Category Archives: A CLOSER WALK

just a closer walk No one knows who wrote this hymn or these words, but may these posts born in my own walk through The Valley of Baca, bring you into your own closer walk with Christ.

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

A Closer Walk: Sometimes You Need A Real Friend

We have all encountered Job’s “friends.” You know, those would-be comforters with their Biblical counsel that cuts like a knife.

But sometimes you need a real friend, like it or not.

faithful friend

I’m not talking about the, “Hey, how the heck are you?” kind of friend you see once in a blue moon. No, I’m talking about the kind of friend who will always be there, no matter what.

That kind of friend is very rare.

They walk in—when the world walks out.

Best Friends

So, there I was.

Life had ground to a complete halt.

Because of my daily blinding headaches I can’t work, I can’t drive, I can’t read or write, or even watch TV.

Now, it’s just God and me, and all the time in the world to chat.

Problem was, I didn’t want to talk. Not in those early days!

So, God did the speaking and I did the listening. What else could I do? I could barely walk across a room! Besides, have you ever tried to walk out on Omnipresence?

just a closer walk(Not likely!)

So, God begins to speak.

He starts by reminding me of others who had gone through a pretty rough time.

Guys in the Bible like Joseph, and Job, and Jeremiah.

I love the book of Jeremiah!

Jeremiah knew just what it was like to have his life fall apart, and yet he still wrote in the book of Lamentations,

Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends… Great is his faithfulness: his lovingkindness begins afresh each day. (3: 21-23)God was about to teach me this truth.

He is a faithful friend even when you don’t want Him to be.

Each morning He would show up dispelling my darkness with His Light and whispering His encouragement into my stubborn ears.

It may sound crazy, but in a way?

I resented His coming.

life is broken

Wasn’t it too late?

What earthly good would talking do now? My life was a mess with everything broken. (I mean, really broken!) I didn’t want to do damage assessment. I wanted things back the way they were!

God on the other hand, wanted me front and center—up close and real personal.

I didn’t know it yet, but He was there to bring the answer to a long forgotten prayer.

We were definitely face-to-face…

heart to heart with God

But heart-to-heart?

Not really.

So He asked me a question…

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ONE WAY

How do you think My children see Me?

Take some time. Really think about it.

What does the scripture say?

Jesus said to His friend Philip, “…if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.” You can always “see Me” by looking at My Son.

Now, look at the verse for today.

When I see you how do I see you?

When you see Me how do you see Me?

face to face with God

So often, My child, you try to see Me looking through yourself.

You wonder why your views of Me are clouded or distorted?

But, how could they be otherwise?

To see Me you must see Jesus. And to see you? The way I do? You must also see Jesus.

It is by your faith in My written word that you have been made right in My sight!

Where does your peace with Me (and with yourself) come from?

Yes, yes, being found right in My sight.

And, whenever I look at you, how do I see you?

Through My Son’s death and resurrection!

How often My children sing of “blood-bought and blood-washed,” but how few really SEE it!

walking with JesusI no longer see the darkness of sin when I look at you.

And you will never see Me for who I AM based on what you see in yourself.

There is only One Way, One Door, One Life. His name is: JESUS.

Now, do you see?

a closer walk“So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have a real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” Romans 5:1

 

 

A Closer Walk: Where Do You Take Your Anger and Hurt?

What do you do when the One you trusted to always take care of you, always be there for you, let’s you down? Where do you take your anger and your hurt?

where do you go?

You realize you’re adrift, because the One you really need to talk to about everything, is the very One you are convinced has betrayed you.

Talk about frustrating.

Now what do you do?

Where do you go?

To whom do you speak?

That was my dilemma.

I had “believed” with all my heart that I had developed this face-to-face, heart-to-heart relationship with God. I had believed His word promised that He would always protect me. He was “my hiding place” where I could run and tuck myself under His wings… close… right next to A Heart that I just knew, would never let me down.

At least that’s what all the songs and bible verses had said—had promised.

Only, I was let down.

Monumentally so.

And I hurt.

I hurt

Like Job, my life was shattered in a million impossible pieces and I was wrestling with how to reconcile my understanding of all those beautiful bible promises with my confusing and darkening realities. This ugly stuff wasn’t supposed to happen to someone who had trusted and obeyed! Was it? And, as if my hurt and confusion wasn’t bad enough, add to it, all my so called friends and family had stepped way back, only watching my chaotic life from a nice cool distance.

Daily, their stony silence speaking volumes to my bleeding soul.

Ah yes, Job’s friends.

The “One” who could have prevented all of this—didn’t.

Now what was I supposed to do? To, believe? What kind of a GOD was this? And, why had He deserted me?

What had I done but trust Him utterly?

I had no answers, only lots of confused questions, hurt, and anger.

For three long months, each day I awoke to another day of turmoil. Sitting in stunned angry silence. (I smile now, remembering.) Because even though I didn’t want to talk to God, God was having none of it!

And so He began to gently whisper… and I listened.

I was desperate.

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I AM WITH YOU

Talk to Me.

I AM here: with you.

I know the others left you ~ let you down. My friends sometimes let Me down, too. They tried. They just couldn’t be there for Me. You know. Your friends have let you down, too.

(I know.)

You will have to make the same choice I did. You will have to forgive them their weaknesses and frailty. Come, if I did it, you can too.

I’ll help you.

You must learn the difference between the finite and the infinite ~ between potence, impotence, and omnipotence.

broken vessel

POTENCE: a vessel for force and power. That’s you! In all these difficulties and trials I AM creating in you a ‘force and power’ for My Kingdom. What you are going through, is preparing you, for what you are believing Me for. I will help you through.

Now, IMPOTENCE.

(We have talked of this.)

I want you to understand and learn, once-and-for-all, where power comes from:

“Vain is the arm of flesh.”

Your friends only have influence. I give you power.

Which brings Me to OMNIPOTENCE: unlimited power!

(That’s me of course.)

Dearest, can you see now? For Kingdom work influence will not carry you through. You need Me. I AM your supply of unlimited power!

Apart from Me you can do nothing.

That’s not idle chatter ~ that’s your LIFE!

a closer walk

 

“But God is my helper. He is a friend of mine.”

Psalm 54:4

 

A Closer Walk: That First Faint Whisper

I remember after my accident the first faint whisper God spoke. I sat every day in the ashes of my burned-down-life, not sure if I even wanted to recover from all the devastation I saw.

life falling apartA weariness had enveloped me that was beyond anything I had ever experienced before.

That place, right in the middle of all my MESS—God showed up.

I wish I could tell you I was in this super-spiritual place but the truth is I was trying to contemplate a life without God. My disappointment went far beyond my rage at my circumstances. I was just “finished” and God and I both knew it!

That had been our deal.

I had returned to my faith from “the world” as beat-up prodigal who didn’t believe “a God of love” even existed. So, before I was even willing to try out this “Christian” thing again, I wanted a new deal between God and myself.

I wanted total transparency with no head-faking-bull.

I wanted no part of the phony church stuff I had seen growing up.

Actually, things worked out well for the first few years. I jumped into the discipleship thing for all I was worth. I studied my Bible each morning. I regularly attended church. I devoured every Christian book I could get my hands on. I began serving in church in all kinds of different ways. Life was good. I was growing. You might even say I was thriving.

Then life fell apart. An undetected illness and the resulting visit to the Emergency Room brought everything crashing down.

Each day I sat in the ruins trying to decide if my “return to God” had just been another colossal mistake in a long line of mistakes.

Was this Christian-thing just one big con job? I felt betrayed. I was recoiling from all the stuff I had believed.

If you tust God is THIS what you get?

So I stopped reading my Bible.

I couldn’t pray.

I wanted nothing to do with a God like this!

world in ruinsHow did I get here?

My doubts that had begun as whispers were now shouting at me, “Is this what obedience brings?”

Everywhere I looked I saw only devastation and chaos!

I wondered, “What kind of a loving God loves like this?”

God hears even the faintest whisper in our hearts.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is hidden from God. He was “listening in” on all my doubt and inner rage. I didn’t know it then, but He was counting each broken-hearted tear. He was letting me grope my way along in the dark for awhile—just waiting. Waiting for me to finish venting all my frustrations, and for the silence to descend.

Now in the inner quiet He began to whisper.

I grabbed a pen and began to write.

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ONLY CHANGED

You there.

Yes YOU sitting in the ashes.

These ruins you see all about you? They are not who you are.
They are not your final destination or your destiny.

I AM!

You are in Me and I AM in you.

Our two lives are as inseparable as a brook that flows into a river. Where does the brook end and the river begin? Hah, you can’t tell Me! That’s how it is with us. My life flowing in you. Your life flowing in Me.

ashesYou look at these ashes and think, “It’s all over now.”

You see ruins where once stood bright hopes and shining dreams, and you think, “What’s the use of dreaming?”

But Sweet Heart look up.

Turn those tear-filled eyes toward Me. I AM still here. You are still here. We are not going to dwell forever in—this place. This is only for a moment in your eternity. A wink! I AM your true Vine not your dreams. Your life flows from Me, not from people, possessions, or calling. Come, dry those eyes. Life is not over. Only changed. But remember what I told you? “I do not change!” I AM the One you can always count on. I AM the Foundation that does not move.

We will be leaving here soon. As we step out of these ashes to begin again? You will see Me transform these ashes of yours into radiant beauty.

You’ll see.

a closer walk

 

“To all who mourn… He will give beauty for ashes.”

Isaiah 61:3

A Closer Walk: Storms That Shipwreck Our Beliefs

I didn’t believe anything could shipwreck my beliefs but I had never been in a storm like this one.

If I were to say that my doctors didn’t take my response to their diagnosis well—that would be putting it mildly.

These guys were men of science.

arrogant doctors

They thought my faith was absurd!

I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did not follow their diagnosis their would be consequences!

Prayer—What is that?

My beliefs only made them angry.

Their threats became nastier.

They informed me I couldn’t leave the hospital until they ran more tests.

More tests? The bills were already in the stratosphere and now there would be no job and no money?

How had my beliefs brought me here?

shipwreck

My life was spiraling out of control!

So I called for the Patient Advocate because even in the hospital we have legal rights.

I asked him for a clear explanation of what my legal rights were.

He told me my options and I checked myself out of the hospital A.M.A.  which means “against medical advice.”

I went home still experiencing all of my negative symptoms.

That’s when God “showed up” in an interesting twist of events.

The hospital wouldn’t let me check out without giving them the name of a personal doctor.

So I gave them the first name I could find but they faxed all my tests to the “wrong” doctor. Except he really was the RIGHT doctor!

He told me what was wrong with me, prescribed the correct medication, and most of my symptoms disappeared in a few days.

angry doctorAnd my angry doctors?

They made good on all their threats.

I lost my freedom because they revoked my driver’s license.

Losing my driver’s license meant losing my job.

The hospital costs for all their tests put me into medical bankruptcy which meant my five-star credit rating was gone!

My family whispered in corners looking at me like, “What did you DO to make God so angry?”

What about my remaining symptoms?

I still could not walk from room to room without leaning on the walls for support. I had blinding headaches that stayed with me all day. It was tough to focus my eyes to write; forget about reading or TV.

I sat on my couch each day in stunned, hurting, lonely, silence. I was numb with pain, both physical, and emotional. Forget about feeling anything “spiritual.” I didn’t want to read my bible. I didn’t want to pray. I did not call for the church or pastors to see me. I didn’t want to talk with anyone.

depressed womanI had nothing to say to God or anyone else.

I was angry and afraid.

My life as I knew it had been destroyed. I felt as if I had been shipwrecked.

How was I supposed to fix this mess if I couldn’t work?

I thought each day about ending my life. My anger, doubts and uncertainty made everything look darker and darker as I stared into that black hole called hopelessness.

Questions kept circling in my mind like, “What had I done? Where had I messed up? Why was all this terrible stuff happening?”

Wasn’t obedience to God supposed to equal blessings?

I was caught up in one of the worst spiritual storms of my life.

Just when it seemed that the darkness would swallow me whole—God showed upagain.

a closer walk

But now the Lord who created you, O Israel, says: Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.   When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you… you are precious to me and honored, and I love you.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Isaiah 43:1, 2, 5  TLB

A Closer Walk: A Storm That Terrifies

Have you ever been in a severe storm?

Man, I have. It was driving back from the airport in Wichita to Hutchinson, Kansas to stay with friends.

It was my first time in a “tornado watch.”

We left the airport under sunny skies but soon after a storm began to brew. It looked like we were driving into the wrath of God with pitch black skies in the middle of the afternoon. Lightning was hitting the ground all around us and the peals of thunder were so loud I thought the sky was splitting in two!

A storm unleashing its fury can be terrifying.

But what about spiritual storms?

They can be just as terrifying.

motoring through lifeWe can be motoring through life with our destination firmly fixed in our minds and “Wham!” we can find ourselves unexpectedly hurled into a cyclone of  emotional devastation wondering, “Where is God?”

That’s how I remember January 1999. My life turning upside down and inside out with all of my nice neat expectations shattered and in broken pieces all about me—caught in my own Hurricane Andrew.

Remember Andrew? Not only did Andrew erase everything in his path as he swept through central Florida, the tornadoes that spun off the main storm created all kinds of chaos and collateral damage.

That’s what I want to talk about.

Storms that catch us off guard. Storms that flatten and confuse us. Storms that test everything we believe and then leave us asking questions like, “Will I survive this? How will I survive this? Do I even want to survive this? What will I believe afterward even if I do make it through this?

What will survival look like?

I want to take you on my journey through a personal hurricane.

I want you to meet a God who walks in when the rest of the world walks out and marvel at a Savior who treads on the top of our storms.

I hope you will also hear a Holy Voice whisper, with a Voice so quiet that sometimes He must shut out everything else in our lives, so that only His Still Small Voice can be heard.

Okay, so here is where my story begins.

It’s January in the Central Valley of California. The weather is cold, foggy and miserable, which is normal for our winters.

I love my busy life. I have a job I love with people who are depending on me every day. I am tired most of the time but who isn’t in these stress-filled days we live in? When I’m feeling exhausted (which is most of the time) I chug another diet cola, get a new caffeine fix, and motor-on.

Flu is everywhere. It’s the season for flu. So I don’t think it strange when I wake up one morning feeling like I’ve come down with a “bug.” It’s a pain, but a minor inconvenience, not a devastating catastrophe. I curl up on my couch under my favorite quilt and resolve to endure a week of misery. But you know how flu is. As the day wears on I begin to feel worse until it feels like everything in my stomach is about to hurl, so I run for a bathroom. That’s the last thing I remember until I wake up on my bathroom floor lying in a pool of my own blood.

I’m laying there trying to figure out how bad I’m hurt. What happened and why does my face feel like I’ve been kicked by a mule?

I holler for help so a family member can call 911. Minutes later paramedics are putting me in the back of an ambulance and I am on my way to an emergency room at a local hospital.

a storm that terrifiesAfter three days of running tests my doctors come to my room to share their results. Starched white coats with grim faces and official looking clipboards begin to paint me a picture black and bleak.

They tell me of the health issues they believe I am facing.

Their findings were all based on erroneous information but that will only come into the light—later.

My doctors get it all wrong but in the meanwhile…

Me? I’m doing my best to listen and not freak out!

I try to listen hard to what these men are saying, but their “conclusions” don’t fit with the facts that I’m remembering and the evidence on my face.

In addition I am missing the most important thing I need. I don’t have the “inner peace” I depend upon when making life-altering decisions.

These doctors are telling me I need to begin a drug therapy program immediately, but when I ask them about side effects, they freely admit these drugs will cause great harm if they are the “wrong” stuff.

So I tell my doctors, “I have to pray about this.”

They just stare back at me in stunned silence. These men are used to being obeyed without question. They do not take it well when I tell them, “No, I will pray first—then we will talk about what to do.”

They argue with me but I stand my ground. They threaten dire consequences but I stand my ground. They storm out in anger but I am still holding on to my ground!

I want to talk to God FIRST.

In the middle of my storm I reach for the Gideon Bible next to the bed, trying my best not to panic.

Praying  a desperate prayer I say, “God I am in DEEP trouble. I don’t know what to believe. You HAVE to show me what to do—and I mean RIGHT NOW!”

I don’t usually talk to God like that, but when you’re caught in a TERRIFYING storm flowery prayers are the last thing on your mind!

After I prayed I opened the Bible to Isaiah 51 and this is what I read,

a closer walk“I, even I, am He who comforts you… so what right have you to fear mere mortal men, who wither like the grass and disappear? And yet you have no fear of God, your Maker? ~ You have forgotten Him, the One who spread the stars throughout the skies and made the earth. Will you be in constant dread of men’s oppression, and fear their anger all day long? Soon, soon you slaves shall be released; dungeon, starvation, and death ARE NOT YOUR FATE.” [Isaiah 51:12-14 TLB]

I closed the Bible and said, “Okay God, that’s good enough for me.”

 

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A CLOSER WALK: Be Yourself

yes-and-no-2

I have to admit one of my greatest struggles has been this business of being myself.
Affirmation was in short supply in the home I grew up in, and that created (at least in me) a very unhealthy dynamic. I learned early on that if I could discover what someone expected from me, and deliver on that expectation, I could easily recieve the acceptance and love I hungered for. The problem wasn’t in finding out what people wanted. I became very adept at that. No, my problem soon became deciding what to do, or how to react, when someone else’s expectations conflicted with my own expectations for myself and what I knew in my heart was the “right thing” for me. I’m sorry to admit this, but too often, my desire to please someone I deeply cared for, won out over my own sense of what may, or may not, have been right for me.
Pop psychologists call this “people-pleasing” as though it were some terrible dread disease. Personally, I don’t think it is wrong in all instances, when we are faced with a choice, to choose to please someone else rather than ourselves. People who consistantly choose to please no one BUT themselves, soon earn the title of selfish, and rightly so since self comes first in each of their choices.
Finding the balance. There’s been the challenge! Knowing when to say, “When!”
Learning to do this has been a real uphill battle for me, but I should add, a very necessary one. The bible is quick to admonish us to think of others before ourselves. To serve rather than be served. Jesus Himself modeled this for His followers. Laying aside His Rabbi’s robes, He picked up a towel, and bending down, He washed His disciples feet. He took the place of the lowest servant in the house. He was wanting to give all of us a “word picture” that we would need to remember. One of willing servanthood.
Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to be the guy getting your feet washed, than being the guy with the basin and towel. We all like it when people seek to please us rather than expecting us to please them. So when is it right to please others? And, when is it right to please ourselves, because let’s face it, sometimes our foot-washing and people-pleasing, can get way out of balance in our relationships.
When is it time, and I might add healthy to say, “when”?
This can require some real, deep down, soul-searching.
There are times in our relationships (I believe) when it is entirely necessary and appropriate to stand up, and be true to yourself, and say, “Not this time.” To be yourself should be a freedom that is granted in every loving and healthy relationship.
Sometimes our no is more loving than our yes. When we our not free to say no?
Perhaps we’ve unconciously exchanged our servanthood for a doormat.

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BE YOURSELF

We’re not going to do this the way it’s always been done.
I want you to listen to Me. We are partners, you and I. You will not have to break down doors. You will not have to be clever, or glib, or false. We haven’t come all this way to get bogged down in that nonsense.
I want you to be yourself.
Yourself.
You are the only you I’ve made. People, even well meaning people, will try to convince you that “being you” won’t work.
Forget them. Hold your ground. (In peace.) Listen to their ideas, but bring everything to Me. We will decide together how to proceed.
(This is a true partnership.)
Remember always sow good seed, in good ground. Give to others and give generously. Credit. Wisdom. Love. (Above all love.) I will multiply it in My own time and My own way.
Do not say “Yes.” to eveything. Sort through the good, get down to the best, then choose the excellent! (I’ll help.) There is only one you. Remember you are finite in strength. Use what you have wisely. I will always provide what you need, so don’t be afraid to give much away.
Have I not promised to give you much so that you may give much away?
Always be generous, then you shall always have what you need.
Strive to keep your life simple. (I have given you clear direction on this matter.) You know what to do. Just do it.
I bless you child. Now go, and bless others.
“I will guard and support you…” Isaiah 42:6

A CLOSER WALK: Weakness As My Strength

It has taken me a long time to learn what great power there is in weakness. For most of my life I was like the world I grew up in. I was not a fan of weakness or vulnerability.

shy thinker type

Weakness and extreme shyness were not admired traits in my home. As I said before, I grew up in a house-full of boisterous and outgoing people of sanguine temperament.

For those of you who are not up on the lingo of temperament analysis, Sanguines are “the life of the party” types.

Those fun-loving non-serious and bold types.

I, on the other hand was the very serious contemplative type.

Yeah, born a misfit (I believed) as an out-of-place, “What’s WRONG with you?” solitude-loving, thinker-type.

life of the party type

Put me in a room full of strangers and watch me melt into the wallpaper, tongue-tied, and looking for the nearest exit!

Hardly “life-of-the-party” material!

So, naturally I longed, no maybe that’s not quite right—I LONGED to be more outgoing.

Why is it God often will “call us” to that VERY THING we are convinced we CANNOT do?

(I think there’s something a little mischievous about that!)

Yet, in my own ordeals with my personal weaknesses, that is the very place God wants to use me—right in the spot I feel most helpless.

Here’s what God had to teach me.

He does not want us “out there strutting our stuff” where we feel all capable, and ready to take on the world.

In my own case it’s in those areas where I feel strongest that He will pull back hardest on the reins.

And, where I feel the weakest?

He cheers for me with gusto and abandon!

Actually our so called “strengths” are our weaknesses, and visa-versa our weaknesses, are our greatest strengths from a Kingdom point of view.

The Apostle Paul knew all about this upside down way things work. In 2 Corinthians 12 he tells us, “Three different times I begged God…” He had a weakness he desperately wanted to be rid of. God’s response to his prayers? “Each time He said, ‘No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.” [vs. 8, 9 TLB]

From God’s point of view our weakness is the place where He can shine. I don’t like it. (You probably don’t like it either.) But that’s the deal. Where I am weak? God’s power is perfected in me.

Where your hands shake, your voice quakes, and your knees wobble?

Yep, that’s the spot, where you will cling to Him for all you’re worth!

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YOU ARE READY

All eyes will be upon you now.
(Don’t be frightened.)
You are ready.
Your whole life has been in preparation for the door you are about to enter. Keep your eyes… (Oh, those beautiful eyes!) Keep them on Me. You know I have called you. Your suffering has made your calling sure. If you ever doubt it, you have only to look in the mirror. It is there, staring back at you. Your greatest weakness will become your greatest strength!
The world hates brokenness. It hates weakness. This you know quite well. But, now you see, when brokenness and weakness link up with Me, and My Spirit, power is the result!
My power. (Mightier than split atoms!) is perfected in weakness. This you have been learning. This you now know!
There will be many who will say I have not called you. (Forget them.) Look in the mirror. Remember, mighty are you in My Kingdom child. Angels will be at your beck and call. I AM in you. You are in Me. Vine and branch; potence and Omnipotence!
I will be at your side. I have have gone ahead of you, into your future to secure it, and I have your back. You are My child. No one can take you from My hand! Be strong. Be of a good courage. You can change the world.
You are going to change the world.
You are My beloved child.
Nothing, and no one, can ever change that!

“I the Lord have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.” Isaiah 42:6

A CLOSER WALK: The Valley of Tears

valley of tears

The Valley of Baca is translated The Valley of Weeping and though I suppose it signifies a geographic place, I also think of this “valley of tears” as a soul-place.
All of us will have those circumstances and events that will bring our soul’s into this sorrowful place. Loss is a part of life none of us can avoid. Neither can we avoid the shadows that come with it. (We can try of course.) We can valiantly attempt to bury it, or outrun it, or deny it, but grief won’t be ignored forever. Eventually it will assert it’s domain.
I have grieved many times in my life. The deaths of my parents. The loss of cherished relationships. The crash of my health. That “halocaust experience” I wrote about earlier. In each journey through this valley of weeping I have to tell you, they were not all the same.
Grief is strange stuff. Not one of these trips through loss was the same. All were different.
I wonder now if that was because there were different lessons to be learned each time. Grief, like a kaliedoscope, held the same bits of broken glass each time, yet with each slight turning the light and shadows would shift and fall in different patterns, revealing beautiful and distinctly different things for my eyes view.
Sometimes these views simply arrested me. Taking me captive for a time against my will. But even in my captivity I began to learn. The value of rest; of stepping aside from the mad rush of life for a time of communion, just God and myself.
Then there were the times, when with brutal realities, grief taught valuable lessons about people. About where I should, and should not, place my trust.
Perhaps this is what the psalmist was trying to convey when he said,

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains! They will grow constantly in strength…” [TLB]

Grief is a harsh school-master. Yes, but I eventually came to understand the real value in her harsh lessons. I began to see the depth of character birthed by pain rightly borne. Truly, sorrows are the birth pangs of a deeper, richer life. Hope for others flows from such places.
It makes me think of the lines of the poem by Robert Browning Hamilton:

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.

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THE VALLEY OF BACA

These days will soon be over, and shall I tell you something?
(It will surprise you.)
You are going to greatly miss this time of sorrow and suffering?
There, that’s got your attention!
You dream of getting your freedom of movement back; of days when you can feel “normal” again. (All your thoughts are open to Me child.) But I AM here today to tell you that you are going to miss these quiet days, when all the world was just we two.
(Sigh!)
I confess, I will miss them more than you.
This journey through the Valley of Baca has been difficult for you. (I know.) Especially those first weeks. There was more confusion than peace, and joy seemed to be dressed in black crepe. Still… you must admit, after things settled down a bit, after you began to get in step with Me…
After we developed this habit of making, of those tears of yours, a wayside well…
(Ah, after.)
It became quite pleasant in places, didn’t it? And you must also admit, that though we had been close friends, our friendship has deepened and grown richer through the things you’ve suffered.
(Yes?)
Yes. All in all, it has been a highly satisfactory journey!
And, I will say it again, you’re going to miss these days. Ah, but never mind. We must be up and going.
We have to be about the Father’s business, you and I.
Let’s go.

“Let your favor shine again upon your servant…”

Psalms 31:16

A CLOSER WALK: Ripples

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Like ripples on a pond your life affects the people around you.

This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn as I was growing up. There were times when I wanted to do what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to feel responsible to (or for) anyone else. I thought freedom meant no responsibility to anyone but myself.

I was young and foolish seeing only the child’s eye view.

It sounds good but it isn’t real. Like it or not, our choices affect others. Our decisions and behavior have consequences. I see people trying to ignore these facts, living as though their choices are their’s alone.

(But they never are.)

What we say and do, the type of person we choose to become, will impact those around us in a thousand different ways. Sometimes for the better; sometimes not.

One can choose one’s course, yes.

But we cannot always choose the consequences that will ride in on the coat tails of our decisions.

We have all heard the saying, “No man is an island.” but we try to be don’t we? We take our life into our own hands, choosing a course that runs roughshod over every other life around us. We claim our right to choose for ourselves, to live only for ourselves, in spite of all consequences to others.

I see it everywhere—self enthroned—Jesus Christ dethroned.

(Sadly, even in the Church.)

We make our own rules.

We decide our own course believing our life belongs only to us.

We deny Scripture trampling it under our feet, but at what cost to ourselves, and those who watch our lives?

Foolishly, we believe we must answer to no one but ourselves?

Never.

…RIPPLES

There have been times you didn’t like this very much, being in My hands.
Oh, you like it fine when I use My hand to give you what you want. But, when I close My hand. You really struggle with that one.
(Everybody does.)
Child, I would have you go far beyond this business of getting, or not getting, what you want. You are far more complex than that.
(And, so am I.)
When I say, “… your times are in My hands.” I don’t just refer to people, places, and things. The tangible is easy to fix your eyes upon, but look deeper. Your times are made up of much more than that!
What about, your gifts? Your calling? Your dreams? Your spirit-man? Your tragedies? Are not all these things in My hands as well? And if you could take them out of My hands? Which ones would you remove? You see through the glass darkly. You do not always see what I AM doing, or where I AM going.
Do you?
Your life, and the events of your life, are like ripples made upon the water. The initial splash may be very small, but if you are patient and step back and watch, you will see those ripples growing in wider and wider circles, encompassing more and more.
To take your life back. To say, “It is mine and affects only me.” is just foolish rubbish.
(And you know it.)
Everything… every… thing… you do, or say, will eventually impact someone else, someday, somewhere.
(Selah, that!)

“… my times are in your hands.” Psalms 31:15

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A CLOSER WALK: Becoming Molly~O

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On Pinterest my handle is Molly~O. Molly is a nickname for Martha and  O = Overcomer.

My mother used to tell me that her favorite picture of me was taken one day on the front lawn, me in diapers holding on to a little sapling tree announcing to the world, “I’s Marsa-Tanny!”

I was bold. I was fearless. I knew who I was! But, things changed. I changed. I became fearful. Unsure of myself. Slowly, bit by bit, year by year, that sure confidence began erroding away. The overcomer became lost, buried under years of debris.

I used to look at that picture and wonder, “Where did she go?”

Molly~O is an overcomer

It has taken me six decades, count them “Six!” but now (finally) I am becoming who I was always meant to be, created to be, knew originally who I was supposed to be, way back yonder in the beginning.

How is it possible that it takes a lifetime to finally believe what I was certain of at eighteen months?

I still shake my head at times wondering at the grace that has brought me so far.

I think it happens to a lot of us. (If we’re honest.) The real “us” that we were created by God to be, gets buried under so much guff-N-stuff we lose ourselves.

Our real selves.

Life happens, and in our growing up, we find out the world is a hostile place—and certainly no friend to children.

For some of us we’re fortunate, and it’s just the normal amount of heartaches and rejection with minimal amounts of bumps and bruises.

But, for others it’s worse. Much worse. And our overcoming becomes a life and death struggle. Overcome, or be overcome.

Whichever journey was yours, I am convinced no one becomes an Overcomer by chance. You choose it. You fight back every single time life comes to stomp you into the ground.

You become certain of one primary thing:

YOU WERE BORN FOR SOMETHING GREAT!

And, because God’s Word fiercely proclaims, you are worthy of love! You are deserving of respect!, You are of infinite value to the God who created you!

And, by the grace of God that’s what I’ve finally learned—and I’m sticking to it.

You see, He’s finally convinced me of how much I am loved by Him!

And believing that?

I can overcome anything!

~~~~~

ABOVE ALL ELSE

Did I not tell you? I AM not a man that I should lie! When I say it, it comes to pass.
(And, still, you are amazed?)
But, I thought you would know by now that nothing is too hard for your God?
(I confess, I do so enjoy making it look so easy.)
It always makes Me chuckle to see how easily man’s pride, and Satan’s schemes, come tumbling down!
My sweetest-heart, all this has been set in motion since your first faint cry. I know it has been a long and dusty road, full of sneering demons and the laughter of ungodliness.
(I know.)
Still, I was always there.
You know that now.
(You really know it.)
I will never leave you or forsake you. Nothing can separate you from Me and My love for you. Above all else… remember this!
My love is eternal.
My fidelity unwavering.
You have had to endure so many betrayals; so much abandonment. (It’s true.) But you have come closer and closer to Me in the process. Is this not bringing good out of evil?
And, you have come to see My love for you from new eyes of fresh perspective. Is this not also very, very good?
To hope one is loved is so inferior to knowing, really knowing, that one is!
To know that one will stay by your side come hell or high water, this can only be discovered through great adversities.
(Now we both know, don’t we?)
Well, I confess, I always knew.
“And Israel will learn that the LORD does not depend on weapons to fulfill his plans…” 1 Samuel 17:47