Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Leg of His Journey

He was a good man -- thoughtful, gracious and easy to be around. He was adventurous, creative, vibrant and fun. And now our dear friend is gone. His valiant battle with cancer is over.

It happened only days after the Women's Breakaway, where I had shared the details of how Ted and I had ridden a roller coaster of health issues last summer, hanging on for dear life. In the most frail of moments, we had clung to our faith and surrendered to God's bigger plan -- whatever that would be.

For Ted and I, things turned out far better than we anticipated. We found ourselves receiving amazing answers to prayer.

For our friend, this is not what we thought would happen. He was only 49.

Yet it begs me to answer once more, can I trust God to be God? Can I surrender again into the hands of a Loving Father who has a bigger plan that we can't see?

Again, it's time to dig in with my deepest roots that keep me strong. I call out to God, telling Him of all that boggles my mind and burdens my heart. I surrender and rest in Him because He is Author and Creator and the way the story will unfold is for Him to decide.

I devote time to reading God's Word and I preserve some quiet time to listen for His wisdom. I trust in Him for comfort and refreshing. My hope is in eternity where we will see our loved ones again and walk with God in a new world of splendor beyond human description.

And the Comforter comes near, once again. My mind opens a bit wider to let in more Light. The Holy Spirit brings peace into the most perplexing situations; Love shows up in our darkest hour; and Hope appears in the midst of our emotional pain.

Our friend will live on in the hearts of all who had the blessing of knowing him. While we will miss him deeply, he has inspired us to live with that same courage, humility and grace that he and his sweet wife have so beautifully demonstrated.

Now he has gone on to a new leg of his journey. As Christ-followers, we don't grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14 NIV). Our earthly lives are only a small segment of the journey -- a temporary separation -- in the face of forever.

Heavenly Father, great is your love toward us; your faithfulness endures forever. (Ps. 117:2 NIV) You are omniscient, and you have the greater good in mind, always. We will fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18 NIV

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Deeper Roots, Abundant Waters

(Click the image to enlarge.)
While on our wild ride last summer, Ted and I learned to trust God in a much deeper way and to realize the richness of His love can carry us, no matter what we may be facing in life. Surrendered in those darkest hours, we found ourselves infused with grace, bathed in God's beauty and wrapped in His love.

Yesterday, I was privileged to share our story at the Women's Breakaway in Chilton. I used the tree image as a handout to summarize how we need to strengthen our all-important roots. Each of the roots plays an integral part in stabilizing the tree to weather the storms of life.

After both presentations, several women shared with me their stories of strength through adversity or told me this message was exactly what they needed to hear. One woman told me through great tears of joy that she had come to know the truly indescribable peace that passes all understanding amid a hardship in her life.

My friend Barb noted how this immediately opened the way for these women to connect on a deeper level -- it normally takes much longer to develop that level of intimacy. "God loves relationship," she said.

See how important it is for each of us to share with others what God has done in our lives? Whether it be one-on-one or in a group, these stories encourage and strengthen our faith and give God glory. We all face circumstances requiring strength beyond our own.

We can't do it ourselves -- we need Him. As we stretch our roots deep into God's ever-flowing streams of refreshment, we practice (practice, practice) abiding in Him. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the refreshment we find there. It is always, always there -- in abundance! If we remain in Him, we can bear much fruit.

I closed the presentation with the profound words from a card David and Debbie brought up to the hospital last summer:

A mighty wind blew night and day.
It stole the oak tree's leaves away,
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around.

The weary wind gave up and spoke,
"How can you still be standing, Oak?"
The oak tree said, "I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away,
Shake my limbs and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth.
You'll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.

Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure.
But now I've found, with thanks to you,
I'm stronger than I ever knew."

Dear Father, thank you for your bountiful love and amazing strength. Help us to stretch our roots deep into the abundant waters you so freely give to all who put their hope in you.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Sometimes Forget Good Friday

A Holy Moment in the Smokies
God loved us so much He gave His only son to be crucified to redeem us from our sins.

Why would we fear anything when His love for us is so real, so deep, so powerful? Why would we ever have difficulty letting go and asking that God's will be done, rather than our own? How can we, even for a moment, forget what He has done to show His love for us?

And yet, there are times I hold tightly to the things I want, the direction I desire, the goals I have in mind. When His answers seem too slow, I forget that it takes time to orchestrate all the right details into place. When I yearn for these things now, I forget that He sees all and there is a greater good down the road if I will be patient. When life is difficult or painful, I sometimes forget that I am in the crucible with Christ and He is doing His awesome work to mold me for His glory.

I was reading in 1 Kings 11 where God told Jereboam through Ahijah the prophet that He would give him 10 of the 12 kingdoms. If only he would follow the Lord's commands and walk in His ways, God would be with Jeroboam. "I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and I will give Israel to you," He said.

But that never did come to pass, because Jereboam built shrines to other gods and did all kinds of evil, and God could not do all that He wanted to do.

I have seen that so often in the stories of the Bible, and I know it happens in our lives, too. God cannot do all that He wants to do if we do not trust that His way is best, surrender our own agendas and walk by faith, following wholeheartedly after Him.

Oh, Awesome God, I do not want to ever forget what you've done for me. I love you and I trust you with my life. Show me where I might be slowing you down or resisting your plans. I want to abandon my agenda and follow yours with all my heart.