24 September 2008

Standing on the promises...

There is a hymn that we sing in church all the time whose refrain is "Standing, standing, I'm standing on the promises of Christ my Savior..." This is NOT one of my favorite hymns, but as I get older - and especially in these days and times - I am learning the value of those words.

Yesterday, EARLY in the morning, I received a phone that shook me to my core. When I realized that my godsister was up at 4:30a to make a phone call and heard her voice, I knew the news was not going to be good. As she told me the news that her sister, Sylvia, had been diagnosed with cancer, we both broke down and cried. I wanted to scream as Evilene (the wicked witch of the West in the movie THE WIZ) did - "don't nobody bring me no (mo') bad news!" It seems to be coming at an unrelenting, unending, constant stream - bad news, mo' bad news, and then even more. How do you survive when it seems every email you receive is a prayer request or every phone call is news that is less than pleasing? How do you stand?

You stand on the promises of God.

So, I thought about that. What are some of the promises we can stand on? Are there verses in the Bible that I can immediately think of when times are tough and all the ground around me seems to be sinking sand? Is there something, some hope, I can cling to when there seems to be nothing to hold on to? Yes! There are several promises throughout God's Word that are there for times like these - when hurricanes/tornados rage one after another after another; when illnesses hit the young and the good and the kind while it seems like the old and the evil and the mean prosper and flourish; when gas is scarce and if you can find it, the cost is high; when choices have to be made daily between buying food to eat and buying the gas to get to work so that you can buy the food to eat; when it seems all hope is gone; when you feel like you cannot stand and must sink to the floor under the weight of the burden - there are promises you can stand on. Here are a few that I claim:

Jeremiah 29:11 (you knew that would be there!): For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Psalms 91:1,2: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I (will) trust.

Psalm 121: I lift my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-He who watches over you will not slumber: indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm-He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Isaiah 65:24: Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Deliverance is coming!)

You may have another one - there may be a promise that you hold onto in times of stress and grief and uncertainty. Whatever that verse is for you (or verses if you have more than one) - hold on to it. The days ahead will be bumpy ones. Finally, there was a song from my freshman year in college (decades ago!) whose lyrics were: "After you've done all you can, you just stand..." I encourage you to keep standing.

Be blessed.

22 September 2008

It's been a while...

...so let's just catch up:

1. My dad and Linda survived Hurricane Ike with little damage and many praise reports. Thanks to everyone who prayed for their safety (and the safety of others) during this time.

2. Even "God's Favorite Child" has challenging days - last Thursday, September 18, 2008 was such a day - but even through the trials and challenges of the day - God proved how faithful He is to His Children - even wayward, disobedient, rebellious, hard headed ones like me. Years ago, my New Years resolution was to "have an attitude of gratitude". What a blessing it is to strive to be in a constant state of gratitude. Over the years, I have moved a little away from that, but after last week, I am moving back to that. It is a little hard to focus on what is going wrong in your life when you focus on what is going right in it instead. Try it and then, if you wish, share some of your praise reports with me so I can be encouraged as we move through some very discouraging times.

3. The political season is underway and I don't know about you, but I personally cannot wait until November 4th so I can cast my vote and then wait to see what God has planned for this nation. See, while I believe that I have a responsibility to vote in the election, I also believe that no matter who I believe to be the best candidate for the job, I KNOW that God is in control of the situation and however this election plays out - HIS WILL SHALL BE DONE! And for those who are still sitting on the fence - or even taking the stand that voting is not important and/or unnecessary - I implore you to remember the sacrifices made by others in order for you to have the right to vote - especially if you are a person of color and/or a woman. My father told me years ago, "if you don't vote, you don't have a voice." That stuck with me and if you know me at all, you know that "having a voice" is very important to me. Bottom line: if you don't vote, you do not have a right to complain or commend whoever is elected on November 4, 2008.

4. Prayer requests: There are numerous requests that I could post here, but the following are the ones most pressing on my mind right now:

a. Hailey Trainer: the 9-month old baby of one of my attorneys who was diagnosed with two massive tumors in her brain. Surgery was done on Friday to remove the largest of the two masses and praise God, the surgery was successful, but now she has to undergo chemotherapy to remove the other. Please keep this family in your prayers.

b. Valley of decision: I have been asked to serve in a capacity at my church that surprises me and my initial reaction is "NO!", but I am trying to do what is truly the will of God. Pray for me as I need to make a decision today.

c. Without details, please pray for: Mother of Tamika Walters; Kaye Combee; Carmen Mouzon; Wanda Carter; Cecile Martin-Banfield; Robin Wagner; Chelsea (last name unknown); and a whole host of others who have asked me and while I may have forgotten - God knows.

Be blessed.

12 September 2008

If you worry, why pray?

You might have heard: There is a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico called Ike that is predicted to cause all kinds of damage, peril and havoc on the state of Texas - primarily the areas of Galveston, Houston and surrounding areas. I have a particular interest in the storm since my father and stepmother call Houston home and according to a phone call I had with my father this morning, they are staying put and riding out the storm as it blows through.

After talking with my father at length, I am confident that he knows what he is doing in making this decision. He is a meteorologist by profession, so he knows a lot more about storm surge and winds and trajectory than I could ever try to begin to explain, but he seems confident that while the next few hours will be "interesting" - he is safe in the palm of God's Hands and will be ok. They will be hunkering down in an upstairs bedroom that has very few windows and access to an in-suite bathroom. They have candles and flashlights, water and food - so he has done all that he needs to do in order to be properly prepared. According to him, the winds and rains should begin picking up for them around 2:00 or 3:00 this afternoon (Central Time), so if you can remember, please send up a prayer of protection for him, Linda, and their neighbors who have also decided to ride it out. As my dad is able (barring loss of cell phone service, electricity, etc.), he promises to keep in touch with me and let me know how it is going for them. For anyone interested, I will pass the information along as I hear it.

I also called and spoke with a friend of mine who is a reporter for the Houston Chronicle and who lives in Galveston. He was still in Galveston when I spoke to him, but had boarded up the house and was closing all the storm windows before driving to League City where he would be hunkering down with the rest of the media staying behind to cover the story.

All of this makes me grateful for the morning devotion I had this morning about "worrying". In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus is talking to his disciples when He tells them that they (and we) can have freedom from worry if we just trust in God. He reminds them that God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers in the field - won't He surely take care of them? Of us? Verse 27 asks, "Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?" None of us can. Reminds me of a plaque I once gave a friend that said, "If you worry, why pray? If you pray, why worry?"

I am not naive. I know the dangers inherent in the storm. Hurricanes are nothing to play around with. We all learned that lesson with Katrina three years ago. But I also know there is NOTHING I can do by worrying that is going to change whatever the outcome of this storm will be. My worrying while sitting at my desk in Atlanta GA is not going to change the path of the storm; it won't lessen the intensity of the winds or rains; it won't stop the surge of the tide...it won't do anything but cause stress in my shoulders, give me a headache and exhibit a lack of faith. However, sending up a prayer, putting it in the Hands of the Man who calms the waters (remember that song?)...I can do that. I can then sit back and trust that His will shall be done - for my father and stepmother and all the others in the area that will be impacted by this storm. And I mean that - no matter the outcome. If it is God's will that I have spoken to my father for the last time, we both said "I love you" before we hung up the phone and I have to trust that we will meet again one day on heaven's shores.

Thank you in advance for all your concern, thoughts and prayers. It's all up to God now. Be blessed.

PRAYER REQUESTS: Pray for my friends from the Houston area: Scott and Linda Nagle and family; Robert Stanton (reporter for the Houston Chronicle); Shibbon Mitchell and family. Also for Sean Ritchie, who may have to travel to the area after the storm to help with rebuilding - and for his family that will remain here in Atlanta.

The Lord's Calf

The story is told of a farmer who happily reported to his wife and children that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one brown - one white. He said that he was so grateful that he had decided to dedicate one to the Lord. "We will bring them up together and when the time comes, we will sell them. The proceeds from the sale of one, we will keep; the proceeds from the sale of the other, we will give to the church in support of the Lord's work." "But which one is the Lord's?" asked his wife. "There's no need to bother with that now. We will raise them the same way until they are ready for market." A few months later, the farmer came home distraught. "What's wrong?" asked his wife. "The Lord's calf died this morning," he replied. "But I thought you hadn't determined which one was the Lord's." she said. "Oh yes, I decided a while ago that the white one was the Lord's, and that is the one that died this morning."*

How convenient!

Yet, don't we often do the same thing? We make promises to the Lord - to be faithful stewards of our time, money and talents - and yet, when the chips are down - the bills are due - you are asked to participate on a program for the church - all of a sudden, "the calf is dead." My girlfriend Victoria and I were just discussing this very thing this past weekend. Being fiscally responsible in this day and age of rising food and gas prices and still being faithful with tithes and offerings to the church is a challenge. And the enemy often times tries to convince us that "God will understand - He knows you need to pay your bills, meet your responsibilities - the work of the church has been going on for years - it can continue without your weekly/bi-monthly/monthly contribution - you can always catch up later..." Yeah, right. That never happens.

I am so glad that God doesn't treat me as cavalierly as I treat Him more often than I wish. I am glad that He remains faithful to me even through my unfaithfulness. I pray constantly for more faith, more trust, more dependence on Him (which if you know me, is a daily struggle!)

Let's strive to be more diligent in honoring our commitments to the Lord. I'll pray for you to that end and solicit your prayers on my behalf as well.

Be blessed.

Prayer request: God's mercy as Hurricane Ike approaches the Texas coast over the weekend.

*Story of the Lord's calf excerpted from WALKING WITH JESUS ON THE MOUNT OF BLESSING by George R. Knight, published as a morning devotional book in 1996.

11 September 2008

They take a beating...

Somewhere in heaven, there is an angel assigned to watch over and protect me who is wondering what she did to get saddled with me!

You might know that I was on vacation last week. My mother and I drove from Atlanta GA to Gatlinburg TN to spend a week in the Great Smoky Mountains. As part of our adventures, we visited Hot Springs NC to enjoy the hot mineral spring tubs for a day. Although we took the scenic country route for our drive up to Hot Springs, I decided to take the interstate back to Gatlinburg.

So, here's the picture: concrete dividing wall, the shoulder, then three lanes of traffic. I was traveling in the far left lane, an 18 wheeler truck was in the middle lane and in the far right lane, another 18 wheeler truck. I'm driving along, talking to my mom, listening to Sirius Radio, when I see the 18 wheeler in the center lane begin to move over into the far right lane. No soon does he make that move, when I notice him swerve back into the center lane and over into my lane! Well, I push the accelerator and question why he is swerving back into my lane when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, comes a blue Pontiac Firebird. Apparently, the Firebird was in the blind spot of the 18 wheeler and when he saw the 18 wheeler heading over into his lane, he also accelerated to cut between the two 18 wheelers - only he was going too fast and over-corrected, losing control of his car!

Now, the Pontiac is careening into the far left lane (where I was!) in a spin! I promise you, I braced myself for impact because I just KNEW that his rear bumper was going to collide with my rear bumper - sending me into a spin and into the concrete wall on my left. Here's where my guardian angel must have stepped in because:

1. the Firebird missed clipping me - and I still don't know HOW that happened. (my mother claims she saw the whites of the driver's eyes as he spun around);

2. the 18 wheeler in the middle lane stopped, as did all the other cars following in order to give the Firebird room to do whatever it was it was going to do; and

3. the Firebird spun through the center lane, the left lane and came to a stop in the shoulder, facing the right way of traffic - ALL WITHOUT HITTING ANYTHING OR FLIPPING OVER!

As I watched all of this enfolding in my rear view mirror, all I could say was, "Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus."

But here's the "funny" part: That morning, while on my daily prayer call, I asked the pastor to pray that my mom and I would have safe traveling mercies for our short day trip. After giving me grief about all the vacation time I seem to have (HATER! hahaha), he prayed what I will call a "throw away" prayer about traveling mercies. I really can't blame him for that, because when Mom and I got in the car to head out to North Carolina, I did the same thing. "Father in Heaven, give us safe traveling mercies as we head out. Bring us back safely to our destination if it be Thy Will" and got in the car and drove off. My point is this: Even with my "throw away" prayer, God looked down from heaven, heard, dispatched the angel to travel with my car and answered my prayer. And, going even deeper than that: He protected all the people on the road with me at the time. I have reflected since last Thursday that if one person had been distracted or on the phone or in an arguement with someone in their car - if someone had driven just a little bit faster or a little bit slower, the results could have been a lot different. AMEN! Hallelujah.

We serve an awesome God - and I cannot wait to meet my guardian angel and tell her thank you for the bumps and bruises she took for me on Thursday, September 4, 2008.

Be blessed.

When the towers fell...

Today is September 11th. Seven years ago, a defining moment in United States history occurred. For my generation, everyone will always remember where they were when the towers fell, similar to how everyone from my mom's generation remembers where they were when Kennedy was assassinated.

I remember the buzz in the hall - "go to CNN.com - something has happened in NYC at the World Trade Center" - and then CNN being hit so much simultaneously that no one could get online.

I remember picking up the phone and calling my brother who worked at the hospital less than two blocks away from the towers. God blessed in that I was able immediately to speak to him and know he was safe, even though while we were on the phone, the hospital went into emergency mode and it would be almost 2 days later before we would talk to him again.

I remember going into the dining room of the law firm where I worked (and still work) and watching them pull TVs in there so people could gather and watch. I remember sitting on the floor in total disbelief as the second plane plowed into the South Tower. And I remember erupting into tears when a puff of smoke confirmed the unbelievable - that the towers had crumbled.

I remember my boss, John H. Goselin, compassionately telling me to go home and be with my mom hours before the firm made the decision to close its door for the safety of its employees. I remember walking to the MARTA station with my paralegal and friend, James Wardrick - a NYC native with family still living in the area - and having to go two stations in the opposite direction because MARTA was packed to the gills with people trying to get home to be with loved ones as the horror continued to unfold. And I remember being on the train headed home when news of the plane hitting the Pentagon and of Flight 93 going down in the fields of Pennsylvania hit the news and wondering, "Ok, when is this going to end? How many more planes are out there?"

I remember calling and speaking with my godsister, Linda, who was in Connecticut trying to get back to Seattle, WA, but unable to because the airports were closed. I remember going to the home of my friend, Kenneth White, and just watching the reports over and over and over again and talking about NYC and our ties still to the city.

I remember waiting to hear that my friends were ok. I remember the reports of people walking home from downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn - and of my friends who had cars who picked up strangers and gave them rides because it was the right thing to do in times of crisis.

I also remember immediately thanking God that, as horrible as it was, it could have been so much worse. We have all heard the stories of people who were "out of place" - who should have been there, but weren't. Even in the tragedy, God showed mercy.

And I remember going to NYC for the first time one month later for my friend Rhonda's wedding and crying as we flew over Ground Zero, which was still bellowing smoke from the hole where the towers had stood...one month later.

I don't know where you were seven years ago. I don't know if your memories of the day are as clear as mine. I don't know if you lost someone important to you when the towers went down...if you did, I am praying for you especially today - for strength, peace and comfort.

Be blessed.