Saturday, August 29, 2009
It was taken on June 25th around 8pm (Florida Time) the evening of Caroline Taylor's surgery.
I've shared the prayer request of baby Caroline with some of you, but some may not know. I have dear friends in New Orleans that have been blessed with their first Grandchild. She is absolutely beautiful!
Only God knew that little baby Caroline was to be born with spina bifida.
God's people have prayed for her. Jeremiah 29:11 has been the verse that has been claimed for her many times. She is precious and if you would like to follow her story, click on this link:
So, about the rainbow. I took the picture as we were driving back from a fishing hole on our ranch. I had been trying to keep myself in an attitude of prayer for little Caroline as I knew she was facing another surgery that evening. A rainstorm forced us away from the fishing hole and as we headed to the house.........this beautiful rainbow appeared.
It appeared as my mind went from praying to worrying. It was as if God said, "I know the plans I have for her, plans for good and not evil, plans to give her a future and a hope." Then he said, "Cheri, I keep my promises.....trust me, I can take care of Caroline." So, I took a picture to remind me of how personal God was to me in that special moment.
Well.......this week (August 27th) I felt as if I needed to share this rainbow picture with Caroline's grandmom, so I texted it to her. It wasn't too long after I sent the text that my phone rang and it was Caroline's Grandmom.
I had no idea that Grandmom Sheila had been thinking and praying for baby Caroline throughout the night and when she got up that morning, she saw my text. It was as if God was reminding her that He was in control and He was taking care of baby Caroline.
I had taken that picture over 2 months ago, but God had me send it to Caroline's Grandmom at the "exact" time she needed it.
We have such an AWESOME, PERSONAL, LOVING GOD! He knows just what we need, and when we need it.
He is with us!
Please keep praying for baby Caroline. It is my understanding that she is being dedicated to the Lord tomorrow. Grandmom will be there, along with many others.
Remember.........God is near!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It meant so much to me to get the voice mails I received yesterday from friends that didn't know Retia, but prayed for her over the last 4 months. Thank you for leaving messages that you were praying for me and her family yesterday as we remembered Retia.
It was hard for me to look at the grandkids. These little ones that she loved so much. It still makes me sad and angry that they will not have Retia to share life with as they grow up. Times like these are hard to understand, so I won't even begin trying to explain them. I am clueless. It just doesn't make sense.
It doesn't make sense to my finite mind at all. In a world where so many families do not have an example of unconditional love, why would this family that is full of love and grace have such a significant person taken from them? That question continues to roll through my mind and I have to be honest, I struggle with it.
Yes, I know Romans 8:28. I know that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. I know that God has been at work in this family and will continue to be at work. I know that, but he never said that all things are good. Losing Retia is not good. It is bad. It is sad. The promise is that God will take all of this bad and sad stuff and bring good out of it. Somehow, someway he knows how to weave a beautiful tapestry out of circumstances and emotions that can get me all tangled up.
We live in a fallen world. This world is not our permanent home. THANK YOU GOD! We will suffer. Even when it is not our fault. I am sad today. I am sad because this has been a long journey for this family, and the journey is not over.
Yes, Retia is no longer among them physically. There is finality in that; however, the journey of learning to live in this "new normal" has just begun. Please do not stop praying for this precious family as the Lord brings them to your mind. They need are prayers just as much now.
While I am sad today, I am thankful for a blessing the Lord gave me on this journey. God has blessed me through the CaringBridge website. God knew I needed to have a visual picture of how big His family is. There were so many people that gathered around this one family. It was good to reconnect with old friends and make new ones as I read the journals and the guestbook.
I couldn't help to think about how much bigger God's family really is. It is huge. I needed this reminder. I needed to be reminded that God has His children scattered all over the place. He knows where each of us are and one day there will be a "great gathering" of all the saints. MUCH bigger than CaringBridge.
Until that day may be about our Father's business. May we continue to love as we have been loved. May we walk where Jesus would walk and remember how He carried his cross up a hill in order to bridge the gap between us and God.
Let's not forget one another. Let's keep caring for one another and allowing Christ to bridge the gaps.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
He has always had a great sense of humor. Although he has tried to hide much of it since he has entered the teenage years, I can still see it seeping out. As his mother, I can still see the same grin that I first saw when he was a baby in my arms.
He has brought us so much joy.
Tenderhearted, is how I would describe him. He describes himself as a "gentle giant". He truly is. I pray he will always continue to be tenderhearted & have a gentle spirit.
He accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior the summer prior to 2nd grade. I will never forget.
About 2 weeks prior to him accepting Christ, he became extremely aware of his sinfulness. We would catch him on his knees praying. Sometimes during supper, he would close his eyes and pray. We would inquire. He would say I am asking for forgiveness. I just sinned.
We would say, "when?" He said, "I had a bad thought."
For 2 weeks he lived in turmoil over his sinful condition.
We would share the gospel.
He would agree, but the agony of his sinfulness would continue.
I asked a few others to pray.
One evening he asked me if I had seen the insert in the bulletin at church on Sunday? We were about to have a revival and the insert inside was announcing the revival and it also had the A, B, C's of becoming a Christian printed on it.
I told him I had seen it. He said, "Did you know about the A,B,C's? I said, "yes". He said, "Why haven't you ever told me?" My heart sank, I thought we had explained the gospel so well, and honestly thought the A,B,C's were one of the ways we had explained it, but then I knew that the light bulb would not come on until the Holy Spirit opened his eyes.
I will never forget what he said as he pounded his little fist into his hand. He said you mean you know that you must, A-admit you are a sinner, B-believe that Jesus died for your sins, C-confess that Jesus is your Lord and commit to follow him? I said, "Yes, I know that!"
He proceeded to tell me that he had taken that paper and showed a few people at church on Sunday and asked them if they knew about the A,B, C's and if they had done what it says to do. He said, they all said yes they knew about the A,B,C's and they had done that so I asked them, "Why haven't you ever told me?"
I was stunned.
I asked him if he had done that? He said, "no". Although I was saved at an even younger age, I was trembling inside not wanting to put words in his mouth. So, my awkward answer was, "Well, one day you may want to do that!" Then I said, "If you do, would you talk to me and dad about it?" He agreed he would. (dumb me, he was talking to me)
So, the next thing I know he was sitting at the kitchen table with his head bowed and his hands folded. I waited a moment and then he looked up at me and said, "There I did it!" I said, "Did what?" He said, "I became a Christian!"
Then in his little "preacher boy" way with his fist pounding in his hand, he once again explained the A,B, C's to me. I still think he was not convinced I understood it. I think in my fear of trying to make sure I wasn't putting words in his mouth, I made it so much more complicated than his simple mind understood. He was FREE! He had a new bounce in his step. He no longer carried the burden of his sinfulness. In his childlike way, he understood that Jesus forgave him.
WOW! I wouldn't change that day for anything. It is forever etched in my mind. I've journaled about it before and gave it to him on the day of his baptism, but today as we approach his 16 year old, physical birthday, I am reminiscing about his spiritual milestones as well. This was his beginning point of his personal journey of faith with Jesus. I praise God that he has continued to grow in his faith.
It has been a joy to be the mama of this "gentle giant".
And those words he so innocently spoke still echo in my ears, "Why Haven't You Ever Told Me?"
I have to wonder how many others do I come in contact with on a daily basis that are looking for the simple answers; however, I want to make the gospel more complicated than it is?
It is my prayer that "as I go" in my daily life, that I will be ready at all times to give an answer for the hope that is in me. May I trust the Holy Spirit to do the work in the hearts I come in contact with. May I decrease and let Christ increase and as I abide in Him, may I remember the gospel is as simple as A,B, C.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
What I found was that God could handle my struggle, questions, and doubt, but He sure hated seeing me doubt what He had already taken care of so completely.
Let me just say that there has to be a beginning point. and as simple as my beginning point was.......there was a beginning point when my faith journey with Jesus began. I was 5 years old and while it was very simple, it was a personal beginning.
It cannot be your parent's faith, it is "personal".
PLEASE do not compare your salvation experience to another person's experience.
Remember God knows you better than anyone and He knows how to speak to each of us.
Let me just say for those who have a date and time when they were saved. I am happy you do, but for those of us who don't, we are not any less saved.
Through the years, I have heard people say, "Unless you know the exact time and date of when you began your relationship with Christ than you are not saved" I have wondered if they are putting more faith and trust in that time and date than they are in taking Jesus at His Word. Just a thought.
Simply put........it's FAITH. Faith in the finished work of Jesus. Not faith plus a time & date, faith plus a specific prayer, faith plus walking the aisle, faith plus following specific steps, roads or acrostics.
JUST FAITH in Jesus. Faith that He paid it all. It's not so complicated. It begins in an instant; however, we will spend a lifetime growing in that faith.
I will be writing some thoughts in the future about growth and about why I think so many people doubt their salvation, but I will end with a personal story.
When I was about 25 years old, I was going through a really difficult time. It involved a person that was constantly doing things to hurt me and my husband. I wanted to forgive this person, but I was struggling with how to forgive, when I knew I had forgiven, etc. The enemy was constantly waging war with my mind.
I called a professor of mine, Dr. Charles Harvey, and asked him, "How do you know you have forgiven someone?"
He said, "Cheri, when you can honestly get on your knees and release that person." When you can say to God, " that you are leaving the vengeance up to Him ". "When you are no longer seeking revenge."
I said, "But it still hurts." He said, "Oh yes, it will still hurt, but that doesn't mean you haven't forgiven."
Then I said, "I feel so rotten inside, I have even been doubting my salvation and now I am worried that I am not saved."What he said was so simple, but it STUCK!
He said, "Cheri, just the fact that you are "worried" about your salvation says you are saved." He said, "Honestly, I've never met a lost person that worried if they were saved. He said, "just that fact that you are worried about it says you believe."
Now that was simple, yet profound.
I am writing this to anyone that may be struggling. Don't let the enemy hang you up.
Just remember that when God convicts it is for the purpose of setting us free, and restoring us. He is about freedom, but when satan speaks it is about condemnation, our performance, shame and BONDAGE!
Stay close to Jesus and His Word and no longer allow yourself to be a slave. Saturate your mind with His Word and then you will be able to distinguish between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the fiery darts of condemnation from the enemy.
If you began your journey with Jesus, He is with you always. You can tell him everything you are struggling with. He already knows, but telling Him will give you relief and allow you to feel His comfort.
Love You All,
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who BEGAN a good work in you will carry it on to completion until he day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-6
Friday, August 7, 2009
As a child, I "caught" plenty.
I've been thinking about some of those things.
How did I know the Bible was a special book???? My first remembrance was going to a Ladies Home Bible Study with my mother. It had to be prior to me starting Kindergarten, because it was during the day, while my brother was at school.
I remember the elderly lady who led the study. Her name was Mrs. Jones. I remember how she held the Bible. She held it as if it was her most precious possession. She licked her fingers before she carefully turned each page.
I even remember going home and practicing turning the pages of my own Bible, just like I had seen her do. (even licked my fingers!)
I didn't know how to "study" the Bible, but what I "caught" from Mrs. Jones and all the ladies who listened so attentively was that this was a special book. It was God's Word. It was true and it must be very important because week after week these ladies would gather to read from it.
So what cherished memories do you have? What have you "caught"?
Would you be willing to share some of those memories?
If so, please post a comment. I would love to hear.................
Thursday, August 6, 2009
You see I became a Christian at a very young age, I wasn't quite 5. There were a lot of things I didn't know, but there were some things I knew.
I knew I was a sinner.
I knew Jesus died for my sins.
I knew He didn't stay dead, but rose again and lived in Heaven.
And I knew that one day, John 3:16 became very personal to me.
I remember approaching my mom and telling her that Jesus was speaking to my heart and that He wanted to live inside it. I remember telling her that I knew I was a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins. I remember her taking the Bible as we knelt beside our couch in the living room. I remember her putting my name in John 3:16 as she read, "For God so loved, Cheri....... and I remember that He became my Lord and Savior on that day.
I remember how the burden of my sin was gone. I remember that freedom!
Those are the things I knew, those are the things I remember. That is before I knew.........
someone had written a prayer called "The Sinners Prayer".
someone had written several plans of how to become a Christian that included steps, roads, and different acrostics that had specific meanings.
someone had written a "program" called evangelism and another "program" called discipleship.
before I had been taught different approaches to studying the Bible, I KNEW it was a special book and that it was the TRUTH.
Even before I knew much of what Lordship meant, He was my Lord. (and I am still learning more about what it means)
Before I was "officially" trained to witness, I was telling people about Jesus.
And Yes, even before I knew there was an "aisle to walk", I had walked right up to Jesus and asked Him to enter in my heart and be the boss of my life.
That was before I heard some well meaning pastors say, "Unless you know the specific time and date you asked Jesus into your heart than you are not a Christian." Oh dear, I wouldn't know that about my physical birth unless someone documented it, but I certainly know I was born. And YES..........I know I was "born again."
I am not mocking knowledge. I am not saying we shouldn't be trained, and make plans; however, before I knew so much, I KNEW, and what I knew was simple. Simple, but strong and sure.
I think that is probably why Jesus loved being around the little children and why he had something to say to the disciples when they asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:1-4
I am learning that faith isn't so much about knowledge & understanding as much as it was about TRUST.
Trusting in HIM. I want to dwell in knowing and remembering the simple things. Knowing He is trustworthy. Knowing I am weak, but He is strong. Knowing that He paid my sin debt in full.
Oh God help me to renew my childlike faith and trust that one day I will know fully, as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13)
Teach me how to remain childlike, without becoming childish. Help me to grow in my knowledge of you, without thinking I have outgrown my need for you.
Jesus Loves ME, this I KNOW.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Truth be known, the older I get the more I hate change. I used to thrive on change almost to the point of becoming chaotic; however, lately I find myself struggling with trying to keep things the same, familiar and predictable.
Some of you have walked the last four months with me as we have prayed for some friends of ours that were struck by an SUV while crossing a street. The husband has recovered pretty well, but the wife suffered a severe brain injury and has been on a roller coaster ride towards recovery.
There have been a lot of changes along this ride. Ups and downs, turns, curves and corners, and a few days ago she began going downward. Downward and downward.
Every now and then I would text her husband with two words........."any change?" and he would reply, "no change."
Then I received an email last night that said she went home to be with Jesus around 4:20 pm. Change. Not the change we had hoped and prayed for, but change. For her, the change is good. She is whole. She is in the presence of her Savior. For us, the change is.....................unknown. It will be different for everyone that loved and knew her .
As I have been processing all of this I have thought about several things I would not change. I would not change one thing about Retia. She had a way of saying your name that said she totally respected you and loved you just as you are. She had a way of saying her husband's name that made us all laugh. She said Jimmy Dukes as if it was all one word, "JimmyDukes".
I wouldn't change a thing about her, but I am forever changed because of her.
I thank God for the life of Retia Dukes. She deposited the love of Christ into every soul she connected to and she didn't even keep the change. She just kept giving and giving and because of that she never ran out of love to deposit.
May we continue to love others as we have been loved.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen. for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
O.K., that sounds good, but how do we do that? How do we fix our eyes on things we cannot see? How do we see the unseen?
Turn on the news lately? There is plenty to see. Plenty to get discouraged about, plenty to fix our eyes on; however, the scripture tells us not to FIX our eyes on those things. I am not saying to stick our heads in the sand and refuse to stay current on the happenings around the world, but the temporary cannot become our focus.
Our focus is to be on the unseen, the eternal.
I am not saying this is easy. There is a price and many times the price we have to pay is the willingness to face our fears. Fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, fear of not being in control, fear of being misunderstood, unpopular and considered a fanatic, etc. etc. Fear comes in many forms and fear can become paralyzing. Yesterday I was reminded of the power of fear as I watched my daughter stand at the edge of the ocean.
When did this happen? When did my 9 year old daughter become so aware of sharks and stingrays that she no longer enjoys the ocean as she once did.? As she stood pretty much frozen in fear we talked about how she used to love to go in the ocean and jump over the waves. This is something she did with her daddy, but yesterday her daddy was gone fishing with her brother, so it was just her and I standing there looking out into the ocean.
She told me about some show she had watched on T.V. about sharks and stingrays. My heart sank. I know we need to be aware of potential danger but how much information is too much? The fear I saw her frozen in made me sad and mad. The sounds of her belly laughing with her daddy just a short time ago swam through my head. The memory of watching them play in the water now seemed so out of reach. I stood there wishing I could push rewind and play that scene over and over, but there is no remote control or TiVo in "real" life.
Her focus used to be on her daddy and enjoying him. Enjoying being in his arms and facing each challenging wave, but now........her focus was on the scary things that she had seen on T.V. The things she believed were just lurking in the water waiting to hurt her. For her.... the "unseen" was too scary to jump in the ocean. However, it was what she SAW on T.V. that even made her aware of the possiblities under the water.
We talked about her fears and today the plan is to face the ocean with her daddy. She wouldn't let me take her in the ocean (and I am o.k. with that), but she is willing to face her fears with her daddy.
So.........here we are! Where are you? Will you face your fears today? What waves do you face? What do you believe is just below the surface ready to swallow you up? Will your focus be on your Heavenly Father who holds you in His arms? Will you let him carry you as you face each wave and let Him show you the things that can only be seen through His eyes?
Oh God, give us eyes to see beyond our fears. May we all rest in your arms and see the world through your eyes. Give us insight into what is eternal. Help us to trust you for wisdom. Oh Father, when we do find ourselves frozen in fear, help us to face it and to enjoy being with you.........and if it has been a while since we have "belly" laughed, give us that gift again. This is my prayer in Jesus' name.