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It’s the Presence not the Blessings

Seeking His presence.  Not just seeking His blessings, but seeking His presence:  I want to learn how to do this better. 

I think that is how the apostle Paul could say he could be content in any circumstance (Phil 4:11).  Paul was something else, wasn’t he?  What a man he was!  Just listen to just some of HIS problems:  He had received thirty nine lashes on his back; beaten with rods three times; stoned; shipwrecked three times; had many dangerous trips, (among highwaymen and robbers); was often in danger from his own people as well as from the Gentiles, from false Christians, in the city and in the wilderness; suffered toil and hardship; spent sleepless nights; was hungry and thirsty; was in cold and nakedness; had the worry of all of the churches daily on him.

But he never turned bitter, or resentful.  He never lost hope.  He was content.   “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 corinth 4:8-9)  

I bet experiencing the presence of God is how Abraham was able to leave everything he knew, and then later trust this same God when he was asked to kill his long awaited precious only son Isaac.  And later Isaac himself, and then his son Jacob, had their own experiences on the mountains of their fears.  And they were blessed.  Not by blessings (which, yes, they had) but by His presence.

It’s why Hagar proclaimed that God was Jehovah -‘ the One who sees’.  Even though the One who had appeared to her had basically told her that her child would be a hater and hated by all.  Now what Mother wants to hear that?  Shouldn’t she have gotten offended?  No, she never forgot that day, as she had experienced the presence of God.  “God has seen me” she proclaims. (Genesis 16:11-13)

It’s why so many Christians have endured so many things throughout the centuries.  They experienced the presence, they believed the promises, they looked forward to where they will end up though they did not see it at the time.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

It’s why the writer of this song can write these lyrics “Held” (sung by Natalie Grant) “To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays, is appalling ……this is what it means to be held, how it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.  This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was that when everything fell we’d be held.”

Or how Horatio Spafford could pen the song “It is well with my soul” after several traumatic events in his life,….. the death of his only son, followed by the great Chicago fire which ruined him financially, then a shipwreck at sea, on a ship his wife and 4 daughters were travelling on to take a family vacation (he was going to join them later).  All 4 of his daughters died.  Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. 

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I want to be grounded enough so that when trials come…. no matter how horrific….. when there are no ‘blessings’ in the worlds eyes…. even then (especially then) I will be content and I will have peace.  Because I have experienced my Father’s presence.

I know God tells me in His Word that His Word is the source of this presence.  That’s what He tells me in Psalm 19: 

The law of the LORD is perfect,
   refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
   making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
   giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
   enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
   and all of them are righteous.

 10 They are more precious than gold,
   than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
   than honey from the honeycomb

Jesus says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by the Word of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  (By the way, Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 “….man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”)

I also know I can experience His presence through worship. Not ‘worship’ in the way the world has debated it: hymns? contemporary? charasmatic? emergent? solemn procession? or shouting and clapping?….. No, I’m seeking out the kind of worship where Jesus cuts through all that tired debate with a clear description of what God is really looking for:  not a ‘kind of worship’, but a ‘kind of worshipper’.  “The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth”.  That’s my heart.  Heart worship.  Love Him and fear him and honor him with all my heart, soul and mind.  That’s a big bite… those are big shoes to walk in….. but I will pursue it.  It’s like Paul says in Philippians 3:12  ” I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” 

I’m not there yet, but I will keep on keeping on…….

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

3crosses

These are tough times, yes.  But today let us remember to hold fast to the unbreakable covenant of Christ’s blood and God’s promises to His children.

JESUS SAID NO

I want to always remember that when Jesus says no to my prayers, it may be because He has something MUCH GRANDER  in store. 

Mark, chapter 5

18 “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.”

I read somewhere that historians account the beginning of Christendom in this region to this demon-possessed man.   Apparently, he DID go back and tell the great things Jesus did!  Imagine his reward in heaven!

John, chapter 9:

5 “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days.”

Jesus said ‘no’ to His dear friends Martha and Mary.  He was willing to accept the fact that they would be hurt, disappointed, disillusioned, all those things…..

He would wait on His Heavenly Father for the incredible work that would be done!

So as I listen and watch for Jesus’ guidance in my life today, I want to be committed to:

  • not be discouraged if I feel like He’s saying ‘no’ to me, knowing that He has something much better in store!
  • to be like Jesus, only looking for direction from above, and not be influenced by what others may think of what I do or do not do.

EXPECTATIONS, PERCEPTIONS & WORSHIP

I’m 58 1/2 years old.  I should have learned this before now.  But I didn’t.  But I know now.  Expectations & perceptions.  Don’t have them.  Don’t trust them.  Except for 1. 

Don’t expect relationships to stay the same.  They change. 

Don’t expect your Church to look a certain way, maybe the way you want it to look.  It won’t.

Don’t expect your jobs to stay the same, or if they do, to satisfy you like they once did.  They won’t.

There is only ONE thing that stays the same.  One thing that never changes.  And that is Our Heavenly Father, Our Jesus, Our Holy Spirit.  They never change.  They always stay the same.  That I can count on.  They love me the same now as they loved me when I wasn’t walking with them.  They love me in a way I still can’t really comprehend.  They will never leave me.  This relationship with them will never change.  What awesome peace that is!

PERCEPTIONS:  The other thing I should have learned by now.  Don’t trust my own perceptions.  They can be so deceiving.  So don’t even go there.  Just go to Jesus, and ask Holy Spirit to show me the truth.

WORSHIP:   I was reading in John 4 today.  Jesus told the woman at the well that Abba Father is ‘seeking’ worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Jesus said that!  And Jesus know what He’s talking about!  So…… my Abba Father, who I long to please, is ‘looking for’ certain type of worshipers.  Those that worship in spirit and in truth.  How I wish I really knew what that looked like.  Worshiping in spirit.  Worshiping in truth.  I THINK that means being real.  I THINK that means not necessarily worshiping with any part of your BODY, but with your spirit.  Lifting my spirit up to God.  My heart.  I wonder:  when I’m playing the songs the Lord has given me, when I’m singing and playing my guitar, all by myself in my living room, singing to Him…… is THAT worshiping in spirit and in truth????  And then I think about if I really ‘saw’ God, if I really got a ‘glimpse’ of Him, how could I even lift my head, left alone hold my guitar, or remember the chords I was playing, or sing a song?  How could I do anything but be totally swept away?  And so I understand that I DON”T really understand about worship.  I guess I can go through the motions.  But I pray that I will learn how to ‘be swept away’.  Holy Spirit, please teach me how to worship in spirit and in truth.  Holy Spirit, I also ask you to protect and annoint the worship leaders at my Church, in fact ALL worship leaders at every Church.  My friend, Julie told me that Satan, before he was thrown out of heaven, was in charge of worship, and that’s why he hates worship so much.  That’s why he is intent on making sure we DON’T worship in spirit in truth.  So I pray for our worship leaders, and I ask you to protect them.  Maybe there’s times I don’t especially LIKE certain types of worship, but I confess that it is wrong for me to have that type of attitude.  YOU have placed them there as our worship leaders, Lord, if YOU didn’t want them there, You could certainly remove them.  So, I choose to have the attitude You want us to have about ALL our leaders, and I acknowledge their leadership, knowing that YOU are Sovereign, You are in control.  Thank you Abba Father.

John 3:27

“No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.” 

As I read that passage this morning, I was contemplating on all that God has given me:

  • He placed me in my mother’s womb, and then in a very special family, and because of that family, I am who I am.
  • He sent an amazing man, Al, to be my husband.  A man that for that past 40 years has been devoted, committed and shown me what unconditional love is all about.
  • He gave me 4 amazing children.  And now 4 amazing grandchildren.
  • He has brought such amazing people into my life over the years.
  • MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, He has given me His salvation.
  • He gives me this amazing relationship, where He guides me, teaches me, speaks to me, loves me.
  • He gives me songs.
  • He gives me stories.
  • He’s given me an amazing Church, a place where I can be with other men, women and children who are madly in love with Him.
  • He’s given me an amazing home, and amazing little town on a river to live in and a job I love.
  • He’s given me His grace.

………… I could just go on, and on, and on, and on, and on…….

Thank you my Abba Father!  Thank you Jesus!  Thank you Spirit!

ON BEING A GRAMA

I want to introduce you to my grandchildren:

hugging-mr-no11

ANGEL

CALEB:  jacob-caleb-richard

 the-quittems

MY TWO STEP-GRANDCHILDREN, HOLLY AND CODY, WITH MISSY, PAT AND ANGEL AT ANGEL’S BAPTISM

 

First Came an Angel, Then Came a Baby

 

by Sue Hellman

I looked up the definition of Grandmother in the dictionary and found Grandmother defined as, noun. The mother of one’s father or mother; a female ancestor.

That’s it???? I couldn’t believe it. Being a grandmother is so much more. Apparently Mr. Webster never asked Mrs. Webster how she would define ‘grandmother’. If he had, I think the definition would read something more like, Grandmother: noun. Important person in the life of a grandchild, yet does not have to do anything special, except be there; Grandmothers don’t have to be smart, only be willing answer a variety of senseless questions; Grandmothers spend their days playing, reading and loving their grandchildren. The sparkle in her grandchild’s eyes when she enters the room, is her delight. Being a grandmother is like falling in love—if you haven’t experienced it, you can’t imagine how fantastic it is.

I have loved and lost a grandchild, spent countless days praying and hoping for a grandchild, and then hoped and prayed some more. This is the story of God’s redemptive miracle of love given and received, wrapped in the form of a baby.

Unable to conceive after five years of fertility drugs and surgery, my daughter, Missy, and her husband, Tim, were thrilled when a young, expectant mother, who was unable to care for her child, asked them to adopt her baby girl. Believing this was the answer to many prayers, our family waited anxiously for the baby’s birth. Janai was born on December 17, 2001. When I held Janai for the first time, something magical happened. Though she was just a few hours old, it was as if this little baby knew me and I knew her. I had never experienced anything like this before, even with my own children. I watched her grow and I loved her with my whole heart for six months. Then she was gone.

Janai didn’t die, but she left our family and we were devastated. Unaware that Missy and Tim’s marriage was in trouble, our family was stunned when Missy announced that she was divorcing Tim. Despite our family’s best efforts to dissuade her, in June 2002, Missy left Tim and returned Janai to her birth mother. My heart was shattered—broken in places I never expected would be healed again. The hurt, anger and betrayal from my own daughter tormented me for months as I tried to resolve what I was powerless to change.

As usual, it comes like a crushing wave.  Breathing becomes labored and suddenly everything around me is gone, as if I’m falling down a well and I can’t see anything but darkness.  I had heard her on the radio.  Some woman.  She was describing her grandaughter.  She said that little girl has enabled her to see colors she’s never seen before, and to hear sounds she’s never heard before.  She asked the DJ on play a song by Stevie Wonder.  The songs was, “Isn’t she wonderful?”  You can hear the love, the wonder, the awe, the pride, the fulfillment in that Grama’s voice. 

I struggle to breathe.  I feel the hot sword enter my heart.  As I squeeze my eyes shut to fight back the hot tears, I wonder:  WHY?  Why did that beautiful time have to end?  How could something so impossible, happen?  Here I am again.  Back at the beginning.  How is this supposed to work?  Will I ever get used to this?  Will I ever be able to avoid the pain?  I fear the answer is no.  So I tuck the pain away.  I know it will come back and visit me again, probably suddenly, unexpectedly, as now.  But for now, I’m putting it to bed.

Then I see a rainbow.                        (poem written in 2005)

Over the next few years our relationship slowly healed, as we learned to extend and receive the gift of forgiveness. I came to understand the tremendous pain and internal conflict my daughter had been in. Like the Biblical story of two mothers, when King Solomon ordered the baby cut in half, and the real mother sacrificed to save the child, Missy sacrificed her relationship with her family to save Janai from the bitterness of divorce. Missy let Janai go, knowing that Janai’s birth mother loved her and was now able to care for her.

Missy married a man named Pat and eventually gave her life back to the Lord, yet continued to struggle with infertility. Meanwhile, Pat also came to know the Lord and their lives began to change. In 2004, a one-year old boy named Omar came to live with them when his mother, a drug addict, was facing a jail sentence. We called him Sunshine because of his ability to bring a bright smile to all of our faces. We expected Omar would become a member of our family. I loved Omar, but tried to guard my heart. But the thing about grandchildren—I considered him my grandson—is they have the ability to grab those parts of our heart that we try to keep hidden and stuffed. When Omar had been with our family for almost a year, Omar’s mother, now rehabilitated, wanted him back. There was nothing Missy and Pat could do. Hearts breaking, in May 2005, they drove Omar and all his possessions to Oklahoma and left him with a mother he no longer knew. But God’s grace covered the situation and today, Omar is doing well with his mom. Missy and Pat are his godparents and remain in contact with him.

Years went by. Missy and Pat continued to pursue adoption, while Missy remained unable to conceive. There were times when circumstances looked hopeful, imminent even, to adopt a baby—the nursery was prepared and paperwork ready for signature—then at the last possible moment, the biological family would change their minds. It was a horrible experience—getting hopes up for a baby, then hopes dashed. Each loss was another devastating blow added to a series of disappointments.

Then in December 2007, Missy and Pat received an unexpected phone call. There was a baby in Iowa. She was two months old. Her name was Angel.

I remember when Missy told me. I didn’t expect anything to come of this news, there had been too much disappointment and loss for any expectations. Missy and Pat drove to Iowa to meet Angel. The authorities told them that the process would take time and not to get their hopes up for Angel to be home with them by Christmas.

But God had a different time schedule in mind. All the paperwork flowed, the authorities were in their offices and the door was opened for Angel to legally be adopted by Missy and Pat on December 17, 2007—exactly six years to the day of Janai’s birth!

And so Angel was home. Home for Christmas. To be honest, I must tell you that I tried to guard my heart from falling in love with Angel, but every time I was with her, and to this very day, she captures another part of my heart, that I willingly surrender.

Then in March of 2008, we received more wonderful news. After ten years of infertility, when it seemed hopeless that Missy would ever conceive, God opened her womb. Missy was pregnant!

My Christmas miracle is God’s redemption of all of our lives—broken family relationships and broken hearts healed. He sent a little baby named Angel into our family, an angel who brings us tremendous joy. Soon another baby will join our family, a baby born in December, a month that God seems intent on redeeming for us.

The Lord inspired me to write this song, which I often sing to Angel. It is a story of our Christmas miracle—a reminder of the greatest miracle of all, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

First Came An Angel, Then Came A Baby
First came an Angel, then came a baby! What an amazing story to tell!

 

She’d been waiting for such a long time

to be a Mom her womb it cried

And just when it seemed she’d run out of time

a baby named Angel came into her life!

Yes, a baby named Angel she needed a home

Angel became theirs, it’s where she belonged

suddenly came more good news

God had opened up her womb! A baby would be joining them soon!

Now as she holds Angel on her knee

inside of her a baby is growing

She thinks of a girl named Mary

who long ago experienced a similar thing: First came an Angel, then a baby!

To Mary an angel had come

He told her about the promised one

the One who is God’s own son!

And she would be the mother of this one!

A baby named Jesus, the Promised One!

First came an Angel, then came a baby! What an amazing story to tell!

NOTE:  This story was written before Caleb was born.  Caleb was born on December 17, 2008!!!!!   God continues to redeem that day for our family!