Friday, January 28, 2011

The Never Ending Story (From 2008)

I wish for “world peace”. I wish for no poverty or child abuse or death. I wish I’d never have an evil thought enter my mind. Oh how I wish there were no addictions!! For me or those I love! If there were no addictions or illness, all my brothers would still be here. I wish there were no illness especially mental- it is so cruel! I don’t want my children to suffer…anything! (or be labeled a “truant” because of too many absences). Why do those I love have to die tragically? I wish we could all get along! (Countries AND families!) I saw a little boy on TV that was doused with gasoline and burned and terribly injured- the pain that must have been! I don’t like watching the news. It mostly fills your head with negative stuff. I’d much rather watch Oprah give cool stuff away! I wish I could so commune with God that He’d direct my every step and I’d never mess up- THAT would be heavenly! Also there’s those mundane things: Oh, I wish I had a maid! I wish I could eat carbs without guilt! Some day I’ll click my heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home!” Then…I’ll fly away!

I love John Lennon’s music. But I have to say I mostly disagree with the song, “Imagine”. If there were “no hell below us” and “above us only sky” and “all the people” were “living for today” I believe there’d be so much more sexual immorality, drugs, abuse, murder, etc. etc. Just “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die!”

Not to mention this would be denying REALITY. We Christians would not be here (if there were “no religion”)- “Great!” some might say but they’ll change their tune when we’re taken up and there are none of us to feed the poor, care for the sick, comfort the dying, no one at the church to pray with, no hope for tomorrow. With Christ there is a hope for a world without war, disease and abuse! Christians ARE the salt of the earth!! Sure you can name a lot of hypocrites, so can I, but for every single one there is also a faithful Christian past or present: Billy Graham, Ruth, all the Grahams, DL Moody, James Dobson, Mother Teresa, Albert Swietzer, Peter Marshall, Catherine Marshall, Chuck Swindoll, Madame Guyon, William Barclay, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. The list goes on and on! There were twelve disciples but only one Judas. No one ever said Christians were perfect. They are the ones who admit they AREN’T perfect and so need Christ! Just look at the believers in the Old and New Testament: Abraham lied, as did Jacob, Samson really messed up, David had his failures as did Peter and Paul. What did they all have in common? A FAITH and HOPE for a better future when the battle on earth is over! From Hebrews 11:1-2, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Verse 6,“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Verse 16, “….they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

I heard a pastor, perhaps my own Brother Jerry explain the “peace on earth” (Luke 2) Christ came to give; it’s a peace with God which passes understanding. It’s Christ who died on the cross so we can go to heaven and experience a life without pain and suffering, war and death!

"The praise of the heavenly host offers honor to God and peace to men on whom his favor rests. This last phrase is not a declaration of universal salvation but refers to those who are the special objects of God's grace. They are like the God-fearers Mary mentioned in Luke 1:50-53, whom God will exalt with his blessing. They are the "saved" or the "elect," those on whom God has bestowed the favor of his grace." From commentary.

Jesus said in Matthew 10: 34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” In this chapter Jesus explains the suffering the disciples are about to endure and gives His guidance, verse 16; “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves…”

And in John 16:33, He says,
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Adam and Eve started this war against evil when they sinned in the garden. Phillip Pullman, an atheist, has written some interesting fiction, popular with children although he says he doesn’t write for children, he writes “books children happen to like”.

The first book in “His Dark Materials” series was even made into a movie, released in December 2007, called, “The Golden Compass”. Much of the story centers on something called “Dust” which is explained later to be “original sin”. There was such controversy in the Christian community over the movie that I wondered if I should be reading it to my children: Lydia 7 and Claire 11 (at that time). However, it is mostly over Lydia’s head and she usually falls right to sleep- which was the main objective when we began our wonderful ritual. We are all “night owls” and most of us, “book worms” in our family and have trouble with bedtime. Ian often falls asleep with his book in hand and light on! We read other books to Lydia that are on her level. She stays awake for those. We have tons (and tons) of books on every level and we also go to the library. Claire and I are at the end of the trilogy (“His Dark Materials”). The third book is called; “The Amber Spyglass”, in it the “good guys” are in a war against God who is called “the Authority”. I asked Claire if this was going to make her not believe in God. Her reply, “Yeah mom” . This is her sense of humor, she says “Didn’t I tell you not to believe anything I say?!” We now read to Claire and Lydia separately, most of the time. Bob and I take turns reading to Lydia and we’re on One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham (I love this book!). I read to Claire and we’re on the last Ink Heart book called Ink Death. These are by Cornelia Funke, a German author.

I am going to spoil the ending of this book (The Amber Spyglass), so if you want to read it skip this paragraph. I am sorry to say I am notorious at our house for spoiling endings of movies and books, albeit accidentally. So, don’t say you weren’t warned! The hero and heroine of The Amber Spyglass take a trip to the land of the dead. Phillip Pullman in this fiction paints such a terrible portrait of this place, which even has believers in it who “The Church” lied to, telling them they were going to Paradise. It is, to me, more a portrait of Hell. It is complete with mythological beings called Harpies who constantly torment you with every bad thing you’ve ever done or thought. Will and Lyra have freed the people and other beings from different worlds from this terrible place of nothingness. Also God has died, he wasn’t killed by them as the concerned Christians said, he wasn’t even really God as it says he was the first angel who only claimed to be the creator or Authority. This head angel is Enoch (in the fiction), who was “A holy man, who walked with God” and “God took him” in the NON-fiction Bible. This head angel is defeated and goes into the abyss with two other characters (good or bad? Very ambiguous in this book!). Supposedly immortal beings can die in the books. (i.e. angels, God). Reading this and losing loved ones (My brothers; Tim, Mark and Paul and recently my cousin Stacy) has got me to thinking: what if an imagination (possibly comparable?) to Pullman’s would describe heaven in a positive way! Oh – Imagine that! It really got me going.

Also losing my cat, Samson, who was 13 years old and died January 6th, 2008, threw me in to further grief. I had told my kids before that, for those who like pets, they would probably be in heaven, of course I don’t know for sure. I sat petting my dieing cat. He was a purring (happy) cat. When he stopped purring when I came to pet him I knew he was about to go. I said to him, “Say ‘hi’ to Stacy for me”, tears flowing down my face. From that came my fiction story about “Stacy and My Cat”. In that I imagine that my cat goes to heaven and talks to my cousin. In 2005 when my brother, Tim died I had started this theme and wrote about Tim with my other brother, Paul in Heaven. These are personal about my family members, so many wouldn’t understand them. I also wrote one of my assignments for The Institute of Children’s Literature about Heaven. (Also called, The Never Ending Story) In my 2008 Christmas letter I wrote about my brothers and Heaven and ironically and providentially my mom passed away four months later.

A famous dead clergyman once said that no person, however gifted, has the capacity to even imagine the blessings that await the believer in the glories of heaven. “The eye has not seen, neither has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). So please forgive me my feeble attempt!

As I was writing this I sent out an e-mail from the writings of William Barclay (Daily Celebration), a devotion for December 31st entitled “The End” in it he says none of us knows when our “end” will be. Here is another quote from it;

“Prepare to meet thy God” said Amos to Israel. The end of time is eternity. The end of life is God. The last step of life is the step which leads into the presence of God.
What consummation!

My father in law responded:
There are some good points, you never know when it is going to be over, Yesterday they had a Mass for a girl I knew who was 26 years old and had 3 little children who will never see there mother again, she was killed on I-95 a week ago...............Her name is Sarah.............
I felt I needed to address: “3 little children who will never see there mother again,” So I sent this:
Correction: They WILL see her again! S

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21: 3-4

This is the hope Christians have. I know the father at Bob’s work whose son was killed in Iraq has it. The young family at our church that lost their mother in 2003 have it. The family of the young man murdered at a restaurant in Warner Robins a couple of days after Christmas have it. (2007) Mom and Dad have it. Do YOU?
Don’t leave this earth without it!

My dad sang this song at my brother, Paul’s memorial beautifully, despite the tears he was holding back. My tears flowed freely as I wasn’t trying to sing. (This is the first song on my Dad’s new CD!)

Last night I lay asleeping,
There came a dream so fair;
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing,
And ever as they sang,
Me thought the voice of angels
From heav'n in answer rang;
Me thought the voice of angels
From heav'n in answer rang.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!
And then me thought my dream was chang'd,
The streets no longer rang,
Hush'd were the glad hosannas
The little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery,
The morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! how the angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!
And once again the scene was chang'd,
New earth there seemed to be;
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea;
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day;
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away,
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o'er,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna forevermore!

I have written more on this subject; See: Six Feet Under

And Visiting Mom's

Bibliography and recommended reading:
Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada (I don’t agree with every part of Joni’s doctrine but I still love her writings)
View From a Hearst by Bruce Goddard
Epic by John Eldredge
Heaven Can’t Wait by Peter Marshall
Since posting this I've also read: 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real-great books!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Matthew West - Family Tree

Bob was talking about doing a mosaic of a tree on the floor in front of the fireplace...I thought "No way, it'll take him way too long" I heard this song from the album Ian got me for Christmas....I cried....called Bob and said, "Do the tree" :-) I shared about this on Matthew West's facebook page and I was pleasantly surprised when he responded back to me saying, "I can't wait to see the mosaic".
Here are some of the lyrics: "Family Tree" by Matthew West

This is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you
No, this is not your legacy
This is not your meant to be
I can break the chains that bind you

Cause you're my child
You're my chosen
You are loved
You are loved

And I will restore
All that was broken
You are loved
You are loved

And just like the seasons change
Winter into spring
You're brining new life to your family tree now
off the Album, “The Story of Your Life”

And the story continues: Worn & The Seven Story Tree

Saturday, January 15, 2011

He Loves You Snow Much...More


Last Friday I answered a letter; It was from my new step mother (she is not “legally” my step mother- they just had a “ceremony” with their pastor). In it I told her many things I don’t believe she knows. One thing I said was that my Dad doesn’t know how to love me. I told her how God has helped me through that in the past and how He continues to sustain me. I told her about the trials my Dad and family went through in February of 2010. These things happened partly because of bad decisions made by my Dad’s church, my Dad and because of a novice con-artist. And my Dad had got mad at me? Me? I live 2000 miles away and had nothing to do with it! It hadn’t even been a year since my mom passed away (April 2009)- once again (as this has happened before) my family sunk into anger, confusion and chaos. It was the week of February 7th and it was about the worst week I’ve ever had in my life! (it’s definitely in the top ten!)I would talk to my sister and we’d both work ourselves up talking about this “problem” and what to do about it----- but there was nothing we could do! “Let go and let God” By the week-end I was so aggravated that I “unfriended” some of my dad’s “friends” on facebook (After all THEY got him into this mess, it stands to reason THEY should get him out) Then I stopped answering the phone and instructed my family to do likewise- my sister didn’t call anyways- I think she was sick of talking about it all too.

Then that Sunday it snowed! It was beautiful and we spent the day playing in the snow with our kids- (all but Teddy who was playing in the snow at the University of Georgia).That was February 14th. I said (in my letter) to my step mother that it was like God saying to me, “I’m sorry your Dad doesn’t know how to love you Susan, but I love you” That’s good enough for me! Then on Monday (January 10, 2011) God told me again (with this ice storm) and now I realize that He says it to me everyday…like when my husband, Bob or my children say, “I love you”, when He answers my prayers, when I get what I asked for for Christmas (or my birthday), when I spend an evening playing “Taboo” with the family and laugh so hard that I cry, when I hear a song or read something that speaks to me personally– even when my dog wags her tail and my cats purr…’s all God saying, “I love you.”

I rediscovered an old book of my mom’s in November (2010), it’s called, “Letting God” and it was written by A. Philip Parham. It’s a devotional with an entry for every day of the year. One of the first one’s I read was from November 17th; Mr. Parham tells the story of Mr. Kline; “He was a sad, sorrowful sort who felt that no one, especially God, cared for him. One Sunday he walked by a church and heard the words to an old hymn; ‘Saved by grace alone, this is all my plea, Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me’
When he heard the third line, ‘Jesus died for all mankind’ he thought he heard, ‘Jesus died for old man Kline’ He shouted ‘Why that’s me!’ Stopping in his tracks, he went into the church, accepted Christ’s special invitation and love, and became a Christian.
Whenever we feel a special and personalized call or prompting from God, it is no mistake. Individuals are brought to salvation one by one, and each encounters and then embraces Christ. Mr. Kline heard correctly. Jesus died for each unique individual. His love is reserved for each of us. Our recovery from addiction depends on believing that our Lord truly loves us, each one, with a special kind of attention that fixes on us- as if we were all that mattered.”

In my 2007 Christmas letter I wrote on the theme of “Love” and things that had happened to me that year: “I rediscovered my old weight loss seminar (The Weigh Down Workshop) this past spring and lost 20 lbs. I was dismayed to find out, however, that the founder has turned this weight loss seminar into a cult! Gwen Shamblin has strayed from her initial focus of loving God (instead of food) with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, to legalistic rules and coming out from all other churches (where her classes used to be taught!) to her church because she thinks it is right and all other denominations are wrong.” What I didn’t say though, was that Gwen Shamblin was “into” asking God for “signs” – even though in Mathew 12 Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” He does not say, however, that He won’t give a sign. There are many places in the Bible where God gives His people “signs”. But there are also many warnings about them, like in Matthew 24:24 Jesus says, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Bob and I were recently sharing with someone how Christians are supposed to, “test the spirits” because everything that is really “supernatural” is not from God. (I John 4:1) The Bible says that Satan can transform himself to appear as, “an angel of light” (I Cor. 11:14) So we, as Christians need to be especially careful because we can even be deceived! With all this in mind and my doubts about Gwen Shamlin and her new church, however, I said a crazy thing to God. Since Gwen’s questions to Him were always about Him showing His personal love to her, I said, “God, do you love me as much as you love Gwen Shamlin?” He answered me with a Matthew West song I heard on K-Love : “Susan” He said to me, “I love you MORE”

“…I'm always thinking of you, Take a look around you, I'm spelling it out one by one…I love you more than the sun And the stars that I taught how to shine You are mine, and you shine for me too, I love you yesterday and today And tomorrow, I'll say it again and again I love you more….”
Ironically or rather Providentially next Sunday is “Snow day” in Awanas; One craft idea I had seen before is “Jesus Loves you Snow Much”

To read Part 2 of  "He Loves You Snow Much...More" go to my May 27th post (2011):
The Warrior Princess