Monday, September 26, 2011

Precious Jewels!

Malachi 3:16-17a, Amplified Version~
Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name.
And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure).

A few weeks ago, I lost my journal --- the one in which I kept a record of my thankful gratitudes I would see in the moment --- the one that Ann VosKamp had inspired me to start ---- the one that was changing my life, moment by moment. I thought I could just remember these wonderful things that came my way each day. I still saw them -- for a while --- but like children’s bubbles, they were soon gone with the breezes, and by Monday morning, I could not retrieve any of them. And even if there were a few, they seemed stale, like last week’s Italian loaf of bread. NOT postable. Not palatable. Maybe more like “yesterday’s manna”.

My friend, Debra, over at Sparrowgrass posted this verse this past week, and it struck me hard. The thought of the Lord bending His ear to listen to me as I talked with others around me, waiting to hear His name spoken with reverence and worship. And, if He DID hear His Name, He would write my name in a Book of Remembrance. I envisioned a sacred ceremony one day when He would open His book, His own personal journal filled with names of those who took the time to think of Him and His Name, and one by one, would call them out publicly and declare them to be His jewels.
Remember that song we used to sing as children?
“When He cometh, when He cometh To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

He will gather, He will gather
The gems for His kingdom,
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

Little children, little children,
Who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty
, Bright gems for His crown.
Sing it with me today, won’t you? And as you do, think His Name -- perhaps one of His Names that is most precious to you! (You can turn off my music already playing if you scroll to the bottom and and hit the button. It should turn it off while you listen to Alison Kraus.)

Still counting my blessings and gratitudes:
567. That He is my Shepherd, providing all of what I need, leaving me with no wants.

568. That He is El Roi, the One who sees ME, knows me better than I know myself, and loves me just the same.

569. That He is El Elyon, the Most High One, far above all other gods, in control of all the worlds and universes, yet, still cares about ME and controls all that comes and goes into and out of my life.

570. That He is Jehovah Ropha, the Healer of all that is broken.
That He is El Shaddai -- The All sufficient One who supplies my every need.

571. That He is Jehovah-Jirah -- The One who will provide.

572. That whenever I whisper His name or scream it loudly, He bends His ear and listens.

573. That He never changes, and all that He says He is, He will always be.

574. That He never leaves me nor forsakes me, no matter what it is I am going through or where I am.

575. That all that He is is made available to me in the moment of my need.

576. That crab cakes made in a healthy, diet-friendly way can be so mouth-watering good!

577. That dinner with a friend can be just so much fun and full of fellowship and laughter!

578. That watching sycamore leaves turn a bronzy gold as they do their last dances in the fall breeze could bring back so many sweet memories.

579. Hearing the acorns hitting the shed roof and rolling slowly off to the ground. I imagine squirrels perking up their ears and knowing that a big job is ahead of them in hiding and burying their winter food stock!

580. Watching leaves dance their final performance as they slowly make their way to the ground.

581. Seeing the magic of moonbeams turn wet, soggy oak leaves into shimmery silver treasures on my sidewalk.

582. Smiling as Buster squints as cool raindrops hit his face. He has sensed my peacefulness in sitting out in the rain and sits patiently with me, wondering why this is a good thing.

583. Celebrating the baptism of a young teenager who is committed to following the Lord.

584. The privilege of worshipping with a recently saved biker gang member --- tatoos, ankle monitor and all. Seeing the love between pastor and biker, the hug, slap on the back, tears of joy shared between them ---- that’s all I needed for a Sunday morning worship.

Joining with Ann VosKamp and a community of so many others who are raising their voices of gratitude on Mondays. Click on the banner below to read others' lists:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Practice of Hope

It was just a small tree -- small enough to fit into her car. But it was perfect and I knew just where it would go. The best birthday presents are those that live on, and little did I know that this Sycamore tree would become my “Tree of Hope.”

It came in a big pot, tied to a stick that kept it straight and kept it from bending and breaking in the wind. It’s trunk was still small, bendable, and needed support. A few years before, an old oak tree had died, and I chose that place for this new, perky tree. And so, it was planted, stick still in place, with the hopes and dreams of someday seeing a large shade tree in my yard.

Hope has visions of what tomorrow looks like. The maturing of what is, the reality of our faith, the flowering of our buried seeds. And I knew what my Sycamore was to look like --- tall, wide, full of large leaves that would shade a hot summer yard. Hope works towards that end reality, watering, feeding, pruning, etc.

Storms came with wind and rain, sometimes gently, refreshing a thirsty plant, but sometimes violently, as if intentionally trying to break its spine and loose its roots from the ground. I wondered. . .and I hoped. But that stick remained strong and steadfast, keeping my tree in place through each and every storm. It grew taller, and that spindly trunk was now thick and strong.. . And I noticed that the supporting stick had broken away from the tree, its job finished and complete.

Shortly after this, a friend shared her fears as a young boy she had mentored and loved was about to make decisions that she felt were beyond his ability to make. She wondered if there had been more she could have taught him, had her love been enough, could he walk through this strong and unbending? I related the “stick story” to her, and told her she had been the supporting stick to her little “sapling”, and that he was now able to stand strong through the storms. And we stand back, and we wait . . . And we hope. . . With a hope that sees what tomorrow looks like.

Sometimes, between our hope as we plant our dreams and the fulfillment of our vision, a storm will come that seems to test us beyond what we feel we can bear. For me, it was breast cancer and all that goes with it.
Hope? At times it seemed hope was all I had to hold on to, and at other times, I wondered if my stick would hold me up. Chemo was a very strong storm, harsh and unrelenting. Six treatments, six rounds of nightmare material, six times wondering if I’d make it through. I remember looking out my window at my tree ----- my beautiful Sycamore tree ---- and I saw it suffering along with me. I had planted it much too close to my septic tank, and its roots were taking up the waste of my chemo! It’s leaves were curling, burnt brown all along the edges. Some fell, but most hung on, looking about as badly as I felt. Fall and winter came, the last of the leaves fell, and I wondered if my tree would survive and come back again. . .much how I felt about myself.
Spring came, as did the end of surgery and radiation. And then I saw it! Tiny little green buds all up and down the branches of my tree! And I knew we had made it together through the worst of storms. Today I see the fulfillment of my hope --- 2 ½ years since treatments ended and all is well. All is well for my tree, too, as those great big green leaves continually dance in the breeze. It’s fall now, and I’m seeing some bronze leaves as they finish their summer life. But they see me sad and call out to me, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 43:5

And so I wait yet again and expectantly wait for yet another spring. . .

Joining up with Ann on this “Walk With Him” Wednesday:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stones of Remembrance

It was 1982. Not the best of years for me. It seemed that my life was falling apart and I had no idea which direction to go. After spending some time in Virginia, I moved back to Florida, the one place I had a home to come to, and I started over ----- again. I had no job, so I took a part time newspaper route. It’s the perfect job for hermits and loners. I could be alone, out in the wee hours of the morning, no one bothering me, no dress code, just me, my papers, and my van.

Perhaps it was seeing my Dad so sick with cancer shortly before moving, or maybe the emptiness of my own soul, or a combination of both. I knew that in my moving that I would probably not see him again and that hit home. Not that we had ever been close and “cozy,” but I loved him, hated to see him suffer, and I felt sad for all that had NOT been there between us. My father’s faith had never wavered through his illness --- it only grew deeper and stronger. And somewhere in the deepest abyss of my soul I knew I was so far from whatever it was he had ---- I might as well have been keeping company with the prodigal son in the pig pen!

It “just so happened” (some would say this, but I believe the Lord makes these things happen) that someone from my way-back past popped up and suggested I read a book, the name of which I just can’t
remember. How can that be????? But I remember that the gist of the whole thing had to do with opening doors of your heart, as you would the doors of your home, and dealing with one room at a time. The only trouble was, you just kept finding more and more doors. And it became a lifetime of “cleaning house.” But one room and only ONE at a time.

As I was delivering those newspapers one night, I was thinking of all the upside-down stuff in my life, all the crazy choices I had made, dreams that turned into nightmares, faith that turned out to be so weak that I wondered if there was any at all, and a tomorrow with no plan or vision or promise. Several hours before, there had been a storm. The tide had been higher than normal and what I did NOT know was that the waters of the Gulf of Mexico had come up over the road, then receded, but left muddy, slippery seaweed on the pavement. So here I come at three o’clock in the morning, and my van full of newspapers slides uncontrollably off the road and into the Gulf. I was able to climb out unhurt, and I just started walking. I had no idea where the nearest phone would be (this was LONG before cell phones), but on that walk, I prayed. I asked the Lord if there was ANYTHING at all left for my life. It just seemed so dark, useless and yes, wet, at that moment. It seemed that I walked forever, but suddenly a verse that I had memorized years and years before came into my thoughts --- Phil. 1:6 -- “He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ.” I said it over and over and over. And somehow, I knew. He had not lost me, had not let me go, had always known where I was.

So much happens in those sacred moments. Soul washing, heart cleansing, reuniting with a Heavenly Father, and a burden lifting type of peace! And I stooped down and picked up a stone. I wanted something from that place. . . That place of new beginnings.
I still have that stone, along with many others that I have picked up along the way since that night. Each one has a verse that I clung to at a particular time of significance on my journey. Since my Pastor is teaching in the book of Joshua and spent one evening talking about the crossing of the River Jordan and how Joshua had one man from each tribe pick up a stone from the middle of the river as stones of remembrance, I have been thinking of my own stones. Remembering where we’ve been somehow helps me to know where I’m going. His ways don’t change, there is no shadow of turning, He is faithful to His Word, and He is always there! I need to continue to pick up more stones. . . .!

Friday, September 9, 2011

When Giving is Receiving

Some days move along smoothly with no upsets, surprises, or trip-ups. Most of my days are like that. I seem to move in a steady pace, doing what needs to be done, and ending the day wondering where it went!

But today was different. Yesterday, I stopped for some veggies at the stand on the corner, and I was thinking of a gal at church who has been on our prayer list. She is desparately looking for a job, and has been for some time. I knew (you know how you just know???!!!) that this HAD to be tough with two kids. So I got some extra stuff while I was there and headed over to her place.

I was met by a young teen boy who invited me in, offered me a seat and told me that "Momma" would be home shortly and did I want to stay. I needed to go, so he walked me out to the car, carrying on the sweetest conversation. As I got into my car, he asked me my name and said he would let her know that I had been there. I was drawn by him.

Her house was small and rustic --- maybe better called a cottage. Huge oaks shaded everything, and I loved the vines, flowers, trellises, archways, etc. It was such a peaceful place to be.

I wanted to speak with her and find out if there was anything she needed help with, so I went back this evening. Little did I know. . . .

It was ME who would be blessed beyond measure!!!! Beyond anything I could give, this woman gave me more. We talked about God's care and blessings, and I told her how He has brought me through cancer and chemo and supplied my every need. She then told me that she has been battling brain cancer for 25 years now, taking chemo all this time. She is on an experimental program with the Marines. I looked at her, and I thought about myself, "And YOU thought YOU had it bad!" I just grabbed her and hugged her. I couldn't help it.

I saw joy in her eyes, and peace. And as she spoke, faith oozed out all over the place. She told me how she built her home by herself, how she took in the two children, and how she had to build on bedrooms if she wanted to keep them. She told me of being in the Marines, an expert dog trainer (BUSTER, watch out!!!!), and how she took care of her Mom and Dad through long illnesses.

I drove out the long driveway, paused before pulling into the road, and I just sighed a HUGE sigh. Where had I just been???!!!! I thought I was going to find out how I could help someone, and I never even asked the question! Instead, someone ministered to me and lifted me up. Instead, I met someone who is content, happy, and at peace with very little in life.
Instead, I met someone who gives, and gives, and gives of herself for others.

I think I met someone who knows A WHOLE LOT about Calvary Love! Someone I want to get to know better. Someone I want to be more like.