So how are you managing the preparations, shopping, and joy of the Season? Staying afloat atop the increasing swells or wishing they would swallow you—then afraid they might?
Are the red flags of storm warnings unfurling in your spirit tonight? Or are you traumatized by the tsunami of tragedy 2013 is depositing along the shoreline of your life?
For thirteen years the holidays have been difficult for me. In those first years, after we lost so many of our family members, I wanted to curl up in bed the week before Thanksgiving and remain comatose ‘til the week after New Years. But, be encouraged if on-the-outside-looking-in is a new thing for you—it will get better. Much better. However, it takes time and a determination to reach your destination.
The first step along this journey toward healing is make a plan. My husband and I planned and spent Thanksgiving weekend on Galveston Island this year. We had not been there since the hurricane of 2008 did so much damage to the island. Five years later there are still traces of the storm’s damage, but the island has cleaned up the debris, repaired the destruction caused by the storm, and is moving forward.
Just like we must do when storms ravage our lives.
For three days I watched tankers and freighters travel in and out of the Port of Houston. These enormous workhorses of the sea sliced the water in silence, leaving large wakes as evidence of their passing.
Just like we move in silence through the holidays, smiling on the outside, but knowing grief has left a seemingly never-ending-wake-of-sorrow in our heart. But wakes don’t last forever. They eventually ebb and are absorbed by the changing tide.
I watched fancy sailboats maneuver around these large ships. Their sails catching the wind and pushing them quickly over the white caps. Wouldn’t we love to be like those sail boats? Zipping here and there, turning on a dime, dressed in beautiful colors against the sky and sea. But these fragile boats are built for calm waters and gentle breezes.
Just like we were before trials and tribulations became part of our vocabulary.
The tankers moved steadily across the bay waters into the Port of Houston. Sitting low in the water upon arrival yet taller when their mission was accomplished. Dark, rusty hulls marked each ship from the battering of oil and salty waves. They moved in soldier lines, waiting their turn, then departing in the same manner. The object of their journey? Getting to the other side.
Just like our journey on this earth—we too are traveling to the other side. Sometimes across calm waters, but more often across oceans filled with swells and storms. Our objective is the same as these powerful ships—getting to the other side.
In years past we’ve all been like those snazzy little sail boats, pretty on the outside but no inner strength, no power to endure lashing assaults from the deep, no thought of God’s purpose for our life.
God knows we must be transformed into ocean worthy vessels. Vessels engineered to maneuver safely through storms, weighted by the filling of the Holy Spirit. Guided by the compass of God’s comfort and love. Protected by His mercy and grace until He calms the turbulent waters.
How does this transformation happen? One swell, one gale wind, one raging storm at a time. Paul tells us in the first chapter of Romans: “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Surviving a storm teaches us that God is faithful in the midst of every storm and He will see us through the next storm too. And the next…and the next. Because we don’t develop courage and strength paddling around in the secure mirrored waters of a lagoon.
The morning after our daughter died I couldn’t get out of bed. My husband picked up the telephone and called my prayer partner.
Barbara prayed for me as I lay there sobbing, depleted of strength, my heart breaking. Then she said, “DiAne it’s time to get up. Your family needs you.”
“I can’t.” I wailed.
Her quiet, steady voice instructed, “You must. Roll over and put your feet on the floor.”
And I did the next thing. I groaned, rolled over, and put my feet on the floor. Your next thing may be as simple as putting clothes in the washing machine or brushing your teeth.
“Now I want you to remember,” she explained, “God will see you through what He already knows you must go through. But, He never gives you the ticket ‘til you’re ready to get on the train.” And thirteen years later, I’ve come to understand God has an unending ticket supply, tickets given to me, to you at the exact moment we need to do the next thing.
So, dear one, whatever the state of your mind and heart this evening, however strong the gale, however deep the pain and wreckage of your heart, however flustered you are, remember God will give you the strength, wisdom, knowledge and ability to move forward to accomplish your next thing.
You were created to travel stormy seas and to carry heavy loads, but He is right beside you, ticket in hand, even when you don’t see or hear Him. And He will carry you to the other side—from faith to faith.
It’s that time of year when the aromas of heart and home come from the kitchen. This afternoon I pulled yummy banana breads from the oven and plopped them on hand crafted trivets my Daddy made to cool.
Suddenly memories mesmerized me—times I had used these trivets. Unthinking, take-for-granted times. Times I had treated them like trash. But today I am thankful. Thankful for my Daddy’s thoughtfulness and love to construct these necessary tools for me. A part of him that endures and I felt his love even though he’s been gone fourteen years.
I look around my home and remember the treasures we enjoy from my family and my husband’s family. And I am thankful. For them, for their love, and for the precious possessions they left behind.
Mama’s recipes have fed my family and friends. Her investments in my life become more evident with each passing day. Years ago my teenagers laughed at me one evening and confirmed, “you’ve turned into your mother.”
My home is blessed with her favorite things: porcelain figurines, dishes, furniture, silverware—things she loved and used everyday. Things that evoke sweet memories. Things I pray my children and grandchildren will hold dear.
Dick’s mother lived with us in her final days and brought many of her cherished antiques to Texas from North Carolina. I’ll never forget the day we held that first garage sale in Carolina before the move. By all measurements I’m short, but Grandma Gates was even shorter. And that little woman toted stuff back inside faster than I could move them out for the sale.
I finally stopped, sat her down, and attempted to explain, yes, everything was bigger in Texas, except our house. We couldn’t take it all.
Today I’m so grateful I have a portion of her things to remind me of Grandma’s tenacity and fierce love of her family. I’ve rocked my grandchildren in Grandma’s rocking chair and fed them from their Papa’s baby spoons. Treasured memories.
Were they all pleasant recollections? Oh my, no. We’re not perfect people, just people with memories—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I marvel what God has given, taken, and molded out of the multiplicity of cracked-pot lives that fill our family albums. I’m thankful.
What about you? As you approach Thanksgiving Day 2013, which is longer? Your thankful list or your regrets list?
The only thing going into eternity will be folks. Your folks. My folks. Family. And friends. Not stuff. While I enjoy Mama’s and Grandma’s stuff, all their things just loop me back to our relationships and times spent in their presence. Living, laughing, lamenting. And I’m thankful.
Regret steals thankfulness when we waste our lives chasing objects that will one day be destroyed, only to wake up—often when it’s too late—and realize we’ve ignored the important things. Relationships with family, friends and acquaintances. Because we were too busy, too foolish, or too self-absorbed to understand the difference between trash and treasure.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NAS).
I have a younger brother—eight years younger. During my teen years, he resided in brat mode. One spring morning the windows were open and little brother’s loud voice rang out. Outdoors. Underneath my window. Reciting my diary.
The little varmint had swiped my secret treasure and was sharing it with the neighborhood. I immediately petitioned for parental power, “M-o-o-om! Get ‘im.”
If he wasn’t doing brat, did I enjoy my brother? No, I ignored him as a necessary nuisance. Just like I’m apt to ignore God. But like me hollering for Mom, when things aggravate, hurt, or frighten me, I shout “Get ‘em God,” and assume that the Holy God of the Universe is my go-to-guy in times of trouble.
At least that’s what we’ve all fooled ourselves into believing.
We’ve mistaken His patience for tolerance and His mercy for acquiescence. Ignoring Him when times are good and demanding His appearance when we can’t make it through the dense fog of grief, the brick wall of financial problems, or the heartache of family chaos. Then we turn to Him and whine.
We’re in good company, the prophet Habakkuk did the same thing before Babylon invaded Israel in 597 B.C. He experienced the same things we are experiencing in 2013. Probably worse. The temple goers were acting just like the non-temple goers. Judges were making unjust decisions—money bought favorable rulings in those days too. The governing class was downright corrupt. And robberies, murders, and psychopaths—just like our world today—filled the local news.
Righteousness was a joke, truth stumbled in the streets, and the desire to be holy? Oh, give me a break—just like today.
In Habakkuk 1:2-3 the prophet cried out:
“O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save. Why does thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me; and there are that raise up strife and contention…”
But Habakkuk slapped his hand over his mouth and said:
“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.”
Habakkuk knew God and was aware of his position before Him.
Do we? Do we realize there is a time to turn off the spicket of our groaning and complaining? Do we bow before the might, power and sovereignty of the Lord God Almighty, realizing everything comes from His hand—the good, the bad, and the ugly—because He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. He see’s the whole picture and He’s in control. We’re not.
In Chapter Two, God answered Habakkuk. And the prophet’s finger pointing was turned back on his own people. Yikes! Do you suppose if we quit griping and sat silent before Him, God would do the same with us? Would we listen?
I’ve spent a lot of years in front of the TV—finger-pointing. I grew up in the fifties and sixties, the time when the church went inside and shut the doors to keep the bad stuff out. Guess what? We are the bad stuff and it came inside with us.
God told us to “go tell and stand firm.” He didn’t say, “circle the wagons and hunker down.” We are suffering the consequences of our failure to obey. The church, like the Israelites, has become like the pagan, idol-worshipping, world. We want enough of God to dodge hell, but not enough of Him to be holy. To be transformed into the image of His only Son, Jesus, but just a little bit. Not complete transformation.
America has been sent warning after warning. God calls, “Return to Me so that I may return to you.” And we turn a deaf ear.
Habakkuk asked and God gave him a vision of what was to come. And come it did—in wide-screen, surround-sound, HD.
Chapter Three records Habakkuk’s response. He prayed. And the closing sentences of his prayer should require us to zip our lips and ask ourselves “Could I make Habakkuk’s confession of faith in God and really mean it?”
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.”
This is not a fictional assumption of what’s to come. Just turn your TV on this morning and watch the pictures of the Philippine Islands last weekend. The terrifying loss of life and the devastation of their land, in just a few short horrific hours, could have happened anywhere in the world. Not by typhoon, but perhaps by fire, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornadoes. Or war.
Principles of truth in our nation cannot stand without righteousness. Principles of righteous cannot stand without justice and judgment. This nation was built upon these cornerstones. America’s foundation is anchored in the truths of the Word of God and belief in the mercy and grace provided by the death of our righteous Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. But over half of our people have taken pick-axes to this foundation and are chunking God’s truths on the trash heap.
When the foundation of a nation crumbles, the people perish.
What about you? Your family? Your church? When the grocery shelves are empty, and there are no crops in the field, and no sign of provisions on the horizon, will you still confess that the Lord God is your strength and Jesus is your Lord?
When everything you’ve put your trust in: your home, your possessions, your job, your health are gone, will you still find joy in the God of your salvation? And will you trust Him to give you the strength to walk with Him upon His high places. Or will you still be hollering “get ‘em God?”
This week I’m honored to introduce my friend and author, Janet Brown, as a guest on my blog. Hope you enjoy and please check out the special Amazon offer below.
I lost ninety-five pounds and have maintained the loss for seventeen years. One tool in my recovery remains the daily reading of inspirational books. I found my library incomplete when I searched for one that combined a twelve-step program with God as the Higher Power. The biggest secret to my success was giving up my will and letting God do it through me. I wrote a book of daily devotions that came from my journals and memories. This is one woman’s road for success. I pray these thoughts help others reach the same healing God gave to me. It’s all about God.
Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness can be purchased at:
Pen-L Publishing http://www.pen-l.com/DivineDining.html
NOTICE: For a limited time, Amazon is offering the kindle version of Divine Dining for free. Check it out November 12 -16. Don’t miss this opportunity. The link to download it is:
Feel free to let any of your friends in on this offer while it lasts.
Janet K. Brown lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles. Though she has written most of her adult life, since her retirement as a bookkeeper and medical coder, she writes as a second career and as a ministry.
Divine Dining is the author’s second book. It encompasses her passion for diet, fitness, and God’s Word. Janet released her debut novel, an inspirational young adult, Victoria and the Ghost, in July, 2012. She continues to write short stories for teens and adults. The sequel to her young adult is contracted to release in June, 2014.
She and her husband love to travel with their RV, visit their three daughters, two sons-in-law and three grandchildren, and work in their church. Find her at http:/ /www.janetkbrown.com on Twitter, @janetkbrowntx , on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Janet-K-Brown-Author/143915285641707
I know you’ve heard the following statement a jillion times. “People are the product of their environment.” Some folks wear that statement like a badge of honor, but that’s not necessarily true.
We all know people who came from wonderful homes and someway, somehow, they took a one-eighty and ended up destroying their lives. And then there are individuals from terrible circumstances who determine to endure and learn to live joy filled, successful lives.
In either situation, everything depends upon your heart, your choices, your character, and your God.
The year was 1921 on a snowy Christmas Sunday morning in Sebrell, Virginia, Christine Bell Davis arrived in this world. She was sixth in a line of thirteen children—seven survived.
If success depended on environment, my Mama would have been a failure before she began. Her mother was married five times and their home was a movie epic titled Dysfunction. Yet a determined will to prevail filled my mother’s young heart from the beginning.
In her later years Mama wrote a book for her children and grandchildren, a legacy to show how different life was in pre-World War II years and beyond.
The first two husbands provided for the family and life, while not affluent, was certainly average or above. But as the list of husbands grew life changed. Especially as their income slipped below the poverty line. And one of Mama’s old quotes certainly applies here: “When money problems come in the front door, love goes out the back.”
At age nine, Mama, her parents, and five children (at that time) walked from Augusta, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida, on the promise of a job for the current step-father. That was the summer of 1931. And, if you remember, the stock market had crashed in October of 1929. The depression was in full swing and the country was in chaos. People had lost their homes, their savings, and their jobs. There was no money for bus fare. No car to drive and even if they had a car, no money for gas. No. Money.
They ate when food was offered by kind farmers, slept on bare floors in empty houses along the way—no electricity or running water. But even then the hand of God was on my Mama. This rag-tag group made it safely to Jacksonville. Finally. Mama has no idea how long the journey took other than a long, very long time.
Old deserted St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville was used to give shelter to the needy. And they were needy. The family set up housekeeping and Mama was allowed to enroll in school again. But after so many moves and never finishing a grade, she was placed in the second grade. However, Mama was a good student; and, in spite of several more moves, she skipped portions of the third, fourth, and fifth grades and by early 1934 she was back with her proper age group in sixth grade.
The following year, without explanation, her mother sent her to a small town outside Jacksonville to live with an unknown family on a farm. She didn’t remember their names and never knew why she had been sent away.
When she returned home the following year the family was falling apart. Another husband was in the home and several children had run away. My mother’s mom took a job in a small community near Jacksonville and took their younger brother with her. But she left Mama and her eleven year sister in the care of their seventeen-year-old sister. Three girls alone, with no money. Not wanting to care for them, the elder sister put the younger girl on a bus and sent her to their mother. Then without telling my Mama, the older sister left.
Mama was thirteen, by herself and frightened. She found a distant cousin, with five children of her own, who made arrangements for Mama to attend a camp for underprivileged children for two weeks. But this lonely thirteen-year-old had to walk three miles to catch the bus for camp.
When she returned her mother placed she and the eleven year old sister in the Parental Home for Girls and their brother in the Boys Home. Mama admitted being angry, but also said it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Again, God was in charge of Mama’s life. Keeping her safe. Providing situations and people to nurture endurance and strength of character in her and teach her life skills.
The next few years were secure, happy years, and Mama excelled.
But the year Mama was to be a senior in high school her mother took her out of the Parental Home and was told she must work to help provide income for the family. There were no social services to intervene. You obeyed your parents.
A couple of years after that Mama met my Daddy and the rest is history. They married, had two children, three grandchildren, and lived together fifty-five years ‘til Mama’s death.
This godly woman taught her children the principles of God’s Word by the way she lived and treated others. Mama loved to sing and cook. Her favorite sayings: “Actions are caught—not taught.” And, “If you don’t want to get in trouble—don’t be where trouble can happen. . .” have stuck in my head through the years and I’ve passed them on to my children and grandchildren.
We weren’t a wealthy family by the world’s standards but she and Daddy provided a secure home for my brother and me. They cared for us and loved us and their grandchildren.
In the final months of her life Alzheimer’s had robbed Mama of almost everything. She was in the hospital when I called to check on her one evening. The nurse said Mama was groaning about something and they couldn’t find out what was bothering her.
I asked the young woman if she was familiar with church hymns. She said “yes,” so I asked her to go, lean down close to Mama and let me know what she was saying. It must have been four or five minutes before the nurse returned. I could tell she was weeping, when she gasped, “I can’t believe it. Your Mama isn’t groaning. She’s singing Amazing Grace.”
Mama knew God’s Word and held onto His Truths. She knew first hand: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NAS).
Could you have weathered a childhood of destitution? Dysfunction? Despair? How about your children? If all their toys and cushy way of life was suddenly snatched away who or what would they cling to?
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NAS).
And He promises, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 NAS).
Through all the trials and heartaches Mama’s heart was fixed on Jesus. And she served her Lord by helping others. She refused to allow her environment to define who she was. She chose to trust God in the terrible circumstances and endure the trials He allowed in her life. And today her heart is at peace with her Lord. Her King. Forever. Just like Jesus promised.
Every day, flush after flush, Americans attempt to rid their lives of three troublesome Christian character attributes like they were dung. The chain is pulled, over and over, sending these necessary principles swirling down the drain as if they were contaminated sewage. Sound ugly? Offend your senses? Sorry. It’s truth. And it’s happening throughout American and within the church. Day after day after day.
We don’t fear God.
We haven’t taught our children to fear God. We’ve danced a little two-step, ever widening the theology around this instruction for years. And now our children fear nothing. Respect nothing. And believe nothing.
We have rebelled against God.
“Fear God? He’s a God of love isn’t He? Why should I fear Him? I just need to show Him a little respect—right?”
No. That’s not what scripture says. The Hebrew word “yare” means fear, terrible thing, stand in awe, reverence. This verb connotes the psychological reaction of fear. To tremble. Be afraid of Him. Be afraid to disobey Him. Be afraid of the certainty of consequences if you do.
Satan whispers deceptive lies in our ears, just like he did to Eve. He twists and turns truth, misrepresenting who God is and what He has said. And, just like Eve, we choose to believe the devil’s lies.
Proverbs says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7 NAS).
We don’t love truth, because truth is hard. And we don’t like hard stuff. We don’t like change. And we don’t want God to change us. Oh, maybe a tiny bit, but not a radical change. That’s too much.
The truth is, if He doesn’t change us, we don’t belong to Him. God is perfect love, perfect truth, and perfect righteousness. We cannot come into His presence without being cleansing by the blood and the righteous covering of Jesus Christ.
When you walked the aisle and were dunked in the baptismal waters, if there was no change in your heart, your attitude, and your lifestyle, there’s a problem. If you sleep through life, sermons, and grief, never experiencing the transforming power of God’s love in your life, there’s a problem.
At the time of salvation the Comforter, the Helper, the Spirit of God comes to live in our hearts. From that moment we are given all of the Spirit we will ever have. But does the Spirit have all of us? Scripture instructs “do not grieve the Spirit of God.”
How many reading this blog today have children and grandchildren who ignore you? Want no relationship with you? Disobey your rules? Refuse to show their love, respect, and gratitude for your provision and position in their lives? Their actions hurt and grieve your heart, don’t they?
How much more the Holy Spirit is grieved if we have no desire to allow Him to transform our minds, hearts, and souls. When we refuse to study the truths of His Word, choosing to cling to the things we watch on TV, see in the movies and read in many books, things we know offend our righteous God and offend His Spirit—what does this say about our fear of Him and love for Him?
Earth is a training ground. Training for eternal life with God, under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, in a place of perfect righteousness. If we’re not happy to be with Him now, why do you think we’d be happy with Him, in His kingdom? What have you learned during your journey on earth that will equip you for eternity? What are your life patterns training you for? Do you love Jesus more with each passing day?
Revelation 21: 8 tells us “cowards, unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. These will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
God is not our fairy-godfather, who waves His hand to make our lives perfect. No. He tells us our hearts are wicked and deceitful. But Jesus will transform us to be like “trees planted by the river of waters” that will bring forth spiritual fruit. That’s not for some time bye-and-bye in the sky. It’s right now.
We are to wake up each morning asking for courage to put to death the deeds of our flesh. We are to walk in obedience to God’s principles and precepts, in spite of the trends of our times. Our lives are to bring honor and glory to Him. We are to show others what Jesus looks like.
I have a terrible temper. I’d love to tell you the Holy Spirit waves His cosmic hand and that nasty nonsense disappears out of my heart and mind. No, I have to make the choice, each day, to put this ugliness out of my life every time it flutters and builds walls in my heart.
When I obey, the Spirit helps me. He bolsters my courage to stand against the deception that lurks in the dark corners of my heart and mind. But I have to pick up the spike and hammer it into this evil character trait, as well as all the other behaviors and attitudes I know do not honor God.
Transformation takes a lifetime, but there must be forward progress. And we can’t muscle our way to change. There must be an individual relationship with Jesus. A longing to spend time with Him. An urgency to know His word. And time learning to trust Him.
The end of this age is drawing near. God’s people are to be watchmen on America’s wall. We are to sound the alarm. And who isn’t alarmed by the swift decent of this nation into calling good—evil and evil—good? We are to battle with one hand on the Word of God and the other hand on the pulse of discipleship. Teaching, comforting, and caring for those God places in our circle of friendship. So when the attacks come the Word of God will slice between truth and lies. Are you blowing a wake-up call to all who will listen?
The battle will be fierce in the days to come. In order to stand firm our hearts must be trained, full of courage, and being renewed and refilled with the truth of His Word, the knowledge of His love, and the power of His Spirit.
We are called to be committed soldiers of the King. Soldiers who have a healthy fear of The Sovereign God of all creation. A good God who takes care of His own people. But a righteous God who will, on a day certain, judge His enemies. Forever.
But God’s clock is ticking. The hour is late. And time is short.