Not Abandoned

We were on vacation not long ago “up north.” One night I was up alone for hours trying to be quiet in the tiny camper while my husband slept. Couldn’t sleep and very depressed. Thinking about all that was going wrong. Sickness, financial troubles, family members leaving the faith. That is when I told God I felt abandoned. In the morning more devastating family news on Facebook. By the time we were eating breakfast I was bawling. Not a fun time.  

Packing up to go “enjoy” the day, my husband stepped in some doggie doodoo and it got tracked all over the camper. At least an hour was spent cleaning rugs and mats and shoes at the camp water pump. Then he banged his head real hard trying to wrangle things back in. Finally, on our way to the beach, a big heavy, wet floor mat that we thought could ride on the hood a few miles flew up and smacked the windshield while we were driving, covering it and scaring us and making us, shaken and blinded, pull over quickly to the side of the road.  

To top the morning off, when we got to the beach my husband cracked his elbow badly getting things out of the truck. At that we both just started laughing, and I felt God say, now THAT is what it would be like if I had abandoned you. 

Lord, thank you that we aren’t even aware of all that you do for us. Thank you that you watch over us continually, though we cannot see you. That, though bad things happen, you are there with us. That you carry us through it all. But, thank you most of all that Jesus endured abandonment for us on the cross that we might never – ever – be abandoned. 

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46 (NLT) 

The LORD will guard you from all evil; He will preserve your soul. The LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 

… and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place. Deuteronomy 1:31 

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) 

Image by DVIDSHUB, from flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/13938506188

Goofiness

I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality.

“Dear Mom, thank you for your love, commitment, sacrifice, wisdom, and goofiness. You’re really great and I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.” 

I received the above message from my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day morning via social media. It surprised, but somehow delighted me to see that description “goofiness” listed with the more lofty and important qualities.  

I think I inherited the goofiness from my dad, who made silly faces at us kids to make us laugh, and when we were upset, he would point at our bellies and make a huge, dramatic process of warning us that there was a giggle bubbling up – “Watch out! Here is comes!” It never failed. One time he got a guerilla suit from somewhere and galloped all over the house in it, with us squealing and laughing behind him. Another time, when we were on vacation driving along country roads, he honked the horn had us all call out and wave to total strangers sitting on their porches “to give them something to talk about.” His joke telling is legendary.  

But I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality to be listed in the same sentence as love, commitment, sacrifice and wisdom. 

“You never know what actions on your part are going to have the most significant impact on the people around you. Something you do that seems utterly mundane could be the thing that completely changes another person’s life. More than that, it could be the thing by which you become known.” — Jonathan Wattsi  

Yes, you never know.  

Then we went to church and the pastor gave a wonderful message for Mother’s Day on “momma guilt.”ii All moms think that they are ruining or have ruined their kids’ lives because of perceived failures and lack. But he urged us to let go of that lie. He pointed to 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 to show that none of us is everything, but that each of us has a gift given by God.  

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable … 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 

I don’t think I got everything he was saying because I was hearing God say, “if all were serious and somber, where would the giggles be? The thoughtful and dignified cannot say to the goofy ones ‘I have no need of you.’ But the parts that seem weaker are indispensable.” We need a good laugh. We need silly faces and silly songs.  

And that means my more serious parts can’t say to my goofy part, you are not valuable; you are not significant. I tuned back in just in time to hear the pastor end with this antidote to momma guilt: 

  • You are gifted 
  • Embrace God’s gifts 
  • Thank God for your value 
  • Receive the grace of God 

I laughed and I cried as I thought of goofiness as a gift from God. And that my goofiness gave me value. Because I have had a lot of “momma guilt.” And I have struggled to trust my kids to God, trust that he knows what he is doing. But he has always known.  

So, I am embracing my inner goofiness as a gift from God. A grace. And that this mundane goofiness is valuable, it has impact on people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure what that impact might be (ha ha). But I am trusting God for that also, he who has arranged me this way, and whose gifts are good.  

  i  Morning Musing: Mark 6:56  https://the-nexus.blog/2021/02/16/morning-musing-mark-656/ 

ii Goodbye Momma Guilt, Pastor Troy Gentz https://youtu.be/-PwhzWncwPU?t=1737 

Image, photo of me and two of my granddaughters performing a parody of Baby Face (by Harry Akst, with lyrics by Benny Davis) that we called Poopy Butt.

Wonderful One

God lets me know that his power is made perfect in my failures.

Last night I was talking to God and saying that I felt like a total failure. That everything I had done in my life had been a failure. That I had failed my kids especially. Then this morning this verse was in my daily devotional.

No one whose hope is in (who waits, looks for, hopes, expects, is bound together with) you will ever be put to shame (be put to shame, be ashamed, be disappointed) … Psalm 25:3

That word translated “put to shame” is buwsh. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament says this about the word:

The primary meaning of this root is “to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust.” TDOT, II, pp. 50-59 [emphasis mine]

God is always there with us, isn’t he? So this verse says that, as long as my hope is in Him, I will never fall into disgrace or be shamed because of my failures.

And then another verse came to me from a fellow blogger, and then again in a novel I was reading, and then again on a bookmark left in a used book by a former owner:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (astheneia).” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Guess what astheneia means?

Definition:
1) want of strength, weakness, infirmity
1a) of the body
1a1) its native weakness and frailty
1a2) feebleness of health or sickness
1b) of the soul
1b1) want of strength and capacity requisite
1b1a) to understand a thing
1b1b) to do things great and glorious
1b1c) to restrain corrupt desires
1b1d) to bear trials and troubles
      

At that I was completely undone because God knows me. Want of strength to do things great and glorious. Want of strength to be the Wonderful One. That has always been a weakness of mine – thinking I have to do wonderful exploits, that I have to be the Savior of the Word. And I am learning that this trying to wrest control from God and be the wonderful one always ends in failure.

But God (but God!) is the One who has the strength and capacity requisite to do the great and glorious things. And even more wonderful, God lets me know that his power is made perfect in my failures. He is the One who turns failures into victories, he is “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).

He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not (that lack, that never, that cannot, that are nothing, that are without)—to nullify the things that are … 1 Corinthians 1:28

He chose and loves the failures of the world – the weak and frail ones, the ones who lack, who cannot, the nothings, without the capacity to do great and glorious things. What God is saying is that even when it seems like your failures have ruined your life and you have let everyone down – God and your family and your friends – his grace is sufficient. Give him your failures. Keep waiting, looking for, hoping, expecting, keep being bound together with the One who loves you more.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And His name will be called Wonderful … Isaiah 9:6

Image by Jack Bair

My Impossibles List

It seems the whole world has an impossibles list right now. And, I don’t know about you, but my list just keeps getting longer.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Impossible = Greek adunatos: without strength, impotent, powerless, weak, disabled, unable to be done, impossible

Possible = Greek dunatos: able, powerful, capable, mighty, strong, possible

I’ve started keeping an impossibles list. All the impossible things I’ve been praying for. The unable to be done, not possible things. So much of what I am praying for seems impossible. Sometimes the impossible thing is to just get through the day; sometimes it is the healing of a brokenhearted nation. We all have that same struggle right now, to keep from sinking into hopelessness and despair at the impossibilities.

But recently, God has been showing me – no that is too wimpy of a word – he has been blazing this light of truth into my darkness, that he, and he alone, is the one who can do the impossible things. All the stuff with what is going on in the world and our own problems – our kids and financial problems and job problems and health concerns. All our impossible things. The things that wake us up weeping and gasping in the middle of the night. If fixing these things are just up to me and you they are without strength, impotent, powerless, weak, disabled, unable to be done, impossible. Not possible.

But all things are possible with God. That’s what Jesus impossibly proclaimed. So, I have been making a list of all my impossibles. And then, like Hezekiah I take it and spread it out before the Lord.

Hezekiah was the king of Israel when King Sennacherib of Assyria came to lay siege to Jerusalem. His armies had already roared through Judah, capturing the fortified cities. And now they were surrounding Jerusalem and mocking Hezekiah’s God (Isaiah 36), sending letters full of sneering impossibilities.

Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Isaiah 37:11

But Hezekiah took those impossibilities to the Temple and spread them out before God.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” Isaiah 37:14-16

It seems the whole world has an impossibles list right now. And, I don’t know about you, but my list just keeps getting longer. And this impossible army surrounds me and mocks my God, either in anguish or arrogance. Even in writing this it besieges my mind and heart with black-hole doubt and ancient fear. But I am spreading my list out before the One who is able, powerful, capable, mighty, strong, possible. The One enthroned between the cherubim, the One who alone is God. And I’m saying, “OK, God here are some more impossible things for you. I am giving them over to you. For, nothing is impossible for you.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles. 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard (too difficult, too high, beyond one’s power, extraordinary, wondrous, marvelous) for me? Jeremiah 32:27

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23-24

Photograph copyright 2018 by Derek Bair

My Testimony During My COVID Struggle

A dear friend of mine has been struggling through COVID-19 illness for many weeks. Yesterday she posted this wonderful testimony of her experience of God’s love and faithfulness through it all. I asked her for permission to share it here because it is so uplifting and encouraging – no matter what your current struggle is.

My testimony during my COVID struggle:

My Father has given me three very intense and personal experiences with Him to make sure I KNOW with every cell and every part of who I am, how deep His love is for me, how He has compassion for me and how He SEES me with no condemnation but PURE LOVE.

  1. Jesus is sitting right beside me at the table He has prepared for me, in the presence of my enemies. Sitting right next to me, laughing with me, enjoying me, eating with me… MY BEST FRIEND who SAVED me. Every door to my heart is open to Him and He is fully with me. I feel His joy in me, His friendship with me and His complete love for me.
  1. My Father God is sitting right beside me. His face shines on me with PURE JOY. I saw Him beside me and saw Him turn His face and look directly into mine. He fully SEES me, and I am UNDONE. Pure love. Pure joy. Pure compassion. With NO CONDEMNATION.

I am undone. On my face before Him with just that brief glimpse of total love for me. When the veil is removed, and I get to spend eternity with Him face to face how can I stand? For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

  1. This life is precious and sacred because God is WITH me and IN me. With everything that is in this world and this life that would beat me down and cause me to give up and give in… I push into Him. Wanting only deeper love for Him and a deeper KNOWING Him.

Death means FULL JOY, FULL LIFE, FULL LOVE. A full knowing and understanding of the love and joy He has in me and for me. And it means I will be fully with Him with no veil and no barriers ever again.

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Whether I am healthy or sick. Whether I grieve or experience pure joy in His presence. Whether I am overwhelmed by life, or am sitting with Him on the beach at Lake Michigan at sunset. Whether I am alone, or in the presence of a husband and family He blesses me with. Whether I feel very far from Him, or I feel Him in me and with me. Whether I can’t catch my breath, or peacefully breathe in His presence through the Holy Spirit.

NOTHING in this life will EVER separate me from the love of Jesus, my LORD and SAVIOR, who rescued me from running after sin, and rescued me from death.

HE IS EVERYTHING to me. EVERYTHING.

I am uniquely His. Here on earth and into eternity.

 

 

 

Image copyright by Jack Bair

 

70th Anniversary Tribute

My Mom and Dad will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in a few days and I hope that you will forgive me for using this space to honor them, their perseverance and love, and the passions and values that they have passed down that have affected my life, and the lives of many others.

My Mom has always loved to dance. As a teenager she went to the “sock hop” dances at the YMCA with her sisters. It was at one of those dances where my Mom and Dad first met in December of 1948. Dad was staying there while he attended WMU. He wandered down to the gym and noticed Mom through the crowd, but was too shy to ask for a dance. But Mom spotted him across the crowded dance floor and told her sister, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” As the dance was ending my Mom went over and introduced herself. My Dad never had a chance. They were married a little over a year later. My Dad still talks about the sweater she wore that night.

They loved to dance together and they wanted to share that passion. They became expert ballroom dance instructors, owning their own studio for a time. Altogether, they taught ballroom dance for 63 years, at various studios including, the Fred Astaire Studio in Kalamazoo, the Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, The Douglas Dance Studio, at area schools, privately at home, and ten years at the Coover Senior Center, where they taught for about $2.00 a lesson, just for the love of teaching and sharing it. They are dearly loved by their students. They were both in their 90’s when they were forced to finally give it up. It took a broken hip, two strokes, and a heart attack to stop them.

Dad has always loved to sing, and he has a beautiful tenor voice. In high school he sang in the boys’ chorus, the a cappella choir, and the boys’ quartet. One of my most precious memories is standing next to him at church listening to him sing out loud and clear, completely unashamed, always, without fail.

Another passion of his is making people laugh. He always says, “it’s better to laugh than to cry,” and he always has a joke to make sure that happens. No matter where they go he is determined to make someone smile. To my Dad there are no strangers. He will stop cars in the parking lot to ask the driver, “did you know that all four of your tires are going around in the same direction?” Even though he has a beautiful voice, he started an unbreakable tradition in our family of always singing the Happy Birthday song completely off key – everyone in a different key, everyone singing as horribly and loudly as they can – no matter where we are, even in public places. This, much to the continued mortification of grandchildren, and now, great-grandchildren. Sometimes, when they were out dancing, my Dad would follow my Mom out onto the dance floor faking an exaggerated limp and as she turned to him he would straighten right up and they would sweep away like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She never knew, but it made a lot of people smile.

Mom has had a life-long love of learning. Hard times during the Great Depression forced her to quit school midway through her senior year of high school and help support the family of thirteen. But she never gave up the dream of graduating and she received her GED in 1969, the same year I graduated high school. Mom went on to take classes at Orchard Lake Community College, University of Michigan (earning an A in psychology), Western Michigan University, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where she received her Associate Degree in Computer Science.  She always told me, “You can learn something from everyone you meet, and every situation.” Though they were expert ballroom dance instructors, teaching at the “gold” level, Mom never stopped learning – and creating – new steps and techniques. Her message was clear: Don’t ever think you are done learning. Don’t ever think you know it all.

My Dad’s all-time favorite saying has always been “Keep your nose clean.” Whenever we left the house to go to school, for a date or a party he always said it. When we each moved out of the house, he said it. And still today, whenever I pull out of the driveway, he taps the side of his nose and we smile at each other. Keep your nose clean. Do the right thing. Stay on the good path.

Wherever they have lived they have always left the place better than how they found it. They fixed it up, sometimes finishing the whole inside. They also always landscaped the yard, planting lots of trees and flowering bushes. I can still drive by our old houses and see the trees they planted. And flowers. My Mom’s amazing flowers. Even if they only had a postage-stamp square of dirt at an apartment complex. Even if just a cement stoop, it displayed flowerpots. Nobody has a green thumb like my parents. People still slow down to look at the flowers.

Thank you Mom and Dad.

Leave the world better for you having been there

It’s better to laugh than to cry; cheer somebody up today

There is no such thing as a stranger

You can always learn something else; don’t ever think you know it all

Be who you are; share your passions and gifts

Praise the Lord with all that is within you, completely unashamedly

Do what you love, even if you don’t get paid much for doing it

Keep your nose clean

 

Blog70thAnniversaryFlowers2Blog70thAnniversaryFlowers3Blog70thAnniversaryFlowers

 

I Testify

The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. 1 John 1:1 (NLT)

This is what eyewitnesses do. They testify about what they have seen and heard and experienced, with their own eyes and ears and hands

I have been called to be a witness, and I, too, testify that

I have heard His voice calling my name. I have heard Him say to me, “You are mine!”

I have looked, while in the spirit, into His eyes like unending pools of molten love, like perfectly pure liquid gold, purer than anything here on this earth

I have felt His Presence, very near, right beside me, instant in need, comforting, cheering me on, relentlessly offering me this Hope, pointing out the Way

I have experienced His unstoppable power and authority, taking my breath away, healing, redeeming, restoring, bursting bonds, kicking down doors, bringing me out into that spacious place

I have experienced this power in me, in my heart, in my mouth and in my hands, working through me sharing this love, this healing, this redemption, this new-creature, new-way-of being, new Life

I have known the power of His Truth repairing the twisted, mangled parts, the mind-blowing revelation of His Word, changing my thinking, switching the track, crumbling unscalable walls, blowing away the chaff

I testify, with my own ears, with my own eyes, in my own life, with my own hands

He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life

 

Image in the Public Domain, by Brad Shorr

With Tears

I have this picture in my head of my grandmother packing away in the few trunks they could bring beautifully sewn coverlets and lace curtains, along with all her dreams of hanging those curtains in the windows of that cute little starter cottage.

As I get older, I have become interested in genealogy. I especially like to explore the less-trod histories of the “Grammas.” In doing so I recently dug up a real hidden treasure. The story starts with my great-grandfather, Nathan Douglas. According to the History of Oakland County Michigan, my grandfather, as a young man, accompanied his father, the Rev. Caleb Douglas and the pastor of their church, Rev. Elon Galusha on a mission trip from Whitesboro, New York to the wilderness of Michigan in the fall of 1822. There, they preached to the scattered pioneer families and founded the first Baptist church near Pontiac. In June of the following year Nathan came back to Michigan in the company of his father “who preached and broke bread to the church.”[i]

Exhilarated with the success of the missions and, I’m sure, loving the beautiful Michigan wilderness, the young man, who would later come to be called “Deacon Nathan,” went home determined to return. Apparently, as the story goes, my great-grandmother was not so thrilled with the idea. But, in 1824, the Deacon and his bride of six months, Frances, packed up all their belongings into an oxen-drawn wagon and started the 570-mile trek to, what is now, Troy, Michigan. The History of Macomb County Michigan relates that they “located in the primal wilderness, cleared a space and built a log home, in which they lived four weeks before doors and windows could be procured.  The time was made interesting by the screeching of owls and howling of wolves.”[ii]

I have this picture in my head of Gramma Frances packing away in the few trunks they could bring beautifully sewn coverlets[iii] and lace curtains, along with all her dreams of hanging those curtains in the windows of that cute little starter cottage with the white picket fence and flower arbor and perhaps a secluded rose garden retreat in the back.

The story continues with the bride walking ahead of the slow-moving oxen, weeping as she went, and sometimes sitting down on a fallen log to have a good cry, “of homesickness and dread of the trials of pioneer life.”[iv]

Yup. That would be me – the one being dragged kicking and screaming. I wonder if it is genetic.

I think Jesus understood the feeling. With grace and mercy, he told a parable of two brothers.

 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered. Matthew 21:28-31 (NIV)

So, what was Jesus saying here? That the son, who at first, kicking and screaming, wailed, “I don’t wanna!” but who went anyway, was the one who did the will of the Father, the one who pleased God. It’s part of that picking up your cross daily decision, “dying to the flesh,” getting out of your comfort zone, leaving your cozy little cottage and trekking into the wilderness where there are wolves and mosquitoes and hard work. It’s about perseverance and endurance. It’s about how you end, not so much how you start out.

My grandmother raised eight children, six sons and two daughters. Four sons were dentists and one was a minister, and the rest of the children sturdy farmers. Deacon Nathan and Frances celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1874. They continued on working in the church that whole time. It is said that grandmother “sang in the church choir a great many years, having a fine contralto voice.”[v]

But I think I will remember her mostly walking and weeping, putting one foot in front of the other. Persevering. Anyway. Yet.

I hope that is genetic too.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6 (NIV)

Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; Each of them appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:6-7 (Amplified Bible)

Photograph is of my grandmother, Mrs. Nathan Douglas (née Frances B. Smith), which has been passed down in the family.

[i] Durant, Samuel W. History of Oakland County, Michigan, p. 96.

[ii] Leeson, Michael A. History of Macomb County Michigan, pp. 653-654.

[iii] My grandmother was a talented sewer. A sampler and two coverlets made from cloth that she spun herself now reside in the Romeo Historical Society Museum, Romeo, Michigan.

[iv] From James H. Downie and Elizabeth Clark Douglas’s scrapbook. Transcribed by great-granddaughter Aug. 2010.

[v] Ibid.

He Knows My Name

A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1 (NASB)

I was listening to the beautiful song You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard recently and it got me remembering. It also got me wondering. What does it mean for God to know my name? What is the significance of calling by name? Names seem to be so very important.

The word for name in the Hebrew is shem. The definition of shem includes more than just a name though. It also includes the character of the named. The Ha-shem Adonai, the name of the Lord, encompasses his reputation, character, honor, authority, glory, and fame. Perhaps for our names it may also include infamy. God called many people by name in the Old Testament, including Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Moses (Exodus 3:4), and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4-10).

The idea of calling by name also appears in the New Testament.

The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 (NIV)

The word translated name in the Greek is onoma. It also includes the idea of the character or reputation of the person named. It comes from the word that means “to know.” To say that he knows my name means he knows all about me, good and bad, the infamy and the character flaws, but calls me by name anyway. No wonder he has to say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you!”

A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains. Our street theater group had been performing at the Reformed Church synod meeting and one of the sweet pastors had invited us to a potluck dinner at his little church. I was the last one in and so was alone when I heard someone calling my name. There was a breeze in the tall pines and, at first, I thought that must be what I heard. But no, a voice was calling out my name. It stopped me in my tracks, and I stood perfectly still. And it came again, and I knew deep down in my spirit it was God calling me. I stood there, hardly breathing, for a long time until my friend came out to ask if I was coming in.

Maybe you noticed that in both Isaiah 43 and John 10 the ideas of being called by name and belonging to Him are combined. In Isaiah God says, “I have called you by name; you are mine,” and in John, it says that Jesus “calls his own sheep by name.” The knowing of a person by name, the calling, is an intimate thing. It is a reaching out in complete love. It requires a response. The answers of Abraham, Moses, and Samuel were all the same: “Here I am!”

I hadn’t known how to respond to His call on that moonlit night. It was a few months later that a good friend led me to the Savior’s waiting arms. And I said, “Here I am!”

I guess what continues to amaze me is that despite knowing everything about me, he wanted me to be his, and that he still seeks me out. He still calls me by name to be his own little lamb and to let him lead me on. And because I have come to know him – his name and his character – I will follow.

Good Shepherd
Comforter
Refuge and Shelter
Unfailing Love, unfailing, unfailing
Redeemer
Deliverer
Lamb of God, who takes away my sins
The Amen, trustworthy, trustworthy
Faithful and True
Emmanuel, always with me
Father, Abba

You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Job 14:15 (NIV)

I pray you will hear him calling your name.

He knows my name
He knows my name
He knows my name
Yes He knows my name
And oh how He walks with me
Yes oh how He talks with me
And oh how He tells me
That I am His own

(from You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard)

Listen to You Know My Name here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMnkJ-X8l5s

Photo by bwminseattle on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/3KRVoJ

 

 

 

In My Distress

The earth truly did seem to quake at the smoke from her nostrils, the fire from her mouth, the bolts of lightening from her eyes – and the neighbor backed down fast.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me;     he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. (Psalm 18:1-19 NIV)

I love this Psalm. The imagery of a passionate God tearing apart the earth to rescue me is breathtaking. And it reminds me of something that happened when I was twelve.

My little brother is eight years younger than me and could be very naughty when he wanted, which seemed most of time to his big sister. At four years old, he especially seemed to aggravate one of our neighbors with his antics. My mom tried her best and kept an eye on him out the kitchen window, and his big sister got to babysit. One day, when he was out playing he did something that was the proverbial “straw” and the neighbor raged out screaming at him. I was paralyzed with shock, but in a blazing second, there was my mom standing between my brother and the woman in all the fury and glorious passion of a mother. The earth truly did seem to quake at the smoke from her nostrils, the fire from her mouth, the bolts of lightening from her eyes – and the neighbor backed down fast. That picture is forever seared in my memory and is why I love Psalm 18 so much. The zeal of The Mom for her children – like a mother bear for her cubs – is a perfect picture of God’s love and zeal for us.

Remember that when you feel under attack, when you feel hopeless and helpless as a four year old child, when the enemy stands over you ready to crush you once and for all. Cry out to Jesus and he will come blazing out to rescue you. For he has already stood between – the Intercessor – he took all the blows meant for you. The Good Shepherd, like David, defending his sheep with his bare hands from the destroying lion. He will passionately rescue you. He will be there and hide you in his shadow and comfort.

He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us … We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. Luke 1:69-71, 74-75 (NLT)

The LORD will march forth like a mighty man (champion); he will come out like a warrior, full of fury (jealousy, zeal). He will shout (for joy, triumph) his thundering battle cry, and he will crush (prevail against) all his enemies (adversary, foe). Isaiah 42:13 (NLT)

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