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Monthly Archives: April 2007

Hope on a Hill

The chairs line the hallways, side walls, and entire room.  Crying children, hungry from the wait, climb all over their worn out mothers. The line doesn’t seem to be moving and only God knows what number she is.  To tell the truth, He is probably the only one that cares besides her and the three children that have grown tired of the rerun of “Barnie” that’s been playing for 3 hours.

The look of disappointment shows on her face.  The frown lines are all to obvious. In a daze, she finds herself wondering how she could have found herself her.  Worse yet, how did she bring her children along?  They didn’t ask to wait in a line for food. They didn’t ask to be living in a room with 75 others who were as hungry as they are. So, why?? Hope is out of the question…or is it.  The door opens, her name is called.  A spark lights in her eyes as her name is called into a different room.  Not the one where the clerk gives her a look of disgust. Not the room where the same questions are repeated just to be told she was still not worthy of a home. Dragging her children by their elbows, she runs to the door with hope.  She runs to the one person she believes can give her rest and more importantly, a place to sleep and eat.

How familiar the story of desperation.  The crowd had gathered on the hill side.  The sun seemed so close they hid with their heads under their shirts. For what seemed like days, they sat waiting for help.  She can’t remember the last time she ate.  Everytime she even got a morsel, she divided it among her children. Like ducks, they followed her from “station” to “station”. Her daughter’s long hair hadn’t been brushed in braided in months, their faces hadn’t been washed.  When you’re hungry, not much else matters.  To this mother, nothing mattered but feeding her babies. She stood in line after line.  Sleeping anywhere she could find to sleep until the next line was formed. The past was so far out of reach she couldn’t even remember getting to this place and a future was no where in sight. In this room, the othersdidn’t look down on her.  They were all hungry. But outside those doors, everyone looked down on her. “Get a job!!!” she heard from moms group at the local school.  Children weren’t permitted to play with hers. They were all outcast. Life could’ve been better…easier.  Years of mistakes, hers as well as others, brought her to this hill. Years of trusting the wrong people and ignoring the ones who really cared, had left her penniless and homeless…hungry. Months had turned into years, which had turned into decades. There was no hope of getting out.  So, on this hill she waited with the rest. Certainly in her mind, as well as many others, she didn’t deserve any better.

Sitting on the hill that day seemed like any other day.  Hot sun, empty stomachs, silence on the hill  except for crying children. But then someone new came through.  A new face.  A new voice.  “Come this way” he motioned. Something in his eyes caused her to have enough trust to grab her children and run towards him. No questions asked.  They all followed, like a flock of geese heading South for the winter. They were so motivated that they ran and they got there before the speaker did…and they waited.

He was a distinguished man.  No suit and tie, no brief case, but such strong cheek bones that He demanded respect.  He offered no food, yet.  For hours he spoke.  He told them stories, gave them direction.  Thousands of hungry families sat still to listen.  In His eyes, they could see hope.

The sun had finally faded and a cool breeze had settled in.  With her shaw, she pulled her children close.  The growls of hunger pains echoed. Like a military platoon responding to their leader, several men showed up with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. “It’s all we have” their eyes revealed to him.  The mother’s face dropped.  To see all the hungry people that had met Him here, it seemed pointless. Yet, He was unshaken.  He raised the food above His head.  Looking above he cried out in thanks. He then divided the food among the men and instructed them to hand it to the people.

For the first time in months, the mother ate with her children.  Together they ate the bread and fish.  The laughed about their journey.  They shared stories of a hope for the future. For the first time in months, she saw her children smile. Brushing the hair from her daughter’s eyes, the tears fell from her face.

She was never the same.  Her stomach filled, her children smiling, she left that place with hope for a future.

He offers hope..He gives hope.  Just as He did for five thousand hungry people on a forgotten hill, He offers food for your spirit. No matter what your past looks like, or if your future seems too far off to recognize, He has hope for you.  He has a plan and a hope for a future. Meet Him on that hill.  Wherever your hill may be, meet Him there. There is hope!!

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2007 in encouragement

 

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“The Ultimate Cure”

With one carry on bag and a torn ticket in your pocket, you think you’ve found a way out.  Each passing mile sends the memories fading…you think. On greener grass, your bags have doubled and your mailbox hasn’t changed. When guilt sends you soaring, the past has a way of gripping every detail of your present. The future is out of reach.

Silence has taken your voice. The crease in your forehead makes you unapproachable. The curve in your back matches the limp in your walk. The mirror holds no reflection. Years of baggage have stolen your dreams. Forgiving yourself is not at the top of your to-do list.  You simply don’t know how.  Birthdays come and go.  Christmas finds no cards on your mantel. Sadly to say, it’s all self inflicted. With great strength, you’ve managed to hold back the tides of caring family members and life long friends. You are your own worst enemy. You can’t forgive yourself. You no longer love yourself. Life has come to a screeching halt.

He can relate. With each step, the hill gets steeper and his past comes back stronger. This was not what he had planned for his life…any of it. There are plenty of people around…mostly onlookers..none of them friends.  He has none.  Life ended when his past became his present and future. He was by all means unlovable…unforgivable.

He wasn’t always this way. His childhood was average. Backyard football games.  Sunday teams. Friday night dances. He was a good kid. Never made the honor roll but his grades held up.  He was probably popular…especially with the girls.  The long hair was in and he had a smile to kill. The light of his mother’s life. Even with no father around, he was a great kid. Everyone loved him.

Visions of his childhood run ramped through his head as the crowd begins to throw dirt and stones. It’s a hot day.  The sun is boiling on his bare back. His feet manage to find every jagged rock. Mostly he stares at the ground. Not only is he unworthy to look eye to eye with anyone, he has become accustomed to hanging his head. The voices in his head reminded him of all the mistakes that brought him to this space in time.

Inside he was screaming!! He found himself shaking the kid he use to be.  Warning him of his future. “Turn around!! Don’t go through that door!!! It isn’t worth it!!  It isn’t worth it!!!” There is no one to listen.. and the kid in him just doesn’t care.  No one does.

The crowd cheers louder. Not for him.  As the soldiers draw their swords, he can see tomorrow.  He isn’t in it.  He’s always been afraid of heights.  Never liked rock climbing, though today, he had no choice. Funny how facing your fear comes around whether you want it to or not.  It takes 5 of them!!! Five well built, very tough looking soldiers to raise him in the air. There’s no use to fight. He deserves it!!!

Just one moment in time…one mistake…one lapse of judgement. The “what-ifs” take the last few beats of his very broken heart . This is it!!!! No escape…no hope…no turning around.

But wait!!!! The sun shines right above him…for the first time in 20 years, he looks up.  It’s harder to breathe but he sees clearly.  There’s a light…a light at the end of this very long tunnel.  The voices scream louder than ever before. There’s a calm he hasn’t known since before that infamous night in history.  Before he became a thief…a murderer. He has just enough breath for one request of the nearest stranger he can find…the only one within ear shot and eye contact.

“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  For the first time since that night so long ago, he had found hope.  If only for a moment.  Somehow, he felt worthy for just an instant.  Laying it all on the line without knowing whether he would be accepted…still, he asked to be remembered.  Would no one else remember his passing?

Jesus could have said no!  He could have reminded him of all the things he had done over the last 20 years.  All the mistakes.  All the people he hurt.  Lies, cruelty, even murder.  And his poor mother…Oh what he had done to her heart. Jesus could have run down a list of why nots. A trip down memory lane to prove his unworthiness. He could have. He didn’t.

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise!” (Luke 23:43)  All those years and all the sinner had to do was ask. Instantly, he was forgiven, loved, and received.  No mention of his past.  No need for explanations…just faith, and asking.

Nothing can separate us from His love!!! No amount of sin.  Not an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, not a night of unthought-out drinking, not a divorce….nothing!! When your mirror holds no image, go to His. He doesn’t ask you (or me) to clean up our act before coming.  Just that we come.  When you can find no hope, when you can’t forgive yourself, when all hope seems lost…look up.  Just ask. 

“He used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we  could be rid of sin, free to live the right way.  His wounds became your healing.”  (1 Peter 2:24)  

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2007 in encouragement

 

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Letting Go (Part 3)

We all have a tape player. That angel or devil on your shoulder that whispers sweet nothings in your ear at each turning point in your life.  As I’ve mentioned previously, my tape player only played negative thoughts. After hearing it long enough, I began to believe it.

I married at a rather early age. One of those choices I made “all on my own”!! FREEDOM was the only thing on my mind.  Truth is, I had been suicidal for so many years that this seemed the only chance at a normal life. I was still a “diet Christian” with no signs of a relationship with God brewing.  I began a whirlwind of wild behavior that I pray my children never hear of.

I remember one of my best friend’s mother.  She was so graceful and pleasant. Sweet…I guess you would say.  She was always in a dress.  One of those that seems to flow like a breeze on an ocean front balcony. Oh I wanted to have that kind of Spirit.  “God didn’t make me that way”, I always thought to myself. My crazy ways continued.  I moved on…divorced….remarried and began having children.

Having children changed me in so many ways, but it did nothing to improve my relationship with God. I again settled into being able to do everything on my own. With each passing day, I grew “stronger” and my heart grew colder.  I dug my heels in and determined to “get it right”, just not with Him.  I never made a conscious decision to NOT turn to God, I had just never been taught how.  Children aren’t born knowing how to talk, read, write, or pray.  Those things must be taught.  Praying is one of those things that must be taught by example and I never heard my parents pray. As an adult, I was still lost to this gift.

Just as things should have been going well, they took a turn for the worst.  Yet again, I found myself single and “dating”. I was determined to make as many mistakes as I possibly could and let me tell you, I was well on my way. Before I realized it… I began drinking.  For the first time in my life, I had more friends than I knew what to do with. My house was the party house and I had no less than 200 bottles of different types of alcohol in my house at any given time.  I was sure proud of myself.  My esteem was high, I felt great, I was “happy”.  (And my children were watching).

I am ashamed to say this phase in my life lasted about 3 years. Church had become a holiday event and weekends were my time out.  My adult time.  I deserved it, or so I thought. Then out of the blue, like the ultimate parent He is, God began convicting me.  Funny how He was convicting “me”.  Afterall, hadn’t He seen all the trials I had been through in my life?  Hadn’t He seen the abuse, the pain, the fear??  Why was He convicting me??  He should’ve been out chasing the bad guys. Yet, there I was wondering how I ended up in such a place.

I woke up one morning, fully clothed (thank God) in my living room floor.  The night before was a fog and I had no clue how I managed to get home. I knew I hadn’t driven but who brought me home? My children sat around me staring. They never said a word but my heart was broken.  How could I have allowed my children to see me this way?  How did I get here? Even worse, how was I going to get out?? If only I could say it all ended there.  Immediately everything around me began to crash.  My job, my friends, my finances, everything was going down hill like a snowball headed south.

I knew where my life insurance policy was.  I could envision my will and my loaded gun as I drove home from work one Friday evening.  The tears were pouring out so heavily I could hardly see to drive. I couldn’t breathe and the tape player in my head was screaming at me “You will never amount to anything!!!! You might as well end it now!!!!” It wasn’t a conscious choice but it flooded my thoughts. How I made it through the weekend was only by the Grace of God. Sunday morning found me at church for the first time in a long time.  The devil on my shoulder went along with me.  With white knuckles and a constant buzzing in my hear, I held tight to the pew in front of me when the alter call was given.  “Nothing’s going to change.  You’ll never change”.  Of course, I believed the tape player and stood still.  Wild horses could not have moved me. Thankfully, I serve a powerful God that could. As the alter call was ended and everyone was leaving, my feet carried me to the head of the church where I approached our assistant pastor. I couldn’t speak.  My sobbing was so uncontrollable, I couldn’t even give my name.  Immediately he brought a lady over to pray for “whatever my need was”.

I would like to tell you I heard angels singing and a bright light showing me the way.  I felt nothing. There was no earthquake and no sudden ease of guilt. I felt like the same sinner.  The same lost soul. The difference was, God could now work through me.  I had finally given up my own will and was open to His. 

God doesn’t wait for us to change.  He just waits for us to be open and willing to follow.  He can and will change us.  I am proud to say I haven’t had a drink since that night.  I have an entirely new group of friends and church is my second home.  I have also completely given my life entirely to Him.  My children, my hopes, dreams, future, ministry, and yes…my checkbook.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2007 in encouragement

 

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“Somebody’s Knocking. Should I Let Him In?”

There’s a knock at the door and your heart sinks.  You know that knock.  It’s the hard knock of a bill collector there to ruin yet another Saturday morning. It’s the sound of bad luck catching up with your lack of faith. If the television weren’t blaring, you’d consider pretending to not be home in hopes of one more day with heat on a cold night. 

A second knock assures you, you are out of time.  Empty handed and out of hope, you open the door only to hear the sound of silence when your fears are realized.

As a single parent, that feeling has been all too common. Beating off the electric company and praying for the gas tank to make it one more mile has become a way of life.  Staring at an empty refridgerator and praying for a miracle fills many silent nights. Yet, if God can feed 5, 000 with a couple of loaves of bread, we’ll be alright. Right?

The angry creditor banged on the door as if to be the “Big bad wolf”. There was no hiding behind the door.  Silent prayers did nothing to deter his motives.  He had come with warrants and was prepared to use them.  Standing by calmly and allowing someone to take everything you have is never a choice made easily.  For this mother, the choice was even harder.

The soil filling her husband’s grave was hardly settled. He had been a hard worker for the company of the prophets and his death had come as a shock to all.  They had been a close family.  With two sons, they had been a picture perfect family in the eyes of the community. Now with her husband being gone, the bills were on her as well as anything else that may pop up.

They had never really discussed the mortgage. He had taken care of everything as she cared for the home and the children.  Life was good.  Life has a way of pulling the carpet out from under you just to stir things up a bit.  As the creditor stood  pounding at her door, she prepared for war.

Elisha  was ga close friend of the family.  Cookouts and backyard football games were a regular Sunday afternoon event for the members of the company and their families.  Holidays and special events made for many Kodak moments as the years went by.  The passing of his friend marked the biggest loss the company had felt.  Yet, the rain kept coming. How long would the thunder roll?

“Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two sons as slaves.” cried the widow to Elisha. (2 Kings 4:1)  The panic in her voice woke Elisha out of a dead sleep. Where else was she to go?  Elisha had promised his friend he would look after his wife and sons after his death.  Now was the time to step up to the plate. As the tears poured down her broken face, she began to question why God would allow such a storm to take so much.

With fear in her eyes, her mind started wondering to all the possibilities. Losing her sons was more than she could bare yet she had no money to pay the creditor.  There was no community auction to settle his debts, no trust fund for the children set up by his co-workers, no life insurance policy to carry them through.  Her options were slim and she had but one choice…Prayer.  With a husband that loved the Lord, she had learned to lean on God in such times as this. 

Her cabinets were bare. The goats had become so unhealthy due to a lack of food that there was no milk left to offer. There was but a small jar of oil left in the entire house.  A modern day “Martha”, Elisha reminded her of her talents….and her faith.

“Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t just ask for a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars , and as each is filled, set it to one side”  Elisha told the heart broken widow. (2 Kings 4:4) 

She had much favor with the neighbors.  Entertaining had always been a joy of hers and so going from door to door to ask for jars was right up her alley. She did as she was told and went home to prepare for rain.  With the doors closed, (and the creditor tapping his foot outside the window), she went to work pouring the oil.  Ribbons made each jar a perfect presentation for the bake sale on the lawn that her sons were setting up for.  Card board signs were painted, direction signs were set up at each intersection, and many prayers were offered up as she poured oil into each jar.

With each jar, she feared its sufficiency. Remembering the Lord’s promise to supply all her needs, she continued pouring…and pouring…and pouring. The more jars she filled, the louder her singing became and the lighter her load.

“Bring me another jar,” she said to her son. But he replied, “there is not a jar left” (2 Kings 4:6) Instantly, her small bottle of oil was gone. Her eyes turned to heaven, she blew a kiss to her husband and a prayer of thanksgiving to her Savior.

The bake sale was a huge success like a fundraiser for a local charity. Each jar of oil was prepared with faith, hope, and a lot of love. Neighbors offered more than she asked, the company purchased enough to stock their break room, and even the creditor took a couple home.  One by one, she counted out the dollars to pay their debt in full.

“…you and your sons can live on what is left.” (2 Kings 4:7) Because of her faith, and her obedience, the creditor left with a smile on his face as she and her two sons prepared dinner. Life was good.

God has promised to supply all our needs.  His timing may not always be ours, but he is always on time. Even in the face of adversity, faith shines the way as we lean on the very one who has promised to hold our hand each time life takes a turn.

“We live by faith not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“The Last Place You Looked…”

Isn’t is so frustrating to search so hard for something just to find it in “The last place you looked”?  Truth is, once you finally find it, you wouldn’t continue to look. So, whether you found it immediately or after days of searching, whatever you are looking for is always in the last place you look.  Wouldn’t it be great if we always knew where to look? Think of all the time and frustration it would save.

She knew the frustration of searching…and searching…and searching. I wonder sometimes why Jesus felt the need to mention her.  In fact, her name was never mentioned..just her actions. She was looking for something.

As Jesus walked through a crowd on the way to heal a dieing child, a multitude of people followed him from one point to the next.  She was in that crowd.  She was following him.  She knew first hand the art of searching desperately for something only to come up empty handed time and time again. 

Storms are no respecter to age, race, creed, color, or financial status.  Storms seldom come along just once.  She (for the sake of conversation shall be called “Isabella”), had experienced more than her share of storms.  In fact, I dare say, there were multiple hurricanes haunting her.  She came alone that day in search of her virtual umbrella, which leads me to believe, she had spent her life alone. Her entire life.

With lines of regret forming the deepest of crows feet, she hid in the crowd.  “Isabella” was use to hiding.  Memories of her childhood reminded her that she was unworthy of attention. Neighborhood girls gawking at her unusual silence, boys kicking up dust at the smell of her unclean clothes.  Her past reminded her that walking alone was her only path to freedom, or the least amount of pain.

Years passed with one mistake following another. She searched for love anywhere she could find it. She searched for acceptance, understanding, and yes, peace. Each overturned stone offered less hope than the one before. Each passing year brought yet one more gray hair into her veil of “independence”.

The only thing, in fact, that she counted on faithfully was the next storm.  She knew it was coming.  She could smell the rain like a farmer plowing a field. She felt the thunder long before seeing the lightening. She was no stranger to the rain.  Throwing her shoulders back, she braced for a tough one. Twelves years of thunder followed her.  This storm was more than she could handle. Doctor after doctor, she searched for a medical answer.  One bad check after another, she paid for inconclusive tests. The doctors and counselors were all too happy to accept her money.  They could see the desperation in her eyes and with a pat on the back, they sent her to look somewhere else for the cure.

For twelve years, “Isabella” searched every nook and cranny.  She found herself at the door of every priest, every distant relative, every shelter begging for the answer to the hemorrhaging that had imprisoned her for most of her adult life. She had become so accustomed to swimming up stream, it almost seemed normal.

She began to question her worthiness.  She questioned where the ones who should have loved her had mingled off to.  Where was the life she had dreamed of as a young girl holding her first baby doll…the man of her dreams…the house on a hill…2.3 children??? Decades had slipped by without so much as a knock at the door, and she had nothing but regret, mistakes, fear, and unresolved searches to show for it. Until today!!!

She had come to the end of resources.  “Isabella” had done everything in HER power to heal herself, to fit into society, to reach her goals.  She gave it all she had and still had nothing.  Until today!!!  Finally, after complete exhaustion, with one last hope, she reached out for the one person she believed could finally heal her.  This was the last place she looked.

Her heart was racing.  With sweaty palms, dirty feet, and a torn skirt, she hurried her way through the crowd. Knowing she had but one chance to be at the exact spot he would be, she elbowed and shoved each rubbernecker that stood between her and her healer. The guards cleared the way.  Children crouched below their parents to see his feet. This was her last chance. Her last hope at a future. The last place she could look.

Like the sweet smell of a Carolina pine on a Spring morning, a breeze settled in and seemed to open a path just wide enough for her to get to the front of the line.  Glaring at the dirt below was second nature.  As he passed by, her eyes instinctively searched the ground for a focal point as she waited for her divine moment.

In the blink of an eye, decades of pain and rejection came full circle. The pounding of her heart threatened to scare her out of  reaching toward him.  Her fear of failure pushed her forward. Just as he passed by, the tips of her skinned fingers brushed against his hem. 

“Who touched my clothes?”  (Mark 5:30) The disciples laughed at the thought of him asking in such a crowd.

In fear, she stepped forward to own her actions. Like old friends sipping over a cup of coffee, she told him her entire story.  Public speaking had never been her talent.  Today, she could care less. She cried about her past.  She laughed with her new found friend. She held onto his hand like a beacon on a stormy night.  The storm had finally ended as she put away her umbrella. 

“Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34)

With a new spirit and her head held high, she flowed through the crowd like a new bride.  Tears of joy streamed down a face that finally held a smile. With a new friend added to her “in-box”, she was free.  As she made her way to the far end of the crowd, she thought to herself, “if only I had looked there first!!!”

How often do we work ourselves into a frenzy leaning on our own understanding?  How often do we ask the doctors, the priest, even our long lost friends for the answer?  I’ve been there.  I’ve read every self help book, every “Dear Abby” article, and searched every lost and found. If only I had gone to the Father first. If only I had been obedient in my trust and submission. Oh the years of searching I could have saved. Certainly after finding the answer in Him, it was the last place I looked.  It is the only place I will ever look again.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“Do Not Forget to Entertain Strangers”

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” 

Hebrews 13:1-2

Entertaining strangers…for most of us, that could be a tough one. Most of us are constantly on the run barely taking the time to look up to see who is in front of us…let alone entertaining them.

I love to entertain in my home.  I have a complete coffee station in my kitchen.  Yes, I said “coffee station”.  Two coffee pots filled at any given time, biscottis, homemade cookies each day, chocolate covered peppermint stirrers, and a kitchen table that seats 9!!  I love to entertain.  Friends stop by on any given evening for coffee, a laugh, and a word of prayer.  There is a small cafe table sitting in front of my sliding glass doors for more intimate entertaining.  Did I mention, I love entertaining.

Our house is commonly known as the “Kool Aide” house.  You can find a number of kids here in the afternoons.  My daughter enjoys baking as much as I do, so she in found preparing brownies and hot chocolate on many days.  We are an entertaining family.

But entertaining strangers is a whole new story.  Do you ever wonder why God threw that verse in there?  In Biblical days, this probably didn’t raise an eyebrow. Life wasn’t as hectic as it is now..or at least I like to think not.

I took my children to a “river walk” to take pictures of them.  It was cold that morning and they noticed an elderly man sitting on the bench.  He was wrapped up in his torn coat with his head down to avoid the wind.  It was so cold, in fact, that we chose to leave and come back later in the morning when it had time to warm up a bit.  Perhaps 3 hours later we returned to finish our pictures.  The same man was there.  It didn’t appear that he had even moved and believe me, my children noticed.

I could see the look of fear on their faces for this stranger.  Being the mature adult that I am, I dismissed the man and wanted to get the pictures done.  My kids wouldn’t hear of it.  We left for a trip to Burger King.  Each of them used their own money to purchase an entire meal for the elderly man.  We returned back to the park bench where they each carried their gifts to the man.

My oldest son (who was about 6 at the time), touched the man on his arm to get his attention.  “Are you hungry, Mister?” Jathe asked.  The man’s eyes told a story of pain and loneliness.  With a simple nod, he accepted the bag of warm food.  Mikayla and Colby offered their bags as well.  One by one, each of them told the stranger of God’s love. As I watched, both I and the stranger wiped tears from our eyes.

It amazes me how children have such an ability to teach God’s love in a way we would never imagine.  Not only did they speak God’s love, but they ministered to this man’s needs and therefore opened the door to show it. I felt ashamed that day that I would have simply walked away.

As adults, I think we tend to get lost in our own lives. We forget the simple rules God gives us. Entertaining strangers is probably one of the simplest things we can muster.  Still, it took a child to point that out to me.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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“I Know How You Feel”

“I Know How You Feel”

Just when you think it can’t get worse, some”well-wisher” comes along to whisper in your ear, “I know how you feel”. They simply can’t find the words to say anything else. Hearing those words seldom eases the pain. Hearing how your friend once lost their home doesn’t solve your money problems. Hearing about their divorce doesn’t erase your spouse’s infidelity. And hearing someone else’s tragedy of loss doesn’t bring back your loved one.

In the midst of the storm, whatever your storm, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that anyone has felt your pain. To know another soul breathing has endured such turmoil just to remain upright is practically unthinkable. As your tears fall, these words are but another mindless background noise left to take up space during the trial.

This trial was no different. For days friends, family, co-workers and fellow church members hovered. Casserole dishes came in and out. Soft music echoed in the sitting room as candles were kept lit in the bathroom. Everyone was there. Everyone except Lazarus and Jesus. With the wake behind them, Lazarus’ sisters were left with the task of entertaining ‘mourners”, planning the funeral, and maintaining a smile. Martha had never been much good at putting on a pleasant front. Certainly this day wouldn’t change that. She owned her feelings and had mastered the art of allowing her emotions to precede her actions.

Mary, on the other hand spent the evening smiling, however plastered, and shaking hands. Occasionally, she would share a “Lazarus story” with a friend wishing a trail down memory lane. With a constant tear, Mary held it together. Martha was not so lucky.

A picture of Lazarus stood on an artist’s easel as loved ones moved in a greeting line, touching his smile with the tips of their fingers.

“Where is Jesus in all this?” Martha would grunt angrily while pouring yet another tray of drinks for the guest. “Why isn’t He here? Why are we alone?” In such a moment loneliness, fear, resentment, and good old fashioned heart ache creeps in to take up residence. When the very one you love has been taken, time is just a word and healing is a world away. Knowing a room full of former broken hearts are standing by to offer apologies does nothing to ease the ruptured vessels that have taken you hostage. When all you can do is scream “why”, nothing else seems to matter.

Then entire town had gathered. Flowers covered the freshly turned soil as the box of tissue passed through the crowd. “I know how you feel” didn’t stop the procession. It didn’t erase the scars that had already taken residence in the sister’s hearts. One final kiss on the cheek and Lazarus had just as quickly become a memory.

To be sure, God Himself wiped away a tear. To see Mary and Martha clutching a shirt of his in hopes of holding their brother’s scent for a moment longer. Certainly He whispered, “I know how you feel. I’ve been there. The pain DOES fade. Hold on, you’ll see him again. I know…I know how you feel.”

When the storm is raging and our hearts are broken, seeing God’s purpose and feeling His well earned compassion can be far from present moment. All too often, we stand with the pieces of our world and tattered umbrellas in our tear soaked hands. In our own understanding, we can not see an ounce of healing. It is in those very moments that God calls us to rest. He promises rest, in fact! “Come to me all you who labor and are heaven laden, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST!” (Matthew 11:28)

“I know how you feel,” He whispers. “Come rest on my shoulder. Wrap yourself with my arms and wait. I WILL give you rest. The pain does lesson. Hold on. You will hold his hand again. You will touch his face. I know how you feel”. I can only imagine the pain the Father felt as Mary and Martha sobbed uncontrollably as the stone covered all signs of Lazarus’ life. I can picture His arms out stretched in an attempt to share his story of love lost. Surely He knows the feeling of losing the very person your heart beats for. Giving His only son knowing he’ll have to watch Jesus take his last breath nailed to the cross gave Him the ability to say “I Know how you feel”.

In true form, Jesus rides in like the Savior He is. Oddly enough, his steps were slow. There was no anxiety in his movements. By the time Jesus made it to graveside to console Mary and Martha, days had passed. Unexpectedly, Mary screamed in anger. Jesus was her friend…she was angry! “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” (John 11:21)

Haven’t we all felt like that at some point? If only Jesus had been there. When we are looking for someone to blame for our pain, isn’t He the likely suspect? When the world doesn’t seem to feel our pain, isn’t Jesus the one we want answers from?

“Your brother WILL rise again” ( John 11:23) He promises with a strong look of “I know how you feel”

Lazarus did rise again. Jesus called him, “by name” to walk out of the grave and he did. We can’t always see the outcome while clinging to a mangled umbrella. There are times when we can’t see past our tear filled, blood shot eyes. It is in these times, God calls us to lay our head in his lap and simply rest. He doesn’t call us in for a lecture of lack of faith, but to run his fingers through our hair and offer rest as he whispers, “I know how you feel”.

When the family and friends leave, when the last casserole has been eaten and the flowers fade, there is a place to rest. He does know how you feel, even if no one else does. He offers hope and promises peace. Cry for as long as you need to. Hurt as long as it takes. He is there holding the tissue.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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