Monday, August 31, 2015

The Last Mile

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things..."
  Revelation 21:7 
It's the last mile, my friend, it's passing quickly by. Don't be afraid, discouraged or ashamed; for you do not walk alone. Though the path may seem dark, what's ahead may seem unclear and you may feel unsure at times; hold on, keep the faith and finish this course. This is it, the last leg of the journey, there are those behind, beside and ahead of you - each with a different story. They're hurting, searching and merely trying to survive their last mile as well. 

It's the last mile, my friend. There will be danger, forces unseen pulling at your feet, trying to knock you down. They hide in the darkness of the night for their deeds are evil, their actions are stealthily planned in the highest-ranked quarters from the evil abyss below. Their commander, the one who is viciously jealous and hates you has sneered out his personalized, tactical orders. The army of voices screech out your name, as they mock and taunt you. The ultimate goal is already determined - to wound you, to cause you to fall, even to paralyze you. Each effort meant to cause you distraction, fear and freeze you in your tracks and halt your progress. To surrender you hopeless.

It's the last mile, my friend, you definitely do not walk alone; for the good Shepherd never leaves even a single sheep to wander alone. Though you cannot see through the dense fog ahead and the pathway seems dark as midnight, your next step is always visible...for he is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. If you're following obediently; he has promised to make the way straight; keep walking, keep trusting. Although you cannot see clearly at times, though it seems dark and evil abounds, be assured his grace much more abounds - walk by faith. At just the right time, in your weakest moments, he'll make special stops just for you. There, in green pastures and beside still waters you will be restored and regain strength to endure the wiles of the enemy. 

It's the last mile, my friend, you're supplied with everything you need to finish this course. You have every piece of armor needed to withstand any attack against you. There is no weapon formed against you that shall prosper. You can finish this race because he is your strength and hope. In him the weak will be strong, the frightened will be at peace, the faint will run on. The darkness has no hold on you, every chain can be broken, there is no lock which he doesn't hold a master-key.

It's the last mile, my friend. Be encouraged. Grab the hand of someone along the way. Two are always better than one. There is strength in unity, togetherness, being in one mind, with one accord. You were never intended to fight alone. Your commander has beckoned you to bind together for additional fortitude even more so during this last leg of the journey.

It's the last mile, my friend, be encouraged. He always leads in the right path, toward a heavenly home, designed and builded by him. Keep your eyes focused. Keep your lamp trimmed. We're almost home now.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lessons from a Text Message

"Hey, on a serious note, I'm trying...", that's the start of the text message I sent through to a friend asking for her support in prayer. When I returned to my phone later to check for new messages, I read her reply, smiled, thanked the Lord for good friends, then read my original message once more...

Sometimes I struggle to ask for help when praying for situations in my life. I suppose I feel that me and Jesus should be able to handle it on our own. (I laugh out loud to myself! He can totally take care of EVERYTHING on His own, this I know.) However, He puts people in our lives to help us bear our burdens. I just have a difficult time trying to figure out when and where to share those burdens. Anyhow, I had been in the valley of decision...should I, or should I not send this text through? I had finally taken a deep breath and hit SEND...

"Hey, on a serious more, I'm trying...", that's the actual text message that got sent through, thanks to auto-correct. Uugh! That didn't even make sense! Bless her heart, I laughed to myself as I imagined her initial response to that message. What?! Again, I made myself a mental sticky-note to ALWAYS go back and read, then edit if necessary before pressing the SEND button. Oh, my. I still smile and laugh inside when I think about it. I'm sure we all make these mistakes occasionally and have to fix the error of our ways.

But as I thought about it for a moment. Her response to "agree with me for the miraculous" proved to me that my message came across loud and clear...even with a slight error. She didn't have to ask, "Now, what exactly did you mean by that?" No, she understood and agreed to offer her support in prayer. I immediately thought of this verse:

"... if two of you shall agree on earth
 as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be 
done for them..." Matthew 18:19

Amazingly enough, like only He can, God showed me two important lessons from this text message:

1) I don't have to get my wording correct when I pray in order for Him to understand what I'm trying to say - and He understands me far better than anyone else I know. I believe that's why the Bible says He knows our needs before we ask. We won't always ask correctly. (However, I have learned to ask His will be done regardless...always - it's best.) WHAT A RELIEF!

2) I can confidently ask for a friend to help me pray. It's OK! God's intentions are for us to come together and help each other. We're not meant to always do it on our own. As we can see in this verse, we are encouraged to bind together in prayer. It brings strength and encouragement to us and helps build our faith TOGETHER. Two are always better than one...unless they're agreeing together as ONE.

So, whatever the outcome, I know God has heard the prayers. I am confident of this one thing: Whatever He wills and however He chooses to work it out, all will be well. Oh, and I'm thanking Him for the lessons He teaches me - on my level. I'm thankful for the people He's placed in my life who will agree with me and pray. I'm also thanking Him for always showing up and answering according to His perfect will. He is ever faithful...even to the point of teaching me a message through a messed up text message.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Frequent Faller

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." Proverbs 18:21

Have you ever stubbed your toe? What about stumbling over your own feet? Or tripping on your wayward shoestring? It would seem only logical that we wouldn't purposefully trip ourselves up, yet we do it quite often, though it might not be in the physical realm.

If there was a "Frequent Faller" list, I'd be close to the top because I do it all too often. No, I'm not proud of it and I hope to be deleted from the list some day; but God showed me this week that I sabotage myself on a regular basis. I don't plan it, but I trip myself up and cause myself unneeded discomfort just the same. How?

"Sticks and stones may break my bones..." - we all know the rest of this old adage even though it's quite untrue. You see, just a few days ago I made a terrible joke about myself in a text to a friend. At the moment my intention was to make a funny, (Yes, some of us have to work at that!) but the end result shook me to my core. Know why? The unkind WORDS we say (or think) about ourselves really are harmful and cause us unnecessary pain - and often much more than any stick or a five-gallon bucket of stones. 

Who can I blame this on? Unfortunately, there's nobody to blame but myself. While others may say words that hurt us, a self-inflicted wound is needless. Ever heard the statement, "I am my worst enemy"? I started thinking about negative self-talk and the damage it causes. I was extremely thankful God had shown me what I was doing and I made a silent promise to myself to "break" this bad habit with God's help. I wonder though, how many of you out there do this without realizing it?

If you are a Frequent Faller, let's make a pact together to kick this habit to the curb. We can do this! We have enough issues and enemies without adding ourselves to that list. And God is our biggest fan! He knows us inside and out. Let's not stub our toes or needlessly stumble and fall. Let's stand tall against any negative thoughts and let God's thoughts of us permeate and reign supreme in our hearts and minds. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Child-Like" Courageous

 "...Except ye be converted, and become as little children, 
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."  Matthew 18:3

Open, close. Open, close. Up, down. Up, down.

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of having my sweet, highly-energetic 14-month-old grandson with me for seven days. We had lots of fun and adventure, and I quickly realized that I was going to have to pick up the pace to keep up with him. Needless to say, this Noni was worn to a frazzle by the end...but it was great!

He had just started walking so he would fall down quite often. I was amazed at how quickly he made the rebound each time. No matter how hard he fell, he'd bounce right back and try it again. Courageous!

His other favorite trick was opening and closing the door. While he couldn't actually open it, he'd go into a room and close the door. SLAM! Then, when he realized he couldn't get out, he would just holler until I came to his rescue. Then he'd do the same thing again. Over and over. It was a game.

He loved the slide and wasn't afraid even a tiny bit. When we went swimming, he was a trouper. When faced with a slew of puppies nipping at his feet, he didn't wince a bit. Courageous! I know it's a simple concept, but one we could all take a few pointers from.

I got to thinking about the scripture where Jesus said for us to come to Him as little children. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not quite on the same level of trust as my grand. Lord, help me. I'm much more cautious because I have more "experience." Oh my! Experience can be such a faith-buster at times, huh? We ask ourselves dumb grown-up questions like:

"What if I get hurt?"
"What if I try and fail?"
"What if _______?" 
(you fill in the blank)

They're logical questions and concerns, but more than likely, they will keep us from experiencing all that God has for us if we give in to their bantering. What God asks us to do doesn't always make grown-up sense. We have to take that step of faith like Peter did when he stepped out of the boat. What kind of sense did that make anyhow? You see, unless we become like a little child, we may not become all the adult God intends for us to be...or enter Heaven according to the Word.

Let's put away our fear, our intense need for a sense of control, let's be adventurous and take a flying leap of faith more often. I do believe the more often we do so, the more accustomed we'll get to trusting in the One who holds it all together anyhow. Don't be afraid to lose, to fail, to fall flat on your face because God will always be there to help you back up. Don't be afraid to walk into new areas, if you get a door slammed in your face, God will be there with you and will open it once again if necessary. Have a child-like faith and who knows what you'll be doing next. As for my sweet Kyler, his next big thing was standing up on TOP of his walker! Amazing! Be courageous for Jesus, my friend. The places He can and will take you are unlimited. You will be amazed!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Perfectly Wrapped

"...shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes..."  Luke 2:12
"...wrapped together in a place..." John 20:7

I cautiously wrapped and wrapped yet again. First in plain white news-print-type paper as to keep any ink from transferring onto delicate, beloved objects. Then, I followed up with a second wrapping with layers and layers of plain ole newspaper until I felt assured that the contents within would be safe while enduring a treacherously, dangerous journey made possible by very rough-around-the-edges type of guys volunteering to transport items from one house to another. 

You see, I'm quite a sentimental person, which means I'll hang on to items which remind me of a cherished memory or someone close to my heart. You might look at it and see nothing; yet, to me, it is a reminder of something I never want to forget. "It's all about perspective," I'd tell you. So,  I can say without reservation that there's nothing more disheartening than unpacking a box of "special-ness" only to find there are things that didn't survive the move. You're left with nothing but broken pieces of what had been. On the contrary, what a pleasure it is when you unwind all the packing paper to find that little treasure still in tact. Oh, yeah!!!

When Jesus came to earth as a baby, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. When He was taken off the cross, He was wrapped carefully in burial clothes. One occasion, joyous - one, grievous...yet in both instances, there was a careful wrapping process. 

You might feel you haven't been wrapped very well because life has left you with brokenness. However, often times, brokenness is caused by our own nonchalant, inconsistent  behavior and actions. Jesus never falters in His method of wrapping us up. He is perfect and has a five-star moving record. There's nothing we'll ever go through which will catch Him off-guard because we are His precious treasures. Regardless of where we're at in life, whether in a joyous or grievous position, God will wrap us just perfectly in each situation if we'll let Him have control.

My friend, even when we find ourselves broken, God can intervene. Need final proof? Consider this. Following His grievous death, when He arose from the dead, Jesus paused long enough to fold his burial clothing before leaving the tomb. That's a pretty remarkable thing, don't you think? How many of us unwrap our treasures and then fold the wrapping paper up? (I'm laughing at that one!) We usually wad and crumble the wrapping up, then throw it away immediately. 

We are His treasures...He cares for us immensely. We are perfectly wrapped within His arms - every time. Rest in knowing that today!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fight On!, Soldier Girl

While I don't claim to have it all together, to know exactly all the right moves to make or things to say in certain situations; I have learned quite a bit along the way. Does this mean that in those certain situations I have conquered all and come out on top every time. Hardly! I'm still in cadet mode most days.
I've learned that if I want forgiveness and grace, I must extend it. However, there are those times when I wonder why someone can't get their "act" together. The Lord kindly and tenderly speaks to me, "My dear daughter, you know, you have yet to get past certain issues as well. I'm still working in your life too...just as I am in hers." I bow my head and swallow hard, "Lord, I see, thank you for showing me where I'm wrong and for continuing to work on me. Forgive me." There are times when I'm tempted to give up on someone...only to come to my senses and remind myself, "Girl, you've got so much growing still to do too! How would you feel if someone gave up on you?" Again, I bow my head and humble my heart to ask forgiveness and for God's help. Yes, I've learned the lesson, the basics, but I still have to work on carrying the lesson out - the tactical approach.
You see, the truth is, sometimes I still have issues that must be dealt with - I get stuck in basic training maneuvers. Sometimes I get weak; I bleed. Sometimes I question God. Seems that what I want to do, that I don't; and what I don't want to do, that I do. (Yes, straight from the Bible! We're not the first to face this.) Why? Because I'm still a work in progress. And so are you. We won't be perfected until that great and notable day when we meet our Savior face to face. In the meantime, we have to fight a good fight, we must humble ourselves to God's command.
We become conquerors by pursuing God and being intent on learning the tactical methods no matter how much it hurts. Sometimes the perfect strategy is to simply put ourselves out there, take a risk, humble ourselves and reach out to those who are hurting and can't seem to get it together. Yes, it goes against our grain; but the Lord is trying to make us more like Him. Instead of withholding forgiveness, instead of labeling them as an "Impossible", instead of offering a cold shoulder, maybe we should take a moment to stoop down and meet them right where they are...just like Jesus did for us. That's what it means to be Christ-like. Remember the scripture, "...such were some of you..." - only by the grace of God are we different today.
Let's not forget from whence we came and that we have been washed and forgiven. It's easy to label, to write-off, to give up on...but that's not God's way. His way is to stoop down and write in the sand, to say to us He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. It's so hard to do sometimes; but it's a sign that we're becoming more of who God wants us to be - a sign that we are moving up in the ranks of this army. God, help us follow your commands and carry out each with grace and dignity. We need each other. Join me on this one. "Fight on, soldier girl!" It's NOT a mission impossible.

God, make us more like you! Help us to look beyond the surface, 
to hurting people who need hope, help us to forgive and accept, 
to be patient, to love and put ourselves aside.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Apples - This Side of Heaven

"Don't drop it, be careful, you'll bruise it!" mom said to her little boy while they were grocery shopping. He had picked up a bright, red apple from the display and was carelessly tossing it from one hand to the other. "Mom", he said with a curious look on his face, "will it say "Ouch!" if I drop it too?"
Psalm 17:8 says, "Keep me as the apple of the eye..."
While it's not actually talking about a Red Delicious or Granny Smith apple, it is talking about the pupil, the round, dark center of an eye, which is actually a hole in the eye. God went to great lengths to help us protect our pupils by giving us eyelids, eyelashes, etc. - it's safe to say the pupil is very well protected.
We also refer to someone very special to us, someone close to our heart, as the apple of our eye. Maybe you're thinking of that special someone right now as you read this. What would you do for them? To what lengths would you go to make sure they are cared for properly? How would you feel if you knew they were hurting? You know, what if they were bruised?
Now, think about this: God cares for us even more than we do that special person. We may sometimes wonder how that's even possible, but it's true. God is just amazing that way. He loves us so much that He was bruised for us. He was wounded, mocked, ridiculed, and even died for our well-being. You see? We truly are the apple of His eye. 
There will, however, be "ouch" moments in this lifetime. It's hard work to exercise our faith during these times, but every detail of our life is carefully watched and monitored.  While we may go through trials, God does not allow us to go through anything He's not aware of. Somehow He always makes something good out of every bad situation. He holds us safely in the palm of His hand. He feels our pain, cries with us, bandages our wounds and cares for us beyond our wildest imaginations. He promises we won't always be bruised; one day we'll be transformed into a Golden Apple in His display case and that's not just a fairy tale. That's God's ultimate plan for us!
In the meantime, He will always go to great lengths to protect us and will always keep us close to His heart. Sure, the little boy's statement might be a bit comical, but the truth is: we all bruise and we say "Ouch!" too...on this side of Heaven.