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Archive for the ‘God’s Goodness’ Category

She bounced up and down with such zeal, that buckets of powdery red dirt flew from her clothing onto my freshly scrubbed floors. “That was EPICALLY AMAZING!” she whooped. My precious athlete looked as though she had worn half of the softball field home, but nothing new there. She was scraped-up a bit too. Typical mom that I am, I hurt for her when she comes home with even the slightest injuries, but she never gives them a second thought because she learned a long time ago that victory has a price.

Disappointed that I couldn’t be there, I listened intently as she joyfully recounted her triple play, stolen bases and especially her “killer” dive into second base. Her team happened to “smoke” the opponents this time, but my daughter always has great sportsmanship win or lose. To her, the real victory is not in the scoreboard, but in the challenge of getting out there in the heat of the battle and giving it her all, knowing that if she does her best, she is a winner no matter what. I only hope that she will remember to keep the same attitude during her roughest battles in life.

After her play-by-play, my daughter ran off to shower. I remembered all the dirt that she would be washing off (because the shower was freshly scrubbed too) and thought about the refreshing that comes after a hard-earned victory.

This led me to reminisce about some of my own past victories. To be honest, I’m about as athletic as a three-legged elephant, and equally agile, but I know what it’s like to face life’s battles and triumph victoriously against all odds. If you have read my testimony, His Invisible Hand, you will know that I encountered God in an incredible, supernatural way, which has caused me to have great faith. Consequently, there have been certain battles which I conquered with barely a sweat broken. Other battles were not quite as easy. I walked away from some of those feeling injured and weary, needing much healing and reassurance afterward.

Still other battles raged in my life with such unrelenting ferocity that I stumbled, and questioned whether my faith was enough. I am being completely honest with you in admitting that one such battle nearly destroyed me, even as a believer. Had it not been for my loving, super-supportive husband, I might’ve stopped trusting God to see me through that particular battle.

I reminded God of His promise that He works all things together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. And then I adamantly insisted that “nothing good could ever come of this situation, never!” (Disclaimer: arguing with God, can be harmful to your spiritual health.)

Thankfully, I was wrong! Terribly wrong! It took me more than five years, but I was finally able to see how much good actually did come from that big, ugly mess. And, it took me that much time to wash away the grimy bondage which resulted from the deep wounds incurred. The people that wronged me (beyond belief) have never apologized nor changed their behavior in any way that I am aware of, but God used the situation to change me. He made me a far better and exceedingly stronger person.

I’m sharing this today because I have so many friends that are going through some pretty epic battles; perhaps you are too. You might even be feeling hopeless and doubt whether or not you have the faith to keep up the fight.

Let me encourage you that it is in your weakness that God makes you strong. It is in your failures that you learn to succeed. And it is in the face of overwhelming battles that you will face your most epically awesome victories. Remember, victory comes at a price. It may be a high price, but your Father in Heaven will never leave you or forsake you and He is, even now, stepping up to the plate on your behalf.

[archived post 2010]

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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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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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I am just brimming over with excitement! For the last few days it has actually looked, and felt,  like fall –my favorite time of year.  Joyfully, I have watched brightly colored leaves dance gently through the air, then land on the ground with the same delicacy in which a butterfly alights on a flower. The moist ground is now strewn with many beautiful shades of fall, and the air is finally crisp.

Every year, about this time, I have taken my children (while they were still young) to a pumpkin patch. It was our family’s tradition for the young ones to pick their own pumpkin and help bake a yummy treat of their choosing from its freshly cooked flesh. Nothing goes to waste. The seeds are roasted and the outer shell is composted. This is just one way that our children have learned to appreciate the bounty of fall.

Additionally, we also find ways to enjoy the simplicity and peacefulness of the fall season. For instance, when we were  ready to  pick pumpkins, we always choose a patch that was decorated only with articles from nature;  and included a hayrack ride and corn maze for fun. One year, the youngsters had to go through the corn maze to get to the pumpkins. That year my youngest son and I were the only ones who were able to go picking, so it was a great opportunity for some quality one-on-one time for the two of us.

The pumpkin patch was bustling with activity that day, and the line to enter the corn maze was long. Nevertheless, we patiently took our place behind thirty other people or so, many of whom were adults. As we inched forward through a clearly defined corner of the maze, I felt like we were being herded through a cattle shoot at a feedlot. Apparently my son felt the same way, because he asked me, “Why is everyone just following the crowd?”

Pointing to one of the maze’s many side paths, he firmly stated, “We don’t need to follow everyone else; let’s go this way!” Delighted that my son was confident enough to think outside the box, I told him to lead the way, which  he gladly did. It took longer for us to arrive at the pumpkins, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

I have often thought back on that day with great satisfaction. It blesses me greatly that my children have learned to think for themselves, and that they are willing to take the path less travelled; especially in the area of their faith. Don’t get me wrong, my family and I are certainly  not rebels , but we prefer to let God’s Word define who we are and what we should do, rather than the status quo.

Those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord do not want us to stand out from the crowd, but I would like to encourage you to do  exactly that. After all, ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (I Peter 2:9).

Very soon, countless  others will file off to their end-of-the-month parties to celebrate Halloween while their children go trick-or-treating. May I further encourage you, dear reader, that it’s okay for you and your children to be a bit peculiar and celebrate  God instead.  Culture dictates that Halloween is the best and most important part of October, but I believe that every month in the year is all about God and our relationship with Him. Whereas God is not particularly pleased with Halloween, He is not opposed to all holidays. In fact, God  appointed seven High Holy Days for the nation of Israel and the righteous gentiles who came alongside them. Three of these are in the fall.  Though the dates vary because they are based on a lunar calendar, the celebratory feast of Tabernacles is nearly always in October.

Some Christians believe that we should observe God’s Holy Days, as defined in Scripture, and others don’t. That is an issue that every person must decide for themselves. Either way,   fall  is obviously very important to God.  I would, therefore, like to encourage you, as we enter the fall season, to truly focus on God. Remember His goodness, and appreciate the beauty and the bounty with which He has blessed us.

When you see pumpkins, or cornucopias spilling over with fruit, and when you smell the aroma of baked goods, may you be thankful for the great variety of foods that God has given us to eat throughout the year. When you see the multi-colored leaves falling like a gentle rain, may you be awed at the wonderful gift God has given us by way of breathtaking scenery, which changes with the seasons. And when you see the barren trees and darkening skies, may you remember the promise of resurrection in the spring.

Finally, remember that Scripture instructs you (and me) to Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14). While others are celebrating a holiday which glorifies death and darkness, may we conduct ourselves in a way that glorifies -and pleases-  Jesus Christ. If we refuse to follow the crowd they might just start following us! May it be so!

Postscript: Life can either be a confusing maze, or it can be amazing; the difference comes from whether you have a map or not. That map is the Holy Bible. If you have never read it, please do so. And if you do not own one, but would like to, jot me a note via the contact button and I would be happy to send you one – no obligation.

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In memory of my dear friend, Shiela.

And, in tribute to all the faithful, loving pastors who really care about the hurting.

WHEN A PASTOR TENDS TO ROSES

In the midst of frailty
Where the brier often grows,
God chose to lovingly restore
A beautiful, broken rose.

For her there was no sunshine;
She had known only rain.
Life’s storms had oft uprooted her,
And drenched her life with pain.

Thus, the rose was wilted;
Her natural luster had faded.
She thought her life to be a waste,
And her strength had been abated.

When she could no longer stand,
This rose crashed to the ground
Beneath the weight of her battles,
Which did so greatly abound.

She sought to find the answers
That would end her hellish war,
And give to her the kind of peace
We all are searching for.

At long last, she knelt and prayed,
Lest depression take its toll;
Until the soothing voice of God
Spoke life into her soul.

“Sheila, My child, I love you,”
He compassionately said.
“Your sufferings will come to an end;
There are brighter days ahead!”

“When you accepted me as Lord,
I forgave you of all your sin.
Now, I will fill you with inner peace,
And destroy the turmoil within.”

God spoke again to Sheila’s heart,
“I will send you a gentle pastor.
He will love you through each battle
And help your heart heal faster.”

He knew that Shiela needed support
In order for her to grow;
Until she reached the realms of glory
Where briers and weeds can’t go.

True to His Word, God sent a pastor
To embrace this broken rose,
And lead her back to the fertile garden
Where beauty and wisdom grows.

After only one brief chat with him,
Sheila knew she wasn’t alone
In her efforts to finally rid her life
Of all the weeds that had grown.

The pastor helped nourish her spirit,
And he lifted her always in prayer.
Sheila saw Jesus through him so oft,
She stopped yielding to hopeless despair.

Then, through her pastor’s guidance,
Which he offered with patience and grace;
Sheila understood God’s love and favor
Towards all those who seek His face.

She learned to believe God’s promises,
Of which she became quite zealous.
She clung to the life-giving words of God
Like the rose which clings to its trellis.

Though it took some time and trust,
Sheila was freed from all strife.
Her eyes then shone brightly with joy,
And peaceful contentment with life.

Unquestionably, Sheila had been restored,
And a lifetime of brokenness mended;
With the help of her faithful pastor,
Who loved her as God had intended.

No longer living in constant rain,
Shiela’s life reflected the Son
Until her radiant, inward beauty
Could be denied by none.

This rose had grown more beautiful
In the Master Gardner’s hand.
He then used her to touch others’ lives
In the many ways He planned.

Folks saw what God did for Shiela;
More than words can tell.
Thus, they were greatly encouraged
And turned to Him as well.

But alas, the beautiful rose has left.
She discarded her early vase.
In Heaven’s eternal garden,
She has gone to take her place.

Yet, Sheila will never be forgotten.
For the fragrance of God’s love,
Which flowed so freely through her,
Will linger with us, till we join her above.

To her faithful pastor,
And to all of her family and friends,
Sheila left a testimony of God’s healing
And of His love –a love which never ends!

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Some time ago, I promised to share more of my own personal encounters with the miraculous. This one is truly shocking –literally.

Four-thirty in the morning was just too early for me to wake up and get dressed, except for shoes, then drive my step-father to the commuter lot, but I had no choice. I needed the car that day and that was the only way I could get it. Along the way, flashes of lightning tore through the early morning sky to announce a coming storm. Although my plan had been to drive back home, dive into bed and pick up my dream where I left off, my step-father decreed something more important.

“You need to go home and wake up your mom and your brother, and ask them to help you take down the antennae before the storm hits.”

I only half obeyed. Suffice it to say that I was sure I could do the task myself. Besides, waking anyone else up that early was never a good idea, trust me. By the time I stood ready to dismount the antennae, it had already started to drizzle; there was about one-quarter inch of water standing on the deck. The cool water felt good on my bare feet, but I knew that going back to sleep was out of the question because the slow, but steady raindrops had already slapped me more awake than I wanted to be. That’s okay, I thought, because I love a nice storm and I’ll be awake to enjoy this one. Little did I know that I was about to experience a miracle; one that I would never forget.

The antennae was taller than I was, and just a bit heavy, but I could have capably managed a quick dismount had it not been for the sudden gust of wind that thrust the top-heavy apparatus right onto the power lines. My body went instantly rigid as the electricity flowed right through my body. My mind screamed, “Get it off!” but my body could not physically respond. Aside from the violent muscular jerking, I was paralyzed, unable to let go.

Have you have ever seen one of those cartoons where something disastrous happens in super slow motion? That’s what the whole trauma seemed like. The ball of energy, which started at the power line, worked its ways through both me and the antennae and entered the coax cable. Connected to the other end of the cable was my step-father’s prized Ham radio. The energy ball wrapped itself around the cable and headed straight for it.

The radio was the size of a large microwave and I just knew that it would blow-up. It did!

Everything probably happened rather quickly, but it sure didn’t seem like it. To this day, I remember having enough time to mentally cry out, “He’s gonna kill me! He’s gonna to kill me!”

I didn’t think I had been able to make any audible sound, but at some point I screamed loud enough to wake my family and bring the neighbors running. It was a bit late; the radio had already blown and I was glued to the deck, still unable to move. Oddly, though, once my mother opened the sliding glass door and stepped outside, the antennae came off the power line. I am still quite certain that it lifted itself, without any effort from me.

Once inside the house, I did receive a scolding. “You could’ve been killed!” she shrieked. The whole incident was so surreal that I hadn’t yet thought about the fact that I should have been electrocuted (I later learned that my disaster knocked out the town’s electricity for four city blocks). My only fear up to that point was the repercussions that I would face from an angry, temperamental step-father who treasured his radio equipment.

I was so overcome with worry that I stayed home that day and fretted. The clock, like the energy ball, seemed to creep towards its intended target in slow motion; it was one of the longest days of my life.

At the appointed time, I retrieved my step-father from the lot and explained what had happened. “You were right, I should have listened to you and woke up mom and brother, but…” My body went rigid again as I tensed, waiting for the verbal slaughter.

Instead, to my utter surprise, he cried. That was the second shock I received that day. When I was growing up, breaking a dish was practically a capital offense, but for this grave blunder no punishment was given. He only had compassion and understanding.

Dear reader, I want you to understand that at the time all of this happened, I did not know God. Yet, He still chose to look upon me with compassion and spared my life. It would be many years more before I would accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and thank Him for that merciful act, but He always looked-out for me anyway.

I hope you are blessed by this true testimony of God’s miraculous intervention. If you are in relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, I praise God. But if you are not, I want to you to know that He loves you no matter what, and He is looking out for you whether you realize it or not.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem that way to you. If not, it might be because you are trying to do everything in your own strength; thinking you can get through without help. But that doesn’t generally work. Without God, the winds of adversity will surely blow your way and wreak havoc until something finally blows-up.

My prayer for you today, dear reader, is for you to know that God is with you through every storm. He is merciful and compassionate, and He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1) because He cares for you very much.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25,26).

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A wise friend of mine recently said “Every country has a 4th of July. We should not celebrate the 4th, we must celebrate Independence Day! God Bless America.” 

I agree with Jackie. The Declaration of Independence may have been signed by our founding fathers, but it was sealed with the blood of the many patriots who sacrificed their lives in order to secure our freedom. Since that Declaration, countless men and women have devoted their lives, and in many instances lost them, in order that the United States of America may continue to be  free. It would be nothing less than shameful to diminish the selfless accomplishments of these patriots by reducing Independence Day to little more than cookouts and fireworks.

Having said that, I would like to propose that, during the course of our Independence Day celebrations, we all take time to boldly proclaim our “Declaration of Dependence”  as well. While it is true that our nation currently enjoys independence from other countries, we will by no means remain free from the tyranny of our adversaries unless we remain wholly dependent upon God! After all, as wonderful as this country is, we can do nothing in our own strength.

Speaking of Independence Day, consider this well-known quote from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These thoughts aren’t original. Let’s reflect briefly upon what the Bible has to say about them.

All men are created equal

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (3:28 NIV).

-They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are:

Life

I (Jesus) am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Liberty

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1)                                                                                                                  (We) shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (verse 21)

 

And the pursuit of happiness

   Whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he …happy is that people, whose God is the LORD (Psalms 16:20 & 144:15).

 

Like you, I am quite thankful for all of the men and women, past and present, which have defended this great nation and gifted us with these wonderful freedoms.  In the natural, however, they can be very fleeting –here today, gone tomorrow. Conversely, with God, they are everlasting. Words cannot even express how grateful I am that our Messiah, Jesus Christ, gave His own life in order that we could have even greater life, liberty and happiness –and that for all eternity!

Dear reader, I trust you will have a wonderful and blessed Independence Day, filled with lots of food, fireworks and fellowship.  But most of all, I hope you take some time to publicly thank God for the many freedoms He has granted, and that you will both acknowledge and  proclaim our “Declaration of Dependence” upon Him.

God bless…

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[This blog, originally titled In Search of Bigfoot, has been greatly modified from the original in order to share a different message.]

Though there were few opportunities for adventure in my childhood, I once joined a group of six or seven other kids on an expedition to find the elusive “Bigfoot” monster. Several people had boasted of an encounter with the smelly, gargantuan beast in those Missouri bluffs so we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to spot him for ourselves.

Armed with nothing more than a healthy dose of bravado, we headed into a thicket which was disturbed only by a narrow dirt road that had long since been abandoned. Obviously, we never saw any trace of Bigfoot there, but we did stumble upon a densely wooded area with a chain stretched between two trees. On it hung a sign which stated in large capital letters: NO TRESPASSING – VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT!

Tell a bunch of kids who are out for adventure they can’t do something and what do they do? Half the kids ducked the chain before I even finished reading. “C’mon,” my brother scolded, “You’re holding us up!” Reluctantly, I followed the others deeper into the woods.

To our surprise, we didn’t have to travel far when we came upon a wood railing fence which was well maintained. Beyond that stretched the largest, greenest yard I had ever seen. A man on a riding mower was cutting near the back of the house when he spied three of us sitting on his fence watching.

I couldn’t quite make-out the angry words he hollered at us but everyone turned and ran as fast as their legs would carry them. The older kids had to stop a few times to let us younger ones catch-up, which allowed the man enough time to trade his mower for a four-wheeler. It became increasingly evident that he would reach us long before we made it back to the house, but the older kids didn’t seem overly worried -at least not until we heard gun shots.

Don’t get me wrong, the man wasn’t planning to shoot a bunch of kids. But he certainly wanted to scare the daylights out of us, which he did. When he posted the no trespassing warning, he meant NO trespassing!

I’m sure he must’ve seen us hunkered in the bushes trying to hide as he passed by, but after a few more gunshots and choice words, the sound of the motor faded and he was gone. We ran back to the house and said nothing to our parents, resolved to pretend it never happened.

Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about that bungled Bigfoot adventure for years. Even if the Bigfoot legend is true, I’m certainly too old to go hunting for monsters. Nevertheless, I am still earnestly searching for something; I am continuously searching for God’s wisdom and understanding
–that is certainly worth finding no matter the challenges along the way.

I know that God is gracious and merciful, but He is also an awesome Heavenly Father who knows better than we do what is good for us and what is harmful. He has, therefore, placed “No Trespassing” commands throughout His word in order to keep us all safe and healthy.

Because I take God’s instructions very seriously, I always try to avoid whatever “monsters” God has forbidden me to pursue, regardless of how alluring they may be. That’s not always easy, of course, because human nature is easily enticed by the lure of the forbidden –just ask Adam and Eve. I learned the hard way, though, that giving into those temptations, as harmless as they may seem, only creates difficulty and heartache in the end. Even if the harm cannot be seen visibly, my spiritual well-being is always adversely affected, as is my relationship with the Lord. It’s not worth it.

Some no trespassing violations open doors of opportunity for the adversary to attack as well. Even so, I’m far more concerned about offending my Heavenly Father than I am about the devil’s schemes. That’s why I have firmly decided that if I am going to err, I would much rather do so by being overly strict in my attempts to obey God rather than being too compromising.

I want to encourage you, dear reader, please don’t view God’s No Trespassing warnings as oppressive restrictions, but rather as the profitable boundaries our Heavenly Father meant them to be. Like any loving parent, He expects us to obey the rules whether we understand His reasoning or not because they are meant for our good!

Finally, always remember that if we mess-up and duck some of God’s no trespassing warnings, we don’t have to hunker in the bushes in fear of His wrath. The Bible makes it clear that God does not desire violators to suffer harm. Yes, disobedience to His commandments is sin -which is punishable by death- but that’s why Jesus offered His own life as atonement for our sin. The preeminent message of the Holy Bible is forgiveness through repentance, by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Satan knows all about God’s no trespassing commands and deviously tempts mankind to ignore them. He delights in the thought that “violators will be shot.” However, God is merciful and gracious; His message is the opposite. He wants you to know above all, dear reader, that VIOLATERS CAN BE FORGIVEN!

Having searched for many things in this life, including legendary creatures, I can assure you that searching for God’s wisdom is far more exciting, profitable and rewarding than anything this world has to offer. Won’t you join me in the search?

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul
~ (Proverbs 2:1-10)

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I don’t mean to offend any of you art connoisseurs, but this Picasso painting, Dora Maar, is downright ugly in my estimation. However, it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I guess that’s why someone paid 95.2 million dollars for that painting at auction. Truthfully, I dislike most of Picasso’s work, yet some of it has sold for more than 100 million dollars. As they say, to each his own.

As for me, I would rather have a Thomas Kinkade. His artwork may not be as famous or as costly as Picassos’, but it is far more aesthetic. Known as the “painter of light,” Kinkade offers us a more realistic and pleasant portrayal of the world. Even so, his paintings only sell from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

Even if I had ninety-five million dollars to spend on a single painting I wouldn’t, especially not a Picasso. He may be considered an artistic genius but I just can’t get past the grotesque appearance of his subject matters.

I can’t even begin to imagine why someone would choose a ‘disfigured’ painting like Dora Maar over one that is serene, such as Kinkade’s Stillwater Cottage. Then again, I can’t imagine why my Lord, Jesus Christ, would find such value in me. If not for His grace, my life would still look more like a Picasso than a Kinkade. It wouldn’t matter though. Ugly as my life was, Jesus paid much more than $95 million dollars for me; He paid for me –and for you – with His own life.

Like the Picasso, I may not seem attractive to some. But again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t matter if I like Picasso’s work or not, he will always be considered a great artist and his work will always be highly prized.

Likewise, it doesn’t matter if others like the way my life looks or not –and that includes my physical appearance – because I was created by THE artist who created the heavens and earth and colored our world with beauty and splendor. As long as my life is one of the ‘paintings’ in God’s gallery, I will continue to have value beyond what this world can afford.

The same holds true for you too, dear reader. Don’t ever let anyone devalue you. Even if you feel your life is a mess, you aren’t finished yet. You are a work in progress. God knows all your shortcomings and inadequacies and He still thinks you are beautiful. That’s all that matters!

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

Rays of Light Volume I now in print.
Click here to order book

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