Sunday, November 17, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Forgive the Speaker, for Her Sins Are Many"

 
 
Max Lucado almost always starts his talks with a prayer that includes this, "Father, forgive the speaker, for his sins are many" as he prays for himself.  I love this.  Oh, if only we all started our conversations with God this way!  To humble ourselves as we place our sins, one by one, at His feet, never to be mentioned again.

"Then she knelt behind Him at His feet, weeping. 
Her tears fell on His feet, and she wiped them off with her hair......
Then Jesus said to the woman, 'Your sins are forgiven."
Luke 7:38 & 48

I've often wondered what God does with the tears I cry.  Psalms 56:8 says, "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.  You have recorded each tear and sorrow in Your book."  I think about the sinful woman in Luke 7 who boldly washed Jesus' feet with her tears and how much she must have cried to create enough tears to clean His feet.  Her remorse was huge.  

Many years ago, I repeated something to someone I knew I shouldn't have.  It fell out of my mouth faster than a Liz-speeding-ticket.  Although it was a truthful statement and I can sit here and attempt to justify and explain my reason for doing it, in the end, it served no purpose to repeat and, worse, it caused hurt to someone I cared deeply for.  I don't think I have ever felt more disappointed in myself  than I did at that very moment.  I cried buckets of tears daily over what I had done....how I had indirectly hurt someone I loved...and I begged God to forgive me.  He did....but I struggled to forgive myself.  Why?  Because I didn't feel I "deserved" to be forgiven.

In time, the deep scar of this sin began to scab and I learned I cannot hold myself to a different standard than Jesus Christ holds me to.  If He forgave me, then who am I to not also forgive myself? 

Are you hanging on to an unforgiveness......of yourself

It's time to remove this burden from your back and hand it over to God.  He plans on drop-kicking it off the mountain you've been trying to climb, never to be seen or remembered again.  Place your tears at Jesus' feet.....you are forgiven!

"Forgiveness is UNLOCKING the door to set someone FREE
and realizing that YOU were the PRISONER."
Max Lucado

Sunday, November 10, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "The Mystery Of Grace"

THE MYSTERY OF GRACE

A few years ago, my brother, sister and I made a trip to our grandparent's old home place in a tiny town in the center of Alabama.  It had been years since any of us had been back to this place we used to visit every summer and, in all honesty, it was never a place I loved going.  The crickets were huge, there was no running water, baths were taken in the river and an outhouse was not a place you wanted to visit in the middle of the night.

My grandparents owned 200 acres of pine trees.....oh ya....and a creek that ran right through the middle.  For as long as I can remember, my grandfather in his striped overalls and his train engineer cap, along with my grandmother in her long dress with an apron....yes...always with an apron....would drive the old pickup truck down to Blue Creek and pan for gold with their grandchildren hanging out the bed of the truck.  For my siblings and cousins, this was like going to Disneyland.  For Liz, it was pure torture.

But along the orange-clay dirt road to the creek, we would always pass an old wood-frame Methodist church with a cemetery next to it.  My grandparents would eventually be buried in that very cemetery and the memory of a bee flying up my niece's skirt during my grandmother's graveside service will always be with me, but the thing about that old Methodist church I will remember the most is driving by it on Sundays and hearing the black people singing from the top of their lungs.  Not a shy or embarrassed bone in their bodies......they loved the Lord and they wanted everyone to know it.



And as my siblings and I drove up that old orange-clay dirt road once again a few years ago, I SWEAR..I could still hear them singing.  The church has long been abandoned, the windows broken out, the grass was taller than the tombstones and a mild wind could blow the walls down.  But as I walked into this room full of memories, I found this old Methodist hymnal laying open on the floor, partially eaten by rats and laying among piles of old bulletins from 1979....opened to Page 285, "The Mystery of Grace".

And I smile as I think about that person who, so many years ago, set that hymnal down on the wood plank floor, just for me to find today.

Aww....the Mystery of Grace.
" But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
 2 Corinthians 12:9
 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Depart and be with Christ, for that is far better"


For years, I prayed the same prayer.  A pleading-kind-of-prayer.
 
I prayed that when the last day of my husbands life on this earth arrived, it would come easy.  He had endured much living a life with Multiple Sclerosis and I asked God to please give him a painless rescue on that day....whenever that day would be. I prayed this same prayer for years

And I had no idea on this very day a year ago....that He would answer that prayer in less than 48 hours.  He placed a fishing rod in Chuck's hand on Sunday & woke him to Eternity on Monday. 

So what will it be like at that moment when we take our last breath here?  If we trust and believe in Christ, we have nothing to fear; we are PROMISED that moment will be beyond anything we can describe or imagine.  While I was talking to God in my favorite chair in the living room that Monday morning, Chuck's angels were waking him and preparing him to head Home...unbeknownst to me.  I like to “imagine” the same angels God had placed next to him at his birth, were the same angels who whispered in his ear that morning and said, “Wake up, Chuck...it’s time....it’s the day you’ve waited your whole life for.”

Our years here on earth are but a millisecond in time compared to Eternity.  If we don’t get it right here, we won’t get it right there.  Read that line again....it’s the most important line you’ll read today.

I have cried buckets of tears over this past year....just like everyone today who is celebrating & remembering the life of their loved one.  But many of those tears that have leaked out of my eyes this year have been tears of Joy that my prayers were answered for this man I deeply loved and was fortunate enough to have lived life with.  Yes, I miss the practical jokes...I miss listening for the two words, “I’m OKAY” as I hear the sound of his wheelchair crash into a door frame on the other side of the house....and I miss holding and tracing the lines in his hand with my fingertips during church.  But I know that Jesus called Chuck home because He had a better life to give him.  And I know someday, Jesus's prayer for us to be with Him will overrule our prayer for a prolonged life on earth.

May God increase our "desire' to...."depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."  Philippians 1:23

Sunday, October 27, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Never Underestimate the Dazzling Light"



"And while he was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white."  
Luke 9:29

"Father, I planned on having the Hospice lady out just to chat....answer questions....fact-find really.  But while she was sitting in my living room, I saw a circle of light around her.....and I knew this was the route You wanted us to go."  (Liz Prayer Journal, 8-9-18)

Dazzling Light.  

A year ago August as we prepared to leave the Dallas hospital Chuck had been in for a week, his cardiologist sat us down, placed his hands on Chuck's knees and said, "I recommend you go on hospice."  We were shocked.....the word Hospice had never entered our minds much less our mouths.  I said, "Absolutely not" as we drove home that day...."We're not bad enough for hospice".  

But we agreed to "listen" to what they had to say.  Fact-find only.....you know, for that day in the far far future when we might need them.

She arrived a few days later.  A petite young girl who I made sure knew Chuck was no where near ready for hospice, although his entire medical history was sitting in her lap.  She smiled and said, "That's great!  Then we'll just make sure you have all the answers you need for when you do need us."  

As I fired off the questions to her that day, something strange started happening.  I noticed a small circle of light developing around her head.  At first, I thought possibly it was just a reflection of the sun, but the circle of light grew larger and brighter with each question and answer until I could no longer see her face.  Ironically, her answers started making sense for Chuck.  I was mesmerized by this light around her head....and I suddenly knew, without a doubt, this "light" was placed around her by God.  It was His sign to us.

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; Listen To Him!” 
Luke 9:35

We listened to that Light that warm Wednesday morning in August of last year.  A "Light" that helped take the sting out of death for us three months later...much like that light surrounding Jesus on the mountain that day 2000 years ago has helped prepare the world for His departure.

And His return....

Sunday, October 20, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Heart Eyes"


I'm a visual; meaning, I can learn easier the art of changing out my Jeep tail light by watching a "How-To- YouTube-Video" than opening my glove compartment and pulling out the instruction manual.  I'm a bit like Doubting Thomas in the Bible as I seem to have this need to "see" for myself rather than read or hear about something. 

As I was reading the story of the Road to Emmaus this week, I started "visualizing" myself walking that road with these two companions.  What would I have done if I had been walking that dirt road headed home from Jerusalem that day...full of disappointment and heartbreak?  I couldn't help but be reminded of how many times Jesus has been next to me on my own rocky road and I never recognized Him.   

What we tend to forget is, we were never meant to walk this road alone. We are so severely focused on ourselves and the weight of our struggle that we forget to look up and see the quiet Companion getting His shoes dirty next to us.  He's been there the whole time....we just refused to open our eyes and look into His.

It wasn't until Jesus broke the bread in their dining room that evening, handed them each a piece of it....a true representation of His broken body He had taught His disciples a mere 72 hours earlier....did the two on the road to Emmaus tilt their chins up and see who had been walking on the road next to them.  Jesus opened their eyes and they now saw with heart-eyes.

Sometimes He prevents us from recognizing Him so we can see with our
Hearts and Minds
before recognizing Him with our
Eyes. 

There is something so precious in the visual of Christ walking with us in our darkest hour....when we desire an answer....and His desire is that we know we have THE answer - Himself.

You are by my side...You go before me
You stand behind....You tell my fear to run
In the tragedy, You grieve with me
When I can't see...When I can't feel
When the pain is real...You are by my side

Sunday, October 13, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Standing At A Crossroad"

 
 
"Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for directions to the old road,
The tried-and-true road.  Then take it.
Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, "Nothing doing.  We aren't going that way."

Jeremiah 6:16-17 (MSG)

I am at a crossroads in my life right now.  I'm standing in the center of the intersection, looking east...then west....and then up.....waiting for God to grab my hand and guide me in the direction I need to go.  All I do know....is I want to go in the direction of the narrow gate, the dusty path that leads me Home.

The other morning I watched on the news as Judge Kemp, a Dallas judge, walked over to a young woman named Amber Guyger who had just been convicted of 1st degree murder....and embraced her...hugged her like a mother would hug her daughter....looked her square in the eye and encouraged her to choose the dusty eternal path.  As the judge quoted John 3:16 to Amber and to the world, she handed her a Bible to take and read in prison for the next 10 years. Why?  Because the Judge knew which road would get Amber Home safely.

I'm restless with sleepy Christians...those who are not listening to the FIRE alarms going off and to the Judge Kemps in this world....those who are living their lives for this earth and not for their true Home...who zip through these crossroads not caring whether they are on the right road or not.  As long as the road is paved and smooth, they are content.  It doesn't matter whether the road leads to Hell or not.  No amount of warning....no amount of pleading causes them to wake-up and look for that "tried-and-true" road.  The road to Hell is always a lot more fun.  Always.

Friends, today we are each standing at a crossroad....one way leads to Heaven....the other Hell.  What will be your eternal destination after this earthly life is over for you?  The most important question you will ever ask yourself is, "Which direction do I go?"

"Enter by the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many.
Matthew 7:13

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Growing Seeds: "When You Walk Through A Storm"


WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH A STORM

It seems right now, most everyone I know is going through an EF5 tornado in their lives.  There may not be wind or rain, but there are certainly storm clouds enveloping them with a strange darkness that has fallen on their path and the sound of silence from the only One who could rescue them is all they hear.  My heart is heavy with concern.....and my prayers are getting longer and longer each morning as I add names to the ever-growing list of people in my life who are barely able to put one foot in front of the other.  Tears are the norm in my morning quiet time these days.....and I long for peace to be a part of their lives once again. 


Then I hear these words: 
"The journey is too great for you".  1 Kings 19:7
And like a light being turned on in a dark room, I am reminded that this journey is indeed too great for us.....and that God invites us each second of each day to STOP and find REST in Him......rest that can truly sustain us for today's journey. Tomorrow we will wake to find ourselves a mile closer to our true Home He has prepared for us, but for today, let Him lead as we travel on. 
He shines His light one inch at a time in front of us. It's all we can handle.  And we are led, safely....one step at a time....out of the darkness and into the bright and shining light of Home.
“This moment, this place, is none other than a gate into Heaven.”

Sunday, September 29, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Jesus IS Coming.....Soon!"

 
 
Shortly after we moved to Mt. Vernon in 2001, I remember losing a bet with some friends over the Dallas Cowboys.  See, I never quite got over the Jerry Jones firing Tom Landry incident and hadn't been able to root for the Cowboys since February 26, 1989...the day Tom Landry was fired.  My penalty for losing the bet was I had to wear a sign, front and back, on the NE corner of I-30 and Hwy. 37 here in Mt. Vernon that said, "I Love Jerry Jones" for four hours one Sunday.  I was humbled....I was humiliated....I was thankful no one knew me in town.

A few Sundays ago, I crossed over I-30 and saw this man standing on that same corner holding a large hot pink sign that read, "Repent!  Jesus Is Coming!" I sat through half a green light to snap a photo of this brave....yes...B-O-L-D man standing there for the world of Mt. Vernon to see proclaiming a message he knew we all needed to see.  Did he lose a bet?  Or was he just betting we all needed to be reminded of this message?

As I sat there staring at the man with the hot pink sign, I couldn't help but wonder if I had his same boldness to tell the world "Repent!  Jesus Is Coming!".  Do I love my Jesus enough to share this news with the stranger stopped at the red light?  Would I be embarrassed that you, my friends...my family...would see me standing there practically begging you to "get it"? 

We are so quick to judge those who practice their faith different from us...and I'm first in the Guilty line, friends.  Before God and I became BFF's, if I saw someone in church lifting their hands in praise...totally moved by the Holy Spirit....I would be embarrassed for them.  If I heard someone yell out "Amen" during the sermon, I'd get a whiplash looking to see who said it.  What's interesting is, I was perfectly at-home lifting my arms at a football game or yelling out "YES!"" when a touchdown was made. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

But the closer I get to God, the bolder I'm becoming.  If I ask you if you know Jesus, it's not because I'm nosy, it's because I care what happens to you.  If I say I'll pray for you, it's because I long for you to feel God's arms wrapped tightly around you comforting you. If you see me lift my hands in praise, just know I'm boldly and humbly standing at the throne of God at that very moment, eyes closed, holding the hand of God.  I feel His breath on my soul and my emotions are so raw, they leak out my eyes.  I pray....I PRAY....you feel this too.
Jesus IS Coming...SOONER than you think.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "White Space, New Chapters & The Thorn"

"....even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God, so to keep me from becoming proud,
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 
Each time He said, "My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness." 
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I have often wondered what Paul's thorn in the flesh was.....a bad back?  Headaches?  Arthritic knee?  Does it really matter?  It makes him so real to me....him talking about this thorn much like we all have digging into our flesh.  Jesus' disciples rarely talked about things like this, but I am convinced God allowed Satan to place that burden on Paul (us), possibly to strengthen him, possibly to help him be a better preacher, better person, better example of God.  Wouldn't it be a waste of good paper here in 2 Corinthians if I didn't take that example on myself? 


"We miss the lesson when we pick at the thorn. 
The enemy would have us be so blind by the pain of the thorn that we can't see the beauty of the rose garden. 
Look past the thorn - His grace is enough for the thorn He chooses not to remove."

Wow.


Sometimes.....I feel as though God allows my thorns to prepare me for a new chapter in my life now that I've caught my breath from the last chapter.  I'm not sure what the next chapter holds.....more Pain?  Hurt?  Disease?  Death?  Truth is, none of us know what the words on the next page says.....what lies around that next corner we can't see around....but we do know God is there standing next to the mess ahead of us.  It's scary and although I don't fear the future.....I want to slow down and approach it cautiously.  I want to be sure my hand is out for Him to grab and walk it out with me. 

"Father, whatever is around the corner for me, hold onto me....let me feel Your presence.  Open my ears so I can hear You whispering.....open my eyes so I can see You....just like the white egret flying over me right now.....circling....making sure Danger knows Your presence is there.  Step me out of the white page of the last chapter into the next chapter of unknown.  Secure my breastplate....strap my helmet on.....and lets do this together.  Amen."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: " "The Same God Who Led You In.......Will Lead You Out."

 
 
"In some way or other, the Lord will provide.
It might not be my way.  It might not be your way.
And yet in His own way, the Lord will provide."

In much the same way I tend to use our personal flood years ago as a measuring stick of time, we Americans will always use 9-11-01 as a means of measurement in the history of our lives.  Chuck and I had been married four years when September 11 occurred.  His Multiple Sclerosis had not yet taken over his body and we were enjoying life as much as I'd ever enjoyed anything.  Life was good...it was safe....and we had no worries.

And then the clock ticked over to 7:46 am CT....

We remember what we were wearing....what we were doing....the confusion and shock we felt that beautiful sunny Tuesday morning that forever changed the way we look at the 11th day of September.  A notch in the measuring stick of time had just been created.  And we now worried about tomorrow.

Between the cloud of dust and debris, we saw America kneel and pray in desperation.  Prayers of protection and healing....of rescue from the evils of this world we wake up to each morning.  Many people prayed for the first time in their life that day....desperately needing to focus their blood-shot eyes somewhere other than the hole where there once were two skyscrapers:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.....
Look full into His wonderful face...

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”

And I am reminded of my own bloodshot cried-out eyes from the Red Sea moments that have happened in my life over this same measuring stick of time. 

And although many lost their lives that fateful day, even more didn't.  They experienced a "Red Sea" rescue, much like the Israelites ..who, scared and fearful...grabbed their children and helped their elderly parents cross between the walls of water as the Red Sea was miraculously parted just for them.  They followed the path where only faith alone could walk, until they reached the other shore.

"The Lord will make a way for you where no feet have been before.
That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape."
Charles H. Spurgeon