Tuesday, February 24, 2015

He defines us...

It was the Christmas season of 1969, and I was home from college on break and working part time at J. C Penney as a gift wrapper/clerk. I took my lunch break and decided to go to the drugstore and get myself a soda.  All of my life up to that point I had attended segregated schools in my hometown. However when I went away to college, it was in a town that with recent marches and sit-ins, there was considerably a lot of changes. With those changes there had also been tragedies and lost of some lives, and as a student I was the beneficiary of the price paid. In my college town, my room-mates and I could go downtown and eat at the KFC or  drink at the public water fountain that no longer had signs for "colored" and "white". I remember us giggling to ourselves and feeling special after going into a public bathroom and walking out without someone yelling at us.  It was with this attitude that I went into that drugstore that day, not a smug attitude, but an attitude of confidence that change had come and now I am just like everyone else.

I was not trying to make a statement or be defiant, all I wanted was a soda. When I walked up to the counter, I did notice some strange looks and it did take a really long time for the lady working the counter to finally come over to me to ask what I wanted, but did not consider that change had not come entirely to my hometown.  My original intention was to order my drink and leave to go back to work, but because the waitress was moving so slow, I sat down at the counter on one of the stools.  Finally she came over with my drink and sat it on the counter in front of me. I paid her then inserted the straw to take a sip and that is when her movements that had been in slow motion all this time turned to turbo speed as she rushed over to me and said "You cannot sit there."  I asked her "Why?" and she said "Because we do not serve people like you at this counter." I then asked her "What kind of PEOPLE am I?" and she replied with so much anger in her voice "Nigras."  Now when I look back in retrospect and giving her the benefit of the doubt...maybe she was trying to say "Negroes", but with the venom in which she said it, I think she was aiming for the other word. LOL  I laugh now, but back then, trust me, it was far from funny. Because with that, something snapped in me and I watched in what looked like what had now become my turn to be in slow motion  as I took the large soda with ice and dumped it over the counter with a big splash. I did not aim for the waitress but I am sure that she got several DROPLETS on her shoes anyway. I arose from the stool and as I slowly left the store I could hear the waitress and others by now, shouting, cursing and calling me awful names.

After exiting and walking back to my job I fully expected to have the police follow and arrest me, or even someone throw something to hit me in the back.  But thank God, that did not happen, even though that walk was only about a block, it felt like an eternity to get back into the safety of J.C.Penney that day. Now... did I benefit from tossing that soda on the counter? No, and I would handle it much better and differently today...but can I be honest and say that it sure did feel good back then :-)

Recently I was having a phone conversation with my 13 year old granddaughter about the movie "Selma" that we each had seen; she and her friend of the same age were blown away with the portrayal of some of the scenes of segregation and how some people felt about it back then. When I told her that when I was 13, "that way" was a real part of my life. Now don't get me wrong, I did not have a tough life, both my parents were hard working folks that gave me and my siblings the very best that they could in everything, I never remember wanting for anything as a child growing up.  They also taught us to have respect for others as well as ourselves. My father worked in a Paper Mill,which was considered a very good job back then, but he was not allowed to eat his lunch in the cafeteria/break room, he and his other black co -workers had to find a place in the rafters or wherever to eat.  But my Dad never complained, he was just so thankful to have a steady job that provided for his family. He worked there many years and was awarded special recognition upon his retirement.  My mom was a housekeeper and not only was she excellent at keeping other people's homes, but she kept her own home immaculate and organized. I have so much to be thankful for, because they taught us to be good at whatever we do and never let someone else's opinion of you, define you. But it was still a time when segregation reigned and underneath even all the love and security that my parents provided for us, was a certain fear of being rejected or even harmed while out in public because of the color of our skin.

That experience that day at the drugstore and many other similar experiences I have had do not define me. Yes, I am black, an African American, a Negro if you will, I was made by God, I am not a mistake and though it may sound cute...God is NOT color blind. When God made me He knew exactly what color He wanted me to be and He does not expect me or anyone else to ignore that fact. I do not expect others to NOT see my color, just as I will not ignore theirs; but I will respect our diversities. God in His graciousness made diversity in all of creations...I think it would be quite boring if we all looked the same.  :-)  We have so much to benefit from each other.  While a bouquet of only yellow daffodils is certainly beautiful and can brighten a day, there is so much you can say about a bouquet of yellow daffodils, red roses, purple tulips and pink peonies!  The mixture and abundance of diverse colors and features of a mixed bouquet will bring hours of OOO's and AAAH's (ever been to the Philadelphia Flower show?)

I am sure that many of us from all races can share stories about when we have been mistreated because of prejudice (pre-judged by the color of our skin) but we all know that those experiences do not define us.  God is the One that defines us.  When we surrender our past hurts and rejections to Him, He becomes our foundation of which we build not only our existence but our very character.  I found this list on a website and according to His Word, this is how He defines us:

I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me(Philippians 1:6)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing(Ephesians 1:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction(Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)
I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)
I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)
I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace(Ephesians 2:7)
God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)
I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)
I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)
I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is(Ephesians 3:18)
I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)
I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others(Ephesians 4:2)
I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)
I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)
I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)
I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)
I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)
I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)
I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)
I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)
I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)
I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)
I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)
I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)
I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am growing (Colossians 2:7)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)
I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)
I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
I am victorious (I John 5:4)
My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)
I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am safe (I John 5:18)
I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
I am protected (John 10:28)
I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

We are without excuse...

Not a very fun title, saying that "we are without an excuse" may bring back memories of your high school math teacher telling you this when you didn't have your homework, or your parents saying this to you after you did not do your assigned chores, but watched TV instead.  Or even as an adult, you really don't want to hear this from your boss or even a friend when you haven't met the goal or completed the favor you were asked to do. But it is what it is, if you don't follow and commit to the requirements, rules, and standards...then we are without excuse...

That is what resounded in my mind and heart as I was reading the book of Deuteronomy today. A friend, Pastor Abie, suggested that we read the book of Deuteronomy  a couple of weeks ago, so that we would be familiarized and be able to follow along better with his current teachings on the Book.  He is an excellent teacher and was doing such a great job, I felt at first like "I've read that book before, may have been a while but..."  To be honest, I am not a Deuteronomy kinda gal, I'm more of a Psalms gal...or at least I thought I was.  See, after my husband passed, I LIVED in the Psalms for about 10 years. I read them over and over, and even when I tried to move on to something else, I felt strongly drawn back to the Psalms.  That Book ministered to me inside and out, teaching and assuring me that God is a Comforter, a Peace giver.  But when Pastor Abie suggested reading Deuteronomy that morning, I slowly began to feel "Yep, it's time to learn more about you God, more of Your character...even if there are a lot of names in there that I cannot pronounce." :-)

And it has been a new adventure!  I am learning how God truly is a Father, a Protector, a Provider that wants the best for His children.  He is also a Disciplinarian and if you were blessed to have a wonderful earthly father like I was, then you know that with all the love, provisions and nurturing also comes the discipline. A real father sets good standards and expects his children to abide by those standards, not because he wants to be a dictator, but because he wants to protect us and help us to become all that we should be.

And so it was in the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 30, after God through Moses has given the children of Israel all the blessings that come with following and abiding by God's standards and also the curses that come when they do not, in verses 11 through 14 Moses says:

"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it."

In other words...in my translation "Y'all heard and got the Law right? Well you are without excuse if you don't obey it.  The Truth is the Truth."  The Israelites had experienced physical proof of God's goodness as a Father, a Provider, as a Protector, a Faithful God. Now He is saying to them Obey Me, yes the One that delivered you from Pharoah, opened the Red Sea, sent you Manna, provided meat, sustained your clothes and shoes, caused you to conquer your enemies...I am the same yesterday, today and forever...Obey Me.

Fast forward to today...me...God has proven Himself to me over and over again, He is my Father, my Provider, My Protector, My healer, My Deliverer and on and on and He is saying to me "Obey Me",
" I will fight your battles".

I read on a blog about a person that is attending a church that recently was found to have some corruption in the leadership. This person wrote that they believe that the people that  still attend there (themselves included), even though they know about the corruption that transpired, are victims because they themselves did not commit the wrong doings; and that they are in a no win situation and cannot make a decision on what to do. First of all my heart goes out to them and secondly, this is where you need to know the Word and voice of God for yourself. God has standards and if His standards are being compromised in any way, then you need to get direction from HIM on how to get on the right track.  Because...we are without excuse...if we KNOW that something is not lining up with GOD's Word (Standard) then there should be a big 'ol red flag flapping in your face.  I know that it is not easy, and that is why I am so thankful to be learning more about God's character and His standards in His Word.

No one is perfect and there will be times that we fail, God knows this, but we cannot stay in that position. Hopefully we all can go forward on this journey of learning more about God and what He expects of us, so that when we stand before Him, we will have no excuses for not following Him to the fullest.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

He is with us...

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." Psalms 139: 16

Recently I was having a conversation with one of my sisters about 5 o'clock in the morning at the kitchen table. We only get the opportunity to see each other physically about once a year, so we make every minute of our visits count. In this conversation about how God has worked in our lives, I told her my "conversion" story (probably for the umpteenth time);  how I remember being at a point in my life, where I knew I needed something more in life. It was many years ago, but I can still see it as plain as day in my head...me sitting in front of the TV, late at night, my husband and son already upstairs in bed. The TV evangelist asking if anyone wanted Jesus to come into their hearts...make them new, and me bowing my head and praying along with him. When I prayed it was not just mumbling words to me, I really meant it, in fact I was desperate for change and I knew I could not do it myself.

As I shared with my sister, from the time that I said that prayer and for about a week or so afterwards, I felt as if someone was constantly following me.  Not a scary, fearful feeling, but a warm, precious, comforting presence.   Sometimes the feeling would be so strong, I would turn to see if someone was indeed standing there. I will never forget that, I did not understand it then, but now I know that it was the Lord letting me know that He was with me. That I would never be alone...

 God is always with us, whether we feel like it or not.  After all, He is everywhere, all the time, so it just makes sense that He's with us constantly...it's a no brainer. :-)  He knew about us even before we took on a form in our mother's womb. He knew what color eyes we would have, hair, skin and even our personalities.  He knew our weaknesses , our strengths too. He knew the wrong choices that we would make, the mistakes...even the really, really bad ones. He knew how we needed love, kindness and nurturing. He knew that we would need a Redeemer, Someone to redeem and save us from our fallen, sinful nature.  He knew that even though we are inately aware of right and wrong, because of our sinful nature, we tend to lean to the wrong...He knew we needed Someone to be an example of Righteousness. He knew, before I was even formed that I would need Jesus...

I cannot say that I have always known without a doubt that He has been with me, but it does not change the fact that He has. But now when I think about it, there have been many times in His mercy when He has given me a glimpse of His omnipresence in my life: As a small child climbing up  and sitting in the chinaberry tree in my backyard in South Carolina, feeling the warm wind in my face...I somehow knew that it was Him. As a young woman being so distraught and wanting to take my life and yet in the middle of all the negative voices in my head, His still small voice saying "Be still". His presence "following" me right after I accepted Him into my heart and life.  A vision of four Angels surrounding me as I went in for major surgery.  His presence of peace as I traveled the journey of grief. His love like a blanket over me as I seek Him early in the morning. But even if I never experienced these times of actually feeling His presence, the fact is, He is with me, and He is with you.

There are not many people (if any) that can know everything about you and still love you. Maybe your mother, but even they don't know every single thing about you and they are limited in how to help us. Oh but there is One that knows us, truly knows every single detail, the good, the bad AND the UGLY!  And He still loves us and is limitless on ways to help us... how can we not surrender to such a One as He?

Father, I thank you for your presence, I thank you that you know all about me and yet you still love me. I thank you that there are times as I look back over my life I can see how you have ALWAYS been with me. Help me to see Your Hand in my life each day. To have the confidence that You are leading and guiding me through this imperfect world. Thank you for being with me before I was formed, even when I was a little girl in her cut off jeans sitting in a tree, and even now as a woman that has walked over some rough terrain on this journey but still holding strong because of YOU! Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2015

We have hope...

It is 6:00 AM and I am sitting here thinking about a great man that passed into Glory a couple of days ago. It was so obvious that he loved his wife, his precious daughter, his entire family and most of all he loved God. No man or woman on this earth is perfect, but this man exuded the love of Jesus every time I saw him. Not by being pious in his attitude, nor by being religiously restrained in his presence. But he was laughter and joking and making funny quips with what I call rapid humor. You had to be quick to catch it sometimes and when I did it made me laugh so! :-) And in the midst of the joking and laughter and the twinkling in his eyes...I saw Jesus! Out of all the many attributes and talents that this man had, one vivid thing I remember about him...I would always see Jesus in the twinkling of his eyes as he watched and I believed enjoyed seeing me totally break up laughing over something he said.  I "saw" Jesus smiling back at me.

He lived his life for the Lord, was an excellent example of Jesus Christ before many and now he has gone home. We can and may never understand why things happen in this life and having lost loved ones myself on this journey of life; there are always questions. There is nothing wrong with questions I've learned, as long as we know that God almighty never changes, He remains the same and is always there when we call out to Him. God is for us and not against us.

This gentle man will be sorely missed. He effected so many people in this earth, so many I am sure that he probably never even knew about. Perhaps he knows now, or he is so caught up in the majestic presence of God, that as he bows at the nailed scarred feet of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and feels and is enveloped in the pure, unadulterated, crystal clear love of God... it does not matter. What does matter is that we make sure our lives count just as this man's did. He served the Lord not only by his confession, but by his day to day life; by loving God and letting that love pour from him to others. 

Grief can sometimes be what we consider a long journey, but this I know, the Lord is with us every...single...step...of the way. He never leaves us and is always there even when we feel that He is not. He is always waiting with arms wide open to gently comfort us and wipe our tears.  There is always HOPE in Him, for we do not grieve as those that have no hope...

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words."
 I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Sunday, January 11, 2015

His Plan...

"I'll never get another dog ! " this was spoken out of the heart ache of losing our 16 year old schnauzer about 20 years ago.  Oh how I loved that little dog that we named Scottie, after a dog I had when I was a kid. The first "Scottie" was a collie that followed me everywhere I went on my blue bicycle until one day he just disappeared. We believed that he was dognapped and the devastation of that loss as a child affected me for a long time.

Years later, I was married with a small son and in a new neighborhood, when my 8 year old at the time comes home to ask, "Can we get a dog?"  He went through the usual promises of saying that he would take care of it, feed it, walk it and I wouldn't have to do a thing.  Well we KNOW how that worked out right? I practically became the sole care taker of Scottie number 2, although my husband did remind me from time to time that he was at least giving the dog a place to stay, even though Scottie  didn't have a job or income! :-)

Scottie number 2, became my buddy. The little schnauzer with the whiskers was my constant companion. Besides being underfoot every day, he was continually by my side when I came home to recuperate from brain surgery and a couple of years later other surgery. He would lay with me on the couch with not even a whimper, but just be there. Those soulful brown eyes, looking at me, only wanting to please. So it was understandable when after 16 years and he was ailing, we had to say goodbye.  At the time it was one of the hardest things we had to do. So out of that emotion I made the statement that I would never get another dog, because at the time it hurt too much to think of ever going through that again.

My plan was to never, ever go through the heartache of losing a beloved pet again. I even built up barriers: I would not go into pet shops nor would I watch those cute dog shows. I wanted nothing to do with the pain of that experience again.  My love for animals never went away, but I tried to keep it at a distance...safer that way I thought.  This worked fine until many years later through a certain set of circumstances a pup came into my life and he was an offer I couldn't refuse...then a few years later another pup just happened to grab my heart so now I have not one dog but two!  But what happened to the woman that said she would never, ever get another dog? I've learned to let life happen....

I used to live in fear of somehow missing God's plan for my life. I felt that if I made a choice that maybe didn't line up with His plan for me, that I would have blown it...forever. That all the good things that He had for me would be lost.  So my remedy for that was to put up boundaries, which can be good in some cases, but in an attempt to keep from making bad choices, it also kept good choices from being a part of my life. This included not allowing myself to let the joy of having another pet dog into my life because surely God does not want me to go through that pain of losing it again. Oh how I try to put Him in a box, when He wants me to just trust Him day to day as He leads me along.  And He wants me to enjoy this life that He has blessed me with! Sure losing a pet is painful, but what about all the good years I enjoyed!

I'm sure that you have heard the saying that "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"
right?  Well I don't know if He laughs but I do believe that some things we come up with may amuse Him.  In my case I was trying so hard to be prepared for bad things that I was missing all the good
things that God had for me in just day to day life. When we hear "God's plan" we often think of some large blueprint on the screen of your life, so complicated that you can't even decipher it. When what I am learning is, His plan for me unfolds one day at a time and my "job" is to walk in it as He unfolds it to me...one step at a time...not complicated at all. To love people as they come into my path or I come into theirs, to be a good neighbor, to be honest and forthright, to forgive, to be kind, to speak
the truth, to treat others the way I want to be treated, are some of the ways I can carry out His plan.

So many times we think of God's Plan as events on a grand scale with the strobe lights, an orchestra playing and a hundred voice choir, when really I believe His plan for us is when we are obedient to do the things He unfolds for us to do each day.

I have friends, a retired couple, that find so much joy in volunteering in the Food pantry at their church. They organize the produce, food stuff  and clothing as it comes in and also distributes it to the needy. They have many opportunities to share a warm smile, hugs and encouragement to folks that may never get that...they are being Jesus' hands, feet and heart in doing so. Is that God's plan? I believe it is. You may never read about them in the newspaper or see them on television , but I believe that they are participating in the greatest event of all...they are carrying out God's Plan.

You see what I am discovering is that "it ain't all about me."  It really is HIS PLAN not ours.  So when we submit to HIS plan, we get the gracious benefit of getting enjoyment out of this life too!  Thank You Lord!

Now you may ask what does the dog story have to do with God's plan? Well, for me, in learning to let go of my fear of experiencing past pain again, fear of failing God and missing what He had designated for me , it is giving me the freedom to make choices by faith each day and trust who God says He is: He will never leave me, He will never condemn me, He will always lead me in Truth, and so much more. He speaks to me through His Word the Bible, in a still small voice in my heart and through His true servants. So in knowing this I can enjoy even the simple things in life, for God has put them there for the time He has allotted and it is in His hands.

So in 2015, if you haven't already, step out and begin to walk in God's plan, it really isn't complicated. It is trusting that He will show you one step at a time. Onward!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wind of Change

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Looking out the window of the exercise center that I attend several times a week has become one of my favorite pastimes.  It literally is a “pastime” because it makes the time past more easily and faster as I am doing one of my least most favorite, but necessary things to do. The views are nice; there is a lake where dozens of geese have taken residence, fish that we can actually see when the lake is not frozen over and all sorts of foliage that change with the seasons.  You might say that I really get a “bird’s eye” view from the center’s second story perch, and it is beautiful with each season. 
One thing that I am learning about myself, even at this (ahem)...later stage, notice I didn’t say older, is that God speaks to me through nature, my surroundings. Now while I know that this is certainly not unique, it is exciting for me because His messages always line up with His Word and it is as clear as a bell to me. That is why none of us will be with an excuse when we stand before Him to say “Lord, I just didn’t know, You never showed me Your Truth.” He is a beyond fair God, a just God, not willing that any should perish and be separated from Him for eternity; and so He tentatively and patiently uses whatever means necessary to get our attention so that we know that He is not only with us, but He is for us.

One of the things that caught my attention as I looked out of that window is a tree, that even in this cold of winter and the other trees are bare, it still holds some of its “fruit”.  Now while this may sound very noble of this tree, the fact is that because the “fruit” is beyond its season of harvest, it is now useless.  The frost, and fluctuating temperatures have made it just a piece of nothing hanging on the tree. This scenario brought to me another lesson the Lord showed me…now go back with me several years…
It was the end of the fall season 1995, this was before the back porch was enclosed and I would get up very early to sit there to have my time with the Lord before getting ready for work.  It was a cool morning with the sun just rising and as I sat quietly gusts of wind came by and rustled the leaves on a nearby tree, causing them all to fall off and dance with the wind. I heard a voice in my heart say “My Spirit is moving and those that flow with me, those that are willing to trust me, let go and flow with me, will follow me, just as those leaves flowed with the wind.”  To this day I don’t know why I did this, but God knows me is all I can say. Anyway I looked over in my neighbor’s yard and there was an Oak tree with lots of its leaves still attached. The same wind was gusting by, and yet the leaves on

that tree remained. So I asked “Lord but those leaves are still holding on.”  And to that He replied to my heart “There will be many that will cling to what they believe is trustworthy, but whoever trusts in Me will hear My voice and flow with Me.”

Now you have to understand that was also during the time when a message coming from some nationwide pulpits was “God is doing a shaking and those that are not submitted to the leadership will be shaken off.”  To be quite frank with you...that scared me! And that was because I did not know the character of God for myself.  God does not shake us off and toss us away because we are not submitted to a man…He wants us to be submitted to His love, which He demonstrated through Jesus’ sacrifice. Now I see that He was speaking to me during a time when I had many questions about what I was experiencing.  Thank You Lord!
That was many years ago and I have never forgotten it.  Many changes have come into my life…Major ones, minor ones. Some that made me feel as if I could not take the next breath without crumbling to pieces. Some that meant letting go when I thought it would be forever…some that meant taking a long good look at myself and seeing the real me who was not what I thought I was. False humility is a terrible thing. But through it all God has been so very faithful: assuring me it’s okay to breathe, I won’t fall apart; showing me it’s okay to let go, because He is there to catch me; and gently and lovingly holding the sides of my face as I look into the mirror of reality and see that though I’m not perfect, He is… and I can hide myself in Him as I surrender to His will.

The Wind of change is constantly blowing in our lives, God is constantly offering direction to flow with how His spirit is moving.  Will we be like the tree whose leaves surrendered to the wind and effortlessly let go and danced with the wind, following its lead?  Or will we be like that mighty Oak tree I saw that was tenaciously holding on to its leaves no matter how the wind blew.  Or like that tree I see out the window that had its little fruit still holding on even in the winter, fruit but absolutely useless.  There is a whole other message right there.  Folks still holding on to things that God may have effectively used years ago, and refusing to change with His movement…
Oh! As for my neighbor’s 40 foot Oak Tree that was holding on to those leaves, well a little storm came by a couple of years ago, called Hurricane Sandy, ever heard of it? Well Mr. Oak Tree was introduced to Ms. Sandy and guess what? Sandy must not have liked it, because down Mr. Oak tree went, all 40 feet of it.  My neighbor could not understand how the tree that is known for its sturdiness could topple so easily, when the other more fragile trees withstood the storm.  Well, and this is another message within itself but, in a nutshell: apparently the roots (foundation) of the oak
tree had been compromised when some stump grinding of nearby trees in close proximity were done earlier in the year. Mr. Oak Tree’s exterior appearance looked very stable but its roots weren’t as deep as it thought, so when Sandy came along that October 2012, it literally became a push over…with all its leaves still firmly attached…  ‘nough said.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Season of Joy!

Oh what great memories I have of Christmases past!  Growing up in South Carolina we did not have cold weather or snow for Christmas, but still it was an exciting time. Going to the Christmas parade with all the local high school marching bands, the department stores (we only had about 2 big ones) all lit up with Christmas decorations and Christmas music piping through the speakers, all made my heart as a little girl race with excitement.

On our local radio station, every Friday night after Thanksgiving, "Santa" would come on and read all the letters that he received from us kids in the community. Of course I sent one every year (until my brother told me that there was no Santa Claus and it was stupid).  But back then it was so exciting to hear when "Santa" would read my letter over the airwaves. He would say "...and this letter comes from Veronica Byrd that lives on Lincoln Avenue...she says that she has been a good girl and would like me to bring her a Tiny Tears Doll, a china tea set (yes I loved tea things even back then) and lots of fruit and candy Ho Ho Ho!" Oh my gosh I thought I would pass out because my heart was beating so fast!  Santa read MY letter...he knew ME and heard my request!  And as a child I had no problem believing that...it makes me smile now as I write this...oh a child's faith!  Is that the kind of faith that Jesus talks about in Matthew 18:3? And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Oh God may we have the faith to believe without a doubt that You not only know us, but You hear our requests and to be confident that You will answer us according to Your will...

Now we know that Santa is not a real person and parents have many theories and reasons for encouraging or not encouraging their children to believe in Santa and I respect that; and I am in no way comparing Santa to Jesus...trust me there is NO comparison.  But as I was just thinking about the joy and happiness I had in Christmases past and how as a child I was so free and unhindered in believing that something good was happening. As you get older and experience life, I believe that simple joy and happiness wears off. We gain wisdom and knowledge but lose that simple childhood "faith" that this Christmas season is a good thing! 

Of course it is not about the decorated trees, toys, gifts and such; it is about celebrating Christ's birth, no matter what day it actually happened.  The fact is that it DID happen and when the folks in the world don't acknowledge it in that way, we who know the TRUTH can certainly celebrate it with that in the forefront with... yes! decorated trees, gifts and toys for the children all while glorifying God!

I don't think God is so much concerned with how the Christmas tree was originally started by the Druids or somebody like that, as He is about whether or not we are celebrating the Birth of Jesus and with that pure motive and consecration in our hearts! God is a holy God, and He knows the motive of every heart. So we cannot allow the bondage of what others may think to steal our joy of this season.

What a Blessed time of the year it is! We Celebrate YOU Jesus!  with bright lights shining, garland and tinsel, special music, gifts, good friends and fellowship...Oh! and good food too!  Jingle bells! LOL!
"...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." Philippians 2:10

Saturday, November 22, 2014

God, The Chief Restorer

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, The consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent among you.” Joel 2:25

 I love getting old stuff, cleaning it up and repurposing its use. My eyes light up when I spot a “treasure” while perusing the aisles of a thrift store…I can see the potential in what may be someone else’s cast off.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like new stuff too, but I seem to get so much joy out of things that have been around for a while. To me they have a story and even though they are inanimate objects I wonder what they have witnessed in their “lifetime”.  Some old things have aged gracefully and show little wear, which means they may have been in a china cabinet or a room and never really used; while some pieces are what I call all “jacked up” and look as if they have been kind of thrown around.  Were they cared for and appreciated? Are some of the questions that run through my mind… Sounds weird huh?  I used to think it was weird too that I really loved old furniture, china, glass, etc., but now I have accepted it as one of the simple pleasures God has so graciously given me. 

When I look at some of the furniture and things that I have rescued, I am reminded of how God is the Chief rescuer and restorer.  2 Chronicles 16:9a speaks about how God is roaming to and fro the earth looking for those that have a heart for Him, to show Himself strong. My interpretation: God is perusing the aisles of the thrift stores of humanity. Looking for those that are crying out to Him to be restored, those that have been oh so hurt, those that have been abused and rejected…those that have been cast off.  I believe that He delights in picking us up, wiping our tears, cleaning away the dirt, shining us up by whispering encouraging words to our hearts. And the icing on the cake so to speak is: He delights in repurposing  our lives!  Some of us may have thought we have blown it the first time around, but God can and will use us again for His glory as we submit our lives to Him!

God is a God of compassion and renewal!  He wants to restore to us what the enemy of our souls has tried to steal away! Our joy, our peace, our confidence in Him and love for others and even ourselves. He wants to see us being used for His Glory! The scripture in Joel 2 is about God declaring to a people how He is going to restore them after they had suffered very much, some of which was brought on by their own disobedience. But God who is so forgiving still promises to restore them!

It is silly but true to say that I love seeing the old treasures I find, in a place where I can look at them and am happy that it is being used and admired. Well how much more is God delighted in seeing His children once again in a place in life where they are being used for His purpose and Glory! I don’t believe that He gets joy out of seeing us living out the rest of our lives sitting on the trash heap of life or the aisles of the thrift store of humanity. (I know I’m pushing it with that statement again, but I couldn’t resist  ;-)

When I started this Blog back in December 2007 while visiting in California, I said and I even posted on it that I wanted to begin “Learning from God’s Word through everyday experiences”, and it is so true…I DO!  He has been so faithful in helping me to see HIM in just plain everyday life.  I don’t need an earth shattering, open the Red Sea experience to know that He is here and loves me…and you also.  AND He wants us to know and love Him too.

So you see my quirky love for old things have a purpose, it actually has given me an insight to my calling on this earth; one of which is to have more compassion for, love, help and pray for the hurting, lost, rejected and cast off folks in this world. No one in their right mind wants to be or feel that way and I pray: Dear Jesus, wherever they are, whether in my neighborhood, or afar, whether in my daily or occasional path, make me aware of them, let me feel their heart and may I be obedient to be your Hands and Heart extended in this old world to show them that You are the Rescuer and Restorer and can make all things new!