Yesterday was another cold day in the Texas Hill Country. I had been wanting to go visit my sister in Pearsall for a few weeks, but life demands made it difficult. Yesterday, my husband and I decided we’d brave the brutal temperatures to visit her down south. It was so cold!!! Even down south was not far enough south to avoid this artic blast. Somehow that four degree difference did not seem to make a bit of difference. Nevertheless, we made the two-hour drive to Pearsall from Kerrville. Along the way, up I-10 most people are bundled up, others not so much. It’s pretty obvious we aren’t use to these cold temps. We don’t know how to dress. One sad fact about freezing temps here and probably most places is the homeless population who have to scramble to find a warm place to spend the night. Those that don’t make it to a shelter you see out in street corners, peddling. One can only pray they are trying to raise enough funds to pay for a bed for the night. It breaks your heart. Homelessness has many faces. Sometimes, one of those faces catches your eye. I see it as God says “That one. Go feed that one.” You are so moved and so compelled, you act.
That’s what happened last night. Before making the trip to my sister’s place, my husband and I were going to stop for a bite to eat, but we couldn’t decide where. We usually go to Denny’s, but we were in San Antonio and willing to try some other place. Up and down the highway, there’s lots of places to eat, so I suggested getting of at the main drag. No doubt, we’d find something there. I pointed out the popular places to my husband….there’s this place, that place, etc. and right under the highway is Denny’s. We both said, let’s just go to Denny’s. Well, we made our way to Denny’s. Traffic was not that bad, but gosh, I couldn’t help but notice all the homeless out, wearing nothing but light jackets, some of them wrapped in those small fleece throw blankets for added warmth. It’s really cold outside! Gosh! I hope these folks are looking for a warm place to weather out these freezing temps, I told my husband.
Well, we pulled into the Denny’s. We parked. As we are getting out of our car, this young woman catches my eye. I had noticed her earlier. She was one wrapped in a fleece throw to keep warm. She’s walking down the sidewalk. I know we are going to cross paths. It seems like she’s going to go right past us. She’s seems focused on something. As we make our way to the sidewalk, she turns suddenly and asks if we had a couple of dollars to get something to eat. She was really hungry, she said. I started fumbling through my purse to find her a few dollars. As I fumble she starts to tell us how she was in a car accident and split her head open and she had recently been released. And she was just trying to get some money to get something to eat. It was heart wrenching to face this very dilemma my husband and I were just talking about. I kept wondering why this young woman, fresh out of the hospital, was walking the streets in this cold weather. Well, that’s a question with no answer. I handed her a few dollars and she thanked us, very appreciatively. We both were hard-pressed to find words to described how we felt at that very moment. We forgot it and went into the restaurant. As we looked around, we noticed only two waitresses working. The bus boy cleaned up a table for us and sat us. Someone had left a $5 tip on the table and he cleaned around it. He would not pick it up. He sat us and let the waitress know we were seated. To make sure the waitress noticed us he left the $5 bill on the edge of the table.
Well, after a few minutes we were doubting whether we would get service. We were trying to get to my sister’s house, that was still a forty-five minute drive, and this wait was delaying our arrival time. We thought about going else where when the waitress finally showed up to take our drink order. She apologized for the wait. We both wanted coffee and she had started a fresh pot, she said… so she’d bring it as soon as it was ready. It did not take long for her to return with our coffee. Coffee was fresh and hot! My husband and I are talking away when he gestures to me to look over to the counter. “Look, he says, there’s that young woman that asked us for money. She really wanted money to get some food.” She’s sitting at the counter, also waiting for someone to wait on her. I know I had not given her enough money for a Denny’s meal, so I asked my husband if he minded if we paid for her meal. He said no. I knew he wouldn’t mind, but I asked anyway. When the waitress came over to take our order we pointed her out and asked her to put her meal on our ticket. The woman had gotten up and come over by the door where we were sitting. I had my back to her so I could not see what she was doing. The waitress, for some odd reason, motion for the woman to come to our table and told her, “They’re going to pay for your meal, so order whatever you want.” I don’t think she recognized us from earlier. Either way she thanked us again. We just said, “You’re welcome.” We were not looking for attention. We just knew she was hungry and wanted to make sure she had a nice hot meal.
Well, again my husband says, “Look, she’s sharing her meal with someone.” Both of them hungry and cold sat down to enjoy a warm meal. From the ticket, we knew they had shared a Lumberjack Slam. The woman came over again to thank us and we again said you’re welcome. We really didn’t want any thanks. So, we sat and talked, ate and then out of the blue my husband shares this You Tube video that he’d found hilarious. He’s holding his phone at the edge of the table, and I’m watching it. It was hilarious and we were laughing. Out of the corner of my eye it looks like this woman is approaching us again, but she notices that we are watching something on the phone and she quickly turns away. I did not look up. I just kept my eyes on the phone. For all I know she may have needed to use the restroom and changed her mind. When we left she was no where around.
We finally made it to my sister’s place, visited for a couple of hour, had a great time chatting with her and her partner. I hadn’t seen her in a while. It was not to late when we finally left. The entire ride home, this woman was on my mind. Not so much the woman, but how we responded to her after we offered to buy her meal.
On the drive home, I talked with my husband about the whole experience. In some of our previous conversations, I’ve explained that when I give money to a homeless person, I offer it and it’s forgotten. How that money helps, or doesn’t is in God’s hands. I’m not always prompted, or compelled to give. When I am and I have cash on me, I give. What are the chances that I will ever see that same homeless person again? Well, it depends on the situation of the homeless person, but never. How I came face to face with this woman, well it can only be by divine appointment.
The lesson here was unexpected and I failed miserably. What I did, and what I should have done the Lord said… You heard me. You responded. You did well. You had the opportunity to show someone my love and three times you thought it was about you. She came over, more than once and you could have asked her to join you, to sit and dine with you, but you didn’t. She even shared what she had just experienced and you could find no time to show compassion, to lend an ear, to show her that there is a God and He sees her. God saw that woman last night. God saw this woman last night. This past year, like none before He showed me how much he loves me. I was left in awe. When confronted by one in need of love I was hard-pressed to show that same love. My prayer for that woman is this, if anything we did showed her that there is a God and He does see her need and her pain, I pray that the Lord will protect her and guide her to their meeting place. For this wretched woman, I ask for forgiveness.
Luke 12 says…”For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required;…
Some folks have riches beyond measure and can’t find it in their heart to share, other’s not so much, but some have nothing and yet share all they have, little as it may appear to be.
The Lord has not blessed me with money, or riches, but He has loved me beyond measure. Much love has been given to this woman. How can I deny anyone that same love, when I too am so undeserving. Giving is giving. And God gave All for all.
Freezing temperatures have tested my outwear and I am not prepared. I can’t even find a warm coat, not a pretty coat, or stylish even, but a nice warm coat, that does not cost an arm and a leg. I may not wear it but for a few days, maybe. God has tested my ability to show love, to respond in love and I was not prepared. It’s a cold world out there and if the man or woman of God is not prepared to offer a warm cup of love, well…
hmmm….just something to think about. Be blessed. Luke 12:54-56 Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
Every end of year I like to reflect on the past, my childhood, and especially the past year. I have to say that this year has been one of tremendous change and unbelievable blessings, along with new challenges. I am so thankful that the Lord took the time to prepare me for so much change, but even with that preparation, going through it was not easy. I found myself constantly turning to God, but of course, that’s the ultimate goal. When the Lord keeps you in the shadow of His wings, it’s a place you never want to wander from, and yet the smallest of things quickly draw us away when we lose focus. It’s something else to be up on the mountain of the Lord, where you connect with God and every day is designed to instruct you in His ways. He meets you there and He shows you things beyond wonder and He opens your spiritual eyes to see the majesty of His glory. He reveals Himself leaving one in awe, but he also forces you to face yourself and it’s never a pleasant experience.
Once you’ve been to the mountain of the Lord you don’t want to come down. As everyone must, that’s ever been to the mountain of God, I had to face the fact that believers were not meant to stay on the mountain. To fulfil God’s plan believers have to come down of that mountain, to face the uncertainties of life, choose to run from the evil that prowls around looking for whom to devour, face the valley of the shadow of death, for the sun will set, the sun will rise, the path will become clear, the Light will lead us by day and by night to places of rest that we cannot even fathom and the sun will set. We eventually have to come down to fulfill God’s plan for our lives and often we are not 100% sure what that is, or what it looks like. That’s where faith, prayer, spiritual discernment and reading His word comes in, but thank God that He does prepare us for our journey.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
I had been to the mountain, learning about God, but also learning about myself. The Lord showed me how I became that wretched woman who stared back at me in the mirror, every day. As humans we learn to put on so many different masks. I was no different. We learn how to switch them on cue. We have become masters of disguise, even fooling ourselves. As true believers it should not be so easy to ignore the face that stares back at us, yet somehow, it is. Still, it’s always there to remind us who and what we are and how easily we can justify our wayward ways when we ignore the ways of God.
The Lord has brought me a long way. I can’t begin to confess how long and difficult a journey it has been. I admit I was wore out and yet, God’s grace is always sufficient. And this year, the year of God’s favor, the Lord reached down from heaven, called on me, to refresh this weary soul. He breathed new life into these old bones as He did in the days of Ezekiel (Chap 37). I know I did nothing worthy of His favor, yet He showed me mercy, grace and though He’d always shown His love, this year He went beyond measure to show me how much He truly loved me. I was in awe, still am! How awesome is my God!
I had made the decision to accept Jesus as my husband a few years ago. My search for a mate was a distant memory. I was committed to living my life as a single woman, committed only to Christ. When this blast from the past, a long-lost love, came back into my life, April Fools Day of all days, I was in complete shock! Never in my life would I have imagined ever seeing my first love again. It took quite a bit of prayer and discernment to finally accept that God was in control. Before we got started down the road to a relationship and eventual marriage, I had this man read my journals. I had compiled them in a self-published book I titled simply The Diary of a Christian Woman. I gave him a copy and asked him to read it because I needed him to know where I was today, where I had been and the One that brought me to this place. To my surprise, he read the entire book in one sitting. He recognized himself in my writings.
Anyway, I had forgotten much of what I had written in my diaries, but I knew well I had made that decision. My new husband was talking to me about rereading my journals the last couple of days and he mentioned something I had written that I did not remember.
Anyway, as I flipped through the pages to find what he was talking about I came across the diary entry where I recorded my decision to accept Jesus as my husband, Jun 10, 2013. I wrote:
June 10, 2013
Lately, I have considered allowing a mate back in my life. I am still not sure if I am ready, but I know with all my heart, I choose a man who gives me strength, who never gives me more than I can handle, who gives me courage and strength though I doubt myself, who gives me wisdom, who loves me just as I am, not because of who I am, but because of who He is, He calls me His. His name is Jesus Christ…
…For now, this is where the Lord has me. I am trusting in Him. I am waiting on Him. The road ahead is already mapped out for me and I know that the Lord will go before me to prepare the way.
I have to say, the Lord prepared the way and made a way where there was no way. It’s humbling to accept some of the things the Lord will do to fulfil His plans. I had a hard time accepting…
I hope y’all will stay tuned for Part 2.
Nothing shocks our lives more than the sudden death of a loved one…lives forever changed. We surround the bed hoping for a miracle, hoping our loved one will rise up and walk, but it does not happen. Would witnessing such an event lead those present to seek the Lord? Perhaps. I am reminded of the Rich man and Lazarus, both having died, but their destinations at opposite ends. The rich man believed that if his brothers would see Lazarus rise from the dead, certainly… they would believe in Him. Scripture says different…
Luke 16:27-31 (NKJV)
27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
You were in your car driving to place you can’t even remember, in the shower, in bed sound asleep, in class, at work taking care of customers, playing with the kids, eating, you were doing something, or just relaxing, then you got a call. The one downfall of cell phones, quick access. You say hello. The person on the other end hesitates… then you cling to your phone in disbelief. Response to the news depends on the relationship. In my case, it was a niece I had not seen since she was a child. The first born of one of my eight brothers… gone in the blink of an eye.
We are a tribe of 14, with ten surviving siblings, ages ranging from 55 to 77. My niece was 42. Our parents had died years ago, along with four siblings, two within the last twelve years. We had yet to experience the loss of one of our children. My niece leaves behind four children from 17 to 22 years of age and grandchildren.
It’s so true that no parent wants to outlive a child. It was not I who lost a child, but the thought of such a thing coming to pass…well…it’s not easy thing to face. I felt bad that one of my brothers had to be the first. If that’s not difficult enough, to realize that anyone of us could have been first…well…it kind of shakes your foundation a bit. So my heart breaks. I can recall, that until the day she died… my mother’s would heart break with tears streaming down her face when she remembered the two small children and her 12 y/o brother she lost to death.
Somehow, experiencing the sudden loss of a loved one is a bit different than dying from an illness, though no less a shock and no less prepared. I can recall watching my friend fading away and feeling so helpless, so I would cried out to the Lord. And when she finally took her last breath I was not there. And worse I had to hear of her death on Facebook. With an illness God’s mercy gives us the time to think about things, even how we’ll get through it and there is so much involved in facing a serious illness. I wouldn’t even downplay it. But even when illness catches us of guard, we can turn to the Lord and pray for strength and healing, but the same cannot be said of sudden loss. We can only pray for the Lord to give us strength and healing to deal with the loss. Although we can never know the exact moment we will take our last breath, even in facing a terminal illness, that moment will come. So in our mortal body we make it our mission to treasure our loved ones while on earth, that’s if…we are so inclined. Not every feels the need to make things right. When we don’t, for whatever reason, we tend to regret it once a love one dies… at some point anyway… at that point it’s too late. No reboot. No turning back the clock. No rewind. No do over. Only flash backs of all the hurtful/ angry words exchanged, pointless arguments, pointing fingers, etc. etc. etc. Life happens.
Life happens, sometimes it’s like a sweet melody that we replay over and over again, or like a Monet painting. Sometimes, it’s like a Jackson Pollack, or Picasso painting, full of stuff splattered and shattered all over, confusion, turmoil, anger, frustrations etc. etc. etc.. Regardless, it’s a life worth examining through the eyes of the living God.
At the start of life, death is far from our thoughts, even though we know that death is inevitable! Death is a big part of living, yet we rarely speak of it. I know most people think it’s morbid to speak of death and that it’s often depressed people that obsess with the idea. I don’t always believe that’s true. I tend to believe that when people accept their mortality they tend to prepare their loved ones for their eventual departure. And that can look different for everyone. I remember, when I would do something asinine, my mother telling…”I’m going to be dead one day, what are you going to do then?” And, of course I always had some lame comeback. After hearing that remark so many times at one point I told myself , that if my mom died, I would die right along with her, but that was long before I had my own children. Nevertheless, it was her way of telling me that she would not always be here for me. It did not sink in the first thousand times, but then she had a stroke, it then became very real. She was already in her 70’s and still me teaching lessons.
My mom taught me quite a bit about how to be a compassionate human, in spite of how the world treated her. The world did not treat her/us well, but God’s mercy was always near. My dad abandoned our family when we were very young, and my mom never seemed to harbor any ill feelings toward him and she also expected me to show him respect. That was not easy for me to do, especially, when he died.
The relationships my siblings and I have had with our children cover the spectrum of childrearing. It’s a birds eye view of how much of who we are… was shaped by the way we were reared. Even the way my grandkids are being parented is much different than the way I parented and the way I was parented. Even our relationships as siblings look different. Still, it’s a travesty that my brother had to grieve the loss of his first daughter in the face of criticism and judgment because of his childrearing practices. I did find it quite interesting to hear various comments on the things my mom would have said… had she been alive to witness this debacle. And all I heard in my head was … “it does not matter…he is still your father and you will show him respect.” From the time I was four until the day he died… I was commanded to show respect to a man that abandoned me. Believe me, that was difficult. However, God in His infinite wisdom had a lesson waiting for me through that experience. And I am more than sure that many of you have been taught that lesson.
Although, it appeared my niece believed in God, I am well aware that it’s during these times of adversity, that we tend to turn to God. We don’t necessarily seek Him. We may not live as children of God. We just turn and expect Him to be there to comfort us. And it is His mercy that we encounter. When the time comes that we are able to move on, we make every effort to make our loved one proud, to live to remember their memory, we create alters for them and put them on display. And God is put back in His place. We all mourn in our own way, but that’s been my experience.
The death we experience when we accept Jesus into our heart and allow Him to work out all the muck and mire we have collected since birth…there we die to this wretched flesh, that unchecked can make us do unspeakable things. It is in experiencing that death that will bring us closer to the God that raises people from the dead. I do believe that God can raise people from the dead, if He so chose. My God is a living God and He can do everything He said He would do. I also believe that it’s the spiritual death that we must experience to get to that place…that place where Lazarus sat when the rich man reached out for a drop of water to cool his tongue. That place of comfort that God promises to those who believe is where His children will go when their journey on earth is finished. And we don’t know when that time will be. And that journey will look different for many of us. Thus, I am always reminded that our battle is always against the spiritual forces of darkness. It has taken me many years to realize that truth.
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So, I had to say goodbye to my niece with a heavy heart, never knowing if she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, but always hopeful, as only God knows the heart of any man.
My prayer is that the Lord will use this one life, this one loss, unexpected as it was…for us anyway, to bring healing in all its facets to those souls touched by this one life, good or bad.
Psalm 103:15-17 (NIV)
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
Ecclesiastes 9 (NKJV)
9 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. 2 All things come alike to all:
One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good,[a] the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.
3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.
7 Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
8 Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
11 I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
12 For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:1, 4-5 NIV
Most of us know someone, or know of someone who has died never having accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Today, many people will die denying God. They will defend to the end their rejection of a Supreme Being, of a risen Savior, of forgiveness of sin, of salvation and eternal life, or any such nonsense. They may also try to convince you that your faith is foolish and misplaced. And they will also try their hardest to make you feel silly for believing in such nonsense.
In November, a dear friend went home to be with the Lord. She served the Lord through the hills and the valleys of this Christian life. To me she was blessed by God tremendously, but as she said…it came at a painful price. A life filled with pain and sorrow, disease and abuse, she lived never taking her eyes of the Comforter. Even in her darkest moments she would not deny her God. Sure, sometimes it was difficult to keep the faith, but she marched on. Now she is with her Lord and all that went before her, singing praises to the one and only true God.
Adversity is something we face at some point in our lives. And honestly, some of us have more than our share and some handle it better than others. Adversity can bring one closer to the Lord, or draw one completely away and still others teeter-toter. It’s about where we draw our strength.
Last weekend a family member, a former believer in God, passed away. Sadly, his faith had gone by the wayside and he passed fully persuaded there was no proof of a living God. And it was not so much that he died rejecting God and His Son, but that on his deathbed he boasted of the fact that he had trained his grandchildren to believe otherwise…in themselves, their own abilities. His children already seem to share his sentiments toward a Supreme Being. I knew he was once a believer, so I encouraged him to reconsider his choice. There was still time, I said. We don’t know the exact hour the Lord will call us home. His response was so nonchalant. Nah! He took a great deal of pride in his accomplishment. “I trained them! I created them! I stood next to his bed listening to his rant and I could not help but think that truly … this “former Christian” had actually rejected Christ, but that was not enough…he had to teach his future generations that all that God stuff was nonsense. And the only thing we could rely on was ourself.
He knew I was a believer and acknowledged as much, but out of the corner of his eye he gave me this look and said…I would also encourage you to reconsider your belief.
Truly, as a believer in Jesus Christ…how do you respond to such rejection? I prayed for him and talked to God about him for a while. It was sad. Unfortunately, people… people that we love, people that we grow up with, people that we admire…will leave this physical existence completely persuaded there is no God. What a surprise they will get when they get to the other side. While it may be too late for those that died without Christ, the children…they still have hope… We need to pray for our children.
The enemy is walking about…waiting…seriously…
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.