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.

His Word Never Fails

Oh my goodness! How many times I’ve read this passage of the angel coming to Mary and yet this one verse, I’ve skipped dozens of times. Wow.

In the very heart of the angel speaking to Mary are the words “Gods word will never fail”. When God calls you out of your comfort zone into a scary place of the unknown, He will be with you. He will go before you and prepare the way. It doesn’t mean the path will be smooth and easy. It means that ultimately His plan for you will be carried through until completion.

Was Mary’s pregnancy expected? Absolutely not! Was her pregnancy welcomed? No! Did she hear an absolute word from God? Yes. Was He faithful to carry out what He said He would do? Absolutely.

Mary was a willing participant, even though she had no real comprehension of the vastness of Gods plan for her. She simply took the words delivered to her by the angel and said “Ok. I am willing to do whatever He asks and may things happen just as you say they will. I trust Him completely”. She couldn’t see the end or even the middle she just knew what she believed and was willing to place complete faith and trust in her belief in God.

I would love to say I trust and believe with the same veracity Mary displays; however, my faith wavers and wanes. Often times I allow my emotions to get in the way of what I know to be true.

God’s Word Never Fails……

Where Hope is Found

On Saturday we celebrated Popaw’s 92nd birthday. Due to an early morning fall and trip to the ER, nothing serious, our plans changed from going to Moms to celebrating in his room at The Bridge. (The assisted living facility where he resides.)

As I rounded the hallway towards his room, a flashback filled my mind’s eye and suddenly it was last year, Friday, October 13, 2017.

Ned had been transferred from the The Lodge to The Bridge. His room, not by chance, was directly across the hall from Popaw’s. It was his first day there.

I was scheduled to meet him and Mom back at the hospital for an echocardiogram. I was there 15 minutes early. I sat down and waited. Surprised by the fact they weren’t there, cause Ned is never late. Always early. Never late. I hemmed and hawed a few more minutes before calling Mom. She didn’t answer. So the next best thing, call Ned.

“Hey, are y’all on the way to the hospital?”

“No. Your Mom’s gone to Walmart. I bet she forgot.”

I put him on hold, Talked to the receptionist, explained the situation. Told her I’d go get him and bring him back, She assured me time was not of the essence and not to rush to get him back.

Got back on the phone with Ned and told him I’d be there in a few minutes.

Don’t you just hate it when they tell you not to rush and you rush anyway. I mean he was already late and I hate to hold people up. I wheeled my car into the parking lot at The Bridge. Briefly I thought of leaving my vehicle unattended under the breezeway but decided to park instead. Good thing I did.

To be honest, I was half expecting to see Ned in the downstairs lounge area waiting for me. Simply because I had told him to stay put in his room and I’d come get him. He wasn’t there. Hopped on the elevator and went to the 2nd floor. As I rounded the corner, I noticed that his door was slightly ajar. I walked in and he wasn’t there. His walker was there…..but no Ned. I peeped in Popaw’s room and he wasn’t there. So, I began my descent down the hallway and thats when I saw him. He was staggering and holding on to the railing with one hand. It was apparent he had no idea where he was. He saw me and said “I was trying to get to the elevator to find you”. Yeppers, he didn’t listen. He didn’t stay in his room and if he’d been more familiar with his surroundings would most likely have been waiting for me.

He was so weak he could barely walk. I gave him my arm and told him to keep using the rail with the other hand. We made it back to his room. Exhausted, he sat down in his wheelchair. I told him we didn’t have to rush to take his time. He began complaining of nausea. Vomiting and nausea were his latest symptoms. He stood to grab hold of the walker and suddenly hurled everything in his stomach into the sink. He sat back down. I finished cleaning the portion of the mess he couldn’t clean. Then I told him I was calling to cancel his appointment. He agreed.

We continued to sit there for a spell before he got sick again. After the next episode, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Can’t someone tell me what’s wrong with me?”

I have to admit. I almost broke. I couldn’t break, not in front of him. It took every ounce of effort and will in me not to burst into tears. The past seven weeks had been such a roller coaster for all of us, especially for him. He’d been poked, prodded, X-rayed, and examined more times than I can count.

I looked at him and said “I am doing all I can to help the doctors figure out what’s going on. I’m trying the best I know how.”

At that moment, we both knew it was the cancer invading his body. We knew it wasn’t going to get better but as long as the doctors gave us a shred of hope, we clung to it. It was all we had.

As it turned out, his stay at The Bridge was short lived. He was there two nights. They couldn’t control his nausea and vomiting and had no choice but send him back to the hospital.

As I’ve reflected on this day, I am reminded that Ned was never without hope. Although there were times when the cancer and side effects from the drugs, looked bleak, hope was always present. There was hope for the drugs to eradicate the cancer. There was hope when the cancer went dormant for awhile. There was hope when the cancer returned that it was still treatable. Even when the new drugs failed to deliver and his problems surmounted, he still had the hope of eternal life with Christ because of his decision to place his faith in Christ. It’s the same with all of us who believe. Our lives may feel like they’re falling apart but Jesus is the hope of the world. He is the reason we can have hope to face another minute, another hour, another day. It is only this hope that assures us of our eternal destination.

Dear friends, if today finds you without hope and in what seems a hopeless situation, turn to Jesus. He is your only hope.

Gazing into Her Daddy’s Eyes

For the past twenty years I have loved watching the relationship develop between Amy and Terry. Truth be told, she loves him far more than she loves me and I’m totally ok with that. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way, He is the epitome of a “great dad”. No, he’s not perfect but he’s good and he loves well.

I can’t tell you how their gazes met when she was first born. I was kinda out of it. Read Here. As she got older when he would hold her and talk to her, her eyes were transfixed on his. He mesmerized her. Actually, I think he secretly hypnotized her into his likeness because they are certainly two of a kind.

Now that she’s twenty, things haven’t really changed all that much. I still see him catch her gaze when they’re together. It’s a beautiful sight. A complete adoration of affection between a loving father and his daughter. The radiance that beams on her face as her gaze meets his is like the full moon illuminating the night sky. It’s magical.

You want to know something? That’s what God, your Heavenly Father, wants from you and me! He wants us to stand in awe of Him. He wants us to be mesmerized by his goodness and grace. He wants our gaze upon Him and the handiwork of His hands.

Do you know why? He knows if our eyes are fully fixed on Him, our souls will be satisfied. He already knows that the things of this earth will fade away. They are temporary, even pain and suffering. This is what He wants us to understand. He wants our faces to beam with radiance for Him and His glory.

In the Palm of His Hand

A few weeks ago at Moms, I decided to go check the concrete driveway to see if Ryan and Matthews feet prints were still visible. Keep in mind it’s been 25,almost 26 years since the concrete was poured. To my surprise, Ryan’s still prominently in tact. Matthew’s weren’t immediately visible until further inspection. Yet, I knew they were there. I helped hold him in the concrete. I watched Ned write his name above his feet print. The tiniest of etching remained. With my foot, I skimmed the surface and could feel the small indentions. Yes, the small feet were still there as well as the etching of his name. However, it wasn’t until I got on blended knee that I could more visibly see.

Isn’t that just like faith? Sometimes it’s clear and visible that we believe what we believe. There’s evidence all around that solidifies our faith. We feel so close to God and we see him working in and through our lives. There’s just no doubt. It’s real.

On the flip side, faith is murky at murky at best. You question everything, maybe not you, but I sure do! You know that you know that you know but where is the evidence that God is real and present? Where did he go? Why did he allow this thing? If he truly cares why doesn’t he do something? In those times, you have to know what his word is truth. You have to be reminded of how you’ve seen him work in the past. You just have to know that you know and when it’s not clear, you may have to get on bended knee to see with more clarity the evidence of faith.

I’ve often heard that faith is like a muscle and it must be stretched. I’m beginning to understand more each day the importance of both. When our faith is stretched it actually becomes more healthy over time with proper exercises. This is why reading, studying and memorizing God’s word is of high priority.

The one truth to remember from God’s word is found in Isaiah.

See, even when we lack in faith and we don’t feel like God is present. He hasn’t forgotten us because we are carved on the palm of his hand.

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.

You Are Special and loved by God

During our move I ran across this book, You Are Special by Max Lucado. I knew I’d saved the book for two reasons. First, Alex’s second grade teacher Mrs Warner had given it to him as a gift. Second, Max Lucado happens to be on of my favorite authors.

In this particular Children’s book, he tells the story of a Wemmick named Punchinello. The Wemmick’s are wooden people made by a woodcarver named, Eli. The Wemmick’s spend their time giving each other gold stars or gray dots. Gold stars are for those who are excelling, beautiful, strong and the grey dots are for those who are weak, ugly, not measuring up to the Wemmick’s standards of living. Punchinello is one who feels unworthy, unloved, forgotten. His body is covered with gray dots. In fact, he never seems to measure up and it cause him great anguish. “After a while he had so many dots that he didn’t want to go outside. He was afraid he would do something dumb such as forget his hat or step in the water, and then people would give him another dot. In fact, he had so many gray dots that some people would come up and give him one for no reason at all.”

The only time he felt ok about himself was when he hung around Wemmick’s who had lots of dots.

One day he meets a Wemmick unlike any other. She was dotless. In fact, every time the people would try to give her stickers, they just fell right off. They had no stick.

Immediately, Punchinello wants to be like her and so he asks her how she did it.

“It’s easy,” Lucia replied, “Every day I go see Eli.”

Curious he asks why and her response is classic, “Why don’t you find out for yourself.”

When Punchinello finally decides to go see Eli, he is overcome with delight. Eli calls him by name, tells him how special he is and that when he get to the point where he decides to care more about what Eli, his maker, thinks about him, than others, his dots will begin to loose their stick.

Eli says, “The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about the stickers.”

While this a Children’s book there are so many rich truths for us.

I’m not sure about you but I know there have been many tines in life where I’ve allowed what others thought of me to influence decisions I’ve made. There are times when I’ve felt unloved, unworthy, and forgotten. So, I am preaching to the choir.

God wants us to come to Him when we feel this way. When we’ve allowed ourselves to care more about what others think of us than what He says and thinks about us. When we’ve allowed our circumstances to mar our thinking. He wants us to know, we are His. He made us. He knows us more intricately than we know ourselves and He loves us with a measure that is so deep and wide, nothing can penetrate it. We are the ones who separate from His love. He never removes His love. It’s always there for the taking.

If you don’t believe me, find out for yourselves. Here are few scriptures to get you started.

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8

“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. “. Psalm 119:73

The truth is, when we begin to understand the depth of His love for us, it changes everything for us.

You Are Loved

Have you ever wondered if you’re doing the right thing? Do you feel like you could be doing more? Do you feel like what you’re doing doesn’t really matter?

Lately, I’ve been feeling this way!

A little over two years ago when Greg decided to retire and I found myself jobless, I knew I would never find what I had with him. It was the perfect job. The perfect hours. The perfect boss. The perfect everything. I loved my job.

Right after we closed our doors my niece and nephew needed someone to care for the their babies one afternoon a week. I accepted the offer.

A few weeks after, I was offered a job. The job was for another cabinet shop. Hours were good and the owner of the shop was willing to be flexible. However, it would mean that I would have to give up watching them and doing some other things. Not to mention, Ned had just been diagnosed and I knew I needed to be available for him and Mom. I had an uneasy feeling in my gut. I declined the offer.

As it turned out, I ended up being able to spend additional time with the girls and pickup a few more cleaning jobs. I still felt a sense of worthlessness. Like I could be doing more or I should be doing more. However, I always found myself looking forward to seeing my girls or seeing my people. I would tell Terry time and again, I just want to be a blessing to them.

The few months have been an emotional rollercoaster. In addition to Neds death, our move, Popaw’s illness, I too have had a few issues of my own, mostly related to my back and neck. These issues have made for many sleepless nights and I don’t function well without sleep. I’m not a happy camper. Honestly, I don’t know how people go on little to no sleep. I can’t. Not only was I in physical pain but mentally as well.

Fortunately, I have a great chiropractor and now a massage therapist helping to alleviate my pain. Ibuprofen and Biofeeeze are now my best friends, along with stretching and walking and ice.

Having sleep the past few days has been a key ingredient to being mentally refreshed. I don’t feel like the walking dead now! And I don’t feel like I could cry over spilt milk. (That’s how I know I’m at my breaking point)

Anyway, I’ve been asking God to show me that what I’m doing matters I’ve also been asking Him if there’s something else I should be doing. He hasn’t given a clear answer on that yet but let me tell you what happened today.

After the girls got up from their rest time, we were sitting at the window playing, “I spy.” Hayden looked down and saw a sign on the neighbors porch and said, “Kelly, what does that sign say?”

“Welcome”, I replied. “Do you know what that means?”

“No”

“A welcome is an invitation to come in and visit.” I told her.

“Oh, well we don’t have a welcome sign. But we do have a sign.” She said. She hopped off the stool and went into her room. Bringing back a small sign in her hand, she said, “Tell me what this one says.”

“You are loved,” I told her.

I pointed to the sky and told both girls, “When you see the sky, the clouds, the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees and flowers those things are all reminders that God is telling us “you are loved”. He loves you more than anything. But you are also loved by others too. Who else loves you?”

Scottie, the younger one looked up at me and said, “You love me!”

I gave them both hugs and said, “Yes I do love you. But who else loves you?”

Then they named all the family members they could think of and then Scottie looks at me again and says, “and you love me!”

In that moment, I knew I was doing the very best thing I could do. They know they are loved and they have full confidence in my love for them.

God wants us to have the same confidence in His love for us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to die for us. In that moment, He said, “You are so loved that I am willing to give my life for you!” However, we can’t have confidence in His love unless we know Him. Just like with the girls, I’ve spent the past two years building a relationship with them. Which is why Scottie could say with complete confidence in her sweet little voice, “you love me!”

When we begin to realize the vastness of His love for us, we too can look up towards heaven and say, “God, you love me”.

He replies, “You are so loved!”