Monday, December 2, 2013

The Gratitude of Worship

True gratitude is not sporadic. It cannot be spent or exhausted. It is the transformation of a mind that is more grateful for the giver than for the gift, for the purpose than for the present, for life itself rather than for abundance.
--Ravi Zacharias

We drive through the thick traffic and I keep glancing over at my sleeping Debbie, so peaceful and quiet beside me. Thanksgiving Day, and we’re headed towards my sister’s house with her cozy walkway and her fresh berry cobbler and her cheerful candles that chase away the gloom of November. We drive and we drink coffee and talk and we hope that Debbie will sleep the entire drive, which she does and I’m grateful because her naps have been so short lately.

We talk and we get a little loud now and then and I say “Shhh!” and we’re almost there now and the sky is partly overcast, a perfect Thanksgiving Day.

And when we get there, we take the pies out of the trunk and my Mama’s savory French stuffing that her mother used to make, and my sister’s stuffed mushrooms and her delightfully pecan-browned sweet potato casserole and I lick my lips and imagine the lovely repast that awaits inside.

We walk up the path to the house and we smell the delicious aromas that belong to Thanksgiving . . . the roasting turkey, almost done now, and the beautiful mound of mashed potatoes, and the sweet, crisp corn and the warm buttery biscuits.

And I see my dear sister and her hair pulled back as she prepares this feast of delights and her cheeks are warm and rosy from bending over the stove and her hands are made beautiful from the love and hard work and the creating of things lasting—she is one of the blessed and the joy pours from her eyes and she is grateful and her eyes quietly reflect their gratitude . . .

Sing praise to God
Who reigns above
For perfect knowledge, wisdom love
His judgements are divine, devout
His paths beyond all tracing out
Come lift you hearts to heaven’s high throne-
And glory give to God alone.

We give glory, and we gather around the table that He has set before us and we pour out thanks from hearts of praise. And we laugh and we talk and we smile and the warmth of His love surrounds us.

The table is set and the meal is served and we eat until we can’t possibly fit any more stuffing inside of our full bellies—though we’d like to.

And we give praise to God in our hearts knowing that He is the One who has provided these good and perfect gifts for us—His material gifts of food and warmth and clothing—and we sit in a warm house in our cozy sweaters and shoes and we bask in the knowledge that He has provided all things.

And we remember the years of severe want, when times were difficult and we had sold almost all of our furniture and when we didn’t have heat upstairs and when my sister and I piled blankets high on our beds to stay warm at night and humbled our “educated” selves by working at a fast food chain in order to survive. And God was gracious. And He gave us what we needed. And He brought us out into a spacious place and delighted to do us good. Even in those difficult times. And when other’s hours were cut, for some reason ours stayed steady. And the manager gave us free iced coffee and even though he was an unbeliever, was merciful towards us . . . the Lord was merciful towards us . . .

We celebrate Thanksgiving this year, and we don’t give thanks glibly, because we have felt the strain of need, the strain of eating spaghetti night after night, the strain of anxiety over finances, the strain of cold and worry and of crying out to a merciful Father who never left us desolate.

And we try to celebrate the holidays now in that knowledge, and place the emphasis where it belongs . . . ultimately not on family, food, football, good times, friends . . . but on a faithful Father who gives us all things richly to enjoy and under Whose umbrella all of these other “lesser things” fall. We love Him and we have felt His presence in times of plenty and in times of want. And He has been faithful to us.

We see the invisible empty place at the head of the table and we worship the One who has given and taken away and we know in our heart of hearts that "blessed is the name of the Lord.” And He inhabits that place and pours His balm of healing thanksgiving into our
hearts . . . blessed, blessed be the name of the Lord.

And later we gather together and sing and my sister’s husband, Alex plays the guitar, strumming to the great old Thanksgiving hymns, the words to which I love . . . and they are deep and they are rich and they speak testimony to a Mighty and merciful God.

And then Londie’s husband says, let me teach you a simple chorus that I know and he strums it on his guitar and he sings the words so that we can repeat them and it touches my heart today with a message so sweet and unembellished and plain—

Thank You, Jesus
For the grace that You have given us
We could not repay
But from my heart I choose to say
Thank You

And that simple song plants a melody of praise in my heart and later we drive home and I am full . . . of simple, heartfelt joy in the One who has given all that we may give Him thanks—not to repay, but to worship.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Freedom in a Prison

“We do not usually learn that Christ is all we need until we reach that point where he is all we have!”

--Vance Havner

The great gray door swings shut and there is finality in its closing. The door is shut and the building is grim and the guards hold sentry, ever watchful of their captors.

A prison is a dismal place, the barbed wire fences speaking as if to say, “Don’t come inside, for you will never get out.” And those inside have more often than not broken the rules of society . . . There are others who never enter a prison because they haven’t broken society’s rules. But they have at some point in their lives, broken God’s. Every man is in chains until the blood of Christ frees him. Some chains are visible; some are unseen.

And some sit in prisons and they are weary and they are discouraged and they are hardened by the rough language, by the jagged behavior around them. They sit in prisons and wonder if they will ever be free, if their life will ever be redeemed or whether they are “stuck” for good. And it is just that they are there and justice has been served and they have “gotten” what they technically deserve.

The Gospel offers the hope and the freedom that we don’t deserve-- the Gospel that is able to emancipate men, to make them right with God, to set them loose from their prison so that they may praise His name.

Jesus brings freedom through prisons, through closed doors, through hopeless, waiting days of nothing but four gray walls and a sink and a latrine. Jesus visits prisons where no one else would set foot inside, lest others might think that they belong there, too. Jesus walks in prisons.

My brother-in-law Alex was blessed to be able to attend a Bible study this week that was led by a missionary that our church supports. It was in a prison. He had to undergo a background check and pass under the watchful eye of the prison guards there. He had to enter into that closed place so that he could feed upon the Bread of Life with free men in chains.

When he came home he said that the experience made him think of Vance Havner’s quote, “We do not usually learn that Christ is all we need until we reach that point where he is all we have!”

Often, men and women in prison are desperate. They have come to a place of desperation in their lives, committed some crime that further proves their desperation, and now sit silently behind the great gray walls that hold them and their desperation in. Some turn to the Lord in prison—why? Perhaps because they have come to the end of themselves. Perhaps because they finally realize their need for a Savior. Perhaps because they are lonely and weary and discouraged thinking of the joyless hours, days, years looming before them.

Jesus is joy and they cling to Him. Jesus is joy behind prison walls because He is freedom in chains. And the men and women who come to know Him in prison are often some of the most grateful because they realize that they have been forgiven much. And so they love much. The Son has set them free and they are free indeed.

So, for some, prison is worth it. Prison is worth it if the soul is united with its Maker and the spirit is set free to praise the God of heaven. When He is all we have . . . when family and friends have forsaken us. When the years stretch before us like dark-robed guards and threaten to suffocate our souls. When we realize that we have committed crimes too great, too heinous for words and that without forgiveness we will sink beneath the mire. When we don’t think that we can go another day without seeing the blue sky or without feeling the lovely crisp grass beneath our unchained feet.

He is salvation from prison. And there are other “prisons” that chain us and hold us down in the dark and threaten to overwhelm our souls. The “prison” of a spouse dying-- the loneliness, the pain, the utter grief of spirit, the “prison” of a painful divorce in which we have been the victim of bitter rejection, the “prison” of a long, drawn out disease that wracks our body and steals the joy of the light of day from our hearts.

And I can remember days, joyless days in the prison of a situation that I could not control, and thinking, if the sun was out and the birds were singing and the beauty of spring was in the air, “I wish it were dark and cold and gray,” because that is how I felt. I could not relate to light and to warmth and to grace and my soul was in agony. Until the Lord stooped down and I realized that He is all that I need. That “when all around my soul gives way, He the is ALL my hope and stay.” Until I realized that “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform” and that “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” He was all I needed. But His grace had to touch me and make me realize that, not only in my mind, but in my heart.

A prison can be the gateway to freedom when it makes a man or a woman recognize their need of Christ. And a spiritual prison can be the beginning of an open door, if we will allow the Holy Spirit to stoop to us in our need and help us, lifting our feet, like pilgrim out of the mire and setting them on solid ground.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk / / CC BY-NC

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beauty For Ashes

"To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:3

When all the sky has turned to dust of gray
And sun-warmed days are gone at last
Then, to my Lord I kneel and pray
When every hope of dawn seems past

When smoky leaves turn into barren ash
The wind of summer turned away
The hills are silent, clothed in dying grass
Their emerald splendor could not stay

When all the sweetness of the harvest’s gone
And hungry souls ache to be filled
Glad singing ended and the fields, forlorn
The land in sorrow—hushed and still

Then God will come with all His hosts of light
My God who changes night to day
And makes the ache of darkness bright
When all the shadows flee away

Photo credit: James Jordan / / CC BY-ND

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Fear of the Church Potluck

"I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,I come to Thee."
--Annie S. Hawks

The holidays are here again, or at least, just around the corner. Everyone’s spirits seem to lift in anticipation of the festivities. And so do mine . . . I love the cheerful Christmas carols being played, the decorations, the lights, the warmth, the glow. There’s “a song in the air,” a song that resonates in believer’s hearts as they focus on the Nativity, the Gift of the Christ-Child, the physical advent of salvation. And as Christian folks near and far gather together, we’re reminded of how we will all share in the great Marriage Feast of the Lamb one day, one glorious, freeing day.

I love the holiday season . . . and yet, there is one event that always strikes fear in my heart. And that is, another church potluck. No; I’m not afraid of calories (although to someone who is, the church potluck is not the place for the weak in will ;-)). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the fellowship, the games, the abundant fare, the succulent desserts. The church potluck strikes a note of terror in my soul because . . . I am not a “people person.” I am shy. I like to retreat into myself and nervously ponder whether or not I answered so and so in the “right” way, whether I said something that didn’t make sense, whether there was food in my teeth while I was talking to an elder’s wife.

In years past, I’ve tried to think of dozens of excuses not to go, to try to conjure up a reason for my absence.

I usually end up going. I usually end up enjoying myself and having a good time of fellowship with the brethren. I usually end up over-eating, but that’s a different matter . . .   :-)

I am better at expressing my thoughts through writing rather than through speaking. I like to think about what I am going to say. I like to make sure that I’m not saying anything (truly) heretical. I like to ask the opinions of other Godly family members and friends before I voice a strong opinion about something, in general.

But sometimes the Lord doesn’t give us exactly what we want. Sometimes He places us in situations where we feel uncomfortable so that we can learn, step by painful freeing step, to depend upon Him. So that we will experience His presence and Him speaking through us at the spur of the moment when we haven’t had time to think through what our answer is going to be.

And it’s funny, sometimes I don’t “feel” uncomfortable at all. Sometimes I can go to church or to a social gathering and be perfectly at ease. And I am like Peter walking on the waves, heading toward his Savior. But at other times, (most times) I am a blundering nervous wreck who hides behind my husband’s loquaciousness, nodding my head and smiling, trying to eat as slowly as possible so that I won’t have to rise from my squeaky folding chair and actually carry on a conversation with someone (the point of “the potluck!”) Suddenly (and usually when I am worrying about what people think or depending on myself) I begin to sink beneath the waves and cry out in desperation for Jesus to lift me up before I drown and make an absolute fool of myself.

All at the church potluck. And there are people there who are social butterflies just flitting around from person to person, saying all of the right things and giving all of the right smiles and there is never food between their teeth and they just don’t understand people like little old me who are terrified of the church potluck.

Isn’t life funny like that? And I think of the times that people stepped outside of their circle of friends and talked to me at the church potluck and I was eternally grateful, and they never realized it. I think of an associate minister’s wife at the time, who “stepped down” to spend time in conversation with me when I was in highschool and she wasn’t pushing to find out what plans I had for college or whether I had a summer job lined up or how well I did on my SAT’s. She was just living out the love of Christ toward someone who she probably realized felt awkward and uncomfortable. And there have been other people like that. People who are not concerned about whether or not they are sitting with the “right” people, the “important” people at the church potluck. People who sit with the people who they perceive to be “lowly,” and who don’t do it for the show of it, but because they genuinely have love for the brethren. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ and who don’t patronize but truly care.

We need to realize that the Lord makes people different, that He has placed them in all different circumstances in life, that they have come from all different backgrounds and most of us have hang-ups and insecurities and fears. And I am not giving anyone an “excuse” for fearful, introverted to the point of being unfriendly behavior, but I am saying that we should show mercy, not judgement and a turning up the nose and wagging the tongue towards them.

There is a great difference between someone who grew up in the church, sang in the choir, came from a Godly family and attended every church service, and someone who came from a background of abuse, beatings, soap operas, pornography, chaos, and constant sarcastic belittlement from a parent or from parents. We need to show compassion. We need to sit with people from the latter group at the church potluck who have come to Christ, who have been redeemed, but who still feel uncomfortable and who use the word “ain’t” once in a while.

And though I grew up under the influence of a godly Christian mother who protected us and brought us up in the fear of the Lord, my disposition is one of shyness. And on top of that “handicap,” many times in my own life, depending on the circumstances, I have felt extremely uncomfortable for different reasons because of the sinful behavior of my father and the effect that it had upon our family. I didn’t want to talk about it; I wanted to hide it and to protect those who I loved who were affected by it. I didn’t want to be confronted at the church potluck about “how things were going” by someone who completely didn’t understand the situation, the agony, the deep distress and the extent of emotional pain that it caused.

I understand now that there are “well-meaning” Christians who intend no harm in asking somewhat silly questions; they just don’t understand because they haven’t experienced it. But I think as believers that it is sometimes better to hold your peace and just let someone know that you are sincerely praying for them if you don’t understand. But I digress . . .

Ahh . . . the church potluck. For me, it is an opportunity to learn to rely more upon the Holy Spirit in any given situation. To stop thinking about how panic attacks run in my family and to just take a couple of strong aspirin afterwards when the inevitable headache comes.

For others, it is an opportunity to learn grace, to exhibit grace towards those who are uncomfortable. Not in a showy way that makes the “shy” ones feel like you are pitying them. The Holy Spirit will teach you how. The Holy Spirit will show you who to talk to and how it is more important to show the love of Christ in this way than to gush over the quality of the apple pie or to take the highest social place. The Lord will reward you. And He will be well-pleased in your obedience and the love that is poured out through you by His Spirit.

And isn’t that what the church potluck is all about? The love of Christ, the fellowship of the brethren, and the glory to Him alone.

Photo credit: daniel_dimarco / / CC BY-NC-ND

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Made for the Valley

“We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley (see Mark 9:14-18). We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.”

--Oswald Chambers

I see beautiful profile pictures on Facebook and beautiful families on Christmas cards and beautiful people smiling at me with beautiful white teeth. And there are beautiful captions underneath and friends who see them and think that they need to go and take a beautiful picture that can be their profile picture, too. I want to have a beautiful picture that will make everyone think of how happy I must be and how well my life is going and how good my job is and how well-behaved my kids are and how much my husband adores me . . . But life is usually not about beautiful pictures. And sure, there are times when you load your dozens of pictures onto your computer and an especially good one pops out and you think, “Wow; this is it.” But that’s usually not life. Life is usually the closed eyes when the camera snaps, the imperfect teeth, the hair out of place, the less-then-flattering pose.  

And maybe there are some people out there who can always take a beautiful picture, but I doubt that there are very many and I doubt that they are as happy, successful, satisfied and as smug as their beautiful picture makes them out to be.

Life isn’t about beautiful pictures. Life is about trenches and digging deep into the raw reality of pain and throbbing emotions and lost babies and sleepless nights and frustrations and the car breaking down and the day-to-day grinding of the wheels of routine . . . boring routine . . . necessary routine, so that the Savior of our souls can mold and shape us into who He would have us become in Him.

I don’t like routine. And yet I love it. And yet I get overwhelmed sometimes with the same bowl of oatmeal every morning and the same clothes and the same books and the same dishes and the same laundry and the same making dinner and the same old rooms and the same old bed and the same chores and the same walks and on and on and on . . .

Yet I love routine, because without it, something is lost, something of chaos sets in, something of disorder and something of laziness in my heart and resigning to how I “feel.” I love routine because I learn through it that if I don’t spend time with the Lord in the morning, the day for me is lost . . . if I don’t basically keep to a schedule with my little daughter, she starts acting “crazy” and it’s harder to sit down quietly with her and read books the next time.

One of my favorite quotes is from William Carey, the Baptist Missionary to India, so-called “father of modern missions.” He says, (in response to people praising him for his work) ““If he gives me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond that will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

“I can plod . . .” and this is what the Christian’s life is mainly about. This is what Pilgrim did as he made his way toward the Celestial City with only the clothes on his back and with faith in his heart, the faith that God alone gives.

I can plod . . . when I don’t feel like it. I can clean, by the strength and grace of God when I am tired; I can read another book with my daughter, I can pray with someone on the phone when I feel shy and uncomfortable but I know in my heart that this is the beginning of the answer to their problem.

I can plod . . . when I’ve only gotten three hours of sleep, when my child is cranky and irritable, when I know in my heart that I need to get off of the phone, the computer, whatever takes my attention at the moment away from what it should be on, and engage my child for the glory of God.

It isn’t easy . . . I don’t like it . . . It’s uncomfortable . . . and yet plodding works righteousness by the Holy Spirit of God.

Of course there are special times and special seasons of refreshing when we break away from routine and enjoy something different. When we go on vacation, when we have ice-cream for dinner, when we head to the seashore on a steamy summer night. And these things refresh us and prepare us again for life in the trenches. As Oswald Chambers says, our Christian life is not a “mountaintop” experience. The mountaintop experiences are given so that we may travel down into the “demon-possessed” valley and remember that the Lord is with us, recalling to mind those days of revelation and beautiful views and the wonder. There are times for vacations and retreats and respites . . . but they are not life. Because life is plodding; the Christian life is plodding, planting seeds, waiting patiently for them to grow and praying for the sunshine and the rain.

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." (James 5:7-11).

The perseverance of Job, the compassion and mercy of the Lord . . . an example for us. A call to live with grace in the valleys of life, with peace and joy in the Savior who walked there before us, plodding ever towards glory.

Photo credit: Zach Dischner / / CC BY

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: The House of Mercy, written by Alicia Roque Ruggeiri

 “Deoradhan found no reply to this in his mouth. He stood before the stone altar, helpless, feeling his heart thud against his ribs. As though a curtain had been pulled away from his mind, he suddenly knew that if he rejected this God now, he would be exiled from Him forever. He would no longer be able to hear the Voice that both drew and repulsed him. Long moments passed. He felt his soul tense and rebel against this Invader.” (pp 256 The House of Mercy)

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:25-26

The House of Mercy is a beautiful, rich novel written by Alicia Roque Ruggeiri. A work of fiction, the novel is one that you won’t want to put down until you have unearthed all of its depths . . . and then you will want to read it all over again . . .

With a raging heart of stone, the main character in Alicia’s novel seeks reparations. Reparations for a past that haunts and goads him to regain what he has lost. Reparations for the death of his father-king to a wicked conqueror, commissioned by King Arthur. Reparations for his mother’s forced marriage to her husband’s murderer.

His soul burning within him, Deoradhan walks restlessly as an exile, waiting for his chance to recover what he believes to have been stolen from him.

Anger churning within his spirit at the Roman God who rendered him such an injustice, Deoradhan bitterly grasps at what has been taken from him, content to die in battle with the God who has wounded him rather than to submit to His authority in Deoradhan’s life and bow the knee before such an imagined unfair Deity.

This novel is woven intricately with plot twists and turns and an unexpected (not a predictable) story-line. Yet, it is utterly satisfying to the reader, a tapestry of justice, honor, love and mercy, ruggedly etched through every page. It is beautifully written, with careful attention to detail and well-researched interweaving of the post-Roman Arthurian time-period in which the story is set.

It is not a “frothy” novel. The themes are raw and real and thought-provoking. Alicia confronts some very weighty issues head-on, without apologizing for the disturbances they may cause to the reader’s psyche. And yet, the theme of the Lord’s mercy so sensitively touches every “hard” providence; His ways may not be easily understood, but His mercies soften the blows of even the most bitter circumstances.

Deoradhan is a man with a past, with an aching heart, and with a soul that struggles against the One who continually draws him and haunts his every step.

His life intertwined with others around him, you will become acquainted with a common peasant girl whose impoverished family sends her away to work at their lord’s manor, a humble potter, a conscience stricken warrior whose past drives him to constant grief, and a lovely servant girl whose life is shattered and broken.

I highly recommend this novel and encourage you to pick up a copy. You will be encouraged and challenged by its contents, and I believe, your heart touched.

The House of Mercy is appropriate for young adult and adult audiences.

It is available through Amazon, Createspace or your local bookstore.  Purchase Here

Monday, October 21, 2013

To the Weary, Rest

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!
-John Newton

Soothing words, comforting words, gracious words, words of life and peace. Words of rest . . . it was one of those days, those days of “struggling” through, of waiting until quarter to nine to put the baby to sleep, and breathing a sigh of relief when I finally laid her in her crib. Sometimes the soul craves rest more than other times. Sometimes it reaches out for peace and that sense of security that only comes from the throne of grace, and sometimes it feels like you’re groping in the dark. Sometimes I have to struggle for peace and sometimes my attitudes of worry and frustration and fear only go, as Oswald Chambers says, by “kicking.” Peace can’t live next to agitation; the clods of the soul need to be broken and raked over, and the soil tilled. Only then can the sweet seeds of peace be sown.

Sometimes I need to ask myself--Is Jesus really my peace or am I looking for comfort in anything and everything but Him? And am I content in the day-to-day situations that He places me in, or is there always an undercurrent of frustration?

Having a child changes everything. You no longer have “free time,” time to spend alone in solitude (at least not for very long), time to journal as often, time to pray without interruption. I used to write in a journal almost every day; now I look months back to see where my last entry has been.

Everyone needs an outlet, or so “they” say . . . the proverbial “they.” You need time to yourself with no interuptions, “free” time, time to kick back and relax and let someone else take care of things for you.

My “outlet” used to be cleaning or weeding the garden. I feel relaxed when I clean and like it when things are being put back in “order”.

Now, I Iook around my room and there is a pair of pink-Debbie-socks on the floor, a pile of laundry waiting to be put away, dust in places that I never imagined possible, and various other miscellaneous items.

Never before would my uptight person have stood for this, but now, there are weightier things to contend with and the mess can be gradually dealt with on a day-to-day basis. If I need to fold the laundry perfectly, then I might not be able to read as many books to my daughter. So I do what is most important, and then leave the rest to grace, picking things up along the way and sometimes just laughing when I can’t keep up and then doing it later.

Sometimes you need to give up your “outlet.” Sometimes you can’t hand the child to someone else when you are overwhelmed and you just need to cry out to God for His grace in your present need. Many times, for me, frustration is a means to escape, a chance to let someone else deal with what has been given to me. I complain to evoke a response and then I go away and sulk while someone else picks up the pieces. “Children are a treasure from the Lord” . . . until their teeth are coming in, or they are fussy and cranky, until they are sick and whiny and tired.

So we look for comfort . . . we feel frustrated, we feel overwhelmed, so we look for an outlet, in whatever form it may take. Maybe a glass of wine (if you are someone who drinks), maybe a shopping trip or a spending “indulgence,” maybe a plate of cookies, maybe turning on the TV or watching a favorite movie.

And there is nothing wrong with any of those things, per se, but if I am looking for comfort in any of them or seeking to escape from my problems through them, rather than depending upon the God of all Comfort, then I am worshiping a different god, a strange god, a god who “heals the wound” slightly and makes me feel better only for the moment.

When the movie is over, when the cookies are gone, when the husband is frustrated that he’s been handed the baby for too long, when the credit card bill comes in, then the emptiness comes back, with a dull ache that wasn’t there before. Because now we must face whatever we were running from, without our little god to hide behind. And nothing about our circumstances has changed; the same frustration and angst are there and they won’t easily be sent away.

Now I am not saying that there is never a time that we can take a break from the "daily grind," or step away from a situation to find respite and peace and refreshment. What I am saying is that we shouldn't be dependent upon these outward escapes for our sense of well-being; our dependence should be upon the Lord, who at times, will refresh us through whatever means He allows in our lives. Otherwise, we come to need/depend upon these other avenues of satisfaction rather than Him alone Who gives all good and refreshing things.

Having a child sometimes “forces” one to realize that there are times when you cannot run away from a situation. Sometimes you have to take care of the kids when you feel so sick that you can’t stand up or so tired that you don’t think that you can keep your eyes open or have the energy to cook dinner. Another life is dependent upon you and you can’t drop the ball and take a nap.

Having children is an opportunity to build “tensile strength,” as Elisabeth Elliot calls it, an opportunity to learn discipline and perseverance and sacrifice in ways that you never may have imagined.

And it is worth it . . . raising a child in the love and the fear and the reverence of the Lord Jesus is worth it, and there are no regrets. It is worth the forfeited trip, the lack of showers, the dirty laundry, the fragmented times of prayer that somehow the Father picks up and hears and answers. And He “giveth more grace” when the burden is heavier . . .

It is getting late, and I hear the sweet sound of the crickets and feel the dark, lovely night wind and I know that He is here. His presence soothes and I am safe, without any outlet but Him. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” and His gentle love anoints my head with grace.

Photo credit: <a href="">Peewubblewoo</a> / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)</a>

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thirty-One Years of Grace

Beauty in the night air and the wind is scented with the perfume of leaves. Wind of the heavens, the stars fall in place and the sky is a shadow of memories. Thirty-one years ago, my advent into this racing world, and a new life cries into the day in the season of dying. Winter is coming, the death of creation, the seed fallen into the yielding ground of hope that will harden more and more as the days grow longer.

A Life gave life and my Mother holds me, after a difficult delivery. The 13th of October and superstitious, well-meaning people will forever kid me about it, especially when it falls on a Friday. But my Mama isn’t superstitious and she holds me and she rocks me and she draws me to herself; life to life, breath to breath, warmth to warmth and the sweet surrender of pain that makes way for a new baby to be born into the world, His world.

This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought . . . His world, though evil darkens over it and the Prince of the power of the air looms like the great eye over Mordor. The shadow deepens and men shrink for fear of the night.

But I need not fear . . . He who spared my Mama after she delivered me, after she woke covered with blood in the middle of the night and was rushed to the hospital. She woke up later and the doctor patted her on the hand and said it would be alright. A massive hemorrhage and a long healing, but the Lord was yet gracious and brought her back to us, though it took her months to recover.

She couldn’t breastfeed me; her body was too weak, so she held me against her skin whenever she gave me a bottle. She did all that was humanly possible and then the Lord gave His grace through her weakness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate . . .

Thirty-one years of His grace and I look back upon them with the soberness of knowing that “you can’t go back,” but with the hope of His mercies that are new every morning. Like the lovely, clear dew on the Autumn roses, still hanging onto life, His mercies come. And I am the bee that tries to gather all the nectar I can before this life is over, clinging to the flower of grace.

I haven’t done things perfectly; I grieve over the areas where I “have not His commandments kept,” where I have shirked my duty and taken the easy, wide road. It is right to grieve and there is a time for grief. A movement among believers says, “Don’t look back on your past; it’s covered by the blood.” And there is truth in that, but there is also a time for repentance and grief over sin, before a follower of the Alpha and the Omega can walk on with confidence. When we were children and we wanted to avoid punishment we would say, “I’m sorry,” really just to get off the hook. My Mom’s answer to this kind of “sorrow” was always “Sorry means changing.” As Christians we often want the forgiveness of the Father without the accompanying change that needs to take place in our hearts. We want, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls it, “cheap grace,” the grace that has no cost attached to it.

But I want costly grace in my life, the grace that moves and turns and bends and binds me to the will of the Father. I want to want that kind of grace. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak . . . Strengthen me by Your power, Lord Jesus . . . like Patrick, I “bind myself to Thee.”

Thirty-one years . . . and there is mercy stretching before me and ever His chesed, His lovingkindness. I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my cry for mercy. He hears, He is the God who hears, the God of Abraham and Gideon and David and the beautiful, rugged saints of the New Testament who “suffered the loss of all things,” so that they might gain Christ and be counted worthy.

Worthy . . . He is worthy . . . worthy of honor and glory and blessing, worthy of all praise, the praise of my lips and my life and these thirty-one years of grace.

All praise we would render , Lord help us to see, tis’ only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

He touches and a life springs forth, the deer of the forest gives birth; He speaks again and all things die and give way to the word of His mouth. All flesh is like the grass and like the flower that withers. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

Photo credit: <a href="">Ian Sane</a> / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)</a>

Friday, October 11, 2013


Search me, O God, and know my heart
Try me, and know my anxieties
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Beneath the Rock for refuge go
No other aid than this I know
No other shelter can I find
And to that Rock my will I bind

There is no other place of rest
Where pilgrim hands and feet are blessed
For when the wind my life would take
Beneath the Rock I will not break

Dear Rock, I need Your shelter sure
And I could ask for nothing more
There is no Refuge close to You
No one so perfect, certain, true

Forgive me, Lord, for times of doubt
When from my mind I cast You out
For when I hide in You I know
A place where wind and storm won’t go

For underneath the Rock is peace
My heart from fear is there released
And there, my Father’s gentleness
A pillow for my head to rest.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Simple Days

My adolescent sticky-fingered hands clung to the juicy peach. The old car rattling beneath us, we sped towards Plymouth, the site of our once-a-year vacation rendezvous when I was a little girl. My sisters and I were wedged together tightly in the backseat, like three squirming puppies, each of us gripping our piece of fruit. Our car, bursting with camping equipment and warm bodies made its way towards our final destination. This was before the days when most people had air conditioning and you just had to hang tight in the backseat, roll down the windows, and hope that you could catch a breeze. And when you finally piled out of the car you felt like you might have dripped away the very last ounce of condensation from your body. But then you were free to run and to play and to ramble and to be a child.

I remember the excitement of arriving at the campsite, usually sometime in the late afternoon, and setting up our big red tent that drooped when it rained and didn’t quite keep all the moisture out. I remember pushing the stakes into the ground and arranging my belongings in my designated area and making sure to remember to take off my shoes before going into the tent. No one wanted to sleep in a bed of dirt and pine needles; my Mom was quite adamant about that  . . .

And when nighttime came there was a roaring fire and hotdogs on the grill (this was before people could afford to regularly cook steaks on their grills) and the cozy feeling of sitting together as a family and just basking in the warmth and the pure delight of it all.

Going to Pinewood Lodge was our only vacation back then, and we were content with that. We were satisfied with the simple, because we were raised in a simple way. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on clothing and shoes and lessons and vacations (and that was probably a salvation for us in many ways; poverty can be a purifying means if it shifts the focus from material things to the Great Provider). We were thrilled to pretend that we were Mary and Laura from Little House on the Prairie and to collect baskets of green seeds outside to “cook” enticing, muddy soups with. And we were happy. And our refrigerator was always a little on the “empty” side. And we didn’t complain much about the things that we couldn’t have because we didn’t even realize that we were lacking anything.

How much does a child really need, anyway?

We didn’t have a lot of luxuries growing up, but my Mom made everything special — the holidays, the seasons, even the weather. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter were the crowning celebrations of our year, with birthdays coming closely in second, and Valentine’s Day, like a fairy-wisp of delight in the cold days of February. One of my clearest memories is of my Mom teaching me how to write my name in the soft light of the evening, while her able hands shaped a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day. And there would be pink applesauce some years, or cranberry soda with doilies placed festively around the table. And then our Valentine’s Day heart -- always Russell Stover, and our allowance of 2 chocolates per day. We were ecstatic . . . and still feel that sense of making each holiday very special.

We live in “easier” times now, monetarily speaking, but I wonder if we are deceiving ourselves in thinking that our children have it “better” than we did . . . Are we really benefiting our children by giving them all the luxuries that we didn’t have? Or are we driving them farther away from the realities of life, and from Christ, who is the Ultimate Reality? Simple things like walking to school — wasn’t it good exercise and didn't it teach children the discipline of pulling themselves out of bed just a little earlier? Do children really need a plethora of different snacks and favorite foods eaten at random times, or was it better when families sat down together at the table and ate a common meal while sharing in the events of one another’s lives? Do children need to be pushed into so many different activities that there is not time for them to enjoy their childhood, no time for good, honest hard-work, and no time for daily family worship and reading the Scriptures? (What is truly important to us, anyway?) Our lives may become less complicated if we prayerfully considered how we are raising our children and how much we, as believers have embraced the culture of hurry and chaos.

But sometimes it’s just easier to press through a drive through, to throw a quick movie into the DVD player for our kids, to jump into the car and head for the most enticing store. And sometimes there is nothing wrong with it, when a respite or a break is needed. But it shouldn’t be the direction, the leaning of our lives. Investment should be . . . investment into the lives of our children — not quality time, but investment all the time —prayerful, loving, concerned, involved, radical parenting, that defies the norm and that rejects the culture and its ideals when they don’t coincide with the freeing direction of Scripture. Who says that my child needs to “socialize” in the way that this world dictates that he or she should? The Holy Spirit is ultimately our Guide, not the parenting magazine in the doctor’s office, and not the Mom who has read all the latest and greatest and has her degree in child psychology.

The simplicity of Christ . . . when we humbly guide our sons and daughters in the ways of the Lord and make Him first in our lives, then everything else will peacefully fall into place. We will lead less busy, frenzied, hurried lives and our homes will become sanctuaries of rest rather than cookie-cutter culture-embracing, Christ-minimizing condominiums. What do we truly want our homes to look like, our lives to look like? And do we really care the most about our children’s character — whether his or her heart is being fashioned after the image of Christ — not whether he or she is fitting into the ideals of the culture? When we care about the real things, the things that will endure and matter eternally, then our hearts will be changed, become unfettered, and the litter of this age will be cleaned away. Then we will be satisfied with the much of Christ and disenchanted with the littleness of this passing world, and our children will be free to walk as sons and daughters of the Living God.

You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, Yes They Are All Ours, Missional Call, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, So Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, A Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Messy Marriage, My Teacher's Name is Mama, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Children Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Count My Blessings, Beauty Observed, Christian Mommy Blogger, Renewed Daily,

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Certainty of Faith

“God is not dead, not doth He sleep . . .”
-H.W. Longfellow

Night is coming. The pounding of door after door, the closing. There is no room. No room, and the woman great with child, her time nearly upon her. No room . . . the echoing, the haunting phrase, until a stable door lies open before them. God the Father makes a way, prepares a place, for His beloved Son. And the One in Whom He is well-pleased is born in the lowest place, a place for keeping donkeys and sheep and cows.

Nightime upon them and maybe there was fear . . . will we find a place? The hushed-aching-agony never spoken-will He make a way for us? The dread of not knowing, not understanding why. The closing . . . the pounding clenched fist upon door after door after door. Until an unlikely place lies open, a stable. The Glory of God wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Was she afraid? Was she afraid when the world seemed so raw, so unflinching, hard as nails around her? Was she afraid to travel when her day of delivery loomed so close, when her swollen body moaned with each bump in the road?

They were poor, a poor, newly married couple with barely anything to call their own. They were poor and they were despised and the sting of rejection still hung a heavy weight. The whispers, the taunting, the wagging tongues and the sideways glances. The rumored whispers, it was his child, Joseph’s, although she wished everyone to believe that God had sent His angel to her. Was she out of her mind? What would become of all of this?

And the Roman tyranny hung a shadow over them. Hung like the men upon crosses that littered the landscape. Like a millstone around their necks, the Romans who shackled their freedom and taxed them to their clenched-jawed chagrin. It was an uncertain time, a time of change, a time of chaos and unrest in the world around them. A time of shiftiness and unease and distrust.

And here she was, great with child, ready to pour out the agony of her labor and to bleed heavy on the unfriendly straw, on the hard, crusty earth, and to wail the pain of childbirth that only a woman knows and that only a woman can understand and embrace and forget as soon as the new baby lies warm in her shaking arms, the tears of relief running down.

Could I even imagine, begin to taste? Was she afraid to give birth in a stable, with a man who she had barely begun to know? He was her first baby, the Son of God, the One who opened her womb. And the completion of her travail was the Salvation of her soul.

And I remember my own labor, the joy and the fear and the worry and the deep, soul-sigh of relief when it was over and a baby lay sleeping in my weary arms. And at the time I thought that I couldn’t do it, until the searing, indescribable pain became a dull ache and the final pushing began. And then it was over, and the uncertainty became a blur and a daydream as she lay sleeping, the tranquil hush of heaven, embodied in a tiny baby.

Peace. And the quietness of the hospital at night, the daybreak looming bright and steady in the distance. My husband, concerned, even his growth of beard a halo around his face, and our baby, asleep.

For a child of the living God, the most difficult times, the days of uncertainty, the nights of unrest and agitation ultimately usher in the most magnificent grace. He may bring us to that point of breaking, to the utter travail and agony of our souls before His deliverance comes. And often it comes with pain and with blood-agony and with the soul-body tearing and shaking. What will the child of our travail look like? Will he be a shriveled corpse, a tragic shadow of what our joy may have been? Or will our agony usher in the salvation of our souls, the gratitude of a heart filled with love toward our God, kissed by the grace of peace and the full arms of love and acceptance of His will?

What will my response to uncertainty in my life be? Will I trust Him when the future seems grim, when the culture seems to be crumbling all around me, when the “floods of ungodliness make me afraid” and the government control becomes constricting, unbearable, like labor pains that will not be quieted? Will I trust Him, or will I give way to my fears and allow them to control me? Will I let His peace wash over my heart and hope in Him “though all around my soul gives way,” or will I crumble at the sight of war and give up?

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last . . . He will have the last word, and His people will be saved, though it be through fire and blood.

“My heart trusted in Him and I was helped . . .” (Psalm 28:7). And like Mary, may the Son of God be brought forth through our lives of trust and obedience, through His Spirit, by His shed blood, for His Name’s glory. And “He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied” . . . (Isaiah 53:11) in His blood-bought-ones, the travail of His heart.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Forest Brook


My eyes gaze over the glad, rushing brook,

Dancing merrily, gaily through the forest.

How happy the smooth stones,

The waters gurgling in laughter over them.

I look up at the sandy banks-

To see the river grasses nestled there.

When will the forest creatures come to drink

Beside the cool riverbank?

When will the tiny birds

Hop down beside the welcoming waters?

At dusk,

When the sun

Dips her happy soul

Into the covering of the hills.

Then I will see the Robin,

The deer of the forest,

The nightingale.

Monday, September 2, 2013

For the Love of the Needy

“The firstborn of the poor will feed,

And the needy will lie down in safety . . .”

Isaiah 14:30a

It was a dismal day to begin with and the worn pet supply store looked unpromising. She was after bunny treats and Wal-Mart didn’t have them in stock, so we took a different turn in our travels and hoped for the best.

Lish and I waited in the car, and a few minutes later, my Mom emerged from the grimy building. The expression on her face said it all.

“What happened?" we asked and she told us about a white baby rabbit, alone in a cage, huddling in the corner, its entire ear chewed off, cowering. 

My Mom asked the girl who worked there, “What’s wrong with his ear?” and she replied sagely, in a hushed voice, “Oh don’t worry about him; he’s for feed.” 

So my sister and I ventured in, hearts pricked. We walked into the store, lights dim, stale music blaring. Over to the rabbit cages, packed on top of one another, and we saw him. Afraid, rejected, with mangy white fur and minus one ear. We said, “We’ll take him, that one,” and they tried to veer us away, but we were determined. We bought him, all 16 dollars of him.

The man at the desk gave us a discount, “because of his ear,” a discounted life handed to us in an old cardboard box and we hurried out of the pet store into the fresh air and the open wide sky that the One who values the sparrow made for His pleasure. 

And we take him home and we feed him and we give him a clean, fresh place to sleep, and we love him, because he’s one of God’s creatures. 

We take what was rejected, cast aside, because there is something in the redeemed heart that should ache for the low thing, for the thing that is despised, rejected, thrust out in a cardboard box, intended as food for a snake. 

And there is something craven about the person who doesn’t care, something hard and crusty, something amiss. 

I was never an “animal person” until I became saved and I still don’t innately feel a passion toward my four-footed friends. I remember when my understanding was opened and I knew the Holy Spirit stirring inside my heart. It began with our growing-old dog, Bonnie. I felt differently towards her, felt compassion towards her and began to pay attention to her, brush her, and talk to her more than I had in the past. The Lord continued to work in my heart and to give me a love for His creatures around me. He continues to teach me this grace, and I pray that my heart will continue to grow in sensitivity and genuine compassion. 

The prophet Nathan tells a story about the man who callously slaughtered and cooked another man’s pet lamb. Heavy judgement hovered over that man, and even though the analogy is to be drawn between David, Bathsheba, and Uriah, there is a principle that cannot be ignored. Callousness/cruelty of heart, whether toward a creature or toward a human being invokes judgement.  The Lord would have us show mercy in our dealings with other men as well as with His animal creation, as the situation and as conscience dictate. 

I am not speaking of animal-worship, puppy-princess, PETA nonsense here. I am talking about decency and compassion and caring for the Lord’s creatures in a way that honors Him—whether it be through humane slaughter for food, or through careful protection and preservation as a tangible example of His kindness and mercy towards that which is weak.  

Mephibosheth sat at the King’s table. Crippled, “discounted” Mephibosheth, and David took him in.  

Jesus was a “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him . . .” (Isaiah 53:3) Despised and rejected, nothing in His appearance that was desireable. And yet, He was the Chosen One, the God-Man, anointed with oil flowing down His beard--the compassionate, crushed, humble Servant who can have compassion on the wounded and the rejected because He also was and can sympathize with us in our weaknesses. 

Time and time again in the Word of God, it is the lowly, the outcast that the Lord takes pity upon. Not the ones who are beautiful and sleek and rich and well-clothed and well-fed. The outcasts, the poor, the ones who know their need. 

The funny thing is, that these are usually the ones who are the most grateful for this outpouring of mercy. Of all the animals that we’ve had (and we’ve had a lot) it is the ones who have been the most abused who appreciate being loved and taken care of the most. 

And that is how it is with us and with God. The one who has been forgiven much loves much. The one who has been maimed and discounted and chewed up by sin and then is drawn by the Father, is the one who stays near to Him in gratitude and love. 

He is gracious, to the sparrow, to the poor bunny huddled in a cage, to us. May we be gracious to the suffering too and show the love and mercy of Christ to the least of these.   

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Sands of Time

The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
--Anne R. Cousin

Age is not all decay; it is the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk.
--George MacDonald

The sun is bright above me and I push her stroller up the old worn hill, the hill that’s been paved over and refreshed. The hill that my child and then adolescent and then teenager and now adult feet walk over. The hill that I used to patter down so many times to get to the Dairy Mart that used to be around the block. It’s not there anymore; things have changed in the neighborhood and somehow it’s just not the same, just not as simple as it was when I was little. Kids used to play outside then, used to ride their bikes and be happy and free in the sunshine. Now they’re all inside, humped over computers, staring vacantly at television screens. Things have changed; times have changed. A generation later, I push her sleeping quietness over the hill and the wind is gentle on our cheeks and she nods her head asleep and peaceful and I sigh and remember the days gone by.

The days gone by . . . some of them filled with golden, beautiful, silver-lined memories and some of them tear-stained and broken, etched with sadness. Life is like that . . . and so fleeting, like “the grass that withers and the flowers that fade.” We can’t cling to it too tightly; it slips through our fingers like water and we understand through the agonies of life that our hope is above, where Jesus is seated, “at the right hand of the Father.”

The Fall is coming . . . change is coming, into my life and I’ve always loved the Fall, sobered by the sadness of the dying, full of the wonder of the cycle of the seasons, the mystery of death and renewal and resurrection. I love the Fall because it signifies to me that before life comes death, the dying to self, the grain of wheat falling into the ground, into the darkness.

And then Winter when all is cold and bare and still and aching-cold, dying to be made alive, reborn and all flesh seems to wait in quiet expectancy, hushed by the crushing wind and the lingering snow.

And finally, Spring . . . and joy . . . my favorite season of all when Easter seems to be in the breath of the air and the dying has ended. Flowers that cover the earth and the mournful rejoice again and the birds sing the glory of the Father.

But for now, change, and there is a beauty to it and an ache, an ache when I think of leaving this place that I have called home for 31 years.

An ache when I realize that I’m growing older, that I’m not a teenager anymore; there are wrinkles and scars and stretch marks on the skin that used to be so unmarked by age and my stomach isn’t as flat anymore no matter how hard I try. I gave up walking on my treadmill—it used to be so important to me—now another life takes all of my time and if I walk, I walk with her. And there is joy. Joy as I realize that my home is not on this earth. Joy when I think of seeing Him and knowing Him in His beauty at last. Joy in leaving the old things behind, not because they were bad, but because the path is winding differently now, up another stretch, Glory ever before. The stretch of babies now and days filled with diapers and arms filled with a wiggly body and heart filled with love.

A peace comes over me as I walk up the hill, the final stretch home, the sun setting in the distance. And I think of Frodo Baggins and his words, ““How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep...that have taken hold.” And I think, that there are places and hurts and sorrows in this life that will linger, that only heaven can heal when He wipes every tear from our eyes. And the love of Jesus will fill us utterly, unspeakably, when we see Him, and swallow up change and tears. The healing waters and the trees, planted in His beautiful garden . . . the loveliness of Jesus, the Healer of our souls.