It’s hard to blog when you’re bogged. Sometimes I get bogged down, even with a mirage of good things, blessings even, that are occurring all around me. This weekend, I will be speaking for the ladies seminar at the Nettleton church in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I will be talking about the peace that Christ promised his apostles. What was He describing when He spoke of peace in the tumultuous world they were about to try to saturate with the good news of Christ, even after this Christ was killed as a criminal outside the city of Jerusalem? I think the lesson will be tailor-made for me! I need this study.
This morning I am praying for my friend, Tammy, who is very ill. I am praying for baby James, who is in a very critical period following a huge heart surgery. I am praying for my dad, who is making some huge steps toward independence these days after three months of recovery from a difficult illness. I am praying for some kids who are trying very hard to gain scholarships at a Christian university, because it will make the difference in their being able to attend, or their staying home and attending local colleges; colleges void of the Good News and void of an environment that fosters Christian marriages. I’m praying for lots of sick people in our local congregation. I’m praying for the course of the gospel through the lives of His people and through the works of faithful churches, and especially for our faithful elders. God is very good…sometimes so good that my mind races in all different blessed directions.
Next week will conclude the Digging Deep study of the gospels. Next Monday, I plan to post a sort of summary of the parables study. Because I’m not sure how long the window of opportunity for this will be, though, today, I want to recommend that you see a movie. It’s called “October Baby” and Glenn and I saw it in Charleston last week. It was riveting, but most importantly, it was a timely fictional depiction of some events that are, all too often, not entirely fictional in the world around us. It’s about the after-effects of a botched abortion and one girl’s coming to terms with the regrettable circumstances of her birth. More importantly, it sort of checks the pulse of our nation in which there are two protection agendas–one of protecting a mother’s “reproductive rights” and one of protecting life in the womb. That’s the reason the movie has raised the ire of those who are abortion proponents. That’s the reason I hope you will see it. That’s the reason it’s not in every market across the US and that’s the very reason I hope it will be a successful film. I wish we were a nation in which a film like this could be a blockbuster. See it if you can. (Note: While this movie is clean and appropriate for your family, my recommendation does not necessarily mean I endorse every single detail of the film.)
Keep praying. There’s a lot of goodness in the world, but it often seems the immoral and reckless has a way of being blatant and “in your face.” Remember the war has already been won, though. It’s the battles between now and the victory celebration that can still claim casualties for the defeated prince of darkness.
Recently my son, who lives away in grad school, made his father and me smile when we received a thank-you letter. It contained a list of incidental things for which he was grateful including things like his birthday present, the laundry I had done when he was home, the haircut I had given him, and Glenn’s help with a car repair. Then along about number five in the list was simply the words “Giving birth to me and raising me.” The comment beneath the list was “I am hoping I can bundle these services.”
We love that boy. He has a subtle sense of humor.
Sometimes we are that way in our gratitude to the heavenly Father. We pray and we thank him for a list of temporal blessings and then we may or may not mention that we are grateful that he gave us life and is “raising” us to be fit for heaven. May we, on this Thanksgiving day, not fail to remember that, of all of the bundled services (and that is quite a bundle of good and perfect gifts), there is that one gift that makes life and all of its attendant blessings worth the living and enjoying. The gift of eternal life through Christ is the blessing that bears all blessings. It’s the mother blessing through which I come to view with gratitude all of my other gifts. It’s the gift that gives meaning to the material and the funnel through which all others are poured. It is THE gift. It’s what makes my life a channel of bundled services. May I keep all the blessings tied to the ultimate gift.
PS. I read this to Caleb during our Bible time tonight and he added this correction: “Mom, I would have never said you ‘raised’ me. ‘Raising’ is for animals. ‘Rearing’ is for people.” Okay. Sometimes it just seemed like a zoo around here.
I’m pretty blessed to be traveling home from the city of New Orleans. I loved being with my sisters in the Chalmette church, but they are living on the edge right now, specifically on the edge of the Mississippi River just a few days prior to its crest. The waters of the Mississippi have risen and wreaked havoc in portions of Missouri and Mississippi already and they are threatening to break or rise over levees to flood Baton Rouge and New Orleans as I write. Today the governor opened an additional spillway, a gateway that will automatically flood a predicted 3000 acres under some 25 feet of water. It still seems to be the lesser of two evils, as it looks as if that area may flood anyway and the more densely populated areas in the cities may be spared the floods by this diversion of the water. There is no way everyone can be happy about the governor’s decision, however. Something is going underwater.
Surely this crest must be a little reminiscent to the people there of the hurricane that produced the flood of all floods there six years ago. I was amazed as I saw pictures of the building in which I spoke submerged to the roof in the aftermath of Katrina. (I’m sure practically all of the current building is really not the same as the one in the picture.) The photo was actually taken after the waters had receded. During the worst days it had been totally submerged. The only way folks would have known the building was there was if they accidentally bumped into its roof with their boats.
These brave sisters were troopers. Some of them were nurses who never evacuated the torrent that was New Orleans at the time, although their husbands and children traveled to higher ground. Some were forced to evacuate, leaving behind every material possession, including educational pursuits and/ongoing medical procedures. They went to places where people could not fully understand the total devastation of Katrina. After a couple of months, people in the states to which they had fled began to ask, “Is your new house in New Orleans almost finished?” These people did not understand that there were no materials left with which to rebuild, that there were no architects or contractors left to design and execute, that the waters that had been above rooflines had not fully receded, that the stench of death was still potent and that the insurance funding, when existent, was extremely slow in being allocated. The rebuilding process, for those who did rebuild was painfully slow. Some of these women were school teachers who were told that there would be no more school for the entire year. One of these teachers was called back to New Orleans to teach those destitute children who did not evacuate. Since they did not have housing in which to live, the school board set up mobile housing for them on school property. With each day, new students returned pushing their portable classrooms way beyond capacity, especially considering the shortage of supplies.
I saw huge concrete pads with trees growing in the crevices, evidencing malls and department stores that will never be rebuilt. I saw homes where water soaked furniture was never removed and windows were simply boarded up. In some cases houses were just left unsecured and looters first had a heyday, followed by homeless people moving into the molded ruins. In every populated place in America today, there are people who once called New Orleans home; people who will never forget Katrina.
Will you join me in prayer for our sisters who are, once again, fearful of the flooding? They are fearful, yet still faithful. They are strong, yet realize their great dependency on the great I Am. They’ve been down, but never out. They have once put their worlds back together, but when they completed the project last time, they understood clearly that what they had completed was just temporary housing. Perhaps more than most of us, they are keenly aware that all houses of wood and stone are temporary. Perhaps they know how to long for the “house not made with hands” (1 Cor. 5:1)–the one that cannot be defiled (1 Peter 1:4) — more ardently than do we.
Yesterday I sang with those sweet sisters “though lashing seas leap everywhere about me, they cannot harm or make my heart afraid.” Maybe the most applicable passage is Psalms 32:6-7:
6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
Let’s pray for the righteous in New Orleans. They have a big job to do in a city of profligate living. Multitudes are going under in more ways than one in that historic city.
About three weeks ago, the most bizarre thing happened. I dreamed that my little girl was all grown up and some very brave and good-looking guy drove all the way from Henderson, TN to Huntville, AL (quite on the sly), sat himself down in my husband’s office and proceeded to ask for Hannah’s hand in marriage. Now can you imagine how I felt when I woke up? Only I didn’t. I did not wake up! Somehow the hit-and-run years have just done their thing and Glenn and I have found ourselves in the beginning stages of wedding planning. It’s sort of like the beginning stages of dementia only without any caregivers to protect us from the overwhelming loss of focus, from the jolts in and out of reality, and from the extreme mood swings that carry me from the ecstatic friend of the beaming fiancée, to the weepy, melancholy mom whose little girl is getting the scissors for apron-string-cutting out of the drawer.
When I think of the parents with whom I regularly talk who are struggling to cope with the realization that their kids are walking away from God, I count my blessings that Hannah has found someone who has promised us that he will never lead her anywhere but heaven. When I speak with women who no longer can communicate with their husbands because their respective lives and interests have become so separate, I am thankful that Hannah gets a little irritated with Ben because he has difficulty focusing on her conversation on Saturday nights when he can’t think of much else besides his Sunday sermon. When I talk to children and young adults whose hearts are bleeding because of their parents’ divorces, I praise Him that Ben’s parents freely express their devotion and admiration for each other (although Hannah says they just gush and blush!). When I study and pray nightly with my husband, I thank Him that there was another family who studied and prayed daily with their children. While I know that every marriage will face its times of testing and its own brands of adversity, the best insurance of success in marriage is when two people love God even more than they love each other. I am convinced that Han and Ben have this strong love for the Father in common. This is not due to any good fortune or even to any great secrets of good parenting. It’s due to God’s grace in giving us His Word and to its exposure in their lives. It’s a “God thing,” for sure. His mercies and His loving-kindness is great toward us!
For today, here is the letter that Glenn and I received from Ben’s dad a few hours after that quick trip Ben made to Huntsville. Lots of answered prayers, difficult discipline and implicit trust in God is obviously the backdrop for a letter like this. Glenn and I are thankful for this letter and the good home from which words like this can emanate.
So why do I still feel a little hole in my heart when I think about the words “Who gives this bride…?” Glenn says it’s silly to be sad when we are so blessed. But other mamas tell me the little pain is the bruise left when reality hits just a little harder than usual in one of your most tender spots…the strong tendon of sentiment. Something, someone, some significant part of my world …will never be the same again.
Here’s the letter:
Glenn and Cindy,
Assuming that Hannah says, “Yes”, to Benjamin (which may be just an assumption; Hannah has a mind of her own), the great adventure begins. These days and events in their lives are full of meaning and great consequence.
Thank you for being such an encouragement to Benjamin these past few months. It does our hearts good to know you will love him and encourage him as a Christian, evangelist, husband, and father in the years ahead. Beth and I have talked to him, counseled him, and prayed for him from the day he was born. Incidentally, he was 9lbs/10 oz. when he was born.
This hour has come all-too-quickly for us. We have prayed for Hannah, even before we know her. But now that we know her, we have prayed for her especially. We could not ask for a better addition to our family—-in her, in you, and in Caleb. We are committed to loving Hannah as a daughter, and we will always make decisions with her highest interests in mind. Whatever counsel or advice they seek from us, if they do at all, we will think first and foremost of their relationship with God and their expectation of Heaven. All his life we made Benjamin aware that marriage is not about someone pleasing him, it is about him pleasing her and increasing her happiness in this world and in the world next.
We are so happy for Benjamin, that he has found such a precious jewel. We would not want him to marry anyone who would not seek his salvation above all else. For that we are so thankful to God for sending us this beautiful young lady who will not only fulfill our joy, but will be more than we could have imagined. Thank you for your years of love and influence in her life! You are giving us a gift beyond measure.
Beth said I should say something to you. She is usually right about such things.
We did write Brian and Beth, as well. I’ll try to include that next time. Are you a young mom? If so, can I encourage you to start praying today for the spouse of your young child? Will you pray for his/her parents? What they are doing today has much to do with your child’s security in this life and for eternity. It’s the least and greatest thing you can do for that child. Make it a priority. Make it a daily routine. Make it a fervent plea. It’s a great start to wedding planning!
You were seated next to someone who shared with you a sorrow.
You met a woman in the mall whose surgery is tomorrow.
Someone on your son’s team needs a ride home from the game.
And that woman on your email list needs prayer…what was her name?!
The coach said you could have a devo if someone would just plan it.
There’s a booth uptown to hand out tracts if someone could just man it.
Your neighbor has a new baby. She could use some help with dinner.
She’s really not religious…there’s a chance that you could win her.
There were visitors last Sunday . They sat just across the aisle.
But when you’d gathered up your things, they’d left; that took a while.
You pray for missionaries who are in the “foreign fields”
You ask Him to guide, guard, direct and keep you in his Will.
You prayed along in worship that God would open up a door.
Can you not see them all ajar? What could God do more?
There are places He will lead you with His providential hand.
Times when there’s a cause and only you can take a stand.
There are moments that are ripe for showing some lost soul the way;
Situations… conversations… words just you can say.
Sometimes, the task is obvious, the job is yours to do.
The question begs of each of us , “O Lord, If not me…who?”