Tag Archives: faithfulness

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 3 – Constancy

[Today’s blog is Part 3 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere; Part 2 – Caringhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto to our children and grandchildren.

…which takes us to the last character trait to consider…for us in this generation, and for generations forward (when we will be considered vintage…but God isn’t).

Constancy

No matter how old we are, we have people in our lives who are constant. They are those we count on; those who always show up. No. Matter. What. They are faithful to God and faithful to us. Let’s just take a moment to think, even looking around us, at some of those dear women in our lives. Let’s remember those who aren’t with us anymore but who taught us how to be constant in our love and in our lives.

When we lived overseas, we were daily reminded of how only God could work the miracles that must be worked for people to receive the truth of the Gospel. Our neighbors were steeped in a very different worldview. They saw Jesus as a good man but the Saviour. The fact that we desperately need Him to restore us to a holy God was foreign to them.

Every day…every single day…God called us to show up with His love and His word…in those places and for those people. That constancy was tested every day because it would have been so easy just to stop showing up.

One of the verses from God’s Word that kept us going was Galatians 6:9 where Paul encouraged believers, saying, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

God has already promised us that His purposes are not thwarted; He will complete His work; He will finish what He started in us.

God calls us to keep showing up…following His example in our own lives.

This is how we get to “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). By showing up, time after time, with whatever gifts we have. We don’t have to be rockstars of any kind…we have a God who equips us to be exactly what is needed in any situation. Our constancy radiates His greatness. We can count on Him.

A few years back, I discovered a Christian sister, by the name of Kara Tippetts. We never met but she wrote in her blog in such a way it was like receiving a letter from a dear friend. She wrote about her walk with God through a relentless cancer. Over the course of her diagnosis and treatment, she adjusted to a very different life. However, she continued to show up. For her family. For her friends. For all of us who watched for every report of her life and how God met her each step of the way. She modeled showing up…and emboldened those in her life to show up for her…in all that hard.

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Just shy of her 40th birthday, she finished her race and went to be with the Lord. Leaving behind 4 sweet children and an adoring husband.

It was both terribly sad and gloriously beautiful.

In the last months of her life, she managed to write three books…three books!!! The last one was a dialog between her and her friend, Jill. By that time, it was all Kara could do to show up, the disease had so done its ill.

This is what she had to say about constancy…even in the hardest of situations…

“If God asks us to do something, then He’s also going to show up to carry us through it. And when we walk in community with one another, we will be kept.”

Photo Credit: Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

Completely cared for by God Himself.

He is faithful. His infinite capacity fills our small hearts; His perfect love magnifies the care we offer to others, His steadfastness gives us what we need to be constant.

In His strength and love, we become the women of that adage: “When her feet hit the floor, the Devil says ‘Oh no, she’s up!’” The evil one battles with us to fail…but we will not, with our eyes on God.

From Genesis through the whole of Scripture, we see the word “shield” and that God is our shield. Against any evil. When we take God seriously and put our lives wholly in His hands we become a force to reckon with – whether we’re 14 or 50 or 82. We will experience attacks from the evil one – he doesn’t want us to be successful as Christ’s image-bearers. We may even take friendly fire from other believers. It happens, and sometimes the enemy is us…but God take what was meant for evil and make it for good in our lives. We have His promise.

Photo Credit: FBC Mt. Pleasant

Hear the Word the Lord: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full of armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.Ephesians 6:10-11

 

Brent Curtis, a Biblical counselor and author of a favorite book of mine The Sacred Romance, wrote about how God demonstrates His own constancy when we show up for someone:

“God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor…something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

When we live with capacity for Him, caring for others, and constancy in being there, we may, at times, come under attack, but we will never be alone.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah reminds us of this: “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in His love. He will delight in you with singing.”

No matter what your situation…even when you feel God has been “too quiet” in His love…or you have been waiting such a long time for something…God’s love is constant, trust in that, and God is in the waiting, with us, Dear Ones.

[Special thanks for the ISBC Women’s Ministry and the opportunity extended to me to speak at their holiday dinner. The sweet beauty of the Vintage Christmas displays was surpassed by the faces and hearts of the women present. They would make their grandmothers proud. I was unable to get images of all the women so will leave you with a few more images of just some of the tables. Blessings.]

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 1 – Capacity

This past weekend, I was privileged to speak at a women’s holiday event in Kingsport, Tennessee. 150 women gathered to bring in a vintage Christmas together. Photo Credit: ISBC Women’s Ministry, Facebook

The food was delicious, the company was old friend-comfortable, and the memories wrapped around us like a Tennessee quilt.

The Festival of Tables was amazing – designed by the women hostessing. Just a few of the table toppers shown below:

[Today’s blog and the next two – Part 2 and Part 3] are taken from the talk I gave that evening on “Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart”. The following are excerpts of the talk because some who couldn’t come wanted me to post. Though written for Christian women, there is much to apply to any of our lives.]

“Vintage” can mean something very different to each one of us, depending on our ages and life experiences.

Vintage…one day our grandchildren and great-grands will look way back to our Christmases and call them vintage. They will look back on us as the women of old in their lives – the grandmothers (and great-grandmothers) of their faith.

What do we see when we look back? What will they see when they look back?

When I look back to my growing up years, it’s my Mom and women like her who come to mind. Godly women – tirelessly serving their families, church and community and pointing us to Jesus.

In thinking about Vintage Christmases and matters of the heart, God has placed three character traits on my mind. Three qualities we probably saw in our Godly grandmothers and great-aunts.

Strong and steely traits that we can develop across a lifetime walking with God. These traits are all matters of the heart. We see them in the life and character of Jesus. As we wrestle with them in each season of our lives, we can hope to carry them forward to future generations.

The first is capacity defined as the maximum that something can contain or produce.

In every season of our lives, we have those moments or days of coming to the end of ourselves. We feel like we just can’t do one more thing. We are DONE. When I talk about capacity, it’s not about adding more stuff to lives that are over-packed or over-scheduled lives. God doesn’t call us to be Energizer Bunnies…until we burn out, or dry up, or give in to the busy.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Capacity isn’t just about getting a lot done. Nor is it, on the flip side, about shaking up those of us in seasons of life that have been downsized –  intentionally or unintentionally. Unless God is speaking into that…which He sure did with me.

Building capacity means to look to God to order our days and to watch for Him to show up in our schedules and “chance” encounters.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come through both a cancer diagnosis and a couple of cardiac emergencies that could have taken my life. Having half a lung removed diminished my physical capacity for awhile. Then moving into retirement diminished my other capacities even further. I felt old. In our previous work circles and in our church, whatever purpose or identity I had before seemed to fade with time and age. It wasn’t pretty.

Maybe you have experienced this sort of thing, whatever your age is. A situation where you have passion or desire to be a part of something but the doors seem to all be closed. When it seemed there was no way forward, I just settled into a slowed-down, lesser life.

In the middle of all this, the Lord in His great kindness, pretty much asked me, out right, “Is that it? You’re done?” I sure didn’t want to be done. With age and what seemed to be dwindling opportunity, life had become small for me.

Or did I do it to myself? Was I looking to people for opportunities to serve…or to God?

Now those of you with heavy academic loads, small children or big responsibilities in your work may not even be able to imagine this…but think with me a minute. Is our capacity such that God could show up and do as He wills in us…or are we pretty much maxed-out or turned-in?

Does God have our hearts? Or is our capacity dulled because He is more a tenant in our hearts rather than the Lord?

Is there space in our hearts He would fill if we didn’t already have them packed with other stuff?

Now, we all have responsibilities in life. For some, papers have to be written, babies must be fed, and payrolls managed…fill in the blank in your thoughts of where you have to show up every day…

What happens when we show up with our eyes on Jesus and the possibility of what He might do in and through us?

That realization from the Lord that “if I wasn’t done, then what?” started a spiritual journey for me… Last December, as part of a New Year’s resolution, and in response to our pastor’s challenge, I determined to make God’s voice the first voice of my every day. I’m a morning person, so quiet times before dawn may come easier for me than for some. Still for God’s to be the first voice does require me NOT to pick up the cell phone, or sit down at my computer, or turn on the TV news. In my season of life, there are no children to feed or to get schooled, so you with children have different challenges of making God’s voice first.

Whatever our challenges, it doesn’t change our great need of hearing Him speak truth and love into our hearts. Early. Every day.

When God did get first voice, He began helping me to clear out the clutter in my heart which changed the contents of my conversations and my calendar…Bit by bit, God added space to my life. Space to hear Him speak and to “interrupt” the rhythms of my day.

The discovery that I seemingly had more time wasn’t magic…it was God.

The visual below is so perfect of Christ flooding our heart with His love and all the good things God has for us, and in turn our hearts are cleansed, cleared of all the junk that distances us from Him, and then the contents of our hearts pour into others. Jesus talked to the religious leaders of his day about this very thing: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”Photo Credit: HolyTrinityPTC

Another way to look at this is related to what we hold in our lives as treasure. Jesus taught us that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Photo Credit: Heather C. King

You can guide your heart with your treasure. Wherever you put your treasure or whomever you make your treasure, your heart will follow. Your treasure leads your heart.

This was so helpful for me because I had stored up quite a bit of self-absorbed treasure in recent years – my own significance being one part of that. Even wanting to be useful to God somehow had become an idol. That sort of thing just happens when we take our eyes off Him and onto ourselves. Right?

Days turned to weeks of God being the first voice each day in my life. I started doing life more in present tense with Him, listening for His voice through the day. Like a real conversation. Sometimes it would be a prayer; sometimes a complaint; just being in His presence. The barriers keeping life small seemed to start coming down. Such that, even when life was small, I was becoming more content. We keep our eyes on God, and He guides…sounds too simple, I know…but it has given the most mundane day or situation a sense of the divine.

The prophet Isaiah captures this so well when he says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”. [Isaiah 30:21] Of course, we may not hear God speak audibly, but He will lead us just that clearly as we tune our hearts to His voice. We’ve all experienced that. To walk daily like this builds capacity…

Photo Credit: Francis of Assisi, Brainy Quote

We start by doing what’s necessary…this is sometimes where we stop…short.  If…we keep our hearts on the Lord, the necessary can open up to being a part of something only possible with God in it…and then…the impossible.

 If we are faithful to make a capacity for Jesus…He will fill that capacity with Himself.  “Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent!” – Catherine of Siena

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Quotemeal

[Part 2 on Caring and Part 3 on Constancy]

Saturday Short – Getting From “O Lord, How Long?” …to “Yet, I Will Rejoice”

Photo Credit: Slideshare; Sammie G. Smith

It’s been a week.

One of those where you’re praying hard, and yet, at every turn, you’re not sure God is on the same page…or you, with Him.

On happy, normalish, carefreeish weeks, we skip along, through time in the Word, time in prayer, time with friends and family. Even time at work and play. God’s got this, right?

Then there are weeks like this…no end in sight on some struggles. It is easy to wonder if we have lost favor with our heavenly Father. It’s way too easy to cry out to God, like the prophet Habakkuk did:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?Habakkuk 1:2a

I am so grateful to God that even His “little faith” children are beloved. He is a good, good Father. That isn’t just some praise song embedded in my brain. That is what I’ve come to know through decades of following Him…ever how imperfectly.

The Holy Scripture also reveals His character and the journey of His children over and over. We can know and anticipate that there will be weeks like this…even years like this for some…through His Word.

What else we can know is that God is present in all of this. We also know that, as frail humanity, we cannot possibly know or see or explain the thinking or activity of God. His ways are not our ways.

Trust comes to play in weeks like mine. Truthfully, it comes with wrestling before the Lord in prayer and staying in His Word and the company of His people.

In the brief narrative of Habakkuk, as he struggled in prayer with God, he went from complaining to worshipping.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

This has been a hard week. Most of the situations continue unresolved. God continues quiet to my dull ears. Still…He speaks. In ways that I can hear.

Habakkuk was the topic of reading in my read-through-the-Bible calendar for yesterday. I read through – from the first verse of his cry almost against God to the last verses of his restored peace and joy with God. I read through…and God did the same to my own heart.

Are my circumstances changed today? No. My heart is changed. Even last night, I was recounting, to my mom-in-law, one joyful finding. It was an ultrasound followup on a potential problem for our in utero granddaughter who turns out to be growing and wonderfully healthy after all. And my Godly mom-in-law’s response? “Praise God, another answer to prayer.”

Another answer to prayer…

This morning I am rejoicing in the Lord. Is everything made right? Not yet. Not that I can see…but I know it will be.Photo Credit: Ben Steed, Precept Austin

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember?

Photo Credit: BeliefChangers, Pinterest

“…He commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.”Psalm 78:5-8

“…they flattered Him with their mouths;
    they lied to Him with their tongues.
 Their heart was not steadfast toward Him;
    they were not faithful to His covenant.
Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity
    and did not destroy them;
He restrained his anger often
    and did not stir up all His wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh…”Psalm 78:36-39

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

When we are anything but steadfast, God remains so.

I read the verses above as part of my guided devotional reading (trying to get through the Bible in a year). God would act as judge, at times, with His people (those too-human children of Israel). More than not, however, He restrained Himself and continued to show mercy. This mercy borne out of a steadfast love.

I can’t read Lamentations 3:22-23 without an old praise chorus coming to mind. The lyrics of the song are the verses of Scripture themselves.

A memory of this song rises up, from years and years ago, when I was still in my 20s and single. I was sitting at the piano, at night, singing this song, over and over, in tears. Whatever  was the reason for the tears is gone from my memory, but the deep sense of God’s love and mine, in return, for Him is still very much with me.

Worship with me, if you will…to this little chorus, repeating the great truth of God’s character.

In Psalm 78, God’s people are charged with remembering how He led the children of Israel out of captivity into the wilderness which would mean freedom for them. A land of their own possession. No longer slaves.

The psalmist also charges us to teach the next generation of God’s many acts of wonder on behalf of His children. We are also to warn them of how prone we are to settle for less than God…to settle for complacency and comfort. To seek for gods of our own making rather than the one true God.

God help us.

How thankful I am for the rock-solid steadfast nature of God’s love toward His people. How amazing is our God to show Himself, day by day, moment by moment…faithful, patient, steadfast. Perfectly loving a perfectly unlovely people. Praise His holy name!Photo Credit: Pinterest, Bible Verse Art

On Sunday, Pastor Cliff preached on thin places – those places and situations when the space between Heaven and earth is thin and God seems especially near. Moments when we experience that wonder and delight of God’s love in a powerful and physical way.

Do you remember a time? A time when you were held tightly, securely, by God? In the steadfastness of His love? Please share in the Comments below.

YouTube Video – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases (Lyric Video)

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

The Incredible, Unfathomable, Steadfast Love of God – Stephen Altrogge

Mark 1:14-15 – Thin Places – Sermon/Podcast – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Top 7 Bible Verses About God’s Steadfastness – Jack Wellman

Worship Wednesday – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Casting Crowns

Blog - I Heard the Bells - Worship Wednesday

Photo Credit: CastingCrowns.com

Adapted from the Archives

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:10-11, 13-14

In December, 1863, American poet and scholar Henry W. Longfellow received his wounded son home from battle. It was Christmas time, and the U.S. Civil War raged on. Having already lost his wife years earlier, Longfellow nursed his son, Charley, back to health. His own thoughts, in turmoil over all that was happening around him, he poured out in the poem “Christmas Bells”.

Longfellow clearly took comfort from God as he wrote, ending the poem with this stanza:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

I Heard the Bells is a Christmas carol, not a worship anthem. Yet, given the continuing wars and hardships of our day, we must tend the fires of our hope. God is the “lifter of our heads” (Psalm 3:3). He is the One who gives strength to our “weak hands and shaking knees” (Isaiah 35:3). He will do as He’s promised. He is faithful. When you hear the bells ring where you are this Christmas season, take heart in that. We must continue to pray for His peace on earth…and in our own hearts.  We can be vessels of His good-will toward our neighbors, both very near…and far away.

Worship with me…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Lyric video)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep (Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns performing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall On Christmas (Teaching Vignettes)

Christmas Carol Soldier – Story of Charley Appleton Longfellow & the occasion for H. W. Longfellow’s writing of the poem/lyric

The Story Behind I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – Tom Stewart

*Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells

Saturday Short – When Hard Gets Even Harder – God

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When you get an early morning text from your sister-in-law who is caring for your dad, and the message is “Call me”…you think the worst.

This morning…it was the worst…for her.

Not anything related to the dad she has cared for for weeks now, with the help of hospice and family…not our dad this time.img_9580

…but her dad.

Last night, her full-of-life, golfer dad – who had just dropped by for a visit earlier in the day – had a massive stroke.

This father of daughters…barbara-with-dad-and-sisters

…now surrounded by his daughters…in a hospital with nothing but bad news.

My sister-in-law and I have talked on and off through the morning…and we (and many others…thank you) have prayed since the news of his stroke.

Will God ever give us more than we can handle? How are we to manage when hard gets even harder? We know from God’s Word that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)…yet the temptation to despair can be overwhelming sometimes. Then we’re given 1 Corinthians 10:13 to comfort us through those temptations. John Piper writes kindly and plainly about that situation where God gives us more than we can handle (here).

I’m reminded of a saying: “God may give us more than we can handle, but He will not give us more than He can handle.”……I cling to that…the saying less so than the truth I know through His Word and experience of going through hard, with Him.

Then…an incredible coincidence happened as we reeled from the news of this gravely stricken father.

A dear friend messaged me on Facebook and said that I had come to mind when she was reading this morning…it was a passage from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie Burd) Cowman. This is one of my favorite devotional books (other favorites are linked below).blog-streams-in-the-desert

Christianity.com posts online the daily devotionals from Streams in the Desert. The December 3 devotional which my friend sent me follows in total. So led by the Holy Spirit of a completely good and wholly loving God.blog-stream-in-desert-sharing-horizonsPhoto Credit: Sharing Horizons

Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well (2 Kings 4:26).

Be strong, my soul!
Thy loved ones go
Within the veil.
God’s thine, e’en so;
Be strong.
Be strong, my soul!
Death looms in view.
Lo, here thy God!
He’ll bear thee through;
Be strong.

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone–Thou art with me, Thou art my Friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”

And we should not be satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
–George Mueller

Afflictions cannot injure when blended with submission.

Ice breaks many a branch, and so I see a great many persons bowed down and crushed by their afflictions. But now and then I meet one that sings in affliction, and then I thank God for my own sake as well as his. There is no such sweet singing as a song in the night. You recollect the story of the woman who, when her only child died, in rapture looking up, as with the face of an angel, said, “I give you joy, my darling.” That single sentence has gone with me years and years down through my life, quickening and comforting me.
–Henry Ward Beecher

E’en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;
Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall
Has blossomed on the other, side?
Death doth hide,
But not divide;
Thou art but on Christ’s other side!
Thou art with Christ, and Christ with me;
In Christ united still are we.

Thanks for reading…hopefully you are also encouraged by the words above…they were a balm to my own soul. Appreciate your prayers for these I’ve mentioned. God is with us…through every joy and every sorrow.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Morning & Evening with Oswald Chambers – Devotions for Morning and Evening With Oswald Chambers Complete Daily Devotions of My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall

Joy and Strength for the Pilgrim’s Day by Mary Tileston

Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston

Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

blog-come-to-me-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28

Ever have one of those days when it feels like you’ve just got nothing? Nothing to bring to the discussion…or the relationship?

There’s this amazing group of young women in my life who gather weekly to fellowship and to open God’s Word together. We sit in a loosely shaped circle to give space for lots of children to meander through. From babies crawling around to toddlers and up weaving through us from one side of the room to the other.

These young women enrich my life more than I can say. Those years of small ones were tough years for me…challenging and fraught with the fears of not parenting well enough.

Being in this group allows me to remember the grace of God in my life in those years as I see His grace reflected in them. In fact, even on the hardest, most tiring days, I see Jesus in these women.

Today, when we gathered, I had nothing. Tired from so much travel. Way too much catching up to do for this distractible me. Lists written and rewritten. The desire just to sleep….winning.

Then an hour with sisters…and the experience of “got nothing” was profoundly changed into rest for my soul and a rallying for what was on the schedule today. Hugging babies, funny stories, resonating with each others’ situation, and praying for each other…energized and normalized.

What is that “normal” for a believer? Normal includes those days that are going to take all we’ve got and then some…and there’s grace. Normal is also remembering God early, seeking Him often, and trusting Him always. 

Today, because of friends and sisters, I faced the reality that my early morning quiet times with the Lord have frayed with travel, and fatigue, and (I’m calling it) poor choices. Not beating myself up over it…but grateful to come to the end of myself…and still find God there.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a new adaptation of an old hymn by Elizabeth Akers. In worship, in that moment of singing an unfamiliar hymn, God began opening my heart to a renewed longing for Him. Nothing else can satisfy…or give us the deep rest we so desperately need. Just Jesus.

Today, in a circle of women who love each other in a way that reminds us of how God loves us, I was held…as if God Himself was doing the holding. Be held, Dear Ones.

…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16

Worship with me to this beautiful old hymn made new by the group The Village Church:

Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blessed
Oh, thou heavy laden, “Come to Me, come and rest.”

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, “Come to Me.”
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin,
Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in.
Jesus there is waiting,
 patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling,
 “Come, oh come, come to Me.”
*

There are two more verses in the original hymn. One of those follows:

Linger then no longer,
Come just now to Him;
Ere the shadows gather,
And thy light grows dim.
Thou hast long been waiting
For some better time,
But today He’s calling,
Come and claim Him thine.**

On days, when it seems we’ve got nothing…the truth is in Christ, we have all we need. Our part is to come to Him…and rest in Him. His strength is displayed perfectly in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For those other days, when we feel pretty good about what we bring to the table and maybe we don’t have to be so brave…we can rejoice in the same way as on the “got nothing” days. The same good God equips us, and strengthens us, and cheers us on. Truth! Hallelujah!blog-burdened-i-will-give-you-rest-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

*Lyrics to Come to Me – written by Elizabeth Akers; adapted by The Village Church (Chorus and Melody by Jeff Capps and Michael Bleecker)

YouTube Video – Come to Me – (Original: The Village Church) – Sunrise Bible Church

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – Rest, The Lord Is Near -a Reminder from Steve Green – DebMillsWriter

Sunday Schooled: King David & Uriah the Hittite – a Bible Story for Adults Only

Blog - David's Mighty Men - Uriah - keywayPhoto Credit: Keyway

David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. – 1 Kings 15:5

The story of “David and Goliath” crosses cultures and religions. The small shepherd boy who brought down a giant warrior with just a slingshot and a single stone. From the time he was a boy through all his years as King of Israel, David would fight in the strength and for the glory of God. From all we read in the Psalms as well as what history tells us of him, David truly loved God. Even the LORD Himself declared David “a man after God’s own heart“.

However, we also see that David knew great sin and brokenness in his life as well. His betrayal of Uriah the Hittite was probably the darkest period of his life and a crossroads of historic proportions.

It begins here. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)

King David should have been away in battle, shoulder to shoulder with his great army, which included the “mighty men” loyal to him from the rough early years of his preparation for the throne. Instead, for whatever reasons, he was at ease in his palace.

[This whole account of what follows is found in full in 2 Samuel 11.]

Standing on his rooftop, King David allowed his eyes to rest on a scene he would later regret. A woman bathing. Bathsheba, her name. The wife of his warrior, Uriah.

Unbridled lust and adultery would follow, even as one of his attendants called his attention to the fact that she belonged to Uriah the Hittite. “Uriah the Hittite, O King!” This man had been with David, fighting for him, from their days of hiding in caves, enemies of King Saul, whose place David would one day take. This man Uriah was one of David’s “mighty men“.

Not even recognition of his loyal warrior would stop David from the evil in his heart.

Then…weeks later, Bathsheba sent the news that would betray David’s great sin against Uriah. She was pregnant. What would follow was a great scheme to get Uriah home from battle and in his wife’s bed, to cover David’s sin. Uriah did come, as beckoned, but would not enjoy company with his wife out of loyalty to those still in battle.

Finally, David would do a further unthinkable act. He had Uriah placed in the line of battle where his death would be assured. After he was killed and Bathsheba’s acceptable mourning period passed, King David married her…and they would NOT live happily ever after.

Faithful Uriah. Courageous Uriah. Man of integrity, Uriah. Sacrificed by the one he followed into battle for years. Essentially murdered by the one for whom he would die…and did die.

Psalm 51 records David’s great sorrow at his sin and subsequent separation from God. He longed to be restored to a right relationship with the Lord and he knew and owned the great wrong he had done both to Uriah and to God Himself.

I am so thankful for the long-suffering forgiveness and steadfast love of God.  We should never, however, think that without confession and repentance we can presume on God’s kindness toward us…

We must remember Uriah also…and mourn, with David, those who suffer when we choose our own way and we forget God.

Dr. Rick Taylor writes poignantly and hopefully about Uriah the Hittite. In his article David’s Mighty Men: Uriah, the Overlooked Warrior:

Uriah may be overlooked and forgotten by mankind. He has never been a big name in the Bible. He is almost never looked at as a hero or man of valor. But God made it clear that his warrior integrity will be memorialized. Even in the face of every major temptation to the contrary put forth by David, in God’s estimation, Uriah was a determined man of nobility, character, integrity, purity of heart and unwavering principle…God sees and remembers – for eternity.Rick Taylor

A Tale of Three Kings – a Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwardsone of my absolute favorite books

Movement Church – Pastor Cliff Jordan – Podcast on Psalm 51 – September 4, 2016

King David – a Man After God’s Own Heart – Jack Zavada

David, a Great King, Yet With a Critical Flaw – What is the Lesson for Us Today? – Msgr. Charles Pope

David’s Mighty Men – Stewardship in Action – Hugh Whelchel

David’s Mighty Men (and the stories behind them) [Infographic] – Jeffrey Kranz

32 Years Married – a Montage of Pictures and Thoughts of Our Life Together – Thus Far

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.

Two friends –  walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love. Debbie & Dave

A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.IMG_0050

Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.

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That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.

Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…

Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.

From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.22Dave & Debbie & Kids in Egypt (2)IMG_0004 (14) - CopyJul 03 #2 08642

Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128Blog - Dave & Dan

So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.

These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.

Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 089aDave April 2016

Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.MomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie]Mills Men - 4 generations - July 17 2016 - Dave, Nathan, PopPop, Titus[Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Marriage Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

60 Years Married – Mom & Dad – a Tribute & Photo Montage

MomMom PopPop - Wedding Day - Anniversary (2)MomMom PopPop - 50th wedding anniversary (2)John & Julia – on their wedding day and their 50th anniversary

This week we celebrate Dave’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! How thankful I am to have been part of their lives for a bit over 30 years thus far. Living in the embrace of their love for God, us and each other has been a journey of constancy and intentionality.

Julia and John have been another set of parents to me. My own mom raised us four children pretty much alone, finally leaving my biological father, without looking back. She later came close to God again and wondered if she’d stayed what might have happened. After a couple of visits, right after their divorce, that dad never came again…and we grew up knowing he didn’t love us.

[I’m very, very thankful for a step-dad, who I write about, who loved us as his own. So I do know the love of both a devoted mom and dad.]

With my own mom with the Lord, and my dad dealing with Alzheimer’s, I am grateful for all the years with my mom and the years still with Dad, wherever his mind will wander.

That being said, what a joy to also have Julia and John, my “in-loves” still together, hanging in there with each other and with us. Growing older is not an easy thing. All the vows we make in our weddings become all the more vital in the days when mind and body wear down. To see the kindnesses between these two, and their enduring love, patience, and regard for each other is such a witness to what marriage is meant to be…

They teach us and our children so much through how they have both celebrated and weathered life together – the weddings, the divorces of loved ones, the births, the deaths, the distances between us, and the seasons of all our lives. All the stamps in their passports to be with us overseas…so grateful for that. They have spent long days apart because of work in the early years, and long days together in a different work in the latter years. The interruptions of illnesses and accidents. The great grace they’ve known and lavished on us. Their faith in a God who never left them; never forsook them…ever.

Pictures will tell you more than my words…let them speak for me:

John - PopPop - Dave & MarkMomMom home with us in tennesseeMomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations4 GenerationsMomMom, PopPop, ChristieMomMom, PopPop, Aunt nancy & Uncle BobJulia & John w/ her sister, Nancy & husband Bob – four close  friends

MomMom & PopPop - WilliamsburgMomMom, PopPop, Christie, Nathan, DanielMomMom & PopPop youngerMomMom, PopPop, DaveMomMom & PopPop earlierMomMom & PopPop 2014 (2)PopPop & ChristieMomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)MomMom & PopPop with grandkids2015 June - Mills Family PictureThe Mills Family, 2015

60 years…of faithfulness, and honoring, and loving through sweet times and hard times. So glad to be part of this journey with them…to be family with them.MomMom PopPop Nancy BobMomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding annviersary - with Dave and Mark, Stacie, and meHappy 60th Anniversary, Dear Ones. You show us what love is and how it’s done across a lifetime.MomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding anniversary