Sunday, November 29, 2009

With or Without by JoAnn Lampe

Psalm 25:4-7
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

With or Without

A path is there before me,
It’s end I cannot see.
Peering through the thickset bracken,
I note a clear path is clearly lackin’

Dear Lord, I pray, show me the way.
Not tomorrow but today!
I grow impatient waiting to hear
Do you not see me? I know I am near

I will wait no longer for You to say,
“Come follow me I know the way.”
I’m off on my own – I know I can do it
Just stay up in Heaven, and I’ll see to it.

I bravely step through the bracken gate
Thankful I haven’t waited too late.
Big strides I make on my first day
Oh yes! I am on my way!

Ooops! I’m caught on a prickly briar
I’ve told some lies, but I’m not a liar.
Jumping ahead using someone’s feet
I have a feeling I’m no longer sweet.

Ooops! I’ve fallen in a great big hole.
I can’t remember – what was my goal?
With no one’s help – to make it on my own.
Without the Lord, my destiny’s sown.

Oh Lord, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.
Do you think you could help this insolent pup?
The path laid before me was life you see
With it’s twists & turns & dangers times three.

You say I’m forgiven? Oh – I knew it was true
I’m stopping now to wait for you.
You’ll guide me through the path ahead
Now I can look without any dread.

My life is my own with the Lord at my side
I just have a less bumpier ride.
So Lord here I am – here’s my hand,
I’m following YOU to the Promised Land!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lost and Found by Tami Gilman

One morning my phone rang at 4:50 am and a friend of mine was on the line. She was headed to the hospital to be with her mother who was having difficulty breathing and asked if I could stay with her kids until she got back. Her husband is deployed to Iraq and my husband was out of town, but between the two of us, we would manage. I jumped up, fed my dogs because they have no sense of time, let them outside and threw on some clothes so I could get there quickly. Once at my friend’s house, I actually went back to sleep. I got back up in time to pack the kid’s lunches and get them ready for school. It was all quite uneventful, until I got home, that is.

I let my dogs back outside since they had only been out a few minutes earlier that morning. I finished getting ready for work and went to the front door to let my precious little bundles of fur back in the house. To my surprise, they weren’t waiting at the front door, grateful to even be allowed in the house in the first place. No, my babies had decided that life in my yard was not exciting enough and decided to seek adventure elsewhere. I called their names, expecting them to run happily toward the sound of my voice. I am their mother, after all. I feed them, pet them and make sure they are well taken care of. My husband plays with them. They should certainly know that they are loved. Yet, of all mornings, they decided that they indeed were discontent.

I hopped in the truck and headed around the neighborhood looking in yards for any sign of my delinquent pets. As I rounded the corner, I spotted one of my dogs in the neighbor’s yard. I called his name expecting him to be pleased that I was searching for him, yet he looked at me in surprise and took off like a shot! He ran to my friend’s house and came to a screeching halt on her front porch. He seemed to be relieved, as though we were playing a game and he reached home base where he would be considered “safe.” As I am scolding him for being disobedient and ungrateful, I see my girl dog, Kailey, trotting through the yard. She ran toward the fence as if to will herself into my friend’s back yard and be free from any consequence. I truly believe they know better when they are misbehaving.

I finally coaxed the dogs in the truck, took them to the house, grabbed a lint roller and headed to work. Being that I was now late and my blood was already boiling, thoughts were raging in my mind about how ungrateful my dogs really are. Who do they think they are? They have it so good and are taken care of better than some people, yet it is not enough. As I am stewing over this situation, I felt like the Lord impressed upon me, “Well, now you know how I feel. I care for my children, I provide for them, beckon to them and yet sometimes they ignore me. Sometimes they are even blatantly disobedient.” Now that will stop you in your tracks. Not literally, because that would have caused an accident, but you get the idea.

I realize that my dogs running away does not impact anyone other than me, but doesn’t it resemble the disobedience we sometimes show toward God? He is our Father, Healer, Provider, Source of Strength, and yet we often ignore Him or run in another direction. We seek refuge on someone else’s porch. That morning I realized that as angry as I was at my dogs, I still love them. Even when they run away or don’t listen, I will still welcome them home. God’s love for his children is an infinite amount greater than mine and I became more aware of this through a very frustrating situation. There are consequences for straying, but even when we are disobedient, God doesn’t leave us where we are. When we are willing, He picks us up, takes us home and puts us safely where we belong.

Luke 15: 4-6 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Should Have and Could Have by Tammy Blackburn

At the end of the day
When work is all done,
We look back on our tasks
Whether work or for fun.
Our memories are fresh
As we take to our beds,
Each word and each deed
Seems to swirl in our heads.
Oft times our days are
Filled with regrets,
That’s when the curse of
I should have besets.
As we toss and we turn
Sweat dampens our sheets,
We tend to focus
On failures, defeats.
There have been many nights
That I’ve lain awake,
Wondering how many rights
Out of wrongs I could make.
But I’ve learned a secret
I’m willing to share,
A way to lie down
Each night without care.
I’m only human
Mistakes are okay,
I just do my best
As I go through my day.
I trust God to guide
My hands and my feet,
To guard all my thoughts,
And make my words sweet.
So when the sun sets
I’m not troubled by should have,
When I know I’ve done
All that I could have.

Friends, it is the work of the evil one who condemns us and tries to steal our peace. Certainly we will sin at times and those sins need to be taken to Christ. But never allow Satan to condemn you and blame you falsely.

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Valley of Shadows by Jan Darnell

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Ps. 23:4

Evil. It slithers through our lives with deceptive wiles and oppressive intent waiting to coil and strike in the valley of the shadow of death. How should we respond? Should we be afraid? Recently I encountered this valley that David refers to in Psalm 23. Here is my response:

The wicked forces presenting themselves against us in death emit a potent nauseating stench. Suddenly we are faced with unwanted, irrevocable vacancies. We could not become more acutely aware of the power of evil and the consequences of sin than when death strikes with such hostility. Pending darkness absorbs prism colors of joy and abandons us to prisons of monochrome black. Haunting winds then recount the losses throughout sleepless nights, boasting of life’s chilling finalities. This is the valley of the shadow of death.

Thankfully, Psalm 23:4 reveals a valuable asset when confronted with this prison or valley of evil. God. God is our asset. I fear no evil; for Thou art with me. There is an immunity for those who trust in God, a blessed provision through the victory of Christ that Paul wrote of in 1 Corinthians 15:55, O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Though death stings us, God has removed the stinger.

The entire 23rd Psalm is a hymn praising God for His provisions. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want (lack). He leads, He restores, He guides For His name’s sake (Psalm 23:1-3). In this psalm, David includes God to be sufficient even in the valley of death. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. David sings of God’s presence despite the solitude in loss and there is enormous loss when someone we love is taken away. That heart we have exchanged love with is no longer present.

First, it can be realized from David’s writing that walking through this valley is a part of life. It is presented as a matter of fact, a commonality. David does not say, If I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, nor does he refer to the encounter as exceptional. Rather he presents death as a familiar encounter. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… You can almost hear David say, “I have journeyed through this valley. You will too. But know this…God is with you.”

This valley is as deep as it is wide, beckoning every one of us to walk through it at some point. Think of the numbers of people who have gone since original sin spoiled our world. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Ro. 6:23). Everyone walks through this valley.

Secondly, it is notable that the pace of this journey is referred to as a walk, not a sprint. We might prefer it to be a race quickly run and won but it is not. Walking through this valley occurs at a slow pace, one that tantalizes with unnerving thoughts, coming from unknown places within the valley shadows. It is a time of temptation, as well as sorrow, a time when guilt ravishes the mind with doubt and unexpected inadequacies. It is a time when reflections are conflicted by sweet and sour memories, the sour attempting to expunge the sweet.

I will fear no evil. David refuses to give way to the sour thoughts of condemnation that cause us to grimace with guilt. Fear has no place in the heart of a believer. Neither does condemnation or evil. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Ro. 8:1). Faith is the key to facing these giants, our faith in a God who is faithful in times of trouble. For Thou art with me.

On September 27th, 2009 my father was summoned by our heavenly Father to a mansion prepared just for him. Jn.14:2. The reflection of such unparalleled grandeur brings me joy and peace on his behalf. However, while I rejoice for my dad in his new estate, there is a deep void left behind. My dad is gone. I am now walking, at times crawling, through the valley of the shadow of his death.

I sat by dad the night he died. He had just gone to bed, recovering from a successful kidney stone procedure earlier in the week. Suddenly, his body jerked as if electrocuted, rendering him unconscious. He exhaled with two short, quick coughs and then stopped breathing. Seconds prior to that, we were talking. I sat there stunned, staring at my father who suffered a fatal heart attack before my eyes. At that very moment, the earth stood still for me. Darkness shrouded all my senses with a suffocating cloak, crushing me with indescribable grief and pain. In an instant, I found myself in the valley of the shadow of death, sequestered by an authority far, far beyond my abilities.

Since Barry and I married in 1982, our family of nine has had to rebuild twice. Once after a major fire destroyed most of our house, then again after a tornado twisted through our neighborhood, picking up trees like toothpicks and removing houses unfortunate enough to be in its’ path. Each disaster required years of reconstruction and my dad was a major part of those. Now he is gone. How do we rebuild now? How do we deal with the huge void left in our family, one that is intangible unlike destroyed houses or fallen trees? David answers that with Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. With God’s faithful presence comes His faithful guidance. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (lack). He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.

It is comforting to know that we walk only through a valley of shadows when we face death. Death has no final power or claim. The grave cannot contain us. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). Jesus overcame the power of all sin and therefore removed the penalty of death. This is why David says, I fear no evil. God is with us. There is nothing to fear.

Thank you Jesus for the love and life you have shed abroad in our hearts. May we honor and trust Your victorious name when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Amen