What apocalypse?

I’m sitting on my back deck, basking in the idyllic weather and listening to the chirping of the crickets and other sundry insects. I’ve noticed that this year we have grasshoppers – lots of them. Grasshoppers are not something I normally see around here so when they began their invasion of my gardens I took notice of them – and in taking notice of them I immediately thought of the plagues that struck Egypt. It seems my thoughts turn often to end-times prophesies. I’ve listened to so much on the television and radio ministries that are focused on the end-times and how we are living in the last days that I really am sick of it. Honestly – what is it “they” want us to do? Believers already know it is the last days and unbelievers need to hear the message of the gospel. In fact, my grandson – who is a born-again believer – is starting to get anxious that he won’t grow up and marry and have kids because Jesus is coming back before he can get there!

I know it isn’t the intent of these ministries to scare kids – or anyone else, for that matter. I’m certain the people broadcasting these messages are simply trying to get the gospel message across and want everyone to accept Jesus before it is too late. I wonder if they are even aware of the fear they are spreading and instilling in young believers. It’s easy when you are a mature believer in Christ to take His return in stride. It doesn’t scare you and in fact, you look forward to it with great glee. It isn’t so easy when you’ve only been a believer for a couple of years and you have your whole life ahead of you – or so you thought.

Certainly these are perilous times, but then so were the days of Moses, and Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln, and Churchill, Kennedy and Nixon! The world seems to be in utter chaos these days – but I can remember the time of the Vietnam War and I remember the chaos we were in then. I remember movies I was forbidden to see and the terror in our hearts during the riots of the 1960’s. Wars and rumors of wars. Civil unrest. Plagues. Pestilence. Disease. Earthquakes. It’s all here – and it’s been here for centuries. I’m not holding my breath until Christ returns.

Instead I think I will play jacks, picnic, worship, testify, ride my bike, hike, travel, swim, and play with my grandkids. I can’t prove it, of course, but I believe that is what my Lord would have me to do. We are to live abundant lives, not lives filled with fear and remorse. Knowing that doesn’t make it easy to do – how well I know!! Nevertheless, I am committed to enjoying each day – rain or shine, blue skies or grey – and to sharing the love of Jesus with every person I can. Yes, He’s coming back. No, I don’t know when. And that’s okay. If I knew, I’d probably do something to mess the whole thing up!

Praying you’re basking in the sunshine!

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First Love

1 Corinthians 2:9 “…eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Oh the wonderful thoughts this verse conjures up in our minds. The thoughts and dreams of great riches, beautiful homes, bountiful harvests, gorgeous days, great honors and glory. We dream of heaven as though we would be living the lifestyle of the rich and famous on this earth. Yet even that pales in comparison to the great riches of the LORD.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if we have ever really looked closely at this verse and read it all the way through, savoring each word and applying it to our lives. For you see, God is not a man and He does not lie. If He says He has prepared wonderful things, then He has. The crux of the matter, of course, lies in the last five words of that verse: “for them that love him.” Here is where the great breakdown begins to occur.

“for them that love him.” I know that every time this verse is read in the church, everyone in the room will smile and say “Amen!” even if it is only to themselves. Every single person sitting in a pew will declare that this verse is theirs by right of inheritance, and that they are due great riches when they get to their ‘final reward’. Yet we must ask ourselves, is that true? We must examine ourselves daily, looking for wrong motives and selfish intentions. We must ask ourselves with each good deed whether we are doing it out of love or out of duty. We must position ourselves under the mighty hand of the LORD for His correction, reproof, and instruction. We must ask ourselves daily: do I love Him?

In Revelation 2:1-4, the LORD makes a pronouncement upon the church at Ephesus. The Ephesians hated sin, and they labored mightily for the LORD’s kingdom, in great patience and without giving up. Yet, the LORD says, He holds something against them: they had left their first love. They had turned their back on the LORD of glory without realizing it, all the while they were doing kingdom work in great patience and perseverance. They hated evil and did not associate with it, yet they had left HIM behind.

Ephesus today stands as a stark reminder of what happens to those who lose their love. It is a barren wasteland – an archeological site where remnants of this long dead civilization are still being uncovered today. There are great pillars and paved streets along with partial walls of buildings and even directions to the nearest brothel carved into the stone pavers. But the city is empty, except for the tourists and archeologists. This once great city of commerce is dead because it left its first love – Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 reads “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Beloved of the LORD, we are all in the same boat together. If we are so busy working at doing, doing, doing, and failing to nurture our love relationship with the LORD, we are wasting our time. There is no reward for doing if that doing is not out of the abundance of our love for Him. In fact, not only is there no reward, but all that effort is wasted because He is just going to burn it all up. It means nothing to Him and is just so much kindling for His fire.

For many years I have been marking time, waiting for the LORD to break through and set me free. He is, as always, faithful, and has broken through this year, setting me free! And now I am anxious for Him to give me an assignment that will bring Him glory and honor. I am careful what I pick up with my hands and what I allow to consume my time, because my love for Him is great and I do not want to be preoccupied doing something else when He softly calls me to a task just for Him. My heart, my life, my love are all His, and His alone. I live for Him alone, and I listen for His voice to guide and instruct where He would have me serve. Beloved, I encourage you, if you have not already found that sweet love for Him, that you begin to pursue Him until you catch Him. It is so wonderful to be in love with the Master!

Paradise Lost

I often marvel at the Christian walk.  Each Christian is running a race, but not against anyone else.  Rather the race is the one set before us by the Lord, and each race is different and each goal in a different place, but the ultimate end for all is the same — salvation and eternal life with the Father.

Sometimes I see a brother or sister in Christ who seems to be running full tilt toward their goal.  They are so busy with good works and studies and teachings that it makes me winded to watch them!  Other times I might see that same beloved one sitting on the sidelines.  They are in ‘time-out’ — not a bad thing, but often frustrating as patience wears thin waiting on the Lord.  Such is our lot — we run our races (if we are smart) under the direction and tutelage of the Holy Spirit, sometimes full speed ahead, sometimes in idle.  But we are always conscious of the prize, and though some might not admit it we sometimes wonder if we are going the right direction!

I’ve had days like all of the above.  I’ve run so fast that the trees seem to bend down as I race past.  Other times I’ve been sidelined — sometimes by the Lord, as He puts me in ‘receiving’ mode to receive more instruction, and sometimes by the enemy as he attacks with health, financial or relationship issues.  Every single time that I have been ‘benched’ I was aware of a companion on the bench with me — the Holy Spirit.

Until this last time-out.  This wasn’t just any time-out.  This one was walking death as the enemy succeeded in putting me in the pit — existing as one dead in the grave even while walking the earth.  After years of walking with the Lord through mountain and valley, land-mines and quicksand, I was in a place where I didn’t think the Lord could reach me.  The paradise I had found in Him was blown away in a nuclear holocaust and all I could see around me was the dirt that covered my living grave.

My reactions were numbed as I walked through the days and weeks and months that followed as one in shock.  I couldn’t cry.  I couldn’t laugh.  My face became a stony fallen mask which matched the stony fallen heart inside of me.  I lost friends and family and consequently retreated so far away from people that the only freedom I knew was in sleep.  The paradise of my love affair with Jesus was lost to me, as I cried out for mercy, for understanding, for explanation, for peace, for hope, for HELP!  I don’t know how long I walked in that state before I realized that the Holy Spirit was helping me through each day and, when I would listen, was speaking through Holy Scripture to my wounded spirit.

I was benched for a very long time.  It was over a year before any real progress was noticeable as my psyche began to reawaken and the shock wore off.  I was finally able to cry — great, heaving, wracking sobs and rivers of tears.  How good it felt to cry!  I felt alive again as I was able to feel again.  Now, almost two years since the enemy’s onslaught, I am whole again.  I am alive again.  I am almost normal again!  But I will never be the same again.

There is one other thing:  my relationship with the Lord will never be the same again.  What once was a carefree, honeymoon-like relationship has morphed into something much deeper and much more meaningful.  Gone are the jump-in-the-rain-puddle days of our relationship.  They have been replaced with a calmer depth of understanding, accompanied by quiet, unassuming obedience.  I entered into the kingdom of heaven as a child and while I was there, the King helped me mature into an adult.

No, I’ll never be the same again.  Because of this experience, I will be oh-so-much more!

Thank you, Father.

Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Stepping Stones

Can you remember some of the worst days in your life? Easy to recall, aren’t they? Some of them have passed, and you have weathered that storm. You may be in a time of peace with bright hopes for the future; you may be in the eye of the storm – that momentary lull before the storm picks up speed again; or you may still be enduring the storm, wondering if it will ever end.

The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, divorce, illness, depression, oppression, disability, financial loss and hardship, abusive relationships, rejection, rejection, rejection – these are the worst days of our lives. Some people never manage to make it to the other side. These little ones are overcome by the circumstance and succumb, sometimes for life, to depression, dejection, sadness, and even suicide. They just can’t hang on.

I’ve been there – in the place where I just couldn’t hang on any longer, couldn’t fight against the tide any longer. I surrendered to the negative emotions swirling around me and let them feed my soul, breeding more negativity and, ultimately, complete hopelessness.

A dark night of the soul. A time when there is no right or wrong, no hope, no love, no hand to reach for, no possibility of escape. The darkness creeps in and threatens to drown. It sweeps over you like billows of clouds; dark, ominous, forbidding. No escape. No possible way to explain. People pass by and inside you scream “Notice me! Can’t you see I need help? Won’t someone rescue me?” Outside you manage a wry smile and after a brief moment of eye contact you drop your eyes away so the pain and madness are not exposed to unsympathetic eyes. With each contact the darkness draws you further down into its murky depths. Its hold has become like the tentacles of a giant octopus. You manage to shake free only to have another, stronger tentacle clasp you in its suffocating grip.

Escape. There is no escape in this life. There is no freedom, no rescue, no deliverer to set you free from the death-grip of the tyrant depression. Drugs. You can take drugs. Doctors give drugs. Get up and get yourself to a doctor for drugs. Lots of drugs. Mustn’t tell them you want to die. No….you must tell them you want help. Tell them you want to feel better. Tell them if they could only help you over this hump. Drugs – there is relief in drugs.

The drugs have side effects. Did someone tell you that? It doesn’t matter. The side effects are not as bad as the darkness. The drugs begin to work. After many days you discover that the black isn’t so black. It has become a dark grey. But the dark grey contains new monsters … the kind that invade your sleep and make you thirsty – so thirsty you think you will die if you don’t get a drink. There doesn’t seem to be enough water to quench the thirst. Perhaps something else . . .

No, mustn’t drink alcohol. They said so. Alcohol and drugs are deadly. Mustn’t. Wait….you have drugs. You can get alcohol. How much alcohol and how much drug would it take to be ‘deadly’?

You suddenly realize you are thinking. Calculating. Planning. Observing bodily responses to drugs. You are no longer in the pit: you have come out of it enough to be able to think. Perhaps not very clearly, but you are thinking.

Thought patterns shifting, changing, redirecting and looking outward instead of inward. Today is a good day because today you thought about something besides YOU. Today you thought about someone else. Today you got out of bed, showered, dressed and opened the front door. Today is a REALLY GOOD day. Until you realize you are out of drugs. PANIC! Have to see doctor for refill – can’t get one at the pharmacist without his okay. Calling….ring…ring…ring…automated response….hold….hold….hold. Can he see me? I’m out of drugs. PLEASE?!??! What do you mean ‘not today’? It’s FRIDAY! I can’t wait until Monday for drugs! I can’t! What do I do? Sorry? YOU’RE SORRY???? SLAM the telephone down. Panic. Anxiety. Palpitations. Can’t breathe.

Yes, I’ve been there. I’m one of those who made it through. I must tell you, though, I did not make it through on my own. I found that there is, indeed, a deliverer. One who held me in the dark, who whispered “Hold on” and “It’s almost over”. One who brought healing through his sweet words and gentle touch. If it were not for him, I would not be here.

The worst days and nights are stepping stones to greater days and glorious nights, if we allow the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and lives. He stands at the door of our hearts, knocking and waiting for us to open to him. When we invite him in (for he must be invited in – he is a gentleman and not a bully like satan) he begins a work in our lives that he will not stop until it is completed. He promises to never leave us or give up on us, and he always keeps his promises.

At this point in my life, I do not know what I would do without Jesus Christ. I am once again facing a “worst day”, but I face it knowing who my deliverer is and how faithful he is, and I am not afraid. What a mighty, loving, awesome God I serve! Thank you Jesus!

Dirty Floors

I know that I’m not the only person who experiences this: here I sit in my kitchen, enjoying the fact that it looks clean and at the same time feeling guilty because I haven’t scrubbed the floor in more than a week.

Where does all this guilt come from? It looks clean! So where does the nagging voice in my head come from that tells me that because I haven’t scrubbed it this week, it needs to be done, regardless of how it looks? I blame my mother. Doesn’t everyone? But I’m not so sure it is her fault. I grew up in an age of Palmolive and Tide and Ajax and Mr. Clean commercials. Someone was always telling us how wonderfully fresh a clean house (clothes, car, etc.) smelled and how good we would feel about it after it was all done.

My mother kept a clean house – well, as clean as possible considering that she had six kids and a husband. It wasn’t until most of the kids were grown and out of the house that she consented to a pet — a miniature poodle who didn’t shed and didn’t bark unless there was really something to bark about, and was completely house-trained in less than a week. We lived in a clean house which was kept that way by the constant cleaning hands of my mother and me and my three sisters. Forget the boys – they made messes, not cleaned them up!

I remember when I first moved out and got my own apartment how I let dirty clothes just pile up in the closet for a couple of weeks to the point the door wouldn’t shut. It felt so good not having anyone telling me to clean it up. My short spate of rebellion didn’t last, though, because I needed clean clothes. And I never really let the apartment get dirty after that. As it turns out, I liked it clean and neat and tidy. For some reason, looking at the mess just made me a bit unsettled so keeping everything tidy made for peaceful living for me. And I’ve been that way ever since. Even working full-time and raising kids and married and traveling for my job, my house has always been neat and tidy and clean (relatively) except for the closets where I stuff the things that I don’t know what to do with. (And the areas my husband inhabited!)

Today really isn’t any different than any other time in my life except for the fact that I have time now to actually consider whether or not to clean the floor. Always a Saturday morning habit in my life, it is now no longer a rule. I have broken free enough to let it slide past Saturday and into the next week if I want.

The guilt. What possible purpose does it serve except to make me think poorly of myself and irritable at the same time because I am not living up to some unrealistic standard I have created in my own mind. No one is telling me to clean it. No one has commented on how clean or unclean it is. No one has even noticed my floor. But still the GUILT!

And of course, that’s it. Guilt. A nuclear bomb in the devil’s arsenal of weapons to keep us focused on ourselves and our issues. It is particularly powerful at making us feel inferior to what the Word of God says we are.

How do I disarm this bomb? Is it possible to make it go away and not return? No, it isn’t. For as long as we live the devil will continue to harass and harangue us with his meager bag of tricks. So in order to disarm it I have to recognize it for what it is – a trick of the devil. I remember, too, that any weapon of the devil that is exposed to the light is disarmed. He may try to use the same weapon in a different way, but he will not use the same weapon in the same place and in the same way once we have exposed it to the light, because it will be completely ineffective.

Guilt is disarmed when we speak the Word of God over ourselves. When we pronounce out loud who we are and whose we are, our faith is increased and our outlook changes – and the enemy flees. This can be particularly powerful when done facing ourselves in a mirror.

I am a blood-bought child of the living God! Jesus Christ died for me and by His sacrifice I am free! No weapon formed against me shall prosper and every tongue that rises up against me in judgement I shall condemn – that includes you devil!

I am healed, I am delivered, and I am liberated by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB! HALLELUJAH!

Christmas in July!

You can call me Christmas Crazy if you want, but when I stumbled across “Christmas in July” on the Hallmark Channel this past weekend, I was delighted!  My husband and I enjoyed TWO cute Christmasy movies on Sunday evening, then my granddaughter showed up and things got really crazy as she tuned in before dinner and watched until the shows went off at 10:00 p.m.  That’s a LOT of Christmas movies!  Some a cute and definitely put us in the holiday spirit while others were simply movies that were set at Christmastime – those we can live without.

The upshot of all of the Christmas cheer is that this morning we are making Christmas cookies!  The dough is in the refrigerator and we will soon be rolling and cutting out stars and crosses and snowmen and trees.  The icing is ready and my son will soon join us for a decorating bonanza!

loulouIt seems I have created a Christmas tradition that, once the movies started, was destined to be played out – even if it is July!  I watched as my granddaughter (now too big for her cookie apron) mixed the dough and then cleaned up the mess while she waits for the dough to chill.  I was stunned, to say the least, to find the kitchen counter all clean.  This was a first!  When I expressed my appreciation to her she said, “You taught me that, Grandma”.

At fourteen, she is a young lady.  But even as I watched her I was reminded of all the years of holiday baking and decorating, and the joy that fills my home as people come to celebrate and “help”.  Traditions.  I’m praying that they will always be a part of my family’s lives and that they will never become burdensome but will always bring them joy and memories of happy times.

As I watched my granddaughter this morning I also began to pray something else:  that the Christian beliefs I have lived in front of them would become ingrained in their hearts.  It is so often true that children are watching us more than they are listening to us.  They watch and they learn what we believe and whether or not we actually believe what we say, because when our words do not line up with our actions they are the first to notice it.  There is nothing more humbling than to hear the voice of a child saying “But I thought you said we shouldn’t ……”  You fill in the blank.

Just as my granddaughter learned to clean up after herself by watching me, so I pray she has learned to lean on Jesus just by watching me.  My prayer today is that my life would reflect what I believe and know about Lord Jesus and that others will find Him simply by watching me.

Ephesians 5:1-2  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  (New International Version)