Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Will Dance

A few years ago I happened upon the blog of a woman who had just been diagnosed with cancer—only a few days before her wedding. She wrote something that has stuck with me all these years. She said, “Tomorrow I will have cancer. Today I will eat cake.”

At the time I was writing a novelette about a girl in Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II. As a child I was fascinated with that time period and with concentration camps in particular. Yet something baffled me. What gave Christians, people who knew without a doubt they would spend eternity in heaven, the strength to keep fighting? To live through such horrible suffering? I don’t mean suicide; I mean why didn’t they just give up and let their bodies stop trying, stop fighting for each breath?

Little did I know that years later I would be in my own kind of prison, trapped within my body, suffering pain and exhaustion every day of my life. Years later, the answer to that childhood question would be vital to my own well-being.

As a teen I sought God in my questions, and He gave me an answer. Two answers, actually, as to why His people kept fighting for this life which can be so despicable at times.

First of all, we live for others. There are so many people on this earth who do not yet have that assurance of an eternity of joy. Many of them rub shoulders with us every day. We live, we endure suffering for one more minute because in that minute we just might have the chance to point someone to salvation.

Corrie ten Boom
Look at Corrie and Betsie ten Boom. When those sisters were in concentration camps, they spent every moment of their time seeking ways to understand God more clearly, to love Him more deeply, and to pass on that understanding to the prisoners around them. Many accepted the saving grace of God because the Ten Booms were there suffering beside them, because those women chose to live another day for as long as their bodies could muster up the strength.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Betsie did ultimately give up her life for the Jews she'd gone to jail to save. For most of us, however, I think that "giving up" looks more like it did for Corrie. It means sacrificing what we would prefer life to look like in exchange for doing the Lord's work here on earth.

The second reason God showed me those people were able to keep living brings me back to my opening paragraph. They chose to eat cake. They chose to find joy in God and in life, no matter what horrible things they were going through physically and emotionally.

I named my novelette “I Will Dance” because my character found that joy. She knew that God was still good, that there were still things in life worth praising. Even as she stood with painful toothpick-thin legs on that filthy prison floor, she would choose to dance.

She also knew that the day ultimately would come when she would dance before Jesus on those golden streets of heaven. “I will dance today. And I will dance forever.”
You have turned my mourning into dancing... that my glory will sing Your praise and not be silent. (Psalms 30:11a, 12a)
In this world my own dancing has to be done internally, emotionally. The joy is expressed in my heart, but my body does not allow for much dancing with my legs. (I can, however, still eat cake!) Physically right now I must rest the majority of my time, but know that inside I am praising—at least that’s my goal.

When I die I hope no one says I will “rest in peace.” No, I did all the resting I need here on this earth. I hope you all will say, “Dance in peace, girl, dance!”





sparrowsflight


Friday, March 30, 2012

When You Want to Soar Like an Eagle...But Your Wings Have Been Clipped

Let's face it, there's just some days that we feel like that piece of bubble gum stuck underneath the seat in God's movie theatre. We've been chewed up, sapped of our flavor, smashed to the underside of a seat and forgotten. The someone comes by, scrapes us off, and tosses us in the garbage.

Used up, washed out, discarded and tossed. Do you ever feel that way about your life and your offerings to God? Do you feel that your contributions to the Kingdom sure don't seem to amount to much, and seriously wonder if the crown you get for your works on that final day will come from a Cracker Jack box?

Well, I don't know about you, but I've certainly been in that boat - and still am. Health issues have kept me from getting out and about the way that I really want to. Life intrudes on a daily basis, causing changes to schedules, tasks planned, and dreams that go unrealized. Attitudes can make you wonder what spirit you really have inside you. Pain that you may have caused other people can leave you feeling unable to connect to God at all.

A day finally comes where you sit back and look at your life up to this point and wonder what in the world you've accomplished.

God is so good, isn't he? Even when you don't vocalize those thoughts to Him in prayer, He still looks at your doubts and insecurities and gives you the answers you need. We need to be open to Him, His word, and what He's saying to us. First, He tells us what to do with those sins and attitudes...seek forgiveness of the wronged party and then bring our confessions and repentence to Him.

Then it is through reading the Bible, the Word of God, that you gain insight into what God thinks of whatever offerings of time, money, or service you've made.

I think all believers want to do that BIG thing for God - whether it's leading a Bible study, witnessing to a myriad of folks, or maybe even going away on a mission trip. The thing is, some of us are called to bring in the gold and silver and some of us are called to spin the goat hair.

I can hear you now...what did she say? Spin the goat hair? Has she lost it? Not at all! Let me take you to Exodus 35 where Moses is assembling the people together, telling them what God has asked of them, and encouraging them to give or bring whatever is needed for the construction of the Tablernacle of God, the Tent of Meeting, and all the articles contained within it. These are the verses that stood out to me:

"And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit made him willing, and brought Adonai's offering for the work on the tent of meeting, for the service in it and for the holy garments....Likewise the women whose heart stirred them to use their skill spun the goat's hair....Thus every man and woman of the people of Israel whose heart impelled him to contribute to any of the work Adonai had ordered through Moshe brought it to Adonai as a voluntary offering." (Complete Jewish Bible Exodus 35: 21,26,29)

Do you see the emphasis in the above verses? It's not what we do for God, it's the spirit that we do it in. Each and every offering is important. Each thread of a tapestry, no matter how small, contributes to the result at the end. One thread of bright red, green, or even brown, not used or allowed to ravel, takes away from the beauty of the piece.

Likewise, each act of service that you give to God, whether it's writing a blog that enriches someone, or making a phone call to a friend in need, or just smiling at that overworked clerk in Wal-Mart...each act of kindness and love enriches the tapesty that God is weaving.

And sometimes moms can feel especially vulnerable to the slings of the enemy when they begin to doubt their contributions to the Kingdom. It seems like our days are an endless morass of school, work, lunch, washing clothes, cleaning house...you name it! But...maybe your job is to raise up the children that will be the movers and shakers for God. Maybe you're responsible for laying a foundation that God will use to further His glory throughout the world.

I don't think there is such a thing as used up bubble gum in God's Kingdom. Nothing is thrown away, nothing is wasted, and nothing is useless. You are precious and have purpose. He loves you with everything in His being...and we know that because He came and died to set us free.

What greater love is there than that?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It Has Nothing to Do With Luck!


 "He said, 'You’re lucky I stayed.' My heart ached, feeling that his love was conditional, and that I would now have to prove myself in order to win his trust. What was it that I did so wrong to make him lose confidence in my love for him? I called to apologize. He had someone else field his calls. When I suggested my reason for calling might be serious, and he didn’t consider it to be so, he told me I trifled with his heart. How was that so? Apologizing, to me, is of utmost importance. Oh, how this tears me apart."

These are the words of a dear friend, caught in a relationship tearing through the fabric of her well-being. As I listened to her talk, unloading the heartache and trying to figure out how to fix herself for him, the promises of God resounded in my own heart:
  • “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”(Joshua 1:5b)
  • “God loved the world so much that He gave His only son…” (John 3:16, paraphrased).
  • “I love you with an everlasting love…” (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends…” (John 15:13)
There isn't enough room, or time, to list them all.

Many of us need to hear these words over and over and over, often on a daily or moment by moment basis. The amazing thing about our God is that He never tires of telling us how much He loves us. He never questions our motives when we come to Him, heart in hand, desiring to apologize for misunderstanding His intentions or actions. He remembers that we are frail. Dust. A vapor.

He never tells us how lucky we are that He stays, or that He took the scourging and brutal death for us. He will never hold our mistakes over our soul, saying that we better straighten up, or else... Instead, He says, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

His mercies are new every morning. His love is never failing. He is patient, kind, and gentle, especially with our brokenness.

He created us with a needy heart. We need to know we are loved and accepted. We need to know someone cares. We need to feel beautiful (women) or like a hero (men). We need to feel needed. And He is just the one to fill these needs. He desires to. He waits, anticipates, and is enthusiastic about helping us heal from brokenness. He never makes us feel naked and ashamed.

No. That is the devil who seeks to steal our joy, kill our hopes (and bodies), and destroy us completely.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”    (1 Peter 5:8)
How true this is! Satan will, if he can, get us to beat ourselves down—defeated. But, thanks be to God that we have One stronger, One whose interest in our lives is to give life to the fullest degree possible. He is passionate for us. His plans are for our good, and not to harm us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

 Do you believe this? You are beautiful. You are needed. You are loved. You are wanted. All the days for you were written before one of them began (Psalm 139). You have been on God's mind and in His plan since before time was framed by His design.

And so have I.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Waiting for a Miracle



And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. – Galations 6:9



When I was a kid I remember watching a special on television about a young man who experienced Savant syndrome. It was a fascinating story. Leslie Lemke was blind, suffered from cerebral palsy, and had severe mental retardation. But when he sat in front of a piano he could move his stiff hands in magical ways, masterfully playing any song he’d ever heard just the slightest snippet of. It was amazing and I remember that it caught my attention even as a child.

A few weeks ago I ran across a book published in 1980, written by Shirlee Monty, entitled, May's Boy. It was the story of this young man, but more than that, it was the story of his mother’s unfailing love and devotion. I read the entire book in less than a day. It was simply fascinating.

By the time May Lemke was fifty years old she had lived the life of a novel. She experienced WWI first-hand in her tiny English village. At the age of fifteen she was severely injured during a war attack. At eighteen her mother sent her to Canada to marry a man she had never met. She raised five children after immigrating to the United States and dealt with fire, drought, and tornadoes. Along the way, she became a nurse and a governess. She was widowed young. Marrying again in her early fifties, she and her husband settled into a cabin that they set about completely remodeling.

It was during this time that May was asked to care for six month old Leslie – blind, unresponsive, and sure to die within a few months. Leslie didn’t die. He was severely disabled, though, and completely dependent upon his parents. May tirelessly worked with her son in a time when there were very few, if any, resources for the handicapped. After years of laboring over and coaxing him, May finally saw Leslie take his first steps at the age of ten. He was not toilet trained until he was seventeen. At the age of nineteen May was able to finally teach Leslie to eat on his own. In his early twenties she taught him to speak by holding her lips to his cheek so that he could feel her own mouth movements.

It was during Leslie’s sixteenth year that the “miracle,” as May referred to it, occurred. May had prayed for years and years that God would reveal something that Leslie could do, a unique gift just for him. One night, May and her husband were awakened by Leslie playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Somehow, he had dragged his stiffened body to the piano bench and magic poured through his fingertips. May recalled how she and her husband fell to the floor that night, praising God for His goodness and thanking Him for finally showing them Leslie’s gift. To this day, more than thirty years later, Leslie continues to delight audiences in concert. He never tires and there’s never a song request that he can’t play.

The story of Leslie is amazing. Now that I have read the book, I am really hopeful that perhaps someday I can see this amazing man in concert. I have also found myself filled with a deep appreciation for Leslie’s “back story.” He had a mother who refused to give up on him. Time after time she was counseled by well-meaning doctors, her grown children, and friends to institutionalize Leslie. She had done well for him, but it was obvious he would always be a burden. She was a tiny woman – how could she continue to care for this large boy and man? She certainly was not young. She needed to think of her own needs!

May had a calling and she chose to focus on that alone. Even though she prayed daily for a miracle, she had no guarantee that God would show her one in her lifetime. Day after day she chose to invest herself in a child that could not even smile at her. It was complete selfless love and devotion. What a picture of Christ she was!

How often do we grow wearisome in our daily lives? The kids aren’t maturing fast enough, our husbands continue to do the same annoying things we’ve nagged them about for decades, the Sunday School kids we teach don’t seem to grasp what we’re trying to convey, nobody is interested in our artistic endeavors, even though we’re convinced our talents are from the Lord and should be thusly appreciated - and so on!

Take inspiration from the story of May Lemke. The labor may be long and we may feel vastly under-appreciated and have no visible results in sight. But if Christ has called us, our labor will never be in vain. The reward waits!

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Phillippians 1:6

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Is Not What I Signed Up For!

Today we welcome Leslie Payne as our guest...

After traveling by airplane and automobile for two days, we finally arrived at our destination – Lake Tahoe!

We were there so my husband could ski with friends. Mom and I had plans for relaxing and exploring. It was going to be fantastic!

The description of the place we rented was so wonderful I could hardly wait to see it in person. It even came complete with our own private spa.

Traveling always brings on extra aches and pains to my injured body, so I was ready to relax my muscles in that hot tub.

I imagined the cool, crisp mountain air on my face, as I relaxed in the bubbling hot water. Perhaps there would be a view of the nearby ski slopes. Maybe a wide expanse of the night ski to watch falling stars as I soaked. Whatever the details, I was ready.

However, the property owner’s definition of a hot tub spa was different than mine.

It was a hot tub in a storage closet!!

As an extra special touch, there was a small television on a bar stool for our viewing pleasure.

Okay, I’ll admit that before laughing I came close to crying. A tub in a closet filled with enough chlorine fumes to knock you over was…..well…. it was not what I had signed up for!

So I never used it.

It was easy to avoid that hot tub. But too often life presents us with situations we did not sign up for, situations that are a big piece of our lives...

A beautiful child with special needs
A boss that demands more than you have to give
The happily ever after that never happened
Bad news from the doctor
The death of a loved one
Chronic conditions
An estranged child
A broken dream
Homelessness
Depression
Addiction
Grief

When I was confined to my home with horrible pain, and desperately struggled to see God’s faithfulness in my life, I had some very honest prayers with the Lord.

I even reminded Him of Scripture.
(Kind of nervy, don’t you think?)

Out loud I’d pray, “Lord you said,

‘For I know the plans I have for you.
They are plans for good and not disaster,
to give you a future and a hope.’

You said that in Jeremiah 29:11.

I sure cannot see it.
I am choosing to trust you, but you are going to have to get me through because I cannot do this!"

It felt like that long, desperate season in life would never end.
But it did.
And now I’m living some of the good future He had planned for me.

If you are in a difficult season of life that just won’t seem to end, hang in there.
Hold on to Him.
Hold on to His Word.
Dare to trust Him.

~*~*~*~*~
There's a lot I could say about what I used to do: swing dance, interpret for the deaf, bicycle long distances, and exercise daily. But one snowy morning in 2001, all that changed.

As I sat in my car at a red traffic light, a large delivery truck rear ended me at full speed. The impact left me with a rare nerve injury to my neck and shoulder (a severed long thoracic nerve and winging scapula) and my neck straightened out where it should be curved.

For more than a decade, I've been in chronic pain and weekly physical therapy. I would never have chosen pain, but it has taught me much. Through it all, the Lord Jesus has been so faithful as I cry out to Him in my need.

He has even brought good things out of my pain. Three years after the accident, at 42-years of age I married for the first time. On my wedding day, my name became "Mrs. Payne." Not only is the Lord faithful, He has a sense of humor.

Pain also slowed me down enough to develop my love for the written word. I’ve had short stories published in compilation books, a feature article in Focus on the Family Magazine, and I regularly contribute for a local magazine www.OutlookbytheBay.com
More information about my novel and my other credits are available at www.LeslieJPayne.com My blog Living With Payne: Thoughts on Pain’s Purpose and Life’s Joys is available at http://LivingWithPayne.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Straight Ahead


I remember seeing them quite often on horses. Especially on horses that were in busy places. They are nothing more than a pair of leather flaps that attach to the horse’s bridle. Blinders. Although they are tiny in relation to the size of the horse, they serve a very important function. Blinders help the horse focus on what is in front of it, eliminating things in the horse’s peripheral vision that might cause it to become distracted.

Growing up in Michigan, I had the opportunity to travel to Mackinaw Island on several occasions. If you’re familiar with this beautiful destination, you’re well aware that horses and bicycles are the only accepted methods of transportation on the island. For me, it not only made it memorable, but also lots of fun! Remembering the exhilaration of biking around the island with its gorgeous scenery has me wanting to book my family’s summer vacation. All along the route, horse-drawn carriages would go by with their friendly passengers waving a greeting. You guessed it! All of the horses were wearing blinders.

At first, it may seem unnecessary and maybe even a bit cruel for a horse to wear blinders. But the more I got to thinking about it, those who put blinders on their horses were doing it ultimately to protect the animals. If the horse is only able to see the path straight ahead, it won’t wander from the path into possible danger. Wow! The same is true for me. God’s word provides spiritual ‘blinders,’ or instructions that will help me stay on the path He’s prepared for me, preventing me from being distracted by things that are potentially harmful.

King Solomon gives us good advice in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (KJV). It’s important to guard our hearts. The things that we look at, and the things that we hear have a tremendous influence on what we say and do. We can’t live our lives with our eyes closed and our ears plugged. So just how do we put on spiritual ‘blinders?’

We can establish some boundaries and borders in our lives that reflect the principles of God’s word. Carefully thinking through what we’ll allow ourselves to see, hear, and do. Determining how we’ll react in challenging situations. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David penned scripture that can help us. He prayed for God’s help to walk in such a way, that he’d be blameless. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” (Psalm 101:3-6).

We have a choice to make. What will we allow ourselves to look at? What will we listen to? What will we act on? David decided to avoid looking at wicked things. He removed himself from those who gossiped. He chose to hang around with those who were godly and even hired them as his servants. If we set up godly boundaries in these areas of our lives, we’ll have a much better chance of staying on the path and avoiding those situations that will cause us to be distracted. We’ll have a godly legacy to leave our children.

Begin establishing godly borders today, knowing that His plan for you is success: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).

Can you think of a time when your spiritual 'blinders' helped you stay on the right path? I’d love to hear about it! 



Because of Him,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Regardless

“Go ahead, Bill. Give me your best shot.” He cocked his head and stared at me for a long second.

 “Nah, I would make you cry for sure.” I removed my sunglasses and looked him square in the eyes.

 “There is nothing you can say that is going to make me like you any less. You can let down your guard and relax. You’re safe.”

 It must have been as strange to hear it as it was for me to say it. How many times has a former rapist and ex-convict been told he’s safe to be around? I went home and thought of the scripture I’d read just that morning.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” John 1:48

What I really wanted to say to my friend that day was in essence the same thing Jesus said to Nathanael. “I saw you. I know your past. I know what you did and who you were before. And I don’t care. I still want you in my corner.” Jesus still wants to be our friend regardless of what we’ve done. He still wants to know us and be around us and there isn’t anything we can say or do to change that. We are His. My friend Bill is probably unaware of just how much I know about him. It doesn’t matter anyway because I don’t see a criminal with a violent record. I see a man of God. When you look in the mirror what do you see?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Knowing God's Thoughts



"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Who can know the thoughts of God?
Who can understand the way He works?
Who can know His will?

I've see Him work in most unlikely places and through the most unlikely people. This reminds me of another passage in the New Testament:

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;
and God hath chosen the weak things of the world
to confound the things which are mighty;
and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen,
yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." (I Corinthians 1:27,28)

God does not contain himself to work in ways that think to be "reasonable." His wisdom so beyond ours; He sees the beginning from the end. Who are we to say what is the right way of doing things? Who are we to say some person is greater than another? God knows the heart of each man.

We know that God's Spirit lives within those who have accepted His wondrous gift of eternal life. Even as poor and wretched as we are, we have "the mind of Christ." (I Corinthians 2:16) He can use the lowliest person to discern the deepest things.




A person's status in life should not affect our view of a person's value--nationality, age, education, habitation, or even cleanliness. We should not despise any one of His children, for they are our brother or sister in Christ. God can speak His wisdom through any of His children.

Do we see Christ in others?
Do we love them with "brotherly love?"
Are you listening for His voice through the voice of others?










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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Life

Recently I was privileged to witness two Monarch butterflies just after emerging from their cocoons. Knowing what their previous form had been, I watched these creatures get acquainted with new life.

Buffeted by the winds of the world, they hung on to the porch railing, waiting for their wings to dry. It took most of the morning hours on this cloudy, and humid day. Several times I was concerned they’d be blown away before they were ready.

Eventually one butterfly tested out its wings, opening and closing them while still anchored to the porch. Then on a signal known only to an insect, it flew away.


The second butterfly took a bit longer to get ready..Apparently after letting go of its’ perch, it ended up in a crack between the porch floor boards. There was noroom to spread its’ wings. It grabbed onto a proffered camera strap, and settled on a table leg, exercising the beautiful orange and black wings. It crossed the floor to a flower, and within a minute or two, hitched a ride on the next wind gust.

Thank you, Lord, for letting me see an example of the New Life with which you have blessed your children.



“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

2 Corinthians 5:17



SUNNY

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Unshakable Guarantee

Every year I go through it. March rolls around and I make my way to the local McDonald’s, in search of the elusive Shamrock Shake. Last year was a total bust. I’m not sure how many different McD’s I went to, but nobody had them! It’s a marketing trick, I tell you! They order just enough to get everyone excited about their new treat, and then when you get to the drive-thru, they tell you, “I’m sorry, we’ve sold out.” How can you sell out of a St. Patrick’s Day item by March 4? Can’t you just order more?

Thankfully, our God is not so elusive as the Shamrock Shake. In Matthew 7:7-8 it says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Now don’t get me wrong. God is infinitely more important than something as trivial as a milkshake, but there is a parallel here. Year after year, I traipse to Mickey Dee’s for that sweet mint treat, and more often than not, I am left empty-handed. I ask, and it is not given to me. I seek, and I do not find. I don’t knock, for the drive-thru employee would likely get very annoyed.

The point is the world holds precious little that is a bona-fide guarantee. Even the things that we are fortunate enough to acquire here on Earth aren’t going to last for eternity. Not so with our God. If we seek Him, we will find Him. He guarantees it. No disappointments, no “I’m sorry, we’ve sold out,” no only-once-a-year chances.

Never Kiss A Toaster

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