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BUT GOD …

P1090285Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I’d like a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle.

But that’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But our pastor reminded me this weekend that God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s empowering.

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but Rene reminds me that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.

Carol’s Song of Praise

For the women’s Bible study I’m part of, we were asked to write our own “Magnificat”, our praise to God. This is following studying Mary’s Magnificat after she was told by an angel that she would bear a Savior who would save his people from their sins. This is my humble Magnificat today.

My soul rejoices in the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth.

 I gaze across the fertile green fields, hear the birds whistle, watch the hawks soar above me,
and see the cirrus clouds miles above.
The sun shines on the land you have made and I thank you for the rain you have brought.

I praise you for your glorious works, my Savior, Lord, Friend.
You created those verdant hills that I see;
You made the birds and gave them their melody.
You own all the vast expanse of the universe, yet you love ME. You are too marvelous for me to comprehend.
You knew me when I was in my mother’s womb.
You molded me from before birth, gifted me to serve you in specific ways.
Awesome that you would take a shy, quiet child and give her something to say!
You knew every day planned for me. You know the end from the beginning.
You know intimately the joys and pain that have been part of my life.
You have loved and wooed me, simple as I am.
My soul praises you, my God.

O Lord, I offer you my thanks.
You know everything about me.
You know when I sit or stand or feel angry with someone or am prideful.
You know the words that will come out of my mouth before they leave my lips.
Oh, God, let them honor you.

I cannot hide from you.
I don’t want to hide when I see your goodness in the land of the living,
When I rejoice in the peace and stillness of the day,
In the joy of a loving moment with my husband.

I do sometimes want to hide when pain throbs in my soul,
When people misunderstand me
Or judge me
Or tell me I’m wrong.
“What Lord? How could I be such a basket case? So selfish? Such a poor ‘Christ-follower’?”

And yet those scenes are never hidden from you
And you faithfully continue to love me
Even as you work to change me – my heart, my thoughts.
When I was in the midst of a raging storm
You held me fast though I had no strength with which to hold onto you.
You knew my frame, my weakness.

You were there when Dad left us for heaven. He saw you before leaving, and was radiant at your call!
You were there when Jerry passed into your arms and I fell onto his chest, sobbing.
You were there when I flew home with ashes in place of a husband,
With only a body pillow to hug at night.

You were there in the family and friends who were your arms of love to me as they
Cleaned the house for my return
Weeded the yard and installed sprinklers after nine months of neglect
Checked on me daily and let me cry, made me laugh
Traveled with me so I wouldn’t be alone
Allowed me to be numb even as you were re-knitting me together through the agony of grief.

You were there when a beautiful red and white dog entered my home and heart, breathing life into an empty home.
You were there in a widow/widowers’ grief recovery group when I met another man to whom I would bond in love and life.
You are amazing, God!

The heavens declare the glory of God ...

The heavens declare the glory of God …

With you, I am never alone
You have kept your promise to guide me in all my ways.
And as you have done in this life, so you will faithfully lead when my end comes,
You will draw me to yourself for all eternity –
To rejoice in your everlasting love
To praise you for your glorious deeds
To love you forever.
Joy!

Have you ever tried to write a note of praise to Jesus? Why not do it now.

ADVENT: Hope for Dark Days

advent wreathADVENT. As Rene, our pastor, explained its meaning Saturday night, joy welled in my heart. As believers, we have not one, but TWO Advents, or “arrivals”, to celebrate.

First, “… the Word became human and made his home among us.” (John 1:14a, NLT) The God of the universe, who created and sustains all things, didn’t wait for us to try to climb up to Him but came down to our level as a helpless baby who would suffer and die to make us right with Him. He is our “Wonderful Counselor,” and we can trust him to GUIDE us into all truth (John 16:13).

I’ve experienced that guidance. Every chance she got, Jan* stabbed me in the back, denigrating my management style, expectations, and capabilities. A “buddy” to the company President, she babysat his children. I knew I couldn’t win in that realm. I agonized over how to respond, how to improve our relationship, how to defend myself against her claims.

For weeks I drove to a nearby McDonald’s daily for lunch. Ordering my chicken salad and diet coke, I parked across the street from a beautiful, spreading oak tree and read the Psalms. Every day God seemed to repeat the same message to me—-this was not my battle.

Psalm 34:19 – “The righteous face many troubles, but the LORD rescues them from each and every one.”
Psalm 40:13-14: “Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace.”

I returned to the office, renewed and strengthened. Finally Jan, who handled payroll, was transferred to the accounting department. Several weeks later her new manager, auditing the books, discovered Jan had paid herself nine extra weeks’ pay over the prior two years. Learning she had stolen from him ended any “buddy” relationship with the President, and Jan was fired.

God had indeed guided and vindicated me.

But His rule in our hearts, His guidance and peace, are not the end. We look forward with anticipation to His Second Advent, when Christ will come again to establish His Kingdom. Our world is in constant crisis. Race riots, political instability, ethnic wars, persecution of Christians, selfishness, hatred and violence are prevalent. But when He returns “…the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

What hope. What anticipation. We celebrate Advent because it reminds us of Jesus’ first coming and the hope of His second return. Like a child watching the number of packages grow under the Christmas tree, our hearts beat faster when we remember what Jesus has done in binding us to Himself following His first coming; and what He will do when He returns, triumphant, for His Bride, the Church.

Rene had us repeat it with him, and I say it again: “The darkness will not last.” Glory will come!

*Name has been changed.

Death, and Life, and a Split Second Between

Driving home Saturday afternoon, I rounded a curve to see the remnants of an accident that had just happened. The SUV blocked the road; while a motorcycle and debris were scattered on the other side of the two-lane road. I parked the car, grabbed my cell phone and keys and opened the car door. A woman’s piercing screams filled my ears. What happened here?

“Has anyone called for help?” I asked a man standing on the side of the road.

“Yes, I think so.”

As I walked toward the SUV, praying, I suddenly saw the result of the accident. It was almost more than my mind could handle and I wanted to turn and run. But I made myself ask “Is there ANYTHING I can do to help?”

“Not unless you can help calm the woman who was driving the car.”

Slowly I walked toward the sound of the screams and sobs. In my horror, I didn’t know what I could possibly say. So I said nothing, but sat down on a step next to the woman and gently stroked her back as she sobbed, words tumbling out a little at a time. “Why me? I checked my rear view mirror just before I turned and the road was clear.”

“I couldn’t figure out why my car wouldn’t move, because there was no one on the right side of my car. Then I got out of the car and, dear God …

Speeding around the corner, a motorcyclist had crossed a double yellow line to pass her on the left, although she had her turn signal on. When she turned, he collided with her, with a fatal outcome.

“Maybe if I had come a little earlier …”

I sat with Jill for quite awhile. After emergency personnel arrived, an EMT approached. Sitting on the other side of Jill, she put a hand on her arm. “This was NOT your fault. You’re going to have to be told that many times but it’s true. Someone else made a bad choice and he’s paid for that choice with his life. But this is not your fault. It’s very important that you see a counselor or this could lead to PTSD. It’s a horrible thing to be involved in someone else’s death but it is not your fault.”

I sat with Jill, my spirit continually asking God for help, until her boyfriend arrived. Then I returned to my car to wind through the emergency vehicles, reverse direction, and take an alternate route home. My heart has been heavy since–for Jill, who has to live and deal with the agony of having been involved in a fatal accident that was out of her control; for the family of the man who lost his life so suddenly–were he and a sweetheart planning dinner out that night? Time with friends? Did he have children? And for the emergency personnel. Although they have dealt with tragic events before, I can’t imagine it ever becomes ‘normal’. And for the image that is seared on my brain.

And then I thought of Christians and others facing death, mutilation, beheading, by the evil forces ofb ISIS. How, Lord, do they cope? How do they retain any semblance of sanity?

He is crying with you

He is crying with you

Following the death of my first husband, my uncle told me he believed Jesus was there, crying with me. He was right. Christ is not untouched by our pain.

I am reminded of my friend Connie’s words recently, that God knows every one of us because He made us, every cell. Far from being blind to our suffering, He calls us to bring it to Him, “casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” God have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

After getting home to a long hug from my loving husband and attentive listener, I lay in his arms and cried. Then it was time to go to our sweet grandniece’s sixth birthday party. Enjoying the babies and children, seeing love, laughter, and hope, provided some balm for my hurting heart. And while I am incredibly grateful for that reminder of LIFE, I also want to remember that people are dying all around–physically, emotionally or spiritually–and I want to hear God’s heart and respond with love, prayer, care, and the Good News that Jesus loves us and wants a relationship with us that will continue eternally.

Am I still hurting? Yes, but I don’t hurt alone.

Life is frail. Make every day count; and let us consider our readiness to meet our Maker. We have no guarantees of tomorrow.

SYMPHONY, IN WHOLE AND IN PART

french hornThe brass instruments were polished to a mirror gloss. The soothing notes of Handel’s “Allegro” from Concerto Grosso #10 flowed out from the five horns, sweeping over my spirit like water flows swiftly down a canal. The two trumpets, trombone, French horn, and tuba blended–perfection in sound.

Transitioning to “The Queen of the Night’s Aria” from Mozart’s Magic Flute, the first trumpeter changed to a piccolo trumpet. Half the size of a regular trumpet, this small instrument played a much higher range, echoing the shrill, high-pitched sound of an angry woman. It was easy to hear her rage.

Next, the two trumpeters switched to flugelhorns, each with a large cone and wide brass wraparound. Mellow tones streamed out of the horns like liquid gold. The trombone, french horn and tuba filled out the sound and provided bass support. None tried to take the spotlight, but rather played the right notes, enriching and deepening the sound. Trumpet

I thought of the Apostle Paul’s description of the spiritual gifts given to the Church. No gift is for the gratification of its owner; rather, it is given for the good of, and service to, others. Just as the different instruments contribute their own tones to an Aria, each of us adds a unique service to the world.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” I Corinthians 12:4-6

I am no more and no less than any other believer. Is the piccolo trumpet better than the flugelhorn? Or the regular trumpet than the piccolo? No. Each is uniquely prepared for a specific contribution. Where my gifts may not be appropriate in certain situations, God will ‘pick up’ another individual who better fits that need.

Recently, I spoke with a young friend I made in Florida six years ago. We met in the hospital when both our husbands were facing organ transplants. Periodically I would invite Natasha and her five-year-old son, Isaiah, to join me for dinner or to play a game. We shared our faith and prayed for each other. Mike was in and out of the hospital while Jerry was hospitalized until he passed away. In this call Natasha told me her Mike passed away in June of this year. We had a meaningful visit and promised to keep in touch.

As I turned off my cell phone, I thanked God that He has gifted me to develop and maintain relationships for the purpose of encouraging others. I am not envious of anyone else’s gifts, nor do I need to denigrate my own. I am humbly grateful that God has given me gifts which are specific to meeting certain kinds of needs.

Who has God created you to be? Have you sometimes struggled with envy or do you recognize that God has created you for the good of others and will use you specifically through your unique giftedness?

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” I Corinthians 12:7, 11