Senior Citizenship

Daily I am being inundated with offers from insurance companies to sell me a Medicare policy.  You see, I am staring down the age of 65, the official old age of Americans.  Each letter is packaged more cleverly than the previous offer.  It doesn’t matter.  I wince each day as I throw them into the trash unopened.

I was talking to Jesus this morning about aging.  Though my body is strong, I sometimes struggle to find a word, and my children finish my sentences.  There are decided wrinkles developing, more pronounced on the left side of my face than on the right.  Yes, aging is happening.  And I don’t need daily letters from insurance companies to remind me.

Jesus cares about such minor irritations in life, because He spoke to me about it this morning. “ Stop fretting,” He said.  “Listen to what I say about the years ahead.”

“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree…. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age, to show that the Lord is upright.”  Psalm 92:12,14-15

So there you have it.  I walk a little taller this morning.  My aging is a witness of God’s faithfulness and truth.  He is completely “upright,” and I reflect His honor and principle and transparency.  When you notice my well-disguised wrinkles, know that they represent a life that demonstrates a God who keeps His promises.  I have NEVER seen the righteous forsaken (Psalm 37:25).

Therefore, I am flourishing like the palm tree.  I like that analogy better than the cedars of Lebanon or the olive tree. Cedars and olive trees LOOK old; have you seen them?  But never the palm tree.   Palm trees are beautiful.  My frequent trips to Florida are always times when God’s voice is loud—in the waves of the ocean, in the BRIGHT sun, and in those amazing palm trees.  It is bleak and gray and cold here in Kentucky, but two weeks ago, I flew to St. Augustine for the weekend, just so I could be reminded of what the sun looks like!!  The palms are green, and young, and beautiful.  I just saw them!

My best days are ahead—there is still fruit to be carefully cultivated, fully produced, and  abundantly enjoyed.  God promised more fruit in old age.  My flourishing is a reflection of the Lord’s goodness.  May God give me opportunity to explain the reason for the joy of the Lord in my life.

My fellow old-age, Medicare enrolled, senior Americans, I have another word from this Psalm for you that makes me smile—

“I shall be anointed with fresh oil.”  Psalm 92:10

Fresh every morning!  Pure fragrant oil.  The oil of gladness.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit within me and upon me.  As long as there is fresh oil, I shall live life as fully and completely as the grandchildren all around me who play and laugh and find living so carefree.  Inexpressible fresh oil!  “Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

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God in the Winter

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; I John 1:1

I have lived more than 23,000 days on this earth, and have never found a single fact of science or history that contradicts the Bible.  I have pursued truth; (it is who I am by nature) and I have pursued God.  John’s first epistle reveals God’s truth in glorious light—God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all!  It is delightful to see God’s light and to know deeply that it is good and right to apply to all of life.

But for those who stop their search for God after the discovery of His light in all its glory fall far short of the revelation John speaks about.  The same God whom John declared is light, is the same God whom John declared is love (I John 4:8).  God’s truth is available and plain for all to see.  The longer I live life, the more clearly I see His immutable principles prevail no matter who or what the subject of His Providence is.

I wonder how different life would be if Christians gave the same energy to discovering that “God is love” as they have given to explaining God’s light of truth.  Could I speak from the heart and tell you what I have heard, what I have seen with my eyes, what my hands have handled?  Could I capture the mystical epiphanies that are scattered throughout my story that have little to do with me, and everything to do with Him?  In these days of winter, it is an early dark morning, coffee alone, dry skin, a shiver of cold, pushing back vague thoughts of aging.  These are facts.  They are truth.  I have mistakenly thought they dim the light of God, but they do not dim the light at all.  They dim the love.  And I must find the One who comes to me and fills me with eternity, transcends the facts of life and the illusion of death, so that I might say with John, I have heard, I have seen, I have handled; I am overshadowed by the Almighty, and I am loved.

The Psalmist gave testimony to the same experience—

“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”  Psalms 85:10  

It is the personal and profound experience of the mercy of God that assures me I will never be alone—surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!  It is a Presence that settles on me and in me, and in that moment, I let go of my struggle.  Though I am commanded to “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” (Luke 13:24) the war for truth and righteousness is utterly exhausting until “mercy and truth are met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

I have experienced the One who is Light.  He is the One who is Love.  In the dark of winter, I hear Him saying, rest a while.  There is joy in the morning, and He loves to give good gifts to His children.  Today I will appreciate the light of God that shines in my heart, and I will rest with the dogged determination that truth often elicits inside me, to embrace the mercy and peace of the Holy Spirit, who invites me to see, and to hear, and to understand in an unseen realm that fulfills the longings of winter.

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Remember those in prison

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.   He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.  Isaiah 57:1-2

It has been a disturbing few days as I have been made aware of the plight of two honorable men who have fought the good fight of faith for a lifetime, and have been unjustly thrown into prison—yes, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  One of them took a bold stand years ago as a first term Congressman in a battle for which I gave a decade of my life.  Though our paths crossed in a significant way, I had lost touch since our ministry has drawn to its twilight years.  I have read with horror the details– this man never stopped fighting for justice to the great irritation of the Obama justice department.  He languishes in a prison cell under the vaguest of charges, laughed at by one side, and abandoned by the other.  It is gut wrenching.

I don’t know the other man personally, but I have heard him tell his story.  The two men are friends.  He spent his life in ministry, and was harassed, endured multiple lawsuits, refused to plead guilty to avoid prison time, and now, separated from his wife and children and grandchildren, he takes his stand.  He will be released in a couple of years, only to face additional civil lawsuits.

These stories have gripped my heart this week.  Why them?  One Christian writer reminded me that the apostle Paul’s greatest years were spent in prison.  It seemed rather trite for him to say from his multi-million dollar empire where he enjoys the adoration and approval of Christians who have no time for such things in the frenzy of December.

This week I have prayed for these prisoners and their families, and as I have so many times before, I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me how such injustice could prevail.  Peace finally came after days of travail.

I was reminded that life on earth has a definite beginning and a definite end.  Isaiah declares that merciful men are taken away from the evil to come.  We are called to endure only the years that God has set for us.  Some will be called to martyrdom.  Some will be called to lose all of their resources and their reputations as my friends have willingly done.

I am grateful to hug my children and grandchildren a little closer in light of the evil that has robbed some of that privilege.  Isaiah declares at the end of this chapter that the wicked who have imposed their will on the righteous are much worse off.

But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.  (vv. 20-21) 

Today I will remember those who are in prison.  May they enter into peace, and rest in their beds, as they walk in uprightness.  Steve and Philip, I admire you greatly.  Well done, good and faithful servants.

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To the Praise of His Glory

Ephesians 1:  To the Praise of His Glory

He blessed us…He chose us…He adopted us…to the praise of the glory of His grace (v. 6)…so that we might be to the praise of His glory (v. 12)…to the praise of His glory (v.14).

God speaks clearly and often to me in Ephesians 1 that I should be to the praise of His glory.  I have been thinking about this for many days now.  How can something God repeated so often just draw a blank when I ask myself what that looks like?

I was thinking about something the Colonel told me many times over the years while we worked to restore God’s law to public policy.  He would say, “You have to be strategic before you get to tactical.”  As a war hero Marine, he always saw way down the road and could articulate what victory would look like (strategic) long before we had the steps to get there (tactical).  Being “to the praise of His glory” is an utterly strategic concept.  I can’t list ten steps to a life that is to the praise of His glory.  I sit again this morning, and I look into the glory—beyond light, beyond words—the glory that made John fall on his face as dead (Revelation 1:17); the glory Moses was only able to see in the shadows (Exodus 33).   Moses understands the dilemma.  When he asked God, “show me Your glory,” he did not know what he wanted to see.  So God passed by Moses.  That glimpse of glory energized him.  He spent 40 days and 40 nights without food or water in God’s presence, and then had to wear a veil on his face because of the brightness of the reflection of God’s glory!

So we need only to get a tiny glimpse of the shadow of God so we can be to the praise of His glory.  It is the sustenance of life, and the promise of eternity, now seeing through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

I am going out today to live the gift of life, but I do not have a “to do” list of things I could do to reflect God’s glory.  My mind is captured in the seeing.  God will reveal all I can possibly see and still live.  And I revel in the fact that all I see is a shadow; yet from me, even with so small a revelation, can reflect the praise of the glory of His grace.

There are some hints in Ephesians 1 about the grand strategy for being to the praise of His glory.  I will walk today as a daughter of the King.  I am blessed, chosen, predestined, adopted; I am destined to see Him face to face one day.  He reminds me that to reflect the glory of His grace, I must trust him fully.  He has the power, the desire, and the indefinable Father love to work everything for my good.  And if one single word comes out of my heart or my mouth that falls short of the praise of His glory, He reminds me of my inheritance, which the Holy Spirit has sealed.  He stirs my spirit to see it; mere shadows—it is all I can bear.

Can I live today to the praise of His glory?  I am abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, and when I dare to look, I can see I am already there.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18

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God’s Eternal Choice

I am still working through the truth of this great chapter of Ephesians 1.  There God lays out His eternal purpose for me.  It is grander than you could imagine.

I was chosen in the past before time.

Before God created the heavens and the earth, prior to recorded history, before time began to be measured, God chose a mid-twentieth century girl to live life on the earth He would create, to carry out the Kingdom mission He had already designed, and to finish faithfully and live with Him forever.  The height and depth and length and breadth of God’s choosing has settled in my spirit as I have read once again the precious truth of Ephesians 1:  “In His love, He chose us in Christ, selected us for Himself as His own, before the foundation of the world.”  (Ephesians 1:4 AMP)

What was He thinking!!  He thought about helpless babies, and vulnerable children, and struggling adults before He turned to creation, and He decided we all need His adoption.  And so, He predestined us to be adopted to Himself (v. 5).  God invented my adoption as His daughter before He got around to creating the world.  How could it be?  It is because His intention, before the foundation of the world, is love, and kindness, and taking pleasure in me, the one He has created in His mind before time, made to be accepted as His beloved  (vv. 5-6).

I am chosen in this life.

Fast forward…I can’t say how long, because there was no time when God was thinking all of this…  We call it 1954.  My brief moment on the stage of history has finally come.  The eyes of God are upon me.  Seventy years, He says, perhaps more, though the Psalmist prayed, “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we might apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  No one told me wisdom is attained, not through years of higher education, but by turning one’s heart to the One who has thought about me for centuries.  I think God is delighted that my time has finally come.  While my footing seems sometimes unsure, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  I realize He is blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ just as He promised! (v. 3)

How do I know His choosing in the present?  I hear Him singing over me with joy! (Zephaniah 3:17).  He forgives and heals, He redeems your life from destruction.  He crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercy, and oh, how He satisfies (Psalm 103:1-5).  He personally comforts me when I am cast down (II Corinthians 7:6).  His mighty hand lifts me out of anxiety!  (I Peter 5:6-7)  He is full of grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16).   I am awed as I witness Him finishing the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).  He is merciful and gracious and slow to anger (Psalm 103:8)  I am the apple of His eye! (Deuteronomy 32:10)  He has engraved my name on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).

His choosing is undeniable and sure.  I am a witness.  Its truth is eternal in Ephesians 1, and now apparent in every moment of my earthly existence….and His choosing will never cease.

I am chosen in God’s future plans.

God has promised that He will bring all things together in Christ, both in heaven and earth.  (v. 10).  Whichever place His timing finds me is of no consequence.  His plan includes me, His eternal choice.  I am His inheritance; He has assured me so by placing within me His Holy Spirit (v. 14).  It is His will that I might know and cherish the hope—the riches of His glorious inheritance (v. 18).  So He has given me an immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing great measure of His power (v. 19) as I live out my numbered days in this phase of God’s eternal choice.

Stand strong my fellow chosen one.  The Father has put a ring on my finger, and shoes on my feet.  He has prepared a feast for us.  Let us join Him, resting in His choosing, always vigilant to hear His voice, completing in faithfulness the works He has prepared for us.  Hear His marching orders in the Book.  Time is of the essence.  Or perhaps not.  God’s thoughts towards me began before time.

 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Hebrews 4:11-12

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Letters to Ephesus and to Linda

In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

I remember a hymn from my childhood that said, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest.”  There is a new hunger in me to hear the words of this book like they are brand new.  I often quote the words of Ephesians if I wake up in the night, or need to refocus.  And the wonder of God’s love for me settles over me in warmth and joy in a way I cannot explain.  Paul says we are quickened to sit with Christ in heavenly places.  That’s about as close as you can get to putting it into words.  I never want to lose the wonder.

So I am spending a few days absorbing the profound gifts found in Ephesians 1.

I am blessed (v. 3).  I am rich in spiritual blessings.  His presence is life giving and energizing.  Blessing is my perspective.  Every area of my life is touched by God, and directed according to His perfect will.

I am chosen (v. 4).  As a kid, I was the ugly awkward non-athlete that somebody had to put on their team to make it fair.  Today, I wear the ring, and the robe, and the shoes, as an heir in my Father’s house.  I am chosen as His child, and I am also chosen for a Kingdom mission.  I have purpose and dreams that God has planted in me, and He is bringing them to completion.

I am adopted (v. 5).  Two of my children are currently neck-deep in the foster care system.  I understand in my gut now why God used this metaphor.  He took me out of the rejection shelter and placed me in His family.  I left oppression and darkness and hopelessness far behind; I moved into His big house with lots of food and trampolines and swing sets and a swimming pool.  I love the big eyes and giant smiles of our foster kids, and when these precious children wrap their arms around my legs and declare, “I love you, grandma,” I know more deeply how much God loves me.

I am accepted in the beloved (v. 6).  When God says His will (decided before the world began) is for us to be holy and without blame, it causes a little panic.  That sounds like a mountain of work in my life.  So God reminds me that I am accepted as His beloved.  Preachers tell you it’s simple—you are saved by grace to do works.  It is not so black and white.  Let it be a mystery.  Be so lavished by the acceptance of your Beloved that you begin to dream His dreams for your family, your nation, and the nations.  If you get too complacent about your acceptance in Christ, get out of Ephesians and into James….

I am redeemed (v. 7)  The blood of Christ has paid an awful price to translate me from darkness into His light.  You are not your own; you are bought with a price.  He broke down the walls.  He loved the world.  And my redemption is complete.  What a Savior!  When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.

I am forgiven (v.7)  When I think about heaven where our works will be judged, the slightest tinge of fear indicates unforgiveness.  I must forgive myself, I must forgive others, I must fully receive God’s forgiveness, and trust in the blood of Christ that has paid the full price for my redemption.  I walk in newness of life.  His mercy is as high as the heavens, and my sins are removed as far as the East is from the West.  Thank God, I am forgiven!!  All is well.  I cannot brood over what might have been, or the missteps that clouded my life.  He has chosen me and ordained me to bring forth Kingdom fruit.  When I truly understand I am forgiven, I can walk in His high calling without worry.  Soon I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  My inheritance is sealed and waiting for me when my work is done.

There is so much more in Ephesians 1—He has revealed to us the mystery of His will; we have obtained an inheritance; we are sealed with the Holy Spirit; we have wisdom, revelation, understanding and power; and we are VICTORIOUS!!

Paul understood all these things because He sat with Christ in heavenly places and they were revealed to him.  You are invited to join in that place and experience the sweet inner Voice that will speak to you.  Sitting in heavenly places…but that’s chapter 2.  I don’t want to rush there.  God is speaking the promises of chapter 1 into my spirit, and I want to stay in this secret place of the Most High for a while.

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Uganda 2018

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.  Ephesians 1:9-10

We have been back in the US for a few days.  It takes a few nights to readjust to American time, and of course, every year it feels like we leave in the summer and return in the winter!  Between coming back to the whirlwind of business and family, I have thought about this verse in Ephesians 1—the fullness of times.  God’s will is sometimes a mystery.  His pleasure and purpose are always carried out.  But He gathers together things in both heaven and earth, and suddenly I realize I am walking in one of God’s “fullness of times.”

It was one of those times in Uganda this year.  We began seven years ago with a vision of preaching and teaching to church leaders in a rented tin building, where we distributed Bibles and bicycles, and gave a few dozen children food and shelter.  Seven years later, we are working to be instruments of God’s favor in establishing a bustling orphanage and school, businesses that will support five churches, breaking new ground in a neighborhood where many have never heard Jesus’ name, and enabling a television ministry that will reach six nations.  We have felt the pleasure and purpose of God as we have built on the growing ministries where God’s pleasure and purpose are now apparent—a magnificent pig farm that supports a church, miracle ownership and renovation of a church in the poorest neighborhood in Kampala, a new church plant where people responded immediately to the gospel, sewing shops where people are trained and new jobs created, seven buildings with teachers and joyful children on a hillside of picturesque rolling hills and cisterns, and a leap into television ministry for a faithful Bishop of Kampala.  Those are just the little pieces of the mystery that has become clearer than ever before this year.  God’s favor, His kindness, His abundance, His lavish grace—Spirit led believers are rising up in Uganda and the whole nation is prospering because of God’s people.  Such success always seems fragile to me as I look around and see clearly that there is much opposition.  But it is not fragile at all.  It is the good pleasure and purpose of God to lead His people into fullness of times when all the circumstances of seven years of sacrifice and faithful work begin to pour out fruit.  A growing season is not so long.  We will reap if we do not grow weary—and I know from experience this year that God’s promise is true!  As I have enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables from the lush gardens and fertile soil of this country, so I have enjoyed the fruits that come in one of God’s “fullness of times.”  How beautiful it is to walk in the mystery of His will!!!!

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