Imprisoned Yet Free

No confinement can deprive God’s people of His Presence.  No locks nor bars can shut out his gracious visits.  A prisoner behind bars can experience God just as others who are free.  Afflictions can imprison.  Old age with an inability to care for oneself any longer can imprison.  Depression can imprison.  Circumstances can imprison.  BUT..Our God knows no walls.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard, saying, “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the LORD is His name, Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’  Jeremiah 33:1-3

Jeremiah was in prison.  The LORD revealed Himself, speaking to him, wanting to tell him many things, wonderful things.

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Paul spent many years in prison, some in Caesarea, in Rome, and possibly other places.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are arrested:  “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.  The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.  Acts 16:25-34   Look at the miracle God brought upon this man and his household through two prisoners, Paul and Silas.

Peter was also a prisoner: So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.  On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.  And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands.  Acts 12:5-7

And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.  Acts 12:9

When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”   And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying Acts 12:11-12

But Peter continued knocking; and when they had openedthe door, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place.  Acts 12:16-17

But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.  Acts 12:24

The church prayed for Peter and were amazed when he appeared at the door.  Through this miracle, the word of the LORD grew and multiplied.


Paul credited Jesus Christ for holding him up through all the suffering he endured … for the sake of the cross.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.  Philippians 3:11-13 

Paul was a joyful Christian and expressed the love and peace of Christ everywhere he went, through his letters.  During his imprisonment, Paul wrote four letters that are a part of our New Testament… Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.  Paul teaches us that no matter what our imprisonment, struggle, misfortune, illness, God reigns and will see us through it all…IT ALL!  God wants us to stand tall in His Name through it all.


Oh, my dear Father, this is such a tall order.  You call us to pray and to continue to pray fervently.  You call us to be obedient to Your Word, to Your call, to You.  You are with us in all that we go through.  Oh, God, may I seek Your face without ceasing.  I love You so and want to be under Your wings, protected and cared for in all that I must walk through.  Father, please shelter me as I seek You.  You are my Refuge.  I pray in Your Son’s Holy and Powerful Name.  Amen.


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,  My God, in whom I trust!”  

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence.  

He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; 

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.  

Psalm 91:1-4

 

 


photo: www.heartlight.org

I Do Not Know, Yet He Does

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Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.

Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.

If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies.

He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.

Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.

Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 NASB

As I look to You, O Father, I know that You are the Creator of all, that You are Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent.  You know all that I can never know, but You speak to me.  I pray I have ears to hear You and understand what You say to me.  As Your Word says in Isaiah 30:21, Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.  Father, I want to walk obediently in Your Way for my life.  Guide my every step. You teach me in these verses from Ecclesiastes to prepare for each day, to sow the seeds of giving to Your lost world, to plant where I can, to look to You for answers as to what I am to be doing and being with each day of breath and life that you give to me.  May I be close and not afraid even when I know that Your ways are not mine.  Your ways are far deeper than mine so I want to walk in them as best I can.  I am a child of Yours.  Guide me, Abba Father.  Please.  In Your Son’s Holy Name, I pray.  Amen.

 

graphic:  heartlight.org

Burdens Lifted

Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10

“…for the joy of the LORD is my strength.”  Oh, I cling to this for He is so very present in and around me this day.  I sense His very Presence as I go about my tasks at home and out and about.  I feel a lightness that was not there a week ago.  For fifteen years, I have taken care of my mother in many ways, even as she lived in an assisted living and a nursing home.  She passed away on January 30, 2013.  Because her wish was to be buried with my father in Arlington National Cemetery, we waited and waited.  In July, they called and set the date for September 9th.  September 9th is behind us now.  It is behind me.  All the paperwork and details are done.  The burial is finished.  Letting friends know about the service is taken care of and behind me.  It is all behind me.

The days of Mama’s life pass by my mind’s eye and heart and I know that I did the right thing in bringing her to be near to me.  Her love and care for her children and husband were extraordinary.  She lived fully.

But there were many tasks that went on and on with new tasks taking the place of some.  But those things are over.  The bookkeeping for her accounts, done for many years, is done.  The burden of the condition of Mama’s mind, the dementia, is gone.  Mama’s confusion and disorientation is wiped away.  The burden of giving insulin to her before and after work, making sure she got her medications and the right ones, or the monitoring of the medication schedule with the nursing home staff is gone.  The burden of the calls from the facilities telling me of needs, problems, diagnoses, and so much more.  The burden of an inability to travel very far from home with my husband because we might have to hurry back is behind us.  Surely, I miss my Mama so very much, but she is gone to be with our LORD and I rejoice in that beautiful thought.  I also rejoice that Mama is no longer in pain; the dementia, the cancer, the diabetes, et al, are gone…GONE!  FOREVER!  Praising God for all of this!

Within days of arriving home from Arlington, I noticed the change, a lifting, a lighter feeling on my body and in my heart.  My shoulders seem to stand more upright without the burdens.   So many burdens that I carried and gave to the LORD over and over again, although not very well, I must admit, have been lifted from me.  God knew and always was with me.  He carried me, walked by me, loved me through it all even when I called out over and over again, “How long, O LORD, how long?”  I was not wanting Mama to go away.  I just struggled so as I watched her suffer.  And God is with me now as life takes on new turns for me, for us.  I could not have done it without Him.

“Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.  ‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  Exodus 6:6-7

Praising Him for He has done this for me.

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; 
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

He sustains me.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, 
The God who is our salvation. Selah.  Psalm 68:19

He bears my burden and is my salvation.  Praise You, Father.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

He gives me rest.  He teams up with me and teaches me.  He shares my burdens with His gentleness and humility.  Praising You for everything.  Hallelujah!

 

YES, LORD Jesus, You have given me rest for my soul.  I do rest in You for I know You are the giver of every breath I have, for every heartbeat, for every step I take.  Thank You for the time with family and the love we shared in Washington, D.C.  Thank You for the especially fine service and the way I recall beautiful parts of it in my heart.  You were with us and are with me now.  I praise You, LORD, and thank You for lightening my load.  I feel tender and at the same time strong because You are my strength.  I feel a gentle whisper reminding me of who I am in You.   Thank You so much for everything, including the last fifteen years with my Mama, and for the whole 98+ years of her life.  I got 65 of those.   I pray I did things for her and my family in Your Name.  And I call upon You for You are my strength and my joy.  Amen.

 

Home from Arlington National Cemetery

Home from five days in Washington, D.C. to lay my Mama’s ashes to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with her dear husband of almost twenty years, our Daddy, who died fifty-three years ago.  It was her wish to be buried there with him.  It was an honor, not only to have her buried there, but to receive a spouse’s military honors in burial.

Yes, it was hard, sad, but wonderful all at the same time.

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Our small family was there from Hawaii, California, Texas.  The 98 year old remains were laid to rest at last and at the same time we are blessed with the beauty and vibrancy of a 16 month old, the only great grandchild of our mother.  Mama would have just adored her.  Life continues and we move forward.

We had to wait over seven months to fulfill Mama’s wishes to be buried in Arlington, but closure can truly begin even though we have been grieving for many months.

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LORD, we thank You for blessing us with such a fine service, a lovely day, and for family.  Thank You for bringing us together and giving us special times to reminisce, reflect, and digest all that has gone before.  May the honor that was bestowed upon our parents at Arlington National Cemetery remind us of the qualities that made them the parents they were to us.  I thank You that one of my sisters was able to come, to spend time, just the two of us, together a couple of the evenings, a day journey to Mount Vernon and Alexandria, and especially at the cemetery our last day when we cried, laughed, cried some more, and reminded each other what family is all about.  And I am so very grateful for the caring staff at Arlington.  We have truly been blessed.  Thank You for prayers lifted high from so many people, even women I have never met person-to-person, yet they are friends.  LORD, You kept us all safe and brought us to and from nestled in Your arms.  I pray that the words spoken by the Navy Chaplain will touch each one there, giving pause for reflection upon those words which are Your Words.  You used him, LORD, to bring Your message to us, possibly to some who needed to hear it.  Praising You with all that I have to praise!  I also thank You, LORD, for bringing this new sweet life, this little child, into our family who is truly a joy.  May the peace that prevailed on that day continue to flow all around us in these days and months to come.  I love You, LORD.  I pray in the Mighty Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Love Never Fails

Hush, Little Baby

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat

And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark
Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart

And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.

I hear Peter, Paul and Mary singing this song on a favorite album, in my head, and, yet, never thought much about the words.  But as I hum the tune, I looked the words up to get them down right.  Notice the father is most willing to give this child anything.

Our Father gives us what we need:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; 
The LORD gives grace and glory; 
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  Psalm 84:11

“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”  John 6:33

…but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

And the Word of God goes on and on with the gifts from our Heavenly Father.

All the “things” seem to fail, but the love of the Father never does.  No matter what material things we think we need or want, they are never enough to fill the God-shaped hole in us.  Only He can take that space up perfectly.

Here, Jesus teaches us about following Him and what truly matters:

And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”  Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.  And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”  Mark 10:20-23 NASB

Do you know what I notice right off the bat?  Jesus loved this man.  Jesus wanted to give him the very best and the man could not relinquish those “things” in order to have the very best, the love of the Father, the perfect love of Christ.  This man’s hole stays empty for he chose his way and not Jesus.  It does not have to be about material things either.  It can be about holding onto thoughts, feelings, beliefs, unbelief.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  1 Corinthians 13:8

Love never fails.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  1 John 3:1

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:11


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Oh, Father God, You are the very best.  Your love is like no other and is all I need.  As I walk through my life, may I always seek Your face and know Your call to follow You is the best.  Your call for my obedience is the truest path there is and the only one I should take.  You know I stumble sometimes.  I am sorry.  Guide me as I come to You.  Guide me as I am and keep me in the Way.  I love You back, LORD Jesus.  Oh, I do.  In Your Name, I pray.  Amen.

 

photo: http://heartlight.org