Friday, October 27, 2017

I’ll Be Glad When…

It’s time to go home.
The weather gets cooler.
I finish grading all these papers.
It’s time for vacation.
The holidays are here.

There are probably dozens of ways I mindlessly finish that thought that begins “I’ll be glad when…” And sadly, while I focus on the future with the attitude of merely enduring the present, I miss out on the peace, contentment and joy God wants me to experience every day. As I recently pondered the fact that I need to change my thinking and thus my words, I began singing the hymn “This is the day” which I learned as a child. The message of the simple song, which is sung in rounds, comes from Psalm 118:24 which invites the congregation to acknowledge God’s goodness, salvation and deliverance. The preceding three verses declare that God Himself has provided salvation through Jesus, “the stone the builders rejected.” (v. 22). The psalmist goes on to proclaim: “the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” So, no matter the weather or season, my workload or worries, there can be no greater reason than God's great gift of salvation to rejoice in each day He gives me!

“This is the day that the Lord has made.

We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

      – Les Garrett

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Sinking Sand

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Matt. 7:26-27

“…In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
 On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
 --“The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote

Thursday morning, as I sat at my dining table, I heard sirens pass by at least four different times. Each time I stopped working and said a prayer. Someone was in need. Somewhere there was a crisis. America seems to have endured too many crises lately. First there was Hurricane Harvey. Then came Hurricane Irma. And now, we struggle with the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. In the wake of these crises, I have read and heard stories of kindness and generosity, but sadly I have not heard any real mention of God. I’ve read posts that told of all people were doing to help in Las Vegas and which had captions like, “Las Vegas is strong and powerful.” I am thankful these folks are expressing optimism and resilience. But truthfully, I wish they were expressing humility and sorrow for God is saddened by all of the loss of life and destruction of recent days. He longs for us to turn to Him for comfort and clarity. For strength and sustenance.
Unfortunately, I think America has become the foolish builder Jesus mentions in Matthew 7:26-27. I think our nation has chosen to build on the sinking sand of our pridefulness and our selfishness. Our self-reliance instead of our dependence on God. Our faith in our good works instead of our faith in the work of the cross. Ultimately, as Jesus says, a house built on this type of foundation cannot withstand the storms which assail it. Eventually, it will fall “with a great crash.”

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Taste Test

1 Peter 2: 2-3 “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. . . now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

As a picky eater, I am often dubious of dishes offered to me that contain components which I cannot readily identify. For instance, I won’t touch mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup or any dish containing those ingredients. And the list grows exponentially from there. I’ve always been  called “finicky”; I was the child whose lunchbox contained a PB & J, never a sandwich with lunch meat or tuna salad. As a result, the coaxing words, “Just taste it” seldom have their desired effect on me. Over the last handful of years, though, I have broadened my horizons from Tex-Mex and Italian dishes, cultivating a taste for Indian cuisine and Chinese food. And I’m more apt than ever before to at least sample a dish, as long it does not contain the aforementioned condiments, or seafood, or pork…

Like the cultivation of my palate, my spiritual walk is also a constant work in progress. Psalm 34:8 admonishes readers to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Yet, I’ve rarely had to be convinced of God’s goodness as I’ve enjoyed it all my life. I experienced His comfort when my parents died. I received His wisdom when I had to turn down a dream job. I treasured His mercy when I avoided neck surgery. Thankfully, I regularly experience His love and faithfulness and generosity, often through the kind words and acts of others. I would imagine for the friends who encourage me to try new culinary delights, sampling exotic food for them is easy. Likewise, it seems so easy for me to urge them to experience God’s grace for themselves. I want them to feast on His love and enjoy His presence. I hope one day that those who have yet to experience that pleasure will be counted among the ones who “have tasted that the Lord is good.” 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Are You Listening?

“I cry out and You answer.
Yes, I cry out and You answer.
Father, I know You listen when I pray
Father, would You hear these simple words I say?”  -- "Father" by Jadon Lavik

This Christmas I was very sick with a cough, congestion, and high fever. As is usually the case for me with this type of illness, I also struggled with my voice for a couple of weeks. So I texted one of my prayer partners to say I couldn’t really talk without coughing. I added a little playfully: “Do you think God’s trying to tell me something?” She responded, “Are you listening?” And I knew her good-natured question held both a dose of humor and truth. So, I tried to listen. And I revisited Jadon Lavik’s song “Father” which I discovered a few years ago. The lyrics to the chorus are a poignant reminder that God doesn’t merely hear us; rather, He actively listens when we speak to Him. Still, He may, for reasons often known only to Him, delay His response. Yet, the silence we perceive does not indicate He is unmindful of our requests. To reinforce this lesson, about a week after I received my friend’s text, God did speak to me and revealed some answers I’d been seeking for quite a while. Because He is a good and loving Father, He always listens. Because I am a stubborn, strong-willed daughter, sometimes I forget to. But I’m working on it, and thankfully, God is very patient with me during the process.

“. . .but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
    Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld His love from me!” – Psalm 66:19-20

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Roses in Winter

One afternoon last week I was surprised when I noticed two buds on a rose bush in my backyard. There haven’t been too many chilly days yet this season on the Gulf Coast, but the last time I observed my rosebushes, they were dry, brown, and covered in dead buds, having lost their bloom a couple of months ago. Yet, here they were blooming on a chilly January day and I smiled as I noted the flowers were on the red bush, not the nearby pink one. The color evoked the description of Jesus as the rose of Sharon and brought to mind the 15th century Advent hymn “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” or “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” The song lyrics refer to prophecies from the book of Isaiah which describe the coming Messiah as a rose. The writer pictures the Rose springing to life on a cold winter night:

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.
It came a flow’ret bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.
Isaiah ‘twas foretold it,
This Rose that I have in mind.”

As is often His way, God used His own creation, in the form of two simple blood-red rosebuds, to evoke the truth of Jesus’ sacrificial life. Furthermore, He used the incident to also remind me that with Him, anything is possible. Even roses in winter.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Celebrating Joie de Jean

Lil Jeannie full of joy

 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
–John 15: 9-11

 One of my parents’ favorite phrases was joie de vivre or “joy of life” which usually refers to someone who has boundless joy and enthusiasm simply for the act of living. That was Mom. For her, every day was a jewel to be cherished and even minor occasions were to be celebrated with gusto. Maybe that was because she lived in the shadow of death for most of her adult life. Still, instead of allowing the many physical and emotional trials she faced to produce a root of bitterness in her, Mom turned to the Lord who cultivated within her a wellspring of joy. In turn, she watered the weary spirits of those around her with the river of life God gave her. In fact, most people who encountered Mom remarked that the overwhelming quality she possessed was joy.

Mom taught me the importance of  joy from a young age often quoting Nehemiah 8:10: “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The verse has served me well during life’s darkest hours, and God’s gift of joy even infused the last Memorial Day weekend I spent with Mom. She’d had a stroke just weeks before that left her right side paralyzed and she was stuck in a rehab hospital trying to get well enough to go home and die. One of my dearest friends spent that weekend with me and Mom and we had a ball together watching one of our favorite sitcoms and dyeing Mom’s hair blonde. Mom even mustered the energy to flirt with a cute doctor who woke her up in the wee hours to check on her. I would imagine few people can say they had a good time under such conditions, yet when my friend and I left we both felt rejuvenated from all the laughter and fun we had been blessed to share with Mom that weekend.
 The first half of the Nehemiah verse reads: “And do not be grieved.” The comfort of the verse combined with the memories of Mom’s legacy of joy often strengthen my spirit. And so with the assurance that Mom’s joy in Christ has indeed been made complete, I am reminded that there’s no better time to honor Mom’s joy-filled life than today on her birthday. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Walnuts and orange juice

“Why should I feel discouraged…
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me” 

“His Eye is on the Sparrow”— Civilla D. Martin

Over the course of my life, God has spoken to me in many varied ways. But the other day He sent me a message in a bag of walnuts given to me by my neighbor/ second mom. Usually neither she nor I even keep walnuts on hand and she had no idea that a couple of hours before, I had written them on my grocery list after reading that the omega three in them might help heal the damaged ankle ligaments that have plagued me nearly all summer. As I held the bag, I felt like Hagar who called the Lord “the God who sees me.” (Gen. 16:13)

It was an intimate moment with the Lord. He seemed to whisper that not only did He read my grocery list but He could bring to my door any item on it at any time He chose. And a God who is that interested in me surely sees and cares about the pain and frustration this ankle is causing me.

My friend’s gift reminded me of another friend who allowed God to use her seven years ago. While Mom was slipping away one agonizing day at a time, many friends and family members ministered to us through the gift of food. One morning, a longtime friend brought a feast of breakfast foods that included biscuits, pastries and orange juice. After she left I pulled the OJ carton from the fridge and tears filled my eyes. I went to Dad and whispered, “Daddy, who is the only person in our family who likes pulp in their orange juice?” A puzzled expression on his face, he looked up and answered, “Me.” With tears streaming down my face, I held out the carton and said, “Daddy, God just sent this orange juice as a message to you to remind you that He sees you. You are not alone in this.”

How grateful I am to friends who choose to act like God: who not only see our circumstances and needs, but who care and then involve themselves in our lives as the hands and feet of Jesus.  And how grateful I am that no matter how overwhelming life can become, God ultimately works all things for our good. (Romans 8:28)