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!!!

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”

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)