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Archive for June, 2013

A Clean Page

There is nothing so exciting to me as a clean page; a fresh new page just waiting to be written on, waiting to hold my thoughts, my words, my feelings.  And so, today as I watch the sun slowly brighten the sky I know that out beyond the mountains is a glorious sunrise that I’m missing.  I will get the light eventually, but I won’t get to enjoy the splay of color, the absolute breathtaking beauty of God’s paintbrush that I once did.  But I will enjoy the light, and I will make the most of it.  Life is filled with choices, and the result is determined by what we do with those choices.

During the night, in the darkest watches of it, God began to slowly turn the light back on in my heart.  I haven’t realized the change in me—it has been so subtle, so slow, and so methodical that it was almost unperceivable.  But change me it did, and now I have every intention of shaking it loose and leaving it behind.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I will celebrate, but I will also begin the long road back to joy—a most delightful fruit of the Spirit that has been robbed from me.

I’ve been told repeatedly over the past few years that I cannot be free of that burden; that I must be sober-minded and wretched because of my sinfulness.  However, contrary to what I’ve been hearing,  I am NOT the worst of sinners.  I may have once been, but now I am FORGIVEN!  I no longer have to carry around the weight of my sin.  Christ paid that price for me and took it all away, and I have accepted His gift of forgiveness.  Forgiveness for all my sin:  past, present, and future.  Once for all!  And with forgiveness and release came joy.  Pure, utter and complete joy because I now am free of the weight of my sin.  Again.

Sure, I still sin and always will.  But it’s different now.  Sin no longer owns me.   I don’t live to sin.  I live to bring honor and glory to my Savior.  I live to worship Him, love Him, and serve Him.  I don’t WANT to be bound by the weight of my sin.  That price has already been paid and I accept it and will rejoice in the freedom of it.  I will dance!  I will sing!  I will smile!  I will laugh!  I will be victorious, not because of me, but because that victory has been bought for me at a very high price and I refuse to ignore that gift.  And from now on, beginning this very moment, I will celebrate.  I will shake off the fetters that have slowly and subtly bound me, I will find that joy once more, and I will ever thank my Glorious, Victorious, Wonderful Lord for the Gift of freedom and of JOY!!!  It was expensive, but He paid for it and I’m not about to let it go to waste!  I will revel in it every moment for the rest of my life!  God is SO good!

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Happy Father’s Day

He would come in the door from work and go straight to the small white crib in the corner of the front room, bend over and just watch him sleeping.  When I walked in to stand beside him he’d grin and look at me and say, “Such a little guy!”

At first he was afraid of dropping him or hurting him in some way and was a bit apprehensive of holding him.  But it didn’t take long.  They bonded quickly and strongly, and today, 35 years later, they talk on the phone and email nearly every day and while I write this they are together with our grandsons at a baseball game.

I remember the noise and thumps and bumps as he’d wrestle on the floor with our two little boys after dinner in the evenings while I cleaned up the dinner dishes.  They were all over him, teasing him, tugging at him, soaking in his love and wanting to be like him.  We have a picture of our oldest son before he was two years old lying on the floor beside his dad with his legs and arms positioned identically, and I remember thinking that there was no one I’d rather them imitate.

We began bedtime worship with the boys the first day home from the hospital, and they never knew a day without finishing it hearing from God and talking to Him and about Him.  There’s just nothing quite as fun as family worship with children still damp from their baths, in fresh pajamas snuggled tight against your body, full of curiosity and questions.  There’s nothing quite like hearing the innocent prayers of a child.

They saw their dad digging into God’s Word and loving it and knew, without our telling them, that there were the riches of life within those pages.  They heard us praying and knew God was always there to hear our cares and to offer wisdom and comfort without boundaries or limits.  They grew up knowing God, just like their dad, was always there for them, always loving them, always forgiving, always eager to bless them.

And tonight, as I think about Father’s Day, I thank God for the father He gave me for my children.  I can’t imagine a better one, and as I watch the sun go down sitting alone in our home knowing he’s still out there being a dad, and now also a Grandpa, I can’t finish the day any other way than saying, Thank You, God, for Rick!  I love you, Honey!  Happy Father’s Day!

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Gracious!

Today’s society is all about our rights.  We are raising a generation—indeed, a number of generations—with the belief that they have a right to equality, to fairness (whatever that is), even to the generosity of others.  What we are failing to teach our young people is that they also have the right, and even the responsibility to give up those rights every chance they get!

Think about this for a bit:  I have the right to play my music as loud as I want.  I have the right to listen to whatever kind of music I like, whenever I like.  I own a home, so I have the right to never mow my lawn if I want.  I also have the right to drop trash all over the front yard and to have as many animals running free as I want.  What?  Our town has rules about keeping my animals in a fence?  They are infringing on my freedom!  What? My neighbor is irritated at my trashy front yard that is never mowed because it depreciates his property and he considers it an eyesore?  How dare he?!

Now, I know these are extremes that we would never really do, right?  But do we do other things that are just as selfish and inconsiderate?  Do we ever want to manipulate the kind of music our church uses in worship?  Do we feel they need to hear our opinion that drums really get under our skin?  After all, we contribute and are members too!

Lately I’ve been dealing in my own heart with some things that really, really annoy and irritate me.  I’m trying to keep my mouth shut and actually learn to not just accept, but learn to enjoy some things that honestly, right now I detest.  And as I’ve been thinking a lot about all this, I can’t help wondering why in the world God created us to be SO very different from one another!  In all my struggles with these issues lately, God is reminding me over and over of an old, old word that I’ve never paid too much attention to—short of a casual exclamation when something surprises me.  The word?  “GRACIOUS!”

My most recent endeavor is to look for opportunities to be gracious.  What does being gracious actually mean?  Well, I believe the best way to be gracious is to give up my rights silently and with true joy!  Picture this:  Someone pushes in front of you in the grocery store and starts putting their huge basket of groceries onto the check-out belt while you hold your gallon of milk and loaf of bread in your hands.  Do you sigh with disgust and change lanes?  Do you ‘freeze’ them with a disgusted scowl?  Or do you smile and step back to let them in front of you more easily and if they do start to apologize you quickly assure them that it’s fine and it’s no problem at all?

What about at a committee meeting when you start to share an opinion on a subject and your idea is immediately shot down by someone and their own idea put forth with gusto as the only thing that ‘really makes sense’?  Do you sit back and pout a bit inside?  Do you clamor to be heard over top of the bully?  Or do you quickly agree that the overbearing person’s idea would also be a good one and support it wholeheartedly and cheerfully?

Jesus told his disciples:  “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  (Luke 6:27-31 NIV)

When I read this, and when I think through today’s philosophy of guarding our rights, I suddenly realize whose philosophy it truly is that we have a right to anything at all, and it’s not God’s philosophy!  And now, after truly processing this, my plan is to joyfully give up my rights every chance I get.  What I truly want is for the word ‘gracious’ to be more than a byword or exclamation in my life.  I want it to describe me!

And if you’ve read this, and you see me being selfish or rude, please, just smile at me and say “Gracious, Judi!”  Trust me!  I’ll get the message!

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Donna Grace

A friend brought her into my Sunday School class where we were finishing up class for the day.  “Look who I found,” she said as she brought the young woman over to meet me.  “She’s from Indiana!”

The young woman had just moved to Roanoke from Indiana and it was her first Sunday to visit churches in the community.  She had selected ours first, and with God there are no mistakes.  Quickly I asked her what area of Indiana she was from, assuming that it was as usual—somewhere totally unrelated to my own familiar paths.

“Muncie, Indiana.  It’s north of Indianapolis.”  She had begun to explain, but I must have shown my surprise.

“Muncie?  I know exactly where that is!  I’ve lived near Muncie most of my life!”

Quickly we began a conversation about oh-so-familiar places and towns and even people we knew in common.  Soon it was time for worship and I invited her to sit with us so she could meet Rick.  And as they say, the rest is history…

We formed a quick bond.  Her beautiful smile, her gentle spirit, her heart for God, her love for others – well, how could we not love her?

Donna Grace has been part of our lives for the past three years now, and, even though she is moving back to Indiana, I think our hearts will ever be connected.  We have shared lots and lots of good times, and some sad and some hard times too.  We’ve prayed together and laughed together and cried together and sighed together.

The temptation at this point is to be sad that our lives will be separated by miles, but the truth of the matter is that miles cannot separate our hearts.  This little twist in the road will only change the way we connect, but not the fact that we connect.  Our times together will necessarily be more intentional and planned now, but they will still happen, and perhaps for that very reason will be more valued and enjoyed.

I will always thank God for bringing Donna Grace into our lives and for giving this fun and wonderful ray of sunshine to us.  She has become the daughter of our hearts, and we cannot disown or disregard her.

God bless you as you move, Donna Grace!  You know our address.  Please be sure that we always know yours!

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