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volcano

Granted, my life is dancing around the edges of its autumn season, but I haven’t quite reached the flash point yet –hot flashes, that is. Although, just the other night, I did get a taste of how awful that must be.

Surely, you have also experienced this kind of night at some point; a night spent riding the fever-and-chill rollercoaster. If so, you can sympathize with my frustration. Sleep was sporadic. About the time the mercury in my thermometer was about to pop, I would throw my blankets off, in agony. I was so hot, in fact, that my only relief was the overhead fan, which whirred quietly overhead despite the wintery chill of evening. But then, as quickly as my overly-fatigued body gave way to sleep, it awoke abruptly, shaking at the sudden coldness. And so it went, hour after hour, long into the early morning hours.

At one point, I lay there, clothes damp with sweat, thinking that the hot flashing part was surely similar to what my menopausal friends experienced all the time. I thought about the cartoon I had seen earlier that week. It featured three snow women, the first was sharing with her friend that, “Mildred,” who had melted into a puddle, had “just had a hot flash.” After which, I grumbled to my sleeping husband that I am NOT ready to start hot flashing. He didn’t hear me, of course, but I just thought he should know that I have firmly decided to skip the whole hot flashing thing altogether!

About that time, my thoughts took an entirely different turn; they somehow jumped to the third chapter of Revelation, where the Lord speaks, through John, to the church in Laodicea: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (verses 15, 16).

I Guess I’m safe then, I lightheartedly reminded the Lord, because I am definitely hot –then cold –then hot –then cold ……….

Feverish humor aside, spiritual comfort is the very thing that the Lord warned His church to avoid. But I always wondered why He would prefer cold to lukewarm. I think Matthew Henry sums it up pretty well in his Whole Bible Commentary:

Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth any thing, it is worth every thing; an indifference here is inexcusable: Why halt you between two opinions? If God be God, follow him; if Baal (be God), follow him. Here is no room for neutrality. An open enemy shall have a fairer quarter than a perfidious neuter; and there is more hope of a heathen than of such. Christ expects that men should declare themselves in earnest either for him or against him.

Frankly, I would love to tell you that I am never lukewarm in my faith, but that just wouldn’t be honest. I don’t ever consider my faith to be ‘cold,’ but there are certainly times in my life when I feel as though my spiritual fervency comes in waves like menopausal hot flashes; and it is during those weak moments that I have to remind myself that I am NOT willing to tolerate hot flashing.

I’m sure that there are others who have felt the same way on occasion. In fact, one of King David’s prayers was, Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). David, who was a “man after God’s own heart,” was not ashamed to acknowledge his weaknesses and ask the Lord to rekindle his flame.

Dear reader, I pray that we are quick to do the same, so that our flame continues to burn brightly enough and consistently enough, that we are able to help those who walk in darkness to find their way!

God’s Flame

The candle’s flame extinguishes
in a pool of molten wax.
Likewise does my spirit dim
when time with God is lax.

Too often, while life is tugging,
God’s time is pushed aside,
till trials deal such crushing blows
that my faith is severely tried.

I can barely face another day
in difficult times like these,
until my strength is again restored
by time spent on my knees.

It is then my Father reaches out
with gentle outstretched hand.
“Though you’ve waned,” he says,
“I’ll give you strength to stand.

All you have to do my child
is praise Me with all your might.
Then I will reignite your flame
and thus restore your light.

Then I will take that light
and place it high upon a stand
so that hurting folks can see it
throughout this darkened land.

And they will know that it is I
who makes the darkness flee
from all who yield their heavy hearts
and put their trust in me.”

                                                                         God’s Flame © Susan Shimkovitz

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Photo: Rodney Dodig
Cahuachi-Pottery-Shards

Through the years, I have given a unique end-of-the-year gift to those who could use an extra word of hope or encouragement.

This year, I invite you, dear reader, to share this same gift if you like. Simply print the following poem on an appropriate holiday paper (letter size), fold using a business fold and insert into a decorated envelope with a shard of broken pottery. There you have it, a thoughtful, non-traditional gift which will (hopefully) be a blessing to others. (Thank you for including the copyright information.)

From our Heart to Yours

You may think it odd that we give you
this little piece of broken clay;
but we give it with sincerest hearts,
and this is what we pray:

We pray that as you hold this little shard
gently in your outstretched palm,
you will remember that Jesus, in the same way,
holds the world and brings us calm.

Yes, you may have had moments of shattering
throughout the year, or years, gone past;
and you may have felt a bit like this shard of clay–
broken from a vessel that just didn’t last.

You may even feel that this busy holiday season
leaves you feeling weary and broken;
thus we pray you have the genuine peace
of which Jesus, Himself, has spoken.

For He not only holds the world in His hands,
He lovingly cradles each human soul,
gathers-up each broken shard
and makes us completely whole.

After all, our Lord is a masterful potter;
He only needs one small, surrendered part
with which to re-create a beautiful vessel
and restore a broken heart.

Knowing this, we pray for you the very best–
a season of abundant health and cheer;
relaxation and restoration;
abundant blessing throughout the coming year.

As Jesus’ return quickly approaches,
may you find great strength in each passing day;
that you may become all He wants you to be.
This is what we pray.

                                           ©Susan Shimkovitz 2001

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Ghosts are real, but they are not the displaced spirits of those who died and cannot, for whatever reason, cross to the other side. They are something far more sinister than that! I know because I grew up in a home steeped in the occult –a place where things went “bump in the night” far too often.

So you know, even though today is October 31st, this is not some spooky Halloween story. If you are looking for that, you’ve come to the wrong place. In fact, I abhor Halloween –but no lectures, I promise. No, this is not a Halloween story; it is quite the opposite. You see, Halloween exalts all that is dark and evil, but today I want to share with you a very real story of light and of triumph over evil.

The particulars of my childhood are not important at the moment, but I assure you, they were, for the most part, dark and horrific. People have, on occasion, asked me to recount the gruesome details, and I have, but for today, I prefer to jump ahead in the narrative to the first several months after I encountered the Lord Jesus Christ, and the spiritual warfare that ensued.

(To read the condensed testimony of my miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ, click this link: His Invisible Hand)

I have no doubt that the forces of Heaven and hell were engaged in battle on the day that I offered my heart to Jesus Christ, my Savior, but I’ll leave it at that. Heaven won. And though my life was changed instantly, and profoundly, in so many ways, it would still take many years to heal some of the wounds. It would also take several months to conquer some of the demons that invaded my dreams night after night. I have never used the term demons in these pages before, but in this case, the term is very accurate.

You see, even after I accepted Jesus into my life, my dreams were frequently infested with demons. Sometimes they merely frightened me or chased me, at other times, I physically wrestled with them. At first, all of the dreams had two things in common, aside from the obvious warfare; they all started the same way, and they were very difficult to escape because I couldn’t manage to awaken fast enough.

However, something interesting happened early on. One night, in the middle of a particularly horrible dream, I managed to utter the name Jesus. It was barely a whisper, but it was a big accomplishment given the level of fear I experienced during those dreams. Nonetheless, the dream, and the battle within, continued for a little while longer. It’s not that the LORD failed to rescue me when I called upon His name; He was merely teaching me how to effectively combat my enemy and to trust in Him. Make no mistake, He was watching over me every second.

Over the course of time, as I grew stronger in my faith and knowledge of God’s holy Word, I found myself not only calling upon Jesus, but doing so sooner and sooner, until at  last I was able to call upon His name at the very beginning of any such dream so that it would end as quickly as it started.

There is power in the name of Jesus!

Allow me to digress for just a moment. I have many friends who prefer to call Jesus by His Hebrew birth name Yeshua. Our LORD was born a Hebrew, and this is His true birth name. For the record, I prefer to call Him Yeshua also, and usually do. Nevertheless, I know that my LORD speaks every language, and I know that there is power in His name no matter which language it is spoken in.

Oddly, after all these years I still have one of those awful dreams ever so often. Truthfully, I had one a few nights ago. This one was so intense I woke my husband with my thrashing and shouting, “Jesus!” As always, shouting “Jesus!” was all it took; even in my dreams, my enemies are vanquished by that name.

I am writing this today, dear reader, because Halloween is upon us again. Most adults assume that this is nothing more than a fun holiday for kids. I promised not to lecture, so I won’t get into the truth behind Halloween, nor what the Bible has to say about it. I will, however, remind you that Halloween can be a very scary time for kids, especially in today’s macabre culture. If your child should, therefore, become frightened, or someone you know finds himself in a spiritual battle, please remind them that they can freely ask Jesus for help. He is as close as the mention of His name, even to those who have never called upon Him before, and He longs to show them that He cares!

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For the last few weeks, my get-up-and-go has been equal to that of a sloth’s, so I haven’t accomplished much. Then again, I haven’t really wanted to do much lately; partly because I haven’t been feeling well, and partly because I tend to procrastinate sometimes. Okay, so I procrastinate a lot, but I plan to do something about that someday.

Being two peas in the same procrastination pod, my husband and I understand this tendency, and lovingly motivate each other toward action when necessary. In fact, the first time I repeatedly told my beloved I would finish some project “when I get around to it,” he pulled a wooden object from his pocket and handed it to me. What is this, I asked. “It’s a tuit –a round one,” he playfully responded. Indeed it was; the word tuit was engraved on one side. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually accumulated several of those round tuits before I learned to stop using the phrase, get around to it.

Come to think of it, there’s another phrase that I should probably stop using as well. When it comes to really big chores, like cleaning out the garage, for example, I have sometimes remarked that I only do stuff like that once in a blue moon –it just so happens that there really was a blue moon¹ in the skies recently. And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t clean out the garage; the blue moon thing is just a silly catch phrase I picked up when I was young, which is loosely translated as, I don’t have a clue when I’m going to do that, but it won’t be for a long time.

Aren’t you glad, dear reader, our LORD acts on our behalf a great deal more than once in a blue moon, or whenever He gets around to it?

Even so, I’m sure that there have been times in each of our lives when it seemed the LORD was, for whatever reason, postponing something important, such as an answer to prayer or a fulfillment of a promise. But we are in good company; even the patriarchs and prophets of old have undoubtedly felt this way. Abraham, for instance, must have grown quite anxious for the birth of his son Isaac. On the other hand, the prophet Habakkuk desperately longed for a different kind of delivery –a deliverance from the enemies of Israel.

You see, In Habakkuk’s time, the foreign nations were causing the Israelites much grief and prevailing against them. Confused and dismayed, Habakkuk earnestly prayed, “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (1:2).

And what was God’s response? He said He would do amazing things that, “you would not believe if you were told (1:5).” He further instructed Habakkuk to “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables… For the vision is yet for an appointed time… because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up [proud] is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (2:2-4).

Note two things: First, those things shown to Habakkuk were to happen at a specific, appointed time; and they were absolute. God always fulfills His decrees according to His perfect timing, never at some unspecified time whenever He gets around to it. Second, the just (righteous) shall live by faith, which according to Hebrews 11: 1 is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Herein is the irony: To operate in faith, we must implicitly trust in God’s perfect timing, and wait patiently for it, being completely clueless, all the while, as to what His timetable is or what, exactly, He is planning to do.

I’m sure there is much more I can, and will, say on this matter, when I get around to it (wink). Till then, just keep trusting in your Heavenly Father. He will never fail you!

¹A Blue moon is the appearance of the third full moon in a season with four full moons. It is not literally blue. This term has also been used to refer to the second full moon in any given month.

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My parents were not religious people in the least, but there were certain odd rules they enforced religiously. Not surprisingly, cussing meant a swift trip to the execution chamber –that is to say, the bed chamber where my step-father would swiftly execute punishment. I doubt anyone would blame him for trying to teach his children impeccable manners, he was an ex-marine after all, but he was a bit over-the-top, as evidenced by his intolerance of even the slightest hint of slang.

Moreover, excessive no doubt, was his royal decree that no one in the house under five-feet tall was ever allowed to say the word but, and certainly not that loathsome four-letter word c-a-n’-t. A simple “Yeah, but …” was reason enough for a two-hour lecture at best, saying both but and can’t in the same sentence was a felony. That I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, would have been a handy thing to know back then (Phil 4:1).

In retrospect, I can’t help but see the irony in that (shhh, don’t tell him I just used both of those words in this sentence) given the defeatist attitude he adopted after signing-up for one of those multi-level home marketing businesses. If he made money his sponsor pulled in some cash as well, and so on, so naturally,  those above him in the enterprise tried very hard to teach him the techniques that were sure to bring about success, words that fell on deaf ears, skepticism and, you guessed it, a never-ending list of objections starting with the declaration, “Yeah, but….”

With puzzling contradiction, he uttered the words “Yeah, but…” so often, his business sponsor, making a guilted statement, gifted him with a brightly colored tee-shirt with those very words imprinted on the front, words that he took pride in, wearing them as a badge of honor.

Such an inconsistency brings to my mind James 1:5-7: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

Dear reader, I would very much like to offer you a profound explanation as to why our Heavenly Father is so emphatic about this matter, but I’m not even sure that I  have an answer to suffice. I am absolutely positive about this, though: faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). We should all, therefore, when we sense those God-displeasing words, “Yeah but…” begin their journey from brain to tongue to express doubt or defiance, rather turn to the Word of God, the Holy Bible, and strengthen our faith within its pages.

I don’t know about you, but I know enough pessimistic naysayers to order some of those “Yeah, but” tee shirts in bulk and hand them out, thereby warning the optimistic to take cover. Problem is, there are days when I don the declaration myself, knowing full well that with God all things are possible, yet somehow doubting, wavering.

Perhaps you have, at one time or another, felt the same way. May I remind you– and me- that there are more than forty Scriptures in the Bible which counter frailty and defeat with two simple words: BUT GOD!

Perhaps I should have some tee shirts printed after all, the message being modified to three powerful words, “Yeah, but GOD!”

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There are moments in every person’s life when a single image, thought or statement illuminates the mind profoundly. I had such an experience just this week. As my sons and I were conversing, my youngest spoke of “the artistic beauty of ruins.”

Immediately my own thoughts flowed in an entirely different direction. “The artistic beauty of ruins,” I pondered. What a perfect summation of Isaiah 61:3

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified .

Being an archaeology enthusiast, I long ago learned to appreciate the beauty in many of the structures made desolate over time. While it is true that some folks would view such ruins as nothing more than a heap of stones or toppled pillars, I see a work of art, once exquisitely crafted, now transformed into that which exhibits a different kind of beauty –more simplistic perhaps, but magnificent nonetheless.

Such is the essence of my own life. I was created in God’s image; a beautiful dwelling wherein His Holy Spirit could abide. But this frail, human vessel was broken down over time and made desolate –uninhabitable. So broken, in fact, that when others looked upon me, they ceased to notice that which was beautiful and were rather appalled at the shambles I had become.

Much of humanity can say the same of their own lives. Praise God, this is where “the artistic beauty of ruins” comes into fruition. No matter how broken or shattered our lives are, God still looks upon those who are His own, through eyes so filled with love that He sees only beauty. It is a more simplistic beauty because that is what brokenness does – it crumbles all the parts of us that remain lofty and impenetrable until we appear useless in the world’s sight, and yet of great value in God’s.

Perhaps, dear reader, you also feel that your life has gone from splendor to shambles. But remember, beauty and value lie in the eyes of the beholder. Had you been alive when Jesus Christ walked the earth as a man, would you have thought Him beautiful? I am certain you would have, yet this is how the Bible described Him:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.              Isaiah 53:2-3

Of course, it was only those of this world that esteemed Him not. Those who knew Him as LORD considered Him to be the most beautiful sight on earth. Even after His body was mangled and crucified, Jesus’ followers soon saw the artistic beauty in the ruins of his crucifixion stake, for their eyes looked upon the sight with a much different understanding.

Likewise, when this world looks upon you with indifference, or even disdain,  your Father in Heaven looks at you with a different understanding, as we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory  (II Corinthians 3:18).

I would like to encourage you, then, to begin seeing yourself as Jesus does. Initially, you may see only the ruins, but eventually you will begin to appreciate the artistic beauty of the ruins until that glorious day when we shall all be perfected.

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The moment I answered the phone I knew something was up. My daughter was even more excited than normal. “You’ll never guess what happened today at work,” she exclaimed. I barely had time to respond as she began to elaborate the details. Allow me to share them with you.

My precious works at a ferry company. Though her duties are varied, she often stands at the dock handing out return tickets that will allow passage home from the island. This was her assignment on that memorable day. But she ran out of tickets and quickly moved to the purchase counter to get more.

For whatever reason, the pilot of the catamaran stepped out of the pilot house briefly, leaving the door unlocked and the engine running. This afforded one over-zealous passenger and his son the opportunity to enter the pilot house unsupervised. Of course, passengers were not allowed in the pilot house, but I’m sure this man was just trying to do something special for his autistic son. Undoubtedly, his intention was to step into the pilot house long enough for his son to take a quick peek before they sailed, then exit just as quickly.

In that short time, however, the young boy took hold of the controls and caused the catamaran to lunge forward. It crashed into the luggage tent and railing, snapping the loading plank clean off. Praise God, no one was seriously injured. Nonetheless, my daughter would have been injured had she not gone to the ticket counter just moments before.

All I could say to her was, “Praise God He was looking out for you! Praise God, He was looking out for my baby.”

Last night I was lying in bed thanking God for his continual protection for my family. As I recalled the above event, the words of the ever-popular bumper sticker –God is my co-pilot-came to mind. Personally I’ve always thought the bumper sticker to be rather ludicrous. Why would anyone prefer God to be their co-pilot? It goes without saying that God’s piloting abilities are so far beyond ours as to be immeasurable.

Dear reader, we were all created to be vessels of God’s Holy Spirit. Thus, there is within each of us a control center, or a “pilot house” if you will. This is the place from which we make the decisions which chart our course, and help us reach our final destination. The question we must ask ourselves then is this; are we truly allowing God to pilot our decisions, or have we instead, sought opportunities to sneak in a few decisions of our own, hoping God won’t notice?

Either way, nothing escapes God’s attention. Unlike the catamaran pilot who stepped out briefly, God never leaves His post. In fact, He has promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. Even so, God allows mankind to exercise free will. When we choose to exclude Him in any way, He graciously steps aside and allows us to do so. However, not allowing God to pilot our decisions often leads to catastrophe and harm.

On the other hand, trusting God to make decisions for us, and obeying those decisions, is not only in our best interest, it is to our profit:

Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go (Isaiah 48:17).

I don’t know about you, but I have learned the hard way –through many  painful crashes- to step aside and allow God to pilot my life. He is, and always will be, my pilot. And to the makers of those ludicrous bumper stickers I most adamantly declare, God is not my co-pilot!

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These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Greetings in the name of our precious LORD.

I don’t know about you, but my get-up-and-go seems to have gotten up and gone, and for the last few weeks I haven’t been able to find it. Pesky little medical conditions tend to do that to a person, but I am not the least bit discouraged. For now, I am resting my body, and more importantly, I am resting in the promises of my precious LORD. I do plan to dust my keyboard off very soon, but for today, I want to share one of my older “Polished Pearls” blogs that I feel quite applicable to my situation. Hopefully, it will bless you as well, as you face life’s challenges.

Like A Flood

“Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.”

This past weekend, the weather here was horrendous. We were hit with the whole gamut of storm threats, including tornadoes, hail and flooding. In fact the hail stone pictured –or should I say hail boulder- was one of many that pounded this region. There was quite a bit of property loss in our area, but praise the LORD, there were no serious injuries.

I thought of the second half of Isaiah 59:19: When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. However, the ancient Hebrew texts did not have commas, or paragraphs for that matter, so instead of reading:

When the enemy shall come in like a flood —the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him

the verse could just as easily read

When the enemy shall come in —like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

What’s the difference? The difference is where you place the emphasis. Dear reader, when you are bombarded with the storms of life, do you focus more on the storm, or on the one who can calm it?

It is only natural to feel completely overwhelmed at times. Undoubtedly, many of the folks here that lost their homes in the tornadoes felt that way. I’m sure they could relate to the words of King David did when he penned the following:

My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.
Psalm 55:4-8 NIV

But David didn’t stop there, allowing his situation to flood him with despair. Instead, he confidently proclaimed, “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me” (verse 16).

Dear reader, I leave you with these encouraging words from the same Psalm; may they flood you with peace during your roughest storms.

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (verse 22).

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This beautiful spring weather means that love will soon be in the air. I am reminded of the times at Bible College, when the young girls would anxiously flirt with their soon-to-be boyfriends, hoping all the while to attain their “MRS degrees” — which simply meant they were looking to add the letters Mrs. to the front of their names.

I, on the other hand, was quite content to spend my time cooped-up in my dorm room in “Geritol Hall,” studying and dreaming of my future ministry to the deaf. And yes, the students really did call my floor “Geritol Hall.” Those of us assigned to that floor were not over-the-hill by any stretch of the imagination, but we were the “old maids” who had more important things to do than search for a husband.

Funny, that’s often the time that the LORD brings one around. Like many happily married couples, my beloved and I weren’t the least bit interested in a relationship when ours first developed. We were both quite a bit older than the typical Bible college student, and not as easily distracted with thoughts of love and marriage –our focus was on God, and the pursuit of His call on our lives. Yes, ours was a “safe” friendship because neither of us wanted anything more.

We did not meet by chance; it was divine providence. I’ll leave that story for another time, but suffice it to say that my ineptitude for music appreciation class, coupled with the LORD’s (very temporary) sabotage of my car, placed my beloved and me on the same church bus at the same time. And there you have it, the start of a beautiful, purely platonic, friendship.

Eventually, I began to desire marriage again –something that I had completely suppressed after the bitter sting of hurt and betrayal. But who would I marry? At that time, my beloved had become my very best friend and confidante. Between classes and study sessions, we were nearly always together. And, we met daily for personal Bible study and prayer; yet it never even occurred to me that the love of my life –my soul mate- was right in front of my eyes.

Then something strange happened. One morning, while praying atop a mountain peak, the LORD spoke very clearly to my heart, and said it was time for me to marry. Later that evening, at the conclusion of a worship service, there was an invitation for those seeking a spouse to come to the altar for prayer. I quickly dove over the bodies already kneeling at the altar and said, “Here am I LORD –send him!”

I told the other ladies in “Geritol Hall” that I was getting married. Of course, they laughed and needled me when I confessed I didn’t have a clue as to who my soon-to-be spouse was. Apparently, you’re supposed to have a fiancé in order to receive an MRS degree. Call me crazy, but aren’t Bible College students supposed to have faith? I did.

Granted, I’m not always the brightest bulb on the block, so I remained clueless for awhile longer about the identity of Mr. Right. In fact, while eating lunch with him, I would occasionally look over his head and ask, “Where is he LORD?”

I thought the headaches I was having at the time were due to too many tedious hours of reading, but looking back, I suppose it is possible that the LORD had been –as my beloved often said- “beating me severely about the head and shoulders” until I figured out the obvious.

I’m not even sure when it happened, but one day the bulb turned on, a little brighter, and I realized that I was very much in love with my very best friend. And he realized that he was in love with me too. There would be one less old maid in “Geritol Hall” by the time the fall session started. Praise the LORD!

Words cannot even express how thankful I am for my wonderful husband. I know with utmost certainty that the LORD hand-picked him for me, and I for him; no two people are more perfectly suited for each other than we are. My beloved and I have been blissfully married for almost 22 years now, and we are still best friends. However, I’m not saying this to be boastful.

I simply want to remind you, dear reader, that God’s blessings are always before us, whether we see them or not. After all, blessings come in many different packages. At the end of an “uneventful” day, you might be tempted to think that nothing special happened. In reality, however, God may have prevented you from being in a fatal car accident, kept your child from harm, zapped that tumor you didn’t even know you had, and blessed you in a hundred other invisible ways.

Knowing this, we need never look around and ask, “Where are you, LORD?” We need only praise Him and say:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19).

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I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere… Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I Belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans.”
― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

As a child, all I wanted was to be loved by my parents and accepted by my peers. I tried in so many ways to make that happen, but my parents had their own issues and my classmates were just downright mean. If only I hadn’t been so desperate for acceptance at school, I might not have fallen so easily into the other kid’s traps.

Some of their taunts were less demeaning than others. The pencil incident might have fallen into this category, except that my foolish error earned me the nickname “Stubby” for most of fourth grade. As I said, kids can be mean.

Normally, I was suspicious when other kids showed an interest in me, but on that particular day, I totally dropped my guard when one of the really popular girls walked up to me and began chatting as though we were long-time buddies. I thought perhaps there were a few “golden people” after all. During the course of the conversation she asked me if I preferred long pencils or stubby ones. “Long,” I answered truthfully, “and very sharp.”

“Me too, she replied. “It looks like we have something in common after all.”

I stood there dumbfounded as she walked away, but I was happy.

Then the unthinkable happened; a second “golden girl” came up and began chatting with me also. I should’ve suspected something was amiss, but I was too busy basking in the moment. This girl also brought up the topic of pencils, but unlike the first, she volunteered that she loved writing with stubby pencils before asking me my preference.

It was very wrong of me, I know, but I wanted to have something in common with her too, so I assured her that I liked stubby pencils as well. “That’s what I thought,” she smugly barked, then walked away. My heart sank as the two girls started their confab, while shooting arrogant glances in my direction.  Naturally, they shared my indiscretion with all the other kids. They all sang their stinging words, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” and “Hey Stubby, got a pencil?”  until I was practically in tears and longed desperately to return to my invisible status.

Little did I know, but I was never invisible to the only one that mattered. Not only did He love me unconditionally, and accept me just as I was –lonely and broken- He loved me enough to lead me to a golden place when the time was right.

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
~~Psalm 139:1-18 NIV

To this day, I still don’t like stubby pencils. But I don’t keep a beautiful glass jar, full of long, sharp pencils, on my desktop because I have something to prove. They are there to remind me of the power of words. I guess that is one reason I still love the feeling of a pencil between my fingers. Every now and then, I pick-up one of my long, sharp pencils and think to myself, God loves me just as I am, and He has written me in His book.  And that, dear reader,  often inspires me to write words of encouragement to you.

I know that my words, in the midst of the psalmist’s are, as Mr. Yates penned, the ugly duckling among the swans.” Even so, I hope you were encouraged by them in some way.

Postscript: The opening quote from Revolutionary Road does not reflect an endorsement for Mr. Yates, nor his book.  Truthfully, I have never read the book and cannot, therefore, speak to its contents.  I merely stumbled upon the aforementioned quote and felt that it accurately described how I felt as a child, dreaming of far away places where people were kind and underdogs like myself would be accepted.  Mr. Yates’ book, as I understand, is a secular work with questionable themes.  So again, I am not endorsing His book by sharing this beautiful quote.

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