Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Circle in the Sand

I did it again.  A quick glance over my devotional book and a 30-second prayer and then I began to focus on something else to prepare for my day.  It all seemed so rushed.  I knew I needed more of Jesus, but for the past couple of weeks or so, I found myself finding every excuse to hurry through my Bible reading and prayer time.  I began to think about the days (long ago) when I would spend hours with Jesus every morning.  I'd get up early just to hear from Him.  It was like a Honeymoon!  But now it seemed like a routine, not an event.  How did I allow this to happen?  I knew in my heart I loved Him deeply - even desperately - so why did it seem I was finding other things, more "important" things to do with my time?

I wondered if He noticed.

Of course He noticed.  But instead of being angry with me and threatening to leave me, I found God to be incredibly faithful - and sweet.  You know, in 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul reminds us that "God is faithful even when we are not."  Whew, it's a good thing!  If this relationship depended on me, we'd be in big trouble.  But it doesn't depend on me - it depends on Him.  Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.  Not even my own stupidity! (smile)

Listen to how He got my attention yesterday morning....

For a couple of days in a row, I had been waking up, singing the chorus of a song from 1988.  I had not heard this song in probably twenty years or so and if I were honest, I'd admit it wasn't even a very good song, in my opinion.  I found it odd that I would be singing it to myself a few days in a row, but dismissed it - until the third day.  As I brushed my teeth, I was humming this song in my head - again - and it crossed my mind that perhaps God was using this song to get my attention?  I mean, I had not even heard it in over twenty years!  Where was it coming from?

So I looked up the lyrics to the words from the song called "Circle in the Sand" by Belinda Carlisle.  Here's what I found:

Sundown all around
Walking through the summer's end
Waves crash, don't look back
I won't walk away again

Oh, anywhere you go,
We are bound together
I begin where you end
Some things are forever!

Circle in the sand
'Round and 'round
Never ending love is what we've found
And you complete the heart of me
Our love is all we need
Circle in the sand

Cold wind, tides move in
Shivers in the salty air
Day breaks, my heart aches
I will wait for you right here.

Oh, when you look for me
Can you see forever?
I begin where you end
We belong together

Circle in the sand
'Round and 'round
Rising of the moon as the sun goes down
And you complete the heart of me
Our love is all we need
Circle in the sand

Can you hear me?
Can you hear me calling?

I took out the word "baby" (it was laced throughout the song) because it was throwing me off (haha) and theologically, I'm not so sure about the "I won't walk away again" but I do believe He sometimes pulls away to allow us to see our desperate need for Him when we are not pursuing Him like we should (guilty as charged!).

I read yesterday's devotional from Sarah Young's Jesus Calling right after I listened to this song...and felt a bit overwhelmed by His grace. He's so sweet.  The part that really got me was this: "I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me....Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs."

Yes, I believe this was God's hand-tailored provision for my needs.  He loves me in spite of myself.  That's a miracle in itself.  And it's His sweet kindness that has led me to repentance (Romans 2:4).  I heard Him loud and clear!

Have you had a sweet experience with God lately?  If so, please share it.  I'd love to celebrate with you!

Blessings,


Monday, May 28, 2012

Are You Offended?

I've heard it said that the enemy's greatest weapon against believers is offense. Think about it. Who in your life has offended you? How are you handling it? Do they even realize they have offended you?  I hate to think there is anyone out there who I have inadvertently hurt who is harboring resentment and anger toward me and I don't even realize it.

We can easily get offended and rather than confront the person with gentleness and a sincere desire for reconciliation, we harbor it, nurse it, talk to others about it and eventually it creates division and dissension. I shudder to think of how Satan must get so much perverted pleasure out of watching us do this to ourselves.  Our resentment and bitterness grows like a well-fertilized weed and it slowly chokes the life out of us.

Recently, I asked someone who deeply offended me to explain the situation from their perspective. Mind you, this is something that happened over a year ago...I've had it sitting in the back of my mind and on my heart for all that time only assuming things that may or may not be true. Instead of confronting the issue, I took my assumptions as truth. I made a huge mistake!

This person had no idea what they had done. None whatsoever. We chatted about it and this person said they completely understood how I could have perceived it to be the way I thought it was, but once I understood their perspective, I realized I was way off the mark. I've since asked forgiveness and we have reconciled but along the road of the past year or so I've been hurt, angry and resentful and all for no reason whatsoever.

Maybe that's why Satan enjoys this weapon so much? It's something that can destroy relationships, hurt feelings and corrode our love all with one fell swoop! It's like killing three birds with one stone. And unfortunately, it we fall for this trap very often.

If there is someone in your life who has offended you, ask yourself a couple of questions:

1) Do they even know they have offended you?  Usually, the person who has done the offending has no idea that they have done so, all the while, your anger and resentment are eating you alive. 

2) Have you repeated the offense to anyone else? (Proverbs 17:9 tell us that he who covers an offense promotes love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.)

3) Have you prayed about confronting the person in the spirit of love and reconciliation?

4) If you have confronted and are still offended, or you do not feel confrontation is necessary, could you consider overlooking the offense for the sake of love? 

It's time to get serious about this and stop this weapon of mass destruction from destroying our witness and creating division among us!

The Bible tells us that people will know we are Christians by our love. But it really does seem that the enemy is gaining ground in the church by using this dirty, under-handed weapon of offense.  After all, weren't we extended grace, though we were offensive to God? Romans 5:8 reminds us, "But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."

Since we have be shown grace, can't we show it to others? Will they know we are Christians by our love?



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spiritual Adrenaline

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you're trying to run fast but your legs are really heavy?  You feel like you're running as hard as you can - but you're going absolutely nowhere.  Then, you wake up and realize "Whew, it was just a dream!".  That's how I describe to people what it was like in the challenges on Survivor China.  Only it wasn't a dream!  It was an overwhelming reality.

We were so exhausted, so dehydrated, so hungry that when we competed in the physical challenges, it was like we were working against gravity times infinity!  During the first immunity challenge I remembered thinking "I'm going on pure adrenaline 'cause I have absolutely nothing to give!"  It was the hardest physical thing I've ever done.

Spiritually speaking, I go through times like that, too.  It's those times when just opening the Bible seems like the greatest effort in the world  - when praying seems impossible.  I feel like I cannot press on sometimes - it's just like I'm constantly running uphill, dragging more and more weight with every step. 

Usually, if I trace it back, I find that my times of spiritual difficulties can be attributed to the same kind of things that contributed to my physical condition on Survivor during challenges: Lack of food, lack of water, exhaustion....but it is more like lack of God's word (my spiritual food), lack of trusting His Spirit's leading (living water), and working too hard to impress Him instead of resting in Him (which leads to exhaustion). I get into this situation because of my own lack of discipline and lack of trust in God's power to lead me.  Can you relate?

If you are feeling that your spiritual life is drudgery today, I pray you will be encouraged that we all go through times like this.  God uses these times to help us realize that we cannot do this alone.  We need Him to help us do this!  He alone has the "spiritual adrenaline" we need to press on and grow stronger through the challenges of life.  Without His Spirit leading us, we are going nowhere.

Galatians 5:16 says "So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves." 

Instead of succumbing to the temptation to give up and quit, I urge you to press on! It's worth the fight, my friend.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:13-14

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Long Silence

At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame - but with belligerence.

"Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?", snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror ... beatings ... torture ... death!"

In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched, for no crime but being black !"

In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.

How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.

So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.

Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.

Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.

At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.

For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.



In his book, "The Cross of Christ", John Stott quoted this playlet titled, "The Long Silence".  I thought it was one of the most powerful things I've read in awhile.  He knows our suffering...He's been there.



 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tommy

Today is my son's 20th birthday.  He's traveling this summer to Alaska with two friends.  I just got a call from him yesterday and he's in Montana spending some time exploring around there.  Here's a blog I wrote about him when he moved out of the house two years ago.  I wanted to re-post it, in honor of his birthday! :) Happy Birthday, Tommy!
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It seems like yesterday he was asking me to marry him.  He was only 5.  It was the day he graduated from kindergarten.  He looked up at me with his big, blue eyes and said "Mommy, God did a good job when he made you.  Will you marry me?"  So sweet!  I patted his head and said "You know, I'm already married to your daddy.  But you'll see...one day you'll want to marry someone else anyway!"  He didn't believe me.  It was precious.

Then there was the time when he was in second grade that I suspected he had a crush on his teacher (she was so adorable) but he still made me a card and asked me to be his valentine on Valentine's Day.  I thought that was sweet.  I found out later he made her one, too.   

Mine was better, though. (smile)

I remember when he broke his wrist when I was on a mission trip in Bolivia.  He was skateboarding.  He was so good at skateboarding, but I hated watching him because as a mom, my heart just couldn't take it when he would crash.  I never wanted to be in Bolivia when he broke a bone, though!  I felt so helpless.  It was as if my heart broke into a million pieces when I heard him say through the phone "Mom, I'm going to be fine.  I'm not a baby anymore."  He was right.  He was 13. 

Wow, nobody tells you how hard it is to let go of your kids as they grow up.  It's hard...but it's also very cool.  Tommy just recently moved out.  He's starting his new life in Chicago.  He's studying photography (that's one of his photos to the right) and I believe just wants to learn to live on his own in the big city.  He's always been independent and he's very artistic.  He is a pretty cool guy.  I know he is going to do well in Chicago and do great things!  I love that part of this - seeing him living his dreams and turning into a man before my very eyes.  I remember looking at him when he was a little boy and wondering what he would look like when he grew up, what he would be like and what he would become.  Now I'm witnessing it all first hand.  So rewarding!

When we took him to the airport a couple of weeks ago (he left for Colorado to visit a friend before he moves to Chicago) , I held it together pretty good until we got home and I saw his dog sitting there looking for Tommy to come walking in behind us.  At that moment, every ounce of vent-up sobbing came pouring out on that poor dog!  I hugged him close and cried as if I'd been holding it in for 18 years.  Maybe I had?  
 
I thought about the day we brought this dog home for Tommy. He was in middle school and told me he was having a hard time making friends.  He begged me for a dog - a buddy - to play with and hang out with.  We found a sad, black dog sitting in a cage all alone - he was free to a good home.  The moment they met, it was obvious they were going to be buddies for life.  That's probably how he got his name - Buddy.  They are so close that Tommy says he will be the best man in his wedding whenever he gets married.  Cute.  That should be an interesting wedding...

This week, he and my husband are spending together in the Rocky Mountains.  They're hiking, rock climbing, doing that manly bonding stuff that guys do.  I guess I'm a little envious of the time they are spending together - until I remember that when Stephanie graduated, we went on a girls only cruise with my sister, her daughter and my mom.  I'm sure Rod appreciated that. (haha)  So...I'm praying they will have the time of their lives this week together.  I know it means the world to Rod to be able to spend one more week with Tommy before his new life begins.

I don't know why I'm writing all of this tonight.  I suppose I'm just feeling nostalgic, excited for Tommy and a little sad for myself.  He used to make me tea at night and we'd talk.  I can't make hot tea like he can - he's really talented at it.  I miss that.  I miss his crazy art stuff laying around the house.  I miss the strange, yet interesting music he played all the time.  I miss seeing him and Buddy snuggling on the floor while Buddy licked his face until it would hurt (yuck!).  I miss a lot about him.  But I know God has a wonderful plan for his life - and this is just the beginning.

Tommy....I love you.  I'm proud of you!  And I am thrilled you are now able to touch the lives of so many others now...just like you've touched ours for 18 years.  I miss you...but it's so cool to see you growing up into such an amazing young man!       xxoo Mom

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Salt

When I was voted off Survivor, I had been in the jungle eating hardly anything for nine days.  When I did eat, it was plain rice with snails in it (we called it "snail risotto"…haha).  But the food was so bland and disgusting that when I was voted off and had food with flavor, it actually hurt so much to eat – it was like my salivary glands exploded!  It made them over-react and it was so painful in my jaws for about a week because I went from no flavor at all to way too much way too fast!  It was something that should have been gradual – a pinch here, a pinch there, leading up to the high-flavor food items I could enjoy again.

In my quiet time this morning, I was reading Mark chapter 9.  In this chapter, Jesus told those who follow Him, “You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” (Mark 9:49) Salt is found in wells, in mines and in the seas.  Have you ever felt you were found by God in a vast sea, or in the dark, cold mine or maybe even the bottom of a well?  Maybe you felt abandoned or alone when he rescued you?  Well, no matter where He found you, He can use you! You are a priceless treasure to Him.  

So, what are the qualities of salt? Well, it's a flavor enhancer and a preservative.  It is used for melting ice.  It can be used as a disinfectant or healer because it doesn't allow germs to grow.  Salt is refining and enduring.  Even an 800 degree fire cannot destroy salt's unique chemical composition!

Do we have the qualities of salt in the world? 

Do we live in peace with each other?

Are we preserving life or destroying it? 

Do we enhance conversations or do we pour it on a bit too much?  Or maybe we aren’t enhancing it at all and the ones we talk to are left with no taste of Jesus at all?

Is God using us to melt an ice-cold heart by our compassion and love for others?

Are we bringing healing to others' lives or do we open their wounds by our actions?

Does God use us to refine others by living lives of grace, peace, love, forgiveness and gentleness or are we judging and defining them by their actions? 

Do we endure and trust God in the midst of the trials in our life?  Only by His strength is this possible.  Only in Him can we live as salt in this earth.

Live well, my friends.  In our own strength, we will never be able to display the qualities Jesus asks us to display. But with God, all things are possible!


Friday, May 11, 2012

To My "Other Mother"

To My Other Mother

You are the other Mother I received,
The day I wed your son.
And I want to thank you Mom,
For the loving things you've done.
You've given me a gracious Man,
With whom I share my life.
You are his lovely Mother,
And I his lucky Wife.
You used to pat his little head,
And now I hold his hand.
You raised in love a little boy,
And then gave me a Man.

-Author Unknown

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Letting Go Test...

Nine months of growth inside of my womb
And in what seemed like an instant, she was there in the room
 
My heart was just bursting – I could barely compose
As I looked her over intently and counted fingers and toes
 
Eleven days later, I remember so well
Was my first "letting go test" – her umbilical cord fell
 
The pain in my heart, I could not ignore
As I realized this test was the first of many more
 
I nursed her eight months, and then it was time to move on
So I gave her some cereal – yet another era gone
 
When she was five, it was time to let go again
As I walked her to the school bus, she wore a huge grin
 
"Oh, God! Please protect her! I cannot be there.
But I trust you are with her and you'll keep her in your care!"
 
And I was grinning, also, though my heart broke in two
As I watched my little girl learn to tie her own shoe
 
Little by little my girl needed me less
As she picked out her clothes and got herself dressed
 
A few months later, she lost her first tooth
(I cried like a baby, if you want to know the truth!)
 
This "letting go test" was a challenge indeed
When she took the story book from me and started to read
 
I blinked and in an instant I realized much time had passed
As she went off to middle school – she was growing so fast!
 
The "letting go test" intensified, I remember with dread
When I drove her to the DMV, and she drove me home instead!
 
Her face lit up with excitement as we handed her the keys
And she drove off alone as I dropped to my knees
 
"Oh, God! Please protect her! I cannot be there.
But I trust you are with her and you'll keep her in your care!"
 
My prayers were more often and more intense, I must confess
As she was gone more often now, and I saw her much less
 
My girl was growing up and I was completely shook
As she picked her favorite photos for her Senior Yearbook
 
And just a few months later, my girl turned eighteen
A young woman she was becoming now – what a sight to be seen!
 
"God, where did the time go?" I began to pray
As our family dressed up for Graduation Day.
 
She walked across the stage with her head held high
And as she took her diploma, I began to cry
 
But these tears were so different, more like tears of delight
My girl was a woman now and she was going to be alright
 
All the "letting go tests" that I'd had over the years
Helped me let go, trust God and release all my fears
 
The "tests" were sent by Him to prepare my mom-heart
For the ultimate test – when we'd begin to live apart
 
The day quickly approached and we loaded up the car
We drove her to college – it just seemed so far
 
We unloaded her things and we hugged her goodbye
And I tried not to do it but I couldn't help but cry
 
This "letting go test" was the hardest test yet
The drive home was long – one I'll never forget
 
But the sadness I feel is not the same as before
I feel such joy for her – there's so much in store!
 
"Oh, God! Please protect her! I cannot be there.
But I trust you are with her and you'll keep her in your care!"

-Leslie Nease


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Morning Friends on His Radio

Hey friends!  Just a little note to let you know I'm filling in for awhile on the Morning Show on His Radio.  I began this adventure on Monday and will be here for a few weeks.  If you get a chance to listen, there is a His Radio station in most cities in South Carolina, North Carolina and even some in Georgia (you can find our entire listening area here) or you can listen anywhere online at www.hisradio.com.  If you want to catch some of the show highlights you may have missed this week, you can click here!

Hope you can join us each morning from 5:30-9:00am EST!

Blessings,


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