Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cure for a Trembling Heart

It was waiting for me when I woke up, like a fowler ready to cast its snare. As soon as my eyes opened I felt my heart entangled by the net of fear. I woke thinking about the situations over which I had no control. The "what if's" and "maybes" were like a plague stalking me in the darkness of the early morning. I had to find relief; so I cried out for help and heard, "Don't be afraid, for I am with you."

The problems were real. The situations I was facing were daunting. I felt my weakness as I walked haltingly into the new day. I eased myself down to sit in my chair, but my spirit lifted as I heard the voice of my Heavenly Father say, "Do not be discouraged, for I am your God." And courage came as I opened my heart to think about my God. He is a loving and tender father to whom I can go for comfort. He is a good shepherd, who restores my soul and leads me in the path that I should go. He is almighty, all powerful. the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. And He comes to me when I am overwhelmed by life and whispers gently to my trembling heart, "Do not be discouraged, for I am your God."

I thought about my responsibilities and my inadequacies. I thought about all those I love and how I wanted to protect them and guard them against the pestilence that seems ready to ravage them. When I looked at my own reflection in the mirror my heart sank. But again I heard the voice of my God saying, "I will strengthen you and help you." Once again I was reminded that I am not alone. I am not called on to deal with life in my own strength. I choose today to walk in the truth of His promise that when I call out Him He will answer me. He will be with me in trouble.

Like a young child who seeks the comfort of holding her father's hand when walking on an unfamiliar path, I reach out my hand to my Heavenly Father when I hear Him say, "I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." Now the Sun has risen and all the dark shadows have fled. Held by the strong and gentle hand of my Father I know that, though I may stumble, I will not fall. In His presence I have no fear. Because He is my God I have the courage to face my anxiety. Holding His hand I find rest for my soul and strength for the day.

At the dawning of the New Year I chose to claim Isaiah 41:10. Therefore, through the power of the Holy Spirit I hear God's word speaking to my soul, setting my spirit free, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

Saturday, December 31, 2016

On the Last Day of the Year

Every year I read through the Bible. When I come to the last day of the year my heart beats a little faster as I read the words of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. The prophet speaks of the great and awesome day of the Lord. "For indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them root and branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings..." (Malachi 4:1,2).  These words remind me of what Zechariah said concerning the birth of Jesus, "because of the tender mercies of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high" (Luke 1:78). And in Jesus the morning light from heaven broke upon us, inviting those who would to seek shelter beneath his wings, receiving salvation from the wrath of God that would be poured out upon the wicked.

The last Psalm begins and ends with the word, "Hallelujah!" As I read this last Psalm I feel as if the curtains of heaven are pulled back and my heart is filled with the music of trumpets. I hear the harp and the lyre all playing songs of praise. I feel within me my spirit laughing and dancing with joy at the sounds of the tambourine and the resounding cymbals; the praise of the clashing cymbals!
Everything that has breath is praising God in His sanctuary. In the sheer beauty of praise I see Him in His mighty heavens. I am overwhelmed with praise for His powerful acts and His abundant greatness. My heart joins with all of creation as I cry out Hallelujah!

Now I read the last verse in the book of Proverbs and pray with all that is within me that this verse can be spoken of me, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates" (Proverbs 31:30-31). The tears burn in my eyes as I read these last words from the book of wisdom and my heart cries out, "Oh Lord, may the works of my hands and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight!"

Now I come to the last chapter in this love letter from God. "Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. On both sides of the river was the tree of life bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month." Even as I read these words I am reminded of Jesus crying out, "If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living waters flow from deep within him." Jesus broke the curse and now we are free to drink living water and eat from the tree of life. Then come the final words of the book, "He who testifies about these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen" (Revelation 22:20,21).

Tomorrow I will begin my day by reading, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Released

I wanted to. I tried to. I just didn't know how.

Following brain surgery I lost the hearing in my right ear. My balance nerve had been severed. My facial nerve was also damaged, causing the right side of my face to be paralyzed. It took three months and two surgeries before I was able to close my eye without taping it closed. However, the hardest loss of all was my loss of dignity.

Following the surgery I was unable to turn my brain off. I felt like I was a marionette whose strings were being pulled by unseen hands. I wanted desperately to sleep, to rest, to just stop thinking! Finally, I was taken to a doctor's office where I was asked to give my mental history. I was just getting ready to respond by saying that over forty years ago I had had a bi-polar episode but had not any problems with it until my brain surgery, when the person I was with began to answer for me. She began to give a detailed description of the most embarrassing chapter of my life. She was very thorough and nothing was left out. I sat there in stunned, humiliated silence.

Later, I went to a different doctor where I was allowed to speak. I was given something to help me sleep, and within a short amount of time I was back to normal--except for the tormentor called "Unforgiveness". I couldn't seem to get the degrading scene out of my mind. It played over and over. Each time I saw it, the rut was dug deeper into my mind. I felt like my soul had been scarred by shame. I didn't want to be angry; I truly wanted to forgive. I believed that this person had not intended to harm me but to help me. But that didn't matter. This incident became the focal point of pain, the place where my last shred of dignity was taken away.

The memory haunted me every day for over a year. Every day I prayed and asked God to help me forgive. And then finally it happened. My pastor was preaching on the Lord's prayer. When he got to the phrase, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," he explained that sometimes the reason we have trouble forgiving has to do with an idol in our heart. I prayed, "Father! what is the idol in my heart that is making it impossible for me to forgive?" As soon as I asked, I heard my Father say, "Your idol is your pride. You are seeking your own glory."

It was true. Everything that had happened since my surgery had been ripping away at my pride. I had always prayed for humility because I knew that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. I just had never realized how proud I really was. Now I realized that, like a skillful surgeon, God had used all the hurtful circumstances to expose this idol that was buried deep in my heart. I wish that I could say, "Thank God that's over with! I'll never struggle with pride again." But I know that it is a daily choice to humble myself. What I can say is that, when I was able to find the idol attached to my inability to forgive, God gave me the grace to forgive and He packed my wound with peace and healed it with His presence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Parable of the Doll

My eyes shot open with the thrill of anticipation. For months I had asked--no, I had demanded--that I be given the doll I had seen advertised on TV. I had hardly slept all night, and now at last it was Christmas morning. I ran into the living room, and there, beneath the tree, was the doll of my dreams. There was only one problem...my sister's name was on it.

I sat there in stunned silence staring at my sister and her doll until my mother came and took me to the gift that had my name on it. It was not what I had chosen or wanted. My disappointment was obvious. Mother gently explained that she had chosen this particular gift for me. She told me that she had gone to the store to buy what I had asked for, but when she saw this doll she knew it should be mine.

That Christmas I had the flu. I took Susie to my sick bed and somewhere during the day I found that my mother had made the right choice for me. I don't remember what happened to my sister's doll, but Susie became a symbol of my childhood. I spoke of her so often to my children that one Christmas morning to my utter delight there was a doll identical to Susie sitting under the tree! My daughter Elisabeth had searched for years until she found a replace for the doll of my childhood.

I have found that there are times when my Heavenly Father has chosen gifts for me, gifts that I would have never chosen for myself. These are things in my life that have seemed at first more like curses than blessings or gifts. Surely this was true of the man who was blind from birth who heard the question asked,"Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" But Jesus responded by saying,"This came about so that God's works might be displayed in him." And so the man's blindness was not a curse but instead a great gift.

Today my new Susie sits in an antique chair with her arms open wide. She is not only is a symbol of my childhood, she is a parable to me of a deeper truth. Sometimes an unwanted gift, chosen by a loving parent, represents a great blessing. Sometimes when the thing we thought was a curse comes in contact with Jesus we find that it is the place in which we see God's works displayed in our lives.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mother's Prayer and Blessed Hope

The words echo in our ears and are written on our heart.

We gathered to celebrate my mother's ninetieth birthday. Her nine children and their spouses surrounded her as she opened her gifts. After the last gift was opened my mother stood to speak. Mother shared with us her prayer, her blessing, her benediction for her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. We all know the prayer by heart, For many of us it is the prayer that we now pray for our children and grandchildren and one day for our great grandchildren.

Mother said, "I ask God for one hundred fold, that all my descendants will know Jesus Christ as their Savior. I pray that you will walk in the truth. I pray that you will fervently love each other." Mother then spoke of the blessed hope that she has, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This blessed hope of the second coming of Jesus was passed from her grandmother Nell Gillespie to her father and mother and then to her. It was urgent to mother that this baton which had been passed down to her should be passed onto the next generation.

Jesus' first coming was spoken of as, "the tender mercies of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 2:78,79). The Dawn came and the light shown, yet there were many who chose to stay in the darkness because they rejected the truth. They were unlike Simeon who was looking forward to and waiting for the promised coming of the Messiah.

The exhortation my ninety-year-old mother gave to her children is an echo of what Peter said. "I think it right as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things" (2 Peter:13-15). And what was the exhortation of both my mother and the apostle Peter? "So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).

My mother's eyes shone with the light of eternity when she spoke her benediction and shared her hope. As I listened to her voice, I heard an echo of the angels' voices when Jesus was taken up into heaven, "This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven" (Acts 1:11). I add my prayer to that of my mother--that all my descendants would know Jesus Christ as their Savior, that they would walk in the truth, love each other fervently and keep their eyes on the Eastern sky.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Message of Christmas

For some, the joy of Christmas is eclipsed by sadness.

I know many this year over whom death has cast a shadow. They saw the date approaching and simply wished that they could skip Christmas this year. But the first Christmas came because of the tender mercies of our God. His light shown into our darkness with the promise of eternal life.

For some, Christmas reminds them of their failures. Their life has been broken by choices they have made. The smiling faces around them only intensify the pain of their own broken heart. But the first Christmas came because God wanted His people to know that the Deliverer had come. There was forgiveness for their sins. Christmas represents the breaking of the curse.

One of the consciences of a broken heart is loneliness. This is a loneliness that cannot be remedied no matter how many people surround you. This loneliness can be reinforced during this season if the truth is forgotten. What is the truth? The truth is that Most High God dwells in the highest heaven and with those who have a broken and contrite heart.

The true promise of Christmas is that the Dawn from on high has visited us. There is no need to sit in the darkness because He has come to shine His light on us. He has come to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The message of Christmas was meant to bring comfort to those who grieve. The message of Christmas is that the Deliver has come to set us free because we could not free ourselves. The message of Christmas is that the light has overcame the darkness. If you listen carefully you will hear the message of Christmas. The message is that we don't have to be afraid. There is good news of great joy. We have a Savior.