The broad strokes of God’s love

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Dear Sister in Christ, dear fellow care-giving wife, it’s the best of days when you are mind-blown, blown away, filled to overflowing with the knowledge of God’s love for you.

NOT all days are like this. In fact, most days we trudge along. One step, one foot in front of the other.

Then God takes off the blinders when you just refuse to let go of Him and His love. God, I will not let you go unless you bless me. Like Job, you know deep down — though He slay me, I will trust in Him.

Just one tiny glimpse of a few truths of Scripture where God shows His love, and I feel like the richest lady on earth. I’m writing this to remember this day. I’m setting up my memorial stones, and telling myself, remember. Don’t forget. God loves you dearly, fully, completely in Christ Jesus.

I want to tell you, too. I’m hoping you will be encouraged along with me. If you’re at all like me, you need it. You struggle like me to desperately believe and hang on to hope in God’s unfailing goodness and love for you.

What sparked this epiphany? Valentines Day? Naaah. Actually, that’s a hard holiday for those of us whose husbands are too laid up with health issues to be that romantic knight in shining armor.

In fact, I’ll turn off my FB feed that day. I don’t need to feed the feelings of longing when I see my friends light up and share all the wonderful things their truly good hubs do for them. I am blessed by their godly love. I really am. But I don’t need to wallow in what I am missing.

What I have is actually waaay more wonderful!

The Lord my Maker is my Husband.

He sings over me.

He rejoices over me.

He came looking for me, and brought me into His house of love.

He says all the riches of His eternal kingdom are mine forever.

He tells me over and over that He will provide for my needs. And He has. So very faithfully and just in time.

Where do I see His love painted in such big, broad brushstrokes? First, in Jesus’ broken body, hanging on the cross for my sins, eternal love is painted in blood.

Next, I see His compassion poured out on those whom society rejected: the weak, the blind, the sick, the lame, the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors (thieves by their day’s standards), and the Prodigal Son. This means compassion for sick husbands, too, unable to provide for their wives.

The disabled, the abnormal, the “special needs” among us all find equal grace and equal royal privileges at the foot of the cross.

Let me illustrate this point.

In the Bible, mentioned more than once, are a special category of people called “eunuchs”.  Ha! I’d always glossed over that until recently.

Eunuchs are a special class of people also mentioned in Augustine’s works, known as “hermaphrodites”. A certain class of these were forbidden by the Law of Moses to enter into temple worship. (Deut. 23:2) Outcasts by no fault of their own.

But Jesus did not ignore this problem. (Matt. 29:12)  In fact, unique prophecies included eunuchs with amazing promises given to them.

One of the most remarkable of these eunuchs was Daniel. A man who could not enter God’s temple entered into God’s presence in prayer so faithfully that angels literally fought the powers of hell to bring answers to his prayers.

In Isaiah 56 God lavishes beautiful, rich promises on these persons with special needs and physical abnormalities.

Finally, in a burst of gospel beauty, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah. Philip is specifically commanded by the Spirit to speak to the eunuch about Jesus.

The eunuch then asks a loaded question,

” What prevents me from being baptized?” Acts 8:26-28

Philip, a blue-blood Jew, understood what doors God’s grace had opened.

Boom! Baptized then and there. No second-class church membership for this eunuch.

In Christ alone we find this wholeness, a total acceptance in the Beloved. His perfect love lavishes His perfect beauty on His children. Now that’s more than any husband could give to me this Valentine’s Day.

 

What Master do you serve?

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Strange question for a blog for caregivers (and friends). Some days you may feel like ALL you do is serve the needs of chronic illness in your house.

I was truthfully bone-weary when I went to church this morning. I could barely stay awake. My husband’s many trips to the bathroom, though quietly attempted, disturbed my sleep. It’s an ongoing symptom that he is on meds for, but needs a surgery for long term relief. His body is broken in so many ways, it’s like living in a sci-fi horror story. He didn’t sleep for the pain, either.

Even, worse, the elderly minister, bless his heart, did not do much to keep me awake. Not his job, I know, but a little passion behind the pulpit never hurts!!

So I used my pen and paper in an attempt to focus. I truly believe God rewards our most feeble, even sleep-deprived efforts to draw near to Him. After all, it is His promise, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

One point really rang a bell in my own heart. Here’s where God’s beautiful faithfulness met me this morning.

This statement from Philippians 2:1

If there be any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit….

Comfort. Consolation. Fellowship.

Add mercies… likemindedness,

lowliness of mind,

each esteeming the other better than themselves.

This is where the rubber meets the road in our relationships.

It’s easy to get sick and tired of someone who is always sick and tired, just being real here! I’m a human being, too. 

Wonder of wonders! Joy of all joys — Jesus never gets tired of me, as sinsick and broken as I am.

What He is asking of me in relation to others is to pour out this same compassion. Let His love shine in and through me.

So as I face another week, I’m going to think about comfort and compassion. Christ’s comfort to me. His mercies and compassions that are new every morning.

I can’t serve two masters. He’s the only one I want. When I serve the needs in my house, He’s the one I’m serving.

Now that’s where God met me in His Word this morning. I’m glad I went to church. How about you?

 

Jesus, Savior, pilot me…

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photo credit: dreamstime.com

There’s a reason the Navy has a saying, almost like a blessing, “Fair winds and following seas.”

The fear factor of ocean travel has always been a level ten for me. I think it’s amazing! I wonder at the vast courage of a several thousands of years of men, women, and children who have embarked on multitudes of sea voyages.

Without the hundreds of thousands of brave travelers, we would not have the global knowledge and technological advances we enjoy today.

The Horatio Hornblower movies, BBC version, was like viewing a foreign world for me. The vast unknown and the thought of a wild storm at sea makes me a landlubber. A cozy home, a bit of solid earth under my feet, a garden, loving friends and family nearby, and a few animals, well, that’s my happy place. My comfort zone.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my husband’s doctors said his body was undergoing “The Perfect Storm.” More bad news.

It’s a wild ride here. Things beyond our control, and out of the doctor’s control are raging in our lives right now. Like a ship being tossed by waves that are several stories high, we have no idea how to survive this. God is our only Rock of safety and Refuge in this storm. There’s no other Help for us. We’re not shaking our fists at Him. 

Even when and if the storm ceases, our ship is never going to look the same again. Not here on this earth. Battered, scarred, broken pieces dangling and useless… at least that’s what we’re tempted to think right now in the middle of the raging seas.

Maybe broken is beautiful?! God’s plans are not lost at sea. He brings all of His children safely to the Golden Shore. No wonder Jesus slept through the storm while his disciples thought, “Don’t you care that we are about to DIE?”  He trusted His Father completely.

Guess what? I’m waaay out of my comfort zone as a care-giving wife. It’s not a voyage I would have chosen. Lately I’ve done a lot of yelling and crying out in fear, just like Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water. “Lord, save me.”  I do trust You. I’m just not perfectly trusting like Jesus who could sleep in the middle of a massive storm. “Lord, help my unbelief.”

I cannot possibly fathom the outcome of this storm. I don’t know how to navigate these stormy seas by myself. I cry. every. single. day.

I know for sure some  of you ladies are right there with me. The sisterhood of the storm-battered and broken. So I’m reminding all of us, myself most of all,  of three simple ways to let Jesus pilot us through these storms.

Number one: Keep God’s Word before you every single day. Listen. Read. Write down a verse.

I am blessed to have the Psalms on CD. I sometimes have time to listen to Sermon Audio online. The Lord’s Day finds me in church. At times I cannot hold back the tears as God’s Word echoes truth to my heart. Truth is my life raft.

Number two: Tell God every single thing. Every doubt. Every fear. Every angry thought. He hears your cry above the howling storm.

He already knows. Pour out your heart before Him. He can take it. Quite possibly no other human can. We’re tempted to really wish they could.  It’s impossible for us to fully understand anothers’ burden. Even Christian counselors can’t see every facet of what is going on in your story. Helpful, but not always right. Like Job’s friends and wise counselors, none of them got it quite right, though they did have a lot of godly knowledge.

However, God knows every last hair on your head. While He often does use others to help guide us on our way, when the going gets too complicated, His wisdom never fails. Cry out to God who alone is our salvation.

Number three: Remember you are not the first or only person to sail through impossibly stormy seas.

Check out Hebrews 11 through 13. Read the stories of brave folk who lived through wars. I  love a couple biographies, especially. One of them has been made into a movie, The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom and her family were doing God’s work in Holland during WWII, rescuing Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazis.

Then some ugly, twisted soul tipped off the Gestapo. Corrie, her sickly sister Betsie, and her aged father were sent to concentration camps. Corrie was the only one to physically survive to tell the story. Beatings, starvation, personal humiliation, slave labor, cold, illness, fleas, watching her sister suffer, and not being able to bury her — she survived raging seas and stormy sorrow.

She lived to praise and glorify God, though her ship was battered and scarred.

Now that’s how I want my story to end. What about you? Are you hanging on for dear life? Post in the comments section, so we can pray for each other.

On our journey to You

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Hello on Monday! My normal time to sit, meditate, and write is the Lord’s Day. SON day. We don’t worship the created sun, but the Son who created all things.

Colossians 1:15-16…Random thought for you…

At this moment I’m using public wifi, waiting for my husband to get done with his pain management appointment.

It’s been a terrible weather weekend. I mention that because we’re not in control of this journey, as much as we schedule and plan.

More than a dozen lives journeyed into eternity in the past twenty four hours due to this nasty weather. Tornadoes tore through the South.

As I was listening to Psalm 84 set to music during our ride to the doctor, I was reminded of the journey, the bigger pilgrimage we’re on. Today matters. What I say. What I do. What I believe and think.

Expect tears on the journey. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” Psalm 34

We all have to pass through this valley of weeping. I need to find a way to make these tears a well of living water to encourage others on their pilgrimage.

The tears are very close to spilling from my eyes these days.

A friend at church yesterday told me her dear childhood friend lay dying alone  in a hospital far away. She couldn’t be there with her due to distance and money. Her friend has no family to be with her in the valley of the shadow.

Dying alone. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

If you’ve ever sat by the deathbed of someone you dearly love, you will understand. You want to BE there. You breathe your love to them — God’s love in Christ for them.

My friend and I wept together. Then we praised God. The dying friend had Jesus.

She was on her journey to JOY eternal.

So close. So perfect. The pain is so temporary. Her lonely life was about to be ablaze with His presence.

Being there to weep with my friend and to promise her prayer support was one huge reason for attending church.

I almost didn’t make it. It was another of those bone-weary morning wake-ups. I just did not want to roll out of bed. God tugged at my heart. “Seek My face.”

Seek to see His power and glory every day. His glory is revealed to those who love Him. Romans 8:28-32.

If you seek Him, You will find Him. His promises are rock solid.

There’s no sugar-coating it. Caregiving is hard. Loneliness rears its ugly head. You have to plan on purpose not to be tangled up in the endless cycle of self-pity and loneliness.

Don’t go this journey alone! You need God’s people to journey with you. No matter how little they understand your path, you have Jesus in common. There is a reason God instructs us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

Psalm 84 mentions temple worship with God’s people in His presence.

“Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere.”

Strength for our journey comes from spending time in His courts remembering who He is.

This week, plan to journey to His courts -to His house- on the Lord’s Day.

If you seek Him, He will be found, and He loves the company of His saints.

Another random meditation. How can it be that God would love to spend time with me? But He does. His Word assures me again and again.

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

This life I live, I cannot live without His love. I pray this finds you fleeing to the shadow of His wings today.

3 Prayers of Hope for January

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It’s January, a month commonly known for depression and suicide, according to an December 2015 article on wwwstatnews.com by Sharon Begley.

It’s also been my experience as a caregiver.  Depression hits hard this time of year. There are medical and physical reasons for this.

(I was reminding a young friend of this today as she goes to visit her sister with postpartum depression. Medical and physical reasons, dear. It’s not a sin issue, so deal gently.)

Once we get to mid March, the mood lightens. Spring is on its way. 

You and I need our weapons of warfare prepped for battle right now. It’s stinkin’ tough to not get sucked into the negative mire.

1) Pray what Jesus taught His disciples, known as the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,

Thy kingdom come,  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

I noticed a similar prayer in Isaiah 64.1   “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down….” Is. 64  

Job prayed this prayer, too, and God spoke to him directly!

Father, please come!

Please work do your kingdom work right now in my family.

Please deliver us from all the evil that illness inflicts.

Lead us not into any temptation to sin.

Provide for our physical and emotional needs.

Bring Yourself glory through our fragile lives.

2) Prayer of confession: talk to God about any known sins. Sin weighs one down.

6 But we all are as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousness is as filthy rags;
and we all fade as a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
who stirs up himself to take hold of You;
for You have hidden Your face from us
and have consumed us because of our iniquities.

Isaiah 64:4-7

Sound familiar? Remind you of Romans 3:23?

Remember the promises of Psalm 51, a prayer of confession of King David.

Then look at 1 John 1:9. Faithful, amazing forgiveness through our Faithful Jesus!

 

3) Pray the following prayer of surrender. Even the pain and suffering is part of His plan.

“8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father;
we are the clay, and You are our potter;
and we all are the work of Your hand.
9 Do not be wrathful beyond measure, O Lord,
nor remember iniquity forever;
look upon us, we pray,
we all are Your people.” Isaiah 64: 8-9

The chronically ill and disabled, the seeming lepers of society, are still part of His handiwork and kingdom.

Though original sin in the Garden of Eden created the DNA flaws, The Master Potter knows and cares about each vessel in all our unique flaws and sin issues. ( Not saying the DNA issues are sin. They are not. How we respond to them is a matter of good or evil.)

Ask for His presence to be known to you. “LOOK upon us, we pray, we are ALL Your people.”

Anyone who comes to the Father through Jesus Christ in faith and repentance can pray this prayer.

“The Lord takes pleasure in those that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” Psalm 147:11

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in HOPE through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13

While I would rather skip right over winter, maybe I would not appreciate the faith, hope, and courage God grants to my spouse and I to fight through it. 

Hope these prayers help keep you and I on track and encouraged. Pray on, dear sisters! Maybe this will be our favorite winter yet. 

 

Read to the end of the story

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I  read through the little book of Zephaniah today.(We’re snowed in.)

Have you ever read the minor prophets? It’s not for the faint of heart. Unlike the positivity thinking so prevalent in today’s American churches, these books do not gloss over the negative. Zephaniah is a short, one-two punch. Judgement is coming. God’s people and the church leaders (ch. 3:4) are among the guilty. Brace yourself.

The contrasts in God’s declarations are so vivid, it makes one reel with the truths revealed.

One example: “I will utterly consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from the land, says the LORD.” Zeph. 1:2-3

The contrast: ” Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be he shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.” Zeph. 2:3

 Maybe, like me, you struggle to deal with the changes that chronic illness brings. Just when you thought you may have one phase mastered, a new twist hits. The meds change, diagnosis shifts, the doctor scenario changes –a lot hinges on a good doctor — and your life is turned upside down yet again.

Chaos, war, judgment, destruction! Where is the hope in this? Keep reading!

“The just LORD is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.” Zeph. 3:5

The just LORD does not sin. He is in the middle of our lives, working in ways we cannot fathom.

One evidence of His true work in our lives is the same fruit He gives those who trusted Him in Zephaniah’s prophecy: ” The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, none shall make them afraid. ” Zephaniah 3:13

Safety, food, and rest! These most basic needs based on truth and trust are being met by God Himself for His children.

In the hands of their enemies, safety, food, and rest were never certain.

Now read these words of amazing comfort given to God’s people at end of this book of woes.

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;

He will save,

He will rejoice over thee with joy;

He will rest in his love,

He will joy over thee with singing… (3:17)

…Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee:

and I will save her that halteth,

and gather her that was driven out…” (3:19)

The end of your story and mine isn’t here and now. Keep reading.

Like me, you may seen a lot of heartbreak and misery unfold.

For Israel, war and captivity magnified misery.

Chronic pain and illness twists the knife in our daily living.

Relief is coming. It’s already paid for in full. ” HE has made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Your life may feel like a just another tale of human woe, but those that trust in the LORD will never be disappointed in the end!

Anyone want to just skip now to the end of the story? I know. Me, too. I can’t wait to read the end of your grace-filled story, either. Let’s pray for that ending where we glorify God and enjoy Him forever, together.

 

 

Jesus, the Light in our darkness

Encouragement for 2017

Now may the God of perseverance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus,

Romans 15:5

This should be the theme verse for my blog.

Perseverance and encouragement.

That’s the bottom line for surviving and  even thriving with chronic illness in the house.

The road seems long. The path is full of hairpin curves. You feel like you’re driving on a mountain road on a rainy, foggy night. (Did that one night. It was as bad as the ice storm I drove through once. White-knuckles all the way!)

No one, not even the doctors, has all the answers. In our case, they seem to find more questions than answers. How can so many things be wrong with one body!?

Only the God, whose hands made and fashioned you (Ps. 139), can know the depths of uncertainty and fear as you face each new challenge.

Fear. It has to be cast at His feet. It will cripple your soul. So many times God tells us, do not be afraid.

Fighting that battle right there with you, sisters. I’ve cried some downright ugly tears this year.

When you’re so broken you have NO idea what to do next, you make a choice. I’ve pulled out Romans 8:28, the Psalms, yes, ALL of God’s Word, and said, okay. I believe.

What next, God?

The surrender of trust fills your heart with faith and encouragement. Faith to find the mercies in each new day, faith to persevere and say, yes, God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up.

In the end, Love wins. Eternal, persistent love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for His adopted children will not fail. HIS kingdom come, His will be done.

 Along the way, let’s find that harmony and hope with each other. Let’s persist in love and encouragement.

I’m planning to keep blogging here for that one reason. One ray of light, one encouraging word, one candle for Jesus — that’s all I can do. Shalom in Jesus, sisters, for 2017! So drop me a line now and then. What bugs you? How can I encourage you?