“Do You Love Me That Much?” – Poem from 2009

View from the upper deck this morning.

God blessed our family with the home we own a little over 13 years ago. It’s a long story, but let’s just say we got our property that fit all our needs and then over and above through a bankruptcy auction at the price we could afford for much less than appraised value. It was our ticket out of a small earth contact home with no windows and a yard with no grass. The Earth Contact/ basement home was basically as 13 year old son at the time called it “a Hobbit hole” Thank you “Lord of the Rings”.

There are so many features of our home that fit all the things I had dreamed of that I won’t list right now, but let’s just say God truly Blessed us.
Probably the one feature that I did not realize I would love so much was the East facing upper deck and the West facing deck. I didn’t know as a busy mom of four how much I needed to slow down and watch the Sunrise and Sunset, but God did. Off and on through the years I’ve spent time in the early morning sitting on the Upper Deck with a cup of coffee watching the sunrise with Jesus, a practice I would do well to not get out of. However, as someone who occasionally loses focus on what’s important, I have been out of that practice for awhile.

This morning I was up bright and early, 5 am. As I sat in my recliner with my Bible, drinking a cup of coffee, I looked out the window at the darkness with a hint of light starting to appear. The only thing holding me back from taking advantage of the sunrise to come was my disdain for being cold, but I bundled up, took my coffee and a chair, and headed for the upper deck.
Phone in pocket, except for a couple of pictures that didn’t do it justice, me, Jesus, coffee, and the beautiful sensations of sunrise: the sounds, the smell, the sights. Wow! Have I missed it! And just praying, talking to God about how Blessed I am.

Years ago I was quite the poetry phenom. Ha ha. I wrote a lot of them. Not sure why that hasn’t been the case lately, Blogs seem to be the thing that bubbles up from the insides on the regular. I remembered a poem I wrote at least 12 years ago. Around the time we moved into this house with the perfectly placed decks. I wrote this thinking about how God cares about the smallest of details in our life to show His extravagant love. We sometimes miss it because we get so easily distracted by so many things. Like I tend to forget that God cared enough to meet the needs of my growing family, with an impossible deal, at the time we needed it most. He not only gave me a home I had dreamed about having, but blessed me with His daily display of his artistic expertise. He paints each sky I take the time to look at just to “Wow” me with His gifts to me to let me experience His love in small ways that I can understand if I take the time. I think He gets a kick out of it, and I on the other hand, can only sit there mind blown by how awesome He is and whisper to Him, “You’re Beautiful”.

Do You Love Me That Much?

Yes, I love you that much.
I delight in your joy.
I want to bless you with
Special gifts that you have longed for.

Yes, I love you that much.
I want to be close.
I want to hold you to my heart.
I long to feel you near.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've given you all that I have.
I've painted my heart for you in the sky.
My love song for you fills the air.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've created a dance.
Rest in my arms.
Follow my steps.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've held you in my heart.
I've wanted you throughout eternity.
I gave all of me so we would never part.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've given you sunrise in the morning
And sunset in the evening.
My love covers you.
You are my darling.

Yes, I love you that much.
I know it's hard for you to see.
How much my heart is for you.
How I long for you to be with me.

Social Deterioration: Our Time to Shine!

My husband and I lived in a suburb of St. Louis for the first 4 years of our marriage. That was enough time for me to come to the full assurance that a boy from the country and a girl from a small town (less than 5000 people) needed to not live in suburbia. Thankfully the Lord heard our cry and my husband ended up with a good job in his home town. So we moved.

The first few months we were stunned by the difference of the more rural news outlets evening news and the evening news we were used to in St. Louis. Rarely was there a murder or any violent crime. Things that were reported was more about the crowds at pumpkin festivals, local high school football rivalries, and if the Farmers Almanac would be accurate in it’s weather predictions for the winter. MUCH more our speed!

Ecclesiastes talks about how there is nothing new under the sun. I agree with it. The heart and intent of the human race has been what it has been since the first sin in the Garden. Thank you Adam and Eve. But it’s not hard to notice the social deterioration. This week has been a prime example of it to me. First there was the trip to a local Walmart, where I was approached 3 times in the parking lot for a hand out of money by people that looked pretty desperate. I’m not thinking getting money for gas was their real agenda. Then there was waiting in line to pay for gas at our local gas station. A young man stood next to me, sores on his face, hyped up and aggressively licking a tootsie pop he had bought. He was jittery and his eyes were crazy looking. He started telling me about how delicious the tootsie pop was and how I needed to try the new flavors. I listened to him while we waited in line thinking to myself, “you have got to be on Meth” , “you’re probably my son’s age” , “God, is there anything I can say to him to help him see your love?” Then that evening, a group of men that my husband goes to Bible study with put together another time of “Praise in the Park”. The idea behind the gathering is to unite fellow believers to spend time in worship, sharing the word, and individuals giving testimony of what Jesus has done in their lives, open air, in the park, in the middle of town. While setting up, a couple ,who apparently spent a lot of time in the park, possibly homeless, started to argue loudly, and the man became aggressive to the woman. One of the guys from the Bible study went over and offered the woman a ride somewhere and tried to diffuse the situation. Then last but not least, my husband and I get up this morning, hop in our truck and head out for Sunday School at our church. Since we live in the country, we drive a stretch of highway that is rural before we arrive at our church that is in a local small city. As we drive along admiring the blue skies and sunshine, my husband points out a large presence of sheriffs department vehicles, highway patrol, and some ambulances, and a fire truck. I turn my head to momentarily see an arrest going down on the side of the road. Four officers, subduing and handcuffing another desperate looking man. All this going on in my quiet country community in the Midwest. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention a significant drug bust this week within a couple of mile radius of my home. Crazy stuff!

A few years ago my husband and I worked with a ministry that had as its goal to reach those who were bound up with addictions, struggling in broken marriages, and hurting from the lifestyle of sin they had been held captive to. For 4 years we ran an accountability group/ Bible study for this ministry. We also worked in a local youth group that bussed in kids from a high school that lived in desperate situations, kids of addicts, prisoners, and other sad situations. Since I follow the local Sheriff’s Facebook page I see their mugshots they release. On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone from youth group, someone from the Bible study has been arrested. That happened this week too. So really all this stuff has been running through my mind. It would be easy to get discouraged, roll up in a ball, and shut ourselves off to the world. Because as I’ve heard it said more than once lately, “It is really getting bad out there…” But for some strange reason, when I run into the Young man strung out on Meth with the lolly pop, the woman asking for $3 for gas in the Walmart parking lot, and some homeless/ addicts hanging out in a gazebo at a local park, I can’t help but think, “What can a middle aged wife, mother, and granny do or say that might help these broken people for one moment to come to their senses and see the Love God offers them?” and “What can be done to make that change lasting?” Then I go back to a quote from the book of Esther when she faced a challenge in the darkest of times for her world. “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

Now is not the time to cower. It is the time to shine! It is the time to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, we who are in Christ have the remedy! We have the answer! We must not hold back!

Results of our efforts may not always show up where we see them right then and there, but that is not our responsibility. Ours is obedience to whatever the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or say as we do our daily life and to keep doing it, over and over until our work here is done. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, not the depth of depravity we see around us.

In short, Go where Jesus would go, Do what Jesus would do, Be what Jesus would have us to be. SHINE!

This!!!

Jellyfish, Riptides, and a Heart Adrift

Early in our marriage my husband and I were rich in love but POOR in possessions. However, we decided early on that we wanted to take a literal “vacation” each year. We would scrape around and save enough to go to Missouri’s vacation Meca, Branson, rent a cheap hotel room, and hit Lamberts cafe on the way home for some of their hand thrown rolls, a must if you’ve never been to one. About 15 years ago we agreed we were a little tired of the whole “Wake Up To Missouri” tourism motto and we wanted to venture out. My husband had never seen the ocean in any way, shape, or form. So we did a little research. Packed up our suite cases, Buckled in 4 little kids into the Suburban. and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a chance to see the Gulf/ ocean.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

We arrived after a 13 hour trip, probably more than that with all the potty breaks we had to take. And rushed out of our Suburban to see the vastness of the ocean. It was awesome. It didn’t take long for us to discover we needed some boogie boards to play in the water with. So we went to a local surf shop and bought 4 of them. One for each kid.

As a small group of Missourians we had a small problem, Ignorance of the ocean. It just so happened that we arrived in the midst of Jellyfish mating season. Our hotel displayed flags for ocean condition in it’s lobby, and happened to have the “dangerous animal” flag on display. That did not deter us. We had come to play. So out into the ocean we went, and we got stung. Several times… The other thing we had not thought about is an ocean is not like the Lake of the Ozark. It has currents… So my, at that time 8 year old daughter, who could barely swim, and I decided to hang out together on a boogie board together. She had no life vest on and I’m not a strong swimmer. As we were floating around she asked me, “Uh mom… can you touch?” I put my foot down toward the bottom and low and behold I could not. So in my usual “I will not panic” voice I said “Laura, let’s swim back toward the shore. Hang on tight to this board.” As we headed back toward shore, I could hear a roar behind me… a WAVE! I held on tight to her, the boogie board, and prayed. It slammed into us hard, but we kept kicking and making our way back to shore. Thankfully we did, and the rest of my stay at the ocean I decided I would rather hang out in the hotel’s pool and observe the beauty of the ocean from the shore. Maybe occasionally wading up to my knees in the waves.

Later I learned there’s this thing called a “riptide”. It’s like a river in the ocean, a current. I also found out that people like me from the Midwest can end up in one of these and not realize they are quickly being swept away from the shore by a current much stronger than we are. The thought of the possibility of me and my daughter ending up on a boogie board in a riptide makes me shutter to this day. God protected me in my ignorance from both the riptides and the jellyfish. But I learned a very helpful lesson. “I am from Missouri. I need to respect the ocean, and stay close to shore.”

Siren of Greek Mythology

I’ve been writing a lot about how God has been overhauling my spiritual life, a very good thing. One of the things He has been pointing out to me is all the voices I have been listening to. Voices have their way of distracting us from the one true voice, God’s word. The voices are like the Sirens of Greek mythology, they lure us away from where God has called us to sail, in the depths of His Truth, enchanting us to go closer and closer to the rocky shore of torment on their island of lies. Kind of like me in my ignorance out on a boogie board with my 8 year old daughter in the Gulf. We think we’re all good and wake up realizing we’ve not been paying attention to what the Bible really says or justifying what we want to believe, and “we can’t touch” because we have become a “Heart adrift”. The voices can also be haunting voices of the past: condemnation, guilt, shame, etc. They play over and over as loudly as they can so you can’t hear the gentle voice of the Shepherd, Jesus, who has assured us that His sheep know His voice and they won’t follow another. Yes there are a lot of voices. BUT GOD!

What voice will you listen to?

I find myself parked in Psalm 18 lately. A very good read for a heart that needs to get back to the basics of hanging close to my Shepherd, Jesus. Listening to His voice speaking truth. Verse 16 -19 says “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

How good it is to know that God sees us! He sees us when our hearts begin to drift. He reminds us, like my daughter did that day, “Uh mom… can you touch?” His desire for us is to be safely on the shore of HIs love with Him. He hears our faintest cry and pulls us out of the “deep waters” that are too much for us.

So much in this analogy of our trip to the Gulf. I haven’t even touched us ignoring the “Dangerous Animal” flag, stinging Jelly Fish, and paying attention to the things we have heard or read from God’s truth. God’s life lessons really are like the ocean in many ways. I’m pretty sure He delighted to watch our young family on the beach that day so many years ago saying, “She doesn’t even know how I’m going to bring this memory back of some family fun. In about 15 years, when she needs to remember how I had her on that Boogie board with her small child, I’ll remind her. I had her then and I have had her these past few years as she struggled to keep herself close to me. I never did take my eye or my hand off of her either time. She’s my girl.”

Flags do mean something. Jellyfish stings are not fun…

Fishing With Ben/ Lessons on Grace

I have to admit. The whole “Grandma Gig” is a pretty sweet deal. It’s one of those things you don’t realize is going to be as awesome as it is until you hold that little Grandbaby for the first time. Then it’s all over. Your heart is hooked. The past few weeks have had some firsts that I have had the privilege to share with my grandson. First time tent camping with Granny and Pop Pop and first time fishing with us too. Two of my favorite activities to do and made all the sweeter by my handsome little man. Watching that little guy busting at the seams with excitement as he bounced around the inside of his parents tent the night they put it up at the campground a couple of weekends ago, and then seeing his excitement this past weekend when he reeled in (with Granny’s help) his first fish are moments I never, ever want to forget, Priceless. It makes all the work of raising his daddy worthwhile. lol

Ben and His mom setting up the tent

The fishing trip to the local pond last weekend was well documented with photos and videos as the proud aunt, my daughter, had her iPhone handy capturing the excitement of a 19 1/2 month old fishing phenom. And I as the proud Granny promptly made my favorite picture of the event my wallpaper on my phone. It makes bragging easier and gives me a smile every time I open my phone when I look at his precious smile.

My new favorite photo 😊

God has me on this reboot of sorts lately. It’s a very good thing. Life has a way of cooling down the warmth a person can feel of God’s love if you’re not careful. Sometimes it’s a matter of bucket after bucket of ice water being thrown on your flame by the enemy that starts the deep freeze of the heart, but thankfully God is not about leaving us that way. He’s always there wanting for us to turn toward the warmth of HIs love. Patiently waiting for us to make that choice. I started this Bible study with a local group of women and signed up for the one based on a Kendrick brother’s book called “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. Lot’s of good stuff in it. Probably the best of it is how God’s grace is woven in and out of all that God says we are. I can’t make myself good enough, deserving enough, or talented enough to be what I need to be to be right with God, but the beauty of it all is I don’t have to. Because God has set His affection on me and creates into the very core of my being who I am, HIS, His beloved daughter. The problem is getting a brain that has been subject to the torment of a lifetime of lies from the enemy of my soul, (Satan) to accept that truth and to just participate with God as He works in me things that are beyond all I could ever ask or imagine.

This concept was the topic of conversation with my daughter that I had the other night. We try so hard to be something, when God has done it all. Not so we try to be something, but so we can be. This made me think of the time fishing with my little man a few days ago. It’s a lot like God is with us all, but I’m going to specifically claim it for myself. My grandson had no idea how to tie a hook on a fishing line, but I did. He had no concept of baiting a hook with worms, putting a bobber on the line, and casting it all into the pond. And for all his brilliance (he’s really intelligent for his age) he had no concept of how to hook a fish that is nibbling on the bait, but Granny (That’s Me) did. (I come from a LONG line of women who love to fish so I am trained well. Thanks MOM!) But you can be assured that the moment I felt a fish on the line, BEN had caught the fish. “Come here Ben, you have a fish. Reel hard Ben, (Granny’s doing the work with her hand over his) Let’s pick it up! LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE CAUGHT. What is it?” and Ben says “Fishy” That’s right! Ben caught the fish.

The truth of the matter is the good in my life that God has brought, the good He allows me to do, the very breath I breathe are exactly like Granny helping Ben catch a fish. God does it all, I get to participate. And God does all this for the very same reason that I took the time to set up a pole, hook a fish and help Ben reel it in. I am crazy about that little boy and God is crazy about me. God has done it all and then let’s me experience the joy of the Goodness He gives. That’s Grace.

The problem is I forget. I guess that’s why Jesus encourages us to come to Him like a little child. Trusting, totally relying on Him. Participating with Him in the life He paid the price for us to have. Living in the victory He gives.

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Moses and Me – “Love Broke Through”

My senior year of high school I got a job as a volunteer DJ at a small Christian radio station. Friday nights were my nights. Being a child of the 80’s- Rock and Roller, I was less than thrilled with the approved music for the evening, with exception of the 10 pm-12 pm time slot. It was then I could break out all the Stryper, Rez Band, and Petra a girl could play. The rest of the time the rule was two Contemporary Christian music songs to one Southern Gospel (my least favorite type of music). Most of the slower CCM music didn’t particularly excite me, but at least it didn’t repulse me. For some reason, one of the songs that I played during the before 10pm slot was a song that was released in 1977 by Keith Green, “Love Broke Through” has been going through my head lately along with my record spinning nights at KMMC – Mid Missouri Christian FM 96. Here are the Lyrics:

Like a foolish dreamer, trying to build a highway to the sky
All my hopes would come tumbling down, and I never knew just why
Until today, when you pulled away the clouds that hung like curtains on my eyes
Well I've been blind all these wasted years and I thought I was so wise
But then you took me by surprise

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love broke through

All my life I've been searching for that crazy missing part
And with one touch, you just rolled away the stone that held my heart
And now I see that the answer was as easy, as just asking you in
And I am so sure I could never doubt your gentle touch again
It's like the power of the wind

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love, until your love, broke through

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I’ve joined a local Bible study that is using the book by the Kendrick Brothers “Defined- What God Says You Are”. In the 3rd chapter they talk about Moses in the Bible and his encounter with the burning bush. This paragraph stood out to me. “Moses was a man who struggled with identity issues. Born to Hebrew parents, who was given an Egyptian name and then raised by Pharaoh’s daughter as her adopted son. After secretly murdering a man in defense of his own people, Moses was questioned by his Hebrew brethren: “Who made you a prince or a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14) Fearful for his life, he fled Egypt while Pharaoh tried to kill him for what he had done. Now a fugitive alien in the foreign land of Midian, he embraced the low-key life of a wandering shepherd for forty years.” It wraps up with this observation that “then one day God came down to meet him and speak directly to him.” It was at that exact moment that God’s “Love broke through” for Moses.
It’s funny how I’ve viewed this story for most of my life. I grew up in church so I heard the story of Moses and the burning bush over and over in my childhood Sunday School classes, but until this week I’ve always looked at it as a scary/ terrifying encounter with an unapproachable God- thus the need for Moses to take off his shoes. But finally I’ve seen something new. God wasn’t trying to prove how unapproachable He was. He, in fact, was proving quite the opposite. As the Kendrick brothers point out, “God called him by name, spoke his language, was fully aware of his past ancestors and his present siblings, and informed him He created him and was calling him” Hardly a “Don’t you come near me” approach from God. Much more of a “Moses come over here and look at this… don’t forget to take off your shoes. You are in my presence, Holy Ground.” As Keith Green’s song puts it. God’s love broke through. Moses could hide all he wanted on the back side of a desert and try to get away from who he had been and who he was, but God wasn’t content with leaving him there like that. God loved Moses, in fact later on Moses and He talked face to face as a man talks to a friend. (Exodus 33:11) Hardly a God who just wanted to come down rebuke Moses, scare him into submission, and send him out to do a burdensome job.

I’ve had several times in my life that Moses and Me have could have been best buddies. You know the drill. You get hurt. You want to get away. You try to hide from who you were and who you are on a back side of a desert. But then God’s love Breaks through. The thing is that God’s plan all along was for close, intimate relationship, and having His kid hiding away from Him and His plans won’t do. God has a way of putting a “burning bush” of sorts in front of you from time to time to get you to come closer out of curiosity just to see what is up so He can speak to you and remind you that He never left you. You are standing in His presence you better take off your shoes. That’s exactly when His love breaks through.

We Are the People of Hope

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Praise in the Park 7/10/2021

Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.

This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.

A small clip of the gathering

I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.

One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.

Some of the band
God’s People

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message

We are the People of HOPE!!

Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”

There Be Bears… No Match for Our God!

My neck of the woods that I live in includes around 30 acres that my husband and I own and 80 more next to it that is forestry land. It kind of gives the illusion that we are somewhat secluded when I look out my back window of my house. Earlier this spring my husband and I were taking an occasional evening stroll around the back half of our property. It’s wooded but he mows a nice path around it. This half is what butts up against the Forestry land. While back there we noticed some tracks, not our usual deer track and occasional scat. It was bigger. I noted to him that if I didn’t know better I’d think there was a bear in our woods. I’m a Missouri girl. I know bears are possible, but in my 50 years of living here and spending lots of time on back roads, walking in woods, and camping in state parks, I have NEVER seen a bear in the wild here in Missouri. We joked about how we must have either a really big dog running around or Big Foot is real.

Probably a bear and not Big Foot lol

Fast forward a week… The biggest rumor on the local Facebook pages are “pictures” of a bear spotted digging in someone’s trash about a mile from our house. Our possible Big Foot Evidence more than likely was that bear. Not a happy thought for me because as a lover of the “I Survived” animal attacks series. I had just watched an episode where a Grizzly in the Rocky Mountains had nearly killed a man hiking in the mountains. Needless to say, our strolls through the back half of the property have stopped for a little while.

Bear, a little too close to my neck of the woods…

Each morning when I get up I look out my windows towards the Forestry land and strain my eyes looking for a bear. Then as I contemplate my usual early morning flower and garden maintenance around the perimeter of my house, I think, “What if there is a bear in my yard.” I know the likelihood is slim and the bear is probably more scared of me than I am of him, but the thought goes through my mind. If I let it, I would find myself sitting in the confines of my house with the occasional dash to get into my Jeep to head to town. I would miss out on my usual summer enjoyment of Gardening, fresh air, and sunshine…

So this afternoon I found myself struggling with some anxious thoughts. Nothing about a physical bear. It was more about a “spiritual bear” or you could call it a “lion or tiger or bear Oh MY!” Anything you want to name it, it seems big and it seems ugly. As I was doing some house work and thinking about this “bear” I started thinking about a verse in the Bible about someone being afraid to go out because of a lion. Proverbs 26:13 says “A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” The sluggard uses it as his excuse to lay around be immobilized. I picture this kind of “Ho Hum…” attitude that the sluggard has with an “oops… can’t go out the door” reply. But sometimes it’s not because we’re lazy that we let the possible lions (or bears) keep us from venturing out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe we’ve been bit before or watched one too many episodes of “I Survived my animal attack” to step outside our door.

Then it hit me, there was a young man named David that was faced by something ugly and intimidating, a giant and he didn’t cower in fear because he had already taken on a lion and a bear some time before he saw the giant. He didn’t end up the poster boy for the next episode of “when animals attack” He took it to the animals and killed them both. 1 Samuel 17 gives the account of David trying to convince the King he could take on this giant. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them… The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Gutsy words, but He knew who His God was. David spent a lot of time with God, praying, singing, writing about Him. God later refers to David as a “Man after God’s own heart”. He knew his God and He knew his enemy was no match for his God.

The same goes for me and for you too. It really doesn’t matter what size our Giant has grown to or how intimidating his threats are. The truth is the same God who gave David the strength to kill a physical lion, bear, and Giant. Is the same God that fights for us. No matter how loud the anxiety shouts and the situations loom it will meet the fate as David’s opponents did. Because God rescued David from the hand of the Philistine Giant, He will rescue us from the hand of our enemy as well. Because as Jesus so poignantly displayed on the cross when He died and then rose again from the grave. He considers us to be “after His own heart” as well. He Loves us! Nothing can separate us from that truth.

My Redemption Story

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!…” Revelations 21:5

Fifty years on Planet Earth gives a person a gift of great value, “Perspective”. When I earnestly started my relationship with Jesus back in the summer of 84 at Camp Sharon Church Camp, I felt like a brand new person. I deeply desired to make a 180 degree turn from the direction I was going to the direction Jesus would lead me. I had taken part in the start of My Redemption Story turning from spiritual death to spiritual life. I had no idea that God wanted to not only have me commit my entire life to Him and live in relationship with Him, but He was in the business of restoring or redeeming the things that I had chalked up to being broken forever. And from that point on until present He is still at work in my life redeeming and restoring the things that have been broken or lost along the way.

Forest Gump had it wrong, life isn’t just like a box of cherries. It is like a book, a book with MANY chapters. Or at least that is how I’ve been looking at mine. There’s the childhood chapter, the middle school chapter, the junior high chapter, the high school chapter, college, newlywed, new parent… all the way to where I am now. LOTS of CHAPTERS!!! Some of my chapters have been really enjoyable, others I am glad I survived and got to move on. There have been chapters where I have stood in awe of all the goodness of God in my life. There have been chapters I could not see Him or feel Him near because of the brutality of the storm. Chapter after chapter, and in these chapters there have been things that have happened that I’ve looked at as irreparable and broken.

This is where perspective helps out. When you live long enough to ride high on the good times and crawl through the tough, every once in awhile your remember a past chapter of your life that wasn’t so good. Mistakes were made, friendships lost, hearts broken, etc. but GOD!!! Some of these chapters “I” had the idea of how it should all be played out and my chapter should be written. You know how it is we want the perfect life, no conflict, perfect spouse, perfect kids, and perfect pets… One time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram should clue you in on this because we present our perfect world. But the truth is our chapters in our books are rarely what we thought they should be. Sicknesses happen, death occurs, hearts are broken, conflicts arise, messes are made and our chapter seems to be jumbled and confused. But standing on the hill of perspective looking back on my life I am seeing some things. Things that looked to be destroyed are turned around and as a matter of fact they are better than they were originally. That is how my Redemptive God works. When we allow the Master Author, God to write our stories the way He wants to write them the chapters always end in Redemption, He rescues us from the way it looks to be turning out, He pulls us out of our messes, He makes the broken whole, better than it was before. Our book of our life is an account of all the ways God makes all things new in our redemption story.

The Bible gives the account of an army commander in the times of the prophets of the Old Testament. Through a series of events this man named Naaman went to the prophet Elisha with a request for Elisha to heal Naaman of leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease that leaves irreparable damage and at that time almost always ended in a long slow death isolated from friends and family. Elisha told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times for God to heal him of this disease (a great inconvenience). Naaman eventually did what he was told and the Bible records this result, “…his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:14 NIV. Looking at my wrinkles and dry skin on my 50 year old body points out to me what a miracle this was. God did not just give Naaman skin to match the body of whatever age he was. God gave him “New Skin”, “Skin of a young boy”.

It may take some time for us to see the redemption and restoration of some of the chapters of our story. It may take us walking through some inconvenient steps to walk in obedience to God before we see the results. But our God is the God who “Makes all things new” and in time even the chapters of our life that we would rather have locked away in the corner of the recesses of our faintest memories (or honestly forgotten forever would suit them best) God has every intention of taking that horrific thing and giving it “New skin”, a “new chapter in our book”. A chapter that when we get to see how it turns out leaves us standing with our jaw dropped in awe at the God who has not only done miracles in the past, but is still working them in our TODAY! Because He is not finished writing our Redemption Story until we stand before Him face to face in Heaven someday. We can be assured of that and know that the God who started our story won’t stop until He finishes it and everything He finishes is NEW and GOOD!

Testify

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(Ugliest couch on the planet. The source of many fights on the way to church about how we needed a new one but couldn’t go into debt to get one. Thank God for the lazy boy recliner couch we have today. (Paid cash 😉) )

Our local church started their Sunday School classes up again today, something that COVID had put on hold for almost a year now. The lesson was on Sarah, Abraham and the angelic visit/ announcement of the coming supernatural pregnancy and birth of Isaac to a couple who were well past their 80’s. Sarah’s once laughed about possibility became her provision from God with laughter of joy brought to a heart sadden by infertility for years. A promise that looked to be forgotten, realized in God’s miraculous timing and in God’s miraculous ways. In the teaching I was reminded of God’s miraculous provision and God’s miraculous ways in my own life.

(One of our first cars. Used car made up of 2 different cars but so very dependable. I was just happy it had air conditioning,Car before that one didn’t. We’re driving a 2016 Jeep Wrangler now that we purchased because it’s just plain “fun to drive” )

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, the good things that God has done, especially in seasons of difficulty. I’ve spent many times writing in this blog about God walking with me in difficulty either of circumstance or of mind (my thought life). But I neglect to every once in a while just lay out the testimony of God’s Goodness to me in my life. Because the truth of the matter is, without the Goodness of God towards me where would I be? Not anywhere near where I am now. Though I have had trials, I have also had a blessed life, and I would do good to give thanks for that daily, hourly or more. Fixing my eyes on the One who is always with me and does cause all things (the hard, sad, and bad included) to work out for my good. Because I love God and am called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) The truth of the matter is He is no respector of persons and He is more than able to do that for you as well. Paul sums life up pretty well when he said “I know what it means to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty…” Philippians 4:12 We all get a taste of a little of both at times. The problem I have is my “squeaky wheel gets the oil”, or I tend to see the things I’m going through and tend to, wallow in the disappointment. Then I forget…

(First house- 1 bathroom, 3 kids (at the time)
We Ended up in a much bigger house with 4 bathrooms for our growing family of 4 kids. Got it for $85000 less than the owners originals asking price at an auction a huge blessing. We couldn’t have afforded it if we had to pay what it was really worth. )

Sarah in the Bible probably did the same thing. Years of waiting, wanting, crying, pleading, heart break… Only to find herself way on the other side of the childbearing years with a promise reminded and then fulfilled. When she laughed at the promise from her heavenly visitors, God didn’t say, “Well… you missed your chance. I’ll show you for laughing at me…” Instead He blew her mind and Abraham’s too with a fulfillment so outrageous, laughing for Joy while holding their son would be the only appropriate response. And here’s the deal… God didn’t just do that yesterday for them. He has done it today for us. He doesn’t change and He’s not surprised by my own struggles to take Him at His word at times. I think He gets a kick out of blowing my mind too. Because in that moment, I testify. I tell of His goodness that has brought me to a place of blessing. I tell of His presence that never leaves me alone in my time of need. I tell of how God took a small town Missouri girl, Gave her a smoking hot husband 😍, four kids, a grandson, a nice home, a Jeep and a good life. Not a life absent from trouble. But a life that is abundant with His grace, joy, peace, and freedom in the midst of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. God is good! Let me testify!

(My youngest 17 years ago. Breathing troubles when born ended up in the NICU for 7 days. Turned out it was just acid reflux. i.e. (God took care of him) He’s a 6 ft tall rugby playing, drummer, lifeguard, Junior in High School. Healthy and strong 😉)
(Family 2021. Together on Easter Sunday. Attending church celebrating the Goodness of our Resurrected Lord)