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A Father’s Day Reminder

Happy father DaySitting in the chow hall of our Family Reunion, it was hard not to notice that today was Father’s Day. All the dads were asked to stand together for pictures, the blessing was asked with a special thanks for the dads, and little children running around exclaiming, “Happy Father’s Day!” to the fathers in attendance made it hard to ignore the fact that today was Father’s Day.

Equally hard to ignore that several of us, my siblings and me included, were going through our first Father’s Day without our Daddy. Some were going through their second and third without their dad. Staying busy helped the numbness not be quite so overwhelming, but tonight, after everyone has returned home, bags unpacked, home tidied, the obvious weighed on me like the proverbial suffocating elephant on my chest. It hurt. It angered me. It left me feeling pretty useless and helpless. Does it EVER get any better? Or at least less painful?

While going through my pity party, my mind wandered back to Daddy’s last few days on Earth. Every conversation there at the hospital, every argument, every confession played through my mind like an endless record. Thankfully, God was present during Daddy’s last few days on Earth. God was also present BEFORE Daddy’s last few days on Earth, and He’s still present today. God reminded me of the various glimpses of His presence He gave us while we went through the most heartbreaking trial we’d gone through as of that time.

God never promised we wouldn’t have heartache. God did, however, promise His children that He would never leave us nor forsake us. To those who aren’t His children, He’s made you a promise also. He’s forgiven you, and has made the gift of Eternal Life available to you. He’s told us all that He loves us–even went as far as to prove it. He has promised, even when He won’t remove our proverbial thorns from our lives–He declares that His grace is sufficient for us. All of us. He doesn’t promise that we’ll always get our way in things, but He does promise that He IS the way.

So, in re-living the heartache of Daddy’s last few days on Earth, I can’t help but to re-live the blessings, comfort, peace and encouragement that was sent to me from God as well.

As I thank God that we had a Daddy that would make us work hard, and not allow us to be quitters, I also thank God that He is the best, and I do mean VERY best, Father anyone could have.

Will you give God a chance? Give Him a chance to show you just how much He loves you now? No matter what you’ve done, He’s not waiting up there for the opportunity to  hit the “Smite” button. He’s waiting for you with open arms. Just as you are, with every sin loving lifestyle you may have, He invites you to come to Him, and let Him be enough.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Obsessed with Obsession

vacuum.cleaner.06Frustration sat in, today, as I tossed the dishrag into the washer in exasperation. No matter how hard I try, our house will not stay cleaned. Sweeping the floor countless times, we could still grow a garden with as much dirt as gets tracked in. Used to, it was easy to blame the kids, but the kids are grown now, and seldom home. Yup. It’s us. Being married to Daniel Boone, it’s understandable that dirt would feel as comfortable inside our home as outside. It’s understandable that drippings of hunting trophies down the kitchen cabinets greet me when I come home from work, after the hunter has “cleaned up” after his kill. It’s no surprise that coffee finds itself pooling all over the kitchen counter–again. Oh to have a perfectly cleaned house to stay perfectly cleaned!

I’m reminded of a blog I read several months (years?) ago. The author eludes me or I would definitely give her credit, as well as a sympathetic “me, too” on her post. She tells of some women in her church and herself visiting one of the elderly widows in their church who had been sick.  Upon arriving at the widow’s house, the lady was in awe, and just the slightest bit envious, of the woman’s immaculate home. The carpet still had the vacuum cleaner tracks in them, and it’d been a week or better since the carpet was vacuumed. The kitchen was spotless, and the furniture shone. The lady complimented the woman on the beautiful house, and confessed her envy to her elder counterpart, longing for the day that her house would also be clean.

The woman cautioned the young lady about her desire. Yes, the house was clean, because there was no one there to mess it up. No sound of children having fun and living. No spouse to share her day with. Other than the sounds of the radio, the house remained rather quiet and clean most of the time. In other words….lonely.

The words were not lost on me. Instead of fussing about the 3 inches of dust on my furniture, I should instead be thankful that we have furniture. Instead of lamenting that the vacuum tracks disappear almost the instant they are made, I should be thankful that our fur baby Roscoe still enjoys playing tug–o-war with the vacuum cord (unplugged, of course!) But the desire to clean is still weighing heavy on me.

What if I DID have a consistently clean house? Then what? How does one “enjoy” a clean house? What would I do? “Okay, I have a clean house. No what??” Who would I share it with? Would they care? Probably not.

I’m reminded that the scriptures tell us that the ONLY thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. What does that look like? Probably not obsessing with anything. If we do anything, ANYTHING, it would be a lot better if that which we “do” is motivated by love. Whether it’s cleaning house, or taking time for yourself, so you can do for others later… it should all be motivated by love.

God wasn’t just trying to drum up another set of rules for us to follow, when He encourages us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. No–that’s not the same thing as “Thou Shalt Go to Church Every Saturday/Sunday”. But rather… go hang out. Catch up with each other over a cup of coffee, a stroll in the park…whatever… wherever… even in someone’s perfectly cleaned living room. Just get together. Encourage one another with the love God has given you. Back in the Bible days, folks met daily to hear teaching, sing hymns, and just generally be encouraged.

Again, we’re encouraged to encourage each other. Hard to do that if all we do are our “chores” Consider these couple of scriptures:

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10: 24-25

and this one:

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:10-11

 

Halloween Forgiveness?

pumpkin treatForgiveness in my mind, often played out as a great big delicious bowl of Halloween Candy. Chocolate, of course. An eternal bowl of chocolate goodness. In order to receive that heavenly morsel of sweetness, we had to do our part first. TRICK-OR-TREAT! My friends and I would call out. We were met with a pleasant smiling witch, usually, who would say how adorable we all looked as she dropped a sweet treat in our plastic dime-store pumpkin. The candy was already there; the candy had been purchased for us. But we couldn’t have it unless we asked first–and we had to ask in a specific way–by calling out in that time honored tradition: Trick-or-Treat!

Growing up, that was pretty much my take on God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness had already been purchased, and it had been purchased for me. However, there was a specific way I had to ask for it. There was that time honored ritual in calling out in that 1 John 1:9 style. If I did that, the Heavenly Father would place within my heart, the sweet treat of forgiveness while lavishing sweet encouragement to my soul. Just like having to call out trick-or-treat whenever I wanted a sweet treat, I had to call out in 1 John 1:9 fashion whenever I wanted (or felt I needed) more forgiveness.

Imagine my surprise when I found out years later that forgiveness is NOT like a bowl of candy. Forgiveness is not something that God hands out time after time provided we call out in the proverbial 1 John 1:9 fashion. Instead, God lavished His forgiveness on us the minute Jesus died on the cross. He gave everything He had. He didn’t just bestow the forgiveness to certain random people, rather it was given all the way back to Adam and all the way forward to the last person born. As far as God is concerned, He has forgiven all humanity. When we receive God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, we also receive His forgiveness. All of it.

I’m not real sure where the Halloween mentality of forgiveness started. If one looks at 1 John 1:9 in context, it says nothing about asking. No inquiring, no inquisitive, nothing to try to obtain information–>nothing remotely related to asking. It does tell us to confess. Confessing is giving up information. Admitting something. It’s not asking anything from anybody. We confess, not in order to get something, but because we agree with God that yes, we’ve sinned. Something else, if God has cleansed us of all unrighteousness, how much is left to clean us up from? Nada. None.

In fact, we’re told in Ephesians 1, as well as Colossians 1, that in Christ, we HAVE forgiveness of sins. Looking back, why on Earth did I fall into the trap of asking God to forgive me over and over again? Although Ephesians and Galatians were read religiously growing up, what did I miss? Probably the fact that the difference between the Old Covenant (Law) and the New Covenant was lost on me. To me, it had simply been a dividing point on the time line of humanity. A way of dividing up the Bible. There was, “before Christ,” “during Christ,” and “after ascension” . The fact that there were only 2 testaments instead of 3, puzzled me. For awhile I simply shrugged it off, but there finally came a time when God wiped everything from memory and started my teaching over from scratch.  For that show of love, I will forever be grateful.

What about you? Are you still treating God’s forgiveness like a big bowl of candy? I challenge you to look at the death of Jesus as the finished work that it is. Embrace God’s love, and be humbled by the fact that He CHOSE to forgive you. Completely forgive. Not based on your asking, but based on Christ’s giving. What about it? Are you up to the challenge?

 

Apologies to King David

There’s been a lot of soul searching going on within my life lately, as well as a huge helping of humble pie being dumped on my plate.

We’ve all heard the little cliches, and probably even offer them in many conversations about how we should live our life. I’m no exception. “Don’t judge, everyone’s going through battles” or maybe the simple, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or what about the ever popular, “Walk a mile in my shoes before you judge me”?

You all have heard of King David, right? Little kid… looked after his dad’s livestock when his older brothers went to war? Fellow musician? He’s probably more famous for two of his renown feats:

1. Slayed the enemy of the state with a simple sling and stone, and

2. Managed to wrangle multiple wives and a harem, yet still wanted his neighbor’s wife. Even had the poor guy killed to cover up his transgression.  Not to worry, though. God knew full good and well what he did, and took care of the situation.

King David did a lot more stuff–you can read about them yourselves if you’d like. Look around I Kings and 2 Kings in the Old Testament. You’ll find some crazy adventures King David went through. The point is, ashamedly, I judged him before I walked a mile in his shoes.

Given his fame, in the past, I’d often sarcastically joked that if King David were alive today, he’d be the poster child for Bi-polar disorder. Singing God’s praises in one minute, then lamenting “woe is me” the next minute. I mean, seriously? Come on! Make up your mind and stick with it! It would have been okay if it were just once or twice, but it was CONSTANT throughout his adventures.

Then again, who could blame him? Having your best friend’s dad want to kill you, not able to retaliate because God said not to. Having your son die because you shouldn’t have had him to begin with. The baby mama being married to someone else. Then, years later, having your son want to kill you, another son wanting to rape the sister…the list goes on. Give that man some anti depressants!

But he was the apple of God’s eye? How was that possible?? He just wasn’t consistent. One minute dancing naked before the Lord, the next minute lamenting that God had forgotten him. Many a time I rolled my eyes as I read through his adventures. Shame on me.

Granted, today King David doesn’t really care about what I think of his past life. He’s in heaven with Jesus and having a grand old time. Probably being eternally grateful that his old life IS over. It was rough!

Things in my own life have given me a more compassionate heart towards King David. Let’s face it, this “Earth Suit” that we live in can get in the way at times. Although we’re in Christ, our bodies get tired. Our bodies get sick. Our patience wears thin. It was no different for King David. It’s just that his got publicized, mine didn’t. When you’re heaped heartache on top of heartache on top of heartache, it can about do you in. Watching a precious loved one having heartache on top of heartache heaped on top of him, I find myself crying out, “How long, O Lord, will he have to go through this??” Just when he gets a grip on one heartache, another one comes and slaps him in the face. I bet he and Job will have a lot to talk about when everyone shows up in heaven. I find myself wanting to blog, yet my keyboard is stilled (until now). God directs my steps, and I try to walk/type what He wills. Who knows? Maybe King David would have his own blog were he here today. Maybe it’d be called something like, “ramblingsofaking” 😉

Anyway, some of you have learned this lesson at a far earlier age than I have. Through the years, people are people. Be they in Christ or not in Christ, there’s baggage attached to our Earth Suits. Dont’ sweat it. God can handle the baggage.

Oh, something that King David didn’t have back in his day, that we have in our day, is this:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Merry Christmas, 2016

cropped-mbf-online_001.jpgWe’ve almost made it to the end. If we can just get to January 1st, 2017.

Very shallow thoughts, wouldn’t you agree? As if a marker on a calendar is going to make any difference to this thing we call ‘life’.  There were a LOT of changes in the lives of our family, as well as in the life of my friends.

We’re at the age now, where a LOT of us are having to say goodbye to the former generation. Our parents, aunts and uncles. Then again, there are too many of us my age that have had to say goodbye to their parents a long time ago. Some have had to say goodbye to children and grandchildren.

In years past, I would read all the well meaning blogs of how the holidays weren’t always a time of merriment to people. I would give it a nod, say a little, “God bless ’em” prayer, then continue about enjoying MY holidays with MY family and MY loved ones.

As mentioned above, this year, I and SEVERAL friends have now entered that arena where the holidays aren’t about  merriment, but rather, the empty chairs seem to take center stage. We all hope that 2017 will be a bit kinder, a bit slower to allow us to catch our breath.

Well, don’t hold your breath. The older we get, the greater chance we have of having to say goodbye, yet again, to one more person. It’s nothing new. We all knew we’d get here, sooner or later. It’s been this way since Eve ate the forbidden fruit and got the Tree of Life taken away from humanity. Yeah, thanks, Eve.

So, what, then? Do we not celebrate? Do we not make merry? One of my common conversations after any given holiday ran along the lines of: “Next year, maybe we can try ____________” Not this year. Last year, my sister in law Beverly, aunt and myself joked about the hassle of getting the Oysters for our annual Oyster Roast. Beverly remarked that she knew of a place that would deliver the oysters right to your front door. We agreed that having that service would just be the absolute best! Joking about not remembering that far in advance, I made a reminder on my phone to remind her to call the guy a week before the Oyster Roast was to happen. We all chuckled at the fact of using technology to help us remember.

Sadly, she left this Earth October 1st. Totally unexpected. Daddy left 6 days later. The reminder was useless. So, for me, there won’t be any more conversations of, “Next year, maybe we should try__________” Beverly and Daddy drove the point home of never knowing what tomorrow holds. I understand. Point taken.

Instead, let’s make every day a holiday. Knowing we have no idea what tomorrow will bring, love people like it’s their last day on Earth. Love people like it’s YOUR last day on Earth. Above all, know that every step we make, God has already been there. The next moment in our future, God is already there. He’s not left us. It’s hard on us saying goodbye, but if our loved ones were in Christ, God did what was best by them. Took them home to be with Him.

Child of God, we grieve over the loss of our loved ones, and especially at the holidays. Remember what we’re told in scripture:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again? Do you believe that Jesus is indeed God incarnate? Thousands of people saw Jesus die. They might not have known Him personally but his death was witnessed (simply the means of execution of the day). 3 days later, He rose from the dead. Do you believe he rose from the dead? The government of that time would have you believe the lie that his body was stolen away at night. What do you believe?

These questions are asked, not as simply the golden entrance ticket to heaven, but as a way to start your personal relationship with God NOW while we’re HERE. I’m comforted knowing that I WILL see my loved ones again, as mentioned in I Thessalonians. Comforting also, is knowing that God loves me NOW and continues to guide my life NOW.

So what of the holidays with the ever growing number of empty chairs? Remember the ones who are no longer here. Celebrate the ones that ARE still here. Celebrate Jesus.

Something to Think About

question-mark-faceGoing through some scripture I had memorized as a youngster, I found myself going over a lot of “thinking” verses. Some are found in Philippians.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things Philippians 4:8

Another one also appears in Philippians:

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

and one from Corinthians:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

There’s also one in Hebrews:

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Then it dawned on me. All these fights and battles we claim to get into with the devil and his demons? Where do they take place first? Our minds.

Think about it. In the Garden of Eden, when the Serpent tempted Eve, how did he do it? Did he get her in a choke hold and cram the fruit down her throat? Did he take Adam or one of the animals hostage and demand that she eat it or else? No. He merely had a conversation with her.

Conversation. That’s what got us all in trouble, and can still get us in trouble today, if we’re not careful. He didn’t even so much as touch her, or make any demands on her. Just casual conversation, twisting God’s words ever so slightly, until he convinced Eve that she really did want just a bite of that fruit.

It wasn’t just Eve, though. What about where the devil took Jesus out in the wilderness to tempt Him? Again, he didn’t put Jesus in a chokehold (that’s downright laughable!) Didn’t hold any of the apostles for ransom and demand that Jesus jump off the cliff or whatever lame thing he wanted Jesus to do. He simply had a conversation with Jesus. Unlike Eve, however, Jesus rebuked Satan, decided to NOT do all those things that was asked of him, and then the devil left and angels came to minister to Jesus. Another example of how Jesus walked in total dependance on His Father.

So, how is the devil going to wreck havoc in our lives? Merely through conversation, and often those conversations will quietly take place in our own minds, where nobody but us can hear them. It’s no wonder that scriptures caution us to guard our minds, and making sure our thoughts are Godly, and not carnal.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many arguments I’ve had with family and friends, and some downright HEATED conversations that I felt bad about later on. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but about 95% of those arguments happened within the confines of my mind. I’ll think of a topic I’d need to speak to someone about, and in attempts of trying to project how the conversation will go, I’ll have had us just chew each other up and spit the other out. Only to approach the person in real life, after God gets hold of me, and the REAL conversation is nothing like I’d imagined. It all worked out.

You, too? Don’t tell me I’m the only one that’s ever done that!

So, it’s no wonder that God used scripture to admonish us to think of the GOOD things… and TRUE things…and PURE things and…well… all those things in Philippians.

Proverbs also reminds us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

So, there’s a good reason why God tells us over and over again to watch out how we think about things. That’s where the battle starts. Make sure it’s not YOU fighting the battles of the soul–leave that to the Holy Spirit who resides in the Children of God.

Quick! What thoughts are you entertaining?

 

Trust Me

a.k.a. My Jesus Story.

A group of friends and I normally hang out on Sundays and participate in an online Bible Studies. As we visit, we have a particular friend who reminds us to share our “Jesus Stories” with everyone. In the midst of a horrific heartache, my family and I have a wonderful “Jesus Story” to share with you.

For the last couple of years, God has been my sole provider. He is my everything. Even small, insignificant stuff, God always provided. I would lose my keys or glasses, tear the house upside down looking for them, then when I FINALLY asked God to find “it” for me, He would impress on me to look in a place, and there they were. God had definitely made Himself known to me. That was an ongoing relationship with God and myself.

Back in February, our dear sweet Mama passed away. It was sort of expected, and we mourned, but then turned our thoughts towards helping Daddy live without Mama. This was a task that would take some work.

During this, God was still granting my prayers in a way I needed–helping me find this, helping me find that. I was totally confident in God’s provision for me. A couple of months, though, God changed the way He was doing things. Constantly still losing my glasses, my keys, my whatever, I’d gotten into the habit of asking God FIRST to find my_____. Usually, He’ll impress me to look in such and such place. However, about a month or so ago, instead of the usual impression of, “Look in such and such place”, God would simply say. ‘Trust Me’. Odd. of COURSE I trust God. Why wouldn’t I? He’s the one that has taken care of me to the T with as intimate as anyone could. I didn’t find whatever it was I had lost that time, but it was okay. There were several times when I had asked for His intervention, but instead of intervening, I’d get a “Trust Me” response.

Then I found out why the last month or so had been “Trust Me”. Remember when I told you that we had to try to get Daddy to live without Mama? We failed at that task. He had made mention over and over again that he was lonely, he missed Mama, and really just wasn’t happy, and hadn’t been happy, since Mama left. Daddy was diagnosed with lung cancer, and his health declined rapidly. We sort of were expecting it, but didn’t like it any more.

That wasn’t the worst of it. As Daddy was admitted to the hospital for, as we found out later, his last time, another unexpected tragedy struck. Our sister-in-love, our brother’s wife, passed away unexpectedly. This was an unexpected blow. This gem of a sister was very instrumental in caring for Mama, and was in the throes of caring for Daddy. Mercifully, God let her make her trip to heaven from her sleep. No pain. Throughout all of this, I’m reminded of God’s “Trust Me” statements. Now I know why He kept telling me that.

One of God’s neat blessings though–is the fact that He sent family and friends out of the wood work to be there for us. My major concerned for Daddy was that he was there in the hospital all by himself. Hurricane Matthew kept us from going to him, and his meds had him disoriented. Daddy had been battling stage 4 cancer for about a month. I finally broke own and BEGGED God, “If you’re going to heal him, please do it already! If you’re going to take him home, then take him already!! Just get him out of this limbo!” I am confident enough of God’s love for me that I can scream at Him, knowing he can take it. My other concerned was that Daddy was there all along, without a familiar face. I made this known to God as well. Not 20 minutes after I was talking to God about this, one of His favorite children, an aunt, called to let me know she was going to the hospital to stay with Daddy. I knew right then and there that was ordered of God. You see, Daddy loves all the siblings, as well as Mama’s siblings, but this particular aunt is the one he has the best friendship with. God sent her. The fact that she got through to the hospital, in spite of Hurricane Matthew, tells me that these steps were orchestrated by God.

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is leading all of this. I understood Mama’s passing. I understood Daddy’s passing. We didn’t like it, but we understood it. I don’t understand, however, why Sister-in-Love had to be taken away. She was a rock for my parents, and my brother. God has helped us walk through everything so far, I’m confident that He’ll continue to do so.

God doesn’t ask that we understand His plans.

He simply asks us to trust Him.

Will you trust Him with the hurricanes of your life?