In my father’s footsteps

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Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. ~Matt. 24:35

As a child, I often had to scurry to keep up with my father’s pace. Even as I became full grown it remained a challenge to match my father’s fast stride. Recently, my father and I were in a store together looking for some items. All of a sudden it hit me, I was slowing my steps to match my walk with his. This realization took my breath away. When did his happen?

As a child, I raced to match my father’s tempo in life. I probably get my drive and determination from him. But in this slower pace I have noticed other things my father does. He is quick to say a kind word to people he meets. Quick to go out of his way to lend a hand. He patiently sits with those in pain. He loves deeply those God has placed in his path. There is much I try to measure in my life to my dad’s that will never change. He will always be an example that I will try to live up to.

The cycle of life is hard to live through sometimes. That realization that the way things have always been are now shifting. Children grow up and leave the home. Parents age and slowdown. But there is one constant in all of this, God.

I can’t help but wonder what legacy I am leaving my own children. As they follow in my footsteps, do they see my confidence in God that He is always with me? Do they see patience and love in my actions to others? Will they see by my example that the only constant we have in life is God?

Heavenly Father, You are, You were, and You always will be. Help me not to fear the future or feel sadness in life’s cycles. Help me to see Your constant Presence through it all. Amen.

Shelter in the desert

Jacob left Beer- sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place and spent the night there. When the sun had set, he took one of the stones at that place and put it near his head. Then he lay down there. He dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it. Suddenly the LORD was standing on it and saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.” ~Gen. 28:10-15

Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance and his blessing. Esau was so angry at Jacob that Jacob feared for his very life. So he ran away. This scripture starts with Jacob running for his life; he is scared, tired, lonely, and feeling guilty for what he has done. He knows that he has really messed things up.

When night came, Jacob was tired so he just laid down on the ground using a rock as a pillow. When he fell asleep he had a dream. In his dream he saw a ladder reaching from the earth all the way to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending the ladder. At the top of this ladder was God.

God reached out to Jacob through this dream. I think God spoke to Jacob in his dream because Jacob knew he had messed up pretty badly, he had little hope for his future and he was scared for his safety. He was in need of some good news.

In the dream God told Jacob a few things:
-God told Jacob that the land Jacob was laying on was for him and for his children (hope).
-God told Jacob that his children and his children’s children and his children’s, children’s children would spread all over the earth and all the families of the earth will be blessed through them (future).
-And this is my favorite part—God said these words to Jacob, “know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (security).

I make many mistakes living in this world. There are times I wonder how God could ever forgive me. But this story reminds me that God does love me even at my worst. Even more, God keeps his promises. They are not dependent on my actions. And despite the mistakes I make God can still use me.

O Lord, You alone are my hope, my future and my security. I place my trust in You. You are my rock of refuge where I can always escape. My praise is always about You. Amen.

Getting back up

God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. ~Psalm 46:1-3 (CEB)

Life’s journey is not easy. It is through my struggles that I can be conformed to the image of Christ. This process of being reshaped in Christ’s image takes time. Only through the Holy Spirit can this process happen. After I have turned my heart to God, the work of bringing my life in line with His begins. Through maturity I gain knowledge, wisdom and love. My growth with the help of the Holy Spirit can be marked by an up and down movement, forward and backward, and at times even circular!

The journey is never in a straight path free of bumps and strains. Throughout the process however, God never wavers and undergirds me with His grace. This gives us the hope, courage and perseverance for the journey.

It’s a journey. I take a few steps, I might fall down. I get up, take another step, and fall down again. And then I get up. . . As someone once observed, “It is not the falling in the water that drowns, but the staying there.”

Heavenly Father, Thank You for ever being my strength, my comfort and my help in times of need. Because You walk with me this day, I will not be afraid, even if the mountains crumble and the storms rage. You are my hope and my peace. Amen.

A battle within

Once when Jacob was boiling stew, Esau came in from the field hungry and said to Jacob, “I’m starving! Let me devour some of this red stuff.” That’s why his name is Edom. Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today.” Esau said, “Since I’m going to die anyway, what good is my birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Give me your word today.” And he did. He sold his birthright to Jacob. So Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew. He ate, drank, got up, and left, showing just how little he thought of his birthright. ~Gen. 25:29-34 (CEB)

I always get so mad at Esau when I read this story. How can he be so careless? With no thought for the future he tosses away his birthright for a momentary need. Just because he is hungry. Then I think about my birthright. By simply being born, I too have been given a birthright. Just like Esau I have done nothing to earn my inheritance as a child of God. How often do I turn a blind eye when the hunger pains of this world threaten to tear me in half? How often do I undervalue my inheritance?

Even though Jacob is devious and manipulative, he does desire and see the value of the birthright. He will do whatever it takes to acquire it for his own. He even in the end risks his very life to receive his father’s blessing. I often wonder if this isn’t a fit description of the battle that goes on inside of us. There is the part of us that doesn’t value the grace that we have been given. It is not until we believe that we do not have God’s grace that we begin to do all we must to acquire that grace. Somehow it is a balance in the tension between the two. It is ours simply by being born, but we must seek it as the precious inheritance that it is. We must be willing to give it our all.

Lord, I want all that You have given me. Help me to value Your grace so freely given. May I seek it this day as the precious gift that it is. For without it I am nothing. Amen.

A quiet presence

Before they call, I will answer while they are still speaking, I will hear. ~Isaiah 65:24 (CEB)

Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable than car trouble.

I had had a great day with my Michigan cousins. I went out to my car at the end of the day to find it would not start. “What? (I actually said this as I put my head on the steering wheel) Lord, I had prayed about this, begged You to protect my car from issues while I was so far away from home.” It is hard enough to deal with car trouble in familiar territory but hundreds of miles from home it is overwhelming.

A cousin jump started my car and we talked about what could be the issue. I hoped for the battery but it could be as serious as the alternator. Obviously I couldn’t take the chance of being stranded on the interstate. Sitting in my hotel room wondering what I should do, an answer came to mind. I knew from past experience that someplace like AutoZone could check my battery to see if it needed replacement. Maybe they would have advice about the alternator. I thought that they could probably point me to a reputable repairman if that was indeed what I needed. I looked AutoZone up on my phone to see if there was one in town. According to the phone there was one close by. So I settled in and prayed for a good night’s rest and that my car would start so that I could drive it to AutoZone in the morning.

The next morning, after I had packed our stuff, I went out to try and start the car. It struggled but finally started. I pulled up the address on my phone to the store and headed out. Once I was out on the road I looked up while stopping at the stop sign to see my destination right there ahead of me. Two blocks from my hotel was an AutoZone. I had not noticed that it was there before that moment.

As I suspected, the AutoZone employees were able to help me. They ran tests on my battery, alternator and starter. It was just the battery as I hoped.

At first is seemed to me that God had not watched over me while I was off in a strange territory. I felt momentarily forgotten. Abandoned. When I got into the car to drive my son and I back down to Tennessee, I realized just how much God had been watching over me before I even knew that I was in trouble. There were so many factors that could have made the situation worse. And then there was the location of my hotel, just down from the store that I would need. It began to seem surreal.

God showed me that I don’t have to be on familiar ground for Him to take care of me. He can already have things in motion or in place that I don’t know about yet.  He also will also give me answers as I need them, sometimes not until I need them. When I feel alone and forgotten, I have not been. I just need to hold onto the truth that as a beloved child of God, He will provide for me.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the care You send and the answers You bring. Thank You for not abandoning me. Thank You for Your quiet Presence that warms and calms my heart. May I continue to feel Your Presence as I move through the day ahead. Amen.

Love beyond all limits

Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that~ smelled sweet to God. ~Eph 5:1-2 (CEB)Even if you have not grown up in church I feel confident that you have heard that God loves us. Maybe you have heard of God’s love through the simple children’s song, “Jesus loves me”. In church the concept of God’s love is taught but not necessarily known. It takes life experiences to begin to understand what God’s love means in our heart. But this journey towards understanding just how big, how wide how deep how great God’s love really is (Eph 3:18-19), begins with misunderstanding just what love means

For many reasons we find ourselves misunderstanding God’s love. That it is absolute and unlimited for each one of us. The reasons that it is difficult for us to receive, trust or see His love are as numerous as there are people in the world. The relationships we have with others impact us and affect our views on what love means. How we interact in relationships can be reflected in how we interact and relate to God. Somewhere along the way we may be taught that love is based on performance, control, comes with conditions… When we take our first step on our journey of who we really are in Christ, we can begin to understand the concept of God’s perfect love for us just as we are right now.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, standing over her crib watching her sleep that I began to get a taste of what God’s love is for us. I also began to understand just how human I really was and that I could never love her enough. Matthew 7:11 says ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” If  I with all my faults, love my children and want so much for them can I not begin to take to heart the love God has for me? After being a mom for 17 years, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this kind of love.

Our journey towards grasping the concept of God’s love begins with this verse in Romans 8:38-39, ” But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”. God’s love for us knows NO limits.

Sometimes understanding is beyond our reach when life has caused deep wounds, Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, has this to say, ” How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love -fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the most cruel torture are able to choose love. By choosing love they become witnesses not only to enormous human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”

I walk a narrow path of hope in the midst of a world that has only hatred and fear to share. I look not to the world to define what love means. I look to the Source that is love. Sometimes the people in my life are here to show me what love is not. Other times I am blessed with insights of what love truly can be.

Heavenly Father I thank you this day for Your love that has no limits. I thank You for those people You have placed in my life to love and to love me. May I be an example of love to all I meet this day. Amen.

What’s the point of it all

What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.~Ecc3:9-15 (CEB)

What is the point of it all? I have been reading Ecclesiastes so I know that I am not the only person to ponder this question. Earlier in Chapter 3 the author talks about how there is a time for every season in life. A time to be born… a time to die… There are times in my life that everything seems to be going well. God gives me these times so that I can show the world how to live a life of blessings while still fully in tune with God. Other times I find life miserable and full of difficulties. God has allowed these hard times so that I can show the world how great our God is and that being His child brings great peace and joy despite hardship.

It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of life compared to others’. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.… Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16–17) When I come into God’s presence He gives me peace and joy that surpasses it all. When I read the Bible it helps me to keep my focus on Him and not my current situation.

So what is the point of life here on earth, whatever moment I find myself in? The point of my life is to bring Him Glory. From the coffee break I take on my porch swing, to the words I say to a friend, to the boundaries I set for my kids and the walks I take with my husband, it should all point to Him. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for Gods glory. “ ~1Cor 10:31 (CEB)

May my life this day Lord, point to Your glory. From the words I speak to the actions I take may it all be done to reflect Your love and grace in my life. Amen.

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