Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Joy in His Presence

"You hide them in the protection of Your presence" (Psalm 31:20).

I know I've read these words many times, but at the same time I feel like I've never seen them before. This morning the idea of being hidden in the protection of God's presence filled my heart and my mind with a holy sense of wonder. I held the thought in my mind until peace penetrated my soul, and my spirit and heart filled with joy.

I believe that you can read the Bible dutifully and find it to simply be words that lie flat on the page. That is why before I open God's word I ask the Spirit of Truth to reveal Himself to me. This morning I felt like I was drinking living water. When I meditated on hiding myself in the protection of God's presence, I felt like I was having Holy Communion and eating the bread of life.

Next, I opened a book I am reading by Charles Spurgeon on Joy and Redemption and found these words. "Amid a stream of troubled thoughts, there stands an island of rescue and redemption which supplies standing room for wonder and worship, while the music of the words sounds sweetly in our ears like the murmuring of a river. Read the entire psalm carefully and it will arouse your sympathy (Psalm 89), for the author was bearing bitter reproach and was almost broken-hearted by the grievous calamities of his nation. Yet his faith was strong in the faithfulness of God. So he sang in that night of his sorrow. Greatly does it glorify God for us to sing His high praises in storms of adversity and on beds of affliction. It magnifies His mercy if we can bless and adore Him when he takes as well as when He gives. It is good that out of the very mouth of the burning fiery furnace there should come a more burning note of grateful praise."

Something beautiful happens when you find your protection in the presence of God. When you hide yourself beneath the shadow of the wing of the Almighty you find more than security. When you find your resting place close to the heart of God, even if the circumstance of your life remain the same, you are changed. All who anchor themselves in the Lord become strong and courageous.

Not only do I find protection in the presence of God, I find redemption. There is a great exchange. The heavy garments of sorrow are exchanged for the festive garments of praise and joy.

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Memory Awakened by a Song

I wrapped myself in a warm blanket and sat on the porch waiting for the Sun to rise. As I sat waiting for the Light, my spirit was lifted up in praise through the words of a song.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

The music awoke a memory that was so fresh is was as if I were reliving it. In my memory it was dusk and I was once more in the car on my way the hospital to have brain surgery. All the way there I listened to the same song over and over.

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Your and You are mine

I saw again in my memory the small bed on which I lay surrounded by doctors. I felt so small and vulnerable, yet in my heart I heard the song.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet my fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

After the surgery my face became paralyzed. For three months I was unable to close my eye without taping it closed. The eye doctor told me I had two weeks before I would lose the vision in my eye. So I found myself going back to the hospital this time to have surgery on my eyes. Again I lifted my broken spirit with the words of the song.

So I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

They didn't put me to sleep for the eye surgery but instead they told me that they could play music for me to take my mind off of what they were doing. Once more I let the words of the song become my prayer.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without boundaries
Let me walk upon the waters 
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder
And faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior

The next morning I went out while it was still dark. I wrapped myself in a warm wool blanket and I waited for the dawn. Today these memories were reawaken, and once more I felt the joy of having my soul rest in my Savior's embrace.

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong


Thursday, March 2, 2017

What Kind of Love is This?

Every year it happens. I'm reading through the Bible and I get to Leviticus and find two chapters talking about leprosy. I have to admit it's hard to read about this skin disease. The word pictures of an infection that appears deeper than the skin is a hard one to look at. And so, this is where a lot of people who thought they would read through the Bible decide that maybe there is a better use of their time.

Why is so much space given to how to deal with this dread disease? I believe it is because when we look closer we realize that this disease that begins by attacking the joints and bones before it is ever seen in the skin is a picture of sin. Just like leprosy, sin has a deforming effect on man who was made in the image of God.

In time leprosy takes away the ability to feel pain. You might think this is a good thing, but without being able to feel pain someone with leprosy can't feel when what they are holding is burning their hand. Sin has the same effect: it silences the conscious. Because leprosy is so contagious it eventually brings isolation. Sin is also contagious; spreading like an untreated infection it destroys it's victim and eventually isolates them from friends and families.

In Biblical times there was no cure for leprosy unless God intervened. This year while reading Leviticus I began to weep. I saw Jesus more clearly than I'd ever seen Him before. I saw that He who knew no sin had become sin so that I might become the righteousness of God in Him. I think for the first time I understood the words of Isaiah a little more clearly.

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised and we didn't value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgression, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we have all turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53).

What kind of love is this that would cause the perfect, holy Son of God to leave His place in heaven and come to earth to touch a leprous sinner?! How could the Father bear to give His only son to bear the shame and bring the cure for those deformed by sin?! Why! would He lavished His love on us and wash us with the blood of His own son so that we could become His children?! What kind of love is this?

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.

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."