Power in the Name!

Jesus

THERE’S POWER in THAT NAME!

Recently, it became necessary for me to have a diagnostic test to determine the cause of recurrent pain I’d been having.  For the past 30 years, I’ve worked in health care, so medical procedures don’t scare me … or, at least, they didn’t used to frighten me.

I presented to the clinic that was clearly branded – OPEN MRI.  Now, let me tell you, there was absolutely nothing “open” about that little cylinder they slid me into. It could have passed for an economy-sized toothpaste tube, and I had visions of being squirted out the end in a sweaty mass of emotional breakdown.

The sound started immediately … a pounding ka-thunk!  KA-THUNK!  With ear plugs in, I assumed the machine had begun its process, but with my increasing anxiety, I realized it was my heart clearly preparing to beat clear out of my non-metallic chest.  I was on the verge of screaming “LET ME OUT OF THIS THING!” when a quiet voice entered my spirit:  “Remember, there is power in the name of Jesus.”

Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and began to utter the name in my mind that all creation speaks.  “JESUS! Jesus.” Almost immediately, my apprehension ceased and my heartbeat was replaced with the actual KA-THUNK of the machine. As I lay there, amazingly calmer, I began to pray.  Now let me tell you, after 35 minutes, there wasn’t a person I know who wasn’t “covered” in prayer and some people … twice!

I’d always known there was power in the name of Jesus, but to feel Him enter into my very being, immediately at the millisecond of my need, was nothing short of awesome!

Is. 26:3 is a scripture I keep at my desk – “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mine is stayed on you.” What’s neat about that passage is – it’s no longer a statement I just read.  Now, I know it to be a promise!

Oh, and by the way … a good friend advised me the next time I have to have an MRI, I should close my eyes and take a deep breath before I get slid into the chamber. Then, be still, close your eyes, and know.   You’re welcome!

 

Hocus Pocus and the Number 4

The “Magic” of the Number Four

When I was a young girl growing up in the NASCAR-lovin’, Piedmont-area of North Carolina, I was invited to a red-clay track to watch my first stock-car race. The energy surrounding me was electric as I picked out a car to pull for; and, because I liked its red and black color, and the fiery, yellow blazes painted down its side panels, it just “spoke” to my sense of danger. Not only was I elated when it won—not by inches, but by yards—but since this speedster was emblazoned with the number four, I decided this would forever be my “lucky” number.

Throughout the years, I’ve maintained the love of this number for its sturdy appearance of being able to stand on “one leg” like the stalwart flamingo. And the fact it’s the only number that has the same number of characters as its value in the English language, that must be significant in itself, right?

I was married in the fourth month of the year and have four children. Four is repeated twice in my house address, but luck no longer has any value or meaning in my life. That misspent belief ended in 2001 when I realized that, like horoscopes, such folly had no place in my life.

I was at the ripe old age of 54 (there’s that number again), when I finally connected the dots to realize that religion had been replaced with a relationship with Jesus Christ, and as a result, my life has never been the same.

Then, in 2015, I learn I had been given four, yes … count them … four Spiritual Gifts, of which I’d never been aware – Faith, Writing/Teaching, and Administration. I decided, immediately after learning this reality, to spend the rest of my life glorifying God with the creative abilities He’d given me. And then I discovered another new and interesting detail:

“The number four, composed of three + one, denotes that which follows the manifestation of God in the Trinity, that is, His creative work. It is the number of the corners of the earth, and so speaks of earthly completeness and universality. Being the first of the numerals admitting of simple division, it marks, too, weakness. Four, then, is symbolic of universality, of creation, of man in his relation to the universe, and because of man’s failure toward God, of weakness.” From: Numbers in the Bible by Robert D. Johnston.

So God has allowed me, albeit in my “later years,” the desires of my heart to work “creatively,” but may I never forget my ideas are nothing without Him, and any success I may garner is of His doing, not my striving. Daily I am encouraged by the Truth: “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3.

All of us were born with Spiritual Gifts. I challenge you to find yours, and then it’s just a matter of obedience. It’s just that simple … and … just that hard—but there’s absolutely no magic to it!

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What’s a Proverb’s 31 Woman?

Recently, a friend said she thought I was the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman. As a Southern lady, I’m certain my response emitted the most appropriate level of sincere gratefulness, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about! (Because Southerners talk in a unique dialect, and speak as slow as molasses, we’re considered to be ignorant. Not so! Hopelessly naïve, perhaps, because we believe everyone is our friend until proven otherwise, and then Katy bar the door!) So this Sunday school class “facilitator” (I’ve never professed to be a “teacher”) accepted the compliment, but couldn’t get to the Word fast enough for clarification.

What I found was not only astounding, but very humbling. I visualize a Proverbs 31 woman as being an amalgamation (see, Southerners do know big words) of Maria von Trapp (a married, former nun, vs 10), Martha Stewart (vs 13), The Barefoot Contessa (vs 15), Wonder Woman (vs 17), Mother Teresa (vs 20), Donna Karan ( vs 22), Sandra Day O’Connor (vs 26), and Ruth Graham (vs 28)—a totally unreachable standard. I knew I was far from being a Proverbs 31 woman; the best I could muster was as a “wannabe”. But just wanting to be something isn’t enough, because you must be intentional on your journey.

So that will be the focus of these blogs … a constant striving for balance in my daily life, because after all, there is a huge difference between that domesticated Titus 2 woman and the Proverbs 31 dynamo. But since the Women’s Movement in the 80s, some of us have lost our identity in the scramble just to survive, and it’s time we reconnect with the authentic woman within.

We’ll discuss all the messiness we call our lives, and learn new ways of loving our husbands and children (and perhaps even our enemies, “bless their hearts”). And for those of us who are business women, we can share our fears about the workplace, what motivates us in leadership, and what gives us hope for tomorrow in our troubled world. So whether you’re a frazzled stay-at-home mom; a frenetic executive; a whirling dervish juggling a job, children, and home (and if you’re a single mom, you get extra points); or a retired “lady of leisure” (who has found that you’re busier now than when you were in the workforce)—all of us are called to serve—in our homes, churches, schools, and communities. So what brings you satisfaction in your service above self, and how do you keep all the plates spinning?

I’ll tell you my experiences, and you respond if I’m anywhere even close to your life lessons, which should make for interesting dialog. I write with a twinge of Southern humor, for which some may need a translator, but that’s why we have Google!

Remember: We’re in this thing together. So, if the good Lord’s willin’ and the Creek don’t rise, I’ll see y’all again real soon, ya hear?

“The NEW Legend of the Sand Dollar”

This title was included in the Writer's Digest International Writing Competition
This title was included in the Writer’s Digest International Writing Competition

The NEW LEGEND of the SAND DOLLAR

Normally, there is nothing unusual about a walk on the beach. Things are as predictable as the soothing, constant rhythm of the waves breaking and rushing over bare feet, one after the other like a gentle massage from Mother Nature, providing cherished time for undisturbed introspection. But today was destined to be different—a day I would never forget and always cherish.

It had been three years since my husband, Tom, and I had been able to get away together. In addition to demanding careers and caring for our daughters, we had spent all our spare time making grueling, round-trip visits from Florida to North Carolina to see my father and mother. During those three years, my father had fought a losing battle against cancer. Finally, he had gotten too tired to battle the insidious invader. Since we’d just returned from my father’s funeral, Tom felt a trip to the beach would be extremely cathartic and restful for me. Yet, even on this impromptu vacation, my father was still very much on my mind, his spirit comforting me in memories, but my spirit was still very unsettled.

My father and I had always been close. He gave me my love of books, writing, and community service. We often engaged in lively debates on issues close to our hearts. He was the kind of guy the Army honored with ribbons, a folded flag, and a 21-gun salute. As the paratroopers carried his casket, their shiny boots sloshed through a puddle of water, and my mind wandered remembering Dad’s stories of trudging through mud during World War II in France and Germany. He never got over the nightmares of what he saw while liberating a concentration camp. As a young soldier, he’d made a pact with God that if he made it back from the war, he’d dedicate his life to the Lord’s work, and he did just that. The only solace I had at his death was that if ever there were an angel that walked this earth, it was my father.

Since the cancer diagnosis, time had become so precious to Dad and me. We talked regularly on the phone, and on one particular evening, I boldly mentioned that a pastor friend had suggested that we “take care of any unfinished business.” We had a good, hearty laugh over that suggestion. If anything, our relationship had always been painfully honest, especially during my adolescent years. To say I had been a mental and emotional challenge for my father was an understatement. I debated him on religion, philosophy, politics, the Vietnam War, and even questioned his parenting techniques. His favorite comment was, “Young lady, one day this is going to come back to haunt you—double!” And, on this particular sun-drenched day at the beach, I was worrying about what my two precocious teenage daughters were up to at home, especially in our absence. As the Gulf winds blew my hair, I tucked it behind my ears and admitted that I had more gray hair now than Dad did when he died, so he certainly left me a legacy of divine parental justice.

Although we never said it, I know Dad and I felt prepared for the end. Yet, when he slipped into a coma before I was able to make the long trip to say my last good-byes, the truth hit hard: You can never really prepare for the loss of a loved one. Well-meaning friends in the medical profession kept telling me that even though Dad was in a coma when I reached him, he was aware of my presence. I was not convinced.

Now, on the Gulf of Mexico coast, Tom suggested I take this walk while he stayed behind to work on the boat. The place we anchored was unusually isolated, and today it appeared I had the island to myself as well. The beach is named for all the lovely shells that wash ashore, but with boat loads of tourists arriving daily up island, real shell “finds” are increasingly hard to come by, especially in the summer months.

As I started my solitary trek, I began to talk out loud to Dad telling him how much I missed him and how very sorry I was I hadn’t been able to get to him in time. The grief and guilt was more than I could bear. My despondent tears turned into gut-wrenching sobs, until I became aware of a strong presence surrounding me. It was futile to try and repair my blotched face, so I whirled around, indignant at the interruption, to confront my intruder. A very startled sea gull took immediate flight, chastising me for being the human invader to his natural environs. As I continued to walk, the feeling of not being completely alone persisted, so I decided to continue an audible dialogue to calm my nerves.

“Dad? Is this you?” Perhaps it was an angel. Yep, that would be Dad. “I feel as if you might be all around me, so you must know your death left me devastated. I need to know you are okay. God please send me a sign.”

But what kind of sign? A bolt of lightning? The audible voice of God? A burning bush? Then it came to me, a sand dollar! I had walked this same island for years and had never found a completely intact sand dollar, only pieces. Since the tourist boat had just departed, my chances were greatly diminished, but I remember what Dad always taught me, all things are possible with God.

“If my father is with you, no longer in pain and in a better place, God please send me a sand dollar.”

I stopped, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Anxiety gripped my heart. What would I do if there were no sign? This is ludicrous and foolish, I thought. How could I, a mature adult, have made such a request? I felt like a child avoiding cracks on the sidewalk, and yet I needed God’s affirmation so much, but wasn’t my faith in God enough?

As I opened my eyes, I hadn’t taken two steps before a forceful wave surged ahead of me and delivered the cherished shell right at my feet. I picked it up and began to sob, this time with joy. “Thank you, God! Your sign is like getting that final kiss and hug I wanted from my father before he left me.”

But God wasn’t finished. Another wave brought two additional sand dollars and deposited them directly in my path. I scooped them up and dropped to the sand, staring in awesome wonder at these extraordinary gifts.

Coincidence? Some skeptics might say so. But then, there were skeptics in Biblical times as well. My personal belief is that God gives you the comfort you need in your time of grief. There are also those who say through the Holy Spirit, God sends his angels to deliver messages of love and encouragement to those who authentically believe. I was glad my father had instilled in me the desire to receive the special gift of faith and salvation. I was even more appreciative that in my time of doubt, God had graciously shown He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.

After Tom and I returned home from our vacation, I was recounting the event to two women in my Bible study. One said, “Do you remember the significance of the Legend of the Sand Dollar?” I admitted I didn’t, so she explained. “The sand dollar is said to be a visible reminder of the story of the birth and death of Jesus.”

As she turned one of my precious treasures over in her hand, she gestured to the significant markings. “Each sand dollar has four holes that are supposed to indicate the suffering of Jesus on the Cross from the four nails, with the fifth caused from a soldier’s spear. On one side is etched the outline of what appears to be a star, just the same as the Wise Men followed. If we were to break it open, from the center of this strange-looking shell would come five, bird-like shapes representing doves of peace waiting for release to spread the Word of God.”

“And that’s not all,” my other friend added. “You received three shells. The Bible is very specific about how significant numbers are and three represents the Trinity. Plus, it’s also the symbol of completeness and resurrection, since God has three all-embracing attributes, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.”

On this exceptional afternoon, I felt as if I’d experienced God in all His glory.
As I write this, it has been several years since my father’s death, and the strength of these gifts from the sea still bolster me in times of grief. And even though I haven’t had another occurrence of the overwhelming presence, I have never again felt totally alone and know I never will.

END

The Magic of a Book

You might think the fact that I’m friends with my best buddy from high school is not that unusual. However, it’s the back story that makes the real story fascinating, and quite engaging. You see, my best friend and I remained close all through our junior and high school years – until I decided to get married, instead of moving into an apartment with her, as we had always planned. Although she was one of my bridesmaids, we drifted apart immediately following the nuptials. In fact, we were estranged for 42 years until I read the book – The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart. This unassuming little title changed my life, because it looks at the complex and often difficult core of friendships, and gave me the hope that I could reacquaint myself with my oldest friend, Susan, despite all our past hurts. Regardless of the naysayers in my life, who thought mending the relationship, after almost five decades, was impossible – I took the challenge laid out by Ms. Stewart. I wrote my friend a letter telling her how sorry I was that we had become separated, and asked if she didn’t think it were time for us to mend fences.