Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘God of Our Ultimates’ Category

Local Disturbance

Two weekends ago the weather was good for flying. Not perfect. A layer of haze, hot and moist, hung in the late summer sky, but visibility was good. My husband, Bruce, eager to get behind the controls, began his pre-flight check. I stepped onto the wing, slid into my seat, and let out a deep sigh. I was ready for the break.

Plane Open

Since spring, lessons on the craft of writing have consumed me. While they have morphed my work into a better read, they have slowed its progress. This blog has been neglected entirely.

God, it’s your book, your blog. Help me stay true to your priorities.

I snapped on my seat belt.

Kids and grandkids, free from school, have also provided happy stretches of summer diversion.

God, our children are yours too. Help me stay true especially to them.

I snugged on my headphones and adjusted the mic.

Rita with Headphones

Most recently, a volley of written attacks lobbed against a loved one had thrown me temporarily off course. The vicious nature of the attacks had shocked all of us.

Father God, despite the lies, help me to stay as true to duty as the needle is to the pole, just like my husband reminds me. And thanks for this get-a-way.

Bruce climbed into the pilot’s seat and pulled down the cockpit’s glass hatch. He completed the final check and taxied onto the runway. He communicated our intent to take off. We would turn left and go north. With flaps adjusted and engine at full throttle, he lifted us smoothly into the air.

The ground below became a patchwork of homes, rivers, and fields.

Earth from air

“See.” He pointed to the top of the controls. “There’s the magnetic compass we’ve been talking about. Even with my high tech, Garman G1000 panel, there is still a magnetic compass.”

I nodded.

“So tell me again,” I said. “What makes a compass not work well?”

“Deviation. Variation. Local Disturbance. To name three. You have to take those into consideration to stay on course and for the needle to stay true to the pole.

“Sounds complicated.”

“It is. Just like life,” he spoke the truth through his mic. “Deviation is a magnetic disturbance that is fairly constant and located near the compass. Deviation is caused by something like iron in the plane’s engine. If you navigated by compass, you would have to take that into consideration.”

“Deviation is kind of like making adjustments for life’s regular challenges?”

“Right.” Bruce reached his goal of three-thousand feet altitude and pushed on the auto pilot. “Variation is also fairly constant, caused by a band of iron in northern Canada and around the globe. When you fly, you still have to adjust your degrees so that you head true north and not just magnetic north.”

“And that’s like?” I asked.

“It’s called variation because the needle changes depending on where you are at over the earth’s surface. It changes with time.”

“So we might vary from our duty by where we are at in our own personal journey?”

“Exactly.”

He scanned the sky around us. I opened a book.

Pilot Bruce

“Local disturbances are the hardest,” he continued. “Significant iron deposits are scattered over the earth and can cause a local disturbance. To be prepared, you have to know where they are. If you are over a local disturbance, you ignore the magnetic compass because it can do crazy things.”

“Yeah, wow. Just like personal attacks. We get distracted while our life’s needle swings crazily, away from our pole of duty. But God allows for that, don’t you think?”

“For sure he does. At least the God I know does. He helps to keep us on course, as long as we watch and listen.”

I turned to my book. My headphones muffled the whoosh of the wind and the engine’s steady roar.

“Traffic ahead. One o’clock.” The airplane’s automatic alert system sounded its robot voice. “One mile. Same altitude.”

I grabbed the top of the control panel and peered in the one o’clock direction toward the haze.

“Where is it? I can’t see it!”

“Right there!” Bruce threw the plane into manual control and nose-dived. “Look up.”

A small plane passed overhead. It flew straight on.

“Whew! Maybe three-hundred feet to spare.” Bruce leveled our plane. “I don’t think he even saw us.”

“He probably doesn’t have an alert system,” I said. “Either that or he got distracted.” I settled back in my seat. “Woah.”

“That will make your heart race.” Bruce shook his head.

Thank you, Father. Thank you for guiding us through yet another local disturbance.

Land Under Plane Wing

Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. Matthew 26:41

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

How has God guided you through the deviations, variations, or local disturbances in your life?  Please share!

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Savior of Memories

A little box of baby things are tucked away wrapped in plastic, safe in a drawer. Whenever I open that drawer, I imagine a mother crocheting a blue sweater and booties, fashioning a delicate crocheted cap, and hand stitching simple flannel socks. I thumb through booklets on baby care copyrighted in 1932 and wonder what it would have been to be an expectant mother in that era.

A few cards adorned with dimpled babies are in that box as well, wishing all the best. There is a soft baby brush, and a baby pillow case  — again with crocheted edging. Wrapped in tissue are locks of auburn curls, an exact match to my son’s hair.

When I close the drawer, it is a mother I think of, a young mother, who cherished and saved memories of her boy.That mother is dead now, as is her son, but her act lives on in all the other mothers who save memories.

Baby clothes

We parents experience our children from a unique viewpoint. We witness their birth. We delight in each step of their growth. When we capture these memories to share with them later, we help to complete our children’s identities. We give them the gift of themselves.

I save many of my memories with a camera. But one evening, years back when my son was six or so and he and his Shih Tzu puppy, Lassie, needed a romp, my camera was not handy.

“Pull me on the blanket, Momma. Round and round. Yeah!” There was no resisting his nodding head and sparkling eyes.

He pulled an old blanket out of the closet and settled himself in its middle. Clutching two corners, I whizzed him over the hardwood floor, through the kitchen, past the dining room, and around the living room. Lassie, ever alert, pounced with furry paws and clung to the blanket. Around and around we went — Lassie, spread eagle, stomach sliding, then losing her grip and pouncing again. My son howled and squealed with delight. His every fiber throbbed.

The magic moment snapped like a camera flash and burned into my memory. I developed the picture and added it to my mental scrapbook.

Scrap Book

I love the fact that God savors His children’s precious moments and writes them in his own Book of Remembrance.

On the day when he makes up his jewels, he will settle me on his lap and I’ll be like a child who loves to look at her baby pictures. Snuggled close, my heavenly daddy and I will leaf through his scrapbook. He will show me how he cherished the choices I made for him. He will expand my understanding of myself by sharing his point of view. He will explain the decisions he had to make as my parent. He will complete my identity by giving me the gift of myself.

My daughter and boys

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.” — Malachi 3:16 & 17 (KJV)

What memories of your life would you like to see in God’s scrapbook?  Please share!

Deliverer from Evil

“Momma, I want to sleep in your room with you and Daddy.”

Of course. He needed closeness. But how close was too close? Death was near but unpredictable. Would he suffer from overexposure?

DyingHands0001

He was only eight and he needed to be protected. At such an impressionable age, he didn’t need to watch his father die. He needed, especially on the last night, to be delivered from hearing every ragged breath that for hours would rise from the hospice bed and reverberate throughout our home. Caught in a balancing act between the security of closeness and over protecting, I gave him permission.

A week, maybe two, passed. Most nights he slept beside me, but on the night of death he slept at his grandfather’s home miles away, protected and a safe distance from pain.

Our heavenly Father is caught in a similar balancing act. Does he let us see all the evil, especially the spiritual warfare, or does he keep it invisible? After all, our physical world has enough of its own pain.

Recently, a friend of mine prayed to see behind the scenes, to be given a glimpse of the warfare. As a new day dawned, she gazed out her window and asked, “Father, would you let me see behind the clouds, to the spiritual war that is raging?” The clouds parted and the sun shone very bright. She held her breath. An intense, blue sky radiated. Only the sky. She listened in silence to the Father’s voice.

behind-clouds-646x433

“You don’t need to see in the heavens where the real war is raging, for it all belongs to me. Remember, it is my battle. Rest in the assurance that through all the evil, my kingdom will come. Let me protect you. Rest in me through praise, through song and worship and words.”

God is caught in a balancing act. Does he let us experience all of the evil or does he protect?

“He suffers a broken world, still balancing it on the beams of a cross” Garden Surrender.

Regardless of our exposure, we can trust that he will never leave us or forsake us. He will protect our souls. In the meantime, we can repeat Christ’s words, “Deliver us from evil.” We can pray that his kingdom come on earth just as it is in heaven.

If you are a parent, what has worked for you as you attempt to protect your children? Comment below or Share here.

Bought and Paid For

Five-year-old Caleb came into the bedroom first thing one morning clutching his money box. He wanted to show me that he could buy the toy of his dreams.

“You know, Momma, the one where the car goes ’round and ’round.”

Yes, I knew. The one we had told him he would have to wait for Christmas to get. The one that was already hidden away in the closet, bought and paid for.

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He emptied his box on the carpet beside the bed and sat there surrounded with various coins and dollar bills. They represented his work. He was certain he had enough. He had no idea how much he had, but he had “counted” it and declared, “See, I have enough money. I do. I know I do. Now I can get it for Christmas.”

“But, Caleb, it’s for your Christmas present. You won’t have to pay for it.

“But I have enough.”

“Perhaps, but when you get a gift, a present, like at Christmas, you don’t have to pay. Mommy and Daddy have to pay. Sometimes it costs a lot of money, but you don’t have to use yours. We use our money. It’s free to you.

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver

All this time I thought he had understood. All this time he thought he would have to pay. In fact the gift was already his and he, unaware, still counted his money.

I looked down at my pajama-clad son sitting among his scattered coins and saw all humanity.

Like Caleb, we long for the toy. We long to be right with God. We’re certain we’ve worked enough to earn it. Unaware that it is already bought and paid for, we’re certain we must buy it. Yes, it was paid for—at tremendous price, but not with our money. To us it is free. All we must do is be like Caleb on Christmas morning. We must reach out and accept our gift.

I felt like God that morning trying to explain the beautiful truth to His children.

“Little boy, you sit surrounded by money that you consider yours. You forget that you depend on your dad and me to give you that money, and now, what’s worse, with it you would buy a gift that is already yours. Please realize that your money and your gift flows from the same source. Everything is bought and paid for.”

“We’ve got you covered, Son. We’ve got you covered.”

Father-Child-Holding-Hands

Whether you do Christmas or not, please know that there is a God out there who has got you covered.

Covered in love. Covered in mercy.

Right Now!

“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! . . . Dear Friends, NOW we are children of God . . . ” — I John 3:1&2

Down the Drain

“Why didn’t you, God?” Esther snapped. She slammed the lady’s room stall door and jerked the lock into its latch. “We trusted you. We prayed.” She dropped with a thud onto the commode. “This was suppose to be the perfect vacation. Why did you let this happen?” She glared at the shut door.

Image of Women's bathroom entrance

Down the corridor, at their airport gate, her husband, Bob, hunched over a phone with the receiver pressed tight against his ear. Their oldest daughter, in the seat beside his, leaned toward her dad, intent on every word. Esther had heard just enough to know that the call was from their youngest daughter and her boyfriend, traveling from Nebraska to join them in Colorado, and that the two college kids had had a serious accident.

Image of Air Traffic Control Tower at dusk

“Drug how many feet by an eighteen wheeler?” Bob’s eyes had stared into hers, damp and overly bright. The first call to board their flight had been announced. Esther had fled to the ladies room.

“So now, God.” She jutted her chin. “Everyone else is in route to the slopes from three different states. The three of us here, my brother, his kids, and now this. It’s too late to call this ski trip off. We knew it was a lot of travel. A lot could go wrong. We prayed for special safety.”

She clinched her fist and hit her thigh. Hard. If she could have, she would have beat God in the chest, but she didn’t want to get that close. She wanted to hurl things at him from a distance. Things like sticks and stones. Things like words.

image of the totaled car

Through clinched teeth, she spat words that she had never uttered to any authority, much less God. Punishment would have been swift. Repressed anger had served her well. When she was a child, even her mother, when highly vexed, had denied that she was angry. “No, I’m not angry.” Her mother’s eyes would bulge. “I’m determined.” So who was she to be angry with God? God was God. One didn’t question the Omnipotent.

Esther snatched at the toilet paper. “There was no reason to allow this to happen, God. You had no right. None. You should have protected them.”

“Esther, I did protect them.” The voice resonated, audible and clear. “Who is Bob talking to? Your daughter. I did protect them.”

image of man holding Phone in Airport

Esther’s hands stopped midair and flew together to cover her face. When she could breathe, she exhaled in a gush, inhaled slowly, deeply, and then tremblingly exhaled. Someone unseen had stepped inside the stall. Someone had ordained it sacred. Her ears strained for one more word. Instead, her own voice repeated, “I did protect them.”

“You did protect them?”

She hurried out and back to the gate. “Are they hurt, Bob? How badly? What happened?” She joined her husband in line to board.

“The car is probably totaled, but neither one has a scratch. Didn’t even go to the hospital.”

The two were renting a car. They would meet the others in Colorado, only one day late.

For once, words failed.

Image of clouds from above

Later, high above the clouds, she had plenty of time to talk. A humble child and a merciful, Father God held a quiet conversation in the most subdued tones:

“I was angry with you, God. I was really angry. I let you have it.”

“You sure did.”

“But you let me do it. You gave me the freedom to be honest with my emotions.

“Yes, I did.”

“So your chest, which I wanted to pound, is big enough for all of my venom.”

“It sure is.”

“So with you, I can be honest with my emotions.”

“Yes, you can.”

“About anything?”

“Anything. Especially when it comes to you and me.”

“And you talked to me. Out loud.”

“Out loud.”

“In a commode stall of all places.” Esther’s smile turned into a giggle. This God of hers had a sense of humor.

“Yes, in a commode stall, but then I like to flush anger down the drain.”

image of Sun shining on clouds from above

“Behold, you desire truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalms 51:6

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:17 & 18

“Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace. Zechariah 8:16

Pristine Presence

“Are the rooms clean?” I asked when I called for reservations. Well, I didn’t know. It was a center, a Family Reconciliation Center they called it, made available for the family and friends of those incarcerated while they came for prison visitation. I had never done this before, so how was I to know? It seemed like a logical question. “Yes, they’re clean and my husband can pick you up from the airport.” If Donna thought my question rude, she never let on. “He’s bald. Got a beard. I think he’s kinda cute. His name is Lee.” “I’m sure we’ll recognize him, and thank you, Donna. This is a huge help. ” image of Barbed wire fence The horseshoe bend of the river formed a natural moat for the sprawling state facilities below our wings. I counted three. A deep rock quarry in clear outline locked the remaining land mass from the rest of the world. Serious security. We circled, landed, and lost our omniscient view. Suitcase in tow, my husband and I left the terminal. A bald man with a beard approached us. I agreed. Through the eyes of love, he was kinda cute. Lee led us to a van that sported a large dent on its side and welcomed us on board. The precursory small talk lasted until he pulled out onto the street. His quiet and unassuming manner belied the misery of his story. He stopped the van at a clapboard house surrounded by a low metal fence and a lawn that was as tidy as a napkin covering a plate of communion wafers. image of Front Walk and Yard “There’s a support group going on in the front room, but just go on in.” Lee invited. “You won’t interrupt.”

Donna’s smile when she met us half-way to the kitchen illuminated the soft contours of her motherly face. She stretched out her arms and drew me into a hug that said, “I’m a woman whose been there and survived.” The light in her eyes kindled her abundant auburn hair.

image of Donna “Soup’s warm on the stove, but first let me show you your room,” she said. It was a guest house, actually—through the kitchen, out the side door, and next to a swing set for kids. The simplicity of the bedroom indicated that thriftiness was an art. The spotless bathroom indicated that someone understood the adage of cleanliness being next to Godliness. “The sheets are clean. But here are fresh ones for tomorrow.” Donna handed us neatly folded linens. “Just put them on in the morning and the bed will be ready for tomorrow night’s guests.” Back at the kitchen table, we devoured her luscious vegetable soup and macaroni salad. Lee, now silent, lingered beside his wife while she poured out her carbon copy story. A mother and a father filled our stomachs while their hearts still bled. image of the Kitchen A grown son. A motorcycle accident. A lost leg and adjoining pelvis. A life-long catheter. Despair. Spousal abandonment. Rage. Imprisonment. Special needs facility. Neglect. Abuse. Solitary confinement. Chains. Filth. Lack of food. Denied communication. A mother’s stubborn intervention. Prayers. Continued court hearings . . . . Lee and Donna talked on. Their misery mounted but their joy could not be suppressed. Only a survivor could understand such a paradox. They had been slammed with the plight of prisoners. They had ached with the pain of the parents. Then they had been given this Kingdom ministry, this Family Reconciliation Center, and their mourning had been turned into dancing. Image of Donna and Lee “God worked it out for us to be here.” Donna said. “We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He’s given us a passion for others, right here near the prisons. To help others like ourselves. God is so awesome.” Praise fell from the lips of this red-headed mother from Ohio who had suffered a childhood of abuse. “I have never been so happy, so fulfilled in all my life.” Beamed Lee, the kinda cute man from West Virginia’s farm country who had survived his own struggles. image collage of DONNA AND LEE How does one thank such a host and hostess? How does one say an adequate goodbye? We could do little except join them in praising the God who works all things together for good. Then we finally said goodbye to a cottage pristine with the presence of Divinity.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalms 30:11-12

Perhaps you have a story where God turned your mourning into dancing. Please share it by clicking here.

Provider of Poems

Guest Blog, Poetry, and Photography by JerryAnn Berry

Finding my way to identity while filled with the shame of sin and abuse was like a maze of mirrors. I never knew if what I was seeing was my reflection at all. In the end I realized God found me and He knew where I was the whole time. The past 20 years of recovery are coming to a close. It has been a long journey out of shame and pain, walking into the healing light of God.

Poetry was one of the only ways I could express the situations in which I found myself. When reality had been processed and distilled down to its simplest, most authentic form, poetry was my heart’s elixir. This came through my connection with my Creator as He led me step by step. His view blended with my view, simplified the intense complexities and in the succinct words of a poem I could see clearly, often for the first time.

These three poems are examples of the progressive work of His Spirit mingling with my spirit. They are in sequence of experience and discovery. The last one I wrote this past weekend. Each one has come with new revelation of a God who knows how to touch me and heal my heart. In His presence each experience turns into silent words fitly spoken.

 Jeri's LifeLight Postcard - poem on image of stone hall

Shame, the darkness of not “BEING” right. Satan first introduced it as a subtle thought to the perfect pair that God has just joyfully completed. Not “being” right in the not knowing. “Such a horrible state of being–Not knowing. Such an easy thing to fix.” Satan told the Eden Pair!

And shame was accepted when the satanic reflection was accepted. And change was sought. And God’s perfect work was thrown away for a change of “being” – a new knowledge.

And it seems God went into hiding after that. Not because He wanted to but the shame of not “being “ right made God an unwelcome visitor. Humankind had accepted the reflection instead of what was real. But it wasn’t God that held the mirror.

Jeri's Maze of Mirrors Postcard - Poem on Image of glasses & vases

And now life is full of mirrors.  Lost in a maze of mirrors we turn from side to side banging into the solidity of the deception in our attempts to find escape from shame. Many give up long before they find freedom. Many knock themselves out banging against what isn’t real.

Only as God begins to restore what is real can it be distinguished from the shameful reflections. Only His light shows the way through the mirrors that result in more shame.

We all experience in some way the maze of mirrors that magnifies our shame. We all need to find our way out of the maze and into freedom.

God did not leave us without a way to know freedom. He says it simple and plain. It is in Truth that we find freedom. Not reflected “truth” from any other human, only the Truth that He gives. Truth that is discerned deep within the individual heart and seen through eyes touched by the light heaven shines into the soul.

Positioning is the main tool we have to access this healing. And the starting position is pretty low. Much lower than we find comfortable. Much lower than our protective minds are willing to take. Heaven knew we needed a friend in low places. And so one came and went there in the agony of shame. So we could go there too. And know the joy of resurrection. Today the Conqueror of Shame gives us hope. Only HE knows the way out of this mirror maze.

“He Endured the Shame for the Joy that was set before Him.”

Jeri's Image of the Desert will blossom Postcard

Yom Kippur Atonement
by JerryAnn Berry

With a long list of sins
I come to you
Not because you demand me to eat crow.
But because I know
You hold the fuller’s soap
The refiner’s fire
The Life giving blood.
I can exchange this dead stuff for
Your light
Your goodness
Your joy
Your restoration.
The closer I get to you
The more I see Your goodness.
My stack of “important” sins
Trickles through my fingers
Like sand.
You have forgiven them already.

I just needed to see
You had the way
to put them in the
Bottom of the sea.
Where all sand should be.
No condemnation here.
Only life and the beautiful curl of a wave
Glistening in the Son’s light.

Jeri's image of Hatteras Sunrise

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