Thursday, September 28, 2017

The River is Eternal

"And always, from a time before anybody knew of time, the river had been there. From my sitting place where the woods stood up at the edge of the pasture, I could see the river, risen a little, swift and muddy from the spring rains, coming down the mile-long reach above the Willow Run bend, swerving through the bend and coming on down past the landing, carrying its load of drift. And I saw how all-of-a-piece it was, how never-ending—always coming, always there, always going."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 131-132). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

In this, the 4th week of our Book Study over at Michele Morin's site:

our friend, Jayber Crow, has begun to settle in as the "Bachelor Barber" of Port William.  The previous barber had pulled up stakes, and left the town in need, to which Jayber stepped in and found a place that was Home. 

(A Little Disclaimer Here: Within these chapters we find some  "earthy" language and experiences that might be unsettling if you are expecting only a "Christian Lifestyle" book.  However, there is much to be gleaned about how the Mercy of our Lord steps into the grittiness of real life.)

As Jayber begins to find some measure of acceptance into the community, he begins to find his own way of accepting. Becoming familiar with his customers, and learning their individual quirks, he makes some keen observations:

 "I liked them varyingly; some I didn’t like at all. But all of them have been interesting to me; some I have liked and some I have loved. I have raked my comb over scalps that were dirty both above and beneath. I have lowered the ears of good men and bad, smart and stupid, young and old, kind and mean; of men who have killed other men (think of that) and of men who have been killed (think of that). I cut the hair of Tom Coulter and Virgil Feltner and Jimmy Chatham and a good many more who went away to the various wars and never came back, or came back dead."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 125). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

And once again, the preacher-cum-barber stirred my own heart to look at the kind of acceptance I have been allowed.

How often 
has my merciful savior 
looked beneath to see my dirty places?

How often
has HE parted the coverings
above my hidden failings?

The River of Eternal Love, that flows from the heart of my Lord, will never run dry. I can never exhaust the supply of Living Water that He offers for the cleansing of my ways.

 "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb." Revelation 22:1

Are you faced with the sight
of failings?

Are you feeling the weight
of too much weakness?

Would you join me at the foot of the Cross,
at the edge of His River of Love,
for this prayer of 
honesty and

Dear Lord of the Waves,
I confess that my soul
is still so much of this world.
I am so in need of your 
Would you have full sway in me,
to part and reveal the places
where I still cling
to the old.
Would you replace my heart of clay
with your Sweet heart of Love,
And cleanse away those old habits
of selfishness.
Thank you that your River of Love
is never ending.
Thank you that there is no one
who can care as deeply as you.

In Jesus Name We pray,

"It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this."
Titus 3:4-6 MSG 

I pray that this classic hymn from Babbie Mason will bless you as it has blessed me today:

You can find Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry at Amazon by clicking here.

I am linking this week with these great bloggers:


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
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 
and so much
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.'”


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

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:


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