Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…..

Sometimes I Cry by Jason Crabb

 

Hosea 2:14, 15

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.
There she will respond (sing) as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

I came to Guatemala in search of Jesus in action.  I guess that’s the best way to describe it.  Missions trips were something that Larry and I had always planned to do “someday”, but our “someday” was cut short.  I first heard about this particular mission project last year when we went to church with Jeff & Amy Brandon, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.  Something in my spirit perked up when Pastor Jim was talking about it and my heart whispered back, “next year”.  When next year arrived and we were moving to Allendale anyway, it was time!

As I said, I came to Guatemala in search of Jesus in action, or the real Jesus.  The Jesus who got dirty and sweaty and reached out to help the ones in need.  Something else happened along the way.  I came face to face with myself.  I didn’t care for what I saw.

Dan, the mission director, asked us the very first night if we loved Jesus or if we were in love with Jesus.  Being in love is so much more than just loving.  When you are in love your thoughts never stray from the object of your affections.  You are consumed with them.  You long to be with them every moment that you are apart.  I love chocolate, but I’m not in love with chocolate.  I had to admit that I treated my relationship with Jesus more like chocolate; it was there when I was hungry for it but otherwise I just left it alone.  My relationship with chocolate was probably stronger than my relationship with Jesus.  Ouch.

What I found in Guatemala was a woman who knew all the right things to say, knew the words to all the right songs, a woman who talked the talk but couldn’t walk that path because deep inside she was still full of resentment.  How could I profess to be there serving the Savior that I love while my spirit was still gray with resentment because my husband was not healed of his brain cancer on my side of heaven.  How human, broken, and selfish that is!  God did not take my husband.  He restored and perfected my husband and brought him home to glory.  My life is still so full of undeserved blessings that I take for granted every day.  Even simple things like safe water.  I do think about that now when I go to the refrigerator for water that is filtered of even the chemicals used to make it safe so that it tastes good.  A bathroom that can handle toilet paper and has a roof and door and seat….  A large house, not huge but compared to what we saw there it is a mansion!  I have 4 sons that I am so proud of.  Three of them have grown into amazing men.  School for them wasn’t an impossible dream.  They are all paying for their own college.  Drew, Wade, and Scott… I am so proud of you.  I love you more than you will ever know.  I fall short in so many ways as your mother, but my love for you will never fade!  The fourth is Noah, a gift to my loneliness.  I see bits of each of his older brothers and his daddy in him everyday.  I have the love of my husband’s family as well as my own.  I have a steady income. I have the privilege of worshiping God openly without fear of persecution.

All this and more, and yet I still held so much resentment.

I set out to court my Savior, to fall in love with him in the days we were down there.  I found Jesus in the work.  I found Jesus smiling in the brown faces that were overjoyed to see us, to have someone care enough to reach out to them.  I found my own heartbeat again.  I found joy in the trust of a little girl who only wanted me to love her and hold her. I found that I could leave a bit of my heart behind and still be overflowing with the love of God.

 

The last evening before the flight home we had devotions that were a bit more intense than they’d been so far… and they’d been intense.  That evening found me kneeling on the floor with my head buried in my arms on my chair, a river of tears that could not be stopped wracking my body with soul shattering sobs.  My only thought was, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.”  That phrase rang out inside me over and over.  My Jesus was there with his arms open, waiting patiently for the resentment to flow away from my heart, whispering to my spirit, “It’s time, let it go.”

I went to Guatemala to find Jesus.  Jesus didn’t need to be found, he was with me all the time.  I had to go to Guatemala to lose myself and fall in love with the One who saved me.

This drawing is an image that captures my week in Guatemala. God promises us that He catches every tear and He gives us beauty for ashes. The roses are the ones that Heidi wanted me to paint on the walls of her new home. I will be painting them on the wall in my new home as well.

 

Now You go….

March 5, 2012

Devotions written by Shelley Brandon, Grief and Encouragement Coach

Isaiah 61

The Year of the LORD’s Favor

Moses with Radiant Face (1638 painting by José...
Image via Wikipedia

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,

and in their riches you will boast.

Every night in Guatemala, after we ate and cleaned up, we had a time of praise & worship and devotions.  In the mornings before we left we were each to spend time alone with God.  It was during the personal time with God that my eyes were brought to Isaiah 61.  I was floored by the first verses and continued to feel my jaw sagging to my feet as I continued to read the entire chapter.  This was my personal devotion during the whole trip and it will be my focus this week as well.

The first verse brought to mind Moses when he was talking to God through the combustible bush, I could almost hear Him whispering to me, “I have heard the cries of my people in Guatemala and I’ve come down to help them….. now you go and do my work.”  I felt so inadequate and small compared to the enormity of the needs there.  I’m sure Moses felt like he was ready to conquer the world and shouted out, “CHARGE!” Or not.  I heard Ken Davis say once that the part of Moses should have been played by Martin Short.  If that’s the case then I’ve got to be the I Love Lucy version, “Whaaaaaaaaaa!”

At the same time I was also very hopeful and felt the stirrings of something I’d not felt in a long time.  Life.  In the hours spent in the sun, at the base of an active volcano called “Fuego” or fire, I felt life in my achy, sweaty, dirty veins.  I’m sadly overweight and prone to migraines, but each day I knew that I had a purpose.

And I was not alone.  For the first time in more than two years I was surrounded by new friends every moment of every day.  Community.  We were not created for isolation.  In the villages I found a new meaning to community.  These beautiful people had more community than I’ve ever known.  It wasn’t just a matter of meeting with your neighbors for coffee; it was so much more than that.  They were dependent on each other for the very necessities of life.  I’ve never personally experienced that level of poverty and I’ve never been blessed with level of joy.

To Be Continued…….

It’s All In The Attitude

Philippians 2:13-17 New International Version (NIV)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

I love the book of Philippians. It’s so full of positive attitude. Depending on the version you have the words “joy” and “rejoice” are mentioned about 10 times in Philippians, a book with only 4 short chapters. It is also the home of the “whatever’s”.

Philippians 4:8

8

philippians_banner
Image by bridget_willard via Flickr

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

It is the former verses that hit home today however. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. I want to quote this verse to my son, like constantly. I think it would be more productive if I modeled this verse to him instead. Lately I’ve been a grumbler. My energy level is down to zero. I don’t want to do anything. My attitude is….”who will care anyway?”

Who will care? God cares. He cares if I give in to the desire to sleep all day long. He cares if I make a promise and then decide that keeping it isn’t important. He cares about all of it because He cares about me. It’s not so much the condition of my floors that concern God as it is the attitude of obedience and gratitude.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. Everything? Yes, everything! But there is so much to do, I don’t know where to start. Where do I start? It doesn’t matter where you start…. Just start. Complete something, gives thanks for the energy that you had to finish it and move to the next thing. Pray for the energy to complete that next thing and when it’s finished give thanks again. Everything we need can be found in Jesus. Jesus can give us the drive to carry on. Do everything without grumbling or arguing…. Even to yourself. Don’t grumble, pray. And then change your “whatever’s” to the “whatever’s” listed in Philippians. It’s a short book, give it a look and start your days with an attitude boost.

Open The Eyes of My Heart sung by 10-year-old Autistic, deaf boy.

What do you do with your old clothes?

Clothing in history
Image via Wikipedia

Galatians 3:25-29 The Message (MSG)

But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise. In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham‘s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

Who doesn’t love getting new clothes? I love clothes. I love shopping the outlet pages of my favorite catalogs on line. I love when the new clothes arrive. I love digging them out of the box, taking them out of the plastic bag and trying them on. Sometimes I’m thrilled with the fit and look of the new clothes. Other times I’m not so thrilled. The anticipation of the new garment did not get validated in the way the garment looked on me. This is not the garments fault of course, it’s me. My anticipation of how wonderful the garment would look on me was not realistic. Even if the garment fits perfectly and I enjoy wearing it, the excitement doesn’t last. The garment isn’t new for very long. My closet is a living testimony to my search for something new to wear that will stay new and exciting to wear. How easy it is for me to walk into my closet, look at the clothes and think…. “I’ve got nothing to wear”.

We try to do this with our faith too. We search for the right song, the right verse, the right moment to hang onto , pouring our religion into that song or verse or moment. “This is what it’s all about!” But soon the song becomes boring, the verse becomes mundane and the moments fade. We look around our “closet” and think, “I’ve got nothing to wear”. So we search again. I love this version of the Bible; I love the expressive-ness of it. “Your baptism in Christ was no just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe.” I would venture to guess that the majority of us don’t have a clue to what an adult faith wardrobe is. We won’t find it in any outlet catalog. As much as music is soothing and inspiring, we won’t find this wardrobe on YouTube either. The only place this wardrobe can be found is in the Bible. It’s not just a couple of verses that clothe us in the adult faith wardrobe, it’s the entire Bible. That is where we will find Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. The next time you feel like you’ve got nothing to wear, open God’s Word instead of the latest catalog. It’s better for the soul and the budget.

Gracious God, thank you for our ability to clothe ourselves in Jesus!  Remind us daily that the only garment that makes a difference is salvation.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Been Through the Water ~ Kyle Matthews

Jesus Came For The World

Corcovado jesus
Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (MSG)

16-20Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ‘s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

21How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus Christ is the Savior.  Not just my savior, not just your savior.  He is the world’s Savior!  This song is the most expressive visual of that fact than any I’ve ever heard or seen.  It’s a fairly familiar song, but don’t pass by this version of it.

Not much else to say…..   🙂Revelation Song

Stop, Look, and Rejoice in the Day

Psalm 118:1,5-9, 22-29

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

5 In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
and the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
7 Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in people.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

22 The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
24 This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
 25 Please, Lord, please save us.
Please, Lord, please give us success.
26 Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God, shining upon us.
Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you!
You are my God, and I will exalt you!

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

 

Yesterday morning was one of those mornings when all I could do was marvel at God’s day as it was unfolding before me.  I was driving to see my bestest of all best buds.  The drive takes about 20 minutes.  This was a crisp January morning; cold but strangely void of snow.  The sleeping countryside shimmered beneath a fresh veil of morning frost.  A full moon was still suspended in the early morning sky, shining brighter as the sun approached the eastern horizon, reluctant to relinquish her hold on the night.  As the morning dawn began to give way to sunlight I could see a light fog hugging the curves of the landscape dancing with the low clouds of smoke drifting about from the wood furnaces hard at work in the farm houses I passed.  With each moment the sun advanced turning the sky everywhere that beautiful pale blue and soft blush pink that beckons us to start the day.  Still the moon shone brightly, clinging to western horizon, just above the tree line.  The country highway I drove was a quiet one so I was able to drive slower than I usually would to soak in as much of this beauty as I could, knowing this gift would soon disappear as the minute hand marched forward into the day.  Even the cows lazing about seemed a lovely gift on this morning, almost as if they were encouraging me to slow down and fill my soul with this incredible morning.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  I’m afraid to say that I don’t normally take the time to enjoy the beauty of the Michigan countryside surrounding the tiny town that I live in.  I’m always much too busy with the busyness of doing nothing it seems, to even notice the beauty in the places I take for granted.  I’m so very grateful that I did not do that yesterday.  The memory of that beautiful morning hangs in the art gallery of my mind as an exceptionally precious gift.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!!!

 

His Love Endures Forever ~ Chris Tomlin

Who can take it along?

“[Treasures in Heaven] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

Treasures on earth.  Big house(s), big shiny cars, lots of “stuff”.  Earthly comforts that we as members of the “civilized” world feel entitled to.  We strive for it from the day we get our first paycheck.  Television shows about constant remodeling and upgrading certainly don’t help me in this area.

My parents were raised in the depression era.  They are very frugal and as a result are now quite comfortably retired.  Growing up though, I saw this as a major drawback.  Having been told by some girls during my Jr. High years that I could no longer be friends with them because my family didn’t have enough money didn’t help that.  I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to prove them wrong.  Child-ish I know, but it’s still there buried in my accumulated pain.

My husband’s family lived very modestly as well.  They lacked for nothing overall, but he could still feel that tug to have more.  He spent his life being an over-achiever to reach his target of more.

When you combine these two personalities you come up with a “More Mentality” out of control.  We had the big vacation home in AZ, we had two shiny (used) Jaguar cars.  We always planned for bigger and better, regardless of the debt.  Just weeks before Larry was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, we’d been strategizing ways to get “enough” for him to be able to retire early.   We could always justify our extravagance by our giving.  We weren’t stingy with the money God had blessed us with, so surely God must want us to have all of this, right?

That all changed so quickly.  One day life was going on as normal.  The next day our world fell apart.  All of our “more” meant nothing.  There was no way that our vacation home could make the cancer go away.  The cars became nothing more than a way to get to daily radiation treatments.  All of the money quickly flew out the window.  We discovered very quickly that all of these earthly treasures were useless.  The only treasure we had in the end was our relationship with Jesus.  For Larry, this relationship was everything!  For me, it was my sole source of comfort.

People remember Larry for many different things, but they all remember his extraordinary faith.

Where are your treasures?

Lose My Soul ~ Toby Mac