Tears, Love and Grace

25 Oct

I’m sitting here tonight drinking water over crushed ice from my daddy’s glass.  I always remember him having it on his bedside table (with water over crushed ice!) when I went in to kiss him goodnight.  Using this glass always causes me to reflect and remember his life. That always brings about a flood of emotions, but tonight as I sit down to pause and be alone, I’m reflecting over the last few hours, the last few days and the last few weeks.  My heart runs over with emotions.   Thankfulness.  Fear.  Sadness.  Selfishness.  Joy.  Panic.  Hope.  Sorrow.  Grief.  Sympathy.  Delight.  Helplessness.  Excitement.  Happiness.  Love.  These emotions are all so fresh.  They all seem to overlap and run together. They squeeze my heart and the tears flow.  I can’t stop them….and don’t really want to.

A dear friend lost her son last week in a tragic accident.  My heart breaks for her, yet I’m thankful I don’t know how she feels.  The outpouring of love in our small town and the counties around us has been wonderful.  We’ve witnessed a wonderful expression of love for a life well lived…all 17 years of it.  We’ve watched these parents rely on God to get them through the next breath, the next hour, the next day.  Selfishness. Sorrow.  Grief.  Sadness.  Sympathy.  Hope.  LOVE.

Yesterday was such a wonderful day.   I had the privilege of witnessing the birth of our 4th grandbaby, Ramona Christine.  It’s difficult to see your little girl in pain and you can’t help her, but the birth of a child is such an awesome miracle!  Our daughter and son-in-law were both amazing!  Little Romi is a precious gift from God!  Mother and baby are doing wonderful and I’ve spent many hours just holding her, looking at every perfect detail and praying for her.   Eli, Ethan, Rachel & Romi – we never imagined how wonderful grandchildren would be!   Joy.  Excitement.  Helplessness.  Happiness.  Delight.  LOVE.

A few hours ago I was on the phone with our middle daughter.  She’s VERY pregnant with our grandson and we were talking about labor and contractions.  Mid sentence she starts screaming and crying uncontrollably.  I can’t understand a word she’s saying.  Between trying to calm her down and asking questions, I’m screaming for Eddie to get her husband on the phone.  It turns out that she had just had a near, head-on collision.  The other driver apparently thought he was in a turning lane, but was in fact in her lane.  She slammed on brakes and their cars stopped inches from each other.  God’s hand of protection was certainly upon her and our little grandson.   Fear.  Helplessness.  Panic.  Thankfulness.  Relief.  LOVE.

As I reflect, one emotion keeps overshadowing the rest.  LOVE.  .  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”  “We love because He first loved us.”  Love overshadows the rest, but also magnifies them.  Our fear is greater because of our love;  our happiness is exorbitant because of our love; our joy is multiplied because of our love.  The list goes on and on.

God is love and He cares for each of us intimately and tenderly.   He is concerned with every detail of our life and every emotion we have.  The psalmist says, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or when I stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.”

“You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”   Our tears aren’t wasted, they’re collected by the One who loves us as a treasure

When life requires that we keep going, protect more, give more, expend energies we don’t have, accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, God offers us his sustaining love, his gentle concern, his guiding sovereignty. We’re not alone as we carry our burdens and joys or bear the burdens and share the joys of those around us.  God graciously gives us, each day, exactly what we need — his sustaining grace.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”   “His mercies are new every morning.  Great is thy faithfulness!”

Advertisements

Guest blogger! “A Crucified People”

6 Apr

I hope you all had a joyous weekend celebrating the resurrection!  Here’s a post from our guest blogger, Beth Caison.  Thank you Beth for sharing with us!

 
For those of you in Sunday School this past week, you know we were discussing Session 5 “A Crucified People,” which was basically about dying to ourselves  – denying our fleshly selves, dying to our fleshly desires, and suffering because of our faith. Due to lack of time, I wasn’t able to share a letter that I thought was very applicable to the third section which came from 1 Peter 4:12-19 in the text.
 
Those first few verses read:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you….
 
After reading the part I put in bold, I immediately thought of American Pastor Saeed Abedini. I’m sure some of you are aware of his story. If any are not aware, in 2012 he had gone back home to Iraq for a visit and was arrested because of his faith in Jesus and sentenced to eight years in one of the most brutal prisons in that country. Over two years later, and after being badly beaten himself and witnessing 6 of his fellow prisoners being taken away to be executed, he is still there, suffering for the cause of Christ.
 
Saeed’s son Jacob’s 7th birthday was on March 17th and he had sent his dad an invitation to his birthday party. One of Saeed’s family members who lives in Iraq visited him in prison and gave him the invitation. He wrote his son a letter in response to the invitation. To me, it is a perfect example of Pastor Saeed being “blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon [him].” It is obvious that Saeed knows that his life here on earth is not his own; his life is Jesus’ life in and through him and the eternal plans that are being carried out. You can read his amazing letter to his son here  http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/pastor-saeed-writes-his-son-for-his-birthday-my-chains-are-keeping-me-from-you
 
Y’all have a wonderful weekend, and, Lord willing, we will see each other on Sunday.
 
Beth 🙂

When bad turns out to be good, because God is sovereign

23 Feb

The worst two days of my life or two of the most glorious days of my life?  It all depends on when I’m viewing the days and whose lens I’m viewing them through.

February 15, 1983 “You’re pregnant”.  These were the words I knew were coming, but that didn’t stop me from bargaining with God during the two-hour wait in the after hours clinic at the local health department.  I was a Christian, a “good” girl, a 16-year-old with another year and a half before graduation.  This couldn’t be happening to me.  The words coming out of the nurse’s mouth were slowly reaching my ears and sinking into my heart.  I left the building and went to the car where Eddie was waiting for me.  I opened the door, got in and said, “I’m pregnant; what are we going to do?”  He hugged me and held me and said, “We’re going to get married.”  For that brief moment, my fears subsided.  I knew everything would be alright.  I was so thankful that he answered the way he did.  If his answer had been different, my life would not be what it is today.  We did get married and this month celebrated 32 years!  As Christians, we knew that our actions were in direct disobedience to God’s Word.  Was this baby a punishment?  There came a resounding “NO” from the throne of grace.  Psalm 127:3 told me that children are a gift from God and the fruit of the womb is a reward!  Our child was a gift, a reward.  Were we going to suffer consequences as a form of discipline?  There came a resounding “YES”…..but there also came much mercy and grace with that discipline.  Our gift from God arrived on August 25.  She was perfect in every way!  We were far from perfect, but we knew that the sovereign God of the universe had a plan for our little family. He was in control and had been though all of this.  He blessed us two more times with the words, “You’re pregnant”!  and two more beautiful, perfect little girls.  When I look back on that night in February of 1983, I’m reminded of the scripture found in John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  Eddie did that for me (and our girls) that night.  He laid down his individual life and exchanged it for a life focused on what is best for our family.  Greater love has no man than this!  So, the words “You’re pregnant” on that day through a 16-year-old’s eyes were devastating; but through the eyes of the sovereign Lord were a part of a beautiful picture he was painting!  Looking back, I can see His hand at work, and I can see (though dimly) a portion of that beautiful picture.

April 18, 2012  “Your grandson has a fractured skull.”  The morning started out normally.  It was my day off work and I had the privilege of keeping our newest grandson while Jennifer worked.  She had just brought him in and we placed the carrier on the countertop.  She left for work and I played with him for a few minutes, then turned my back to get his bottle.  When I turned back around he was falling from the car seat and I was reaching for him, but couldn’t catch him.  “This cannot be happening!”  I scooped him up from the floor almost as soon as he hit.  We both were screaming and Eddie came running to the kitchen.  While I was trying to comfort him, Eddie was busy examining him.  We could see no visible signs of injury, and Ethan had stopped crying (I had not), but we thought it would be best to have his doctor look him over.  We called Jennifer, called the pediatrician and headed to Athens, praying and crying all the way.  The pediatrician checked him over and assured us that he didn’t see anything that was concerning to him, but to be safe, we should have an MRI.  Off  to the hospital we went, praying more and more.  After telling the story of how this happened for the third time, we got to have the MRI.  “Your grandson has a fractured skull”.  Had God not heard our cries?!  “We don’t see any bleeding on his brain.”  Thank you God!!  “But he will need to stay for observation”.  God please protect our baby!  How could I have let this happen?!?  God, forgive me!    Flash back a few months to a routine checkup.  Jennifer was told, “Ethan’s soft spots have fused together and it’s too early for that.  His brain is still growing.  If the brain grows more than the room inside his skull we will have to perform surgery to open the skull so it can expand enough to accommodate his brain”.  We had been fervently praying for God to intervene.  Friends and family had been praying with us.  The next checkup after the accident, revealed something amazing to the pediatrician…Ethan’s head was growing!  He would not have to have any surgery!  The skull fracture had allowed growth and served as the soft spot.  We were reminded of Romans 8:28.  All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.

Both of these days resulted in lots of prayers, but I don’t recall praying for God’s will, just my own.  I wanted Him to change my circumstances.  Both of these times were times where God did not answer in the way I wished in that moment and I’m so thankful He didn’t!   I’m praying about a situation right now that would be extremely easy for me to be selfish about and I could give you a long list of justifiable reasons why God should answer in a way that seems best to me (or FOR me).  Revisiting these two situations from my past and seeing God’s love, mercy and sovereignty allow me to pray, “Not my will, but thine be done O Lord!”  I can trust Him.

Are you in a situation right now that seems more than you can bear?  Consider the words of the Apostle Paul when he said, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8,9)  God allows situations beyond what we can bear in order that we not trust in ourselves, but in Him.  Remember, He is the God who raises the dead and He is in control!

Family

26 Jan

I love my family! Family has always been extremely important to me and I have a large one! It’s important for us to communicate regularly by spending time together, talking on the phone, texting, etc. We love to be together! There are only two ways you can get into our family – be born into it or be adopted into it. We have had ALOT of people born into it and many have been adopted into it through marriage. My family is far from perfect and we don’t always agree on everything. Sometimes I might not even “like” them very much, but I’ll ALWAYS love them and I’d fight you for them. I’ll take up for them and give them a million second chances. (They do the same for me.) Why? Because we’re family and that’s what a family does. “Being a family means you will love and be loved the rest of your life, no matter what.”

When Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior we are born-again and adopted into God’s family! “You will all be joined together, and you will give glory to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” Romans 15:6-7 “I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church.” 1 Timothy 3:15. The church isn’t something you go to, it’s something you belong to!

When we started attending Redeemer Church of Madison, it was a brand new church. Our prayer from the first day, was that God would begin to knit our hearts together with other believers and let us experience the benefits and responsibilities of being the family that He adopted us into. God is continuing to answer this prayer through the new friendships He has given us and through rekindling and deepening existing friendships. We’re not an only child in our Christian life and God doesn’t want us to act like we are.

I’m so excited about what God is doing in Redeemer Church! He is knitting us together as family! That only happens as we submit to God’s call to join Him where He’s working and I have certainly seen His hand at work! Let’s be a family that does life together! We won’t always agree on everything and we may not always “like” each other, but we will always be a part of the family. That means we should ALWAYS love each other, stand up for each other, fight for each other, spend time together and sharpen each other. As with every family, belonging means you share in the responsibility.  I’m looking forward to seeing God grow our family in number, in fellowship with each other and in our faith in Him.  Thank you for being an active part of the Family!