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: The Dangling Sleeve

DanglingSleeveIt was just a regular Monday post office run…dropping off packages of books. I noticed that the big green truck parked beside me had the driver door ajar, but both my hands were full and, besides, maybe I shouldn’t close someone else’s truck door. (What if I locked someone out or something?) Upon entering the tiny little building, I was a bit frustrated to see that some little woman had beat me to the one customer window. Not only had she barely beat me in there, but she had obviously packaged her stuff all wrong and the one employee behind the window was having to take off layers and layers of stubborn duct tape, get a new box and then re-package it all over again! My stomach was growling, I had so much to do and my boxes were awfully heavy. Still, I forced a smile and said, “No problem. Sometimes packaging stuff is just hard to do.”

Then the postal worker cued me in. “Yeah, it’s ‘specially hard when you only have one hand.” Then I saw it…the dangling sleeve on the right side of the little woman’s denim shirt. I had complained to my husband that I had way too much to do today. I had been a little frustrated in my mind about those heavy boxes that I held in my TWO arms. I had rearranged scheduling conflicts, frustrated that I had to hold the phone in one hand while multi-tasking with the other while the doctor’s office had me on hold. I was wearing a jacket that kind of bothered me because the zipper was a bit tricky and often required both hands and a brain to get it zipped. I had been in such a hurry that I didn’t even blow my hair dry. “I’ll just crimp it up wet today,” I thought. “I’m already tired and it wears me out to do the hair dryer in one hand and the roller brush in the other…” The little lady in front of me then showed me her new tennis shoes. They were brand spanking new, I could tell, and they fastened with velcro. I told her I liked them as I contemplated how long it must have taken her to put all those layers of duct tape on that box. She had even duct taped the items in place on the inside of the box.

At last the items were repackaged and her shipment now met regulations. She had also saved eleven dollars due to the patience and repackaging of the nice lady on the other side of the window. She reached into her shirt pocket and gave the postal worker a big wad of cash and the worker counted out what she would need, handing her the refolded stack of money along with her change. Then the little woman turned around to me and said, “I’m sorry.”

I finished my work at the window and walked outside to see her, at long last, maneuvering that big green truck out of the little parking lot.

She single-handedly did something large for my careless heart this morning. I remember the words of the Lord:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched…

Some days I think my hands are full. I’ll bet every single day, her hand truly is. One day, though, it will not matter that she only had one hand. One day, it will be unimportant that I had two. It will only matter what we each did with what we had. Perhaps it’s my wholeness, my wellness, that robs me of time for contemplation and compassion. Maybe it is my ability to multi-task that often keeps me from focusing on the one most important task of soul-winning. Maybe it’s my abilities that blind me to disabilities. Maybe it’s my self-sufficient attitude that keeps me from God-dependent gratitude. Whatever my excuse may be for falling short in his service, she single-handedly grabbed me this morning and jerked me back to the reality that I have great blessings and subsequent responsibilities therein. The dangling sleeve was empty, but full…of what I needed for this day. May God help me to stop selfishly complaining and rejoice in unselfish compliance. And may I fold my hands (both, plural, together) every day and offer Him thanksgiving and praise.

Blueberries and the Book (Part 2)

Vineyards I Did Not Plant

Before you begin reading, pause and close your eyes and thank God for something specific that you will/have enjoy(ed) today that’s the product of someone else’s labor, sacrifice or expenditure.

Now you are ready to read:

And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat (Joshua 24:13).

It’s just sweet serendipity when I go out to pick those berries. I know you will find this difficult to believe but I do not even think I knew about those four blueberry bushes when we bought the house. They were just thrown in, sort of incidentally, to the deal. I certainly did not dig the holes or plant them or tie them to the posts when they were young. I did not fertilize them or water them. Why, by the time I knew about them, they were much taller than I and laden with berries! What a blessing!

Granted, it’s not quite the same as a completely free gift (since we did pay for the land) but it was someone else who planted and watered (our good friends Candy and Phil Allen) and it was God who gave the bountiful increase.

When God gave Israel the land of Canaan, he moved them into houses they didn’t build and fed them with berries and fruits that they didn’t plant. He promised them the victories of these heathen nations and the spoils. Of course, when God is promising something, He can use the past tense, because His word is done-when- spoken.

But, in spite of the amazing conquest and the bountiful spoils, what did Israel do? They feared. They complained. They exhibited ingratitude. They were a whole lot like us. Here we are in the New Covenant era. We’ve been offered redemption. The victory has been won. The conquest over Satan has occurred. Heaven is a heartbeat away. It’s already in the preparing. We have the Word that’s done-when-spoken on that. But I hear people saying things like “Well, the Bible is just too hard to understand,” or “Do we have to go to worship every time the saints are assembling?” or “That command about withdrawing fellowship won’t work for us today,” or “Living the Christian life is just so hard,” or “Why did God make me suffer like this?”

Allegorically, we’re eating the berries we didn’t plant, while we complain about how hot it is while we’re picking or how hard it is to reach the top berries or how itchy the bushes are on our arms.

I hope you’re not taking your berries for granted. Someone else dug, planted, tied and watered. I hope you’re not taking your good family name for granted. Somebody worked to keep it that way. I hope you’re not taking your opportunity to stay home with your children for granted. Somebody else is making that possible. I hope you’re not taking your congregation’s faithfulness for granted. That doesn’t just happen. Somebody’s working hard toward that end. I hope you’re not taking your American freedoms for granted. Others died to make you free.

Most of all, I hope when you closed your eyes, you thought about the freedom from sin. I hope you remembered that Someone else purchased that for you. I hope you will/have enjoyed that blessing today. I hope when you closed your eyes, you thought of Calvary.

If There Is Anything Worthy of Praise – Philippians 4:8

Is there anything or anybody in your life on this Memorial Day that’s worthy of your praise and thanksgiving? Especially, on this day, think of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that you could be enjoying whatever it is that you are doing in our democratic republic. God wants you to take an accounting and think about those people and commodities. He wants you to forget about your needs and desires for a while and think about the myriad of undeserved favors granted you by other people and by Him.  When you think about praise for very long, you will soon be speaking words of praise.  The songs of praise that you sing in worship will become more fervent. You will become a more thankful person, a happier person, and you will ultimately draw closer to God.

If you don’t have time to take this accounting and offer this praise to God today, you are too absorbed in material blessings.  Quickly get a grip on what’s very temporal and what’s lasting. Pause with your loved ones, especially the children in your life, to talk about blessings in your lives that are praiseworthy. Perhaps you will even want to sing a song of praise to the Father with them. The command at the bottom of the verse is “…think on these things.”  If  we really do stop and think, we will stop and thank.

When I Throw Up My Hands in Despair

by Cindy Colley 

When the plumbing is broken; the kids have the flu;  
When money is tight and there’s too much to do;  
My insurance was canceled; my floor needs repair…  
I finally just throw up my hands in despair!  

Why all of this stress, Lord? I know there’s a reason  
Why it all seems to happen in the same dismal season. 
I know that You know, Lord. I know that you care  
When I finally throw up my hands in despair.  

Then it just seems when I cry from my soul,  
That You take my hands, Lord, and you take control. 
And just like a father You pity my plight.  
When life seems the darkest, You show me Your light.  

I think of Your Son with no place to call home  
When He left the splendor of Your side to roam  
Where people were dying and life wasn’t fair. 
I wonder if His hands went up in despair.  

I remember that it was my weakness and loss  
That held Jesus’ hands to that old Roman cross.  
My mind sees those hands that were pierced through and bleeding
And I know where this road of despair may be leading. 
 
I realize my troubles are really so small  
As you steady my hands and I hear your blessed call: 
“Come ye who are weary.” My soul sheds its doubt,  
And instead of my whining, You make my heart shout!  

I praise You for broken things, and broken people, too;  
That make me see I’m so dependent on You.  
I thank you for stretching Your hand out to me; 
For Golgotha and the Garden of Gethsemane.  

Keep holding my hands, Lord, till you’ve seen me through. 
Then gently release them. There’s work they must do.  
My soul is at rest, but my hands must be there  
For another whose hands have gone up in despair.