Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hope is a Person

        Hospitals are hard.
        They can be places of hurt, of demolished hope, of fear and uncertainty, of pain and sorrow.  But they can also be places of healing and hope, of babies born, of dreams restored, of courage found and faith displayed.  In hospitals, we experience the reality of Charles Dickens immortal words, "It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times..."
       After a hard week in the hospital for my sweet sister-in-law, yesterday was one of those especially hard days.  We learned that she has a particularly challenging form of cancer, and although we thought we were prepared for difficult news, well, we weren't really prepared.  I don't think you ever fully can be.
       And yet even in the heartbreak and fear, there's that kernel of hope.  Because our hope isn't in a great diagnosis, or in wonderful doctors, or in perfect health, or in happy circumstances...our hope is in Christ.
       Hope isn't a feeling.  Hope isn't a concept.  Hope is a Person, and His name is Jesus.     
       "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
         As my daughter, Mary Norris, so eloquently expressed it to my sister-in-law when she learned of the news yesterday: "One thing I will never forget is something someone told me when Janie's situation was looking really bleak--doctors can only give us news...they cannot give us hope.  Hope comes from God and God alone.  Your future is secure and He meets us at our weakest and most lonely, vulnerable places."
          We have a God who weeps with us in our pain and sorrow.  We have a God who fully suffered and completely understands every single pain, sorrow, and disappointment we'll ever face.  He knows what it is to be be suffer pain and defeat and death.
         And He's promised us that on this lovely, broken planet, we too will suffer.  "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation..."  Yes, we will experience sorrow, pain, disease...BUT that's not the end of the story!
          No sir! Finish the verse! Because following yet another of those amazing "but's" in the Word of God are words of glorious hope, certain hope, Jesus-this-is-gonna-get-mighty-good-hope: "...But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
           I don't know what you might be enduring today or facing tomorrow, but this I do know: Jesus has promised never to leave us us nor forsake us. (Heb.13:5)  He's promised He's bringing ultimate and eternal good out of ALL things. (Rom.8:28) He's promised that He's making all things new (Rev.21:5 And by the way, He's not just making all new things, but making all things new!  Praise God!!)  He's promised that He is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:3) and that our light and momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor.4:17)  And He's promised that He's overcome the we can, we should, we must take heart!
          I have to quote my precious daughter one more time in the text she sent to my sister-in-law: "Isn't it amazing how we have a God who sits with us in our pain? That if feels like He draws nearest when we're hurting and provides tangible reminders that He loves us?  He is ultimately writing a story that fully redeems everything on this earth and one day it will be made whole again.  We can rest in that assurance and in the meantime hope in His unfailing promises."   Amen and amen.
         Cancer doesn't have the last word.  Divorce doesn't have the last word. Disease doesn't have the last world. Depression doesn't have the last word.  Addiction doesn't have the last word.  Destroyed finances or relationships or health don't have the last word.
          Jesus has the first and last word forever and ever and ever.  He is our Hope.  He is our Anchor in the storm.  And He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Real, abundant, eternal, glorious, hope-fulfilled Life with a capital L.
          I don't know what the coming months will look like for my dear sister-in-law...or for any one of us on the planet for that matter. But I know the One who knows and holds us all in His nail-scarred hands.  And if He says He's always with us...and He's overcome the world...and He's bringing our good and His glory out of all things...and He's making all things new, well then, we're good.  Even while we fight the good fight against this cancer, we place our hope in God and in God alone.  And He's got us.  He's got her.  He's got you.  He is Hope.
         To God be the glory.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

In the storms

        Isn't it something how life moves along calmly, quietly, uneventfully...and then suddenly, wham, a hurricane blows in.  One moment the skies are sunny, bright and clear, and the next, the storms clouds glower low and menacing and the rain pours down in sheets. 
        It's been one of those days. 
        This past week has featured the typical series of minor difficulties and small disappointments along with plenty of joyous interludes of peace and answered prayer.  Actually, like all of life--some good, some bad.  Some joy, some sorrow.  Some moments of crying out to God "Why?!" and "When?!" yet then interspersed with plenty of moments of "Thank You!" and "Praise You, Father!" 
        But today's been different.  We have several friends and family members dealing with sudden crises.  And here I sit, knowing in a sense what they're feeling.  I can close my eyes and am immediately taken back to that phone call six years ago this month.  Your daughter's been in a serious car accident...traumatic brain injury...coma...ICU.  It's like suddenly being thrown into a swirling vortex of uncertainty and fear. 
         How I wish, I pray, I could take away the pain and terror and helplessness.  I cannot...but this I do know.  There is a Rock that is an unshakable fortress, a sure and certain refuge in any storm. And His name is Jesus. 
        He is the mighty Lion of Judah.  The Great Deliverer.  The Redeemer.  The Bread of Life.  The Door.  The Living Water.  The Good, Good Shepherd.  The Friend who sticks closer than a brother.  The  Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The Word.  The Savior. 
         And He will never ever leave you nor forsake you.  (Heb.13:5) 
         Sometimes we don't truly realize that until we're buffeted by the storms, and in the midst of the craziness, we sense His nearness, His grace, His tender love as never before.  It's in the storms that we learn what it means to depend upon Him, to trust Him alone for "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow," and to experience joy even in the midst of sorrow and difficulty.   
         "I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight." (Psalm 119:76-77)
        He is in the affliction.  He is in the storm.  He has allowed it, and He will use it, somehow, someway, for our greater good and His greater glory.  After all, Jesus endured the most horrific storm ever--the storm of the cross--for you, for me.  He allowed that raging storm of wrath and sin to buffet and batter and beat Him all the way to death.  The death we deserved. 
        But then on the third day, Jesus rose victorious.  Victorious over sin and death.  Victorious over fear and failure. Victorious over sickness and shame.  Victorious over despair and defeat.  And because He lives and reigns, so one day we will as well. 
         If you're in the midst of a storm, big or small, right now, look to Jesus.  Go to Him in His Word.  Worship Him in your pain.  Cry out to Him in your confusion.  Trust Him even when you cannot see the way ahead.  Because He does.  And He'll bring you safely home. 
         He's there.  I promise.  Far better yet, He's promised, and His Word never, ever fails. 
         If you're still and listen deeply, you might hear the beautiful sound of a distant roar.  Because in the midst of the storm, Aslan is on the move.
         To God be the glory.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Preach it, baby, preach it!

        Can I just share two things that have been mighty irritating today? 
        Irritation one: crows. Big, pushy, ugly black crows that seem to arrive in swarms and are trying to take over our bird feeder.  I wouldn't mind them so much if they'd stop scaring off the other birds, but that's just it: they're big old bullies!  I bet I've opened the door and shooed them away at least twenty-five times in the past few days.  Yet they're relentless...they just keep coming back and coming back and eating and scaring and bullying.  And yours truly, for the first time in my life, wishes she had BB gun to shoot at those pesky birds. 
        Irritation two: Bingley's barking.  I don't mean barking at bark-worthy objects, but BARKING BARKING BARKING at apparently random nothings that he spots outside the window.  Now, I wouldn't mind if he'd bark at those annoying crows, and sometimes he does. But he also barks at some mysterious something or other he sees or hears outside (which no one else in our house can see or hear) while he's staring out our dining room windows or kitchen door window or den windows... And I should add that his bark typically occurs when all else is quiet in the house and then suddenly, DEFCOM 1!  WARNING WARNING!  It's an earsplitting, dead-raising BARK that always elicits a scream from his startled family. 
         In the above picture, we have combined my two annoyances--Bingley staring out the window while preparing for a rousing, 120 decibel bark, and a crow alighting on the bird feeder outside, preparing to bully the cardinals and eat all the food.  (Can I add that I don't appreciate anybody or anything messing with my beloved cardinals.)
         But all this got me to thinking.  How often is our worrying and fretting and even giving in to discouragement like those crows and that barking?   
         Because here's the thing: what good does worrying and fretting do us?  We all know the answer to that--zip, nada, empty today of the strength and joy God meant for us to enjoy today in our ridiculous insistence on fretting about tomorrow!  And worries--like crows--come in packs, don't they?  You start off with one little concern, and the next thing you know, you've morphed that tiny fear into some looming, gigantic catastrophe. Ridiculous!..not to mention annoying, unhelpful, and fruitless.
           Same thing with discouragement.  We lose all perspective and remembrance of God's goodness and grace and faithfulness when we allow ourselves to fall into the "pitt of despond" (to quote John Bunyan).  And one little disappointment can suddenly envelop all of life, coloring everything with a grey, dark cast so that we utterly fail to be thankful for God's extravagant generosity and His relentless gifts. 
           What do we do?  Well, I know I've shared this over and over again, but we FORGET, so here it is again (for anybody out there who is a slow learner and a quick forgetter like me): PREACH TO YOURSELF!
           Yes, we've heard it, but as Paul David Tripp always says, we're spiritual amnesiacs, and thus we need to be reminded again and again of the truths we know...but forget. 
           Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself from God's Word! 
           His Word is eternal, true, and supernaturally powerful, so that's the perfect source for our preaching.  We don't need to reinvent the wheel or come up with some super-duper inspirational speech. Nope, we simply open God's Word and start to preaching!  Write it out.  Meditate on it.  Speak it out loud. Sing it.  Pray it.  However you do it, go to the Word and preach it to your weary, overwhelmed, burdened self. 
          Martyn Lloyd-Jones expresses this perfectly:
               "Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. . . . Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you. "
          As the Psalmist in Psalm 42 declares, "Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God."  In other words, talk to your soul.  Preach to your soul.  Hit your soul with God's perfect and powerful Word! 
           Preach it, baby, preach it! 
           To God be the glory. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Start making a new ending

        "No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."  (No idea where I read this, but I love it!)
        "You don't have to be who you first were." (I do know this one!--Jen Hatmaker)
        Finally, a good, good word from God's Word: "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isa.43:18-19)
        Anybody need a tiny bit of encouragement on this sunny, then cloudy, then stormy summer Monday?  Maybe just a little nudge that it's always too soon to give up...that it's never too late to start again...and that we serve a God of Resurrection who works best in a graveyard? 
         Well, I think I did--I do--as I've struggled to get going on what I need to get going on.  As one of my mama's old needlepoint pillows used to say, "My get up and go, got up and went!" 
          Lately, it's meant simply not feeling the inspiration to write.  Not feeling like tackling those tasks that require focus and determination.  Not feeling like I've got what it takes to do what's required.  And not feeling like "the joy of the Lord is my strength." (Neh.8:10)  Instead, my strength feels paltry and small.  And I think I know why: because it's entirely too Emily-dependent rather than God-dependent.  Circumstance-dependent rather than Savior-dependent.  And that's a recipe for inertia, discouragement, and frustration. 
          So, once again, I come to the endless fountain of God's mercy and grace, His power and provision, His love and wisdom.  And once again, I ask for the priceless, blood-bought gift of His  forgiveness and the joy of a new start.  That He would do "a new thing" in me and through me.  And that He would "make  a way in the wilderness" of my weakness and "rivers in the desert" of my discouragement. 
         And He has.  He does.  He will. Not just for me, but for you, too.  For the Lord will forever be true to His Word and to His never-failing promises.  "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God." (2 Cor.1:20)
          Today, you might not be able go back and make a new beginning, but by the grace and power of God,  you can absolutely, right now, make a new ending.  He's ready to do a new thing in your heart and in your life.  Stop rehashing your sad, old failures, and start rehearsing God's supernatural promises.   Stop fixating on yourself, and start focusing on your Lord.  Stop waiting for your feelings, and start walking by your faith.   
           Because just as God has been changing the weather on this sunny, then cloudy, then stormy day, so He can change us as well.  Come to Him and ask Him to start today.  Start now.  And watch Him go to work. 
           To God be the glory.   

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The glory of God, the goodness of God

         What a magnificent creation.  What an unimaginably more magnificent and glorious Creator. 
        We've just returned from our annual trout fishing trip in the mountains of North Carolina, and oh my, joy and wonder on every possible level.  The joy of witnessing the astounding beauty of God's handiwork all around us--soaring mountains, rushing streams, blooming rhododendron, verdant greenery everywhere, pounding waterfalls--

        All this wondrous creation is but a pale reflection of the infinitely more glorious Creator.  If He could create such abundant beauty, such astounding power, can you even begin to imagine how beautiful, how powerful, how astounding our Lord must be?! 
       I couldn't help but think of one of the liturgies, "Praise to the King of Creation" from the wonderful book,  Every Moment Holy, by Douglas McKelvey:

               "Our thoughts of You, O Lord, have been too small, too few--for seldom have we considered how specific is the exercising of Your authority, extending as it does into the myriad particulars of creation.
                  There is no quarter over which You are not King.
                  And as creation hurtles toward its liberation and redemption, the full implications of Your deep Lordship are yet to be revealed in countless facets unconsidered:
                   Christ, you are the Snow King.  You are the Maker of All Weathers.  You are the King of Sunlight and Storms, the King of Grey Skies and Rain.  You are the Rain King, the Sun King, the Hurricane King.  You are the King of Autumn  and King of Spring.
                  And our thoughts of You, O Lord, have been too small, too few...
                  You are the King of the Rabbits, and the Lord of Tall Trees.  You are the God of Youth and the God of Age.  You are the Acorn King, The River God, the Swamp King, King of Glades, King of Dells, Ruler of All Hummingbirds...
                  You are the weaver of the unseen fabrics of the world.  You are Lord of the Atoms, the Ruler of Electrons, the Lord of Gravity, and the King of Quarks.
                   Your dominion enfolds the earth and rises beyond it to the furthest extremes of the stars.  You are Lord of the Vast Empty Spaces.  You are King of the Constellations, the Black Hole King, Lord of Novas Exploding, Lord of Speeding Light, High King of Galaxies, King of Orion, King of the Moon.
                   And still, even still, our thoughts of You have been too small, too few. 
                   You are the God of Justice, the God of Wisdom, the God of Mercy, the God of Redemption.  You are the Lord of Love...
                    You were before all things, You creation all things, and in You all things are held together.  There is no corner of creation You will fail to redeem.
                   You are the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, O Jesus Christ, our King of Everything."

         Amen and amen!
         And yet this astoundingly glorious, omnipotent, shining, beautiful, perfect Lord of Lords made each of His image, for His glory, by His love.  And redeemed us by His unimaginable grace. 
         We, little frail dust people that we are, are the crown of His creation and the object of His abounding love. 
         Yes, I couldn't help but praise Him for the glory of His creation...but also praise Him for the amazing goodness of His grace in giving us one another.  The people in our lives--the family and friends--oh what priceless gems each of them are!  The joy of precious family and being alive--
        The gift of a very dear son-in-law (and a beautiful trout!)--
      The peace and happiness of family dinners and praying together for God's bounty--

          Thank You, Father, thank You.  Forgive us for ever taking life's simplest, freest, and yet most wondrous gifts for granted.  Teach us, help us to see You in all Your creation, to love You deeply, and to worship You extravagantly.  For You are worthy...You are infinitely worthy.  And give us hearts overflowing with love and appreciation for those priceless souls You have so generously placed in our lives.  Might we forgive freely, encourage abundantly, guide gently, thank constantly, and see in them Your glory and goodness. 
         Might our lives be one gigantic "Thank You" and "I love You," Father.  Today and every day You choose to give us.  To God be the glory. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Golf...Frogs...and Remembering

        "Seven times a day I praise You for Your righteous rules.  Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing makes them stumble." (Ps.119:164-165)
       "Seven times a day I praise You..." and "Love Your law..."  How do we do that?  Well, we read God's Word,  memorize it, ponder it, churn it over in our minds throughout the day, savor it, enjoy nourishment from it, and, here's the kicker, obey it.  Or in other words,  we put it into practice in the nitty gritty of our daily lives.  Will we do that?  Because if we do, it's a sure-fire prescription for joy, peace and hope no matter our circumstances.  But when we don't?  Well, let me tell you about that...
         You see, my husband and I traveled to New Jersey with one of our youngest son for a golf tournament.  And let me say right off the bat, we had a truly wonderful time.   All you New Jersey detractors, if you'll head off the turnpike and into the little towns of NJ, you'll be amazed.  It's absolutely beautiful...and the people were incredibly nice.  Clearly southerners do not have a corner on hospitality.       
         The weather was great.  The food was terrific.  The tournament was spectacularly run and made all the competitors feel like kings and queens.  We loved meeting lots of truly wonderful folks, from the parents and grandparents of the other players, to the boys themselves (I'm sure the girls were great too,  but we were with the guys and their families), to the volunteers.  And you could even see the skyline of Manhattan from the putting green.  How about that?
 (Do you see it in the background?)  I may be a Tar Heel through and through, but no putting green in my beloved state of North Caroline can make that boast.
           Here's the other thing--I got to spend four straight days walking an absolutely gorgeous golf course with my husband...watching our son play golf...meeting and enjoying a number of terrific parents...savoring God's magnificent creation.  What's not to love?
           Nothing...except my crummy, no good, frustrating, terrible, ridiculous tendency to stress out and worry over about every putt and every shot.  I've sat in the ICU beside the bedside of our unconscious daughter...wouldn't you think I'd have some perspective on what really matters?  Wouldn't you think watching golf would be an absolute picnic in comparison?  Wouldn't you think I'd be savoring every moment and resting in God's undeserved goodness?
           Sigh.  Not so much.  Because it's amazing how quickly we forget to keep the main thing, the main thing.  How prone we are to forget Whose we are, Who's in control, and Who has us in the palm of His hand.  How easily we forget the priceless gift of God's amazing grace in our lives, His forgiveness, His love, His presence, His power...
           If you're anything like me, when the storm clouds gather...or circumstances don't go the way you hoped...or stress presses in, you become a spiritual amnesiac.
            That's why I so loved these verses, and especially that little phrase, "Seven times a day I praise You."  Because we need to have specific, intentional ways to remember.  
           To immediately recall and remind us when the deadlines approach or the crisis hits or the stress trigger looms, or the busyness of life simply overwhelms us, that God is right there with us. That He is worthy.  That He is beautiful.  That He is all we need.  That He's got us and those we love.  And that in all those situations that frighten us or those circumstances that disappoint us or those everyday struggles that defeat us, He's using them all, all, all for our greater good and His greater glory.  We may not be able to see it or understand it, but we can trust that it's true.  If you ever doubt that, look at the cross.  The most horrific injustice, the most terrible event, the most bewildering betrayal, suffering, and death...all resulted in the most unimaginably wondrous gift of love, grace, salvation, eternal life, heaven, and on and on.
             So we have to remember.  To do that we have to plant God's Word in our hearts and minds.  We need to think about it, pray it, savor it, speak it, and obey it.  And another practical way to remember is to praise Him continually throughout your day.  Maybe even program your phone to remind you seven times a day. Thank Him for HIs presence.  Praise Him for His creation.  Rejoice in His gifts to you in people, food, home, dog, health, books, songs... The possibilities are limitless! 
           Sadly, for several hours on the golf course, however, I forgot.  Oh mercy, what an impossibly slow learner and quick forgetter I am!  But you've got to love the Lord's grace and His sense of humor, because He gave me a tangible reminder right smack in the middle of the round of golf in the form of these little fellows--
        Now I've never ever described a frog as even remotely attractive, but there's a first time for everything, and these creatures were beauties!  The moment we spotted them, I immediately thought of my dear friend Beth and her mama who loved frogs and would always put frog emojis in  her texts to her children.  Why?  Because of the acronym for frog--Fully Rely On God. 
        It was like the Lord sending me a lifeline in the midst of my stress fog--"Emily, Fully Rely On God!  Fully Remember God!  Fully Rejoice in God!  Fully Rest in God!"  Stop worrying and start remembering.  Stop striving and start relying.  Stop stressing and start resting.  Stop worrying and start rejoicing. 
        Yep, for a little while, I forgot...and so instead of relying I was striving; instead of rejoicing, I was worrying; and instead of resting, I was stressing.  And in the process, I was sadly missing the joy of the moment, the beauty of place, the happiness of being with those I loved, and the wonder of God's presence with me.  Until God sent a few frogs to remind me.    
          Thankfully, the Lord didn't give up on me--His amnesiac, slow learning, sin-prone child.  And He won't give up on you either.  
          No matter how challenging or disappointing or frightening or overwhelming your circumstances, you have the choice today, right now, to turn to Him and simply rest in His presence.  To tell Him You can't...but He can.  To rely upon Him instead of all your own machinations and manipulations.  To rejoice in Him continuously throughout your day.  To return and run back to Him again and again after you forget and fail and fall down.  And He will be there with His nail-scarred hands stretched out wide to welcome you back in His loving, forgiving, grace-filled, peaceful embrace. 
           Golf...and frogs...and remembering--What an endlessly creative, forgiving, wondrous Lord we serve!  So today: Fully Rely On God.  Fully Remember God.  Fully Rejoice in God.  Fully Rest in God.  And be revived and restored and refilled.  Your Abba is waiting.  Run to Him.  
            To God be the glory.       

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

In need of water

           Well you just never know what a day will bring, do you?
           It all started off as a fairly ordinary Tuesday.  It had been a busy morning--getting one of our sons ready to leave on an overseas mission trip and then dropping him off at the airport.  Then rushed to a haircut.  Then zipped by good old Target.  Then, since my husband and another son were out of town for a golf tournament, the house would be still, and I arrived home happily anticipating the quiet hours ahead to get lots and lots of items crossed off on my to do list.  Yes sir, I ate some lunch, cleaned up, did some chores, and prepared to get busy as soon as I took a quick shower.
           Uh, except no water came out of the faucet.  I went to another bathroom--same thing.  Hmm.  I quickly discovered that we had no--as in NONE, NADA, ZIPPO--water in the house.  Suddenly I felt in even more dire need of a shower...and a glass of water...and what about that dirty laundry...and all the while, our  dog who never seemed to have enough water in his water bowl is glaring at me.
           I'll just cut to the chase here to explain that it turned out the city had CUT OFF OUR WATER.  Yes, we have never once missed a payment for our water bill.  And no, we did not get a notice of any kind.  Just bam--water cut off with no warning whatsoever.  Turns out, although we'd mailed the check, the city apparently never got it.  The solution, naturally, is not to contact you but to simply send a truck over to your house and CUT OFF YOUR WATER.  Seems like the nuclear option to me.  Please don't get the idea that I'm upset about it or anything.  Geez.
           Thankfully, we were able to reach the proper authorities and pay (for the second time, mind you) our bill over the phone, and then we learned the wonderful news that the city guaranteed the water would be cut back on by midnight...of the following day.  WHAT?!  That was mighty comforting.  All we'd have to do is have no water to drink, shower with, clean, and, ahem, flush the toilet, for another day and a half.  Oh my stars.  Thankfully, Bingley had no idea how desperate our plight was, but yours truly was feeling a wee bit panicked...and in need of a shower...and thirsty.
          While my mind raced and plotted about what we should do and where we should go, I heard a sound and looked out the window...and glory, glory, glory, it was one of the most beautiful sights I've beheld in quite a while--the city utilities truck had returned to cut our water back on!
           Voila, just like that, we were back in business!  We could shower, wash, drink, flush (sorry if that's too graphic!), and even water the half dead plants on our front porch! Such an abundance of wonderful water, water, water!
           I was so excited I exclaimed out loud "Praise  the Lord!"  And I meant it.  I don't think I've ever been so thankful for one of life's basic--but most vital--necessities.  Plain old, fabulous old, water.  Goodness, how often we take these truly great gifts for granted.
           And then I was immediately convicted as these verses came to mind--
           "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."  (Ps.41:1-2)
           I'd suddenly realized how badly we needed water and had been desperate to get it, but what about the far more vital and life-changing need for my Savior?  Do I pant after the Lord like that?  Do I thirst for His Word and His presence like that?  Am I desperate to spend time with Him?  Do I happily, daily go to Him to be washed by His Word and be satisfied and filled with His thirst-quenching, strength-giving, joy-filling presence?
          Or do I run after poor pale substitutes to temporarily quench my thirst?  Busyness.  Material possessions.  Achievements.  Pleasures.  Distractions.  So many substitutes and not a one of them ultimately fills the emptiness and quenches the thirst...
          ...except Jesus.  The Living Water.  No wonder He said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)
          Thank You, Father, for reminding me.  Forgive me for so quickly forgetting and for failing to run to You.  You are our Living Water.  You are the One who saves us, satisfies us, strengthens us.  If we have You, we truly have all we need...and if we have everything single thing this world can ever offer, but we don't have You, then we ultimately have nothing.
           Today, if you're feeling dissatisfied or discouraged, if you're feeling empty or thirsty, can I ask you to run to the One who is the Living Water?  Take your thirst and your emptiness, your sadness and your need, to Him.  To Him "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think..." (Eph.3:20)  To Him who is the Bread of Life.  To Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. To Him who is the Good Shepherd.  To Him who is the Vine.  To Him who is the Door.  To Him who is the Light of the World.  To Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
           He has all you need, and in Him, you have all.  Might we thirst for Him this day and every day and run to the Living Water to be filled and refilled, redeemed and revived, refreshed and renewed.  Thank You, Jesus, thank You.
           To God be the glory.