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“I Desire Mercy…”

 

“ I desire mercy…”

My loved one was frail from years of sickness, she was shaking and weepy as she hugged me. It seemed to me that we should never let each other go from that embrace. Then, she whispered in my ear “This will be the last time I see you.” My heart sank. She was feeling hopeless. She was giving up. I begged her not to say such things. I even asked her if I could pray over her, and I begged God for healing.

In those moments, I felt something I can only describe as the feeling of MERCY. I felt the presence of the Lord. It was as though it was HIM, in me, that she was needing, hugging, longing for. I wanted Jesus to love her through me. I knew I was not enough, I had no power to heal, to save, to comfort, to strengthen. It had to be HIM.

Mercy. One definition is having compassion or tenderness for another.  I have often heard in Christian teachings that it is defined as God not giving us what we deserve. Gotquestions.org says “In the Bible, mercy is extended to an offender in the form of forgiveness or to the suffering in the form of healing or other comfort. In any case, mercy can be characterized as compassionate treatment of those in distress. Whether the distress is caused by the guilt or penalty of sin or by a debilitating physical condition, mercy is there to help.”

Then, after this moment that I can only describe as an intense feeling of mercy, I encountered the opposite. Condemnation.

My mind and heart were all caught up with concern and grief over my loved one, and the feeling like that moment had been important somehow. So, I tried to share with some people who had been life-long church goers.  I looked for some compassion, some comforting, some understanding and some mercy.

I was met with condemnation. I was interrupted repeatedly with declarations of examples of the “sins” that make a person sick. The message was clear to me. Stop sharing, or caring about someone who has made themselves sick. They are not worth the energy and concern. This. Made. Me. Mad. This moment has grieved me worse than the first. What if Jesus thought this way?

Providentially, at Bible study this week, this was the section we studied. I was confronted with a Biblical account that seemed perfectly fit for what I had just lived through. (After all these years, I still get flaked out when God speaks through His Word, the exact thing and the exact right time.)

Matthew 9:10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Here is Jesus the merciful, dealing with the condemning religious leaders. Jesus loves sinners. Jesus died for sinners. The religious leaders thought they could save themselves by doing good works, and they expected others to follow their rules, to be moral. Here the Son of God is healing people, forgiving sin, loving and showing mercy, right before their eyes and they judged HIM! Why the nerve!

He is the only HOLY one in the room, and He says… “I desire mercy…”

I am not worthy of His mercy. I can do NOTHING to deserve it. Praise the Lord that He is NOT like the Pharisees, the legalists, the condemners. Right after the famous John 3:16 verse, He says 17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

That last part is key. “…through Him might be saved.” The Bible tells us that Jesus will judge and condemn the lost to an eternity in hell. He is God. He made the rules. Sin is only paid for by the shedding of perfect blood. Sinners march right past that cross and never really see what happened there for them. They think if there is a heaven, maybe their sins aren’t too bad and they will get there by doing some good works. Their great error is in denying that the price has been paid and all they had to do is believe that Jesus paid it all. How sad is it that mercy is rejected?

What about my loved one?  Not having assurance that a loved one has gained heaven by faith in Jesus, in believing that He paid it all for them personally, is one of the most painful things I have known. I pray, I ask Him to lead me in what to say, how to communicate with my entire being that He is real, and that He shows mercy. But, it is HIS work.

I am nothing apart from Him. I can do nothing. I am a sinner falling completely upon His mercy.  Oh! If He would work through me, if He would show love and mercy through my wretchedness! I am open to it! I want to be His ambassador. I don’t have to look at sinners and deem them not worth my time, my concern, because the Lord Jesus has saved ME, and I know He can save THEM.

Believers, are we quick to see others sins, their self-destructive sins, and shake our heads and say “They did it to themselves”? Can we see this is our commonality? Can we teach others that yes… we are all sinners, but there is a merciful Savior? Can we love THAT MUCH?

This is a simple life lesson I am living through, I am sharing it because it helps me to learn it well, and I hope that my words may be used of Him to open hearts by His Spirit.

Matt. 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.

 

 

Spring! New Life! Resurrection!

Spring! New Life! Resurrection!
I have been so thankful to see the evidence of Spring. After 55 years of experiencing the glories of this season change, I still am in awe. Watching the birds return, the daffodils green shoots pushing up through the dead grass of winter, and days warm enough to go enjoy the porch swing.
Being in ministry, we are always delightfully busy at this time of year, preparing for the great celebration of the Resurrection. This year there will be an AWANA egg hunt and a gospel message and puppet show to prepare, as well as Craig’s preaching the Sunrise Service, and making breakfast for the church in between the morning services. It is exciting to us, because we are helping the church body to rejoice in the greatest gift ever! That Jesus rose, and that we will someday rise to meet HIM.
As I focus in on the hope He has given me, I thought I would do a digital painting of Jesus coming out of the tomb. I used a textured surface for the background, which makes the painting feel so soft, like it is on fleece or something. But the photoshop brush I found, created a neat stone texture. I really enjoyed painting the light in this.

The Resurrection

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus told the disciples repeatedly about the fact He would die and rise three days later. Yet, when they saw Him going to the cross, and were devastated, it shows they just did not get it. In fact, they really were in disbelief that His body was not in that tomb on Resurrection morning. They walked with Him, watched Him do miracles, even raising Lazarus from the dead, and yet they lacked the faith to believe He would rise as He said He would do.
John 11: 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
What about us who have not seen Him? How do we believe in the Resurrection? Those of us who have been born again, born of the Spirit, by trusting in Jesus death, burial and resurrection as our salvation from the curse of sin, have to believe without seeing. The benefit we have, is that we have the Holy Spirit, where the disciples didn’t receive Him until after Jesus ascended. They may have walked with Christ, but we walk by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit works to draw us to Christ and to have faith and hope. The hope in the resurrection is vital to the believer. The Apostle Paul said if there is no resurrection, then we are pitifully lost.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by [a]Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…
14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
1 Corinthians

In rising from the dead, Jesus has given us a hope eternal. A forever with Him, in a body that will never perish.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Peter 1:3

Love With Abandon

February – the month that we celebrate LOVE.  The following is my heart about learning to love with abandon.

Oswald Chambers the famous devotional writer, tells us to be,  “totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything.”

There are days when I consider erasing every blog on this site. I am ashamed by how open I can be, right out here where I can be judged. Why am I compelled to share what I am dealing with, working through? To be so transparent?

I do know, that I don’t like the me that hides in fear of being hurt, and therefore walks in suspicion and anticipation that at any moment, anything I say or do can be used against me. This is the battle of a Pastor’s Wife. I was warned of it, the “glass bubble” thing, and I saw my kids battle it as well. Ministry comes with betrayals, rejections, and the hurt of loving and pouring oneself out, only to learn that it was not reciprocated. I see Jesus in this. He knows all about it.

Recently, I told a friend, that I think the Lord has healed me from the fear of being hurt, and from the wall I had put up to protect myself from really loving God’s people. I hope it is true, that I am done being called “Mara” or “bitter”. So what has changed? Perhaps it is just the Lord’s maturing me. I have found HIM to be a true friend, and that has sustained me through it all.

I can see how the hurts of the past, have made me more dependent on Him. That is a good thing, because He is always trustworthy and faithful. I used to think that I had to watch out for folks to show their true colors, to flip to the evil side suddenly. I worried about how terrible it would be when it happened, and I waited for the “the other shoe to drop.”  Now, I am still aware of these possibilities, having lived through them repeatedly, but rather than bracing myself while serving the Lord in a sort of cautious and overly self-protecting way, I am feeling a sense of abandon.

I desire to love without expecting anything in return. When I was an innocent and youthful PW just setting out at our first church I was full of hope and enthusiasm, ignorant of what could go wrong. Loving people is how I am wired, but I can foolishly think they are adorable and they are sort of “mine”.  After over 20 years, and all the trials, the Lord is making so much more aware that they are HIS and my job is to love Him and let Him love through me to others. When the rejections come, He can handle it for me. It is all for Him.

This seems to be all about me, but really, it is about Jesus. He is working on His servant Kimberly. He is teaching me about living a crucified life. He is giving me a love for His people that has nothing to do with what I can get from them. He gave His life for our sin, and He calls me to live in a way that proclaims it. His Spirit empowers me to do this. His Word teaches me what I need to know for each situation.

Paul warned us that we have a holy calling to give up our very self, and let Christ be everything to us.

2 Cor. 4:7  But we have this treasure (the light of Christ) in earthen vessels (our human bodies) , that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. “

He says in verse 1, Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” And in verse 5, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”

In 1st John 4, the gospel writer is very clear about what love is all about.  “17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

So I press on. I pray that the years I have left on this cursed earth, will be less about what “I NEED” and worrying about how I feel. I pray that I will be so filled with His Spirit, that I can be used of Him to truly love His people with abandon. I earnestly hope that my transparency, my openness, even though it may come back to haunt me, won’t haunt me at all, but be used of Him somehow.

So sister, brother, church, fellow sojourner, I will forgive you, and love you. My Father has called me to do this, and He knows all about it.

Writing a book – “Little Lamb, Little Lamb, Follow Close”

Little Lamb, Little Lamb Follow Close

“Little Lamb, Little Lamb, follow close.

You were born with a wandering heart;

With a will to go your own way,

Keeping you and the Good Shepherd apart.”

That is how it begins. That is how my story begins, how “Little Lamb’s” story begins. The understanding that in our sin nature, we do not desire to submit to the will of a Holy God.

When I decided to write a children’s book, after illustrating over 50 of them for other authors, I knew that I had 3 things I wanted to share.

  1. The gospel message in a way that was gentle, loving, and about a relationship, not religion.
  2. To get to the gospel, I knew I had to make it clear why we need the gospel. Our wandering hearts do not seek after God, even though He has given us our very being, and knows exactly what we need.
  3. That following Him is far better than a life I plan out and live for myself.
    He shall carry the lambs in His arms Isaiah 40:11)

    I lived without knowledge of Him and without a relationship with Him for 28 years. I have now lived 27 years, getting to know Him through the truths of His Word, and in communion with Him daily in prayer. Even though life has the same old trials and tribulations, walking with the Good Shepherd gives a peace that passes understanding, and a hope that endures.

Why was I compelled to write a book? I certainly do not expect it to make me money, not at only a few dollars profit margin, and my complete ignorance of how to market it.
It was not written it to impress anyone. I had to lean heavily on a very smart friend to proofread, because I am quite ignorant about proper writing rules.

Follow HIM!

No, I did this as something between myself, and the Lord I love, and then with the great hope that it may encourage a child, or even a parent, to trust Him more.

I have always had an itch to create, to express what I feel, and what I have come through, and what I am learning. It may be done through music, songwriting, drawing, painting, illustrating, and even writing silly puppet scripts. I delight in these things.
My son Noah and I have been working for a few years on writing a book based on the puppet characters we have created and use for children’s ministry. That book will be finished someday, and I hope will be a series of books.
But “Little Lamb” is different. “Little Lamb” says all that I want it to say. I may at some point create a coloring book or miraculously find someone to make “Little Lamb” plush toys, but this book is just what my heart wanted to say.

These verses have held me captive for many years and have been my inspiration.

Psalm 63:8 My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.

Colossians 3:1-4 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

 

 

It’s Not About the Big Things

My beautiful Erin (our oldest) sent me this link and told me that this podcast guy was talking about the exact thing that I was talking to her about on the phone the other night. I love how God really hammers us with something in every direction, and gets our attention! 

I had been telling Erin, about how we needed a break from this isolating in the house due to Corona virus, so we went for a car ride to Pennsylvania. We went  back to see our first church (Franklindale Christian Church) and show it to our youngest son Noah, who had been born after we left this ministry.   I told Erin about how a neighbor saw us in the parking lot, and gave us a key to go see the inside. I shared with her what it was like going in and sitting in the pew and singing a song  from the old familiar hymnal,  and that it made me realize 2 important things. 1. That I have more than just the struggle of discontentment, I have wanted to do “BIG THINGS” for God. And not just for His glory, but so that I felt good and useful.
2. That after all these years of ministry, I know now that a little church in the middle of nowhere should always have been enough for me.
Noah really flaked me out while we were sitting there in a church he had never seen, but had often heard about, when he said, “I could have been happy here, Mom.” It STUNG my heart.
20 years before, I had wanted MORE. I wanted a thriving ministry with souls being saved and discipled and lives changed and I wanted improvements to the facility and the rickety old parsonage! This thinking plagued me in some form, at every church Craig was called to. If it wasn’t exciting, then we must try harder!Craig learned to preach in this pulpit, he made the cross up on the wall, we did lead a few souls to the Lord, we did learn a lot and we did really want to serve HIM well. Yes, it was good to see the church continues all these years later, and we liked seeing the facility improvements and the good solid gospel brochures about the churches mission on the back table. 
Back then though, 1997-2000, we were very disappointed. Having just gotten saved in 1993, and then off to Bible College, this seemed like a let down in so many ways. Where were the people like us? The searchers. The ones being born again and wanting to surrender their lives go be missionaries and pastors? I doubted salvations, I doubted our ability to teach and grow a church, I wanted more. It wasn’t BIG enough. It must be their fault, it must be our fault, this can’t be all there is. 
Phillipians 2: 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

It is GOD who does the BIG things, and I should not be complaining that perhaps in my life, He uses me for the not so big things. He is the one who saves the lost, He may use me… but it is His work, by His Spirit, and my job all along was and is to be humble and faithful.
A painting I did of the church, that still hangs up in the foyer, after all these years! What a blessing that was to see.
How dumb am I to struggle with such simple things at age 54!?!?
I thank the Lord for what He is doing to set my mind straight, and I pray He forgives me for all the years of striving to be great for Him, instead of striving to proclaim His greatness. Yes… we have been faithful, but I sure have grumbled. I get SO discontent, bored and frustrated with the lack of fruit.
This podcast really addresses this deception of our thinking we need to do big things for God, rather than the Biblical truth that our responsibility is to be faithful and obedient.  God gets the glory. The focus is on HIM, not ME!

I don’t much about this teacher, but this is excellent. 
https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/brian-seagraves/unapologetic/e/57990033

Week 2 of Social Distancing

Week 2 of Social Distancing.

I can’t visit family or go gather at church, and that is making me wonder how I will spend my time? Will I still redeem the days wisely? Will I sit for hours with my phone, looking at Facebook and longing for time with a friend, or something to laugh at, or a politician to be mad at? Will I play mindless games, and watch episodes of Star Trek?

Yeah. I have done and probably will do those things. But what if I didn’t? What if I got up and devoted myself to learning more about the Lord, really prayed, studied, and asked Him what He would have me doing with my days?

So today, I chose to seek Him and find out.  Immediately after a time of devotions, I felt compelled to spend some of my time doing things that would minister to others. To get my eyes off ME. I thought about what an opportunity it is right now, to use social media to be a witness for the Lord. Many people I greatly respect, are making videos of short living room devotions, or music. These are so beautiful, and I pray the internet is flooded with God’s people testifying to the hope we have in Christ. My version of this, will be to create and share. I can write songs and paint.

Also, I am working on a mailing to my AWANA class, and I’m thinking about doing the same for my Sunday school class.
These days are not mine to do with as my flesh pleases. These are days where I need to fight the lazy and the fear, and let the Spirit guide me.

God’s Word gave me insight on the difference between how a believer thinks and lives, as opposed to an unbeliever. It is a matter of who they are serving. A neighbor and fellow pastor’s wife thought of the idea of reading through the Psalms and discussing in a Facebook group each day. Today was day 2, Psalm 2. This beginning section, which I have read dozens of times though out the years, really hit me today.

1.Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

King David saw in His own day, how people think they can disregard God and His people, even thinking that we are held in bonds, in cords. The world wants to help us get rid of the yoke of God’s rule in our lives. David saw that they don’t get it. The next section says God is laughing at them for their foolishness.

Living our lives for ourselves, not tied closely to Him, doing whatever we please, not seeking His presence and plan, is a vain thing. It is an empty thing. It is being a captive held in the bonds and cords of sin and selfishness. In contrast, when we are all caught up in following the Lord, we are free and find joy, peace and purpose.

Many years ago, I wrote a song with this line in it:

“I am crucified with Christ,
Therefore I no longer live.
Be the Lord over me. Be the Lord over me.
Your yoke is not a ball and chain,
I am captured yet I am free.
Be the Lord over me. Be the Lord over me.”

Colossians 3:15a

 

 

It is a strange thing to a human soul, to desire to have a Lord, a Master. To be a slave to Christ. It goes against our nature, because we want to live our lives for SELF. I know that is empty and worthless.

It is not about me. I am His and during these days He has given me, He rules.  I humble myself and submit. I pray I will be used for His glory during this time of pandemic and panic.

 

 

A Peace That Cannot Be Understood

A peace that cannot be understood.

It is beyond comprehending.

It guards my mind.

It guards my heart.

In Christ Jesus.

How? By bringing all my issues to Him in prayer. Trusting Him, and not leaning on my own understanding.

I am open to His Spirit’s supply.

A peace that cannot be understood.

This is such a treasured and familiar verse from Philipians 4.
Oh! How I wish I could remember this surrender (as Sara Groves said in a song) and not allow myself to get worked up thinking I should solve my problems or strive to make things happen my way. It is my lifelong struggle. I want to know what is coming, I want to know it will be alright, and I want to have some peace about it all. My flesh tells me I deserve a great life of triumph and accomplishment, without the drama and upsets. My Spirit tells me that my life is not about self- preservation, but that I am to give myself away in service to my Lord and His dear ones.

We recently were asked to stand before a church and give our testimony. It was good to recall the day that I was gloriously and instantly transformed in 1993, when my eyes were opened to the fact that Jesus died on that cross to pay for MY sin. I didn’t understand much, and I didn’t need to. He did the work. It was a done deal forever. When I enter heaven, it will not be by anything I did. I am going because of the holy blood of Jesus, applied to wash away my sins. Grace.  I am still living in this sinful flesh, with this desperately wicked heart, but His transforming power began working to change me, day by day. He will continue to set me apart for Himself, until He calls me home. So many changes. So much many lessons about who He is and who I am IN HIM. I was thrilled to tell my story and to praise Him for it, before a congregation.

We have been in limbo here for about 7 months now. The Lord knows we needed this time to heal from the previous year of the cruelty of cancer, and church chaos. Last summer, I spent a lot of time just floating in the pool, watching the clouds float past, as I just grieved. By fall I was either sitting on the porch swing with my guitar singing praise songs, or painting and praying for healing.  This winter has been a total turn around for me. As I spent my days looking out on the bluest of skies and rolling white hills in this amazingly beautiful place the Lord has put us, I have found peace. His Word has reminded me that it is time to get over it, and just focus on HIM.

These months have been an object lesson in how He cares for me. I see some possible paths He may take us down, and I am surprisingly not fearful. I know I will get hurt, I know things will feel insecure and even down right stink sometimes. Again, it is not about self- preservation. My life is not my own.

I rededicate myself to my King’s service. I fall before His throne completely open.

A peace that cannot be understood.

Song: Under the Sun, written and recorded by Craig and Kim Merritt

JOY, PEACE, HOPE!

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is the verse I am working this week to memorize with the kids in AWANA. What a difference a timely verse from the scriptures can make to my heart and thought life. When the Bible says that our minds can be renewed, and at peace, it is a fact.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossian 3:1,2

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

If the Holy Spirit was not at work drawing me to Christ, and to the Word, there are days that I believe I would want to cry myself into a puddle of worry, fear and utter disappointment. I look at the scary facts, of our current situation. No open doors ANYWHERE!!! It could, and does, all freak me out.

However, there are other facts. The GOD facts. We may be perplexed, but not abandoned! The maddening and heartbreaking ordeals have not destroyed us, Satan does not win, because the Merritt’s belong to Jesus Christ. HE moves us, calls us, provides for us, calms us, teaches us, changes and sanctifies us. Our eyes are on HIM as never before.

My faith is not in a religion, I’m not trying to earn anything, or gain something from God. My faith is trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross. That is it.

I didn’t do anything to deserve salvation. He did it all for me. I also can’t do anything to grow myself, or change, by the work of my own flesh. I am still a rotten sinner. But oh the power of the HOLY SPIRIT! It is His drawing me to walk by the Spirit, with my focus on Christ day by day, that grows me, and makes me think and act more like Him. Again, He does it all, and my part is to surrender to Him so that He can work. This is not natural, and I have to fight my selfish ways, all day long. I am not alone though, the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me of my beloved Jesus, and my heart falls in love with Him over and over. I have the great Comforter, and Counselor, inside of me.

AND… I cannot in the flesh, fix my situation. I can’t make another church open it’s heart and door to us. I can’t find a job for Craig, or force someone to give me illustration or artwork. Yeah, we keep trying, putting out applications, spreading the word, “the Merritt’s are in need of work!” Craig and Noah have been “the Scrooges” in the musical of “The Christmas Carol” at Family Life Network, and boy oh boy would Craig love to work there. There is a church we attend that needs an Associate/youth Pastor, and that sounds interesting. But, I can’t force open any doors. I can only wait, and trust. It is a battle and Jesus is my champion. 

So, I look at the facts, and I see that we are okay. It doesn’t make sense, and really, I think it is a miracle we aren’t a wreck and bankrupt at this point. It is the Lord fulfilling all those many promises to take care of us. If at some point we do loose everything, we still have Jesus and that is enough. He is truly the most precious thing, and I WILL NEVER LOOSE HIM.

So there is this verse-this love letter from the Father- just speaking to me. His Holy Spirit helps me to just settle on this. To live in it for a while.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is a promise. Joy. Peace. As I trust in Him. And there is an overflow… of hope. ALL by the power of the Holy Spirit. AMAZING!

Here it is Christmas 2019, and I have known the Lord since December 1993. All these years of learning about Him and offering myself to Him, and I cannot say I have had a rose garden life. Oh no way has it been that. It is trial after trial.

I think about the way Jesus came as that baby into such humble circumstances, and how He endured so many trials while He was here on earth. I know He understands what it is like here on this cursed earth, where Satan is the prince. Jesus knows how much I need Him year by year, day by day, minute by minute. He is my security, my joy, peace and hope.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:“For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Verses are taken from the NKJV, and the ESV.

 

 

 

 

Called to Follow

I’ve been illustrating on the computer using Photoshop for several years now. I love the ability to revise more easily, because some authors would have me revising my life away. (I have it in my contract now, 3 revisions in sketch stage only!) Anyway, I love testing out new brushes and effects, and sort of doodling around on Photoshop, just for my own enjoyment and to satisfy this life long itch to create stuff.

There is facebook group I am a part of, that is for Christian artists, and I find it very interesting that many of them talk about not only the compulsion to do art, but they consider it a calling. They think the gift is how God wired them, and they are to use it to bring glory to Him and to encourage His people. I’ve thought like that for a long time… but have also thought that I am not a good enough artist for such a thing. I don’t know if I am or not, I just know I love the Lord, and always ache to create for Him. So many songs, some recorded, some just lyric poems in a journal, that never are heard or seen. So many paintings stacked in piles in my house because they just aren’t something someone would buy. I could get down about it, but I remind myself that I do not live for success or the praise of man, but I follow Christ.

Following Christ. This has been my true calling. Craig would say that his calling is to preach/teach and to “feed HIS sheep”, but mine… the thing that just sets my heart right and my feet moving forward, is the desire to Follow HIM.  A favorite verse for many years is:

My soul follows close behind You, Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

Print of “Follow Closely”

This illustration was done with acrylic washes and pastels, about 10 years ago. I was super happy with how the Good Shepherd turned out, but years later, as I would look at this 16×20 hanging on my bedroom wall, it began to bother me that I had painted a random man following closely. I wanted that to be me. A Self portrait of sorts… of me, and I wanted to not be reaching for HIM but to be in a position where I was in total surrender to HIS will. I wanted to show that I was NOT seeking my own path, but trusting HIS leading, completely.

So, I painted this one up on photoshop… just for me, just a thing between HIM and HIS obedient servant Kim Merritt.

I recently heard a speaker that was what I will call an “Experiencing God” guy. He referred to Blackaby’s book often. This teaching is that we are not to come up with an idea, then plow ahead and ask God to bless it. Rather, that the Bible reveals men are called to what God is doing. When we look at the faith chapter (Hebrews 11) it is clear, that God was doing all the leading, and these heroes were faithful to follow. They did not conjure up faith in themselves, come up with a great plan that impressed God so much that He just had to bless them with success.

God is always doing something, and our job is to be open to Him, to invite us to be a part of it. Will we be willing? It will require great faith that HE is going to take care of us. We must know that HE will get all the glory and credit for what happens, and that it won’t be our will, or our work, but His.

Now, I actually believe all of that.  I always feel like if fruit is going to be produced, it has to come from HIM, because I have no righteousness. I want my usefulness in ministry, in artistic things, in loving and serving, to be dependent on HIS Spirit, because I know that in my flesh, I can do nothing that really matters for eternity. I get it that it is not about me and what I can do. And yet… I look at my life and see such a mess, that I just can’t see how this could be His plan.

The speaker said that if God doesn’t provide for and bless a thing, that we must not have been following His lead. This bothers me greatly. I turned to Craig after the service (which I cried all the way through, like every service for the past 4 months) and asked him, “Does this mean that somewhere along the line we lost our faith?” What I meant was, we must not have been faithfully following, OR we must have misunderstood the Lord’s leading, because this year of 2019 has been very, very NOT good. If we have been open to His using us, where ever, how ever, and we are yielding to Him daily, then why aren’t we seeing a tremendous ministry?

I don’t know. I wrestle with this. Is it Satan’s fault? But we have done all we can to stand against him. I want to blame God. But no, that can’t be right. I want to blame us. But… He knows we are dust. We are dumb sheep. We are willing, but need clear direction and need to hear His voice. I am back to blaming God. Uh oh. Around I go.

What if some that He calls, are not successful? What if they live boring little pitiful lives and aren’t a part of anything impressive? Are there Biblical examples? Yes. The weeping prophet Jeremiah! When he was called, he was told it would be painful and no one would listen to him.

God said,  “Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.” Jeremiah 7:27

Again, even in the faith chapter, yes, some heroes did impressive things.

Hebrews 11:32    “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.”

But read on… there is also these heroes of the faith…

“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”

What does the writer of Hebrews say about those poor servants?

39 “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

Ah… so… this “Experiencing God” and living a life of faith is for some, amazing ministries, like Ken Ham who we count as a hero in our time, having built the Creation Museum and now the life sized ARK, that is being greatly used of the Lord. Or, the Billy, and Franklin Grahams, etc.

But, there is also the faithful small church pastor, who may not have grand things to point to, but rather much heart ache and trial instead. As He daily surrenders his life to the service of the Lord Jesus and His sheep, perhaps THAT is the grand thing. The impressive thing. The Jeremiah type thing. Loving Jesus enough to keep the faith even when we can’t see anything beyond HIM. Just HIM.

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

A city far off! (ignore the wood troll! This was painted for Cody’s B-day present!)

 

I am back to the following. I don’t know if I am lacking something that these mighty men of God have discovered. I don’t know how to have the faith of a mustard seed. But, I can follow Jesus, over and over, each day, all my life, in the joys, in the trials, when people love me, when people hurt me, when I see open doors, when doors close, when seasons change, when I don’t know where to put my very next footstep. I trust Him. I have Christ IN ME, The HOPE OF GLORY. (Colossians 1:27b) This alone, is hope enough to get me through this life.

 

 

Prepare Me a Table

Is God’s Word active and alive as it says in Hebrews 4:12? Yes it is.

Prepare Me A Table

When you are going through a major ordeal, and six friends who do not even know each other, all send you the same verse, it is time to pay attention.
I never really had paid attention to Psalm 23, thinking it just for funerals, I shrugged it off. Especially the part about the Lord preparing a table in the presence of my enemies. I didn’t have any enemies like the author of the song, King David. No one was trying to hit me with a Javelin, so I thought that section was only for people who had real wars going on.
Then the Cancer/Rejection season manifested itself here in 2019, and while I dealt with treatments and emotions, I watched in horror as a whole bunch of enemies realized it would be the perfect time to attack. Okay, so they didn’t have javelins, or as one observant said,  “Pitchforks!” But it was definitely was a “Get out of town!”

The trouble is, we bought a house.

The view from my house

We left our ministry and moved our family from NH, to come minister here, and we needed a place to live. God provided a great blessing, even though He knew that less than a year later, our ministry would unravel and our income would be gone.
The mortgage contract says we can’t sell for two years.  It turns out that being this age, and having been in ministry for 25 years and having a Masters in Ministry, doesn’t look great to secular employers. After 2 months of endless applications, NOTHING.
But… there is that verse. That strange verse.
I painted an old board with it, and put it up where I could see it on the balcony above the kitchen. “Thou preparest a table” and I have pondered it over and over.
What does it mean that He will prepare me a table? Well, I think it means HE will do it. He is going to provide for us, put food on the table, pay our bills, meet our needs, just as He has for all our years of service. We are still here and we will still find ways to serve. He is taking care of us.

Matthew6:25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

I am living this. People sent me this common old verse…  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” and then it all started to happen just as it says.
Craig and I have not asked for anything other than the severance, and that we keep out of our tally on what the Lord has done in the last 2 months to take care of us. HE has done marvelous things! He is a Mighty Sovereign God!
We’ve been given gift cards (some anonymous) and envelopes handed to us, and checks in the mail from distant believers who claim the Lord laid it on their heart. We have gotten a freezer full of beef, and then groceries delivered by someone we just met. None of this was expected.
We have enough to pay bills, there is food on the table… while we search for jobs or another ministry close by.  It is all because the Lord’s Word is true, and His promises are true, and for some reason… He must want us here. Right here. So while we wait on Him, and His direction, we thought we would serve Him right here. 

LOH Bible Study

I don’t know what He will do with it, but I know we are enjoying those He is bringing in, as we gather around the Word. It is what we do. It is what we live for.

Genesis 19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Noel and I are writing songs about these things we are experiencing, because that is part of our healing process.  I am so thankful for art and music!
Oh, and about those enemies? I still love them very much. They may not talk to me, or want anything to do with me, but when I see them, I will still speak kindly to them. Jesus has a plan for them too.