By Marie Coutu
We made a trip back to western Kentucky recently to finish cleaning out the house following my mother's recent death.
The sense of melancholy was strong as I walked the neighborhood streets for the last time, slept in the house one final time, decided on items to be discarded, and wondered when the next time might be to visit my old hometown.
I only lived in that specific house for my last two years of high school and summers during college. But during the next forty years, as my husband and I moved halfway across the country three times and lived in nine different houses, the knowledge that my parents remained in the same house provided stability, a foundation I could always count on.
I still have a sister and an aunt who live in that town, so I know I'll be back but the visits will be less often and less like going "home."
During my pondering, I turned on the radio and smiled when I heard the old song that was playing--"Ain't Gonna Need This House No Longer."
Mother and Daddy no longer need that house, and neither does anyone else in the family.
And we know that someday we will join them once again in our heavenly home. That confidence and hope eases the sadness that comes with saying "good-bye" to that earthly home.
by Susan Tuttle
The Lord remembers us and will bless us. Psalm 115:12
I recently read Hannah’s story out of 1 Samuel. She was a barren woman, and I cannot even begin to imagine her pain. In that day and age not bearing children made her an outcast, and though her husband loved her dearly, it was a burden she could not escape. It didn’t help that his other wife, Peninnah, taunted her. Hannah could not escape the sadness of her empty womb, and she made herself sick over it.
Hannah had to wonder where God was. She prayed for a child, and yet year after year she remained childless. Year after year Peninnah reminded her that she had children and Hannah did not. Year after year there remained silence from God.
I think sometimes, in that silence, we stop craving the one thing we desire and begin to crave God’s voice. We want to know he sees us. We want his presence even more than the one thing we are missing. That thing no longer is our idol and our eyes shift to God. Our heart becomes consumed with one thought, “Lord, have you forgotten me?”
Hannah had this moment. Where what she wanted was eclipsed by wanting to know God had not forgotten her. Listen to her prayer:
“Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life…” (v.11)
See, opening her womb became the sign that she wasn’t forgotten. It was no longer about having a child. No, she simply wanted the assurance that God remembered her. He could have the child, only look on her with favor and show her he hadn’t forgotten her. That mattered more. And God heard her and after what must have felt like an eternity to Hannah, "God remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son." (vs.19-20)
Beloved, just like Hannah, God sees you. He hears you. His silence does not mean you are forgotten. He’s at work. I cannot promise the answer will be what you want it to be or even when you want it, but I can promise this: he is the God who sees you, El Roi, and he remembers you.
***reposted from my blog, Steps
Until my baby died, the quicksand kept pulling me down.
One step at a time, I was sucked into the mire deeper and deeper.
I knew the king was in his palace that day. Maybe I wanted to punish him for staying safely in Jerusalem while my husband, Uriah, and the rest of the army faced the enemy on the battlefield.
I knew King David could see the roof of my house from his palace balcony, where he liked to walk, but that day I chose to bathe on the roof in broad daylight.
That was my first step into the quagmire. But I didn't expect what happened next. One of the king's servants appeared at my door, saying my presence was requested at the palace.
How could I refuse? He was not only the king, he was my husband’s supreme commander. And perhaps I was lonely. Whatever the reason, I went to the king and willingly gave myself to him.
We enjoyed being together and the loneliness faded away. Everything seemed wonderful.
Until I learned I was pregnant.
Since my husband had been away at war, everyone would know that I had been unfaithful. Uriah could have me stoned for adultery.
When I revealed the situation to David, the color fled from his face. Soldiers would no longer want to fight for a king who slept with the wife of one of his commanders, while the army slept on the ground miles from home. He devised a plan and sent for Uriah, but when David told him to go home and spend time with me, he refused to even sleep in the house. "How can I enjoy any comforts while my men are on the front lines?" he asked me. Nothing I did could seduce him to lay with me.
Then David arranged for Uriah to be caught in the middle of the line of battle, ensuring that he would be killed. When the word of his death reached me, I pretended to grieve but inside I was relieved. I thanked God for giving me—and the king—a way out of our predicament.
How wrong I was!
David and I married and soon we celebrated the birth of our son. Life seemed to be all I ever wanted it to be. David wanted an heir to the throne, and he believed our son would be king one day.
When the baby became ill, David begged God to heal him but nothing helped. Not his prayers. Not sacrifices. Not the herbs and spices of the healers. After our son died, I thought the heartbreak would kill us, too.
That's when God showed me the sins we had committed against Him. I confessed my transgressions to God and knew the cleansing power of His forgiveness.
It took David awhile, but after he went to see the priest, he changed. He returned with a peace about him that he had not shown since we met. He even wrote this beautiful song that says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Maybe you've heard it, but no one can sing it like David can. His voice resonates with his passion and love for the Lord.
God pulled us out of the mighty mess we walked into with such stubbornness. He rescued us and gave us another chance. He also gave us another son.
See, he's sleeping now. We named him Solomon. And our God has promised me that he will be a great king, and that through his children, all the people of the world will be saved.
Aren’t you grateful that God is a God of second chances?
© 2012 Marie Wells Coutu
by Susan Tuttle
Ever experience that?
Ever wonder why bad things happen to you?
But when bad things happen to us, does that change who God is? It certainly has the potential to change how we see Him. But make no mistake, it does not change Him. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
The circumstances around us do not change Him. No matter what, “He faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love." (Psalm 33:4-5)
Even in pain, God is faithful.
Just look at Joseph’s story. Sold into slavery by his brothers. Wrongly accused of a crime and thrown in jail. Left there after he helped a fellow prisoner who promised to remember him but didn’t. Read his story. It starts in Genesis 37—you get a little interlude in chapter 38, but it returns to Joseph in 39—and you’ll see, though we follow God, things are not always perfect. However, God is good.
He never left Joseph’s side. He restored him to a place of honor. He sowed healing into Joseph’s heart through forgiveness. And through all the bad things that happened, God was following His plan for Joseph’s life. Growing Joseph even while keeping Joseph in His hand. In the end what does Joseph say to his brothers who set the whole ball in motion when they sold him? “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
Looking back (hindsight offers us so much, doesn’t it?) Joseph could see God’s plan for his life. He could connect the dots and understand why there were moments of pain. How it shaped him. How it brought him to where God wanted him to be. Did Joseph struggle during those moments? You bet. But he never let go of his grip on God, and ultimately he could look and see that God is good. And he could testify to that, even with all the awful things that had happened to him.
I don’t now what you’re going through at the moment, but I do know this. God is good. Cling to that. Repeat it. Believe it. And each morning, wake up and praise Him—the devil hates that! Don’t let satan take what is harming your life and use it for evil. Grab it back, and let God use it for good.
by Susan Tuttle
Life can be hard, even unfair at times. Moments when other people blow into our lives and leave a trail of destruction behind. The question is, what do we do with the mess they leave behind?
Tamar, daughter of Kind David, experienced this. A princess, beautiful…her life full of promise until her brother Amnon’s lust got in the way. Amnon only saw what he wanted and took it, never once thinking of Tamar’s pain. He left her on his doorstep, broken. In the aftermath, out of her shame and disgrace, Tamar tore her gown and threw ashes on her head, an outward sign of her misery over what Amnon had taken from her.
Another brother, Absalom, found her, but rather than defending her he used her disgrace for his own plot of revenge against the brother he hated. He didn’t hold Amnon accountable, but rather told Tamar to keep quiet and go to his home. Her father, King David, even heard of what happened but did not stand up for her. The last words of Tamar’s story break my heart: “And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” (2 Samuel 13:20)
No one told her any differently. A path of destruction wove through her life, and she didn’t know how to pick up the pieces. Alone. Forsaken. Taking on a shame that wasn’t hers. Have you ever felt her pain?
You don’t have to.
There is One who wants to replace the ashes of your broken life with beauty. One who wants to comfort and champion you. Listen to these words from Isaiah 61: He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
Read that again. Look at how He wishes to clothe you. Instead of ashes—a crown of beauty. In place of your cloak of despair—a garment of praise. And He desires to pour His joy over you, letting it wash away your mourning.
The pain you’re living in right now, the desolation, it was never meant to be. Yes, there are hurts that cut so deeply they need time to heal. But allow Him to heal them. Allow Him to comfort you. Because He didn’t mean for you to live a desolate life. Beloved, He loves you too much for that. While “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy: [He] came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Not desolation. But abundance.
Things may happen to us that we have no choice over. But we do have a choice over how we respond to them. What will be the last sentence of your life? That you lived as a desolate woman? Or that you allowed God to heal you and lived an abundant life?
Don't let the enemy steal one more moment! Pick abundance and let His healing being. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
By Marie Wells Coutu
A favorite game for many children is to step on someone else's shadow. They like to sneak up, step on the shadow, and run away.
When we know that someone has influenced the lives of many people, we might say she cast a long shadow. Like a child, we may want to touch the shadow of that person, as if something about her would rub off on us.
The thing about shadows, though, is that they are not real. There is no substance that we can feel. A shadow is only an image or representation caused by another object that partially blocks the light.
Shadows always seem bigger than life. Yet without a source of light, no shadow can exist.
Someone pointed out recently that the beloved 23rd Psalm talks about walking through, not the "valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death." The distinction, I think, is significant.
Your shadow of death may involve grief over losing a loved one, failure in your marriage or job, or even facing your own mortality. The valley is painful emotionally, but the Bible promises that it is not permanent. Whatever blocks the light will move on and the shadow will pass, eventually.
Sometimes a shadow actually provides protection. On a scorching summer day, we look for the shade where we can be protected from the sun's rays.
God says, "I have... covered you with the shadow of my hand
” (Isaiah 51:16, NIV). Even the shadow of His hand is enough to protect us from evil, fear, or worry if we seek the shelter He offers.
As Christians, we seek to walk in God’s Light. When we are afraid or upset, we can find comfort and rest in the shadow of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Allow His shadow to pass over you today and receive His healing comfort.