Christmas Eve Prayer

My prayer for this Christmas Eve: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” ~ Psalm 51:12

God reminded me on this day, the day before Christmas, just *why* we celebrate… because Jesus came for *me*… To bring Light into the Darkness of *my own heart*. Through a painful experience God reminded me of the darkness that my heart is capable of… And that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom *I AM CHIEF* (1 Tim 1:15)… But God did not allow me today (or for eternity!) to remain in darkness- Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” Thank you God, for sending Jesus “ to open their eyes {and mine}, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they {and me!} may receive forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 26:18)

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?- Psalm 85:6

And the Lord has accomplished his will for me! I have been laid low and HE has lifted me up!

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. – Isaiah 57:15

Isaiah 25:9 “It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Heaven blew every trumpet

Today during Jeremiah’s nap time, I sat with a hot cup of coffee, and read this book, “On the Night You were Born” out loud to Tirzah… I know she hears me. “Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born…. You are loved.”

It was marvelous when Heaven received Tirzah Catherine Knight.

Psalm 116:15 says, Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

And all the heavenly hosts call out to us, “Rejoice!”

Can I ask you, dear friends, please continue to ask me about Tirzah. Say her name out loud when you ask me how I’m doing.

Please don’t be afraid of making me sad. Or feel like you have to say something to make me feel better.

Grief and sorrow are my new constant companions, and will ever be this side of eternity. But there is joy in the sorrow. And sharing my daughter with you will help me experience that joy, even when it comes with tears.

It will never be out-of-season for you to ask me how I am doing with Tirzah gone, or what my thoughts have been about her lately… or how the Lord has spoken to me recently through her life.

And I will always feel loved and cared for when my friends and family simply listen.

here is a helpful article that my friend, Gina, shared with me (whose son Simon is with Tirzah, her big brother!). She shared this with her friends and family and said, “Please read. Gain understanding. And don’t stop calling those little ones by name. It’s one of the most encouraging, affirming things you can do for the quiet moms in your life.”  I whole-heartedly agree!!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-davis-johnson/the-other-quiet-mom_b_5972990.html

The banquet was not canceled

“Is it proper to cry for a baby so small
for such a tiny coffin?
Yes, i think it is.
Does Jesus have my too-small baby
in his tender arms?
Yes, I think he does.
There is so much I do not know
About you- my child- my Tirzah-
Will I recognize someone i knew so little about,
Yet loved so much?
Yes, I think I will.
Ah, sweet, small child
Can I say that loving you is like loving God?
Loving- yet not seeing,
Holding- yet not touching,
Caressing- yet separated by the chasm of time.
Our broken hearts mark your sojourn,
And God has called you by name.
The banquet was not canceled,
just moved. Just moved.
Yet my tears remain, and flow
Where my baby should have been,
nestled under my chin.

(adapted, some words changed, from Bob Neudorf, “To My Baby”; a poem someone sent to me)

IMG_3398 Akissforever

Dear Tirzah (12/11/14)

Dear Tirzah,

As I pray for the Lord to bless us with a baby boy and girl, I never ever think of another baby replacing you. You were my first daughter, and I love you. I have a special connection with you that is just for us. You have turned me into a “writer”. You’ve changed me- awakened my heart to God in new ways, and taught me how to love others more deeply.

Sometimes I feel like I’d give anything to hold you again, to touch your face, to hold your tiny beautiful hand… But I know your life was for a bigger purpose- for the souls of *many* to know the Lord and know salvation through faith- and in that sense you are the* first born* among many. And this family is eternal. And although i had said, “I lost” you in my womb, I have gained you for eternity. – now my daughter, but then my sister. And sister, we are *warriors* (for good, against evil) and i will be a double warrior for both you and me.

I love you, Tirzah. so. much.

Your mommy, and *forever sister*.

Balaam’s ass

I’ve never laughed hysterically at someone’s salvation story… until i read Dr. Dan Allender’s account. The birth of a saint is always a beautiful, precious, and awe-inspiring thing, but God also has a sense of humor!

{Taken from Dan Allender’s book, “To Be Told”, pg 90-91}

“I was a troubled 20 year old who had been involved in illicit pharmaceutical sales for a number of years. The small cartel with whom I had worked had arranged to sell drugs to a new supplier. I learned after the fact that the drugs would be coming from sources connected with organized crime. All of a sudden I had gone from the status of middle-class, mom and pop drug czar to the “big time.” And the big time involved carrying guns, buying judges and police, adn threatening undisciplined dealers. I wanted out, and I kenw that could mean forfeiting my life. I can’t explain why I had the strenght to slip the bonds of that world, but i did. I knew that if I died i would go to hell. More precisely, I knew that if there was a hell, I was certainly going there.

Somewhere in the recesses of my soul I believed in God, but the other 98 percent of my being thought the whole business of God was absurd. Death lay ahead eventually, no matter what I decided to do, so I said, “Fine” to God. That was the entirety of my prayer: “Fine.” If it’s true, then fine; if not, I didn’t have much to lose.

I knew the Gospel well because my best friend, Tremper, had discussed it with me many times…

The night I came to faith I had ingested a sizable dose of hallucinogens earlier in the day, so I was fairly fried. I felt profoundly uncomfortable walking into that small Presbyterian church in the country…

The service began… Then the guy in the robe began to talk. We opened the black books in front of us, and he read and then talked about what he had read. I didn’t bother to read, nor did i listen. But somehow i heard him mention Balaam’s ass. My ears came alive with curiosity.

He talked about how Balaam’s ass had spoken to Balamm. I was freaked out. I glanced around and noticed that no one seemed at all concerned about this bizarre revelation. Halfway through the sermon the preacher switched and started saying, “Balaam’s donkey.” I was so relieved I nearly fell out of my chair.

In fact, i was so relieved I thought I would cry. A talking animal was just fine. Under the influence of LSD, I had often heard animals talk, but the thought of going through my religious life with talking body parts seemed more than any human ought to bear. Somehow, as unlikely as it might sound, I came to faith that night. ”

I hope that made you laugh as much as I did… I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much!! :oD And i love Dan Allender even more.

For years and years I had a prayer to the Lord that I would be able to lead just one person to know Him in this life time. That prayer was answered last Sunday… My good friend, (I’ll call her “Jane”) prayed with me to accept the Lord as her Savior. We’d been reading the Bible together and discussing the things of God for 1 1/2 years. She enjoyed the topics of grace and love, and God’s promises…. but she did not want to talk about sin, and particularly asked me, “Why do you have to use the word “depravity”?? The topic of sin made her cranky. But I decided I could take it, because I love her.

On Sunday I read 1 John 1:5-10:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

I knew that the Spirit of God was working in a new way that afternoon because she immediately said, “I’m so glad you read that.”

And we went on to read Jeremiah 3:12-13:
Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD.

We talked about how God’s *one and only* requirement is that we “acknowledge our guilt”. You can’t have God’s grace without acknowledging your sin. God’s grace doesn’t just come in a vacuum, into emptiness… it comes because of SIN.

Then we read from Hosea: (14:1-2)

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2 Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. 4 I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.

We spent the most time on this passage. I emphasized that it says, “Take with you WORDS and return to the Lord….” I said that we each need to have this actual conversation with God, **with words**. And the prophet Hosea gives us an outline for our words as well:

1) acknowledge your sin, and God’s ability to effectively take it away;

2) Ask God to “accept what is good”… but what is good in us?? Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags..”  The miracle is that Jesus, being the God-man, is good, in the most perfect sense, and offers to spread his own righteousness over us like a garment (I actually drew a picture of a little coat with buttons for “Jane”!)… so we ask God to “accept what is good”: which is Jesus Christ on our behalf.

3) Finally, “pay with bulls the vows of your lips.” … No, God is not actually asking us to come with an animal sacrifice here… but this phrase is a reference to the Peace Offering… and the “vows” are thanksgiving and praise we bring. So after we acknowledge our sin and guilt, and ask God to accept the death and righteousness of Jesus on our behalf, we respond in thanksgiving, praise and recognizing that there is now peace between us and God. And this also means that we **rest** from our own striving and working to obtain acceptance with God. We recognize that it is FINISHED.

Then after we dissected this passage in Hosea, I asked my friend if she had ever had the experience this passage describes of taking to God her “words.” She said, “No, no I have not.”  I asked her, “Would you like to? now?”  And she said, “I’d like to just keep discussing it, as it comes up….”  And I replied, “This gift of God is not merely for contemplation, for you to look at from afar…. God wants you to take this gift… and we can’t presume upon the grace of God that you will have even tomorrow… and if you die without this gift, you’ll still be in your guilt and sins… I love you, “Jane”, and I don’t want that for you.”

Earlier in our discussion we had talked about Hell… and I had said that in my mind, the most haunting words in all of scripture are the words of Jesus to describe Hell as a “fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”… for eternity. Can we grasp that?? And i told her, “that is why I am here to share the “good news” with anyone who will listen, because God offers a free gift of salvation from this hell, and forgiveness full and free…. there is assurance available, that we will have our eternity in Heaven, not Hell.

So she said, “yes, yes I do want to pray.”

And my sister was born.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. {2 Corinthians 5:17}

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. {1 Peter 1:23}

John 3:3: In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

My Friend Nancy

My Friend Nancy
When I first came to Calvary Baptist Church in Urbana IL, and sat in the wooden pew, in the second row, and looked up at the large wooden cross in the center, and sang the old hymns, and listed to Pastor Gritton preach, I had this peaceful feeling of being at home. My brother had this funny phrase “Are you grinnin’ with Gritton?”
And I remember that first Sunday when I met Nancy Miller, an older lady, a “farmer’s wife” as she called herself, and she gave me a hug, which I desperately needed at that moment. And after that, we would sit together every service, and many times she would hold my hand during the service and would always hug me. She and her husband would take me out to eat every Sunday as well. We had several adventures, Nancy and I… exploring the Amish country… visiting an Amish church, making friends with an Amish lady also named Catherine… and later visiting Catherine’s home and riding in her buggy.
Nany and I had hardly anything in common. She was in her 60s or 70s, had about a sixth grade education, and grew up near the Amish farm country of Arthur, Illinois. She had three husbands in her life time. And here I was, a suburban, single ,20-something- year- old, veterinary student. But I learned so much from her… mostly about love and friendship. She was a living picture of God’s love to me… which I didn’t deserve from her or from God… her love for me was simple… she loved me simply because I needed to be loved. She didn’t care about my education or knowledge or abilities… it didn’t mean anything to her. She didn’t seem to notice when I was tired, and callous, or irritable, or a poor listener… or when my attempts to love and relate to her were clumsy and awkward. She loved me regardless of what I did or didn’t do, it was always the same.
It’s just about the biggest regret of my life so far that I’ve lost touch with her. It is a dream of mine, to hold her hand again in this life time. I *know* I will in the next.

(I wrote this in 2010… and I still haven’t seen Nancy, and still hope to… My life has kind of been on 80 miles an hour it feels like for many years!)

Liena’s Prayer

I watched this video, this mother’s prayer… and I found that her heart, her faith and prayers… her struggle before God is *much* the same as my own… As my *sister* Liena said: “As long as God wants us to be safe, we will be safe. God is in control.”  This is *true* whether we are in a time and place of peace or of war. It is the same for us here as it is for Liena in Syria.

http://www.persecution.com/idop

Little footprints… (Dear Tirzah 10/3/14)

Dear Tirzah,

You are the only “you” this world will ever know, And God made you to show His glory and His beauty in a unique and special way, that only you  can do. Just like your little finger prints and foot prints are yours alone- You have left a unique mark on this world. A mark that God had designed and planned just for you.

God extended His creative power and majesty in forming every detail of your little body- your face, your little fingers, the color of your beautiful red hair. And He delighted in every detail as He formed you and sang over you- a lullaby for you alone. And He called you: “Arise, my love…”, and you heard His voice and followed: “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine”…  And now He walks with you and talks with you, and tells you that you are His own.

My sweet Tirzah, He just couldn’t wait for you because you are so beautiful. And if I had a garden, wouldn’t I give my Lord the most beautiful rose of the garden? How could I give Him any less than you?

You were just so close, so close to being here with us. But God was watching over His will to perform it.

I just want to learn everything through your life that I can. To be still before the Lord and know that “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” To follow my calling from the Lord, with simple obedience- as you did. Just ask the Lord, along with me, for your mommy to have a double portion of the Lord’s grace and presence. “Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”  People keep telling your mommy that she’s strong, but really I’m not at all- any strength I have is directly from the Lord- you know that I know! ;o)

And may the Lord teach me to be “content with weaknesses.. hardships.. and calamities”.. so that His power may rest upon me- For His sake, so that the Lord only would be glorified. ( 2 Corinthians 12)

I am so weak Tirzah, and I am continually tempted to run into distraction- but you keep reminding your Mommy to run to the Lord instead.

In Him my faith has found a resting place… and soon my faith shall be made sight, and in the fullness of His presence, together with you, and all the saints… my heart looks for that day, and Tirzah, I rejoice with you as I wait.

this holy moment

This passage in James 1:3-4 scares me: “.. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (New Living Translation)  It’s this word: anything that scares me. It just does.

It feels wrong, maybe shameful to admit this. I know it sounds like doubt.

But in the midst of this fear, my heart and soul cries out to God: “I believe!! Help Thou my unbelief!!”

Aren’t those similar to the words I cried out several years ago: “I am powerless to sustain even my own faith- I need YOU Lord to pour faith into my heart and sustain me!”

So this word: anything.

It’s the realization that life will bring more pain. There is no bargaining with God. It’s not true that since He has Tirzah I am now entitled to a smooth road. Even though I feel like I want it to be true: “God, since you have Tirzah, now I get a healthy baby next and no more deaths. And I get to keep Jeremiah and Ryan.”

But the truth is: I don’t know God’s plan… And. Even. If. He calls Jeremiah away. He is still good.

Is this what it means to hold life with an open hand? To hold my most precious loved ones loosely. They *are* the Lord’s.

And what can I do but fall on my face before the Lord and worship?

Now more than ever I have a sense of the majesty of God.

This majesty calls forth the *Highest* praise.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; *blessed* be the name of the LORD.” ~ Job 1:21

And I say with this ancient man: “ I, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,…  and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”  (Daniel 4:34-35)

I lay my hand over my mouth- and fall on my face.

*This* is Holy Ground. This place of grief. This moment when Tirzah was called away. This Holy Moment.

I