Monday, September 30, 2013

God With Us


“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel---which means, God with us.” Matthew 1:21

This morning I read a devotional message about God’s majesty. It referenced remembering that God is mighty, sovereign, huge. It easy to get so comfortable with the idea of the constant Companion that God is to us and forget that He is also so far above us. He is such a dear and present friend that it is easy to forget that He is Almighty.
After reading that message, I sat with God. First I thanked Him for the closeness I can and do feel with Him. Then I asked to be more aware of His awesomeness, His uniqueness, His majesty.

For the last several weeks I’ve been experiencing a personal struggle. I haven’t wanted to ask for prayer from anyone. The struggle seemed to me, like a lack of faith. A few weeks in and I began to see this as something bigger. We hear and read about the battle for our souls. It is pictured as an actual physical battle that goes on while we are unaware. As I prayed the other morning I could actually picture that conflict. I’m pretty sure I know why it’s happening and I’m not willing to change. In fact I’m more determined than ever to stay the course. Still, I need to be victorious and I am well aware of where victory lives. Knowing I needed support I reached out to two people I love. They prayed and I believed that things would improve. I have God’s Word to stand on and two dear ones standing with me.

Back to this morning. I prayed, as I said, for a heightened awareness of God as God. His loving Father presence has been quite clear to me. I’ve leaned on Him, clung to Him and talked to Him incessantly. It was time for a glimpse of the side of Him that takes my breath away and renders me silent, awestruck.

He answered in spades!

Today was Sunday and shortly after praying for that glimpse, we headed to church. I love church but quite honestly I don’t often have my big God and me moments there. The worship I participate in at church is different from the more intimate moments of my quiet times. Today was different. The music, the message, the entire service spoke to the questions in my heart, the hesitation I’ve felt about asking for prayer support. That message and those songs were not chosen with me in mind, I barely know either of the pastors involved. This was not man ordained but it certainly was God ordained.

I asked to see His majesty and He showed me, in blazing glorious color with sound to match. Is my struggle over? That remains to be seen. If it is, if deliverance is immediate, praise God! If it’s a process with more to be learned and/or shared, praise God.
The important thing is that I know God is with me, Immanuel. He promises over and over in His Word that He will not leave or forsake us and we can believe that. He promises that no weapons formed against us will prosper and beyond that He sends us encouraging words, sights and even people to bolster our faith. We are not alone nor do we have reason to fear. Our God is an awesome God. Believe it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Lesson From the Not So Elderly*










I can everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

I live in a town where there is a grocery store whose advertising tagline is, “where shopping is a pleasure.” Years ago when my four children, all born in a five year span, were all very  young shopping was a pleasure. We had some great times running our errands.  Still with four small children, it was also an adventure.
When my second son started pre-school, I started doing some of the heavier shopping with just my two little ones, Jeffrey and Laura. The two of them were, and still are, quite colorful personalities. Suffice to say there is rarely a dull moment if either of them are around and never a dull moment when they’re together. Growing up they were best friends and they created alter egos, Mr. and Mrs. Biddy. I can only speculate as to where they got the name but they nailed the stereotype of “old couple.” He would wear his dad’s cap and a vest from an old suit and she would wear the hat I wore for my wedding and a crocheted shawl. Try to get the image, two fairly chubby, absolutely adorable little kids, four and a half and three years old, with their cute little kid outfits, covered over in the best “old” people style they could find. At home the outfits got much more elaborate but for public consumption we kept it to the hats, vest and shawl.

Mr. and Mrs. Biddy loved the grocery store, in particular, they loved the one with the toy shopping carts. When we went there, the Biddies would get their own cart and I would send subtle hints for things they could “buy.” “Oh look, this cereal is on sale. Do the Biddies like this cereal?” After a brief consultation, in halting, wavering, “old” voices, they would chose to buy or not buy whatever I was suggesting.

One day I was shopping for more than our family. We had company coming to stay so my focus was a bit off the couple shopping with me. I didn’t make many suggestions which left room in their cart. When we got to the checkout I put my things on the belt and the Biddies put theirs on right behind me as usual. The young woman at the checkout smiled at them and spoke to them as if they were truly a separate entity from me. Then she turned to me and asked, “Are you paying for the elderly couple’s groceries?” Something in her tone alerted me and I realized that I had no idea what those sweet “old” people had purchased.

I looked at the belt and saw six bags of egg noodles, his favorite and six bags of marshmallows, her favorite. Did we need those things? No. Did I want to find room in my pantry for them? No. But there they were my two precious gifts, hunched over, leaning into each other, as I suppose they believed all old people to do, discussing their lunch options because of course after a long morning of shopping old people need a nice lunch and a bit of a rest. “Of course,” I answered the clerk. “Those are my favorite old people in the world.” She grinned at me and they, secure then in the knowledge that their purchases were not going back on the shelf, giggled like the children they truly were and gave me quick hugs before dropping right back into character.
“Well, thank you, young lady.” I was told by Mr. Biddy, gruffly with an accompanying throat clearing.

“Isn’t she sweet?” His wife added, in her reed thin, watery older lady voice. 
That is a precious, precious memory for me. I can see them as clearly as if it were yesterday. Thinking of it I have to remind myself that he is now well over six feet tall, a handsome, responsible father of three. She is a beautiful young lady, all grown up whose own daughter, the second of three, has inherited her marshmallow addiction.

Recently I’ve realized it’s more than a great memory. It is a perfect illustration of how our Father loves us. The Biddies placed items in their cart for which they had no money. They did it in the hope that I, their mama, would come through for them. Every day I go to work, love my family and friends and in general live my life on a strength I do not personally possess.
Mr. and Mrs. Biddy did their shopping based on the knowledge of my love for them.  Friends we can live our lives with a much higher level of expectation. The expectation that all of our needs and many of our wants are provided for us by a loving Father.

Give him some praise today. Thank him for his providence, mercy and grace. And hey, if it suits you, eat some noodles and marshmallows.  
*I dedicate this message to two of my favorite people, two of my very best blessings, Jeffrey and Laura. Thanks for the laughs and the love.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

God Is Good


 

For God did not send his son to condemn the world but to save the world through him.  John 3:17

There is an expression that has been around for several years now, I think it may have started as a slogan for something but it is everywhere now. The expression is Life is Good. It’s on hats, shirts and bumper stickers.  My husband and I even have two DVD players that inform us of this when we turn them on, the company logo flashes and is followed by the words “Life is good.”  Some days I agree. Other days it makes me want to scoff. Oh really?
The truth is life is good. And it’s hard, annoying, difficult, wonderful, scary, exhilarating, boring, amazing, painful, beautiful…. Do you feel a bit like you’re on a merry go ‘round? Life is life. Read the Psalms. David would agree with my list of what life is and then some.

Life is a mixed bag. God is good. When life is wonderful, fun, happy, etcetera God is good.  When life is hard, awful, mundane, etcetera God is still good.
As I write I’m sitting at my desk. Above my head on a shelf is a picture of my husband and me at an amusement park. We are kissing. It’s one of those, “Give her a kiss, look like you’re having fun” poses that when the photographer prompts you to do you’re thinking, “Corny, I’m never buying this picture.” Obviously we did buy it because oddly enough, it’s really a sweet picture. And you know what that picture says to me? God is good.  

The husband I’m kissing in the picture is a complete and wonderful gift from God. That picture reminds me of the trip where it was taken and many more. It reminds me of that kiss and many more. It makes me smile because that dear man is my husband, the father of my children (four children, not his by birth but who he adopted out of love for them and for me), the grandfather of my grandchildren, my closest and dearest friend. He makes me feel happy, protected, loved, secure, appreciated, aggravated, annoyed, impatient and disappointed. Granted, the negatives are outweighed by far by the positives but still, my precious husband is human. God is not.
God never disappoints, humiliates, hurts or abandons. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Life is good, for certain, there are amazing wonderful moments in life. There are also days that while not special are just good. Life is also incredibly hard. Regardless of the day or the circumstances, God is good. Trust Him and life, even on the worst days won’t be quite as hard.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friends


 

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13


Who is your best friend? Is that an easy question for you? For me it is and it isn’t. I have two friends that are so dear to me that honestly I don’t know what I would do without either of them. The one has been my friend for many, many years, since we were ten years old. We live far apart now but that doesn’t stop us from sharing our lives, the ups, downs and quite frankly mundane and ridiculous as well. There is nothing that isn’t conversation fodder for us.

The other friend, I’ve known for about ten years but she is such a part of my daily life, such a blessing. I look forward to seeing her. We share things from the sublime to the ridiculous as well and like my other friend, she makes me smile, okay, laugh and just generally warms my heart.

Both of these ladies are constant, loving, loyal friends. I feel comfortable with them in any situation. I know that my heart is safe with them and I hope I offer them the same security.  In both cases I am quick and happy to pursue time to chat, to spend time together. I am blessed by their presence in my life. Truly there aren’t words to convey how important each of them is to me.

Who is your best friend? I just told you about my top two and I do dearly love them. The answer to who is truly my very dearest and best friend is Jesus. Even above my worldly top two girlfriends, even above my husband. But reading a message today about the kind of friend Jesus is to me, to you, to anyone who will accept him, I was taken back.
In our worldly friendship we tend to gravitate toward people who are good to us, who give us the things we want. (While I have received wonderful, sentimental and practical, expensive and not so much so, gifts from both of my dear ladies, that isn’t what I’m talking about.) We look for people who are like minded, who will give us support, love, encouragement. Sadly, some people look for friends who can give material gifts, opportunities, things of that nature.

Look at Jesus. He can give and does give us, any and every thing we need. And who pursues whom most of the time? He pursues us! Crazy right? If I knew a king in this world, a king who would happily supply all my needs and things I didn’t even know I wanted, I’d be on the phone, at his door, writing him sweet notes every single day. Not even to get more, but simply to acknowledge what had already been given.
It occurs to me that the emphasis in too many lives is on the wrong aspect. We, even those of us who are close, reverent and grateful, see God as a means to an end. He is but far, far, far more than that he is the end, the Alpha Omega.

Praise should flow from us without our even having to give it a thought. Friendship needs to be nurtured and appreciated. If it isn’t, it will fade away. In my two most important friendship I feel that I give almost as well as I get. It’s hard to say because they are so good to me that I wonder sometimes if I bless their lives as well.  In my relationship with Jesus I can never even begin to give in a measure that even vaguely resembles what he’s done for me. With Jesus there isn’t any gift that originates with me, as everything I have comes from him. (James 1:17)
Who is your best friend? Whatever your answer, be grateful for her/him but remember there is a friendship that surpasses all others and don’t neglect it.