Honoring Brenda

  Brenda Smith. Many of you didn’t know her. Some of you did.
Today, I write so you can meet “Meemaw.” We all need to be introduced to a powerhouse of faith in our lives.
Mind you, she did not have the appearance of a “power-house.” This thin, frail (looking) woman in her late 70’s would pull up to church in her mini van with 4 (or sometimes more) of her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, always a step (or 20 feet) behind their toddling and youthful feet.
Meemaw brought the little ones to church. Not just once in awhile. Not just every Sunday, but most every Wednesday night too.
Don’t let her tiny size fool you, a mighty warrior (in the Lord’s army,) was Brenda. Meemaw had every excuse in the book not to come to church. But she came to church, and she didn’t come alone.
She brought the kids, but she invited the town and everyone she ran into.
Meemaw knew the importance of walking through the doors of God’s house.
She understood the power for the kids to hear songs about God and to sing to God.
To learn to say “Thank you God.”
To be taught to pray to God.
 The Lauren Daigle song, I will trust in You was a song her great-grands would sing to her and she would be filled with delight. I know, because she drove all the way to my house one Saturday so they could learn to sing it better and have some motions for it:
Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face You’re by my side
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move . . .
The grands, and great-grands probably belted out these words as they had time in their living room or made trips in the car,
I don’t really know. But Meemaw was touched by their songs, making mention of it to me over and again.
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
And the whole reason these kids even knew a song like this or even had any idea about trusting God for the hard-stuff was . . .
because Meemaw taught them about God, she listened to Christian music, and Meemaw brought them to church.
Even after fracturing her hip and going through a surgery and physical therapy, Brenda, within a short time, . . .
walked through the doors of God’s House with the kids.
She was weak, but she was there. She loved the Lord and believed in worship and prayer. She came, and I believe her prayers are and will move mountains.
I was teaching the little 3 year old twins that morning, after her recovery.
What a privilege to be part of Children’s Ministry, to be there to share Bible lessons and silly, (yet, powerful) songs to the children. I watch faith  be born in the kids. What an honor to be part of the spiritual growth of  children.
I remember helping her to the van that Sunday.
That was the last time I saw Brenda. She had a stroke while driving during that week, and within a few days, she went home to be with her Jesus. But her memory remains in my heart.

Brenda wanted everyone to come to church to be encouraged in God, moved by His grace. She wanted hearts to be softened by His mercy and forgiveness. Brenda prayed for everybody, especially her family.

God is answering her prayers. The little ones, well, . . . I was able to be a part in teaching them about Jesus last Sunday. God is moving mountains, . . .

and now Brenda can see clearly.

“Dear Jesus, Thank you for giving me Brenda to teach me so many wonderful things. I treasure those moments that we bowed our heads together in prayer, casting a world of care to You. Thank you for moving  mountains. I can see! I can see. In Jesus name, Amen.”

(Lauren Daigle, I will trust in You).

 

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A change of perspective

The media points out destruction and pain with pictures of loss, and sadness. O, how our hearts break.

O, the mysteries.

Could it be that God allows these trials to gather His lonely people together, to pour out His grace. God’s ways are true and righteous altogether.

How our hearts are touched with each story of rescue. The sacrificial care given, the present provision. How mankind moves to help the hurting, to provide counsel for the broken hearted, to bring water to the thirsty.

Shelters are opened, people open their doors, meals are prepared, work crews move, and so much more . . .

How our hearts are ultimately touched  . . . by God:

Gather together to Me My saints [those who have found grace in My sight], those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice. And the heavens declare His righteousness — rightness and justice; for God, He is judge. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! Psalm 50:5,6, Amplified.

Perhaps a Psalm, or words of an old hymn strike a chord of calm, and quiet within. Circumstances don’t change. Days are still troublesome and hard. But there has been an exchange.

The fret and anxiety has been given over to Him . . . Have we been seeking Him? His face? His daily word?

The mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and calls the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. 

Our God comes, and does not keep silence; a fire devours before Him, and round about Him a mighty tempest rages. (Psalm 50: 1-3 Amplified)

The Word of God instructs. The Word speaks. The Word helps our hard hearts and blind eyes to see.

He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that He may judge His people: Gather together to Me  My saints . . .

Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify to you and agains you; I am God, your God . . . Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving; and pay your vows to the Most High, And call on Me in the day of trouble . . . (Psalm 50: 7,14).

I will deliver you, and you shall honor and glorify Me . . .” (Psalm 50: 15).

And so I train my hands for war, so to speak, and open an old hymn of Fanny Crosby:

Pass me not, O gentle Savior; Hear my humble cry! While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy Find a sweet relief; Kneeling there in deep contrition, Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit, Would I seek Thy face, Heal my wound-ed bro-ken spirit Save me by Thy grace. 

Thou, the Spring of all my comfort, More than life to me! Whom have I on earth beside Thee? Whom in heaven but Thee?

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry! While on others Thou art calling. do not pass me by. (Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, Fanny J. Crosby)

The Psalms turn around my thinking. The hymns give me cleansing words as I pray with hope to believe.

Let us praise God in the darkness. Let us praise God in the storm. Let us have thankful hearts that God finds us worthy, to be a light in the night, as we wait together for morn’.

Let us proclaim the Comfort He has brought us. He has renewed, refreshed. He has made us Re-born! toni

 

 

Experiencing Great Deliverance

When the goal for the day is two part:

(1) Fix your eyes on your Savior

(2) Keep your feet at the foot of the cross.

Time often moves through bringing momentary stress and loss. Loss of energy and strength, vitality and vigor—

but God has a remedy to overcome . . . it’s not a caffein loaded latte or a break on social media. It’s . . .

a breath, a thought about a good report, and Praise. Yes, Praise to the LORD.

“Believe in the LORD your God,” Jehoshaphat the king stood and said. And they rose early in the morning,” 2 Chronicles 20:20 also remarks. Yes, they all had risen from bed (!)

“Believe in the LORD your God, so shall you be established;” 2 Chronicles 20 proclaims, and “so shall you prosper,” . . . ‘believe his prophets.”

Do we dig and search in the volume of His Book? Do we obey His voice. Do we believe His Word?

Jehoshaphat the king, leading his people, consulted with them and appointed singers. Singers of praise. Praising the beauty of God’s holiness, before the battle proclaiming, “Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures forever.” Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures . . . Praise the LORD, for His mercy.”

Jehoshaphat the king appointed singers to sing.

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the . . .” enemies.

This is recorded in the treasury of the Word.

Stop.

Take notice, . . . “and they were defeated.” 

A remedy of great deliverance from the enemies of our day, is Praise to our God. A march of faith in our advance. A song of praise from our lips, ever loud and strong . . .

especially when the battle rages and proves mighty and long. Is this wisdom for today as we go out before our wilderness?

Victory. Strength for each moment? Let us Praise God and expect great deliverance.

Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets.

 The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.  And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side, 2 Chronicles 20:27-30.

 

“Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on to test you . . .”

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, 1 Peter 4:12.

Do we read God’s word and respond, “Dear Lord, I am surprised at this trial. What’s going on? But does it draw us ever deeper, whole heartedly seeking Him in His word? Has this fiery trial brought heat in our prayers.

Have prayers been multiplied, have hearts stopped to intercede. Are God’s children coming to receive. The fiery trial is causing many to ask, seek, and knock. The fiery trial has brought about a thirst for God’s word and truth:

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”(1 Peter 4:7-10).

The trial brings the Word in view. The trial is causing us all, . . . to follow through, to seek His face, to grow in His grace:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1,2).

These are words from Peter’s letter. How comforting to hear from Peter who failed in his flesh. He denied his Lord three times before the rooster’s crow. Peter made mistakes. Peter’s failure is recorded for all to see in Matthew 26: 69-70.

But God had plans for Peter. God has plans for hearts that hear and ears that turn. God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness of  sin is seen in His gentleness after He had died for all of man-kind’s sin, and yet appeared to many after these things, the story is written. It’s all recorded in the # Best Seller of all times, the Holy Bible, the Living Word. God’s voice to His people, to all who have ears.

Today, it must be read, that we might be encouraged by Him, in the Gospel of John chapter 21:

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 

 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”  So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21: 1-14)

But this must be continued. Jesus reinstates Peter! These words need to be read aloud with our hearts crying out: “Show us their meaning, this day and all the rest.”

 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, 

“Follow me!”

This might have been Peter’s biggest catch ever. He obeyed the Lord’s word. “Do you love Me more than these?” Was the question Jesus asked.

Perhaps, the fiery trial was allowed that one by one, we might seek the Lord and hear Him ask each of us, “Do you love Me more than these?”

And, may we spend our days, following Him, seeking His Word, asking, knocking, and receiving His sufficient, amazing grace that gives us a peace that passes understanding, . . .

that moment by moment, He gives us His strength and His joy, and enables us to give Him glory as we wait for Him. And ultimately, He will  take us to a heavenly home, void of sorrow, pain, and tears.

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling our treasure from The Church Hymn Book, 1867, page 53

Taking some time each morning to glean from God’s Holy Word and Spurgeon, it seems, that very old words from hymns loudly speak, in language poetic, rich, and . . . timely.

“Great God, I love thy sacred word/ What light and  joy its leaves afford!/Thy precepts guide my doubtful way/Thy fear forbids my feet to stray.

Thy threatenings wake my slumbering eyes/ And warn me where my danger lies;/ They show me all my guilt and shame/ And make me prize the Savior’s name.

May this blest volume ever lie/ Close to my heart and near my eye;/ Till life’s last hour my thoughts engage/ And be my chosen heritage.”

So, in the morning, early and dark, I went digging for treasure that Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible had sparked. I found old words written that made me rejoice in the Lord. The Church Hymn Book from 1867, full of costly treasures, all can afford.

God in the gospel of his Son/ Makes his eternal counsels known;/ Where love in all its glory shines/ And truth is drawn in fairest lines.

Here sinners of an humble frame/ May taste his grace and learn his name./ May read in characters of blood/ The wisdom, power, and grace of God.

Here faith reveals to mortal eyes/ A brighter world beyond the skies;/ Here shines the light which guides our way/ From earth to realms of endless day.

Oh, grant us grace, almighty Lord/ To read and mark thy holy word,/ Its truths with meekness to receive/ And by its holy precepts live.”

Before the words were read this morning, I awoke with struggles and stresses stirring. But God’s breathed out message, and these long lost words, have proved to revive and set me again, on a straight and narrow course.

Let’s open His word. Let’s sing the old songs. Oh God, help us humble ourselves, be teachable, and with joy, carry on!

 

Gifts from God for me, so I could “see”

I walked through the doors of God’s house. I believe in God. I believe in His Word. But times have been hard, (and I’m sure for every single person that walks through those doors), and sometimes,

we just need to see. We are easily led into temptation to lose heart and faith.

But we pray.

I came in fighting a fight to keep faith. Trials were clouding His face. I had been continuously praying, “Our Father, . . . Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, . . . Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours in the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. (1)

Well, God knew what was coming, what was ahead. I had no idea, but I had been praying diligently, “Increase my faith. Increase my faith!”

God seemed to be pulling back, causing vision of Him to  cease. Perhaps to allow me to, actually, increase in my faith. God knows what He’s doing. He is still on the Sovereign’s seat. And He wanted to show me,

His presence, and love, and His hand still holding me:

I walk through the doors of church, and standing at a table before service began was Robert J. Morgan, who was the special pastor-teacher to speak.

God knew what this man and his books have meant to me.

God knew that because this man sat and wrote what God gave him and shared it with us in books, that if we choose to take them off the shelf and glean, we might become nourished, refreshed, and actively worshiping our King.

Robert J. Morgan and his Then Sings my Soul, came into the infusion room with me and I read well knows hymns and the stories behind them. Through this book, and the words of the hymns, God brought salvation and hope and worship into the most horrible place anyone would want to go. The infusion room is where cancer patients get their combination, “cocktail,” the nurses call it, but we all know . . .

“poisons” is the better word.

But God was there. And on this day, when hurricane winds were stirring outside in the oceans and inside in many lives, and in my own life, the waters becoming exceedingly high,

Robert J. Morgan spoke. But I first was able to tell him, your book was used by God to open many hearts and eyes.

But not only that, in the worship time, was my song. I have a few, but regarding surviving my cancer fight, this was the one. I had never heard it before in the two years coming through the doors, but today, God was showing me, “Toni, I love you. Don’t lose heart. I am here forevermore.”

So I share with you my song today, because perhaps for you, it has power to save:

When I think about the Lord
How He saved me how He raised me
How He filled me with the Holy Ghost
How He healed me to the uttermost
When I think about the Lord
How He picked me up and turned me around
How He placed my feet on solid ground
It makes me wanna shout

Hallelujah thank You Jesus
Lord You’re worthy of all the glory
And all the honor and all the praise
It makes me wanna shout
Hallelujah thank You Jesus
Lord You’re worthy of all the glory
And all the honor and all the praise(2)

The Lord Jesus is my Rock. He is worthy. When I can’t see Him, He shows me, “I’m still here! Keep your eyes and ears wide open that you don’t miss Me.”

This makes me want to shout, Hallelujah. How about you? Let’s ask for increased faith, and eyes, ears, and hearts open that we don’t miss what He’s showing us.

“Then sings my soul, Hallelujah, Thank You Jesus!”

 

 

 

(1) Matthew 6:9-13

(2) When I Think About The Lord, James Huey
© 1998 CFN Music

Al Braca. A 9/11 hero for all time

See God's Hand

 We need our heroes. Sometimes, it’s simply a story, and they become our hero. Let me introduce to you Al Braca, my 9/11 hero.

On Sept 11, 2001, Al Braca went to work. Just like any other ordinary day. But we all know that in NYC, September 11, 2001 was not an ordinary day.

Alfred J. Braca had an office on the 106th floor of the 110 story World Trade Center Bldg. If you visit the memorial, please look for his name. And then take notice of all the names around his name.

You see, in the 9/11 memorial, the names are not etched in the marble in alphabetical order. Each name is nearby their co-workers and neighboring offices. This information will have significance once you hear his story.

I first must mention, at the onset of sharing about Al on 9/11, is that everyone that knew Al Braca knew…

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September 10th, for us, a gift. A Happy Birthday letter to my first-born son

No words.

Just awe and wonder.

Dear Chris, on your birthday. I remember the moment when you, as a brand new, new-born were handed to me for the very first time.

I will tell you, I had no medication what-so-ever, so when you were handed to me, you were alert and awake, and guess what you did?

You looked right up at me.

Your two little eyes, that could see, but couldn’t in the womb, had now the chance to see, and not just hear, your mama’s voice.

Chris, you looked right at me. I was so surprised.

Surprised isn’t the word.  Awestruck perhaps. I don’t know, but it was that very moment that I realized, you were your own little person. I knew that in my head, but the reality of your amazing-ness caught me off-guard.

You were so miraculous.

And I will tell you today, on your birthday, the first words I said, “Hi, little baby.”

That was it. I was so amazed at you, at God, at the miracle of life.

I love you more than words can say. So much more than that very first day. I love you more and more as the years go on.

Chris, I believe in you.

Your dad and each of your siblings do too. And all the people who spend time with you are touched by your genuine, tender heart. You are a gift to all of us.

We love you so much. Happy Birthday from afar. Hugs and love I pray you can feel, and trust and know that you are a gift. Chris, you’re a gift to us all.

This is the first day of the rest of your life. Sometimes in life, I believe we all feel we are Charlie Brown.

Remember at Halloween, when every time he came to a house, he moaned, “I got a rock.” Well, I love this picture of Charlie Brown the best, because maybe he received some “rocks’ in his life, but here, he’s the one with the answer to life.

I give you a gift today of my heart filled to overflowing with love and hope and belief of all things—for you. I pray you feel loved so abundantly today, and everyday.

And even more than me, Jesus loves you most of all,

mom

 

 

 

 

Title of Art: The Hand of God by Jonathan Rypkema, inspired by God

Quite honestly, I believe God guided, directed, and breathed into my young high schooler’s fingers at the time while he was working on this in his High School art class seven years ago.

Jonathan had not presented me with any art he had completed before this time. (I suppose he felt under the shadow of his older brothers and sister.) However, God had plans.

Two weeks after my diagnosis, and before going in for chemo, this was what he presented to me.

No words. The picture said everything I needed.

Perhaps, today, it says everything you need.

This budding artist wrote later of his   piece,

 “My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, . . . It came as a shock to my whole family. Through these struggles the concept of this piece was discovered. The hand formed by waves is symbolic of the presence of God and how He is there with you through hard times, whether it be sickness or the loss of a loved one.”

This morning, seven years later, I read in my Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible, this poem:

“Our times are in Thy hand. Why should we doubt or fear? 

A Father’s hand will never cause His child a needless tear.

Our times are in Thy hand, Jesus, the Crucified!

 The hand our many sins had pierced is now our guard and guide.

Today, today, let us trust His faithful hand to lead, and guide, and provide as we go our way. Amen, in His name, Amen.