Search me O God

I can see it (all)!

Dusty. Sweaty. Tired. Sore. Yup, I just cleaned and reorganized the pantry. And I can see everything I need at a glance. Wow!  I’ve actually left the pantry door open because it looks so neat! Salad and mixing bowls are on a lower shelf where Don and I can easily reach them. It’s several years since I’ve done a full-on job on this. I’ve stretched my sore shoulder to reach for bowls I needed. I’ve forgotten what I had, so bought more of the same. I’ve stored foods I’ll never use. It was time!

And then I think how my walk with Jesus is a little like this pantry. I get cleansed with confession, adoration, and praise; and then life butts in and I allow things back into my heart that I should reject–anger, worry, self-centeredness … I forget to confess something and carry it with me. And then my life feels chaotic, my mind cluttered, my heart not free.

And I forget God’s marvelous, unchanging grace! And yet, Jesus is always there ready to forgive and to cleanse me.

I’m going to try to keep my pantry clean and organized; but I know disorganization will creep in. I hope to use it as a reminder of any cleanup I need to do between my Father and me, or between myself and others.

But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins. (I John 1:9/TLB)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24/TLB)

I’m so thankful for GRACE!

 What reminds you of your need for ongoing grace?

Making Room for Love–a Second Time Around

Falling in love and committing to a new marriage after losing a spouse took time. Was I willing to join my life with another after having been widowed? Did loving someone new mean I loved my first husband less? Was it in any way a betrayal of our love?

I wasn’t the only one who had the question. My friends also wondered how, when Jerry and I loved each other deeply, I could make room for another man in my life.

When I emailed a photo of Don to two of my close girlfriends, one wrote back a very short response. “Wow. Didn’t expect that. Wow.” I asked what she meant. She thought Don looked very much like an older Jerry. I didn’t see that resemblance myself, but I think my friend wondered if I was trying to replace Jerry.

Later she and I had another conversation where I tried to explain what it was like to love again. “It’s like I have two windows in my heart; Jerry is in one and now Don is in the other; it’s not a replacement, but rather an addition.” And what an addition, a gift from our good Father, he is!

On a recent trip to Israel together

Since Don is significantly older than I am (‘tho young in mind and body!) my friends also feared watching me go through go through widowhood again. It wasn’t easy the first time, for any of us. Not only did they love me; they loved my husband. And they watched me grieve, wept with me, let me go through the steps I needed to in order to heal. They didn’t want to see me in that kind of pain again.

But for me, the choice was to enjoy this second love for whatever time God gives us–or to walk away from it in order to protect my heart. I had asked God that if He had someone else for me, to bring that man to me. I didn’t want to be part of the dating game. While that works and is probably fun for some, it’s not where I wanted to spend my energy.

So God brought this gracious, loving man to me (and me to him) when Don and I met in a widow/ widower grief recovery group about two years after Jerry’s death. Neither of us attended the church where the group met; we came from homes twenty-seven miles apart…not in the same geographic location at all. While it took me awhile to commit, once I met Don there simply wasn’t anyone else for me. A God-thing, no doubt!

Seeking God’s guidance

God has blessed many wonderful women (and men) with the gift of being single after death or divorce. Their lives are full and complete as they follow Him in that new life, unless or until God brings someone else to them. But as more of my friends are widowed, I remember the adjustments needed both by my friends and myself in entering a new marriage. God may bring another special person along: making room for that someone is not only a process for the single person, but also for her family and friends. Honor that. Talk to them about your feelings, needs, desires; help them to know your new love so they can accept and begin to appreciate and love him (or her) too, as my friends have done.

And when feelings are hurt, as mine were when my friends didn’t understand, trust God. Talk about it, to God first. Ask Him for direction for yourself, and also for their openness. I realized that I’d rather have five good years with Don than none! (And we’re now in year eight, for which we both thank God.) And I needed to trust God and my friends with the rest.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Helen Keller

If you’ve lost a partner to death or divorce, how is God meeting your needs for comfort and companionship?

How do we Give Thanks – All the Time?

How we can stay up in a down world?” Good question. God tells us to “rejoice always;” to “pray continually” (or incessantly), and to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I sure don’t always feel thankful; nor do I give thanks in every circumstance.

How can we be obedient to God’s command to be thankful in every circumstance when:

  • We lose a loved one to death
  • Divorce enters our lives or families
  • Children rebel
  • Pain wracks our bodies or minds
  • Finances are a challenge, or
  • A spouse or child rejects Christ?

Not long ago, my two-year old grandniece fell through a screen, from a second story bedroom window to the cement below. Seeing this little sweetheart very vulnerable in her hospital bed, a soft brace on her neck, and a purple, very swollen eye, hurt me. Thankful that she fell? Of course not. Thankful as we saw God’s protective hand over her, with no neurological damage? Yes. And if she had suffered greater damage? It’s not always easy to give thanks and I don’t think scripture gives us easy answers; but it does challenge us to trust in the ‘God Who is There’.

Years ago, I was targeted by an employee. I did not appreciate her hostility or efforts to sabotage me. However, as I ate my lunch each day, reading the Psalms and looking at a beautiful oak tree across the road, God spoke peace to my heart. He assured me that He would care for and justify me. And He did, when she was later caught stealing from the company. And as I waited for an outcome that I couldn’t anticipate, I chose to trust that God would rectify a situation I could not correct.

In her recent sermon, Pastor Valerie Webb reminded us that we’re not told to give thanks FOR everything. But IN every circumstance we can give thanks. Why?

  • Because we have a God who cares (Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” I Peter 5:7, TLB).
  • Because our God feels with us in our suffering; He wants to carry our burdens (“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens”–Psalm 68:19); and
  • Because He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”–Hebrews 13:5).

And because He is ultimately in charge, we can thank Him–for His presence, His awareness of our need, His promise of faithfulness. God has a way for us, even in our pain, and despite the time and healing we may require to see His outworking.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses the prophet’s commitment to praise.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

When I focus on my circumstances I can get very down, discouraged, despairing. But when I focus on God, I choose to thank Him because He is holy, loving, forgiving, and is WITH ME – Immanuel!

Where do you need Jesus to be your burden-bearer right now?

 

 

I Listen Best in the Quiet …

“I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence. …

Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.”

These words from Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING touched my heart. They resonated with my thoughts about rest these last weeks. God speaks to me in  many ways. Some, like a soft breeze, are tender and enveloping, like a sweet whisper on the air. Others, like a thunder and lightning storm, are an awesome display of His creativity and power. And a radiant, coral-colored sunset speaks to me of His glory.

Don and I traveled a lot this Spring. Six trips in the last six months. Each has been meaningful: opportunities to walk and talk and bask in the beauty of God’s creation and man’s creativity in other parts of the world; to serve staff and children in Mexico whom we’ve learned to love over the past eight years; to learn and share and deepen writing skills at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference; and to travel to Canada with my mother to reconnect with many extended family members we haven’t seen for years.

We are grateful for these opportunities God gave us to travel, meet new friends, serve others, and meet family again. But our delight in travel caused us to plan a little too much in too compressed a time this Spring. Don felt he had to accomplish three times the amount of work between trips in order to prepare for our next absence. I tried to do laundry, schedule transportation, and prepare for the next trip while writing and keeping in touch with family and friends here. We felt unable to catch up at home between jaunts. Don’t misunderstand–I’m very grateful for these blessings; but scripture also tells us to rest, to plan wisely. Don and I agreed we didn’t do that this year and have committed to more time at home next Spring.

Since being home these past two weeks without another trip in the wind, we both feel more relaxed. We’ve been able to work at a reasonable pace. We’ve taken time to sit on our glider swing and enjoy the gentle breeze while eating a light lunch and catching up with each other, or planning for changes in the garden, or just laughing with each other over some little tickle to our funny bone. Yesterday I sat at the piano and played, a time of personal worship, something I haven’t done for a long time.

So, I am enjoying taking more naps, putting my feet up, playing “grab the stick” with Paigey, being with people we love, and sitting with my guy. And I’m thankful for this particular season of refreshing.

If God doesn’t build the house,
    the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
    the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves?” Psalm 127:1-2 MSG

My prayer is that you will experience God’s rest this week in a meaningful way.

QUESTION: How do you best experience rest? Are you in need of it right now? I’d love to hear.

 

Freedom, Used for Good

“The essence of America–that which really unites us–is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea–and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going.” Condoleezza Rice

Marian Anderson was the first African American woman to sing at the White House, and the first black Metropolitan Opera Star. My mother, a soloist and voice teacher, learned that Anderson was going to perform in Winnipeg, Canada, where I grew up.  Although I was just a child, probably 6 or 7, I remember the event clearly when our entire family went to hear Anderson’s marvelous contralto voice. Despite having been rejected for music school because of her color; despite the racial barriers that initially limited her opportunities, Anderson continued to follow her passion, and was later received at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera, in addition to the White House.  And, at her death at age 96, over 2000 admirers attended a memorial service held at Carnegie Hall.

As we celebrated Independence Day this week, we were reminded once again that freedom is not free. Whether the battle is for freedom of thought and worship, for racial equality, or for justice, it has cost the lives of many good men and women; others have suffered loss of family, of limbs, sometimes of emotional or mental stability. And still more have prayed for those in battle. The question is, what will we do with this hard-won freedom? That question is relevant for us as a nation, and even more so as Christ-followers. The Apostle Paul said, “For you have been called to live in freedom. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

Nellie Cashman’s purpose, borne out of Ireland’s potato famine, was to make money in order to serve others. This was what her faith dictated. Leaving County Cork, Ireland, where her father had died and many were starving, Nellie’s mother took her and her sister Fannie to the United States in about 1850. After growing up in Boston, Nellie, Fannie and their mother migrated to San Francisco in 1865.

Cashman loved the outdoors and became involved in prospecting for gold in California. Petite, she set up shop and learned mining in camps where she was the only woman. Never was she treated with anything less than the respect she demanded, and gave, in her dealings. She moved with new prospecting fields, and was noted across the American and Canadian west as a gold prospector, restaurateur and boarding house owner, nurse, and philanthropist.  She led a rescue of miners in the Cassiar Mountains–they were “my boys”.

E.A. Hegg / Library and Archives Canada C-005142

In her fifties Nellie climbed the Chilkoot steps out of Skagway, Alaska with a dogsled and provisions. With 900 pounds of food and supplies, 1100 short of the 2000-pounds required by the Mounties to pass through to the prospecting fields. She talked her way past the officers by comparing her weight (90 pounds) with that of the Mountie (200 pounds), stating why she wouldn’t need as much food and supplies as he would.

Throughout her life, Cashman used the money she earned in her many roles to build hospitals, churches, and to help those who were less fortunate. She used her freedom for good and, in 2006, was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame.

For a fascinating novelized biography, read TOUGHNUT ANGEL, by my friend Jane Carlisle Baker (available @ https://www.amazon.com/Toughnut-Angel-Tale-Real-Life-Adventuress/dp/1522980571/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498955102&sr=8-1&keywords=toughnut+angel).

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” Peter Marshall

Who has exemplified using their freedom for good in your life?