Monday, December 31, 2012

Pain, Worry, Discouragement...and Joy?

Okay, did anyone else in the blogosphere have a really bad year?

I burned my finger on the wood stove this evening, and it hurts to type.  Perfect.


My 2012 started out with pain, as usual.  I broke my arm last December, and the first month of 2012 was spent recuperating.  That was added to the pain in my neck (literally - not my husband, who sometimes can be just that) and my shoulder.  Pain was my constant companion.

February was the month that our grandson had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.  He was suffering from HSP (Henoch Schonlein Purpura).  I tripped and fell on my sore arm in the middle of February, which gave me SORE MUSCLES for the rest of the month.  One good thing was that my nephew and niece purchased a lovely home.  That was exciting.


March meant worry over loved ones.  A daughter in an abusive marriage, a husband with heart issues and many "bad heart days".

Helped nephew move in April.  That was fun, but oh, the pain!  The month was a blur of pain with worry mixed in.

May meant a daughter with a bad back, and another daughter who decided to hit the ground with her face.


June was an attempt at a normal life.  I tried to buy and sell vegetables at the market.  Physically could not handle it.  Much more pain.  Discouraged at the fact that I cannot do what I want to do.

In July, my daughter married her first love. (That was the highlight of the year.)  July also brought difficult news from a friend, diagnosed with cancer, and difficult relationships within the family.

More Pain

August - canning.  Canning.  Visiting with friends.  More canning.  Elena started work.

September - more canning.  Marriage Difficulties.

October - broke three bones in left foot.  Humbled ourselves at church, confessing sin. Sick Dog, barfing everywhere.  An online friend lost her firstborn son to a car crash.  This affected me deeply.

November.  Pain from crutches.  Pain from falling three times.  Woe is me.  Pain Clinic with Dr. Miller brought the diagnosis that nothing can be done about my pain.  Sigh.

December.  Gray and Cloudy month.  More bad news.  More hardship.  More pain.

The Good News

I am not going to turn this around to be all sunny and light.  It simply isn't.  Two Thousand Twelve was a difficult year for me, and I for one am glad to see the end of it.

The good news, however, is that the end of the story hasn't been written yet.  As the year draws to its final moments, I know my life will go on.  I know that my every breath is in the Hands of the Lord, and that He is good, and that even if my life on this earth is cut off quickly, glory awaits, and my hope is sure.

I'm thankful for the Bible.  If you read it, you'll know that I am not the only person with faith in God who has struggled.

Moses had a rough journey in the wilderness.  Elijah was isolated and discouraged.  Jonah despaired at the wickedness of the Ninevites, and could not understand why God would forgive such evil.  Jeremiah lost hope.  Naomi suffered grief in the loss of her sons and her husband.  Job was a man of great sorrow, having lost more than I could imagine.  Paul cried out for deliverance from his "thorn in the flesh".

Most of all, Jesus, my Saviour, is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

“We are living in this short time, a time, indeed, full of sadness and sorrow. To live this short time in the spirit of Jesus Christ means to reach out from the midst of our pains and to let them be turned into joy by the love of him who came within our reach." ~Henri J. M. Nouwen

So the good news?  Difficulties do not kill joy.  In fact, I would say that true joy is deeper than pain, stronger than sorrow, more sure than sadness, and more solid than afflictions.  JOY is a gift from Jesus.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Not So Wise

We often hear the story of the wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem, seeking he who had been born King of the Jews.  They had seen an amazing star rise in the sky, and had come to worship the king.

Centuries before, Daniel had been the greatest and wisest in the land.  Perhaps it was his excellent spirit, knowledge and understanding that was passed down through six centuries to the time of this star in the east.  These wise men saw the star.  They traveled many miles over difficult terrain to seek this child, and began asking all over town about the baby who had been born.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

 Herod assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people.  Like the kings before him, this wicked King wanted all of the facts, and he summoned the best and the wisest of Israel - the chief priests and scribes.  These men knew the Scriptures.  They didn't hesitate when Herod asked him where the Christ was to be born.

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for from you shall come a rulerwho will shepherd my people Israel.’” Micah 5

The Chief Priests Knew

They knew exactly where the Christ Child was to be born.  They knew He was to be a Ruler, a strong, stern leader.  He was also to be a Shepherd who would tenderly care for His people.

The wise men rejoiced exceedingly with great joy when they saw the star.  They fell down and worshiped the child and gave Him gifts.  Theirs was the proper response to the Son of God.

 The Chief Priests Were Not Wise

Look at the response from the chief priests.  Where were they when the wise men rejoiced?  Where were they when the wise men bowed down, and gave gifts to the Child?

Where were the wise men of the land of Israel?  They were professional scholars whose specialty was explaining the application of the Law.  They knew there was to be a Messiah born.  They knew the wonderful prophecy found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon1 his shoulder,
and his name shall be called2
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

They knew, and they ignored it.

This begs the question:  What will you do with Jesus? 

The "Holiday Season" is wrapping up for 2012.  You've opened presents and feasted on turkey and gathered with family.  You've celebrated according to your customs.  You've shopped online or at the local mall, and heard songs of the season - Here Comes Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman…

You've also heard

Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible say
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas day
Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new King born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen what they say
That Man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day

Ask yourself, why?  Why was a baby born to a virgin?  Why did the angels appear to the shepherds?  Why did the wise men come from the east to worship this Child?

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Don't be like the Chief Priests.  They knew it all, and did nothing about it.   If you are reading this, I urge you to be wise.  The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.

There is a hell to shun.   To ignore this is not so wise.

Does God Save Everyone?  Click to find the answer.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Leaders

Leaders come and go.  Kings rise to power, dictators rule with an iron fist.  There is nothing new under the sun.  God  rules the rulers, though, as this little tale will tell.

 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
He turns it wherever he will. ~Proverbs 21:1

Wherever you live on this earth, no matter if you have a kind and benevolent Prime Minister or a ranting, raging Ayatollah in charge, remember that God is always in control.  This is illustrated in the lives of two great kings of the Old Testament.


The prophet Isaiah mentions Uzziah very briefly.  "In the year King Uzziah died."

It seems strange that as Isaiah describes his call from God to be a prophet, he mentions Uzziah's death. King Uzziah had been a strong and powerful man, intelligent, gifted, a good leader and commander.  He had a gentle side - he loved the soil, and planted vineyards and gardens.

He was 16 years old when he came to the throne, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  He sought God.  He listened to the prophet Zechariah, and followed his counsel.

As long as he sought God, the Lord made him prosper.  God helped him win against the Philistines in battle.  His fame spread.  He became very strong.  He built towers and cisterns, and had a well-prepared army that used the latest "engines" to defend Jerusalem.

BUT.  Don't you hate that word?  We Christians can live righteously and do justice and love mercy, but if we aren't careful, if we don't hate sin and kill it, we can end up like Uzziah.

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.  He was unfaithful to God, and attempted to usurp the role of the priest.  He dared to go into the temple and burn incense.

Judgment was swift and permanent.  The chief priest Azariah confronted King Uzziah, and said,

“It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”(2 Chronicles 26:18 ESV)
Uzziah was angry.

He had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when the chief priest told him to get out of the temple, that he had no business taking on a duty that belonged only to the priests, he was furious.  The Bible doesn't say so, but I imagine he came at the priests with the censer.  Pride took over; then God stopped him in his tracks.  Leprosy broke out on his forehead.

Judgment and Mercy

And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king's household, governing the people of the land.                                                                                  (2 Chronicles 26:21 ESV)
King Uzziah lived the rest of his days in isolation.  The words "separate house" literally are translated "house of freedom".  Because of his pride, Uzziah was given freedom from responsibility.  He no longer could live in the palace, visit the temple, manage his armies, survey his fields.  He was stuck in a separate house.

There is mercy in this judgment.  Do you see it?

In his house of freedom, Uzziah was free to read, free to worship, free to think about what he'd done, free to repent.

Afflictions are often a gift from God.  Isolation can be a mercy.

A house of separation can be turned into a house of freedom.


The second leader in this tale is Nebuchadnezzar, who praised God when the three friends of Daniel were saved from a fiery furnace.  You can read the first few chapters of Daniel to get the full story.  The fourth chapter opens with Nebuchadnezzar's words of praise to Almighty God:

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.                                                                                          (Daniel 4:1-3 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a great and beautiful tree, filled with abundant food, providing shade for beasts and a home for birds.  But there was a Watcher from heaven who ordered, "Chop down the tree!"

Chop down the tree!  But leave the stump. (Judgment mixed with mercy.)

Daniel was dismayed.  He had to tell the King, "It is you, O King."  You are the One who has become strong, and because of your pride you will be driven from men and live among beasts.  Break off your sins!  Practice righteousness.  Show mercy to the oppressed!

The King listened to Daniel, but failed to repent.  Perhaps he did not believe it would really happen.  He likely thought "I'm not a bad guy."  As day after day and week after week went by, he put the dream from his mind.

Twelve months went by.

A prideful boast.

A voice from Heaven.

Immediate judgment.

Nebuchadnezzar was struck with lycanthropy. Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary describes it as a kind of erratic melancholy.  He lost his mind, and lived for years as a beast.

Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.                                                                                              (Daniel 4:33 ESV)
Afflictions are often a gift from God.  Isolation can be a mercy.

God's judgment of Nebuchadnezzar's pride was good and right altogether.   At the end of the appointed days of affliction, Nebuchadnezzar's mind was restored.

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.                                                                                             (Daniel 4:34-37 ESV)

Two leaders.  Two great men.  Powerful kings who had it all going for them.

But they were filled with pride, and very needy.

They needed to be humbled.

So God did it.

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
                                                                                ( Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sin's Deceit by John Newton

 Our son Daniel brought this poem to my attention:

 Sin, when viewed by scripture light, 
Is a horrid, hateful sight; 
But when seen in Satan’s glass, 
Then it wears a pleasing face.

When the gospel trumpet sounds, 
When I think how grace abounds, 
When I feel sweet peace within, 
Then I’d rather die than sin.

When the cross I view by faith, 
Sin is madness, poison, death; 
Tempt me not, ‘tis all in vain, 
Sure I ne’er can yield again.

Satan, for awhile debarred, 
When he finds me off my guard, 
Puts his glass before my eyes, 
Quickly other thoughts arise.

What before excited fears, 
Rather pleasing now appears; 
If a sin, it seems so small, 
Or, perhaps, no sin at all.

Often thus, through sin’s deceit, 
Grief, and shame, and loss I meet, 
Like a fish, my soul mistook, 
Saw the bait, but not the hook.

O my Lord, what shall I say? 
How can I presume to pray? 
Not a word have I to plead, 
Sins, like mine, are black indeed!

Made, by past experience, wise, 
Let me learn thy word to prize; 
Taught by what I’ve felt before, 
Let me Satan’s glass abhor.

Oh, Lord, help me to see through Scripture's light.  Things that look pleasing through sin's deceit are a horrid sight when viewed with the glorious lens of the Word of God.  Give me eyes to see Your glory, and Your truth.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nobody Cared that this guy died.

The stories of the Old Testament kings are fascinating.  Too many people read the New Testament with great delight, but neglect the Old Testament because it is complicated, full of violence, and confusing.  Don't do it!  Read the entire Bible, for there are treasures to be found therein. The following story is found in 2 Chronicles 21. It's the story of wicked King Jehoram.

Jehoshaphat was a good king, but he had a very wicked son, Jehoram.

Jehoshaphat walked with God, slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son reigned in his place.  Their father had given his sons great gifts of silver, gold, and valuable possessions, together with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, because he was the firstborn. When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was established, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and also some of the princes of Israel.  He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.   He married the daughter of Wicked Ahab, and he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

Bad News

God is always watching.  Jehoram's actions did not escape His attention.  He spoke through Elijah the prophet:

 And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel and have enticed Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom, as the house of Ahab led Israel into whoredom, and also you have killed your brothers, of your father's house, who were better than you, behold, the LORD will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the disease, day by day.’”

Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord

And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the anger of the Philistines and others, who invaded Jerusalem and plundered the king's house, carrying off his sons (except for the youngest - God's provision so that the line of David would continue) and his wives and his possessions.

And after all this the LORD struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In the course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one's regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

He Departed with No One's Regret

Whereas Jehoram's father Jehoshaphat "slept with his fathers" and was buried with his fathers in the king's tomb, there was no honour done on behalf of this wicked king Jehoram.  He departed with no one's regret.

Lessons to Learn

God is Sovereign.  He blessed the line of David and preserved it so that Jesus would be born from David's line.  Yet in this line He included one of the most vile people who ever lived.  

God is Omniscient.  Nothing escapes His attention.  Don't fret about wickedness in the world, or wonder what this world's coming to.  God sees, and knows.

God is Omnipotent.  He will bring vengeance on those who deserve it in His own time.  Wicked men may think they are all powerful, that nobody can touch them, and that they can wreak havoc without repercussion, but a day of reckoning will come.  God may have the bowels of the wicked come out, and they may die in great agony some day.  He is just, and He will do what is right.  There's a part of me that says "YES!" when I read about Jehoram's horrible end.  He got what he deserved.  

He departed with no one's regret.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Second Childhood - A New Life!

“When all my days are ending
And I have no song to sing,
I think that I shall not be too old
To stare at everything;
As I stared once at a nursery door
Or a tall tree and a swing…
Men grow too old to woo, my love,
Men grow too old to wed;
But I shall not grow too old to see
Hung crazily overhead
Incredible rafters when I wake
And I find that I am not dead.

A thrill of thunder in my hair:
Though blackening clouds be plain,
Still I am stung and startled
By the first drop of the rain:
Romance and pride and passion pass
And these are what remain.

Strange crawling carpets of the grass,
Wide windows of the sky;
So in this perilous grace of God
With all my sins go I:
And things grow new though I grow old,
Though I grow old and die.” 
- G.K. Chesterton
I have often thought of reaching heaven (finally!) as being born another time.  A baby in the womb is contented, comforted by the sound of his mother's heartbeat.  He hears her voice as she talks to her family or sings a hymn of praise.  It's muffled and in the background, I imagine, but the sound of her heartbeat is ever near and pleasant.  He has room to move, to kick, to swim, to suck his thumb and stretch and wriggle.
Alas!  It simply gets too tight.  Too confining.  
Contractions begin, and I think the baby must be disconcerted and frightened at the changes.  He has no idea how this is going to turn out.  He feels himself squeezed, pushed, squeezed again.  He feels pressure on his head, and he does not understand why it is uncomfortable, even painful.
Unbearable for a time, then lo and behold! What is this new and wonderful world?  Where moments before his entire world was his mother's womb, now he is aware of space, of light, of sound, of laughter and joy and singing and tears.  All of a sudden, his world has expanded exponentially.
Earth is our womb, our constricted space.  We know very little of what lies ahead.  We near the end of our life here on earth, and we're squeezed, pushed, and squeezed again.  The journey that lies ahead is one that we take alone, just as the baby goes down the birth canal alone.  
Just imagine for a second how big, how beautiful, how wonderful our new life will be.  It's unfathomable.  Like a baby cannot comprehend the new life he will experience outside his mother's womb, we cannot begin to comprehend the new life we will live in eternity, in heaven.  
Know this: it will be amazing.
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. ~John 14:2-3 ESV
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,  nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reflections on Chronic Pain without Cure

I sit here in my little corner where I spend the first hour of most mornings, basking in peace that is palpable.  Bulova clock ticks softly in the background, like a heartbeat- constant tempo giving me comfort.  The previous owner, a godly lady, has gone before me to heaven; some day I will tell her that I am grateful for the use of her travel clock.  Neither of us will need it in that place where time shall be no more.

Pain is my constant companion.  Sunshine streams in the window, reminding me of the Son Who knows my frame, Who has lovingly given me this thorn in my flesh.  How can I best make use of it?  Lord, show me.

My friend does not understand my longing to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  My daughter does understand me, but is not yet willing to give up her mom, the Granny to her children.  I love that she wants me to stay.

My life is in the Lord's hands.  He numbers my days.  My heart's desire is to live out the gospel daily, to extol the Beauties of my God forever.

I admit to a twinge of jealousy over those whose life is cut short.  But that feeling, I know, is selfish.  It is better for my husband of 39 years, and for my precious family and friends, that I should remain, in pain, but with my eyes fixed firmly on my Lord Jesus.

Let me serve You well, dear Lord.
     Let me bless Your people in my weakness.
          Let me praise You no matter what comes my way.
You are my Rock.
     You are my Clock.
          Your timing is perfect.
               Your presence is constant.
     In this I rest.
     I am content.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

They Also Serve Who Only Sit and Wait

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,-
'Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?'
I fondly ask:- But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, 'God doth not need
Either man's work, or His own gifts; who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.' 
                                                          ~John Milton 

John Milton was stricken with blindness when he was only 44 years of age.  He wrote this poem, considering the fact that he was blind, therefore could not do everything he wanted to do.  This is an encouragement to me, as I am stuck in a wheelchair for now, and unable to do the daily chores I am accustomed to completing.

In my words, this is what John Milton is saying:

When I think about how I spend my days in this dark and wide world, and how I am no longer able to see when I am only half-way through my life, I realize that I am expected to use my talents faithfully for our Master's benefit.  That one talent, my being able to see, is useless...yet the desire of my soul is to serve my Master with my sight, as I don't want Him to be displeased with me.
Does God expect me to labour without light? I foolishly ask.
Patience teaches me that God does not need anything.  He does not need my work, and He does not need the gifts HE has given.  It teaches me that to bear this yoke without murmuring, for it is a mild and easy burden that He has placed on me.  In so doing I serve Him best.  
Thousands speed and travel over land and sea without res, doing the bidding of their King.
Milton is rejoicing in the fact that there is no such thing as a 'greatest worker'  - there are only those who serve God, and those who do not. And if God asks that he 'stand and wait' then his service is complete doing just that.

In God's providence He chooses some to suffer great trials and disabilities.  John Milton composed his epic poem Paradise Lost when he was completely blind, by dictating it to his daughter.  Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadraplegic confined to a wheelchair for decades, has had a vital ministry, writing books, painting, and speaking to the hearts of Christians who suffer.  Beethoven composed great symphonies after he became deaf.  Pete Gray, with only one arm, earned the right to play major league baseball.  

I am sitting in a wheelchair for a reason - God has a plan.  I do not believe that this means I can go on a holiday and pass the days mindlessly vegging out in front of the television.  I cannot do housework, and simple tasks like having a shower, brushing my teeth, and getting dressed take more time and effort than I would have dreamed possible.  However, that is no excuse.  I can use the talents God has given me to create and dream and teach; to glorify Him in this situation.

What prevents me from doing whatever my hand finds to do?  I cannot walk, but I can do so much.  I made a list today of things to tackle over the next few weeks.  Lord, help me to accomplish things for Your glory, and to reflect a portion of Your beauty.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sittin' and thinkin'

I've been doing a lot of sitting lately.

On October 12, I ran through the kitchen and as I curved around the island my feet flew out from under me. X-rays revealed that I busted the three middle metatarsal bones in my left foot.  Ongoing pain in neck and shoulders from a previous injury makes using crutches almost impossible.  I am blessed to have a couple of wheelchairs - one in the main part of the house, and another in the "great room".  I use borrowed crutches to negotiate three steps from library to great room.  The rest of the time I sit - in a wheelchair, or on my bed.

Sittin' and Thinkin'

Doing a lot of sitting means doing a lot of thinking.  I've been reading - The Bible, magazines, Poetry books, and books on Kindle, including The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield.

Rosaria writes with refreshing candour about her conversion from the life of a feminist/lesbian/college professor to a surrendered life in Christ.  This drastic change in everything she knew and loved was not easy.  She writes,
"My conversion still felt like a train wreck.
All of the testimonies that I had heard up to this point were egocentric and filled with pride.  Aren't I the smarty-pants for choosing Christ!  I made a decision for Christ, are't I great?  I committed my life to Christ, aren't I better than those heathens who haven't?
This whole line of thinking is both pervasive among evangelical Christians and absurd.  My whole body recoiled against this line of thinking.  I'm proof of the pudding.  I didn't choose Christ.  Nobody chooses Christ.  Christ chooses you or you're dead.  After Christ chooses you, you respond because you must.  Period.  It's not a pretty story."
Life's a Train Wreck

My life sometimes feels like a train wreck.  It's been a while since my conversion (1977) but I often feel like my life is hurtling down the track without a map or compass.  I have no idea where I'm going, or what obstacles I'll encounter on the way.  I am not in control of anything.

Of course, as a Christian I can assure you that all things will work together for my good.  I love and serve Almighty God, who knows all things and does all things well.  I see myself as His servant, His doulos, His child.  He is my Father, my Lord, my King.  But He isn't safe.  He is, however, in control of everything.

I am learning to be obedient, but I am also learning that this God I trust doesn't necessarily do what I want.  I want to be a creative person with a clean house and obedient children.  I want great relationships with loved ones and friends, and a husband who understands me.  I want to obey God well, and teach others to do the same.  Yet I find myself sitting alone in a wheelchair with my house askew and my relationships a wreck.  When I was first converted, it seemed so easy.  Just do this and this and that... check off that checklist... and all of life will be rosy.

Anything Can (and Will) Happen

Another quote from Rosaria:

The boundaries for obedience are clear, but trust must somehow manifest itself in the boundary-less world of "anything can happen".  
The fact that God is sovereign over the good and the evil does not necessarily make the evil any less frightening. 
Ask the person facing cancer.  Ask the mother who just buried her child.  Ask the man who just lost his job after 20 years of faithful service.   Anything. Can.  Happen.  And it's not always pretty.

Life's an Improvisation

In drama class we learned this week that life is one big improvisation.  Our daughter Linda tweeted,

Life asks us to improvise and sightread. We're hardly ever prepared. Yet we go, live, and see the beauty of every moment better that way.

Life hands us hurdles that leave us gasping for breath.  We slip and fall and bust some bones.  We watch a loved one take his last breath.  We endure unrelenting pain for days, weeks, months, decades.  Our hearts grieve at loss - loss of jobs, loss of friendships, loss of reputation.  

How Do You See Life?

When you consider life's ups and downs, joys and sorrows, what do you see?  It all depends on if you are looking with faith, or with unbelief.

"Unbelief puts circumstances between itself and Christ, so as not to see Him...Faith puts Christ between itself and circumstances, so it cannot see them." ~F.B. Meyer, The Shepherd's Psalm
It all depends on your glasses.  Do you look through the lens of Faith, of Scripture, of hope in Christ?  If so, you will see that no matter how scary the train wreck, no matter how many shifts in script, the circumstances of life are ordered by the Lord.

That's how I choose to see.  I look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Can't Do It, Captain.

The wind was taken out of my sails a while ago.

Relationships gone sour affect me deeply.  I am a people person, and I love my peeps.  Sadly, there's been a wall built up that isn't coming down any time soon, I guess.

So, I am spending my time writing and reading and thinking, but keeping my thoughts to myself.

Maybe I will be back some day.

Maybe not.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Prayer to He Who Will Never Abandon Me

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
                                                                                       Psalm 16 ESV

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are my God.  You keep me.  You protect me.  You are everything to me.  Because of Your grace in revealing Yourself to me, You have taught me to love You, and to love others.  You love it when we delight in the saints, when we esteem others above ourselves, when we feast together and laugh and love.  
You are a jealous God.  You do not want me to run after things that I think will satisfy my longing to be significant, for you are ENOUGH.  In You, I am satisfied completely.  Keep me from adultery, O my God.  You are my food and drink.  You give me everything I need for life and godliness, and You fill my cup until it overflows...with You!

You are in control.  You guide me and give me good things, including a spiritual heritage.  I have done nothing to deserve these pleasant places, this clear path.  Yet, You lead and guide and protect.

You are my counsellor.  Wonderful counsellor!  You teach me Your way, and remind my sincere mind of Your truth.  In the night, Holy Spirit, You speak to me in my heart, instructing me with the truth.

You are my guide.  You are always in front of me, beside me, behind me, inside me, so I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.  I rejoice in the security You have given me.  You will never, not ever, not for one millisecond, leave me.  You have given me eternal life, and I look forward to a glorified body and everlasting joy in Your presence, forever.

With so much love and gratefulness,Janet, doulos, Servant of Christ.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

He Told Us!

John 11  tells an amazing story about Jesus.  When He was nearing the end of His ministry here on earth (which never ends... but that's another post) He demonstrated His power so there would be no doubt.

The Jews doubted His claim that He was the Son of God.  They thought He was a madman and that His very presence would make the Romans come and take away their place and their nation. 

Jesus had some friends, Mary and Martha and Lazarus, that lived in the village of Bethany, about two miles from Jerusalem.  Lazarus got sick.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Jesus knew Lazarus would die.  He said, "This illness does not lead to death" because He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.  He'd already done so - raising Jairus' daughter- but she had just died.  This time, it would be a greater miracle.  This time, there would be greater glory.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:1-16
Jesus loved them.

SO, he stayed away.
So He didn't rush to help.
So He went to a dangerous area, a place so full of hatred for Him that the disciples thought they'd die there.

Jesus stayed away, and because of that the sisters lost their beloved brother.  
Jesus stayed away, and they felt unimaginable pain and grief and sorrow.

What does love look like?

Sometimes, the most loving thing is to stay away.  Sometimes the most loving thing is to not rush in and fix things.  Sometimes, love looks like unimaginable pain and grief and sorrow.  

When Jesus got there and spoke with Martha, then Mary, hearing their pain and seeing their grief, He wept.  The Lord of the Universe was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.  


Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
(John 11:38-44 ESV)

How human we are!  How sinful!  We read the Word of God and believe it.  Then the trials come...and we fret and worry and act as if Jesus is not all-powerful.  

It's one thing when unbelievers want to squelch the truth and deny the power of God, but when believers act as if all is lost, that is far worse.

Lord, forgive us when we act as if You did not raise the dead.  Fill our minds with Your truth, I pray, so that we can overcome 
                                             the trials of life
                                                  the messy relationships
                                                      the misunderstandings
                                                          the financial squeezings.
Help us to act as if we truly believe what You DID TELL US...that You are the Resurrection and the Life, and that everyone who lives and believes in You will never die.

We will not die of a broken heart.  We will not die of stress or sorrow.  We will not die of pain or loss, because You are enough.  

We walk by faith in the Son of God.  
We walk, knowing that our life has purpose - a purpose to glorify our God.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Training like an Olympian according to Peter

Peter is a coach telling the people of God they CANNOT FAIL.  They have been given a gift of faith that  must make a difference in the life of a believer.  Like an athlete training for the Olympics, Christians must strive to live a holy life, and add the following qualities to the gift of faith:

  • Virtue - this is the ability to perform heroic deeds of excellence.  Like the Olympic athletes, ignore fatigue and discomfort, and press on in spite of incredible opposition and unending pain.
  • Knowledge - diligently study the Scriptures in order to understand and apply the truth.  The athletes study their craft, watch videos, observing the competition, seeking information from trainers in order to perfect techniques to gain a hundreth of a second.  
  • Self-control - literally, "holding oneself in".  Restraining and disciplining oneself in spite of temptation to let go.
  • Steadfastness - Patience in doing what is right.  Endurance with hope.  No matter what the obstacle or the result of competition, the athletes strive to do better, hoping that next time they'll win the prize.  This is not simply hanging on with resignation...there is a looking for results involved.
  • Godliness - reverent, loyal, obedient toward God.  
  • Brotherly Affection - Mutual sacrifice for one another.  The team sports are a great illustration of this quality.  Winning teams are made of those who are not "glory hounds", but are willing to sacrifice for one another in order to win the prize.
  • Love - Putting another's good ahead of one's own desires in spite of being treated unkindly, ungraciously, or even with hostility. Love covers a multitude of sins, and we ought to always be ready to forgive one another.  This does not mean that we never hold another person accountable for their actions and their need to repent.  However, Love is patient and generously gracious.  Love is devoted to the truth in everything.  Love protects, believes, hopes and endures.  It is not arrogant or rude.  It never wants its own way.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

War, then Peace

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~Romans 5:1

Why would we need peace with God?  I'll bet the vast majority of human beings on this planet are unaware that they are at war with the Ultimate Conqueror.  Hippies used to say, "Peace, man!" as a greeting.  One of the slogans of my teen years was "Make Love, Not War", and who doesn't remember the Beatles belting out, "All We Need is Love!"?  

The bad news is that God has declared Himself to be at war with every human being.  

Worse than that, it's a war He'll not lose.  It's a war we CANNOT WIN.  

Why, you may ask, is He at war with me?  I am not so bad.  I pay my taxes.  I've never killed anyone.  I'm a good person.  

Ahh, that's what you may think, but you've been deceived, my friend.

God is at war with every man because of man's sinful rebellion against Him and against His laws.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. ~Romans 5:10
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. ~ Romans 1:18
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.~ Romans 8:7 

You're the Enemy

It doesn't matter how much you protest.  The truth is, you are an enemy of God in your natural state, and your mind is hostile to Him.  The wrath of God is against you because you do not obey Him or His law.   

and my wrath will burn ~ Exodus 22:24

They have made me jealous with what is no god;
they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
For a fire is kindled by my anger,
and it burns to the depths of Sheol,
devours the earth and its increase,
and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
                           ~Deuteronomy 32:21-22

God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day. ~Psalm 7:11

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ~John 3:36

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. ~Ephesians 5:6

The Good News

Justification is the good news.   It is a legal one-time act whereby God declares the sinner to be righteous on the basis of the work of His perfect Son, Jesus.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains...

Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 33

I, too, was at war with God.  I was in a battle that I could not win.  

Now, I have peace.

You can have this peace, too.  

Listen to a sermon: Peace with God or a Living Hell.

Read the Good News:  The good news of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Faithful Have Vanished!

If you have lived for any length of time on this planet, you'll realize that everyone utters lies.  Governments lie, students lie, teachers lie, big pharmaceutical companies lie.  

You've lied, too.  Admit it.

If you are a Christian, you seek to glorify God with your life.  That includes your words and deeds.  He who knows all things is well aware of those little white lies - they are worthy of damnation.

If you are a Christian, the pattern of your life is not that of continual falsehood.  The pattern of your life will be more and more truthful, as God works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.  He is conforming you to the image of His dear Son, who is Truth.

I've had a liar in my life for many, many years.  Psalm 12 gives me hope.

Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the LORD;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

The Lord will cut off all flattering lips and tongues that make great boasts.  Those who steal from widows and orphans will be held accountable.  Those who buy houses and trucks and do not provide for their children will stand before God some day.  

God will take care of those who have been plundered.  

His words are pure.

He is to be praised.

He is to be trusted.