catherine - 2/15 - Catherine Nelson

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Treasure Hunt

By | Agape Love | One Comment

Yesterday morning my youngest daughter and I went hunting for shells. We got up early in order to find the best ones that the tide had brought in. Within the first minute we had already deemed a few as treasures, but as we continued our hunt along the shoreline, we became picky. After the first 10 yards, a shell needed to be intact, colorful or big. As our treasure hunt extended, the shell’s collectability was in jeopardy. By the end of the hunt, the only way a shell ended up in our bag was if it was superbly unique.

We were really excited when we spotted the very first shell, but with each step we needed more. As we raised the standard, we didn’t lose our enthusiasm, but it took more for us to get excited.

Our shell hunting is reflective of the dogged pursuit for contentment that so many of us cling to. Baby food is satisfying until we are introduced to graham crackers and graham crakes lose to cookies. By the time we are introduced to ice cream and cake, the thought of consuming baby food is just plain gross.

No one would choose to live in the dorm again, after they have lived in a beautiful house. Camping out loses to resort vacations. Designer clothes edge out hand me downs. MVP’s eclipse participants. 6 figure salaries trump hourly wages and so forth and so on.

We all seek contentment and we need more and more to achieve it. The great news for all of us is that contentment is possible…. In fact, it is guaranteed. There is a hole in each of us that want s to be filled up, and there is someone totally awesome who is ready to do the filling.

Jesus is the giver of good things. He is the satisfier of your soul. Nothing else compares to Him and He never gets tired of sharing himself. We can have more and more and never reach the limit of his love. Seek and pursue Him and you can be content in every circumstance. Oh dear friends, find comfort in Jesus. Consume His promises and the meat of His word. Satisfy your soul on these truths:

“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs 19:23 (NIV)

“Those who seek the Lord lack on good thing.” Psalm 34:10 (NIV)

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’…. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distress, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

 

“In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

But give me Jesus.

And when I am alone, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

But give me Jesus.

And when I come to die, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

But give me Jesus.”

Fernando Ortega 1999

 

 

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He says what he thinks

By | Agape Love, Dear Sons & Daughters | One Comment

In the throws of Super Tuesday yesterday, I engaged in a conversation about Donald Trump. The person I was speaking to had voted for him earlier that day and I wanted to understand why. Apparently there are millions of people who are voting for him and I just don’t get it. I don’t understand his appeal. My friend replied that she really likes that he says what he thinks. She said that she finds it refreshing.

Have any of you heard someone say this? I agree that Donald Trump absolutely says whatever he thinks, but recognizing this about him does in no way make him a more appealing candidate to me, and hearing people compliment him for saying whatever he thinks only exacerbates my confusion over him.

When did having a loose tongue become a good thing? We are warned from the time we learn to speak to be careful what we say.

“Be careful little mouth what you say… For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful, little mouth what you say.”

Scripture wisely guides us to put a guard over our mouths. In the Holy Spirit’s never-ending job of sanctifying me, I am consistently grieved over my sinful thought life. If anyone knew the catty, snarky, judgmental, lustful, prideful, covetous, hateful, selfish thoughts that fill up my brain on a daily basis, they would hate me.

As confused as I am over the Donald Trump allure, here is what I know:

“Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,

And you will stay out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)

“Those who control their tongue will have a long life;

Opening your mouth can ruin everything.” Proverbs 13:3 (NLT)

I also know that as great as the need is for our country to get on the right track, there is an even greater need for a great change to occur in me. I need to recognize the horror of my thought life. I need to be disgusted and grieved. I need not only to just guard my tongue, but be transformed so that one day, I will be able to say whatever is on my mind. I long for the day when the only thing on my mind is how wonderful Jesus is. I need to be consumed with love for Christ so that I am even more compelled to sing of his amazing grace. When I pay attention to how awful my thoughts are, I remember how great God’s help is and how amazing my heavenly support system is.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I also know that God knows every thought that invades my brain. Nothing is hidden from him and I did nothing to deserve his mercy, but because His love is so great and because my faith is in His son, His mercies toward me are new every morning. Praise Be to Him. He does great things.

 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:13 (NLT)

“Carefully guard your thoughts

Because they are the source

Of true life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends![

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

 

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99 Days

By | Dear Sons & Daughters | One Comment

99 days. Our son leaves for college in 99 days. Until very recently, I thought he would leave at the end of August, but now he will leave our home in early June. The loss of 3 months with him has ripped a seam in my heart. I feel an incredible sense of urgency. He doesn’t know how to iron his pants or fry an egg. It will be so cold in Pennsylvania; he will need wool socks and gloves. Does anyone even make a glove big enough to fit his hand? Where do you buy a 3XL-sized glove? Does he know how to make a connection in a large airport? There are important life lessons I haven’t shared with him that I learned the hard way. Does he know how much I love him and how proud I am of him?

He is not the first Nelson to leave the nest. It’s good when they do, but the change is dramatic. The parent/child relationship evolves. I don’t speak to, laugh and cry with, wake up, cook for, get impatient with, celebrate with, hear, smell, see or touch our college age student very much. She’s pretty much an adult now and she needed to move out in order to grow up. I adore her as a grown up, but I miss doing life with her. In 99 days, our son will leave too, and he will begin his greatest adventure so far. There is so much that I want to happen and need him to know in the next 99 days. It’s crunch time and I am riddled with a sense of mounting pressure.

Isn’t it peculiar and even offensive that as someone who claims to love Jesus, I’m not nearly as pressured or anxious about sharing the amazing love of Jesus with the people in my life who don’t know His incredible grace? The greatest adventure of our lives is on the Horizon. Eternity is at hand. Jesus is the only way and He is so wonderful. I am the last one on earth who deserves His grace, but He has poured it out on me abundantly. Oh how I want everyone I know to understand this gift and love of Jesus. Precious friends, I pray that you and I will be impacted by urgency. There is nothing more important than the love of Jesus. It is ours to share and the time is now. In a world where everything is changing, His love changes everything. XO c

 “But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short… Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. 31 Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.” 1 Corinthians 6:29-31 (NLT)

 

“Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.

And everyone will see him—

Even those who pierced him.

And all the nations of the world

Will mourn for him.

Yes! Amen!” Revelation 1:7 (NLT)

 

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

 

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Way too Many Tears

By | Agape Love | No Comments

I have witnessed way too many tears fall this week. I sat next to a woman on a plane who cried all the way from California to Chicago. A precious friend shared the pain of her broken heart with me. A couple of my daughters have shed tears of frustration and failure. I have shed my own tears that streaked my cheeks with trails of fear and hopelessness. This world is a painful place, and sometimes I have no desire to rejoice in the “trials of various kinds”.

I certainly am not going to tell any of you who are suffering that you need to rejoice. I have not responded with grace when well-meaning saints have encouraged me to rejoice in suffering. If you and I are going to rejoice like scripture tells us to do, we will need some major aid from the Holy Spirit and not some encouraging words from a middle-aged blogger.

Help is ours for the taking though. Where tears are healing and distraction numbs the pain, there is power in the Spirit and the miracle of a healed heart is possible. It is my habit to chronologically read through the bible. I have been studying the Old Testament for months and months; it will be summer before I reflect on the birth of Jesus, and I will rejoice like the shepherds abiding in the fields when I open the gospels. While I pursue Jesus in the Old Testament, I have discovered some amazing and very helpful things.

God’s chosen people had lots of heartaches. They wept tears of hopelessness, fear, anger, and regret. They understood pain more acutely than most of us do. The God they cried to cared passionately for them and He fought for them. Over and over again, He addressed himself as “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” I have been marking that phrase in my bible and it is a brightly marked up jumble. God identifies himself this way 269 times in the Old Testament. He is the same God today.

Do you understand what this means? It means that there is an army in heaven. There is a battle raging. The most powerful, and awesome, creator God is leading the charge and He is fighting for you. You are a prize. You are worth it to Him. He has had to redundantly remind me over and over again that He is captain and Lord and He will win. He will wipe away every tear and He will be victorious.

Precious friends, take courage. Find comfort in the word. Let the triune God fill your soul with hope. The Lord of Heaven’s armies is in love with you. He is winning the battle.

 “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NLT)

 “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NLT)

“Who is the King of glory?

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—

he is the King of glory.” Psalm 24:10 (NLT)

“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

the God of Israel is our fortress.” Psalm 46:11 (NLT)

“But the God of Israel[a] is no idol!

He is the Creator of everything that exists,

including Israel, his own special possession.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!” Jeremiah 10:16 (NLT)

 

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Identifying your Talents

By | Agape Love | No Comments

Do you know what your gifts are? Have you ever struggled with identifying your talents? I have been really mulling over these questions lately. I turned 45 last week and had the displeasure of receiving this insensitive comment from a total bonehead: “45?!? Well, this is your hump year. You are ½ way to the grave.” If I only have ½ of my life left, it is high time that I figure out exactly what gifts God has given me to use for His glory.

Clearly, When God knit Peyton Manning together, He was creating a man designed to play football, and He created Tim Keller to share insight and wisdom so millions would gain understanding. He created Meryl to act, Giada to cook, Monet to paint, Gasol to dunk and Justin Timberlake to do just about everything else, but are my gifts and your gifts any less glorifying to God if they are not visible to millions? Is the barometer for success measured by how many people recognize your talent? Did God do a lesser job when He knit me together? Certainly not.

We live in an amazing time and there are fantastic opportunities available to us every single day. We often let them pass us by because of insecurities, laziness or the ever-present obstacle of daily busyness. When God decided to knit you together and took care to delicately create every finger and hair and eyelash, He also gave you unique gifts, desires and longings. He is the one who created these cravings in you. He receives the glory when you use them. They are gifts for you to enjoy, to receive with a thankful heart and to fully embrace for His pleasure. The purpose of your talents at its core is to be an offering to your creator. If others notice and are blessed that is secondary, but if no one else notices or appreciates it, it does not change your call to be a good steward of those gifts.

The first answer in the Westminster shorter Catechism tells us that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. He has given each of you some pretty great gifts. Figure out what they are and put the appropriate effort into excelling at them. Have fun doing it. Receive them with a thankful heart and recognize that by using them, you are giving a love offering back to your perfect creator.

Start figuring it out today. Don’t let insecurities, laziness or busyness distract you. You have so much to offer… even if you are ½ way to the grave. :/

“O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Psalm 139: 1-3,5,13-14 (NLT)

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” Ecc 9:10 (NKJV)

“This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

 

 

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Ring Celebration

By | Dear Sons & Daughters | No Comments

Last night we continued one of my very favorite Nelson traditions. Our youngest turns 15 this week and Pat and I took Mary Moore to a nice restaurant and then had her “ring celebration”. This tradition began with my grandmother on her 15th birthday and has continued through each generation and with each of our daughters.

As we sat down to dinner, I painted a picture of the woman Mary Moore was named after. We talked about her love of hats, jewelry and fashion. I told her about Mary’s love for Jesus and family and how she was petite. We celebrated all the ways Mary and Mary Moore were alike. When I finished, Pat engaged in His part of the celebration. He has used the 15th birthday to make promises and call upon our daughters to value purity. It is a beautiful experience to watch the man you love vow to protect, celebrate and cherish your daughter. Each time he has explained how the ring on her finger is there to remind her of how much she is loved while at the same time it is meant to help her remember how valuable her purity is. The ceremony concludes as Pat, with tears in his eyes, encourages her to wear the ring every day until the next man who promises to love, cherish and protect her gives her a ring to replace the heirloom ring.

Mary Moore received her heirloom ring with joy and a huge appreciation of responsibility. She was simultaneously solemn and ecstatic, and I soaked it all in. I was able to celebrate God’s goodness in gifting us with this special child. I felt pangs of finality over the end of 15th birthday celebrations, and I swooned over the strength, leadership and wisdom exemplified in my husband.

The purpose of the heirloom ring is to be a reminder. It is a reminder for M2 of whom she is named after. It is a reminder that her parents will always love, protect and support her and it is a reminder for her to guard and celebrate her heart, body and purity. Physical reminders like heirloom rings are incredibly valuable tools as we navigate through our chaotic lives.

I have always loved the passage in Joshua 4, where Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan and then under God’s instruction, told the Israelites to build a memorial with 12 stones. The purpose of the stones was to be a visible reminder of what had happened and how faithful God was and is.

In humility and love for each of you, I would encourage you to celebrate the values of your family and the bounty of God’s goodness with your own memorial stones. It doesn’t matter what object you choose or what you choose to celebrate. You each have so much to celebrate and so many good things to pass on to your children. Think about what you want them to embrace and give them a “stone” to hold on to. You are so special and you have learned so much. Celebrate your values and pass them on. Blessings to each of you. XO c

Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground. ’For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea[c] when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”

Joshua 4:21-24 (NLT)

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This is Catherine

By | Agape Love | No Comments

This is Catherine.

Catherine wants to sing like a tree frog.

Be like Catherine.

 

Pat and I just returned home from a wonderful trip where we attended great lectures, made new friends and escaped to the warmth of a beautiful beach paradise. We arrived in the dark after a full day of travel and as we flopped into bed, a cacophony of tree frogs erupted in song outside our villa. Their symphony included hundreds of players that only seemed to know 2 notes. These tiny creatures were loud, relentless and impossible to tune out.

It is always in the quiet places where my imagination ignites and prayers swell. As I drifted between prayers and a pining for sleep, I wondered what the tree frogs would be so determinedly singing about, and incase you are wondering too, I can tell you. I am confident that I am right, because you will never find a tree frog to correct me. The tree frogs were singing praises to God their creator. What else would they be singing about? They chirped about how God reigns and how much He loves them and how much He loves me. They proclaimed of His power and beauty and holiness. They couldn’t stop. Singing was their entire motivation from sunset til sunrise. Their praises inspired me and soothed me to sleep.

“This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

 

This is my Father’s world,

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.” Maltbie D. Babcock 1915

 

“The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours;

Everything in the world is yours—you created it all. “ Psalm 89:11 (NLT)

 

I want to be like the tree frog. You should too. I want to be so aware of God’s supremacy and holiness and love for me that I sing about it all the time out of the overflow of my heart and not just out of obedience.

I met a woman last week who is singing of God’s glory much better than my crooning amphibian friends. Mary works the night shift at Memphis International airport. I met her at 5:30 am during the last half hour of her shift. It was still dark outside and the weather was nasty. Mary was smiling and humming. As we visited she told me that her purpose in life was to live up to her name. I didn’t remember what Mary meant and then she told me the sweetest story. She reminded me of what Mary actually means. “Mary” means “bitterness” and she had been bitter most of her life. She listed some of her heartaches, betrayals and failures. Her story was distressing, but then Mary told me that her middle name is “Joyce” In her adult years, she began going by the name “Mary Joyce”, and one random day, in a state of exhaustion, when asked what her name was, she stumbled over her words. She answered, “May” “RyJoyce”. Her stumble changed her whole outlook. She realized that her name was her call to action. She has lived everyday since with the mission to praise the Lord in everything…to let go of bitterness and rejoice. She declared to me, no matter what the day holds, I know who I am and I know who my God is. “I May Rejoice!”

I may too. I must too. You and I are going to spend eternity praising our God and savior. Let’s get really good at it. Let go of the bitterness and rejoice. Sing with the relentless abandon of a tree frog. Our god is good….ALWAYS!

 

“As the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water,

Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of thee.” (Excerpt from The Valley of Vision/ Spiritus Sanctus)

 

Oh precious Savior, may my heart be as full of Jesus as the ocean is full of water. May the overflow of my love for you brim over into relentless songs of praise. Glory be to your name. Amen.

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The Beauty in Botching it

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My kids are a high priority on my priority list. They are the most important thing in my world, right behind my relationship with Jesus and my relationship with their dad. I’m pretty sure they know this and hope they feel important and cherished, but I’m confident they know how much I love Jesus. I know this because my passion for growing in the Lord and my pension for talking to them about Jesus sometimes annoys and exhausts them. It isn’t unusual for me to catch eye rolls and sighs and be asked to not make everything a “Jesus thing”. Not all of my kids have a personal relationship with Jesus. They are all great kids; they are beautiful and funny and kind and full of integrity and grit. There is nothing I desire more for them than to know and love my savior. It is my constant prayer for them and it shapes how I parent them. In my dogged pursuit to show them the truth and beauty of the savior, I have made some mistakes. This week, I really botched it.

One of my kids has been waiting on an answer that has been completely out of our control. As we have waited for this answer, I have prayed and encouraged my family to pray for God’s will to be done, but I was so confident that I knew what God’s will would be that I really claimed it. I encouraged this kid that I knew how awesome the outcome would be. I journaled about it and took active steps to add reality to my confidence. Yesterday, we got the answer we had been waiting for and it was not at all what I expected. The kid was disappointed. I was shocked, confused and embarrassed. The kid and I sat on my bed for a long time, talking it out. My heart ached and I wept tears of apology. I told the kid that I had hoped that my confidence backed up by God’s affirmative answer would be an enticement for the kid to want to have a relationship with Jesus. I thought if God did what I said I thought He would do, I’d be celebrating an eternal victory. My intentions were pure and rooted in good stuff. I truly wanted to glorify the Lord and be a powerful witness for His goodness, but I got it wrong. I acted like I was a prophetess…. which I certainly am not. I unintentionally misled and made promises of false hope. I really really botched it. I grieved for my stupidity and the stumbling block I laid in this kid’s path. I asked the Lord and the kid for forgiveness.

Our good intentions don’t mean we are getting it right. It’s not always the thought that counts. When we learn that we botched it, we must make amends and do all we can to get it right. It begins with repentance and is completed with praise.

Imagine the blessing I received this morning when I read the bible account of King Josiah. Josiah was a good King who loved the Lord and did what he knew to do to lead the Israelites in a godly manner. In His pursuit of wisdom and righteousness, he discovered a scroll that showed him he was getting it wrong. He grieved, made changes and then led the people in the greatest Passover feast ever.

“In the eighteenth year of his reign, after he had purified the land and the Temple, Josiah appointed Shaphan to repair the Temple of the Lord his God.  While they were at the Lord’s Temple, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law, Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan. So Shaphan read it to the king. When the king heard what was written in the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. “We have not been doing everything this scroll says we must do.” And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul.  The entire ceremony for the Lord’s Passover was completed that day. Never since the time of the prophet Samuel had there been such a Passover.”

Excerpts from 2 Chronicles 34 and 35 (NLT)

You and I are sinners and as great as our intentions are, we are going to botch it. We will botch it as spouses and parents and friends and witnesses. When you are blessed enough to see how you botched it, repent immediately, and then get to the business of celebrating God’s goodness. There is beauty in botching it. God’s grace is new every morning. One day all our good intentions will be followed by perfect praise and action, but that day won’t come until Jesus comes. He is coming. Get to praising Him. You were created to do just that. Blessings to all of you who have botched it. XO c

 

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Whatsoever is True

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One year ago on January 1st, I could be found on my knees weeping in shame and need. Some really stupid things happened on New Year’s Eve that wounded our family. My sin and stupidity opened doors for other loved ones to make terrible decisions and it provided an opening for a few other people to pelt our family with abuse and cruelty. Trust had been misplaced and lost and at the bottom of my well of shame, I had trouble finding words to pray. The pressure of confusion pushed on my skull so that I couldn’t remember the words to comforting hymns or promises in scripture. The one phrase that pierced through was this: “Whatsoever is True”.

This snippet from scripture buffered me for months. As the enemy would interject a thread of possibility for the doom that could lie ahead, I would reject it. I claimed what actually was true for the day and not the horror of what could be.

When the echo of hurtful words aimed to demoralize echoed in my mind, I would meet them with “Whatsoever is True”. I’d go to scripture and claim the truths of what Jesus says about me. He is the author of truth; therefore, I am a soldier. I am redeemed. I am a child of the King. He delights in me…

On New Year’s morning 2016 (after a forced family fun night at our home), I reflected on the journey that was 2015 and I am so very thankful. Our family has grown so much. We have learned some hard lessons, but it usually is the hardest lessons that shape us and stick to us.

Joy and Hope are the 2 things that permeated through our home this new year’s day and right along with joy and hope,  the valuable lesson to cling to the truth.

Whatsoever is true about God’s faithfulness in our deepest times of need is true of Him in our times of celebration. He is the King of Kings. He alone is God. His holiness is earth shattering and life shattering. Our circumstances do not affect his faithfulness or our call to praise Him. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. It is time to share the light and speak whatsoever is true. Happy New Year!

 “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12 (NIV)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is noble, whatsoever is right, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

“O God whose will conquers all, there is no comfort in anything

Apart from enjoying thee

And being engaged in thy service;
Thou art All in all, and all enjoyments are what to me

Thou makest them, and no more.
I am well pleased with thy will, whatever it is,

Or should be in all respects,
and if thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair,

I would choose to refer all to thee,
for thou art infinitely wise and cannot do amiss as I am in danger of doing.

I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.

Then prayer turns wholly into praise,
and all I can do is to adore and bless thee.”

The Valley of Vision; God the All. Arthur Bennet 1975

 

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Anticipation

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The anticipation of Christmas brings with it all kinds of emotions. This year, it brought incredible stress for me. This Christmas season the event that preoccupied my thoughts was an anticipated reunion. The thoughts of this reunion had me feeling insecure, afraid and desperate for Jesus. The morning of the reunion, I buckled myself up with words of truth and prayers for strength, and I glued on the happiest countenance that I could manufacture, but 10 minutes upon arriving at this reunion’s “Ground Zero”, I excused myself to go use the restroom, where I immediately locked the door, sat on the floor, held my knees and wept. A prayer for help matched the flood of every silent tear. “Jesus, I need you.” “Jesus, I can’t feel your presence.” “Help me; I can’t do this without you.” “I don’t want to fail to glorify you, but I can’t even stand up.” “My children are watching, and they need to see you too…. I can’t do this without you.” “Where are you? Please help me.”

On the cold floor of the quiet bathroom, I could not imagine finding the strength to face the challenge set before me and then the most beautiful and wonderful thing happened… Someone came looking for me.

This precious woman called me by name and asked if I needed a hug. She held me close and prayed and that was when God delivered.

The week before Christmas the Holy Spirit chose to put two random phrases on my heart. Over that week, I had been so drawn to and comforted by these 2 small things. One was just one of the names Jesus uses to identify himself and the other was a line from a Christmas Hymn. Standing in the doorframe of my bathroom retreat, being held by a loved one, I was wrecked by her tender precious prayer. My loving Christmas angel echoed the specific name for Jesus and short line of the hymn in the brief prayer for strength she spilled over me. For a week, I had been encouraged by the silent counsel of the Holy Spirit, but to hear the exact words from the lips of a loved one was a divine and intimate embrace. I was humbled and stunned at the power and love of the Holy Spirit. He chose to help and lift me up and give me strength and reveal His presence at just the right time and in just the right way. He knew my need, but I didn’t know the magnitude of my need until I was at the bottom. I got a taste of the magnitude of His love this Christmas season.

Sometimes I forget how much I need Jesus and sometimes I forget how much He loves me. I hope I never forget the amazement. It was the greatest gift I received this Christmas and it wouldn’t have happened in an easy and unchallenged time. We don’t always find it natural to rejoice in the trials and hard times, but this encounter with holiness and divine intimacy will help me remember.

Jesus is with us in the lonely dark places. He is the one who picks us up. His Holy Spirit is active and speaking and gives us all the strength we need. The anticipation of His return should daily fill us with joy. Oh dear friends, REJOICE! Your savior is listening and He loves you.

“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

Where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty thy glory in my valley. “

(The Valley of Vision Arthur Bennet 1975)