Reflections On Psalm 2

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I got a traffic ticket. Once. Nearly broke my heart. Felt seriously like a criminal. My pride was crushed. Never could I ever say, “I’ve never had a speeding ticket in my entire life.”

I remember it like it was yesterday.

My younger son got glasses when he was in the second grade. It never occurred to me that he would have trouble keeping up with them, much less keeping them on his face!! Any 7-year old should be able to keep up with glasses, right?

Of course not. What was I thinking? Don’t answer that.

Those first couple of weeks with new eye-ware were an adjustment period for us all. Brandon would take them off and forget where he put them and I would search for them. We made several trips back to the school at the end of the day so he could retrieve them.

One particular day when he got off the bus without them, we really, really needed to be somewhere right after school so upon leaving the school parking lot I pulled out and hit the gas. Within 3 seconds my rearview mirror lit up with bright, flashing lights and my heart flipped out. With a quick glance at the speedometer I let out a groan and pulled over…

45 in a 35 mile per hour zone–a zone complete with subdivisions on either side of the street and a school in the midst. Families, children, pets everywhere. And I wasn’t thinking of any of them.

The policeman who pulled me over was actually very nice. Kind, even. I even think he was a little tenderhearted. I don’t think he really wanted to give me that ticket. He hesitated as if he hoped I’d offer an explanation. He definitely didn’t throw his weight around.

Maybe because I said something like, “I’m so sorry. Just give me the ticket.” I even hung my head. Tears actually fell off my cheeks onto that yellow piece of paper as I signed on the dotted line.

Because I deserved that ticket.

That was over 20 years ago and I’m proud to say I’ve never had another one since.

But maybe I shouldn’t be so proud. Because in all honesty, I don’t always go the speed limit.

You know that 5-miles-per-hour-over-rule? Well, that’s me. Yep, most of the time I give myself 5 miles over. And, guess what? I’m still breaking the law. If I ever get a ticket for going 5-miles over, I’d deserve it. If  a policeman pulled me over with a blue-light-special, I’d still accept the consequences. That’s the law and a policeman wears the badge to show he has the authority to enforce the law.

Psalm 2 is one of those psalms you have to dig deep to find gold. It’s not one of those psalms we turn to over and over again, but I kept focusing on verse 4. It’s the only place in Scripture where we’re actually told that God laughs…and it’s not the fun-loving kind of laugh that makes us feel good.

God laughs because even though the pride of man, especially earthly kings and rulers, makes it look like human power prevails over God’s power at times…haha…it just can’t be done.

In fact, the patience and lovingkindness of God to wait until the appointed time to act shows great restraint and power on His part! Some tend to think that God doesn’t see or God doesn’t care or God can’t perform mighty acts anymore or maybe…heaven, forbid…He just isn’t more powerful than the enemy.

That’s what the scoffers say, anyway. That’s what the mockers think. But, those who know who God really is…those who trust that He is The Omnipotent One…they know better.

Those who believe that God is mighty and powerful and able to save will find rest in His omnipotence.

Psalm 2 is a warning (verse 10). A warning to the kings and rulers of this earth that God has glorified His Son (verses 7 & 8). It should be a great comfort to us that He has, too.

Though Jesus was, and still is, mocked, ridiculed, and blasphemed by men, God will not allow His Son to be stripped of His crown. Though nations rebel and earthly kings rage against Him…though they show Him irreverence and openly defy Him…God has still raised Him up, exalted Him, glorified Him, and set Him upon The Holy Mountain (verse 6). In spite of anything that mere mortal man may do, there will come a day when those rulers will be forever sorry (verse 12).

Forever. Sorry.

The nations may be in an uproar. They may grumble and complain and express themselves with rage against one another and against God. The peoples of the earth may devise vain things. The kings and rulers of this earth may take counsel together against the Lord (verses 1-3), but God is still on the throne and Jesus is still King of kings.

The Father has given His Son the right to be King. The right to rule. The right to conquer. Those who will not willingly bend now under the prodding of His golden scepter will one day be shattered by His iron rod (verse 9).

That’s a fact, Jack.

Oh, my goodness…I’m so glad I trust in the power of Jesus to save.

I know at times my trust has been small, but you know? Trust grows over time. If my trust is real when it’s small then it can surely grow. It’s like a seed that needs to be watered and nourished. When first planted that seed is very real. Without the proper soil and the right amount of water and fertilizer it may never amount to much, but when it’s loved and cared for it will grow into something beautiful.

Yes, I’m so glad I’ve learned the joy of finding refuge in Jesus. I don’t want to ‘misplace’ Him or ‘leave Him behind’ like a pair of glasses I toss here and there. I don’t want to ‘rebel’ against what’s good and right for me, charging full speed ahead into dangerous territory. But when I do, I’m so glad He will pull me over and ‘slow me down’.

I can trust Jesus to be my Ultimate Authority.

I know a lot of people don’t get this, but I want Jesus to rule in my heart. I would rather learn to willingly bend now so that I won’t be shattered later.

I want my trust to grow and flourish and produce fruit. Because even though I deserve the wrath of God (verse 12), in His mercy, He doesn’t treat me as my sins deserve. Instead of me signing my name on a dotted line, Jesus has paid my debt in full. That’s why tears of gratitude fall down my cheeks.

That’s the beauty of my inheritance in The Son (verse 8), an inheritance zoned-out with spiritual riches on every side and Jesus in the midst.

Forever. Blessed.

That’s me.

“…How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalm 2:12c

Reflections On Psalm 1

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I can remember when I valued exercise as a very vital, necessary part of my daily life. Back in the 1980’s there was this exercise show on TV called, “The Twenty Minute Workout.” I stumbled upon it one morning after I fed my toddler son breakfast and he was happily playing with his toys. In my early days of mamma hood I often left the TV on just for background noise, to keep me company, I guess. At the time, I hadn’t learned the importance of letting God and His Word keep me company!! Those were the days when I was still fickle and inconsistent in my relationship with Him, finding my way back after years of going my own way.

Sad, but true.

The Twenty Minute Workout was hosted by a woman whose name has escaped me. She and 2 other beautiful women with sculpted bodies and cute coordinating leotards, complete with leg warmers and tights, instructed the viewing audience in a highly energized aerobic fitness routine. I sat and watched that first time, completely enthralled.

The next morning, I donned sweatpants and a t-shirt (cute leotards, tights and the leg warmers would come later) and with all the determination and gusto I could muster, I not only watched, I joined them right there in the living room of my apartment. I’m so glad there was no one but my little boy to watch me moving around the room like that, moving my body in ways that made my bones and muscles squeal with delight. Yes, delight. Because I was hooked.

I started on an aerobic fitness journey for the next 10 years that kept me fit and focused and did wonders for my poor self-esteem. After a couple of years, The Twenty Minute Workout was completely embedded in the halls of my memory bank. I no longer needed the TV. I could take my workout with me everywhere I went and, believe me, I did. When Jazzercise came to town during those lean years I soon learned that 20 minutes of aerobics was no longer enough for me. Jazzercize became my new thing! Three to 4 times a week I danced to music with a roomful of other women for hour-long sessions of intense dance routines that left me breathless.

How I wish I could find my exercise-happy these days. I’m so fickle and inconsistent with exercise that sometimes I just want to scream, “Jesus, PLEASE! Help me take care of this old body. Help me find something….ANYthing…that I love as much as The Twenty Minute Workout!” (Doesn’t sound very spiritual, I know, but I really, really loved that workout and I’ve never found any other exercise I love as much.)

See…it’s important we love it or else we won’t want to do it.

We’re already eight days into 2016. And, guess what? I’ve not even gone for one 40 minute walk around town.

Not one.

And I used to enjoy walking.

I’ve been feeling kinda puny lately. Back in December some health issues creeped into my life and I’m not going to lie…they were kinda serious. After an initial trip to the emergency room, I’ve been passed from doctor to doctor, been wheeled around on more than one gurney for more than one test, and I’m still not done. As one doctor stated, “It might take several tries before you get an answer.”

I haven’t felt much like exercising, but I’ve noticed something….in the last couple of months I’ve gone from walking to standing to sitting.

A LOT of sitting.

And I don’t like it at all.

This morning I was thinking of Psalm 1 where the idea of walking…not standing…not sitting…

speaks to a man who is blessed. A man who is happy. A man who finds delight in the law of the Lord. A man who finds his happy-place by meditating on God’s Word and then living it out.

A man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked but walks in the counsel of his God.

A man who doesn’t stand in the path of sinners but walks in the path of righteousness.

A man who doesn’t sit in the seat of mockers but walks to the throne of grace.

This man is so happy he’s like a tree. A flourishing tree. A tree with a healthy life and breath and soul prosperity. A tree with strong branches and leaves and spirit fruit. A tree with a mighty trunk and bark and godly roots. A tree where the heart of it is fed water from fresh streams that never run dry.

Man won’t receive all this goodness lying down day after day, just staring at his Bible. Oh no. He must open it. And read it. And study it. And ponder it. And embed it upon his memory bank so he can take it wherever he goes.

And then…then…he must put it to practice. He must sit up. He must get up. He must walk it out, exercising his faith with assurance that all he has and all he needs is found in Jesus, the Living Word.

I’ve come a long way in my walk with Jesus since those early days of my return. I’m not as fickle as I used to be, but I’m not as consistent as I want to be. Yet, of this I’m sure…

The counsel of God is my plumbline.

The path of righteousness is my guideline.

The throne of grace is my bloodline.

The Word of God is my lifeline.

And I am so incredibly blessed. I’m not just happy, I’m delighted. Loving the Word has become part of my fitness journey of faith. I want to read it, know it, live it.

Because I am hooked.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3  

Behold!

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I know it’s Christmas, but there’s a chorus from a song sung at Easter that’s been ringing in my ears for weeks,

“Behold, the Lamb! Behold the Lamb!

Slain from the foundation of the world; for sinners crucified

Oh, holy sacrifice!

Behold, the Lamb of God! Behold the Lamb!” (David Phelps, Behold The Lamb)

Behold. Stop what you’re doing and pay attention. I’ve got something important to tell you.

I love the word behold. It actually has a very simple definition, to see, lo, but because it’s an imperative it has a very definitive meaning, “when a thing specified seems to be impossible and yet it occurs.” 

Wow. I think I like this word A. Lot. Why don’t we use it more often?

Just askin’…

Behold is an imperative used many times in Scripture, but I love that Dr. Luke uses it in his biblical account of the birth of Christ. Of the four Gospel accounts, Luke gives us the most beautiful details of Jesus’ birth, including an amazing birth announcement to humble shepherds by heavenly angels,

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10, 11 

I could go into a dozen different directions here, but I won’t. This is blog. Not a dissertation so let me just say how much I love that the angel appeared to lowly shepherds. Don’t miss the fact the message was for all people, but a Savior is a very personal thing. That’s why the angel said, there has been born a Savior for you

OH. YES! GOOD. TIDINGS. OF. GREAT. JOY.

I don’t know about you, but this is a behold-moment.

Who doesn’t need some tidings of great joy these days?!?

Me!! I do! I do!

I think the shepherds needed it more than just about anybody. They were considered the lowest class of society, living virtually all alone out in the open fields. They used rocks as pillows. They had the b-a-a-h’s of sheep to keep them company by day and the twinkle of stars at night. They had no money. No home. No hope.

And then came, Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

I’m seriously having a stop-and-pay-attention-moment right now. Because the news that a Savior was born in the town of David is bigger than just about any news I’ve ever heard. EVER.

Except for maybe one. And the apostle John records it as a behold-moment in his Gospel (and, by the way, you do know that gospel means good news? right?),

“The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” John 1:29

I think John the Baptist needed this moment more than just about anybody. He lived out in the desert wearing camel’s hair. He ate locusts. He had no money. No home. BUT…he had something the shepherds didn’t…John had hope. His whole purpose in life was to prepare the way for Jesus. His whole message was one of calling the people to Behold.

John and Jesus were cousins so he knew Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He believed it so much that he preached like a hell-fire-and-brimstone-preacher-with-no-time-to-waste and people flocked to hear him proclaim this good news. Because, you know? People need hope. People will always need hope.

Like the angels who brought good news to the shepherds out in the fields, John’s message was one of good tidings. A message for all people. For the shepherds of this world. For the John’s. For me.

And you.

Behold! Christ is born!

Behold! The Lamb of God!

You can’t have one without the other. They are the same. Savior. Lamb.

And I am just so full of GREAT JOY that I can hardly stand it. I’m having a behold-moment right here at my computer.

I need to hear the good tidings of God made into flesh.

I need to hear that the Son of God was born to a humble girl of meager means.

I need to know that Joseph loved Mary and the baby within her conceived of the Spirit enough to risk his own reputation and good name for the sake of God’s good name.

I need to know that Jesus wasn’t born in a palace but a stable and laid in a feeding trough for a bed.

I need to know the angels announced Jesus’ birth not to the rich, the powerful, and the elite but to the poor, the weak, the common.

I need to know that Jesus grew “in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God and man.”

I need to know that Jesus was baptized, not because He ever sinned, but because He wanted to be obedient to His Father.

I need to know that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.” 

I need to know that Jesus gave His life for me, the spotless Lamb of God. He died a cruel death at the hands of heartless men, was buried in a tomb made out of rock, and BEHOLD! He was resurrected and now sits at the right hand of the Father and for those who call upon His name He gives eternal life.

BEHOLD! I bring you good tidings of great joy.

For all people.

A baby born. A Lamb slain.

A Savior lives. And because He does, so does hope.

There are no better tidings than this in all the world.

Please…stop what you’re doing and pay attention! The shepherds did.

And so do I.

To Hear The Angels Sing

 

 

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There are sounds and voices here on this earth that are pleasant and beautiful to the ears. I wish I could hear them all.

But there are also sounds and voices that aren’t so pleasant and I’m not one bit sorry I can’t hear them. They make me sad. Sometimes they make me angry. Sometimes they make me grieve and sorrow and weep. Who wants to hear sounds like these? I ask you…

One of the things I love about this time of year is the music that rings through the air. The songs of Christmas are some of the pleasant sounds I love.

There’s one Christmas carol we sing in church that, ironically, doesn’t speak of the birth of Christ. It’s speaks of a different kind of sound. It speaks of the song of angels. There’s this crazy part of me that likes to imagine the voices of angels singing. Serenading me. Soothing my soul and spirit.

Maybe because I don’t hear well it’s easier for me to imagine the sound of a heavenly chorus, a host of angels praising God and singing.

It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold;

‘Peace on the earth, good will to men,’ From heav’n’s all-gracious King.

The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing. (It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, Edmund Sears, 1849)

A midnight clear…

How pleasant is that? One of the best parts of my day is when I take my dogs outside one last time before I go to bed. I look up into the night time sky with a deep longing inside me. A longing for quiet, a longing for peace, a longing for a stillness this world cannot give me.

There’s just something about the moon and the stars all shining brightly against a pitch black sky. I thank God that I live outside city walls where no smoke or smog prohibits the wonder of it all. The wonder of a peace beyond understanding, of quiet beyond comprehension, of rest beyond appreciation. It’s in this moment that my world lies still and I can hear the more pleasant sounds of life.

The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing…

How beautiful is that? There’s just something about a night time sky that can bring a calm to the soul and spirit. A stillness that can’t be taken away. I don’t need perfect hearing to appreciate the sounds that speak to the very corners of my heart, where I long for a word of peace, a world of good will.

Who of us doesn’t need peace in a world that seems to have gone mad? Who of us doesn’t long for good will among men in a world that seems bent on vengeance? Who of us doesn’t crave calm in a world that breeds chaos?

Oh, Sweet Jesus, it’s why You came. To give this peace. To give all that is pleasant and good and right. All that is quiet and rest and calm.

“For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing…” Isaiah 30:15

Maybe that’s why the carol, It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, is so different. Sprinkled throughout, like the light of the stars in a pitch black sky, are verses like these,

Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; Beneath the angel strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong; and man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring; oh hush the noise, ye men of strife and hear the angels sing…

All ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing: O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing…

Hush the noise…O rest beside the weary road…

When the voice within me wants to cry out, Lord, Stop the madness! Put an end to the chaos! Lighten the load! Give this repentance and rest that brings peace in Salvation! Grant this quietness and trust that brings hope in Strength! Lord, I don’t want to be unwilling!!!, I hear Him say to me, Hush. Rest. 

You know that last gaze into the sky at the end of the day I love? That’s the kind of hush this Christmas carol is talking about. It’s the kind of calm that’s possible even in the midst of a mad, mad world. There’s a wonder in this and this wonder has a name.

Jesus. He came into this mad world with a star shining brightly into a calm, clear night. He came into a time on the kingdom calendar when God’s people were oppressed, striving hard for their daily bread, walking down weary roads with great toil; discouraged, distressed, despondent. Into this madness, Jesus came. And when He did, the angels sang.

They sang in spite of strife, of war and rumors of war, of crushing loads and wearisome toil, of painful steps and forms bending low. In the midst of discouragement, distress, despondency.

Because when Jesus came, with Him came this perfect peace for all who believe in the gift of His salvation because Jesus IS peace. This peace is worth singing about. Worth singing for.

I want to sing this song with the angels.

Because this is the peace only Christ can bring. In the stillness of the night, He still speaks to the soul and spirit. In the darkness of the night, His glory still shines brightly to the weary and worn.

Maybe that’s why I can hear the more pleasant sounds of life. Maybe that’s why I can hear the songs of angels singing,

When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.

Sadly, peace will never fully be realized between all mankind on this earth, but the peace of Christ is still very real and one day peace will reign over all the earth. The whole world will sing this song together in perfect harmony, but until then it’s a song that reigns in my heart and I can hear its message loud and clear…

because the angels still sing this message of peace and when I look up into the midnight clear, I can hear them.

And who needs perfect hearing for that?

Even To My Old Age…

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This morning I’ve woken…or is waked?…I don’t know. I should look that up, but I won’t. Because this morning I’ve reason to wonder about more important things. Like a birthday.

Today I am 58.

I admit, when I tell people how old I am it doesn’t seem so old. When I write it, though, and see it in print somehow it looks a wh-o-O-o-le lot different. Like a lifetime.

I think it’s quite a victory to celebrate this many years because the older I get the more I understand a few things. The more I value a heart that still beats strong. The more I treasure a mind that still ponders wonderful things. The more I prize legs that still move and bend and carry the weight of me. The more I appreciate hands that still grip and grasp and hold the load for me.

Yes, the older I get, the more I realize that the few gray hairs I have on my head are a gift from God. I can look back over my life and see that He has always been there for me. He has always sustained me. He has always been the same wonderful God doing amazing things in my life.

He was there when I struggled with asthma as a toddler and even to

the loss of my eye as a child and even to

the emotional conflict as a girl without an eye and even to

the thyroid cancer as a teen and even to

the liver disease diagnosis of an infant son as a mother and even to

the police arrest of that rebel teen as a parent and even to

the removal of a brain tumor as a woman and even to

the temporary disability of my husband and even to the loss of his job and even to the financial strain of that season and even to…even to…even to…

Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you.” Isaiah 46:4

This is the God of Even-to’s. The God who has carried me when my legs lost their strength. The God who has born my burdens when my back was been bent over with weight. The God who has delivered me from storms and trials. The God who has walked with me through fires, flown with me through clouds, and run with me in every race. This is the God who has cared for me, clothed me, fed me, and sheltered me. YES! He has done it!

From the day I was born even to this day…21,170 days of life.

Somehow, when I write that out, it looks like a lifetime. A lifetime of even to’s. 

A lifetime of beating hearts and pondering thoughts.

A lifetime of legs walking twists and turns.

A lifetime of hands holding shapes and sizes.

A lifetime of eyes seeing God do amazing things in my life.

Not just any lifetime. MY lifetime.

This morning I have woken up…or is it waked?…I still don’t know, but I still feel the beat of my heart and I value the One who keeps it beating, pulsing, loving. I still feel the thoughts pondering in my mind and I treasure the One who keeps me thinking, meditating, wondering. I still feel the bones in my legs and I prize the One who keeps them bending, carrying, moving. I still feel the muscles in my hands and I appreciate the One who keeps them gripping, grasping, holding.

From the day I was born even to this day I still wonder about the important things of life. 

Like a lifetime of Even-to’s with God by my side.  

God is Jealous For Me

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God’s jealousy for me makes me weep.

Because sometimes it’s just so hard for me to understand why He would care enough about me to be jealous at all.

Because He’s faithful. Even when I am not.

Because He’s merciful. Even when I am not.

Because He’s God. And I am not.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14

God is jealous, not in the angry, malicious, violent sense, but in the burning, holy, righteous sense. He is zealous for His good Name. And I am His child. I wear His Name.

HIS Name. A Name that makes some people curse and others praise. A Name that makes some shake their fists and others lift their hands. A Name that makes some kick and scream and others bow low. A Name that makes some cringe and others hope.

But no matter how people react, He’s still God and there’s just something about His Name.

My Sunday School class at church is studying, Praying The Names Of God, by Ann Spangler. I love it. I really love it. I love focusing on a different name for God each week. Every day, pondering, reflecting, chewing on the significance of the names, understanding the meaning of the names, and trying to wrap my mind around the character of God.

This morning I’ve been reflecting on El Kanna (EL kan-NAH), Jealous God.

And it’s in my reflecting that I weep.

Because I want to be zealous for the God who is zealous for me. I want to praise, even when my heart is sad. I want to lift my hands, even when my arms are heavy. I want to bow, even when my legs are weak. I want to hope, even when my soul is downcast.

When I’m too focused on my humanity or too distracted by the world, my heart tends to stray and God wants my heart. All of it. That’s why He never lets me stray too far. That’s why He never leaves me where I am. That’s why He never gives up on me. He is mindful in His pursuit of me and I can’t tell you how I rejoice in this knowledge. It’s just a little too wonderful for me.

That’s why I can trust in His Name, El Kanna, and all it represents and all it stirs inside of me.

Because wearing God’s Name reminds me of Whose I am. Bearing His Name reminds me of Who I serve. Calling on His Name reminds me of Who has my heart.

When all I need is found in Christ, why would I want to praise, lift my hands, bow down or hope in anyone or anything else? Ever? Why would I want to let my heart stray when I have a God who loves me so? And, yet, God knows that sometimes I do. That’s why He’s jealous for me.

“I am the Lord; that is My name! I will not give my glory to another, or my praise to idols.” Isaiah 42:8

Yes, God is Jealous God. And rightfully so. His love is perfect and holy, fiercely protective and intensely powerful. His love propels Him to want what’s best for me and guard the part of me that’s most precious to Him.

So, today this is how I pray:

Yes, Father. I will let You be jealous for me. I will let You be zealous in Your love for me. I will let You guide me, grace me, and guard me. 

Because I love You, too. And I want to honor You. Because You are faithful. And merciful.   

Because I want to give You the glory that is rightfully Yours.

Because You are worthy.

Because You are God. And I am not.  

You Hem Me In

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Before I flew out to California three weeks ago I hadn’t flown anywhere in thirteen years.

Because…and read my lips…I. HATE. FLYING.

I. FEAR. FLYING.

And not only that…I. AM. HEARING. IMPAIRED and I. WAS. FLYING. ALONE.

Y’all, I. WAS. SERIOUSLY. AFFLICTED.

Like, near the depths of despair.

Okay. So this may be a slight exaggeration.

But A.F.F.L.I.C.T.I.O.N. is the only word I feel accurately describes my state of being.

There. I said it.

Judge me if you want, but if you have an ounce of mercy in your pitiful hearts you will grace me instead.

I once read somewhere that most of our fears are ‘learned.’ We’re born with only two; fear of falling and fear of loud noises. I really don’t fear loud noises. My hearing impairment could obviously have something to do with that, but maybe the reason many of us have a fear of heights is because of that ingrained fear of falling and that could very well be why some of us really do NOT like to fly.

Most of us have at least one fear, maybe more, so even though our phobias may be different we can still understand the feelings and emotions behind them. It’s a terrible malady. If not for the grace of God I would never have gotten on that plane all by myself. Can you hear me in my whiny childish voice, “May I have a babysitter to hold my hand, please?” ‘Cause I seriously wanted one.

So maybe you can understand why it was such a BIG deal for me to ‘GO’ where God said ‘GO’,  to ‘DO’ what God said ‘DO’, to ‘FLY’ where God said ‘FLY.’

The only way I could kiss my sweet husband good-bye at the airport and enter the unknown alone was because in my heart of hearts, I knew God was going before me, God would not leave me comfortless, and…

God would be good to me. He could not, would not, disappoint me.

At the Raleigh airport I was comforted by very gracious airline employees. After Raleigh…well, let me just say…airline personnel don’t have a lot of sympathy for people like me. I’m neither completely deaf nor totally blind. I’m kinda caught in the middle. I can hear sounds, but I don’t have clarity. Forget trying to decipher anything that comes through a sound system. I need visuals. I need to see a face, read lips…you know the story.

Drawing from my life experiences, most people think that if you have hearing aids you don’t need the aid of people. To my dismay, airline personnel in Dallas couldn’t have cared less when I asked for their assistance in telling me when it was my turn to board. They pretty much forgot all about me.

I’ve had to learn in life to draw on what I know to be true about God and I knew He had not forgotten me,

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” Isaiah 49: 15 & 16

I knew that if God had gone before me then He had prepared the hearts of certain individuals to stand in the gap for me. I just had to find them.

So, in that big, bustling Dallas airport swarming with humanity, I appealed to the God whose eyes were on me and scanned the crowd at the gate. You can tell so much by looking at faces, and thanks be to God, He directed me to an older man with a kind face. (I like kind.)

“Please, sir, would you mind telling me when they call Group 2? I’m hearing impaired and I can’t understand a thing they’re saying over that intercom.”

It was at that moment I realized something I almost forgot…the God who goes before me always makes a way in the journey. It’s just not always the way I expect. In a hearing-seeing world where I don’t hear and see like most people around me I have a part to play. I have to let God be God and trust Him enough to give me a push in the right direction when I need it.

God’s direction for me was to ‘get over myself’ and ‘get under His wing.’

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“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge…” Psalm 91:4

There’s something about taking this journey with God that boosted my confidence and bolstered my courage in a way I’ve not experienced in a long, long time. There’s something about the way God made Himself known to me in very personal ways. Like in the Ontario airport on the return trip home when He guided me to a sweet senior woman. (I like sweet.)

We struck up a conversation and when I found out she was over 80 years old and flying alone I was properly put in my place, I can tell you that! But, it was in the more-daunting Dallas airport that God reminded me of something I’d almost forgotten,

He hems me in.

“You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:5

As God set my sights on a young couple with compassion on their faces (I like compassion), I sat down beside them and made my appeal with no more fear behind the words. When it was our turn to board, as only God could instruct, this woman said to me,

“Now you let my husband go in front of you and I’ll go behind you. We’ll guide you along the way.”

The tears are flowing even now because this memory is so precious to me.

I may not always know what the journey holds, but when I trust in the goodness of God, He never disappoints me. His goodness shows up in kindness, in sweetness, and in the compassion of those whose hearts He has prepared to meet me.

I went from affliction to consolation. I’m so glad God never tires of reminding me, “Nina, I not only go before you, but I have your back. I will not let you fall, even though you fear the flight. I will uphold you with the palms of my hand and you will find refuge under my wings.” 

And I ask you, who needs a babysitter when God Himself hems me in?

When God Knits Hearts Together

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It’s hard to believe that one week ago today I was on a plane, returning home from a most spiritually uplifting time of sweet refreshing. God had to take me clear across the country…literally from one coast to the other…to remind me that sometimes we have to leave the comfort of what is familiar to experience the glorious.

And I have never been so glad to flee my comfort zone in my entire life.

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My heart is completely, utterly, and unquestionably knit together forever with some beautiful women out in California. I’ve been reflecting all week on this glorious love of God that transcends highways and byways, bridges rivers and canyons, and connects hearts and souls.

And I am awed. Amazed. Humbled.

I don’t know why. God never quits being awesome. He never ceases to be amazing. He never stops humbling. Sometimes, though, in the comfort of my everyday life I forget that God longs to WOW-me. So He makes me uncomfortable. It’s in this discomfort that I discover how comfortable I can be when I let Him take me into the unknown and love on me real good every step of the way.

God has this funny way of bringing us to the end of ourselves in the unfamiliar. It’s here that we experience glorious things of our God who brings glory to Himself through surrendered hearts and willing vessels. Things we’ve forgotten. Or forfeited. There’s just something so holy about being brought low. Something so humbling when I pour out and God pours in. It’s in this place we’re overwhelmed by Love.

And the ladies of Glendora loved all over me with the love of Christ. From the moment Cathy began communicating with me through email to the moment Cheryl picked me up at the airport to the moment Joann and her husband received me into their home to the moment I met Felice for the first time to the moment I entered the retreat center and was introduced to 50-plus amazing women who came with the anticipation of meeting with our Jesus, I felt as if I’d known them forever, our hearts entwined, knitted together like a beautifully stitched afghan warming my body and comforting my soul.

I will never forget them.

As I was reflecting on this I remembered that Scripture tells us in 1 Samuel 18:1, 3 & 4, “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself…then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” 

This encounter between David and the son of king Saul follows David’s triumph over the Philistine giant, Goliath. Jonathan had not only seen David’s courage and witnessed his victory, but he had heard David speak boldly in defense of the one true God, the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.

Jonathan felt a kinship with David because they were like-minded. To knit means to tie, physically, to gird; to bind together, league together. I guess you could say they were in “a league all their own.”  They shared a bond and that bond was rooted in their love for the Lord God. I’m sure Jonathan admired David’s courage and respected his bold attack against the enemy, but there’s just something about someone who shares your love for the Lord.

FullSizeRender-4(Me and this girl. Felice. What can I say?)

Believers that come together in oneness of heart and soul, in the glorious love of Christ Jesus, are true kindred spirits. They’re not strangers. There’s no discomfort. Nothing unfamiliar about that. I may have flown to California thinking I was going to bless those women with encouragement in the Word of God, but God threw me a curve ball. They will never know how God used them to bless me good.

When it was time for me to leave I cried. As much as I missed my husband, my family, and my friends back home, I still felt a sadness in my heart because these precious women would be so far away.

2,554.6 miles to be exact.

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How can you explain this kind of feeling except for the love of God? I thought of Paul’s tearful good-bye with his Ephesian brothers and sisters in Christ, how they knelt in the sand before he boarded the ship, weeping and praying at the thought of never seeing him again.

I thought of the words he wrote to the Romans in 1:11, “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” 

And the words he wrote to the church in Corinth, recorded in 2 Corinthians 3: 2 & 3, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 

And his words in Philippians 1: 3-5, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all. In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart.” 

I think Paul knew what it meant to have his heart bound and knitted together with those he came to love through his ministry. That love transcended highways and byways, bridged rivers and canyons, and connected hearts and souls. Love is sometimes puzzling, baffling, and perplexing, but the pure love of Christ will always be a glorious thing.

I pray that I’ll be reunited again this side of heaven with my California friends because they left an imprint on my heart that will never wash away. Thank goodness for Facebook and Instagram. If Jesus returns before an earthly reunion, I can’t think of anything more glorious than celebrating together on streets of gold.

So, to my dear friends who live on the opposite side of the country, “Thank you for inviting me to flee my comfort zone. Thank you for embracing me. Thank you for sharing your hearts with me. I am forever grateful.”

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I use to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy M. Montgomery

*Top photo taken by Felice

Facing My Fears

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This is me. Posing for the camera, teeth chattering, and biting my nails. It’s just a pose. So you can get a picture of what I look like afraid.

Actually, it’s not a good picture. It’s just for show. It’s pretend. Cause what I’m really feeling right now is a mixture of fear, excitement, anticipation, amazement, and I don’t know if you can understand this one, but it comes to me in waves…P.A.N.I.C.

Yes, in the midst of all that positive energy is some really pitiful stuff.

Please don’t judge me.

A few years ago I spoke to a group of women with a message from the story of Gideon. You can read the story for yourself in Judges 6 and 7. In fact, I encourage you to read it. I want you to read it. You need to read it. Just sayin’…

Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress, under a tree, hiding in fear from the terrifying Midianites who were oppressing God’s people. One of the ways they instilled fear was to swoop down and steal the Israelite’s food the minute it was harvested. Yep, for all their power and strength, they couldn’t even thresh the wheat for themselves. They preyed on the children of God by watching them do all the work and stealing the fruit of their labor. Can I hear a “Not fair, Lord, not fair!” 

Scripture tells us that The Angel of the Lord came to Gideon as he was threshing wheat. Most scholars agree that this was the pre-incarnate Christ. It was Jesus Himself who came down to give Gideon some much-needed encouragement. God had heard the cries of His people and had chosen Gideon to deliver them from oppression. It was the farthest thing from Gideon’s mind at the time. I’m sure he had done his fair share of crying out, but never in a million years did he stop to think that God would raise him up to lead an army, carry a sword, and fight some battles.

I love that God came down. Not to the strongest man in Israel. Not to the wealthiest. Not to the one with the most prestige and status, but to a man so afraid he was in hiding, threshing wheat where grapes were pressed for wine, trying to throw his enemy off track by keeping what little harvest he had a secret.

God met Gideon where he was. In all his fear and insecurity and weakness. And, yet, the Angel still called Gideon a mighty warrior!

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  (Judges 6:12)

Oh, my shivering soul! Oh, my racing heart! Oh, how I love that God saw Gideon not for what he was at the moment of encounter, but for what he would become!

Can I hear an “Amen,” please?!?

God didn’t see Gideon as a coward. God saw a man of courage.

I needed to revisit this story today. I needed to reread my notes. Because sometimes I feel just like Gideon. Small. Insignificant. Definitely not the strongest of the strong and certainly not the wealthiest. Yet, God has called me to ‘go in the strength (I) have.’ Because tomorrow I fly out to California, all by my lonesome, to share a message with some very Jesus-loving women who live in Glendora. Like Gideon, I’ve often found myself questioning God and making excuses, “But who am I? I am the least. I am the weakest.” (Like I said earlier, please don’t judge.)

But, you know what I love about an encounter with The Almighty? I can take all my fears and weaknesses and insecurities to Him and He does the most amazing thing. He changes my perspective. Just like He did for Gideon.

God graciously made Himself known to Gideon. The Lord who is strength Himself gave Gideon a pep talk. Charged him up real good, too! And He gave Gideon a few promises, “The Lord is with you…I am sending you…go in the strength I give you…peace to you…fear not…”

And this encounter changed Gideon’s life forever. He understood where the answers lie to that age-old question, Who am I?, that plagues us all when God asks us to step out of our comfort zones and face our fears…

…he finally realized that even though he battled fear of monumental proportions, God would empower him with courage, strength, and might.

…he finally understood that even though he had no previous experience as a leader, God would equip him with wisdom, discernment, and counsel to rally an army.

…he finally grasped that even though he felt weak and insignificant, God would enable him to see himself as a vessel, an instrument, and a man of great value.

I think the encouragement of God comes to all of us when we hear His call to “Go.” Like Gideon, we come to see that it’s never about us. It’s never about me. It’s always unquestionably, undeniably, unmistakably all about Him. When we realize we have nothing to offer in and of our own then we’re in a good place for God to use us.

And sometimes…most of the time…alright, all of the time…for me, it means I just gotta “Go” scared. Because it’s in my teeth-chattering-biting-nails-racing-heart-shivering-kinda-fear that I am completely, wholely, and absolutely dependent upon God. Like Gideon, I can face my fear head-on because I have the certainty that He is with me…He is sending me…He is strengthening me…He gives me peace.

When the question Who am I? taunts me like a pounding drum keeping in time with my racing heart I answer,

I am a mighty warrior, thank you very much!

My God Is A Cloud-Rider

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Before the rains came about a week ago, I was just routinely getting myself dressed when the title for this blog post was impressed upon my spirit. I jotted the phrase down on a scrap of paper in my night stand and left it on my vanity to do some digging into Scripture. One verse kept coming to me over and over again. One that has fascinated me in times past, maybe because I’m a writer and the words are just so poetic.

“He wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of His upper chambers on the waters. He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” Psalm 104:3

Oh. Be still my beating heart.

If you’re a faithful reader of my blog, you know I’m a little on the sensitive side. My spirit responds to words like these. For all my musings and ponderings, all my passions and imaginations, all my longings and yearnings for things of my God…words like these just make me weep.

For the past 8 years I’ve lived in a tiny town in North Carolina, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours from the eastern shore where hurricane season keeps beach residents on their toes and tourists at bay. I may not live right on the coast, but the month of October brings the rains inland and we find ourselves without sunshine for days at a time. If I wanted to live under a canopy of clouds for days on end I might consider moving to Seattle. I hear it rains 9 months out of the year there, but I have no desire.

Because sometimes, it’s just plain depressing.

The past couple of days the rains have been accompanied by some gusty winds. Forget the umbrella. What good does it do to try and shield myself when the wind just blows the rain aimlessly, soaking my clothes, and dampening my mood?

But then verses like Psalm 104:3 come to mind and I forget the relentless rains. I forget the dark clouds. I forget the gusty winds. And I remember…

I remember Who rules over the weather. I remember Who surrounds Himself in splendor and majesty, whose light shines in dark places. I remember Who is enthroned above the clouds, whose home is arrayed in the brightness of His glory. I remember Who causes all things to fit together perfectly like beams being fitted for a house. I remember Who holds it all together.

“He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him–the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of His presence clouds advance, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.” Psalm 18:11 & 12

I remember Who the Builder is. Stable. Certain. Steadfast. Sure.

I remember Who reigns over the enemy. I remember Who rides in the front lines of battle, whose righteous right hand upholds in stormy places. I remember Who is supreme above the clouds, whose armor is impenetrable. I remember Who causes enemies to flee, whose Name makes the foe tremble in fear. I remember Who fights for those who love Him.

“See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before Him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1

I remember Who the Victor is. Mighty. Powerful. Strong. Formidable.

I remember Who rides on the winds. I remember Who saves in times of trouble, whose person comes swiftly in gusty places. I remember Who is calm above the clouds, whose presence is peace. I remember Who causes hearts to trust, whose very character makes hope come alive. I remember Who helps those who are crushed in spirit.

I remember Who the Savior is. Redeemer. Restorer. Faithful. Eternal.

“Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will  mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen.” Daniel 7:13, Revelation 1:7 

There’s just something about the clouds that give me a holy expectation. I don’t have to muse or ponder, pretend or imagine because I can take this Scripture literally. The clouds make the Sovereignty of God and Supremacy of Christ very real, because I believe that one day they will open up and herald the return of the King. I can long and yearn for these things of God to be revealed.

God is in His heaven and He has not forgotten us. Jesus still makes Himself known to people today, but even for those who don’t know Him, or believe in Him, or even want to recognize Him, one day He will appear and all will behold Him. He will descend from heaven. He will come in the clouds. There is no hidden meaning here. Scripture means just what it says.

There is nothing depressing about this. There is nothing depressing about the clouds. Even when the days are dark and there seems to be no light shining in the sky. Even when the enemy is roaring like a lion and there seems to be no end to evil in this world. Even when the rains come and there seems to be no dam to stop the floods. Even then….

even so…I remember.

I remember Who rules. I remember Who reigns. I remember Who rides on the wings of the wind for I know…I believe…

my God is a Cloud-Rider.