Saturday, February 18, 2017

I'll walk you home

"Sarah, this is Debbie." It had been a long time since I had seen my friend and I was so happy to hear her voice. She asked about my family and how I was doing. And then she said, "Sarah, the doctors have told me that my cancer is terminal. I want to come see you and say goodbye."

I hung up the phone and sat in stunned silence while memories of my friend flooded my mind. I had only been married a month when we first met. However, she had only been married two week, so I shared with her all my wisdom. Thinking back over that memory I couldn't help but blush. Debbie had suffered for years with infertility when she decided to adopt. She named her daughter Sarah in my honor. She then gave me the privilege of being at the airport when Sarah arrived from Korea. I was there when she held her daughter in her arms for the first time. Debbie called me when she had received the impossible news that she was pregnant. She told me that she called me because it wasn't until she heard my reaction that she could dare to believe that it could be true. I didn't disappoint her. I reacted!

Debbie came. Our visit was bitter sweet. We had lived in different states and had each been busy raising our children so it had been several years since we'd seen each other. We spent the first day catching up, sharing stories. It was as if we were each opening a window to our souls to let someone else come in. We shared our joys and our sorrows.

At one point Debbie asked why the pain of one of my memories seemed so fresh. I told her it was because I had found an old journal in the attic and had read through it recently. She looked at me for a long time and then said, "Sarah, burn it. Life is to short to hold onto sorrow."

Before Debbie left I promised her that I would walk her home. I called her every day for the few months that she had left. I had no answers to the questions my dying friend asked. I couldn't understand the pain. Often my response was simply to weep with her. I was reminded of the children of Israel in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. I walked with Debbie in the wilderness; we shared our faith we spoke daily about the hope that is an anchor for our soul. However, the time came when it was time for Debbie to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. I could go with her no farther. It was here that I was aware that Joshua (Jesus) had come to part the flooded muddy waters of the Jordan and take my friend the rest of the way home.

https://youtu.be/5BSLQnXcLPM

Celebrate Me Home - The Perrys

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Safe House

The grass had not yet begun to grow on my granddaughter's grave and the memory of my daughter crushing the rose and letting the petals gently fall onto the tiny coffin was fresh on my mind when I got the call. "Mom, will you go with me to the courthouse?" There was a baby that needed to be placed in a Safe House and she wanted to volunteer her home. My first reaction was that I wanted to protect my child from any more heartache than she had already experienced.

We were sitting together in the courthouse corridor when the baby arrived. I will never forget the look of love and joy on my daughter's face when she saw him. When we went before the the judge he asked if anyone had come on behalf of the child. There was no one there except for the two of us. The judge accepted my daughter's offer of her home as a Safe House.

I raised my children in a designated Safe House with the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services that wasn't always safe. My maternal instincts were always to protect my children and to create a happy home for them, but I also had the desire to open my doors to a hurting world and share with others the love of Jesus. I found early on that hurting people will often hurt people, so I tried to teach my children how to live in a broken world with broken people. The truth that I wanted my children to understand was that we never reach down to others, because we are all broken. Instead, we reach across as equals to share the love of the only one who can truly save us, Jesus.

I have a confession to make. Opening my doors was hard.  As a mother, I wanted to put a wing of protection around my children and to keep them safe from the hurtful things I saw around me. I also found that only way I could help anyone was to cry out to the God whose ear is not deaf, and reach out to the God whose arm is not short so that He cannot save. I discovered that I could not protect my children from harm, but that I could teach them to seek shelter beneath the wing of a faithful God.

I was often plagued with the thought that I might have hurt my own children in my desire to share my home with others. This was the theme of many of my prayers as my children were growing up. Now my children have grown. I see now how God answered my prayer when I observe the compassion my children have for the hurting world around them. The decision my husband and I made to open our doors was like a stone cast into the water. I am watching now as ripples of mercy flow from the choices my children make to open their hearts and make a safe place for others.

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.