Saturday, September 29, 2012

God Is Good

Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV

God is good.  So very good.  I know people say this all the time, so much so that it often can become meaningless; just another one of those ‘lame’ sayings that Christians like to say. Or like to put on T-shirts.


I admit – I have said this “God is good” phrase many times myself. Spouted it off with everyone else like the (sometimes) obedient little congregant that I am, when called upon to do so by the pastor, along with the accompanying response “All the time!”

But today...this very moment...I am saying it and meaning it.  I received something I asked for, but did not deserve. I am not going to go into detail about what it is and all that it entails.  Because really – that’s not the point of this post.  I do not wish to brag or boast here, as if I am some favored, golden child of the Lord.  Again, I am all too aware that I DO NOT deserve this provision, this immense kindness from God. I am completely in awe and greatly humbled that He even allowed this to take place. I know there are many folks out there who beg God daily to provide for a desperate need, or to remove a thorn from their side – and they are waiting.  And waiting.  And wondering while they continue to wait.

Believe me, I KNOW what that’s like.  There are quite a few things on my ‘list’ that I’ve begged God for over the years -- and I’m still waiting and wondering.

Today, I found myself yet again in dire need of something. And even after praying about it, I still found myself sickened with worry and anxiety over it. Several things occurred in the past few days that actually made my situation worse, not better, bringing me to that ‘dire’ status today.

What’s so totally weird and off-the-wall is, I KNEW that the answer was coming.  I KNEW the need was going to be fulfilled.  But I also knew that the timing was off.  WAY off.  The timing of the answer and the fulfillment wasn’t aligned with the timing of my need.

But God’s timing is completely different from my timing and that of the world’s.  This afternoon, God saw fit to turn the tables, so to speak, by shaking a bountiful, extra amount of grains of sand into my almost empty hourglass. He moved a mountain and provided for my need in a way I couldn’t have imagined or planned.  And I am so very, very grateful.


No....I did not deserve it. Not one bit. Not at all. 

But God showed me mercy and grace, and saw fit to provide me with this gift ANYWAY.  Despite the fact that I'm a hot mess. Despite the fact that my central nervous system was riddled with anxiety and doubts and discouragement and every other kind of garbage.  Despite the fact that I had accepted that I was going down and would have to face the music and deal with the consequences some foolish choices I’d made were about to reap.

Because God is good. So very good.  His mercies are new EVERY morning, for sure. He is faithful, even when I – His flawed and fallen child -- am not.

How has God shown YOU His mercy, His grace, His love, His goodness and His faithfulness, dear ones? In what ways has He provided for you in your desperate time of need? Give some thought to that some time today, and give thanks that God IS good.  So very good.

Thank You, Lord, for hearing my cries and my pleas. And thank You that, despite the fact I am not perfect, that my prayers are often stilted and selfish, and I often doubt that You even hear me, You love me still. You look at me with eyes of mercy and grace; with a heart of compassion and forgiveness and unfailing love, and You rescue me. You protect me.  You provide for me and my family. May I never, EVER forget what You did for me today.  What You do for me every day. Thank You, THANK YOU, my Lord, my God, my King. Amen.

Disciples so often get into trouble; still God is there every time. ~ Psalm 34:19, The Message

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let My Words Be Few

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens....a time to be silent and a time to speak. ~ Ecclesiastes 3: 1:7 (NIV)

Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. ~ Ecclesiastes 5:2 (HCSB)

What if --- I only spoke if I truly had something worthwhile to say?
  • Something important and relevant
  • Something inspiring and encouraging
  • Something helpful and hopeful
  • Something loving and grace-filled
No more biting sarcasm dripping from my fangs; no more ugly, hurtful, wasteful words rolling off my tongue. 

Gone would be the back-handed retorts, the underhanded, snide remarks that I've perfected over the years.  

What would life be like if I removed every useless, unnecessary utterance from my lips?  Would people think the proverbial cat had gotten my tongue, or that I was giving everyone the 'silent treatment,' or maybe that I'd FINALLY lost my mind and forgotten how to speak?

Over the years, I've gone from being as quiet as a church mouse (so much so that I STILL run into people who tell me, "We went to school together? I don't remember you at all") to the gal who always has to have the last word in conversations. 

And when I'm on Facebook (which continues to be WAY too often -- it has become my Achilles' heel), I find that I can best be described as a well-known tea bag:

Constant Comment

Why? Why do I feel the need to do so?  I don't know. Lately, though, I'm (thankfully) catching myself and either removing my witty, yet caustic and sometimes downright STUPID comments before I post them -- or I don't even bother to create a comment at all.

My biggest problem is that I don't think before I speak. Words just pour out, like verbal vomit.  That 'quick to listen, slow to speak' admonishment from James 1:19, and trying to become that woman who displays a gentle and quite spirit (1 Peter 3:4), has always tripped me up and has been difficult for me to actually put into practice. So often I feel like such a failure as I find myself regressing into Chatty Cathy mode. I feel like giving up. 

But what if I didn't give up?  What if I persevered and tried again? And again? Focusing continually on this question:

What if I only spoke when I truly had something worthwhile, positive, encouraging, inspiring, kind and life-giving to say?

Would it make a difference in someone else's life?  In my own life?

"When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need -- 
words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you." 
~ Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)

Currently, I'm re-reading the classic book, 'In His Steps,'  by Charles M. Sheldon.

It tells the story of a small town where a church congregation resolves to conduct their lives by applying Jesus' behavior to their own, always asking this question

What would Jesus do?

in each and every situation they are confronted with.  This book is truly so much more meaningful to me than the very first time I read it some years ago.  Yet for me, it's not enough to challenge myself with that same question of "What Would Jesus Do?"

When I am confronted daily with particular situations, circumstances, and by people with their not always pleasant nor predictable reactions and responses towards me, I need to also be asking myself a second question:

What would Jesus SAY?

Especially when I'm tempted to respond by saying things that I KNOW will only serve to get me in trouble and that I will most definitely regret later. While I'm unable to go into details, suffice it to say that I've recently caused a bit of trouble for a friend and added a few more dents in my reputation as a result of, once again, failing to think before I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. 

Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.
Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.
God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better. ~ Ecclesiates 5:2

Throughout the gospels, Jesus spoke carefully. His words were never belittling or thoughtless, but instead, they were always meaningful, life-giving and life-changing. He spoke words of encouragement, comfort, wisdom, healing, conviction, love and truth.

Today, will my words provoke anger, pain, discouragement or hatred?  Or will what I speak promote peace, healing, hope and love?

How about you, dear ones?  Do you struggle with keeping a guard over your mouth as much as I do? Does a torrent of words seem to burst through your lips on daily (or moment-by-moment) basis, like water bursting through a dam?  Or are you able to keep your tongue under control? Do you indeed think before you speak?

For the next 31 days, the church I attend is doing something called The P31 Challenge. We've been encouraged to read a proverb a day, along with a previously prepared, corresponding daily devotional that we are sent through email, or which can be found on a handout that was made available to us this past Sunday. 

There is much wisdom to be found in Proverbs, and many have to do with words and speech. I'd be wise, at this point, to not only mark those particular proverbs, but to take them to heart and live them out, as I continually ask myself these two questions: 

"What if  I only spoke if I truly had something worthwhile to say?"

"What WOULD Jesus say?"  

"When words are many, sin is not absent; but he who holds his tongue is wise." ~ Proverbs 10:19

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." 
~ Proverbs 12:18

"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." 
~ Proverbs 13:3

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
~ Proverbs 15:1

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Thing Remains - Jesus Culture

It's certainly been a long time since I've posted any type of worship song video here on a Sunday -- or any day.

But this morning, I woke up with this song in my head.  I believe someone, besides myself, needs to be reminded that when everything else fades away; when everyone else fails us -- 

This one thing is constant
This one thing remains:  the love of the Lord God for us

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angel nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Roman 8:38-39

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Day The Earth Stood Still

This is a re-post from several years ago. Still relevant today. "Never forget," we say. Honestly -- how could we ever?

I’m sure there will be many folks in the online community of blogging and social media who will be posting their memories of what took place on that tragic and frightening day - September 11, 2001 -- that seems so long ago, yet also remains as fresh as yesterday. 

And well they -- we -- should. As horrendous as those events were, and as much as Scripture encourages us to focus on those things in life which are true, noble, righteous, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, what happened on that unsuspecting, beautiful fall morning should never be taken lightly nor forgotten. 

In every documentary, commercial, newscast, magazine article and interview that I’ve watched, read or heard, and every person I’ve spoken with since then, it’s always mentioned that everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when the first report came in of a plane crashing into one of New York City’s Twin Towers. 

I was sitting at my desk at work, typing up a document on my computer and listening to some music.  The radio personality on the station I was listening to suddenly cut into a song to report that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City, and that was all the information they had just then, but would keep the listening audience posted. I remember thinking, "Oh Lord, no!!"  

In 2001, I was a ‘newbie’ in my relationship with Jesus, but having had been in a Bible study/prayer group for almost a year, I knew what I had to do. I called our group’s leader and explained the situation to her, asked her to start up our phone prayer chain, took a minute or two to pray with her on the phone, then hung up with her and called my husband to see if he’d heard about the plane crash. He had and we talked about it for a few minutes, my typing work totally abandoned and forgotten. 

While we were on the phone, the news came in that ANOTHER plane had smashed into the other tower. I remember feeling like a bolt of white, hot electricity had just shot through my body. It became hard to breathe, the same feeling I would experience a year later when my doctor would tell me that I had Stage 2 breast cancer. I told my husband I’d call him back, then called my prayer group leader again, telling her what happened, and that something was terribly wrong, this second plane hitting the other tower definitely WAS NOT a coincidence. I got up and went into my supervisor’s vacant office and prayed by myself for a few minutes, scared to death, unsure of what was really going on. 

My hands were shaking as I went back to my desk and tried to get some info on the Internet, but it was slow going and of course, I later found out that was because so many people were doing the same thing simultaneously. I kept an ear to the radio and called my husband again, and then coworkers started coming by my workstation. The phrase ‘terrorist attack’ came at me from everywhere like a swarm of angry hornets. In between prayers in my head, I kept thinking,

"this CAN’T be happening."  

Our director had a television in his conference room and several of my coworkers and some others from the office across the hall began to gather there as the director tried to position the TV antenna (there was no cable) for some good reception to find out what in the world was going on. Nobody sat down in the room, we all just stood huddled together, watching the horror unfold on the screen. Some began to cry; others swore out loud; all of us looked scared to death as we watched planes crashing, towers collapsing, smoke pouring through the streets and people running everywhere.  Time truly seemed to stand still. 

After awhile, I left the conference room, I don’t remember why. But I do remember that as I walked down one of the aisles between workstations, a coworker, who had remained at her desk, cried out,

 “Oh my God….a plane just crashed into the Pentagon!!!” 

I ran back to the conference room, where people from all over our floor continued to gather, watching as this latest news was confirmed on TV. My mind went to my kids, who were 8 and 5 and in school:

Were they going to be safe or were they at risk? 

Should I leave to go and get them…and take them where….home? 

Would we even be safe there? 

I went back to my cubicle to call my husband from my desk phone because my cell phone wasn’t working…no one’s was. He said to sit tight for a bit. I remember crying and whispering silent prayers for God to protect us, to help the people in the planes, in the towers, in the streets, in the Pentagon, and those who were involved in the emergency response. 

And then came the report of Flight 93, crashing into a field near a town called Shanksville in Pennsylvania. People started yelling in my office then, and it was like watching all hell break loose. It was all so surreal. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. 

I walked out of my office, out of my building and across the street to the tiny courtyard behind what used to be an old church but had been renovated into a local community theater. I sat down on one of the three benches there, thinking about all that had just happened in those few hours, my heart breaking for those who’d lost their lives or their families, for the people who were risking their lives to help amid the horrific chaos and carnage, and wanting just to hold my own family close.

I remember looking up and seeing how beautiful that September sky looked with its white, fluffy clouds floating by, the vibrant blue color, the brightness of the sun; I watched as sparrows flew in and out of the courtyard, chirping and looking for food. A few bees buzzed around me, and two squirrels chased each other up and down a nearby tree. Two butterflies made their way past me and into one of the bushes. I thought about what a contrast this peaceful scene was to the bedlam going on some 60 miles away as I began hearing sirens in the distance. “Dear God, please help us,” was all I could say, as I stood up and walked back towards my office, having made the decision to gather up my gear and leave my job to take my kids out of school and bring them home. That was a whole other crazy scenario, but several hours later, my husband and I both were finally able to do so.

It seemed like our television at home was on 24/7 over the next several days, with every news station playing the videos over and over of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers and their subsequent collapsing, as well as interviews of seemingly everyone who had in one way or another been involved in the 9/11 disaster. 

Both of my children remember that day, and I remember being extremely irritated with my husband for keeping the news on with the continual video loop of all the crashes playing while our kids were in the room. I always tried to herd them out, but sometimes, I just wasn’t there to do so.  Two days after the attacks, I went out food shopping. I came home to find my husband with the news on and both kids parked in front of the television, coloring pictures on the coffee table. After I put the groceries away, I came out to the living room and my 5 year old daughter held up her pretty little picture of brightly colored flowers, birds and a house for me to see. I told her I thought it was beautiful and she smiled. 

I looked over to see what my 8 year old son, who had been diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder and an autism spectrum disorder three years prior, was drawing. Although highly functioning, he had only recently begun to draw recognizable pictures and I was interested to see what his was. I caught my breath when I realized he’d drawn the Twin Towers, with an airplane seeming to head straight for it. I reached down and snatched up the picture as if it were a rattlesnake about to harm my child. My anger started to mount and I was upset that two days later, this tragedy was obviously way too ingrained in this child’s mind from seeing it played out over and over on television that he had to draw a picture of it. 

But then I noticed that my son had drawn the people’s faces looking out of the plane and they were all smiling happily, as was the big, beautiful sun in the sky next to the plane. My son placed himself and someone named Joy (still no clue who that was/is) on the ground below, also smiling. 

With my voice cracking from both anger and sorrow, I asked him, “Honey, why are all the people smiling?” His reply: 

“Because, Mommy, in my world, the plane doesn’t crash and nobody dies.” 

There are days when I wish I…all of us…could be a part of that world. Thy Kingdom come, O LORD.
Until then, may we never forget.

Show me your favor, God. Show me your favor.
I go to You for safety.
I will find safety in the shadow of Your wings.
There I will stay until the danger is gone.  ~ Psalm 57:1, NIRV

Never Forget -- 2012

It was a day that began like any other day.  September 11, 2001.  Trying to beat my brother-in-law, who lived with us at that time, in the daily race for the bathroom so I’d at least have SOME hot water left for a morning shower.  Trying to rouse my husband and both children while doing the dance of making coffee, making breakfasts, making school lunches, feeding the dog. 

My brother-in-law left the house at 6:00 AM, my husband at 7:00.  At 7:30, I kissed and dropped off my son, a third grader then, and my daughter, a kindergartener at the same elementary school, at their before-school program and away I went to work, stopping at the Dunkin Donuts in my building’s lobby for caffeine reinforcement.  I greeted everyone who was in the office (many were scheduled to be out at a conference that day) as I trudged towards my workstation all the way in the back.  I powered up my computer, turned on my radio, sipped my coffee and proceeded to peruse the pile of paperwork that had collected in my Inbox since the day before.

It was a day that began like any other day.  September 11, 2001. Predictable. Forgettable.  But early on, I – along with the world – would see that it would quickly turn into a day that was anything BUT predictable and forgettable.

It was a day that would change people’s lives – forever. 

Today, we are a country minus so very many people because of the death and destruction that occurred on that day, eleven years ago, when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, PA.

We are a people minus beloved family members and friends; employers and coworkers; teachers and students; neighbors and members of our communities and our churches.  

May we NEVER FORGET the shock, the horror, the anger, the fear, the sorrow, the disbelief and the confusion that we all felt as so many of us watched the tragic events of September 11 unfold before us.  May we NEVER FORGET the realization that as proud as we are to be Americans, we are not untouchable.  We are not immortal.  Tomorrow is NOT promised to us. Mortal man – though he tries – cannot help or save us.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save. ~ Psalm 33:16-17

May we never become so self-serving, self-sufficient, self-righteous and complacent that we forget Who is in control and in Whom we can place our hope and our trust when tragedy strikes, when wars break out, when the enemy encroaches upon our land and our people.

May we NEVER FORGET, on that day of chaos and death, to Whom so many of us looked; to Whom so many of us ran; to Whom so many of us called and cried out:

Our Creator.  Our King.  Our Father.
Not man.  But God. The LORD, God.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.~ Psalm 118:8-9

On this anniversary of 9/11 – and for that matter, every day – please NEVER FORGET to pray for the lost; to pray for our country; to pray for our troops.

And last, but certainly not least, NEVER FORGET to pray for our leaders, now and for those who will lead in the future. You may not like their political affiliations. You may not agree with their policies. You may not share their faith.  You may not even care for their personalities, their accents or their outward appearances. 

But as God-fearing, God-following, God-LOVING people, we are called to put such things aside, take the higher road and entrust them ALL into the watch care of our Father God. 

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. ~ Psalm 20:7

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good and Faithful Servant

"Do not allow yourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as you have done your best. Neither glory in your success, but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness." ~ Mother Teresa

Our journey upon the road of life, with its twists and turns, its potholes and detours, and its steep inclines and long, dark, lonely stretches might be a tad more easier to navigate and more of a joyful ride if we truly believed this sincere and simple piece of wisdom from this saintly little woman....and then put it into action, yes?

I'm currently reading a book about Mother Teresa called, 'No Greater Love.'   Mother Teresa, whom I admire very much, was a woman who loved and served the Lord God with all of her heart.  She did the hard things in life, not turning away from the ugly, the dirty, the unwanted, the forgotten, the broken, 'the least of these' --  but intentionally and actively seeking them out and embracing them with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. She was a woman with a love for mankind, and was humble, not seeking the limelight or any credit for herself, but instead she lived as she spoke: referring  "all to God in deepest thankfulness."

Mother Teresa, by Mariola Paini
Mother Teresa wasn't the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  She didn't have a 6 figure income or a Swiss bank account.  She didn't live in a big, cushy mansion.  She didn't have her own talk show or reality series. She didn't need bodyguards when she went out in public.  There are no clothing lines, candy bars, restaurants nor perfumes named after her. From the world's standards, Mother Teresa was a sweet, steadfast, godly and kind-hearted woman, but probably not considered as someone who was highly successful.

But by God's standards -- she was!

Yes, success in God's eyes and success viewed through worldly eyes are two very different sightings indeed. We sweat and strive and struggle for the applause and the praise of the world.  While we covet  awards and plaques, and secretly pine away for corner offices and primo parking spots with our name and/or title emblazoned on them, God is desiring something else altogether.

When God welcomed His daughter, Mother Teresa, into His arms 15 years ago today, I believe He had to have said to her:

"Well done, good and faithful servant."

and not:

"Well done, good and successful professional"

"Well done, good and famous celebrity"

It was Mother Teresa's humility, her obedience and her faithfulness in service to Him that pleased the Lord.  And so it must be for me and for you.

TRUE SUCCESS in any venture comes from God when we truly do things for Him out of a loving, humble and obedient heart; when we remain faithful to the tasks at hand and are thankful for the opportunities He presents to us. "Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed," says Proverbs 16:3.

Today, you might be on the cusp of a brand new venture, about to place your feet upon a new and very different path.  You may be starting a new or your very first job.  Perhaps you're beginning a new school year in college or in high school.  Maybe you're newly retired or you're awaiting for the arrival of your first child to usher you into the world of parenthood.

Whatever you're doing....wherever you're encouraged. Do your best. Look to the Lord God for strength, wisdom, guidance,  confidence, peace and love.  Trust in Him and what HE'S doing in your circumstances with all of your heart.  Allow Him to carry you and comfort you through those times when you feel you've failed.  When success comes your way,


And like Mother Teresa, give all glory and honor and credit to God, along with your deepest thankfulness and gratefulness.

Blessed Teresa, by Dan Lacey
"Never bother about people's opinions.  Be humble and you will never be disturbed." ~ Mother Teresa
Born: August 27, 1910
Died: September 5, 1997

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