Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where Are You, Lord?

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.  Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends-- those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. ~ Psalm 31:11-13

Today, I received another in a long line of disturbing phone calls from a dear friend who is at the end of her rope.  Hers has become a life of constant suffering, and she doesn't understand why that is so nor why God allows it to continue without ANY break or blessing.

To be honest -- I don't understand it myself.  I've been audience to her life scenarios and watched as she's been hit with trial after trial, hurt after hurt, setback after setback.  This sweet friend has been a strong, staunch woman of faith in the Lord, and over the years, she has helped to bring me through some rough, despairing times.  Yet I feel helpless and inadequate to help her now.   When I try to encourage her, no matter what I say, I feel as though my words have a false, dull ring to them, and she doesn't want to hear them anyway.  

She is at the point where her faith is gone, and she truly believes that not only is God punishing her, but that He has turned His back on her, becoming deaf to her prayers and blind to her presence before Him.  She believes she has lost favor with her King, Who no longer extends His golden scepter to her. She is convinced that she has, somehow or other, committed the unforgivable sin and that desperately reaching out to touch the hem of His garment to be healed is no longer an option for her.  

Sadly, my friend and sister-in-Christ has lost sight of her Father God Who loves, forgives and offers an endless supply of hope, mercy and grace.  Our phone conversation today ended with me in tears, brokenhearted for her. I just cannot believe that she has fallen headfirst into such a deep, dark pit of unbelief. And I can't seem to reach her.

Would you, dear bloggy friends and readers, please join me in boldly coming before our Lord at His throne of grace to pray for this precious woman? I cannot reveal her name, but I KNOW that God knows her name.  Even though I cannot convince my friend, I am convinced that He has not forgotten, abandoned nor forsaken her.  

I wrote this poem last year, when my friend had shared with me that late at night when she can't sleep (a common occurrence), she would go out into her backyard, look up into the night sky and just literally scream and cry out to God, begging Him to see and hear her. 

I dedicate this to her, and to all of those who falsely believe they are no longer daughters of the King, but unwanted orphans. 

Where are You, Lord?
Where can I find You?

How far does the universe stretch, Lord --
Behind the clouds,
Beyond the stars?

How far away are You --
Farther than the farthest planet?
Farther than I could ever comprehend.

Where are You, Lord?
I need to know.
I need to find You.

How close are You, Lord?
Closer than I could possibly imagine?

Close enough to hear my heart when it pounds?
Close enough to hear my moments of whispered prayers --
Or my times of agonized screams heavenward?
Close enough to see my seasons of bitter complaint?

Are You close enough to dry my constant flow of tears with Your fingers?

Where are You, Lord?
I need to know.
I need to find You.

What are You doing, Lord?
Can You see me?
Do You even remember and know me?

I cry out to You,
With my face towards the night sky.
I listen......
But it's only my own voice I hear, echoing back to me.

I reach out my hand to You --
It grasps nothing but the air.
The cool, night breeze brushes against my tear-stained cheek,
And through the fingers of my still outstretched hand.

But wait --

Is that You, Lord?
Are You right here?
Right now?

Where are You, Lord?
I need to know.
I need to find you.

Please -- find me, too?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- Draw Me Nearer, by Meredith Andrews

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself." ~ John 12:32, ESV

Last month, I posted about fasting during the season of Lent.  Much of the time, Lenten is viewed as a time to give up, abstain, turn away from something in our lives to which we give too much time, focus and priority.  But it can also be about our doing something different in our lives to bring us closer to the Lord, be it committing  to spending more time in contemplation, prayer, reading His Word, or in service to others. 

In her book, 'Fasting,' by Lynne M. Baab, she shares a story about a young woman who decided that during Lent, she would only listen to Christian music, and made herself a CD of  specific songs that were meaningful to her. 

I really liked that idea and decided to try that for myself. I spent several days carefully choosing songs for my CD and iPod playlist.  

In my search, I came across this song from a CD by Meredith Andrews that I'd downloaded to my laptop several years ago and had long since forgotten.  In fact, I don't ever remember listening to this particular song (I don't know about anyone else, but I'll often just listen to the songs on CDs that are more popular, get more radio play, etc., and kind of bypass the other ones).  

But as I looked over the list of songs on her CD, this title jumped out at me, as it definitely went along with the musical theme I had in mind for my playlist (songs of brokenness, repentance, forgiveness, grace, selfless love, redemption, a deeper relationship with the Lord).  I gave it a listen and was just blown away and so very moved by the singer's tender plea for a greater closeness, a sweeter intimacy with Jesus. 

The Clay, by Ron DiCianni
May this song bring you to a closer, more intimate time of worship with the King of kings and Lord of lords.  

Safely Home, by Ron DiCianni

In Your nearness I take shelter
Where You are is where I'm home,
I have need of only one thing
To be here before Your throne,
To be here before Your throne,
So draw me nearer, Lord
Never let me go, 
Closer to Your heart
Draw me nearer, Lord~ Draw Me Nearer, by Meredith Andrews

Monday, March 12, 2012

Come To The Well

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."   The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." ~ John 4:13-15

I was listening to K-Love on the way home from an errand recently, and once again, something one of the radio personalities said really hit home for me. 

He spoke of how at times, we as followers of Christ can go through 'dry seasons.'  I quickly reached over to turn up the volume on my car radio to be sure I could hear every word this man said, because right now, I feel as if I've entered into a dry season.  Just that very morning, before I left my house, I stopped what I was doing and whispered out loud,

"God, where ARE You?  Please tell me, please....talk to me!"

I heard nothing.  I received no response.

I actually wanted to cry, but I couldn't.  And I just felt so -- empty.

The man went on to say that at times, we may find ourselves feeling alone and empty, and even wondering where the Lord is because we can no longer hear His voice. 

Umm....having just said and felt that less than an hour before, that REALLY caught my attention. What was going on here?

He continued by saying that this is because very often, we find ourselves stopping at wells we have no business visiting. Wells whose water has long since dried up. 

We come thirsty.  And we leave thirsty.  Every time.

Much like the Samaritan woman -- the Woman at the Well.

Woman At The Well, by C. Michael Dudash
One of my most favorite Bible stories/characters is the woman at the well.  She is one of several  'Bad Girls of the Bible' to whom I can relate quite well, having been a former 'bad girl' myself for many years. 

Jesus is heading back to Galilee and, exhausted from the trip, sits down to rest at a well in Sychar, a village in Samaria, while His disciples go into town to buy some food.  A Samaritan woman comes alone to the well to draw water.  According to various books and articles I've read, groups of women would take their empty jars and come to the village well early in the morning, when the heat was not as intense as it was at the noon hour.  But according to Scripture, this woman comes at noon.  

And she comes alone. 

Perhaps to avoid the dirty looks and mean-spirited whispers from the other women, because as we learn later, the Samaritan woman at the well is no sterling character.  She already has five husbands under her belt and is currently working on number six. Or maybe not.  Maybe by now she's thrown the hopes for love and commitment to the four winds and is just content to hook up and hang out with the man.  

Yet I'm certain that something in her still longed for something more. Something meaningful. Something good and true and right and perfect in her life.  She is desperately thirsty.  Desperately dehydrated.

While the actual, physical well she frequents provides her with tangible water, figuratively she is going to wells that are empty; wells whose waters have long since dried up.

And that's what really gets to me, what hits me hardest.  I can relate to her search for something more and meaningful; something good and true and right and perfect.  I'm desperately thirsty, desperately dehydrated.

Because lately, I've been paying visits to wells that are empty, where the waters have longs since dried up. 

Last week, I wrote about the various challenges, trials and difficulties in my life that I've been dealing with lately, how the Lord wants me to view them as gifts from Him, in order for me to place all my dependence upon Him, and that I don't need to go it alone because He is always with me in the midst of it all.

Yet, while I KNOW all of this, applying it to my life is a different story indeed.  Getting that head knowledge to make its way down to my heart can be easier said than done for me. 

Jesus is an endless wellspring of Living Water, and He lets the woman at the well know as much.  And she responds by pleading, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never get thirsty nor have to come [continually all the way] here to draw." 

Jesus has let ME know as much, too.  Yet why have I ignored Him and instead, chosen to go to the dry and empty wells?Wells like coffee, chocolate and fast food/junk food -- things I run to for comfort and to fill my feelings of emptiness.

Wells like Facebook and yes, even this little blog of mine, which I've turned to again and again for validation, acknowledgment, reassurance and acceptance when I find I'm dry, panting and running on empty. 

I wish I had an answer.  But I don't.  Just a bucket full of lame excuses.

Currently, I've removed myself from Facebook and have also removed those comfort food and drink distractions from my life for awhile. And believe it or not, I really haven't missed them (esp. FB).  Yet, my Bible has lain unopened and unused for many days (it's SO much easier for me to hit up Bible Gateway online to look up various Scripture verses that I've recently used here).  I've moved it around from tableside to bedside, much like I used to do with the food on my plate as a kid, to make it appear that I'd eaten what was put in front of me.  My lame excuse has been,  "I'm just so busy and I'm just so exhausted at the end of the day!" It's so much easier for me to just grab a quick devotional on the run or to watch Dr. Charles Stanley or David Jeremiah on TV while I'm folding laundry.  

But really -- who am I kidding?

I've been so dry and parched in my soul, I feel like I may just crack into a million pieces and blow away.  I'm still so thirsty.  I'm spiritually deydrating. And I NEED water.  Living Water, which can only come from one Source.  The Word of God.

Very early this morning, I woke up to Jesus' still, small Voice beckoning me:

Come to Me, beloved.  Come and stand before Me.  You say you want to hear from Me -- then read My Word.

Let My Word nourish, hydrate, cleanse and refresh you.  Let My Living Water wash over you and bring you back to life.

Saturate yourself in My Word.  And I WILL speak to you, loud and clear, lovingly, tenderly, through each and every word you read.

Can I tell you how very quickly I jumped up, put the light on and grabbed for my Bible, which was lying next to me on the bed? I think I may have scared my poor dog out of a sound sleep.

I can (and have) surrounded myself with so many things -- not all good, not all bad.  But only one thing matters -- Jesus, my Wellspring of Living Water.  I can (and have) surrounded myself with and delved into so many different books by various Christian authors.

Yes, these are just SOME of the books you might come across should you pay a visit to my room.
Not to mention the ones sitting on the shelves in my living room, my basement and on my
front porch AND the two boxes and one tall kitchen bag overflowing with books in the back of
my car that I am attempting to give away to someone...anyone! Oh PSF....where art thou?!
But only one Author and one book REALLY matters -- Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, and the Bible, the very Word of God. When I drink deeply from that Living Water; when I hydrate myself with God's Word,  I no longer need to visit those dry and empty wells, scrounging for water.  I'll never be thirsty again.   Oh, my sweet Lord and Savior, help me to learn this lesson once and for all RIGHT NOW and to never, ever forget it!

Today, maybe you have found yourself in the midst of a very dry season.  Perhaps you've been visiting wells you have no business visiting.  Wells that are dry, barren, empty.  You are thirsty and dehydrating.   

I invite you to join me and come to the well.  Come see a Man who knows everything I -- and you -- have ever done, thought, said, felt.  And He loves us still.  Come accept the Living Water He offers to us, so we will NEVER be thirsty again.  Join me in allowing ourselves to become immersed and saturated by the Word of God.

Come -- be refreshed.

Come -- be renewed.

Come -- be made clean.

Come to the well.

I have what you need,
But you keep on searchin,
I've done all the work,
But you keep on workin',

When you're runnin on empty,
And you can't find the remedy,
Just come to the well.

You can spend your whole life,
Chasin' what's missing,
But that empty inside,
It just ain't gonna listen.

When nothing can satisfy,
And the world leaves you high and dry,
Just come to the well

And all who thirst will thirst no more,
And all who search will find what their souls long for,
The world will try, but it can never fill,
So leave it all behind, and come to the well. ~ The Well, by Casting Crowns

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- Hallelujah! What A Savior, by Ascend The Hill

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, 
   and like a root out of dry ground. 
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, 
   nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. 
  He was despised and rejected by men,
   a Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like One from whom men hide their faces
   He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
   Surely He took up our infirmities 
   and carried our sorrows, 
yet we considered Him stricken by God, 
   smitten by Him, and afflicted. 
  But He was pierced for our transgressions, 
   He was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, 
   and by His wounds we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53:2-5

For the past several weeks, this song has been playing non-stop in my head, from the time I get up in the morning until the time I lay my head back down on the pillow. 

I've heard many different versions of this song, from the elaborately orchestrated to the simple.  I chose the simple today, because after all, that is what is required of us - simple, heartfelt worship of our Father.  Jesus told the woman at the well that "the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."

Our Lord cares not that your hair is pulled back in a bun or that maybe you have no hair at all; He cares not that you have no makeup on; nor does He care that your skirt, jeans or shoes are from WalMart and not from Macy's.  It doesn't bother or irritate Him that you sing off key or too loudly.

He just cares that you loved Him enough to simply come to Him, to worship HIM in spirit and in truth.  

Maybe, for whatever reason, you're unable to make it to church today.  Worship the Lord right where you are.  At the soccer or softball field.  In your kitchen.  As you're sorting laundry in your basement. As you're caring for an ailing loved one.  He simply wants you to come to Him and worship Him for Who He is.  

Thomas Goodwin, English Puritan and preacher, said this:

"I have known men who came to God for nothing else but just to come to Him, they so loved Him.  They scorned to soil Him and themselves with any other errand than just purely to be alone with Him in His presence."

May this song help you in your worship journey today, taking time to be alone with our Lord in His presence. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012


It's my honor today to share a blog post with you all, dear good and faithful bloggy friends and readers, from over at A Martha Heart, one of the wonderful blogs that I follow. 

Entitled Lungs and beautifully written by blog author Holly Smith, we are not only reminded of how much God loves us and how very near to each one of us He truly is (as close as our breath!), but we are presented with two very important prayer needs as well.  Both prayer requests involve the lungs.

Just Breathe, by Melanie Weidner, 2005
I would like to invite you to please join together in prayer with Holly and myself for these precious friends of Holly's who need our Father's healing touch and intervention in their lives. And yes -- I encourage you to please share these needs with those mighty prayer warriors and partners within your sphere of influence.

And to Holly -- thank you so much for allowing me to share these serious prayer needs and your blog post today! 

Breathing in…breathing out. Life source. Holy Spirit come and breathe on us this day.
I’m heading out in an hour for our church’s women’s retreat, taking dear friends and teaching crafts. I am looking for God to breathe upon us all, as we discuss LEGACY.

Before I go, though, I have heard many different and huge prayer needs this morning. I will share two with you about lungs.

One–a dear friend and brother in Christ has been longing for God to bless his mother with a lung transplant. She has been hard to match, BUT TODAY they have one. They are looking to go in at 2pm. Please pray for this dear Mama…for my brother in Christ and his family.

Two–a dear daughter in the faith to us has gotten devastating news. Her baby that she is carrying is not developing lungs. They went in to find out the sex of the baby and came out with this news–not viable. Will you pray that God will do a miracle here? I LOVE this sister in Christ and her husband so much. Please pray that God will cause those lungs to just appear.

Please pray and PLEASE share this post with your praying friends.

Thank you friends. God is on His Throne. He is also a breath away–our very near God WITH us…not far away. NEAR.

He is NEAR. And He HEARS. He thinks of us constantly and loves us lavishly. Circumstances do not dictate either TRUTH–they neither prove nor disprove He is near and He loves us so very much. He loves us. Oh, how He loves us!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Divine Gifts of Challenges and Trials

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. ~ James 1:2, AMP

This morning, I opened up my  'Jesus Calling' devotional book and read the following:

"Let Me help you through this day.  The challenges you face are far too great for you to handle alone.  You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face. This awareness opens up a choice: to doggedly go it alone or to walk with Me in humble steps of dependence.......so consider it all joy whenever you are enveloped in various trials.  These are gifts from Me, reminding you to rely on Me alone."**

Anyone who has never read this book as a part of their daily devotions can easily dismiss this as being just the creative, random writings of an author.  But believe me, it's not.  There are several peeps of mine (one being my darlin' friend, Toni, over at her Lakeside Lessons blog), who marvel at how uncanny the messages from this book can be for us on any given day, whatever our situations or circumstances may be.   I am on my second go-round of reading 'Jesus Calling'  and the messages, while the same as last year's, are never stale. 

So today's was yet again another right-on-time message from the Lord for me.   But truth be told, I did think, as I read the first sentence, "Oh no, Lord.  Challenges?  Will there be more?  In addition to all the OTHER ones I'm dealing with right now?  Really?? PULEEZE -- No mas, no mas!!!"

For the past month, I've been attending to my husband's every need since he had spinal fusion surgery -- helping him shower, getting him dressed and undressed, changing bandages on both incisions (one in the neck and one in his hip where they had to remove bone marrow),  making special meals for him since he can still only eat soft foods (soft as in mashed potatoes, Cream of Wheat, eggs, soups).   Taking on some of my husband's jobs here at home.  Trying to encourage him in his pain and frustration.  And --  just learning to BE STILL (big lesson for moi!) and sit with him, talking and watching movies together, which I'm seeing has actually STRENGTHENED our severely anemic marriage.  (Whoa, God -- what ARE You doing here?  So amazing!)

Yet, add all of this to the daily duties of a being homemaker, shuttling both kids back and forth to their respective schools and trying to find some quiet time to pray, read God's Word and journal/blog in the midst of it all and well, it has been quite challenging to say the least.  

In addition to all of this, I'm going through some rough waters with both my teen son and daughter.  Both aren't making good choices in their lives, continuing to do, say and be involved in things that as children of God, I don't think they should be doing.  There's just so much out there bombarding them daily, like a serpent holding out forbidden fruit, tempting them to "C'mon and try me!"  I've done and continue to do my best to teach them, lead them and guide them in the right direction, but they don't seem to be listening to me.  The sounds of warfare are deafening around here.  I feel tired, exasperated, discouraged, angry and at times, broken.

Challenges.  Trials.  Difficulties.  I sigh and wonder how many more of these challenges are on the horizon, headed my way today, and how much more I can take.

Yet, after reading through today's 'Jesus Calling' devotional entry, I am once again presented with something to consider, something Jesus wants me to know, to remember, to hold onto in the eye of the storm.

Challenges, trials and difficulties are very often gifts from God.  Yes, gifts.  Not the kind of gifts I'm certainly hoping for, but gifts nonetheless.  These Divine challenges actually help to remind me of my constant need for and continual reliance on my sweet Lord -- always Him, all of the time.  

Surrendering all of my (supposed) control and placing my total dependence on Jesus is to humble me, not humiliate me.  Humility is one of the virtues with which we are to clothe ourselves (Colossians 3:12), thereby making us more like Jesus, Whose very nature was one of humility (Philippians 2:1-8). 

In the midst of all of these current challenges, trials and difficulties, in the eye of the storm, Jesus wants me to look to Him continually.  To reach out to Him constantly. To cry out for His help, over and over.  I don't need to walk through all of this alone, a lesson our pastor taught so beautifully and creatively this past Sunday.  Jesus is here, and although it doesn't seem possible at times, I can experience joy in my journey. 

There is a song from the musical, 'Carousel!' which the character Nettie sings to Julie, a woman who finds herself drowning in deep despair.  I grew up hearing this song sung once a year at the end of every Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon, and it made me cry each time.  As a child, I always considered it a very sad song, but that is not so.  It is a song of great encouragement; a song that Jesus very well could be singing to us, as He holds out His hand to us, not only offering us these gifts of Divine challenges and trials, but this hope-filled, loving promise: "You'll Never Walk Alone."

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone. ~ 'You'll Never Walk  Alone, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein

You'll Never Walk Alone

Above is a link to a YouTube video, with Johnny Cash doing the vocal honors.  I could have chosen other artists, but I feel that his life of brokenness and his looking to the Lord in the midst of his own storms lends quite a different flavor to this song. My hope is that this song and the words that the Lord gave me to share today will be of great encouragement to someone out there. 

**excerpt taken from 'Jesus Calling,'  by Sarah Young, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Worship Song Sunday -- A Mighty Fortress, by Christy Nockels

    He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, 
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 
  He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in Him I will trust.
  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence.  He shall cover you with His feathers, 
   and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.~ Psalm 91:1-4, NKJV

Rock of Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland

I remember when, as a little girl, one of my favorite fantasies was to pretend to be a much loved, beautiful princess living in a grand, towering, impenetrable castle. Living under the protection of the strong and sturdy castle walls with my powerful father -- my Daddy -- the King, nothing or no one could touch me or hurt me. 

When I got older, I found that fantasy really wasn't so far-fetched of a notion.  My maiden name is Cashel, and my dad was of pure Irish descent. One year, a friend of our family, on vacation in Ireland, sent us a postcard from Tipperary, which bore the picture of a huge castle on the front, called the Rock of Cashel, or 'Cashel of Kings' (Cashel is Irish Gaelic for stone ringfort, which is a fortified settlement or castle).  On the back of the postcard were the words, "See, I always knew you came from royalty!"  

I must admit I was quite mesmerized by that image of royalty and strength on the postcard. In all my childhood times of pretending, I couldn't have imagined anything more breathtaking and mighty than that castle, that Rock.

Today, I know that there is.  My God -- my Father and my King.  

From the ends of the earth I call to you, 
   I call as my heart grows faint; 
   lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 
 For you have been my refuge, 
   a strong tower against the foe.
 I long to dwell in your tent forever 
   and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. 
                         Selah  ~ Psalm 61:2-4, NIV

When the flood waters of life threaten to sweep me away, He is my Rock.
When chaos surrounds me, He is my Hiding Place.
When peace and rest elude me, He is my Shelter.
When trials become too overwhelming for me, He is my Refuge.
When I am bombarded by attacks from the enemy, He is my Fortress.

As you worship the Lord God today, I invite you to picture yourself as a beloved princess (or prince), dwelling in that secret place -- your hiding place -- of the Most High.  Abiding in the shadow of the Almighty.  Protected and safe within the confines of His mighty Fortress.  Sheltered beneath the refuge of His wings. 


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