Sunday, October 24, 2010

Talking Tombstones

Here I am again.

It’s 2:00 a.m.

The ground is wet... damp with dew.   Or is it my tears that have fallen on this place and moistened the grass and soil beneath?

Tombstones don’t mind the moisture.   They are immune to every force of nature it seems, or at least they are immune to my bitter and unhappy state.

Miserable place to be.   Graveyard... resting place for the dead. 

It feels like home.    

I had lost something here.    Something precious to me.   Or maybe I gave it away... let it slip from my hands without realizing its worth.   These late night visits provided no solace for my spirit.   What did they profit me?   An exercise in foolishness some might say, but what do they know?   

Restless nights, sleepless.   I  rise from my  bed and drive to this place again and again.

Keep coming.   Keep searching.   Maybe you will find it this time.

“What do you seek here?   What do you want from us?”   I can almost hear their voices call to me.   I wish.   I yearned to hear their voices again...   To talk with them one more time... to capture a moment of that childhood joy that was gone.  Buried along with my brother and sister.  

Joy!   What a treasure joy has become.  How do I get it back?   At what cost?   Is any price too high?

Apparently not.    He didn’t think so.    It cost Him his life.  The ultimate price.

Why do I seek joy in a graveyard?  In the dark wee hours of the morning?  

Don’t I know?  Haven’t I heard?

Joy is not here.

Joy is risen!  Darkened tombs can not hold it.   

Joy is not in my past.   Joy is my present and future.   It is not dependent on anyone or anything.  It is in me.. in Him.    It comes from Him and no other.

He is my joy!  My Savior!  My Friend!   He has become my dancing partner!   His voice calls to me now, “Come and be filled.  Go and proclaim the good news!  Walk with me.  Peace! Be still.”   

The tombs are silent and empty now.   At 2:00 a.m. His voice and His joyous song is all I hear!

" not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."  (Nehemiah 8: 10) 

Author's note:   This story was written in February of 2005 for a writing competition.  Not a winner, but it is one that I love.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Battle Ready!

For forty days, twice a day every day, he swaggered out and shouted to the four winds.   Had he grown tired of battle?   Was he frustrated because no worthy opponent had come forward thus far?  

""Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us."  And the Philistine said, "I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together!"  (1 Samuel 17: 8-10)

This was the Goliath of Gath... the splendor of the Philistine army.   Ten feet tall, weighing in at over 400  pounds.    His armor alone weighed at least 200 pounds with its bronze helmet, coat of mail, leg armor and bronze javelin.   His spear was as large as a tree branch.

Everyday he created a stir among the chosen people.    No one would dare go up alone against this megalith.   He was more mighty and powerful than any of them.    Good grief! His biceps probably measured 2 feet in diameter!    With his armor, he weighed at least one third of a ton!   Anybody would be a fool to try and take him on alone.     The Israeli soldiers spoke in frightened whispers of his size and might.

Goliath was defiant and intimidating.    He was cocksure of himself and knew he had no equal.   He was the largest of the giants, taller, more muscular, more mighty.    In a land of giants, he was the champion.

The army of Israel was terrified of him.    When he came into battle, they would scatter and flee in horror.

He thirsted for battle!   He was anxious to fight and kill... to destroy his enemy.  

The two armies were camped out on mountaintops with a valley between.   The valley of Elah in Ephes Dammim, meaning the edge of blood.    Israel was camped between Sohkoh and Azekah.    In Hebrew, the word Sohkoh means 'hedge' and Azekah means 'a field dug over, broken up." 

So Israel was entrenched outside their hedge,  between it and the broken ground leading to ephes Dammim, the edge of blood.      

Israel was at a standstill... unsure of their fate... unable to defeat their own  fear, much less overcome the army and giants standing in front of them.   They had forgotten their past and the victories that God had given.

Except for David.    The young shepherd.    The least of his brothers.   David  figured that if with God’s help, he could defeat a Lion coming at him with all his fierce muscle and weight and 20 razor sharp talons, then one ugly giant was a pushover.

King Saul, hearing of David's boldness, and desperate for some solution to his dilemma, called David to his side.   King Saul  offered his own personal armor to David.    David tried it on and couldn’t move.  This was the armor of a man, a warrior king.  It didn’t fit.   He hadn’t tested it.  Hadn’t proved it. 

He didn’t need it.

David was clad in  the armor of God.  With him, it was tried and true.    He had spent years in the field perfecting it.    Singing praises to the Lord, spending time with Him.    Fighting off the bears and lions that would come against him.       He was comfortable in this  God armor.    It fit well and he trusted it.      He had taken it’s measure.   It was reliable.

Goliath issued this challenge to Israel twice daily...  "One on one combat!   Winner takes all!"

Today would be his final challenge!

Except it wasn’t one on one.    This giant’s shield bearer went before him.  He carried a shield and a sword.    He was a giant also.   He had to be a giant.    He carried the shield and sword to protect Goliath.   If he was a normal sized man, what was he gonna protect?   Goliath's  kneecaps?

He’s there to ward off attackers so that the Goliath has room to throw his deadly spear.   The giant of Gath needs a  giant of a body guard!

Here is young David, alone with a slingshot and five river stones.   Up against two grizzly grouchy bullying giants!

Goliath is almost insulted that his only opponent is a boy.  One with no armor and no weapon, at that.   Practically naked before him with no protection.   He’s taking David’s measure.  Goliath is using the wrong measuring stick.

He didn't consider that God had already taken David's measure.

Here is the young Israelite without any visible means of defeating this armor clad, battle seasoned, oversized warrior.

But the battle is over before it ever starts  as these bold and defiant  words explode  from David’s mouth! 

 “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied!  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you and take your head from you.  And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.   Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear, for the battle IS the Lords and He will give you into our hands.”

With that exclamation of faith, David races towards Goliath, swinging his loaded sling.  With the hedge behind him and the broken ground before him, he almost flies towards the edge of blood.   Towards the enemy of his people and of his God.

If Goliath was cocksure of his  own might and fighting prowess, David was even more confident in his God's ability to conquer any enemy.

With one throw from his sling, David knocked Goliath out with a stone.    The giant fell unconscious to the ground.   His insulting tongue stilled.   His powerful body was rendered limp and useless.  

David took the sword from the champion of the Philistines and before the amazed eyes of the two armies, he cut off the head of  his enemy  Goliath.  

 The completely demoralized Philistines ran away like frightened children.     If one Israelite boy without any visible armor or weapon could defeat their champion, what could the entire Israelite army do against them?   What would the God  of Israel do with them?

They were totally defeated.

If the Israelites had forgotten all that God had done for them, David’s faith and miraculous victory reminded them.   Once Goliath was dead, Israel  marched forward and defeated the Philistines.

We all have giants that come against us.      Finances, Family problems, Work, Sickness, Death, Divorce, Disappointments.      Just like a giant Goliath, they don’t  come one on one.   They  hit you from all directions.       

We have everyday giants.   We have monumental life altering giants.    They all come from the same place.   The devil doesn’t fight fair.      He sends his sword bearing shield bearer before him to trick us, confuse us, distract us and keep us from focusing.    The little things.   We think we can handle it.   Then BAM!  He shows up with deadly force!.     The thing that get us right in the heart.   His javelin or spear.   We lose our job.   We lose a loved one.   We have a life threatening illness.    We’ve been double teamed. and we could so easily be struck down, but for the Armor of God.

Paul tells us to put on the armor of God...  He never once told us to take it off.     In Romans 13: 12  he calls it the “armor of light”.   Unapproachable Light.

When you are wearing this armor, you are not only protected, but you stand out as a victorious warrior!

Our armor is our faith.

Life events take our spiritual measure.  Like David, before we go into our daily battle,  we should make sure we have a good fit.   We should remind ourselves of the times that God has come through for us in the past and that He will do it again now.   

Don’t try to enter into a battle wearing some body else’s faith.    We’re each given a measure.   It is formed and forged just for us.  We need to test it and try it and become so accustomed to it that it fits us like our own skin.

Like the Israelites, we tend to forget.

 David took goliath’s armor and kept it.    In my imagination I see it standing in a focal point in his home.  A daily reminder of how God came through for him and for Israel.

There are many times in the Bible when it is mentioned that the Israelites made a marker , set up stones, as a reminder of what God had done at a particular time or place.

I have several items in my home that are reminders to me of what God has done in my life.   A bowl of seashells on my coffee table.   A Santa Claus figurine holding a sign with the word "JOY".   A photograph of a beach at sunrise.   These are all reminders of the huge things God has done in my life and of His promises.

The next time you go into battle, be prepared.    As your enemy takes your measure, race toward him or it with the sure knowledge that God is with you and has gone before you.     

Call to mind what God has done in your past and trust Him for what He is doing in the present.      When the victory is won give Him the glory!    Then just in case you're forgetful like the Israelites, make a note of your victories.   Keep a reminder, something visible, as a reminder of how God did a miracle in your life.

And give Him the glory!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The king is enthralled by your beauty.   Honor him, for he is your lord.  (Psalm 45:11)

Yes!   The King thinks you are beautiful.   He looks on you and can't take his eyes or His mind off of you.   

We may look in the mirror and see every flaw.  He looks at us and sees an extension of Himself.   He sees in us the beauty of His creation and the perfection of His plan.   He sees His bride in preparation for the wedding day!  

His excitement over us spills  into the heavens and He gives us gifts of beauty!      He honors us with His presence and encourages us with the intimacy of His voice calling our names.  

He does battle for us and defeats every foe!    He shares His heart and knowledge with us and draws us near in an all consuming love.

With playful laughter and open arms, He lifts us up in our hearts and fills us with joy.    He whispers sweetness in our ears and His music resonates through our minds.   His fragrance is breathtaking and falls on our skin like dew anointing us with His essence.

Yes, God IS enthralled by our beauty.     He loves us so deeply that He placed His most beautiful and  precious gift inside  each of us that call on His name.   The gift of Himself... His spirit.

What an incredibly wonderful God!        He makes us beautiful.     We are His heart's desire.

And He is ours.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dwelling Places

I was talking with a friend this morning about life, the universe and everything.   Of course, God is the key element there and He was also the central topic in our conversation.

Reflecting back on our past decisions and actions, we discussed  both  our right  and wrong choices and how they have affected our present and our future.  You know...  Girl talk!    Haha!

Life throws us a lot of  stuff.   Some of it just happens and some of it is our own doing.   But regardless, life is a series of ups and downs.    The major stuff, like births, deaths, marriages, divorces, illness... those are the ones that shape our character and our life stories.  Yet the smallest incident can have the greatest effect on us.    An alcoholic begins his/her struggle with that very first drink.   An addiction to a drug begins with that first "hit".      A first glimpse at pornography catches the eye and mind.   Life is changed forever by those first "small" occurrences.    Relationships are eventually destroyed.

Eden is a nice place to live.    It's a place where everything is beautiful and the blessings just seem to flow one after the other.    On the other hand, the deepest pit in hell is, to say the least, a tad on the miserable side.   I have been in both places at various points in my life.   I prefer being on the mountaintop of blessings in Eden.     But I don't always get to choose my circumstance.    And I really don't believe that our lives are intended to live continually in Eden.     

Let's face it.   We are human beings and we begin to take things for granted when life is good.     That's when  sin creeps into our neighborhood and tries to foul things up.    We come face to face with the world of degradation and lies.    Our faith is tested by temptation.     The temptation comes in the form of  a circumstance.   Our response to a new situation is the elemental device that God uses to teach and meld us into the likeness of Him.  Something changes in our life and we see it as a terrible event, when actually it is the very thing that God uses to shape us into the creation He has planned.

The world was perfect for Adam and Eve.   Yet Adam and Eve were not perfect.    The lying serpent didn't get into the garden by his own strategy.    God saw it coming and allowed it to happen.  He knew that Adam  & Eve would not withstand the onslaught of lies.   Although they were capable of obeying God, as are we,  they  were overthrown by this small "first"  that forever changed life for  humankind.   Or did it just set God's plan into motion?     He knew beforehand that sin would come to destroy His creation and He made arrangements at the beginning of time to send Jesus as the Lamb to be slain.    Only by the blood of Jesus are we, including Adam and Eve,  made perfect.     

During the last major upheaval in my life (going through the break up of an almost four decade long marriage), I journeyed to Galveston to see the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.   I saw not only the destruction caused by the storm, but also the cleanup crews at work and the reconstruction of  the structures and the lives of those affected by the storm.  

I wrote the following words in my Bible:  "Sometimes it takes the hurricanes, the overwhelming flood, the rot and destruction in our lives.. so that we can be gutted... with nothing left but the framework so God can restore and rebuild our lives anew."

Various paths were set before me during that time of my life.   Choices were made... some good and some not so good.    But none were a surprise to my loving heavenly Father.      He has used each of them to direct me in the path that He REALLY wants for me.   Thankfully, Jesus paved that path for me a long time ago.

Talking with my friend this morning, I reminded her and myself of just how God had changed my life so drastically.    Let's just say she is not living on a mountaintop right now and since I am such a fount of wisdom, I thought maybe I could give some advice.     Lord, I just hope the advice came straight through me from YOU.

I told her that during another one of the most miserable  'pit of hell' experiences in my life, I finally caved in and  cried out to God  asking Him to restore the joy of my salvation.       Being the gracious and loving God that He is, He granted my request.  Others may not know this, but God did a miracle that night.    My life was forever changed by His answer to a simple prayer.     I was still living in a pit... my circumstances did not change.   But God changed something inside of me and I was filled with His joy.    Because of Him, my attitude changed, my heart changed, and I drew closer to Him than I knew was possible.   The pit became a place where God taught me about His love and faithfulness.   His joy gave me the strength to endure.

No, I am not glad I was dwelling in a pit.   It was probably a pit of my own creation.  Regardless, who the heck wants to experience pit living?    Looking back, that pit was the circumstance  or experience that  God used to change my life and bring me to Him.       So yes, I am thankful and glad that I finally came to that place in  my life where there was nowhere to go but God.  

So if you are living in Eden, enjoy!    Beware!   Be Faithful!   One of those 'firsts' might show up and try to drag you out.

But if you are in one of life's pits, remember that you are not alone.   Remember that our God is in control and  He is the only one with the power and love to  help you survive the pit circumstance and come out strong on the other side. 

Nehemiah 8: 10   "....Do not grieve.   For the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Story of Uriah...The Lord is My Light

King David. THE King of Israel. His army is at war. He stays behind relaxing. A little R&R in the luxury of his palace while his men are deprived of their wives and children's company. While his men fight and are injured and die in battle.

What has happened? This is King David. The man that leads his army into the fray in the name of the Lord God Jehovah! The man that God has blessed with victory after victory. Yet here he is at home.

He's restless.... can't sleep. So he arises from his bed and walks on the roof of his palace where his eyes fall on the beauty of a woman bathing. And he is undone. All of his vows to live for the Lord are overthrown and he is held captive by her sexuality and his lust.

But she is married. Not only that, she is married to one of his 'mighty men', Uriah the Hittite. Uriah is no ordinary warrior. He is a Hittite. He shouldn't even exist. Centuries before, God had commanded the Israelites to go into Canaan and utterly destroy those who dwelt there. The Hittites dwelt there. But Israel did not carry out that command and they allowed some of the Hittites to remain in the promised land. Thus the existence of Uriah.

Uriah the inexplicable. His bore a Hebrew name meaning "The Lord is My Light." He is listed in 1 Chronicles 11:47 and 2nd Samuel 23:39 as one of David's mighty men. He's in the inner circle of those that David trusts with his life. He had sworn fealty to David the King. To be loyal to him and to do battle for him. To help David be the victorious one. God had made that same promise to David when he was a boy and anointed him King.

Yet these promises and relationships faded into a fog of nothingness in David's mind as he squashed his relationship with the one true God for what was meant to be a one night stand with a beautiful woman. He minimized his relationship and his friendship with Uriah, the Lord is my Light, as he plotted and planned to have her in spite of every obstacle.

Who would know? It wouldn't matter. He would have his way with her and send her home. Uriah was away. He would never discover the truth.

But that one night of guilty and sinful pleasure resulted in a pregnancy... What should have been a welcome and happy occurrence in a marriage became evidence of sin and wrong doing for Bathsheba and David. He was guilty and now the whole world would know that King David was faithless and weak.

Like Adam and Eve in the garden, hiding from God, David begins to plot and plan how to cover his sin. He orders Uriah home from the battle upon the pretense of obtaining a military report and tells him to go home and be with his wife. If Uriah lies with her, then he will think that the child is his own and David's secret would be safe.

But Uriah, the faithful warrior, refuses to accept the comfort and luxury of his home and bed while his God and his men are at war. He said to David, "The ark, and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." (2nd Samuel 11:11)

Stalwart Uriah! Loyal Uriah! He stood firm against a temptation that must have been almost overwhelming to him. To be at home with his wife if even only for a short time would be a welcome and unexpected respite from the discomfort of camp and peril of battle.

He was truly a mighty man. He was truly living up to his name, the Lord is my Light.

And David was stopped in his tracks by this mighty man....Caught in his sin by this descendant of pagans who now worshipped the Lord.

Perplexed and anxious, he plots again and fills Uriah with food and drink, figuring that if he is in a drunken state that his resolve will melt away and he will give in. That he will just go home and do the thing with Bathsheba. In David's thinking, there's no way that Uriah would be able to stand with drunken wobbly legs on what David believes is a shaky moral ground.

In David's thinking, he was underestimating Uriah and trying to bring him down to his own level. David is thinking that he can influence The Lord is my Light and use him to cover up his wrongdoing.

David forgot one thing. The Light of the Lord sheds light on our sin. It will never be used to cover our sin up as if it doesn't exist. The Light of the Lord exists to expose sin.

Of course, Uriah did not comply with David's plans. Somehow his inebriated mind retained some shred of strength and he fell asleep with the servants. He didn't go home to Bathsheba.

In David's state of forgetfulness and in his frantic efforts to cover his sin, he loses any small bit of righteousness and sanity left to him and orders Uriah back to the heat of battle. He orders him to the front where he is sure to be killed. And he is dead. Uriah is slain by the enemy and by the order of King David, "a man after God's own heart".

David had become a murderer. David killed the "The Lord is My Light". He thought he had made sure there was no way that The Light could be focused on his sin. But the mighty David had fallen. Not by a sword or an arrow. Not by the small river washed stone from a slingshot. Not by poison or garrote. He fell from great heights and from mighty power by his own failure to do what God had told him to do... to be what God had told him to be. He fell by his own hand. He may as well have attempted spiritual suicide.

Though Uriah was gone, his death shed the Light even more powerfully over David. His actions and his sin could not be hidden from God. His relationship with his God was broken and gasping for breath.

David knew that the Lord was displeased with him.

In time, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to confront him and accuse him. "Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon . 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' (2nd Samuel 12: 9-10)

When God spoke these words (through Nathan), David could no longer keep up the facade of innocence and he confessed to Nathan "I have sinned against the Lord!" and Nathan said to David "The Lord has taken away your sin. You shall not die." (2nd Samuel 12: 13) "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." (2nd Samuel 12:14)

God forgave David the sins of adultery and murder. There were dire consequences to come, but the sin was not held against him. David could start anew with a restored conscience and relationship with his Lord.

As Christians, we can think or believe we are so close to God that He won't mind if we take a break, a little R&R from Christianity so to speak. We get comfortable in our relationship with Him and take for granted our status as His precious and privileged children. Maybe we are weary of the constant battle and like David, we see something or someone and think that we deserve a little pleasure or fun. After all, it won't hurt anybody. We deliberately sin. Then we begin to try to cover it up. We make every effort to kill and squash our guilty conscience... our Uriah. We make excuses. We try to justify our actions and even use holy scripture to do so at times. Failing at that, we put a distance between ourselves and our God and eventually our relationship with Him is in tatters and we begin to live a life where we don't welcome God's Light.

Thank God for this story of Uriah and his moral strength. Thank God for showing us that even those we see as the most spiritual and most righteous can fall. When we think that our relationship with God is so close that "I would never do this.... There's no way." we should thank God for this warning that we should ALWAYS beware of the devil crouching at our door waiting for the chance to trip us up. None of us should become so sure of ourselves that we think there is no way we could give in to life's temptations or that we will not be held accountable if we do.

Thank You God for allowing us the opportunity to ask forgiveness when we fall. Though we may have consequences to our sin, we have forgiveness and a new beginning through Jesus.