I Can’t Say Amen

Goodness!!  It seems now that with growing frequency, whenever I bow my head (when I’m alone) or sometimes with a close friend sharing a meal, that I bow my head to say our thanks for the food in front of us…and I just can’t do it.

I begin thanking God, remembering Who He is.  Remembering how He even managed to fashion the miracle of a human being is astounding, much less develop the capillaries and the tongue, teeth, and meat of the animal that’s been placed before me for a hearty meal.  How do I even begin to wrap my senses around how much effort, how much unfathomable intelligence thath it took, to even comprehend what it would take to create out of simple matter a living, breathing–your see?   My food’s grown cold, my friend is looking at me with a “what’s with you?” expression…  And I realize I’ve done it again.  I whisper a quiet, “forgive us our sins, Lord, we love you, in Jesus’ name” and end my prayer. But it isn’t finished.  It just isn’t.

Give Us This Day…

Remember the story of the widow with the oil and flour in I Kings 17 who was preparing to die when her food ran out, and it managed (the Lord provided) to keep lasting on and on and on?  She just baked enough for each day and the next day there was still enough to bake bread for one more day.  Trusting God.  One day at a time.

Well, it seems that way with my Bible.  I mean, to clarify, I’m not planning to starve or die right away as the widow feared; I’m just fascinated how the same container with the same contents–the Scriptures–just keeps renewing itself and  providing me with different insights on a daily basis.  What a bargain!  Buy one book and keep reading new insights for years.  He just keeps on feeding me constantly. (Could this be my “daily bread” that I pray for?)

The very same 66 books, the very same words arranged in precisely the same way they were when I was 2 or 3 and first heard the stories at my mother’s knee…or to expand on that idea, the same words for the last 2,000 years or so, never mind when I first heard them.

As to the nature  of the Word, the apostle John shares that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God…and that tells me the Word is Jesus.  The same yesterday, today and forever.  And Hebrews 4 reminds us that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” so that addresses the literal power in the Scriptures.

Yet somehow I’m newly aware that these 807,361 words (in the King James version, at least, according to http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read2/r00722.html), are the same words I’ve been reading for close to 60 years–and that their message is constantly changing and meeting my needs, whatever they are at any given moment.  Wow.  Mind boggling.

Thank you, Lord.

Unfathomable Grace

I’ve been studying, preparing for a quarter’s teaching  on the subject of the Last Days…the days leading up to and following the Rapture of the saints.  We’ll be viewing the series of DVD’s titled “”What in the World is Going On?” created by Dr. David Jeremiah.  And I ended tonight’s personal study preparation by answering the questions in the Study Guide that comes with each lesson.

They’re very simple, four questions only, took me maybe five minutes to complete.  But the impact of these simple questions following the thorough, reasoned teaching of Dr. Jeremiah has made a jaw-dropping impact on my heart.

We all  sin.  Those who are saved understand that they are forgiven; that God’s grace through Jesus’ blood covers it all.  And that’s a given; a fact.  But still, if you’re tender-hearted, or have a tender conscience, at times you tend to wonder how God REALLY feels, if He will truly not stand with his clip board and a foot tapping…and even as I write this, I find I’m embarrassed to admit that, as it proves that I doubt God’s promise and His word that He says He will.  (Maybe I’m calling to mind my own tough-to-forgive nature, you think?)

The questions I answered were the following, if I can paraphrase them for you to lend a bit of the weight  of the message that I discovered in this first lesson:  Who did God choose for his covenant, Abraham or the Jews?  (IF you read Genesis 12:1-3, it’s crystal clear that he chose the man).  One man.  Abram, who lived in a city called Ur of the Chaldees.  God promised he would make Abram a great nation–the man, not the race of people.  He said he would make Abram’s name GREAT.  That –get this–I never saw this before:  THE FATE OF ALL OTHER NATIONS WOULD DEPEND ON HOW THEY TREAT ABRAM (Genesis 12:3)…can  you imagine?

All the nations that mistreated the Israelites, from the Canaanites, Hittites, and all the other tribes who no longer exist, to all the ones you’ve just heard about on the six o’clock news…all have been destroyed.  It’s history; not just a prophecy that the eternal God made, but FACT.  NEWS.  HISTORY.

He promised to Abram as many descendants as the stars in the skies and the sands of the oceans…and he promised that simply…that’s just too tiny a word to get across the import–BECAUSE HE LOVED THEM, BECAUSE HE’S FAITHFUL AND KEEPS HIS PROMISES, he promised that they will be his people, his treasured possession forevermore.  He enumerates how they were faithless, stiff-necked, and rebellious against him over and over and over.  But on the simple basis of his faithful nature; his amazing love; and his covenant with one man a long time ago, he will never ever break his promise.  In Jeremiah 31:35-37 He states it plainly:  The only way his covenant will ever be broken is if the heavens can finally be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched.  Sure.  Right.  I’ll get right on that.

As if you ever needed a rock solid concrete statement of just how unshakable, unfathomable and amazing that God’s love and Grace truly is…there it is.

Wow.

Come Before Winter

This morning I’m stuck at home enduring an infected tooth extraction that wants to complicate things.  Before the painkiller kicks in again, I wanted to share what I’ve read this beautiful, mild autumn morning. It seems such a paradox, such an embarrassing contrast of comfort and misery.  The silkiness of Sugar Bear’s coat, (my Chihuahua) a warm glowing honey-colored fur,  snug at my side, coat shining in the early morning sunshine.  Outside the window, the hummingbirds battle for the next sip of nectar, blossoms nearby sharing their perfume wafting on the soft breeze.

While I nestle under a crimson fleece blanket in my little corner, mug of hot tea beside my chair, I can picture the dreadful, drafty cold stone of the prisons under the streets of Rome.

Stones that never warm, never soften.  The human misery that emanates from below the streets, calls from the abyss that is all but forgotten in this teeming city.  The unbelievable stench of human waste and sweat to which the nose does not acclimate.  The guards, the dregs of the Roman forces, alleviating their boredom and disgust with their duties by pestering and humiliating the prisoners.  Runaway slaves, forced into housekeeping duties, trying to haul away the buckets that were used to relieve the prisoners following a meal of wormy gruel.  And as always, the voice of a rich baritone growing slightly feeble, singing praises to God.  The prisoners used to stop him from singing, taking turns ridiculing him, but after months and months they’ve taken pity on him and some encourage him.  A few even join in his singing, as they’ve grown used to his music, as well as his God.

His friends have stopped coming by to bring him food and bits of comfort, a fresh pair of sandals, a parchment to read, or a clean tunic with a word or two of encouragement. For the most part, the poor old guy has been left utterly alone.  His cough is getting a bit more forceful, the sound of it ominous.  Yet on he sings.  Singing and writing, that’s all he does now.  He was trying to help out the slaves, to share their burden of carrying the slop buckets, but he’s grown too weak for much of that now.  Though he still encourages the other prisoners around him, urging them to have hope and to look forward to their reward.  I guess he’s convinced all of them to believe as he does.

As the prison is below the streets of the marketplace, the sun never seems to reach all the way to the cells.  The way these walls are constructed, the winds tend to howl down through the opening in the roof, a hole hardly larger than a manhole cover that lowers by ropes whatever supplies, new prisoners, or guards enter the enclosure.  And then receiving in return dead bodies, waste, and the occasional guard relieved of duty that cannot wait to leave, drawing their woolen cloaks closer in the  growing chill of late autumn.

Paul tried to stand and stretch, his arthritic joints and bones growing stiffer with age, poor nutrition, and exposure.  He finished his latest letter to Timothy, encouraging him still, in the face of all that Paul has endured.

“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that Day.”  He continued to stress to Timothy to keep it simple:  “I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder.  Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the  Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit.  Just keep it simple.  You’re going to find that there will be times when people have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food–catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.  But YOU–keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive, do a thorough job as God’s servant.”

“You take over, Timothy.  I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar.  This is the only race worth running.  I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.  All that’s left now is the shouting–God’s applause!”

“Get here as fast as you can.  Everyone else deserted me.  Bring Mark with you: he’ll be my right-hand man.  Bring the winter coat I left in Troas and also the books and parchment notebooks.  …Try hard to get here before winter.”…The message goes on, ever encouraging Timothy and his followers, regardless of how Paul was suffering.  And I know that he counted his imprisonment and even his death a victory for Christ; so many came to believe as a result of his testimony.

Yet this morning, cozy and growing sleepy in my little nest, my heart breaks for this man of God, enduring more than anyone should have to, all in the name of His Savior and his purpose.  “Come before winter.”  Those words say so much, don’t they?

I intend to look around.  To seek out those who serve quietly, enduring much for the cause of Christ.  I’m going to find some way to alleviate some small portion of what they endure for Him.  To do what I can to ‘bring a coat before winter.’  And more than anything, I want to follow Paul’s example:  “Read these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of laying out the truth plain and simple.”  I can do that.

(Quotations from II Timothy, [The Message])

Famous Last Words?

When you die, and you’re hovering nearby in the space between the roses surrounding your casket and the ceiling of the church, (assuming you’re into that kind of thing–humor me) will you be happy to see who attends your service? Will you like the music they select as a tribute to your life?  Will you blanch at the silly stories friends relate that show your zest for life and your unselfish tendency to poke fun at yourself?

We attended a class once as a young married when the teacher passed out paper tombstones and had each of us complete what we would like for our own tombstones to say once we had  passed on.  There were the requisite silly ones like “Told you I was sick” and “Here lies Eleanor. She lies…no more.”  But then there were a few who took the assignment seriously and recorded what they really hoped to see.  The lesson was a Bible study with the thoughtful intent to have each of us consider how we were to live so that our descendants would be able to say positive things about our outcome.

I thought at length back then about what I would like to see as the outcome of my life.  Now that I’m in my sixties, I think that my goal, my wish at that early date still stands today.  I had written on my paper tombstone, “She prayed. And her children know the Lord.”

I think that’s enough.

WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

No, I mean, really.  Every stop and think about it?  The person you would like, in your head, to plan and design and hopefully execute.  An exciting, in-demand go-getter?  A quiet, studious introvert, dedicated to plants and animals but not to people?  A famous ballplayer or scientist, or even a poet?

It came up as a movie line this afternoon.  And I jumped on it.  Thinking only of possibilities without restrictions, I started writing: 

Who do I want to be?  I want to be the gal who isn’t uptight. Who’s so relaxed about things that she draws others to her. Who thinks before she speaks……but one who can pop out in spontaneous, clever things too, who makes others laugh.

I want to sculpt. To shape clay into beautiful shapes and figures that just speak to the soul.

And I want to sculpt words so that they melt the heart and shape it into an eternally new shape with new insights into how to love other people.  And with all of that, I want to share it–to pass my words on as a gift.

I want to give gifts that stun. That make your heart catch in your throat, and tears come to your eyes. That sting, that salty taste you get because you’re choking on them? That’s the impact that I’m looking for when I try to show you how deeply I care for you, about you and where you spend eternity.

 That’s  not such a bad thing, is it?  Then why do we let the daily time-wasting routine moments get in the way and steal most of our time?  I want to skip most of that stuff, and concentrate on what is essentially the real me.  To concentrate the time I have left in accomplishing the most important things.  Now the only challenge is to just figure out how.

 

 

Turning Pages

Last time I was here, it was New Years’.  Life has been moving fast.

Now it happens that I’m ready to turn another page this week, and begin a brand new career.  I’m excited, and anxious to begin.  I won’t belabor the “God thing” (as people describe it) that brought me and this opportunity together.  I’ll just say that each time I bowed to what I believed God wanted for me in spite of what I wanted, another ‘miraculous’ happening occurred.  And now I find myself bent for the world of medical billing again, with the freedom to research and dig and pursue every facet of the work that I love–and that I’ve proven to be pretty adept at.

I was blessed beyond measure back in January to be selected to work for the local bank.  I learned a few of the multiple steps involved in clearing deposits, validating checks, and verifying and identifying documents related to new accounts, forged checks, wire transfers. etc..  While the work was originally totally foreign to me, I learned quickly and enjoyed the process.  I found the rest of the team I came to know were kind, and most of them helpful and welcoming.  As the process became routine, our personalities were revealed, the typical insecurities and posturing rising to the surface, but all in all it was an experience that I enjoyed and will carry its finer points with me into my new endeavors.

One memory that I will treasure in a special way:  the laugh of Joy, my supervisor.  She mentors, encourages and teaches.  She measures and delegates, carefully shaping and pointing her employees to a higher goal, excellence in action.  But her laugh.  She laughs at the slightest provocation, an unfettered, bubbling laughter that ripples over onto her staff.  I remember working like a fury during daily closing, trying to hustle and endure to the end when I would hear the pure peals of her joy-filled laughter lifting my spirits and making the work–sorry to repeat myself–a pure joy.

I remember that back on January 1 I asked, “What’s Next, Father?”  I still ask that question every day, and wait patiently now for His answers.  They’re sure to come.  Not early but certainly not late.  He has always been and will continue to answer me  “just in the nick of time.”

What’s next, Father?

Jenni on the highwayMidnight’s approaching.  I wish for something special.

Something unique to mark this year’s end.

Such a huge promise awaits just on the other side of the clock.

So exciting, that the approach has to be marked in a special way.

Special?  How about those stars shining down on me from thousands of years ago?

How about the soft, cold winds blowing across my face, that blew across the sands of the Orient  not long ago?

How could you ask for a more brilliant marker, a fancier benchmark than the glistening moon shining down on the face of the one that you love?

Ok.   That’s good enough for me.  Tonight has been recorded in a significant way.

Now, I’m ready for tomorrow and whatever He has in store.

Thank you, Lord.

You Make My Heart Smile

Brittanys-Eyes_edited-1I’m learning things from an intelligent and candid young woman.  She is amazingly beautiful to look at, untarnished, unconscious of how truly stunning she is.  Yet what I continue to observe is how radiant she is—how exquisite she is on the inside.  And she’s so young!!  Not yet battered by what the world will send her way, she is already so wise and so caring.

What I have learned from her most recently is the vision she has.  The discernment.  She looks at a large, lumbering, sometimes silly young man and sees so much promise, so much capability—and truly her knight in shining armor.  He is a brilliantly independent thinker, ready with his opinions, outspoken, yet wise beyond his years—so she’s not mistaken.  Just very young to have spotted this ambitious young soul and know without a shadow of a doubt that he’s the man for her.   I’ve loved seeing how her growing love for him has completely grounded him.  What an impact—and I don’t believe she knows that her love for him is the catalyst.

Let me share with you a few comments she has made about him:

They met a couple of years ago, during high school.  And only a few months into their relationship, she listed this poem beside his photo:  “Say farewell to the dark night, I see the coming of the sun. I feel like a little child whose life has just begun, you came and breathed new life into this lonely heart of mine” (Back at One, by Brian McKnight)

Then a few months later: “When a girl is in love you can see it in her smile.  When a guy is in love you can see it in his eyes.”  If you could see the photo she posted with this comment, you would totally understand.

She has been through all sorts of escapades with him, some adventurous, some calamitous and yet she comes up with this statement that’s way beyond her years:  “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Her continual gratitude for him and what he means to her is a gift in itself:  “You make my heart smile.”

What a sweet, sweet spirit to see him as a gift for her:  “I must have done something right, to have you in my life.”

Beside a photo of the two of them relaxed, laid back and laughing themselves silly is the wise-beyond-her-years admission:  “Thank God I’ve finally found someone I can be my completely stupid self with and we still enjoy every second of it.”

And when he was trying to help her in an awkward private moment:  “Every girl deserves a guy who looks at her everyday like it’s the first time he saw her.”

This young woman will never have to fear her man being miles away and tempted by anyone:  “It’s not every day that you find someone who can put up with your bullshit. Hold on to them with all you have.”

And ultimately a worldly wise woman who knows how to tempt, how to entice, how to endear and “keep” (for lack of a better word) a man’s interest:  “A legal kiss is never as good as a stolen one.”

I wanted to share this portrait of a shrewd and truly perceptive woman’s approach to her relationship and her future in hopes that it will inspire you to do the same.  This world has sometimes fostered a lack of integrity; it encourages lassitude and an almost anarchist attitude toward life.  Yet I’ve learned that she is living proof that somewhere out there is another person who is meant to complete you; who will improve you just by being aware that you exist.

When You Can’t Sleep

INdian poster awake in someone elses dream

Legend says, when you can’t sleep, it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream.

I love this idea.  I spend lots of late evening and early morning “waking” hours wondering why I’m just not sleepy.  I may be truly wide awake; or sleep deprived, or even just bone-tired.  I gave up soft drinks, so rarely do I have caffeine.  But still sleep evades me.  I repeat the Scriptures to myself, especially “thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”  And yes, I feel I’m IN perfect peace.  Just not perfect sleep.  I’ve become an old hand (especially this year) at mentally making a little list of my worries and handing them up to Him—and letting them go.  I know He’s in charge of me and mine anyway.

So, in the end, if it’s that someone else is sleeping a peaceful sleep full of dreams where I’m being silly, or loving, or somehow memorable, then that’s okay with me.  My time on this earth is limited; I can use all the exposure I can get, to get my message out there.  If I’m doing it in others’ sub consciousness’, then that’s cool.

Think about it next time you can’t sleep.  It makes the loneliness of the wee small hours just that much easier to bear.

Till next time….always remember Whose you are.