Forgiven

Do you have a favorite Bible story or Bible character?  One of my favorites is the Women at the Well in John 4.  She is the subject for my next short story: Forgiven.  I hope the story captures the joy you know of being forgiven.  Forgiven!  What a beautiful word – what a horrible price was paid for it to be true!

Blessing to you, dear reader, this Resurrection Sunday.  May you find something new and fresh about this wonderful time of year!

The Cost of Saying, “No.”

What if we say, “No,”

What would be the cost?

How rough would be the path;

How much would it cost?

When Jesus calls us to a task

Whether big or very small,

If we do not what He asks,

How great will be our fall?

Would I sacrifice the sweetness

That permeates our home?

Would disobedience reign

And sit upon the throne

Of my heart, instead of joy

And peace in serving Him?

Would I lose my children’s hearts?

Would Satan really win?

Oh, the cost of saying, “No,”

When our Savior gently woos

Us to a path that He would choose.

Oh, how much I would lose!

Do you struggle with the right answer to God?  What is it that He is asking you to do?  It may seem like just a small thing, but if you know that He wants you to do it…JUST SAY YES! Saying YES not only brings more blessings into our lives than we can imagine, more importantly, it brings glory to God and shows this dying world His power in our lives.

Saying YES to God in the little things as well as the big things shows a servant-heart.  Saying YES will often conflict with your schedule, your desires, perhaps even your wrong priorities, but may I say that your schedule, your desires and your priorities will never bring lasting joy and peace if you have had to say NO to God in order to fulfill them.

Just try one thing.  You know the verse: Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

So, what is it that God’s been knocking on your heart’s door about?  Maybe it’s a small thing, maybe it’s life-changing! We never know the cost of saying, “NO” to God.  He’s not mean – He does everything perfectly; however, those consequences can be startling!

He gives us lots of warning-examples in the Bible:

Adam said, “No,” and lost paradise.

Cain said, “No,” and lost his reputation.

Lot said, “No,” and lost his family.

Moses said, “No,” and couldn’t enter into the Promised Land.

Saul said, “No,” and lost his kingdom.

David said said, “No,” and and lost his children.

Solomon said, “No,” and and lost his wisdom.

Nebuchadnezzar said, “No,” and lost his sanity.

The rich young ruler said, “No,” and lost his opportunity to be with Jesus.

Peter said, “No,” and lost his fellowship with God’s Son.

Ananias and Saffira said, “No,” and lost their lives.

But oh, the blessing of saying, “Yes!”  Look at all the blessings:

Abel received God’s blessing.

Abraham received God’s friendship.

Moses received heavenly vision.

Joseph received Egypt’s wealth and Jacob’s double blessing.

Gideon received impossible leadership.

David received a heart like God’s.

Peter received forgiveness,

And they all received, God’s “well done.”

Well done, thou good and faithful servant

For better for worse?  For richer or poorer?  In sickness and in health?  Do we really think all those situations through when we say them?  I don’t think so, and I don’t think we can.  I can’t help thinking about some of the newer versions of the wedding vows, like the one that says, “as long as our love endures.”  That might last through the wedding reception!  I’ve seen daggers in the eyes of a beautiful bride as the comedian-bridegroom shoves cake in her face.  What a ridiculous tradition!

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;

 I will make him an help meet for him. Genesis 2:18

The promises we make at the altar are not what prepares us for becoming good helpmeets for our husbands. The character we’ve endeavored to instill into our daughters will prepare them to be wonderful helpmeets for their husbands; however, after nearly thirty-three years of marriage, I’m still learning.

Tom’s fall has changed the whole landscape of our marriage!  He is able to walk with a walker, but his foot is still non-weight-bearing and will be for another few weeks (five to seven? :( )  I’m continually amazed at his improvement; however, it’s going to be a long time until he takes out the trash!

At first, serving him was just a “knee-jerk” reaction.  He couldn’t do anything and he was in so much pain.  I would have been pretty hard-hearted not to help him!  He is an excellent patient, and even though he does as much as he can, he still needs me to wait on him hand and foot (especially foot! :) ).

We’ve worked into a good system and he’s constantly thanking me for what I do.  Today, I hit a high mark: Twice he asked for something that I had already done!  “You’re perfect,” he said.  Me?  Perfect? I seriously doubt it!

It has been an incredible learning process for me.  First, I’ve come to appreciate all that my wonderful husband does, or did!  Second, I’ve learned how impatient I am; and third, I’m learning true servanthood!  As I serve Tom in the most intimate ways, I realize just how important it is to be his helpmeet. Certainly, I thought I knew that before, but as I got busy doing my own thing: blogging and writing and gardening and teaching and playing and planning music and grandmothering, at times I became frustrated when our schedules didn’t jive and I was the one who had to bend.

Today, I made a startling discovery: I want to hear my LORD say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  How sad to hear Him say those words about my service in the church, or my grandmothering, or my teaching, but not hear it as a helpmeet!  THAT is the one place that counts the most, and if no other good comes out of this whole ordeal than that lesson for me, it will be worth it.

How about it, ladies?  How well is your “serve” at home?  I am so thankful that the Lord did not take him home to heaven!  He could have!  Oh, how wonderful to have a husband to serve!!  Just ask any widow.

The God of the Impossibe

Exodus 4:2-4

And the LORD said unto him, “What is that in thine hand?

And he said, “A rod.”

And he said, “Cast it on the ground.”

And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail.

And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand

Do you serve the God of the Impossible?  I love this little slice of reality in Moses’ life.  Even though Cecil B. Demille makes it look as though the burning bush incident happened only a short time after he left Egypt, it was forty years later. The actual time line of Moses’ life falls into forties: forty years in Egypt, forty years in Midian, and forty years in the wilderness leading the Israelites.

God has just spoken to Moses of His mission, and Moses is telling God all the reasons why it won’t work! This is the first of two signs that God gives Moses to convince the Israelites that he is God’s man.

Do you like snakes?  Would you like to pick one up…by the tail?  Anyone who handles snakes knows that you don’t pick up a snake by the tail! Actually, common sense would tell you not to pick up a snake by its tail.  It’s sort of like grabbing a cat by the tail, except the results could be deadly! We don’t know what kind of snake it was, but whatever the type, Moses ran from it.

However, there is no break in the action: God tells him to pick up the snake by the tail and Moses does it. Faith: Forsaking All, I Trust Him!  Forsaking all commons sense, I do what He commands.

What is the impossible thing in your life?  Impossible things can be personal struggles with bad habits or sins; or, they can involve someone else, whose actions are affecting your life. Circumstances involving finances, relationships, attitudes, wrong choices: they all can create impossible situations in our lives, and we come to God begging Him to do SOMETHING!

But first, perhaps He is asking you, “What is in thy hand?”  What is it that you are clutching so tightly that God wants to use to do the impossible?  You see, if you are in control, then God is not.  He wants to do the impossible, but so often, we must hand over the reins before He can do it.

It may be so impossible, that you only laugh, like Sarah: having a child at the age of ninety? IMPOSSIBLE!  Can you believe God for the impossible?  Can you allow Him to teach you through the impossible? Will you hand EVERYTHING over to Him so that He can do the impossible?  Are you willing to wait for Him to do the impossible on His timeline and not yours? You can be guaranteed that any great accomplishment for God started with an impossible idea. Never think that God cannot do it.  If it is HIS will, it can be done!

Later, Moses will stand at the Red Sea and say, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”  (Exodus 14:13) It’s always a great joy when God just does the impossible.  They stood and watched as God parted the Red Sea.  OOOh! Ahhh! Wow!  Isn’t God awesome!  He’s doing the impossible!

Sometimes though, He asks a price to do the impossible, as perhaps you read in “Wet Feet.”  Will you do it? WARNING: it will cost you something.  Think about Moses, reaching out his hand, keeping an eye on that serpent’s fangs dripping with venom; and yet he trusted God to do the impossible, so that when he stood before the people and he stood before Pharaoh, he was ready once again to trust the God of the Impossible

Walking on Dry Land

oswald chambersOswald Chambers (1874-1917) is best known for his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest; however, The Oswald Chambers Daily Devotional Bible also contains many wonderful nuggets from his lesser known writings.

Although written nearly one hundred years ago, the following selection is certainly timely and quite challenging.  Like much of his writings, you may need to read it more than once to get the gist of what he is saying, but it is worth the extra digging!

                                     

And he said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.     Matthew 14:29

Passionate, genuine affection for Jesus will lead to all sorts of vows and promises which it is impossible to fulfill.  It is an attitude of mind and heart that sees only the heroic.  We are called to be unobtrusive disciples, not heroes.  When we are right with God, the tiniest thing done out of love to Him is more precious to Him than any eloquent preaching of a sermon…We all have a lurking desire to be exhibitions for God, to be put, as it were, in His showroom.  Jesus does not want us to be specimens, He wants us to be so taken up will Him that we never think about ourselves, and the only impression left on others by our life is that Jesus Christ is having unhindered way.

Walking on water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is different.  Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, to stand crises; human nature and our pride will do it.  We can buck up and face the music of a crisis magnificently, but it does require the supernatural drudgery as a saint, to go through poverty as a saint, to go through an ordinary, unobtrusive, ignored existence as a saint, unnoticed and unnoticeable.  The “show business,” which is so incorporated into our view of Christian work today, has caused us to drift far from our Lord’s conception of discipleship.  It is instilled in us to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we have not.  We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners.  That is not learned in five minutes.  (So Send I You,  Oswald Chambers. 1930)

New Story: The God of All That Exists

I’ve been reading though Genesis and enjoying the story about my favorite Bible hero: Joseph.  As I read it, I wondered about Joseph’s steward, especially his statement to the brothers:

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. Genesis 43:23

Who was this man?  What did he see ?  What was his reaction to this whole bizarre exchange?

Well, if you would like to see it though my vivid imagination :), take a look at “The God of All That Exists”

under short stories at the top of the page.

(By the way, I have noticed that Jewish prayers are often addressed to the God of the Universe, hence the name of the story.  ‘Universe’ means all that exists.’)

Wet Feet

  And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.Exodus 14:21

Most believers are familiar with the Biblical account which records God’s parting of the Red Sea, even though Hollywood and many children’s books may not get everything quite accurate. What a wonderful example of the power of God! No wonder the world has a hard time believing that it really happened!

A less familiar story is found at the end of their wanderings, preceding their entrance into the Promised Land:

 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap…Joshua 3:15,16

 Picture it: The Israelites have completed their forty-year wilderness wandering and are now standing at the Jordan River’s edge.  Jericho has been scouted out, and they are ready to enter into the Promised Land!  Again, a body of waters stands in their way until it too parts, but there is a slight difference:  Certainly, it was the power of God that parted the waters and created a dry base for nearly three million people to pass over; however, the water never moved until the priests’ feet dipped into the water.

The following passage tells us a little more about this crossing:

The river was thus dried up as far as the eye could reach. This was a stupendous miracle; Jordan takes its name, “the Descender,” from the force of its current, which, after passing the Sea of Galilee, becomes greatly increased as it plunges through twenty-seven “horrible rapids and cascades,” besides a great many lesser through a fall of a thousand feet, averaging from four to five miles an hour [LYNCH].  When swollen “in time of harvest,” it flows with a vastly accelerated current. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown) Commentary

We don’t know exactly where this crossing took place, but we see that the Jordan was “overflowing its banks.”  This generation of wanderers had only heard about the Red Sea parting, now it is their turn!  Do you see the big difference in the two partings? Wet feet!  The people just stood and watched in awe as the Red Sea parted before them, but this time, twelve men got to really test the waters!  These twelve priests were the leaders of their tribes.  They were leading their families, and they were taking a step of faith.

That’s the difference between entering the wilderness and entering the Promised Land: a step of faith.  How often we stay in the wilderness because we are afraid to take that step of faith!  We are God’s children; we have trusted Him for our salvation; we believe in Him and what He’s done, but we can’t trust Him for tomorrow’s unknown! 

Here’s another lesson for me through this trying time.  Just to recap if you haven’t been following my husband’s accident: Wednesday, he fell twelve feet to concrete when his ladder slid, breaking his hip and crushing his heel.  Thursday, surgery. Monday, we’re told three things: He was going to the in-hospital rehab (yippy!  No transportation!); He was going home (well, transportation but he’d be home); He would just stay in the Joint Center (I’ll pick door number three!) We were really fine with all three, but door number two was the final answer.  We prayed that we would know what was best, and that we wouldn’t have to make the decision (we haven’t worked much with hospitals!).  By eight-thirty on Tuesday morning, we had our answer; however, we were also told that we would have to be at the doctor’s office the following morning at eight-fifteen!

I panicked.  My mind raced back to those trips home from the hospital following my three C-sections–not pleasant!  The thought of reversing the process and taking him out again the next day nearly pushed me over the edge.  Then I remembered this blog (that I’ve been trying to finish for five days!) Why don’t you try trusting God, Wanda! Take a step of faith!  Maybe He knows what is best! Ouch!  Guess what–He did, and does and always will, if only we would step into the water!!!  Why is it so hard to trust Him?  Because all we see is that raging river swirling out of control just inches from where we are standing!  There is no way He can _________ ( you fill in the blank).  He may not solve your problems the way you would like Him to do it, but if you are willing to follow Him, He will ALWAYS do what is best!

Come, every soul by sin oppressed;
There’s mercy with the Lord,
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His Word.

Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious blood
Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood
That washes white as snow.

John H Stockton

Why is it that we can trust Him for the next life, but not for this one?

Rod and Staff

shepherdThe shepherd’s rod and staff are a symbol of his care for the sheep.  “…his rod and staff, alluding to the shepherd’s crook, or the rod under which the sheep passed when they were counted (Le 27:32), or the staff with which the shepherds drove away the dogs that would scatter or worry the sheep” (Matthew Henry) speaks of the shepherd’s watch-care and protection: he counts them and makes sure that they are all gathered to him as he leads them to and from the green pastures and still waters.  It also is a rod of protection as he drives away predators.

But as I sit here in this hospital room, I have to think about the rod and staff’s purpose for me.  Does the shepherd ever raise his rod and staff on the sheep?  I would say yes.  Two actions are represented: pushing and pulling.  If a sheep will not move forward, perhaps a gentle (or not so gentle!) rap on the backside will encourage him to get moving!  And we’ve all seen the shepherd use the crook end to pull back a sheep from going in the wrong direction.

Does our Great Shepherd do the same to us?  Absolutely!  I’ve recently heard several incidences where the Holy Spirit put out the crook and said, “Don’t do that; don’t go there.”  When the “sheep” kept going anyway, each story had the same outcome: TROUBLE! God is constantly looking out for us–His sheep–leading us through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, but heeding that voice is our choice!

He also prods us along: through His Word, or an encouraging statement from a friend or loved one, or through circumstances.  Often, when the Lord lays a good deed on my heart that He wants me to do, and I find myself arguing that I’m not sure if it’s really what the Lord wants me to do or not, I’ll ask myself, “Well Wanda, do you think it was Satan that told you to do it?”

Pulling and prodding – oh, may we be gentle, pliable, moveable sheep in our Loving Shepherd’s hands!

And now back to the hospital scene.  FYI–my husband’s hip was repaired with a rod, screws and cable wrapping because it was shattered in one spot. His heel is also shattered but that surgery will not happen until the swelling goes down.  Is this a prodding/pushing from God?  Certainly–for me it’s a push into growing my patience and trust. Each of us has a lesson to be learned through this, and what a blessing to see folks rising to the occasion, allowing God to lead.

Can you hear His voice?  “Follow Wanda, just follow.”

He Maketh Me to Lie Down

Yesterday, the Lord MADE my husband “lie down.”  While working on our gym ceiling, the ladder he was standing on slid, and he fell twelve feet to the hard cement floor.  Tonight, he’s in the hospital for the first time in his life with a broken hip and heel.

As I sit here, where I sat nearly twelve hours ago when the cry came, thinking back over the past half a day, I feel as though I’m in a time warp.  What a sickening feeling to see your husband  lying there in pain; however, that could not compare to seeing his face as he returned from getting x-rays, and he tells me that they told him he could scream.  “I didn’t until the last one,” he tells me with a quiver in his voice, his body involuntarily shaking in pain.  And then to hear him cry out in agony as they once again needed to move the leg to splint it…there are no words to describe how I felt as I wept on my daughter’s shoulder.

I probably should have stayed with my mom tonight, but my own bed was calling me up the mountain.  It’s amazing what a few extra hundred feet elevation will do to the roads.  They were clear when I left my mom’s driveway, but I’ve never prayed behind the wheel like I did the last half mile of my journey home: only to find that the electricity was off, crying out once again that my cell phone would have enough juice left to call Mom and let her know that I had made it.

When my head hit the pillow and it all came crashing in, there would be no sleep for a while–not until I starting quoting the Twenty-third Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

 

Have you been there?  My mind kept going to others that I’ve known who have had to deal with difficult situations.  Now I know, I thought!  It really IS true:  His grace IS sufficient!!  As my mind tries to fast forward to what is to follow, I’m overwhelmed until I remember: HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT, and I praise His name!

I rehearse that beautiful psalm once again and see afresh all that is there:

His IS my shepherd; I do not want for anything; even though He has put my husband flat on his back (in green pastures? I’m not sure about that!) He does lead and restores my weary soul.  I do not need to fear. The rod and staff of His Word and His very presence comfort me beyond words.  His banquet table is set before me here and now, and even as Satan tries to pull me down, I am nourished and strengthened by my Lord.  Only HIS goodness and HIS mercy, not only follow me, but surround me  here and now, and I praise HIS name that I am so privileged to dwell in HIS house forever!

There is no greater comfort or peace, and now I see the green pasture: every scorching desert turns into a beautiful meadow of green because HE has led me here and HE stands guard over my soul while I lie still and rest.

Is the seed yet in the barn?

ID-1009077This morning, I finally filled by bird feeders.  I’m so thankful that the little birdies do not have to depend upon me for their survival, because I’m not very faithful in feeding them – especially when I’ve run out of seed!  But now the feeders are clean and full and there’s plenty more, not in the barn, but in our garage!

Feeding the birds and watching them is a hobby of mine.  I especially love to watch  the yellow finches in the spring when their tiny feathers regain their brilliant yellow coloring.  I also get really excited when the colorful blue buntings are sited – a rarity.  I haven’t been able to draw in the bluebirds, although they do use our houses; and although I couldn’t see them one summer, I could hear their conversation on the day the babies were to leave the comfortable security of the home and fly!  They chattered all morning!

It may take awhile, but my little feathered friends will return once the word gets out that the seed is there!  Once more, my front window will be filled with bird flights and song!

But what if I had left the seed “in the barn?”  I made the effort to purchase the forty pound bag!  I even emptied into the rodent-proof plastic container in the garage. (Speaking of rodents – did I tell you about the red squirrel that was in our toilet?  Now I have your attention!  Our garage is underneath our house, the other half is our basement where the wood stove burns cheerily and keeps us warm.  So…the basement door is kept open.  I guess the little fellow came in through the garage and decided to see what was upstairs but got thirsty!  He should have worn his life jacket!)

I’m sure you’ve already guessed the spiritual application behind this blog. Is the seed yet in the barn?  The seed is the Word of God.  How are you doing at getting the Word out?  We have so many venues today that we can use, but probably the most effective way is still the words you speak.  Movies are great, blogs are wonderful :), billboards can shout out the Word; but nothing speaks louder than your own voice!  Why?  Because YOU are there, behind the voice, with your heart showing through!

It doesn’t always mean going through the “plan of salvation” with someone. There are lots of seeds that have to be planted; or perhaps the better illustration would be the farmer or gardener who knows the work that has to be done before the seed hits the ground!  Plowing, raking, fertilizing, weeding, digging…so much happens before the joy of planting the seed takes place.

Last night, I had the privilege of talking and  praying with a young boy about salvation.  His little heart was so tender.  He prayed that Jesus would come into his heart and take away his sin and be his Savior.  It was a wonderful blessing, but many, many hours went into that moment.  His parents’ faithfulness in taking him to church and teaching him at home, praying with him, reading the Bible with him…all this took place before last night.  I believe God’s Word took root in his tender heart, and I look forward to watching that little life grow!

Take the seed with you – carry a Gospel tract.  I’m especially in favor of that kind of witness because it was through a Gospel tract that I found the truth, became a believer, got saved, was converted, trusted Christ! Choose your phrase!  I love to hand a cashier a tract and say, “This is the best news you’ll get today!”  True?!

The seed in my feeder will cause a flurry of activity.  “It’s here,” the birds chirp one to  another.  Are you in a church that is preaching God’s Word?  This is easy to tell, because the preacher stands up there and opens the Bible and preaches!  (Sorry, did that sound sarcastic?)  I once head a young girl say that she NEVER hears her pastor preach!  during the preaching, she’s in a class where they watch DVDs.  I’m not saying that DVDs can’t be effective, but shouldn’t an eleven year old be able to sit and listen to the Word of God being preached?  What are we teaching our children?  Is the seed left in the barn?

If I had a birdcage in my home, and it housed a little canary, that tiny life would be dependent on my faithful feeding.  Unlike the birds outside who can go to the neighbors or the forest and fields to get nourishment, my little canary would only receive the food a placed in his cage.  How much of God’s Word are YOU feeding to your children?  And don’t forget to stuff yourself while you’re at it!

Is the seed in the barn?  Oh the power that is waiting to explode, now resting in that precious Book, the Bible!  Go ahead, try it – scatter a few and watch God work!  Your efforts are backed by God’s promises.  “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

May no one be able to say of us: “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” Psalm 142:4

Is the seed yet in the barn? Habakkuk 2:19

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Hebrew 4:12