Heartache is seeing your beautiful daughter handcuffed and taken to jail . . .
Heartache is not being able to hug her . . .
Heartache is answering your grandchildren when they ask if Mom and Dad will be with them for Christmas: “No, honey.”
And Jesus Whispered ~
Although the mountains around you are shaken, Kathi, and the hills are broken down, my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor will my promise of peace be removed. I am the Lord who has compassion for you and your precious grandchildren.
The evening of the sentencing was especially difficult for all of us. After the children were sound asleep and I had knelt by their beds and prayed, I went back into their bedrooms, checking on them all through the night, whispering one word prayers to the Father: Bless. Comfort. Touch. Heal. Moving about our home throughout those unsettling nights, I felt the presence of the One who never slumbers or sleeps.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(An excerpt from When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers ~ Chapter 7 ~ Whispers of Promise)
Although I have observed this unsettling occurrence for years, I find it especially common during this election season. I write about this in a manner that does not reveal any political views I have. Absolutely none.
But during this election season, I am disturbed the most by one thing: Christians “watering down” the Word of God.
I expect it from nonbelievers. It doesn’t surprise me – or bother me – or offend me. But it shocks me when it comes from the believer – from those who have supposedly trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior.
God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And God’s Word doesn’t change, folks. It just doesn’t.
All Scripture (God’s Word) is for us – in one way or another. We must apply and learn from the Old Testament, although we realize that God’s people, at that time, were living “under the law.”
Then Jesus came. He brought the New Covenant. He brought us the offer of salvation. And He taught us believers how we need to live in today’s world.
God inspired His Word. Paul teaches us that it is living and active. It is sharp. It judges our thoughts and our hearts. It is a powerful piece of armor – a sword of God’s Spirit within us. We are commanded to put that piece of the armor on so that “when the day of evil comes,” we can stand our ground. And friends, that day of evil has come. I am not speaking of the election or political division (although we certainly find evil within it). I am speaking of the world in which we live. Although we still find much love and certainly we have great hope, one doesn’t have to look further than the evening news to see the evil around us. So we must be armed with the Word of God. Not so we can fight people – but so we can “stand.” (See passages below – Ephesians 6:13-17).
The Apostle James instructs us to not merely “listen” to the Word of God but to “do” what it says. How can we do it if we don’t “know” it?
The Apostle Peter tells us that we have the Word of the prophets. Let’s study those Words.
The Apostle Paul tells us not to distort God’s Word.
Timothy admonishes us to avoid godless chatter and to correctly handle the Word of truth.
God, in his marvelous providence, gave us the Word – it is “God-breathed” and vital. It is for us. It is God speaking to us. In my writing, I refer to those messages as “Jesus Whispers,” because as I quieted myself before the Lord and dug into His Word, He spoke to me. God wants to speak to you. Directly. Personally. His message is of love and of guidance. Of hope and of comfort. Of peace and of a future!
The Word is life-changing!
We must let the Word of God stir us, speak to us – in a gentle whisper or in a thundering voice. We must let the Word of God lead us, change us, and give us the wisdom God promises.
You might wonder where you can begin. You might start with the passages listed below. Familiarize yourself with the power of God’s Word. Next, you’ll want to read and pray and review Psalm 119: it is all about the Word.
The Bible, God’s Word, is for each of us. The only “water” we shall put on God’s Word is that of Jesus, the Living Water. Let those streams of His Living Water flow from within us. Be “washed” by His Word instead of “watering down” His powerful Word. Drink of the Living Water – Jesus.
I drive past it nearly every day, on my way somewhere. Today, though, I pull over and park my car in the lot, now overlaid with weeds. I look at the church – an unkempt building that has been empty for many years now – and I listen. No music flows through its closed windows. No children laugh or play on the rotted teeter-totter in its side yard. No pastor preaches from its pulpit. Instead, I hear the sounds of the country – the birds, the leaves kissing the breeze, a tractor in the distance,
and I’m remembering the past,
and I’m missing my old church,
and I’m hearing the Master whisper . . .
It was a beautiful old country church in its day. I remember it with fondness. Huge double doors opened into a contrasting small foyer. Tall, stained glass windows – four on each side – adorned its structure. Reposed on the side of a gravel road in a typical country church setting , near a creek and down a hill from the cemetery bearing the same name – Dayburg. Dayburg Baptist Church was a stable, element in my life. It is where Daddy and Mama met; where they married; where they faithfully served the Lord; where they raised their family to grow in the Lord; and where later, Ron and I were married.
On Sunday mornings, my brother, Larry, and I joined other neighborhood children, each of us lidded in white capes with little black bow ties – altogether composing our little choir. Throughout the preceding week, my mama and Ethyl, her friend and neighbor, had prepared the capes. I remember watching Mama sprinkle each cape with water and starch and roll it up, placing it with the others in a basket. Later, she unrolled each on her ironing board and pressed it with a hot iron, the steam rising like little clouds of praise to the Lord. By Sunday morning, a dozen or more of these stiff little mantles hung on wire hangers, neatly separated, smallest to largest, at the bottom of the stairway to the church basement. Marsha, the pianist, pounded out the introduction; then we marched down the aisle, two-by-two, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I always wondered what “war” we were “marching as to”! God was opening my little heart to His Word and will.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ Matt. 19:14
Potluck dinner was held in the basement of the church on the first Wednesday night of each month,. We went early, as Daddy and Mama always helped set up and clean up from every church activity. When we entered, the basement felt damp and smelled a bit musty, but soon, the stone-walled room was filled with the scent of meat loaves, banana nut bread, and homemade noodles. “Hooray for the Noodles!” Delores cheered, as Gramps came down the steps, carrying the green Pyrex mixing bowl, filled to the brim with Nana’s homemade noodles. Gramps and Nana were a lovely couple from the neighborhood who lived in a huge white house surrounded by even larger dark-green-leafed shade trees. Gramps was unquestionably faithful in his church attendance and service to the Lord, and I remember Nana for her faithfulness in making the noodles for the monthly potluck. And we did love those noodles!
Gramps was the oldest man in our church. He was a beautiful man – inside and out – with solid white hair and a radiant glow on his face. I observed that brilliance every time he spoke or prayed and especially when he sang “Will There Be Any Stars in my Crown.” He sang loudly and off-key, and I loved every measure and stanza, eyeing him from the side, my little mind imagining Gramps wearing the crown he would one day receive in heaven!
Now there is in store for [Gramps] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award on that day. 2 Timothy 4:8
Maude and Dessa were sisters, both widowed, who lived together just two houses from the church. I thought they were as old as a person can possibly be. On Sunday mornings, Maude fired up her old car. It was still sputtering and backfiring when she pulled in the church yard. Maude was another who sang out of tune, and being quite deaf, she also sang loudly. But we all loved Maude and we all cherished her singing!
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Psalm 104:33
One Sunday morning, Dessa had prepared the communion wine, which in our church was always actually grape juice. As the communion cups passed our pew, I saw tiny cups full of the oddest looking, thickest communion juice I’d ever seen (in my few years)! I looked strangely at Mama beside me, who gave me “the eye” not to say anything about it or make a fuss. Later Mama told me that the grape juice was homemade by Maude and Dessa – from the small grape arbor on their property. It was just another commonplace occurrence in our little country church!
When the people are gathered together . . . to serve the Lord. Psalm 102:22 KJV
On Thursday nights, prayer meeting was held at the church. Mama often took me with her. I sat beside her, or knelt beside her, on the merciless, hard wooden floor as she and others prayed. During those prayer meetings I was exposed to great depths within the hearts of Mama and our neighbor ladies – pangs of anguish, burdens for others – passions I hadn’t imagined could possibly exist in their common lives. Through my observations, the Lord began to develop a sense of compassion within me – of understanding and empathy for others. And years later, I became the recipient of similar compassion from others.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8
My greatest memories of the church, however, were those of summertime.
In the summer, the tall stained glass single-hung windows were opened all the way, allowing the breeze to enter the west windows, circulate the open sanctuary, and exit through the east windows. It felt cool to me when we arrived for Sunday School at 10 am, but by noon, the large room was warm and stuffy.
We all seemed to sit in the same pews every Sunday – a trait I’ve since found to be commonplace, even in the largest of churches. When I was young, our family sat near the back on the left side.
Ethyl’s husband, Frank, sat on the right side of the sanctuary, about half way up the aisle, at the east end of the pew, closest to an open window. Frank was a big man in a plaid shirt and coveralls. He rarely spoke at church. If I hadn’t known Frank, I probably would have been frightened of him, but his kind heart and friendly smile made me feel comfortable. We all loved Frank. I always thought Frank sat closest to that window so he could feel a breeze as he snoozed during the sermon, but perhaps it was because that window provided him the closest view to his nearby farm, and a farmer is most comfortable on his farm. Frank had come to Michigan from Iowa, and he farmed with a big old Oliver.
The tractor looked huge to me – big man, big tractor. I assumed he was a big-time farmer, but Frank was really just a small-time farmer, eking out a living by doing what he loved most.
Ethyl, on the other hand, was outgoing and talkative. She taught Sunday School. Her Christian testimony was evident to me, but I never heard Frank’s testimony – never heard him speak about the Lord. For a very long time, Frank sat in our church and during that time, the Lord God was actually doing the farming – planting the seed in Frank’s heart; watering; nurturing. Then years later, shortly before his death, Frank accepted the Lord Jesus as his Savior. The Lord God made farmer Frank; the Lord God loved farmer Frank; and the Lord God graciously saved farmer Frank.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
One hot summer day, during Vacation Bible School (VBS), Reverend Lindner taught us children about Jesus – his birth, his ministry, and his death on the cross. It became real; the Lord’s suffering was for me! I remember the courage it took to stay after the lesson while others went to their classes and craft time, but I didn’t question it. Jesus had called me, and I prayed and accepted Him as my Savior that summer day. Many children responded to the gospel message throughout the week of Vacation Bible School.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12
The old country church – this is where I met Jesus!
And later that summer, the congregation walked from the little country church, the short distance to the creek, where I was baptized.
Confessing . . . they were [Kathi was] baptized by him in the Jordan River [in this case, Hog Creek!] Matthew 3:6
Reverend Lindner was a missionary with Rural Bible Mission. During the school year, he was welcomed into the public schools and taught children Bible stories. In the summer, he led Vacation Bible Schools throughout the county. The week before VBS, he drove the country roads, a portable PA system attached to the roof of his car, and called out to children, inviting them to the local Bible School. It was a week we children eagerly anticipated. Then he drove a bus, picking up any child, anywhere, who needed a ride. It was one of the greatest weeks of the summer! Of course, during VBS, contests were offered, encouraging us to invite other children, so I analyzed the neighborhood, and devised a strategy: I would invite the families with the most children! Supianoski’s had the most children – seven, I believe – but they were Catholic and not interested in attending our Baptist Vacation Bible School. Next in number were the Strauss families: one family had six children – another had five. I invited them all. Some summers they attended. Other summers they did not. Sometimes, they also attended our Sunday School.
Years later, one of those girls, Theresa, shared something with me – something I had never realized as a child. She said that as a young girl, the only place Theresa felt comfortable and safe was in that country church. Little did I know that her childhood home was filled with hatred and abuse from a cruel father. Dayburg Baptist Church was a haven to her. The seed, planted in her heart during those early years by the Master of farming, later led Theresa to place her faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior.
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop . . . the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart [this is my friend, Theresa], who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:8
Today, as I sit in the parking lot of the old country church and contemplate the memories it brings, I know that the old building was and still is just a shell. The people were the church that I remember. And people still make up the church – throughout this community, throughout this nation, and throughout the world. I am the church. The other children who responded to the gospel are the church. And Theresa is the church.
Mama and Daddy, along with Frank and Ethyl, Maude and Dessa, and Reverend Lindner, are all in heaven now. Gramps, too, and he wears his crown. His face is more radiant than ever, and he sings in perfect harmony!
Today, in the quiet abandoned church parking lot, along with the sounds of the country – the birds, the leaves kissing the breeze, and a tractor in the distance, I hear a whisper. It’s the Master whispering to them, His people,
Well done, thou good and faithful servants. Matthew 25:21
Then I start my car , back out onto the country road, and drive away, hearing Him whisper to me,
Thomas Griffith wrote, “Men fit themselves for hell but it is God [who] fits men for heaven.” For many years, although a believer, I had seen myself as more fit for hell than for heaven. I was filled with guilt and condemnation. That wrong believing began to change as The Holy Spirit worked a wonder in my broken heart. Though I could do nothing to alter my situation or that of my daughter, God enlightened the eyes of my heart . . . as I listened to his whispers.
And Jesus Whispered ~
I call you ‘mine. I call you “my loved one.” You are the object of my mercy.
I read about it: “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12)
Favor. Undeserved. Unmerited. But it was mine: the Favor of the Father. . . I had spent most of my adult life in condemnation and guilt ~~ never feeling good enough for God’s grace. But now, when I needed it the most, I realized, recognized, and received His amazing grace and His unfailing love for me and for my family. It was an awesome understanding that filled my broken heart. Almighty God had given me His favor.
And Jesus Whispered~
I bless you, Kathi, because you are righteous in Christ Jesus. I have surrounded you with my favor as a shield.
Do you remember when you first heard of Facebook? I heard some women talking. “Are you friends with her?” they inquired of each other. At first, hearing the term friends in this manner was a foreign idea, but it soon caught on, and shortly, I discovered many new friends on Facebook: people I knew but rarely saw, family and friends with whom now I could connect more frequently, and some people I’d never even met before! I started using and enjoying Facebook – and gaining morefriends!
Recently, I discovered that someone – actually, a family member whom I absolutely adore – “unfriended” me on Facebook.
When I realized it, my feelings were hurt. (I wish I wasn’t so sensitive!) But it hurt me because Facebook was the only connection between us since we don’t live close.
Aren’t we Facebook/Social Media people ridiculously silly? We “friend” and “unfriend” people for so many reasons! I’ve seen a mother and son end their Facebook relationship over political disagreements. (I hope their personal relationship outside Facebook wasn’t affected!)
Some people use Facebook to connect with friends, some for political agenda, some to “air” their feelings – like writing in a journal. We all have our reasons and interests.
Facebook has given the word friend an entire new meaning – one we never considered prior to ten years ago. But the word friend has been around forever and its true meaning was really established and confirmed by Jesus!
Throughout the gospels, we find that Jesus used the word friend in His ministry. He referred to those he taught as friend and used the word in His parables, as well. He called His followers friend. He even called Judas, His betrayer, a friend when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. “Friend, do what you came for,” Jesus said. Imagine! Judas – a friend! It’s a baffling thought. But you see, although Judas didn’t receive Jesus as His Savior, Jesus had nonetheless come to save Judas, just as He came to save us all, and each one He came to save is His friend. Amazing!
Jesus said that some referred to Him as a “friend of . . . sinners,” and this is where it gets personal. He was the “friend of sinners,” and He is the “friend of sinners,” and that means He wants to be a your friend and my friend! When we receive Him as Savior, that amazing, supernatural friendshipnever ends!
It was a service for eight: plates with a yellow flower, yellow cups, saucers – you know – a complete set of dishes. My mother bought them for her little kitchen in Florida, their winter home. And she used them for many years.
Some years ago, their winter vacations in Florida ended, as neither Mom nor Dad could make the long trip from Michigan any longer. Aging had set in – to the point of being considered “old” or “elderly,” terms they didn’t like any more than I did. And no one liked the changes those words brought, including the end of an era of Florida vacations and winters – days filled with fishing, relaxing, family and neighborhood dinners, collecting shells and shark’s teeth, and watching Ole’ Joe, the five foot Blue Heron who pranced the backyard and danced across the roof.
Suddenly their winters were spent in the warmth of their cozy Michigan living room instead of the sunshine of the Florida outdoors.
Along with their aging bodies, they had brought a few things back to Michigan from their Florida house, including the yellow dishes. Some time later, when their final winters were spent in a nursing home, I placed the yellow dishes, among other things, in a large sale, saying an ultimate goodbye to those Florida winter days.
Years passed, and their Venice, Florida house came up for sale; Ron and I bought it! We drove down – from Michigan to Venice – with the sole purpose of working on the house – you know – replacing windows and flooring, painting, cleaning, and generally renovating the neglected place.
If you know us, you know that Ron and I are considered coffee “snobs.” (It came about when we opened North Woods Coffee Co. in Coldwater, Michigan.) We love good coffee and we drive miles to find it. My road atlas is marked with notes of good coffee shops along the way – from Michigan to Venice. Of course, we take our favorite coffee maker along with us on vacations! (Doesn’t everyone?)
We also, most often, take our own coffee mugs along when we travel – our favorite being a plain white diner mug, in which we served our awesome coffee at North Woods Coffee Co. But on this trip, we were so packed in our small SUV and trailing U-Haul, we had tried to bring only what we would actually “leave” at our new winter home in Venice. We didn’t want to leave our small collection of diner mugs, saved from North Woods Coffee Co., so . . .
. . . after we spent the first night in a Venice motel (the little winter home yet not renovated), we rose early and went directly to the little home, pulled the coffeemaker our of the SUV,and proceeded to make a pot of the hot brew we so loved. I opened the kitchen cupboard, searching through the hodgepodge of dishes , which had accumulated throughout years of rentals and the vacations of numerous strangers. Searching those neglected shelves, I discovered a vast collection of mugs, some adorned with teddy bears or Christmas greetings, others embellished with the names and logos of nearby realtors and dentists. But behind the odd assortment, my eyes fell upon a cute little abandoned yellow cup: one in which my index finger comfortably slipped through the handle, one which held just the right amount of morning coffee I like to begin with, one that was filled with memories of Florida breakfasts and dinners of our own vacations past, and one which had been “left” in that little Florida kitchen many years before by my Mama and Daddy.
The yellow cup will remain in the Venice house, alone, among other vintage dishes – the ones I had taken from Michigan and had planned to use. It will always be a reminder of days gone by, of sipping morning brew on the lanai or a cup of French press with afternoon dessert. The yellow cup will often be the first one I use on warm, sunny Florida mornings because, you see, for some reason, my coffee tastes even better in that cute little yellow cup!
He “needed” to go through Samaria. He could have gone around Samaria – out of the way, like others did, to avoid the dirty, barren route in the middle of a dry, hot day. But he went through Samaria – seeking the woman, the lost woman.
He met her at the well, in the heat of the midday, the time she purposely came to avoid the others – all the others – those who knew of her past and those who knew of her present. Day after day she came, rejected by the people, ashamed and alone, with a thirst that was never quenched.
“If you only knew,” He said. “You could ask for living water.”
What is living water? She wondered.
He knew everything about her.
She knew only that the Christ would be coming.
He said, “I AM!”
She ran to tell everyone about Him – the Christ.
And many believed – because of her testimony.
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
He sought me one day – a lost woman.
He met me where I was – alone and broken, rejected and ashamed, dirty and parched.
He knew everything about me, but He loved me anyway.
“Come to me,” He said, “Drink of the living water, and you’ll never thirst. The water I give will become a spring in you, welling up to eternal life.”
And so I drank.
And now I’m running to tell everyone about Him – the Christ.
“The phone call came shortly after Ron and I were both sound asleep, early in the night, between a normal Tuesday and a wretched Wednesday. I jumped out of bed to answer. With Mama and Daddy in the nursing home, I was accustomed to receiving phone calls – day or night. ‘Doctor ordered a different medicine,’ or ‘Your mother had a fall.’ But I could see on the phone ID that this call was different. It was Jesse’s dad, Jake. I knew something was wrong – desperately wrong.
‘Kathi, this is Jake. Amber and Jesse have been arrested.’
Please, God, let this be a nightmare. Let me wake up now.”
It was a nightmare – a living nightmare, culminating years of heartache and despondency. I couldn’t shake this nightmare, as I had those of my childhood – with splashes of cold water on my face and by walking around the house. This nightmare persisted, and at first, I had no strength to fight it.
Within those first days, I spoke with my beloved former pastor, pouring out my broken heart, with the news of our daughter’s arrest – news that had shattered my world. He now lived across the country, but he prayed for me on the phone that day. I still remember some of those words:
“In five years, Lord, may this be nothing but a bad memory.”
In my deepest despair, those dozen words encouraged me. Was it possible that a day might come when this pain would no longer permeate my soul – when only a memory of the pain would exist?
That living nightmare occurred well over five years ago! And today, it isnothing but a bad memory!
It’s a long story, and you’ll have to read my book to understand how the Lord lessened my anguish, bit by bit, miracle by miracle – how the Lord broke through chains – my chains, my daughter’s chains. It’s an awesome story!
Pastor Mills passed to heaven recently. I thanked him here on earth, and I’ll thank him again when I see him in heaven: Thank you for hope – a hope I’ve come to know – a hope I now instill in others.
Friend, as I write this, I pray Ephesians 1:18 for you – that you might know that hope – that your worst nightmare will soon be nothing but memory, a memory God has healed. You can know the God who breaks away the chains, breaks down the gates of bronze, and cuts through the bars of iron!
I toss and turn through the night. Wake early, lie in bed, and fret.
The day is beautiful. Peace is in my soul.
But it is my body – and my mind – that lack it.
Peace – the kind of peace only Jesus can give. I seek it this morning.
“Oh, Keeper of my Soul,” I pray, as my eyes fall upon His Words.
He whispers to me:
“I give you peace, Kathi, the kind of peace only I can give.”
“Your Word is truth,” I read – and pray, speaking His Word back to Him, the creator of those words.
I am thirsting for the truth which brings peace. Desiring it more than the cup of coffee in my hand.
My eyes spring from verse to verse, from highlight to annotation, rediscovering messages of hope and comfort, His whispers of love, affirmation, and peace – yes, of peace – as the Keeper of my Soul fulfills His promise to me.
Let the Keeper of your Soul quench your thirst for peace today. Let your eyes fall upon His Word.
The heavens declare the glory of God . . . (Psalm 19:1a)
You’ll see it in the skies – the sun, the stars, the clouds, deep into the huge expanse reaching far beyond our sight.
It’s there. His glory!
You’ll hear these heavenly elements speak. Day and night, they are declaring, speaking. And as they speak, they teach us, revealing knowledge, making God known to us, reviving our souls. His voice is heard and He is made known in every corner of the earth, reaching every land, every tribe, every language. No place is hidden from His voice – from His glory. Whenever and wherever you see the skies, you see God’s glory.
It’s there. His glory!
Father, I look up because I want to see your glory. Open my eyes to every aspect of your creation that I see when I look up. Open my ears to hear your glory. Let me hear your Word speaking to me. Day or night. Light or dark. I join the heavens in praising you.