Sunday, March 09, 2014

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Familiar Voice

While I was growing up, I always had a pet.  Since we lived on a farm, we tended to have several "barnyard" cats of the mixed breed variety.  I had aquarium fish and gerbils. There was seldom a time when I did not have a dog.  When I left for college, the dog I had was Buddy, a German shepherd.  (My dogs were ALL my buddies.)  Buddy died shortly before I returned home after my freshman year.

I don't have any actual photos of Freddy,
but this little guy looks a lot like him!
A couple of weeks later, my dad brought home a scrawny, malnourished puppy.  He had found it near an irrigation system.  I immediately adopted the little guy, and named him Freddy.  He flourished, and was romping around our yard with me within days.  About three weeks before I left for college, Dad got a phone call.  The man on the line said, "I hear you found one of my puppies?"  Dad affirmed that we had been in possession of the dog since May.  The gist of the conversation was this:  the dog must be returned, but not until I left for college.

During my Thanksgiving break, my mom asked if I would like to visit Freddy?  We drove to the area of Freddy's owner.  When I stepped out of the car, several young dogs, all the same size/age of Freddy came running down the road.  But when I called out, "Freddy!" only one dog came to me. He had instantly recognized me. Freddy and I had a joyous little reunion right there in the middle of the road!

As I was reminiscing on this time, I realized it was a great picture of Lent.  Throughout our lives, we get separated from our Master.  We tend to stray off into the little side roads of life.  But when our Master calls our name, we recognize His voice.  Our decision is whether to run toward that Voice or turn our back and run away.

Lent allows us the opportunities we need to focus on hearing God's voice more distinctly.  Fasting, prayer, and alms giving are the main ways we do this.  Fasting, because it is a choice to separate ourselves from something we want, in order to spend more time with God.  Prayer, because it is the actual participating in listening to God and allowing His Voice to become even clearer, without the distractions.  But alms giving?What is THAT?!  It is an old fashioned term which means giving to the poor.  What does this have to do with drawing closer to God?  The more we focus on God's voice, the more we should want to help those in need.  Letting go of our money is a vivid picture of letting God be in charge of our finances.  It's an amazing reminder of allowing God to be in charge of each and every area of our lives.

When He calls your name, will you recognize His voice?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Speak Life!

I want to share a very personal story with my blog readers.  I was blessed by a total stranger today.  This woman will never know how much she impacted my life.

Now that I'm in the "over 45" crowd (and have been for a couple of years!), my doctor is strongly urging me to undergo some of the tests I've been avoiding because I felt I was too young.  Or, to be more honest, I just didn't want to go through them because I'm a needle-phobe and have severe white coat syndrome.  This is no joke.  The doctor (I'm seeing now) is the first who hasn't made my blood pressure go up just by walking in the room.

Most recently, she made a very convincing argument for the necessity of a mammogram.

I have no knowledge of a woman who enjoys this procedure.  However, there is some history of cysts in my family--no breast cancer I'm aware of--so I figured it was better to make the appointment and just get it over with.  Three to four days of pain, and I would be fine, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the appointment and...survived.  However, a follow-up call from my doctor's office informed me they could not get a good read on one side.  I needed to make another appointment and have some new "pictures" taken.  Ugh.

I went back today, knowing a little better what to expect.  Going by what I was told, there was nothing to worry about.  This was all pretty routine.  Until I walked into the radiology department.

The technician showed me one of the x-rays from my last appointment.  There was a good-sized spot on that picture.  She said there was concern about it.  Thus, the new testing.  I was floored.  She was surprised that I was so...well, surprised.

We went through another round of x-rays.  Then I waited.  Those were some agonizing 15-20 minutes, as I sat alone in the tiny dressing cubicle and prayed.  And prayed.  I felt very alone.

She called me back in, only to inform me the radiologist wanted just "a few" more pictures to read.  As you can imagine, I was getting past the "this-is-no-big-deal" stage to the "what-in-the-world-is-going-on" stage.  More images, more pain, and then more waiting.  More loneliness.

When she called my name again, I stepped out of the dressing area expecting grim news.  However, the tech had a smile on her face.  Her report:  "That last image was the clearest one.  The radiologist said it's all clear.  Everything is fine."  And then, it happened...

She stepped forward and wrapped me in a hug.  Her words:  "I can see the look on your face.  I've been there.  This is good news, though!  Go home and have a great evening!"

That is one of the best hugs I have ever been given.  I will never forget it.  Thank you for blessing me with your friendship today, sweet technician.

Her words breathed life into an afternoon that had become very dark and lonely.  God definitely answered my prayers.  Not so much because of the results (though, of course, that is an answer, too!).  The real answer came in the hug of a stranger.

Thank you, God, for showing me Your love through that amazingly kind woman.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Song


There is joy in the Lord!


"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."   Colossians 1:11, 12



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What He Sees

This past weekend, our oldest son had a role in a local stage production of "The Outsiders."  I have never read the book or seen the movie.  It was a sobering look at the lives of teens separated by social status.  The "greasers" and the "socs" (well-to-do social upper crust) were the groups created in the mind of S. E. Hinton. Yet they represent the divide between many types of kids in any decade.

The climactic moment of the play is a rumble.  Our son played the part of Paul, one of the socs, who begins the fight.  As the young men began swinging their fists, suddenly, our son was being pummeled and knocked to the ground.  I knew this was coming, and it still made me slightly sick to my stomach.  I knew he was really going to be okay...yet I wanted to run to the stage, drag my eldest to safety, then head back onto the stage and straighten things out!

As I was watching, though, a thought came to me:  how does God feel when we're getting beat up?  When we challenge the world to a fight, and they step up to take us on...what is God thinking?  Does He want to call out a warning to us ("Duck!") or step in and receive the punch in the face in our place?

But, as a good parent, He sometimes lets us take our walloping.

You might be thinking, "What good parent would do that?"

One who knows what is best for us.  Sometimes we have to take our licking.  We have stepped into a situation, and He lets us learn our lesson.  We have been belligerent and tried to take matters into our own hands.  We have become cocky, thinking we could take on the enemy's thugs--and will win it all on our own, and in our own way.  We want to fight on our own, and He lets us see what happens when we do that. The enemy likes to make us think we're in the battle by ourselves.  He isolates us and bring on his bullies.  We fall for it.

But, as a good parent, He also reminds us He is on our side.  We don't have to fight alone or give in to the enemy's tactics. We need to learn we have to fight by God's rules and use His battle plan. We can call on our Big Brother to step in and save us.  Because He has already fought the battle and won.  He knows how to do it, and will help us win, too.

Yes, some of the skirmishes are going to end in ways we find unpleasant.  But always, always remember:  we may not win each fight, but with God on our side, we will win the WAR.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Reflections on the Journey - 2013 edition

My past posts have revealed some great moments of 2013, as well as some really difficult ones.  And, as most of you are already aware, my cousin's daughter, Claire passed away at the end of 2013, after being shot in the Arapahoe High School shooting in Colorado.

Life is full of ups and downs, isn't it?  When we're in the midst of the "downs," we often feel they will never end.  But when that glimpse of sunshine comes blazing through the dark clouds of our storm, we are reminded that God is still God.  We are prompted to recollect all the times He has shown us His love and mercy.  If we really ponder that, we KNOW it is true. 

I sat and wept on January 1st, as my cousin Mike shared such amazing words of forgiveness for the killer of his daughter.  He reminded the audience of the need to end the cycle of anger, hatred, and bitterness.  A young man named Karl took Claire's life and, just a few seconds later, took his own life.  Mike offered no cutting words of revenge.  He offered words of hope.  Words to cause his listeners to call to mind the myriad of ways we can show love instead of seeking retribution.

The same love God continually shows each of us...

Those are the moments of 2013 I want to remember.  The moments of grace.  Because those are the occasions that will pull me through the journey in the tempestuous winds of this life.  And afford me the opportunity to share that same grace with others, just as Mike did.

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."  II Corinthians 2:14


Sunday, December 22, 2013

O Christmas Tree

There is a tree with shining lights
Standing proudly in this room.
It gives me joy to see it there,
Dispelling dark and gloom.

The tree holds many memories,
Of Christmases gone by.
Ornaments from years now past
Bring pleasure to the eye.

There is another tree that stood
Long ago upon a hill.
That tree held Someone much more dear,
And wood without a frill.

For Jesus, child of Bethlehem
Was hanging on that tree.
His life and love poured out for us,
From sin to set us free.

So as you gaze upon your tree
Standing proudly in your room.
Let His tree give your heart joy,
And dispel your dark and gloom.

Copyright  2013  Joni Johnson - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Year of Miracles

2013 has been quite the year for our family (both immediate and extended).  As my previous post stated, there have been some stormy seas to navigate.

Lest I make you think our year has been one of gloom and doom, though, I thought I'd share some of the amazing things we have seen in the past months.

1)  Our youngest son received an incredible scholarship to the high school he wanted to attend. 

2)  When that school didn't work out for him in the end, God provided so many resources, in a very short amount of time, so that we could transition him to home schooling.

3)  Our oldest son was accepted into the college of his choice.

4)  Family members have discovered that faith in God is the only way to truly survive in the tough times.  New faith for some; restored faith for others.

5)  One weekend, when (due to a clerical error on my part), we found our bank account a bit short on funds, we received a check in the mail--that we shouldn't have received for several days.  Just in time.

6)  In the midst of some very trying times, God has strengthened some familial relationships in ways we could never have imagined.

6)  About a month ago, our car's transmission went kaput.  Since a new transmission was worth more than the car, we knew it was "that time."  Three days later, we received an envelope in the mail, with no return address.  Inside was another envelope.  When that one was opened, we discovered a little note.  One side said, "God bless you."  The other side said, "To help defray the cost of a new car."  Also in that envelope:  a cashier's check... for $4,000!  (Yes, there are three zeroes in that number!)  Very, very few people knew

7)  Due to this contribution and others, we were able to buy a very nice, used Toyota Camry, which we LOVE.  (I know.  How can one love a machine?  If you've been there, done that, then you know!)
of our need for a new car.  We still have absolutely no idea where the money came from.

And so, in light of these answers to prayer, we are continuing to pray for a miracle for Claire...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Strength in Numbers

Over the past couple of years, both sides of our family (hubby's and mine) have gone through some big storms.  There have been physical, spiritual, and relationship challenges on many levels.  We also have several friends who have experienced some of the most unimaginable tragic events.

You know what has been so amazing, though?  These times have actually drawn our families so much closer together.  It has been awesome to watch.  As we've stuck together, encouraged one another, and, most important of all, prayed for one another, our family relationships have gained a new strength and depth.

Recently, my cousin's daughter was the victim of a school shooting in Colorado.  I have never met Claire, but as soon I knew she had been wounded, the prayers started.  The family bonds that have loosened a bit over time became rock solid once again.  We are family.  We pray together.   We stand together.  None of us will ever need to face tragedy alone. 

The same is true for my relationship with my friends.  People with whom I have not corresponded in many years will reach out in their time of need, and, again, I go to prayer for them, as I know many, many others are as well.  Friendships have been rebuilt as a result.  Strong friendships have been made even stronger.

This is one of the most beautiful things about being part of the body of Christ.  Time and space may separate us, but love knows no distance.  (Thanks to my sister Sherry for that quote.)

So, do yourself a favor the next time you see an urgent request in your e-mail or Facebook News Feed:  take the time to pray.  There may come a time when you are the one with the request.  Either way, you will be glad you prayed, and so will they!

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21

Friday, December 13, 2013

Asking for Prayer

My cousin's daughter, Claire Davis, was one of the victims of the school shooting in Colorado today.  Please, please intercede on her behalf.  She is not expected to survive.  My heart is breaking...