Broken Hallelujah's

   Preaching gospel to myself, as I do my best to walk by faith and not by sight. Trying with all my might to see the beauty and to hold on to hope. In doing so, I am so very grateful for music, which touches the soul, like a fresh rain on a hot day.

  And as I drove home today,....with the icy hand of anxiety slowly squeezing my heart, a song began to play on the radio and the words cut through the ice and the tears fall like rain..... And I lifted up my voice up and sang with everything in me. 

 You are my joy, You are my song

You are the well, the One I'm drawing from
You are my refuge, my whole life long
Where else would I go?

Surely my God is the strength of my soul
Your love defends me, Your love defends me
And when I feel like I'm all alone
Your love defends me, Your love defends me

Day after day, night after night
I will remember, You're with me in this fight
Although the battle, it rages on
The war already won
I know the war is already won


Surely my God is the strength of my soul
Your love defends me, Your love defends me
And when I feel like I'm all alone
Your love defends me, Your love defends me


You're my portion
My salvation
Hallelujah
You're my portion
My salvation

  And then comes another song and I sing my Halleluiahs, my broken, but beautiful Halleluiahs!

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain

Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design

May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain

Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design

May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design

May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

These Halleluiahs be multiplied
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name


Little Blue Dog........The Cry of a Shattered Heart

 

  About three weeks ago I took on the challenge of one little female pit-bull. Her rescue name is Appie but we call her Little Blue Dog.

  She came up from a shelter down south where a kind, soft spoken lady who is excellent with dogs had been unable to reach her. For some weird reason (I think it was meant to be this way) when she arrived at the rescue she came out of her kennel, wagged her tail and took a treat, ensuring her adoptability. That was the first and last time that she did so.

 After arriving she began to shut down. She would not leave the dog house and was terrified of everyone.  The rescue kennels are a very active place with a lot of dogs and a lot of noise. We assumed she was just having a hard time adjusting to it all and decided to move her to my house.

 I wrongly assumed that this would be just like all the other fearful dogs I have worked with, a little love, a little kindness and everything would be fine..... but it wasn’t. Nothing broke through her barriers. I was kind, I moved slow, I was patient. Chicken liver and black forest ham rained from the sky whenever I was around. I practiced appeasement and calming gestures that have worked well with fearful dogs in the past.  I would sit in her kennel and read just to get her used to me, never looking at her and always speaking soft yet confident. After three weeks although we had made some small progress it really wasn’t much.

 If she is loose she will run, she always runs at my approach, at anyone’s approach. If in her kennel or crate she hovers in the back and will only come out when the leash is attached to her collar. If inside she typically will hide inside her crate. Only one day, out of all the days did she come out and chew on a toy and just lay on the carpet. If you stand or move in any way she cringes and runs, if flight is not an option she goes down low, real low and awaits the displeasure that she is certain is coming.

   Once she is on a leash she will follow you, but she cringes at every move and seems to just be resigned to her fate and certain that you intend her harm.

 At certain points along the way she has been so shut down that she squints her eyes shut and just lays there as you touch her to put the leash on. Soft and gentle touch offers her no comfort and she just tenses up and allows it, certain that it is all a lie and harm is sure to follow.

 From time to time, and for only a fleeting moment, I see hope in her eyes, or something that I cannot quite put my finger on. If I sit down sometimes she will approach me, and if I walk about the yard sometimes she will follow and on occasion come up behind to sniff me, quickly fleeing if my head turns or I give any indication that I know she is there.

 She loves Patronus, my amazing Dog Whisperer dog. Through him I have been able to see a portion of her true self, as she greets him in the morning and dances in delight. For him her tail wags, for him she rains kisses, for him she bows and entices him to play. These moments are precious and beautiful to behold, for they show her as she was meant to be, as she was created to be, before some unknown sorrow broke her heart and spirit into fractured pieces.

 Working with her is heartbreaking. I have so much to offer her. Peace, rest, provision and a lot of love. I think of how it would be to have her in my lap and give her cuddles and rub her tummy….but to her this would be torturous. She simply cannot see all that I have to offer her for fear of some cruelty. I know not what she has endured in her short life, but whatever it was it has scarred her terribly.

 The lessons she teaches me are painful ones, not the normal happy and uplifting ones that other foster dogs have taught. She teaches me of sorrow, fears, hopelessness and brokenness, a tormented creature lost in the darkness. I see in her my own plight at certain times of my life, when God wooed me with His grace and mercy but I was so broken, so angry and fearful that I could not accept His wooing. Yet He never stopped pursuing me. I, like her ate crumbs from the ground when a feast beyond measure was there for the taking. I was just too broken to see it, and too disillusioned to believe it was real.

 Sometimes broken cannot be fixed, sometimes broken just will not come to the table offered. Yet God in His great mercy never stops asking, never stops pursuing, and never stops loving. I will do my very best to do the same, for the Little Blue Dog and in so doing, I will hope with all my heart that she will reach a place of trust where she will decide to eat from the bountiful table that is offered and know the peace of companionship with a caring human.

 Your prayers for her are greatly appreciated.

 

Little Blue Dog

I watch you huddled in the corner

Your eyes carefully watching my every move

Your body is tense, your tail tucked tightly

You are ready to flee…always ready to flee

Softness does not break through

Kindness and soft words do not penetrate

Tasty food has no appeal

You are convinced that nothing good comes from humans

Goodness and humans are a lie

I think you once believed that such things could be

I think your heart wanted it so very much

But someone trampled upon all that

And left you shattered and broken

Let me show you that beautiful is possible

Let me show you what grace can do.

Trust me little one…..trust me just a little bit

And we will behold the miracle of love.

 

 

 “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life” (Psalm 23:6a, The Message)

 

 

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT)


Thanksgiving 2015

  Today is Thanksgiving, and for some reason that strikes me as odd that one day out of the year could be called Thanksgiving Day, as if there is nothing to be thankful for on the other 364 days, or as if I could possible store up all the grace, all the blessings and then sit down with family on this one day and give thanks for them all. The table would break under the weight of all that grace!

  Every day ought to be Thanksgiving Day. A grateful heart is good medicine for the soul; in fact it is the key to a healthy soul. It took me over 50 years to realize this and it took me that long to realize that every day is so full of His grace that even when I try and capture it all I fail utterly and completely. Some days I fail in even attempting to capture the blessings.

 A few years ago, God used a little book and a wonderful lady from Washington State, to teach me about gratitude, or at least to start me on the journey of learning about gratitude. Times were hard then, it had been a long dark night of the soul with no end in sight. My little family had sent a loved one to war twice, had spent near two years holding our breath and trying to be normal while a dear one fought in faraway lands. We were also dealing with a dark and painful mental illness here at home, one we did not understand and often could not make sense of. One that took a heavy toll from me, and from both my sons. Then my husband’s company closed their doors and money became extremely tight forcing him to seek work out of state.  For two long years we lived apart, seeing each other one weekend out of the month and talking on the phone each evening.  Then at last the war was over for us, the husband found work here, and it seemed that things were looking up. But the dark mental illness continued and to add to it, the son we had held our breath for was now trying to deal with the aftermath of war and loss. Then we had the first suicide, my beautiful daughter in law who had struggled so hard against the darkness of mental illness. Her death hit like a wrecking ball, a wave of pain so intense, so awful that it just cannot be described.  I had just a few weeks to try and breathe try and make some sense of that which cannot be made sense of, try and keep my son alive and then came the second suicide, my handsome nephew, husband and father of two.  A few weeks after flying home from that funeral, a little book arrived in my mailbox, sent by a kind lady in Washington who had ministered to my daughter in law.

 “One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”, by Ann Voskamp. It was almost an affront to receive such a thing at such a time. After all, what did I have to be thankful for?  And yet in reading it I began to see, I began to notice, I began to count the blessings. There were days when all I could come up with were the little things, “thank You Lord for coffee, thank You Lord for dogs” but as I practiced daily this art of counting the gifts I began to notice how blind I had been, and how wonderful it was to finally be able to see. To really see the beauty of life, the beauty of creation, the beauty of souls. My situation was still the same, nothing had changed about it, family members were still struggling hard in absolute darkness, and there were many times when we feared we would lose them to the darkness, feared yet another funeral, and yet something within me had changed.

 Giving thanks changes you, and the more you practice it the more you will be changed. There are ALWAYS the gifts He gives. There is beauty in the hard places, but we so often miss it completely because our lack of gratitude blinds our eyes to all the grace being poured out.

  So today, this Thanksgiving 2015, I give thanks to God most high, for the love, the intense and beautiful love that holds on no matter what, the love that just will not let go, the love that saves and redeems.  I give thanks for family, a family that looks out for each other, sacrifices for each other, and a family that has known pain and become all the stronger from it. I give thanks for beauty, the beauty of creation and the beauty of the human soul in all its suffering and in all its joy. I give thanks for sacrifice, for in sacrificing for others true love becomes known and understood. Love is pouring out your all for others. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, love hurts, your fur gets rubbed off, you get a bit ragged and worn, but oh how worth it is to truly love!  And last, but by no means least, I give thanks for the grace, grace poured out without measure, grace that falls like rain, grace that has sustained me and the ones I so love, grace that has saved and redeemed, grace that has blessed, marvelous outrageous grace.

  My prayer for us all is that the Lord most high would open our eyes to the gifts He gives, that we might always be a people of Thanksgiving, and that He would open our hearts that we might love with a measure of His love, and that we would be people of grace, giving it out to each other, as He gives it out to us.

 May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed. Remember our imperfections as you go about your day. No matter how hard you try, it will not be perfect. So give grace to the loved one that drinks a little more than they should, and grace to the one who arrives late to the table, and grace to the one that is loud and brash and ungrateful, and grace to the one who weeps and disrupts attempts to be happy, and grace to all the other disruptions and mistakes that might somehow mar your attempts for the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. For it is by grace that we are saved, and He has poured it out on us, so let us pour it out today on each other.

 Remember those with an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, whether it be those deployed in harm's way, or those deployed to heaven.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Mm

Blessed Are The Merciful

  This week in my daily devotions I have been considering the subject of mercy. The main focus of these devotional readings ( http://www.ifequip.com/category/beatitudes) has been Matthew 5:7.

   Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

   God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy!

   Blessed are those who show mercy. They will be treated mercifully.

   Happy are the kind and merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

  They are blessed who show mercy to others, for God will show mercy to them.

  Looking at this one verse, in several different translations shows two clear points. A person will be blessed, and find joy and happiness in the act of being merciful, and God will be merciful to those who grant mercy to others.

    To whom am I to be merciful towards? Should my mercy be extended only to those who have earned it? Is there a certain type of character to whom I am to be merciful? Are there certain types that I should deny mercy to?

  I know of only one method of obtaining any kind of answer to my many questions on this subject. I go to Jesus and observe Him.

  Jesus describes mercy to us in a parable about a king and two debtors. The king forgave the debtor who owed him an enormous sum, a sum so great that it could not be paid back, but the one whose debt was forgiven by the king, ran right out and demanded a paltry sum be paid back right away by a man who owed him money. This man could not pay and begged for time, but the one the king forgave would not allow it and cast him into prison. When news of this reached the king he was very angry, and ordered the man whose debt he had forgiven to be cast into prison until the very last penny had been paid because he who had been forgiven so much, had no compassion and no mercy upon his fellow man who owed a tiny sum in comparison.

  Jesus was clearly merciful to the poor. He stopped by the roadside many times to heal beggars afflicted with leprosy, blindness, and lame. So it is clear that I am to be merciful to those who suffer from poverty or are afflicted by handicap or disease even if those handicaps or diseases are deplorable to society. (look up leprosy during the time of Christ.)

 Jesus extended mercy to the Roman soldier and restored to him his child. Rome was the oppressor in that day, the symbol of a tyrannical government. This did not stop Christ from showing mercy. I am to be merciful to those who oppose me politically, morally and to those who work in support of government and programs that oppose me politically and morally.

  Jesus was merciful to tax collectors, who were hated and despised by Jewish society. They were in a sense considered traitors. By their actions they betrayed their people and assisted the tyrannical government in oppressing them. Yet Christ demonstrated mercy to them. I am to be merciful to traitors and liars and cheats.

 Jesus was merciful to outcasts from society. Women of ill repute, lepers who were considered to be unclean and untouchable. He even touched the untouchable. So I am to be merciful to the untouchables of society.

 Jesus was merciful to the criminal hanging next to Him, one who according to scripture has earlier been mocking along with everyone else. A criminal who could do nothing at all for Christ, who could only call out "remember me, when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus was merciful. I am to be merciful to people without regard for what they can do for me, or have done for me, and regardless of their social stature.

  And last, but not least, in fact the most profound; Jesus was merciful to me! To the one who openly opposed Him, mocked Him, mocked His people, mocked His word, to the one who broke every commandment, to the one who did not extend mercy, who hated, who reviled, who stirred up trouble, who lied, cheated, stole, murdered with my words, to the one that did nothing at all, not one tiny thing to deserve mercy, to the one who earned and fully paid for condemnation with thoughts, words and deeds, HE EXTENDED MERCY. If He, in His outrageous grace, can extend mercy to me, then I should and must endeavor with all of my might to extend mercy to everyone.

 Now to some this is an unthinkable thing. But I think the distress comes from the understanding of what mercy is and how we go about extending it. Mercy does not automatically mean that we dismiss deeds committed by persons. Should someone commit a heinous crime, and murder another, being merciful to this person does not mean excusing their crimes, nor does it mean setting them free from the consequences of that crime. Perhaps mercy to this person would be to pray for them, to still see them as a living, breathing person, to see them as redeemable, to perhaps visit them in prison, or write to them.

  I think that extending mercy to all might become easy were we able to always see the humanity in another, even one who is opposed to us, maybe even hates us, or to one who has done the unthinkable, the awful, the terrible. In order to see the humanity in others I believe we have to see the capacity for inhumanity within us all. 

  There are those who murder with their hands, taking the life of another unjustly and without cause. Then there are those who murder with their lips, defiling the character, judging and condemning another, ruining their life, their peace and their reputation and refusing to extend any possibility of redemption. Both are murder in God's eyes.

  Okay, so I am to be merciful. I am clear on that, the next question is how. How do I extend mercy to the untouchables? Right now, in today's world there exists a group of persons who are hell bent to destroy us. Were I in their hands the most grievous torture would be enacted upon me, and I would most likely die, probably with my head cut off. We have all seen the countless videos and read the stories of the multitude of people murdered by the hands of Islamic terrorists. The fleshly me wants an eye for an eye, or in truth I want a head for an eye. My flesh screams out to nuke every last Islamic country that holds even a thread of terrorism within it into the stone age. My flesh cries out, assemble the armies and march upon them and bring destruction to every last living thing that stands in our path. But my soul cries out something different. I have to listen carefully, for I cannot hear it for the boiling blood and pounding heart of my flesh, but I pause, I consider, I remember the things I have been learning about mercy and I know that my cry for vengeance and destruction is not the cry of my soul. My soul cries for peace. My soul prays for the spirit of God to be poured out upon the Muslim people, be they terrorist or normal hard working folk, my soul cries for the eyes of those committing evil to be opened, for their hearts to be deeply burdened for the atrocities they have and are committing. My soul cries for the hate to stop, for the mercy of God to reside in the hearts of all men. My soul cries for peace on earth and good will to all.

 And I hear that still small voice saying "yes child", "pray for them, pray for this world, pray for grace, pray for mercy, pray for peace, and be a light."

 What does the Lord require of me? "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8




 

If You Are The Only Jesus They See, And They Were Asked to Describe Jesus, How Would They Describe Him?

It is funny how God teaches us things, how numerous little things all come together across an expanse of time, all pointing at the same lesson, some subtle, some not so subtle. At some point, your eyes open wide and you get it…..and you exclaim.

 God has been doing that of late with me, many little lessons, many little road signs, all pointing to this one great truth….We are Jesus to the world. We are indeed the Fifth Gospel.

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Us

  I know a certain someone, whom I will not name here. His heart is big; it is very possible that his heart is the truest and the biggest of his entire family.

 He does not walk with Jesus, he does not know Jesus, or should I say that he does not know the real Jesus. He has seen what he thinks is Jesus, in many members of his family. Seen the stares, seen the disdaining looks, the turned up eyebrows. Heard the words of this Jesus in the mutterings, the things he hears from others who tell him that this Jesus does not want them to hang around with him, would prefer that they stay away.  He understands that He is outside the grace and mercy of this Jesus that he sees in them. His mistakes are too great for this Jesus to forgive. He should have gone to college, he should have gotten a real job, he should have….he should have…….he simply should not be who he is, nor should he have the things he has.

 He feels judged, condemned, misunderstood, unwelcome, unloved……by the Jesus he sees in their eyes.

 It breaks my heart to see this, to know that that instead of love and grace, instead of mercy and forgiveness, he sees judgment, he sees condemnation.  My heart breaks and I pray that it might be possible that God would allow him to see Jesus in me, I do not get to see him much, do not get to speak to him of these things he has seen, I only know second hand how he feels, what he has seen, how he must take in this false gospel of us.

The person of whom I speak has made mistakes in this life, has turned to things that were outside the law, but at the same time he has accepted full responsibility for every choice, another thing that makes him different from his critics. A lot of things have gone wrong, but he keeps pushing on, doing the best he can with the hand life has dealt him, a hand that he acknowledges responsibility for. Soon he will be moving on to a new life, where he will try and rebuild things, try to make things work. He will take the Jesus that he sees with him. Oh Lord let him see the real You, let him take the real You with him when he goes! Lord be merciful to him, go before him, pour out Your great grace and mercy upon him…..as You poured it out upon them…upon us. Forgive Your people for their lack of grace, and redeem that which is lost, that which was done wrong, that which showed to this lost one the wrong Jesus, the wrong gospel.

  We are a living gospel. We are His hands, His feet, and His voice. They watch us, so much more closely than you think. They take in each and every thing you do, each and every thing you say, they know that you profess Christ, and they watch you, to see if you are different, to see if you live what you say you believe. Think carefully.   Have you forgotten where you once were? Who you once were? Have you forgotten that there, but for the grace of God, go you?

 We are to live in grace, we are to show forth grace, we are to love and accept and forgive. It is not given us to change people with our looks, our condemnation nor our judgments, it is given us to love and preach the gospel. We can preach it with words, but we should also preach it with our very lives.

 I too have shown forth the wrong Jesus. I too have judged others, and failed to give grace, failed to extend acceptance and love. We all do. But we ought not.

 God forgive us for our failures, and redeem them. May our hearts shine forth Your great grace and mercy. I pray today, that You would remind me before every my mouth opens, before ever my gaze looks into another's eyes of this one question Lord....may it reverberate in my mind throughout my day......"If I am the only Jesus they see, and they are asked to describe Jesus, how will they describe Him?"


“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

“Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

“…the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

 

The Fifth Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John...You

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On a Journey of Hope, to Bring Back Beautiful

   This weekend we will pile into the car and hit the road on a journey to Beautiful.  Beautiful resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and we will be bringing Beautiful back to New Mexico.

   A journey that begins in hope, not that most thought of hope, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, but that sure hope that comes when you know that God is doing something. 

   When I was first asked, to find the beloved veteran a dog, to be a companion and friend, to be trained as a service dog,  I asked God to lead us to the right one,  to help us find the right dog, not just any dog, but the dog He made for this purpose. And I have asked Him to have His hand in all that follows and I trust that He will do all that I have asked……..and more……..He always throws in the more.

 He led us to this  dog.

     To a dog named Jewels, in Fort Worth, Texas. A dog who is as tough as nails, with a heart that far outweighs her 55lb body, a dog who loves big, and who holds no grudges though she has every right to hold some.

 The veteran wants to rename her, which is okay, for they are embarking on a new journey, and what is behind them has past, and that which is front of them is new.......so a new name, for a new life.

  While thinking of what the one she was made for might decide to name her........ a still small voice whispered in my heart……..”She is Bella”.

  And then the one she was made for confirmed it……..”She is Bella”.

 Bella means beautiful.

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

   So the dog named Jewels, who was tossed from a balcony and suffered great injury, and endured great pain, who was rescued and recovered will become Bella, the service dog, the friend and companion of the combat veteran who has also seen horror and endured much pain.........and she who was rescued will rescue, and she who was healed will heal.


Please pray for them both as they start their journey together.

Update: 10/6/14,  The journey down was long,  we stopped only for gas and bathroom breaks, all the way to Fort Worth. We stopped to eat an hour out from Beautiful. 

  Upon arriving,  we saw several people gathered in the yard with a white dog. We parked and got out and they released her. She ran straight to him,  greeting him as if to say " I been waiting for you, so happy to see you!".

  We went inside,  and at some point went out to get something from the car. He opened the door and she jumped right in, ready to go. We had to remove her from the car for a few photos. 

  She was a trooper on the way home, leaning hard into him when he sat with her, and leaning hard into me while watching him, when he drove.

  When last I saw her, around 3pm yesterday, she was snuggled on the couch, his arm around her.

  They fit well together. 

It is good.

Beautiful has arrived in Albuquerque. 

  

 

10/7/14 Update: They did their first service dog training session today, both did well. The lesson was held at a local Lowe's store. Bella was introduced to the halter, and she did not really like it, but she was trusting and accepted it. He was introduced to the leash and how to handle it, how to communicate gently. He did well. It was a delight to watch them take their first service walk together.


10/14/14 Update: They had their second service dog training session today. About an hour before the lesson they were in a very close call on the freeway. Someone hit the median and spun out, and he had to evade the accident, another car was hit but they escaped. Bella was thrown to the floor, both were shook up. Yet they proceeded to their lesson, and today they went inside the Lowe's store with their two trainers, and their two trainers service dogs. So it was a lot to take in, a lot of new sights and sounds and Bella was stressed. But again she trusted, she listened and she followed him about the store. I was very proud of them both.

6/17/15 Update : Miss Bella is doing great, she has lived up to her name for she is beautiful. She is doing great as a service dog and as Adam's friend and companion. She goes pretty much everywhere with him. Today she attended college classes for the first time and she did great. We are so proud of her, and so grateful to God, and to Sharina the CEO of Astasia's Animal Rescue  (they do great work, please check them out and assist if you are able), and Aggie Wasson for saving Bella and for letting our veteran adopt her. She who was rescued has rescued. 

His Grace Finds Me

Feeling old, and tired, and just wanting to sleep for a bit, I sit on a bench here at work. The day is hot, and the hotness increases the tired and worn feeling I carry today.

 As I sit reading from a devotional, a cool and uplifting breeze begins to blow. The little Japenese Maple above my head begins to sing its wind song softly to me, the tree across from me, species unknown, waves its branches and leaves in greeting, almost as if it is fanning me.

 I feel the cool breeze upon my skin, my eyes take in the deep and vivid green of the grass, the deep and vivid greens of the trees. I look up to the blue sky, viewed through the leaves of the little Maple.

 My body is still tired, after all three hours of sleep just isn't enough, but my soul zings with energy. Such a beautiful world, so full of grace, this cool breeze sent to energize me, to tell me I am beloved.

His grace finds me, it covers me, it overwhelms me and I wonder how many moments like this one I have failed to even notice.

I give thanks for the breeze,

I give thanks for the song of the trees,

I give thanks for the deep green,

I give thanks for the freshness I smell on the air,

I give thanks for the grace,

grace upon grace.

marvelous grace......

 Yet it's a harsh cruel world Lord..

 a man died today, I watched his mother plead for his life last week.

 I prayed for him, prayed for strength and grace and peace, prayed for his freedom....

 I wonder today if he was strong at the end, if he felt peace, if his soul is now free with You.

It's a hard world, a mean world, where has compassion fled to?

How can it be that a young man, who received the benefits of western society, who was already attracting fame and fortune...

How could he leave all that to go to a land of horrors and cut the heads from innocent prisoners?

Lord if the blood of Abel cried out to you from the ground.....what piercing screams assault Your ears today? We pour blood upon the ground like it is water.

 Creation groans, Your people groan....

even so, come quickly Lord Jesus

 And I sit here on a bench, under the Japenese Maple, listening to it's whisper song in the breeze, my body is tired, my heart is heavy, but my spirit soars.

 The breeze stills and all is quiet, the leaves prefectly still, and I hear the still small voice in my soul say "BE STILL and KNOW that I AM God". And I acknowledge this truth, my eyes lifted to the bright blue sky, and the breeze returns, and the trees sing it with me....


"It’s there in the newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me

It’s there on a wedding day
There in the weeping by the graveside
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

The same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

   I breathe it in..........

"Praise the name of God forever and ever,

for he has all wisdom and power.

He controls the course of world events;

he removes kings and sets up other kings.

He gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to the scholars.

He reveals deep and mysterious things

and knows what lies hidden in darkness,

though he is surrounded by light.

I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors,

for you have given me wisdom and strength.

You have told me what we asked of you

and revealed to us what the king demanded.” Daniel 2:20-23



Grace, Grace, Wonderful Grace…..Do You Know What Grace Is?

God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It's not the result of anything you've done, so no one can brag about it.”

 Grace is a marvelous thing and so often misunderstood, especially by those who do not believe. What is this grace that Christians always speak of, what does it really mean to receive grace from God?

 Perhaps the best definition I have ever read is below; taken from a book I recently read and attributed to Paul Zahn:

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.”

 

 Word pictures are often helpful in portraying truths. Imagine you are young and single, and you must marry. You have two choices; you do not personally know either of the choices. The first choice is young and vibrant and in appearance is more than you ever dreamed, they are knowledgeable of all the things that will enhance your life and are perfectly suited to be the most marvelous spouse. They have the most beautiful singing voice, they can dance, and they can cook, physically healthy, in fact upon examination you can find nothing wrong with them at all.  The second choice is weak, and deformed, ghastly in appearance, and is unable to contribute anything at all to the marriage. They have no voice, they cannot hear, they cannot read, they cannot write, In fact if you choose this person, you will have to provide for all of their needs, you will need to feed them, carry them, bathe them.

 Which one would you choose? If you are like anyone else, you would choose the vibrant beautiful person, the one who can add their skillset to yours and can provide for your needs and desires……but grace, the type of grace God displays to us is like you choosing the second person.  That second person can offer you nothing at all; in fact they have not one thing to offer.

That is how God’s grace is.

 Take it a step further.

  Imagine a person that you have done terrible things to. You have murdered their family, you have stolen all that they own, you have lied about them, destroyed their reputation, burned their house to the ground, killed their livestock, ground all that they ever loved into the dirt……. All of a sudden you find yourself under their power, helpless before them. Justly even you know that you deserve death, you expect it, your only fear is how terrible this death may be, in light of all the evil that you did against this person. No one will judge this person harshly for killing you, everyone is in agreement that you deserve it, justice cried out for it…….and yet as you lay on the ground at the feet of the one you wronged……you feel a touch on your shoulder, a hand pulls you to your feet. He hugs you, he places a robe about your shoulders, puts a cup of wine in your hand, sits you down at the best seat at his table……….would you be shocked?

This is grace….this is what God means when He talks about grace.

 You do not receive grace from God because you are good, or because your sins are “not so bad”, it has nothing at all to do with you. You just like me, stand before God clothed in rags, covered in filth, we have nothing to offer Him, nothing He needs, and in fact we have wronged Him time and time again. He is rightly able to utterly destroy us; it would be justice for we have fallen short of everything He decreed. But He does not give justice…He gives grace, wonderful, marvelous grace.

 

Grace like a river….” There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

 

Mystery of mysteries
That You could love
Someone like me
In your hands eternity
And yet you have the time for me

A love so undeserved
You held nothing in reserve
Heaven played its symphony
I took your hand and you rescued me

Grace like a river
Is flowing down
Is flowing down
Grace like a river
It's flowing down to me

Staring at my history
Was all alone but never free
The sands of time have let me see
Your faithful shadow next to me

A love so unreserved
I did nothing to deserve
Love so free but what's the cost
To carry this old rugged cross

I love You, I thank you
I'm nothing without your
Grace like a river

 

 

In the Shade of the Sycamore Tree

 I sit here, under the shade of a mighty sycamore tree, feeling small, feeling insignificant, and feeling a little helpless. I am reminded of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:4) and the children’s song we used to sing in Sunday school.

“Zacchaeus was a very little man,

and a very little man was he.

He climbed up in a sycamore tree

For the Lord he wanted to see.

And when the Savior passed that way

He looked up in the tree.

And said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down!

For I'm going to your house today!

For I'm going to your house today!'


Zacchaeus was a very little man,

But a happy man was he,

For he had seen the Lord that day

And a happy man was he;

And a very happy man was he.”

 (The tree below is called the Zacchaeus tree and is in the city of Jericho.) 

As I sit my thoughts leap about my head like bees buzzing around fresh flowers. Thinking of the things I have done that I did not wish to do, thinking of the things I should have done that I did not do, thinking of how I need to do more of this and less of that, thinking of how far I have come and yet how quickly I slip right back to where I once was.

 The world is so very noisy, our minds so cluttered, bombarded on a constant basis with the idea that if we just buy this one thing, we will be happy, if we just lose a few pounds all will be well, we listen to this song and that song and the televisions blare out their constant stream of garbage, and we have forgotten the sound of silence. I find myself longing for it and yet often unable to hear it, unable to catch those moments due to the constant clamors all about.

 So today, while feeling small, under the mighty sycamore tree, with my mind abuzz with a whole lot of meaningless regrets, wants and worries, the thought came into my head, clear as if spoken….”be still”….and I sat for a moment, just beholding the trees, my how large the leaves have grown since I last paused to look. I hear the birds singing, a bee buzzes around the flowers on a nearby bush, a yellow and black butterfly soars overhead. How majestic are Your works O Lord…..and the thoughts begin to leak back into my head, how I have failed Him time and time again….and again comes the “be still” and I sit and behold the wonders.

 I begin to pray…….and again comes the “be still”. Sometimes we just need to sit in silence and behold things.

 Even in the midst of chaos there are moments of silence, we simply need to turn off the clamor inside our heads and sit quietly and behold all that is around us.

  I got up, my break over, feeling refreshed and alive and marveling at the awesome grace of the Lord whom I serve. He is there in the little things. He is there when I fail, He is there when I triumph, His grace is sufficient, and all is His grace.

 

 I will leave you with a few quotes from one of my readings today, which spoke deeply to my soul. 

 

“You’re guilty but you’re not condemned.

Whatever you’re caught in, I make you free.

Whatever you’re accused of, I hand you keys.

Whatever you’re judged at, I give you release.”

 

“Grace isn’t a paltry thing but the most powerful thing — the very power of God — so don’t ever underestimate it:”

 

“God gives you grace and acceptance before you overcome your sin.

Because it’s His grace and acceptance that let you overcome your sin.

You don’t overcome your brokenness to have God’s love.

It’s God’s love that has you overcoming your brokenness.”

 

Only when you go to the Cross first & hear no condemnation,

can you go to the mirror and see deep transformation.

This is the only one road to take all the way home.”

 

Jesus doesn’t condemn you, 
Jesus is condemned for you.

Stones will be thrown, but Jesus takes them for you.

Spears will be hurled, but Jesus offers His side to shield you.

Battles will come, but Jesus will be nailed to the wall for you.

You don’t have to overcome your brokenness to have His love.

It’s His love that has you overcoming your brokenness.”

 

“This is the only one road to take all the way home.”

 (Quotes are from the blog of Ann Voskamp and can be read in context and fully at this link: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/05/how-to-handle-the-loud-critics-headlines-and-self-critic/)

What's In a Year


 

There are times in one's life that are clearly marked, times where dates are etched in one's mind forever. I am certain many of those within my circle of life can agree with me on this.

 The etched times that are obvious to all are the mundane ones, the wedding dates, birthdates and graduation dates. We all share those, but for some there are more terrible dates.

The date your friend died in combat.....

The date you or a friend were wounded in combat.......

The date your child died.......

The date your child was wounded in combat...........

The date someone close to you chose to die at their own hand........

The date your son went to prison........

  These kind of memorial dates cannot be truly understood until one has owned one.  I know folks who own more than one of these. I own a couple myself. I think once you own one of these you are drawn to those who also own them. You begin to understand, to truly feel the weight they carry, to be grieved by it, to hurt with those who hurt.

 I have known many moments of sorrow, and yet in this past year, an exact year from 3/12/13 to 3/12/14, I have begun to see things more clearly.

the grief between the lines of the mother who posts phrases from songs.......

the grief from the mother who posts words of endearment to her departed son........

the struggle of the young wife left behind to raise children alone.....

the pain and sorrow in the Vietnam veteran's words as he struggles with PTSD and panic attacks.....

the sorrow of holidays for those missing someone....

the soldiers who like a well-oiled clock, post their memorial comments and photos on the exact day, on a monthly basis…....

the young warrior weeping in front of the computer.......the site a memorial site for the fallen....

the song….”Paint Me a Birmingham” and the sorrow he feels when he listens to it.....

the young warrior and his bottles of Jack left on the memorial stones.....

the mother and her website declaring all out war on the PTSD that took her son's life....

the soul angry at God for allowing such loss......

the soul clinging to God for the strength to endure such loss......

the sister feeling guilty for that moment of happiness......

the father who wishes he could have changed things......

the warrior drinking to excess, seeking to drown the demons, to shut their voices, to squelch the memories...... 

the mother begging for prayer for her incarcerated son....

the mother waging war on the Army on behalf of her incarcerated son....

the feelings from many that they are forgotten, that people don't really care.....

the young warrior who twists his prosthetic foot around and around making us laugh....but behind his eyes you can see pain.....

the young warrior and the dog who just might have saved his life......

the angry young warrior in the parking lot instigating a fight....and the sad father of another young warrior who rose to the occasion.....until he saw his own son in the young man's eyes and walked away.....

the worry in the little boys eyes as he tries to be the man for his grieving mother.....

the frantic intensity of a mother as she drives back and forth countless miles, as she prays, as she frets, as she seeks with all her heart and soul and strength to make it better..........and she can't make it better....

 And so many more that I could write and write and never capture them all....

    These many years of war have caused a lot of pain, pain felt personally, pain witnessed from a distance, and yet this past year, the year that brought all the pain to a head, to an eruption that simply could no longer be contained, also brought healing, and a stronger faith, and a deeper love, a pain that ripped open the heart and laid it all bare, torn beyond human capacity to repair.....but not beyond His capacity. Throughout it all He has been close and I stand here today, this March the 12th, 2014 forever changed, forever scarred, but able to behold the beauty and grace in those scars and in the scars of others who suffer. I am grateful for every bit of this journey, from the broken times when I could not stand, to the moments of joy when I caught the glimpses of His grace.

 I have learned that I cannot save people, no matter how hard I try, in fact often when I rely upon my own strength and ability I often make things worse. I have learned that sometimes there simply are no words to say, and pretty much anything you do say will not help, and in fact may make things worse, and the best thing to do is to let people know that you care, that you love them, and that you are praying for them. Sometimes in life there just are no answers.

 I have learned to look between the lines, for this is where you often see the heart of people. What may appear to be hateful, cynical, hard or sarcastic is often a mask that hides deep hurt and terrible pain and grief.

 I have learned to hope, not that type of hope that is most common in life, as in "I hope I win the lottery" but the hope that comes of a deep and abiding faith in a personal God who works for my good and His glory, who works His most glorious works in the painful places, often unseen, unfelt and not understood, but present always. Hope that comes from the knowledge that He redeems and He loves, and He blesses.

 I have learned to see, to open my eyes to the many gifts He gives to all, the simple things, like a hawk in flight, a flower blooming, the song of the trees as they bend in the wind, the look in a dog's eyes as his head rests in your lap, the sound of the breathing of a loved one as he sleeps, the laughter of a child, the feel of the sun upon my face, the beauty of poetry, the mountain covered in snow, sun striking white until the peaks gleam like gold, the look on a young warrior's face as he sits quietly with dog in lap, the photo of the old guy, beloved brother as he crosses the finish line, the moments of peace, the moments where love is felt strong within the breast, the moments so often missed but when noticed take your breath away............life is full of so much beauty, beauty often missed. We only have this moment right now.

 I have learned to believe in His promises, to listen to dreams, to look for His grace, to sing in the mundane, to rest in His love and mercy. I would like to say that I have found happiness, but as we all know, happiness is an elusive creature, dependent upon circumstances, and sometimes the truth of the matter is........circumstance suck......but joy is in the knowing that He is working, that all is for a purpose, even if I never come to know exactly what that purpose is, and that this place here is temporary and one day everything will be made right, and I will dwell with Him, and there will be no more sorrow, no more sickness, no more despair, no darkness and best of all......there will be no death and He will be the Light there!

 There is joy in that knowledge, indescribable joy.

  So here I stand, on this Memorial Day, one year ago today my daughter in law, Melanie Griego, stepped from this life into the arms of her Lord, leaving behind nothing but questions and sorrow and guilt and pain. A few months ago God was gracious to me and sent me a dream. It was a long dream, but I can only recall one portion of it. My father was there, and Melanie was there, we talked a lot, I felt such a sense of peace and purpose. At the end she laughed, a laugh full of joy and childlike delight, and she said to me, "do not worry Ma, it is all going to be okay, in fact it is going to be more than okay!" and I awoke. I could recall nothing that my dad had said in the dream, but I knew I had seen him for the memory of his presence was strong in my mind, and I could recall nothing of what Mel had said......except that one sentence and her laughter. If I close my eyes right now, I can see her laughing, I can hear it; can hear her clearly saying......

"Do not worry Ma, it’s all going to be okay, in fact it's going to be more than okay!"

 

It’s been a long road and I know not how much longer the journey will take, but I move ever onward, over obstacles, through the deserts, and the valleys, sometimes running, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling and occasionally just curled up on the side of the path weeping for a moment……then onward again, my eyes are upon Him, the Author and Finisher of my faith, my hope is in Him, my trust is in His goodness, His righteousness, His grace and mercy.

 

I remember…….I have not forgotten…….dance for Him, sing for Him, it must be glorious……I look forward to the day when I can join the dance.

http://allisgrace.posthaven.com/in-his-presence-all-is-well

)

 

I'm thinking today of friends that I used to know
Who lived and suffered in this world below
They're gone off to heaven, but I want to know
What are they doing there now?
Oh, what are they doing in heaven today
Where sin and sorrow have all gone away
Peace abounds like a river they say
Oh, what are they doing there now?
There's some whose hearts were burdened with care
They spent for their moment with fighting and tears
But they clung to the cross in trembling and fear
Oh, what are they doing there now
There's some who were poor and often despised
They looked up toward heaven with tear-blinded eyes
While people heedless and deaf to their cries
Oh, what are they doing there now?

 

 I cannot speak for everyone, but I know that she is dancing and singing and laughing...............