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May 9, 2012

About Carol Lackland

Carol has lived in the mountains of North Carolina for thirty-seven year. She and her husband celebrated forty years of marriage this summer to the “absolute glory of a mighty, saving God.” They have two grown children and three granddaughters. She has a passion for teaching God’s word to women. She loves to cook and gather around a table with family and friends. She enjoys gardening and is a firm believer in the power nap. She has taken a hiatus from blogging, but you can drop by and peruse some of her past musings at http://carolslifesong.blogspot.com/

As Much As We Want

As Much as We Want

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.” John 6:11-12

 I do not come from a background that observes Lent, an annual season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter. However, during this past few weeks it seems the Lord Himself put me in this mode. Our church had just finished a Bible study and we were challenged to fast something for 10 days. One of the suggestions was that we fast television. That particular suggestion dominated my thinking, so the following Monday I began my TV fast. On that very day, inexplicably, my internet went out. When I contacted my server they indicated they had no record of our internet account which seemed preposterous. Would you believe it took two weeks to resolve it? Added to these two simultaneously occurring events I dropped my cell phone in our dog’s water bowl. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I began to see that Someone wanted my full attention. One of the true benefits of the voluntary and enforced fasts was a greater hunger and thirst for righteousness. It stood out to me that in John 6:11-12 that they were given as much food as they wanted. I had been snacking on the world’s junk food and it had indeed dulled my appetite and the Lord desired for me to know that. I don’t watch sordid or awful programs. The song One Pure and Holy Passion by William Murphy states:

This world is empty, pale, and poor– Compared to knowing You my Lord. Lead me on, and I will run after You.

Empty, pale, and poor is an apt description of some of the things that were taking too much of my time and attention. The heart of this song is a cry and a prayer that He would give us one pure and holy passion. That He would give us one magnificent obsession. Instead we obsess over our favorite television programs, texting, games, twitter feeds, blogs, pinterest , and fill in the _______. God is so gracious, full of mercy and lovingkindness, but He is not into competing for our attention. He has given us many exceedingly great and precious promises, but not all of them are unconditional. They require something of us.

 ”I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. “But My people did not listen to My voice; And Israel did not obey Me. “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices. “Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! “I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries. Psalm 81:10-14

We are told in 2 Chronicles 16:9

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”

He wants our hearts to be fully His and our mouths opened wide with desire to have our emptiness filled by no one and no thing, but Him. He’s jealous for us friends. His jealousy is whole and pure longing with desire to show Himself strong on our behalf. Will we run to Him with hungry hearts or appetites that have been dulled by the empty, pale, and poor things the world is offering to distract us? He will give us as much as we want. During this week approaching Easter let’s do as the song by Helen H. Lemmel says,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. The things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

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A Long Leash

A Long Leash

And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,  knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind. 2 Peter 1:13-15

I went to the memorial service for a friend of mine, who died in a car accident. She was young and we were all so shocked that she could possibly be gone. One man spoke at her memorial about the day she died, and how he had rushed to their home to see what he could do for her husband and son. He described opening the front door and seeing her home left so beautifully in order. He started to enter when he said in his mind he could hear her lilting soft voice asking, “Would you mind taking off your shoes?” Then he made us laugh through our tears by saying, “She has a really long leash.” In other words, he could still sense her influence even from heaven.

The Apostle Peter knew that his laying aside of his earthly body was imminent. He wanted to be diligent that at any time after his departure that those he loved would be able to call certain things to mind. So Peter kept repeating himself and emphasizing what he wanted them to remember. You know how it goes…people are talking and someone would say, “Well, Peter always said….”

It really has caused me to think what I want to leave behind, the long leash of influence, if you will. Aunt Carol, mom, grandmother, my friend, always said…. I have a firstborn granddaughter who tends to be a worrier. I hope every time she has a worrying thought she hears my voice saying, “Caitlin, let’s pray and cast that care on the Lord, because He really cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 One woman’s influence over me was Corrie Ten Boom who said,

 “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other side as well. We live in a fallen world.  Some of us have been tethered to someone ,who is gone, by negative words spoken to or over us. Those words that hinder or condemn us we need to allow the Spirit and word of the Living God to break off of us. Don’t allow their negative influence to keep impacting you.

Let’s ask the Lord for words “fitly spoken.” Proverbs 25:11 We don’t want to  leave behind clichés, but a strong, intentional, and godly influence that will last beyond our life.

I think it would be really helpful if you would post Scriptures, positive words or sayings that others have sowed into your life that have endured to encourage and strengthened you. Who has had a long leash in your life?

Lord  thank you for giving us the tongue of them that are taught, that we may know how to sustain with words those who are  weary. Help us to speak with love, encouragement and warning to influence those we love. Help us to be intentional. Isaiah 50:4


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Even to Old Age, I AM HE

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For the second time this Christmas season I went caroling at the nursing home with a group from our church. Our pastor led the way on both occasions. The second time we went he gave us Christmas cards to hand out and encouraged us to minister to the people as we walked the hallways singing. Various people in our congregation had put a handwritten message inside the cards along with a bookmark.

Many of the residents were non-responsive, seemingly trapped in a world that confused and confounded them. Some would nod their heads and smile with a shy acknowledgment of their appreciation. I was so caught off guard when I entered a room where one resident was sitting in a chair singing with great enthusiasm.  She was alone and her face was aglow with joy. I just stopped in front of her and looked at wonder at the glory of it.  She never missed a beat, but held my gaze and kept singing… then my tears began to flow. She reached out her hand, touched me, and spoke some words of encouragement. She was so frail in body, but so strong in spirit. I think she knew my tears weren’t from pity, but from gratitude. How faithful is the One who is indeed Immanuel, God with us?

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. Isaiah 46:3-4

On another hallway I entered a room to give out the Christmas cards. This resident had an iPod to her ear, but she put it aside to let me know that she had a splitting headache and that her request for some aspirin was being ignored.  She asked me if I had any aspirin and I told her I didn’t, but I would like to pray with her. She said, “Well, I would rather have an aspirin.” The way she said it was so funny I could barely contain myself. I told her the hospital would frown on visitors dispensing aspirins, but I could pass on her request to an aide. She looked at me with slightly more interest and said, “Well, are you going to pray for me or not?” I laid my hand on her head and gently massaged her scalp while I prayed for the Prince of Peace to give her His peace and for healing of her headache so she could get some rest. Then she didn’t want me to go. I explained that we had other rooms to visit, but I would check back in on her. Several minutes later when we passed by her room I looked in and she was sound asleep.

So far, this is my favorite Christmas experience.  I am thankful our pastor led the way in the busy season to remind us as Paul did in Acts:

 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

I left the nursing home a blessed woman. Let’s  remember our Savior’s words.

Lord, thank you for those you have put in our lives who spur us on to love and good works. Help us to lift you up in this season in word and deed. In Jesus name, amen.

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Images Without Substance

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I was watching a television program a few years ago that was spotlighting people who go to extremes decorating their homes for Christmas.  One man had filled his lawn and adorned his roof with every conceivable plastic and inflatable Santa, snowmen, reindeer, elves, and thousands of lights.  When he was asked where he kept it all he showed them his storage shed behind his house. Oddly enough the only thing that was in the emptied out shed was Jesus, Joseph, and Mary.  I’m not making this up.

What if we jealousy guarded the symbols and the substance of our faith everyday and especially during holiday seasons? I know that I am not the only one who has realized that the greatest symbols of God’s covenant love for us are always trivialized and set aside by our world system. The apostle John sheds light on this and encourages New Testament believers.

 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:19-21

Let’s define idol (idolatry):

  1. an image of a deity other than God
  2. a mere image or semblance of
    something, visible but without substance.
  3. a figment of the mind; fantasy.

The world replaces the true and profound with semblances removed of substance.

Look what has happened to the rainbow. To children in our world rainbows are more associated with CareBears, leprechauns and cartoons than a covenant promise of Almighty God.  Prior to the flood,

A mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Genesis 2:6

Often we read Scriptures and we don’t allow our humanity to really interact and think about what the biblical characters were experiencing. They would not be so different from us.  Think “Katrina” or tsunami for a moment.  Noah’s family experienced the destruction of their world on every level.   The earth was no longer watered by a gentle mist.  Now they would experience the gathering of ominous dark clouds, thunder, lightning, and at times torrential downpours.  Can you imagine the fear, the flashbacks, and the gnawing dread they would experience if God in His mercy had not made this covenant with them and sealed it with a beautiful display above their heads?  We’ve lost the meaning of the rainbow to leprechauns with pots of gold and glittery children’s stamps. To the survivors it was a constant reminder of His holiness and His mercy.

Then there is the cross.  God’s holiness and mercy displayed for all to see. I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but the cross was not originally a symbol of Christianity, not at least for the first few centuries. Not until all those who actually knew first hand of its barbarity and cruelty were dead did it replace the ichthus or fish that seems to have made a comeback as a car bumper sticker. There was a shop in south London which stocked crosses as a fashion item. Punk rockers, Madonna, and other fashion icons have used it that way. The Evening Standard reported that one of their readers had gone into a shop to ask for a cross. “Sure,” said the assistant, reaching for the crucifixes. “Do you want it with the little man on, or without?”

We all know what has happened to our celebration of His resurrection.  The Easter bunny and his promise of sweets and dyed eggs take front and center.

We are in the Christmas season and the emphasis in our world is on Santa and not a Savior.  Santa appears once a year makes a list and checks it twice trying to find out who is naughty or nice.  The Savior is God with us 365 days of the year.  He knows we are beyond naughty and has come to save His people from their sins. Jesus is God’s indescribable gift to us. His grace lavished on us.  His life lived to show us the way and empower us to learn and change.

We can’t expect those who don’t know Him to grasp the meaning and significance of God’s covenant reminders to us.  It is up to us not to lose the meaning of these sacred things.  Beloved guard yourselves from idols.  They have no substance or power to deliver.  Go tell God’s amazing story in every creative way you can think of during this and every season.  Do it with joy, grace, and a heart of love for those who only know the world’s cheap substitute.

Father, we bow before you and thank You that you are a covenant keeping God.  Help us to never ose our wonder and awe when we see Your covenant reminders.

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Delays, Disappointments, and Going Deeper

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Delays and disappointments are common to man.  However, if you are a friend of God delays and disappointments are often gifts from His hand to take us deeper and allow us to be someone through whom He can display His glory.

In John chapter eleven we see this lived out in such an extraordinary way we may miss the implications for our own lives. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were friends of Jesus.  They had a history and were intimate friends.  When their brother, Lazarus, became ill  they sent word to Jesus.  They knew Jesus healed, they had seen Him and they heard the testimonies.  Jesus received that word and this was His reaction,

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.  When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was.” John 11:5-6

Notice that love motivated His delay.  Love allowed the disappointment. Love allowed the death of Lazarus,  and the devastation to ultimately take them deeper and display His glory.

Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. John 11:20

Martha called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here, and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she arose quickly, and was coming to Him. John 11:28-29  When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:31-33 

For those of you who know Mary and Martha’s history it may surprise you that it was Martha and not Mary that instinctively and quickly made her way to Jesus. People may act in unexpected and uncharacteristic ways in crisis. When thrown in prison, the bold and fiery John the Baptist questioned the validity of the One he had previously proclaimed.  Disappointment or disillusionment in the way Jesus allows things to unfold can shake us to our core.

We read that the Jews who were with Mary were comforting her.  The word comfort literally means to “relate near.”  On some basic level just the presence of people who care about us can provide solace, but eventually they go home and we are alone.  We don’t know why Mary didn’t run to meet Jesus but I suspect she was deeply disappointed that Jesus didn’t respond in the way she thought he would. We  don’t know why she didn’t go until Martha told her that He was calling for her.  One of the simplest things we can do for the hurting is to remind them that Jesus is waiting for them to come to Him with their grief and questions.

When Mary got up her comforters presumed she was going to the tomb to weep because that is a very human response.   We visit the grave, we relive the events, we cry, we leave tributes, but I personally have never found consolation in those acts.  But I have, with countless others, reached the place where Jesus is.  It was there at His feet that Mary and Martha released their hurt and disappointment.  It was there at His feet they received a deeper revelation of who He was.  He took them beyond what they already knew.  “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  Mary and Martha knew Him as healer, but He would take them deeper.  He would show them  that He  is the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Jesus shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Jesus shall never die. John 11:25-26 What a revelation, what a promise, and what an amazing Savior.

We all have our own ways of coping and making it through tough times.  Where do you go when you are wounded, disappointed, or grieving? Mary and Martha went to the place where Jesus was. We too need to get there by faith. Stand on His promise that He is near to the brokenhearted and to those who are crushed in spirit.  He will not fail you.  You may be disappointed because you know what He could have done and didn’t.  But you don’t know what He can do if you trust Him.  When He doesn’t meet our expectations He wants to exceed them.  He will work it for our good and His glory. He wants to take us deeper still. Get to the place where He is.  He is calling for you.

MY PRAYER:  Lord, whatever you allow in our lives is meant to draw us deeper into our understanding and experience of you.  Help us to run to you for the healing and comfort that we need.  Only you can bring life in the midst of brokenness, hurt, and confusion. In Your beautiful name, amen.

 

 

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