Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Gotta Go

At a very young age, my oldest son told me he had to go.
As in, he had to be obedient to a calling on his heart.
In this case,  GO meant he had to leave.
Not just his home.
Not just his neighborhood.
Not just the town and state in which he had always lived.
GO was something that would take him beyond borders and oceans he’d only read about in school or seen on the news.
GO was something that would take him away from his family.
His brothers.
His pet iguana.
And, away from his mom.

I didn’t know how to let him go.
On the outside, to others, I seemed cool and collected.
I appeared to have this calm that didn’t make sense.
But inside me, there was chaos.
And fear.
And anger.
And worry.
And frustration.
And sadness.
All of these things, raging.
And just about every ounce of my being was questioning “why”.
And if I wasn’t questioning, I was demanding.
Trying to negotiate.
And then finding rest in the thought that GO wouldn’t really happen.
Afterall, it would take, well, a miracle to GO.
It was no small task to prepare for.
And it was costly.
Very expensive.
Considering he was just out of high school and would rely on the financial support of others, I found comfort in the quiet, hidden part of my self that did cartwheels over the idea of the financial responsibility not being met.
I didn’t tell him that, at the time.
I didn’t tell anyone then.
I secretly held on to the (what seemed) rational fact that he couldn’t raise the money to GO.

And you know what?  He couldn’t raise the money to Go.  But a miracle did happen, and God provided exactly what was needed to GO.  Exactly!

So, he went.  That was about 4 years ago.

No matter my selfish desire to hold on to him, no matter my secret hope of “the miracle” of financial funding to be unseen, and no matter whatever reasons I could come up with as to why he shouldn’t leave…GO happened anyway.

You know why?

Because of a love greater than I can ever imagine.
Because of a faithfulness I didn’t understand at the time.
And because of the obedience of many people to listen to the still, quiet call of the Holy Spirit.
A call to GO.
A call to pray.
A call to provide.

As I stood by the sink one evening, in our empty kitchen some 4 years ago, exhausted from the battle I was having internally, I physically threw my hands in the air and just wept.  Cried like there was no tomorrow.  And I said, “Lord, he’s yours.  If this is your will for his life, please move me out of the way.”  In that instant, a sureal calm drenched me from head to toe.  It was almost a prickly warm feeling, and as it radiated through my body, the weight of the world that I had been carrying was lifted.  Just.Like.That.

Within days, the huge financial obligation required to GO was met.

Within two weeks, our son was half a world away.

As I read in the Jesus Calling deovtion today, my heart leapt in harmony with every word –

“Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective  care.  They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.”

Yes, Lord, YES!

“When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand.  As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them.  My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.  This same Presence stays with you as you relax and place your trust in Me.  Watch and see what I will do.”

Watching, and expecting.

And I am so grateful!

Standing Still in The Word

I experienced one of those “kaleidescope-moments” while I was in the word this week.  Kaleidescope.   The definition I’m using here – a continually changing pattern of shapes, scenes and colors.  Have you ever felt that way before?  Like the whole world around you is just flashing from one thing to the next while you are caught up in a single thought or revelation, not caring about the things around you that are vying for your attention?

The world is that way.  It fights for our attention.  It is aggressive sometimes.  It’s hungry to occupy our thoughts and monopolize our focus. Sometimes I feel like the world and The Word are such polar opposite things.  The world is demanding.  The Word is patient.  The world is ephemeral.  The Word is ethereal.  The world is unreliable.  The Word is trustworthy…true…truth.

To best explain how The Word stopped the world for me in that moment, join me in the scripture – John chapter 11.  This is the chapter in which Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead.  We were discussing this in Sunday School, noting how this is often considered the lead event that started the whole domino effect of events leading up to the crucification of Christ.  Imagine, being there when Jesus called for him to rise, “Lazarus, come out!”  Imagine!  What were the people who were gathered there saying?  What were Lazarus’s first words?  Were people scared?  Did anyone faint?  How many people accepted faith in Christ at the first hand witness of that miracle?  So, so many questions.  Now you’re with me.  We’re at an awesome place where Jesus has done something he had not done before.  Sure, he has brought people back to life again, but not after four days.  FOUR DAYS!  Don’t you believe Jesus can do anything?  I do, too.  Which is why I’m so excited to be studying this chapter.  It’s not just a story – it’s real.  This really happened.

And here it is.  Begin reading in verse 45.  Many Jews went out to see Mary, thinking she was going to the tomb to mourn.  They saw what Jesus did.  Many came to faith.  Some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus did.  Well, it wasn’t long before the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting.  They were not happy that many were accepting faith in Jesus….so….they said:

John 11:48

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will have belief in him…..”



The world stands still.  All is silent, as the past events catch up with  current life and our immediate world.  Imagine.  Imagine! Imagine a world in which everyone had belief in Jesus Christ.  The days of the Pharisees catches up with the current events of today’s persecuted church.  Jesus was persecuted back then, and today, persecution continues.  The Pharisees and chief priests were afraid of people having faith in Jesus.  “If we let him go on like this, everyone will have belief in him…”  That just blows my mind, because this very same thing is happening today.  I’m thinking of Pastor Youcef, and the Iranian government that has imprisoned him because of his belief in Jesus Christ and has been threatening to end his life since 2009 if he fails to recant his faith.  Pastor Youcef is not denying Christ.  Through isolation.  Through torture.  Through temptations.  Through things I could never even imagine, Pastor Youcef remains faithful and steadfast for our Savior.  The Pharisees were afraid.  They had fear.  They were selfish and didn’t want to loose power or prestige.  What are the people who are threatening Pastor Youcef afraid of?  Could it be the same things?

Jesus tells us in John 15: 18-21:

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you… If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

Absolute stillness.  The Word is truth, and the truth has connected with me in a  very real way.

Praise God for the blessing of your son, Jesus, and for the gift of scripture to help teach us, direct us, and remind us of the path that was planned for us before we ever were.  Thank you, Father, for the blessing also of living in a place that allows for freedom in worshiping you, and studying your Word.  There are so many, Lord – too many – who do not have the same freedoms, yet, they risk everything, including their lives, for a glimpse into your Word and in sharing your light with others.  Father, I lift up my persecuted brothers and sisters and pray for their protection, for your peace to continue to be evident to them, and for more than anything, Father, your will to be done through their lives, as it is to be done through ours…through mine.  All this I offer and ask in your son’s precious, sweet name.  Amen.

I’d really like to hear about a time when The Word stopped you in your tracks and gave you a “kaleidoscope-moment”.

“Give it to Me.”

It’s a new year.  Many conversations and comments are based right now on “resolutions”, “things we are going to change”, “new ways we are going to live”.  Just as yesterday was Friday the 13th and I could have cared less for the folklore surrounding such a number, I give as little weight to the idea of New Year’s Resolutions.  Changes should be made for personal reasons, not necessarily on the universal date of the clean slate.  I mean, if we’re vowing to make a positive change, for whatever reason, shouldn’t it be heart-induced, and not calendar-induced?

So you didn’t see a “New Years Resolution” post from me, and please don’t confuse this with one.  After all, we’re well on our way in 2012 with it being the 14th, and not the 1st.  😉  Without further ado, I would like to introduce my January 14th CFM (change-for-me).  Yeah, that sounds selfish, but I author it with the best intentions of changing for Him.  I mean, it is “me” that I long to change so that I can be more like Him.  CFM stays.

—drumroll, please—

I, a daughter of Christ, am going to give it to Him.  

Doesn’t that sound easy?  

I know a few who do this without notice…and I long to be this person.  I have given it to Him before, but it’s always been so hard to let my grip go.  I like to hold on to things.  I think I’ve even prided myself in ownership over some things for a long time before letting Him have them.  I worry.  I stress. I neatly hide things that I should give to Him.  Like a mother hen, sometimes I hold onto things, hoping they will hatch into something better, more manageable for my hands (they never do).  

Yesterday, I held onto something that was causing me enormous guilt.  It was interfering with my work.  It was monopolizing my thoughts.  It was even causing me to doubt what I was sure was a very righteous action.  “Mine, mine mine!”  Oh, how I like to hold onto things.  I certainly wasn’t thinking of sharing this, and definitely had not considered giving it away, until I went to the Ladies’ room.  That’s right, the bathroom.  I needed a break.  A breather.  I needed a private area to deal with this new thing I was carrying.  I did not go into there to pray, although I should have.  I did not go in there with the intention of leaving this thing behind.  I did not think of Him, at all.  I did not remember how much He would like to have this thing.  I did not look toward Him.  

Hallelujah, He reached out to me!

With a heavy heart and a mind trying to make since of this new, worrisome thing I had acquired, I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes.  That’s when I noticed Him.  His words reached out to me softly and reminded me He was there.  “Give it to me.”  It was not a demand.  It was not pushy.  It was not stated in disapproval.  These words came to me in love, a gift, freely offered.  He had the solution!  He always has the solution!  It was only upon “hearing” these words that I was able to let go of the thing that was causing me so much grief, and I did so readily.  It WAS easy, and the peace that replaced the area this thing had been occupying was immediate.  I’ve given things to him before, so  why do I continue to struggle with this?  Why do I try to make things my own?  

Thank you, Jesus, for reaching out to me and tapping me on the shoulder to remind me of your constant presence with me, of your continual desire to guide me, help me and lift me up when I can’t seem to stand by myself.   Thank you for emptying me of the things that cause worry, and filling me with your peace.

My It’s-Not-A-New Year’s-Resolution is to Give it to Him! 

Day 19

It has been 19 days since my oldest son left the country for a foreign land.

This didn’t “sneak up” on me.
He has been working toward this since he was 17 years old,
so I’ve had two years to prepare for where he is now….where I am.

He is well, and has no doubt he is doing what he was created for.
I have no doubt about that, either.
I’ve experienced such joy in hearing of his happiness…
in seeing his spiritual gift at work…
in knowing of the peace he has.

We have been able to speak very little since he’s been gone.
Where he is, there’s not a reliable internet connection.
I’ve not been able to receive emails from him.
We have, however, exchanged short instant message statements.
Little encouragements.

Tonight, he typed these words to me in a Skype message:

“I miss you ma.”

I replied right away with encouraging responses – staying upbeat, making sure the inflection in my type wouldn’t tell on the tears that were now streaming down my face.  Oh, how I miss him, too.

Then he said, “Tell me about your day.”

So I did.  I told him everything I could think of.  I didn’t wait for responses between statements.  I felt his need to connect with the everyday here at home, so I continued:

“Books A Million is closed.”
“Your brother was invited to join the Beta Club. He’s very excited!”
“Your other brother is doing well in school, too.”
“Your iguana misses you.”
“Richie across the street says to tell you he’s proud of you.”
“We spent Friday and Saturday nights with friends from church.”
“The family reunion is next weekend.”
“The kitten has learned to use the cat door.”
“Kevin is still working on the Jeep.”
“Today Kev had lunch with J Mc and Mike.”
“We went to support Rick last Friday, as he played at the coffee shop.”

For about 15 minutes, I shared various details with him, until he finally replied, “I think I’m going to hit the sack now.  I love you.”

When he was a baby, he could only get to sleep with rhythmic patting on his back.  I’m not talking some soft, gentle patting – he wanted to know you were there as he drifted off to sleep, and only a firm hand would do the trick.  And if you stopped just short of his dozing off, he’d let you know you needed to pat him on the back a little longer.  Tonight, my baby needed to know I was here.  I would type messages to him (pat him on the back) as long as he needed me to.
On this 19th day, I needed the confirmation just as much as my son did.

Praising God for this release and the closeness that was provided between a mother and her son, even though they are worlds apart right now. 

Our third day together.

The Blessing of A Kitten Named Turkey

Meet Turkey.  She is the latest addition to our family.  How did we get her?  Turkey actually found us.  She was screaming (meowing) early one morning for us to let her in, so we did.  We were amazed right away by the mighty big voice she had for being such a tiny kitten.  It was obvious, upon first glance, that she was not someone’s pet.  Dirty, boney, flea-covered, and appearing to be missing an eye at first, we knew we couldn’t turn her back out onto the street.  So here we are, about 2 1/2 weeks later, and this tiny kitten has us smitten with her!

The Day She Found Us

Like any other healthy kitten, Turkey is rambunctious and busy every single second she is awake, but she is still a baby, so she has several catnaps a day and knows when it is bedtime for the rest of us.  Without being taught or encouraged, she’s learned to jump onto the foot of our bed as we’re turning in for the night. It’s a neat routine.  We get into bed.  Moments later, we can feel the tiny bounce of her massive 1.5 pound body, and she immediately turns on her purr.  When we call to her (“Turkey, good little Turkey, sweet kitty Turkey….”), she turns her purr up even louder.  And if we rub her beneath her chin, she purrs even louder still!  It’s funny, because when she’s running around the house all day, you won’t hear a purr out of her at all.  But at bedtime, in her contentment and seemingly gratitude, she offers us the warmth of her happiness through a purr. She appears to offer us “the purr” as a means of thanksgiving for taking her in.  For loving her. 

This past Tuesday, like most days as I’m driving to work, I was reflecting on the morning devotion and thinking about the scripture it was based upon.  Before I knew it, I was singing praises to our Saviour – belting it out! – unscripted words on paper, but definitely scripted in my heart.  Don’t you just love that when it happens?!  I was singing praises of thanks for the many, many blessings God has shown me, and for those that I knew He has in store for me yet to come.  Hallelujah, He knows my past, present and future!  As I was singing, I became aware of this warmth, building inside – almost as if some nurtured energy was about to unfold – like a daisy opening it’s petals beneath he morning’s early dew.  And as I continued to sing praises, that warmth became greater, and greater, until I was filled with such enormous joy!  Immediately, I began to think of Turkey, our newest feline family member, and an understanding of this joy came to me in the very simple, tangible definition of this tiny beast. Just as Turkey lands on the foot our our bed, offering her warm little purr that grows a little louder with some praiseful cooing, and then even louder with the anticipation of an outstretched hand coming toward her…… was the warmth, the radiation of the Holy Spirit within me.  The more I praised, the more I poured my heart out in Thanksgiving, the more I could feel the love and satisfaction of my Father.  Thank you, thank you, sweet Lord for giving me a glimpse of  the happiness you must feel when we glorify you and praise your name, in terms that I can understand.  Thank you for showing me this…..yet another blessing!

So maybe not everyone would understand it if I compared the warmth of the Holy Spirit to the instinctive purr of a cat…..but that’s okay.  Our wonderful Saviour has showed me in a way he knows I can understand.  He will reveal things to you, too, in ways you can understand them best. Our Father knows each of us, loves each of us, and is ready to reveal things to you in your language – way you can understand.  All you have to do is believe with all your heart, and listen for his gentle way.    John 14:  16-17

2 Weeks After Finding Us

A blessing in the making:  The night Turkey found us, we were in the middle of singing praises to our Saviour, literally.  We were at a recording studio with our oldest son as he was working on the final tracks for a song titled “Magnify”.  It was when taking a donut break at 2:00am that Turkey came-a-callin’.  Praise God for all the blessings, big and small, known and yet to come!

Be magnified
As we sing your praise and lift your name
Up higher than the mountaintops you made

                                 (c) 2011 – D. Johnston 

My Basket

It’s a big one.
Made out of some type of weave material native to the plantation area in the south.
And it’s elastic, of this I am sure, because it can stretch to hold a lot of junk.

It used to be really heavy when I first got it.  Sometimes, debilitatingly so.
Often times, it would slow my pace, or be so cumbersome, that it distracted me from other things.
And it used to be very important to me, too.
I would never leave home without it.
For that matter, I would never be home without it, either.
It used to hold a pretty prominent position, always close by my side, or in my lap.

I know this basket well – would recognize it anywhere.
Because it’s familiar, I sometimes feel comfort at the sheer recognition of it.
It’s no more than the comfort of habit, though, and it is only temporary.
I have spent a majority of my life toting it around.
It has been with me through so many turns.
For a long while, it seemed to be my only constant.
Through high school, college, broken relationships.
Through health issues.
Through the birth of three children, parenting.
Through all sorts of highs and lows, I’ve held onto it.

Now, it’s not nearly as heavy, although it hasn’t changed in shape or size.
I just don’t put that much junk in it anymore.
It doesn’t really slow my pace anymore, or distract me too often.
Sometimes, I don’t even notice it.
At home, I forget sometimes that I still have it.
When I leave, I forget sometimes to take it with me.

This is what happens when I let God have what’s inside the basket.
He takes that burden from me.
He eliminates the distraction of it’s contents.
He carries anything that is too much for me to handle.
He replaces it with peace, comfort and hope.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:6-7.

My basket is much less important to me than it used to be 20 years ago.
To be honest, it’s much less important to me than it was a year ago!
As my relationship with Christ grows stronger, my dependency on my basket diminishes.
Moving my focus toward faith, takes it away from things that are out of my control.

One of my favorite hymns is “Turn  Your Eyes Upon Jesus”.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
In the light of his glory and grace.

I’m so thankful for the understanding and comfort that only my Savior can provide.
And thankful that he so willingly and lovingly takes my worries from me & empties my basket.

1 Peter 5:7

Shark Teeth

Beachcombing one Saturday morning on the shore of Topsail Island, I realized something pretty cool.  As I walked along the abundant crush of seashells and things, my son walked a few feet behind me, on the same path.  Every so often, he would say, “Hey mom, you missed this one!”, “I can’t believe you missed this one!”, or “Are you wearing your glasses, because you missed another good one?”.  NO, I  was not wearing my glasses, and I refuse to think that my 40+ years had anything to do with my overlooking the big ones. Then, clear as my vision is from behind those prescription glasses, I heard my Savior say:

“As you and your son are looking at the same sandy shell bed, searching for the same thing, you each find exactly what you were intended to find at exactly the right moment.”

Jump back!  What an awesome teacher our Savior is.  This is exactly how it is with His word!   We can read the same scripture or hear the same message and get completely different rewards from them.  Or, something that may speak to my heart with great significance or result in a clear understanding for me, may speak to your heart differently.  We see in the word what we were intended to see at exactly the moment we were intended to understand it.  Isn’t that cool!?  Have you ever been exposed to a particular scripture repeatedly before, but it never jumped out to you and stuck?  And then, one day, hear the same scripture and all of a sudden, you ‘see’ it for the first time?

Praise God for being with me on the beach that morning and revealing to me the significance of our different “eye sight”.

Stop, Drop and Pray

You’ve heard that saying before…”Stop, Drop and Roll”.  You may have learned it when you were very young, like I did in elementary school when the local firemen visited our classroom to teach us the importance of remembering this life saving phrase.  I didn’t really understand the importance of those words when I was younger, but the phrase was so catchy that I held on to it and gained a better knowledge of what it meant as I grew older.  Thankfully, I’ve never had to put the phrase into action, but I think I could if I was ever in a situation where it was needed.  Those firemen taught a fundamental lesson and did so very well.

God has been moving in my life, and things that I’ve been taught or heard over the years are coming to life left and right.  Praise God!  It’s like a light switch being turned on!  That’s how I woke this morning.  In the pitch dark of my bedroom, before I even opened my eyes, I was reflecting on and thanking God for all of the opportunities He’s given me recently, and that’s when it came to me – Stop, Drop and Pray.

Just yesterday, while standing in the parking lot of WalMart, I met a man.  I’m going to call him Mr. Calvary Baptist Church, because I can remember that instead of his name (I’m terrible with names, and I’m not in denial, but chances are if I’ve met you, you hold a special moniker, too).  I really thought, upon hearing this man’s voice across the way, that I knew him.  I really thought, upon seeing his profile, that I knew him.  Excited to share with him some good news, I grabbed a flyer to an upcoming event and called to him.  As he  came closer, I realized that I didn’t know him at all!  Wow!  That was a hearing AND sight blooper, but that’s another blog for another time.  Moving on.   This normally would have embarrassed me, but now, so many things that would have done that before just remind me it’s an opportunity.  Within moments of our introduction, I had made that statement we all hear so many times, “Will you pray for _________”.  You fill in the blank.  I’ve asked people to pray for my mother, our President, a stressful situation I was facing, a friend’s sick husband, for clarity…….and so on.  And without batting an eye, this man who I had only known for seconds, put his arm around my shoulder, and right there in the parking lot of WalMart, in the middle of the day, front and center to the entrance doors, he began to pray.

Stop, Drop and Pray.  STOP DROP AND PRAY!  I get it, Lord.  I hear you!  Why has it taken me so long to understand this?  I’ve been doing this recently, and didn’t even know I was doing what has been taught to me all these years – what I’ve seen around me.  Other people have prayed on the spot when I’ve asked for prayer, but yesterday’s opportunity connected the dots for me.  Instead of agreeing to pray for someone when they ask me to, at a later time, I am going to pray right away, with them, if I can.  There are so many needs, and so many things that need to be prayed over.  I’ve tried to put them aside oftentimes until they accumulate and I, within a structured timeframe, pause to remember the list and pray at a “more convenient time”, or a “more private time”.  There’s nothing wrong with that – God wants our prayer and our conversation always, in all ways.  But today, I wake with a desire to address prayer immediately…to slow down and bring things to God in real time…to stop putting prayer time in a box and keeping it closed….

Thank you, Mr. Calvary Baptist Church.  I wish I could tell you how much the opportunity to meet you yesterday has meant to me!  “Stop, Drop and Roll” may be a life-saving phrase, but “Stop, Drop and Pray” is a saved-life phrase.  Now I have to go put it into action!