Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Joy to the World" The Lord DID Come!

I have a friend who has a friend who is dying. She prayed to be healed, but instead, the Lord gave her a vision of a small, shallow, babbling brook and told her, "Dying is easier than crossing that stream." I can't shake the beauty and comfort of that thought.

When my Uncle Ned was dying, his son Bob asked him what it felt like to know he was going to die. He said he felt like a little boy getting on a bus that would take him to his grandmother's house. He had to ride the bus by himself, and that was a bit scary, but he knew that when he arrived at his destination, he would be sitting in his grandmother's kitchen eating chocolate chip cookies, and she made the best chocolate chip cookies in the world!

One of the greatest gifts the Lord gave me was an easy death for Jordan. Rather than eventually suffocating from the effects of bronciolitis obliterans, he simply never woke up after emergency surgery and instead of seeing our faces, he saw the Lord's!

It might seem odd to be writing about death on Christmas Eve, when most of us are preparing to celebrate a very significant birth. But unlike the rest of us who are born, that birth was all about a death. And that death would not be easy. It would be bloody and agonizing. It would be vile and painful--and it would be for all of us.

It would, for the first time in all eternity past and all eternity future, rip the Godhead apart and stagger the universe in an unprecedented display of atoning grace.

But that death would not be permanent. The power of God Himself would raise His Son Jesus from its cold grip and in that triumphant victory, overcome our final enemy on our behalf. At last, salvation had come to mankind!

At Christmas we celebrate the most significant of births. At Easter, we celebrate Christ's glorious resurrection. In between those two events are His life and His death. And for me, none of it can be separated. For without His birth, there would no substitutionary Life, and without His death there would be no resurrection.

I pray the significance of all that God has done on your behalf would resonate in your soul this Christmas and manifest itself in heart-felt worship to the King.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Away From Home

I went to get my nails done today, a fact that irritates my husband just as much as it delights my publicist who insists, "If you're going to sign books, your hands need to look as professional as the rest of you."

I went to the same place I always go, a shop just up the street from my house, owned, like most nail salons it seems, by a Vietnamese couple. Usually the wife does my nails but today her husband Tran had the honor.

After the requisite discussion about the relentless heat, he asked about my children, so after answering him, I returned the favor and asked about his. They have two, a son and daughter, both students at OU. I asked if they had been born in this country, and he said, "No Vietnam. But we left when the youngest was two." That was eighteen years ago.

I asked if they had been back since, and he said told me they'd only been back once because it is so expensive. I asked if he missed it and he replied with a most emphatic, emotional, "Oh yes! It's home."

It hit me hard. He has been in this country eighteen years. His children have no memories of their birth country, yet he has chosen to make a home away from his true home.

Immediately the verse in Hebrews 11:9-10 came to mind where it speaks of Abraham and says, "By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents...for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

And like Tran, we Christians also are making a home on earth away from our true home which is heaven. We live here. We build our lives here. But our true home, and the one we long for even more than Tran longs for Vietnam, is with our Father and Brother.

May our hearts yearn for that home, even as we go about living the gift that life is, and using that life to do things that will glorify God and last for eternity.

See you at the reunion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grace Revealed

I had an e-mail exchange with someone who had seen me on one of the Florida television interviews I did recently to promote "Matthew" the second book in "The Rhyme and Reason Series." It's been out for almost a year now, but I am just now doing a belated publicity tour. Anyway, it's always a thrill when someone contacts me through the website information that's posted on the screen.

This particular woman is a few years older than me and still feeling like she hasn't fulfilled her purpose in life. She was lamenting a lifetime of mistakes. Here, in part, is my response:

As far as making a lifetime of mistakes goes, I think you are standing in a very long line! In fact, I don't know a single honest human being who isn't standing in that line. It's why we all need a Savior!

I used to struggle with feeling like God would somehow be disappointed with me as well, but more and more I am convinced that nothing I do or don't do will make Him love me any less, and nothing I do or don't do will make Him love me any more.

The One who created us adores us with a passion and zeal we cannot fathom. We human beings are trained in conditional love, so unless we have been extremely fortunate to have had someone demonstrate it to us, we have no real frame of reference for what true unconditional love acts and feels like.

I had a grandmother who adored me and spent almost every summer of my young life trying to help me improve my school work. She was a Special-Ed teacher and I would go over to her house every day and work through workbooks of all the subjects I struggled with, which was most of them.

She never scolded me for my mistakes. I never felt her frustration as I did mine when I failed to grasp a concept we had gone over and over. She never made me feel stupid. She always gently encouraged me. It felt so reassuring to have her sitting next to me as I labored over my work.

Every year she would have me pick out something I really wanted and put it in the chair across the table from where I sat to encourage me to reach the goal. If, at the end of the summer, I had successfully completed all the workbooks--you know--earned it, she would proudly hand me the gift I had picked out.

The only one I really remember was the Chatty Cathy doll. Oh, I wanted it so badly! It was almost torture to have her sitting across from me in her box, just waiting for me to get all my work done so I could break her out of her cardboard prison and pull the string that would magically let her "talk."

I didn't get all the assignments completed that year. Math, particularly, was and still is a torment. I was crushed. My little heart was so sad. Worst of all, I felt like I had disappointed my grandmother who had invested so much time in helping me. I knew she really wanted me to be able to earn my prize.

So on that last day of summer, I was feeling very dejected. She went over to the chair and picked up the doll to put it away. Or so I thought. Instead she got down on her knees and handed her to me. She said something along the lines that even though I hadn't completely finished the workbooks I had worked very hard and had learned. She told me how proud she was of me and then she told me the doll was mine. That it had always been mine, since the first day of summer.

That's how I think the love of God is. Everything He has for us is ours already. We don't earn it, because we can't, no matter how hard we might try. It's a futile effort. It's ours because He chooses to give it to us. Everything we have is a grace gift from the One who longs to give us Himself most of all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Redemption is Revealed!

My daughter Jessie graduates from college this coming Saturday. She is a fifth year senior because she studied abroad last year and it set her back a bit. But she would be the first to tell you it was a grand experience and well worth having to "redshirt" in order to graduate.

For those of you who might not know, she is the youngest of my three children, my only girl, and the overachiever of the family. She is the one who made up her mind in the 8th grade that she was going to be the valedictorian of her high school class--and she was. She is the one who decided to study abroad, made all the arrangements herself--and did. She is the one who looked for and found scholarships--and got them. The one who applied for a grant to try and find ways to make baked goods healthier--and got it.

None of this is new. She is also the child who announced to me that she wasn't going to have any part of the same half day Kindergarden program her brothers had been in. She wanted to stay all day and eat lunch and take naps with her friends, thank you very much. It was more money, but I wan't about to argue with her!

She is the one who, when she was about six or seven, was quite upset that she could not flip her omelette. This meant, of course, that unbeknownst to me, she had turned on the stove, gotten the omelette pan out, cracked and beaten the eggs, grated the cheese and sprinkled it over the eggs. But she wasn't quite tall enough to reach over with the spatula and get it flipped. Which is pretty much what I did when I walked into the kitchen and saw what she was doing!

So it comes as no surprise to those who know her that she will graduate with honors and has already been admitted into graduate school where she will receive dual Master's Degrees. Who knew you could get two at a time?

However, the reason I am telling you all of this is not only to brag on her, though as you can see, I am quite happy to do just that! It is to show you the redemption of the Lord in my life.

You see, I was a horrible student from Kindergarden through my dubious college experience. After the first week of Kindergarden I couldn't figure out why they kept sending me back every week. I hated everything about school, and that attitude never really changed. By ninth grade I had all but stopped showing up for class. At the end of the year, I had five Fs and a D. I have no idea how I got the D. The only reason I made it into 10th grade is because I changed school districts after my parents severed their parental rights and put me in The Sunbeam Home.

I actually managed to graduate, and after three years in Youth With a Mission, I went back to college for two and a half years before I got married and started having kids.

Jordan, my oldest, had a difficult time in school as well, but he had ongoing health issues and that probably contributed to a lot of it. He simply felt bad most of the time.

For high school he went to a small home school co-op. There were just five kids in the graduating class and that year, and after he graduated we went to Boston for our family vacation and toured the Harvard campus. As we were leaving, I put my arm around him and said, "Son, from now on you can tell everyone you know you graduated 5th in your class and went to Harvard! If they ask you any questions, just hold your hand up and say modestly, 'No, really, enough about me...'"

Anyway, Jacob and Jessie always did very well in school. For Jacob it just came easily. He graduated from OU magna cum laude two years ago and is going to seminary to get his Masters of Divinity degree. Jessie, on the other hand, worked very hard. I have never known anyone--man, woman or child--as disciplined and determined as her. She amazes me.

But here's the redemptive part. I have always deeply regretted squandering the educational opportunities that were handed to me on a silver platter. I had carte blanche--opportunities most people only dream about--and I blew them all.

Yet the God who is capable of redeeming everything, has redeemed that regret in my life through two of my children. What I squandered, they took advantage of. What I wasted, they utilized. What I missed out on, they have enjoyed. Where I failed, they have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations!

That's just how God does things.

I don't usually ask questions of my readers, but it's my blog so I can do whatever I want! And my question to you today is, "What is it that you need God to redeem in your life? What regret do you want to give Him and allow Him to bring to a satisfactory conclusion? It may take time, but He can do it.

Truly, there is nothing too hard for the Lord. And He delights even more than we do in being able to take our failures and redeem them--even if He does it through our children.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011

A woman in my Bible study sent me a link with the lyrics to a song about loss--and the loss of a child particularly--that really moved my heart. What follows is my response to her and the other women in our core group.

The Lord was a very present and inexpressible comfort to me when Jordan died. There have only been a few times when I have felt so tenderly held and loved and cared for by Him as I did in those first dark and incomprehensible days of the deepest bereavement a heart can endure.

There were many times during Jordan's life and illness when his friends would ask him if he ever wondered, "Why me?" And he always said, "No, never! The question is 'Why not me?'"

We live in a fallen world. There is, thank God, great joy to be found, but there is also incredibly deep heartache and pain. He seemed to understand that and not question it or blame God.

From the time he was 2 (I am NOT making this up!) Jordan wanted nothing more than to be married and have a house full of children! He talked about it all the time--his whole life. He never got to do either. (One of my most treasured conversations with him took place after his doctor told him he probably only had another year or two to live. On the way back home, I put my hand on his leg and asked him how he was feeling about what the doc had said. I will never forget his plaintive response. "Mom, I just don't want to die a virgin!" But he did.)

Yet I know that if God promised him a beautiful wife and the best 5 kids who ever lived, he would not consider leaving the glories of heaven for this old world for even a nanosecond! I find tremendous comfort in that realization.

It was eleven years ago Easter weekend when he and I came home after a four month stay in St. Louis to a triumphant reception after his very successful heart/lung transplant. It was such a high point! He was the poster child for rebounding beyond anyones expectation, especially considering how close to death he had been going in. It was such a miracle, we thought for sure he would live a very long time and realize his dream to marry and have children.

And was not to be so.

But here is what I know: God's wisdom surpasses our feeble understanding. His grace is ever-present. Truly, His mercy endures forever! Our job, like our friend Joseph, whose life has resonated so deeply with us during our study this year, is to simply rest in His comfort, trust in His wisdom and believe in His promises with unflinching conviction. Eventually, it will all be crystal clear and we will marvel at all God has wrought.

And so we stand. With faith, with hope, with assurance. And hopefully the world takes notice.

I pray a blessed and happy and hopeful Easter for each of you!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spirit Versus Flesh

I had a 9:00 phone appointment with my publicist, Kerry, yesterday to finalize my one-sheet. A one-sheet, for those of you who might not know, is a promotional piece for speakers. And there is a real art to them. It's like putting together a puzzle. The idea is to create visual impact and show who you are and what you speak about as concisely and with as much interest as possible. So it's actually like putting together a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle and still making a picture with just nine pieces! Or so it seems to me...

As the name implies, it is printed on a standard sheet of paper, but it is essential that the layout and design elements grab the eye and hold the reader's attention long enough for them to actually read it. So we had to work out the layout, colors, text, a picture, the book covers and logo all without making the page too much of a cluttered mess, and while expressing who I am as a speaker, yet also showcasing the books. It's not nearly as easy as it might appear to be on the surface.

So anyway, when I woke up, I greeted the Lord as I always do by telling Him good morning and thanking Him for another day. As I walked into the kitchen for my morning cup of joe, the Lord said, "I wish you would ask Me to help you with your one-sheet."

Now that might seem a bit odd to you, but I hope not, because God is intensely interested in every detail of our lives. It didn't seem odd to me at all. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed that He had to ask, but I laughed out loud and said, "Oh, Lord! Of course I want You to help me with the one-sheet! Why, You are the most creative Being of all--You thought of and created everything we can and can't see! Please help us to make it as perfect as it can be."

And He did! Once we had all the pieces in place and I saw the finished product, I knew we had hit a bulls-eye. I sent it to four strategic people for feedback and all of them loved it. One suggested we spell Scripture correctly, but that was it! Would that have been an embarrassing typo, or what?

That's all well and good, but it's not the end of the story. I had been thanking God all day for His help because I was so delighted with the results. But while I was doing one of the miserable sweat baths my ND is having me do, I began thanking Him all over again.

And then it hit me. God didn't want to help me because He felt left out or had nothing else to do, or even because He loves me and is interested in every detail of my life. He wanted to help me so that His fingerprints would be all over it and His Spirit could go with it to accomplish the goals He intends it to accomplish.

That which is born or done in the flesh is flesh. But that which is done in or with the Spirit has all of the power of the Spirit behind it. He simply cannot bless or use the former, and He simply cannot not bless the things He instigates and is involved with. What a wonderful reminder this was to me as I lay in the tub boiling my body.

It is also the difference between striving and resting. I realized I had been striving to build my speaking business in my own strength and asking God to bless my efforts! After the bathtub revelation, my attitude immediately changed. I don't have to strive or try to make it happen in my own strength. Now that God's fingerprints are all over it, all I have to do is send them where He leads me to send them, give them to whomever He leads me to give one to, and then rest in Him while He does the real work.

This is true no matter what we are doing. That is walking in the Spirit, and it is the only thing that allows Him to move for our good and His glory. And that is always our goal, isn't it?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life's Like an Hour Glass Glued to the Table

It seems odd to me that I have lived most of my life. I still think of myself as the mother of three young children. But one is buried, one is married, and one is getting ready to graduate from college. The younger two are hitting their mid-twenties even as I stare at my approaching mid-fifities and Jordan would be almost 30!

It's an old lament. As old as post flood mankind, I suppose. "How did I get here so quickly? Where have the years gone?" Yet when it is my mouth forming the words, they take on a new and surreal meaning.

It was my grandparents who were old. Not me. And then my parents. But not me. And now it is me! Okay, not yet old, but not young either.

Gone is the foolishness of the teenage years. Gone is the thrill and adventure of all the open ended possibilities of my twenties. Gone is the delight of childbearing and the challenges of child-rearing. Gone is the houseful of children with all their busyness, commotion and endless activities.

Some days I thought it would never end and now I can't believe it ended so quickly.

This momentary melancholy will pass, because I am one of the fortunate ones. I was able to stay home and raise those children. By His great and unsearchable grace, they all love and serve the Lord.

While there is much to look back on, there is much to look forward to as well! The delight of grand children. Finishing and promoting "The Rhyme and Reason Series" and watching all God has in mind to accomplish through it. Precious friendships, a strengthening marriage, the work of the Kingdom, mentoring younger women, and the list goes on.

And then, one day, "In the twinkling of an eye" it will all be over. Instead of "looking through the glass dimly" at eternity, it will be the other way around! I will look back with dim recollections of the life I am living at this very moment, yet everything done and accomplished in the name of Christ will remain. I don't know exactly how that works, but I know it's true, because God declares it in His Word, and His Word never fails.

So with whatever time I have left, I echo the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, "I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the high call of God in Christ Jesus."

There is nothing more satisfying than a life well-lived for Christ and nothing worse than a life lived and gone in vain.