Remember Me

•May 23, 2013 • 2 Comments

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
– (John 15:13, NKJV)

Memorial Day — a day of national remembrance.  We honor our military, remember fallen soldiers.  American flags will wave their tribute from numerous graves.  No greater love — brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our country, protecting our freedom and securing freedom for others living under oppression.

Each branch of America’s military has their own creed, an oath to serve.  I will share two.*

Air Force Creed

…I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice…

Coast Guard Creed

…I shall sell life dearly to an enemy of my country, but give it freely to rescue those in peril.  With God’s help, I shall endeavor to be one of His noblest Works…

A small town remembers.  Shortly before the 9/11 attack, painting began for a wall mural on the side of an old building — “Liberty Remembers” — a tribute to local military heroes.  From military photographs, memorabilia, and interviews, Eric Grohe painted 284 selected portraits on the columns of the mural — representing every American conflict from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm.  Since completion, 9/11 has added a somber poignancy to the mural.

The cost of our freedom is paid with the soldiers’ blood.   Americans remember.

'In remembrance of me."

‘In remembrance of me.”

 “I am the good shepherd . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
– (John 10:14,15, 17-18, NIV).

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  – (Luke 22:19, NKJV).

The cost of our salvation was paid with the blood of Jesus.  Recently, we had communion, The Lord’s Supper, in remembrance.

All mankind is born under the oppression of sin and spiritual death — “For all have sinned…”Romans 3:23.   Jesus is God’s oath (promise) of freedom from the bondage of sin and spiritual death, His “noblest work.”  Through Christ’s death on the cross, we can choose forgiveness (liberation) from sin and have eternal life through salvation.  “Greater love” —  Jesus willingly gave his life for everyone on the cross.  Jesus is the guardian for man’s spiritual freedom and God’s justice; victory over sin was forever won at Calvary.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus gathered His disciples for what would be their last supper.  Using symbolism, Jesus referred to the wine as His shed blood, the bread as his broken body.  As He blessed the meal, Jesus had one request, “This do in remembrance of me.”

“Remember me.”

A church remembers.  The sanctuary was dimly lit by candlelight, reverently quiet for communion, The Lord’s Supper.  As I held the symbolic piece of bread in my hand, I thought of Calvary, the broken body of Jesus, my personal Savior.  Preparing my heart in prayer, I remember.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for our country, our freedom, and for our military.  Bless them.  Watch over our troops and their families.  I pray for those who have lost loved ones, for comfort and peace.  Let us not forget them.  Thank you for communion, a time to remember Calvary in worship.  I love you.  ~Amen

*Creeds from the Military Authority .

My Mother’s Hands

•May 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians: 4-7/NIV)

As I celebrate my mom this Mother’s Day, I realize she is the only person integral to my entire life, from earliest memory to our daily morning coffee chats on the phone.  Mom defines unconditional love, Christ-like, with a complete acceptance of me, Debbie.

Mom’s hands were always busy with some task for our family: deftly peeling potatoes, ironing clothes, folding sheets from the clothesline, canning garden food, the dreaded washing of my hair.  My favorite thing about my Mom’s hands — the cool softness on my heated face when I was sick.  I could feel her love behind the comforting caress.

Mom’s presence.  Nightmare terrors would summon Mom with superhero speed with a frightened call into the dark.  When she appeared, the night lost its fearful grip.

Screeching tires, splintering glass, a deafening silence — a stranger pulling my five-year-old body from the mangled car.  Through the front passenger glass, I could see Mom’s bloodied face as she laid semiconscious against the seat.  Terrified, I screamed, “Mommy!”  Through the fog of her injuries, she managed to moan my name, “Debbie.” — hearing her child’s plea with a mother’s heart.   Now I am a middle-aged woman.  Mom’s heart is always open, understanding, and accepting — forever my mom.

The most precious gift my mother gave to me was the introduction to Jesus Christ.  Mom accepted the Lord as her savior shortly before the car accident.  Her hands come to mind again — fixing my hair, holding my brother’s and my hand as we went to church.  Mom defines unconditional love.  On this Mother’s Day, I am thankful for the wonderful Christian lady who God has blessed me as my mother.

Calvary . . . a bloodied brow . . . a pair of hands pierced with nails, unconditional love.  Needing Christ in my life, I prayed.  From the cross of Calvary, my prayer was heard — my name, “Debbie,” was recognized in Jesus’ heart.  I came to the cross, secure in His love, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Jesus, God’s son, also had a mother, Mary.  While dying, Jesus looked upon His mother with a son’s love.  One of His final comments, from the cross, was a request for John to care for His mother.

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple [John] whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
(John 19:26-27/NIV)

On this Mother’s Day, I thought about Mary and Jesus, their mother/son bond with submissive knowledge of God’s divine plan of salvation.  Mary’s sorrow would have been great in the shadow of the suffering of her son’s crucifixion — how great her joy at Christ’s resurrection.

The deep mother/child bond is used as an illustration in the following verse of God’s comfort.

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you…”  (Isaiah 66:13/NKJV)

I’ll Be, His forever presence.  “… I will comfort you.”

Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for a Christian mother, for the blessing she is to my life.  I thank you for the treasures of my children and grandchildren, precious miracles.  Help me to always be a mother, grandmother, and daughter pleasing to You.  Thank you for Calvary, salvation, and your endless love. ~Amen

Perfect Strength In Weakness

•May 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV)

“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 23:6, NKJV)

Debilitating fatigue is often an underlying symptom of chronic illness or side effect of medication: lethargy, limited energy, weakness.  After 20+ years of living with chronic illnesses, my ambitious mind still struggles with my physical limitations — feelings of inadequacy and being a failure.

Since 1994, part of my treatment involves infusions of IVIg, an intravenous immunomodulating therapy.  Minor side effects are normal; but occasionally, infusion side effects require a couple days of bedrest: relentless headache, muscles aches, fatigue, and mild nausea.  Losing an additional two days of my planned week to this setback, my heart ached with dejection, filled with questions of despair…. “Why?  How much more?  Will I feel better soon?”

In the sanctuary of my bed, I thought, grieved, worried, and prayed.   Prayer was a continual conversation: pleas from my heart, petitions for family and friends, giving thanks, anything and everything. . .a precious time of communion.  Drifting in and out of restful sleep, I could feel the comfort of my Savior wrap me in love, His voice whispering to my heart from the rousing fragments of slumber.  As my failing body recovered from infusion side effects, my failing heart was strengthened.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  (Ps 46:1)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
(Ps 46:1)

In reading different Bible translations of scripture, the word “infirmities” was sometimes replaced with “afflictions.” During my time of bedrest, my thoughts drifted to other struggles in life, “afflictions.”   Afflictions of worry, fear, despair, troubled relationships, financial burdens, work, family problems — revealing the fragile human weakness in me, in everyone — “a failing heart.”

I cannot live this life by my own strength with a failing body and soul.  When life becomes too heavy with burdens, I can rest in the loving arms of Jesus, “[my] refuge and strength. . .my portion forever.”  Through God’s grace,  He can use my weakness, my disabling illness, to reveal His strength to me and through me. . . “the power of Christ.”

Prayer:

Dear Lord, I thank you for holding me, loving me, and continually teaching me.  I thank you for your grace and strength to face life’s struggles.  Help me to daily surrender my weaknesses to you.  I love you. ~Amen

Easter Morning, After The Night

•March 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“The cross is the victory, the resurrection is the triumph…The resurrection is the public display of the victory, the triumph of the crucified one.” ~Leon Morris

"He is not here; he has risen..." ~Matthew 28:6 (NIV)

“He is not here; he has risen…” ~Matthew 28:6 (NIV)

Matthew 28: 1-3, 5-6 (NIV)

 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

As children, my brothers and I would get an Easter basket with sugary peeps, pastel eggs, & rainbow-colored jelly beans.  We were unified in our disdain for the bitter taste of black jelly beans.  Sorting through the basket grass, we separated the sweet jewel-toned beans from the black.  As a group, we each gave a handful of black jelly beans to Dad who willingly received them without question.

With Easter approaching,  my childhood memory of black jelly beans became a simple analogy of salvation — bitter sin surrendered to a loving heavenly Father — forever gone.  As a Christian, to celebrate Easter is to remember the cross — God’s gift of love and everlasting life to a lost and dying world through the crucifixion of His only son, Jesus.

We focus on God’s love for us, but Jesus loved us too.  Willingly, He gave his life for us.  As part of the triune God, Jesus could have avoided Calvary.  He took the nails for me, for everyone… My sin, all sin, by death on the cross.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8 (KJV)

“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep…  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”  ~John 10: 15 & 18 (KJV)

A sacred memory of my childhood Easters was watching the yearly televised King Of Kings.  During the crucifixion, I would weep with remorse, gratitude, and love.  I always anticipated the resurrection with excited awe.  As an adult, I can only imagine the lost despair and grief of Christ’s friends and family following his horrific death.  The long dark hours of night…

Then came Easter morning.  An empty tomb. A risen Savior.  Victory over sin and death.  God’s promise fulfilled.  Jesus Lives!

 … at dawn on the first day of the week… He is not here; he has risen, just as he said…” ~Matthew 28:1 & 6 (NIV)

“I know that my redeemer lives…” ~Job 19:25 (KJV)

Prayer:

“Dear Lord, I praise you for Easter.  Thank you for Calvary, the forgiveness of sins, for your love.  I thank you for everlasting life and because of Easter, I worship a risen redeemer.  I love you.” Amen.

Live With A Christ-Like Love

•March 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

heart_of_hands_on_sunrise_sky“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~John 13:34 (NIV)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
~Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

Taking a lunch-break from errands, I stopped at Panero’s. A group of five deaf-mutes were in line ahead of me.  I could see the deliberate looks of the cashier to her co-workers, averted glances of others, feel the impatience of the patrons behind me at the frustration of the group leader in getting their order written on a piece of paper with frantic gestures and guttural sounds.  Having a disability, I ached with personal knowledge of social misunderstanding.

Sitting across the dining area from me, I watched their animated conversation in sign language, beautiful and graceful.  Approaching their group as I was leaving, I asked if anyone could hear.  Animated gesturing asked if I was deaf.  Able to understand the question, I responded in remedial sign accompanied with slow lip syncing that I could hear but did not know sign.  Having patience with me, I was handed a long receipt and pen to communicate.

I wrote, “I do not know sign, but wanted to say hi.”  Handing my message to the leader, he read as he signed my greeting to the group.  I do know sign for “I love you.”  Signing it to the group, I was rewarded with smiles and several returned “I love you” in sign.

As I was leaving, I hugged the lady close to me, then a gentleman.  The rest of the group stood and gave me a hug.  The group leader was last, giving me a squeeze.  Smiling, I slowly mouthed, “Have a great day” —  responding smiles and departing waves.

Outside, sounds of traffic, muted conversations, a bird greeted me with a renewed appreciation.  In reaching out to the group of deaf-mutes, I was the one blessed.  Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loves us.  To love like Christ — I wonder how many lonely people I may have overlooked, missed a chance to share the love of Christ through a smile, word, or deed.  “I want to live like that.”

Through The Eyes Of God

As I walk through my life
it seems to me to be;
I see people with their arms outstretched
who want something out of me.

Lord, help me see them as you do
from your throne above.
They are lonely, empty searching souls.
Let me see them through your eyes of love.

As I look upon my world
every single day of my life:
let me see your beauty Lord
not man’s hatred, turmoil, or strife.

When I start to criticize,
Lord, please take hold of me.
Remind this stubborn childish heart,
through your eyes I want to see.

Of all the thing I care to want,
let this one my prayer be.
As I live my life for you,
God, through your eyes let me see.

© 1983

Prayer:

“Dear Lord, please forgive me when I let the busyness of life blind me to others.  Help me to always love with your heart and see through your eyes.  I love you.” ~Amen

Run The Race – Finish Well

•March 12, 2013 • 1 Comment

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Hebrews 12:1

Loading my Craig’s List purchase into the trunk of the car, excitement consumed me — a jogging stroller.  Limited with various neurological challenges, this stroller could be my all terrain gait aid of independent reintroduction to several lost abilities.

Running had been a love of mine 20-plus years ago in my pre-diagnostic life.  One resolution for the new year was to attempt a 5K.  Locating an upcoming 5K for breast cancer (love for a friend), my heart sunk at the six-week time frame to train.  After a month of physical struggles ending in a few days of bed rest, I was deeply discouraged and defeated.  My scripture reading that day was:

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. “ Ecclesiastes 9:11

Though I am physically weak and slow, I felt the comfort of the Lord embrace my spirit with His words.  I thought of a recent series of sermons entitled Finish Well.  I dropped the weight of comparing “who I was before” and embraced “who I am now.”  Divine-inspired endurance (patience), renewed my will with strength to continue training.

The night before the race, I lay in bed thinking and praying.  Comparing life with racing, I thought about the sermon series.  “Run the race, finish well.”  Strenuous weeks of training and worry dissolved into a peaceful calm.  That night, my prayer was simple, “Lord, I will show up and see what you have planned.”  The Lord took a middle-aged grandma with neurological limitations, pushing a jogging stroller with a backpack loaded with bottled water, to the finish line with an impressive time.  With a willing heart and total surrender, I finished well.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

In contemplating the purpose of my life, the race reaffirmed spiritual truths.  God can still use me, with my physical limitations, as long as I have a willing heart… “to press on in Christ Jesus.”  Life is a struggle.  Doubt, fear, and an attitude of defeat are weights…  “keep the faith, fight the good fight.”  Show up.  Run the race.  Finish Well.

“Dear Lord, I thank you for your comfort and strength, for your unconditional love.  Thank you for guiding me and using me beyond my expectations.  Help me to always have a heart surrendered to you, to lay down my weights, to run my race.  I want to finish well.  I love you.” Amen

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Copyright © 2013

Lost in Lo Debar

•February 7, 2013 • 1 Comment
Lo-Debar (pastureless)

Lo-Debar (pastureless)

2 Samuel 9 (NIV)

3 The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”

4 “Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar…

13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet.

Lo Debar, a pastureless land, not able to sustain life — desolation, decay, death.  David’s beloved friend, Jonathon, had a crippled son, lost and hiding in Lo Debar.  Crippled, life had not been kind to Mephibosheth, isolated in exile.

My years in an emotional Lo Debar — despair, desperation, defeated, detached, emotionally dead.  I had my share of trials in life, buried a child.   All my trials had an end, a chance for resolution where I could go to God, find comfort, and heal.  Disabled for life was different.  It became my way of living every single day.  The only end was to die.

Initially, I primarily dealt with the physical issues, pain, lack of mobility, praying for release.  With time, medication helped with the physical symptoms, but I was left with the emotional fallout.  I lost me.  Years of coping had become a slow death of who I used to be and could do; my current abilities rationed for the day, the loss of my envisioned future.

I rallied for those I loved — a brave front, living just to please.  With the demands of each day, my sense of self eroded — my worth, guilt over being “broken,”  daily grief over losing the ‘normal’ me.   I sank into a dark void of apathetic nothing.  Functioning on autopilot, my spirit was dying.  I seriously considered suicide.  While my lips whispered detached prayer, my spirit cried out to God.

Luke 15:4 (NKJV)

4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

King David brought Mephibosheth out of the desolation of Lo Debar to live in his palace and eat at his table.  Jesus, The Good Shepherd, found me entangled in the barren brush of my Lo Debar.  Carrying my parched spirit to “My Healing Place,” we spent two years together, just the Lord and me.  I sobbed years of pain and loss while I felt His Spirit hold me, healing my broken life.

I have worth.  Jesus died to save me, Debbie.  There is beauty in imperfection because I am the Lord’s creation.  I am His.

Isaiah 43:1 (NKJV)

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.

“Dear Lord, This life is very hard at times but you are always with me and understand.  Please forgive me when I lose sight of that.  Thank you for seeing my pain, for carrying my spirit when I was too defeated to face another day.  You have shown me I have worth, a purpose and I am never alone.  I love you for seeing the beauty in me, for dying for me, for the healing from and lessons of Lo Debar.  Thank you for the blessings of your table.” Amen

Copyright © 2013