Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

Deeper…

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“I have kicked up the dust and the dirt on the narrow road
I have had to let go of some hurt to hold on to hope
I’ve watched the sunset before the promise came
I have waded through waters wide and walked through the flame
And I can say

Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

I will run like I’m out to win, and finish the race
For every battle that’s sure to come I will be brave
I’ve got my heart set on every word You say
And no matter what lies ahead You’ll make a way
And I will say

Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

Every mountain is making me a climber
Every giant is calling out a fighter
Every heartache only makes Your love go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

Thrown down but not defeated
I’m worn out but not giving up
I’ve hit ground but even at rock bottom
I’m just getting started, yea, I’m just getting started”

When I first heard this song it resonated within me. I think it may very well become my life song. As you read the lyrics, I pray that you will be blessed, strengthened and encouraged to know that through Jesus Christ, we can not only sing these words, but live them. No matter what you’ve been through, no matter how long the road may seem – there is HOPE and VICTORY!

The song is “Deeper” by Meredith Andrews

You can listen/watch here on YouTube.
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Living Undefeated

I’ve been thinking about the apostle Paul (also called Saul) of the Bible a lot lately. Here was a man mightily used of God. He wrote more of the New Testament than any of the other apostles. He turned the world upside down preaching Jesus’ message of salvation and how to live. He suffered immensely for his faith. We are talking about a man who endured shipwrecks, beatings, stoning, imprisonment, and other hardships all for the sake of the Gospel. Different groups of people stirred up trouble for him in various places he went. This was the thorn in his flesh – those who stirred up trouble. His story is amazing. When we first meet him in the Bible, his name is Saul. And he wreaked havoc on Christians everywhere he went. He was a major persecutor of Christians. But all that changed one day when God got ahold of him on the road to Damascus. He was struck blind and the Lord asked him why do you persecute Me? This is not the whole story, but it is a great story of how God took a sinful evil man and changed his heart and then used him mightily!

Paul could have gone through the rest of his Christian life and been content to just go to church and be happy he was there. He realized and confessed that he was the chief of sinners because he had persecuted the Church, but he didn’t live a defeated life because of it. He had turned away from that life and had now embraced the Cross, and instead of hindering the move of God, He was advancing the Kingdom of God throughout the known Gentile world at that time.

Our world today may seem a lot different, and is, than the times in which Paul lived. But one thing remains the same. The Bible says we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But it also says that once we accept Christ as our Savior, that we are new creatures, and the old man (the sinful man) passes away. We are new creatures in Christ. We are born again spiritually speaking. Our old sin nature is gone and we are now free to live a Godly life in Christ. How awesome is that! This is how Paul was able to live in victory. And the good news is, that we can too!

I hear a lot of people, good Christian people, telling others something like, “i’m a Christian, and I love Jesus, but I’m not perfect.”
It is true that none of are perfect, that there is only One who was perfect, and that is Jesus Christ. However, when people say this or even write it, I can’t help but pick up on a tone of defeat in their voice – even if the rest of the message was very positive.
So this statement of “I’m not perfect” has started to kind of bother me. It’s not because I think we are supposed to be perfect. But I guess it bothers me because I don’t think that is how we are supposed to look at our Christian life.

Let’s consider why someone might say this… One, they are just saying that they make mistakes. True. We all do. We stub our toe and it hurts, but we learn to avoid that bed post or whatever, or to put on shoes. We might slip up and say a “bad word” once in a while. But as soon as it comes out, we realize it and confess it as sin, and ask the Lord to forgive us, and then we try to not let it happen again. These are mistakes. We learn from them and move on and confess / repent and move on. So in that instance it is okay to think of ourselves as less than perfect – AS LONG AS we don’t let our mistakes defeat us and keep us from going after God.

On the other hand, let’s say the scenario is more intentional. Maybe someone is a “Christian” and they watch movies or listen to music that has ungodly content (sex, profanity, violence, etc.). Perhaps they have a pornography problem, a drinking problem, or anger issues. They know in their heart, if they really listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, that this is wrong. But since they “aren’t perfect” they are content to stay like this and go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays. They may even teach Sunday School or have another leadership role. But they are trying to lead when they themselves are defeated. They can’t do as the apostle Paul did. They are telling people, hey I’m not perfect but I’m doing the best I can do.

What if Paul had lived this way? What if when Paul was going around teaching about Jesus he had told the Corinthians, “I’m not perfect, and neither are you. Let’s just try to follow this Jesus as best we can. We probably can’t win many people to the Lord, but we can try?” Well I can be assured that things would not have turned out the way they did… he would not have been successful… he would not have been known as the great apostle Paul. Would he have been in the Bible, much less wrote a large portion of the New Testament? Likely, not.

But let’s look at how he lived and what he said.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he says, “Imitate me as I also imitate Christ.” NKJV.
Wow! What a statement from the man who thought himself the chiefest of sinners! That sounds a whole lot different than, “I’m not perfect” doesn’t it?

In another passage we read of Paul when he says,
14 “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (Emphasis added).
– 1 Corinthinas 4: 14-17.

Now that is a leader, friends! He was saying follow me as I follow Christ! I’m showing you how to do it. Look at my life and see how to live, how to handle the people who mock you and make things a mess, how to endure hardships, how to live when there is plenty, and when there is lack, how to be victorious over sin.

So, let’s get rid of that defeat mentality. Let’s live victorious in the Lord, as HE intends for us to be!
As new creatures, sin does not rule over us anymore! We can put that old life behind us and are free to live for Christ.
If there are sin issues, and you really want to be free, the good new is, YOU CAN! The Bible says in Romans 8:37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Take it to the Lord. He will never allow His children to be tempted more than what we can bear. And when we are tempted he will always provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Live life undefeated. Pay attention to who you are following. The Bible also tells us that bad company corrupts good morals. Watch what you confess with your mouth. Be zealous for God and for his Glory. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you(James 4:8)! It’s hard to draw near to God if you let sin get in the way. So the first thing we have to do is get the sin out. After that, we can draw as close to God as we want to go – and He will be faithful and draw near to us! And finally, may the Lord bless you my friends and readers!

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Remembering Jennette

pinkribbonOctober.  Breast cancer awareness month never really meant anything to me until 2004.  Unless someone you are close to has battled or is battling breast cancer, it might just seem like a nice idea to remember and honor those who have it or who beat it and to honor those who have passed away from it.

Jennette and I met in the 1990’s at Stephen F. Austin State University where we were both studying to be teachers of the visually impaired.  And we both had visual impairments.  I can remember many nights of staying up past midnight working on our assignments for braille class.  The rule was that if you made even one mistake while broiling, you had to start over, because points would be deducted.  That’s because if a person who is blind can feel the mistake in the braille, it makes it very hard if not impossible for them to read.  So there were many late nights with lots of pizza and Coca Cola!  I met Jennette’s parents when they would come to visit on the weekends periodically.

After graduation several years went by before our paths crossed again. I had been teaching in Mesquite, Texas when I accepted a consultant position with Region 8 Education Service Center in Mt. Pleasant. As a consultant in visual impairments I get to work with the teachers in the surrounding schools. It just so happened that Jeanette was teaching in one of the Region 8 sichools. She found my number and told me that we would be working together. As it turned out the house we rented was just a few blocks away from hers!

One sunny afternoon not too long after we had moved in, the phone wrong and it was Jennette. She had found a lump on her breast and it was malignant. She requested prayer as she was scheduled for a lumpectomy. Jennette’s parents have been missionaries all their lives. And they were already scheduled for a missions trip the week of her surgery. I’ll never forget how bravely she told them to go ahead with their trip. She had a friend from church who would drive her to Dallas and stay with her. So her parents courageously left her in God’s hands as they went to share Jesus with others.
I kept her in my prayers and really thought this was the end of the battle. After all, she was just 32 years old.

Jennette was no stranger to challenges. She spent several years as a young child on the mission field in Africa. She had to learn to speak Africans. It was hard and she didn’t like it . But learn, she must. Also because of her poor vision she couldn’t drive as an afult. So as an itinerant teacher she had to hire drivers.

At the time of her diagnosis we did not have a cancer center. Jennette’s mom Joyce, drove her to her chemo sessuons in Longview, an hour away. The treatment made her nauseous. And after the second one she lost all her hair. It fell out in huge clumps in the shower.

Jennette loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. She did specials at church and even recorded an album. Jennette could be anywhere and just break out in song. I loved that about her! No matter how bad things got she never lost her faith, nor her song, nor her smile. One of her favorite songs that she sang at church is “My Redeemer Lives” by Nicole C. Mullens.

The timelines are kind of foggy since her battle was son long. But the cancer spread to one of her lungs. She was in the hospital for nine days following surgery to remove the mass. Later it spread to the other lung and she had to have that mass removed as well.

Each year in the spring our professional organization, Texas Association of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (TAER) holds its annual convention. After these lung surgeries it seemed that Jennette was getting back on her feet again. She was able to go to the conference this particular year and we shared a room. Jennette had brought her MP3 player with her loaded with over a 1,000 songs. As we sat on the side of the bed in the room one night, she played a song for me by Mercy Me called, “Gotta Keep Singing.” I couldn’t hold back the tears as I listened to the lyrics. It described her so perfectly. Being in a hospital room, feeling nothing but pain, wanting out so bad… but “I gotta keep singing, gotta keep praising Your Name”…. I don’t remember anything else about the conference. I learned from my dear friend how to cling to the Lord and let your fait shine even through trials. Hmmm… maybe the Lord was beginning to prepare me for my struggle – not with cancer but with paralysis and living with only the pictures and memories of my girls, knowing I’ll see them AND Jennette again one day.

By this time she had been battling for several years and taking chemo pills and radiation on and off. It was after this convention at some point the doctors discovered a large mass on the occipital lobe of her brain. I took my girls and we sat at the hospital with the family on Good Friday while she had surgery to remove the mass.

It was getting really tough for her to keep working. But she loved her students so much and was so dedicated to them that she kept on going even if it was just a few hours a day. “They need me” she would say. I think she also needed them.

Even though they successfully removed the tumor from her brain, another one appeared – and it was huge. This time they decided to “blast” it with a big dose of radiation. Seemingly, all that did was disburse it into 16 smaller pieces. So chemo, different than all the ones she had had before was administered. It was tough. But the tumors started shrinking…. but it wasn’t enough.

Jennette had to make the decision to take a disability retirement from teaching. It was just getting too hard for her to walk around. I remember going to her classroom where the students would come for their lessons with her and helping her clean it out. I was standing out by the car with Joyce. And for the first time, Joyce let me know that she thought Jennette might not make it. She said they had enjoyed 39 years and were just hoping to see the 40th.

At some point all the chemo just stopped working and there was nothing else the medical community could do for her. So they sent her home and she was placed on Hospice.

I went to see her at home. It was weird seeing my friend in a hospital bed in her house. It was so hard to see her that way. By this time she wasn’t really coherent much of the time. She didn’t want to eat. Her mom had to feed her. Nurses having to change her. She was dependent on others for everything.
But I stayed a long time… probably too long… may have worn her and her mom out. But we had a great time just talking and remembering past times.

On July 1, 20111 the girls and I were getting ready to attend our town’s annual fireworks display when word of Jennette’s passing came. She had won her battle. The fighting was over. That evening as we were attending the festivities a rainbow appeared in the sky just before dark. I’ll always remember it. It was if Heaven was happy to have received another singing angel.

I dreaded the funeral. She was too young to die. In the church the first few rows of pews were crowned one of her hats she had worn. This was so special because she always picked out the cutest hats – she had joy in picking them out. I went up to see her in the casket. She was beautiful and all dressed in purple with a hat on! Purple was her favorite color, and now it’s mine, too!
As the ceremony began, it was nothing like any funeral I’d ever been to before. It was truly a celebration of her life, not a mournful occasion. People told stories or shared things they loved about Jennette. There were lots of tears, of course, but we knew she was at happy and free of pain and earthly cares.

I still have the blankets she crocheted for my girls when they were babies.
And one day our families will be reunited in Heaven with our Lord Jesus. He is our Hope!

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