His Name

The attack was unexpected. Suddenly I was filled with a myriad of anxieties and fears that robbed me of my peace. The end of the year was upon me, and the uncertainties of the new year loomed ahead.

As I was becoming immobilized with these negative emotions, I remembered to cry out for help. “Lord Jesus, please deliver me from all my fears. I cast all my anxiety on you. Give me grace to trust You with the future.” The calm that followed was sweet, another gift from the Savior whose birth we celebrate today.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

I know peace. His name is JESUS.

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The Miracle Man

One of the wonders of being a child of God is hearing Him speak intimately in His still, small voice. His unbidden word in my mind is like a fresh breeze on a spring day, like a caress against my cheek.

Recently one morning, as I walked to my kitchen sink, with no thoughts except what needed to be accomplished that day, in my mind I heard, “Sweet Lord Jesus He’s a miracle man.” I knew this was a line from All The Way To Kingdom Come by Rich Mullins. Earlier I had been praying for loved ones who have dire health needs. My prayers for them were BIG requests that only a BIG GOD can perform. Although I had left “our” prayer time, Father God, in His tenderness, broke into my routine to encourage me, to remind me that the One in whose name I had prayed is THE MIRACLE MAN and that my prayers had been heard. While I tackled the mundane, He was attending to the impossible.

Later I grabbed my phone and googled the entire lyrics of the song by Rich Mullins. “…He gave love a face and He gave love a name…Love is a miracle…but the sweet Lord Jesus, he’s a miracle man…now we know what love is ’cause he loved us all the way to kingdom come.”

My husband recently read The Case For Miracles by Lee Strobel and Miracles by Eric Metaxas. He recommended both books which document the existence of miracles in today’s world.

Of all miracles, the greatest miracle is The LOVE OF JESUS, who left the glory of heaven and took on the form of a servant to give His life on a cross to give everlasting life to undeserving me and to all who believe in Him.

Borrowing words from a secular love song, Miracle of Miracles, from Fiddler On The Roof, “…But of all God’s miracles large and small, the most miraculous one of all is the one I thought could never be: God has given you to me.” Thank you, God, for giving Jesus to me and me to Jesus! I am eternally grateful. I am eternally yours.

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My Two Friends

My Friend Ruthann is a friend for life, faithful and loyal. We can go for long periods of time with no communication, and yet, when we do connect, it is as if we have never been separated by time and space. She is a Christ Follower; there is abundant fruit in her life to make that truth apparent. She is a godly woman.

Ruthann has had MS for over 40 years. Indeed, she has always said, “I have MS; MS does not have me.” Her courage and grace, as she has lived with this chronic illness, have been inspirational. Her focus has always been on Jesus who has made her an overcomer. Because of her, those of us who have known her, have known what an overcomer is.

My friend the Holy Spirit keeps me company each day. He gives me strength, courage, and wisdom. He counsels me. He comforts me. He is the Mighty God.

Recently I learned I have polyneuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy. I have begun to face fears and possible outcomes: will I remain mobile? will I be able to prepare meals and do housework? will I be able to dress myself and feed myself? In the midst of these whirling questions, the Holy Spirit has kept singing to me. He has sung the song, Who am I, written by Mark Hall. “I am a flower quickly fading… Here today and gone tomorrow…And you’ve told me who I am…I am yours.

When I finally called Ruthann, to share my new diagnosis, there was the instant empathy and support I had counted on. In fact, as I shared, she said, “Mary, it sounds like you are reading my biography.” She told me that during the season of coming to grips with her diagnosis of MS and wondering all the what ifs, the Holy Spirit had said to her, in essence: “Nothing has changed, Ruthann. You are still mine. Nothing can take you out of my hands.”

The Holy Spirit had spoken to me, and Ruthann confirmed and repeated the message. My two friends have spoken truth.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” From Isaiah 43

I have neuropathy, but nothing of importance has changed. My life is still on the same bedrock of truth: I am His. He has me. He always has and always will. There is peace.

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The Lamb Shepherd

Winter has finally relinquished its grip, and we hope that spring has indeed returned. It is once again time to remember the death and resurrection of The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. As we remember, we also look forward to a future time when the Lamb will return. This long awaited return is as certain as the return of spring after what seemed an endless winter.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

We, who believe, remember that our Savior shed His blood on a cross to purchase our redemption. We remember He rose again and ascended to Heaven – to His Father and our Father. We look forward to the day when He will return to shepherd us to a shore by living waters where He will tenderly wipe away every tear from our eyes. That glorious day is closer than when we first believed. Even so, Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Are you crying this spring? Is your heart breaking? Know there is a Savior who loves you so much, He died to save you and lives to intercede for you. He longs to comfort you. He wants to dry your tears. Though He lives in Heaven, He inhabits the universe. He is only a heartbeat away from you. Believe and Receive His salvation, His new life this spring.

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A Place For Me

I am turning 70 today.  During this past year, I have observed my heart turning toward home.  I feel like a boat whose moorings have been let loose.  I feel like Reepicheep (from The Voyage of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis) in his little boat in the big waves, confidently and eagerly heading toward Aslan’s Land.  In the midst of this sweet shift, I hear my Jesus whispering, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there TO PREPARE A PLACE for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  ( John 14; 1-3)

I have a history with The God who goes before to prepare places for His people.  During a season of asking for a new dream, I was led to a cottage I wasn’t even looking for.  The moment my husband and I walked up to the stone faced cottage in the big woods, we knew we had come home.  There was this awesome conviction that God had designed and made this home specifically for us; some of the proof having been that our name is Stone and we love being surrounded by trees.

Many years ago, a good friend and her husband, who were hunting for a lake property, visited a cabin and wondered whether they should buy it.  As my friend prayed, she heard the Lord say to her, “I have something better for you.”  Shortly after that, they found a place that was indeed “better” and purchased it. They have made years of happy memories there with their children and grandchildren.

As I anticipate the eternal place the Lord has prepared for me,  I feel certain that it will feel like home – that it will have a design made specifically for me – and that it will be better than anything I could imagine or dream.

As my focus turns towards this forever home, I also sense that God is PREPARING ME FOR HIS PLACE.  “For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite…”  Isaiah 57:15

Only humble, contrite spirits live in The Father’s house of many rooms – in the house of His Son who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but who humbled Himself and came to earth to die to purify and justify me.  So all the losses and disappointments, the mistakes and the failures, and the challenges and pain of old age in my life are just the final push to make me able to breath the air of heaven.

God is preparing a place for me, and He is preparing me for that place.  That is good news, and it’s true for all those who have believed in His Son!

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A Five Star Hostess

What makes a person a fabulous hostess or host?  When you recall being a guest in someone’s home, what made that experience pleasant or memorable?  Do you think of the decor, the ambience, or the food that was served?  Perhaps you remember some of those details, but I imagine the fact that mattered most was that you felt comfortable, honored, and respected.

If you are a Christian, you are a hostess or a host 24/7.  Your guest is the Holy Spirit.  In addition to Scripture, I am indebted to two books/authors who have helped me comprehend my identity as a hostess.   First is My Heart, Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger.  The second is Hosting The Presence by Bill Johnson.

How am I doing hosting The Holy Spirit?  How are you doing?   Does He feel like our highly honored guest?  Does He know we love Him and love His company? Or has He withdrawn to His room in our lives and closed the door because the things going on in our homes and hearts are an affront on His Holiness? The Scriptures teach us that He will never leave us or forsake us, but those same Scriptures also teach us that He turns His back on sin – that our sin separates us from Him.

In the instructions on how to host the Holy Spirit, we are given two very explicit commands. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and do not put out the Holy Spirit’s fire (I Thessalonians 5:19).  The implicit commands are to please the Holy Spirit and to facilitate His fire and flame in our lives.

Since the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22) and since the Holy Spirit is our power (Acts 1:8)  to fulfill the work Jesus has given us to do, we will be empty, weak, and unproductive shells of who God intended us to be, if we make a habit of hurting and quenching God’s Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a Five Star Hostess.  I want the Holy Spirit in my main living space, engaged with me.  I want face to face conversations with Him.  I want to see His smile.  I want to hear His laughter.  I need His fruit and His power.   How about you?   It’s never too late to improve our hosting skills.

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Wonder Working Power

There is an old hymn* that proclaims an old and vital truth: ” There is pow’r, wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb, there is wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.”

The Lamb was Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Yesterday we remembered the day He let Himself be crucified, the day He shed His blood and gave His life.

The power, the wonder working power of His shed blood has purchased and accomplished great things in my life and in the lives of all His followers. These great things have been won for me and them: forgiveness and redemption (see Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 1:7); justification (Romans 5:9); peace (Colossians 1:20);  cleansing (Hebrews 9:14); healing (Isaiah 53:5); confidence to draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19-22); and freedom from sin (Revelation 1:5).

The evening before His crucifixion, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples.  ” “…after the supper, He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” ” (Luke 22:20)

When ANYONE believes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His blood is applied to their life and powerful transformation follows.  This transformation is clearly witnessed to in the story and movie: I Can Only Imagine.  It documents how an abusive, mean man was changed into a loving father who stopped hurting his son and started blessing him.

Faith begets this miracle time and time again.  That is why Paul tells us that if any man is in Jesus Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Church Communion is when we remember the night Jesus gave the cup of the new covenant to His disciples.  Whenever we bring the cup to our lips and drink, we say to the Lord Jesus, “I believe. I agree. I receive. I’m in. I’m yours.”

There is always room at the table for more.  You are loved, and you are welcome.  Come believe.  Come drink of the cup.

* There Is Power In The Blood by Lewis E. Jones

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Whispers of Love

I love foggy mornings.  The world is enveloped in such softness, like a gentle presence has descended and embraced her.  The fog reminds me of my life, of the reality that the Glory of God in Jesus Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, has come to me – that He is in me and I am in Him.  I live wrapped up in His Love, the way the morning fog hugs the earth.

One of the many blessings of this intimate relationship is our tender, confidential conversation. When difficulties come, He gives me visions and words that are tailor made for me and my circumstances – personal messages just for me from Him.

Recently I had some symptoms that were highly suspicious for cancer.  I went to see my doctor and had several diagnostic tests.  In the midst of that stress, my Lord whispered and revealed truth.  I leaned in to listen and be comforted, and I responded.

He breathed, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price…”  (Romans 6:19-20)

I sighed, “That is true.  My body is yours. Whatever the outcome, Lord, I trust you.”

He opened up Revelation Chapter One, and I saw Him – the One with a face as brilliant as the sun and hair as white as snow – the One with a sharp double edged sword coming out of His mouth and feet like bronze glowing in a furnace – the One whose voice is like the sound of rushing waters – the One whose eyes are like blazing fire.

I said, “Even though you are beautiful to me, Jesus, you are fierce and frightening. I am grateful that I am hidden behind you and that my enemies have to deal with you!”

My enemy symptoms disappeared and all my tests came back normal.  I said thank you to the Lover of my soul, and I praised His Holy Name.

The One, who shed His blood for me, shed it for you as well.  He wants to share an intimate relationship with you.  You are One of A Kind, and no one knows that better than your Creator and Redeemer.  No one loves you like He does.  No one will ever have the conversation with Him that He wants to have with you alone.  Come.  He calls you.

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The Fear That Is Wisdom

Disaster and destruction follows disaster and destruction in the world we live in, hurricane upon hurricane, earthquake upon earthquake, and wildfire upon wildfire. The news also carries stories of the tensions between nations and the dangers of nuclear proliferation or attack. We wonder when the terrorists will strike again. We wonder when the war in Syria will finally end.  Anxiety and fear are rampant.

Jesus teaches His disciples what signs will signal the end times and His return. (See Matthew 24)  He tells of unequaled distress on earth, such distress that all would die, if those days were not shortened. He tells of the sun being darkened and the moon not giving its light. He warns of a day during that historic, monumental distress, a day that no one but His father knows. On that day, He will come on the clouds in the sky with great glory and all those who have believed in Him will be caught up with Him to escape the horrors of earth.  “…That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” Does this teaching inspire fear?  It well ought.

We learn in Psalm 111:10 that: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Let fear send you running to God to learn how to escape His just judgment on mankind. John Newton’s ageless hymn, Amazing Grace, says, “Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my fears relieved.”

God is Love.  Love is warning us, and Love is reminding us that He has made a way of escape.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  All of us are unclean and powerless before the Mighty God of the Universe.  See a man upon a cross.  His name is Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God.  His shed blood can wash away your sin and make you clean.  Believe in Him.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;  the end of fear is love.  The apostle John tells us in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

When Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, washes us clean, we are relieved of fear.  For those of us who have believed in that love, we listen to the news and watch the times with a growing sense that our Lord’s return is closer than when we first believed.  We are comforted knowing the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow and no more tears.  The One who gave Himself for us will dry away our final tears as He welcomes us home to be with Him forever.

Be afraid; it’s right and appropriate. But don’t stop at fear; go on to Love.  Run to Him. Now. Don’t slow down and don’t stop until you are safe in His arms.

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What Kind Of God

I inherited a disease called Fuch’s Corneal Dystrophy. My vision was getting worse.  I was reading large print books with reading glasses and a magnifier.  I was unable to read labels and sales tags while shopping. My husband was reading recipes to me when I cooked and baked. My vision was so hazy that I no longer trusted myself to drive our car.  Two specialists recommended corneal transplant.  On June 22nd I had the diseased membrane of my left cornea removed and a healthy donor membrane attached to that cornea.

I enjoyed the trip to my first post operative visit with the eye surgeon. The ditches along all the roadways were adorned with Queen Anne’s Lace,  a longtime favorite wild flower of mine.

The doctor was pleased with my progress. The donor membrane had attached, and the new cells were working well.  The swelling in that cornea had resolved, and my vision had improved.  He explained that, even though the swelling was relieved, the haziness in my vision would slowly resolve as the cells in my cornea re-design themselves.  He told me that 80 to 90 percent of my improvement will come within 3 months and that the other 10-20 percent will come over the next 1 to 2 years.

I am grateful for my eye surgeon and his team at Mayo in Rochester. I am thankful for my donor and my donor’s family. I am blessed by the prayers of family, friends, and church.  I praise the Lord who is my healer.

What kind of God makes wild flowers that look like lace and cells that can re-design themselves?  A Good God.  A Great and Powerful God.  A God who loves me and all of you.  And so gratitude becomes adoration of Almighty Creator God.

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