Wednesday, September 28, 2011

After the Cross

In one of Dad's writings he said he was listening to an orchestra play "Jesus Paid It All".  As he was listening it struck him that Jesus really did pay it all. Dad said that the Spirit reminded him that we are not living before the cross.  We are living after the cross.  He realized that as Isaiah had said He would, Jesus paid for all our sin, our pain, our suffering, our sickness...all of it!

Isaiah 53:3-5 (New King James Version)
He is despised and rejected by men,
      A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
      And we hid, as it were,
our faces from Him;
      He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
      Surely He has borne our griefs
      And carried our sorrows;
      Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
      Smitten by God, and afflicted.
      But He
was wounded for our transgressions,
      
He was bruised for our iniquities;
      The chastisement for our peace
was upon Him,
      And by His stripes we are healed.


 Dad got out his Strong's concordance and looked up the word "grief" in verses 3 & 4.  He found out that it meant sickness, grief, sorrow, and pain.  He realized that Jesus had confirmed that it encompassed sickness in Matthew 8


Matthew 8:16-17 (New Living Translation)
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick.  This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said,   “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”

This prophecy of Jesus is telling us that we are going to have a better life on the resurrection side of the cross with Jesus.  Dad said that the cross is necessary to bring us into the living Christ.  It is Jesus and His work on the cross that makes it possible for us live in the presence of God the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to remember that Jesus is no longer on the cross.  He defeated death.  He is our strength and our power.  Dad said that many Christians today live beneath the privilege that Jesus paid for on the cross.  We fail to live in the "newness of life" as Jesus commanded his disciples to do.

Matthew 10:7-8 (The Message)
Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aunt Marjorie

Aunt Marjorie died Sunday after battling health problems for years.  Uncle Lin did everything he possibly could to help her and when he became ill, their kids were there to care for both of them.  What a beautiful family and what a beautiful expression of God's love!

Aunt Marjorie wasn't really my aunt.  She was married to Uncle Lin who wasn't really my uncle.  Lin Cravens was Dad's cousin.  They were as close as brothers.  He was always Uncle Lin to me.  Uncle Lin's dad, my great-uncle Willy Cravens was a Baptist preacher.  Lin was destined to become a Baptist preacher as well. 

As a young man Uncle Lin was serving as the pastor at Mom's church, New Home General Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff, MO.  Mom was a single young lady who had finished high school and was working at the local shoe factory.  When Uncle Lin's cousin Don came home on leave from the Navy, he said you have to meet this sweet young lady at my church. 

I've heard a couple of different renditions of this story, but basically, Lin introduced Mom & Dad to each other and a few short weeks later Lin married them at New Home General Baptist Church.  How romantic!

Uncle Lin was fortunate enough to find Aunt Marjorie.  I don't know their story but I do know they fell in love and were married for many, many years.  Uncle Lin adored Aunt Marjorie!  And with good reason.  Aunt Marjorie was a delightful woman.  Intelligent, artistic, quiet, humble.  Aunt Marjorie lost her eye sight several years ago.  Uncle Lin served as her eyes.  Even with poor eyesight she still created beautiful pottery.  At one of our family reunions several years ago I won the bid on an exquisite pitcher that Aunt Marjorie made.  I cherish that pitcher!

Uncle Lin is a jokester.  He always has magic tricks, jokes, etc.  His jokes and tricks always have a point.  He is very good at teaching kids.  He grabs their attention and then lets them know that God loves them. 

Most people wouldn't think that someone like that would be good at prison ministry, especially not in one of the roughest prison systems in the country, Orange County California.  Uncle Lin is an exceptional man.  He flourished in prison ministry because he loved people.  He didn't just say he loved people.  He truly, deeply loved people, even people in prison.  He wanted to help them.  He saw them through Jesus' eyes long before that song was made popular.  Aunt Marjorie supported him and was proud of him for his work among the toughest of the tough in this gang run prison.  Together, they had an awesome ministry!

I love  you, Aunt Marjorie!  I know you're in heaven with the rest of our family with your eyesight and health restored!  Hallelujah!

Revelation 14:12-13 (The Message)
Meanwhile, the saints stand passionately patient, keeping God's commands, staying faithful to Jesus.  I heard a voice out of Heaven, "Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master from now on; how blessed to die that way!"
   "Yes," says the Spirit, "and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they've done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Love

We started a new series this week at church.  It's about the Fruits of the Spirit.  We started yesterday with love.  Jesus commanded us to love.

John 13:34 (The Message)
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another."

If we're commanded to love one another, then how can love be a fruit?  After all, a fruit just grows.  It's not something you do.  If you get a chance, please go online and listed to the sermon by Dr. Bob Swikard.  It's a wonderful insight into the fruit of love.

http://www.springfieldfirst.org

Mom & Dad fully understood and lived out this commandment.  They were also a great example of how God can grow this fruit within us.  They both remained connected to God and allowed Him to work through them.  In this way, God was able to grow the fruits of His Spirit within them. 

A diseased or unhealthy tree will not produce much fruit, if any at all.  We have to be healthy inside, in our hearts, if we are to produce the Fruits of the Spirit.  And we all know that you won't get peaches from an oak tree.  The only way to change what is growing out of me is to change what is deep within me in my heart.

Luke 6:43-45 (The Message)
You don't get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It's who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds. 

What hope is there for me?  The thing is, I know Dad would say the same thing about himself.  The beauty of it is that no matter where we've been, how we've lived, there is hope!  God has provided a way for me to become connected to the true vine.  I can just see Dad saying this with his face beaming and chuckling, "Ha, ha!  Praise the Lord" in way only he could.  Praise the Lord, indeed!

1 John 4:7-10 (The Message)
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.

Friday, September 23, 2011

God's Spirit

I know I keep going back to this but if Dad is right and John 15:7 is the most powerful verse on prayer, then I need to meditate on it a lot!  I like to look at in in context.

John 15:5-8 (The Message)
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

I have to be joined to Christ.  Remain connected to Him.  I need to make myself at home with Him.  Christ and His Words at home in me.  That can't happen unless God's Spirit lives in me.  God's Spirit won't dwell in me unless He is comfortable there.  At home.  Can God live comfortably within me?

I Corinthians 6:19-20 (The Message)
Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.

In order for me to remain in God and he in me, I need to surrender my life and my body to him.  It's not enough just to choose to live for God.  I have to freely and fully surrender my life over to His control.  Have I created a "homey" environment for God?  Can he dwell comfortably within me?  Am I "at home" in Christ?

Where do you feel as comfortable as you do when you're at home?  Of course, where ever Mom & Dad lived always felt like home to me.  My grandmother's house (which my grandfather built when Mom was 12) was always home.  Aunt Sis' house is always home to me, no matter where she moves.  But the places where I feel at home are actually pretty limited. 

There are certainly many places where I feel uncomfortable.  How do you suppose God, who is Holy, righteous, and just, feels around me?  Just the thought of it makes me uneasy!  Praise God, He has clothed me in righteousness!  I need to respond by allowing God to live through me.

1 John 3:21-24  (The Message)
And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God! We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God's command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word

I keep thinking about Dad's thoughts on prayer.  I shared with you his note that John 15:7 was the most powerful verse on prayer.  That's quite a statement because the Bible has a lot to say about prayer!  Of course, a big part of that verse deals with the Word of God.

John 15:5-8 (The Message)
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.


The words of Christ at home in me as I am connected to Him.  How do I do that?   I know it has to be more than memorizing Scripture.  His Word in me.

As Mom & Dad acquired more grandkids and they were quickly growing up, birthday gifts became costly.  Mom knew she wouldn't be able to afford to spend a lot of money on all the cool stuff the kids were beginning to desire.

Instead, in the days leading up to each birthday Mom would send some little gift, a booklet, a plastic bracelet, a bookmark.  Little things and tucked inside each package would be a verse.  The last gift they would receive would be their "main" gift and of course, another verse would be tucked inside.

Today, my kids don't remember the gifts they received from their Grandparents but they remember getting the verses tucked inside.  Mom & Dad knew what would last and what would be the most valuable gift they could ever give.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (The Message)
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what.

God's powerful Word is connected to our power in prayer.  We must be in the Word and not just learning it but applying it to our lives.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 (The Message)
There's nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fire Ants

At our Bible study last night one of the gals mentioned that her son in the Army had been parachuting as part of his training.  Unfortunately, he landed in a very large mound of fire ants.  Thankfully, he had full gear on and did not suffer too badly.  It reminded me of a time when we lived on Guam. 

I was about 4 years old and was playing outside when somehow I ended up in a hill of fire ants.  I began screaming and running for the house.  If you're ever bitten by a fire ant, you'll know how they got their name!  Mom scooped me up and sat me in the kitchen sink.  As she was pulling my clothes off, she had cold water running over me trying to wash the fire ants away.

I know she was bitten in the process but she had no concerns for herself.  She only cared about me and getting the ants off of me.  Although it was an unpleasant experience, it was one I'll never forget.  Not only do I remember the pain and fear I felt not knowing what was happening to me, I remember how Mom reacted so quickly and selflessly to protect me.

It's a little how God, our perfect Father, feels about us.  He'll go to great lengths to help us.  He is our protector and our provider.  He loved us so much, He gave His only Son so that we could be spared.

John 3:16 - 17 (The Message)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

God loves you and me so very much!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Helper

As I look through the stacks of sermon notes that Dad has written over the years, I find myself very grateful for Mom.  Dad's handwriting is not the greatest but thankfully most of his sermon notes are typed.

Yes, you heard me right.  Not on a computer but on a very old-fashioned typewriter.  From the 1950's until about the 1980's or so, Mom typed his notes up for him.  Even after that, she typed most of them on the computer.  There is a big difference between the ones that Mom did and the ones that Dad entered.

What a lot of work!  After all, Dad could have just used his handwritten notes.  But Mom wanted to make it smoother for him to refer to as he preached.  All those years when people would say to Dad, "What a great sermon!"  Or, "That that sermon really helped me!"  Mom did not get any of the credit for her part but she didn't care.  Her main concern was to be a help to Dad and for people to be drawn to Christ. 

That is truly how Christ operated when He lived on earth.  In my Bible study tonight with my wonderful group of women, we talked about the importance of humility in our walk with the Lord.  I'd like to share a passage with you that talks about the humility of Jesus.  It's one I definitely need to meditate on!  I know this is a long passage, but it's so important.

Philippians 2:5-11 (The Message)
  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.  Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. 

 I need to fall on my face in reverent worship of my Lord!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Surrender

I've still been grappling with the issue of believing God.  Mom gave me a great book by Beth Moore on that subject several years ago.  Mom told me that book had changed the way she thought of the promises of God's Word.  The book is entitled "Believing God".  I have read it a couple of times but I need to read it again.

In that book Beth talks about how most of believe God did the things the Bible said He did and that He can do what the Bible says He can do.  However most of us just don't believe that God wants to do those things for us.

That's my problem.  How do I believe that He will do what His Word says He will do for me?  I have had prayers answered in miraculous ways.  But as my daughter shared with me, there have been many times I've prayed believing that it would happen but it never seemed to come about.  So now what?

In one of Dad's notes he wrote:
The whole secret of prayer is found in the words of Jesus, John 15:7.  Here is prayer that has unbounded power.  There is a way of asking and receiving exactly what we ask.  The first condition is, 'IF you abide in Me'".

John 15:7 (New International Version)
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Then Dad wrote: How do you get connected to the Vine?

The answer to that question is complex but crucial.   It is vital to surrender ourselves to Christ on a daily (and even hourly) basis.  Dad wrote:
Surrender is the wisest thing you can ever do!  Surrender to live a holy life for the glory of God.  Sanctify yourself.  Set yourself apart unto God, telling God that you love Him and want to be like Him.


I John 3:22 (The Message)
We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him.

Psalm 37:4
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.


Dad had a lot more to say on the subject but for now I'll leave these Words of Jesus:

 John 15:9-11 (The Message)
"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.  "I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Problem 2

A few weeks ago I wrote on some notes of Dad's where he challenged us to believe God.  Sounds pretty simple until you read the Bible.  Believe not only that God can do what He says He can do but believe that He wants to do it for (or through) me.  Really?  He'll move a mountain through little ol' me?

My daughter e-mailed me after I wrote that and explained that she had a problem really believing that God would work through her prayers.  After all, she prayed for her Dad for years and he still ended up dead of a drug overdose.  How do we know what to pray for and once we identify a need, how do we pray with conviction that God will really do it?

Tough questions.  Questions I grapple with as well.  Dad has written more on the subject and I will get back to his notes in future blogs but it dawned on me that we need to ground ourselves more in the Word and look at the context in which it was written. A verse many people like to quote when they have needs is Philippians 4:19.  I'm sure it's a verse you've heard many times in your life.

Philippians 4:19 (New International Version)
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 

Sounds great and easy enough.  God is rich and He will meet all my needs.   It doesn't say He can. It says He will.  But what's the context?  If you read the passage leading up to it, Paul is talking to the church in Philippi.  They had just sent gifts of support to Paul.  It wasn't the first time they had done this.  Paul says he had received their gifts.  I don't know what all it included but Paul indicates it was generous.  A lot of "wealth" preachers use this (and other) passages to say if you give them money, God will supply all of your needs.

Paul had true needs as he spread the Gospel to other nations.  Paul did not ask them to supply his needs.  Paul left that up to God.  God then laid it on the hearts of these church members to help Paul out.  There is no formula we can use to manipulate God to get what we want.  We just have to be in tune with God's heart and then follow in obedience when He reveals the next step to us.

Read what it says just a few verses before this one.

Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)
Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Have I learned to be content no matter what my circumstances are?  Would I be content if I were imprisoned for sharing the Gospel?  Paul wrote this letter from prison as he was awaiting trial for preaching the Gospel.

Trust is the key.  No matter what things may look like to our limited, physical minds, trust God to supply your needs as you obediently rest contented in Him.  Take a moment to read this entire chapter.  Paul speaks about the importance of praise and rejoicing in God and in praying instead of worrying.

Philippians 4:4-6 (The Message)
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Separation

When I had my first baby,  Mom came and stayed with me till he was a week old.  We lived in southern Indiana and they lived in southern Missouri at the time so it was about a four hour drive.  Mom told me later that when she went home, she cried most of the way.  I know now how she felt!

Thankfully, I only live about an hour and twenty minutes from my daughter and her husband but it's still a separation.  I saw him on the day he was born.  I returned when he was four days old and stayed until today, his one week birthday.  As I drove home I thought of how much he had changed in that one short week.  I don't want to go more than a couple of weeks without seeing him!

When I became a mom, all of a sudden my Mom was the smartest women on earth.  I called her as often as my long distance bill could take it.  I made the trip to Missouri much more often.  Seeing how much Mom and Dad loved being with my kids brought me so much joy.  The kids would often stay a week or two with Granny and Granddad.  When they came home, they were full of stories of all the fun they had.  Such adventures!

My Mom's sister and best friend got in on the action, too.  Aunt Sis (as I know her) and her husband, my Uncle Virgil, loved to take the kids for a week in the early Spring to go crappie fishing.  They had so much fun with them.  I am so fortunate to have such a loving, supportive family!

The Bible tells us that if we as human parents love our children and know how to give good gifts to them, how much more will God do for His own children?  Jesus talked about this in Matthew when He was teaching about prayer.

Matthew 7:10-11 (The Message)
"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

Thankfully I don't have to pay any long distance charges to talk to God.  Yet far too many times I wait until I have a problem to talk to Him.  I miss out on so much when I do that!  God doesn't like being separated from you and me.  He wants to talk to us, to have a deep, intimate relationship with us.

Galatians 4:4-7 (The Message)
But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you're also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

Oh, Papa, I know how much you miss me and long to be with me!  I'm so grateful that I won't be separated from you!  I will set aside more time to be with You!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

God's Heart

My daughter, Sarah and I took her 5 day old son, JT to the hospital for a routine checkup on Monday.  He had been asleep but woke up and decided he was hungry while we were in the car.  Since he's a breastfed baby, she couldn't feed him while he was in the car seat.  Of course, she wouldn't dream of taking him out of his seat in the car.  She tried to console him but to no avail.  He cried all the way there.  Thankfully, it was a short drive.  He did get to eat eventually and since he had surpassed his birth weight, he certainly hasn't missed a meal yet!

But being only 5 days old, he didn't understand.  He wanted to eat and his Mommy wasn't feeding him.  He kept crying out for food but it wasn't happening.  Sarah made the comment that it broke her heart to have to listen to him cry.  What she was doing was for his own good but he didn't know that. 

It immediately made me think of how God wants to give us our desires but since He loves us, He will only give us what is in our best interest.  I said imagine how God feels when we cry out to Him for something yet He has to answer, "Wait, my child."  Often we become angry with Him for not giving us what we are asking for when we ask for it.  How His heart must break!

Sarah asked, "Do you really think God's heart breaks for us?"  I felt sure it did.  When I had a few minutes tonight I looked in Scripture for instances.  There are plenty!  God's heart does break for us.  When we grow impatient with God and question Him, His heart breaks.  When we are disobedient, His heart breaks.  When tough things happen to us and we feel God has deserted us, His heart breaks.  After all, we are His children and He is the perfect Father who loves us more than we could fathom.  I like this reference from Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:29-32 (The Message)
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.  Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.  Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Mom and Dad used Psalm 23 as their morning devotional for a couple of months a few years ago.  They used Phillip Keller's book, "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" as guide for their study.  Even though most of us are familiar with Psalm 23, Mom told me it really opened her eyes as to how much God loves us.  He cares for us in ways we won't understand until we get to heaven.

Psalm 23 (The Message)
God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
      you find me quiet pools to drink from.
   True to your word,
      you let me catch my breath
      and send me in the right direction.
 

Even when the way goes through
      Death Valley,
   I'm not afraid
      when you walk at my side.
   Your trusty shepherd's crook
      makes me feel secure.
 

You serve me a six-course dinner
      right in front of my enemies.
   You revive my drooping head;
      my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
      every day of my life.
   I'm back home in the house of God

      for the rest of my life.



His love is perfect.  His love is deep.  And, yes, His heart breaks for us, His beloved children.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grandson

I'm staying with my daughter, Sarah, for a few days to help out with the new baby.  Her husband, Troy, had to go back to work today.  What a joy and a blessing to have this time with Sarah and to become acquainted with my new grandson, Jayden Troy (JT). 

I know I wrote about him the other day but I'm consumed by him right now!  What can I say?  His parents are so smitten by him!  His Dad can hardly stand it that he has to go to work and leave him all day.  His Mom can't let him out of her sight.  I knew they would be great parents but now I see that they truly are.

As I was holding JT today and he was snoozing in my arms with that sweet, new baby look on his face I thought about my Mom.  How she loved babies!  I couldn't help but shed a few tears as I thought how she would have loved to hold him.

I'll never forget when my son, Michael was born.  He was Mom & Dad's first grandchild.  Mom came and stayed with me for several days when I first came home from the hospital.  I had taken a shower and Mom was watching Mike for me.  When I came out of the bathroom, I heard Mom whispering.  I went to the doorway and just listened.  She was whispering to Michael about how much she and Granddad loved him and how much fun they were going to have in the years to come.

It could have been my hormones kicking in, but I began to cry.  It was so sweet listening to her talk to him like that!  It doesn't seem fair that the rest of her great-grandchildren will not be able hear her voice or feel her gentle caresses.  I know God has a plan but it's still hard to fathom the "why's" of it all.

Yet I trust God.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (The Message)
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you'll have it all—life healed and whole.

What a God He is!  I know God is watching over my family and me.  One day, I'll have it all!  What a promise!

Revelation 14:12-13 (The Message)
Meanwhile, the saints stand passionately patient, keeping God's commands, staying faithful to Jesus. I heard a voice out of Heaven, "Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master from now on; how blessed to die that way!"
   "Yes," says the Spirit, "and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they've done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end." 

Passionately patient.  Hmm...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Anniversary

Today is my parents wedding anniversary.  They were married September 10, 1952 at New Home General Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff, MO.  Dad's cousin, Linuel Cravens, was the pastor of Mom's church.  Dad was home on leave from the Navy.  They met, dated briefly, and married.  Mom once told me she had left Butler County only once in her life before she married Dad.  That was on her Senior Trip from high school.  After she married Dad, she was in for a lifetime of adventure. 

Following the wedding she packed up and moved to San Diego where Dad was stationed.  Dad got on a ship leaving Mom there.  Of course, he came back.  Through the course of their lives they served God on a ship in the Pacific ocean, in California, Indiana, Missouri, Guam, Florida, Jamaica, India, Philippians, Yap, Saipan, Honduras, Canada, and China.  And those are just the ones I know about.  They didn't spend a lot of time in some of these places but in others they were there for years.  One thing is certain, they were never bored!

My brother, Doug was born in 1954.  Dave was born in 1955 and my 3rd brother, Stephen, was born on their anniversary in 1956.  I remember one year we were celebrating Stephens birthday with a dinner.  Of course, it was also their anniversary.  David piped up and asked, "Why did you get married on Stephens birthday?"  Laughter erupted.  There was a lot of laughter in our home.

Through the years, their love for the Lord and for each other grew by leaps and bounds.  When they were approaching their 50th wedding anniversary, Mom told me she had no idea what love was when she married Dad.  She said, "As much as I thought I loved him on our wedding day, it pales in comparison to how much I love him now."  They were so very much in love!

About a year or so ago, my Dad told me he was having his quiet time one morning (which was something he did every morning!) and as he was praising God with tears flowing down his cheeks, he told God he loved Him more than anyone or anything in the world.  Dad said immediately God spoke to him and said, "No you don't."

Dad was taken aback but insisted, "Oh, yes, Lord!  I love You more than anything or anyone in the world!"  Again God was quick to answer, "You don't love me more than you love Helen."

Dad told me he fell to his knees and repented, agreeing with God.  He did love Mom more than he loved God.  He said he promised God he would work at loving God more than he loved Mom.  I don't know if he accomplished that but I feel sure that God won't mind.

Ephesians 5:29-33 (The Message)

 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That's how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become "one flesh." This is a huge mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!  I know you're celebrating together in heaven.

And a very Happy Birthday wish to you, Stephen!  Your favorite sister loves you!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Great Grandson

What a day today has been!  I had a phone call from my son-in-law, Troy, at 5:58 a.m.  He and my daughter, Sarah, were at the hospital and things were progressing.  Sarah wanted me to be there.  I got dressed, threw a bag together and hit the road but before I could get there, Jayden Troy was born.  He just wouldn't wait for his Nana.  It's okay.  Nana forgives him.

I had thought how great it would be if Jayden were born on Dad's birthday (September 4th) or Mom and Dad's anniversary (September 10th - which also happens to be his Great-Uncle Stephens birthday).  Jayden had other ideas.  As I thought about it during my drive, today is the perfect day for Jayden to be born.  It's Jayden's day and it's halfway between the other dates.  Born on 9/7/11 at 7:11 a.m.  Perfect!  Of course, I should have known.  After all, God's ways are perfect! 

Jayden Troy (JT) is perfect in every way.  He's as cute as he can be.  His coos are the sweetest sound ever!  His beautiful feet are huge, just like his Daddy's!  I know Mom & Dad would be proud of their grandson!  Born to their firstborn granddaughter.  It really drives home to me the fact that life does go on.  I can't wait to tell JT all about his Great-Granddad and his Great-Granny.  I'll tell him how much they loved him.  How they drove all the way from Springfield, Mo just to find out if he was a boy or a girl.

I'll also make sure he knows how much they loved the Lord.  I want him to know of his rich spiritual heritage.  How they prayed for him for years before he was conceived.  How they prayed for his children and grandchildren as I now do.

Yes, life does go on.  So do our memories.

Psalm 127:3-5 (The Message)
Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
      the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
   Like a warrior's fistful of arrows
      are the children of a vigorous youth.
   Oh, how blessed are you parents,
      with your quivers full of children!
   Your enemies don't stand a chance against you;
      you'll sweep them right off your doorstep.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heaven

I keep stumbling across notes of Dad's that seem as though they were meant for my family today.  I know it has to be God directing me.  In one of Dad's older Bibles he had note stuck in Revelation.  He had underlined Revelation 22:17 which is one of my favorite verses.  I have quoted it for you before but it bears repeating.  I like it best in The New Living Transalation.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

 Here is what Dad wrote:

My children are a blessing to my life.  They have good jobs, they are doing well in their lives.  But I see more than that.  I think of Doug finishing swim lessons when we lived on Guam.  I see Dave riding his bike with "no hands".  I picture Stephen loving our dog and feeding the horse.  I remember Donna in the school play and president of her class. I think of piano recitals, band concerts, track meets, marriage ceremonies, grandchildren.  I know I can't wait to spend eternity with my family.  

Heaven will seem like it was made for you and you alone because heaven is made for you, the saints and children of God.  The party is not here!  It's there!  Celebrate the souls that are saved!  One day I will see you at the HOUSE!  I will be free from this body with it's aches and pains.  We are made for another World!  

Some days drag and other days fly, but one day Jesus will call my name.  I'll be singing "When We All Get to Heaven" with new gusto!

I love that hymn, too.  I can hear Dad singing now:

Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we'll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
When we all get to heaven, 
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We'll sing and shout the victory!

I can't wait to sing it with you, Dad!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Burning Bush

I'm reading a book by Steven Furtick entitled "Sun Stand Still".  It's based on Joshua 10 when in the midst of a battle, Joshua realized he needed more time to finish the fight.  In front of the entire nation of Israel, Joshua had the audacity to ask God to stop the sun.  Can you imagine?  Just stop the sun in the middle of the sky!  What's even more incredible is that God did it!

Joshua 10:12-14 (The Messsage)
The day God gave the Amorites up to Israel, Joshua spoke to God, with all Israel listening:
   "Stop, Sun, over Gibeon;
   Halt, Moon, over Aijalon Valley."
   And Sun stopped,
   Moon stood stock still
   Until he defeated his enemies.
 (You can find this written in the Book of Jashar.) The sun stopped in its tracks in mid sky; just sat there all day. There's never been a day like that before or since—God took orders from a human voice! Truly, God fought for Israel.

The book is all about having this kind of audacious faith that dares to ask God for the impossible.  Joshua's mentor was Moses.   Not bad, huh?  Of course, now it's easy for us to look back and say Moses was an extraordinary man.  Joshua was a shoo-in to have that kind of faith.  But we forget that Moses and Joshua alike were both ordinary men.  A human just like you or me. 

The first time God appeared to Moses he showed up in a bush that was burning but didn't burn up.  What we don't talk about is what Moses was doing at the time.  If you look at Exodus 3 you'll see he was taking care of his father-in-law's sheep.

Exodus 3:1-2 (The Message)
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn't burn up.

He was just living an ordinary, mundane life.  He didn't even have a flock of his own!  I have one of Dad's Bible's.  In Exodus 3 where he has many verses underlined, he has a sticky note. 

Dad's note reads:
Moses would need more than a burning bush to deliver Israel.
Every time Moses had an encounter with God, he learned something new.
Look back on your life.  How have your experiences expanded your knowledge of Him?

I feel this was straight to me from Dad.  All my experiences have led me to this point.  My knowledge of God has expanded but I have so much more to learn!  If only I could learn to see God in the mundane everyday experiences!  How many "burning bushes" have I failed to notice?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dad's Birthday

Dad was born September 4, 1931 in Matthews, Mo.  He would have been 80 years old today.  He had 2 older brothers.  Four sisters and two more brothers would follow.  Although they never had money, they had a lot of love for each other and for the Lord.  Times were rough and rougher times were ahead with Dad's mother dying when Dad was just 11 years old.  Grampa just kept pushing on, loving the Lord, being obedient to Him, and doing what he felt was best for his young family.

Grampa was an orphan and never went to school.  At all.  His young wife taught him to read and write.  He instilled in his children a love of learning with most of them gaining bachelors degrees, some went on to earn master's degrees and still others gained doctorate degrees.  Amazing!

Dad was one of those with a doctorate degree and, while it was an honorary degree, he earned it the hard way.  He worked in the mission field and pushed for the education of local pastors as the best way to grow the church in other countries.  As the first full-time executive director of the General Baptist Foreign Mission Board he helped form the Matisalog Bible Institute in the Philippines.  He encouraged pastors in India to gain educations and helped mentor other pastors.  There is another Bible College named after him in Honduras.  Because of Dad's leadership many thousands have come to know the love of Christ through native pastors that speak their language and understand their culture.

Later on God led Dad to move to Florida and plant churches.  It was not an easy task but he knew that with God nothing was impossible.  He was always quick to remind anyone praising him that he did not accomplish anything but rather it was God working through him.  Oh, that I could be obedient and let God use me like that!

Of course, Mom was Dad's biggest supporter and encourager.  Packing up and going where ever God led them.  Dad was quick to accredit my faithful mother for her role in their ministry.  Their love was an incredible thing to witness as it drew them closer together through the years.  They were truly partners in ministry.  It's how God designed marriage to work!

Together, they served the Lord with their very lives right up to the end.  It was the purpose for their lives..

Acts 20:24-27 (The Message)
What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.  And so this is good-bye. You're not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God's inaugurated kingdom. I've done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God's will for you.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  Thank you for giving your all.

I love you and miss you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Family

I am anxiously awaiting the "Nana" call from my oldest daughter.  We are expecting Jayden Troy to come any day now.  Personally, I'm hoping he'll come on September 10th, my parents wedding anniversary.  Actually, my Aunt Sis put the thought in my mind awhile back.  What a fitting tribute to their wedding...their 2nd great-grandson born on the very day they were married! 

No matter what day he's born, it will be a blessed day!  My mom loved babies!  She could sit and hold a baby for hours on end and never seem to tire of it.  Thanksgiving Day, 2009, my grandson Kristopher was only 7 weeks old.  I think Mom held her great-grandson the entire day!

I've found myself on an emotional roller coaster this week.  Being in Mom & Dad's house was hard.  Dad's birthday is Sunday, their anniversary is the following Saturday and I'm expecting to meet my precious grandson for the first time within the next week or so.  It's almost too much to bear!

But praise God that life goes on and He keeps blessing my family with beautiful, new innocent lives.  What a blessing and what a responsibility!

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (The Message)
 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
 Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. 

Psalm 27:1-5 (The Message)
If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks.
   If God doesn't guard the city,
      the night watchman might as well nap.
   It's useless to rise early and go to bed late,
      and work your worried fingers to the bone.
   Don't you know he enjoys
      giving rest to those he loves?

  Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
      the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
   Like a warrior's fistful of arrows
      are the children of a vigorous youth.
   Oh, how blessed are you parents,
      with your quivers full of children!
   Your enemies don't stand a chance against you;
      you'll sweep them right off your doorstep
.

I am blessed!