Friday, September 22, 2017

Beloved Prodigal




Preserved in the Wilderness


Blazing sun  
Glaring sand  
Baking heat  
The Wilderness prevailed.

Burning pain  
Stumbling gait  
Weary heart  
The Wilderness consumed.

Wandering warriors  
Hiding caves  
David’s men  
The Wilderness protected.

(Click here to read more of this post.)


I am so excited to share with you the new website

being led by my dear friend, Anna Smit.  About a year ago, Anna and I began emailing and praying with each other. The Lord has led us to work and write together on a few projects over that time. And today, I am so thrilled at the way that He has opened the door for her to walk into the vision he planted within her to see His Beloved Prodigals loved and restored.

Have you felt the crushing weight of praying for and loving a prodigal of your own?

Then I would encourage you to visit this new website, a safe haven for prayers and encouragement. 

At one time or another, we each have been prodigals on a journey to return to our Precious Savior.

I feel so blessed to be a contributing writer with Anna,
calling us all to love our prodigals back to Jesus.




I am linking today with:


Thursday, September 21, 2017

The River is Rising



Have you ever read a sentence in a book that makes you stop dead in your tracks?  As I was reading Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, for the online study over at Michele Morin's site, Living Our Days, I read these closing words of chapter 7, and felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up:


I headed westward, for Louisville. I knew that along the rivers the waters were rising.

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 74). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

Somehow I felt that every word following would point back to this sentence, not just in the physical realm, not just in the beautiful imagery of the-river-as-life, but in the spiritual life of our friend, Jayber.  Something was about to rise in his heart.

And something was rising in my heart also.


Last week we finished when Jayber began his journey away from the seminary, and away from any of the rules that he had felt tying him down there.  He found himself doing odd jobs, mucking out horse stalls--any job to keep food on the table.  Until one day he wandered into a barber shop for a much needed haircut. It was then that his old days of serving the barber back at the orphanage proved to be a good starting point for a forgotten career choice.  He fell into the cutting of hair and to the listening of stories as if it were a second nature.  

But his heart was still empty.
Careers alone cannot fill the void in our hearts.
The call to find HOME stirs in all of us.


And so Jayber left the city and did not look back.  Here is where the river's rising comes to test Jayber's staunch position of separation from a CREATOR who could have allowed unanswerable deep questions to rise in his heart.  As he began his walk back to his hometown, he found himself facing a dangerous bridge over the swirling river.

Have you ever walked that bridge between what you thought you knew,
across to the place of deeper mysteries,
where only a Savior
can rescue your from your doubts?


And as he faced those thundering currents, something broke within his heart:

"And this is what it was like—the words were just right there in my mind, and I knew they were true: “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” I’m not sure that I can tell you what was happening to me then, or that I know even now. At the time I surely wasn’t trying to tell myself. But after all my years of reading in that book and hearing it read and believing and disbelieving it, I seemed to have wandered my way back to the beginning—not just of the book, but of the world—and all the rest was yet to come. I felt knowledge crawl over my skin."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 79). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 


As the flooding river forced many along its banks to seek shelter, Jayber found himself moving with the evacuees to a safe place overnight. Although he wouldn't allow himself to fully be counted as one of them--after all, he was only walking through, on his way back to his own hometown--nonetheless his heart was stirred by their plight. When he woke early the next morning, while most were still sleeping, Jayber felt a strange desire:

"All the others were asleep, and I remember how small and still and tender they looked. If I could have done it, I would have liked to tiptoe around and just lay my hand on each one."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 83). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.  


And here is where my own heart broke. Into a man who felt the questions were too deep to be a proper preacher, there yet arose a stirring of a True Shepherd.


When the river of God's Spirit awakens within us,
When the true heart of our Creator is birthed inside,
Compassion will find a way to flow free.  


In this world today, where chaos and heartbreak and calamaties too numerous to count, hit the front pages everyday, where is the Justice of our Creator? 


 "Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom."


The days grow closer, until the time that HE will step in and say "Enough! My people have suffered long enough!" And He will return to bring justice to this earth.  Jesus told us,

 "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."



And I must ask myself,
How cold is my own heart?
Is the river of compassion rising within me?
Will I let the love of a simple barber
point me to the deepest love of all,
the ONE testimony for which
all life was created?



"God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears."
Titus 2:11-13 (The Message) 
 


I pray that this new rendition of a song from my childhood, will stir in you a longing for His appearing also:



Please join me here tomorrow for an encouraging new connection!



Today I am linking with:
Debbie Kitterman, #TuneInThursday 

 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Invitations




Birthdays come no matter how we feel.  Young and energetic, or weary and worn-out, those years add up!  And while we know we should be thankful for every breath that comes our way, if we would be honest, I think each one of us has had a year or two when we just weren't sure HOW to feel about an upcoming Birthday.


Such was the case for me this summer, as my next Birthday was looming before me.  


Where had this past year gone? 
How could it be time for another Birthday already? 
What direction would I, or should I be moving?



I must admit that I have felt a little like a ship without a mooring, as this journey through chronic illness has kept shifting the pathway in front of me. So when my dear blogging friend, Ifeoma Samuel, for whom I had offered a small bit of editing assistance, let me know the date that the book would be released, I felt a surging of encouragement in my soul:

The release date is today, my Birthday. 


  



"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'"
The very first invitation that Ifeoma shared in her book, 
"The Invitations: 21 Hearty Devotions for your Soul" 
 was the offer that Jesus put forth to the Woman at the Well. You might have read here, about my own travels with that very woman, about the years of portraying her through a drama with my family. If you did, then you know how this particular passage holds such deep meaning for me. So when Ifeoma closed the first chapter with this prayer, I felt the Lord speaking it personally over me:

 "Lord Jesus, the road looks rough and uncertain. Strengthen me for the journey ahead. The world is in despair, but in you, Jesus, there is hope eternal. The world is a dark and lonely place, but in you is the Light. Flood me with your water of refreshing, and let my soul bask in the beauty of your glory in Jesus name. Amen"

SAMUEL, IFEOMA. THE INVITATIONS: 21 Hearty Devotions For Your Soul. (Kindle Locations 178-180). Purposeful and Meaningful. Kindle Edition. 




His Words are eternal, my friend. When He invited that woman to drink of the water that He would give, she could not have known how many people down through the ages would find the refreshing that only HE could bring.


And when "the Spirit and the Bride say come" they are still speaking to you and to me, today, just as much as they were speaking to the Apostle John who penned those words so many years ago.


"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come!' Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life."
Revelation 22:17 


 
We tend to think that what we are facing today is worse than any other time in history. Perhaps we are, as Jesus, Himself, told us that evil would increase, as the day of HIS returning draws near.


But there is ONE who has not changed,
ONE who still offers us
INVITATIONS
to draw nearer to His heart.


The ONE who chose the date
of my Birth,
And the ONE who knows the number
of my days,
Sees the days for you, too, my friend.
He has so much 
Life 
and so much
Refreshing
for each of us.


Ifeoma has been used by the Lord to speak these invitations so beautifully, again, to us today. I would encourage you to read along with her, and hear in a new setting, 21 Invitations that our Lord has offered through His Word.

His calling still echoes to us 
as He invites us 
to come and be fed by Him.








 "The Invitations: 21 Hearty Devotions for your Soul," by Ifeoma Samuel

is available now at Amazon
by clicking here. 






Thursday, September 14, 2017

Are Questions Allowed?
































When questions swirl here

Float like hazy fog of morn

Will my heart trust love?



As I woke to a fog that covered everything in sight, I thought of the questions that faced me when this Rheumatoid Disease first struck.  And I thought of the questions raised this week when Jayber decided that Seminary was not for him, in 

Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry.

This is week 2 of the study led by Michele Morin, over at her site: Living Our Days.  Michele has such a beautiful way of gleaning the lessons and stories from every book she shares. You are welcome to join us in the study at any point along the way!

When little Jayber was left an orphan for the second time, he found himself being raised at a very strict orphanage. Over the years of sitting through many Bible classes, when questions rose in his heart for his future, he fearfully chose the path that seemed most likely to please His Maker: he chose the path to be a Preacher and attend seminary.

When the inevitable happened:

How to deal with his unanswered questions?

How to face the seemingly harsh WILL of GOD?

How to lead people when he, himself, didn't know the way?

Jayber brought the questions to the most learned professor there, hoping to hear something solid from him. But what he heard only reinforced the questions:


"'You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.'
'And how long is that going to take?'
'I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.'
'That could be a long time.'
'I will tell you a further mystery,' he said. 'It may take longer.'"

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 54). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 



And I was taken back to so many times of questioning in my own life:
 
Why did we have to move cross-country, only to be pulled back home again?

Why did the small business we owned fail?

How could the bills mount so high when we had done everything that we thought was right?

Why did our children have to walk a road of suffering
when we, their parents, were the ones who needed to
learn the lessons?

How could God have allowed a church to break apart, and
relationships to be severed?

Why would years of healthy living suddenly
not make a difference when chronic illness struck?


I am sure you could add to the questions, if you were asked to participate. Sooner or later, we all will be faced with the "Great Unknowing." And our FAITH will be put to the test. Can we bring those questions to Jesus?  Will He answer them?

Jesus knew that even His own disciples had questions, and this is how He answered them:


"Jesus replied, 'You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'”


Comforting?

Or was it one more way to say,

"You just don't get it!"

. . . 


Jayber's Professor held the key, in the few short words of his answer to Jayber's questions: 

"You will have to live them out."



We were meant for relationship. 
And relationships test our character,
prove the character
of the one we know.


Is our LORD able to be called upon
when we question HIS character?


Even David felt alone in his questions,
when he cried out to God:


"In my alarm I said, 'I am cut off from your sight!' Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help."


He was there with David,
And He is here with us.

When the questions arise
When the doubts swirl
When the truth is put to the test
Is there ONE who will stand?

Can we look beyond the trials
And speak with Job,
even as he recounted the depth
of the darkness he faced:


 
"I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth."


Only as my heart 
begins to trust

Only as my love
is poured on HIM

Will my doubts 
be washed away

And filled with 
all HIS light
and truth.


May I pray with you today, my friend?

Dear Lord,
I ask for Your Spirit to be quickened in the hearts
of everyone who reads these words today.
May we all feel a freedom to offer
our questions to you.
May we know in our hearts
a surging of peace,
as You bring Yourself to us.
May we find the answers we seek
fully met in the LOVE of ONE
who holds the universe
and moves the stars,
the ONE 
who gave it all
for 
us.
Amen.







Next week, I will be sharing more about my friend's newest book:



 It's available for pre-order now!
I count it a great honor to have worked with Ifeoma in a small way to help in the editing process. You can find her blogging at Purposeful and Meaningful. Join me next Tuesday for a review of these words that God placed on her heart!



I am linking this week with:





 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Revival


"And then an old woman I knew as Aunt Cordie gathered me up without asking and sat down in the rocking chair and held me and let me cry. She had on a coarse black sweater over a black dress that reached to her shoetops and a black hat with little white and blue flowers on it there in the dead of winter. I can remember how she seemed to be trying to enclose me entirely in her arms. 'God love his heart!' she said. 'Othy, we’re going to take him home.'"


Thus begins a new chapter in the life of little Jonah Crow, or Jayber as we will later know him.  Today is the start of the fall book study with my friend Michele Morin! Join me for lively discussion over at her site: MicheleMorin.wordpress.com
 where we are reading Wendell Berry's book, Jayber Crow. The rich character descriptions in this fictional memoir-type story drew me in from page one.  But even as the small town setting reminded me of my own little village in Wisconsin, it was the memory of how someone stepped in to hold a little grieving boy that touched my heart so deeply this week. Little Jayber had suddenly lost both of his parents, and when he wasn't even sure how to process his grieving, along came an older aunt who stepped in and swooped him up.  


Aren't we all needing to be picked up and gathered close during the hard times of our lives?


On days when the foundation beneath my own feet feels like a swinging bridge, I find myself grasping for good words--hopeful words that speak a lifeline to a stronger way of living. This past weekend I joined in for a simple journaling and crafting time on Instagram at #septgluebookparty17 (thank you for your inspiration Gayl Wright.) It's a way to make a collage, by following a simple prompt to look for pictures and words from magazines or artwork that can fit together to express the thought.  When the first prompt was "favorite fall colors," I happily picked colors and images and words that leaped off the page for me.  When I was finished with my own page, though, I was surprised at the message before me:








Revival?

Could this be a word
of hope

pointing to a
renewed
strength
coming to my life?









Eagerly I began the new week, and wearily I collapsed
yet again.  When I read the words of little
Jayber Crow, I heard my own 
Life-Giver
calling me to climb into His lap.


He was indeed speaking 
REVIVAL
but not in the way 
I had first envisioned.



My weary frame revolted


And squirmed at the thought of


Required rest again


Why now? I cried when


I thought Revival was the word.


                                       


Revive these legs! I envisioned


Strength required when I looked


Ahead to fuller days


Why not? I cried when


I thought Revival was the word.


 


Revive these arms! I hungered


Work to be restored as


Plans could be fulfilled


Why not? I cried when


I thought Revival was the word.


 


Revive this frame! I sought


Fresh energy covering for


Tasks laid long aside


Why not? I cried when


I thought Revival was the word.


 


Revive this heart! He gave


New Love for God alone in


Father’s heart to mine


Why here? I cried when


He spoke Revival over me.


 


Yes here, Yes now,


Taste and See


Rest in this Love


Let ME hold you


And speak Revival over you.

--bg



 "His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.


Revival? Oh, yes, He is reviving my heart. 
He delights to bring new hope
of His unfailing love.




If you are interested in finding a copy of the book, and reading along for the discussion, you can find a copy of the book here:


I am linking this week with these great bloggers: