My Heaven on Earth

murrells inletI haven’t shared many beach pictures lately because we no longer live on the coast. But master photographer Dan Thompkins (Southern Living Photography) captured this amazing shot of my most favorite place on earth: Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. It’s considered the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”, and home to the famous “Marshwalk” and the best seafood restaurants around. It’s the launching place of deep-sea fishing excursions, jet-ski rentals, and more.

But for me it has long been my prayer garden. The sunrise over this magical place is brilliant, but so is the moonlight dancing on the water at 2:00 a.m. It’s the place where my mother lived with my step-dad Cliff during some of the happiest days of her life. It’s where Cliff took my young nephews to spotlight alligators. It’s where I bonded with my step-sister, Ronna.  I spent hours upon hours walking these shores with my mother, and also alone with God. It’s where I got baptized in the Holy Ghost. It’s where I met AND married the great love of my life, Edward Leitch.  It’s where Ed and I came face-to-face with a giant sea turtle swimming alongside our boat. It’s where I sat in a boldly-painted rocking chair, listening to steel-drum music while watching the goats and peacocks frolic on the island across the way.

Yes, to some it’s just a grassy body of water opening up to the mighty Atlantic ocean. To me, it’s a piece of heaven on earth. God willing, we’ll be camping there soon.

Resting at Rock Bottom

rock bottomWe are all too familiar with the term “Rock Bottom”.  It conjures up images of rocky terrain in the valleys winding through desolate deserts. We may visualize the fallen person as sitting on the rocky floor of a deep, dark well, having lost all hope of rescue.   Nobody ever desires to hit “rock bottom”, as it is perceived to be the worst place a person could ever land.  And yet many of us have found ourselves right there.

We all go through various trials and tribulations along life’s journey.  But rock bottom happens when everything seems to fall apart at once.  Think of poor Job in the Old Testament.  That godly man hit rock bottom with a loud thud!  He lost his children, his wealth and livelihood, and then his health.  Even his wife told him that he should just curse God and die!  (Job 2:9)

Rock bottom happens when we lose our jobs; when our spouse cheats on us or leaves us; when a child dies; when we lose our homes; when we lose our health.  My husband and I both experienced rock bottom moments years before we met.  But we both can shout and testify that those rock bottom moments were the moments we had to depend on the Lord 100%.  We each renewed our faith and emerged healed, filled and delivered!  Divorce and foreclosure, the deaths of parents and a child, and simultaneous job losses found each of us (at respective points in our lives) lying face down on that cold, hard surface of circumstances.  That lonely desolate place where all hope seemed lost is where the Savior Himself reached down and held us, promising to never leave us nor forsake us.  (Hebrews 13:5)  Although it seemed that everyone had left us, Jesus was right there… even at rock bottom.

I Googled images of “rock bottom” and retrieved a plethora of desert photos, mountains and valleys, and even a few cave openings.  Yet in almost every picture captured, no matter the surrounding terrain, at the very bottom there was water:  a stream, a river, or a lake.  The Lord immediately spoke to me saying, “I AM the river in the desert.  I AM the Living Water.  If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me.”  (Is. 43:19-20, John 4:10, John 7:37)  “I AM your rest and refreshing.  Lean on Me, and be healed and filled with my Spirit.  My joy shall be your strength.  I AM your hope of Glory.”  (Mark 6:31, Acts 3:19, Psalm 147:3, Neh. 8:10, Col. 1:27)

My friend, if you have found yourself at rock bottom, it makes no difference what chain of events may have dropped you there.  I know your fall was great, and painful.  I know it seems lonely and desolate where you lay.  But this is not your end.  You shall live and not die.  This is your time to reflect, to seek, and to heal.  Cast all of your cares upon Him, for He cares for you!  (1 Peter 5:7)  May you be refreshed and strengthened in Christ Jesus.  Your rock bottom is not a desolate grave, but rather a launching pad.  Get up and look up, for your redemption is nigh!  Cling closely to the Lord Jesus, and He will raise you up – healed, filled and delivered!  Rise up and walk again!

 

The Reigning Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9.6At Christmastime we recite the well-known story of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus from Luke Chapter 2.  We exchange gifts and spare no expense in decorating our homes, our work spaces and even our vehicles.  We display our nativity sets and sing “Silent Night” in remembrance of the greatest gift the world has ever received:  the birth of its Savior.  We gorge ourselves on Christmas goodies, treats and feasts, excusing our gluttony in Jesus’ Name.  It is His birthday we are celebrating, after all.

Yet there is something going on in the spiritual realm that is immensely bigger than anything we can wrap our little human minds around.  Father God, who orchestrated this entire event that we have been celebrating for over 2,000 years, is grander and infinitely wiser than the most intellectually elite, and we would do well to heed His majesty and sovereignty.    He created the earth and all who inhabit her; and He is in complete control of how His well-laid plan will unfold for humanity, and for each of us individually.

Yes, we are given free-will and endure consequences to our choices, good or bad.  But He designed a plan for mankind, and His will shall ultimately come to pass.  He gave His Son as a sacrifice to pay our insurmountable debt, so that we may be reunited with Him, our Creator.  Once Jesus paid that debt with His own blood on the Cross at Calvary, our salvation was sealed.  All we must do is repent, ask for His forgiveness (which He is quick to extend in His mercy and grace), and commit our lives to Him forever.  We can be assured that we will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus and our Heavenly Father, but what about today?

It took me a long time to truly grasp the meaning of “Let go and let God.”  But once we realize that we are His children, covered by His blood and His promises, then we truly have nothing to fear.  We can release the worrisome waves that drown us in anxiety, anger, depression, sickness and despair.  Once we give our lives over to the Prince of Peace, then and only then, may we know the peace that passes understanding.  (Philippians 4:7)  The Bible says that even the government shall be upon His shoulders.  (Whew!)

Whatever emotions this Christmas conjures up in your spirit, let the Spirit of the Prince of Peace wash over you, and rest easy.  No matter what troubles may come, He has never lost control, nor will He.  I do not understand a lot of things in this world, but I know that my life is hidden in Christ, and I lay it all down at His feet.  My life is in His very capable hands.  And with that assurance, I rejoice at His coming as a baby in a manger, and look forward for His soon return!  He is coming again!

 

Rivers and Goats in the Desert!

EliseAs 2018 draws near to its close, I continue to be amazed by Father God’s provision and delightful surprises!  In January of this year, the Lord called me to leave my corporate job with Blue Cross Blue Shield to devote more time to ministry.  Although my husband’s job has been going well, I was still a bit nervous walking away from a fulltime job that provided consistent paychecks and insurance benefits.  For the last three years, I had been blessed to perform my job from home, which enabled me to retain my position when Ed and I relocated to the opposite end of the state.  I wondered if giving up that privilege was really the right thing to do.  But the Lord spoke and I obeyed in faith, trusting Him completely to provide by whatever means He chose.  When we truly submit to His will, He really does honor that blind faith, giving us the desires our hearts.  (Psalm 37:4)

I prayerfully and carefully comprised the email to my supervisor that would serve as my official notice of resignation.  I would process medical claims for two more weeks, and receive only one more paycheck from the company.  I drew a deep breath, and said, “Okay, Lord,” as I exhaled and pressed “send”.  It was done.  The fear and anxiety of uncertainty left my body with that exhale, and I was overcome with a sense of peaceful calm and freedom!

I pursued a return to elder-care (which I quickly realized is a ministry in itself), and began a part-time assignment before my notice with BCBS was complete.  By the end of February, I had secured a steady position with a precious lady who I got to love right into the arms of Jesus!  She and I talked about the Lord and His Word, and I prayed with her often about her own fears and anxiety.  By the time she passed away a few months later, I had become great friends with her family, and even enjoyed a few weekends pet-sitting for them as well.

During this time, the Lord provided a laptop computer, and I was able to start writing again.  In September of this year I published my first book appropriately titled “Freed Bird”.  This is my personal story of finding freedom through forgiveness, but there will be more coming as the Lord has graciously delivered and released me from so many things.  All the while, whimsical odd jobs and “gigs” have come along, and the bills have miraculously been paid.

goat walking 2Since leaving the security of my corporate job last January, I have ministered to three elderly saints, enjoyed the love and company of dogs, and packed up a closing retail store for a friend.  I have fallen in love with the cute goat pictures being shared Facebook, so I had to smile at God while recently taking a pair of goats for a walk through the woods and down to the water’s edge.  This week I am helping a friend decorate her lake house for Christmas, and she is teaching me how to use QuickBooks, a skill that will come in handy when managing funds for our ministry.

This afternoon I will deposit an unexpected refund check, equaling a normal week’s pay.  I never know what the next “gig” will be, or what 2019 will hold for me.  But just as the Lord led the Israelites through the wilderness, providing everything they needed all along the way, I know He will provide as I follow Him blindly, submitting to His call to “go and tell” the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  I know that if and when He sends us out with the Prayer Tent, perhaps living the RV-life fulltime, He will also provide wherever that journey may lead us.

Friend, wherever you are on your journey, whether in the lush fruitful plains or the dry, desolate rocky soil of the desert, God is with you!  Whether you are nearing retirement, facing a layoff, or starting your own business venture – I encourage you to have faith and trust in the Lord!  For it is He who gives you power to get wealth… (Deuteronomy 8:18).

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and  ALL these things shall be added to you. 
Matthew 6:33

Naughty or Nice?

naughty listI love these Facebook memes that come around, which are all done in innocent fun.  Although we know that they bear no meaning in reality, we quickly peruse the lists to find our names, and then proceed to share on our own Facebook walls.  With Christmas around the corner, the “Naughty” and “Nice” lists will fill our newsfeeds relentlessly.  So far, I have not found my name on either.

Children are told that if they are good, Santa will come; but if they are bad or naughty, he will leave coals instead of toys, or skip over their house entirely!  Sadly, many grownups believe the same scenario applies to their spiritual lives and eternal destination.  The premise that “good” people go to heaven and “bad” people go to hell is a lie from the Devil himself!  In my work with the elderly, it saddens me when they begin to fret and worry that they have not been good enough to “make it in.”  The truth is that none of us can ever be “good enough” on our own to enter into the presence of Almighty God.

The truth (which sets us free) is that our salvation cannot be earned.  It is a FREE gift called “grace” from our Heavenly Father, paid for by our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Fortunately, it is NOT based on our works or performance.  (Ephesians 2:8)  It is given and received when one acknowledges and repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, giving his or her life over to Him completely.  It is offered to everyone, naughty or nice.

In our society, we tend to label and condemn those on our own mental “naughty” lists; those who have lived less-than-stellar lives.  We criticize and penalize those who have made poor choices, or done evil deeds.  While crimes must be punished and criminals held accountable, the Bible says that we ALL have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)  Even on our best days, our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of our Most Holy God.  (Isaiah 64:6)  Jesus Himself said that no one is “good” but God.  (Mark 10:18)

People often ask how a good God can send people to hell.  Well, He doesn’t.  It is our own sinful nature that drives and separates us from God as He cannot look upon sin; we cannot stand in His presence in our sinful nature, wearing our old, filthy rags.  But in His goodness, love, mercy and grace, He has provided a way to ESCAPE that horrible fate and be reunited with Him forever!  When we repent of our sins and accept Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross as atonement or payment for our sins, we are then clothed in HIS righteousness, and granted a seat in the Kingdom of God for all of eternity!  No matter what we have done, our sins can be forgiven, and we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb – God’s only Son who was sacrificed on our behalf!   “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”  (Isaiah 1:18)  

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:12)  

Oh, how we love to distinguish the masses and divide them into groups:  male or female; naughty or nice; rich or poor; black or white; right or left, etc.  But at the end of the day and at the end of this life, there will be only two groups of people:  saved or lost.  It will not matter how “good” you have been, as none of us deserve to be let in.  The only “list” to make sure that your name is found on will be the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Will you give your life to Him today?

The best gift ever bestowed upon mankind was the original Christmas gift:  the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ!  He IS the reason for the season.  I pray that you will accept this most glorious gift today.

See ya in Heaven!  I’ll be wearing a white robe, clothed in HIS righteousness; my filthy rags having been tossed into the depths of the sea, covered by His blood for eternity!

The Beauty of Nature

fall leaves
The right words are often hard to find
To express the thoughts inside my mind.
So for feelings of love
Or joy from above,
I say it with my rhymes.

I love to smell the fresh, clean snow
Or feel the warmth of the sun’s glow.
The song of the birds
Is the sweetest I’ve heard.
Nature is the finest beauty I know.

What man-made thing could possibly meet
The breath-taking sight of colorful leaves
Which every Fall
God paints them all?
The “best-dressed” are Autumn’s trees?

The roar of the ocean’s continuous waves,
The cricket’s music at the close of the day,
The whisper of the wind –
There is no end
To the beauty of Nature’s way.

Then God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good.  So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.  (Genesis 1:31)

* Picture from the Stokes County mountains in North Carolina – my roots.