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Pain

20 Jun

Pain ScaleI have many friends and family members who have recently experienced great loss or who are currently in the throes of physical, mental, financial, emotional difficulty. It breaks my heart for them. If I could, I would fix it for them. However, I can perhaps offer some hope based on a few verses I looked at this week.

Friends – The Lord hears your groaning!

I was reading this week in Exodus 6 along with some questions and commentary (from Lauren Chandler’s study Steadfast Love) on verses 2-8. In these verses, God reveals His name as that of “I Am,” or Yahweh (the Lord), to Moses and the sons of Israel. A great name, and one He revealed to His people when they were groaning from their great bondage! Verse 5 says that He heard their groaning. He gave them His full attention. He heard with a readiness to act on their behalf. That’s a really comforting thought. The Lord hears our groaning.

Friends – The Lord will act on your behalf!

In verses 6-8 there are at least eleven times, depending on your translation, where “I” is used. He’s the one acting. He’s the one to sit back and watch what He will do. Eleven or twelve times He states exactly what that will be. He promises that He will personally bring them out from under the burden, He will deliver them, redeem them, be in relationship with them, give them a home, be faithful to His promises from the past. Even more comforting words. The Lord will act on our behalf.

Friends – Don’t miss out because of the pain!

Sadly, in verse 9 it says that the people didn’t listen to this great encouraging message the Lord sent through Moses. The reason was their focus was fixed on their difficulties. Believe me. I do understand the tendency to continue groaning, to stay focused on the pain, BECAUSE IT HURTS! I get it. But if you and I would but shift our eyes from the circumstance, we can watch Him work in His way and in His time on our behalf. If you and I would but listen for His still, small voice, we might just hear His call to be in relationship with Him. We would get to know the great I AM – a thrilling, comforting privilege!

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 NAS)

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7 Examples from 7 Decades

17 May

D&NToday would have been my sister’s 70th birthday. Quite the milestone.  I’ve been anticipating this birthday and what I wanted to write about it. I had thought I might write “70 Lessons I’ve Learned from Nancy,” but decided against that. Instead I thought I would share 7 examples from Nancy’s 7 decades of living.

  1. Enjoy a good laugh – even if it’s at your own expense! Nancy loved a good joke. I would frequently get calls or texts sharing a funny story. Many fell into the “only Nancy would have done this” category, but I cherish these stories. She brought so much joy and gave us great memories to chuckle over again and again. She was also kind to listen to the jokes children would tell her at school and laugh with them – making that child feel special and of value. (Proverbs 17:22)
  2. Strive for excellence in all you do – Nancy was an outstanding teacher. Some of her students became teachers because of her example. She was a great cook, meticulous housekeeper, and an award-winning quilter. She made each of us quilts for significant events that we cherish today. She did as Paul admonishes – “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23 NAS).
  3. Obey – My sister had a track record of obedience. She obeyed as a child. She followed doctors’ orders to the “T”. She obeyed Christ. Was her obedience perfect? No. But the trajectory of her desire and heart were to do what she was called to do. She was also faithful to lovingly confront those who weren’t obeying if needed. (I might or might not know this from personal experience!) (1 Samuel 15:22)
  4. Don’t be a complainer – Nancy was born prematurely and was a surviving twin. She had immunity issues all her life that made her easily susceptible to illness. She had both of her knees replaced at the same time. She had a heart condition – to name a few. Yet, for the most part, she did not complain (2 Timothy 2:3-4). She endured a difficult childhood, in no small part to a little sister whom she practically had to help raise! Yet I never heard her complain. (She would say this was because she knew she’d get in trouble if she did!) I was included in many activities that for any teenager would have been embarrassing to have your younger sister around. I never knew it if she felt that way. Oh, we would have dog & cat fights like many other siblings, but for the most part, she included me with great grace. (Philippians 2:3-4)
  5. Be passionate about the things you enjoy and the things that matter – Nancy was a staunch Denver Broncos fan and a Texan through and through. She was passionate about her family. I don’t know of a time she did not support me, encourage me, pray for me. I watched her do this and more for her daughter Claire and husband Weldon. I observed her enter into the joy of friends and other family members. She “over-the-top” loved being a grandmother to Gibson and Lincoln. She was passionate about her relationship with Christ. She loved the Lord with her whole being. She held up God’s Word as the standard of truth for her life. She fought the good fight. (Mark 12:30-31)
  6. Pray – This example was the hallmark of her life. I was looking at some past texts from her. They were full of prayer requests or telling me she was praying for me. Prayer made her sensitive to others. She listened when someone was having a rough day and wrote notes or gave little gifts to encourage others in whatever they were going through. She didn’t just say she would pray. She followed up with a text or a call to see how God answered the prayer or if she needed to continue to pray about the matter. The margins in her Bible and her prayer journals were full of her heart cries to the One she knew would listen and answer (Psalm 62:8).
  7. Seek to have a life that counts for eternity – Today my niece sent me something Nancy wrote in her prayer journal on her 67th birthday. “I don’t have long years left, and truly don’t want to come to the end with a waste.” Bless her heart, she rarely wasted a minute, let alone the life God had given her. (2 Timothy 4:6-7)

Thanks, my sweet sister, for setting decades of examples for me to follow. I miss you and love you. I look forward to seeing you with our blessed Savior one day soon.

Let It Go – Part 2

5 May

 

Study BibleI have a favorite study Bible – the Hebrew/Greek Key Word Study Bible, edited by Spiros Zodhiates. I was first introduced to it when the hubster purchased one at our local Christian bookstore. It combines key words in a text with the corresponding Strong’s Concordance number and will give a bit more commentary on what that word means and perhaps its usage back in the day. This study Bible is perfect for me since I love to find out meanings of words when I study a passage.  It even gives some user friendly indicators on the tense of verbs that open more of the riches to be found in God’s Word.

Our first version of this great tool was King James, then Rock was given a very nice New American Standard, which is our “standard” translation at the Hails’ home. My dad, who loved God’s Word, decided to buy one that he could use. His purchase was more a hard paperback version, not the leather one Rock owned. When he passed away, I was given his Bible where he’d carefully written his name and address on the front cover in case it was lost.

I tell you all of this to say that I treasured that Bible – not just because it was God’s Word, but it was my go to study Bible, AND it belonged to my dad. It was one of the few things I had of his that made me feel connected to him somehow. This Bible was such a great study tool. God showed me many things through using it. But having the Book he loved so much was a privilege.

Then I. lost. it. Not just “misplaced” lost, but “absent mindedly left it where I would not get it back” lost. I had forgotten it once before at a women’s retreat, but it was found, and I picked it up. This time, however, I left it either at an event arena or worse yet, on top of my car as I was juggling several things to get in after the event. I called the venue multiple times, but to no avail. They had not found it and no one had turned it in. I even begged to come there and look for myself in their lost and found, but was told I couldn’t. I called the office where my parents had once lived (the address he’d written inside), but no one had mailed it there. The Bible was gone, and I was devastated. My “connection” to my dad through this blessed Book was now broken.

Many people trying to encourage me after this loss would say something to the effect that the person who found it needed it more. I have to be honest. My heart was not comforted by that. I wanted MY Bible back. I wanted my dad’s Bible back. And that selfish attitude of clinging to what’s mine continued for months. The disappointment of losing a prized possession had gone from a natural response over  loss to way into the sin category. Jesus even addressed this sort of hold-on-tightly-and-not-let-go attitude with His disciples in Luke 14:33. “So no one can become My disciple unless he first sits down and counts his blessings—and then renounces them all for Me” (TLB).

Several months passed and I was bemoaning the loss of the Bible for the umpteenth time to my family, when my daughter gave me a loving rebuke in the form of a reminder about my dad – his passion to see people know Christ as Savior and Lord. She wisely reminded me that if I had to lose it, and someone picked it up, no other person than my dad would have been more thrilled to know that God could use it to draw someone into His kingdom. That reminder was enough for me. I released any hope of getting that Bible back because of the possibility that someone could know Him, could grow in Him, or could even share it with another to help that individual. I let that particular Bible go with this knowledge:

 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

This Christmas I received a new study Bible from my children – a great treasure indeed because of those who gave it to me, but still one to hold with an open hand. May I remember to hold all of my life…and my new Bible…before Him with that openness (Romans 12:1).

Susan

24 Mar
Sharon.Me.Susan

Sharon, Me, Susan

I met Susan Foster Hunt when we were in the third grade. Her father had passed away, and her family had just moved to Abilene. She was visiting my home church, and I introduced myself to her and sat with her in the service. Her family eventually joined that church. We became friends.

We were actively involved with all things offered at church – Girls Auxillary (GAs; Girls in Action – a totally Southern Baptist thing!), Sunday School, choir, youth studies. We went to the same high school and carpooled together. Our summers were filled with youth choir fundraisers and youth choir trips – such wonderful experiences, funny memories, big curlers in our hair, hot school bus rides all over the U.S., laughter, singing of our Lord at various churches. We would occasionally duet together on these trips, and went so far as to do an assembly program at one of the junior highs (middle school now) in our home town. I’m sure I had visions of being the next great singing duo, but alas, it was not meant to be! It was always a treat to hear her sing a solo. She knew how to communicate through music as it came from genuine love for the Lord and people.

Susan was much more popular than I was in high school, married in college, started having children, and stayed in Abilene. She went through a divorce and eventually married a man we grew up with in church, Mark. She remained a kind, loving friend, even when our paths went separate ways and frequent contact began to wane. We often kept updated with one another through our gal pal, Sharon. My family gave me a trip to Abilene for my 60th birthday to see these two beloved friends. Just this past year I was able to see her twice, along with other precious childhood friends.

Growing up Susan would patiently lend a listening ear to my laments on boys, life, whatever trauma I was dealing with at the time, and offer advice or enthusiastic support. She was one of those people who could tell you where you messed up, yet you never felt rejected, only loved. I was not an easy person to have as a friend, particularly in those years, so to have someone like this in my life was a blessing. Proverbs 27:6a says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” and Susan exhibited this kind of faithfulness to me when needed.

Susan lost her battle with cancer early this morning. I cried buckets of tears the day I learned she was not long for this earth a few months ago. I still tear up every time I give my husband an update on her. I’m tearing up now typing this.

Her deep, abiding faith in Christ was always on display, particularly as she battled cancer. As long as she was able, she continued to teach a children’s Sunday School class. She clung to the promises in God’s Word. Recently she told Sharon that she hoped she was doing this right – giving glory to God through it all. I know for a fact that her life “shouted the gospel” – a phrase I’ve recently heard that truly describes her. She is leaving a godly legacy for Mark, her children, grandchildren, and extended family. Her many friends through the years are better for having known her.  I know I am.

 

I Think I Might Be Getting the Message

24 Mar

Sometimes I can be hard headed. I know this may come as a surprise, but it’s true. I too often want my way, and wrestle with submission to God’s will and wanting to hold on to my own. And God faithfully comes back to this issue to get His message through my thick skull. As my Heavenly Father, He knows that His will is best for me and will bring Him glory as it works out in my life circumstances. So He repeats His message again and again to help me get it.

 

About three years ago my sister and I were in the midst of caregiving for our mother, and the myriad of details to handle seemed never ending. I also fell and broke my arm, and there were a couple of ongoing circumstances that I did not like being in. Pity parties abounded in my heart and mind. At the same time, I was in a Bible study on the book of James written by Beth Moore with a group of women from my church. Talk about timely!

 

God began to challenge me to obey His command to “count it [trials, difficulties] all joy.” As we studied this passage from James 1, we learned that “count” is not only an accounting term, but it also means “to lead the mind” to think this way, and to do so as a continuous, repeated action. And “joy” has its roots in the Greek word for grace – God’s favor, His kindness, something that is unearned and undeserved – as one Bible dictionary puts it, His influence on our heart and how that is reflected in our lives. If we/I would count circumstances all joy, the result would be the privilege of seeing God work in and through those circumstances and the opportunity to know Him more deeply.

 

Flash forward to this fall, after many ups and downs in counting it all joy versus numerous pity parties. Once again, I was in a women’s study on the life of Gideon written by Priscilla Shirer. One of the challenges from this study was that God is calling us to faithfulness in whatever situation we are in – whether we’re in something enjoyable or difficult. Once again, knowing Him and being a part of the purpose He has for my life and what He wants to do in the lives of others would be the result of faithful obedience. Again, this was a timely message to repent of attitudes of going through the motions of duty while constantly looking for a way to escape the difficulty.

 

Now I’m getting ready to be in a study on the life of Jonah where the thrust of the study is seeing changes in our plans as God’s divine invitation to join in His work, to look at Him with a more exalted view. Then this morning the message at church was how to live purposely in whatever season of life we’re in – be it young or old, married or single, etc. – for God’s glory and our best.

 

Message given. Message heard. Message received. Lesson learned? To be continued.

In Honor of the Super Bowl

2 Feb

A few weeks ago my favorite team lost their football game. To say I was bummed about it would be an understatement! I allowed (and wrongly so) the loss to affect my attitudes the rest of the evening. The loss loomed much larger to me than it really mattered in the scope of eternity.

As I awoke the next morning, the following chorus was going through my thoughts.

Lord, you are more precious than silver.

Lord, you are more costly than gold.

Lord, you are more beautiful than diamonds,

And nothing I desire compares with You. (Lynn DeShazo)

I was immediately convicted by the truth that my favorite team winning or losing a big game could not compare with the Lord. I was reminded that changes in circumstances – be that in relationships, location, position, finances, health, etc. – nothing could compare with knowing Him.

The Psalmist puts it this way:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. (Psalm 73:25)

Jesus says it in this manner:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

Paul stated it as:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Philippians 3:7-10)

To desire Him above all else means that I will seek Him before I seek anything or anyone else. I will build my time, resources, my very life around Him. I will choose to value Him and being rightly related to Him through faith in Christ over what this life has to offer. I will see, like Paul, that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

A few weeks ago my favorite team lost their football game. It’s still disappointing to me, but my perspective is changing:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Two Become One

13 Jul

One:

  • The loneliest number (according to Three Dog Night!)
  • Indicates the leader in a contest (We’re #1!)
  • Indicates choice of someone/something above all others (the “One”)
  • Singular of purpose
  • A word used for intimacy
  • A word to describe what happens when two people marry…They become one.

 

One is a very important word in God’s vocabulary when it comes to marriage. Several times in scripture He uses this word when describing the relationship between a man and a woman with a specific purpose in mind – to display to the world the relationship Christ has with the Church. He desires to be glorified through the oneness of marriage. In other words, He wants people to look at the way a married couple acts toward one another and say, “That looks like God,” or “That looks like something God would do. We want to know more!”

 

In Genesis 2:18-25 God gave Adam the “leave and cleave” principle. A man is to intentionally leave father and mother in order to be “stuck like glue” to his wife. Then when people observe this marriage, they won’t just see two individual units, but two acting in harmony as one, who are better together than apart. Such a couple mirrors through leadership, submission, and their love and concern for one another, the dependence they have upon Christ as well as one another. Their relationship explains the “mystery” spoken of in Ephesians 5:32 by giving a living example of Christ’s treatment of His Church and how the Church in kind responds to Him. 

 

God also wants to picture covenant commitment in marriage. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks of the benefits of two over one. Two people on the same team can accomplish much more together than apart. They experience mutual support, encouragement, and protection from elements and enemies as the two of them join forces.

 

But even as good as two are together, a third element is needed to make this team almost indestructible, something “not quickly torn apart.” As both parties seek to depend on Christ to guide them in this relationship of oneness, He works in, with, for, and through them to complete the picture. He enables such a couple to do what they could not do for themselves – be one for the glory of God.

 

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

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