Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, July 24, 2011

O LORD, our Lord, my Lord!

Psalm 8 (NIV)

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
It’s 6:30 on a Sunday morning and I’m standing outside, waiting for my dogs to “do” what all living things that eat must do. My frustration over the length of time it takes to perform this necessary act turns immediately to awe for our Creator when I look up. I see the glowing moon (it’s shape between half-moon and crescent moon) and a glittering star beside it. Off in the distance illuminating light from the rising sun exposes pale pink and white wisps of clouds scattered across a blue sky. A refreshing breeze cools the air as tweeting birds and chirping squirrels sing their morning chorus, and I unite with them in praise to the One who created us all. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth,” my heart cries out.

I’m reminded of those rare mornings when I have time to breathe in the breath of God and feel His presence in creation. And I hear my Savior saying, “Be still and know that I am God!” Below is a poem of praise that I wrote on July 19, 2006; it’s entitled “Morning Glory.” God grabbed my attention with the beauty of the earth and stilled my anxious, grieving mind. My circumstances appeared dire as my Dad had died, the relationship with our daughter expressed only trouble, and both my mother and father-in-law had been diagnosed with different forms of cancer. God whispered into my storm, “Be still and know who I AM!” Love and praises poured out of my heart for Him. Sing His praises with me:

Night time slips away,
Morning rises up.
O the beauty of the earth,
Lord, we praise your holy Name!

Birds burst into song.
Squirrels prattle about.
O the glory of creation,
Lord, we praise your holy Name!

Chipmunks scurrying by.
Hawks swooping low.
O the miracle of provision,
Lord, we praise you holy Name!

People rising and shining.
Day begins anew.
O the blessing of your faithfulness,
Lord, we praise your holy Name!

And again I hear God say, “Be still and know that I am God.” He daily speaks those words to us. Are we listening to His voice? Are we resting in His peace? Or are we listening to the voices that speak doom and negativity to our souls? Satan continually tries to keep our focus on the circumstances that surround us and the worries they create. These days danger seems to be lurking around each corner and behind every bush. Once our eyes are off Almighty God, doubt, fear, and anxiety plague us. Alright, right now, be still and focus, turning your eyes toward Jesus. Recite with me Psalm 46, believing in His Word:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46 (NKJV)

Life’s circumstances appear alarming, but we have a Savior who taught us and those before us how to overcome heaviness that binds and captures. The Lord of all creation quells all fears, worldly and personal, when we embrace faith. Let us cling to faith together:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Jesus heard the command “Be still and know...” and obeyed. Knowing what Jesus did for each of us, we too need to heed that voice and obey. It’s only faith-focused eyes that dispel fear-based visions. Praise your Lord with faith! Live this anonymous quote:

“To look around is to be distressed; to look within is to be depressed; to look up is to be blessed.”

Amen. We praise you, O Lord!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blessed Benefits

When morning breaks and you awake, do you offer God praise or complaint? When bowing in prayer, do you express adoration and praise to our Savior King or do you present a lengthy list of needs? When considering your circumstances, are you grateful for God’s blessings or troubled by the supposed lack of them? Let’s give ourselves a few moments to examine our answers.

I’m sitting outside in the middle of a southern July, enjoying sunny blue skies with an ever-present cool breeze. Amazing! A song pops in my head and I’m reminded of bittersweet times. “Praise You in the Storm” by Casting Crowns brings back such a flood of emotions for me as I remember an extremely hard time in my life. My dad had recently died and my daughter had mentally detached herself from her family creating severe hurt and pain for all involved. At the same time, God provided His constant care through loving, supportive family and friends. A choice daily presented itself: do I live with the burden of pain and negative feelings weighing me down or do I lift my hands in praise to the God who died on a cross in my place that I might live free in Jesus’ name? I chose to live free but it wasn’t always an easy decision. Thank God for His earthly hands that lovingly hugged me through it all!

Are you reminded of times in your life when God came alongside difficult circumstances? Were the trials bittersweet because of Jesus’ grace? Did you praise Him in your storm? As God’s people, we should ALWAYS REMEMBER His blessings. His Word tells us that we should FORGET NOT all His benefits. Read the Word of our Lord:

Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!
Psalm 68:19 (NKJV)
Scripture says the God of our salvation loads us with benefits. Not convinced? Don’t feel the weight of benefits? Allow God’s Word to help you make a list of His goodness.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV)

Here’s my list:
  1. I am washed in the blood of the Lamb, cleansed from sin!
  2. Daily forgiven, now I must forgive!
  3. Healed after experiencing dangerous clots in my lungs in 1994!
  4. Finally healed from years of massive menstrual bleeding!
  5. Being strengthened (doing my part which is exercise) after suffering back problems!
  6. My daughter returned to her senses and her family!
  7. Been blessed with a wonderful and growing family!
  8. My God is faithful and daily feeds me with His Word!
  9. He has blessed me with His mercy and grace!
  10. He renews my strength and fulfills His purpose for my life!
  11. I am filled with awe and wonder when I look around at His creation!
  12. I am blessed with the freedom to worship my God - the Lord Jesus Christ!
How about your list? Are you remembering your blessings from God? Do you feel loaded down with His benefits?

My “blessed benefits” list is going to continue to grow because I am blessed by God! Thank you, Jesus, for your many blessings to me. Even if my circumstances appear dire, I am going to praise your Holy Name! AMEN.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Psalm 40

This week focus on Psalm 40 (below is the NKJV version) and study it with God’s leading. Email me and let me know how God is blessing you. Here are a few verses/words/questions to focus on to help you get started:

Have you waited on God to accomplish something in your life? I think we all have. Did you wait patiently? What did you do while you waited? Were you worried or at peace? Do you believe that God listens to your cries? Concentrate on verses 1-3.

Do you trust God or man? Who do you listen to? Remember all the blessings in your life from God. Jot them down and give Him praise and glory for what He’s done for you. Concentrate on verses 4-5.

Read verses 6-8. What do you give to God? Do you do things in His Name for Him to notice you and bless you (like Martha - Luke 10:38-42) or do you take time to sit, be still and silent before Him, and listen to His Words (like Mary)? Did you know that the words listen and silent are related - by that I mean, they have the exact same letters, just in different places (thanks to S.W. for that revelation). In order to listen, you and everything around you MUST be silent. Try it this week. Find a quiet place, read the rest of this psalm, a little at a time, and let God speak to your heart. He is inclining His ear to you. Are you listening and leaning into Him?

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the LORD.

Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”

I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O LORD, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD;
Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me;
O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
Who seek to destroy my life;
Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor
Who wish me evil.
Let them be confounded because of their shame,
Who say to me, “Aha, aha!”
Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
“The LORD be magnified!”
But I am poor and needy;
Yet the LORD thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Heart of the Matter

Fumbling way down in the bottom of my purse, I uncover a forgotten object that has no specific home, yet could belong anywhere. It may mean nothing to some, but for me it’s the symbol of a belief that is grounded in the depths of my soul.

I find myself gazing at a small stone that appears to have melted onto a flat surface causing one level side. Clutching it in my hand, I stare into the clear reflective red of the stone and my mind’s eye travels to the center of the earth. The inner core of the earth is extremely hot and under such violent pressure that it is compressed into solid iron. Trekking back mentally to the surface of the earth, I encounter fractures in the crust caused by earthquakes. Strength abounds in and around this astounding planet. Within the essence of my being, I know there is a Creator God.

Back in my living room, I fondle the pocket-sized stone and examine its vivid intensity. The red begins to illumine my heart, beating with passion and overflowing with compassion. Scientifically speaking, the heart pumps blood carrying an iron-containing protein called hemoglobin all throughout the body. I listen to the pumping of life with every heartbeat and realize that only God could create such complexity. Pain awakens my memory to blood oozing from a cut on my foot. It wasn’t an earthquake but a fall that landed me on a rock in a creek. Ligaments and tendons disconnected, but as a boot and time began to heal my foot, discs in my back slipped apart. Bodily discomfort pulls me back to the present and in this weakened physical state, I wonder how stable is my core?

As I contemplate my condition, I pick up the stone to answer that question. Drawn across the top of the little red stone is a gold cross and I’m reminded of my core’s stability, the heart of the matter. My strength, the iron within, comes from a greater Power. The same Creator God who fashioned the earth formed me. Holding the polished stone, I’m aware of Who makes my rough places smooth. I believe in a Savior God who enriches my life on earth and prepares a place for me in heaven. He’s a friend who is closer than a sister, sticking by me through thick and thin.

Why do I believe these things? How do I know? Have I seen evidence? Yes, I have. God speaks to me through His creation. A month had come and gone since the death of my Daddy. While sitting in my car, a butterfly flew alongside the hood, hovered at the windshield, and then took flight. God lovingly communicated to me with a butterfly that my father was in His care. Why a butterfly? The butterfly symbolizes new life and because I value this creation, God speaks to me through its beauty.

God’s voice through creation continued to reach my heart though four fragile years with a prodigal daughter. I believed eventually she would return to her family, but as doubt plagued my mind, I spoke to God about her and a butterfly glided down into my backyard and floated up to me. My Friend had spoken again.

His care and concern seemed to emerge in all areas of my life. When it was confirmed that I had a slipped disc, I left work alarmed and almost in tears. As I started my twenty minute ride home, butterflies began approaching my car. Whether they were near or far away, the butterflies were clearly visible. By the time I pulled into my garage, I had seen twenty-nine butterflies. I knew that I’d be OK! This I believe to the core of my being: a higher Being is watching over me.

Fumbling around again in my purse, I search for the perfect spot for my mighty red stone. It has found a permanent home in my handbag. I pray the next time I uncover that stone, God will take me on another journey of hope.