Come Near to Me, King

When the bad days outnumber the good

When the sad is more than I can bear

When the heartache is more than I can stand

You are here

 

When this house is not a home

When this earth is not my place

When this longing engulfs my being

You are here

 

When I cry the tears no one sees

When I scream the words no one hears

When I fall to pieces with no one near

You are here

 

When I walk through the valley of death

And fear all things

You comfort me

You give me green pastures and sunny skies

Surely I will dwell in your house forever

 

You let me feast on your goodness

While my enemies watch

You overfill my cup

And give me more than I deserve

Surely I’m your favorite

 

Your goodness overwhelms my soul

For nothing can take from me

What you freely give.

 

I bow before the King and set aside this world in preparation for my Savior.  I long for your justice, judge me accordingly.  Refine my broken heart until all that remains is your perfection.  May I dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

Psalm 23 and Malachi 3:1-5

 

My Christmas Gift

Welcome to the season we all have eagerly awaited, the Christmas season.  Christmas is the season of celebrating my freedom.  This season, the birth of He who bridged Heaven and earth, is the epicenter of my faith.  He came to feel my pain and offer me a new perspective on the outcome.  He came to make Himself a tangible entity, a God who humbled Himself to know me greater that I might love Him more.  No other God in history has offered Himself to those He loves such as the creator of the universe did for me.  He came to bring an end to my captivity, to set me free.  

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Lost and hiding in the dark, you found me.  Unsure if you looked for a while or if you knew my exact location, I suspected I outran you.  I did not expect you to come to hell to find me.  Deservedly scared and alone, my captor kept me shackled.  A fitting punishment.  I overheard you speaking with him about my ransom.  It was costly, but you agreed to give your only son in exchange for my life.  You said I was worth your sacrifice.  The chains fell.  I was free to leave.  

Why set me free?  Why give your only son after I took you for granted?  I ran away, hid, cursed your name, and turned my back on you.  I did not deserve freedom; I deserved the chains that bound me.  You agreed, but you loved me beyond what I could see.  You loved me immeasurably more than my angry stubbornness.  My broken heart cried as you showed me my hope and my future.

My ransom came in the form of a baby born in a stable, laid in a manger.  Surrounded by barnyard friends, the savior of my soul drew his first breath.  Hope came to life.  He shattered the dark, fulfilling promise and prophecy.  The light of the world came to take my place one cold December night in the most humbling way.

Silently I wept, as I watched the scene unfold.  How could you sacrifice that precious little boy for my cold, bitter heart?  So quiet and innocent; his hands and feet were tiny.  His eyes were so bright and unforgettable.  All of Heaven rejoiced shouting “Glory to God in the highest” for the King of Heaven and Earth was born.  And you gave him as my ransom.

How do I repay you?  You secured my freedom; I’m forever in your debt.  I have no silver, no gold; I have nothing to give.  You lifted my tear-stained face and looked directly into my eyes while you explained why you gave your son freely.  He was your gift to me, for me.  In return, you wanted my acceptance of your gift, your child as my ransom.  His life for my soul.  You asked that I believe with all my heart that my debt was paid and live freely always remembering your sacrifice.  I would never forget this baby in the straw, my forever Christmas gift.  For he is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  I fell to my knees in adoration.  From the mountain tops, I would proclaim the story of how you paid my debt with your only son.  

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21   

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

May this Christmas and every Christmas serve as a reminder of Hope.  The chains of my oppressor forever broken by the precious baby who paid my debt with his life, perfect love.

Welcome to the season!

All I Have

There are days when life overwhelms me.  This journey I am on is not a trip to a far off place.  It’s the journey of being here and staying here, on this path that chose me.  Many days, it is not what I desire.  I’m here and cannot change that.  

“It’s your life,” you say to me.

“No,” I reply, “it is not.”  I have given my life’s journey over to the one who made the sun, the moon, and the stars.  For better or worse, I vowed I would praise Him until I see Him face to face.  I intend to do just that.  He saved me; I owe my rescuer my life, my heart, and my sincere gratitude for each breath I draw.  For each new sunrise, I offer Him thanks.  

Journey with me to the end of John chapter six.  The crowd gathered, and Jesus is talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (verse fifty-four).  As twenty-first century Christians, we understand what he was saying; this is not cannibalism.  The Jews in verse fifty-two, however, took Jesus literally.  How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  They just did not comprehend.  Consequently, we are told, “From this point, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  (verse sixty-six)  

Jesus asked the twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  (verse sixty-seven through sixty-nine)  It was Peter who gave the most profound answer.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe you and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  Matthew 4:19  

Jesus asked the twelve just as He asks us today.

There are days I am tempted to click the “unfollow” button (as Pastor Dow said today).  Some days I would rather choose to grumble, wallow in my mud pit, and sulk in self-pity because this is not the life I wanted.  Left to my desires, I would take the easy road.  Jesus says “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23  Frankly, desiring to be like Christ and sticking with it until the end is a tough choice.  Somedays I want to “unfollow” Jesus.  Just for a bit, though, until the bumpy road levels out and I can see sunny days.  Then I will “follow” again.  

Peter put it plainly, “Where else would we go, Lord?”  

Where would I go?  Back to the previous path I traveled?  Granted it was fun and I had life at my fingertips, but to gain the world and lose my soul?  Is that worth it?  I don’t want to go back.

Jesus called the disciples, just like He calls me, to leave my old way of thinking, pick up my nets, and follow Him.  He calls me to let go of my perfect world expectations and trust (in faith) that His plan for my life is good.  

The “unfollow” button is just a click away.  I can give up and give in.  Jesus could have easily given up and given in.  He could have removed himself from the cross when the going was beyond tough.  Jesus didn’t.  He saw His death, burial, and resurrection all the way through to the end.  Jesus knew that His father’s plan was perfect, challenging, but perfect.

This journey chose me.  Where else would I go when my Savior gave all?

Father, I don’t want my foolish pride and my expectations.  Grab my fear, my worry, my doubt from my hands.  Take my life and breathe on this heart that is now yours.  I want to follow you with every part of my world.  All my heart’s desires, I lay at your feet.  I trust the one who gave sight to the blind, made the broken whole, and walked out of a tomb.  To whom do I go, Lord?  You are the only Holy One of God.

On day eleven, I lay it all down so I may reach up with empty hands in a blessing of thanksgiving for the one who laid it all down for me.  Who else do I give my praise, when He gave the gift of eternal life?  

You can have it all Lord; this is your journey, and I follow you.  

Shopping at the Low-Cost Leader

I took a trip to Walmart today.  I don’t particularly enjoy this and avoid it at all costs.  My frequented low-cost leader is in Arkansas.  While the journey across the border is only a few miles, it takes me forever.  I drive slowly on the narrow, curvy roads.  My common goal for all stores is to get in, shop as quickly as possible, and then retreat to my safe little quiet world.  Today, I did not accomplish my mission.  The world had a lot to say.  

I have three shirts I alternate wearing for football season.  Each has “Oklahoma” printed boldly on them.  My Oklahoma shirts have never been a point of conversation, until today.

“You from Oklahoma?”  asks the man with three teeth.

“Um, yes?  I grew up far removed from the rest of the state in the panhandle.”  I answer reluctantly never wanting to claim that state (I was born in Colorado).  Bear in mind carrying on conversations is not my forte.  God, with His delightful sense of humor, places me in these scenarios.  I sense Him laughing at me.

The three-toothed man becomes visibly excited here, “Me too!  I’m from Beaver County.  What county you from?”

“Cimarron.  I grew up on the edge of civilization in Cimarron County.”  (Which county is the question of any Panhandler, as there are only three.  Your place of origin matters in this context.  The further west you travel in the Panhandle of Oklahoma the further removed you become from civilization.  Visit, I dare ya!!)  Now, I’m thinking that I’m going to be here forever (I was).

At this point, the man can no longer contain himself.  As it turns out, he worked for the Museum in Goodwell (where my folks went to college) several towns east of mine.  He worked on an archaeology team that dug up dinosaur and other prehistoric (wooly mammoth, saber-toothed cats, ice age stuff.  There are even some prehistoric humans found out there, no kidding.  I still dare ya to visit!) animals from Cimarron County.  It is a very dinosaur-rich land.  We chat about the treeless, rock-filled land of my youth for several minutes too long when God gives me the nod and the wink (I imagine this).  

“You know Jesus?”  I ask point blank.  

“Yup, sure do.  Thanks for asking.”  He replied, nodding his head in certainty.  

(Thank you blogging friend Wally for bringing this point up just the other day!  Worth the read, by the way!)  

It wasn’t five minutes later, and I hear a voice from behind me holler out “You ever watch NCIS on the TV?”  Please imagine all this with your best country bumpkin accent.  

“I may have seen it once or twice.”  I hesitantly reply, not knowing where this conversation will land, as the man on the scooter proceeds to tell me all about an episode.  I’m questioning God at this point until the man says after the final description of the scene, “I don’t have long to live, they found a tumor.”

“Do you know Jesus?”  I ask as the man’s eyes fill with tears.

“Yes, yes I do.”  He tells me.

“So you know He’s your hope through all this, right?”  I ask, pushing the issue just a little.  

I reassured the man through prayer and moved on only to have yet another dinosaur conversation with the three-toothed man.  Later I’m drawn into a conversation about my beloved University of Oklahoma Sooners with several women.  Next, I climb some shelves while another lady kept me from falling as I retrieve freezer deodorizer and finally made it to the checkout lane, two hours later.  

The cashier was a teenager who just voted in his very first election, wearing a Santa hat.  This hat wearing bit challenged him today, and he was tired.  Bitter folks saw fit to make numerous comments about the absurdity of celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving.  I said to the exhausted kid, “Ya know, we need to celebrate Christmas first.  Without Christmas, we have nothing to be thankful for at Thanksgiving.”   

The youngster stopped mid transaction and looked directly at me as the light bulb illuminated in his mind and said, “yes, that’s right we do need Christmas first.  I’m going to use that as my response from now on and wear this hat happily.”  

On, day nine in my endless quest for thanksgiving, I say “Jesus.”  Jesus is indeed the reason for this season as well as the next.  In fact, Jesus is the reason for all the seasons.  God Almighty became flesh and dwelt among us.  If that does not cause thanksgiving, I don’t know what does.  

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

So, I find a bit of gratitude in my forever long journey to the low-cost leader in Arkansas.  Jesus.  Jesus who never changes.  The cross is still just as relevant today as it was to the first-century believers.  As well, His words still speak to me centuries later.  He is Truth, always Truth.  

And today I uttered my first “Merry Christmas” of the season, not a moment too early.