Friends To The End … And New Beginning

We live on a court with ten other families. It is a microcosm of Norman Rockwell’s America.

Children ride bikes and scooters and run most everywhere they go. They climb trees and do sidewalk art. Adults shoot baskets on the basketball goal. Pets are known by name and loved by all.

Neighbors call out to each other, “Hi neighbor!” Conversations are held from deck to deck, porch to porch, or from lawn chairs in a circle in each other’s yards.

Everyone watches out for each other. People notice when garage doors are left open, cars are out of place or children are about to do something not parentally approved.

There have been births here on the court. Children grew up here and now bring their children back here to visit grandparents.

There have been marriages and divorces.

Some people have moved away and others have come. The connections made here continue long after the moving vans have pulled out of sight. The “new people” quickly become new friends.

There has been much sharing, but also secrets known only behind closed doors. People are willing to share the lives they choose to share. People respect the boundaries and do not pry into what others choose to leave covered.

While great joys have been celebrated here, so has great suffering been endured. Illness, injuries, stressful family relations, broken hearts … this court has seen them all.

But this week there was something new and unwelcome that crept into our midst … grief … a grief so intense it had to be shared. Mary, a resident of the court since its beginning, died.

Her death was not unexpected. She had fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. Her arrival in Heaven must have filled the streets with shouts of joy and welcome.

But the certainty of her joy was not enough for her beloved husband of 41 years. He was inconsolable. He summed it up well when he said, ”She won. I lost.”

As he retreated into his house with his family, his grief was palpable even through the walls to the neighbors outside.

As before, everyone respected his right to privately grieve. Words or food or other expressions of sympathy seemed empty. Taking flowers to a meeting at a funeral home did not feel right.

And then from the group of neighbors, there came an idea. Mary had loved flowers. Many remembered her sitting by the mailbox planting flowers. She loved sunflowers.

Tonight some of our neighbors put a sunflower on every mailbox on the court with extra flowers on her mailbox.

Several drew and colored a large heart with her name in the center. It was in the middle of the court.

Her husband came out and stood in awe, as he was surrounded by flowers and loving neighbors, who stood back and let him take it all in.

While he stood at the heart in tears, he heard not empty words. He felt the shared grief of his friends.

He understood we were saying, “We can’t fix the pain, but we are here. We remember Mary. Whether a long or short time with her, her life touched us all. And so does yours.”

Tomorrow the court will be busy again with the sounds of lives that will continue to unfold. It is forecasted to rain, so likely the heart will fade into the pavement.

When we get the mail, we will smile at the flowers that will be there for now. And we will likely take a moment to reflect on how fragile life is and how important it is to do it together.

Somewhere Out There …

My brother went to college when I started to school. Each night when my mother and I shared prayers, we would always pray for him.

And then my mother would say, “Let’s throw him a kiss good night.” We would turn in the direction of Clemson and throw him kisses. I always believed somehow they were delivered.

Many years later, I watched the move, “An American Tale” with our daughter. I loved the touching song, “Somewhere Out There”

It became my theme song, as she went off to college and beyond.

College, law school and career took our daughter to many different places. Wherever she went, I was comforted through the distance by the thought we were sleeping under the same big sky.

After my parents were promoted to Heaven, I counted them among “the great cloud of witnesses” who watched over me. One night, as I looked at a blanket of stars in the heavens and a blanket of snow on earth, I felt really connected.

I went out on our deck and wrote, “I love you with all my heart” in the snow. I think they got my message. The twinkling of the stars looked like winks from above.

Recently I had a friend who was very ill, isolated in the hospital. We kept our friendship going through texts. I sang to her, sent her You Tube videos of her requested songs, and took her on video tours outside where she could see and hear God’s World.

Now that she has joined the great cloud of witnesses, I will continue to sing for her and listen for the songs she sends back from God’s Throne. We will still be connected.

The COVID pandemic has separated many physically. We long for each other, realizing how much we took for granted. Being able to see a smile, feel a hug, or share a kiss are treasures lost for now.

But perhaps we are being called to a higher level of communication, a higher level of intimacy with both God and each other.

We are being called to look beyond the physical and communicate with each other heart to heart.

I invite you to watch a scene from “An American Tale.” This little mouse, like most of us, just wants to find his way home.

Take a few moments and think of those who are somewhere out there. Send them love. I am sure God will deliver it. He is Love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:7

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We are being called to look beyond the physical and communicate with each other heart to heart.

Sing Unto The Lord A New Song!

A friend was recently promoted to Heaven. Her name is Mary.

I first met Mary 26 years ago. She, her husband and daughter were having a house built in the same new subdivision where my husband, daughter and I were building. We became neighbors and friends. Both of our daughters were named Jennifer.

Interestingly, we discovered we had lived in the same subdivision before we moved, but we had never met each other.

We shared life together for the past 26 years. We watched our little court change around us, with people moving away and new people coming in. We faced the highs and lows of life together.

We adjusted to our Jennifers leaving the nest. We survived personal battles, learning the delicate steps of when to sweep in with support and when to back off and leave room for private battles.

The world around us changed, but our friendship never did. Even on days when we did not talk, it was a comfort to know we were there. We were a family.

My husband and I had one of the first houses on the court. Before the roof was put on, I sat on the floor of what would become the master bedroom and prayed for all who would come to this place one day.

As people arrived, even in later years, I would wink and say, “I prayed for you.” In recent years, as a part of my nightly routine, I began praying for each person (and animal) who lived on the court.

When I shared this with Mary, she said, “Oh that gives me so much comfort.” Several years ago, Mary was diagnosed with cancer. She had a long battle, enduring surgeries and grueling treatments.

She told me when she looked out her window at night and saw the light on in my room, she knew I was praying. She said it was like a lighthouse.

As her battles with cancer intensified, I also began singing hymns from my room. I would look directly from my window towards her house and sing.

I believed my songs were being carried by The Holy Spirit to her. When I shared this with her, she confirmed she had felt an increase of peace and joy during those times. It gave me joy to sing each night and to know she was on the other end receiving.

Mary’s physical body continued to deteriorate, but her spirit remained strong. In the new COVID world, she had to remain isolated, so we became regular text partners.

When she was down, I would remind her I was praying and singing. As my husband and I also went through a series of health challenges, she was on the other end, sending texts of encouragement to me.

In recent weeks, she had to enter an extended time of isolation in the hospital. She was not allowed even to have her devoted husband at her side. Other than hospital staff, she was humanly alone.

However, she was never separated from her Heavenly Father nor was I. I continued to pray and sing. By now I knew, as did she, that wherever she was, she would receive the songs and prayers by The Power of The Holy Spirit.

When Jay and I began doing You Tube videos, I included a song The Lord gave me. I composed it under His Direction and sang it. Mary really liked it.

https://youtu.be/3xBmvLXPPUU

She played it during one of her early chemo sessions. Another patient heard it and asked what she was listening to. Mary ended up sharing the song with the whole group. It was so exciting to both of us to see how God used the song to comfort others and let them know how close He is.

Recently when she was isolated in the hospital, she texted me and asked me to resend her the link. She said she really needed it. I was happy to share it again.

She later texted me and said, “I hear the sweet choir of an angel sending me love and strength.”

She had not heard me humanly, but in her spirit, she heard what God sent her. It was not just my voice alone. He brought a whole choir!

We continued to text. One night, to my great delight, I received a text from her. She said, “I’m singing to you tonight!” I felt a rush of Joy as I received!

As her stay in the hospital was extended, one day, I felt The Lord’s Nudge to do something new. Instead of telling her I was singing, I realized I could sing by audio attachment to a text. So I did.

She was excited as was I. I am not a professional singer, but I put my heart into my songs. And so we began a new heart to heart connection.

I asked her to send me a list of her favorite hymns. And then I sang. She thought of old songs she remembered from years ago. I found them on You Tube and sent them to her.

Last week when I was out on the deck and heard the birds singing, it seemed they were singing for Mary. I videoed our back yard, so she could enjoy the green grass, the horse pasture and flower beds … and hear the birds singing. She was delighted.

When her daughter called to relay the news that her Mom had been promoted, I was not surprised, but felt very sad.

Mary was my friend. Mary was family. Mary was a heart and soul connection. I will continue to sing for her because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God can carry His Music anywhere in the universe.

And I would not be surprised at all to hear new songs coming from the thrones of Heaven. I will know who sent them.

“Let The Heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad!”

Psalm 96:11

P.S. We have been waiting eagerly for our lilies to bloom. They all had promising buds, but for some reason, blooming wasn’t happening.

The night Mary was promoted, when we looked, there was just the tiniest sliver of a promising bloom. When we got up the next morning, the one closest to our front door had bloomed.

What a beautiful bouquet from God to celebrate the Homecoming of one of His Beautiful Daughters!

The Cure

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These are times that try our very souls.  Those of us who love planning, organizing, covering all possible scenarios in advance and avoiding pitfalls never saw this coming.

Earthquakes, floods, fires, nuclear explosions … yes, we fretted about them all.  Which country would try to do the other in first … yes, we thought about that too.

But a bug that would cripple the whole world, bring death and terror in a whole new way?

Something that would drive us away from our worldly pleasures and send us inside for an unknown period of time?

Something that would even close the doors of our churches?  Something that would separate us from our loved ones, not in death, but in life?  No, we did not see that coming.

But perhaps what we also did not understand is that we were created for such a time as this.  Does God cause disease and suffering?  No.

Does He allow it?  Yes.  Read Job and you will discover satan brought the misery.  But you will also see God allowed it.

Suffering comes not to torture, but to test.  Suffering comes not so God can see what we are made of.  He already knows!

Suffering comes to refine us and let us know what we are made of and Who made us.  When all the things that have covered over who we truly are are stripped away, we see who we were made to be.

God had a Plan for us before we were born.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

Jeremiah 1:5

He knew exactly what talents He put inside us.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:10

He knew exactly when He would send us to earth.  He knows exactly how long our assignment will last.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your Book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Why are we here now?  Because God ordained that we be here at this unprecedented time in history.  Every experience we have had in life has trained us for what we will do now.

God has called us.  He is calling us now to grow up fully into who He created us to be.

But now, thus says The Lord, Who created you, and He Who formed you,

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name;

You are Mine.”

Isaiah 43:1

Many began the season of Lent choosing what they would give up to demonstrate their understanding of sacrifice.  Many vowed to do good in The Name of Jesus.

Many even volunteered to walk the road to Calvary, envisioning snacking on the way on chocolate bunnies and having fun hiding Easter eggs.  Many looked forward to dressing in Easter finery and singing the Hallelujah chorus on Easter.

But we did not foresee what walking with Jesus would involve.  We thought we would be spectators and cut out if things got too close to us.

But this Lenten season is different.  We are being called into true sacrifice.  We are being called into freedom from fear and doubt.  We are being called into a level of compassion beyond that of which we thought we were capable.

Jesus is asking if we really believe He can and will heal.

Jesus is asking whether we will betray Him or deny Him. He is asking if we will turn and run or follow Him wherever God leads.

Jesus is asking us to watch and pray that we not fall into temptation.

Jesus is asking us to forgive others when they think they know what they are doing but they don’t.  He is asking us to receive His forgiveness for the same.

Jesus is commanding us to love God and love one another, as He has and is loving us.

Jesus is asking us if we truly believe He is with us always.  He is asking if we are ready to follow Him all the way to Eternity.

Yes, if you are here, you are here because God planned it.  You were brought here to be who He created you to be for such a time as this.

May we be able to say with Jesus,

“I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do.”

John 17:4

I invite you to listen to this powerful song and ask God what He wants you to do now in such a time as this.

https://youtu.be/YmYOQ8h4wsM

Working Together — Is It Enough?

God once sent a great flood upon the earth. It destroyed all but those God designated to continue their assignment to earth.

The survivors of the great flood were not so different from the survivors of catastrophes today.

We are currently in the midst of tragedies across the world. Some will die. Others will continue their assignment to planet earth.

When people survive a great disaster, rarely do they just pick right back up and live the lives they did before the catastrophe.

First comes intense gratitude they survived.

Then comes the questioning of why they survived. They look around and realize there were others who seemed more deserving of life, but who lost their lives.

Even if they did not have this thought themselves, often family or friends of those who did not survive, will tell them.

Besides the possible guilt survivors feel, they also discover surviving one disaster does not exempt them from other tragedies.

As other challenges continue, some survivors wish they had died.

But out of the ashes of calamity, often survivors find solace in each other. The trauma of powerlessness is replaced with a common desire to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

The feeling of control returns and is strengthened by others who have experienced the same thing.

If we survive, shouldn’t we want to prevent any future problems? Yes, that natural desire for good is good.

But we are not The Creator of Good. God is.

Therefore, whatever we do must be God originated, God designed and God directed. We must never forget that while we are God’s Hands and Feet extended, we are not God.

Genesis presents a very vivid picture of what happened when a group of survivors took matters into their own hands.

After the great flood, one would think the survivors would have been grateful to God for His Presence and Provision through the whole ordeal.

One would think they would have seen God’s Love, Mercy, Grace, and Provision. And this would have only led them into a greater trust in God for the new world He was entrusting to them.

Satan needed to stop the gratitude right there. He hated humans getting fresh starts. And He particularly hated humans trusting God. So he was ready to sow seeds of doubt.

As the survivors unkinked from their close quarters with each other and the variety of animals with whom they had just spent an extended time, gratitude was replaced with other thoughts.

Why did this disaster happen in the first place?

Why take away everything and everyone they had ever known besides the few who were left? Could not a few animals have been sacrificed and their closest friends survived too?

And what now? Why were they selected to be the clean up and start over crew?

And how were they going to know God would not come up with some other way to torture them in the future?

Oh sure God made a Promise never to destroy the earth again with a flood, but what about fire, disease or other things?

They knew two things. They had each other. And they were survivors. They figured if they stuck together, they would never let such a thing happen again.

Their communication with each other was unhindered. They all spoke the same language.

They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Genesis 11:4

Note: God was nowhere in their plan. They thought they were in charge.They were not building a tower to The Glory of God. They were building it to make a name for themselves … to show how powerful they were.

At the core of their plan was fear. Some commentators have wondered if they chose a tower because they wanted to be sure to be high enough off the ground if there was another flood. If this was the reason, it meant they did not believe God’s Promise.

It is interesting that they desired to build the tower that would reach to Heaven. Did they think their own works would gain them access to Heaven? It would not.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is The Gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

And they were afraid of being separated. If they did not have each other, they knew they could not accomplish this giant task. If they did not have each other, they believed they would be totally alone.

Satan reinforces that thought. He wants us to believe all we have is each other … or him. He’s only too happy to offer his services.

So what happened with the tower?

God looked over their work. He loved these people. He had chosen them specifically to be the leaders of the new world.

But their fear and distrust of God had led to an arrogance that would have ultimately destroyed them from within.

Even though God was about to do something that would separate them for their own good, He spoke The Truth.

The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Genesis 1:6

The same is true for us. But we must all speak the same language as God. We must be in agreement with Him.

Jesus said, “Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”

Matthew 18:19

Note. If we all agree on the impossible, it will not happen. If we agree in accordance with God’s Will, it will happen.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Luke 1:37

But God needed to get the tower builders’ attention. He caused each to speak a different language. And with that, they considered themselves powerless again. They stopped building.

And The Lord sent them to different places all over the earth. In God’s Mercy and Grace, the whole earth was repopulated.

Even though we can’t say for certain that all the people learned God’s Lesson, we do know The Word of The Lord continued, even to today.

In a future blog posting, I will tell you “the rest of God’s Story.” I will tell you of the great and glorious day when God brought all the different languages back together.

We are in the midst of a worldwide crisis of unprecedented proportion. There is the need for the citizens of this planet to be united instead of divided.

But in order to claim victory over what has become a clear and present danger, we must each first come into unity with God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit. And then, we must come into unity with each other.

It is the very thing Jesus prayed for. He prayed it, not only for His Followers, but for us who would come after them.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.

May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.

I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are One —I in them and You in Me —so that they may be brought to complete unity.

Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

John 17:19-23

Help! God, I’ve Got A Serious Situation!

Have you ever wondered if God is listening when you pray? Ever have the urge to say to Him, “Do You understand I’ve got a serious situation going on here?”

When something is seriously threatening, I often survey the situation, consider my options, act and ask God to help me succeed.

Sometimes I say a quick prayer before I act and ask God to guide me. But all too often, I have already made up my mind before I pray.

My prayer is really more of, “God, here’s the plan. If I don’t have it right, stop me, because I am ready to roll right now.”

If my plan does not work out, then I do pray “harder.” Sometimes I round up some prayer partners, who will agree with me. We pray more.

We believe we are agreeing in prayer. But unfortunately we are just agreeing with each other and trying to get God to agree with us.

Sometimes God seems not to agree. Our serious situation gets even worse. Why? God may be waiting on us to realize we are out of any other option but Him.

Can He save us? Yes.

Will He do it exactly as we ordered Him to do it? No.

There were once three men who had a serious situation. The king had issued a decree that everyone must worship an idol. The men refused to worship any god but God.

The king threatened to throw them into a blazing furnace. It appeared to be his will against theirs. However, the men relinquished their will to The Will of God.

This is what they said to the king.

“We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, The God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from your majesty’s hand.

But, even if He does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17-18

They knew God was able. They knew that whether to Heaven or on earth, they would be delivered. They accepted their deliverance might not be on earth. They were unwavering in their allegiance to The One True God.

And with that, the king had them thrown into the furnace. Would you have had the faith these three men had?

How much do you trust God, your Creator? Do you really believe Him when He says,

“For I know the plans I have for you, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

When faced with any situation we have, may we follow the example of the three men in the fiery furnace.

Think of your own life right now. I invite you to pray with me.

“Lord, I know You are able to do anything.

Your Will is perfect.

You have a Plan for my life and You have promised it is a Good Plan, to give me hope and a future.

I know You will provide for me in Your Time and in Your Way.

I trust You, however You choose to carry out The Plan for my life.

I thank You we cannot be separated. I willingly give up anything that might seek to separate me from You.

I love You. I trust You. Your Will be done.”

(And by the way, even though God allowed the men to be thrown into the fire, He was right there with them and He saved them to remain on earth!)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Isaiah 43:2

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but The Lord comes to the rescue each time!”

Psalm 34:19

What We Need …

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Every fear we have can be traced to one big fear.

Will God provide?  As the coronavirus continues, the effects are being felt far beyond the possibility of getting sick and dying.  People are asking themselves many questions.

Will the financial planning we depend on in retirement hold up?  Will we get laid off or sent home without pay?  How are we going to pay mortgages, child care, medicines, gas, food?

Will there be food?  Our grocery order was cancelled for the second time last night.  The store shelves are empty of such basics as bread.

Services we depend on are being shut down or cut.  People are being discouraged from going to doctors unless they are very sick.  If one were to go, you may be further exposed to those who are sicker than you are.

Some hospitals do not have enough staff, beds or supplies to meet the needs of this growing health crisis.

Many have needs beyond just the physical.  Those who are in nursing homes are now under “house arrest,” their loved ones not permitted to visit … the patients themselves not permitted to leave.

As anxiety builds, ways of self soothing are being cut off.  Sports events, concerts, even church cancelled.  Everyone is flocking to the internet and hoping it will hold up, so at least distance communication can continue.

The question hangs in mid air.  “Will I have everything I need?”

The answer is a definite yes.  We will have everything we need.

I love Psalm 23:1.  Two different translations get to the heart of the message.

Psalm 23:1 in the New King James Version says,

“The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.”

The Lord is our shepherd.  He is responsible for leading us to food, water, shelter and all the rest.  Therefore, we make a conscious choice not to want anything beyond what He gives us.  “I shall” put the responsibility of choice on us.

The New Living Translation says

“The  Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”

Because The Lord is our Shepherd, we can relax.  We can say with confidence “I already have all I need.”

When we do life from the point of view of gratitude, we begin to realize how much we already have.   When we count our many blessings, we realize how rich we are.

We stop envying.  We stop feeling deprived.  We stop wanting more.

Satan’s key strategy is to make us feel God has not provided for us.  Satan wants us to believe if God gives us anything, it is not enough.  If it appears He gave someone else more, then satan tempts us to feel God shortchanged us.

Satan wants us to believe getting what we need depends on us.  He wants us to believe God cannot or will not provide.

He wants us to remember every place in our past where it seemed at the very least, God was a little late or even worse, appeared not to have shown up at all.

Satan definitely does not want us to remember all the ways God did provide for us, did deliver us, and even gave us extra blessings beyond measure.

How do we put satan on the run and rest in the certain knowledge that God will provide?

Remember all the ways God has provided for you.

“Remember the things I have done in the past.  For I alone am God!  I am God, and there is none like Me.”

Isaiah 46:9

Refuse to think of anything other than God’s Mercy and Grace to you.  Dismiss anything else that would try to rise up and distort your view of God.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Just as we choose “I shall not want,” we choose to use the mighty Weapons of The Spirit to cast down those rebellious thoughts.

We know before the battle what God says.  So we will not be fooled when satan tries to get us to imagine anything different.  We cast down what he offers.

We don’t let our minds spiral into worry.  We capture every stray thought and bring it back in line with God.

When you remember God’s Goodness and totally evict anything else from your mind, you will be ready to truly enter into God’s Presence.

Enter thanking Him and praising Him.

“Enter into His Gates with thanksgiving, and into His Courts  with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His Name.”

Psalm 100:4

Then listen carefully to what Jesus says.  His Words are timeless and personal.  He is speaking to you right now.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not Life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:25-33

As my father in law used to say, “We have a Great Sufficiency!”

You Are Not Lost!

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When we are lost, we use various tools to help us find our way.  We may reach for an old fashioned map or compass or we may consult the most up to date GPS.

We are convinced if we have the right information, we can find our way.

But what if our location is too new to be in any system?  What if there is no path marked out for us?  No road signs, trail markers, no bent twigs, no footprints.

We may have to face the fact we are lost.  I have told the story many times of becoming lost while driving with my father on an old country road.

I began to panic and I said, “Oh Daddy, I am lost!”  He smiled and said, “You’re not lost.  You’re with me and I know where I am.”

When we are lost, we have a Guide Who knows exactly where we are and where we are going.  Jesus is with us always, just as He promised.

“I am with you always.”

Matthew 28:20

He knows where we are and where we are going.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

But note, that encouraging verse does not say He lays out the whole Plan to us all at once.  He knows.  How do we know the way?

Jesus told us plainly.  He does not just show us The Way.  He is The Way!

Jesus answered, “I am The Way and The Truth and The Life.”

John 14:6

We find our way by following Him.  There are eleven times recorded in the Gospels where Jesus said to follow Him.

One of my favorites is John 8:12.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am The Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have The Light of Life.”

When we follow Him, we must watch where He is going.  He leads.  We follow.

We must understand the route He takes may not look like the way we would have chosen.  We must understand God’s Truth.

“For My Thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My Ways,” declares The Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My Ways higher than your ways and My Thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

He will reveal The Way one step at a time.  We get enough Light to see only the next step.

“Your Word is A Lamp for my feet, A Light on my path.”

Psalm 119:105

In fact, when we wonder why we are not moving forward, it may be that Jesus is waiting on us to fall back in line and start following Him step for step again.

Where are we going?  We are going with Him to places unknown to us yet, but completely known to Him.

Will it be easy?  No.  Jesus was honest about that.

“In this world you will have trouble.”

John 16:33

But look at what else He said.  The rest of the sentence is, “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

And He even preferences the statement of trouble in the world by saying, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have Peace.”

These seem like uncertain times.  The world is having trouble.

But we can be certain.  We can take heart.  We can have Jesus’ Peace that passes all our natural understanding.

We are not lost.  We are with Him and He knows exactly where we are and where we are going.

I love rewatching the movie, Matthew, with Bruce Marciano as Jesus.  Here is the link to the scene in which Jesus gives not a parting Promise, but an Imparting Promise with an invitation to come follow Him!

https://youtu.be/9E_jq8scNxM

Have You Heard The Good News?

Many people have events in life that are so traumatizing they become permanent markers.

Memories are divided into “before the accident or after the accident,”  “before the cancer or after the cancer,” “before he died or since he died.”

The trauma becomes a part of us, reminding us of times when life was completely out of control and nothing we did could fix it.

We move on.  We tell ourselves we are healed.  We got through it.  We are grateful not to be in the worst of those places now.

Is being very thankful for God bringing us through the same as freedom?

Are whatever valuable lessons we learned enough to claim total victory?

Sadly no.  When we remember the trauma and how it has affected our lives, we may become subconscious “cutters.”  We pick up the sharp pieces that are left over and we cut ourselves.

Satan is happy to turn a prayer of thanksgiving into a time of replaying the whole ordeal.

As we remember, satan tries to reinforce the thought God let us suffer.  He whispers, “Hey, what took God so long to get to you?”

While we are being tempted to wonder about that, he is setting us up for his next move.  After saturating us with unpleasant memories and doubts about the past, he is ready to get us to contemplate our present and our future.

If we have the smallest doubts about how God handled our past, we may not trust Him completely now.  We may feel we need a backup plan.

Satan will completely agree.  He will tell you that you need to be better prepared this time.  You need knowledge.  You need to know more about what you might have to deal with.

Satan’s playbook never changes.  Go back to the beginning of The Bible.

God created the world and pronounced it good.  Before Adam and Eve decided they wanted just a little taste of the knowledge of evil, they only knew good.  They were content to receive The Blessings of all the good things God had given them.

But once they had knowledge of evil, things changed.  Then they felt worry, anxiety and fear.  They did not know what to do with their new knowledge.  And they could not “unknow” what they then knew.

Many of us have a driving need to know things.  How many ways have you tried to find out more about the current virus that is affecting the world?

Today’s mass media and varied ways to communicate give us an easy way to satisfy that “need to know.”  When a question comes to mind, we simply google or ask Siri.

When we watch the news, sometimes we are given answers to questions we have not even thought of yet.

We are drowning in TMI … too much information.

The more we know, the more we worry.  The more we worry, the more we fear.  The more we fear, the more we are driven into making wrong decisions.  The more bad decisions we make, the more confused we become.

As we tie ourselves in knots, we begin to doubt God and we begin to doubt ourselves.  Is He really there and if so, what are we doing wrong that we cannot hear Him?

Satan laughs.

So how do we escape this pit of Hell?

Refuse to replay your past.  The lessons you learned are already inside you.  Thank God for what He has given you for today.

Be still.  Know He is God.  Whatever missteps you may have taken in the past, know He was with you.  He saved you for this moment.  He wanted you to be here right now.  Praise Him and thank Him that you are together always.

Be still.  Know He is God.  Know He is willing to talk directly to you and give you all the answers you need.

One of my favorite scripture verses is Jeremiah 33:3.

“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

God will tell you things that are unsearchable anywhere else.  Call to Him!

Rest.  Be still.  Be confident He is with you.

God said,

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

Isaiah 30:15

What do we need to know?  God said it simply.

“Be still, and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

What else is there to know?  Know that God knows.  He knows everything.  And this is what He says about what He knows.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you hope and a future!”

Jeremiah 29:11

And that is the best news of today, tomorrow and always!
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The Weight Of The World

This may be your story.  Sometimes The Bible is like looking into a mirror.  We read about other people.  And then somewhere in the reading, we realize the story is our story too.

Luke 13 tells the story of a crippled woman who was in church (the synagogue) when Jesus changed her life.

She had likely been there before.  Maybe she had been there to seek healing.  Maybe she needed some serious prayer partners.

But it was not working for her.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.  She had been that way for eighteen years.

We don’t know how old she was when she became that way.   I wonder if she became that way gradually.  One burden placed on her.  She might not have noticed at first.

But then there was another and another.  She bent more and more under the weight of the cumulative load.

Who was responsible?  Satan.  Jesus revealed she had been bound for 18 years by satan.  She was crippled by a spirit.  It was on her back.  She could not see the weight.  She just felt it.

She could not straighten up.  Her view of the world became different.

The problem went on for a long time.  Perhaps she wondered why she had been singled out to carry this burden.  Perhaps she felt a little bitter that others had been healed and she had not.

But still there was a tiny part of her that longed for God to do something for her.  She still came to worship Him in the church.  If nothing else, it gave her comfort and a little more strength to hobble back out into the world.

She did not expect healing on that day.  She did not expect the young teacher to call on her.  When He called her to come forward, we don’t know what she thought.

Perhaps she may have hesitated, not wanting to display her infirmity to everyone.  They had all seen her before, but to her relief, they no longer gawked.  To be singled out now might have frightened her.

But I like to believe there was something in the way Jesus called her that reached past any hesitation.

Perhaps He called her by name.  He knew her.  He knew every second of the life she had lived.  He had been with her constantly.

She took the step of faith.  She went forward.  She looked at Jesus.  Don’t miss this.  She could not stand up straight.  I believe He bent down to her eye level.  He came down to her and met her where she was.

And then He simply said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  Luke 13:12

Set free!  All debts paid.  All sins forgiven.  All fears and doubts gone.  All bitterness removed.  Free of years of suffering.  Every burden satan had even piled on her gone.

It is interesting to note the order in which Jesus did things.

He called her.  She had a choice.  Would she respond or not?

He asked her to do something that would begin to activate her faith, even if it seemed beyond her comfort level.  Would she do it?

He came down to her.  Even if she could not straighten up, would she look at Him?

He spoke The Words of Truth to her.  She listened.  She was set free of her infirmity.  Would she believe Him?

And then He touched her.  He touched her after she received.  His Touch was a celebration of what she had already received.

And then she joined Him in celebration.

“Immediately she straightened up and praised God.”  Luke 13:13

She did not wait for Jesus to pull her up.  She believed Him and stood up straight herself!

What heavy loads are you carrying on your back?  How long have you been carrying them?

Jesus is calling you right now.  Will you come forward?  Will you silence all the thoughts in your head that say He would never pick you?

Will you ignore the thought that this is not the right time?  Will you stop wondering what other people will think?

Will you tell satan to back off when he tries to tell you Jesus was never there for you before?  Why should you think now will be any different?

Will you take the first steps and just meet Jesus in whatever condition you are in?  Will you focus completely on Him for a moment and listen?

When He tells you that you are free, will you believe Him?  Simply put aside every other thought and believe Him.  Trust Him.  Line up with The Truth He tells you.

Will you let Him touch you?  Will you let Him make it personal?  Will you celebrate your new life, your new freedom with Him?

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Take My Yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:28-29