Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Faithful



 For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” II Chronicles 16:9


Hachiko, a golden brown Akita dog, was born in Japan in 1923. He  and his owner, an agricultural professor, formed an extraordinary bond - one that inspired everyone who knew their story.


Hachiko and the professor walked to the train station in their little town together every morning. The dog would watch as his owner boarded the train for his commute to the University and then head back home to wait for the moment the train would return with his beloved owner. 


Hachiko could be seen waiting patiently at the station as the train pulled in promptly at 3:00 p.m. For nearly two years the owner and his dog followed the same pattern, until the day the professor died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at work. In his usual place on the platform, Hachiko waited for the man who would never again come back. 


However, the brokenhearted dog continued to make his daily walk to the train station to meet the 3:00 p.m. train - longing to see the familiar face. He kept his vigil for nearly a decade until his death in 1935. 


The Lord looks for people with that kind of devotion - faithful hearts that remain true to Him no matter the circumstances. Hachiko didn’t give up when people got annoyed or the weather battered his body. He didn’t give in to discouragement when it seemed foolish to hang onto hope. 


The story of one small dog moves us. That kind of love and faithfulness is rare, even in the human heart. Prone to selfishness we easily give up when things don’t go our way. Difficult circumstances bring discouragement and waiting can cause us to give up hope. We forget the faithfulness and love of the God who longs to bless us in and through both joy and sorrow as we walk in faith and obedience.


What an astounding thought that the One who created the heavens and the earth longs for our love and faithfulness. 


“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9


Blessings,

Linda



Thursday, July 23, 2020

Basic Training




We expected it, dreaded it really and it arrived on a beautiful sunny day. “Greetings,” it said. So began one of the most difficult journeys of our lives. Within weeks, my husband of just three months went from civilian to soldier. 


On a field in South Carolina he trained with hundreds of other young men who had also been drafted. Hour


s of running, demanding exercises and drills,  target practice and hand-to-hand combat all to prepare them for the battle that raged an ocean away.  None of them had ever known the terrors of war and most were ill suited to the exhausting routine. The seasoned soldiers who oversaw their training were relentless. They knew what the future would hold for most of them, and their goal was to transform these inexperienced men into soldiers ready for battle. 


Before that letter arrived, we lived our lives in the hope that the war would not come to us. As Christians, we can live our lives in much the same way. We come, no matter our age, as babes into this life of faith. We come filled with hope that from now all will be well. However, just as Jesus said, we soon find that in this world we have trouble. (John 16:33) 


We are engaged in a spiritual battle against an enemy who wants to destroy us. We, like those new soldiers, need to be trained and equipped for the fight, and God has given us everything we need. He has promised to be with us. 


13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints

Ephesians 6



We don’t fight alone, but we must make the choice to stand firm in our faith. We live in a time when the heat of battle has intensified. We must draw deeply from all that the Lord has poured into our lives and stand on what we know to be true.


Jesus did say we would have trouble. However He then added, “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  


This is our great hope. Our Savior has already won the war. 


“but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I Cor. 15:57


“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13





 


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Why




When I walk outside in the spring of the year, I hear them all around me  - birds singing their hallelujahs. The air is filled with the fragrance of blossoms that blanket the fields in shades of purple, blue, pink and yellow. It's delightful - this feeling of renewal and hope and joy. 


I'm grateful. All of nature reminds me of who God is - faithful, unchanging, creative, the giver of life. 


However, in the midst of all that beauty, there are reminders of death and loss. It is never far away. The same breeze that brings the sweet fragrance of flowers in bloom sweeps through the live oaks, shaking the branches and scattering brown, brittle leaves all over the ground.  




So much loss. So much sorrow all around me. Precious lives cut short; loved ones struggling with  illness; a dear friend slowly losing all those precious memories once stored in her mind and heart; families falling apart. These are just the ones that touch my life. What of all the suffering and evil in the world around me?


My simple heart longs for Jesus to come and make everything new - like a fresh spring shower washing away the ugly and making all things new. I hear Him whisper,” One day."


You have given us so many gifts, Lord. The gift of free will holds the answer to so many of the "Whys." It places eternity in our hands. You have given us every answer, even the ones we are not wise enough to understand this side of heaven, in Jesus. But we must choose to unwrap the gift and  make it our own.


“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”   Revelation 21: 1-3


Blessings,

Linda


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Plan





I’m one who likes to know where we’re headed. Just let me know the plan, and I can get myself prepared for all possible contingencies. Better yet - give me a reliable guide who knows the way. I’m a pretty decent follower.
Nobody has given us a plan for the journey we’ve been on for the past few months. It has been fraught with one difficulty after another. I sometimes think I see the end just up ahead only to find it only stretches farther out of sight.
Our hope, our consolation can only be found in the One who knows the beginning and the end - the One who has a good plan. When we struggle to find our way, we can place our hands in His strong grasp and trust Him to show us the way. No matter what difficulties we encounter He will stay with us. He offers to take the burdens we carry - the fears and worries- and in exchange give us His peace.

He gives strength for the journey and hope for a future.

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Bearing Fruit





“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15: 16,17


Although uniquely created by our Heavenly Father so that no two are exactly alike, we have this is common: “We are all called to bear fruit that lasts.” (Pastor Matt Leighty) It isn’t the vocation of a select few, pastors, evangelists or teachers, perhaps.  It is a calling we all have in common. Every single one-of-a-kind person will live a life that will bear witness to the fruit it has sown, and it will look as different as the individuals whose lives it represents. 


Jesus calls us to a life that will bear fruit that lasts - a life lived in a way that pleases and honors the Lord. I believe it’s something we all want to do, so much so we are apt to fall into the trap of comparison - a trap as old as time itself. We are prone to take our eyes off the One we say we want to please and begin to measure our worth against that of those around us. 


I’m old enough to remember the days before the internet, the days before we could capture every moment or construct pithy tweets and post them in the hopes of becoming a viral sensation. Yet even then, comparison was fully capable of rendering us hopeless, convinced that everyone else had more, looked better, achieved more and was more talented, smarter or popular than we. 


In the harsh glare of comparison, our small offerings look somehow diminished. We risk losing the fulfillment of becoming all God created us to be. The size or popularity of our offerings to Him matter not all. He looks deep within to see the intent of our hearts. In that soft, gentle light every act, no matter how great or humble, finds its true value.


The evangelist who speaks to thousands, the Dad who whispers prayers over his sleeping child, the worship leader who stands on the stage, the Sunday school teacher singing with her little group of toddlers, the star athlete who wins all the awards, the boy who carries his elderly neighbors’ groceries home, the famous artist who performs before great crowds, the mom who faithfully cares for her special needs child, the speaker who mesmerizes the crowd, the woman who goes every week to the Assisted Living to share the gospel with the elderly - all of these bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, all of equal value and precious in His sight. 


“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,

 you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25: 37-40


Blessings,

Linda



Thursday, July 2, 2020

Commitment



“More than once Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks.”- Chuck Swindoll


We don’t have to look far in recent days to find vivid examples of commitment. At any given moment we can view images of people gathered together to make their call for change heard. They have put action to their words and sacrificed to take a stand. 


Others have made a commitment to things we believe are not right. They too have put action to their words - in the form of hateful rhetoric and violent behavior. 


It’s easy to give lip service to the things we say we believe. The hard part is being utterly committed and willing to passionately defend the truths we so easily espouse. Jesus calls His Church to a life fully surrendered to Him that it may shine like a light into a world sinking into darkness.


Words about giving our all to Jesus slip smoothly off the tongue when everything is going well, but when heartache and adversity come they offer small comfort. When our faith is tested, when we’re called to take a stand for truth in the face of opposition, when we must make a choice between comfort and sacrifice - it is then that our commitment to Him is put to the test.


When Abraham raised the knife to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God’s command; when Daniel walked into a den of lions rather than deny his Lord; when three young men refused to bow down to an idol and went willingly into a fiery furnace - they showed us what a committed life looks like.


 The truth is, the Church in our own country has become a bit too comfortable - we might even say complacent. For too long we have gone about “business as usual” while those opposed to God’s truth have been working hard to advance their own ideals. We would do well to follow their example.


Just as He did in the days He walked this earth, Jesus calls us to a surrendered life - which, miracle of miracles, turns out to be a life of true freedom. He will never force us to make the choice to give our lives fully to Him. It is ours to decide.  But who will stand for truth if the Church is silent? Who will light the way out of darkness if the Church remains behind closed doors? How will the world know the good news of salvation if no one teaches them? How will they know love if we don’t live His love?


24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”  Matthew 16


22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1




Friday, June 26, 2020

Racism



This little corner of the internet is a quiet one. The header on my blog says "From My Heart To Yours." It's only what I've ever wanted to do here - to share from my heart with honesty and transparency and to encourage others in the process. I've carefully stayed away from controversy and opted out of FB feeds that seem to degenerate into an endless cycle of discordant comments.


But I've listened to the voices that speak the hard truths and those that sound far different from my own. I've wanted to learn and to understand and make wise decisions to move when I know it is time to put action to beliefs. I've prayed to stay grounded in the truth of His word.


My heart aches over the unspeakable horror in Minneapolis. I want to say something that will add to the discussion, but I find my words so inadequate when great wisdom is required. Instead of trying to write a learned tome on race, I just want to share a story with you. One I've carried in my heart for many years.


When our sons were aged ten and seven, we adopted a baby girl. It was at a moment when I dearly wished I could freeze time. My heart delighted in those two - all adventure and little boy sweetness. The only thing missing was, perhaps, a splash of pink and lace. And so she came into our lives...

with sweet smiles, soft curls and - even at three months - a strong will. Our little country community embraced her - with handmade blankets, adorable dresses and so much love.




I remember the day I took her into the nearest big town to do some shopping. The boys were in school and my husband at work, so it was just me and the baby. I carried her in my arms as I walked from store to store in the mall - that cute little bundle no one could possible resist.


It happened across an aisle as I browsed through racks of clothing. I made eye contact with a woman standing just a short distance from us, and before I could smile she gave me a look that spoke volumes. I don't even want to type the words out. Suffice it to say, in that moment I got just a little taste of what racism is all about.



I probably should have said something. I'm not good at confrontation. Besides, she wasn't the only one. It seemed everywhere I looked, I saw the same message clearly written in hostile eyes. I just left the store and drove home.


All the way home I wrestled with the hurtful feelings that filled me right up. I'm the girl who wants everyone to like her. I try my hardest to please and not offend. How dare they judge me - us - on our appearance? They don't know us. How dare they think less of my beautiful baby based on the color of her skin. There was, I'm afraid to say, a sort of impotent rage at the injustice.




There was a shifting that day, a putting up of a protective shield, a wariness of strangers. Perhaps I had become a bit judgmental myself. I don't know.


My story is so small and insignificant in comparison to the stories of others. I hope the telling helps in some way.





Blessings,
Linda