Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The dented, rusty pail

I received this today from a church friend and after I finished crying over it (ugh) I thought it was well worth passing on. If you haven't read it, I hope you enjoy it. If you have, I hope you enjoy reading it again...

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the
door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. "Why, he's hardly taller than my 8-year-old," I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from swelling, red and raw.

Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, "Good evening. I've come to see
if you've a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning
from the eastern shore, and there's no bus 'til morning."

He told me he'd been hunting for a room since noon but with no success, no one seemed to have a room. "I guess it's my face .... I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments ..."

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: "I could
sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning."

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch.. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. "No, thank you. I have plenty." And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with
him a few minutes. It didn't take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her 5 children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn't tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence
was prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children's room for him. When I
got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch.

He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, "Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won't put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair." He paused a moment and then added, "Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don't seem to mind.

I told him he was welcome to come again. And, on his next trip, he arrived a little after 7 in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen! He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they'd be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. And I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us, there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk 3 miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning.

"Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away!
You can lose roomers by putting up such people!" Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But, oh!, if only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear.

I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him
we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.

Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse. As she showed
me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden
chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was
growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, "If this were my plant, I'd put it in the loveliest container I had!"

My friend changed my mind. "I ran short of pots," she explained, "and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn't mind starting out in this old pail. It's just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden." She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven.

"Here's an especially beautiful one," God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. "He won't mind starting in this small body." All this happened long ago - and now, in God's garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the
outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7b

Monday, August 30, 2010

More with Beth

Beth Moore, that is...

In case you missed my last post...I attended a Beth Moore conference this past weekend with my good friend, JJ. Now, if you've read my blog for any period of time, you know how I feel about Beth Moore! So I was anticipating this weekend with great joy knowing that I (we!) were in for some serious Scripture teaching, a LOT of laughter and much praise and worship! We got all of that and then some!

For this conference, Beth spoke on John 1. What I love SO MUCH about her is that not only is she an encourager and a lover of God's people, but she truly wants you to know and understand His Word.

In this post, I'd like to share just a few things about the Gospel of John that Beth shared with us...
  • Did you know that the Gospel of John is unique to the other Gospels? (I didn't!) In fact, it is 90% (big WOW!) unique to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are called the "Synoptic Gospels."
  • The word "believe" is used 98 times in the Gospel of John. It is used 11 times in Mark, 14 times in Matthew and 19 times in Luke. (Hmmm...it would appear that John has a message for us!)
  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are centered around Jesus' public life, while the Gospel of John seems to be more about his private life and private conversations.
  • There are 8 titles for Jesus within the Gospel of John and they are found within the first 51 verses of the first chapter. They are: (v1) the Word, (v4) the life, (v9) the true light, (v18) the only begotten Son, (v29) the Lamb, (v41) the Messiah, (v49) the King, (v51) Son of Man.
  • After verse 17 in chapter 1, the word "grace" is never again mentioned in the Gospel of John; yet John goes on to expound on it throughout the remainder of his accounting.
Grace...5 short letters but a word so full of meaning for those who believe on His name.

I could go on and on. I could have listened to her for a solid month. Beth.........why did you have to leave so soon????????? I still had room for more notes!!!!!!!

Oh...and JJ? Because I know how much you enjoyed the praise and worship music, this one's for you!!

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
John 1:16
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NIV

Sunday, August 29, 2010


This past Friday and Saturday, I had the privilege to sit under the Bible teaching of someone I consider to be one of finest women in ministry today. I could listen to her for days and days and days....well - every day, if you want to know the truth! She is wise, she is funny, she has a heart for God and she sure does loves His people - oh so much!

One sentence she spoke the first evening resonated so resoundingly in me that I knew it WAS for me. In fact, it didn't even make it into the body of my notes but was pulled to the top of the page and starred - see:

(Sorry for my chicken scratch! Oh - that "c" with the line over it is medical shorthand for the word "with.")

In case you can't read it (entirely possible!), I wrote: *My new beginning begins with the Word of God.*

Can I tell you how I felt when I heard those words? Two things: first, comforted! Yes...a deep sense of comfort that He is so WITH me, so FOR me, so in LOVE with me that that message should move me to my core and that I know it was absolutely meant for me! And second, almost a sense of urgency...that I'm slipping a bit. I have let other "things" displace His Word in my life. Oh man, this day to day life just has a way of moving in and crowding Him out unless I take control and make Him (and keep Him) my number one priority. Amen? So yes - that message was a reminder from my Father. And I heard it loud and clear!

But as I look back on the words I have just written (typed!), I am again amazed (although I don't know why I should be!) by this God I love so much...did you notice that the first feelings I wrote about were comfort and love?

"I love you, My child...I'm here for you, tonight and always."

Which were then followed by:

"Now, about the amount of time we've been spending together lately..."

My prayer time hasn't suffered - at least I don't think it has. But the time I spend in His Word, well, that definitely has. So Father, I thank you for the message. And I thank you for the messenger!

In closing, I thought it so appropriate that my daily verse for today was the following:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Isaiah 52:7

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"More than you can bear" is more than I can bear!

Ever hear this saying:

"God never gives you more than you can bear."

Ever found yourself saying it to someone as an encourager in times of stress, sorrow or despair?

Can I tell you that how much that saying has always given me heartburn?

It's true. It has. It still does...

Several months ago I went down to visit a friend in Savannah, Ga. She is a dear friend - in fact, she is the first one I called after we got my Sweet Hubby's diagnosis because I knew she would get busy praying. And she did. Anyway, we got onto the topic of that very saying. She said it was scriptural and I said I did not believe that it was, because I had looked and looked and could not find it and that I had asked others to look and they could not find it either. Well, as luck would have it our conversation took place on a Wednesday which is when she hosts Bible study at her house which is led by her pastor. So we asked him...and after some research on his part, he came to the conclusion that the saying itself is not scriptural but that people have taken 1 Corinthians 10:13 which addresses temptation specifically and kind of made it apply to all situations of duress and distress. Yeah - well...not so much is what I was thinking!

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

So imagine my surprise (and okay, a little sense of vindication too!) when I recently read the following passage in a book I have been carefully digesting for the past few months:

"Like you, perhaps, I grew up in church. And my overall experience with that was actually quite positive. I'm not one who walks around bitter and carrying a lot of baggage from my early church experiences.

However, there were several times in my life when well-meaning people spoke what they thought were scriptural truths into my life. But those "truths," which actually were not scriptural at all, just created layers of distortion about how I relate to God.

One particular phrase I seemed to hear over and over was this: "God will never give you more than you can handle."

It sounds so sweet and biblical, like something my grandmother would have done in needlepoint and hung on the wall in her house.

The problem is, nothing could be further from the truth.

Where in the world did we get such a whacked theology? Where's that verse in the Bible? Hallucinations 4:32 maybe?

Here's the truth -- and this one is thoroughly biblical: throughout life you will face one situation after another that will be completely beyond what you can handle.

The apostle Paul certainly did. He writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7 of a situation he calls "a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan" (NIV). We don't know exactly what it was -- a physical handicap or medical condition or a hard-to-break habit? Paul doesn't tell us. But he does tell us he couldn't handle it. He had to turn it over to God.

The Bible is packed with stories like that. In fact, most of the stories we learned in Sunday school are about individuals who faced situations that were completely beyond what they could handle.

Situations that forced them to make a choice -- either abandon God or worship him in the midst of a Plan B."
excerpt from Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Say You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson

YES!!!!! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!!!!!!! That feels right - at least to me!! And this time, there is a scriptural defense for it! What say you?

Of all the books I have read in my adult life, this one is truly life changing for me (yes, you read that correctly!) and I'm not even finished yet. Already pages are dog-eared and there are times I have to put it down to think and pray over what I have just read. I have a LOT more to share with you about this book in the coming days...I hope you want to hear more about it because it really is that good!

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Friday, August 20, 2010

Crazy Love

Have you read it? No? Well, it's crazy good! And it's just sold 1,000,000 copies!! Yep, that was SIX zeroes...one MILLION copies!! Crazy, right?

And the author - Francis Chan - has donated every single penny made from the sale of Crazy Love to charity (the Isaiah 58 fund). That's walkin' the talk for Jesus!

So, if you haven't read it...I highly recommend it!

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. Isaiah 58:10 NLT

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ever feel like this?

*Please scroll down and pause my player before viewing*

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV