First Verse, a journey through the Psalms: Psalm 70

Save me, O God!
    Lord, help me now!
Psalm 70:1 (GNT)

The cry of our heart.

Sometimes, we find ourselves on the bottom looking up.  We long to be free. Free from whatever holds us down. Free from the shackles binding us. Free from the situation we’re in. Circumstances in life have brought us to a place we did not plan for, did not expect, did not want.  Yet here we are.

And it may be from any number of reasons.

Debt. Divorce. Death. Discouragement. Disappointment. Unforgiveness. Mistakes. Loss. Lies. Joblessness. Illness. Hopelessness. Fear. Failure. Criticism. Betrayal. Anxiety.  Addiction. And everything in between.

So our hearts cry out. Save me! Help me!

And we wonder. Who can help?

Let us look, ask, and realize, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth.”Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

Our God is sovereign. He knows the circumstances in our life, the ones holding us down, holding us back. The devastating events that rock our world.

What shall our response be? On what do we focus? The problems and pains of this life? Or the goodness of the Lord?

He can release us, restore us, refresh us, so we can walk in the freedom and strength.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

“The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

The Lord lifts us up, “…out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Let me pray as the Psalmist prayed: “I am weak and poor; come to me quickly, O God. You are my savior and my Lord—hurry to my aid!”
Psalm 70:5 (GNT)

Grace and Peace

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First Verse, a journey through the Psalms: Psalm 68

Arise, O God, and scatter all your enemies! Chase them away!

Psalm 68:1 (TLB)

Arise O God. May that be our headline, rather than the headlines that horrify us lately:

Gunman opens fire…
Mass shooting…
Terror strikes…

It seems like one tragedy occurs after another. We are shaken, shocked, horrified, helpless. And often weary, numb, overwhelmed.

With each tragedy, we think, surely the world is more evil than it ever has been.

Yet, a Psalmist, thousands of years ago, cried out to the Lord to scatter his enemies. There was evil then, just as there is now.  And while we can analyze, identify, deliberate, argue, condemn, and legislate, there is only one thing that can confront evil head on. One thing that can undo it, defeat it. destroy it.

Love. God’s love.

I know it sounds trite. simple. even condescending. But even though the world may deny it, we have an enemy of our soul. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). We are in a battle with him (Ephesians 6:13). He prowls around to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is a murderer, a hater of truth and a liar (John 8:44). We see evidence of his schemes everywhere.

But.

While evil seeks to destroy, Love designs to build up (Ephesians 4:12). Love does not create fear, instead it gives us power and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Love is patient and kind, it protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4,7). Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, because Love is with us (Psalm 23:4).

In times like these, we are challenged with what we believe and living it out. Our hearts break. We ask why. And we weep with those who weep. Which brings me to a letter written by a man with a passion for God and his love.

In Paul’s day, evil, terrorism and violence were rampant. Just as we see today (truly there is nothing new under the sun). But Paul challenges the evil. Just as the Jesus he followed, he lived counter culturally, an upside down kingdom if you will. One that responds to evil with good.  There is a deeper truth in the letter he wrote to suffering believers. Not an easy truth, but a greater, grander truth. The truth of love.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

While we weep with those who weep, when we respond to tragedy with love, real love (the kind that gets involved, gets messy, does not grow weary, stays when others have moved on, offers help, gives hope) then, then, evil is defeated and Love Wins.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Arise and scatter our enemies. Comfort those who mourn. Help us find peace in the midst of tragedy, hope beyond what we see, and a faith that trusts in You.

Grace and Peace

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Another Response

“The angel of Adonai appeared… and said, “You valiant hero! The Lord is with you!” Judges 6:12 CJB

Gideon was an obscure nobody living in a time of oppression, suffering and evil, his homeland occupied by an enemy. Life was not good. Life was filled with darkness.

I love Gideon’s reply “Excuse me, sir.”

We, too, live in a time where life does not always seem good. Life is filled with darkness. We want to know the Lord is with us.

But when we see another horrendous act of evil, we say “Really? Is he? Excuse me?”
Like Gideon, we want to know “if Adonai is with us, then why is this happening to us?”

Gideon goes on to say, “Where are all his miracles our ancestors told us about when they said ‘Didn’t Adonai bring us up from (slavery)?’ For now Adonai has abandoned us and handed us over to (the enemy).”

Sure seemed like God had abandoned Gideon and his people. And it seems like He has abandoned us and handed us over to the enemy.

We want to be the generation of miracles. The heroes of old. Not the ones leading up to God’s miracles. Not the hurting masses. Not the oppressed. Not the victims.  We want to see the miracles. The mighty acts.

Will we hide like Gideon, fearful of the enemy, thinking God has abandoned us?

Or

Will God find us faithful in the midst of trials and tragedy?
Will we wait with eager expectation?
Will we count it all joy?
Will we exchange ashes of mourning for a crown of beauty?
Will we allow our suffering to turn to praise?

In Gideon’s case, the Lord was preparing to raise an army.

He can do the same today. Not a physical army. An army of prayer warriors. Ready to do battle against the evil seeking to steal kill and destroy. Warriors prepared to stand with our spiritual armor. A battle not using worldly weapons but weapons with God’s power for demolishing strongholds. Not against human beings, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers governing darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. If God is for us who can be against us! Stand firm then.
Pray.

Pray for those who persecute you!

Keep watch and pray.

Pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.

Pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Pray for God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Keep on praying, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people,

Pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

Pray this way for… all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Never stop praying.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, God of Angel Armies, raise up your people to pray. Ignite the hearts of your people, who bear your name, to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek your face and turn from our evil ways. Hear us from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.
(from 2 Chronicles 7:14)

Grace and Peace

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Building Oak Haven – road trip!

Wow. Two months since my last post.

And it has flown by.

Our oldest son, Daniel, and his dog arrived for a visit at the end of August. He was transitioning out of the military and spent a few weeks with us while he waited for his vehicle to arrive from Hawaii and before he and his girlfriend moved to Denver, Colorado.  In September, Jon and I planned to leave for our trip to visit my family in Pennsylvania, with the expectation we would head to Virginia in October for the arrival of our second grand baby.

Toward the end of September, when Daniel’s vehicle had not yet arrived in Dallas, we decided we’d have to take a slight detour on our trip. We packed up our truck and headed up to Denver to take son and dog to their new home.

I was sad to leave our new home for such a long time, but looked forward to the journey ahead

We endured the long hours and drove straight through, arriving in Denver late that night. KD was delighted to see us (especially Daniel and Kylie) . The next day, Jon and I took a drive into the mountains and spent the day enjoying the Colorado aspens in their glorious color. We took quite a few pictures of God’s beautiful creation. In the evening we had a great dinner with them at The Viewhouse. (I really need to remember to take more pictures when I’m with others).

Then it was time to drive east. I was sad to leave our son and his girlfriend for such a long time, but looked forward to the journey ahead.

Jon and I headed cross country to Edinboro, Pennsylvania to visit my family. It was my first time driving through Kansas and more than a corner of Missouri. I found the eastern part of the Kansas quite pretty.  Unfortunately we were too far north to visit Lambert’s in Sikeston, Missouri, much to Jon’s dismay.  The rest of the drive was rather familiar, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio. We’ve driven through them many times.

While in Pennsylvania, my sister and I sorted through more of mom’s stuff, including her holiday decorations (she loved her holidays), her jewelry (she loved her jewelry, especially holiday jewelry) and her pigs (she loved them, too, and collected them, along with cats). The picture doesn’t include the pigs still scattered about the house.

Jon and I also spent some time with the cousins, took a few bike rides around Presque Isle, made a day trip to Panama Rocks, and helped dad around the house with some chores. We also cooked lots of meals for him (and Jodie, when she stopped by after work).

While we were visiting, mom’s christmas cacti bloomed. She would get frustrated they never seem to bloom for her. It was blooming like crazy and I know she’d love it. What a beautiful flower.

When our daughter Heather texted to tell us she and Jarred were on the way to the hospital for the arrival of our second granddaughter, Jon and I packed up and headed to Norfolk, Virginia. I was sad to leave my dad and sister for such a long time, but looked forward to the journey ahead.

We were overjoyed with little Charlotte who arrived right on time. Perfect in every way. We spent lots of snuggle and play time with Scarlette, visited a pumpkin farm, and carved some pumpkins. We helped Heather and Jarred around the house and also cooked lots of meals for them. Then before we knew it, the time had come to head home again.

I was sad to leave our sweet grand babies for such a long time, but looked forward to the journey ahead.

On our way back home, Jon and I took the scenic route through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The drive to Asheville, North Carolina was interesting, since we drove through torrential rain (but thankfully not through the tornadoes that hit further south). The autumn color was beautiful, depending on what side of the mountain we were on. We took quite a few more pictures of God’s beautiful creation.

We arranged the timing of our final leg and stopped in Waco, Texas to visit and have dinner with our youngest, Jonny, at Baylor. He has a tough semester and it was good to spend time with him and see how he is doing. (I really need to remember to take more pictures when I’m with others).

I was sad to leave our youngest for such a long time, but looked forward to the journey ahead.

It’s good to be home again.

 

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Building Oak Haven – life

Life has slowly picked back up again. Not that it wasn’t going on before, but more so the daily-ness of life.  We’re back to some of our routines and making time for the things we enjoy.  That means we’re still making progress, just not as quickly as before.

We’ve continued with our plan to work through the pile of shelving and finish out the rest of the closets.  As we worked on the pantry and I realized how much space I have, I decided to change up one of the kitchen cabinets we designed.  I had originally planned a broom closet to match our kitchen cabinets and sit between the kitchen and the mudroom area.  Interestingly enough, our cabinet maker built the broom closet with adjustable shelves. Since the brooms and mops didn’t fit in there quite the way I wanted, I decided to install the shelves and use it as a game closet. It looks like that’s what it was meant to be.

And the brooms and mops fit nicely behind the door in the pantry. With nine foot ceilings, we have plenty of storage space. I finally have all of my crockpots inside the house (rather than stored in the garage like we’ve had to before) and I even have room for our toddler booster seat for grandbaby visits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jon and his dad also finished out the hall closet and guest bedroom closets. However, our painter (me!) still has to paint the shelves and cleating in the bedroom closets.  I love the guest bathroom and look forward to family and friends visiting. I’ve tried to put in the extra touches (like a nice tub and shower fixture, among other things) to make our guests feel pampered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jon and his best friend, Mark (who has provided arial shots of our property in previous posts), had an epic trip planned for quite some time – to experience the Solar Eclipse 2017. Given the crazy year we’ve had so far, I wasn’t planning to go. But when Jon told me he really wanted me to experience it with him, I changed my mind.

We packed up our vehicle at the same time our youngest packed his. He headed back to college for his second year, we headed out on our pilgrimage north, to the swath of totality in Wyoming.  We spent the first night in Lubbuck with Jon’s brother and wife, Craig and Amy. Craig also had plans to drive to an area of totality, but he was bravely taking his two teen/preteen daughters and friends. The second day we drove on to Denver where we stayed with another of Jon’s brothers and wife, Jim and Vanessa. From there we headed up into Wyoming. We had reservations in Laramie, because there was no room at any inn anywhere within totality. There we met up with Mark and his daughter Aubrey and on Monday morning we woke up early (hoping to avoid traffic) and took local highways and back roads up into a national forest west of Wheatland and near Bearhead Mountain.

Hundreds of our fellow eclipsers lined the dirt road, some having camped overnight and some having arrived before we did. We finally came across a place to pull off that nobody had yet claimed, with plenty of room for both our vehicles. When we looked up at the rock cliffside across the road, we noticed we were in the “shadow” of the cross, so to speak. And had parked at the entrance of Camp Grace.  How awesome is that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guys set up their cameras and Aubrey and I set up our chairs. Then we waited. We, like much of the country, watched, through our eclipse glasses, the moon slowly slide in front of the sun. All I can say, is the difference between 99% and 100% is amazing. One second, the sun was still to bright to look at and the next, took my breath away. 

This is one of the pictures my husband captured. But he agrees, pictures don’t do the colors of the eclipse justice. What an amazing phenomena to experience. If you’d like to see some more pictures, check out my Facebook profile where Mark Langford tagged me in some of the photos he took. And a shout out to Marlin for letting us use a small spot on the camp property.

So, that’s why our house hasn’t been coming along as quickly as it was before. And we’ve returned home just in time for the excitement of Hurricane Harvey. As our encounter with Hurricane Katrina twelve years ago (I shared my experiences at the ten year anniversary in my posts in 2015), we hold our breath as the storm makes its way to the coast, wondering what it will leave behind in its wake. Praying for all of those in its path, as well as the decision makers and first responders.

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