September 17, 2020

The Bruised Reed

One of the things I most enjoyed as I began high school was the opportunity to learn how to play a clarinet. These many years later, I remember that enjoyment although I remember little else except the care I gave to the reeds I used. I knew then, and I still know, that the reed I was using had a huge effect on the sound that was produced, and I learned to both adapt to the reed I was using and to protect it. In the Old Testament, Isaiah speaks of the Savior, God had promised to send, and he speaks of the compassion Christ will have, a sustaining grace for the one who is burdened or overwhelmed by life. In high school, when a reed no longer produced an appropriate sound or it was damaged in some way, it was thrown away. God doesn’t do that. There are many types of reeds in nature, and not all of them can be used to make a musical instrument. There are other uses for reeds as well, but the reed itself can be fragile and easily bruised. Many reeds are just wasted, plucked down in their brokenness, and thrown away. In the New Testament, as Jesus ministered among the people, Matthew reminds us of what Isaiah said. Jesus called to the weary and the burdened and encouraged them, “Come to me, all of you, and I will give you rest.” And it wasn’t just a physical rest Jesus offered, but a rest that reached down into the deepest recesses of a person. A rest that brought relationship with God, and a rest that gave worth and purpose as well as comfort, encouragement, and enablement. A “bruised reed” has suffered an injury and in life, many are “bruised” by the injuries of loss, the injustices of life, the harshness of life, the bitterness and abrasiveness of both others and circumstances, and it is difficult to produce a “sound” that is appreciated, harmonious, and pleasing to the ears of others. A healthy reed can produce a sound that is rich with tonal quality, warm, bright, or mellow, depending on the instrument. The “bruised reeds” Christ longs to lovingly care for find themselves incapable of doing much more than existing one day at a time, fighting for survival, often confused or in despair. Jesus promises He will not “break” such a life, or toss it away. God knows the potential He has instilled in each individual He has created, and He is capable of bringing that potential to a fullness we may not dare to imagine. We may feel bruised and damaged, and we may be, but God still offers Himself. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. He has spoken, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. The bruised reed, I will not break.” – Bev (Related Bible reading: 2 Corinthians 4:8,9; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Jeremiah 31:3; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 42:3)

September 9, 2020

Make Him Feel Loved

Song of Songs 8:14 “Come away, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the spice-laden mountains.” I am married to a man who has one passion in life. His passion is to find anything above sea level and put on a pair of hiking boots and climb to the top. He is also trying to make it my passion. Whenever I receive a gift from him, it almost always has something to do with hiking. My first gift I received was a beautiful pair of hiking boots. I soon received a yellow windbreaker and, of course, a raincoat that covers me from head to toe. I am the proud owner of a bladder pack so I can carry my own water as we head up the mountain. I also have a great hat which keeps the sun off my face, and I truly don’t know too many women that own a headlamp for all those midnight hikes I can find myself on. The best gift he has given me has been a pair of hiking sticks that I have found very valuable as I try to reach the top of the mountain. If I ever came out of the bedroom dressed in my full get-up and said, “Are you ready to go climb a mountain?” my husband would think he had died and went to Heaven. As I would open these gifts, I would feel a little disappointed, but as I thought about it, I came to realize that he wanted me to join him in something he loves to do, his passion. I have come to appreciate these gifts and the time we spend together. When I spend time doing something he enjoys, I am showing him that he is the most important person in my life and I love him enough to take an interest in something he enjoys. I have also found I have learned a lot about my husband and myself in the tranquility of these hikes. It is a time when we can reconnect and spend time just talking and enjoying God’s handiwork. Marriage is always a work in progress, and when we are grieving it is so easy to shut down and withdraw from each other. This is a time when we need to reconnect and what better way than doing something that makes the other person feel loved. Who knows, we might find out hidden secrets about ourselves and our mate. Lord, help us to step out of the comfort of our world and enter into the land of our mate. Who knows what exciting adventures might be waiting for us. We also might find a new and interesting couple in the making. – Michele

September 3, 2020

When We Dare.......

When we dare to believe, He is right here. Stretch out the palm of your hand, and almost press it against your face – you won’t even be able to see the wrinkled, intersecting lines within your palms – only the faintness of the light between your fingers. He is here!! That close!! God! God of creation. Sustaining God. Wisdom of the ages. Loving, compassionate God – weaver of every happening into the masterpiece of His eternal plan........... Where is He in my grief? In my loneliness? In the oppressive, depressive messes of my emotions? Where is He when tragedy seems to triumph, when carefully planned details splinter, and my tomorrows lie like an unruly pile of dirty laundry? When I dare to believe, I will know the certainty – He is right here. He is as close as the palm of my hand almost suffocating my face – and really, even closer. He never leaves me, never abandons me, never withholds His grace, His enabling, His strength. He is right here. I was preparing to speak to a group of moms about the fingerprints of God. And in the midst of rehearsing the appropriate words, my child’s life was distorted by the decisions of others – life impacting decisions that wreaked havoc with my child’s life, with mine, and with my husband’s. Where was God? God, I know all the words; I have a past that shouts Your presence. But, where are You now? And God whispered, “Bev, I have not changed. I am still your constant presence. I love you. I care. I long to walk with you and embrace you.” A young girl, just learning to read, glowed when she told me, “I want to read the Bible.” And God whispered again, “Bev, go to Walmart and purchase a primary reader’s Bible for her.” But, God, she probably has a roomful! “Bev, go to Walmart.” And the whispers kept repeating themselves. And I listened to the God who is right here, and my little friend read it from cover to cover with her mom the first night she had it – and it was the very first Bible she will be able to read soon, all by herself. There was the book money, a large amount of cash to suddenly need to replace, and there were the hours of searching in nondescript places, until I finally listened to the whispers of His presence. On another evening, my tears mixed with the waters of an evening shower, bathing my body while my heart cried out for answers – answers given by the God who is right here. I sat with a friend, rehearsing the tragedies of life both of us had experienced as young people, and I was reminded that even in those early years of brokenness, God was there. He was holding, shaping, giving a secure foundation that the world around us just doesn’t understand – and yet, we did. When we dare to believe, He is right here. Even closer. I can know it, whether or not my feelings want to cooperate. But, He has promised, and I can trust His promise, and it is the promise I most cling to. He is here. Right here. Always and forever. I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. I am your helper. You need not fear. I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your strength comes from My grace. – Bev (Related Bible reading: Hebrews 13:5-9; Psalm 91:1-4)

August 26, 2020

One CD at Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel.  Reminiscent of an old general store with sweet tea, home cooked meals, grits and biscuits any time of the day, and a delightful gift shop replete with the old and the new, edible, wear it, or decorate your home.  Although its chain of stores goes beyond southern borders, to me, it represents the South, and I enjoy its casual family atmosphere as well as knowing I may be able to find a Christian theme somewhere in the gift shop.  Browsing one afternoon to spend the gift card in my pocket, I suddenly realized they were selling CD’s with twelve favorites from the Gaithers.  Cracker Barrel itself can stir some memories for me, but the Gaithers – and I know it reflects my age – the Gaithers have always impacted me with music and lyrics that have spoken to my inner person, stirring not only memories, but reminders too of life changing truth, truth that doesn’t change no matter how old I am.  

The foundation for life changing truth was shaped by my mom, especially as she sang the old hymns to us each night before we closed our eyes in sleep.  Sleeping two to a bed, and four beds in the double room that opened one room to the other, she sat on one of the beds as the room began to darken.  On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suff'ring and shame.  And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I'll cherish the old rugged cross till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.  Mom sang, and my own faith found a foundation, although it would be years before I fully understood.  Today, when I hear the Gaithers sing the words, the tears flow as I remember.

Growing through a difficult childhood, and still struggling to understand the faith my mom sang of, I ultimately married, and in time, a new life was forming within me, and we waited as new parents do, with anticipation and with plans for the future, already seeing our little one playing, learning, growing, and loving.  Our dreams shattered and our hearts were broken when we heard the words, “Your baby will not live.”  The empty nursery screamed at us, and the darkness of unfulfilled dreams imprisoned us.  And it was the Gaithers I first heard sing the powerful, encouraging words of God’s promises, God sent His Son, they called Him, Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!  Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives!  I cannot recount how many times I have rehearsed those words, not just in my head, but in my heart, and faced another day, just because, my Savior lives!!  I call it Tonia’s song because the words ministered so much when she left Earth to live within the perfections of Heaven, but the truth of God’s unfailing presence has upheld me over and over and over again.

And it was at the funeral of my husband’s mom that I caught the passion of the Gaithers singing, I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory. And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea; about the angels singing, and the old redemption story, and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of victory.  O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.  Polly was a woman who loved her God and her life was a living letter of testimony.  As we sang at her funeral, the truth of her eternal destiny was so very, very real.  It is the destiny of every believer, the certain, unshakeable hope of every child of God.

I bought the CD, went home, listened with all of my heart, and once again, the tears came.  Thank You, thank You, precious, precious Jesus................................ 
                                                                                                            – Bev
 (Related Bible reading: Galatians 4:4-7)

August 20, 2020

He Who Watches Over Me

Psalm 142:3 “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.” When I was growing up, even though I had an earthly biological father, the memories of him have never been good; in fact, to the contrary, there were traumatic events that happened in my childhood that caused me to feel overwhelming fear, anxiousness, and at times I felt abandoned and extremely unsafe. Gentleness and tenderness were never characteristics I remember as a child and, as a result, trust does not come easy for me. As a child, I learned to retreat into a world of my own when I felt unsafe and I would talk to myself out loud and even then, in those times when I felt so incredibly alone, I knew instinctively that I was not alone. From a very young age I always felt there was a presence who watched over every single thing that happened. It was almost as if I could see that girl crying, but I never really connected with her. I was always reaching out to something bigger, wondering who could see me, who could hear me, who really cared about me, and I knew that someone did, and as a small child, in my loneliness, that is where I drew my comfort. I love the parable of the mustard seed, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade." (Mark 4:30-32.) Developing faith and trust in our heavenly Father is a very slow process and it takes a very long time; in fact, for most people it takes a lifetime. I began to develop a trust in something greater as a very young child and that little seed that the Lord planted in me as a child has grown over the years. If you look at the rest of this scripture, in Mark 4:34, it says, that Jesus “did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when He was alone with His own disciples, He explained everything.” It has always been when I am alone with Him that the Lord has shown me His greatest insights, has given me my most significant epiphanies. Always it has been when He has taken me aside and shown me how to examine my heart, how to give Him my fears, how to lay down my doubts, that He has given me back in return every time I get alone with Him. He gives me a little bit more tenderness, a little bit more gentleness, a little bit more peace, a little more understanding, things that the world has never been able to give me. It has taken a lifetime for me coming to a place where I am finally so comfortable with Him that I long to be alone with Him every opportunity I have. In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." He will never abandon me, He will always be with me, He will always see me and track with me. He will be that consistent friend who will never forsake me or disappoint me. But the best part about my heavenly Father is that he is giving me what my earthly father never was capable of giving me, tenderness, sweetness, gentleness, patience, goodness, kindness, comfort, peace, security, healing, adoration and most of all the love that I have craved my entire life, and it is only found in One place. And His promise to me is that “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20) That alone for me is the best source of comfort I will ever have. – Melody

August 12, 2020

A Mom’s Prayer

 A Mom’s Prayer

Luke 8:26-27   “So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes across the lake from Galilee. As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him.”

I just love when I am involved in a Bible study with other women. There is so much we can glean from one another. We read about Jesus and His disciples taking a boat trip across the Sea of Galilee to the region of Gerasenes. This area was a Gentile region southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It was known to be a thriving, modern, and vulgar area that was forbidden by Jewish law to go there. Yet Jesus defied the law and instructed the apostles to take a trip to that region. Once they made it there, as Jesus was climbing out of the boat, right in front of Him was a man possessed by demons. This man had been homeless and naked and lived in a cemetery that was outside of town. A question was asked in our study, “So what drew Jesus to take a trip across the sea to go to an island that was off limits for all Jews?  A woman in our study remarked, “I wonder if Jesus was answering  the prayer of a mother?”

That one little question has changed my perception of every story and every name that has been mentioned in the Bible. I now see the mom behind the story. Everyone in this book was brought into this world by a mother. A mother’s heart has compassion and love for her child. How many other stories do we read that have a praying mom in her prayer closet crying out to the Lord for her child?  I wonder how many days, months or years this mother prayed for his soul. Was she at the end of her rope?  Was her faith as tiny as a mustard seed as she watched her son delve deeper and deeper into the throes of Satan? After Jesus had healed this man, he wanted to go with Jesus and serve. Jesus had a different plan for this man. He instructed him to go home to his family, and tell them everything God had done for him. I wonder why God’s will for this man was to go home to his village and tell everyone what Jesus had done. Can you imagine the complete joy this mom felt as she saw her son walk through the front door healed and clothed?  What a loving God to show compassion on this mom so she could see first hand her child had been healed. Years and tears of a mom praying finally answered. What an amazing miracle this mom and her son could share to all of those who watched her faithfully pray for her boy.

I know the heart of a praying mom as I know each of you do. I prayed often for the heath and welfare of both my daughters. I have never prayed harder as when I stood by my daughter’s bedside and asked the Lord for a miracle to heal her brain. I so wanted a happy ending and a return to my village with my daughter healed and what a story we could tell together. Yet my ending and the Lord’s will for my daughter would take me on a journey across stormy waters . It took time, work and many prayers to finally find my sea legs. I would return to my village  alone to share my story. I know waiting in the background was my mom on bended knees praying for her daughter’s broken heart to be healed.  I am so thankful my mom witnessed  her prayers answered.

Lord, You know a mom’s heartbreak and You hear her prayers. As You died on the cross for us, I am sure You knew the pain your mother Mary was enduring as she watched You suffer. Were You praying for her broken heart as You died on the cross?

                                                                    – Michele