LAVISH LOVE: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (I John 3:1 NIV)

A speaker at a women’s conference several years ago said we’re all like the prodigal son in the Bible. We say, “I don’t want you, Father God. I want what you can give me.” In almost the same breath, we add, “Your plans aren’t good enough for me. I’ll do things my way, with your resources.”

The speaker also suggested that many of us want to go to heaven to experience its fringe benefits, not to be with God. In fact, we wouldn’t miss him if he wasn’t there, as long as he provided everything we wanted. When we sing about heaven and talk about how glorious it will be, are we thinking angels and harps and no more tears? Or are we anticipating the joy of spending eternity with our loving, merciful, gracious Father?

I remember an old Sunday School song titled “Heaven is a Wonderful Place” that includes the line “I want to see my Savior´s face.” But am I anxious to see my Savior’s face? Or do I just want to be happy and comfortable? Can I honestly pray the psalmist’s prayer? “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O 20160517_175214God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

We are incredibly me-centered creatures who can easily miss the thrill of knowing God and having our thirst satisfied by his presence, power and purpose. Psalm 14:2 says God looks down from heaven to see if he can find anyone who is seeking him. Another psalmist writes that God “delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (147:11)

I can’t speak for God, but I have a feeling nothing makes him happier than when we pray, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (143:10) “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.” (Hebrews 11:6)

He’s seeking us. Are we seeking him, not for what he can do for us, but so that we can know him and worship him? Am I seeking him, not for what he can do for me, but so that I can know him and worship him?

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23)

*All scripture references from the New International Version of the Bible

 

Waiting

My sweet Aunt Hazel wrote her parents’ homesteading story and began her account with their wedding day, which I revised a bit for this blog.

Mary Etta stood by the window, watching the road. October 20, 1910, was a very special day for her megc1– her wedding day! Her thick brown hair was piled on her head and she was dressed in a floor-length brown skirt and a pink blouse with long sleeves and a high collar. She’d been ready for some time, anxious for Ralph to come and not wanting to delay their trip to the courthouse.

She looked around the small home, which she had made as neat as possible. Her father’s house had only two rooms, one of which was made from sod. After the ceremony, she and Ralph would be returning to live there with her father and her brother, Lester.

Mary turned back to the window. Yes! He was coming! The familiar team of horses was trotting up the road, followed by a buggy. As the buggy drew nearer, she could see Ralph. He was dressed in a suit and a hat. She stepped to the doorway  and waited for him to drive into the yard.

Waiting. We’ve all been there/done that, right? We’ve waited for babies to be born, school or job applications to be accepted, sick loved ones to recover, overpaid income tax money to be returned, relationships to be restored and…well, you fill in the blank.

But the greatest waiting of all is experienced by creation as well as by us.

For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed. You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God.  And there is more; it’s not just creation—all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the firstfruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete. Romans 8:19-23 (The Voice)

The last book in the Bible, Revelation, talks about fulfillment of longing similar to the moment when my grandfather arrived to drive my grandmother to the courthouse to marry her. Oh, the joy they must have felt that day! Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. Rev. 19:7 (NLT)

Along with creation, the bride, which is the church, longs for our wedding day and the total redemption of our bodies. Good news – Jesus will return! This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11 (NIV)

Jesus promises, “I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7, 17, 20)

And we respond, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

 

*You can hear the rest of my grandparents’ homesteading story on the podcast I record with Steve called “Let Me Tell You a Story.” Readings from my grandparents’ story begin at podcast #20 and continue (off and on) through #37. http://www.beckylyles.com/podcast

 

Merry Christmas to You!

2007_0306winter20070098 You can read my 2015 Christmas newsletter here and maybe even read a few more blog posts on “How Great Is the Love” in 2016. I have high hopes!🙂

Wishing you a fabulous New Year, Becky

MH900432403…parties and presents, shopping and sharing, STOP! Yes, stop right where you are, take a breath—and look down. You are standing on holy ground.

Because Jesus came to earth as God-with-us Immanuel, wherever we are, He’s there. He’s before us, behind us, beside us. His arm is around our shoulders. “Just as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds and protects his people, both now and forever” (Psalm 125:2 NLT).

For those of us who don’t live in Jerusalem, or Bethlehem, or anywhere else Jesus traveled in Israel, the notion of holy ground is hard to grasp. The old hymn I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked begins with, “I walked today where Jesus walked, in days of long ago,” and ends with “and felt him close to me.” But the truth is, we don’t have to be in a certain country, cathedral or temple, or even in a particular position to be close to Jesus. If we know him as Savior, he’s with us and within us. The Bible says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 NIV).

God met Moses on the hot sands of a lonely desert. He approached Jonah outside a large city and walked with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego inside a blazing furnace. He stopped Saul in the middle of a road with a flash of brilliant light. But now, because God sent his Son to earth to save us from our sins and come into our lives twenty-four-seven, he’s with us all the time. Whether we’re standing on a kitchen floor, a cement sidewalk, or the wide tiles of a shopping mall corridor, Jesus is with us – and we’re on holy ground.

Yes, our Immanuel came long ago, and he will come again in glory, hallelujah! In the meantime, he’s here right now…loving us, guiding us, saving us. “She will give birth to a son,” the angel told Joseph, “and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 NIV).

Matthew then quotes an Old Testament prophet named Isaiah: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23 NIV) As the Baloche/Kenrick song “What Can I Do” says, what can I do but thank him, give my life to him, and make everything I do a hallelujah?

Thank you, Jesus, for becoming our Immanuel. You are our hope of glory.

Give Thanks in All…

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:18b NIVacoustic-guitar4

After church yesterday, I stopped by a health-food store to pick up a couple items. By then, my breakfast had worn off, so I grabbed an energy bar to eat on the way home. However, when I exited the store, I saw a man playing a guitar on the corner. Although the sun was out, the temperature was in the low thirties. I wondered how his fingers could move in the cold.

And then I remembered the pastor’s sermon – and how he said one of the secrets of contentment is to be generous. My taste buds were primed for an energy bar I hadn’t tried before, but I knew I could go home to a warm house and a full refrigerator. I put my purchases in the car, drove to the corner and rolled down my window.

The man walked over, and I said, “I don’t have any cash, but here’s an energy bar.”

He took the bar and appeared to read the front and the back before asking, “Is this GMO-free?”

A bit miffed, I said, “I don’t know, but I just bought it at that health-food store.”

He glanced at the store, looked at me, looked at the bar, and finally said, “Thank you.”

At that point, the car behind me honked, and I drove away.

Now, before you get to up in arms over the musician’s response, I have to tell you I’ve done the exact same thing. Years ago, when both my husband and I were unemployed and I was pregnant with our third child, a gracious group of individuals got together and collected canned food for us. That act of kindness was such a thoughtful, generous gesture on their part; however, even way back then, I preferred to feed my family fresh food rather than boxed or canned.

Although I don’t remember my exact response (probably ‘cause I don’t want to remember), I’m sure I was less than grateful or enthusiastic in my response. Yet, that food got us through some hard times. In addition, we were able to give some of our new-found abundance to another family in need.

I’m years late in saying this, but to those of you who sacrificed from your own budgets to share sustenance with us – you know who you are – thank you for loving us and caring for us and for blessing us with your friendship. I’m grateful you didn’t “unfriend” me.🙂

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (I Timothy 4:4-5 NIV)

I pray you and yours, and the man on the corner, have a marvelous Thanksgiving Day celebrating God’s abundant, over-the-top goodness to us! Becky

p.s. You can find freebies and sign up for more at my website — http://www.beckylyles.com

Slavery

Those of you who see my posts agriculture,colonialists,crops,drying,farmers,men,nature,people,slavery,tobacco,plantson Facebook know I often re-post updates re. modern-day slave trade. As we all learned in school, slavery has plagued humankind almost since the beginning of time, even in America. Thanks to my cousin Sue’s recommendation, I’m currently reading Undaunted Courage – Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. The story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition across our great country fascinates me; however, I’m troubled by the treatment of Native American women.

Men in some tribes offered their wives to their elders and to the expedition’s soldiers for sex, hoping to gain prowess for themselves through the transaction. One woman “appeared with six of her daughters and nieces in tow…selling their favors. Clark remarked, ‘Those people appear to view sensuality as a necessary evil.’ He added, ‘The young females are fond of the attention of our men.’” As if they had a choice…

Certain tribes frustrated Lewis, who “condemned their petty thievery and sexual morals.” And his men had better morals? Sexually transmitted diseases plagued the soldiers the entire journey.

In most cases, the native women did the heavy work around the campsites and carried the load when their tribes relocated to another place. Yes, the men fought wars and hunted for food, but the women built their living quarters, skinned bison, deer and elk, dried the meat, tanned the hides, made the clothing, cared for the children, prepared the meals, and whatever else the men demanded of them.

Today’s human trafficking is no different. Boys and girls, men and women around the world – and here in our country – are forced to do the bidding of those who hold them captive. They labor in homes, in factories, on farms and ranches, strip clubs and brothels. These captives are beaten and abused, starved, threatened, chained and humiliated. Their bodies and their lives are not their own, whether it’s sex that’s required of them or labor or organs.

I know – trafficking is hard to think about. On the positive side, we recently met a rest-stop caretaker (older guy) in another state who keeps an eye on trucker activity. One driver who was way too interested in children showed up regularly at the rest area, so the caretaker took a picture of his license plate and learned the guy came from a nearby town. The next time the man appeared, the caretaker told him he knew who he was and to stay away. He also cautions moms and dads who stop there, warning them about potential danger and reminding them to watch their kids closely. What a guy!

But most of us don’t hang out at rest areas, at least not for long. How can we fight trafficking? A few simple, practical suggestions: Teach our children ways to avoid traffickers, be alert to what’s happening in their lives, pray for trafficked victims, ask school officials to educate students about traffickers, report suspicious activity, support organizations that assist those who’ve escaped slavery, and petition for tough anti-trafficking legislation.

What else can we do to fight today’s slave trade? Suggestions?

One more thought. Some experts suggest a direct connection between rampant, easily available pornography and trafficking. Porn whets the appetite for more than just photographs and videos. According to PornHarms.com, Google made a recent decision to “no longer accept ads that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts including, but not limited to, hardcore pornography; graphic sexual acts including sex acts such as masturbation; genital, anal, and oral sexual activity.” Good for Google!

But we’re not Google. How can we fight pornography? Suggestions?

Amos 5:15 – Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.

Making Plans

This week, many of us are thinking of ways we can live more exemplary lives in 2014. As we all resolve to do better, we need to Imageremember we can’t do it in our own strength. One of our pastors recently quoted a church member who has cancer. The man said, “Pray that God will protect me from me, from thinking I can handle this on my own.”

The apostle Paul was also afflicted with a “tormenting” malady. He begged God to remove the affliction, but the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response? “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).”

Looking ahead, I like to think about all the good things that might occur in 2014 and all the great projects I hope to undertake and complete. Sure, I want Christ’s power to “rest on me,” but I don’t envision hardships and difficulties—or myself delighting in those challenges. Yet, distress and heartache will come. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33).”

The good news is that he added, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus the OMNIPOTENT OVERCOMER is our strength. Along with Paul and the cancer-struck gentleman, we can say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Another church member caught in the midst of the same struggle said, “My cancer has caused the background noise to fade away.” What is the background noise in my life? In your life? I’m reminded of the chorus in an old hymn titled Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus as well as several Old Testament scriptures.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

 “In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15).”

“Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).”

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).”

I don’t think those verses suggest we spend our lives in solitude and meditation. Our Creator knows that the daily requirements of maintaining our existence and relationships on Planet Earth keep us hopping. But amidst the busyness, we can admit our weakness, rest in his love, trust him, quiet our spirits, focus on him rather than background noise—and find strength.

Intentional living is a good thing. I admire and appreciate each person who resolves to live a useful, productive, God-honoring life. With the psalmist, I say, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).” Yet, we can’t forget who controls the outcome. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).”

%d bloggers like this: