to pull away and almost cocoon to be able to process through it all. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together now but I’m moving forward and pressing on. For me it’s an awakening, an awareness of who God really is and that He is with me no matter what. I don’t mind telling you the past few months have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have floundered around like a fish out of water.

My tendency is to call it “straddling the fence”. Do you know what happens when you straddle for too long? Your crouch hurts. It’s uncomfortable and you have no choice but to go one way or the other. You can’t stay that way.

Oh, sure, I can find excuses for my behavior and compromise my beliefs, little by little, but in the end excuses and compromise leave me feeling desperate and hopeless Truthfully, I may even manage to get both legs to one side but my behind is still sitting on that unyielding strip of wood or hard metal rail. So, what am I going to do about it?

The first thing is to thank God for my blessings every day. As I thank Him, I am reminded of this goodness and grace. I truly don’t deserve anything but He has given the gift of salvation and the hope of eternal life through Jesus. (John 3:16). So, if I can’t find any other reason to thank Him that is reason enough.

Next I can start each day by choosing to find joy. Even if I don’t feel like it, I can still choose it. I can allow the “joy of the Lord to be a my strength”. (Nehemiah 8:10) I can go to God with my whining and complaining and allow Him to remind me that He is my source of joy. David penned this perfectly in Psalm 23

The truth is I am on the fence because I want what I want and I need to get “me” out of the equation. The only way to get over me and my selfish desires is to put Him first in everything. Now, I know that’s much easier said than done. Trust me. I struggle daily but it’s about the journey. It’s learning to trust that His ways are more fantastic and audacious than mine.

The Curtain Will Fall

It’s the end of the show and the curtain falls. It rises again for the standing ovation, once, twice, perhaps more. Finally the applause wanes and its over. The finale. The end. The run is over. Done.

At first, cries and shouts of jubilee from the cast and production crew. Cheers. High Fives. Hugs galore. Then out of nowhere, there’s a sinking feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. You realize this moment is gone forever and it will never come again. At this moment you realize that you’ve been a part of something bigger than yourself and it was your choice. You’re glad you made the choice.

Four times over, I’ve watched as each of my children, in an eight year time span, chose to be part of their Senior Class play. This happens to be one of the oldest and most time-honored traditions of Hendersonville High School.

What makes this so special?

One, the play itself only involves the Senior Class. It’s not a drama club or class. The play is made up of any Senior who wants to participate. Also, lead roles aren’t necessarily given to those students with prior acting experience. In essence, it’s the closing act of the Senior class, their final “Hoorah!”, if you will. Participation isn’t required but highly recommended.

Also, during the long rehearsals and spending time with other members of the graduating class, friendships are born and some rekindled and there’s always the chance that love will blossom.

All of my children participated in their Senior play. Without fail, when the final curtain was drawn, not one of them regretted their decision to be a part. Even those who weren’t keen on the idea initially, would say, “I’m so glad I did this.”

This year Amy and I were sitting in the familiar balcony seats, awaiting the start of the show, and she looked at me and said, “Mom, has it really been two years since I did this?”

“Yes, it has. Time flies. Aren’t you proud to be able to say you were part of this time-honored tradition?” I asked

“Absolutely. ”

A few minutes later the curtain opened and the show began. A delightfully entertaining rendition of “The Wizard of Oz”. After a short intermission, the final act began and just like the previous 96 years, the final curtain closed and it was over. Done. Finished. Caput. The only ones receiving the satisfaction of a job well done are the ones who chose to participate.

And so it is with us, one day our curtain will fall. We will be history. Our bodies will fail. But when our curtain falls, where we spend eternity will be decided by our own choosing. We don’t have to believe in Jesus and the power of His resurrection. The choice is ours and if we miss out it’s our own fault. Because in the end, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve been part of something much bigger than ourselves. We’ve been invited to be part of a glorious kingdom that will never end.

Childhood Wasn’t All Bad

In spite of the difficult circumstances, there were times that I could be completely carefree. These were the times when I could shut off the voices and drown out the reality of what was going on. These were some of the most spectacular days of my childhood. The times I wasn’t going through the motions of pretense but I was actually enjoying being a child and being me.

Some of my best childhood memories are times spent with my dear friend, Theresa and her sisters, Missy and Tina.

We lived within walking distance of their house. We became the best of friends. She was the only one in my kindergarten class that didn’t join in making fun of me when I got glass and the dreadful eye patch. She was always sweet and kind. Many days were spent with her and her sisters and Kristi, my sister, climbing trees. Playing in the creek and catching salamanders. Racing. Playing kickball. Catching lightning bugs. We spent a lot of time outside.

The hardest part of being that carefree child was the reality I faced whenever I would come home. My circumstances hadn’t changed. I’d just been able to forgo them for awhile and forget their existence. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face. When I was little, I didn’t want reality. I wanted to live in a world of pretense. In that world, my heart didn’t hurt. In that world, my dad wasn’t dying and life was good.

The thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown up is that it’s still ok to be imaginative. It’s ok to be completely carefree. However, reality must be faced and you’re heart is going to hurt. You don’t have to allow the circumstances of your reality to overwhelm and overcome you. You can face any uncertainty with Jesus.

Here’s what I know. All of us are going to through something. Maybe you, like me, lost the innocence of your childhood. Your set of circumstances may vary vastly from mine. Maybe life has taken you to places you never thought you would be. Maybe you’re there because of poor choices. Maybe you’re there because of circumstances beyond your control. God wants to use this thing, whatever it is, to bring “beauty from ashes”. (Isaiah 61:3)

Remember as Charles Swindoll says, “We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…..I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

A loss of innocence

A “loss of innocence” is a common theme in fiction, pop culture, and realism. It is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them.

I’m just going to go ahead and give you fair warning.  This whole subject makes me want to curl up and cry like a baby. Honestly, I have a time or two.

I’m not sure at what age I realized that my life wasn’t normal and did not look anything like others my age.  I think my awareness began long before it should have.  I know by the time I was four, I was keenly aware things were not like my peers.

By the time I was one, my mom discovered a hideous mole on my dads back.  She encouraged him to have it checked out.  He did and it was malignant.  Melanoma. They removed a large portion around the perimeter of the mole. The portion was so large, it looked like a crater to me.  My little hand fit in the crevice of the dug out space.

Getting clear margins and feeling hopeful, the doctor said, “All should be well if you see no signs within 2 years.”

Nearing the end of the 2 years, another spot appeared.  This time, the cancer had spread.  Chemo would be necessary.  Considering the year was 1972, the best facility for treatment was at Baptist Hospital (aka Wake Forest Medical Center) in Winston Salem, NC.

Thus the journey began.

An entire week, every month, my dad would go for treatment.  Sometimes we would go but not often.  My dads brothers were gracious enough to take turns driving him and picking him up.

In addition, my aunt and uncle who lived in Winston helped with his care as well.  Days turned into weeks and weeks into years.

His body was worn and beaten.  He allowed them to try new treatment drugs on him in hopes to help others, not himself. He knew his time was coming to an end and so did I.

I think my mom tried as best she could to keep life as normal as she could but let’s be real, how many 5-6 year olds do you know whose parent is on chemo and gone for a week every month?  I didn’t know any at the time.  Not one of my friends and I’m not even sure they knew or understand how different my life was than theirs.

I learned, even then, to pretend that I was tough and strong. I could be like the others. You know, “fake it till you make it”. All the while, the voices in my head were screaming, “You’re different, You’re not like them.”

Then it happened, during a routine eye exam in Kindergarten, my teacher discovered I was not seeing 20/20. She informed my Mom. Mom took me first to an optometrist who had no couth told me I needed glasses pronto.. In fact, he was such a nice guy, Mom and I both left the office in tears.

Fortunately, we were given another recommendation and that’s when we met Dr. Gleaton. Not only did he have a terrific personality and calming nature, he also explained the necessity of glasses. Unlike the previous bully, he told me I had a “lazy eye” and would need to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen the lazy one. By the time we left his office, I felt good about having glasses. Until I actually wore them for the first time.

Oh, the sneers and jeers. The jabs. The taunts. The snickers. I sat on the bank with tears streaming for what seemed like hours. Day after day. It made me see how cruel this world can really be and I was just six.

Now the voices were louder and eviler than before. Not only did I feel different. I felt unattractive, unworthy and yes, even unloved.

Here I was a kindergartner with a dying father and now being made fun of because I had to wear glasses with a patch.

Want to know what I learned? It’s called stuffing. Yep, just hide what you really feel and pretend you don’t care, even if your heart is being ripped to shreds.

On one hand, my father was sick and dying. I saw the cruelty of the disease stripping away his energy and zest for life. I saw how the chemo weakened his strong body. I had no one I could talk to, no one who understood. I don’t even know if anyone had any idea how aware I was.

Then my friends basically turned their backs on me., except one. It was just plain hard being a six year old for me.

Do you know what that year at the tender age of six created? A little thing called insecurity, which actually isn’t so little at all. Insecurity has followed me most of my life. There have been times when I’ve felt less insecure than others; but it’s always there, lurking about, waiting to pounce like a lion.

I have these voices that tell me time and again:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You’ll never be pretty enough
  • You’ll never escape your past
  • You are not worthy

What I’ve learned over the past 26 years, is that these voices will come but they don’t linger very long. I have weapons to fight against them now. I have the voice of truth echoing in my ear:

  • You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 3:20)
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14
  • You are forgiven and free (John 3:16)
  • I paid a very high price for you and I say you are worthy (I Corinthians 6:20)

A loss of innocence at such a young age has always been a challenge for me. There was a point several years back when I heard or read something to the effect that it is important to grieve the loss of innocence when it’s been stripped from you. I’d never really contemplated the need to grieve over what was taken from me as a child; however, the more I thought about what was lost, the more I realized I needed to grieve. By taking time to grieve, it has given me some real insight to how this substantial loss has influenced and affected many areas of my life. A life that God is in the process of helping me break free

So What if She Gets a “C”

“I want Christians not to be seduced by this culture in which we are living and not to be led astray,” he explained. “And I think there needs to be a voice that speaks out because there aren’t many people who speak out.” Franklin Graham in a recent interview by CBN News. Read full article Here

We are not perfect parents. For every one thing I thought I did right, there are ten things I did wrong. In fact, I often tell Terry if I knew then what I know now, I would have been a great parent. But like most, we were just striving to get through, doing the best we knew how and teaching our children to become responsible adults.

There was always thing Terry and I taught all four of them from a young age. Know why you believe what you believe and be able to give an answer for why you believe what you believe. This was not only as it relates to Christianity but to social and political issues as well. Sometimes they all cross paths and you have to be willing to take a stand.

On Thursday I received a text from Amy. It said, “We are literally watching a movie about prostitution. I’m getting ready to walk out because I’m not watching this anymore.”

A couple of minutes later my phone started buzzing. It was Amy. I knew I’d best answer because I could tell from her text she was already upset.

The words spewed from her lips, “I am so angry. I had to leave. Mom, that movie was suggesting the prostitution is okay. It’s not okay. I’m about to cry. It’s making me sad and hurting my heart.”

I replied, “It should hurt your heart because it hurts the heart of God. Not only that it’s demoralizing to women. It’s wrong.”

“Exactly, Mom. Not to mention the health, mental and emotional problems it creates for women. There is just no reason why it could ever be okay. I mean, it’s a form of slavery. It’s an objectification of women. How is that okay? I know women feel pressure to make money and I know they feel they have to feed their families but that never makes it okay and I wasn’t going to sit there and listen to someone try to convince me it was okay. ”

I told her that I was proud of her because she stood up for what she believes. She gave a reason and she actually stated it plainly on the movie review, which she turned in as she left the classroom abruptly.

She had told us a few weeks ago that the grading system this professor has makes it virtually impossible to make an “A” in the class. So she was hoping for a “B”. After Thursday’s episode she might just wind up with a “C” and I’m ok with that.

We need more people taking a stand against social issues that threaten our society. I am glad she chose to stand up and be a voice to say, “It’s not okay.” That’s a display of character and integrity but more than that it’s also a projection of the fact that she’s tender to the things that breaks the heart of God and as a parent you can’t ask for more!