Sometimes I find statements that make me reflect upon life in the oddest places, like this quote from a Maisie Dobbs mystery:
“I’ll tell you this. Leaving that which you love breaks your heart open. But you will find a jewel inside, and this precious jewel is the opening of your heart to all that is new and all that is different, and it will be the making of you–if you allow it to be.”
Seventeen and a half years ago, I left that which I loved much–my family–to go on the mission field in Ecuador with my husband. He did not have to drag me along–I was a more than willing participant, but my family–especially our sons, their wives, and our grandchildren will never know how difficult it was to say goodbye and continue to say goodbye for the next 17+ years. My heart has been broken wide open many times–like the first Christmas when we went out for dinner and I could not stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. Like when trying to decide whether to get on a plane or not during times of family tragedy. Like saying “no” when our sons wanted us to return home. Heart-rendingly difficult.
I’ve brought so many jewels back with me as we’ve transitioned back to the states:
- A new appreciation for the United States of America as well as an understanding of what the United States could learn from other cultures.
- Gratitude for the husband God has gifted me with. He is a man that I can count on to have God’s will in the center and who gives great grace. He makes me laugh, and puts the daily difficulties of life into an eternal perspective. His quirks make me love him all the more.
- A flexibility that I know I would never have learned in the United States as it is a flexibility learned from grappling with cultural differences.
- A passionate love for the Word of God which sustains me.
- A deeper, calmer faith forged during the challenges on the mission field.
- An ever quickening love for my Lord and Savior.
Please, don’t think I’m trying to make myself sound like some sort of spiritual giant–I’m far from it. For proof of that, read my blog post Woe is Me from last week. I’m sifting through the jewels that God has given me.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11
When I was a brand-new believer working as a landscaper in North Georgia, Psalm 51 was the first passage in the Bible that became a rhema word to me. I’m using the word rhema to mean not just a word that I read which would be logos, but a word that spoke to my heart in a deep and profound way. I saw my sin so clearly.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Hearts a Bustin’ (eonymus americanus) became a symbol for me of the ache I felt for the sin I had committed. I collected them and dried them in a little tea cup and I drew them and wrote about them. To me the Hearts-a-Bustin’ represented my broken and contrite heart.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
I was and am so glad that God has made me clean and restored me. The peace and joy that flowed through me when I read this Psalm are indescribable:
7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Today I am so thankful for the Word of God–especially those portions that have been rhema to my heart.
Photo courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinlabar
He saved us —not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This [Spirit] He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7
We are regenerated. Regeneration is the production of a new life consecrated to God, a radical change of mind for the better. This word is often used to denote the restoration of a thing to its pristine state.
We are renewed. Renewal means renovated, a complete change for the better.
We have been made the sons and daughters of God the Father. Hallelujah! Sunday is here. We are washed, we are justified, we are heirs.
It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this. Titus 3:5-8
This is the other print. Both are by Warner Sallman and were painted in the '40s
This is one of the prints that hung in my bedroom.
Valentines Day is known as Day of Love and Friendship in Ecuador. Today I’d like to celebrate by writing a note to the One who loves me most of all and who is also my best friend. Even though I didn’t receive Him as my Savior until I was almost 30, Jesus is one of my earliest memories. My parents had two prints hung in my bedroom: a portrait of Jesus and a painting of Him leading the sheep by the still waters. I often lay in my bed and gazed at the two pictures. I always pictured myself as the black sheep–and I think I was.
Thank you for who you are: All-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, pure, holy, and yet personal. Thank you. I love you for that.
Thank you for your creation. In it I see evidence of your love, beauty, and power on a moment by moment basis. . . from the smallest flower to the majesty of snow-capped mountains. Thank you. I love you for that.
Thank you for enduring–not just your torturous death on the cross, but taking the sins of all of us upon you. Thank you for becoming sin so that we could become righteous. Thank you. I love you for that.
Thank you for pursuing me when I literally ran from you during a presentation of the gospel by my aunt and uncle. You pursued me for years, and never threw your hands up in the air and said, “She’s so hard-headed she deserves what she gets.” And you used so many people to pursue me. . . my sister, her husband, her friends. Thank you. I love you for that.
Thank you for your grace. You walk hand-in-hand with me like a parent with a self-willed two-year-old and you keep me on the path. You even use me in your kingdom! Thank you. I love you for that.
Happy Day of Love and Friendship,
We must be born again! (My newest granddaughter--Georgia)
When we ask people here in Ecuador if they are part of God’s family, they invariably answer yes. When asked, they explain that all people are part of God’s family.
They’re correct in that God did create us:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
They’re correct in that God does love us:
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. John 3:16
But we do not become part of His family until we are born again. What a powerful metaphor!
Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God. John 3:3 Amplified
EVERYONE WHO believes (adheres to, trusts, and relies on the fact) that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah) is a born–again child of God; and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him (His offspring). 1 John 5:1 (Amplified)
Reborn into the family of God: “by grace are ye saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8) I don’t think there is a day when I’m not thankful to be a daughter—more than that–a beloved daughter of my heavenly Father. He cares for me, He wants to spend time with me, He teaches me, He loves me. All. The. Time.
Once we were visiting our son, Steve, his wife, Hannah, and their two girls, Shaye and Kayden. When we say down to eat, Kayden asked to say the blessing which turned out to be a song with hand movements that she led us through. Halfway through the meal, she stopped us and announced we needed to pray again. “After all,” she said, “when He gives us a lot we have to thank Him a lot!”
She’s right! We see the key to not being anxious in the following verse:
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
My personal paraphrase is: Worry not; pray instead. While that’s catchy, it’s missing a key ingredient: thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, or gratitude, speaks of the attitude we should have when we pray. Mike often says that the degree of our gratitude is a simple measure of our spiritual health. The Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharistía and is the word used today for Holy Communion which is the highest act of thanksgiving. During communion we focus on our thankfulness for Christ’s sacrificial death and his multitudinous mercies toward us. Here’s a portion of my thankfulness list today. I’d love to hear some things you are grateful for!
- The safe delivery of our new grandaughter, Georgia Vaill Stevens, last week;
- A relaxing day in the country in North Georgia;
- Mike is having fun golfing with my brother;
- Jesus loves me—always!
Next: More about Philippians 4:6