The Lord our God is One

I have really been wrestling with something this last week or so. It’s been one of those times where something has you so disturbed that it’s hard to focus and spend time praying and reading because of this distraction.

Because of my heart’s inability to be still, I prayed this morning, as I was getting ready for work and making pancakes for the children, that God would just in the quiet of the morning, bring to mind verses that are hidden in my heart and that He would tune my ears to hear Him. I asked Him to remove any voice but His, as I felt like as distracted as I had been, it was hard to settle my own inner struggle.

The only verse that came to my mind was this from Deuteronomy 6: “The LORD our God, the LORD is ONE. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

I have to confess, I quickly wondered why in the world that verse had come to mind… it didn’t speak to anything I was going through, and I felt certain God would have wanted to address my immediate needs! When it didn’t, I turned on the radio and forgot about it.

Fast forward to tonight. My computer keeps crashing. It’s only 2-3 months old, and it’s been happening off and on since I got it. I called the computer company tonight and was greeted by a very perky voice in India. Realizing she was probably starting her day while I was ending mine, I tried to put up with her constant happy “thank you very much”s as I answered each question yawning.

When she told me what to try, my computer said it would take 18 minutes. She said it should be quick as it was new, but no, here we were now stuck for 18 minutes. I began asking her about India, about her culture, the weather, and I found out all sorts of things about her life and arranged marriages, and then finally Hinduism. She shared with me that she worships idols… there are so many, she said!

Her boyfriend is “Christian,” and she grew up in a Catholic school. She understood about Jesus and sin versus her belief in karma and doing good to come back as a person again. As I listened and waited, hearing how she can respect all religions, I finally started to ask her if she had peace. I asked her what if there weren’t many gods and only one God… wouldn’t she like that? Yes, she said, then she wouldn’t have to go to so many temples to worship so many idols during so many festivals. I told her to pray and ask God to reveal Himself to her as He really is. I told her He is faithful, He will answer.

As we were talking about many idols/gods versus ONE God, it came to me… the verse from this morning! So I told her to pray, and then I told her how I had asked God for a verse that morning, and this is what He put on my heart… “The Lord your God is ONE; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” I told her I didn’t know why at the time, but I now believed God gave me that verse so I could share it with her this night. The Lord our God is ONE.

She said she doesn’t pray or seek and felt maybe she should start. She’s heard of people who pray all the time, but never known anyone, and she was glad to talk to me.

My computer had since started something else that was going to take an hour, and her shift had been over, leaving her with just 10 minutes to catch her cab, so she had to go. She told me she would call me tomorrow to find out about the computer, but that then she would only be able to talk to me about technology because the call was coming the other direction. But she asked that I not try to call her back because they would reassign my case to someone else.

Praise You, LORD. You did hear me and answer this morning with just what I needed at that moment, with what you wanted to give her. My world is so ingrown and self-centered that if it doesn’t speak to me, I almost am not listening… but your world, your kingdom is so magnificent and huge and Your purposes are so great. Oh, that I would be willing to do what You ask and hear what You say and follow where You lead and give up my little kingdom for Your transcendent one.

After I hung up with this girl, I went to my son’s room as he was still awake. I told him the story. We immediately prayed for her. I have been so wrapped up in a concern I’ve had in my son’s life, but God just gave me such a big picture and reminded me He is sovereign over even hurts and unfair situations. We took the opportunity to pray about that, too, because I had been convicted that I’d been trying to biblically address a hurt with him, without leading him into prayer to ask God to specifically show him God’s bigger plan and purposes. He’s going to need constant reminders, but aren’t I the same way? I need God to remind me daily and teach me or I simply forget and go my own way, not trusting Him. Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Summer Update

I realize I haven’t posted all summer, and I know my countless blog readers are anxiously awaiting something! Since we’ve been away for much of the summer, I thought I’d try to recap some of it in this blog.

We started the summer with my husband traveling the world again for 3 weeks. He led a group of college students through parts of Europe (Germany, Italy), and then met a friend for a week in Switzerland to hike. He saw some beautiful places, and I have told him it’s time for me to travel with him overseas next time. I think the children are old enough now to do that, though I had been reluctant in years past.

This is my daughter so happy to have her daddy home! The day after he arrived home, we celebrated Father’s Day and his birthday with his extended family.

The following week, we went to a camp in northern Wisconsin with my husband’s parents. The kids loved being out on the water.

Here is my father-in-law instructing my son on driving a boat.

We then enjoyed a couple of weeks in early July being at home, after which we headed to NY to family camp for a week in the Adirondacks. The camp brings in Christian speakers, and my husband was the break out session speaker and talked about the early church fathers. I actually learned a lot, as I seldom hear him teach, so that was fun for me!

This is our family at camp. We next headed from NY to Tennessee where we celebrated birthdays! My step-dad was turning 90, my daughter 9, and I was on the brink of the big 4-0.

We had a surprise birthday party for my step-dad, and it was very meaningful. It included me jumping in a swimming pool to save my nephew’s life who, at 4 years old, had jumped in not realizing he couldn’t swim! I was the only adult in the yard at the time, and praise the Lord, he had drawn my eye from inside the house mingling with guests to outside by the pool where I saw my nephew alone only moments before.

This is my step-dad looking at some of his gifts.

Upon returning home, we celebrated my 40th! Though I don’t feel any different at all, I’m amazed at how quickly the years go by.

Here I am sporting a banner some friends made me — “Fabulous & Forty” – you should have seen the visor! And there is the world’s best ever chocolate chip cheesecake in front of me!

So have I learned anything of great importance this summer? I’ve shared the gospel with a dear man that I knew growing up, and I pray he accepts Christ before the end of his days. One thing I’ve been reminded of over and over: if God can save me, He can save anyone. His arm is not too short to save, and I boldly ask Him to rescue this dear man from his sins and give him new life in Christ.

I’ve been reminded of my absolute dependence on Christ, and that I need to daily be aware of my need, even moment by moment. I’ve found that going to Him at the start of each day, on my knees, is such a blessing. I pray that when I find myself on my knees the next morning, that I will find that I’ve trusted Him more, stumbled less, and grown more in learning to walk blamelessly before Him and in the fear of Him. And I am also praying that I’ll learn to listen better to Him, to consciously know His presence throughout the day. The time in His Word is always a blessing, even when I have to fight my laziness or stubbornness to get there!

So how has your summer been and what have you learned?

Our Great Shepherd and Savior

When we decorated the tree this year, I saw this little ornament and it reminded me of a great, true Christmas story from 2005!

A little background… I have a dear friend whose husband walked closely with the Lord and was used by God in the lives of so many people through his passionate zeal for God. Somewhere around 1998, he decided he wasn’t so sure anymore and he decided to set his faith aside and wanted no more to do with it. My friend kept looking to the Lord and praying and waiting and hoping that God would bring her husband back to Himself.Fast forward then to 2005. By this time, it seems highly unlikely he will ever return to the Lord, from a human perspective. He’s a great guy, super nice, leading a good life, why does he need anything more? Our prayers continue. In the times of discouragement, the Lord continued to sustain and encourage my friend, and there were times where you just cling to the words of truth and hope found in Scripture and continue to believe God is able.

In April 2005, right after I had surrendered my life to the Lord more deeply, I was praying each day and asking the Lord what He would want me to do each day… someone to reach out to, something He wanted me to do. One day, I couldn’t get my friend’s husband off my mind. I felt like there was a book I should share with him and that I should encourage him that the Lord loved him and was seeking him still. But how? It seemed the right way was to call. He’d surely never read a letter.

I was nervous to call. I wanted a sign. I told the Lord that it would be great if a certain song would play on the radio, then I could know. It was a song that echoed the message of the book, but they weren’t playing it as much anymore on the radio. As I stood confessing to the Lord that I shouldn’t have to have a sign, I finished praying, and what song should start… yes, Much of You by Steven Curtis Chapman, the one I wanted to hear. As the song ended, the radio announcer came on, and they were having a pledge drive, and the voice said, “Make the call. Make the call.” How funny. They were referring to the call the radio station and pledge, but I took it to mean, “ok, here’s the song, I’ll make the call.”

I dialed their number, got the machine, nearly hung up, but held on and waited for the beep and started talking. I don’t even remember what I said, but I think it was mostly telling him that I knew God loved him and wanted him to return, that He was seeking him, and that there was a book I thought he would like. I mailed him the book, and that was the end of the story. No great turnaround, that was it.

So fast forward to Christmastime 2005. It’s been 8 months. I’ve never spoken to him since that message. It’s about December 23, and I called my friend at home. I was totally unprepared for when her husband answered the phone. It’s that brief moment of confusion when you hear a different voice and think “who did I call,” and then I realized who it was and thought “now what!?” She wasn’t home, but he was working from home. I was nervous that I was interrupting his work, so I hesitated to keep him on the phone, but I felt I should address the call in April. I did. I can’t remember the exact conversation, but he was nice, said it just didn’t work for him, that’s fine for me and he understood my calling if that’s what I believe. He is a really smart guy, and I just remember feeling like such a fool after he explained his way of thinking. I didn’t even reply much because I knew he was working and so that was it.

I hung up the phone and sobbed. Shamefully, part of my tears were out of embarrassment, but most of them were over the fact of how hard his heart seemed, and was there ANY hope that God would change this heart. I went to my bedroom and grabbed my prayer book (Face to Face) which I had not read that day. As soon as I opened it, the first verse was, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe.” I lay on my bedroom floor and cried and prayed for him.

I later heard something break. We had had our Christmas tree up for 2-3 weeks now, and my children knew not to touch and had not touched the ornaments! In fact, the tree had fallen on my daughter after she pulled it a year or two before, so she had proper respect for the tree and always kept her distance. But for some reason, she uncustomarily had touched a gold ball, and there it was broken on the floor.

As I was cleaning it up, I was on my hands and knees under the tree, and I looked up and my eyes caught this ornament right in front of me, hidden back in the tree, but now in my face. It’s just a little cross stitched ornament that I had never thought much of that someone made me years before. It says, “Joyful Spirit Jer. 33:11” — that’s the meaning of my name. As I looked at it, it puzzled me why someone would choose a verse from Jeremiah for “joyful spirit.” Aren’t there lots of psalms about joy?

Anyway, I went to my Bible to look up the verse. It said: “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say, ‘Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever’ — and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first, says the LORD.”

When I read this, I knew it was about my friend’s husband! I almost felt it was the Lord saying not to fear, that He would cause this captive to return as at the first! I was later able to share with my friend the events of the day, finding this Scripture. To my amazement, she replied, “You have no way of knowing this, but that is the passage I’ve prayed for him (her husband) for the last 7 years!”

Well, the story continues, and there are many other amazing things that God did over the next 2 years to continue to encourage us that He was at work and would bring this man back. And yes, my friend’s husband DID return to the Lord in 2007, slowly at first, but now completely and with his full heart! It’s been remarkable to see what God has done in their lives since then.

I could blog story after story of what God did in this, but today I wanted to remember Christmas 2005 and the ornament, what God spoke through it. I’m thankful that God pursues His people, the great Shepherd who seeks his lost sheep. His timeline and ways are not the same as ours, but they are good and right. We should never lose heart.

Praise Your Name, Jesus. At this season of Christmas, we remember that You came to earth to save us, so that sin should no longer have a hold on us. You deliver Your people from bondage and set them free to love and know You. And You fill us with great joy! Your sacrifice for us has given us new and eternal life in You, and our sins are forgiven through faith in You.

Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever!