The Last Sunday of January

Psalm 84:5-7 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

On the last Sunday afternoon in January of 1999, the phone rang and a voice asked me if he could speak to my husband.  At that time, my husband was in Veterinary School and played in a Sunday afternoon InterMural ball league at NC State University.  My papers lay spread out over our dining room table like a patchwork tablecloth where I had been working on lesson plans for my National Board Certification.  

The male’s voice on the phone spoke words that I never expected to hear:  my brother-in-law had been killed by a drunk driver on the previous night on an interstate in Georgia.  He could not reach my inlaws by phone so I was the first family member to receive the horrific news. My eyes poured tears into soft white tissues as I stared out our kitchen window waiting to deliver this news once my husband got home.  Gripping my Bible and the kitchen counter, my knuckles turned white as he arrived. The car door slammed shut, the front door opened and our lives would never be the same.  

When my husband entered our house, he recognized my red splotchy face immediately and inquired, “What’s wrong?”  I told him the news, then he collapsed on my chest and fell to the ground.  

This scene has replayed in my mind now for 21 years.  Prior to it, we were newly married, in our honeymoon phase and new townhome owners.  After that day, tears and silence became our pattern through this valley of weeping. Family and Friends comforted us with cards, food and prayers.  The Holy Spirit held us and my husband’s parents. We now have our new normal without our beloved family member but had to go on a long journey to get to the other side of grief. 

In Psalm 84:5-7, we see a picture of travelers on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship but they traveled through the Valley of Baca or Valley of Tears.  This area was a dry and desolate place where there was no water. They had to get through this hard trip but at some point, there was a need to pause and dig until they discovered water. 

There was a way through the valley by the travellers making it a place of springs.  They had to dig down into the ground until they hit water to provide for their physical need to drink and be nourished.  They didn’t just sit around and hope for the best; they took action. They needed to get through the valley of weeping to get to the venue of worship in Jerusalem.  

Not only do we sometimes walk through stress, whether it be relational, financial or spiritual, but we need to always keep in mind that we’re on a pilgrimage, a journey.  We will get through this. But, we’ll get through it by recognizing the power of pausing, praying and pondering truth. It’s taking time to let the healing water flow then he’ll send His Spirit to be our comfort and strength.  Tears will flow, but the rains will eventually come and fill the pools that we dug in the dry valley. The God who always makes a way where there seems to be no way, will help us.   

During my family’s devastation, I decided to listen to encouraging Christian songs, go to church, read my Bible and pray.  Like the traveler heading to Jerusalem through the Valley of Weeping, the outward circumstance caused stress; there were inward feelings of strain and irritation concerning how we would survive the life changing event.  The darkness seemed to last forever but God was with us. His Holy Spirit heard my prayers for the light to return as I saw my husband and his parents weep until they had no more tears. Even through two court trials in Georgia to hold accountable the drunk driver, His presence was there hearing every desperate cry as we endured the details of how Eric died.  

This was a season unlike any other that I have experienced.  In our valley of weeping, we prayed, we cried and we waited. This pause in our lives caused us to dig deep into our life long faith in Jesus.  We had no where else to go but to Him in prayer and by reading His Word. The Spirit of God comforts us in our suffering and in that valley of the shadow of death, He never let us go.

We came out of this time with the knowledge that we’ll see my brother-in-law again in heaven which gives great hope and comfort.  We miss him at every holiday and special event. I know he would have loved our little girls and showered them with love. I’ll never really understand why it had to happen to him, why I’ll never be able to see his face on earth, or why my husband, our marriage and his parents had to endure such turmoil, but I know that God in his great mercy helped us all experience His peace and comfort which strengthened us during our journey through the sadness.

What looks like an impossible journey can provide a reason to stop, pray, read the Word and be refreshed recognizing that God is in control.  He is with us. There is a place of refuge on the other side of the grief. We still are sad and miss our loved one but can function and live our lives to the fullest because God was with us through the valley of weeping. 

This week on January 31, it will be 21 years since Eric left us to be with Jesus. He had wished his precious mother “Happy Birthday” on the day before he passed. Thank you, friends, for your prayers and positive thoughts as this week is always just a bit more difficult.

Acknowledge

When I write and email or send a card, I have to enter an address of the receiver of my message. Without the address, the letter would just be a draft and never arrive to its intended receiver. I have to acknowledge whom I want to receive my message.

We like to post our messages and pics on social media platforms to let the world see what’s trending with us. I wonder, though, if God sees our interactions online and shakes His head. He would say, “They want to acknowledge each other, important topics and interests, but they don’t always acknowledge me.”

So, what does it mean to acknowledge God in Proverbs 3:6? In Genesis 22:1, God called to his servant, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. First of all, God called then Abraham acknowledged God. It always is in this order. God’s Holy Spirit calls us and as people, we have a choice to make. Either it will be a “Here I am” or “I’m not here right now” or “I’m not listening”. Abraham would soon be facing a journey down a path that he didn’t choose, but one that would show God Abraham’s heart. I kind of think that God sets us out on a journey at times to see what we’re really made of too.

The scripture tells us that in “ALL OUR WAYS” to ACKNOWLEDGE God and he will make straight our paths. God knew that our path would appear crooked and out of sorts. He knew we’d need a little or a lot of help in choosing which path to take. In the case of Abraham, God provided a miracle baby, Issac, but then told old Abe to walk an unexpected path to make a sacrifice to the Lord. It became Abe’s path to obedience which led to generational blessings. God saw the kind of actions in Abraham that showed the value of preparation to pursue God and Abraham saw God’s Provision. I believe we’ll see God’s Provision in His time as we prepare our hearts by reading His Word and praying then pursuing Him.

In Genesis 22:3, I see the actions of Abraham before he ever set out on the path to make a sacrifice to God: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.” I notice the words from this verse: early, got up, loaded, took with him, had cut enough wood, set out. In Verse 2, God had told Abraham to go to the region of Moriah to a mountain that He would show Abraham. Abe didn’t have an exact address, but he knew the general direction. He first prepared for the journey then started the trip on the designated path.

God has designated a path for you and me but first we need to load our minds with His truth. We have to prepare our minds and our hearts to be ready for our daily journey into the world of work. Once he had heard from God, Abraham cut the wood then set out on the path. I have often wondered why he took two servants. Clearly, he would need Issac since God had told Abraham to offer Issac as a sacrifice, but I think he knew the value of having supportive people in his life too.

In my life, God has placed the support of my family to surround me and build me up. Likewise, I am in their lives to speak life and truth while savoring moments with them. We’re walking the journey of faith and enjoy love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self control but, occasionally, our path is crooked and winding until the Holy Spirit straightens us out. I know I’ve needed Him to straighten me out especially when I was headed down a path leading to no where or when my mouth was about to speak words that didn’t edify my family. In fact, the words that I have spoken in error, I’ve had to repent of and ask God to redeem them.

The words I speak are internalized by my husband and children. They will pick up on the irritation, on the kindness, on the humor, on the silly, on the hangry, on the whatever. I’m so bad about beating myself up about what I said or how I said it when it’s clear that Jesus just wants me to acknowledge Him. He didn’t say, “Acknowledge that you were wrong.” He says to acknowledge Him. If a mistake is made, I think it is right to apologize and make it right, but I also know that sometimes, only God can redeem the words spoken in error. He knows how to redeem; I have to know how to acknowledge Him and pray. His Spirit always confirms or convicts my choices.

When I acknowledge Him by reading His Word, He always notices. When I sent Christmas cards last month, I wasn’t always sure if the card was delivered before Christmas since I didn’t get them sent until the Saturday before the Wednesday Christmas. I was thrilled to hear of a friend who received the card before Christmas. When I pray and send my requests to our Father in heaven, I know that He hears and desires to answer my prayer to make the path that seems unclear to become clear.

Taking steps down the path of life is usually done by walking at a steady pace, but sometimes, I’ve stood still. I’ve waited. I’ve cried. I’ve even stomped on the path. Sure, I’ve laughed and loved on my path. I haven’t always known what to do, what to say, when to move, where to go next and why I should change course, but I know the God who sees. He made every inch of planet earth. He placed trees in the Garden of Eden and needed a caretaker to look after the Garden. He caused the waters to flow and know where to go. I think if He can create light, dark, stars, water, air and people, He can guide us along our paths in life.

Acknowledging God means to answer Him with a “Hear am I” and a willingness to do what He says. It’s my actions that will show God my heart, not just my words to Him. I want to be led into all truth and trust the words in Isaiah 30:21: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (ESV)

Pursue – My Word for 2020

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 

In whatever I say or do, I am to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God. My pastor shared the wisdom in this Scripture to my section of the church after our New Year’s Eve Service. It is supposed to be a theme Scripture for the new year.

Prior to the special church service where the congregation prayed for families, the church, schools, teachers, government, our city, our leaders and many other things, I had been pondering a new word for the year. My Word for the year is Pursue. The Colossians 3:17 special Word for me confirms that I chose the word Pursue. Here’s why.

First, I have a desire to pursue God by daily Bible reading and prayer. I love that pursue is a verb that shows action on my part to not just be a Christian but to also follow God in an intentional way.

Second, I discovered that the pursuit of peace is mentioned several times in the Bible. For example, in Hebrews 12:14, we see this truth: “Pursue peace with all men and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” In Romans 14:9, it says this: “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. In addition, 1 Peter 3:11 tells us: “He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” The call to me is clear: do whatever I need to do to seek peace, pursue it and in so doing, it will build up others.

Third, the Bible tells me to not just pursue peace to also focus on other important traits. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith love and peace.” It’s interesting that fleeing and pursuing are mentioned in this Scripture because these verbs are actions to turn away from and head toward something.

I love this idea of heading into the new year with the call to do everything with thanks to God and in the name of the Lord Jesus. I am asking God to help me with what I say verbally and in writing on my blog and in other writing areas. As I pursue the Word of God and pray, I know that God will reveal what He wants me to share.

I am pursuing God and have asked Him to protect, provide, prepare and proclaim His truth to those who know Him and to those who don’t yet have a relationship with Him. I am so excited about 2020 and look forward to my pursuit of God. I plan to write as He gives the inspiration and know that if I remain in Him and He in me, I will bear much fruit.