Sunday, December 30, 2018

GROWING SEEDS: Chapter 2019



Chapter 2019

There's a sense of peace as I start Chapter 2019 by returning to the back of this bulletin you are holding.  This real-estate God and I place words on each week has been a blank canvas of white space ready to capture the utterances of my heart for years.  And I thank you, my friend, for patiently waiting as I've worked out the final pages of Chapter 2018...without words.

Simply put, God has pulled up His trousers and walked through the mud with me these past few months.  I have literally felt Him planting that mustard seed of Faith and Trust within me, asking me to simply believe and have faith in Him, no bigger than that seed.  He wasn't asking me, or you, to have faith the size of Texas Stadium, but rather, simply the microscopic size of a mustard seed.  I pray I do, but I sometimes wonder.

I once heard that the mustard seed is one of natures smallest seeds, yet it becomes a strikingly large plant when fully grown.  It's a perfect example of the "potential" of a seed.  A seed does nothing until it's planted, but once it is planted, it can push aside rocks or other obstacles as it continues to grow.  It draws its nutrients from its source...just as we draw our nutrients from our Source (God).

That mustard seed (faith)...well, it's planted deep into the center of each of our hearts.  Wouldn't it be something if someone had open heart surgery and the surgeon actually found a mustard seed planted there?  Crazy I know...but how awesomely cool would that be??

But sometimes the road we're walking is like the soil-covered seed....so dark its impossible to see or feel that seed of Faith growing in our hearts.  This is when we find ourselves most vulnerable to the enemy.  Because we know, the sole job of the enemy is to Lie, Steal and Destroy you and me...and to distract us from remembering we have a seed of Faith planted deep within us.

It's then that we need to start counting...counting each of our Blessings.  Number them as you write them down...because when we count our blessings, it's like poison to Satan and water to the mustard seed...

This then allows our Faith to push through the darkness...as we head towards the Son.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Grace....Pass-It-On

December 18, 2018

Its exactly a week before Christmas Day.  The fog is heavy outside.  Where there once was a lake, there is now just white.   And I'm sitting here alone in a big house...waiting on something "magical" to happen.  Something...anything...is better than feeling like you're in the white space at the end of the chapter of a book.  One chapter ended....another hasn't yet begun.

But like the naked trees in the winter, I know this white space is temporary....and necessary.  The waiting....the growing that is going on internally and not being seen or felt externally.  Did you know the trees do their best growing in the winter?  They are growing under the dirt...internally....where we can't see the growth....the roots are growing stronger and thicker in preparation for the next chapter...Spring.  There's almost always another Spring if you're a tree.

Everyone is giving me a "pass" this Christmas season, being the first Christmas without my husband. It's been 6 weeks...and I see pity in their eyes; I hear it in their voices...and I actually love them for caring enough to have pity.  But I'm not to be pitied...I'm simply in that white space at the end of a chapter.  I'm the invisible roots of the winter tree.  I can't yet see the words to the next chapter, but I know they're there...and I can't see the roots of the tree growing either, but I know it is.

And from this still place I'm sitting right now, I see the world anxiously running around me as I stand still, crazy with shopping and Frosty and Santa and all the "reasons" we Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas.

Perception is so much clearer when you're standing still.

Some friends and I attended a local Church Christmas Program a few weeks back.  The whole town showed up to this amazingly well-organized program...complete with light show, flying angels and yes, even a badly-costumed flying Jesus.  But before Jesus and the angels flew through the sanctuary, Frosty danced to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman" on the baptismal ledge.  Shortly thereafter, Santa and his sleigh drove past the pulpit.....

There was an awesome 100-person choir (yes, I counted!) and dancing carolers.  But I couldn't stop looking at Frosty dancing in the baptismal loft...and about how wrong this felt.  For some reason, it reminded me of the money changers in the courtyard of the tabernacle that made Jesus so angry in Matthew 21:12-13.  He had no problem with the people selling their goods....it was selling their good at the Temple that he had a problem with.  Frosty in the sacred baptismal loft and Santa sleighing past the pulpit was what made me squirm with uneasiness.   I remember silently asking God to forgive us for this.

I'm not a prude....goodness, at least I hope not.  I enjoy a fun story of Frosty and Santa and, unfortunately, it's a big part of Christmas.  But truth be told, it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  At least if you're a Christian it doesn't.  And certainly not in the Lord's house.

The only things that matter this time of year.....is remembering the birth of our Salvation.  I love remembering Mary giving birth....and jumping into her head and wondering what she was thinking...how she felt...what it must have been like to know Your child is going to change everything.

Loving others.  And "others" are the people who make you crazy....the waitress who treats you rudely.....the annoying screaming child at Wal-Mart....and yes, even his mother who is ignoring him.

Remembering everyone....EVERYONE....is going through something.  Look around...life sucks for most everyone in some way or another.   I'm not the only one...nor are you....going through difficult times.

Grace....pass-it-on.


Monday, December 17, 2018

That Ring.....

If this ring could talk,....


it would tell the story of how it came to be placed on a finger twenty-one years ago.  It would tell you about how two oddly matched people came to know each other over a meal one January evening and fell in love.  The guy, on his knee, asked the girl if he could spend the rest of his days next to her.  The girl said, "Yes".


it would tell the story of how they decided on this particular ring.  This is no ordinary ring.  The girl wanted just a wedding band but the guy wanted a big diamond for her hand. He felt it proved his love for her.  But the girl preferred to save the money for things they both could enjoy.  The guy didn't care about the cost; he wanted to spend as much as he needed to fill her finger to brimming.  They reached a compromise.  They bought a big diamond ring....it wasn't a pure diamond but had pure gold surrounding it.   The cost satisfied the girl....the ring satisfied the guy.


she never took it off.  Proudly wore it everywhere...because to her, it was as pure as the purest diamond because he had given it to her.  The cost was never a factor.

Eighteen years after she put that ring on, she was forced to take it off when the band broke.  Jewelers didn't want to repair it; "it wasn't a pure diamond" they stated..."wasn't worth repairing".  She carried the broken ring....a circle that was never to be broken yet did....with her everywhere...trying to find a jeweler who saw the value in it as she did.

she took it back to the store where the two of them had originally discovered it.  She reminded the same ladies who were there and sold it to them 22 years earlier. how they came to purchase this ring.  And she told them how that ring never left her finger all those years...until the band broke.  How she had tried to get it fixed but everyone stated it wasn't worth fixing.   She told about how two weeks earlier, her beloved had fallen asleep and never woke the next morning and how she wanted nothing more than to have that ring back on her finger.

the clerk, with tears in her eyes, promised to fix the ring back to its original state.  She promised to cherish that ring in the same way the bride cherished it on her wedding day 21 years earlier.  She promised to honor and respect that symbol of love.


and then one day, two weeks later, a package arrived at the Bride's home.  It was a few weeks before Christmas...a month after her beloved had fallen asleep....and as she opened the gift wrapped package, she read the note from the jeweler:


"The story about your ring and the love of your life, Charles, touched our hearts so much.  
We have restored your ring to its oirginal glory and hope you will wear it another 25 years!"

and the bride will, indeed, wear this circle of gold for the rest of her days.  Because the bride realized it wasn't the monetary value of this circle of gold, it was the heart-value that truly mattered.









Sunday, November 4, 2018

God's Timing Is Right On Time

"When Mary came where Jesus was and saw Him, she knelt at His feet and said to Him,
"Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."
John 11:32-44 (NRSV)


The story of Lazarus is so much deeper than just a dear friend of Jesus' dying.  It's much more than two sisters desperately loving their brother and wanting to do anything to save him.  It's more than sending a messenger on a two-day walk to find Jesus, only to have Jesus say He was going to wait a while before heading to His dear friend Lazarus' bedside.  It's so much more, friends.  

It's important to understand the Hebrew view of death...which believed that during the first three days after the death of someone, their "soul" hovered over their body.  On the fourth day, they believed the soul would flee and you would be truly and totally dead-dead.  

The rabbis had been teaching the people they would know the Messiah had truly arrived because He would be able to do such amazing things, like bringing the dead back to life, and then they'd easily know He was the Messiah.  Now by the time we get to the story of Lazarus, Jesus had already raised two other people from the dead, Jairus' daughter and the only son of the widow of Nain.  But they were both within the first three days of death.  That didn't count according to the rabbis.  They'd claim that bringing a person back from the dead during the first three days didn't count because their soul would still be lingering around the body and, therefore, the supposedly dead person was just in a coma.  

The Jewish religious leaders used this three-day hovering of the soul teaching to discredit Jesus' prior two miracles.  For Jesus to truly be the Messiah, in the people's eyes, He’d need to raise the dead after the third day.  Awww...and then there was Lazarus...

So, Jesus delayed.  By the time He left for Lazarus' bedside, He wouldn't arrive until the fourth day after Lazarus had died.  If He had left at once, it would have only been the second day of Lazarus' death and still within the three-day-soul-hovering-time-limit.  And this is the significance of the fourth day.  Jesus' delay was intentional.  A fourth-day resurrection would tell the people that there was no question that Jesus was the Messiah. 

Lazarus learned this truth the hard way. He had to make the ultimate sacrifice to prove Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah to the people.

And friends, that is the REAL gold nugget in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  God's timing ALWAYS has a purpose.  It's never too late or too early....it's always just right on time.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Like The Leaf, We Are Part of The Bigger Story

October 23, 2018



It's Fall.  

Hands-down, this is my absolute favorite time of year.   A time when the leaves are barely hanging on....grabbing the tree they've come to know for the past six months as their solid foundation, through every breeze that blows.  But that solid foundation is telling them now, 

"It's time.  Time to let go...your season is over.  
You have served your purpose on this earth and served it well.  
You have provided shade and beauty and shelter for many.  
But now, its time to rest awhile.  
You must let go."  

And so they fall slowly to the ground that awaits them.

As the clock ticks down the final days of Fall and the leaf's life starts to show signs of aging, its grip not as strong as it once was, the soil prepares itself to bury the leaves of summer.  The death and burial of these leaves are the very nutrients that provide food so the tree can live on.  Ironically, even in death, the leaf sustains the tree.  

So, too, are we like the leaf...a moment in time we are here to grow from the Gardeners hand.  We have held on in the strong winds of life and have provided shade and shelter to many throughout our short time on this earth.  We have experienced the nurturing rains of Spring and the blistering heat of Summer.  And we have felt the finality of Fall.  But in order to find our true glorious potential, we must die.  We must die to Self.

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, will save it."  
Luke 9:23-24Like

Like the leaf, we are part of a bigger story. 

The Soul Creator



Each Tuesday morning at 10:00 am, a crazy hodgepodge bunch of women sits at an old wooden table in a local coffee shop for a little dose of sisterhood.  Many of them bravely came not knowing a soul sitting in the chair next to them when we first met for coffee several years ago...each one needing the other. 

And I've discovered through coffee Tuesdays that women birth women...they need each other...they long to feel the skin of the hand of the sister next to them....and like water to a thirsty mouth, they want to know they are not alone in this journey called Life.  They are servants to each other.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served
but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:45

This past Tuesday while sipping my sweet cream mocha, I sat back and just watched this movie of sisterhood taking place in front of me at this old wooden table.  I smiled as I watched five different conversations taking place all at the same time, remembering how each of these women came because of a simple Facebook post to just "show up" to any and all women.  I watched as they nurtured each other...listened to each other...held each others hands while laughing and crying salty tears together.  They shared the deepest parts of their soul with the woman they met just last week.  Souls that have been broken....souls that have given up at some point...souls that have rejoiced at the simplest of pleasures....and there's just something about merging your soul with another.  It helps you breathe.  God-Breath.

But what I realized as these women from all denominations, all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, drank their hot cup of coffee while the rain fell hard outside, was how closely this resembles God's love and sacrifice for each one of us.  He is constantly grabbing our hands...bending His ear to hear our worries...grabbing the tissue and wiping our tears...as well as His own, because there just isn't anything like merging our God-given soul with another God-given soul.  

Because He is the Soul-Creator.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Empathy vs Sympathy

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to EMPATHIZE with our weaknesses, 
but we have one who has been tempted in every way, 
just as we are - yet he did not sin."  
Hebrews 4:15


One day, Jesus and the Devil were having a discussion about who was the best, so God suggested a typing competition. He sat them down at two computers, one each, and told them to type up an article.  The first to complete the typing would win.

Both Jesus and the Devil were typing away frantically when there was a power outage and both computers switched off. Their typing work had disappeared from the two screens.  When the power was restored and the computers re-booted, Jesus's work re-appeared on His screen, but the Devil could get nothing back and had lost all his work.  So Jesus was declared the winner.  The Devil complained bitterly to God saying it wasn't fair and demanded a rematch, but God said,

"Stop whining Satan, you know why Jesus got his work back - everyone knows.... "JESUS SAVES!"

As much as I've tried, I have been unable to tie this joke in with today's scripture.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Hebrews 4:15, but I liked it and thought you might too.  

Have you ever wondered how Jesus was able to live a perfect, sinless life during his 30+ years on this earth as a man?  I've often wondered if His parents ever grew frustrated with their "perfect" child.   How about His siblings who were busy getting spankings and hanging out in time-out, yet their brother Jesus was always busy being the exemplary child.  My sister was the perfect, goody-two-shoes in our family and I royally resented her.  I feel for Jesus' siblings.

Although Jesus never fell to temptation, He was indeed tempted.  He could smell the butter as Satan tempted him to turn the stone into a loaf of bread after 40 days of not eating.   He felt the sting of each strike of the whip on His back by the Soldiers and He cried out with each swing of the hammer that drove the nails into His feet and hands.  And don't think for a second He couldn't have gotten Himself out of it, because He could have.  But He chose to bleed red just like us.....and that's why Hebrews 4:15 says He has "empathy" for you and me.

See, Empathy is different from Sympathy.  It's taking your shoes off and stepping into someone else's sorrowful shoes and walking it out with them.  Jesus' empathy opened His arms up for you to climb into His lap and find comfort and peace.  That's why He chose not to eat the bread or to save Himself from pain and heartbreak.  You, my friend, were more important to Him than His own comfort because He knew.....

"You never know what you're alive for
until you know what you would die for."

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Forgiveness Is Hard

FORGIVENESS


So.....there's this scripture that goes something like this:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
~Matt. 6:14-15

Forgiveness is hard.  It's unnatural in this big wide world to extend amnesty to someone who has wronged you, lied about you and talked smack about you.  The last thing....the hardest thing...to do as your soul recovers from the sucker-punch to the gut is to say "I forgive you" when all you really want to do is hurt them back. Am I right?  Please tell me I'm not the only person to feel this way.....

Take the example of the man whose 10-year-old daughter, kneeling beside her bed at night, asks to pray for the accuser of her Dad.  "A lot of wisdom for a 10-year-old", her choked-up Dad says to us through our TV screens. 

Now....think for a second.  

Have you ever been accused of something you "didn't" do?  Have you ever been called-out on something you actually "did" do?  I sure have...and I would imagine you're shaking your head right now remembering when you were.  In both cases, whether I did what I was accused of doing or not, they both required me to quietly and privately ask God for Forgiveness; whether the forgiveness was for me or for the one wrongly accusing me. 

The best part is....God has made it a win-win situation!  If I'm being wrongly accused and I pray for forgiveness for my accuser, it releases me, the prisoner, from the pain of being accused.  (Trust me...this works!) And if I'm the guilty party, asking for Forgiveness releases me from the prison I've been hanging out in since committing the sin.

Forgiveness helps us understand why Jesus took a nail for your sins; He had to find a way to forgive you.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

My Prayer Door


"The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."  
James 5:16

"When a believing person prays, GREAT things happen",  my good friend Max Lucado reminds us. 


A few years ago, we needed a new front door.  Our existing door was warped from standing in water for a day or two and was currently being held shut by a single concrete block.  Our contractor insisted it couldn't be repaired and must be replaced.  The problem was, there wasn't enough money in the budget for a new front door.  

Day and night, I thought about that door.  I researched...I double checked the bank account...I scoured the internet for deals, even found the perfect door, but it wasn't financially feasible to purchase it.  One day my wise husband finally suggested, "Why don't we pray about it?" to which I remember responding, "Has it come to that?"

For some reason, we have it in our heads that God considers our less-than-tragic issues unworthy of His time. We act like we have a certain quantity of prayer requests we can ask for and we don't want to "waste" any of our prayers on something less than huge.  Praying for a new front door seemed like a crazy thing to pray about and a true waste of God's time when I had bigger fish to fry with Him.  But we did as my husband suggested.  We prayed our Father would bring us a new front door, if this was His will.

After a few weeks, our new wood floors were installed and we headed to Dallas to return the left-over flooring back to the store.  I counted as we loaded the boxes into our van...a total of 15....and knew I would also be required to pay a 20% restocking fee. I mentally calculated the anticipated refund in hopes we could come close to affording that new door.  As they unloaded the boxes out of our van at the store, they unloaded 18 boxes.  I had them recount.  I knew we loaded 15 boxes...I had counted it three times in the driveway before leaving....but somewhere between Mt. Vernon and Dallas, we gained 3 extra boxes of wood flooring.  When I went to finalize the credit, there was a note on the register from the manager saying, "I'm waiving the 20% restocking fee for Ms. Etheridge".  As they rang up the total credit, it shockingly came up to the EXACT amount of the door we had wanted.  Not a penny off.

Tears of joy were pushing their way down my cheek as I walked out the door of the flooring store, credit receipt in hand and feeling the intense power of prayer I had just witnessed.  "When a believing person prays, GREAT things do, indeed, happen."  Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tug-A-War With Satan

"Humble (submit) yourselves to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
James 4:7



Do you believe these words?  Have you found yourself kneeling beside your bed praying (begging) for God to remove the devil from your life?  Good gracious, I have approximately 589,450 times.  But before we can ask God to zap the devil, there's one little thing we need to do first:  Read the verse again.  Did you skip over it the first time?  "Humble yourself, Liz (this is where we all place OUR name in this scripture), to God."

See, I prefer to think that our submission to God....IS our resistance to the devil.

Have you ever played the game Tug-A-War?  I love this game although I'm awful at it.  The object is to put everything you have into pulling the center of the rope to you and away from the opposing team.  The more you "pull into" the rope, the better chance you have in moving that center towards you.  Satan loves the game of Tug-A-War too, but he plays it with our daily activities....putting things on the sidelines that distract us....saying hurtful, personal things to us while he's pulling the rope (us) closer to him which makes us insecure about ourselves, makes us weaker,  and is a constant reminder that he's stronger than we are...or so he wants us to think.  What he desperately doesn't want you to know is.....pulling into God IS pulling away from the enemy.

We spend a lot of time and energy trying to defeat the enemy....working to not let him win....when actually, our time would be better spent pulling the rope (ourselves) into God instead.    Our victory is in allowing God's presence to occupy space within us and be the muscle that wins the Tug-A-War battle with Satan.  

Give it a try.....you'll win every time!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tell Your Heart To Beat Again

This week just completed the 17th year of 9-11 memories.
 
You're shattered like you've never been before
The life you knew....in a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short at times like these
This world drives you to your knees
You think you'll never get back
To the you, you used to be
 
Who of us walked through this week without remembering all the families torn apart by hate 17 years ago?  Hate.  Hate for the lives of Americans.....Hate for what we stand for....Hate for the life we live....Hate.  Pure evil.  Satan-Hate. 
 
Tell your heart to beat again...
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Yesterday is a closing door
You don't live there anymore
 
We all remember exactly where we were....what we were doing....everything about that day....a fear most of us have never felt before in the deepest parts of our gut.  And isn't that what the enemy had hoped for?  Wasn't that their goal?  But that event also turned a lot of people's hearts towards God......unfortunately, for many, it was short lived and temporary.  Sometimes I feel like we Christians aren't much different from the Children of Israel.  Living our lives for ME....and when tragedy happens, we go running back to God.  In no time at all, we forget the reason we ran into His open arms in the first place.  We go back to our old lives .....our old ways....and we pull away from His arms until the next tragedy happens and then we go running back to Him once again.  Isn't that what the Israelites did time after time after time?  Oh how that must grieve His heart.....
 
Loves healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up and take step one
Leave the darkness and feel the sun
Cause your story is far from over
Your journey has just begun*

And if you still have breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, your story is indeed far from over.  Remember the person you were right after this tragedy and place God first once again.  Make sure He is above your family, above your job, above your house, above your car and yes, above your shopping addiction.  He paid too high a price to be anywhere in your life but first.  

May we all run back into His waiting arms and never let Him go.



*Song, "Tell Your Heart To Beat Again"

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Big Deal About Partiality

The Big Deal About Partiality



"There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others."  
James 2:13

Two visiting families walk through the doors of a church at the same time.  One family wearing their Sunday best, pressed and clean...while the other also wearing their Sunday best, but theirs wrinkled and stained, noticeably purchased from the rack at Goodwill.  Be honest.  Which family do we extend our hand to first?  Which family do we give a tour of the church to, and usher to the best seats in the sanctuary?  Which family do we want to be seen sitting next to?  And which family are we most eager to have join our church? 

Why would we favor one family over the other?  We like to say the ground is level at the foot of the cross, but it's not always level in the church, is it?  We tend to favor people with money and influence because we think they can help us reach our goals and make us look better when we stand next to them.  But James kindly reminds us.....

"Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?  
Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom He promised to those who love Him? 
James 2:5

Interestingly enough, when God chooses members of His team, He usually starts with the poor.  

There's a fictional story about a new pastor who arrived at church dressed as a homeless man his first-week preaching.  Since no one had met the new pastor, he could mingle unrecognized with the congregation before the service.  He watched the reaction of his new congregation to him as a dirty, stinky homeless-looking man and saw how, although the church was full, he found himself sitting alone.  He greeted people only to be greeted with stares and dirty looks in return.  The time came for the elders to introduce the new pastor to the church.  The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The new homeless-man-in-disguise pastor, started walking down the aisle.  The clapping stopped with all eyes on him as he walked up to the podium, took the microphone, and quoted James 2:8 to his new congregation, "You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: "Love others as you love yourself."  


Friends, being a Christian is more than something you claim.  It's something you live by and share with others.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Satan Wants To Neutralize You




"Let me be clear....you, (insert your name here), represent a challenge to Satan's plan.  
You carry something of God within you, something noble and holy, something the world needs 
- wisdom, kindness, mercy, skill."
Max Lucado

Have you ever wondered why Satan would mess with a Christian?  I mean, if we are promised in John 10:28 that "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand", why would Satan waste his time on a Christian?  He knows his time to gather followers here on earth is short, so why would he spend what little time he has on something he can't have...Christians?  

"If Satan can neutralize you, he can mute your influence."

Awww, there it is...thank you, Max Lucado, for pointing out the obvious.  When pain and strife continue to smack you in the face....when darkness falls all around you....when evil is creeping into the crevices of your soul, remember; if Satan can scare, discourage, depress and quiet you, he can STOP your influence. 

It's a clever plan, really.....using shipwrecks in our lives....to stop our voices.  But as Christians, we know its these shipwrecks we have survived, that can be the very life preserver that saves others.  When we make it to the shore after our lives have crashed against the rocks, we are only then able to help resuscitate those in the throes of their own shipwreck. 

Nothing explains this better than the story of Job.  Job's friends were the kind of friends we often are if we haven't suffered - they are more interested in explaining his plight to him than sitting with him in it.  They're incapable of the compassion that would demand them to suffer with him.  Because they themselves had not sat in the dirt of despair as Job had.

Don't let a shipwreck moment in your life go to waste.  Use it.  Tell others about it.  Be vulnerable and wrap the life preserver of compassion and understanding around those who find themselves sinking from their own shipwreck.  

You were rescued....to help rescue others.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

JOB-ETTE

"Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil."
Ephesians 6:11



JOB-ETTE

That's the name someone called me a few years ago as I struggled through a battle with Satan and his little minions.  An invisible war...a fight so strong and exhausting, you wonder how you're going to keep your footing as you climb up that steep hill of despair.  Satan had an advantage; he knew my weaknesses.  He had been watching my patterns and me for many years.  If only I had been watching his as much as he had been watching mine.  If only I had a battle plan....

My Dad's favorite book of the Bible is Job.  Seems an odd book to be a favorite of, but you don't know my Dad.  He's had many trials and struggles and Job-moments in his 90 years of life.  He has a right to call that his favorite book.  And if there had been a book titled Job-ette in the Bible, well....that would have been his daughter's favorite book as well.  

"For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, 
but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world....."

As I see it, we could learn a lot from Job, because the story of Job is the story of us.  Catastrophic loss, by definition, precludesrecovery.  It will transform us or it will destroy us, but it will never leave us the same.   God gave us the ability to know the enemy, as well as the enemy, knows us.  He has personally handed us His own tools...His own armor....and given us the strength and WILL to win this battle.  So why do we so often head into combat with Satan without a game-plan?  You can sure bet Satan has a mapped out strategy.

So the next time you feel dirt thrown in your eyes or the words "Give Up" in your ears, head to the War-Room.  Buckle up that belt of truth around your waist and place the impenetrable breastplate of righteousness over your heart.  Pick up that shield of Faith that will protect you when the arrows of Satan's wrath head your way.  Place that helmet of Salvation over your head where nothing can mess with your mind and secure with velcro that sword of the Spirit.....the Word of God....firmly in your hand.

And lose the white flag, for goodness sake...YOU'RE GOING TO WIN THIS BATTLE!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Heaven .......101

"Has this world been so kind to you 
that you leave with regret?
There are better things ahead 
than any we leave behind."
C.S. Lewis



I love dreaming about Heaven.  Seriously.  I have thought about and visualized what my life in Heaven will be like every-cotton-pickin'-day for the past ten years.  

Heaven.  Do you ever just sit and visualize yourself there?  Can you picture that exact moment when you go from here to there.....when that last breath has left your lungs and you travel past the stars straight into the gates of Heaven?  I picture a reception line of my favorite people who arrived there before me; witnesses to my life cheering me on as I take those last final steps into my forever Home.  And who but Jesus Himself holding His arms out saying, "Welcome Home, Liz"!  

Sometimes I think I can actually feel the skin of His hand as He takes my hand in His and leads me over that finish line.

I worry that most of us are so wrapped up in the journey, we forget to focus on the destination.  Chuck and I used to travel each summer in a motorhome.  We would read and study about where we wanted to go...we would pull out our Good-Sam map and figure out what route we wanted to take....and would feel the excitement as we "anticipated" arriving at this destination we had only dreamed about.  Our main focus was never on how rough the road was going to be or how long it would take to get there.....our eyes were always on the joy of the destination.

And shouldn't we feel the same way about Heaven?  As Billy Graham once wrote, "My home is Heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."  Shouldn't we also see Heaven as the goal line?

This world is simply a journey, friends.....it was never meant to be your home.  A new house is nearly ready for you there.  Moving day is coming.  One day soon you will be home  - for the first time.  
 
"For we know that when this earthly tent (body) we live in is taken down 
(that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), 
we will have a house in heaven, 
an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands.  
We grow weary in our present bodies 
and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing."  
2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Do I Go East.....Or Do I Go West

August 5, 2018


"God does not promise to take us out of the 'valley of the shadow of death"; 
He promises to be there with us."
David Littell



We had church in Room 915 of the ICU this past week.   

We clasped hands, just as we do every week in our little church in Mt Vernon, and we each said a prayer of Thanksgiving.....a prayer of Peace......a prayer of Healing....and yes, a prayer of 'Even if He doesn't'.  


When you're at a crossroads......and you must turn left or you must turn right .....go east or go west....and you don't know which direction to go, the only direction to go is to your knees.  And we did just that a week ago today.  

Chuck hadn't been feeling well.....thought it was a cold....maybe allergies...maybe an MS attack.  But when he passed out and his color wasn't right and his skin was ice-cold and his already weak body was weaker, we found ourselves at that crossroad.  Do we go east to the closest hospital 30 minutes away.....or do we go west to his doctors in Dallas two hours away.  And that's when my knees hit the floor of the closet.  "Which direction Lord", I remember praying.  

The phone rang almost immediately.  It was a nurse at UTSW in Dallas.  "Go west", she said.  


And so we did.  We drove two hours to the Emergency Room at UTSW in Dallas where, after many tests, it was discovered this man I married 21 years ago had a very large blood clot in his heart.  IN his heart.  Our cardiology team said they had never witnessed the exact moment caught on a scan of a blood clot "in transit" through the heart..... and time was critical.  They needed to dissolve it immediately or it could mean sudden death.  They rushed him to ICU where they started a procedure called TPA - Tissue Plasminogen Activator - to dissolve this large clot before it could leave the heart and leave my husband dead. 


A team of 20 cardiologists and pulmonologists, as well as his MS neurologists, quickly conferred together.  They watched as the blood clot dissolved through the TPA procedure.  They saw his color return.....and they admitted; they witnessed a miracle.


The miracles were flying faster than we could keep up with them.....what if we had gone East to Mt. Pleasant instead of West to Dallas?  We would be planning his funeral today.  What if the doctors hadn't realized he had existing aortic valve stenosis and not done that echo cardiogram which discovered the unexpected blood clot?  We would be planning his funeral today.  That's the reality of it. The cardiologist said we had maybe hours at the most before this would have taken his life.  Most likely our East Texas hospital would not have done an echo cardiogram on Chuck and never known about the blood clot.

But yesterday, a week later, we came Home.  He's not out of danger just yet.....still has a large 8" blood clot in his leg and several small ones in his lungs....but today, as I type this to you, I'm listening to my husband breathe as he naps in front of me...his tired body grateful for more time.  His wife grateful for more time.....however long that might be.

And all the while......God proved Himself present with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  



"If God wants to perform a small miracle, He places us in difficult situations.
If He wants to perform a MIGHTY miracle, 
He places us in impossible circumstances."
Unknown


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Life Is Lived Forward, But Understood Backward

"Life Is Lived Forward, 
But Understood Backward."



Have you ever felt completely and totally alone?  You could be standing in a roomful of people, yet you didn't exist....no one saw you...you felt invisible.  This was a description of me in the 6th grade.  My teacher at the Christian school I attended had her favorites....of which I was not one.  I was awkward, shy and felt the sting of being an outsider.  

And I couldn't see past 6th grade.  

I've found in the many years since 6th grade that it's not until we've traveled down the road a bit and stood on that tall mountain we just painfully climbed, that we can look back over the valley and appreciate the reason for the rugged terrain we just walked.  These roller coaster, yellow-brick-road life experiences we survive are all part of God's plan.

"In those days you were living apart from Christ.  
You were EXCLUDED from citizenship.....
you lived in this world without God and without hope.  
But God, Himself has brought PEACE to us."  
Ephesians 2:12-14

He saw our loneliness...our exclusion...our need for a Savior...and what did He do?  He adopted us as His own.  He rescued us from 6th grade. He stared into your lonely eyes and said, "You are now part of my family, sweet child of Mine. You no longer are alone."

I look back on that horrible year....and I recall the emptiness, the rejection I felt.  Little did I know that a year later, having survived the rough terrain of 6th grade, I would accept Jesus as my Father, be baptized in front of those who ridiculed me, and have a part of God gently placed inside me.   He placed His Holy Spirit as a permanent stamp of ownership, a promise really, into my soul that day a year after 6th grade.

I was rescued.....and handed the adoption gift of Peace. 

So friend, whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or unnoticed, remember to whom you belong to. And remember that life is lived forwards, but understood backwards.