Thursday, May 29, 2014

He Goes Before, He Walks Behind

“The Lord will go before you! The God of Israel will be your rear guard!” 
Isaiah 52:12

One translation says “For your Vanguard is the Lord, and your Rear-guard the God of Israel.”

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last."
Revelation 1:11

He who begins, finishes. He who leads us on, follows behind to deal in love with our poor attempts. He gathers up the things that we have dropped, our fallen resolutions, our mistakes. He makes His blessed pardon to flow over our sins till they are utterly washed away. And He turns to fight the enemy, who would pursue after us, to destroy us from behind. He is first, and He is last! We need never fear!
In all things, He goes before us. 
He paves the way. 
He even lights the way. 
He whispers "This is the way, walk ye in it."
We never walk alone.
We are never left to stumble and falter.
He is first.

I have a long walkway from my garage to my house and at night, without proper lighting, it can be pretty daunting.  Especially because I know we have bears in the woods behind our house!!  Yikes!!  But on the side of my garage there is a sensor light, so when I walk out of the garage, the light comes on.  As I walk down the walkway, there is another light on the house that comes on at dusk and stays on until early light.  This guides me down the walkway, but once I get past that light, it gets dark again.  I must continue on until I get to the bottom of my steps.  As soon as my foot hits the bottom step, another sensor light comes on to guide me up the steps.  BUT, I have to step on that first step.

This is such an object lesson for me.
We are to take one step at a time and as our foot lifts to take the next step, He lights the next one.  We just need to trust that He will.  Every time I walk down my walkway, I am trusting that my next step will light the next one and so on.
God does go before us, but we have to follow and we have to trust.
But, even as He goes before us, He is also our rear guard.
What comfort there is in this truth.
We are not left defenseless either way!
As we walk through this life, there are so many things that we shed as we go, some good, some not so good.  But they are not left haphazardly on the path.  He goes behind us and takes care of all those things.  He gathers them up and deals with them as He chooses.  He gathers our sins up into His bosom and He remembers them no more.  His mercy and grace follow us.

He brings up the rear.
He watches from behind.
He fights the enemy on our behalf.
He protects us from a "sneak attack."
He watches our back.
He is last.
He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.
What a comfort and a blessing to know that I have a God who not only goes before me and paves the way, but I also have a God who walks behind me to protect me in every way.
He fights the battle both ways.
I can trust Him to order my steps and direct my path.
I can trust Him to be "round about" me.

"You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me."
Psalm 139:5 (NIV)

"They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.  As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever."
Psalm 125:1, 2


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Come Away and Remain

“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
Song of Solomon 2:10-13

The laws of nature are firm. After every winter, comes spring, comes summer, comes autumn and comes winter again. This cycle never fails. Winter does not struggle to become spring. Spring does not struggle to become summer. Summer does not struggle to become autumn and autumn does not struggle to become winter again. 


"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."
Genesis 8:22

“For after winter comes summer. After night comes the dawn. And after every storm, there comes clear, open skies.”

Leaves and flowers are nourished by the living sap within. They do not cause it to rise or regulate its flow. They don’t struggle to produce it. They do not understand it, but as it flows through them, it revives them, renews them.

We, too, ultimately know that we must depend on something that is not of ourselves to keep us fresh and green. Sometimes we can’t even pray, don’t even know what to pray, but this renewing life continues to flow within. There are times when all that is asked of us is just what is asked of the leaves and flowers - just remain in the plant.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:4, 5 (NIV)


"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…” 
John 15:9

We are simply asked to remain; to stay within the realms of His love.  
"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

Come away with Him, remain in Him, in His love. Even if we are completely silent, asking nothing, only letting our hearts rest in quietness in Him, He will cause the renewing life-sap to rise. As long as we remain in Him.
Yet, knowing this truth, we still struggle, we work, we labor, we try, try some more,
and then try again.
We think, if we just do this, we will feel the presence of God.  If we just do that, we can be assured of His love.  If we do this, we will have revival.  If we do that, we will be renewed. 
Have you ever seen a tree struggle? 
Have you ever seen a plant sweat to bring forth the fruit?

Seasons comes and seasons go, yet the word of the Lord endures forever.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
He dwells within us.  
The Holy Spirit is like that life-giving sap that nourishes the trees. 
The sap is and it flows. 
God is and He flows within us and through us, as we stop the struggle and just let Him be.

"...but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
John 14:17

At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."
John 14:20
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love..."
Ephesians 3:17

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
Psalm 91:1
Our only work, as it were, is to remain in Him. 
Cease from our own works. 
Abide in the vine.
Remain in Him. 
Let Him dwell in our hearts by faith.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shattered By His Love!

Have you ever pressed in, pressed on, plugged away, stuck with it day in and day out and still felt like you never made any headway?  Ever felt so tired and weary of being tired and weary?  Felt like nothing you did ever made any difference?  Felt like no matter what you do, it just doesn't make anyone happy?  Ever been so discouraged, you just felt like giving up?  And then, you did give up??

I've been there just recently and didn't even realize that I had given up until the Lord revealed it to me!

There are a couple of things in my life right now that I have absolutely given my all to or at least felt like I'd given my all to and yet feel somehow like it still is not enough!  I got tired of trying; I am tired of trying!!

When and how do you make the determination that truly no matter what you do, things aren't going to change!  Can you make that determination and know that it's right??  Can you know when it's truly time to move on?

I ask myself those hard questions and others - What are my frustrations right now?  Why am I frustrated?  Is it my plans that are being thwarted or are they God's plans?  Am I looking for my way to be had and if not, I'm taking the highway??

Have I, and if I have, when did I, walk out from under God's grace?  Am I trying in my own strength?  Am I not hearing what the Lord is saying or am I choosing not to listen?  When I get tired of keeping on, do I still have to keep on?

Anybody relating to what I'm saying or am I the only one stuck in this place? 

As you know, I was away for a month of R and R in Florida, only to come back to the fact that nothing had changed.  All of my responsibilities, cares, concerns, duties, etc were here waiting for me when I got home.  And, truth be known, some have even doubled!!!

I don't want to hear that I am the problem - but I know that I am!!  God has not moved nor changed and other people and situations will only control me if I allow them to!!  Am I truly, at my age, having a temper tantrum??  Aaaaagh - Why is nothing ever easy????

Lightbulb moment!

I realize again - I am simply involved in another battle between the flesh and the spirit!! 
Yup, some things never change!! 
Am I really going to confess to you - again - that I'm still in the same war - different battle, but the same war??  Ugh!

Yes, I was having a temper tantrum!  There are things in life that are not under my control and I am balking at that!
I want things to change! 
I want relief! 
I want the hard things to go away! 
I want, I want, I want........!
BUT, GOD.....! 
He patiently listens to my lamenting and then He sets me straight!!
My life is not in my control.  It never has been, never will be and I truly wouldn't want it to be.  God knows best now and always has.  He cares for me in ways I don't even understand and He is directly involved in every minute of these difficult times.  In the midst of my temper tantrum, He puts His arms around me and says, "I know.  Trust me."
It's hard for me to let God love me when I am feeling so unlovable.
Today when I returned from a frustrating visit to the nursing home, my granddaughter, Annie, ran to meet me as I walked toward my door.  She stuck her hand out and I saw she was holding a stone shaped like a heart.
"Here," she said, "I found this for you." 
I thanked her and put it on the cabinet as I walked through the door.  I put some groceries away and walked by the door again and then really saw the heart-shaped stone.
"Donna," His voice said, "I love you.  Just in case you didn't hear me the first time, I sent you a reminder."
Isn't that just like our God?
Later, when I went to our Ladies Meeting at church, a friend there shared with me a very similar story of how God was trying to share His love with her, and she, too, didn't "get it" until God sent her a heart-shaped stone!!!
Seriously, I'm not making this up!
Just in that instant, my frustrations melted. 
My spirit felt revived. 
His love became the motivation I needed to continue on, to keep pressing in and pressing on. 
His love became the reason for me to set aside the wants and needs of my flesh and to "hitch" a ride on His train of grace. 
His love became the reality of my life, not my weariness, not my frustration, not my giving up. 
Those are all signs of the flesh trying to run on its own steam. 
Those are all signs of one who has lost sight of God's love in the heat of the moment. 
And I had lost sight of that. 
I had made the frustrations of the flesh my reality - again!
BUT, GOD. . . in His everlasting love and grace - again - came to show me the true REALITY!! 
He is so patient, so understanding, so gracious, so loving, so merciful and so present!
Again, I am laid low and humbled by Him!
I am in awe of Him!
I am shattered by His love!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Praise Him in the Storm

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." 
I Peter 1:6, 7 (emphasis mine)
I don't know about you but I get so excited and am so greatly encouraged when I see precious saints walk faithful with God through great and heavy trials.  I never rejoice at the circumstances, but when their responses are to press in deeper to Him and tuck into His embrace, my faith is built up and I say, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Every time we respond by running into the arms of Jesus, we defeat the enemy of our souls!
I think of Job after he had lost his sheep, his servants, his camels and his sons.  Scripture says -
"Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, And said, 'Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither:  the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:20, 21 (emphasis mine)
Job blessed God in the midst of one of the greatest trials a person could be in!
Then when he was smote with boils and was suffering greatly, his own wife told him to "curse God and die" to which Job responded -
"What?  shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"  
And Scripture goes on to say - "In all this did not Job sin with his lips."
Job 2:10
I don't know about you, but this excites me!!
In all things, God is good!
I think of the quote that I love that says -
"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain."
And learning to dance in the rain happens when we submit our will to His and continue to praise Him through the storms.
But, greatly rejoicing?  Can we do that?
Greatly rejoice when we are in heaviness going through the trying of our faith?
These are some reasons to rejoice in the trial:
1 - God is in the trial.  He works it all out for good.  He is always on your side and He is always moved by what you go through.
2 - Through trials, God certifies the genuineness of your faith.  He sees that your faith in Him isn't just because He gives you good things, but your faith is genuinely in Him.
3 - God packs your trials full with His promises!!  He promises to never leave nor forsake you!  He promises "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." 
Isaiah 43:1b-2 (emphasis mine)
Did you catch that word "when?"  He doesn't say "If"; He says "when."  The trials will come!  Your faith will be tested.
Until your faith has been tested, it doesn't show forth its' true value. 
Scripture says your faith is more precious than gold.  That's why the battle for it is so strong.
Stand strong in your trials! 
Stand strong when your faith is tested! 
Stand strong in the promises of God! 
He walks through it all with you! 
He will never disappoint! 
He will not walk away when you grow faint and feel that you're losing the battle! 
He will not condemn you when you grow weary and want to give up! 
He will not even walk away when you do!
And when your heart is breaking and you don't understand what's happening, He feels your pain and collects your tears!
When you are reduced to a puddle before Him, He picks you up in His embrace!
He continues to strengthen and encourage you! 
He continues to love you and pours out His grace and mercy upon you!
His grace becomes more than amazing, more than sufficient, more than enough to see you through.
Sometimes all we can do is say - Jesus - and He responds to that heartfelt cry!
Praise Him in your storm today and know that it will end! 
God will be faithful! 
He always is!

And your faith will "be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Quote for the Day

I have a small journal that I have titled, "My Book of Quotes."  Every time I come across something that I consider especially profound, I write it in this little journal.  Then, every so often, I go back and re-read these quotes.  These quotes have come from books I have read, lines from a movie, words from a song, or even something someone said to me.

The other day, I was looking through my book of quotes and stopped when I read this particular one.  It was sent to me from a friend after she read my book, Strength of My Heart, a couple of years ago.

"God desires to give each life its full development.  Of course, there are exceptions.  In some cases the lessons and discipline of life are crowded into a very brief space of time.  But on the whole, each human life is intended to touch all the notes of life's organ.  There is an appointed time when it will be born and die, weep and laugh, gain and lose, enjoy serene peace and endure storm-tossed seas.  These times have been fixed for you in God's plan.  Do not try to anticipate them or force the pace, but wait for the Lord's timing.  In due course all will work out for your good and for His glory." 
F. B. Meyer

I find this a very powerful and very comforting statement and I believe Scripture backs this up.  It brings comfort and peace to my heart because it reminds me that my times are indeed in God's hands (Psalm 31:15). 

Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing that happens to us takes God by surprise!!  And because He is not surprised - He knows all - you can believe and trust - that He has already prepared the provision!!

And that provision is filled with His grace! 
His grace is enough! 
His grace is always enough! 
HE is always enough!

When you're at the end of your rope with a rebellious child - He is enough!
When the doctor tells you devastating news - He is enough!
When you're so tired and weary and don't feel like you can go on another day - He is enough!
When the last argument with your husband seems to say there's no hope - He is enough!
When you lose the one you love the most in this world - He is enough!
When you're stuck in traffic for hours and your patience is wearing thin - He is enough!
There is no situation no matter how small or how big where God is not enough!
I sometimes go through a day when I encounter a lot of annoying interruptions and aggravations that I have to deal with and it leaves me frustrated.  But then, I find out a friend was just told they have cancer and I think, God forgive me for being so distracted by petty annoyances.
But, you know what?  "These times have been fixed for you in God's plan."  Regardless of the scope of what we're dealing with - God wants us to see Him right there in the midst!
"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17 (emphasis mine)
God is in the midst. 
Lord, give me eyes to see you in the midst!
When my eyes begin to see, then I find His provision of grace, His provision of mercy, His provision of love, His provision of whatever it is I need at the moment.
But sometimes we are blinded by our own reactions and responses to the situation and we can't see a thing!

We are like a blind person trying to navigate an unknown road.  But even if we don't know the road,  if it's some thing we've never encountered before or some place we've never been before, we know The One who walks down that road with us.  And This One is worthy to be trusted.  A blind person has to trust another person or a guide dog to navigate for them.  We can trust The One who navigates for us.  He will not lead us astray and He will never lead us where His grace can't keep us!

There are absolutely no guarantees in life; it can change in the blink of an eye!  How too well I know that.  But the other thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that my God never changes.

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever."
Hebrews 13:8
He alone is our rock, our refuge, our portion, our shelter, our deliverer, our strong tower, our shield.
He is whatever we need in the midst.

He is my very present help in time of need.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Life Is Not A Competition

I, like most all women, have struggled and continue to struggle, at times, with my self-image. This has definitely gotten better over the years as I have experienced a measure of God’s healing in my life, but I find myself, at various times, still struggling with this issue.

Recently, I found myself comparing myself to another woman. All of a sudden, I felt fat, sloppy and “less than.” I found myself back at that place of insecurity and not liking who I was.

Thank God for the Holy Spirit. He reminded me that life was not a competition and that I was loved and accepted just as I was. It took me a little while to recover but it got me thinking again about “this thing” we women do to one another and to ourselves.

Why do I constantly feel the need to measure my worth by how I look compared to other women? Scripture clearly tells me -

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” 2 Corinthians 10:12, 18

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14

Of all the bodies God had to choose from when He made me, He chose the one He gave me because He knew that was the best choice for me. Just as David very carefully chose the five stones best suited for his purpose out of all the possible stones in the brook (1 Samuel 17:40), my heavenly Father chose out of all the many, many possible “outer shells” He had to choose from, the one best suited to fulfill His purpose for my life.

When I not only understand that truth, but really accept and believe it deep down in my spirit, then I can grasp the truth that life is NOT a competition. There is no one ultimate winner. We are all winners when we run the race God has personally enrolled each of us in.

I need to always remind myself that I am not in competition with any other woman. I want you to be the best you can be as I desire to be the best I can be. God made all sizes, shapes and colors. One is not better than the other. We are in this together. I need to be continually encouraging you, not trying to “outbest” you. Our Father loves us all equally.

We need to; I need to, fight constantly the temptation to compare and rate and judge myself and others. Scripture tells me I am not wise when I do these things. I’m not wise for several reasons

- I will always either rate myself above you or below you, and neither is right before God.

- I am using my own rating system based on outward appearance, and it is flawed.

- I put myself in competition with you, instead of loving you and allowing you to love me.

- It’s not whom I commend that matters, but whom God commends!

Let us desire to cheer one another on, advocate for one another, prefer and encourage one another.  

Let us seek God’s standard of measurement and seek to live for Him. But more than anything, let us seek to find our place of security in Him. 

Let us press in and fight to know that security found only in Him;
fight against the lies that assault us every day;
fight against the perceptions that our culture forces on us;
fight against that competitive spirit that isolates us;
and fight against the standards of this world and
our own standards that exalt themselves "against the knowledge of God."  

As He brings us to that place of security in Him, we will be free to love our own bodies as He has made them and become comfortable in them as mere “shells” that house the precious spirit of God.

How do we find our security in Him? By knowing what the Word says about us and believing it!! One thing I’ve always been amazed at - why are we so quick to believe the lies and yet have such a hard time believing the truth??

Scripture tells me that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made."  I am made in His image.  He alone is my judge, not anyone else, and especially not myself!!
Can anyone relate to what I'm saying?

We're always grasping at another standard - I need to lose 10 lbs; I need to get rid of these wrinkles; I need to have Botox; I need a new anti-aging cream; I need better clothes; I need a new hair style.  All these things (well, most) are not wrong in and of themselves.  God wants us to be healthy to be about His work, but when we set them up as idols, thinking we won't "measure up" until we do them or have them, then we have set up a standard that goes against God's standard for us.

There is so much "out there" that we are assaulted with every day.  Voices that tell us:

we don't measure up,
we're not enough,
we would look and feel so much better if we would just:
use this cream,
eat this food,
join Weight Watchers,
shop at this store. 
Constantly, it creates within us a sense that we are not enough just the way we are.  We could finally achieve perfection if only, if only, if only.
"But Godliness with contentment is great gain." (emphasis mine)
I Timothy 6:6

Great gain indeed, because then we know the true peace of God and we stop measuring ourselves by ungodly standards.  Contentment in who we are in Christ, who God made us to be.  Contentment in exactly where we are right now in life is where God wants us to be.

I desire to put a stop to that voice that pushes me to "compete" and I draw a line in the sand, that, with God's grace and mercy, I will not listen to those lies anymore. 

Join me, won't you?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blinded By My Own Frustrations!

A few weeks before I left to go to Florida, I started praying for my trip, asking the Lord to give me good weather, on-time flights and no traveling hassles.  About a week into this prayer, I felt the Lord  changing my prayer.  I shared with my Bible Study group that I felt led instead to pray that regardless of how the journey went, to ask the Lord to help me see Him in it all and to recognize His love and gifts to me and that I would have eyes open to see the goodness of God.

You can already tell where I'm going with this, can't you???

Well, the trip down went great, all planes on time, good connections, no weather problems, luggage arrived when I did - all good!!

I was scheduled to come home on Wednesday, April 30th.  Got up that morning, went for a bike ride, had breakfast, finished packing, met up with some friends for a short visit, back to my place for lunch, finished cleaning, packed up the car and headed out to the airport about 1pm.  My flight out was at 5:10pm.  The ride to the airport is a little over an hour, but I knew there was construction on I-75, so I wanted to give myself plenty of time.   Got to the airport about 2:15 no problem, turned in my rental car and then struggled with 3 pieces of luggage to the JetBlue check-in counter.

Thankfully, there was no one in line, either in front of me or in back of me.  Went up to the counter, hefted my luggage up on the scale only to find it was 4 lbs overweight.  The agent was very nice and asked me if I wanted to try to take some things out. Because there was no one else around, I did.  I got it down to only 2 lbs over and she said that was fine.  As she's typing in my info, she got a puzzled look on her face and asked,

"Were you supposed to fly out yesterday?" 
More typing. 
"Did you just recently book a flight to Boston?" 
More typing. 
"Just a second, I'll be right back.  I have to check on something." 

Few minutes pass and she comes back with another agent.  Meanwhile, I am frantically praying.  They both look at the computer, do a little typing, and then the male agent says, "Oh, I see the problem.  This flight was cancelled." 

Oh, no!  Not what you want to hear. 

So they proceed to tell me that because of severe thunderstorms and high winds in NYC, my flight from JFK to Burlington has been cancelled and there is no other flight out that night.    Never having encountered anything like this in any of my other travels, I asked what I was supposed to do.  The agent replied that's up to you.  I explained to him that I did not live around here, I had already turned in my rental car and I had no where to go.  I think he recognized he was dealing with a female who was quickly becoming franctic.  He directed me to a downstairs Courtesy Booth where I would find a list of area hotels that I could call for a room for that night and explained that most of them had shuttles that would pick me up.  I asked a few more questions.  He told me they would give me a "Stress Discount" for the hotel, so I would get a better price, then he stopped and said, "You know what?  Wait just a minute."  He picked up a phone and started making phone calls.  By this time, a line had started to form behind me.  After calling a couple of places, he told me he thought he could get me a better rate and why didn't I have a seat, he was going back to his office and he would come back and let me know what he could arrange.  By this time, the line had gotten quite a bit longer.  The other agent told me she could get me a flight out the next day and it was the only seat available for the next four days.  I told her I would take it.  I was going to fly out the next day at 1:10pm into Boston, then to JFK and then home to Burlington!!

I took a seat and waited.  About five minutes later the agent came out, told me he had a reservation for me at the Courtyard Marriott for only $64 and that the shuttle would be picking me up in about 15 minutes.  He also had my eTicket with the details of my rescheduled flight.

Angel #1

Found the Shuttle Stop outside and waited in about 90 degree extremely humid weather for about 15 minutes in blue jeans and a long sleeve shirt!  I am thanking God for helping me, but still feeling very anxious.  Got to the hotel and checked in to a very nice room.  Called a local restaurant that made deliveries and ordered salmon on a bed of spinach, red potatoes and coleslaw.  Excellent meal.  The bed was very comfortable and I got a good night's sleep and spent time praying for an uneventful and  good trip home the following day.

The next day the shuttle picked me up about 10:15am and I headed to the airport, struggling again with three very heavy pieces of luggage.  (Definitely a trip to the Chiropractor in my future!)  Made it to the JetBlue desk, dropped off the heaviest luggage and proceeded to my gate.  When I got to the gate, I found out that my flight had been delayed  :).  Joy! 

I found an Ask JetBlue courtesy desk and told the agent what time my connecting flight was and asked if he thought I would be able to make the connection.  He said there shouldn't be a problem.  I bought some water, some yogurt and a banana, thinking this might be the only lunch I get, and found a seat to settle in to wait.  Initially, the flight was supposed to leave at 1:10pm.  It was delayed until 1:39pm.  A little while later an update said it was delayed until 1:55pm.  Then a little later, another update - it was delayed until 2:02pm.  We finally left the runway about 3pm!.  My connecting flight from Boston was leaving at 6:31pm, so I was a little anxious about making it.  Turns out the woman sitting next to me was a frequent flyer and told me where my gate would be and that I would have plenty of time to get to it. 

Angel #2

We landed about 5:30pm, but I didn't actually get off the plane until about 5:45pm.  I started searching immediately for my gate, found it and found that this plane was delayed until 7:59 and would start boarding about 7:25pm.  I talked to the agent again about my connecting flight to Burlington and he said that if the flight from Boston to JFK was delayed, the flight from JFK to Burlington would automatically be delayed; they wouldn't leave without me!  Phew!!

At this point, my cellphone had died because I had forgotten to shut it off on the previous flight.  Knowing that I would need to call my daughter to pick me up when I arrived in Burlington, I started looking for an outlet to charge my phone.  After about 10 minutes walking around the airport with two heavy pieces of luggage, I finally found one.  But now I was stuck in this seat for at least 1/2 hr and I was really thirsty!  The lady sitting beside me was sleeping, but after a few minutes, she woke up and asked me if I would mind watching her luggage while she went to the Ladies Room.  I said, "Sure and when you get back, I'll ask the same of you."  So I was able to get some water and settle back down to wait. 

Angel #3

About a 1/2 hr into my wait, the agent at the gate made an announcement that we would be on a full flight and overhead cargo area would be at a minimum; did anyone want to gate check their luggage?  I thought that sounded like a good idea (then I wouldn't have to struggle to lift the luggage into the overhead bin).  I had done this before and thought I knew how it worked!!!  I was to find out the hard way I was mistaken!

Well, this plane finally took off about 8:30pm and we were on our way to New York.  We landed about 9:35pm and my next and last flight was scheduled to leave at 10:40pm, so I was feeling okay about making it to the next gate on time.  When I got off the plane, I looked for my checked luggage where I thought it would be and it wasn't there.  Thankfully, there was an attendant there and I asked him about it.  He looked for it, went outside, came back in, asked me what it looked like, asked a couple more questions and went to look again.  He came back without it and said something to me that I could not understand.  He was a foreigner and talked with a very heavy accent, so we were having a hard time communicating.  I was getting increasingly frustrated and very anxious.  I apologized to him a couple of times and asked him to repeat himself.  Just then another gentlemen embarked off the plane (I actually think he was the pilot) and he could see I was obviously distressed, so he stopped and asked if he could help.

Angel #4

 Between the two of them, I finally understood them to say my luggage had probably gone to baggage claim and I needed to check at the Ask JetBlue desk between gates 9 and 10.  I have to admit at this point, I was becoming a lot anxious, remembering what was in that luggage and my next boarding time.  Struggling with my luggage I found the desk and was told I could find my luggage at Carousel 4 in Baggage Claim.  I all but ran to find it.  As I walked through the double doors that led to Baggage Claim, I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and looked back from where I had come to see this big sign above the doors - "DO NOT ENTER."  All of a sudden, it dawned on me - I could not go back in!!  What was I going to do?  Franctically looking around, I saw someone with Airport workclothes on with an empty luggage rack. 

Angel #5

I ran over to him and explained my dilemma and he said let's check Carousel 6.  As we started walking toward the carousel, my luggage miracously appeared.  I grabbed it and he directed me to the escalator and told me to go up.  I rushed up the escalator, still struggling with my luggage, only to realize I had to check in all over again!!! 

By this time, it was 9:55pm.  Mercifully, the check in line was not very long, but my luggage got flagged and I had to wait for what seemed a 1/2 hr, but was probably only 5-7 minutes.  The agent opened both pieces, checked inside, then got the hand wand and ran it over both pieces, taking her sweet time doing it.  I asked her if she knew how far Gate 23 was and she said just down the hall.  I made it to Gate 23 about 10:10pm, only to find that flight was also delayed!!!

I sat down about ready to cry, frustrated, hot, tired and really hungry - the yogurt and banana a distant memory.  Amazingly, this flight was only delayed about 20 minutes and we started boarding about 10:25pm.  Once on the plane, we had a long wait for nine other passengers who had just landed on a flight from San Francisco and were running to catch our flight.  As we were sitting there waiting, I went to look at my watch to see what time it was and it was not on my arm!! 

My first thought was, "Great, everything else has gone wrong today, why not this?"  Then I thought, "Well, it's just a watch and it can be replaced.  At least I'm on the plane for home."  A few minutes later, I leaned forward to get my water bottle and something on the floor caught my eye - my watch!!!  Thank you, Lord!

Our plane took off for Burlington about 11:00pm and finally touched down in Burlington about 12:05am.  I was ready to kiss the ground when I walked off the plane!!

Long, sad story I've just told you, but I do have a point to all this.  Throughout this long, crazy day, I prayed frantic prayers and tried to get some peace.  I had none!  I cried out to the Lord several times to help to settle my heart and spirit, it seemed, to no avail.

I was very disappointed with my reactions to all these circumstances and for days after, asked the Lord to show me where and how I had missed Him.  I felt like I had had absolutely no grace for that day and truth be known, I felt that I had been abandoned.  Now, I am mature enough to KNOW that I had NOT been abandoned by the Lord, but I FELT that I had been.  My heart was anxious pretty much the whole day and I could not seem to get any peace.

This morning I felt the Lord gave me some revelation about this day as I was spending my devotional time with Him.  First, the Lord reminded me of the prayer I had prayed before I went to Florida asking Him to help me see Him in all phases of the trip and to recognize His love and gifts to me through it and to open my eyes to His goodness.  The Lord then showed me that He had indeed answered that prayer, that even though I was anxious through out the whole day, I did recognize each time He came through for me.  This is what I read in my devotional -

"When we are awakened in the Spirit, we see that God never sleeps (Psalm 121:2-5), and that He is always moving about His work to shape and arrange events in His wise government of our lives . . .

Do we understand the fullness of grace with which He looks over every event that concerns us now?  No, I am afraid that at first our understanding is still somewhat darkened.  For we think that our turning to God, our crying out to Him, has nudged Him awake toward us, as if He had been sleeping.  In fact, it is quite the opposite:  It is our soul that has been awakened by the movement of God. 

It is important for you to understand this truth - that our lives are moved under the all-wise directing of God.  For if we are not careful, our old manner of thinking will allow us to continue believing that we must somehow make God wake up - by our prayers and 'good' behavior - and get Him to move on our behalf . . . .we think that God is capable of being slothful toward us.  And so we accuse Him of neglecting us when circumstances become painful, or simply not to our liking.  May He wake you - those who have ears to hear - with thousands and thousands of voices, each one shouting about one of the countless ways that He and all His works are good . . . and only good."  (You Set My Spirit Free, A 40-Day Journey in the Company of John of the Cross, arranged and paraphrased by David Hazard)

My prayer - Lord, help me to see all the goodness that is coming to me from you . . . the goodness that has already come . . . and the goodness I have yet to see because I am blinded by my own frustrations.

The Lord showed me that He had answered my prayer - I did see His hand at work.  I did recognize His goodness.  I did give thanks.  And His grace was upon me the whole time. The reason I felt so abandoned was because I was blinded by my own frustrations and I was still expecting the results of the first prayer I had prayed.  He was never for a moment surprised at the circumstances I was facing; He was not sleeping or waiting for me to nudge Him.  He was in control the whole time!!  He was directing every aspect of my day.  And at every step of the way He made provision for me!  He is awake, alive and ever active in every aspect of my life!! I need to learn to look past my frustrations and see Him, really see Him and that is what will bring peace.

As I encourage myself with this truth, I encourage you, too.  Look, really look for Him, aware that He is aware of all that is happening in your life today and He has made provision for it all.  Our lives are moved under His direction; not one thing happens to us that He is not aware of!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

When Did I Become A Wimp?!

When did I become such a wimp?

I had been in Florida for a little over a week when I set out one morning on my daily walk. Four times around the park was approximately 3.32 miles. I had been walking this distance at home at least three times a week, no problem, but all of a sudden, here in Florida, I could only manage to do 2 laps around at a time, or so I told myself. I had also gotten sloppy in my eating habits; if I felt hungry, I would eat without “policing” myself. Suddenly, I couldn’t bear to feel any hunger pains!!

As I started on my walk, the voice I heard said, “When did you become such a wimp? What, you can’t handle a little sweat or a little hunger? All of a sudden you’re in Florida and it’s all about your creature comforts????”  

Now, I’m not saying that was the Lord speaking, although, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised, but it sure did cause me to take stock. Yes, I was here for a time of rest and refreshment, and yes, I had only gotten 4½ hrs sleep the night before, but, I definitely wasn’t here in the Sunshine State to indulge my flesh completely!!

When the biggest decision I had to make on any given day was - should I go to the pool today or the beach - it’s easy to see how my flesh would totally think it was time for indulgence!!!

It was time to give my flesh a good talking to and that’s exactly what I did!! First, I started by taking an attitude check. I was feeling a little grumpy because I hadn’t slept all that great, so, immediately, I began to thank God for everything I could think of. I was appalled that here I was in beautiful, sunny Florida and all I could do was complain! How quickly the flesh takes over! As I began to thank God and put some appreciation back into my mood, the smile came back to my face!

Then I began to give my flesh a good talking to! “Yes, you can handle a little sweat and you ARE going to walk around this park 4 times this morning, you hear that, 4 times, and I don’t care if you do complain!!! You won’t melt from a little sweat, plus you’ve got air conditioning to go back into when your walk is done!!”

Lord, have mercy on me!

I am a spoiled, self-centered creature, who, left to my own devices, would turn into a self-indulgent, completely selfish person, with no thought to anyone but me, me, me!!

It doesn’t take much to revert back to this. Unless my eyes are focused on Jesus and I am feasting on His Word daily, I can quickly fall back into the patterns and desires of the flesh. I constantly want my flesh to be pampered.

Being in Florida, I was excused from most of the responsibility I carried at home. I’d been spending a lot of time at either the beach or the pool, bike riding, walking, reading, some shopping, working on my book or spending some time with a good friend who lives here in the winter. I really didn’t have to think too heavily about things. Didn’t have any major decisions to make.

I felt before I came here that the Lord was giving me a time of refreshing and I believe He did just that. BUT that didn’t exempt me from “policing” the out-of-control desires of the flesh. How quickly the desires of the flesh become prominent again when left unchecked for even a short time!

I was reading the Word and spending time with the Lord, but it wasn’t what I call “quality time.” I don’t really know how to explain what was happening in my Spirit, but I am thankful God arrested me before it got too far gone!

I think I knew before I came to Florida that God wanted to do something in my heart while I was there and I tried putting it off. Have you ever done that? Can any of you relate? I think I tried to take a break, too, from the dealings of the Lord!  
But He was having none of it!

I can fly hundreds of miles from home to get a break from “real life”, but I could fly thousands of miles from home and still not escape the “hound of heaven.” And, truly, I wouldn’t want to!

I want God to continue to pursue me, to continue to deal with my heart, to continue to share His truths, love, mercy and heart with me. I don’t ever want to be where I can’t hear and respond to the voice of the Lord.  But sometimes I act like I do.

Lord, forgive me!

There may be those of you reading this who can't relate to what I'm writing and to those I say - You are truly blessed!!!  But to those of you who can relate, I want to encourage you in the way the Lord always encourages me.
Fighting my flesh has always been one of the biggest battles I face and I know I write a lot about it here.  I gain victory a majority of the time, but there are times I feel like such a failure in this battle.    You would think after all these years of walking with the Lord, I would be past this, but, truthfully, before you and the Lord, I have to admit I'm not.  God is so merciful to me in this.
Just this morning He came to me again and said, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."  I needed this reminder because too often I try to fight in my own strength and I do become weary and heavy-laden.  I need to be reminded to give it to Him and enter into His rest.  His arms are open and I walk to Him and He embraces me in His love and mercy.  He is my Father, wanting to protect and comfort me.  He is my Dad, wanting to fight the battle for me, if I but run to Him with it.

Just yield. 
Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do.  When you're someone who wants to be in control, yielding can be a very scary thing to do.  But, I know, too, it is the greatest place of freedom.
I have to admit, too, that I still, at times, have problems yielding to my heavenly Father, and some of the work God is doing in my heart and did in Florida, has to do with my earthly Father.  Our perceptions of God are so colored by our relationship with our earthly Fathers.  My father was not a merciful man.  In fact, he was a hard taskmaster at times and I continually have to shake off that mentality when I'm relating to my Father.
My Father wants me to turn to Him with problems.
My Father wants me to turn toward His mercy.
My Father stands with arms wide open at all times to welcome me.
My Father loves me - at all times.
My Father's grace is continually extended to me.
My Father understands when I blow it.
My Father's heart is always for me, never against me.
My Father continually pursues relationship with me.
My Father is always present with me; never ignores me or shoos me away.
My Father is always concerned with those things that concern me.
My Father is always good and I am always loved.
My Father loves wimps and reminds me always that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
I have this song on my iPod and when I walk, I play it often because it reminds me to continue to press on.  It reminds me that in the Lord I can find the strength to press on.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I'm Baack!

Hello Readers!!

I’m baaaaack!!

I hope I was missed and not forgotten! I’ve been in Florida for the past month enjoying a time of rest, relaxation and refreshing.

Actually, when I came to Florida, I fully intended to continue writing my blog. I brought my laptop and necessary accessories with me. But, I guess God had other plans! I was not able to get internet connection!!

It was a crazy thing - some of the time I had internet access on my Kindle and my telephone, but it was spotty at best and it could die without a moment’s notice. And I was never able to get internet access on my laptop!!

I came to the conclusion that God was definitely in control of that, too!!

I have to say, it was refreshing not to be tied to my electronic devices. I found I was much more dependent upon them than I thought. Initially it was frustrating not to be able to check my emails or post comments on Facebook, but after a remarkably short period of time, I kind of enjoyed the freedom! I was able to post occasionally and thankfully, was able to make some necessary financial transfers when I needed to. I also had one afternoon that I was able to download some books on my Kindle so I had reading material for the beach, but then I wasn’t able to get a connection for days after!

My thoughts went back to the day when we didn’t have cell phones or laptops and Facebook was not a word yet in our vocabulary. If you were unreachable, you were unreachable and the world didn’t stop turning. When you went on vacation, you were really on vacation and anything that happened at home, happened without you or your knowledge of it until you returned home.

What a novel idea!

It occurred to me that in this day of modern technology, where we are never “out of reach,“ we might need to remind ourselves that we are not irreplaceable, indispensable, or so important that the world can’t go on without us. We might want to take a vacation from all our electronic devices!

With the dawn of the technological age, we have become always available by phone or text or eMail or Facebook or Twitter or whatever. The knowledge that someone is almost always informed of our “whereabouts” and “whatabouts” can cause us to sometimes become enamored of our own importance. The continual “ping, ping, ping” of our phones, the number of “likes” and comments can lull us into a false sense of importance and somehow seem to validate who we are and what we do. Like what we experience doesn’t really matter unless all of our “friends” know about it.

How many “friends” do you have?

Personally, the fewer friends I have the better I like it and the less people who know my cell phone number, the less I have to answer it!! I’m just old enough to still appreciate the “olden” ways of the “olden days!”

I do appreciate the modern technology, truly, but I was challenged by the Lord during this time away to be careful that I own it and it doesn’t own me.

So, some food for thought. I ended up feeling very blessed that I wasn’t tied to writing my blog and very much appreciated the full rest the Lord gave me.

Anyway, I did enjoy a very relaxing, restful vacation. I am home now, ready, I hope, to enter back into real life and responsibility.

There truly is no place like home. It’s always nice to go away and “unplug”, but it’s also really nice to come back home. Time away gives perspective and appreciation for your life and for the people in your life. It’s the people I miss the most when I go away. My family, friends and church family.

The thing I miss the least is the responsibilities of life. Can’t you identify with that? The biggest decision I had to make while I was away was - do I go to the pool today or the beach? Aaaah! It was wonderful!

But real life doesn’t work that way and I am reminded that all God calls me to, He provides abundant grace for. So, I plunge back in, trusting Him for the days ahead and thanking Him for the break He gave. His mercies are new every morning and His grace is truly amazing!!!
It's nice to be back!!
There's no place like home!!