Encouragement from the Word

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth"
III John 1:4

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Note: A Father's Loving Legacy

As I was searching through my jewelry box today for a pair of favorite earrings, I came across a small, faded slip of paper, yellow with age, in the very bottom drawer, partially obscured by several old necklaces and broken pieces of jewelry. My heartbeat quickened as I realized what it was and began to resurrect the poignant memory connected to this tiny, aged treasure .

It was shortly after my 10th birthday and my family and I were at our church for a Sunday night service. We were standing up with hymnals in our hands a few rows back from the front of the church. My mom was to my right and my dad to my left with my brothers a little further down the pew. I remember happily singing the words of the hymn as the piano and organ played along. It was a typical Sunday night in every way.

Suddenly, I began to feel the weight of my dad's body leaning on me. I thought at first that he was trying to get my attention or just playfully teasing me. But, then, his weight was so great on my shoulders and side that I almost fell down. Before I knew it, he had fallen to the ground between the pews. The singing stopped and people rushed to my dad's side. I was quickly pushed away as friends from the congregation attempted to assess the situation and lay my dad out on the floor to better attend to him

I was confused, shaking and terrified, wondering if I would ever see my dad again. I ran to the hallway and into the bathroom, sobbing quietly and praying that God would let my Dad live. Soon, a lady friend of my Mom's came and found me in the bathroom. Taking my hand in hers, she led me out to her car. She had gathered my brothers, as well, and came to stay with us at our house for the night.

My father was taken to the hospital for tests to determine what had been the cause of the sudden and severe chest pains he had experienced that evening. Of course, I did not sleep much that night and remember waking up crying several times, wondering if my dad was going to be all right.

The next morning, my mom returned and told us that Dad would have to stay in the hospital for a few days until the doctors could find out what was wrong with him. I was devastated. Nothing like this had happened in our family before and my dad had never been gone from our home overnight that I could remember.

After Mom placed her purse on the table, she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a little note that had been folded in half and then in half again. As she opened it, I noticed the handwriting and knew it had been penned by my dad. My mom handed the note to me and I began to read:

Dear Beth,

How is my sweetest little girl in all the world? Be good in school and how about being in charge of our morning Bible reading? I would like you to do it until I get home.

Love, Daddy

Of course, I cried when I read the note, but then got right to the task of planning the morning devotional as my dad had asked. I was so proud that he had chosen me for this important task.

In one simple, handwritten note, my dad had shown me the love, trust and respect that he had for me, his only daughter. He made me feel like the princess of the kingdom by trusting me with what I saw as a royal duty. Not only did he make me feel like the most important girl in the world...he also showed me the importance and priority of spiritual matters in our home. All in one small, handwritten note. A note I have saved for nearly 40 years. A note I could never bring myself to throw away. A note that has traveled from home to home and from one jewelry box to another. A note that I have treasured more than diamonds.

They eventually determined that whatever had occured, it was not my dad's heart. He was given a clean bill of health and returned home a week or so later. I was so glad to see him again and exuberantly reported that I had been faithful to the task of leading our family devotions.

My dad went on to live a long and productive life, serving the Lord faithfully until he died of cancer at the age of 80.  I continued to benefit from his unconditional love, his support and his encouragement for as long as he lived.

Dads...it's the little things that mean a lot to your children. It's the pat on the back, the gesture of faith and trust, letting them know they are important to the family and most of all, modeling for them the unconditional love of our heavenly father. You never know what small bit of encouragement or gesture of confidence will impact your child for the rest of their life.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"...As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24-15

You know...those Israelites sure seemed to be quite hard-headed at times, didn't they? As they wandered through the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, and then took possession of the "promised land" under Joshua, they couldn't get it through their heads that they were to worship only the one true God. Time and time again they were enticed by the practices of the pagan people groups that surrounded them and would find themselves once again worshipping idols.

This led to disaster for them over and over as God removed his hand of blessing from them. Had they  forgotten the miraculous way God had delivered them from Egypt, parted the Red Sea, provided daily manna and delivered them from their enemies?

Shortly before Joshua died, he proclaimed to the people, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". He asked them to do the same- to recommit themselves to the Lord God and to turn away from idols for good.

As I read this account and reflected on the history and journey of the Israelites, I began to think about the idols in my own life and how I, too, have turned to them time and time again for fulfillment and temporal happiness rather than turn to the one true God. No, I don't bow and worship a golden calf or a statue of Baal...but, when I look to something other than God to fill up my soul, give my life meaning, bring me peace, or complete me, I am worshipping an idol.

What are some common idols in today's world that have many women in bondage?  Well, the list might include: our spouse, our kids, food, our career, exercise and health, movies and T.V., the "eyes" ( Ipod, Iphone, Ipad ), shopping, perfecting our image or physical appearance or even a volunteer position that we may have. These things are not bad in themselves, however, if they are what you turn to when sad, depressed, frustrated, feeling lonely, etc., that can be a clue that a particular thing is an idol to you. If you are looking to something on this list for your fulfillment, it is an idol. Another clue is when all of your time, energy or money is expended on a particular thing with nothing left for the things of the Lord.

The Bible says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength" God wants our total devotion, dependance and allegience. We are to worship him and only him with our entire being.

I believe that putting away a particular idol in our lives, especially a strong one, requires a daily recommitment and prayer for strength, asking God to break the bonds that this idol has over us.

Just as the Israelites should have remembered all that God had done for them, let's remember what the Lord has done for us. He created us and this beautiful world in which we live, he sustains us to live and breathe another day, he forgives our sins and rains blessings down on us; out of his great love, he sent his Son to die for us. He is mighty and worthy to be praised!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Joy of...God's Creation!

I've just come home from a beautiful day at the beach with my kids...the first beach day of summer! The beauty of God's creation never ceases to amaze me; whether it be the gentle swells of the ocean rolling onto the sun bleached sand, the mesmerizing sight of a full moon, the cascading power of a mountain waterfall or even the beauty of a backyard garden filled with colorful birds and butterflies. God made this vast and varied earth for us to explore and enjoy as we reflect on his amazing handiwork and give him glory.

If one truly looks with a discerning eye at the complexity and splendor of the world around us, there is no denying the existence of a creator God. In fact, the Bible refers to this innate and undeniable understanding of one greater than ourselves in Romans 2:20. It says: " For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." In other words, no one can see the awesome beauty of God's creation and not know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a God and that he designed this amazing and intricate universe. And in Psalm 19:1 it says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands". Even creation itself trumpets God's omnipotence and glory.

I have had some of my most reflective and meaningful times with the Lord when outdoors enjoying his creation in any number of  beautiful, peaceful settings. There have been times when something as simple as a walk around my neighborhood under a clear, unclouded, deep blue sky has given rise to tears of gratitude in my eyes. I often praise him for his creation and the ability to enjoy it.

What do I mean by "the ability to enjoy it"? Well, there are many who are so hard at work, either by choice or by necessity, that they do not have even a moment to pause and enjoy the beauty around them. There are many who live in crowded, treeless, big cities where "getting close to nature" takes enormous effort. And, there are those who are physically unable to venture outside or travel too far away to see some of the glorious sights in this great land. Those of us who can, are truly blessed.

Take time to go outside this week and look around you. Take a walk. Go for a bike ride. Work in the garden. How about a trip to the beach, the springs, the lake, or...your own backyard? Try to really see the artistic genius of our God. Meet with him...praise him...thank him.