Archive | January 2014

The Lord will Provide

image

There are two dreams I’ve held in my heart for as long as I can remember.  There have been other dreams as well but they’ve either been realized or I cut my losses and rowed on.  But these two dreams I have always believed I will go down with them in the boat rather than give them up,

The dream today on my restless heart, troubling my spirit is my dream to be a published author of Christian fiction.  Along with this I dream of being successful enough at the craft that readers laugh out loud, cheer the characters on, wish they could live in this book’s world, find godly inspiration for their own life and cry when someone dies or grieves before the last word is read.  These are the types of books that have fed my soul through nearly 50 years. 

I can’t write the Bible, I can use its lessons to help characters overcome life’s obstacles.  I dream my fiction writing turns readers towards Jesus and the Bible.

This has been my dearest, most treasured dream.  And at last God has set before me the opportunity to really focus on my writing.  I have the time.  I have the technology, resources, life experience and a published author who is willingly mentoring me.

I am blowing it!

Right out of the gate I have gotten cold feet.  I’m flat out scared.

If God allows me this desire of my heart I can never go back to finding some sense of okayness with looking at the dream through a telescope.  People are going to expect me to write another novel and then another and what if I can’t?

If  in allowing me this opportunity and I am not good at it, if all I find are rejection letters in my mailbox what then?

Afraid to fail.  Afraid to succeed. 

My study in the Book of John in the New Testament this week has begun with chapter 6, verses 1-15.  Today I was focusing on verses 5-9 a lot.  “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, ‘Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each to have one bite!’  Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.  ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’ ”

There are four people in this section of scripture and four viewpoints on how to solve the problem.  Let’s start with the boy whose name is unknown to us.  Someone, either his mother or a sister or perhaps himself packed the boy a lunch before he went to find Jesus.  No doubt, he was in a hurry, afraid he couldn’t catch up with the others following this man of miracles.  Yet his part in this passage is vital.  He provided the “little” Jesus would turn into “much”.  No doubt he believed Jesus needed the lunch more than he did for he showed or told Andrew about his food.  The boy knew it wasn’t much but he knew Jesus could use it.

Now for Philip.  Philip looked at the crowd numbering over 5000 (see verse 10) men, women and children and saw the cost of feeding them even one bite.  To be fair Jesus did ask him where they should buy bread but Jesus didn’t ask Philip how much money it would cost.  Philip saw the need but before thinking of where to get enough bread to feed the crowd Philip was seeing money signs.  He was calculating the average daily wage time the cost of a loaf of bread times the number of people and after eight months he was throwing up his hands saying it couldn’t be done.

Andrew’s view matches that of the little boy a bit more than Philip’s.  At least Andrew makes some effort to meet the need.  He knew they needed food and that is what he inquired about.  His inquires didn’t seem to amount to much in his viewpoint though.  Five small barley loaves and two small fishes would barely feed the boy, much less thousands of people.  Still he tells Jesus of what the boy has offered.

The most important viewpoint is that of Jesus.  He only asked Philip where bread could be bought to test him.  Jesus already knew what He was going to do.  Jesus had been preparing to meet this need long before the crowd gathered to follow Him.

What test did Philip fail?  What test did Andrew fail?  Though they both saw the need neither of them had faith enough that Jesus could meet that need.  They witnessed Jesus turn water into wine but they didn’t remember that well enough to even pause and think, “Maybe I should ask Jesus what He has planned.”

Much like me, I thought, this morning.  I see the need.  I see the opportunity.  I am not trusting Jesus to meet my need.

But He will.  If I succeed it will be by His guidance and inspiration and provision.  If I fail He will give me a new dream.

I must be like the boy in the scripture above, I must bring my little and turn it over to Jesus to make it into much.  Nor can I forget God has it worked out already, my needs He is preparing to supply.  In Genesis 22:13-14 the Hebrew name for God is Jehovah-Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide”.  I must trust He will.

God’s blessings upon you,

–Donna

Advertisements

God Had a Surprise up His Sleeve

image

Technology can do wonders in the hands of those willing to do good. So wondrous we can easily mistake the workings of technology as miracles. Yet, as if to remind us He is still watching us, God has a few surprises up His sleeve. We have been reminded of this in the Deep South the last two days.

All the models, radars, weather tracking instruments and meteorologists minds drew their snow zones across Southern states. For Alabama predictions of 1-2 inches in Mobile to a light dusting no accumulation in Birmingham was the planning guide. We had faith in modern science and technology. So much so that we doubted our own eyes and reasoning skills and got caught unprepared and didn’t believe it.
image

Tuesday, January 28, as on every normal day children went to school, parents went to work and daily routines went into action. We were busy being busy, rushing through our lives and rarely pausing but…

…the dusting, no accumulation in Birmingham and surrounding areas turned into ice followed by 1/2 to 1 inches of snow and we had to pause. We rarely get this type of weather and our budget won’t support keeping needed equipment and things on hand to keep roads clear. This also means we get little opportunity to practice driving in such conditions so we may not all be the best at it.
image

County roads closed within an hour of the first flake of ice/snow mix. Schools dismissed and as in Blount County, some school systems school buses couldn’t run to take children home. Some schools ended up hosting 1 and 2 night sleepovers because parents were stranded.
image

Those on the interstates found hour commutes taking 6 to 8 hours to drive. Others on these same interstates soon found themselves gridlocked as the roads became impassable due to the winter blast as well as multiple vehicle accidents. These people either abandoned their vehicles and walked, some for hours home or to some shelter. Some people never made it out of their offices and then some who did ended up returning as getting home was impossible.

Large warming stations were opened up and every homeless shelter was at maximum occupancy. First responders risked vehicles and life to reach those in need of ambulances, paramedics, police officers and firefighters.

Was God up in Heaven manipulating us like puppets? Hardly. But He sure used this surprise ice and snow storm to remind us we do have the capability to be kind to one another still.
image

Every day Jane’s and Joe’s of every race, gender and occupation set aside that which makes us unique and worked together unselfishly for others good. Those walking home along one neighborhood street found a handwritten sign offering hot coffee on the porch of a home.

Strangers helped push vehicles off ice patches or out of ditches. A woman in Trussville took 104 stranded people home, stopping only when her vehicle had less than a miles worth of gas left. Then she watched as others with trucks and off-road vehicles continued to transport people and cried because she’d done so little.

Stranded motorists having to camp out in their vehicles on at least one stretch of I65 North were aided by two young men hiking to a store and taking orders for things people needed.
People who could manage to get to those stranded passed out sodas and water.

Amazed, freezing, stranded motorists on 280 found Chik-fil-a staff walking car to car handing out 500 free chicken sandwiches and water. Later some of these same people slept in the dining area in warmth and reasonable comfort. The next morning they were again fed, for free.

Hotels allowed people to sleep in the lobbies when all their rooms were taken. Restaurants sent over hot meals to office buildings were stranded employees were waiting it out, without being asked.

Employers took employees home whose cars couldn’t make it. Still others picked up emergency and first responders who were legally bound to come in if called or it was their shift.

Schoolteachers and principals camped out with their students at school, cooking, caring for and entertaining dozens of children and other stranded motorists. Those who made it home safely went to the rescue of others as soon as ALDOT allowed.

One neurosurgeon walked 6 miles over ice and snow with the snow still coming down from one hospital to another to perform emergency brain surgery so one patient could live. Patients and caregivers stranded at doctor’s offices found the doctors walking to hospitals for blankets, food, tee-shirts and needed medication. One cardiologist even followed one group of patient and caregivers home from Jefferson County to Blount County to be sure they made it home alright.
image

Examples go on and on and on of stranger helping stranger, social and economic lines erased as people just acted kind. One by one our prayer list for stranded family and friends dwindled from 15 to 1 and that 1 will be home today.

All in all, when Jesus said, what you have done for the least of these you have done for me, I believe these acts hit the mark. He had to smile as we extended food, drink, shelter, gas,muscle and vehicle power and caring during this surprise storm.
image

God gave us a quite the surprise. Some will rant and rave at Him and everyone they can think to blame. But as cynicism is one of my worst sins I am choosing to see the good in this for there is much good to see.

When has God surprised you?

Grateful in Alabama,
-Donna

All photos from ABC 33/40.

Prayer from the Cottage by the Sea 1-27-14

image
Abba Father,
Jehovah-Shammah–
Staring across the dark horizon
What’s in the darkest darkness
Is heard
Is smelt,
Even if the water I see is black and white,
The waves breaking on sandy shores
In and out
Over and over,
The sea itself praises You El-Shaddai
A voice sings praise melodies You hear
In gratitude
In adoration
The sea’s waves are worshipping You
Though I sense it, it is just beyond
The surface
The sea misted veil!
If all creation calls Your name El-Elyon
How can I be silent or selfish?
Or blind?
Or ignorant?
My heart lifts and joins the symphony
As all creation worships their Creator
Designer
Master and Lord.
For I cannot withhold my gratitude
That You’ve given me life another day,
Jehovah-Jireh
Jehovah-Rapha
You are the Way, The Truth, The Life
Accept the praises of all Your creation
Jehovah-Yahweh
El-Olan!
Amen
-d.f.a.v. 1-27-14
Join the praise!
–Donna

image
Jehovah-Shammah – the Lord who is present
El-Shaddai – God Almighty
El-Elyon- the most high God
Jehovah-Jireh – the Lord will provide
Jehovah-Rapha- the Lord our healer
Jehovah-Yahweh- referring to God’s divine salvation
El-Olan- everlasting God

River Runs Deep

image
Come, just as you are
Bring all your scars
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
Miracles are birthed here
Love replaces all fear
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
Relinquish your deepest hurts
Your ugliness your very worst
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
That thirst deep within you
Can be fed here it’s true
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
Emptiness aching deep within
Unresolved by means of men
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
Your old gives way born again
Here His love always wins
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
Take the hand feel it’s scars
He knows everything you are
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
See compassion in His eyes glow
From His heart comes the flow
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s waters never sleep
Where the river runs deep
Is the love you can always keep
     Where the river runs deep
     And it’s source never sleeps.
                  d.f.a.v. 1-23-14

From where the river flows,
–Donna

Maker of the Mirror

image
Photo property of K. A. Valentine.
Not to be used without permission.

Seeing oneself in a mirror of sorts
One that warps and often distorts
Tells you only one piece of the story
That fills you with fret and worry.
The you seen in this candid video
Makes you feel you’ve no where to go
Like you’re made to stay in your place
World assigned position and space.
Why does it matter so much
What is it they’re afraid to touch?
Does anyone truly, really think
That everyone’s breath doesn’t stink?
So someone’s not a size two or four
Why do those numbers open the door?
An awful truth and scary part of reality
A piece from which too few are free.
A man with features are out of proportion
But that’s what the world deems important.
The source of a mirror shouldn’t be
Composed of what the world tells one to see,
Should be made of God’s view instead
Then one won’t be mistaken or misled.
For God is seeing the you in your heart
If only the world could be that smart!
But one should hold their heads high
Look the naysayers right in the eye
There’s nothing wrong with God’s creation,
Mankind’s the one with the misconceptions
Beware what comprises the mirror you use
Who makes the mirror you choose?
                        d.f.a.v. 1/19/14

–Donna

Legacy of Forgiveness

image

One has to go no further into the Holy Bible than the Lord’s Prayer to understand how our ability to forgive one another has a role in how God forgives us.  In the New International Version in Matthew 6:12, Jesus is recorded as instructing us to pray, “…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…”. In Luke 11:4, Jesus tells us to “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”.

When people hurt us, and we have alarmingly and amazingly deep capacities to scar and wound each others hearts, forgiving them feels impossible.  Forgiving someone who hurts us when that person is someone who loves us is often an action we feel we just can’t do

Our mother taught us the importance of forgiveness.  Sometimes by her example of what to do and sometimes what not to do.

Her marriage to our father was never without turmoil.  It took about 30 years for that relationship to cease hurting them both and doing that came only upon our mother’s death.  Mama went on to Heaven and our father enjoyed ten years and six months more of earthly life before he passed.  Dad had opportunity to find love again, and fit into a new family easily.  But when Mama died she and our father, and all her children were on good terms.  Because Mama taught us how to forgive.

Although a Christian since her childhood Mama had a difficult time with forgiveness.  Both in forgiving those who hurt her and acknowledging she hurt others.  It was this portion of her own journey where she discovered she needed to seek forgiveness too.  Sometimes from her children.

There was never any question, when our wonderful sweet mother called like that as to whether or not I’d forgive.  For she was humble about her mistakes, she didn’t excuse her behavior away and she didn’t throw anyone else under the millstone, even when she had every right to do so.  From the very minute of that first phone call healing change came into our relationship.

Mama was willing to learn, and then she put that education into work in her life.

Mama forgave even when those who hurt her wouldn’t, or no longer could, ask for her forgiveness.  Even when that person was me.

Mama never took forgiveness for granted.  Not from those she hurt and not from God. 

Our Mama would turn 69 today if she were still with us on earth.  She was 54 when she passed.  Although it will be 15 years on the anniversary of her death that we’ve been without her physical presence she is still a large part of my life.

I think about her often and I pass her onto our daughter, who never knew her, by telling her stories, passing along life wisdom I learned from Grams.  There are still days I want to pick up my phone and call her.  Still situations that arise in my life I wish I could have thought to ask her about.  Always times I wish she were here to simply be with me through hard times.

Today I still find myself trying to have a spirit and heart as humble as our mother’s.  Her humbleness, her capacity to forgive and her willingness to keep on learning are just a few of the legacies she passed on to us.  Ones well worth passing on to our own families.

Happy birthday Mama!
image
Love always,
–Donna

Photos are property of writer, not to be used without permission.

The Veil

image

Before me I can see Jesus.  His arms stretched out, His palms facing me and I can just see the scars.  He wears a robe with some blue across it but I can’t quite make it out.  He is largely obscured by a veil of a sheer, cloud-like material. 

Thick enough I can’t see His face or complete form but thin enough I can see who my heart testifies is Jesus.  Over His shoulders I can see a large crowd, just glimpsing the faces of those I love.  There are smiles on each face and joy is a radiance around them.

Out of the corners of my eyes I can make out dozens of angels, wings fluttering, the veil of clouds shaking slightly in the breeze their wings create. Their faces aren’t visible, they are only solid forms behind a snowy white veil of clouds.

The Lord is close enough that if I could reach only centimeters more I could grasp the veil and part it. I could see His face.  My fingertips are teased by shifting clouds, that are fluttering closer and I hunger to part them. My arms stretch, my hands and fingers reaching; all I need is a bit more. If I could stand on two feet I could do it!

I want to see Jesus! He can welcome me home.  But aware that I know I am still an amputee, still bound to this wheelchair, I feel the click in my mind. This veil will not part for me today.

image

He will welcome me home in His time.

For now, prayer and praise are pouring out of me, I am no longer merely part of this physical world but the spiritual as well.  Words I do not known, in a language I cannot understand or repeat, pour out of me. 

Moses had to hide in the cleft of a rock to be near when God passed by and He returned with white hair and the glory was so strong from those moments when God passed by that Moses had to wear a veil to be among the Israelites. I cannot get any closer now.

One glorious, marvelous day all the barriers between us and Jesus will no longer exist. No veils. We will kneel in His presence.

I am left knowing God has touched me today. Truly touched me though I could not physically touch Him.

Gratefully I praise the Abba Father for assurance that when this cloudy veil is lifted and we can see clearly I know who is on the other side.  Do you? **

He touched me,
Donna

**If you are unsure of your salvation please consider the following. These first eight scripture passages are sometimes referred to as the Roman Road.  They will walk you through the steps to becoming born again, and help explain why and how that happens.  The Gospel of John is my suggestion for your first venture into reading and understanding the Word of God.  It is one of my personal favorites in the New Testament.

Romans 1:20-21  “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 people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Romans 3:23  “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 10:9-10 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:13 “…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

For a more in depth commentary on the subject of salvation please read my blog from December 30, 2013 titled Ending 2013.

I Am Okay, I Am Beautiful, I Am Me

image

Grace has seen herself in a mirror with no mercy.  It was awkward.  It was painful. 

“I see what they see,” she admits to herself, “and it isn’t pretty”. That admission knocks her to her knees.

“Doing this isn’t mandatory,” her parents remind her, “no one will think any less of you if you don’t.”

Her mother longs to tell her daughter that none of it matters!  Not the numbers, the sizes, the thoughtlessness or the stares.  For none of it matters to those who know and adore her child for who she is inside.  But, she can’t say that because it matters to way to many in this world. 

Grace prays, “Holy Father what is your will?  I see the truth Lord, I am no beauty queen.”

“My grace is sufficient for you,” the scripture rises in her heart.  “Do not forget my glory is your strength.”

Drawing a deep breath Grace rises to her feet.  “Quitting would be so much easier,” she admits to herself, “and I am tempted.”

The seconds pass and Grace feels each tick of the clock in her blood.  She remembers the scriptures and the fear departs her heart.  “I am seeing this through Mom.  This time,  I won’t back out, I won’t look away.  I will hold my head up and say, yes, this is me.  This is all of me, beauty, warts and all and I am okay, I am beautiful, I am me!

Grace’s mother watches as her daughter’s spine straightens, her shoulders draw back and her chin rises.  “We’ll cover this with prayer,” her mother says embracing Grace tenderly.

The night of the pageant arrives and Grace is already tired.  “The interviews were nerve wracking,” she confides to her father, “I have no idea how I did.”

With a soft kiss on her forehead, careful to not smudge her makeup, he said, “Your mother and I are proud of you Grace, God is the most pleased though.  Most would have given up but not you.  You would have in the past but you are facing this head-on with courage.  Your conviction that you have just as much to offer as any one else is right. Regardless of the outcome, we love you and you are right.”

In the audience Grace had more than her allotted ten family members and friends cheering for her, way more.  Everyone made to feel less than acceptable because of their outward appearance was rooting for her.  Everyone who had felt their cheeks burn in embarrassment when the whispers were meant to be heard was whispering a prayer for Grace to win.  Every nerd, every geek, every socially isolated teenager still alive in adult bodies willed Grace a win. To a few dozen complete strangers Grace became their champion.

The judges marked their ballots, scores were added up, the moment of decision was upon them.  On stage Grace prayed silently, “God thank you for tonight, for being able to feel like a beauty queen regardless of whether I win or lose.”

Grace’s name was not called.  Leaving the backstage area she was stopped repeatedly by those who had felt her their champion. 

“Dad, I am amazed by all these strangers who were telling me how they’d hoped I’d win.”

“I think you touched quite a few people Honey.”

As the crowd began to disperse Jeffrey Keller, one of the three judges approached Grace and her family.  “Grace,” he said, “I want to tell you something. Your answer this afternoon I will never forget. It was honest, straight from your heart and impressive.”

To Grace’s parents he said, “You can be proud of your daughter, she has a great heart”. Then he turned and walked away.

“What did he ask Grace,” her mother asked?

“What this experience had shown me about me,” Grace told her.  “I told them, that I am okay, I am beautiful, and I am me, I had God to tell me that regardless of whether I placed or won.  And I said I was okay with that assurance.”

And she truly was.

–Donna

Prayer from the Cottage by the Sea at 11:20 p.m.

image

Abba Father:
Our Father who is in heaven, glory and
honor to Your name!
Praises to The Creator, The Author and
Designer of our lives!
Praises to The Living God, The I Am,
The Lord God Almighty,
The Way, The Truth, The Life
Praise to the God Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Whose life in me, means I am not the same.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done;
Here as it is willed by You in heaven
Please dear Lord help me follow You in obedience
Without question, or thought to self
Always aware of the ease with which I could
Substitute what I want over what You do
Less of me, more of you
For this is about doing right, not about being even.

Meet for us this day our daily needs.
Not the latest things we think we have to own
But the true necessities, food, shelter, air, water
Love, grace, mercy and Your forgiveness
Food for the body and for the soul
Spiritual manna and spiritual quail
Sweet scripture words to consume
Most of all what we need is less of ourselves
More of You, the truth You have within us sown

Forgive me of my sins, as I have and do,
Forgive those who sin against me.
Especially the hurts hardest to forget
Forgive through me as I need Your strength
Love my enemies through me daily
Show me the beam in my own eye
Let me see beyond their planks
Let me harbor no grudge no ill will
Towards anyone I look to forgive me.

Guide me far from temptation and
Deliver me from the clutches of Satan forever.
Your Way is straight and narrow
Though I see detours
They are entrapments I can’t see them
The road through the valley
And dangerous mountain trails
Help me trust You and Your way
Follow You and know escape for ever.

For to You is the power
and the glory forever.

Amen.

d.f.a.v. 1-14-14