Colleyanna Mae Giselbach!!…9 lbs, 5 oz…9-1-16…6:21a.m.

14202669_10154648225322446_6950069074743094361_nDear Colleyanna, 

First of all, let me just say that that’s a very big name for such a small soul. Maybe your middle name, Mae, is  the more appropriate size for someone who tallies up more toes than pounds. Maybe Colleyanna Mae, especially when paired with Giselbach will fill up two whole lines when you get to kindergarten…that’s IF you can remember all the letters in the right order. It’s a mouthful for your brother Ezra, but he can say “my baby” just fine and he loves to hold you in his “wap.” it’s sweetness when you think about the Colley part. That part of the name is the part I really wanted to wear when I married your Papa, who is protective of his family, brave and faithful to our God. He preaches the gospel, as does his father and as his grandfather did. He gave that sterling name, Colley, to your mother. I’m glad she wanted to give it to you, because sharing a name is a special kind of bond. You and I are both Colleys!

Anna. Anna was a proclaimer of that wonderful gospel, too. In fact, the Good Book says that she stayed in the temple and spoke of God to all who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. That’s in Luke 2. I hope you will be an “Anna” who will devote all of her days to speaking to people who are looking for the Redeemer. You are so tiny, but remember, Moses was just a baby in that little basket in the river when God fished him out for the purpose of saving Israel. You, too, can take the message of redemption.

Mae. Mae was your father’s grandmother. It was actually Jenet Garner’s middle name. Now it is your middle name.  A faithful preacher’s wife, the original middle-named-Mae influenced many people to be, simply and only New Testament Christians. She did it through hospitality, service, home Bible studies, mission travels, genuine friendship evangelism and through her children.  This woman of God died just a few weeks before you were born, but she already loved you and smiled sweetly just a few hours before her death when she learned you would wear her name.  She asked her family to gather around her bedside and sing her favorite hymns as she traveled with the angels from this life to the next. God granted her this moment just as she had wished. Then he granted her someone to carry a part of her sweet name through another life cycle.We are glad that’s you. 

Giselbach. That’s the name your Daddy gives you now. It’s the name that ties your little family together. It’s the one you will one day call your maiden name. It’s the one you will exchange when your daddy walks you down that aisle one day. Treasure the wearing while you can.  Your Giselbach father and  grandfather are faithful proclaimers of the Word, too. 

As I write, you are not yet 24 hours old, but, let me tell you, you stay up at night like a champ. Room 279 wins for the rowdiest night spot in the obstetrics ward. It’s now 4:20 and I think it would be a pretty big stretch to say we’ve had an hour’s sleep so far tonight—your first night outside the dark haven where God formed you.  I guess it’s been a pretty scary day for you…learning to breathe, to wear diapers, to cry, and to experience the sharp little pains of needles and the coldness of thermometers and scales. But there was one point of this day that was scary for even me. Your Papa led us all in prayer in that little hospital room just a few moments after you were born…just the six of us: both sets of your grandparents and your parents. He implored God on behalf of your soul, which is arguably the biggest part of you right now. He asked us to hep bring you to heaven with us. In this old world you entered today, that proposition is challenging and scary.

But here is what I know. In your daddy’s family there are/were at least  a half dozen gospel preachers. In your mother’s there are/were upwards of twenty. There surely should  be nothing that could stop you from knowing the gospel…the good news of redemption that Anna shared at Jerusalem. Yes….You were born into a scary place; a place where sins that I wish you would never have to hear about are celebrated. But, even in the scariest of American times, you will have the gospel which is the anchor of the soul. It’s the power of God to save (Romans 1:16). It’s the separating influence (Romans 1:1). It’s the big blessing (Romans 15:29). It’s glorious (II Cor. 4:4). It’s grace (Gal. 1:6). It’s salvation (Eph. 1:13), peace (Eph. 6:15) and promise (Eph. 3:6). It’s truth (Col. 1:5). It is your hope, Colleyanna (Colossians 1:23).                                                            

There was a lot of good news yesterday, my sweet Colleyanna. You were the best news of yesterday, to us. But what makes you such a joy to our family is that you are forever. That soul can defy the devil and give God the glory for His Good News…the gospel. The gospel is good news because it’s the answer to every scary prayer. It is all we need to have our fondest dreams come true. 

We love you Colleyanna…your pink cheeks, little blondish fuzz, your super long feet, your sweet fingers wrapped around ours and, especially the de-ja-vu of the way you look just like Ezra! You are rich already and you have brought great wealth to your Papa and me. We hope we have lots more time to make memories with you. But lots more time is nothing compared to eternity. Let’s do eternity together with all the people who prayed that scary prayer with us today. Let’s do eternity with God! 

7 Pounds of His Grace

13912431_928723135739_3489667227565621351_nDear Father, 

I already knew that You are God, Yahweh, the Great I AM. I am the one who speaks and writes and cries about life in the womb because of the holocaust against it in America today. I should say that I am ONE of the ones, for there are still many and we are unwilling to give up the battle for life to those who routinely burn with saline, rip apart, vacuum out and discard those viable body parts, suffocating those screams before  tiny mouths can open to the air that allows them to cry out for themselves. I am not about quietness when I can be a voice for those whose beating hearts are stopped in brutal and painful ways. 

But, today, Lord, I knew more than ever that Your throne of grace and majesty extends into the darkness of the womb. Help me never to forget what I saw today. I know that You have pushed the pause button on the miraculous, but this morning in that doctor’s office in Montgomery was just about as close to a miracle as I will get before Your mighty trumpet blows. 

My little girl’s little girl was there, as big as life, on that screen. In fact, it was the tiny epitome of life. They told us that she weighs seven pounds and four ounces already and her chubby cheeks evidenced that she’s big and healthy.  Lord, I cannot believe that I saw so clearly that right cheek turn to the side. I’m remembering now that you told us to have cheeks that turn. I pray that she will. It will be painful for me if I ever have to witness her cheek being smitten; yet I know she will experience hurt and people will mistreat her. Help her to turn the other cheek—to show mercy in exchange for cruelty. Help her never to be self-centered or to seek for glory. Help her to defer to the preferences of others. Help me to show her the beauty that comes from a meek spirit.

I saw her little hands in her mouth. It’s tight in there now and she’s just all balled up with her hands against her cheeks and against those tiny lips. Lord, they are Your hands. Those fingers will play instruments or hold a baseball bat or a needle and thread. They will turn pages in all kinds of books. They will turn pages in Your book, Lord. One day some handsome boy will put a ring on that chubby finger that I saw today and her daddy will give that hand in marriage to him. Those sweet hands will roll out dough and pat curly tresses and pick up cheerios and mend socks and fold clothes.  I pray that those little fingers will minister for You, Lord; that they will feel burning foreheads and administer Tylenol…that they will hold other hands beside hospital beds and nursing home rockers…that they will change diapers…that they will change lives by opening up Your Word in Bible studies. May those hands hold Yours. May they be daily folded in prayer and reaching to fill needs. 

I saw that tiny heel that Hannah has been feeling—-that even I can feel— as she kicks against the taut skin on Hannah’s right side. I could count the toes and see that little foot so very clearly. Lord, You made that little extremity so perfectly! May her spiritual feet be just as beautiful. May her feet carry the gospel of peace to the souls around her for all of her days. Help us, as her family, to train her to walk—to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May we never take it for granted that she will, but help us Lord to be purposeful for the footsteps of her and her brother, Ezra. The devil is purposeful. He is seeking to devour. On some days it seems like he is making it next to impossible for parents to direct the footsteps of little ones in Your ways. But we can do all things through Your Son. May even we, as grandparents, profoundly impact her footsteps to stay in Your narrow way that leads to life. 

She heard me, Father! That little girl responded to my voice. I knew because when I spoke she turned her head toward me and she opened her eyes wide in response! This is the part I could not believe. I said, “She’s hearing me!” The technician responded “Of course, she is!”  So I told her right there that I loved her. I called her “Sweetness” since I do not know her name, and I told her about You, Lord. I just could not help myself. I made her promises. I made them out loud and  I will keep them. I told her I will teach her about Jesus, Your Son, and that I will teach her Your Word. I told her that we love her so much and that we cannot wait to tell her about You! I sang a bit of “Baby Mine” to her and I was overwhelmed at that moment with Your goodness to me. I am just dust, Lord! How can I thank You for a moment like that?! When I was driving those four hours to arrive in time for that ultra-sound after getting those three hours of sleep last night, I have to admit it. My faith was weak. I thought I would see an unrecognizable bit of blur. I saw YOU there, Father, and I will never forget Your grace in letting me see, in her, Your amazing creative power and unrivaled attention to detail. I stand amazed in Your holy presence!

And then, as she turned to look toward us, searching for the sounds, she opened that huge eye as wide as she could, as if to say, “Where ARE you?” And, in that moment, I fell helplessly in love with that little girl…just hopelessly and forever devoted to her well-being. Father, help me, to show her the goodness in this world; the hope that’s still left in this place. Help those beautiful eyes to sparkle and shine and to shed few tears of sorrow.  But most of all, help us to show her the hope and peace that comes from living for You. Help those gentle eyes to witness, with wonder and awe, the pictures and characters in little Bible story books. Help them to record the righteous examples of service around her. Guard her tender eyes from those things that can trap her at an early age. Give her maturity and resolve before the toughest tactics of Satan catch her eyes. As she grows, give her eyes to search for those who may be willing to listen to the gospel, the message of Your salvation. Open her eyes that  they may see those whose needs may really be doors to evangelism. Lord keep her eyes focused heavenward. 

Reflecting back on this day, I can hardly believe You let me do this. Your Words are true: She IS fearfully and wonderfully made! My only sadness is that her grandfather is preaching Your gospel in Kentucky this week and there is no way I can adequately describe this heart-swell to someone who was not in that room!  Help us Lord, her parents and grandparents. If all is as it seems, You are giving her to us in perfect condition. May we work as a team, Father, to give her back to You, through the gift of Your Son, in that same perfect condition. Father, thank-You for today. I cannot wait  to hold her, fresh from Your hands. I cannot wait for her to see my face and to start learning just how much I love her. But, most of all, I can’t wait to show her You and just how much YOU love her. I want her to see Your face!

Sister to Sister: Caught Praying on the Monitor

13344646_911796716419_9022849487098569765_nCaught on the video monitor the other night, Ezra, who was twenty months old, at the time, was praying. In his own crib, in his nursery, door closed, and darkness gathered round him, he listed his little litany of people , ending with Baxter (his cat) and ended with a simple, but very audible “Amen”.  I know God heard little Ezra, because he’s the God who takes time for the little ones (Mark 10:14). 

What makes a twenty month old talk to God when He’s all alone? You know what does. It’s pretty simple. It’s night after night of “practice”. It’s doing it when he’s not alone each night. It’s story time with parents who know it’s important, for the development of faith in God, to talk to Him every night. It’s intrinsically knowing that, in his daddy’s arms, hands folded talking to God, all is right in his simple little world. That’s why Ezra knows how to pray. That’s why, however simply and trusting, he talks to God when he thinks he’s all alone. 

One day you will think you are alone. There will come a time when you are facing your own alone-ness and darkness. You might not know yet exactly what that darkness will be. It may be the loss of someone you love. It may be that someone you love disappoints you deeply. It may be the loss of your health or wealth. It may be the fall of your freedom or encroaching national enemies. It might be loneliness or divorce or addiction. It might be sin.

When your darkness comes, will you be able to talk to the Father, even from the darkness—when you need Him most? The answer is yes…if, like Ezra, you’ve been talking to Him every day in the light; if you’ve spoken with Him daily from your safe and happy place when surrounded by those you love. 

The simple faith that gives us the solace and strength of prayer in the dark times of our lives is not instantly gained when we need it. It’s developed during the good times. It’s having a relationship with the Almighty that’s constant and secure through the ups and downs of regular and normal days. That’s what gives us the peace and assurance of knowing He hears us when life gets irregular and abnormal…and sometimes even, very nearly, unbearable. I have friends  who use prayer as a panic button. I have other friends who never need a panic button because they’ve got the security that comes with a life time of communication through prayer and Bible study. They deeply understand and cling to the promise of Romans 8:28…that He’s making every day, and even the darkest night, turn into ultimate blessings for them, as His children.   They are secure when they are alone and life is dark, because, like Ezra, they’ve  “practiced” when times were easier and gentler. 

“Amen” is a very comforting word. It means “let it be so”. I’m glad “amen” is in little Ezra’s limited vocabulary. I’m glad he says it already to the One Who transcends everything Ezra will ever learn or know in both majesty and power. But that One is also the One who knows how many little red hairs are on His head (Luke 12:7). He knows his down-sitting and his uprising (Psalm 139:2). He knows Ezra’s litany of loved ones and He even knows His cat, Baxter. Are you talking to the One who loves you that much? You should be living in that kind of sweet security right now. Someday, when night falls, you will very much need the sweet security of prayer. 

Sister to Sister: The Dissonance of Orlando for Christians

Pretty young girl with martini looking at camera in the bar

What happened in Orlando at a gay bar earlier this summer seems unthinkable, yet it wasn’t. I mean, all of us had thought about it. We knew the possibility of an attack by a Muslim terrorist (and that’s what he was) or a group of them—on our soil—again—was likely. To me, this is the worst case scenario, though, because, after the fact, reflection brings such a cold hard truth to mind. This truth keeps haunting me: Every single person killed—every.single.one– so far as can reasonably be determined —was involved, at the time, in overt rebellion against the plainly stated will of God. Certainly the perpetrator was committing murder in the first degree multiplied times over. He left this life without hope. Those fifty people who were brutally killed in an establishment where homosexuality is celebrated and liquor was flowing at two o’clock in the morning on that Lord’s day also left this earth without hope. Christians who went to worship Him later that morning know, whether we have verbalized it or not, that the murderer and the murdered left this life to share an eternity in hell together. 

Certainly we can take nothing but sorrow from that realization. I’m pretty certain there are parents left behind—parents of some of those millennials who died—who are believers in Christ and the Bible. How their hearts must grieve at the realization that their children left this earth while participating in a hedonistic lifestyle that scoffs at the Word of God. We grieve with them. Perhaps some of them were unaware of that lifestyle in which their children were involved until the news and circumstances of their deaths were announced. The pain of even thinking about that, for me as a parent, is hard to fathom. 

It’s true that we are all sinners…condemned…without the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Praise God for that Lamb! But for those of us to whom that Lamb’s blood has been applied, the Orlando incident represents a greater tragedy than even the loss of fifty lives and the fact that Islamic terrorism is a constant threat to our American way of life. The added dimension, for Christians, is the knowledge that both terrorist and terrorized, in Orlando, are in the same list in God’s word. We’ve come to the point in America, at least in this instance, in which calling the victims “innocent” is, although appropriate in some sense, technically inaccurate. The list is here:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).

Here it is again from Romans 1:28-32

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 

I’m sad for people who left this world from a gay bar. At the same time, I am stricken with the reality that I could leave this world at any time and there’s a list of sins in these passages that’s far broader than just murder and homosexuality.  May I do my very best to honor his laws; to be found in places and with people who will help me to do that. May I constantly praise him for the blood that cleanses me as I walk in His light, doing my best to honor Him (I John 1:7). And, finally, may I realize that there are two great enemies of this great American culture we’ve known for 250 years. One is the threat of the Muslims who are practicing what the Quran teaches (in multiple Quran passages) about slaughtering followers of the Lamb. The other is Americans  who have forsaken the teachings of the slaughtered Lamb.  

I pray for America regularly. But in those same prayers, I thank my Father that I am part of a kingdom that will still be standing when America falls. May His children here be faithful to Him. May He be merciful to His children here. 

Sister to Sister: I AM BECAUSE I AM

nature-scenery-at-the-flambeau-riverIn Exodus 3:14, God gave Moses the name by which He wished to be identified to His people, Israel, when he presented to them the prospect of deliverance from slavery to Pharaoh, their hard-hearted taskmaster. 

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

I AM THAT I AM.  Frankly, as a child, when I heard the story of Moses and the burning bush, the name sounded awkward and left me wondering exactly what God was trying to convey by the nomenclature. But as I read the name today in the American Standard Version, I’m amazed at its significance. The ASV renders it I AM BECAUSE I AM.

Just think of that! Every one of us can wear the first part of this name: I AM. You are. I am. We exist. But we do not exist because of ourselves. We exist because of a mother and father who existed because of another set of parents, who existed ultimately, through the line of generations back through time because of an original cause: Jehovah. God. The Creator. We are because He is. I am because of His eternal being and power. I cannot wear the second half of God’s Exodus three name. I am not existent because of my own existence. In other words, I am, but not because I am. I am because He was, is and continues to be. My name is I AM BECAUSE HE IS.

Jehovah, then, is the only one who can claim the name I AM BECAUSE I AM.  Everyone else has an original cause. He is the Original Cause. So that makes Him God. He had no beginning, no designer, planner, maker or authority. That makes him the ultimate of all of those things. The fact that He is the Original Cause renders Him the superlative in every relationship: the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. The Original Cause does not have to explain Himself. Just as the Exodus three name implies, He not only is because He is, He does because He does. In our modern vernacular, we might say He gets to decide. Everything. The buck stops with God. 

This is why Moses had to take off his shoes in front of that bush that day. Moses, the one who was caused, who was saved from destruction, who was nurtured in the palace and commissioned to deliver was standing, at that moment, before the Great Cause, the Savior, the Nurturer, the Deliverer.  

That’s why every one of us has to deal with God. He is the One with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). There’s a sense in which we all have our burning bushes….The ultimate One is the only One who can truly present the ultimatum of this lifetime. Because He has this kind of superlative power over us, it makes it all the more amazing that he gave us His Son. Jesus, the One who was every bit God, who shared the quintessential power that’s inherent in the Exodus three name, gave up, for a time, the ultimate authority and learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8). Obedience. I AM THAT I AM obeyed. And He did this for me. The One who could wear the name I AM BECAUSE I AM humbled himself to dwell among those who are the caused rather than the Cause and even to die for the caused. 

When I think about this, I know that I’m not worthy to contemplate this humbling of Jesus. I am not capable of fully grasping the great gap between Cause and caused that was bridged at Calvary. But I want to take off my shoes before the  great I AM. Whatever I’m called upon to do as I go forth from my burning bush, I want to do it. I want to bow before the great I AM THAT I AM. 

May all who suffered sword or flame

For truth or Jesus’ lovely name

Shout victory now and hail the Lamb

And bow before the great I AM.

From the Archives: A Bird in a Basket

images-1This past Saturday I spoke at a ladies seminar in the state of California. It was a great day–rewarding in lots of ways for me. It was a stormy weekend in my home state of Alabama, while sunny and calm in California. Sometimes it’s just a little serendipity when I get to slip away from the storms (in my mind and in the sky) and enjoy a space of calmness. I actually got to sit on a tiny sunny townhouse patio and visit with a sister I’d never met before. Two small birds live in a basket on that patio and I stood about two feet from Mr. or Mrs. Bird (not sure which) and clicked his/her photo. (I really wish I had brought along my Canon rather than just my cell phone.) I’m told that those birds come back each year and have begun to feel so comfortable in that basket that sits among some artificial flowers on a plant stand, that they don’t even bother to stir when people walk all around them. Before the evening was over, we had five people within a very few feet of the nest and no panic in the nest whatsoever. My host told me that one of that family of birds plucked one of those artificial flowers one year, took it around to her front yard and used it in the building of it’s own nest in a front yard tree.My host, Mrs. Maggie, knows a lot about the birds that feather that nest each year. But she cannot be sure it is the same birds year after year. She pays close attention to their patterns of nest-sitting. She knows that it is both a male and female that exchange places sitting, for she looks through her kitchen window (only a few inches away) and sees them swapping places. She knows that baby birds are born there each spring because there are a few fleeting days between the hatching and the flying when she enjoys watching them grow. All she has to do is keep putting the basket out for them year after year and they check-in as if they know their upscale room is reserved.

But did you ever think about how that God, from somewhere as far away as heaven and yet closer than that kitchen window does know whether it’s the same birds year after year? He knows whether or not the original nest sitters have survived the winter. In fact, he will know the exact moment that the bird in my photograph falls never to fly again.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).

The passage goes on to ask the rhetorical question: “Aren’t you more valuable than many sparrows?” God knows and cares about the nest home of those birds and its inhabitants. He knows about my home and its inhabitants, too. He knows that one day, like the sparrow I too, will fall. But I am of more value than many sparrows and I, who have never before taken wing will, on that “glad morning when this life is o’er, fly away.” Praise the God Who cares for the tiny bird in the basket, but cares infinitely more for me.