Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fifty Years

I did the math and was surprised to see that it's been fifty years. I can remember so vividly the afternoon that I told my mother I wanted to have more faith. She didn't even hesitate, she simply told me that if I wanted to have more faith I could find it by reading God's word.

The next morning at 5 a.m. my mother came quietly into my room without even turning on a light. She whispered into my ear,"If you want to have more faith, get up." Then she tiptoed out. My eyes opened and the battle began. My first prayer of the morning was, "God, help me! My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak!" Finally, after praying that prayer several times, I rolled onto the floor and crawled out of my room.

One thing I know for sure, I would have never gotten out of bed that morning if God hadn't answered the desperate prayer of a sleepy thirteen year old girl. But there is another thing I've learned after fifty years of reading through the Bible. It's God who initiates a relationship. In the Old Testament I read, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). In the New Testament I read that the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

I confess that over the last fifty years there have been seasons where is was more difficult to respond to God's invitation to know Him than others. When my children were babies and sleep was rare, sometimes I would hold onto a verse. A verse was all my tired brain could grasp. But even a verse when it is lit by God's glory can illumine the darkness.

You would think that reading the same book over and over for fifty years would get old, but it's just the opposite. Every morning I find myself waking with a sense of anticipation. I open God's word and feed my soul and spirit with bread from heaven. I quench my thirst with living water. He wakes me morning by morning and opens my ear like one who is being taught.

I have been wanting to share this ever since I realized that it's been fifty years since that first morning I crawled out of my bedroom begging God to help me. God does the pursuing, but we have the choice to respond to Him or not. I am so grateful that He not only gave me the desire for more faith but also heard my cry for help. He understood that my spirit was willing and that my flesh was weak.

Friday, August 5, 2016

I Can See

I am often asked if I can see with my right eye. Before responding I close my left eye and and check. Then I smile and say, yes.

I went for three months after my surgery unable to close my right eye because my face was paralyzed.  It was a miserable experience because my eye refused to close even when I taped it .The only relief I could get was to wear a patch.  The eye doctor finally told me that if I didn't do something in the next two weeks I would loose my vision permanently in that eye.

A couple of nights later I woke up and found that I was unable to see anything with that eye. I felt panic rising up in me. The taste of fear made me physically sick. I felt small, alone and afraid.  My prayer was short but desperate, "Please, please Lord, don't take my vision!" I had nothing else to say and fell asleep still unable to see.

The next morning I opened my eye and I could see.  The terror of the night before had been replaced by a deep sense of gratitude.  In the midst of my struggle I knew that the Lord was near. He had not been deaf to my cry for help.  The answer to that prayer was like a light shining in the darkness to help me find a path to joy.

Sometimes it's a battle not to be depressed, but when I find myself starting to go in that direction I close my left eye and let the vision in my right eye show me the truth. I have found that gratitude can heal the blindness of sorrow and help you see a pathway to peace.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

God has Placed Our Tears His Bottle

This past year has been really hard. This month has been particularly hard because I've been discovering some of the permanent ways my brain surgery has altered me. I knew that my right auditory nerve was severed during surgery and that I would no longer be able to hear anything out of that ear. But somehow I missed the fact that my balance nerve was also severed. The right side of my face was completely paralyzed for several months. Although the paralysis was not permanent, the trauma to my face caused a mis-wiring of my facial nerves. The mis-wiring is permanent. But one of the biggest things I'm struggling with is how to honestly process all these changes.

I don't want to be overly righteous and act as if I am not grieving a loss, but on the other hand I don't want to try to keep the spotlight on poor me. What I want to do is to be honest and vulnerable about who I am. This is the pattern I see in the Psalms when the psalmist is honest about his struggles and then points to the true source of comfort.

Psalm 56:8 says, "Record my misery; put my tears in your bottle--are they not in your record?" Then the psalmist goes on to say, "This I know: God is with me." I know without a doubt that I am not alone in my struggles; but the reason I want to share them is because ultimately I want to share the comfort of knowing that no hurt, no grief that we suffer is wasted or goes unnoticed by our heavenly father.

During my lifetime I have experienced an abundance of God's blessing, but these blessings have all been placed in a clay jar. More and more over the years this clay jar has begun to show the wear and tear of time. My prayer is that as this clay jar begins to be broken what is inside would become more visible. 

When I was younger I had dreams of the great things I wanted to do for God. Today I pray that His strength might be seen in my weakness. I pray that as I decrease He would increase. I also pray that I will be able to comfort others with the comfort I have received. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rejoicing in the Storm

I stepped out onto my porch and looked up into the thick darkness of the storm. It was a darkness that I not only saw but felt. Suddenly the heavens resounded with the crashing, booming sound of thunder. Then lightning lit up the world. The wind was so strong it caused the trees to bow. There was power in the storm. But instead of frightening me, the storm caused me to feel a deep sense of peace.

This has been a tumultuous year for me. I have often felt like I was in the middle of a powerful storm. In contrast to its power, I have felt my own vulnerability. At the height of the storm I sought and found refuge in the shelter of the Almighty. The darkness, the booming voice of the thunder, the bright flashes of lightning, caused me to flee for refuge and find strong encouragement to seize the hope that was set before me. As the storm raged around me, I found that my soul had found a sure and firm anchor.

When I am in a safe place, the the sounds of a storm around are transformed from frightening sounds into peaceful sounds. I am reminded of what Job said, "Listen carefully to the thunder of God's voice as it rolls from his mouth." The lightning that illumines the darkness comes at the Almighty's command. From my place of refuge I see the storms in my life as a display of His power.

I have learned to rejoice in the storms because by faith I can see the power of God at work. Sheltered by His love I have learned to endure the stormy nights that seemed to never end. I also found that as I sought refuge in His presence I have been changed. Experiencing God while the wind howled and the rain came relentlessly, my hope grew.

I have not been disappointed by hope because even as the heavens pour out rain I have felt the love of God being poured out into my heart. In the midst of the storm I have encounter the power of the Holy Spirit of God. So, as I see the dark clouds gather and I begin to hear again the rumbling voice of the thunder I smile, because it reminds me of the almighty power of the God who loves me and who is the Lord of the storm.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

From the Womb of the Dawn

Shadows of darkness linger in the sky, but as I take my seat I turn my eyes to the East. From the womb of the dawn a new day issues forth. He awakens me morning by morning and opens my ear like one who is being taught... and so I listen.

As I watch the light overtake the darkness, I see that each drop of dew has encapsulated a rainbow. I breathe deeply the fresh moist air of the morning and let the message of hope bathe my spirit in truth. The same God who wraps Himself with light as with a garment has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The freshness of the morning reminds me that I am invited to let go the burdens of yesterday and instead to humble myself and receive the fresh mercies that are being offered. More faithful than the sunrise is the God that I worship. I find rest for my soul in His compassion that never fails.

Each morning in the light of the newborn day I open His word and worship Him in Spirit and unveiled reality. I commune with my Creator and nourish my soul with the bread of heaven. The events of this day are unknown to me, but not to Him. In worship I take hold of the One who holds yesterday, today and tomorrow in His hands.

In His presence I know a peace that passes understanding. As the sky is transformed from light blue to a deep sapphire, I hear a voice from Heaven say, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty." As I rise to begin my day, I add my voice to the voices of all who believe. "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Anchoring My Attention in Eternity

I was twelve years old when I heard the song for the first song.The song affected me so much I almost swooned. It makes me smile to remember my strong emotional reactions because the song was Yesterday by the Beatles. And to be honest at twelve years of age I really didn't have that many yesterdays to count.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believed in yesterday

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be 
There's a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

I said somethings wrong now I long for yesterday
Now I need a place to place to hide away 
Oh, I believe in yesterday

This is has been a year of change and in many ways a year of loss. It's been the kind of year that makes me look back and remember my yesterdays with a sense of longing. But recently an obscure Bible verse kept coming to mind. It was a instruction on how to deal with the feelings that I was having, "Don't say, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not wise of you to ask" (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

The night after I looked the verse up to find out where it was I had trouble sleeping. I thought about the wisdom of not asking why the former days were better than the days we are living in, and I decided to turn my attention to the name that God gave Moses to call Him, I AM.

As I focused on what it meant to worship I AM, I could feel the knots in my soul begin to untie. I remembered that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I began to rest in the truth that His steadfast love never failed and His mercy was new every morning. When I anchored my mind, my soul and my spirit in the great I AM, I was ushered before the throne of the Eternal God. With eternity in mind, the thoughts of yesterday found their correct perspective.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Life's True Purpose

The sky was painted with the colors of the sunset and the evening breeze began to gently blow as Papa and I sat in companionable silence. His wife of sixty four years had died earlier that week. His voice was tender and full of emotion when he finally spoke. We talked that night about the meaning of life.

Papa was ninety one years old, yet, when he was a young child, even before he was able to read, his mother taught him the first catechism question and he never forgot it. So that night I gently asked him, "Papa, what is the chief end of man?" Without hesitation he responded, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

In some ways the answer seemed simple, but the weight of its meaning had brought stability to all he had encountered in his ninety one years. Papa had seen God's glory as he gazed into the heavens seeking a sign that a drought would be broken by the coming of rain. As a farmer he had entered into the joy of creation when watching the birth of a calf. He understood too that, though he could put the seed into the ground, only God could make it grow.

That night we sat together watching the sunset and talking about the meaning of life. Papa put his gnarled hand down to gently stroke the head of his faithful dog. We spoke of heaven and, although there was deep sorrow, there was also joy. This was a man who had walked humbly and quietly with his Savior, glorifying and enjoying Him in both the big and the small things of life.

It was silent for a few minutes and then I turned to Papa and said. "You know, if God calls you home you can go." He seemed startled for a moment and said, "Sarah, do you know what you are saying?" I spoke with quiet conviction. "Papa, when you were a little boy your mother taught you that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I think you've done that." All of his life he had sought to glorify God. The next morning he was welcomed into the joy of His presence.

Where Papa and I sat that last night of his life there is a marble bench given in honor of Papa and Ma Belle. Sometimes at twilight I sit there and pray that my children will remember the lesson their grandfather learned from his mother--that the true purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.