To Honor Those Who Serve….

I wrote this 4 years ago, but I think it’s worth sharing again. I want to acknowlege a few of the pastors who have touched my life and helped me in my journey through life: my Dad, Bill Henry. Mark Hitchcock. Dennis Newkirk. Chuck Robinson. Lonny Lee. There are many others, and I’m not leaving you off to offend you!

As a nation, we have several designated days for remembering. Yesterday was the anniversary of an unfathomable tragedy for these United States. In May, we honor our fallen service men and women; in November, D-day.

EVERY day of the year is an anniversary for honoring someone who has given their life for another. It is Army and Air Force, Marines and Navy; Police officers and firemen. Ambulance personnel, EMT’s and ER doctors and nurses. Airline pilots and personnel. Everyday, ordinary people. Pastors.

Why would I add “Pastors” to this list?

Have you looked at your pastor lately? REALLY looked? I’m not speaking of preachers who stand in the pulpit on Sundays and lead separate lives during the week, or the ones who are all about appearance and wealth. I’m talking about Pastors, and missionaries who devote their lives to service. Men who love their spiritual flock as their own families. Men – and their wives – who sacrifice themselves to God and His work.

We, as their flocks, their congregations, are doing better these days to recognize their need for respite from their service, I think – but our pastors need our care and support. Physical care and support, obviously, but even more importantly they need our emotional and spiritual support.

My Dad served in the United States Merchant Marines as a radio officer during WWII. Over the course of his life, my Dad gave his life in total to serving his Lord and his flocks at the expense of his health. Wherever, whenever he was called, he gave everything he had, even at times at the expense of the family. Even during his last days on this earth he was witnessing to his health care workers. He gave all. What an example.

To me, he was and is a great example of a hero.

Every day, I miss him. I can’t wait to see him and have his arms around me in heaven. Let’s dance, Daddy. I love you.

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How Great Thou Art!

How Great Thou Art! Powerful old hymn:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow with humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment* [*BEMA] seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:9‭-‬10 NASB

God wants us to do well. He wants us to be rewarded….. throughout His Word, He gives us the instructions on how to gain these rewards. He tells us that whatever we treasure shows where our heart lies. Everything we have belongs to God, so the focus of life is not what we have here on earth, but should be on what we send ahead.

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” 1 Timothy 6:17‭-‬19 NASB

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19‭-‬21 NASB

The preacher Adrian Rodgers said “Don’t give what’s left over, give what’s right.” And “Don’t give till it hurts, give till it feels good.” (Paraphrased)

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42 NASB

Where is my treasure? Is it in front of me, so that I am heading towards it and heaven; or is it behind me and I am held back by it in the form of my earthly thoughts and goods? God expects an investment and a return on our TIME here on earth. There are several stories in scripture relating to a master entrusting his servants with money to see how they handle the stewardship and responsibility. That’s what God is doing with us; entrusting us with His world to see how we do. I haven’t been a very good steward throughout my life, but our gracious and Merciful LORD lets us start each day fresh. The Scottish preacher Thomas Chalmers said: “I had forgotten two magnitudes: I thought not of the littleness of time, and I recklessly thought not of the greatness of eternity.” Another, anonymous source said quite succinctly “When you kill time, there is no resurrection.”

“So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:12 NASB

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15‭-‬16 NASB

We are participating in rewards, partnering in ministry – we need to be intentional and thoughtful in our thoughts, our actions, and our prayers. Prayer is simply asking God for something.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:5‭-‬6 NASB

Whatever you pray for, don’t give up. God’s “NO” is better than anyone’s “Yes.” A passionate prayer life shows trust and devotion. We each have our OWN race, no one else’s, but we aren’t running alone. Run to WIN. What is holding me back? Our “race,” our life, is our testimony to God.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the Right Hand of the Throne of GOD.” Hebrews 12:1‭-‬2 NASB

Are you in the race? The first step is the hardest, acknowleging that we are sinners (I am a sinner), and that we are totally reliant on the Mercy and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. We are all equal at the foot of the cross!

Dealing With Being Single

God knows what we are going through.

Remember Jesus? He was a man, and He lived His life without a mate. I believe that He was probably tempted; after all, He was a man, and He must have been lonely at times…. and I’m sure the enemy made sure temptation was placed in front of Him, too. Mary Magdalene was probably a beautiful woman, and she was close to Him. It is debated whether Jesus was plain, or non-descript, or handsome, but I don’t think that is important (although I do believe He was probably amazing looking). His personality was magnetic; He was charismatic and commanding. I imagine Him as a man Who would draw both men and women to Him. How could He not be tempted? But we know He didn’t succumb to the temptations. He taught us – teaches us – that our Father cares for us enough to want the best for us. He also teaches us that we have to put the Father first, and that’s where it gets hard (for me).

“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NLT

“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 NLT

That’s a pretty big statement from Hosea. The God Who created everything wants us, me and you, to know Him more than anything. When we actually take the time to study and begin to know our Father, we begin to know what real love feels like. I don’t like being single. I want to be half of a couple. Meanwhile, I need to listen to the words of Jesus and keep them in my heart.

“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:30‭, ‬33‭-‬34 NLT

I don’t know if, or when, my Father will bring someone into my life to be a permanent part of it. I know that he must love the Lord and put Him first, and that he will want to treat me as his queen. Tall order, and one that only God can fill. Ruth Graham, a very wise woman, said “A happy marriage is a union of two good forgivers.” I don’t know that marriage is in my future, but I believe that her statement could also read “A happy relationship is a union of two good forgivers.” Whatever happens, I hold on to these words from the LORD:

“For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your GOD. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’ ” Isaiah 41:13 NLT

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD Who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1‭-‬2 NLT

I know that whatever happens, whether I am alone or in a relationship, I will never be alone. The LORD GOD ALMIGHTY has called me by name; I am HIS. Are you single? Praying for a relationship? Hold on to His Words.

Let It Rain

Let it rain, rain down on me….

Crowder, with Mandisa, released a song by this name just a few months ago. It reminds me that God is in control. The same God Who made the sunshine made the rain, and through it all, He is with me. He doesn’t leave us stranded to deal with the rain by ourselves. When it’s “raining”; when everything seems to be against me, I need to remember these words:

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” – Psalms 139:14-‬17 NASB (Read all 24 verses of Psalms 139!)

I am important to God, the LORD of the Universe! He created me; He knew me before I was! In His eyes, I am special. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks, or how they might judge me. I am a child of the Most High King, the One Who rules over every other king and ruler; a Princess in the Kingdom of God.

In other posts, I have been very open about wanting a relationship here on earth, and also about how my choices have been very flawed. I still want that loving, caring relationship, but it’s not in my power to find it or secure it. It is solely in my LORD’s Hands, and He has given me – and other single women and men – guidance through His Scriptures. (If we pay attention to them….)

Is the person you are interested in a Christian? We can’t just depend on hearing the words, but we need to look for the fruits. Does that person attend church? That’s really important. For years, I fought attending, saying that “organized religion” was just something man-made and I could be – I was – spiritual without it. We may be “spiritual” without that association, but we also aren’t growing in our relationship with the LORD. We need to be associating with other Christians. Does he* honor his family? Does he treat you with respect? How is his language? What is his attitude when he doesn’t get his way? (* This is a 2-way street, people. I may be using the pronoun “he”, but it applies to both sexes equally!)

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:16‭-‬20 NASB

Not everyone on earth gets to have a spouse, or someone to love them in that way. I have had the experience and blessing of having a husband who loved me, but he is gone, with our LORD. It has been years, and I want that again, but God seems to have other plans …… and I have to be okay with that. Will I struggle with that desire? Oh yes, without a doubt! I have to continue to search for GOD’s Will; for my LORD’s desires for my life, and accept His way over mine. My prayer today is for every person who is struggling in this area. There is no shame in struggling! Watch out for the red flags, because the Holy Spirit is the One Who is waving them. Study the scriptures, and lean into the Saviour’s arms when that loneliness strikes. He will hold us and never let us go.

To Every Season

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. ….He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1‭-‬8, 11 NASB

In the late 1950’s, songwriter Pete Seeger created the song Turn, Turn, Turn as an almost word-for-word rendition of verses 1-8 of this scripture passage. It has been recorded and re-recorded, and it is an amazing, beautiful platform for King Solomon’s words. But keep reading…. “He has made everything appropriate in its time.” We don’t understand God (how can we??), or why things happen the way they do, or even what we are supposed to do with our circumstances, but He does.

I’d like to know my appointed times. Well, sometimes I think I would. Other times, I don’t want to know! What would be the point in luving life, if we already knew everything that was going to happen, and when it would happen? Where would the adventure be? Anticipation? Excitement? Life would be dull. Monotonous. There wouldn’t be a reason to make any decisions. Even though I wouldn’t mind skipping the ugly parts of life, how could we possibly know just how good the good times are if there weren’t something to compare them to?

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the Will of the LORD is.” – Ephesians 5:15‭-‬17 NASB

God gave us free will. It’s up to us to make the most of it. Grab that moment of happiness, that ray of sunshine through the clouds. Hold on to the good. Spend time with the LORD, determining the best next step. Pray. Praise. Determine to let the Love of the LORD shine on you, no matter how tattered and confused you feel today. Dwell in Him.

Know My Heart

O LORD, You know my heart!

And OH, what a scary thought that is at times! He knows my desires. He knows my heart. He knows my thoughts before they are even formed. He knows them all; the good, the bad, the ugly, and He still Loves me.

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. ………For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. ………Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” – Psalms 139:1‭-‬6‭, ‬13‭-‬18‭, ‬23‭-‬24 NASB

Too bad we humans can’t be that way. Not to know each other’s every thought (how scary would that be!), but to love each other without regard for their thoughts. For me, the radical conservative, that looks like loving the raging liberal without judgement; not letting their views on socialism and my Saviour turn my regard into hate. It means that regardless of whether their actions and/or their behaviors disgust me, I will love them, just like JESUS loved me.

Even before I began as a simple zygote in my mother’s womb, GOD knew me and loved me. He knew how I would be as a child. He knew I would come to love Him as a child and young adult, and He knew precisely how, when, and for how long I would turn away from Him – and He loved me anyway. He knows to the second how long my life on earth will be. He knows that even now, as I write about how much He loves me, I struggle with the idea that He can love me, a sinner who continues who stumble and fall through life.

Why does He love us much? Why? We constantly – and continually – disappoint and hurt Him, sometimes inadvertantly, but oftentimes deliberately. We keep doing the things that we know are wrong. We desire things that aren’t good for us. We reject His Son and His sacrifice….. and He keeps on loving us.

AMAZING GRACE. Sweet Mercy. Unconditional Love.

I don’t understand why GOD, the Supreme and Mighty, All-powerful and All-encompassing, Creator, puts up with us puny little creatures who stand on the earth He created as we shake our collective fist at Him. I would have destroyed mankind eons ago and stuck with dogs and horses. They are much easier to deal with! Yet in spite of our rhetorical fist waving, God loved us – Loves us – enough to make the ultimate sacrifice. He sent His Son Jesus to live among us, to teach us, and to die for our sins so that we could have eternal life with Him.

Amazing Grace.

He knows your heart. Do you know His?

I Hate Myself

“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Ulike Lewis, I didn’t love myself. I didn’t love what I was doing, either. Sometimes, I still don’t. Okay, I don’t really hate myself, at least not anymore, but there are plenty of times I don’t like myself. That’s why I sit in awe as I read this passage from the Psalms.

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. ……Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalms 139:1‭-‬12‭, ‬16 NASB

I’ve said this before, and I am sure to repeat it many more times: The GOD Who created everything, sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies, and the very atoms and neutrons that compose them, knows me. He KNOWS me – and even knowing me, He LOVES me anyway….. AND He never leaves me!

That just blows my mind.

Back to C.S. Lewis’s statement about loving himself. I admire that. Think about it a minute. If GOD loves me, in spite of me being me, where do I get off not loving myself? It’s important that we distinguish our actions from our being. If The Great I Am loves me, there really isn’t any excuse for me not to love myself. That goes for you, too. Love yourself. Hate what you are doing, perhaps, but keep in mind that GOD created you and He loves you. He loves us so much that He came to earth, God incarnate, and sacrificed Himself so that we can spend eternity with Him if we choose. Our choice.

Think about how much He LOVES you.