Rocks of Ages

Once I was cleaning out my tired ol’ minivan and I came across a common sight. Amongst the half eaten, hardened french fries, empty water bottles, numerous scraps of paper, and other various evidences of a Martin Family occupancy, I found a pile of rocks. They lay gingerly between seat belt buckles, having been collected just a while before. To the naked and untrained eye those rocks seemed ordinary, as ordinary as any other rocks but I knew these were not just any ol’ rocks, but for reasons I can not fully articulate these rocks were special.

The bunch that made the trip home and now lay anticipating a final resting place in kitchen window were fewer than were initially collected, but I had to limit the number lest I risk an additional 20 pounds of cargo riding around in my van. They had been collected on a typical “Martin Adventure Day.” We have those days often enough – it may be a quick trip to the fascinating recycle plant with the metal-oddity graveyard on its walls. Or it could be a trip to the local creek whereupon we talk about the vermilion darter that could be credited for saving a favorite place to swim and play. That miniscule fished saved a creek jam packed with memories and adventures of my own childhood. I tell the Martins those stories so as not to lose them to time and the break-neck speed of this life. In my mind when I am transported back, I remember the tales of family lore, a most vivid childhood memory standing on a muscadine covered walking bridge, cramming the delicious fruit into my mouth while my Mama was nearby sitting and visiting with our church friends. Ms. Christine’s house may not have actually been yellow but in my memory it was and I can still feel the juice running down my chin and the rushing water below my bare feet. That memory is one of my sweetest and most treasured, and when I am sitting on the banks of that creek I am reminded of it.

beach-15712_1280-e1560444522639.jpgI am unsure the origin of those particular rocks, but if I had to guess I would say there is a high likelihood they were collected as I traveled back to that happy place in my memory. To tell the truth, I’d forgotten they were even in my van, usually they make there way to the windowsill of the kitchen quickly, perhaps those particular rocks were abandoned at my urging that all van occupants carry their own “stuff inside.” So it wasn’t until some time later when I needed the “WayBack” seat to be flat that I found them and brought them back to my remembrance.

Rocks have been a staple in my home, going on 17 years now. They’ve served as numerous presents and gifts. They’ve served as tools and toys. Each has been carefully chosen and picked up. Some are placed in a pocket or in a purse. Others are carried in a fist. Some rocks are shaped like hearts. Some are smooth and some rough. Some are unique in color but are carefully chosen and found to be worthy of making its way to our home.

The rocks are an ever present reminder The King; He likens Himself to a Rock. He names Peter, Cephus – the Rock. He has declared that the rocks will cry out to Him is if we fail to do so.

I recognize soon there is coming a day when the rocks will cease to be gifts for me, when my kiddos will lose the wonder of choosing those gifts. In the years of late I’ve begun to see a steady decline in their collection and presentation and it saddens me. I’m reminded how quickly time flies.

I will admit that when these treasures appeared in my backseat I was overjoyed and delighted to find them there. Reminders that my Rock, my Salvation, will sustain me fully in the coming years through the change that is inevitable, and I can trust that the Rock will uphold me even in the midst of uncertainty.

person-1209310_1280.jpg

No Words

I like to write. I like a word, well more like words. I like the spoken ones, the written ones. I like the words that sound the same but have entirely different meanings, homophones. I like their, they’re, and there. I like words like adjunct, antithesis, and abundantly.

I am rarely at a loss for words. One need only to spend a few moments with me to realize I will fill the gaps, the times of silence with words. I seem to have been born with them in my mouth. Most of the world spends its days learning to speak. I have spent mine learning when not to speak. I have learned that when I am silent, someone else will fill the gaps with their words.

My Mama used to say, “Sometimes there are just no words.”

She spent many a nursing year as a Hospice nurse and she’d heard all manner of words spoken in an effort to comfort the bereaved, well-intentioned words spoken in attempt to make the Dearly Departed’s passing more palatable. My mama knew, the reality is, sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can be spoken by humanity to make things better, to make a bad situation better, words that usher in comfort and good intentions.

Sometimes Mama would use that phrase when she had observed something so bizarre or unique that she lacked the vocabulary to adequately describe it. She used it like an old Southern Lady might tilt her head and proclaim “Well I declare dear” as she has been enlightened on some new idea.

It should not have come as a surprise to me when I lost the words. When they just were not there. I’d found myself shaken to my core and try as I may I simply could not make the words I needed to. I found myself repeatedly in stunned silence. I would attempt to lightstock_503199_download_medium_user_43204746pray and there were no words. Sometimes there would be tears, hundreds of them, they fell as readily from my eyes as words so often do from my lips. I would try to speak but it was like I could move my mouth and no audible sound came forth. I would be screaming inside but not even a whisper was there. My written words were just as few, I would attempt to sit and to write to journal what I knew necessary, but I just couldn’t. My fingers would glide over the qwerty keyboard and nothing…no punctuation, no sentence fragments, no run on sentences and comma splices, the repeat grammar offenses I make. I would slam my hands down on the keyboard in frustration and vacate my chair out of disgust.

I tried all the “tricks” to stimulate communication, reading a favorite author or two, having a more intense and intentional prayer time. I tried to talk nonsense and fluff in hopes that deeper and more substantial words would push their way through. I would pray. And suddenly one day I had the realization of something I had not known before, a promise I have known as truth but never truly experienced. As I poured out my heart and grieved I found myself telling God what He already knew.

“I’ve got nothing.”

He knew, he always knows and by way of provision He brought to my remembrance something I knew, have known, for a long time.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

He reminded me through His word that there were no words, but there didn’t have to be. He was, He is, interceding on my behalf in a language of words known only to Him. In the stunned silence I could trust He would pray over me exactly what I needed. I could trust that healing would come and that soon enough the words would return.

untitled-design-3-e1554738509921.png

Construction Zone: Wiring

Knob and tube wiring – uh-oh.

Your breaker box isn’t up to code – uh-oh.

If you’ve ever watched an HGTV home remodel show of any sort you’ve heard these terms before, and you realize that they always mean spending lots more money to get a home in working order.

architecture-cherry-blossom-daylight-1134001Physically, our wiring is the thing that provides our home with a source of power. It’s the conduit that allows Alabama Power Company to share their product with us. Can you even imagine trying to run a modern home without electricity? Watching a couple of episodes of a reality show on off-the-grid living makes that possibility very unappealing. We are a bit spoiled here in America where available electricity seems like a right and a necessity, while being without electricity for 2 hours during a storm upsets our evening.

Spiritually, we are also dependent upon a power source outside ourselves. We have no power on our own to manufacture the spiritual power we need to triumph over our sinful flesh, defeat the enemy’s fiery darts, or become righteous, Spirit-filled children of God. We don’t even have the power to make ourselves keep our promises, follow through on good habits, or control that tiny, destructive organ in our mouth called the tongue. Without a holy infusion of power from on high, we are left to our own devices controlled by faulty human flesh.

wire-164966_1280

 

So what are the wires that connect us to our power source spiritually?

 

First, God’s Word. He gave His Word to us. It is His direct communication to us. He reveals Himself and His ways to us through His written Word.

  1. It is truth. “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” Psalm 119:160
  2. It illumines. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
  3. It is alive and active. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
  4. It is useful in our everyday life.All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16.
    • It teaches.
    • It reubkes
    • It corrects.
    • It trains us.
    • It equips us.

Second, Prayer. James 5:16 tells us “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”outlet-1329193_1280 Prayer is powerful because it “plugs us in” to the source of all power, our Omnipotent Heavenly Father. If He is truly omnipotent (all-powerful) then any power we possess ultimately belongs to Him. When we feel desperately low and needy, longing for a burst of energy to restart our lives, He is that source. We must train ourselves to connect to Him through prayer. How?

  1. “Pray continuously.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  2. Don’t worry, pray! “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  3. Pray for His will for our lives.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10
  4. Pray for the needs of your life. “Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
  5. Pray for forgiveness and the ability to forgive others. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
  6. Pray for deliverance. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13
  7. Pray for others. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  8. Kneel/bow to pray. “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray…” Ephesians 3:14-15
  9. Cry out in prayer.Will not God grant justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay helping them?” Luke 18:7
  10. Pray for strength.I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit.” Ephesians 3:16
  11. Pray for faith. “Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!’ ” Mark 9:24 “I pray that… Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Ephesians 3:17
  12. Pray with others. “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19
  13. Pray for others. “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:18-19

Are you connected to your Source of Power? Or do you have faulty wiring? Are you accessing His strength daily through His Holy Scriptures and through praying? Or are you trying to live off-the-grid spiritually? Do you find yourself spiritually “out in the cold,” wandering without illumination, sitting in the dark disconnected from the “power company?” Has your breaker flipped? Or perhaps you’ve lived without those lines ever being connected and it’s time you turn to the true all-powerful source, The Living God and Creator of the universe. Seek Him today – it’s time to get your wiring up to code.

light-bulb-3104355_1280

 

Rain

I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Leviticus 26:4

rain-raindrops-water-110874.jpgThe view out the window is a rainy drizzle here. That got me thinking. We haven’t gotten much rain lately, so this little drizzle is considered a blessing. Right now the Midwest is swamped with days of floodwaters that have overwhelmed and destroyed. In other parts of the world people are experiencing famine due to severe drought. So, is rain good or bad? To a parched, hungry land rain is desperately desired. To the deluged states any precipitation is a curse at the moment.

Now let’s think metaphorically. We Americans tend to think of rain as difficulties coming our way – storms. Storms in life have a negative connotation of trials we don’t want to face. But what does scripture say?

In Deuteronomy 11:17, lack of rain is seen as a punishment from God.

Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain, and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you.

While in Deuteronomy 28:12, the pouring rain is representative of blessings coming straight from the Lord.

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

lightning-1056419_1280

Let’s challenge our thinking on those metaphorical rainstorms of life. Can we begin to see even the scary lightning and thunder as signs of blessing? Can we allow ourselves not to fear in the midst of the storm, but to trust that this too will be used for our good? (Romans 8:28)

When my Daddy died while I was a child it did not feel “good.” But because of that we moved to the town where I dated and married my husband of now 38 years, where I was mentored in the Christian faith and given a firm foundation, and where I formed lifelong friendships.

When my husband developed leukemia at age 36, it did not feel “good.” With 4 small children, one a newborn, it felt frightening. I wondered how God could in any way use this horror for good. But over the next 9 months of chemo and healing, I saw that this storm drew me closer to the Father, taught me valuable lessons, and instilled in me a passion and understanding for others.

When a child rebelled, it did not feel “good.” It felt devastating, empty, and overwhelming beyond my ability to bear. But through it I learned the power of prayer. I grew to see the “sinners” and the “least of these” as someone’s child, beloved of God, and not beyond hope. My compassion for those bound up in sin surpassed and killed my judging, legalistic spirit.

May I challenge you to choose to see your storm as a means through which God teaches and grows and blesses you! He uses our circumstances, no matter how tough they seem at the moment, for His good purposes.

Ephesians tells us

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

If we believe these words of Ephesians 3:30, that He can do “immeasurably more” than all we ask or imagine, then we can trust that He will bring good through our rainstorm. I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good imagination. And He can do more than that! More than my simple expedient solutions to my stormy times. He provides abundant life kind of solutions!

girl-690327_1280.jpgAs we move through this rainy day, let us look upon these drops as blessings! Even when the flood waters seem to threaten our existence, they are still a blessing! Isaiah 43:2 comforts us with the promise that

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

So, what do we do to learn this perspective on storms? We immerse our minds in scripture. Deuteronomy 32:2 instructs us

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.

Are we soaking up the water of the word while the floodwaters swirl round our feet?

Isaiah 55:10 reminds us of the usefulness of scripture to our lives.

As the rain and the snowcome down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

bright-environment-flora-1463530.jpgIt tells us that God’s Word provides us with 2 things: seed and bread. Bread for our present daily needs, and seed to plant and grow and bear fruit in our future. Rains cause us to yield fruit and to grow.

The storms of rain we face are God’s provision for us. Those deluges are His classroom that teaches, trains and prepares us. The floodwaters are our faith-tester and at the same time the weights we lift to grow our faith muscle. Heavy rains free us from spiritual dryness, drive us to our knees, and open our hearts to be compassionate toward others. While we may not want to go through stormy trials in life, they are beneficial; they are for our good. Let us seek God’s blessing whatever form it comes in, and clearly see the Biblical picture of the devastation and cursing represented by no rain in our lives.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.         1 King 17:7

adult-1869119_1280

 

A Piece of Peace Pie

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

There are concerted efforts to teach the Martin three not just in word but in deed. Since they were little, actually before they were, the Martins have attended church. Each Sunday begins with family prayer time. Most often it occurs in the car and for the sake of simplicity we declare who will “dial” and who will “hang up.” Sometimes we go “in age order” youngest to oldest.

The prayers, they are as varied as the ones verbalizing them. We’ve prayed for people and days, talents and skills, worship and recognition. We’ve prayed for pets and provision. We’ve offered ourselves up collectively as a family and voiced our individual petitions as well. Some of us are long-winded and can take a while, while others of us are direct and to the point.

pumpkin-pie-1041330__340So when he said, “Lord, Thank you that we Martins know peace, and not like a piece of pizza or a piece of pie,” I thought I might lose it. My bowed head shot up, eyes darted to execute a quick glance to my left as the driver of our vehicle continued on “We know Peace from you. Shalom Peace.” I knew what he meant and I must admit that I was a bit taken aback that he had just prayed it.

Naturally it gave me cause to ponder, so ponder I did. He is the patriarch of our family, full of quiet wisdom and leadership, in stature large and strong. Constant, steady, and secure. When it comes to comparison, he’s an unlikely specimen. There has never been one quite like him. So as he prayed and “hung up” just as we turned into the church park lot, I began to ponder what he said we knew. Shalom, peace, the very word itself means completeness, soundness, welfare. It was a declaration he had spoken. As the day progressed into night and we had both worked, children had cleaned house, watched a favorite tv show, had a hotdog lunch, a snack cake snack, an uneventful and most routine kind of day, the realization that the mundane is only possible because we do in fact know that Shalom.

cheesecake-1149481__340That peace that can transcend understanding, a peace that isn’t like its homophonic counterpart, a piece that can be easily consumed or separated from its whole. We Believers are that Shalom peace. We make one another better. In that Peace we can rest. Scott Martin likely did not know when he prayed those words out loud that he would impact my thoughts for the day.

That is just how he is, he leads in an unconventional manner. We used to be like two competitors: he a steady and forward moving, me always rushing past him, unaware of my surroundings. Eventually I would realize my folly, stop and wait for him to catch up, only to do it again. The Marriage Marathon proved to be exhausting when I would execute it in such a manner. Over time I have learned, we both have learned, to nurture. We no longer find ourselves competing as much as complementing one another. We walk side by side, our pace dictated by him and I learn the value of patience. It has taken me many years to realize that he leads like the King, with Grace and in humility, and for that I am thankful indeed.

Shalom! - Peace.png

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33