The Truth About Dissing

IMG_0815When my husband and I put our home in Virginia on the market seven years ago it brought out the worst in me. I might as well have been taken over by the pod people. I’m surprised my husband didn’t move to North Carolina without me. I became a man’s worst nightmare…the nagging wife.

“…and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.” Proverbs 19:13

Like water constantly dripping from a leaky faucet I was making my poor man miserable. I’m sure there were times he would have preferred living in a tent in the woods than under his own roof. At least he would have had some peace in his heart.

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:9

If you’ve ever sold a home you know it can be nerve-racking. It wasn’t just all the preparations that went into the sale of our home it was the stress of moving to another state. Leaving the city of our birth, the country of our childhood, the place where we raised our children, our ministries and our church family, our neighborhood with all it’s comfort and familiarity, our family, our friends….leaving it all behind to move to a new place where we knew absolutely. no. one. Not one single person.

Yeah. I was stressed.

That cliche’? Too blessed to be stressed? It’s cute. It’s wise. It’s true. But, it’s not practical for a high-strung woman going through menopause. Just sayin’.

One of the things I’ve learned in the seven years we’ve been in our new home is that once you become a whiner and complainer, it’s hard to break the habit. But, praise God, hallelujah and amen, I think I’ve had a break-through ’cause the good Lord has seen fit to give me some of His hard-to-ignore-wisdom-and-counsel this past week.

Whining and complaining is really a lack of trust in the Sovereignty of God. My word for 2014 is trust. As I’ve been reading my Bible through this year I’ve highlighted and journaled in the margins of God’s Book everything He’s been showing me about trust. I’ve always thought I had a pretty solid foundation of faith, weak at times-yes, but I’ve never doubted my salvation. I’ve been digging deep this year, though, and I’ve allowed God to expose some of my ‘ugliness’…the parts of me that aren’t very ‘pretty.’ One of these things has been my tendency to worry. When I worry, I stress. When I stress, I whine. When I whine, I complain. When I complain, I criticize. When I criticize, I start dissing others.

Dissing is now in the new contemporary versions of our American dictionaries. It means to disrespect someone, to criticize. So last week I was whining about something. The next thing I knew I began criticizing someone. Before I knew it, God had gotten in the middle of it. I guess you could say He put a stop to it. Like a lightening bolt. Boom. Thank goodness I didn’t drop dead. I don’t know that heaven is ready for me, yet.

All of these words began to flash before my eyes: discord, disunity, disharmony, dissatisfaction, discontent. God showed me that when all these disses show up in my heart they wreck havoc on my soul and spirit. I’m not just disrespecting my fellow man, I’m disrespecting myself. I’m disrespecting my God because my heart is really Christ’s home.

When I’m whining and complaining there isn’t much room for God’s love, joy, peace, and contentment in my life. It’s as if I’m poisoning my thoughts with everything that is not “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8)

But the defining moment came when I realized I can’t really bring honor to God when I’m dissing because I’m not respecting Him and His authority in my life. It’s a lack of trust in Him. A lack of trust in His goodness.

And that brings tears to my eyes. I don’t want to hurt God’s reputation because He really and truly is good. Deep down, where the heart of Jesus lives and breathes within me, I really do love this Man. This Redeemer. This One who only wants the very best for me and part of His best is to rid me of all that isn’t good so that I can receive all that is…all that is “true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable.”

And when it comes right down to it, I can’t shine the light of Jesus when I’m full of disses. I want to be full of blesses instead. I really do want to be too blessed to be stressed.

So I’m working on letting go of a bad habit. It takes work. It takes practice. Not only do I want my husband to live peacefully in his home, I want Jesus to feel at home in my heart. I don’t want to let the pod people take over because they dull my sparkle. I want to shine. I want to keep a twinkle in my eye. I want to light up my little part of the world.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:14

Lighting the world for Jesus begins in me. It starts in my heart, Christ’s home…the place where He is pleased to dwell.

Grace After Grace

IMG_0787My pastor has a real heart for prayer. On Monday my husband and I joined him in a new kind of prayer ministry he has started as a community outreach. After receiving permission from the directors of our town’s medical clinic, we set up a tent, a table and some chairs on the lawn just outside the main doors. Our mission was to ask people going in and out of the clinic if we could pray for them.

That’s all. Pure and simple. Nothing added to it. Nothing taken from it.

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t know what to expect. I don’t like rejection and I half-believed there would be a lot of that, but God knows I love to pray and so do these two godly men I served alongside. I especially love to pray with others, taking their names to the throne of grace while holding their hands.

There are a lot of hurting people in our midst. Many of them feel helpless, sometimes hopeless. Some are frightened, afraid to even face tomorrow. Others feel completely alone. They just need to know someone cares. Somehow, prayer has a way of bringing comfort to those who may not even know how to pray for themselves. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve prayed with someone and we’ve both ended up in tears. Only Jesus can reach that deeply, touch that tenderly, and comfort that generously.

But I’ve come to understand something about prayer. Something that makes all my own personal suffering worth it. I’ve had my share of physical discomfort in life. I live with a measure of discomfort every single day, but God has not left me to cope on my own. He gives me all I need to live life well. If He does it for me, I know He’ll do it for anyone.

“Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness…” John 1:16

We have all received grace after grace…

Oh my goodness, I think I need to shout “Hallelujah!!”

Grace after grace after grace…never-ending grace. In other words, I’ve been given plenty to go around. It’s not to be hoarded or hidden away.  As it has freely and generously been given to me so I should freely and generously share it with others.

There’s a scene in the The Lord of the Rings movie, Fellowship of the Ring, that I have memorized. Frodo was stabbed by a morgul blade and near death. Lady Arwen raced him away on her horse, carrying him to her people where they had the power to save him. Along the way, they were pursued by the Nazgul who desired to capture Frodo, the bearer of their precious ring. Because they were held up by the enemy, Frodo began to slip away into the shadow world, but Arwen cradled him in her arms and with tears in her eyes she prayed,

“What grace has been given to me, let it pass to him.”

Such an abundance of grace has been given to me. I know where I’ve been. I know what I’ve done. I know what God has saved me from and what He still delivers me from. I know what I struggle with every single day. I know my weaknesses, my frailties, my insecurities. I know the power of grace. How can I not want others to know it, too?

When I hold someone’s hand or lay my hand on her (or his) shoulder to pray with her, in a way I’m cradling her in my arms. I don’t always want to just say, “I’ll pray for you,” and then put her name on my prayer list.  Sometimes I want to pray side-by-side, face-to-face, and hand-in-hand in the Presence of God. I want to share tears. I want to give comfort. I want to unleash grace.

I want to pass it on.

I know grace is unleashed in thousands of different ways, but prayer is so very personal and God is a personal God, meeting us right where we are and loving us just as we are. People need to know God sees, God hears, God cares. And I can show them that through prayer. Prayer is just another way to grace someone, but I believe it’s one of the most powerful.

We met with such a wonderful response yesterday outside the medical clinic. People were receptive, responsive, appreciative. And, yes, there were even some tears. I have no doubt God touched many hearts. I have no doubt God came down.

I have no doubt Grace abounded.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Prayer changes things. Prayer covers things. Prayer calms things.

For the love of grace, pass it on….

 

 

Morning Glory

IMG_0189I love morning glories.

A few summers ago I found some seed packets at WalMart for the Giant Heavenly Blue variety. Of course I just had to purchase a packet. I came home and couldn’t wait to scatter the seeds around the light post in my back yard. I was rewarded handsomely with gorgeous blue blooms in no time. I had hoped they would re-seed themselves so I didn’t save any seeds for the following year. Sadly, they didn’t come back and WalMart hasn’t carried them since. I know I can probably order them online from a seed company, but I just haven’t done it. I’m lazy like that.

It really doesn’t matter, though, ’cause you know why? The morning glory grows all over my little town of Spring Hope. Some might consider it a weed. I know some varieties are very invasive and can take over a garden if not cultivated and kept under control. I guess I’m a softie, though. I love the way a morning glory plant beautifies the most unattractive places. I love the way it grows along the roadsides and fields. I love the way it clings to rotted fence posts and rusty, metal farm equipment. I love the way it shoots pops of bright magenta pink, cornflower blue, and even pure white across the landscape.

IMG_0066

I love how a morning glory grows fast, spreads quickly and tolerates poor soil. I love how it climbs a porch trellis and offers shade on hot summer days. I love how it’s leaves are shaped like hearts and it’s white centers like stars. But most of all, I love how a morning glory loves the sun, how it’s blooms close up at night into thin spirals and takes a rest in the cool night air from a day of beautifying the earth. I love how it unfurls in the early morning as the sun begins it’s ascent over the treetops. It’s as if the morning glory greets each day with purpose.

So it is with the child of God.

We’re called to bloom in the most unlikely places. We’re called to add beauty to the most unattractive corners of the world.  We’re called to tolerate the poorest of soils, to climb the most difficult mountains, to offer a bit of respite to those wandering in desert lands. We’re called to share our hearts, shine like stars and then take a welcome nighttime rest that we might bloom with purpose at the rising of each new day.

We’re not weeds, though. We cling to the One True Vine with. all. our. might. Some of us grow a little wild, some of us are more cultivated, but all of us are beautiful in His sight. With our faces to the rising Son, we shine bright, we bloom big, we climb high…

I just love that.

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

 

 

My Crowning Glory

IMG_0774Nearly twenty-five years ago I took my sons to school one day, went back home, sat in front of the full-length mirror in our bathroom with some scissors and a comb, and bravely chopped off all my hair.

I had been trimming my own shoulder-length hair for years, even doing my own highlighting, but I was ready for something different. My hair is fine and straight without a lot of body. I was tired of hot curlers and curling irons and things that made styling my hair a dreaded chore. I decided I just didn’t want to be a slave to my hair.

I had been looking at pictures in magazines of short hairstyles and thought I could pull it off. I was too impatient to make an appointment with a salon for a professional consultation. I don’t know what came over me. I’ve always been creative and figured this was something else I could copy from a picture and achieve good results. I found out that doing it myself wasn’t really a good idea.

Don’t ask me how, but I survived a near disaster. After calling a salon with a cry of “Help! Emergency!,” my hair was properly restyled. I can now say that short hair and I get along very well. Believe it or not, except for the two or three times a year when my best friend (who just happens to be a hairstylist) gives me a professional cut and color job, I trim my own hair every 4-6 weeks. For someone who is blind in one eye this is quite a feat. As they say, practice makes perfect or maybe in this case…practice makes okay.

When I was a little girl I used to wake up early in the morning and sit on our family room floor with paper, scissors and crayons to satisfy my need for artistic expression. One morning as I happily cut and pasted my little heart out, my hair fell over my face. As only a four-year-old could reason, it seemed the best way to get it out of my eyes was to cut it off. So, I did.

When I realized I couldn’t put it back together with tape and glue I went to my father who was in his study reading his Bible. Lifting my arms up with hands stretched out as if presenting an offering, I showed him my dead chunks of hair and told him it “just fell out.” Thank goodness he was in the Word at the time because I don’t recall any harsh words or punishment for my fib or my crime. I do remember my mother standing me on the toilet later that morning, cutting my long, blonde hair to a chin-length bob, crying the entire time. She even saved a lock which I still have to this very day.

What is it about women and hair? Are we ever satisfied? My hair has thinned considerably the past several years. Woe is me. The only reason I highlight my hair is to add texture and body. I don’t have gray hair yet, but I really don’t think I’d mind if I did. I think gray hair is lovely. There’s something regal and royal about a woman who wears her gray hair with pride.

One of our weaknesses as women is letting our hair define us. I remember how devastated I was years ago when a surgeon shaved the back of my head before brain surgery. I actually asked my best friend to shave it all off because I didn’t see how in the world we could salvage the mess he made. When the nurse removed my stitches a week later she asked me, “Are you okay with this? Because brain surgeons definitely aren’t hairstylists.” She shared with me that women who lose their hair to chemotherapy often have a hard time with hair loss. I get this. I had wondered why I was grieving the loss of so much hair. I think it’s fair to say that most of us view our hair as our crowning glory.

But, I’m coming to understand something else. Something a little bigger than hair. I’m discovering what a privilege it is to grow older and I want to learn to do it with such radiance that others don’t even notice gray hair, thinning hair or even crow’s feet. I don’t want to become so concerned with keeping a youthful appearance that I forget to reflect the heart of Christ. The older I get, the more I want to see Him looking back at me in the mirror. When I let God cut and paste and style and color my soul and spirit hopefully there will be an inner beauty that produces an outward glow.

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

I want my wrinkles to speak of a life well-lived. I want my aches and pains to scream grace. I want my scars to reflect the Cross. I want my smile to be genuine and my laughter rich. I want my words to be wise and my speech kind. I want my hands to move with purpose and my feet to run with perseverence. I want my arms to embrace in love and my legs to walk in peace. I want to see with Kingdom eyes and hear the King’s voice. I want to hold my head up high because one day it will hold a crown.

I want to grow old as gracefully as I possibly can.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

 

 

 

The Question That Rocks My World

IMG_0715Sometimes walking with Jesus is hard. I’m just being honest. It’s like there’s a battle inside of me. The pull of the world versus the call of Jesus. The tug of the earth versus the will of Jesus. Sometimes it wears me out…the yanking, the fighting, the pounding . Sometimes it seems easier to give in to the desires of my flesh rather than to let Jesus fill the desires of my heart.

Whenever I find myself caving, though, I go to John 6:67.

Jesus was teaching a hard lesson. Aside from His inner circle of Twelve, there were other disciples following Him in His earthly ministry. The more Jesus taught the truths of His heavenly Father and the way to eternal life, the fewer His followers became. They said, “This is hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 

Jesus words weren’t actually hard. It was living by them that proved difficult. So some left. They turned their backs on Him. Their love of the world was greater than their love for Jesus so He looked to His faithful Twelve, one of whom would later leave Him and betray Him, and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Nina, you don’t want to leave Me too, do you?” 

When Peter answered Jesus he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” 

Whenever I want more of the world and less of Jesus I hear His voice in my head, “Nina, you don’t want to leave too, do you?” 

Whenever I want to feed my flesh and not my soul I hear His words in my ears, “Nina, you don’t want to leave too, do you?”

Whenever I want to follow the world and not His call I hear His cry in my heart, “Nina, you don’t want to leave too, do you?”

With this one question, Jesus rocks my world because seriously, truthfully, honestly, I don’t want to turn my back on Him. I love Him and when you love someone you stay close. I don’t want anything or anyone else to take His place in my heart. This question is hard, yes. It’s convicting. It’s convincing. It shakes me up. It brings me to my knees.

Because I. Do. Not. Want. to leave Jesus. I don’t. He has what I really need.

Way. Truth. Life.

I would rather let Jesus rock my world with this one question, than to let the world rock me. Topple me. Cripple me. Disable me.

So I stand on the Firm Foundation because my need for Jesus is greater than the pull of this world and there’s no where else I’d rather be than standing on the Rock.  I may stumble. I may fall. But Jesus picks me up every single time. He’s Rock-Solid.

“Jesus, where else would I go?”

Where else, indeed.

 

 

From A Mess To A Marvel

IMG_0736If you’ve been following my blog you’ve heard me say more than once, I’m a drama-queen. High-strung. Wound-up. Over-reactive. Whatever. I am what I am. Not everyone likes a drama-queen. I understand. I’ve had to learn, though, that before I can embrace all that God wants me to be, I have to embrace all that God wants to Be to me.

When this drama-queen gets worked up she needs to vent. There’s this dying need to unload, to let it all out and will someone please just let me? But, I’ve learned that if I’m going to vent, I need to vent to God. Not to people. Too much drama can turn people off.

My poor husband…please sympathize with him…he’s the one person on this earth who’s seen the worst of me and still loves me. God knew I needed him. Not too long ago I was having some blood pressure issues partly due to my sugar addiction. After a few days of binging (not proud of this) I was feeling light-headed and dizzy. A blood pressure reading showed I was pretty near stroke-level…160/92. Brace yourself, my friends, there was enough drama to win a Tony award.

My husband is a grocery store manager and one of his responsibilities is to write the weekly employee schedule. It takes him days to write it and a lot of concentration. I know better than to bother him when he’s writing the schedule. Did I care, though? I went flying down the stairs full speed ahead and cried out, “I’m dying!! I’m dying! My blood pressure is 160!” Bless this man’s heart. Seriously. He calmly put his pencil down, folded his hands and looked up, “Honey, you’re not dying. Maybe you should go to the doctor, but I know you don’t want to do what I tell you.”

Any other man probably would’ve left me a long time ago. His favorite way to describe me? “You’re a mess.”

God wired me with some strong emotions. I wasn’t exactly born calm, cool, and collected. I remember many times as a teenager waiting until I was alone to lose my cool. In the privacy of my bedroom with the door shut I would blessedly lose it. I remember vividly the time I opened my bedroom window and screamed out into the night. Scared our dog into a barking frenzy. My parents weren’t home, thank goodness. Sometimes I thought I was crazy.

If not for Jesus I probably would be.

We all struggle with unhealthy emotions sometimes. Some of us more than others, but God knows how I’m wired. He knows what I’m made of because He made me. That means when I need to vent I can vent to Him and He can take it. What’s more, He can beat it out of me.

I was reading Isaiah 28 yesterday and was completely transformed by this passage:

“Does the plowman plow every day to plant seed? Does he continuously break up and cultivate the soil?

When he has leveled its surface, does he not then scatter cumin and sow black cumin? He plants wheat in rows and barley in plots, with spelt as their border.

His God teaches him order; He instructs him.

Certainly black cumin is not threshed with a threshing board, and a cart wheel is not rolled over the cumin. But black cumin is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod.

Bread grain is crushed, but is not threshed endlessly. Though the wheel of the farmer’s cart rumbles, his horses do not crush it.

This also comes from the Lord of Hosts. He gives wonderful advice; He gives great wisdom.” verses 24-29

God knows what kind of soil I am. He knows what kind of seeds need planting in me. He may have to thresh, roll, or beat, but He’s after a harvest of good crop. He gets me. He works me. He changes me.

When I yield to the work of His hands He teaches me how to bring order to my soul and spirit. He gives me wonderful advice and shares great wisdom. He instructs me how to rid myself of emotions that are toxic to my spirit and how to let go of feelings that are damaging to my soul. I want to do what He tells me.

There’s nothing wrong with being a drama-queen. Passion can be a good thing if channeled in the right ways. After all, a plowman wouldn’t go through all the trouble of tilling his ground if he didn’t love what he did, if he didn’t love the land, if he didn’t love the hope of a harvest.

Just as the farmer knows what seeds will grow best in what kind of soil, so God knows what feelings and emotions best compliment my character and personality. I’m a sanguine. I found it very enlightening to learn a few years ago the strengths and weaknesses of my personality. Strengths like: I’m talkative, a storyteller, emotional and demonstrative, lover of people, good on stage, with a changeable disposition, having energy and enthusiasm, creativity and color in my life. Weaknesses like: I can be a compulsive talker, exaggerating and elaborating, scaring others off, with restless energy, controlled by circumstances, making decisions based on feelings, easily distracted.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

One thing I know, though, God doesn’t make mistakes. Or messes. He makes marvels. When the worst parts of me are tamed and the best parts of me are strengthened God inspires surprise and admiration and wonder, “Wow, God, look what You did!! You tilled the soil of my heart and planted seeds of beauty. You threshed the talkative nature in me and made me Your spokesperson. You rolled the tendency to exaggerate and gave me a wonderful testimony. You beat the restless energy into passionate service. Gosh, Lord, look what You did.”

I am what I am. A work in progress. There will always be new soil to till, new seeds to plant, new crops to harvest, but in God’s hands I’m transformable. I can be more of a marvel than a mess. It scares me to think of what I would be like without Jesus. I don’t even want to think about it. I guess I’ll just let my drama-queen-self think instead on what I am becoming…a good surprise, an admirable saint, a wonderful work of art in the hands of my Creator.

I still vent. Thank goodness I have forever family and faithful friends who love me for me. Most of the time, though, I’m learning to take my over-reactive-and-wound-up-self to the Maker of my heart. I want to embrace all that He wants to Be to me, for me, in me, through me. Because I really do want to embrace all that He wants me to be…not a mess, but a marvel.

 

The Faith of My Father

IMG_0687My Dad is the man who has most influenced my life and, more importantly, my faith. If I could say but one thing in honor of him it would be this: Dad, your faith has saved my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I can’t get to heaven on someone else’s faith, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “borrowed” the faith of my father. I imagine God has written on a very lengthy scroll the many stories of wonder-working power unleashed by this man I am proud to call my earthly father. The man who has most modeled the love of my heavenly Father. The man who has walked a spiritual journey full of confidence and courage and boldness in his quest to make faith come alive in the eyes of those who know him and love him.

You do know that faith is one of God’s spiritual gifts, don’t you? Dad has many God-given talents, but when he gave his life to Christ, God blessed him with the spiritual gift of faith. Dad possesses several fine gifts of the Spirit, but the gift of faith? Well, let me just say, God has properly wow-ed him. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that God has given my father so much faith that he has an abundance to share with others, an overflow to sweep them off their feet. A flood of faith to inspire, encourage, and spur others on. Over the years as I’ve struggled and wavered many times in my own spiritual journey the faith of this incredible man  has rubbed off onto me more times than I can count and made me a woman who chases hard after God. Because if I can have just a measure of my father’s faith, I will have a pretty plenty.

I’m convinced my father’s name is written in the Hall of Faith of modern-day spiritual heroes. Not only is he my hero, but I don’t doubt for one minute that he wears a cape and super-hero-tshirt in the eyes of many who have had the privilege of knowing him over the years. His faith is the stuff of legends, the kind that tells a story and keeps on going, the kind that leaves behind a lasting impression, a legacy.

It’s the kind of faith that rains down. Like manna. It comes in on the early morning dew and a whole crowd is fed, nourished, and satisfied. This kind of faith isn’t easily forgotten. Neither is the one who possesses it.

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s power never seems to lack trust?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s plan never seems to lose heart?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s purpose never seems to forfeit hope?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s provision never seems to express doubt?

How can you forget someone whose faith in God’s protection never seems to know fear?

How can you forget someone whose faith in the Sovereignty of God is firm, steadfast, and sure? I think instead of a question mark here I need a period. This is the essence of my father’s faith. Trusting in the Sovereignty of God. That’s it. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

You can’t forget that kind of faith. You can’t.

I can’t. I don’t. I won’t.

That’s why I want the faith of my father. That’s why I strive and persevere and press on in my journey of faith. Because I know God is real. I know that walking by faith and not by sight really can be a way of life. And no one on this earth has ever made it so real to me as this man whom God entrusted with my life.

Oh, gosh, Dad, what can I say? I have tears pooling in my eyes as I type because I love you so much. And I thank God for you from the bottom of my heart. I thank Him for giving you this gift so you can share it with me and show me how to live it. How wonderfully blessed I am for the riches of grace you have freely passed along to me that I may in turn pass them along to my children. I want to see generations of God-seekers learning to trust in the greatness and goodness of our mighty God because of your example.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers…” Deuteronomy 30: 19-20

Dad, you will never know how grateful I am that you gave your life to Christ so that I would one day come to do the same. You’ll never know how grateful I am that you chose life. One day you’re going to walk through the pearly gates of heaven and a sea of faces will stand ready to greet you, grinning from ear-to-ear, unable to contain their joy, because if not for you they wouldn’t know this precious gift, either. My active imagination paints this beautiful picture for me and no daughter could possibly be prouder than I am of you. Yes, I can imagine it because it’s this faith that makes the gates of heaven real to me, the joy of heaven certain and the God of heaven alive and on the throne! All because of you.

The faith of my father…I may have borrowed it from time-to-time, but these days I believe it for myself and I trust in it.

And maybe…hopefully…blessedly…richly…my faith has come alive for others in such a way that the legacy lives on.

The Prince and The Princess

i-tXtBkPm-TiOnce upon a time there was an insecure young woman who dreamed of marrying a prince. She wasn’t interested in jewels and a crown, though. What she really wanted was a knight-in-shining-armor. A man who would love her so much he would lay down his life for her. A man who was bold and courageous. One who would drop everything, mount a horse and ride to her rescue because sometimes her insecurities came as monstrous trolls that threatened to carry her away to caves or evil ogres that desired to eat her alive. There were menacing demons that taunted her and invading enemies that robbed her of peace and joy. She knew it would take a special kind of man to save her from herself.

She dreamed of love. Not the superficial kind of love that only sees what’s on the surface, but the kind that reaches deep inside. The kind that would look past the heart into her very soul. The kind of love that wouldn’t be afraid of the dark places or the dank messes. The kind of love that would nurture and nourish all that was good in her. The kind that would see past the damage of life and the passage of time. The kind of love that would plant seeds of hope within her and then water them with patience, gentleness and kindness. The kind of love that would grow strong into a flourishing tree with roots that would run so deep no storm, no fire, no flood could tear it down. The kind of love that would make her feel special…beautiful…treasured…

Funny how love came when she least expected it. It didn’t ride in on a white horse. It came quietly with a simple knock on her heart’s door. She knew when her prince arrived because her heart laughed. And danced. And sang. Her heart began to breathe freely. She was swept off her feet and carried off into the happily-ever-after.

The prince and the young woman became one.

“I, Wayne, take you, Nina, to be my wedded wife. From this day forward I promise and covenant to love, honor, and cherish you in the midst of all we do together. To you I now commit my life, to encompass all joys and sorrows, all triumphs and hardships, every experience of living. This commitment I make in love, to be kept in faith, lived in hope, and throughout all time made anew.”

Throughout all time… 

The princess may not have been looking for jewels and a crown, but she received them, anyway. She and her prince will one day inherit a great kingdom, a kingdom not of this world because their king is King Jesus. The prince, with all his spiritual riches, holds true to the covenant he made with his bride. He loves her more than he loves himself. He lays down his life for her every single day. He loves her sacrificially, selflessly, supernaturally. He cares for her deeply, devotedly, delightfully. And he still rescues her willingly, wonderfully, wittingly. The princess is the most blessed woman in the whole wide world.

For thirty-five years the prince and princess have journeyed through life together and even after all these years, the prince still rescues his bride from monstrous trolls and evil ogres from time-to-time. He is more bold and courageous today than he was when they first met. He is her knight-in-shining-armor. Her heart still laughs and dances and sings when they are together. In his eyes, she has never felt more special, more beautiful, more treasured.

Love still reigns in the palace these days, but the prince no longer has to knock on the heart’s door of his princess for it stays wide open all the time.

All the time and throughout all time…it’s a forever-thing.

Happy Anniversary, My Prince. I love you more today than yesterday. I will love you more tomorrow. I am so glad I will spend eternity with you.   

 

Fresh Perspective for the Storms of Life

IMG_0691Last week, my father and I walked along Wakefield Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. It’s a quiet strip of beach. Restful. Peaceful. Just a few hours walking along the shore is enough to help me refocus and put my frayed nerves back together. I don’t get to go as often as I like, but I was visiting my parents who live just a few miles away and it was a beautiful day .

As we were strolling along the shore, we came across a baby river turtle fighting the surf in its quest for deeper waters. Every time the waves would deposit him on shore, he promptly turned back and re-entered the water. In desperation and determination, those tiny little legs paddled fast and furious against the current. He didn’t want to be on shore. He wanted to be in the water. Past the rolling waves, past the tugging undertow, against the moving current. To get to the deeper calm he had to battle his own personal little storm.

Somehow, this visual has given me a fresh perspective for the storms of life. I’ve pondered it for days. I don’t want to be in the storm. I don’t like it. I don’t want to paddle my tiny little arms and legs until they’re spent with exhaustion. I don’t want to enter the surf again and again and again. Most of the time I just want God to get me out…relieve me…spare me. The storm isn’t my destination. I want my feet on solid ground, but now I realize that sometimes in life the storm is the destination.

God wants to stretch and strengthen my spiritual muscles. When my human faith struggles with things like doubt, God sends me into the storm. Fighting against the rolling waves, the constantly moving current and the undertow that threatens to pull me beneath the surface I gain a different perspective.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side…He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray…when evening came…the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.”

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed in the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-32

We make a big deal about Peter taking his eyes off Jesus. About his lack of faith, his doubt. But I see something new here. I see something fresh. I see something that has changed my perspective.

Jesus purposely made His disciples get into the boat and push out to water, knowing the storm would come. He is Lord of the skies. Lord of the seas. Master of the wind and waves. Jesus knew His disciples needed fresh faith and He knows when I need it, too. He knows what causes me to doubt. He knows when I need to fight the wind and waves. Before He can take me to the other side, I have to face the storm.

I like Peter. I like his passion. His zeal. His honesty. “Lord,” he said, “if it is You, tell me to come to You on the water.”

IF. For all Peter’s passion and zeal, for all his faith in Jesus as the Son of God, for all he knew to be true about this Man he had pledged to follow, he still had doubts.

Sometimes, I am Peter.

Jesus still comes to the doubters of this world. He takes our little bit of faith and puts us out to sea. He sends the wind to stir the waters and meets us there because He’s not just the Wave-Maker. He’s also the Wave-Walker.

I want to be like Peter. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus for a few seconds and began to sink, but he got out of the boat for crying-out-loud! He was the only one. The only one who asked Jesus to prove Himself. The only one who was honest in doubt, “Lord, increase my faith. Do the impossible.”

And Jesus did. Peter walked on water. So what if it was just a few steps. When his faith faltered and he began to sink, he still cried out to the only One he knew could save him. Peter’s little bit of faith really did save him.

Somehow I think Peter strengthened a few spiritual muscles in that storm. I need to do the same. I can even learn a lesson from the river turtle because as my father and I watched that baby turtle…all alone fighting the waves…he really did make it past the surf.  In deeper waters he’ll grow bigger and stronger. One day he’ll be strong enough to swim all the way across the river to the other side.

Storms are a part of life, but I want to learn to ride out the storm with an ever-increasing faith. When threatening waves deposit me on shore and keep me from reaching the other side I want to turn and kick against the current with desperation and determination. When the storm turns fierce and I lose my courage I want to cry out, trusting and believing the Wave-Walker will reach out for me and lift me above angry waves because even when I doubt I still know He’s the only One who can save me.

Sometimes I think the storm is the real destination. Maybe the other side is the reward of weathering the storm. And who knows? When I push out to sea, past the rolling waves, past the moving current, past the tugging undertow, and face the storm with fresh perspective…who knows? I just might learn to do a little water-walking of my own…

 

 

 

 

When Five Loaves and Two Fish Feed a Crowd

imagesLast week I studied the well-known Bible passage in John 6 that records Jesus feeding five thousand people with a little boy’s lunch. One of the things I love about God’s Word is that no matter how many times I read it or study it God will speak fresh truth when I have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to understand. I can’t help it…I just think it’s the most wonderful thing.

 

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.

Philip answered Him, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’

Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” John 6:1-13

 

Back in January I wrote the post, The Dream-Believer. I mentioned that God had given me a dream and one day it would be time to share it. As I studied this passage with eyes wide open, ears unplugged and a heart eager to receive I realized it’s time to share my dream. I’ve written a devotion book. It chronicles my spiritual journey through simple, every day experiences. Like a journal. I’ve written what I feel as honestly as I can, recording ways God has touched me, inspired me, encouraged me, and convicted me. These thirty devotions have been illustrated by my friend, Sherry French, who is a talented mixed media artist.

This past January I was offered a contract from a Christian publishing company and I accepted. The book is now in production with an expected fall release. You’d think I’d be elated. Excited. Expectant. You would think, but to tell you the honest-to-goodness truth I’ve been very scared.

Waves of fear have washed over me. Failure. Faint-hearted. Faithless. Fiery f’s. Flaming darts of the enemy. Doubt. Discouragement. Dread. Deadly d’s. Unbelief. Uncertain. Unable. Unforgiving u’s. And what if no one buys the book or those that do feel they wasted their money after they read it? What if the first run of a thousand copies sits in the warehouse collecting dust? What if I never get to write another book? Whiny what-if’s. Does it never end?

Shortly after I signed the contract on this book-a book I know for certain was completely and totally inspired by God-I realized that all my fears were a lack of faith in Him to use the gift of words He has given me. A lack of faith in His power. His might. His work. His ability. We’ve all been given a few loaves and a few fish…something or somethings…a gift or two that God never intends for us to keep to ourselves. These somethings are given for us to share, to shine, to show the faithfulness of God. We’ve heard it over and over again….it’s not about me…it’s all about Him. Isn’t it time we lived it?

Months ago, when I realized God was increasing my faith through the publishing of this book, I determined to ask Him to sell five thousand copies. Oh, I know He can sell more than that, but I’m just an unknown author with a little gift to share. A few words to shine the light of Jesus. A testimony to show God’s faithfulness in my life. When I pondered over this story of the boy who gave all he had, I realized God wants to feed five thousand people with my little lunch.

Five loaves. Two fish. Five thousand people. And all are fed. It’s a God-thing. A miracle. A multiplying.

Jesus, the Multiplier, cannot be underestimated. When I think I have nothing to give He says, “Give me what you have.” When I think my offering is too little He says, “Give me what you have.” When I think my talents are insignificant He says, “Give me what you have. I, the Multiplier, will take your nothing and make it something. I will take your little and make a lot. I will take what you think is insignificant and make it important. Never underestimate My miracle~working~power.”

When I give God my five loaves and two fish it will always be enough. More than enough. There may even be leftovers. Nothing I give in Jesus’ name will ever be wasted.

So I’ve surrendered my little girl’s lunch…this devotion book…because it’s not mine. It’s God’s. He’ll feed the five thousand. I’ll just pray each one is filled.

When the fiery f’s, the deadly d’s, and the whiny what-if’s threaten to scare me silly Jesus reminds me this isn’t a Nina-thing. It’s a God-thing. Sometimes I’m still like a child, a girl surrendering her basket full of somethings, but I know I’m never too old for miracles.

All the somethings I have to give for all the days of my life will never be wasted in the hands of the Multiplier. And that’s such a wonderful thing.

(For those of you who may want to hear more about, Reflections On The Psalms: Connecting With God Creatively, I’ll keep you updated the closer we get to our release date. Please pray for us!)