Monday, August 29, 2011

Sometimes He Shows Us

Do you ever look at your spiritual walk and think, “I’m still so far from where I need to be?”  Paul said, “I do that which I do not want to do and that which I want to do I do not do.”  That sounds like a word puzzle, but the bottom line is this:  I have trouble controlling my flesh.  No matter how Godly I strive to be, I am human and my fleshly nature is still strong.  I may have walked with the Lord for years but I fall short of pleasing Him every day because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Michael’s Great-Grandmother Osa, considered a spiritual giant by her family, went home to be with the Lord at the age of 98.  She passed away several years ago and Mike and I are collecting some of her life stories from family members who knew her best.  Last weekend we learned a bit about her spiritual walk.  She came to know the Lord at a revival in her city at the age of 13 (around 1912).  She was the very first person baptized in the Fairview, OK Christian Church, and from that day forward, was considered their oldest church member.  (Unfortunately, not knowing immersion took place while fully clothed, she did not bring a change of clothes and had to walk home dripping wet in November!)  She lived a life of love and service to Jesus.

After decades of walking closely with the Lord, at the age of 89 Osa still had hurdles to overcome.  There were truths that the Lord revealed to her about herself that her flesh wanted to reject.  She spent the summer of 1989 with her grandson, addressing specific areas of pain in her life.  He would speak the Lord’s love and truth to her until he sensed she needed a break. The next week, they would be at it all over again until Osa surrendered, at last, even the most difficult parts of her life to her Lord and Savior.

It took most of her life, but the Lord gently and graciously drew Grandma Osa to Himself through even the deepest areas of hurt in her life.  His timing and methods were perfect.  The glorious love of our Savior carried her until she could draw from His strength to stand by His side. 

That story is beautiful to me.  We’ll never “arrive,” never “be good enough” and we will never cease growing in Christ.  Our Lord is larger than life, more complex than we can ever imagine, and will continue to mold and shape us until our dying breath if we will allow it.  

In His great mercy, sometimes the Lord shines His light and allows us to see a measure of growth that we have achieved thus far.  This is a completely silly thing, but this weekend He showed me how much my life has transformed from solely serving my flesh to truly desiring to serve Him: 

Taylor completed her first week of college and then over the weekend, asked if I would color in her giant coloring book with her.  The invitation was an honor, and as I sat down with crayon in hand, my natural inclination was to pray before beginning.  Clearly, this is not work that will ever been seen by anyone outside our home, yet something in my spirit said, “Glorify Him in this.”  I felt God’s smile and His heavenly hug, showing me that I truly have taken a few steps in His direction.  My progress may not be great, but it is progress, indeed, and glorifying Him is becoming more natural.  Sometimes He shows us the path of our past and uses it to encourage our hearts toward Him.  May we cling to those moments with both hands!

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  Psalm 36:9 (NIV)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Beautiful Picture of Prayer

I came across something today that I wanted to quickly share with you.  It's from a recorded sermon by John MacArthur and in the sermon, he references a book titled No Common Task by George Raindrop.  A story is told of a nurse who teaches a man to pray by using the fingers of her hand.

  • The thumb is the closest digit to her, so when she sees her thumb, she prays for those who are close (family, friends, co-workers, etc.). 
  • The first finger is often used by teachers to point to their students when calling upon them, so with the pointer finger, she remembers to pray for the teachers in her life.
  • The middle finger is the largest, so she prays for VIP's, church leaders, government officials, etc.
  • The weakest finger is the ring finger, so she prays for those who are sick, hurting, or injured.
  • Finally the little finger is the smallest and least important.  The nurse explained that the little finger represents herself.

Romans 12:10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor

The link to the John MacArthur sermon is:

Monday, August 8, 2011

She Shined Like a Star in the Universe - a tribute to Julie Walker

44 years ago today, a lovely friend was born.  I met her the summer before we began kindergarten, and growing up together, we enjoyed sleepovers under the stars in my back yard, practiced American Idol performances long before the show existed, and spent many, many hours on horseback together in 4H.  Julie was my very best, through-thick-and-thin friend.  Growing older, different interests and new friends caused us to take separate paths, but our hearts were knit together.  She was the kind of friend that you don’t see for years, but pick up your conversation as if you had talked just yesterday. 

Two years ago, I received word through a mutual friend that Julie was in the hospital.  Julie fought hard against MS and other difficult medical conditions that plagued her body.  Hospital stays weren’t very unusual, but being hospitalized on her birthday was a little more than I could imagine.  I stopped in to see her and we walked down memory lane one last time.  The next time I saw Julie, she was clinging to life a few short weeks later.  I stroked her hair and whispered into her ear that it was time to let go and enter the arms of Jesus.  I will never know for sure, but I believe she heard each word and prayer from a room completely filled with people who deeply loved her. 

It is amazing what can flood your mind in a split second.  Stories and memories came rushing back like an overflowing river.  As I watched Julie fight and as I reflected over her life, I began to see with new eyes how fearless my dear friend was.  Opposites attract, and this was no exception in our friendship.  Julie was feisty, brave, and pursued life with gusto.  My opposite personality is more timid, worrisome, and fearful, and I like to know what is coming before I move forward. 

Her childhood home life was completely different from mine.  I was the last child living at home and Julie’s home was active with three older brothers.  They would hang her by her arms over the basement stairwell and swing her as if she were a vine in a jungle.  One day her oldest brother offered to do the same to me and I nearly fainted.  My home was quiet; Julie’s home was loud and confrontational, and felt like a completely new world to me.

Reflecting on her life, I see clear evidence that God gives us exactly what we need to live the life He has planned for us.  Julie learned to hold nothing back, to attack life, and to live every moment to the fullest.  He taught her, throughout her life, to be a fighter and to be fearless.  These were traits she not only needed, but also demonstrated beautifully as her life glorified Him, even to the very end.

I remember when Julie shared her MS diagnosis with me.  Even as close as we were growing up, this was the first time that I ever realized Julie was a woman of faith.  She was clinging to the Lord through her trial and showed no fear during our conversation.  I recall that the doctor advised that pregnancy and childbirth would inflame her condition, but in the typical “don’t take no for an answer” style that Julie had, she was soon the proud, doting mom of two beautiful daughters.  

The life of Julie Ann Janich Walker was not lived with the purpose of being a genuine friend, supportive wife, loving mother, cherished sister, or beloved daughter.  Her purpose was to glorify God – to let His light shine through her for others to see – and she accomplished this purpose with excellence.  Even now, Julie continues to inspire my life.  I am still timid, worrisome, and fearful.  But when I remember my friend, I see that she would not let adversity stand in her way.  She faced more trials than any one person should endure, yet she pressed on in the face of fear and carried herself with grace and dignity. 

Her memory and the faith she modeled somehow make me stronger.  Life is too short to let anything keep us from sincere devotion to Christ.  Her life, lived with excellence in every way imaginable, had a single purpose – to let the light of Christ shine.  I am so grateful that we will share eternity together in heaven.

Happy birthday, my friend.  I will always miss you.    

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  (John 14:1 NIV)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's Not Lost! I Just Don't Know Where It Is!

I have issues with hotel keys.  I try my hardest to be responsible and even have a special “place” in my wallet for a hotel key.  But the first time I walk down the hall for ice, room key proudly in hand, I return to the room, put my key in the slot, and come on in.  No more than 12 seconds later, I have no idea where the key is.  It happens every time, no matter how purposeful and diligent I try to be.  It seems like the second I feel victorious, I let my guard down, and everything falls apart. 

My family rolls on the floor laughing when I explain to them, “My key isn’t lost.  I just don’t know where it is right now.”  They don’t see the difference between something that is lost and something that simply can’t be found.  While I do follow their logic, I see a clear distinction between two such items.  After all, I just had the room key in my hand.  It’s not lying on the street somewhere.  It is right here in this very hotel room, but I don’t know exactly where.  I have no doubt that I will locate it soon.   

On our last trip, I took a mighty ribbing that continued for days about things that weren’t lost.   

“Has anyone seen my cell phone charger?” 
“You can’t find it?  That’s weird, but don’t worry, Mom.  I’m sure it’s not lost!” 

You get the picture.  My husband finally said, “Honey, I just don’t see you ever living this one down.”

The more kidding I took, the more cemented the idea for this blog post became.  While my situation is funny, at least to the Mac’s, I believe I have sisters out there who feel the same way about their faith.  They may be saying in their hearts, “My faith isn’t lost; I just don’t know where it is right now.”  And that, my friends, is far from funny.

Maybe once upon a time, they had faith that could move a mountain.  Perhaps they have experienced one too many trials in life and can no longer find such faith.  Maybe they have prayed and asked for God’s intervention but have seen little of the help they expected.  Maybe work life interferes with church attendance and spiritual growth stalled.  Maybe… maybe… maybe…

May I suggest that you do whatever it takes to find your faith again?   Life is too short to journey without a cemented faith in Christ.  I can say with all honesty that I would not wish to live a single second questioning where my faith is or in Whom it lies.  Life is too difficult, too painful, and requires too much strength to do it on my own.  Looking back on my years without faith, I see every moment as empty and without purpose, even when looking at the happiest memories.  With faith, my life has meaning, purpose, and joy, even through the most difficult parts. 

If you faith is somewhere close, all it will take is a bit of concentrated effort to find it.  Search it out!  Look for it!  Find it!  Ask the Lord to show you where it is.  Chances are very good that He will show you it is right where you left it. 

Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
(Hebrews 11:1)
Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” 
(Matthew 15:28 a)
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 
(Luke 17:5)
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
(2 Cor 5:7)