Pleading for the Storm

Pleading

PleadingI am typically not a fan of storms, so you can imagine my surprise when I was excited to hear thunder a few weeks ago. It’s been hot and dry in my little corner of Texas. Our yard is barren for the most part. The little grass that is left is brown and crunches when you walk on it. Dust fills the air with almost any type of movement. We need the rain, and on that particular day, I was willing to endure the storm to have it.

Honest to goodness, as I sat there I couldn’t help think how, here lately, that has been the state of my spiritual life more often than not. My insides feel dry and crunchy. I feel like every movement just stirs up more dirt the enemy uses to pollute and obscure the air around me. Don’t get me wrong there have been pop-up showers that have wetted the ground, but the deep down nourishing rain had escaped me. The landscape of my emotions, of my heart, felt barren.

Have you been there? Desperate for the drought you feel like you’re in to be over? Desperate for the rain of His presence to come at you like a torrent? Willing to endure the storm, maybe even pleading for it, so you can be drenched in the Living Water?

Be encouraged. The storm will come. Mine did, but that is another post. I will tell you, in the midst of the storm, when God’s presence rained down, this barren land yielded fruit only Christ could have planted & harvested.

Keep looking to The Lord. Keep pleading for the rain. Time after time, while it appears nothing is coming, you keep looking. Our God is faithful to those who seek Him.

When you see that cloud forming (1 Kings 18:41-46), gird up your loins and be ready, for only those things we have secured to Christ will not wash away.

And we should praise Him for that.

Rhonda summer

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Brotherly Love – A Sister’s Perspective

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Photo Credit: Katy Roberts Photography

I remember the day my dad was shopping with me for a special dress. We had moved to a new town ahead of the rest of the family, so in a mutual state of neediness in Mom’s absence, I was his escort to a fancy dinner, and he was my shopping buddy.

Standing in the busy department store, I slid the hangers along the metal pole. I would hold one up and check for his initial response. A squinchy nose meant: “don’t even bother”, while raised eyebrows and flattened frown indicated:”perhaps, perhaps!”

I have two distinct memories of that day. The first was what Dad said when I walked out of a dressing room with a colorful tea-length dress on. “Oh, you wear that one well!” My father was always very careful with words. I knew he purposely chose NOT to say what most might, “That dress looks good on you.” He chose to make it about me. “I” wore it well. He complimented me, not the dress.

The second memory is of the conversation that followed. I tried to make a comparison of men to dresses. Some men garnered a “don’t even bother” first impression. While others seemed nice enough at first glance: “Perhaps, perhaps.” And eventually one will be just right for me in that my loveliness is enhanced by the relationship.

Instead of extending the metaphor like usual, Dad offered a bit of a rebuke.

“You just seem to be going about this ‘boy’ business all wrong. Statistically, every male on this planet will ultimately be your friend – a brother of sorts. One special man will be your husband. I see you combating the odds. You treat every guy like he might be your husband, and very few like brothers.”

Wow.

He was right. How many last names had I paired with my first – scripted in cursive on spirals over the years? How often had I allowed my emotions to run rampant and race the relationship across the threshold of healthy friendship?

I thanked Dad for his honesty, but chided him a bit for not offering this age-old advice just a decade or so earlier.

Though I had not yet learned the discipline of treasuring platonic friendships, I had spent my whole life enthusiastically enjoying the company of my three younger brothers. My brothers had always provided the purest source of camaraderie. They would poke fun at me relentlessly, be brutally honest, and then unconditionally committed. They told me they love me… and their kind words, quality time and acts of service lead me to believe them.

Today, 20 years into my relationship with my husband, I see even more clearly the wisdom my Dad shared that day. He was right. Only one man has my heart, but several have my back, so to speak. I thank God for the brothers in my family. And I thank Him for brothers in the faith – these men who are friends of my husband, husbands of my friends, partners in ministry, and worthy opponents in the occasional bout of “Words with Friends”.

How rich an existence with access to such provision and protection!

My husband, Philip, is a loving brother to many. He is a good listener and “king of the side hug”. He has rescued stranded motorists, fixed cars in parking lots … he even removed a snake from a mini-van once! He treats others like he wants to be treated.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:27

I am not a widow or an orphan, but my dad has been in heaven for 18 years and my husband is sometimes called away to work for weeks at a time. Dads cannot be replaced, but the void of their affection and care can be lessened by a sensitive word or a kind gesture from a Godly man.

I had a pastor, once, who spurred me on and encouraged me just like my dad had always done. “You have a great sense of comedic timing … you should definitely write more.”

One Father’s Day, I sang a solo in church, and an older, portly gentleman, put his arm snugly around my shoulders and tearfully shared what a blessing my song had been and surmised how much my father would have enjoyed it.

Once, while Philip was away, we had a storm blow through that ripped a hole in part of our roof. Philip’s best friend was over at our house immediately, climbing onto the roof and patching it the best he could in the rainy darkness.

Another time my boys – who were preschoolers at the time- were missing their nightly rough-housing with their dad. They had become so rowdy, I could hardly stand it. I took them to the church playground to let off some steam. Our pastor and his family were there also. He purposefully and repetitively threw my boys into piles of leaves and wrestled with them against a mountain of gravel until they were squealing and panting – good and worn. In total relief, I whispered to his wife, “I just can’t rough-house like a Dad can.”

There is an older man in our church who often stops me to look me in the eye and say, “I sure love who you are.” as though he were delivering a message straight from my dad.

My dad appreciated me – no matter the dress I wore or the boy I liked. And he left me a legacy of love and a powerful truth – flowing straight from the Heavenly Father’s will: brotherly kindness.

I want my sons – like so many other Godly men in my life – to be highly skilled at brotherhood. Statistically, every girl on the planet will need them to be her brother. Only one will ultimately be his wife. Godly brotherhood – “unstained by the world” – is a life skill and a relational calling. Men should prepare to serve and protect; and learn how to step in and provide. This is true religion and pure love.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.  1 Peter 1:22

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Listen, My Son….

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At some point in time during the journey of being a parent, we all have that moment where we throw our hands up and wonder if we are going to be able to survive parenting young children.  I was no exception.

I was blessed with two beautiful children, Sally and Adam.  While I was pregnant with Adam, my husband decided to move us from my hometown in Tennessee to his hometown in Florida.  We waited until Adam was at least 3 months old before making the move, then we packed up everything and took off for the coast and white beaches.

I was afraid of leaving home.  My family was just a few miles from me at the time and I relied on them as my support system.  In Florida and later Alabama, I would have no one.  During those “terrible two” years that Adam seemed to stretch into about 6 years, I was constantly calling my mother and seeking her advice on how to handle this wild child.  He was one of those that “pitched a fit” with hair pulling, throwing things, and all out assault on anyone or anything in his path.  These “fits” lasted well into the year that Adam was in the first grade.  I remember that year as having lots of tears, for all of us.

The phone calls to my mother were pretty regular, with the same question…”how do we survive this?” I knew she was the expert because she had raised two fine young men.  I offered to make a deal with her, she could raise Adam and I would take him back once he was through that season of his childhood.  (I was only half joking when I suggested that.  We had just left Wal-Mart, where Adam had attempted to jump out of the buggy, was pulling everything off the shelves, hitting at me, screaming bloody murder…simply because he wanted to look at the toys before we got groceries.  We left without anything that day and somewhere there is a surveillance video that could possibly win us $10,000 on some TV show.)

The other fear I had in raising a son was how to raise him as a godly man.  Not to belittle my husband in any way, but to speak a truth that many women find themselves in….my husband left the spiritual training of our children to me.  Over the years, he has taught Adam many things, how to shoot a gun, work on a vehicle, how to build things…you know, guy stuff.  However he’s never spoken to him about spiritual matters.  So as we traveled into the season of time when Adam was most formidable and acceptable of spiritual matters, I worried and prayed.  My greatest fear was how to show honor to my husband, and yet teach my son to do things he didn’t see his dad doing.

Adam was just starting middle school when God answered my prayer and placed in my husband a desire to move us again….back to my hometown, back to my family.  When I asked him why he wanted to move, his words were always the same.  He wanted for our children what I had growing up, life on the farm, with family all around.

My mother reminded me about my comment years before regarding having her raise Adam.  She never took me up on the offer, but she knew that now I could get the help I needed….but not from her….from my dad.  I don’t know if it is a proven fact or not, but it has been my experience that mothers raise daughters and dads raise the sons.  My son needed a godly dad to raise him and my dad stepped up to the plate.

Adam will graduate from high school in May.  I was at a recent community event and several mothers came to me to speak praise over the man they saw my son becoming.  They talked about something they saw different in him than in most kids his age.  His dad had taught him lessons that will take him through life, I will not discredit those lessons.  But as I have watched over the past few years, it is Adam’s grandfather that I see having the most godly influence on him.  Those lessons added to what his dad has taught him are making him not only a good boy, but a godly man.

I know that there are other women in the same situation as I was in, either with a spiritually absent husband or raising their children on their own completely.  If you have boys, I fully believe that they need a godly male influence in their lives.  I’ve watched something happen in my son, a maturity that comes, not just from years of physical  and mental growth.  I’ve seen him talking over life with a man that has learned that no matter how much money you make or what your professional title is, success in life depends on spending time with the Lord, seeking His guidance in decisions, following His will for your life.

Adam doesn’t tell me what he and his Papa talk about when they are working on the tractors together or in the hay field together, or working the cows.  But my dad tells me he never misses an opportunity to speak godly wisdom over him.

That’s what a boy needs in his life, a man willing to talk God with him.

I snapped these two pictures of my son and my dad.  The first one was when Adam was 3.  We were on a short nature walk in Colorado and Adam had just “thrown a fit” and refused to go another step.  My dad encouraged Adam to walk with him.  Daddy never let go of Adam’s hand and helped him over fallen trees, small creeks, and through the woods.  The other photo was taken this spring on another nature walk in Gatlinburg.  I see this scene played out over and over, and I am so thankful for how God answered some prayers of a worried mother and He sent a godly influence into my son’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen, my sons, to a father’s discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding…..Listen my son. Accept my words, and you will live many years. I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, when you run, you will not stumble.

Proverbs 4:1, 10-12 HCSB

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What if…

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What if: You found out that by staying at home and raising your children, yet accomplishing nothing that can be seen or noted at the time, you found out that the job you did really mattered?

What if: By working your job day by day and finding it toilsome, you found out that your simple presence and hard work had greatly impacted another individual?

What if: by taking time to patiently listen to the ramblings of an older person, you found that because of that person you became a better person and even used some of the “ramblings” to springboard to new ideas and even great ones?

What if: You found out that a tiny newborn baby named Jesus was God wrapped in flesh and by believing in Him, you would have peace?

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

“And He will be their peace.” Micah 5:5

What if: You found that everything you ever heard about success and greatness was not so, that the last really would be the first…that the weak of this world really would confound the strong?

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:16

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

What if: The choices you made today really amounted to something good and lasting tomorrow, impacting future generations?

What if: Your words themselves prevented wars? Your ideas inspired a way to feed the poor, cure the sick and restore joy to those who have grown bitter?

What if: By forgiving someone else, you were actually setting yourself free?

What if: It really did matter what you thought about?

What if: This was your very last day to live…what would you do differently, say differently, think differently? What would you choose: television or reading to your kids? Calling an old friend or doing the laundry? Going for a walk by yourself or talking with your spouse? Spending money on yourself or giving a gift to others?

What if you took the time right this second to close your eyes and whisper a prayer to God, asking Him to direct your paths and make them straight…and it completely changed the course? Go for it. You have time!

 

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Devotional by Gary Chapman

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Love as a Way of Life 90-Day Devotional by Gary Chapman and Elisa Stanford

Please leave a comment on this post OR email Trish (specifying which gift you are interested in) to be entered. All drawings will be on September 8th at 5pm MST to give everyone a chance to enter.

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Again

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Here I am again, Lord.

Seeking Your Face

Longing for Your Touch

Holding out for Your Voice

Heeding Your commands

Feeling completely undone

But I know that when I come,

You bend low to listen

You shine Your light on my pathway

You give me rest

You take the weight of my worries

You exchange my sorrows for Your peace and love and joy

So why is it that I find myself

Fretting?

Anxious?

Afraid?

Alone?

Weary?

Worn?

Perhaps I am not acting as if I believed You are Almighty God.

Perhaps I wish and hope that You are just that.

But secretly I plan for my own way, my own security just in case…

You are less than able.

You are playing a twisted game with my life.

You are not FOR me.

I did not live up to our promise, so You changed Your mind about me.

So I wait. And realign. And remind myself once again of Your Words to me. They are my LIFE. They are TRUE.

Then I bow my head in sorrow. I turn my eyes up in longing. And I say this one word–Again.

Do it again, LORD.

Show Yourself Faithful.

Again remake my icy-cold heart, warm it with Your breath.

Again.

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Buying Up the Season

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No matter who you are or what defines you or whatever is your estate, you are in a season. You have come from a season and you are going to a season. Be it the President of the United States to the needy, hungry and homeless one on the street, there is no differential–each person is in a season. I would call that common ground. Wouldn’t you?

It’s in the common ground things of life that God’s Word speaks and is illumined. He inspired it to be so.  His Word touches whomever will listen to it and simply be willing to be impacted by the light of Christ.  I’ve heard some say that His Word means nothing to them and He means nothing to them.  Even this one, this lost sheep, is in a season.

Seasons define us, mark us, change us, fill us, empty us. Seasons are the circumstances of the day–the weather and events and characters that set the current stage of our lives. Some seasons are like a day at the beach–warm, salty wind blowing in our face, sounds of waves crashing and children playing, a plethora of joy, contentment and happiness. Some seasons are like a lonely walk in the desert–hot sand on our blistered feet, sounds of the wind and nothing else, an empty and lonely place that chills our hearts at night.

It is with these thoughts and this spirit that I came upon this verse two days before we filed for bankruptcy in March 2009. It had been a hard season, ending in a tragic failure for us.  This verse spoke to my heart, for it was as if I were the one needing to be awoken from a very, bad dream…

Therefore He says, ‘Awake O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light.  Look carefully then how you walk!  Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people) making the most of the time (buying up opportunity), because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:14-16 Amplified

So as I meditate once again on this verse and look back over what for me was the last season of my life and not the present one, I am beginning to pull out the meaning of the phrases from the original language.  I want to see if there are any treasures to be had and of course there are!

Beginning with the first word, Therefore, we know that these are verses that point back to the verses before them. You can read the whole chapter in its entirety here (Ephesians 5 Amplified). Basically the passage is talking about how we walk through our life, what we should choose and what we should not choose.

Then it says it is shameful to even mention what some people in the darkness practice in secret. We, by our own behavior, shine a light on them to expose, reprove and convict them. When deeds are exposed and rendered apparent and shown manifestly by the light, they are known.

So picture this…you are in a dark cave without any glimpse of light to be seen.  Your mind is completely confused.  You cannot move from the spot in which you sit, as you shiver in fear.  Not knowing if you are awake or asleep, you have frightening thoughts and in every way you are confused.  There is nothing you can do about your estate. For you are stuck.  There is not one thing you can do to make a change in your circumstances.  For even crying out for help is too cognizant a thought to form into words in such a muddled mind-set.

Then Jesus comes and shines His light upon you, illuminating your darkness.  Not only that, but He speaks to you!  He bids you to waken and rouse from the place you have gone to lie down and sleep. He says, as he once said to Lazarus, “Rise again!  Stand up, you corpse, you dead one, and see!  Behold and perceive.  It is your choice. Then walk around, live, and follow Me as your Companion.  Let us take the most exact and straight path.  You must tread down underfoot this place from which you are walking. Let me set you free.”

He continues to speak, “Walk not as the conceited one, the unclear fool. No!  Walk thoughtfully, discreetly, wisely with skill. For you must ransom, rescue from loss and buy up this appointed season. It is time! From dawn to dusk, you must live redeeming this time, knowing and being aware of the wicked, degenerate, hurtful age in which you live. I am with you, equipping you to live wisely. Shining My light in your darkness. Now walk and illumine the path for others. Tell them I am the light.”

I remember the night, Jesus did this for me.  It was a dark night, alone in dorm room. My choices had led me down the wrong path.  I was in the darkest day of my life. Though I did not know it, as I bowed face down on the floor and coherent of nothing save my pain and sorrow, Jesus shone His light upon me.  He illumined my path.  He taught me a better way.  He showed me a better way to circumspectly walk about every gentle day.

Does that mean I have not needed His light since?  Oh, now that is far from reality.  Reality is that I need my Companion’s (Jesus’) light every moment of every day. Sometimes, I have not chosen to walk in that light. Did He walk away from me or abandon me?  No.  He waited and shed His light abroad on the path, so that I would know how to find my way back to Him. And the important part? It was and is my choice. Daily.

And dear friend?  It is your choice. Daily.

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Straight Out Of My Journal…

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I think we all have this idea, this goal, this vision of what we want our life to look like. But life never really works out that way.

Robert Burns wrote a poem about it. John Steinbeck took that poem and wrote a book about it. “Even the best laid schemes of mice and men go awry.”

A wrench always gets thrown into our plans, no matter how perfect those plans seem to be. It’s just a fact of life. And it’s a fact of life that keeps me from wanting to do things in life. Nothing goes according to plan, and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it anyway.

I have all these great intentions, all these plans and things I really wish would work out, but life circumstances are making these plans seem impossible. God seems silent. Everything just keeps getting worse.

Last night I went to church with my friends, and the message was really relevant. I sometimes dislike when that happens, because lately I’m always trying to find reasons to be bitter and uninterested. But the pastor talked about how when we decide to follow Jesus, our lives get better, not easier. There’s a difference. And a lot of us (myself included) are ready to throw in the towel on this whole Christianity thing because life has actually gotten harder since following Jesus.

But, he said, we don’t need to have faith when things are going well. We need faith when life is in shambles and we can’t see what God is doing. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is confidence in what we hope for an assurance about what we do not see.

Christianity is and always has been about trusting that Jesus is who he says he is, even in the face of persecution, oppression, uncertainty.

It’s not that I left church with some kind of epiphany. It’s not like stuff is suddenly better. I get the point though, I do. And I’m processing it. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.

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other gods

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A few years ago, I began an overview study in Isaiah–looking for Christ in each chapter.  Studying God’s Word is not for a select few, it is for everyone, you just need a few tools and a seeking heart for God.  In studying, all you need are a few tools to begin.  Your Bible, pen, notebook, a concordance and a Bible dictionary–or you can find all the study tools you need online with Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible. Read the portion you want to study.  Re-read it and write down the words that most interest you.  Engage in the Word, by allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your time. Then dig into the phrases and context.

Today I will share my insights from Isaiah 26, where there is much to glean.  One of the best messages I ever heard was on Isaiah 26:3 by Beth Moore at a Living Proof Live event in Little Rock, Arkansas several years ago. The part of her message that most struck me was about this verse: “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.” Picture laying your head on God’s lap and He has His Hand upon your head, as you lay there. He is then applying His thoughts to yours by showing you HOW to think about all the WHAT that is going on.

Do you have a difficult situation? Put your head on God’s lap and pour out your heart before Him. Then let Him speak over you in that situation. I often pray, “Lord, help me to see how to think about all this WHAT going on in my life.” Perspective. Oh, I need it! A good Word from my Sister, Beth!

What I first saw when I read Isaiah 26 was that our strength lies in our salvation! Our salvation through Jesus Christ has become the walls and ramparts (protective barrier prepared to fortify) of our city. We have a strong Defender! His name is Jesus.

I also noticed that the city’s gates are not closed, they are open. Salvation is not an exclusive club. It can be accessed by anyone, who comes with faith. All we need to do is share with others about knowing Christ–his blood shed on the cross to cover all their sins and make them white as snow. Are your gates closed or open?

The third verse has been a stay for me through the years. I have often thought upon the verse to the point, where I have it memorized like this (you will not be surprised): “Holly, God will keep you in perfect peace. Keep your mind stayed upon Him! Holly, put your trust in Him.” I talk to myself like this all the time. Personalize the Word of God. It is for you. It is written TO you. Why should you not insert your name? There are scriptures and promises that through the ages have marked the way of men and women, because they took it for their own. Is His Word something you cling to as your own? His matchless, changeless character has kept His Word. It is true, every bit.

So try it for yourself with verse four: “(Your name), Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” What does that mean when you say it? It means that the Lord God, the covenant LORD, is worthy of your trust in ALL situations. It means He keeps His promises. And it means that forever, He is strong, steadfast and firm.

Do you want your path to be level and smooth? Then look to verse seven: “The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.” It doesn’t say He might make, it says He WILL make. Our part is to be righteous. Oh, you say, then I guess I cannot take this verse to heart, righteousness is an impossible standard for me, a sinner.

I have Good News! That Good News is Christ Jesus. When you ask Him to be your Savior, He becomes the righteousness in and over your life. Like clothing, we daily need to put on Christ. In putting Him on, we will long to know Him more by reading His Word. We will long to please Him more, by obeying His Word. We will long to serve Him more, for His love in us COMPELS us to do something for others. Ahhh, the great exchange occurs (His life for ours)…and we are never the same. Jesus becomes our desire.

Need a verse for your life? Verse eight is a life verse for our family: “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” I am laughing, because His Word never returns void. In our lives, we have over and over and over had to wait on the LORD. Every single time, we have understood that in the waiting, we were growing in the Lord and declaring His renown wherever we went. Oh, it is a hard path to travel, but I would never exchange it–no, not for all the wealth and fame and honor this world might offer.

You see we have longed for Him in the night, we have seen His Hand upon us, we have learned His ways (oh, there is much left to learn!) and He has established peace for us in our family.

How has this come about?

Verses 13-14 say it well:
O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone do we honor.

They are now dead, they live no more;
those departed spirits do not rise.
You punished them and brought them to ruin;
you wiped out all memory of them.

Oh Praise the LORD! I am so glad. For indeed, we HAVE had other lords besides the LORD our God. We have bowed down to other gods. They ruled over us, and we walked bent over and with a limp–blind to see anything of God’s Hand. Only now, walking under the authority of Christ, have we found that we can truly see how we were before. We are quite familiar now with all our ways during those times. God has taken His Word and spoken over those times. He has put to death our sin. He remembers them no more.

In light of who Jesus is and who we were, we begin to see that even then, He was there. Today, we walk in that Light, His Light…oh, Praise God for that. So many gods…not one worthy. Every one, cast down before the feet of Christ. Then in love, our Savior, Jesus, became the Lifter of our Heads.

Is your head hanging low today over some situation? Lay that situation down. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). Let Him fill your mouth again with laughter (Psalm 126:2, Job 8:21)! The King of Glory has come in (Psalm 24:7-10)! Open wide the gates of your city, that many may come and know Him. Let Him come in and enlarge the boundaries of the city. There is room…Christ made room. Come on in!

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