Monday, October 2, 2017

WHERE IS THE HOPE?

“Where is the hope?” Chuck Colson’s haunting question seems especially valid this morning. Another mass shooting, another stunning reminder that every day is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Why, then, do we live as if it is?

What delusion anesthetizes us from this ever present reality?

How easily we forget that every waking moment of this life is precious.

Tragedy strikes. Social media gets flooded with memes urging us to pray. Pray for Vegas! So for a while, we remember.


Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I'm wrong, but I fear these tragic, horrifying events only shock us momentarily and we return to our pervasive amnesia far too soon.

This morning, I’m convicted of the critical need for daily prayer, and not just when tragedy strikes. I’ve been to Las Vegas. It needed our  prayers before yesterday. So did the other recently ravaged places around the nation and our world. So does my own city, county and community.

The question that haunts me as one who believes whole-heartedly in the sovereignty, omniscience and omnipotence of God is: Why don’t I fervently pray with greater specificity? Pray I do, but often with a broad, shamefully vague brush.

While studying Old Testament scriptures recently, repeated cycles of disobedience and rebellion by God’s children as they assumed habits, practices and even the idolatries of their neighbors have been sobering.

How quickly these forgetful folks spurned their deliverer, protector, forgiver and friend. How blatantly they ignored the two surpassing mandates they’d been given: Love God first, most and supremely, and teach their children His commandments and of His marvelous, wondrous works.

In response to their defiance, a pattern emerges. Their sin leads to separation and suffering which leads to supplication for mercy leading to their salvation through God’s gracious intervention.

The similarity between then and now, them and us, is conspicuous. We live in a world that is predominantly hostile to the God who provides, preserves and protects. The tragedies we experience, whether natural or manmade, are devastating reminders of our utter hopelessness apart from the gracious salvation offered by God who is acquainted with our grief.

Oh that these sorrowful wake-up calls compel us beyond today’s news to pray always and to obey the grace-giving lover of our souls. Oh that we faithfully teach our children the gospel truth so they will know how great a salvation we have received and how perfect our hope is, even on the darkest of days.

My heart aches for those who suffered loss last night. At any given time, someone I love could be in the path of a deranged murderer. My home and family (or yours) could be ravaged by a flood or natural disaster. But the finished, saving work of Christ who overcame the woes, sorrows and pain of this world is our steadfast, constant help and hope in times of trouble. This is the great "anchor for our souls," this hope we have in Jesus. (Hebrews 6:19)

Chuck Colson’s question did not end with, “where is the hope?” He continued: I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

May the promise our Lord made to never leave, forsake or fail those who have surrendered their lives to Christ protect us from the cultural epidemic of despair, and may we have a renewed sense of urgency to pray fervently and specifically for a move of God that leads to spiritual awakening, repentance, hope and salvation in these desperate days.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

~a very special Easter guest~

For those of you who still read the things I write here, you'll know I haven't had much to say lately. It seems in a world full of voices, I'm less inclined to chime in these days, maybe it's because I realize as I get older how much I still have to learn. Today, I return to this forum to share someone else's writing, someone from whom I have learned so much even though she tells people I am her teacher. 

This is the compelling true story of life altering events that happened to a young woman who is precious to me. This is --

Johnna's Journey
Today marks the 23rd anniversary of a life changing car accident that has become my living testimony for The Lord. 

It seems with each passing year God prompts me to be a little more vulnerable in telling how one night’s tragedy continues to shape, sharpen, compel and convict me. My prayer for what I am about to share is that this brings my heavenly Father glory, because it is only a result of His miraculous intervention that I’m here to tell what happened.

In order to appreciate everything I’m about to disclose, it’s necessary to provide a bit of backstory. As a young girl I was tiny, but that all changed when I turned 10.  Suddenly, for reasons I didn’t understand, I started to carry weight in my belly and I became the chubby kid in my family. 

Undoubtedly it was due to the purchase of a kitchen gadget called the Fry Daddy and our family's discovery of deep-dish pizzas, fried chicken patties and all of the other fattening treats our Sam's Club membership afforded us.  My parents were always thin.  They did not know how to explain the cause and effect of eating more than your body needs for fuel to me.  They could eat whatever they wanted and it had no affect on them.  

My mother was gorgeous and thin, as was my older sister. How unfair that they could eat anything and stay the same while my size was increasing.  I carried most all of my weight in my abdomen and dealt with the my 'baby fat' by making my belly rolls “talk” so people would laugh with, and not at, me. Those who haven’t struggled with weight management or the coinciding self confidence or self esteem issues may not understand that we who have often laugh first in order to deal with the jokes or critical remarks of others, but on the inside we are aching.  


Each night for many years before my accident I cried myself to sleep.  I prayed a very specific prayer that God would allow me to get my stomach stapled. I only knew about this option because a neighbor who had the procedure had lost a great deal of weight. It seemed to me to be the perfect solution. 

During these years of misery, my parents and sister had no idea how desperately sad and defeated I felt in my struggle to lose the weight I had gained, and they had no idea that my daily prayer for God’s help was about to be answered in a completely unexpected way.

On April 15, 1994, I was a back seat passenger in a car with four of my best friends.  In an instant, my world changed when a horrific accident required the jaws of life to cut us out of our mangled vehicle.
  
I was knocked unconscious from the impact of the accident.  God sent a paramedic to the scene of the crash who knew my mom. When they removed the lap belt, blood went everywhere and they realized there were extensive internal injuries they had not anticipated.  The other paramedics did not think there was any hope for me, but the man who knew my mom said, “I cannot tell her mom we didn’t even try to save her daughter.”  In that instant, rather than transporting me to the local hospital with no trauma center, I was placed into the life flight with my friend who was driving that night. 

Along the way to Morgantown, they repeatedly used the defibrillator on me. God intervened supernaturally in my life by sending one paramedic to speak up and then several others to help save my life.

Once I arrived at the trauma center, the medical team performed 8 hours of emergency surgery. They removed half of both sets of my “mangled intestines” which amounted to over 20 feet. When my parents arrived at the hospital,  they were taken into a small room and met my attending physician.  He said, ''There's a really sick girl in there.  We have her in an induced coma and we do not know the extent of her injuries.'' My daddy said, ''the physician we believe in cannot use your hands if you are in here. Just update us every hour.'' The next day they told my parents they were not sure I would be able to have children because of all of the internal trauma.   

My injuries were extensive and multiple surgeries were required. When it was all said and done, I had 54 staples in my abdomen. Do you remember the prayer I prayed every night for so many years, the prayer for getting my stomach stapled? Apparently, God decided to give me what I’d asked for so many times! UNBELIEVABLE!



I endured multiple scar revisions and several surgeries to remove adhesions over the next ten years to ensure my scars would not bust and bleed if I were blessed to have babies.  I remember as a 16 year old my prayers changing from having my stomach stapled to being able to have babies someday.   Praise the Lord I was able to have two healthy boys naturally.  God is good! 

If you look at the facts, I should not be here today. I should not be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, or a leader in a mom’s group at my church. But God was not finished with me.

Romans 8:28 reads: And we know that ALL things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

I am incredibly grateful to God for saving me that night.  Even though I continue to struggle daily with chronic pain, I know His strength is sufficient because I have been carried through every storm by His matchless grace.

My desire to honor Jesus, serve Him, obey Him and follow Him has only increased as a result of a tragic accident. I’ve discovered that when you physically cannot get out of bed, you gain new appreciation for little things. You feel triumphant when you finally get out of bed! When you stay awake longer than you did the day prior.  When you take less pain meds than you needed on previous days.  

Now, 23 years later, there are days when I struggle with pain so great I still need to stay in bed all day, or at the very least part of the day.  I no longer need the pain meds yet I still need the rest.  I just took the boys to Universal Studios for Spring Break. The last night there (and several days after) Iwas incredibly sick.  I was a single mom on the trip because my husband couldn't join us, so I pushed through and then I crashed HARD when I got home. I slept 14 hours but it was worth it!  Rather than allowing my chronic pain to cause bitterness, I’ve come to see this as a gift Jesus has given me to be able to read, to rest, to write, to trust and to be obedient—in other words, a chance to spend more time with Him.  I know how to listen to my body and to what God is telling me to do and my job is to obey.  James 4:8 reads: Come near to God and He will come near to you.

An accident that changed my life actually gave me my life. At the age of sixteen, God answered my prayers in a way I didn’t anticipate and then set me on a path that has allowed me to learn what I most needed to understand—and that is how He sees me. He has shown me what a precious gift this life is and how grateful I should be for every single breath I take! Something so easily taken for granted as the ability to walk to a bathroom without my sister’s help or the accompanying struggles with an IV caddy became cause for celebration. The way I viewed the people in my life and learned that they are gifts to me—along with so many other lessons that have come by way of what seemed such an unfortunate event, have made me marvel. My tragic accident was the catalyst God used to make me a grateful person.


Thankfully God has blocked the memories from that night for me; however, being a passenger in a moving vehicle can still be very uncomfortable, especially when it rains. But I have chosen to trust Jesus with all of the details of my life as I learned without a doubt that He has me here for a reason.  He could have called me home that night. My outward appearance coupled with my internal injuries on the scene gave all indications that my earthly time was over, but God was not finished with me yet and I know I will be here as long as I have a purpose and someday when He’s ready, He will welcome me home. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for my life. — Psalm 138:8

As we continue to spend time with God and in His Word, He changes us—to become more like HIM. Truthfully, we simply cannot spend time with Him, hear his Word, know Him better, love Him more and stay the same, can we?  At the core of it all, isn't that why we’re here? To be transformed by Him! More of Him and less of me—this is the defining principle of my life now.


If I had it to do ALL over again, I would get in that car again. I would still choose the back middle seat that only had a lap seat belt option. I would endure all of this again because it has brought me to my knees in desperation for Jesus over and over and over again.  I am a better wife because of it. I am a better mom because of it.  I am a better friend because of it.  I am following hard after Jesus because of it.  I started my personal relationship with Jesus almost one year to the day of my accident.  I have grown so much more in 23 years since Jesus saved my life.  I am healthier now than I have ever been....physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  To God be the Glory.  I am still a broken mess in need of grace, yet God is so good to offer new mercies everyday. 

God's Word promises to feed us before he leads us. God sees each of us in the midst of our messes and He hears us!  

My prayer is that you’ll finish reading my story with a renewed desire to dig deep into the truth of His Word. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. He will amaze you.  Your story is YOUR story: and it is most likely nothing like mine.  But you have a purpose if you’re still here, too—and you’re uniquely and wonderfully made with your own story that needs to be shared.

As we celebrate Easter tomorrow, I reflect on a Savior who conquered death and the grave.  A Savior who is mighty to save. He hears, knows, cares and loves us perfectly. If you don’t know Him, there is no better time than today to give Him your heart and life, because in an instant, everything can change. We are not promised tomorrow.  I realized that 23 years ago and I pray for you that it doesn’t take a tragedy for you to realize this.  All of us must know what we believe, why we believe it and have faith that is founded and rooted in God's Word so that when our earthly purpose is complete we are ready to stand before the One who paid in full the debt we owe for our sins. May He be faithful to challenge us all to remember the brevity of this life in contrast with the matchless, endless, glorious time we will enjoy with Him when we’ve breathed our last breath.  

God bless your journey, and may it be filled with Him.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

The BEST Gift for Your Child...


I am a mom and grandmother, not a child rearing professional or psychologist, so let me preface this by stating that my thoughts are borne from personal experience with my children and grandchildren and from many years of conversation with the parents of children I've watched grow into adulthood. The successes of friends and family (and some admitted failures) prompt this post, and while not comprehensive, I hope you'll find some helpful thoughts during this family focused, child-centric season of joy. 

Your children are the greatest gift from God you'll receive apart from your salvation. They have been entrusted to you alone to shepherd their hearts and give them what they most need, but before we discuss what that is, let's talk about what it is not:

     1.  Stuff. Your children need your love, time and attention, not the trappings of this world and its counterfeit imitations that will never be sufficient to replace intentional investment in the training of their minds and spirits. Giving gifts at Christmas is a joy, but "things" will never be an appropriate substitute for time spent with them.

     2.  Activity. If you think your little ones need to be busy with some sort of organized event (sport, lesson, group) for the majority of their waking hours lest they become bored (or worse, delinquent) you may be unwittingly preventing one of the paramount prizes of healthy childhood: unleashed imagination. The ability to play in the realm of the imaginary is fleeting. This season of life offers your child the opportunity to explore possibilities in their minds that may become realities in the future in the way of discovery, investigation, and invention. Don't allow these precious people to grow up without ample time for imaginative play without grown-up interference. 

     3.  Devices. Most of the parents I know are aware and scrupulous regarding screen time. But if your child is begging, pleading, bemoaning the fact that he is the only kid without a smart phone (ipad, etc.) and you are tempted to give in, let me ask you to prayerfully consider risking their present disappointment for their future mental health. To put it simply: do not allow your child to become part of a dangerous experiment. If they are getting a device, please limit and oversee its usage with diligence! Excessively allowing a screen (even if it's your television) to babysit children is selfish. We all know that unsupervised access to the internet, gaming or tv can be a recipe for disaster, but scientific evidence that young brains are rewired and negatively affected by constant connectivity to screens continues to surface. The current and prevailing information is troubling at best, horrifying at worst. Let me encourage you to love them enough to say no even if you're accused of being the worst, most evil parent in the world. 

    4.  Authority.  You are the parent. Each time this role is reversed, whether from guilt, exhaustion, frustration, or weakness, your child loses. When you as the mom or dad fail to exercise your duty to command and demand, to discipline and train, you may one day suffer the heartache that seems to plague too many parents of adult children today. The immediate ramifications of the abdication of your proper role may be that others see your young children as unruly (or worse, bratty) but future problems may be even more troubling. The child who is able to rule his home's roost often becomes the adult who expects the world to revolve around him. He is entitled, demanding and incapable of dealing with disappointments, set-backs, or trials with healthy competence. Don't fail your children by letting them be large and in charge. 

So what do they most need? They need to know that they are third in your life. (Second if you are a single parent.) The best gift you can give your child at Christmas (or any time of the year) is a healthy awareness that your primary devotion is to God and that you are seeking after Him, loving Him and following Him with your whole heart. 

Next, they must know that your relationship with their father or mother comes before their wishes, wants and needs. You and the other parent are a unified team. Simply stated, you need to work together in concert to lead and love them well. When you disagree on discipline or any other parenting matter, you do them a great service to have these conversations privately. Deciding how to proceed without their awareness is crucial in preventing their knowledge that one of you may be more inclined to leniency than the other. 

It is inevitable that these circumstances will arise, but we do our children no favors if they think they can play one parent against the other to manipulate or control outcomes. This is especially difficult in divorce or widow situations and my prayers go out to those parents who find themselves feeling alone in this battle--but remember this, you are never alone if you are following Christ. God will give you strength, wisdom and help-- as scripture states, He is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.

As you prepare for celebrating all the joys of the Christmas season, remember this: along with the child whose birth we celebrate (and hopefully keep at the forefront of all that we do as Christians) your children are also God's precious gift to you. They did not ask to be born and they are completely reliant on your judgment, patience, persistence and restraint. 

So give them the best gift imaginable this year--supreme devotion to the role of parenting them with truth, grace and gratitude for the treasure they are, and steadfast determination to point them to the only One in whom they will find purpose and peace, Jesus.

Merry Christmas!
Love,
Nana~

   


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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Old Woman Wednesday... Say What? How? Why?

"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak..." Matthew 12:36

*Note: I recently shared this post with the moms I mentor and decided to include it here for those who aren't in our mom's group. 

The availability of articles and blog posts spouting opinions of every "expert" on every conceivable topic has never been greater.

What troubles me almost as much as the Biblically unsound nature of so much of what I see and read these days is the lack of decorum and civility and/or the excessive use of sarcasm among those who DO claim to be Christ followers.

The art of simple, courteous communication or debate is gradually disappearing.

Three things come to my mind as cautions and reminders that I hope you may find helpful even if you find me old fashioned and out of touch.

1. Sometimes clever speech or witty writing conceals an underlying lack of wise counsel. Pray for a mind that is able to detect the subtle distortions of Biblical truth before sharing or liking something just because its over all premise, headline (or shock value) is appealing to the flesh. Discernment is a gift available to anyone who asks God for it and seeks it like the treasure it is. ("Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1; and... "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." James 1:5)

2. We are God's witnesses to this world of the redeeming, transforming work of Jesus Christ. He is serious about this and about his reputation. Forbid it Lord that we would be quick to forget this--or worse, not care. When we read an opinion piece that we know is Biblically wrong or is conveyed in a manner that is inconsistent for a professing Christ follower, we should feel free to respond if prompted, but always in the posture of a king's daughter-- never mirroring the poor soul who has "never tasted and seen that The Lord is good." God's reminder to us is that "Wise people treasure knowledge, but the babbling of a fool invites disaster." (Proverbs 10:14) and we are to "...revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3: 15-16)

3. Remember the children. They know what we like, laugh at, and talk about, and it is of great importance and interest to them! They hear when we resort to snark, gossip, sarcasm and criticism-- and they will always accept sincerely given apologies when we fail in any of these ways and acknowledge that our words were wrong. When we speak, read or write, do it not only with our LORD and those within our sphere of influence who are unbelievers in mind, keep the little ones in mind so that one day they will rise up and call us blessed. (Proverbs 31:28)

We have been given some crystal clear communication warnings and guidelines in scripture. These are a few especially compelling verses to consider as we weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the information that crosses our paths and how we respond, speak or write about the observations we make in any given day:
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.Ephesians 4: 29

...What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. James 1: 26

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. Proverbs 15: 1-2

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness...2 Timothy 2: 16

(in reference to our tongue) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3: 9-10

I love the written and spoken word. Sadly, I've abused or misused both at different times in my past. I've confessed these sins and have been shown mercy that only a gracious and loving Father would grant. I hope my own admission and experience, along with these sobering verses, will spare many of you the need for confession of your own communication carelessness on the day you meet Jesus face to face.
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Thursday, December 31, 2015

saying goodbye...

Adios! Ciao! Tinkunanchiskama! Kwaheri! Au revoir! Moikka! Dag!  Ma3 el saleme!  Zbogom! Sayonara!

Goodbye.

No matter the language, saying farewell to something or someone is significant.

Today, I say, "so long" to the calendar year 2015

This year has been filled with celebrations, commemorations and tribulations.

In April, I celebrated my sister and new brother-in-law's Love and Commitment by throwing them a surprise wedding on her birthday. Yes, you read that right!
Mr. and Mrs. Ray and Kathie Douglas
 She thought she was coming to a birthday party in her honor, but oh how right (and wrong) she was as it turned out.
surprise wedding!


This is not something I would recommend in most cases because us girls generally prefer knowing the day and time we'll be saying, "I do," but in this instance it couldn't have worked out better because Kathie was growing increasingly frustrated with trying to figure out logistics, work schedules, dates, etc., so we just made it happen for her and she was an ecstatic, gorgeous, glowing bride. (For those who are cringing as you read this, the groom knew and was helpfully, eagerly onboard!)

I celebrated our country's independence by going to a 4th of July parade in the neighborhood I grew up in, followed by an evening fireworks display that would be hard to top except that my son and his friend Jason are already working on what they claim will be epic in 2016, the Red, White and BrOOMe spectacular! I can only imagine.






I celebrated my mother's 80th birthday. To say she is the world's best mom may seem cliche' because so many people can say the same about the woman who sacrificed, sweated, served and loved them as well, but there really are few people I've known who devoted more of her "all" to the role than Carolyn.  
Maybe the proof is in the pudding--her whole family marked the momentous occasion by taking vacation time from work and responsibilities just to spend the day with and say thank you to one who has been far too often under appreciated. Mom, I'm so thankful for you and wish you many more healthy years because you bless us all so!

I commemorated the 5th year anniversary of my 
dad's graduation to heaven in August.

As grateful as I am for the promise of a future reunion someday, there are times when I just need to ask his advice or hear him sing "Happy Birthday!" like only he could when that day rolls around for me.

He may be gone, but is never forgotten.


Interspersed between and beyond these events, I celebrated the joys of being Nana to seven of earth's most delightful kids and was thrilled to discover that an eighth one would grace us with his presence in 2016. 

I wept over the reports of national and world tragedies when, for reasons that are incomprehensible to me, evil terrorists killed strangers and themselves.  

I prayed for friends and family who were enduring trials that would test the mightiest and bravest. 

And at this year's end, I had the sweetest privilege of watching five of my grandchildren portray the nativity scene from the book of Luke in scripture as we opened our soon-to-be-home to friends and family for an inaugural Christmas celebration there.
Christmas Live Nativity 2015
The children planned, prayed and performed with great anticipation giving serious attention to accuracy in their reenactment of this most sacred historical event. Moments like these are made for Kleenex if you're a doting grandmother, and I confess I did require one or two. 

Through every high and low of 2015, I've seen the hand of God at work. Each new day has offered me the opportunity to make much of Him-- and every single failure to do just that reminds me that His grace is immeasurable, undeserved and unfathomable.

Our word "goodbye" comes from the Old English God þē mid sīe which means "God be with you."

My prayer as this year ends is that He will be.  And that you (and I) will wholeheartedly be with Him.  

Lord may we follow you with undivided minds and surrendered hearts for you are The Way, The Truth and The Life, and in You alone we live, breathe and have our being. Amen. 

Happy New Year!

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
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