Monday, September 24, 2012

Thankful for HIS Song

“This is my story…this is my song…praising my Savior all the day long…”

How do you praise “all the day long?” At fifteen years old I thought I knew exactly how. I had been singing in church since I was eleven and my love for God and music filled me with a love that continued to grow. I knew God called me to serve Him and I was ready, so I surrendered my life to His service in the area of Music Ministry. I was on my mountaintop and so sure of my future! After all, music was my gift from God; and when I sang, I believed the words of the songs so deeply that I took ownership and they came from the depths of my soul. The music stirred the hearts of those who heard me, so I knew God was using me and would continue to use my life in a most profound way. My small country church offered me a music scholarship to East Texas Baptist College. It was then that my parents told my Pastor and Music Minister, “mind your own business,” and informed them that I “would only leave home on the arm of a husband.” There was no explanation to me for their action and I did not understand their apparent lack of reasoning. I faced devastation beyond belief. My world cratered, so I did marry within a few months in order to leave home.

Have you ever heard someone say, “If it was truly God’s calling, wouldn’t you be doing it at all cost?” Those words haunted me for years because I knew I was called by God to serve Him…but I had chosen the time and place it should have come to pass. I began riding a merry-go-round through life, attempting to fill the tremendous void of my disappointment. I could not find peace or reasoning in all that had transpired. I simply could not accept that God’s ways were not my ways if I wanted so desperately to serve Him. Why wasn’t the plan coming together? I dwelled on my disappointment so much so that I began quenching the Spirit of God. As the merry-go-round of life began to turn faster, I let the world enter in and disturb any resemblance of the Holy Spirit’s direction. I later faced many trials and strayed even more from God’s path. I was unable to ever be at peace in God’s presence. At one point in time, I could not even begin to sing a simple congregational hymn without sobbing uncontrollably. In my mind, I could not believe God could ever use me again. When I viewed my life thus far, I could not believe this was me. My guilt and shame consumed me and my problems seemed insurmountable. Satan had me right where he wanted me.

Forty years later, after brokenness and much heartache, I managed to jump off the merry-go-round of hurt and disappointment, and the world halted when I fell down before my Father. Yes, forty years after I had surrendered my life to special service, I laid face down at my Savior’s feet and sobbed in total anguish and repentance as I was facing yet another crumbling marriage. I found myself fervently praying and seeking God’s face and asking Him what He wanted of me at this late date…yes, after disappointing Him so much for not forsaking my parents and following Him when I was fifteen as well as the multitude of other mistakes. It struck me then, such a similarity…just like the Israelites…I, too, had been “roaming aimlessly for forty years!” I was so still and so alone and at the end of myself…I was so tired of searching for answers and that is when I cried out for God to just have His way at long last.

That is when I heard “His Song” in its entirety…for Him and all about Him. It was never “my singing” or “my life” or about me or my neat little plan wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow. It was about drawing to Christ Jesus daily and reflecting Him through “His Song,” written in blood by Him with lyrics from His Word! He began to show me how He had taught me “His Song” throughout my life…in everything that had happened to me, in all the mistakes, rubble and wrong choices. He had taught me about Himself in all my trials throughout the years. He showed me that I had placed such small expectations on what He intended to use me for. Oh yes, of course, I could sing when I was fifteen…and yes, from the depths of my heart…but the difference is that now I know and understand my Savior’s heart, “His Song.” He taught me so much about Himself, in the ways He helped me, forgave me, loved me and carried me through the many storms in my life. He taught me His grace and mercy. He taught me forgiveness...and finally, it was long past time to have clear understanding of how I had let Satan have control through my guilt. It was time to graduate from knowledge in Christ to wisdom and begin by forgiving myself.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord." ~Psalms 40:1-3 (NIV)

Today I don’t merely sing of my Savior. My life reflects Him in bold meekness and I worship Him continuously as I sing “His song.” I know and understand my Savior’s heart and the hurt He endured and I know how He has eased my pain and erased guilt and condemnation. I know His sorrow and loss. I know His devastation and brokenness. I know ridicule and judgmental attitudes. I know abuse. I know pain. I know stigma. But I also know commitment, patience, longsuffering, self-control and I know compassion and unconditional love. I know healing and peace that passes all my understanding. And at long last, I know and understand my role as His servant. All along, my Father has been teaching me His calling for me…to know His heart and to share it with others...yes, to grow in Him and live in His likeness and sing “His song.” He gave me so much more of Himself than I could ever have understood merely singing another’s lyrics. Yes, He gave me the knowledge of His heart as He taught me, both in His Word and through the Holy Spirit. He gave me a lifetime to grow in Him, to learn and live His lyrics. He gave me His eyes to see others without judging, His ears to hear them and understand their cry beneath their uttered words, His mouth to praise Him all the day long and share “His Song,” a song that tells of His healing power, His great love and forgiveness…His genuine mercy and awesome saving grace.

Thank You, my Lord and Savior, for Your song which is embedded in me forevermore so that I might put my hand to the plow and continue to press on and grow in Your reflection. I thank You for the knowledge turned to wisdom of what it truly means to be called to serve You and to “praise You all the day long,” Father. Amen.

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” ~Luke 9:62 (NIV)

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. ~1 John 1:6-7 (NIV)

I challenge each of you to put your hand to the plow, to look forward and not back, to learn the lyrics of His song and “praise your Savior all the day long.” We are all called to walk in the Light and serve our most high God...each and every day…all day. Our personal testimony and our surrender to His service should be more than something we recollect and speak of remembering past experiences. We are to live out each moment of our lives as a living testimony of Christ’s likeness, dwelling in His presence and having constant fellowship and oneness with God.

“This is my story…this is my song…praising my Savior all the day long…”

Captured in His reflection,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hurt and Happiness

Happy anniversary to my Mom and Dad who are both in Heaven now. After 9-11, I remember my Mom saying that she could never celebrate her anniversary again. I just thought, “how sad.” I knew her words were a result of deep hurt but we all hurt. Our entire nation was hurting. In light of 9-11, I will continue to pray for healing in the families of lost loved ones on that tragic day but I will not dwell in the sadness of the event. Do you believe God intends for us to dwell in sadness and not grow as a result of our experiences? Of course, He does not. There are lessons to be learned in life and there is growth as a result of every experience in our path.

Father, I ask that You bless and keep those who are hurting today. May You heal them as only You can do. May You bring them through their storm and into a clearer tomorrow. May You direct their eyes and thoughts to Jesus and the cross. Amen.

One of my former churches, First Baptist Church of Brazoria, Texas, celebrated their 75th Anniversary last month. I am sure there were so many memories to reflect upon. I know, because it was my church family at one time and it was also one of the many places God has used me. Shortly after I became a member on October 23, 1983, I got to meet some very sweet souls who were extraordinary to know. They were all smiles, out-going and loving and they all had one thing in common, they were mentally-challenged individuals. First I noticed J. Ray and Sandra attending and then Vickie and sometimes Mikel and Charles. I remember asking someone where they attended Sunday School. I was told that they did not go most of the time and when they did, they went to various classes; but sometimes they were simply sat down to busy themselves. The explanation I got was that they required one-on-one attention in the classroom to prevent disruption of the lesson. My heart was stirred. I knew that God had placed a burden on my heart and that He had also prepared me with a compelling awareness and an extra dose of patience where these were concerned, as well as a passion and love beyond measure. I also realized He was laying the vision before me for a Special Ed Sunday School class.

Why me? I know and understand now that our Father allows us to experience certain things in our lives because He is preparing us for His Kingdom work...yes, so we may minister to others in similar situations on His behalf…so that we are knowledgeable in His concerns…so that we may see others through His eyes and share His never-ending capacity to forgive and love them…so we are ready to serve.

"God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." ~II Corinthians 1:4

How did He prepare me? Prior to attending FBC Brazoria, my two sons, Nash and Neal, were raised alongside a best friend’s children, Hunter and Tasha, at La Belle Baptist Church. My friend, Pam, and I were expecting within eight months of each other…her first and my second child. When Pam gave birth to her son, Hunter, he was born with Down syndrome. I had shared all the joys and expectations throughout pregnancy with my dear friend and now I shared her first reactions of such extreme hurt and devastation. I witnessed her fight against depression and her agonizing questions to God. My friend was later told by her doctor that she would never be able to have what the world deems a "normal" child, so she and her husband also added a precious daughter, Tasha, a beautiful young girl who was adopted. These two children were like my own and I shared many of the trials my best friend encountered. I also shared, firsthand, in the outpouring of God's richest blessings on my friend…just in the gift of knowing and loving her dear children.

I never suspected at the time, that God was using my experiences with Pam’s initial pain and then her extreme joy, to grow me for His work. Yes, through the complexities of hurt and happiness, my Father was preparing me for a task later in life. In God’s own time, He placed me at such a place and showed me where He wanted me to serve Him…at FBC Brazoria. I approached the parents or closest family members first, where possible, and explained the vision of a Special Ed Sunday School class which God had laid on my heart. Sandra was so excited to attend her own class but one of the mothers, Janie, was hesitant and protective of her son, J. Ray, just as I had I invited her to accompany her son to the class until she felt comfortable leaving him. Once Janie felt comfortable, I then asked if she would like to be my helper...then my substitute. That was the beginning of a very close and meaningful relationship between Janie and me. Our class grew into a much larger class through the years. When I left FBC Brazoria, Janie became the teacher and was right where God had prepared her to be. I was merely a stepping stone in God’s pathway for Janie…just as Pam and Hunter were stepping stones for me and many others whose lives they have touched. I am so thankful and humbly honored to have served our Most High God in the capacity of Special Ed Sunday School Teacher.

J. Ray is a fine, healthy young man in Heaven now and his precious mom, Janie, still teaches the Special Ed Sunday School Class at FBC Brazoria. Pam, Janie and many others have been so richly blessed by God…to be chosen to love and care for a special-needs child. God simply allowed me to share their blessings. Thank You for the blessings, Father! And thank you, Hunter, for being the first to teach me God’s compassion. Now I simply stay in touch with Pam and Janie, but we will always share a very precious bond as close friends and dear sisters in Christ. We will also share a home in Heaven, where one day we will see J. Ray again, smiling his big smile and running into the arms of his sweet mom while telling her how much he loves her! Praise God! What a glorious day that will be! And Hunter…well he turned 37 yesterday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HUNTER!!! Knowing and loving you…my cup runneth over!!!

We do not have to know and understand ahead of time what God’s plan is, we just need to walk closely with Him daily, through the hurt and happiness, while having a willing and responsive heart. Through it all, simply keep our eyes and focus on Him and He will prepare us and show us His way in due time.

Captured in His reflection,