Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mighty

"Listen... to your father’s instruction… " Proverbs1:8


Ephesians 6:10-20;24

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then…”


“…with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”

Glenn Cash follows Christ with dedication and fervor. He has a heart that ardently pursues truth. He trusts in the words of Scripture and, from a heart of love for God, adheres to the principles and wisdom He reads and studies. His persistent resolve to obey God, trains a righteousness that guards our hearts. Glenn taught Jeff the truth of Jesus’ salvation. Jeff embraced that truth with his whole being effecting generations and other nations for Christ. Glenn’s pursuit of understanding echoes and deeply influences Jeff’s personal choice to explore the depths of the mysteries of God. We are  thankful for Glenn's faithfulness and consistent prayer. We honor  his commitment to love and serve to the glory of the Lord. 


 “…and with the your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

My Dad means the world to me. Always has. He easily engages the people in his world with love, grace and humor. When people in his community are hurting, my Dad gets the call. He cares genuinely and is ready to go. Dad is always ready to go. Out the door-- to the hospital, to the funeral home and to death beds. He brings peace. The peace of Christ which transformed his own life dramatically, decades ago. My Dad carries Christ with him to every place, especially the dark and shadowy ones where Jesus’ light can soothe and comfort. Dad offers this peaceful support with such deep abiding joy. I’ve always wanted to be just like him. It is no surprise that I found my feet ‘fitted’ with the same readiness that I witnessed in his. I guess I was ready to go too. His sacrificial support of my calling sustains in places no one else can touch. He is my hero and my dearest friend.  


  
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

I spent many days and hours in the company of my Granddaddy. He was an extremely reserved man, so most of those hours were quiet but his constant love was very, very loud. The complete assurance of his adoration and care for me affected me deeply. During a very trying time in my life  I was asked by a spiritual mentor to design a shield that would protect me from some of the arrows (figurative) being flung in my direction.  After I completed the task, I described the shield to my wise friend. When I was finished, she nodded and said, “If this shield was the strongest, most impenetrable shield available, who would you have build it?”
Without hesitation or even conscious thought I replied, “Granddaddy. Granddaddy would build it.”
Love conquers all. Granddaddy’s love for me was fueled by a faith he rarely spoke about but instead lived out daily one faithful, generous step at a time. Even though he is physically gone from my life, his steadfast devotion continues to protect me in the battles that I face. I miss him so very much. 


"Take the helmet of salvation…”

This picture sits on Jeff’s desk. It is a photo of a very young Jeff with his Granddad, AJ Small. Jeff tells the story of his Granddad delighting in watching him baptize his cousins and sister in the irrigation ditches that ran alongside Grandad’s house. They were little children acting out the blessing of obedience and salvation--a salvation AJ received and proclaimed with his life. AJ was a finish carpenter, an amazing one. He worked hard, loved his family, endured heavy physical illness and delighted in God’s word. Jeff recalls his love for scripture, his determination that Jeff could handle responsibility and his constant encouragement for Jeff to exercise independence. Granddad Small realized his salvation fully before I joined his family. I’m sure he would delight to know that his grandson would continue baptizing and proclaiming salvation. We will all be together again someday. I can’t wait to meet him around that Throne. 



“...and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Granddad Cash was the captain of the police force in the town where he raised his family. He was a protector and a guard for the just and the good. He carried a gun every day, but only fired it once in his lifelong career. He said that there were better ways to solve a problem than with a gun. Weapons had their place, he taught, but should be respectfully wielded in conflict. 
Granddad Cash loved Christ and His church and served as an elder for many years. He acted as defender in that capacity too, utilizing the most valued weapon in his arsenal, the word of God. He trusted the tenets of scripture with his life and taught his children and grandchildren faithfully to follow Christ with their whole hearts. His influence penetrated deeply as he spoke truth about following God. 
Jeff often tells about Granddad's advice while hiking: "Lift up your eyes and see the views around--don't just watch the path at your feet."  
It was a moment that would echo in Jeff’s mind and spirit for decades. Jeff has nurtured a powerful, visionary heart that confidently lifts eyes to see the expanse of God’s design. Granddad Cash encouraged this vision by carefully carving inspiration with a weapon he very much respected--the words of God. We miss Granddad Cash very much, but walk out his wisdom still. 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

My Grandpa Money was a strong man; a very hard worker. He and my Granny raised seven children on an oil field worker’s salary in dry West Texas towns. He was diligent and dedicated. He adhered to strict roles as he led his home. He was the provider and my Granny took care of the household responsibilities.  My Granny suffered through many strokes in the years I remember her most. I watched my Grandpa step out of his well-practiced role of working outside the home and walk confidently into the kitchen. He cooked and cleaned and took care of my Granny who became increasingly debilitated in the last years of her life. Grandpa stepped up, in exorbitant love. I witnessed him keeping his promises and serving his wife and his God, beautifully. He was a good, good man. 
Of all the memories I have of my Grandpa (dominoes, silly songs and the way he closed his eyes when he was remembering the details of a story he was telling) it is his prayers that emerge prominent. I remember how he held Granny’s hand and leaned in close over her bed when he prayed for her meals. I remember where he sat at the table in the kitchen and how his hand felt when he held mine. I remember his voice and how he ended every prayer the exact same way, “…we beg in Jesus name, Amen.” You could count on Grandpa's prayers. They were just like him. Solid, dependable, consistent and full of faith. 



“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

I see in Jeff attributes of each of these strong men of faith. Jeff embodies a true soldier spirit, armed and ready, prepared and sure. I so greatly esteem and depend on Jeff’s fearless heart as he proclaims the mysteries of the gospel to those in our community, in our churches and to the treasures in our home. Our children are following in Jeff’s courageous steps as he has followed in the steps of those before him. How grateful I am that these footfalls rest on a trail blazed by a Faithful, Merciful King. A King we have watched, in the generations before us, redeem, heal, sustain and welcome home. 

I honor each of these men today for their dedication to their families and for loving as Christ does. Because of their choices and their faithfulness my world and the world of my children was set on a solid foundation. I am forever grateful. 

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

Praise the Lord!



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Her Children Rise Up

In honor of my heritage from selected verses of 
Psalm 147

“Praise the Lord.”




“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!”

Time at my Granny’s house always included good food, laughter and singing. She often made fudge just for me. It would be on a plate covered with plastic wrap on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Delightful!
My Granny Money suffered through strokes and their effects in the final years of her life. She lost many things due to her illness, including her recollection of words. How astounding that despite that struggle, God mercifully allowed a few words to remain. 
She could always sing every word of the hymn"Amazing Grace." I can still hear her voice and see  her left hand pat in time to the music. 

We sang it often then, together with her, as a family. 
We live it together still.  




“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

My Mom spent her career in Child Protective Services, working long, arduous hours to right some wrongs for the brokenhearted. She served among heroes. She, herself, was a hero to many. She taught me where and how to follow Jesus--among the suffering, with dedicated persistence. 

(photo by Autumn Twilight photography)

My Mom also carries this verse in herself. My calling has become her sacrifice too.  I deeply appreciate her love for me in the midst of the surrender this work requires of us both.
There really is no way to serve the brokenhearted without surrendering to the breaking of our own hearts too. I am thankful for a Mom who taught me how faithfully Jesus loves. In Him there is a safe space for every wound to be tended and bound for healing.




“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”

Jeff remembers his Mom singing "Can You Count the Stars of Evening" often when he was young.  
He grew up fully confident of God’s loving awareness of Him. He knew that because he belonged to the One who numbers the stars, he could confidently shoot for them, with bold courage. 
He does this, every day. His mom’s song still sings over him and the children he is raising to live with courage too.

Every single time we sit outside and watch the African night sky, Jeff speaks of the song and of his Mom. Her faith and deep love for African missions (all missions really) is a vibrant part of where we serve and raise our family today. 




“...the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

I spent more time with Mam-ma than any of my other grandparents. Her influence in my life remains deep and strong to this day. How I clean a kitchen, cook a roast, or plan a holiday meal all spin within the influence of this beautifully hilarious and very smart woman. She pursued God with passionate dedication. She obeyed and deeply respected His commands. Her Bible was always at her right hand, on the end table beside her favorite chair, and the bookmark moved daily. She read His words as if her life depended on it because it absolutely did. I knew that full well. Her passing from this life was a great loss for all who loved her, but I remain so uplifted to consider her arrival into her eternal home. What joy for her when she realized, face to face, the depth and breadth of Christ’s unfailing and freeing love for her. I can’t wait to be together, there, around His throne forever.




“He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides…”

Grandma Rose loved flowers and she always had a beautiful garden. One of the gifts we honor in our home is a picture of flowers that she painted. It reminds us of her and her knowledge of the blooms she adored.  She knew the names of them all and she knew Who provided them for her enjoyment.
Conversations with Grandma Rose always included stories of the ways God provided for her in her life, and time with her consistently yielded arms full of gifts that she loved to provide for us. 
The beautiful wedding ring I treasure speaks daily to me of God’s provision to her and to me. The testimony of Grandma Rose’s life echoes in our home every day.




“He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.”

Nona Cash is one woman I long to know! She went to be with Jesus before I joined her clan, but I have heard her spoken of with such adoration and esteem. She is very well remembered. 
If I could sit with her over coffee today, I would celebrate with her the beautiful ways God has strengthened the gates of her Cash family and how He has stayed with us in the places where we come and go.  We could number the ways He has blessed us within those walls of belonging. We would rejoice over how large the family has grown—delighting in each new, beautiful life. We could look at our borders and see that even in our most vulnerable places God is kneading peace.
We could discuss how faithfully He has remained among us, satisfying us with the finest of wheat—the Bread of Life--
where we need Him most.
I would thank her for her endurance and her witness of Christ’s love. 
Her heritage of faith is mine now too. 


“One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty---
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works---
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
Psalm 145:4-7

On this Mother’s Day, I will proclaim and joyfully sing of His goodness as I meditate on the heritage of faith in these beautiful, Godly women. 

They commend God’s works to us, speaking and telling of His splendor and of His power and of His abundant goodness. 

We rise up and call them, “Blessed!”

Praise the Lord!








Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Word About Deficit

I never even started that Advent devotional.
The one I researched and found online but could not get to download over our shoddy internet. The process discouraged me and I thought of it, spoke of it to God, every morning.
If only that devotional had downloaded!
I really wanted all of those wise words.

God knew.

In this particular season, I did not need to read it.

I needed to walk it.

You see.

The water stopped flowing and there was an announcement about it on the radio and it was because a pipe had been damaged in a nearby road construction project.

We called, sent someone to the water office and discussed. The official word returned to us that ‘they couldn’t know’ when the pipe would be repaired. “The road must be finished first.”

We were watching those construction workers like hawks. Were they moving? Was the murram (gravel) spread? How many days would they break for holiday celebrations? Could we bring our wrenches and fix that pipe ourselves?!

Because you know what is helpful in the days just before Christmas? Water.
Because you know what is necessary for all of the dish washing? Water.
Because you know what is required for the gazillion times a person washes their hands while baking?  Water.
Because you know what is really advantageous when someone is ill with a stomach bug? Water.
Because you know what is conducive to Cheryl remaining sane? Water.

Indeed.

You see, once upon a time, we lived for six whole years without electricity. By God’s grace, we did that. We adjusted to solar power and all that it provides, namely, freedom from the corruption of our local electric company. So, I know that I can weather that particular deprivation. I can live without my hair dryer, a washer and dryer and a deep freeze. It hurt for a while, but I adjusted.

But you know what I cannot seem to adjust to living without? Water.

I simply cannot. It takes me right up to the edge of all that is rational and practical and tips me over the fraying, ragged edge. I know this because I have also done it. I have lived without running water. Our very first nine months in Fort Portal. Nine months. It changed me forever. (I never drain an entire bathtub of water without cringing.)

But the week before Christmas? The loss of water felt like some sort of cruel joke. Because, for the Cashes, this December of 2017 was one for the books.

Car tires. Blown out.
Car electrical system. Shut down.
Solar power inverter. Blown out.
Internet router. Burned out.
Web domain and email. Hacked and locked out.
Electricity. Browned out. Surged. Off.
Water. Off for days, tanks dry.
Jeff. Sick for two weeks.
Bank accounts. Locked out.
Phones. Frozen, locked up, conked.

It really has been remarkable. I awoke early each morning to sort the previous days burdening issues to realize that I must solve two new problems first.

There was no way it was coincidental. Not in the merciful hands of an incredibly persistent, incredibly faithful Provider.

He wastes nothing.

In the midst of it all, this one particular morning.
Sipping coffee.
Mapping out necessary tasks for the day ahead.
Praying for water.
There it was:
A gift, wrapped in discouragement and want, emerging sweeter than ever before.

His mysterious reckoning blazoned.

All of the deficit had me locked into waiting expectantly.

I didn’t have to tell myself to pay attention.

I already was.

There was nothing else to do.

Sitting in the want and need and impossibilities and straining my ears toward…something. Some word to guide the next step.
Some announcement that would promise good ahead.
Some news that would be abundant.
Some idea that would advance our day and maybe even alleviate a burden.

Like the shepherds.
Like the old barren couple, succumbed to the humility of no immediate heir.
Like the young girl waiting on the very edge of a community-accepted, status-quo life change offered instead the opportunity to labor on behalf of the whole world.  

Doing their jobs. In step with the familiar. The next right things. The daily. The yearly. The expected passage of one’s life.

Right in the middle of the worship. The day. The dark field at night.

Each person wanting for something.

Proclamation.

“Do not be afraid!”
“….your prayer has been heard!”
“Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son….
He will be a joy and delight to you.”
Luke 1: 5-25


“Greetings, you who are HIGHLY FAVORED!”
“The Lord is with you!”
“Do not be afraid!”
“You have found favor with God!”
“You will conceive and give birth to a son...”
“…call Him Jesus…”
“He will be great!”
Luke 1:26-33


“DO NOT BE AFRAID!”
“I bring you GOOD news!”
 “Today…a Savior has been born to you.”
Luke 2:8-12


My heart beats it.
Each of those glorious, weird, out-of-the-box announcements so full of mercy and hope shining light ahead, even then, into each of my current powered-out, bone dry places.

This is a gospel that resounds.
A point of light incisively radiating into the shadowy margin of every shortfall.

It is, in fact, really loud there.

For this is the meaning of advent.

We wait. He comes.

Over and over and over again.

The waiting is not a distraction.
It is, instead, the epiphany.

Deficit:
 Creating an empty space expansive enough for an echo to reverberate.
Deficit:
 Locking focus, accentuating need, heightening all the wanting and opening ears to every decree.
Deficit:
Perfectly priming each moment for proclamation.

And, somehow, the intensified longing transforms worship.

The discordant tone of yearning creating the most gorgeous, soul-satisfying dissonance.

We are so happy, so relieved, so satisfied,
when a long-awaited answer finally comes.

“My soul glorifies the Lord…”
…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
“…he has been mindful…
His mercy extends…
He has performed mighty deeds…
He has brought down rulers and lifted up the humble!
He has filled the hungry…
He has helped…
He remembers to be merciful…”
Luke 1: 46-55

His Spirit falls on us.
Fills us.
Births new.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people
and redeemed them!
.…to show mercy
to remember
to rescue
to enable us to serve…
to shine…
to guide our feet….”
Luke 1: 67-79

In my own weeks of pummeling deficiency, I was granted a Christmas season ripe with enlightening truth:
heavily expectant
lonely labor
saving arrivals
God’s Glory proclaimed.

From every humble state, a gift poured out from surprising places through concession to God’s upside down, shocking, ever-redemptive way:
“I am the Lord’s servant.
May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Luke 1:38

Wherever you are today--

From the obvious want of want.
(Or, even, from the constantly insatiable want of plenty.)

May your eyes be allowed to see,

His blessed favor, rest.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:14


(Our water returned late in the evening on Christmas Eve. It was perfectly timed relief for all of us. Thanks be to God for His faithful presence in the midst of it all and thanks to each of you for every prayer.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Four Days



The stories of Jesus’ Passion echo brilliantly as we move to commemorate that eternity changing three days in Jerusalem so long ago.

Easter is upon us and so is the whole of Jesus most resonating story.

All the parts of those final days of Jesus life move me deeply-- from the meal, to the discourse, to the trial, to the blood soaked wood of the cross.

And, of course, Sunday. 
Always, Sunday.

This Holy Week, though, has me especially cringing again through every detail of the garden.

Jesus' arrest.

The shock. The betrayal. The confusion.

All the blinding, silencing fear.

It breathes in me anew this year.

Stifling and rasping and true.

My hope for Sunday’s dawn has never been so acutely pronounced in this one particular way.

And yet, consistently as my soul wrestles just to read it all through, my gaze is pulled from Jerusalem, East, to Bethany.

And there it is.
The story that is saving me right now.
That one, big, deep, restoring breath, just before.

John, Chapter 11.

A very specific moment with one very specific point.

For the glory of God.

~~~~~

We are told that he loved them.

Mary. Lazarus. Martha.

Siblings who each one drew Jesus near to their heart and home, in belief and friendship.

In adoration.

The story goes, that this one time, Lazarus was sick.

But not just regular-sick.

He was ‘send-for-Jesus’ sick.

Everyone understood what this meant.

It wasn’t a quick text message.

It wasn’t a Facebook post typed quickly and sent with the push of one button.

It was a 'send-a-runner-to-arrive-with-out-of-breath- words-because-we-have-no-recourse-and-he-may-die' dispatch-ery.

In John 11, the urgent report is met with Jesus’ diagnosis:

“It won’t end in death.” vs4a

Jesus’ discourse:

“It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” vs4b

Jesus’ devotion:

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” vs5

And Jesus’ delay:

“So when he heard…he stayed where he was two more days…” vs6

Delay?!

After staying exactly where he was for two more 24 hour stretches of time, Jesus then makes his way back to Judea to answer his friends’ desperate call.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” vs17

Arriving to the Bethany scene, Jerusalem shadowed only two miles in the distance, Jesus finds his friends’ community already days into their mourning and grief. The tears have not stopped, the loss is still raw, and the tomb with the decaying body is already well-sealed.

For four days.

It seemed that the Healer had not arrived in time.

They sent word.

But He did not immediately come.

His belated arrival brought Martha purposefully to meet him on the road still outside the village.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died...” vs21

Repeated again by Mary a few moments later:

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” vs32

Oh, the lingering echo of that soul crushing lament:

“Lord, if you had been here…”

Why did He delay?

When word had first reached him, he reasoned:
“…and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Vs 15

When Martha first reached him, he proclaimed:
I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die,
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Do you believe this?” vs 25-26

When Mary first reached him, he actively witnessed:
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled...
Jesus wept.” vs 33&35

In Jesus, even delay accomplished.

Accomplished?

Perhaps this:
When word first reached him, his disciples came along with him.
“Let us also go that we may die with [Jesus].” vs16

Or this:
When Martha first reached him, she confessed:
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” vs27

Even this:
When Mary first reached him, Jesus stood weeping with her grieving at his feet:
“See how he loved [Lazarus]!” vs36

Community, confession, love.
All spun expansively within the space of a delay.

Also doubt.
“But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” vs 37

Delay can reveal a whole entire heart.

Still, he comes.

In front of Lazarus' tomb, at Jesus bidding, the stone is moved, death decay expectant.

 Jesus prays, looking up:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” vs41

What did he just say?
God heard him?

“I knew that you always hear me,
 but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,
 that they may believe that you sent me.” vs42

He connects publicly to His Father in front of an opened and reeking tomb,while a bewildered gathering turns their eyes to witness what in the world the Healer meant to do. 

Raising his voice, his loud cry echoes:

“Lazarus, come out!” vs43

After the delaying.
After the confessing.
After the weeping.
In the midst of all the love.
Every breath halted.
Every eye opened and raised up to see.
Hearts pounding, minds racing...

“Come out?!”

And they beheld,

“The dead man came out…” vs44

“Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” vs44

Can you imagine the sounds?
The gasps?

The cries of Martha and Mary as they heard their brother’s voice speak again.
Felt his heart beat.
Smelled his breath as they stepped into his hug.

So very, so pungently, Alive.

Another wake quickly follows, but this was one is different from the last.
The weeping ceases as believers multiply and a community rejoices Lazarus' raising.

Unfortunately, the jealousy of Jesus' enemies looms too.

Thus, the Easter story marched just before them.

Jesus would also die and rise again. 

It’s always coming.
The Glory of that Easter Son.



But this year...this one.

With Jesus' powerful Passion story repeating around me, I remain sequestered in that definitive delay of chapter 11.

I am sure I am not alone.

A time of waiting often feels so deceptively abandoned.

It rarely is.

Others wait too.

We are a scattered gathering each suspended in our specific 'send-for-Jesus' crisis; maybe, also, simultaneously enduring the crushing loss of a delay.

 “If you had been here, this thing would not have happened!”

A celebration may reverberate in the world around us while we feel what we have lost. 
Grief enshrouds.
Questions loom.

Nevertheless, John 11 reminds us…
He is always arriving.
In His own exactly specific, Right Now.
Never, not for one second, veering off a carefully chosen course.

Purposed.
For God’s glory.
So that many may believe.

“I Am the resurrection…”
Right now,
Yesterday,
 Tomorrow.
I Am.

We serve the present tense, always coming, right-on-time God.

No matter what mourning engulfs his delay in appearing,
we can be confident that he will come.

In the waiting of John 11:
*Lazarus slept.
*Martha directed:
“But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” vs22
*Mary cratered to Jesus’ feet in tears.

We are told that Jesus loved them.
Every single one, received.

And in the process of his own redemptive timing, God’s Son is:
Revealed  (I Am).
Released  (Jesus Wept).
Restored (Lazarus, come forth!)

May I be found in the wake of crisis, eyes uplifted, testimony praising from my lips:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me!”

“…for the benefit of the people standing here,”

“that they may believe that you sent me…”

“For the glory of the Lord.”

Let it be so, Holy Father, let it be so.