Saturday, December 29, 2012

My struggle with ambiguity

If you can live with ambiguity, well, good for you. I can when the confusion involves someone outside my own family, but as with many of you parents who read this blog, I want to know what my Father is doing in the lives of my children.  Now Ted and our oldest  son are together in Heaven with God and all things have become clearly defined. ... for them. Meanwhile, I struggle with ambiguity.

Ever since Doug suddenly died with cancer a year ago May I have struggled over letting him go. This blog may unnsettle some of you but I always have to take that into account when I write. Who might this one offend? ...those who knew only the funny, generous, creative, risk-taking boy/man who lit up your life: Doug Stone.

God heard my cry as He promises to do in Psalm 40:1 and sent my second son, Jeff, from Sacramento to talk to me this week.  I have been so conflicted that I have despaired of willingly continuing to live. Jeff knew his brother from birth. I have suspected all these years that Jeff watched the results of Doug's failed attempts to live for two masters and made the decision to  honestly examine  his core beliefs and live completely for Jesus. I remember with clarity the morning Jeff told Ted and me: "I've figured it out.  I have been reading Ecclesiastes. Only a few things last: God, His Word and people. I am changing my major from Engineering to Psychology so I can help people know God and His Word." ...and that decision has opened ministry to probably thousands by now. His dad and I made that decision at 20 years old, right after we both came to know God personally through Christ. It cost us both of our families and the financial and emotional support they might have given us through the rest of our lives. ...but we had a black and white decision to make: serve Him completely or not at all.

...back to the main subject for today. In case you have not understood it, here it is: "How do we live with unresolved issues after the one who has caused us nearly unbearable pain leaves forever?" My greatest enemy has been, of course, Satan who whispers into my ear: "Doug's duplicity was your fault. You were a terrible mother. You put the ministry before your son. He felt neglected. He was insecure  in the Father's love and you are responsible for that". Add to that a hundred or more accusations that have chipped away at my peace nearly all of Doug's life. ...and death.

Question: Why would I allow my childrens' choices to define my "O.K.-ness" with God? My Biblical mind knows not to do that but my mother-emotions can't seem to square with God's Truth.  As I am reading and studying through the Old Testament, every mother's and dad's agonies over their childrens' half-hearted committment to the Lordship of Christ hits my soul like a lightning bolt.  I know that the peace God promises me is contained in believing His Word, but nothing sabotages the belief in His promises like a child's attempt to live their life without Christ at the helm of their boat.

Truth: Doug desperately wanted to be around family, but each time he showed up in the place where Ted and I were called to serve our Lord, he caused confusion and pain, and in part, the loss of two pastorates.  Was God's sovereignty made more real to us through these terrible circumstances? Of course. ...eventually. Does God's sovereignty kick in for anyone immediately? I don't know. ...but not for me. Nothing "kicks in" for me immediately.

Doug's presence was always mixed with fun, adventure and admiration for his brilliance as an athlete, custom home builder and trainer of countless children in sports and flying,  He never believed he was brilliant even though his dad and I told him countless times how much we celebrated his unbelievable abilities and endurance.  His mansions on this mountain are showplaces, and he designed them all without any formal education. He was an All-American twice in the sport of wrestling and is showcased in the Sports Hall of Fame at Humboldt State University. We knew that he compared himself to others all his life and there was nothing we could do to alter his faulty thinking, no matter how hard we tried.

At the end of Doug's life, son Jeff sent him to one of the most well-known counsellors in America. This man is an old friend of Ted's and mine.  Trustworthy counsellors never reveal information our clients give us. Knowing this gave me weeks of pause before I called this dear man and asked him just two questions, knowing that he had the privilege of answering neither. My questions: Did Doug repent? which he answered an emphatic "Yes".  The second question was: "Is he in Heaven?" which he answered a second emphatic "Yes". Nothing else really matters, but that truth has not been completely embraced by my Mother's heart. ...until now.

Doug spent the last few weeks of his life studying his dad's Bible. He was dying, and he knew it. He had been living on thirty or forty Advil for months but had told no one but his brother, Jeff,  who immediately sent him to a specialist . It was confirmed that every organ except his brain was riddled with cancer. Three weeks prior to this diagnosis, Doug hiked from our valley floor to his castle in the sky at the top of Bear Mountain, an unbelievable feat for any man, but for a man whose body was wracked with cancer? That was Doug. ...a relentless fighter. ...but Doug, deep inside, was an angry man. The casual friend (and he had hundreds) would never have known that, but we in the family and some others knew it.   My comfort lies in the fact that he is no longer angry. He is at peace with the Lord whom he desired to know, but stopped short of laying down his human efforts to know God intimately.   He was always discerning about the phoney Christian men he met who, alas, are in every church and community. He allowed them to drive his anger deeper into his soul, but did not let that anger drive him to God's Word. ...until a few weeks before he died. I was not privy to any of his change in attitude in those few weeks, and that hurts,  but my son, Jeff, has told me, for Doug confided in Jeff.

Doug signed a Mother's Day card that Jeff brought to me, signed by both of them. Jeff's message: "Dear Mom. We do love you so much. Jeff." Right next to Jeff's message is Doug's: "Love you Mom. Doug."  That card will remain on my refrigerator door until I am taken Home. Doug asked that I meet Jeff, Carla, Robin and him for dinner at the Mulligan Room a week before he died. Both men were wearing their dad's handed-down "Jesus Sandals". We chuckled together at the sight. ...two brothers wanting to fill those sandals. Less than a week later, the cancer hit the last organ: his heart, ... and he was suddenly transported by Jesus into Peace. Forever.

Out of all the verses in scripture that mention "house", I have chosen this one to close off this week's blog: "Unless the Lord build the house, its builders labor in vain." Psalm 127:1. Somehow Ted and I understood that right out of the chute at twenty years of age. We had no mentors, no classes about marriage in eight years of training for "full-time work", no books to guide us, no nothin' except one verse that kept us flat on our faces before the Lord, begging Him to show us how to build our house on only Him. ...and now I am alone in this house.  ...but not really. My Lord and I are closer than ever. My Lord-loving daughter and  husband and my granddaughter are at the top of the mountain and tend to my every need if I tell them what they are.  I am surrounded by people I love and who love me.

Into my life comes a steady stream of teenagers and younger-than-I people who ask for guidance in their relationships with God and others.  Last week my Father graced me by giving me a front-row seat to the most powerful show on earth: the first wonder-filled steps of a week-old Christian. ...a young woman who came to me because of the influence of my son Doug in her father-in-law's life years ago. Conclusion: I can't figure out anything that God is doing, even after He has done it.


If you will only let God guide you and hope in Him through all your ways
He'll give you strength whatever happens and take you through the evil days
Who trusts in God's unchanging love builds on the Rock that cannot move.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

David encouraged himself.

The Amalekites invaded Ziglag, burned it and took all the women and children captive, including David's best choice of a wife, Abigail.  Abigail. ... who had been married to Nabal, a rich Carmelite fool.  I Samuel 30:4 tells us that "David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept until they had no more power to weep."  These same people blamed David for the capture of their families and threatened to stone him. Verse 6 tells us: "David encouraged himself in the Lord His God."  Many times there is nobody to comfort us but our Abba Father. ...and He does.

 I know that all of those who followed Jesus closely wept and wept when He was crucified, but there was one who suffered the most: Mary, His mother. Lest I be tempted to deify her I had not fully entered into her suffering. ...until my oldest son, Doug died on May 18, 2011, less than a year after his dad, my dear husband entered into Heaven. Mary's Son, Jesus, was perfect. My son Doug was not. ...but it is amazing how Doug's wrong choices have slipped from my memory and mostly what I think about are the wonderful characteristics that were his.  As Maddie Jane, his little girl said, "Daddy made everything fun!"  Well, truthfully, not "everything". 

Indulge me here. I know very well that the dead cannot communicate with the living but it seemed that Heaven and I received a gift from Doug last Monday morning. A young mother came through my front door for counselling. Many years ago Doug sent the generation before her to us and their marriage was restored.  Fast forward. Last Monday, one of their children, not a Christian,  entered my front door and shortly after, entered through Christ the Door to God the Father.  She had tried most everything else.

We are to live our  lives by "every word that comes from the Holy Mouth of our Lord God".  I will be in Heaven before I "know every word",  but meanwhile, I am responsible to live by what I do know. If I don't I will be seduced into believing Satan's lies. ...and that is the only language he knows: lies. In speaking to Timothy, Paul warns his disciple-in-training: "Now the Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."  Except for God's pure and true Word there are no words we can trust. Paul said, "I know nothing except Christ crucified."  How did he come to that profound conclusion?  Everything else failed.

Just when I think I am "getting over" Doug's sudden death, I go into a tailspin of emotion and cry until there are no more tears. I remember a conversation years ago with a Greek Orthodox priest on the Island of Patmos who exclaimed to me: "Yes, I love Jesus, but Mary. ...ahhh, Mother Mary, whom I picture snuggling me close to her breast, giving me comfort that no one, not even Jesus, can give me. "

A bazillion religious people worship Mary. I don't "worship" her, but I identify in the deepest places of my heart with her terrible loss.  Sweet, sweet Jesus, who from the Cross, asked his dependable dear friend, the Apostle John, to care for His mother.

I must, and you must listen only to the God/Man Who  has the keys to Heaven.  He went down through the portal of death for you and for me and He came out in mighty power which He makes available to us, His own. 

                                        HYMN OF THE WEEK: O SING A SONG

O sing a song of Galilee, of lake and woods and hill
Of Him Who walked upon the sea and bade the waves be still
For though like waves on Galilee, dark seas of trouble roll
When faith has heard the Master's Word, falls peace upon the soul.

Love, Jo

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Three-fold seduction

The evil one attacked Eve in Genesis 3 on all three fronts: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. ...and where was Adam? naming the animals when he shoulda been protecting his vulnerable, weaker, undiscerning wife from the devil?  "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh) and that it was a delight to the eyes (lust of the eyes) and that the tree was desirable to make one wise (boastful pride of life), she took from its fruit and ate."   Which one are we going to sock in the kisser when you get to Heaven? Eve or Adam? Neither? Both?

Life on my Kansas farm was brutal. Neither my dad nor my brothers protected me from the harshness. It never even occurred to them that I needed it.  It took me years to figure out why I seem so able to take care of myself. I had to. I think Ted Stone liked that about me, but he also took for granted that I was strong so he was often absent when I needed him to keep men, especially, from knocking me around emotionally and spiritually.  Let me cut him some slack about something you may not know:  In the pastorate there aren't many slots of time when somebody isn't screaming or whimpering about something. Ted spent a lot of time putting out brush fires. So did I. I'm not doin' that anymore. If it's a full-blown firebell-clangin' blaze I might show up, but then again, I might not. 

Yesterday little children and adults were murdered in Connecticut. ...and the world is asking, "If there is a God, where was He when those people needed Him"? Translated, this means: "How can God be a good God and let something so terrible happen?" Isn't that always the question Satan plants in the minds of human beings?  "And the serpent said to the woman, 'You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' "  Deception is Satan's specialty.  He says to his minions: "Let's put doubt in the minds of people about the perfect righteousness of God. Come on! It'll be fun!"

I was 84 yesterday. It's not a big deal! Anything worth accomplishing has been because of the galvinizing, powerful, mighty love of my Immanuel. Paul said, "...for it is the LOVE of Christ that compels me." ...Paul, the thug, the man who murdered his own relatives to protect his status in the Sanhedrin, his institution of choice.  When I see Christian men and women murdering their own brothers and sisters in Christ, ranking their position in the institution as more important than love, gratefulness and loyalty to their colleagues, I get mad. I either fight or fly. Right now  I'm between "being angry and sinning not",  so you would be smart to leave me alone for awhile until my what- I think- is -righteous- anger simmers down.

Tomorrow morning I will join a freshly formed group of believers who are discovering an entire new level of God's perfect love for them.  My teenage dynamo partner, Cheyenne, is bringing several kids who aren't Christians yet and I don't want to miss that action. There will be a simple worship service, prayer for each other, and a lovely message from God's Word. Simple. I like simple.

 ...few words about "worship":  Some of the purist worship I ever heard was in a pasture in front of a church in Kenya, East Africa, where five hundred or so singing people formed a circle.  The men and boys  held a steady "hmmmmmmmmm"  on the bass line and the women and children sang in four or five parts above them ... with no instruments. It was bone chilling! When Ted and I lived in Houston, on Sunday nights sometimes we would drive miles to "The Barn" where the people sang a cappella, lifting the bloomin' roof nearly off!  Well, I am ready for Heaven's roof-liftin' music. ...but there are a few more people I think are about to discover the total, clean, mighty and powerful love of our Immanuel, so I probably will stick around for awhile longer.

As a brand new Christian I read a poem by Amy Carmichael, humble missionary,  about daisy chains. A ring of Christians were clustered in a circle, weaving daisy chains to put around one another's necks while in the background thousands of people were plummeting over the nearby cliff, screaming for someone to save them. Oh, dear Jesus, help me hear and heed their screams.

                             HYMN OF THE WEEK;  OH, THE DEEP, DEEP LOVE OF JESUS

O, the deep, deep love of Jesus; vast, unmeasured boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

Love, Jo

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Raggin' on Saul again

I don't know whether or not Saul will be in Heaven because I'm not God. I think Saul was a jerk, but who cares what I think? I don't even care what I think sometimes, but  I do know this: I had better be mighty sure of my facts, studied over a long period of time before I shoot off my mouth with my opinions about anyone or anything.  I have been so wrong at times with my premature conclusions and have influenced other people when I should have refused comment, or  even to give half an ear to anyone else's.

My preferred style of communication is personal and direct:  no Emails,  facebook, texts (certainly not texts) or even phone conversations if it is possible to talk personally with the person from whom I need clarification. I had such a clarifying conversation with a long-time, dear friend today.  I should have called him weeks ago, but I did not want to be entangled in the mess that surrounds him.  By not getting clarification from the horse's mouth, I have added fuel to a smoldering fire by listening to other peoples' viewpoints.  They don't have full knowledge about the situation. Nobody does, and this side of the Judgment Seat, nobody will. At that time all the motives will be fully revealed and all the actions assessed by our Righteous Judge. The beautimous final statement in the paragraph that addresses that subject in I Corinthians 4:1-5 is: "At that time each will receive his praise from God!"  Hang on to that one for dear life for the times when you dread the Judgment Seat of Christ. Hit the "delete" button when  you fret about it and remember Romans 8:1: "There is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  You bet our Lord is going to have an eyeball-to-eyeball conversation with us during those seven years, but remember that it can't be all bad because at the same time,  there is going to be a sumptuous dinner going on, with our name etched on a card above a solid gold place setting. I envision Heavenly Servants making sure we are comfortably seated with a clear view of our King at the head of the Table that stretches a bazillion miles into Infinity.

 I will be 84 on Friday of this week. I would think that I would have "put away childish things" by not shooting my whole wad at anyone who hints at wanting my opinion;  however I am still being squeezed, hammered and shaped into something reasonably acceptable for the Master's use. He has entrusted me with a lot; therefore I am required to live up to a lot and I believe there's a scripture somewhere about that.

We had better dislodge the snarls of tangled cords that wrap around our ankles hindering our race to the finish line.  I wait too long to do that at times. I get to thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think, become smug (because I am so old and wise) and give advise that no one with any sense would follow. It's a tough assignment to be old. Some days I long for the alternative, but then the next day I ask God to forget I thought that because looming on the horizon is something that looks like it could be worth sticking around for.

O.K., back to Saul. On earth when he was backed in a corner, he resorted to double-talk and subterfuge in an attempt to camouflage his conduct (I Samuel 15:14-15). Read the account if you want to. My point in ragging on Saul's character (or the lack thereof) is this: I need to watch and observe for a very long time about people before I draw a  conclusion as to whether or not to trust them. I was warned as a young person:  "Be sure your sins will find you out." ...uh...yep! Saul's did!

There is a  (albeit remote)  possibility that none of this blog applies to anything going on in your life. Well, good for you, but there is the possibility that it applies to someone or something that is driving you nuts right now.


Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah. Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty. Hold me with Why powerful hand
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven
Feed me 'til I want no more; feed me 'til I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through
Strong deliverer, strong Deliverer; be Thou still my strength and shield,
Be Thou still my strength and shield.

Love, Jo

Saturday, December 1, 2012

O.K., you want a king?

I have studied up close and personally,  the relationship between a father and his son(s). An otherwise wise man can become quite blind to the truth about his son(s)'  lack of integrity.  Mothers can and often are blind to our childrens' true characters. Oh, we must be wise with God's wisdom or our Father will discipline our children lovingly but severely when we don't.

Such was priest, prophet, judge and a father whose name was Samuel. Hannah, his mother, had entrusted her long-awaited son to Eli, the priest in the tabernacle, to raise her boy into a man.  Samuel, while watching the wickedness of Eli's sons and how God judged them, became a great judge,  prophet and a man of God.  In his old age, however, he made a terrible mistake: His love for his sons trumped the wisdom he had been given by God and he made his sons judges over Israel (I Samuel 8:1).  He was a failure as a father, just as Eli had been. His totally dishonest sons exasperated the people and in desperation, they begged God for a king. Was Samuel's heart broken? Yes,  but too late. The horse was out of the barn. God reassured Samuel that Israel's rejection was not of him but that they had rejected God Himself. ...a gift of grace to Samuel to sooth his tormented soul. Samuel warns the people of what will happen if a king steps up to the plate and promises to rescue the floundering people. They did not listen.,  God gave them a king: Saul, who was handsome, charismatic, and an actor. He was not a king at heart. The people chose a sissy that appeared to be a man's man.  I Samuel: 16:7: "The Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  God wants us to develop X-ray vision.

Last week I spoke of God's sense of humor.  Saul was commissioned by his dad to go and find his asses that had wandered away while the asses of Israel were looking for a king. They are bound to get together, because they always do. I could have left that out of my blog, but we all deserve a chuckle.

In the Old Testament God often spoke audibly to the people who needed to hear Him. Don't you wish He did that today sometimes? ....but He does speak, and we must listen carefully to hear His voice, and only His voice. Waiting expectantly for God to speak is His strong admonition in Psalm 40:1 and in many other scriptures.  "Waiting expectantly" are the key words here. Waiting for God to speak is hard for all of us. I have watched several church Boards move too quickly in making a life-changing decision that affects and wounds many people, rather than getting on their faces before God, waiting expectantly for Him to tell them clearly what to do and doing nothing until He does! This has been a heart-breaking experience for me over many years in ministry.  Samuel moved too quickly. He knew he was dying. He didn't fall on his face before God and wait expectantly.  Do I? Do you? I have watched many a widow and widower fall into another's arms out of loneliness, and boy howdy, do I ever understand loneliness in a way I never could have before my Ted went Home. Sometimes I think I will die from it, but I don't.  I cry out to my Eternal Bridegroom, wailing and sobbing, and wait for Him to show me why I am still here and Ted isn't. ...and He never fails to answer that prayer.

Yesterday and the day before, as I was at tables full of teenagers for prayer and Bible study, along with a few adults who are coming alongside to help these flailing children who are begging for someone to lead them, my heart nearly burst with emotion. God loves these children who are struggling with problems many of the older generation cannot even imagine. God has not forgotten them. I was one of those children at 19, and my Father reached down to this little East Kansas farm girl and orchestrated the saving of my soul. He did the same for my Ted, and we became, together for sixty years, His ambassadors in many places in the world. I can never forget the miracle of what I just told you: God's loving care for two lost teenagers. Now I am watching the miracles of God in the lives of young, and some older people. Some He sends me to teach, counsel and disciple justify the wrong choices they have made and the results they have brought on themselves,  and I sorrow. Counselling is  not for sissies. Lord, keep me wise, not leaning on my own understanding.

Are you begging God for a king? You and I already have One, and His Name is Jesus, "For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. There shall be no end to the increase of His government or to the peace upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom, in that it is firmly established and supported in justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this."

Next Friday night I will be playing "Messiah" with my colleagues in the Symphonic Orchestra and choir. We are also playing  and our grand choir will sing some of Bach's Bminor Mass,  a buggerbear to play! Tonight I will play Christmas songs at the Apple Shed while outside the window the Christmas parade will be passing by. People will pour in out of the cold, settle on down to eat and be ready to sing and I will have a wonderful time, playing and leading from the hundred-year-old piano.

If you watched the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony this week, did you note that "Joy to the World" was sung by a mighty choir in the background as the gigantic tree became a blaze of light?  Is this not inconsistent with rulings that are coming down at a breathtaking rate to wipe out anything to do with Jesus in the schools and the public domain?   Does not God, indeed, have a sense of humor?

                                                     HYMN: JOY TO THE WORLD

Let every heart prepare Him room and Heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing, And Heav'n and and Heav'n and nature SING!

Love, Jo