Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Wanna Hold Your hand

I came out of church last week and saw the cutest little boy walking with his dad. He had one hand tightly wrapped around his dad’s finger and the other waving in the air hoping to grab a passerby. He was just learning to walk so it was more like the zombie walk, you know legs far apart, knees not bending wobbling from side to side. Actually I have seen some grown men come out of a bar walking very similar to that but that’s another story.
Anyway as I passed by the toddler grabbed for my hand and the dad said “yea he’s still reaching for that other hand to be held even though I got this on.”
This of course got me thinking about all of us and our walk with the Lord. Even though we know He has us, holding our hand so to speak, we are still reaching out for the world to grab the other hand. For some reason we still need the “safety” of knowing the world has us. As if our Heavenly Father’s hand isn’t strong enough to hold onto us.
Isaiah 40:10-11 Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand. And his arm shall rule for Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd. And carry them in His bosom. And gently lead those who are with young.
Years ago when my oldest son was going through his rebellious/alien stage and he was involved with drug dealing I had been praying and believing the Lord would work it all out because He promised He would. I was pretty secure in that promise until the Lord tested me on it. Anthony had made yet another poor decision and borrowed money, a lot of money, from these drug dealers. When he could not pay it back when he was supposed to things got ugly. He began getting threatening calls to hurt him and our family. My grandson was just a baby and the thought of someone hurting him was more then I could take. Anthony’s house was broken into and a list of things I just assume forget starting hitting our family. Anthony finally asked me if I could take out a loan against my home to pay off the debt. You have to understand how dangerous this was for Anthony to even ask me to do this. I was a single mom with no one to run to and tell me it would be all better. I was scared and I allowed the fear to become bigger then my God and began to panic. I started imagining all kinds of horrible things happening to my kids and grandson. Every time the phone rang my heart sunk thinking it was the hospital or the police calling with terrible news.
The Lord told me to leave it alone that He would handle it BUT as weeks turned into months and the threats increased my faith began to falter. My son would call me regularly asking if I knew anyone we could borrow the money from.
One day out of the blue I got one of those pre-qualified letters saying all I had to do was sign and they would mail me a check. A big check. This was when the banks were still giving money away to anyone who asked. I held that letter in my hands for a few days knowing the Lord said not to use it. Finally the pressure was more than I could take and I mailed in the letter and within a few days had a check in my hand. I tried to justify that if the Lord didn’t want me to have it I wouldn’t have gotten it but that Gems was a lie and I knew it. The Lord was testing me to see if my faith in Him to handle the situation was real or not. Was I going to hold his hand or grab from the world with the one flailing about.
I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to give the check to my son as I could see the pressure wearing on him as well and he was desperate for me to help him in some way. Seeing my first born struggle like this, even though it was his doing, was so hard for me and I wanted to rescue him with everything in me. I was also worried about my oldest daughter living alone and wanted her to move home.
I called a friend of mine and she met me in a store parking lot and I showed her the check and asked her to pray with me. With tears streaming down my face I begged the Lord to use the money so we could end this nightmare. His answer was loving but firm, no. He reminded me that His way would be better for Anthony and would bring Him glory in the end. Gems we forget that the Lord tells us to praise Him in all things and He shares His glory with no one. As I sat there crying I ripped up the check. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. The Lord proved to me that holding His hand was enough I didn’t need the worlds.
The Lord did amazing things with that event and Anthony was able to witness to these lost men in a way that would have never been possible if we would have just given them the check.
Deuteronomy 3:24 ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds?” You see Gems we love the scriptures’ of how God will take care of us and we believe them as long as they happen within our time frame but when we feel God is taking to long we think we need to grab someone else's hand.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened. That it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear.
I have another friend who’s close to retiring and every time she sees me the first thing she asks is if I’m working. I have been in and out of jobs since she’s known me and I think it ruffles her feathers when I’m not working because I don’t worry about it.
I told her I was between jobs at the time and she asked “are you OK with that?” I said yes but I knew she was asking if I thought God was OK with it. I wanted to ask this friend, who has been counting down the days to retirement, if for some reason when she retired her company went bankrupt and there was no retirement pay would she still be OK with the Lord?
Would she still trust that God would provide for her? Would she be angry that she stayed all those years at this company so she could get a retirement and now there was none? Was she holding the Lord’s hand or her companies?
Don’t get me wrong Gems I’m not saying retirement is a bad thing, praise God for those who have been such committed employees but we need to remember that the job and the pay we receive week after week is all from the Lord. He just uses our jobs to send us the money, it’s still His money.
Gems we need to trust that everything that goes on in our lives has gone through the Lord’s hands first and He is more than capable. The question is are we capable of giving praise to Him regardless of the situations we may find ourselves in? Are we willing to not grab what the world may try to offer as a substitute for God’s plan?
Psalm 48:10 According to Your name, O God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness. Gems there is a peace that goes beyond understanding when we get to this place of knowing God’s hand is enough. The way you look at everything in life changes when you realize you never were in control and your job is to be obedient and let God be God.
The other night I had the most amazing experience with the Lord. I was in bed, just laying there feeling the Lord’s presence in such an intimate way. I gently fell asleep and would get that jerky feeling and it would wake me up. It happened about 10 times in a row and then I finally fell asleep. The next day I Googled to find out what causes that jerky feeling that wakes us thinking something was wrong with me that it happened so many times. Later the Lord told me HE was waking me up so the moment wouldn't end so soon. He would have continued to feel my presence but I would have fallen asleep and no longer felt His. Is He romantic or what!
Gems this is the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with all of us. In the wedding ceremony when the groom takes his new brides hand there is no other hand in the picture it’s just the two of them, this is the relationship your Savior wants with you.
Psalm 95:7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. It may feel weird at first and you may feel a little unsteady like that toddler I saw but your daddy will hold onto you just as tight. So go ahead, reach for it, He wants to hold your hand!

Friday, November 25, 2011

We Must Forgive, But We Must Never Forget

On Veterans Day I went to the local Messianic Temple to worship our Lord and there was a man there named Peter who was born in a concentration camp. He came to share his story with the congregation and I was blessed to visit on such an honorable occasion. Peter had the sweetest spirit I have ever seen, he had a kind gentle voice and a smile that could warm the coldest heart. Peter told one horrific story after another about the inhumane things that happened to him in this camp and I squirmed in my seat finding it hard to listen never less experience. He shared his story from the beginning, stories like the way his skull was opened and drugs filled his body to watch the reaction or the endless beatings for no reasons. He talked about unborn babies that were cut form their mother’s wombs and how he was thankful his mother was spared that horror. The emaciated bodies that were piled high with some still barley breathing. I would begin to feel sick and Peter would solemnly pause and with love and compassion say “we must never forget, but we must forgive.” He would wait a moment for us to take in his words before he continued.
He shared about the beatings he watched the Nazi soldiers do to his parents and how cold it was in the camps. He shared how they took women outside naked in 30 below zero weather and poured water on their feet to watch their toes break off. As a five year old he watched his best friend a six year old little girl being raped by multiple soldiers. He would pause and warmly look at us and say “we must never forget, but we must forgive.”
He shared his final days in Poland and the beatings that followed before arriving in the United States to be reunited with his mother who he only had vague memories of. His hopes of a better life were quickly crushed as he arrived in the States only to be greeted by the Klu Klux Klan and another life of hate and rejection. Peter had no idea why he was hated and didn’t speak English to even begin to understand.
When you didn’t think you could stand another moment of his story again Peter would pause and say “we must never forget, but we must forgive.”
Peter shared the later part of his testimony and going back to the concentration camp with his family and the emotions it brought up inside of him. Honestly Gems I don’t know how he even went back. He said he got physically ill and had his son take him back to the hotel they were staying at. Peter went on to tell how the Lord spoke to him and told him to go back to the camp. Peter asked the Lord what he missed and asked him to show him at the hotel as he didn’t want to go back. He shared this part of the story with a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes and it was all I could do not to run up and hug him. The Lord told him he must go back to the camp and forgive those who tortured him and he understandably said no. He did end up obeying the Holy Spirit and returning the place of his pain. God told Peter that he understood the pain and rejection he endured and reminded him of what Jesus suffered on the cross for all of us. The Lord told Peter he needed him to forgive so his sins could be forgiven.
Peter said he fell to his knees and forgave the Nazi soldiers and every vile person who caused so much pain and suffering to Peter and the Jewish people. Peter then told us how an overwhelming love began to pour into him, a love so strong he could not contain it all. This was the same love, all these years later, which is still pouring out of this brave and humble man.
When he finished he was laughing and crying at the same time and invited anyone who wanted to come forward and he would pray for them. There was an older man in the congregation whose grown son helped him up and held the arm of his frail body as they made their way to Peter. This man also spoke Polish and when he got to Peter he wept and hugged Peter then gently kissed him on the cheek. The embrace was so heart felt you knew at that moment these men shared something the rest of us could never and I hope will never understand.
When it was my turn I also wept and hugged Peter and told him how sorry I was for all that happened to him. Again he looked at me with eyes that I know represent my sweet Jesus. Eyes of love and forgiveness and he just hugged me back and reminded me of our Savior’s love and what He did on the cross for me.
I decided to spare you Peter’s entire story but I pray you will not disregard the message. Gems we must never forget the past but we MUST forgive as our Savior forgives.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Can't Do This Alone

Well Gems it's time for yet another confession. You see what happened was....
I was at the church on a Tuesday night getting ready to go feed the homeless which I love to do. What I don't always love to do is some of the jobs of the leaders but that's why we have leaders.
We have a dress code requirement for all the volunteers for a few reasons, one we represent the Lord and another is safety issues as we don't always have sober guest. We get a lot of teens who either need to do community service hours or they are doing volunteer work for their college transcript. We also have teens that come just because they love the Lord and want to serve.
On this particular night we had a new group of teenage girls and they were definitely not in dress code. They had on short shorts and low cut tops. It's a delicate situation because I need to tell them the dress code without offending them because we want them to be a part of the ministry (FYI this happens with adults too not just teens) I explained to the girls that we had a dress code and it was for their safety and they would have to change their clothes before leaving.
The Lord had already provided for the situation because before I left my house my teenage daughter Jessica gave me a bag of clothes to give away and in that bag were multiple pairs of jeans and sweat pants that of course would fit these girls.
Right before we left another girl showed up and one of the other leaders handed her a T-shirt to keep the “girls” properly covered. I have never had that particular problem so didn't think to have shirts available :)
We climbed into the van and this group of teens were sitting in the last two rows and they were making negative comments the whole ride to the site about having to change their clothes. I tried to ignore it for as long as possible but just as we drove onto the grounds I hit a breaking point and turned around, with an attitude, and said to the ring leader “listen this dress code is for your safety and if it's a problem for you then maybe you shouldn't come out here.”
Of course there was dead silence in the van and we all got out with an attitude.
The Holy Spirit went to work on me immediately letting me know what I said wasn't a problem but the way I said it definitely was. He told me I should have spoken to the girls in private and lovingly explained to them again how it was for their protection. So I ate crow and went over to the ring leader to apologize for not handling the situation in a loving way.
Gems what happened next I was not ready for. After I pulled the young lady to the side and apologized to her she looked up at me with this sweet innocent face and said “I thought you were calling me a skank.”
This about broke my heart. I took her face in my hand and pulled her chin up to look her in the eyes and told her that couldn't be further from the truth. I wanted her to know just the opposite! That she is a princess in the eyes of her Father in Heaven and He doesn't want anyone looking at her lustfully or misinterpreting what she was wearing as an invitation to come on to her.
Was I ever convicted at that moment of how important it is to speak lovingly to our young girls. We have no idea what they are thinking. I thought if she felt that way maybe the other girls did too. I didn't want them to feel judged in any way so I went over to them and had the same conversation, reminding them how precious they are to God.
Gems it breaks my heart every time I hear a teenage girl talking trash or wearing inappropriate clothes. It also breaks my heart when I hear teen boys talking about pursuing girls to have sex. I want so badly for them to know how important they are to God and how much He values them. I want to save them from all the hurt and heartache I went through by looking for love in ALL the wrong places. I didn't wear skimpy clothing because I was so self conscious of my body but the results were the same.
It's an ongoing battle for us as parents to fight for our kids. And yes there are many teens who know who they are in Christ and have decided not to give themselves away before marriage and we need to be praying for them to stay strong.
Sometimes I think we put so much focus on the ones who have fallen that we don't spend enough time cheering on the ones who haven't.
Being a parent is not an easy job. I'm not just talking about purity issues I'm talking about our teens self esteem as a whole.
Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I do and it was very dramatic, everything was so huge to me.
It's especially hard if you have teens that won't talk to you. My Amanda was one of those.
True story:
Amanda had been giving me the silent treatment for weeks and I had no idea why. She would look at me with such disgust and it was apparent how she felt about me. To say I wasn't feeling the love is an understatement. Finally I had had enough I became psycho woman, I went to her high school soccer practice and followed her around the field. I told her I wasn't leaving until she talked to me. She kept telling me to get off the field they were getting ready to practice and her coach was going to get mad. I told her I didn't give a crap about her practice or her coach and I wasn't leaving. She continued to huff and puff but not speak so I did the only thing I could think of. I jumped on her back, piggy back, wrapped myself around her and said I wasn't leaving til she talked to me. I know a bit extreme, I told you I was psycho by then.
Gems I'm not telling you to be a total freak but I am telling you if we don't fight for our kids no one else will. We the parents have to be the ones to remind them daily how much we love them and more importantly how much God loves them. We need to be in their business, who are they talking to, what are they watching. The internet is the devils playground you better be involved.
I have been guilty of doing so much ministry to people outside my home and not making sure I'm ministering to my own kids. If your kids are in a youth group you better be praying for that leader but remember he or she is not their parent, what you say about them is what they will hear.
Just this morning I was praying asking the Holy Spirit to help me with a current situation with my last teen at home. I have to fight for her just as hard as the ones I have raised but I gotta tell ya I get tired. I can't do this alone I NEED the Lord to show me what to do and how to handle situations so I can be firm but not freakish. To guide her Spirit side in a way that helps her grow into spiritual maturity without trying to control her. There are times I just want to make everything all better for my kids but the situation is not mine to fix.
Our kids need us. I think the more they push you away the more they are screaming on the inside “I NEED YOU!”
There is a song by Sanctus Real that was spot on for me, I copied part of the lyrics below. The part that hit me the most is whether your a single parent or a two parent household we can't do this alone!

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They're just children from the outside
I'm working hard, I tell myself they'll be fine
They're independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying

"Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone."

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I am called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't you lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love
Chasing dreams that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Christian lyrics - LEAD ME LYRICS - SANCTUS REAL

Gems we can't lead them successfully without being led by God ourselves. My prayer today is that all of us will fight and pray for our kids. If you don't have kids, get involved with someone else's remember, we can't do this alone!