Saturday, November 24, 2012

Empty nest . Again

I won't try to fake it.  Son Jeff and his lovely wife, Carla  left over an hour ago for their home in Granite Bay, and daughter Lauren  went south to Glendora, to resume college at Azusa Pacific. My kittie, Bootsie and I have taken our walk down to the curve in my long driveway, have had our chat with the Lord,  sitting side by side on a bench, and now comes the decision: Do I cry the rest of the day or do I gut it up and thank Him for new and fresh awareness of His blessings?

I don't feel very theological or philosophical so I will simply be  a mom and a grandmother as I write to you.  On Thanksgiving Day, trying as hard as I could not to dwell on the fact that my family is diminished significantly,  I resisted looking down the length of the table,  imagining my Ted at the head, leading the  family prayer and giving opportunity for each one to share a scripture that centered our minds upon the Lord. I resisted thinking that Doug would be coming through the door with his family at any moment.

Biting the bullet of disciplining my mind to "be anxious for nothing but in everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you." is beginning to work.  My Abba has produced these new reasons to rejoice in just this last hour. 1) Lucas,  (20)  now living with Jeff and Carla in Granite Bay is becoming a mature Christian young man. He loves college, loves his job, loves being in Jeff and Carla's home.  2) Dear quiet Lance, 17,  is being mentored by one of my favorite men. Lance volunteered this information himself. (Big gift for this grandmother who has longed to know this  young man.)  3) Maddie Jane is a gorgeous 15-year-old who loves Jesus. I work with many teenagers now and all love Maddie Jane. So do I.  Dee and Brent's Lexi, a senior in the school where Maddie is a freshman is 17, beautiful, an excellent swimmer and tennis player, but most importantly, she loves Jesus. She is loved by all the young people I meet.

Jeff and Carla's Lauren, 21, coming down the home stretch toward graduation from college,  loves Jesus and wants so much to know what His plan is for her. She is at the top of the chart as a performing musician.  The dilemma? God has given her a tender heart toward the poor. How will he put that package together?  He will. He will.  Lainey, 23, is working hard at her job in Granite Bay, while pursuing her education. She and Lucas are in the same college where she is a great help and encourager to her cousin as he hunkers down to begin his education.  Four of the cousins spent the day together at Magic Mountain yesterday and my grandmother heart sang all day about that.  These cousins bonded since birth right here in our home on holidays.  As I listened to them reminisce about their games of "Ghosts in the Graveyard", indoor and outdoor games of Hide 'n Seek, swimming and hiking, a thousand pictures came to mind of these many times when everybody came "home".  Maybe I thought it would all last, but of course deep inside me,  I knew it couldn't. The losses have been horrific to bear; the gains are gaining as boyfriends and girlfriends are in the wings who will, before long, launch another generation.

Carla has observed  that the team of men that is building around her husband, my son Jeff,  at William H. Jessup University are men like his dad in nature, and giftedness. How beautiful to think on this. The Lord placed Ted Stone's pioneering mantel around the shoulders of our second son.  Carla counsels children in Jeff's clinic, "Cornerstone", and loves her work. With Doug's son, Luke, in their home with them now, their empty nest isn't empty any more.  .

Now that my family has been here, even though my heart is sad that they are scattered again, my mind is happy that all are in various stages of letting the Lord have their whole hearts. Doug and his Dad are safe in the arms of Jesus, and my remaining children and grandchildren are just as safe here on this earth, despite the alarming signs that we are in terribly perilous times in our world.  What else really matters besides Jesus and Heaven? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Son Jeff gave me this one-liner, a quote from a client of his: "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child."  We mothers, as predicted in Genesis 3, suffer in ways no one but another mother and Jesus understand. There is absolutely no point in sharing our feelings with anyone else.


"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee"
When the shadows come and darkness falls, He giveth perfect peace
O He is the only perfect resting place, He giveth perfect peace!
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee."

Love, Jo

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Prosperity without purpose

I have never paid much attention to Gideon, then I discover in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11)  that he precedes Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and all the prophets.. "By faith these people overthrew kindgoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight."

Picture a hoop which reveals the cycles of history. Start with a nation which served God. ours, for instance. Move right on your hoop.  Evil sets in. (What a terrible blight on our history was the enslavement of innocent people who would be used to satiate the greed of the cotton plantation owners.)  God has never settled that score. ...or is He doing that now? Keep moving on your hoop to the right. Then after evil sets in and man becomes prosperous, God is forsaken and every man "does that which is right in his own eyes". Then comes depression and war, then slavery, servitude (which is where we are now: serving the government which was given us through God's grace to be "of the people, by the people and for the people.". Now we exist to serve the government.); then people cry out to God who may or may not grant mercy and the cycle begins again.

Israel had sinned. Again. The Lord delivered them into the hands of the Midianites. They had just been sprung from being crushed under the heel of the Egyptians; now they are fleeing for their lives from the Midianites, living in caves and dens. Israel had become weakened because they did not drive out every Canaanite as God told them to do. They intermarried and worshipped their spouse's idols. God had given them the Promised Land but not one tribe was able to  possess the land because they compromised with the devil.  Every time the nation hit bottom, God raised up a judge to deliver them. All had some defect, but God used them. What does this say? ...that God can use any man who is willing to be used. ...but Israel elapsed into a period of apostasy.  God sold them into slavery for eight years. (Judges 3:8)

Fast forward to Judge Deborah. What a woman! I am eager to meet her and wonder if my Ted and Doug already have! She rejected the godless crowd and that takes courage. Obviously she was not willing to play their political games. ...and don't forget  sweet-appearing Jael who drove a stake into the skull of Sisera. Down through history, God has used women of faith to influence and act at the risk of their own lives. Augustine's mother, Monica, prayed that he would cease being a proud college professor and come to the feet of Jesus. He did. ...and Susanna Wesley who was booted out of the Church of England because she dared to teach Bible classes that grew into the hundreds in her own back yard!  She prayed for her sons, John and Charles, and you know the rest of that story.  Never underestimate the influence of a woman who is on our knees in desperation before our God, worried half to death that our children will be deprived of their right to worship Christ in freedom.

Oh, yeah, back to Gideon, this coward that God chose to judge, calling him in Judges 6:12 a "mighty man of valour". Does God have a sense of humor or what? If you miss that about God the Bible won't be nearly as much fun for you as it could be.  This man has an inferiority complex.  Remember Moses? Ditto.  He called in Aaron to help him.  Big mistake. Aaron headed up the committee that decided to melt down the gold that God had graciously given the ex-slaves of the Egyptians, built a calf out of it and they danced their fool heads off  (...naked, as I recall)  while Moses was on the Mountain with God Almighty receiving the Commandments that would give necessary parameters to the people who couldn't discern good from evil.

...back to Gideon again. His whine to the Lord: " Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? ...and where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?'  but now the Lord hath forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites". ( Judges 6:13)  Translated: "Lord, we could use some miracles here. There are  a whole lot more of them than there are of us." Why did God call Gideon, the last man in Israel I think He should have called, but He has yet to ask me for one opinion. ...and I have so many.  Note I Corinthians 1:26, 27. "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 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 that are mighty."

Well, here we are. ...watching our blood-bought freedoms slithering away. We may die for serving Jesus,  the Author and Finisher of our Faith, but whataway to go! ...OR, maybe weak men will get on their knees, repent of being suckered into apathy by prosperity, pull their heads out (which isn't a very ladylike thing to say, I've been told), and by God's power and strength be righteously angry enough not to go down without a fight!  Could our nation wake up?  Sure it could. God insisted that Gideon's army be whittled down to 300! What were their weapons? Pitchers, lamps and trumpets. No swords.  Oh, well, you read it. Judges 6. ...and remember, "Our citizenship is in Heaven..." but we've got stuff to do here before we get to go.


This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Love, Jo

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Whatever we fear holds us hostage

My family of origin was mostly Irish and a little bit German. Neither nationality is known for its gentleness. My two brothers were thirteen months apart in age, ten and eleven years older than me, tall and muscular in build, verbal intimidators and  brutal physical fighters. I was scared to death of them. They both enjoyed that, nicknaming me "Tiny" to remind me of my powerlessness. I grew up in fear that one of my brothers would kill the other.

I had other fears. I was a little girl when a socialist president was put in office for three terms. I didn't know what a "socialist" was but I was scared of  'em. I remember well the day a government-hired young college graduate walked down a row of corn my dad was cultivating. Sweat was pouring off my dad's ruddy face,  his four work horses were exhausted from the humidity and heat and fought to lie down at the end of every row. This young man that my dad dubbed an "educated jackass" said these words: "Mr. Flynn, the government will pay you a subsidy if you don't plant any wheat this year." That's as far as he got before my dad lost his Irish temper, threatened the man with sudden death if he ever showed up on our farm again. Our family had endured seeing some of our neighbors driving shiny new trucks down the dirt road by our house, proudly waving at us,  having no clue that they were exploiting the advantages of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. These neighbors were so glad to be exonerated from the awful labor of coaxing crops to grow in the east Kansas gumbo, that they were blinded to what my formally uneducated dad saw as a sinister sign that government would one day own us.

Satan has never changed his tactics and human nature has never changed. Take law and grace. Many Christians have learned how to work the grace system.  Affluence causes man to drift away from a biblical fear of God. As long as Israel was facing an enemy they could not possibly conquer, they stayed close to the Lord.  God tested them with prosperity, just as He has tested America.  My dad understood the political danger of socialism, but he was  determined not to trust a Christ Who is a God of mercy, love and comfort. He wanted a God of judgment. If he were alive today, he would be getting his wish. We are being judged for the way we have "worked the system". ...and now, the Law is kicking in.  Will the Church be forced underground? Probably. Will we lose our tax-exempt status because of the exploitation of the cults who force their people to give a hugh portion of their income for their idolatrous purposes? Probably. When people are forced to pay big bucks to a system that controls them, it's just a matter of time before all freedoms are removed. Isn't that why the true believers in England fled the system that was controlling them?

I like Joshua. He was an average man made powerful by his obedience to God.  He asked the fear-blocked Israelites: "Do you want to go back to the gods of your fathers, those pagan gods which they served?  You can choose. But for me and my house, we have made our choice; we are going to serve the Lord." I will continue in my little bitty ministry of teaching scripture to the next and the next generation. I have to. That's my assignment and I am honored to know for sure what it is. What is yours? Is your armor in place daily for that Holy assignment?

By the way, both of my fighting Irish brothers and my hard-working Dad finally laid down their human weapons and put on the armor of God. All three will be waiting at the Gate, along with a dozen or so others of my family when God hands me my bridal gown.

The Lord's our rock, in Him we hide; a shelter in the time of storm
Secure whatever ill betide; a shelter in the time of storm

Love, Jo

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crossing the River

Gloria and Bill Gaither have written this century's finest worship lyrics, in my opinion. The third verse of "Because He Lives"  won't leave me alone.  Good.

...and then one day I'll cross the riverl I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory, I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!

Exodus was the Book of Redemption out of the hopeless darkness of Egypt.  I have been crossing the Jordan this week with Joshua, the Book of Redemption into the Land of Promises. As Moses knew his days on earth were over, he wrote a lo-o-ng farewell. One of my blog readers, once a "kid" named Steve Ray, a missionary for decades now in his 60's, calls my writings "ruminating". Like a cow, I am chewing my cud, thinking over the wonders of being delivered from Egypt, thinking on our many Red Seas when we walked through on dry land, the steady provision for all of our family's needs,  the blessings and disappointments that accompany efforts to help others leave their Egypts behind,  struggling to believe and obey what comes with being given "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3). By now we have discovered that the real "Promised Land" is yet to be ours, as "death gives way to victory and we see the lights of glory".

God and Moses chose an ordinary man to lead the remnant of people that finally made it across the Jordan, only to discover that the milk and honey they anticipated was tinctured with blood as city by city had to be conquered.  This remnant had only been told  about  God's faithfulness by the adults who died on the journey that should have taken only eleven days, but lasted, and lasted for forty years because of their disobedience. ....blatant disobedience.  Wouldn't you think that if you had had direct conversations with God throughout Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy that you would speak to the Rock and not strike it? Thoughts like this are corrected as the Spirit gently reminds me that many of His promises go unclaimed in my Personal Promised Land.  ...or shall we call it our "Land of Promises"?

My Joshua's  (Ted's) war cry, again and again, was "Give me the walled cities!"  He fought fair, fortified by the Word of God while the little foxes that steal the grapes usually fought dirty.  During his long and last battle of his life, his trust in God's faithfulness never flagged  Never once did any of us hear a complaint against God.  Of course I miss my warrior husband who fought the good fight, knowing his enemies were not people, but principalities and powers in high places. That's the legacy he left us: Keep your armor on, pick your battles, fight clean, courageously, but with determination, assured that that little round pebble is in the hand of God who knows exactly where the soft spot is in the skull of your Goliaths.

Jo, will you never stop speaking about Ted's unflagging trust in God's faithfulness?  Nope. About 7 o'clock every day (The widow's witching hour) I think I cannot go on another lonely day without him, and I cry, and I probably always will.  ...BUT, My Abba has me involved with yet another teenager's prayer and Bible study group. I am experiencing the joy of seeing those He has let me disciple, disciple others, and I believe that's our Holy Assignment. We are called to be a "suit of working clothes the Spirit wears today"(another Ted'ism) in our earthly Land with Promises.

Love, Jo