Imagine There’s No Heaven!

Every time I hear the song Imagine by John Lennon and particularly the part where he sings imagine there’s no heaven I find myself saying…..”No, I cannot imagine!”  The reason that it is so hard to imagine that there is no heaven is because I know that because I am a Christian it is my final destination. It gives me great hope to know that when I die I am not going to leave this world and live in a state of nothingness for eternity.

I am not a very creative person. I may be able to use both sides of my brain but I did not get the creative gene. Even though I find it hard to imagine my future without the promise of heaven I find it difficult to truly imagine what heaven will truly look like. It is beyond what this girl can do.

However, the Apostle John, the one who Jesus loved, was chosen to get a download in movie form of what the throne room would look like. It had to be a jaw-dropping experience at the least. He would see The One sitting on the throne, the elders sitting on their thrones and the four living beings. Revelation 4:3-8 gives us a glimpse of what he saw. “The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones-like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of  lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal. In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty-the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Wow, does that not just blow your mind? Here John was only given a glimpse of the throne room. This is the real most Holy Place. The brilliance and the waves of sound from all the elders and four living being worshiping loudly must be intense. I CAN’T IMAGINE! There is no way that you could stand up. You would be doing face time on that sea of glass for sure and it would not be on an iphone!

We have enough creative movies in our world today that can take us into a world of fantasy but none could really capture what John saw. But even the glimpse he was given is surely pale in comparison to what is in our future. So I can say both that I can’t imagine that there is no heaven because I’m longing for it in my spirit and I can also say I cannot truly imagine what heaven will look like.

One day life as you and I know it will be over but life will continue in a new way. A life with everything new. Forever in the new heaven, living in peace forever among all the saints and family who have gone before. We will enjoy the presence of the Holy One for all eternity as we constantly hear the voices in worship saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, the One who was, who is, and who is to come!” Oh what a glorious day!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

Target Practice

If you are a Christian perhaps you have heard the saying that when Jesus changes your life all your problems are solved and your life will be wonderful. Well, part of that is true. Becoming a Christian is truly a life changing event. You have been snatched from the grasp of Satan and now your journey has begun as a new believer. However, the devil wants to make sure you do not succeed.

When my new life began as a Christian I had no idea that the life changing decision would put a bullseye on my back and the devil would want to use me for target practice. Matter of fact the very night I returned from my life changing week at Young Life Camp in June of 1970 when my mom picked me up at the Young Life office I told her what had happened when I was there. The first words out of her mouth when I shared that I had given my heart to Jesus was, “Just what the world needs, another arrogant Christian!” What? I was in shock, confused. I thought this would be news that would make her proud and happy. It was my first taste of opposition as a Christian. Perhaps I should have had some warning that these things would happen.

Jesus warned his disciples of this very thing. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. He prepared them with these words ahead of time so that when trouble would come they would be prepared. They would remember those words and stand tall against opposition.

John 10:10 says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The devil’s mission is to knock you off-center. He does not want you to succeed. He wants you to fail. Your mission is to make sure that you are aware of his tactics. How do you know what ways the devil will work? You make sure you know what Jesus said in His Word then you will know what to look for. The truth is the weapon we use against our adversary. He cannot stand against that! Since he is the father of lies the truth will cause him to turn away.

In my forty-seven years as a Christian I cannot enumerate all the attempts I have encountered from the enemy of my soul to knock me off course. There were times I was knocked off course but as I matured in my walk as a believer I soon learned that the best weapon was my voice. Just like Jesus did in the wilderness when the devil came to tempt him he quoted the scriptures. Each time he spoke the truth of the Word the devil was defeated. We have authority given to us by Jesus to tell the devil to take a hike!

You may think it silly to open your mouth and speak the scriptures out loud but Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Take the posture that the devil cannot use you for target practice any longer. Instead, have your weapon ready daily and before you know it you will find the target on the back of your opposition. You are the victor not the victim any longer. Adversity and challenges will still come because they always do but when you know the truth you can stand knowing the One living inside you is greater than any challenge you face. He is able to keep you until that final day when we see Jesus face to face and target practice is over for ever!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

 

My Adoptive Family

I bet when you saw the title of the blog you said to yourself “I did not know that she was adopted?” Well, I wasn’t really adopted but I had another family on the side.  My best childhood friend lived across the street from me for around fourteen years until she moved one mile east of me as our high school years were approaching. I was six months old and she was one when we moved into our neighborhood in Colonial Acres in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the classic hometown street where everyone knew their neighbors, kids went to school together and neighbors knew most of your business.

Well, let me get back to the adoption story. My family was quite unstable. Nothing but drama where I lived. But Karen’s house was different. She did not have drama like I did. I liked going over there. I ate dinners over there, had many sleepovers there and was included many times in family events. Her dad would sometimes call me is fifth daughter. I liked that. No actually I LOVED that! He loved on me, gave me hugs and treated me just like I belonged to him. I called him my substitute dad since mine was mostly absent. I always felt such security when I was around him and the family.

I have so many memories from those years but one of the funniest was how he would approach the topic of my body maturing into a young lady. I was a late bloomer to puberty. The joke was that I was a carpenter’s dream………flat as a board!  I am sure I was in t-shirts when my friend was wearing a C cup bra. Mr. V would always ask when things were going to change and I had no good answer. But there came the time that the t-shirts were no longer needed and the training bra was a badge of honor. One time when I went to hang out at their new house he saw me and made many positive comments about me having a chest now.  It made me laugh! I loved that man! Even as I am typing this I have tears streaming down my face.

In my heart I loved Mr. V like he was my dad and I was his real daughter. He made me feel so loved. Mr. V went to heaven not long after my husband and I were married. One day my phone rang and it was Karen telling me he had died. My heart was broken. He was gone. I remember at the grave site all the family members were given a rose to place on his casket and I was included. I was family and I could put a rose on the casket of a man that loved me like his own. I think of him often and was so thankful for the temporary adoption I experienced from this family. There are really no words that express my feelings adequately.

As much as I cherished being Mr. V’s fifth daughter the adoption that truly change my life was when I became a Christian on June 10, 1970. That day my heavenly Daddy adopted me as His very own. Not sure what number I was but it did not matter. For the first time I had a forever DADDY! In Ephesians 1:5 it says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” He was excited to have me as his daughter. I was excited to belong. Galatians 4:4-6 says it best, “When the right time came, God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

It was never easy having a dad who was detached and absent in so many ways. But even before I knew my heavenly Daddy God sent me an adoptive daddy with Mr. V. I can still see his face and remember how he loved this young girl. But what is more wonderful than that is the joy that I have knowing Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. I can spend time with him any of my waking hours. I can talk with Him, sit in His lap and more important is that one day I will see Him face to face and He will say to me, “Welcome home, my daughter I am so happy to see you.”

Oh what joy awaits us who believe. We have an eternal home waiting for us. And for me I will see my sweet friend Karen again and Mr. V!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

It’s Never Too Late To Say You’re Sorry!

When I was six years old my mom began her ten-year journey of alcoholism. Over the years it was normal to see a fifth of vodka sitting on the kitchen counter with a jigger by its side. I never gave it a second thought.

However, there was one thing that I did give second thought to during those years. It was something my mom said constantly that puzzled me. When I would get in trouble for something and later would go to my mom and say “I’m sorry!” she would always reply “It’s too late to say your sorry!” What? How can it be too late? I just wanted to feel like everything would be okay again. I think every young child wants to feel accepted after making a mistake. I would walk away feeling confused. I never could grasp that sentiment my mom held onto all her life. It did not make sense.

After becoming a Christian in 1970, marrying my sweet husband in 1980 and then becoming a mom in 1982 I made a promise I would not repeat that pattern. In our home there was always an opportunity to make things right. I did not want my children to suffer the same rejection I did growing up. I wanted them to know that forgiveness was always available. All they had to do is acknowledge the wrong done, come to me and we would start over with a clean slate.

If I being an imperfect parent can make room for mercy how much more can my heavenly Father make room. I am reminded of these wonderful verses in Lamentations 3:22-23, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Oh what a glorious promise! How thankful I am that each day is a new day. When I come to him anytime to acknowledge my failures He never says, “It’s too late to say your sorry!” My DADDY is waiting to embrace me with open arms and a listening ear. He will never turn away a repentant child.

I am thankful that my heart is whole and I do not live in fear of a God who turns me away because of my failures. I am thankful I do not walk away rejected daily because He does not have mercy to cover me. Great is His faithfulness! I choose to wallow in His love for me and with great joy I hold my head up high because He never says to me those words I heard all those years…….”It’s too late to say your sorry!”

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

 

 

Heart Damage

Nearly twenty years ago a dear friend was going through a very difficult time emotionally and in her marriage. Because of our close relationship I became too heavily involved. It was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. People that I loved were soon to be people who were broken and hurting and our friendship would be on life support.

Last night while I was reading One Divine Moment by Robert E. Coleman about the revival in 1970 at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky I read one sentence of a students account of events in Hughes Auditorium. It was a simple entry made by a student while he was journaling the event. He wrote, “A girl is witnessing to the truth that God has touched her eyes, and now she sees people as they really are.” What this young man was attempting to communicate was that she was not so judgmental of people but she saw them through God’s eyes for the first time.

That reminded me of how God brought healing to my heart after I took on an offense which was something I should have never done. When my friend’s marriage was near death and our friendship hanging by a thread I took on an offense. I began to harbor great dislike for the husband that bordered on hate. I found that over a period of approximately twelve years my heart could not see a way to forgive him. I felt the burden of the marriage issues lay at his feet and I began to see him through my anger not the love of God.

Over those many years the wife and I made attempts to maintain our friendship but it was a struggle. I would have done absolutely anything for her but to bear the burden of an offended spirit was not God’s will. It was a horrible choice on my part and it put my heart on life support due to the heart damage done by carrying that horrible offense for all those years.

I am sure you are asking how can you be a mature Christian and walk around on a daily basis with such spiritual heart damage? Truthfully, there are many Christians who walk around everyday suffering from similar heart damage. They want to change but it seems the steps they take to bring change are superficial at best. It is like giving someone an aspirin when they need open heart surgery.

I would verbalize words of forgiveness when I would pray over this period of twelve years but my heart was still on life support. I sometimes felt like I was in torment. I wanted to see this man in a different way but it was not happening. But then there was one divine moment!

There was a marriage retreat that our church was hosting at Paris Landing State Park. We made plans to go. This retreat was a divine set up just for me. See, our friends marriage was resurrected from the verge of death and they were one of the couples teaching at the retreat. It was a short three-day retreat. On our final session on Sunday morning they shared their story of healing. It was extremely emotional. There was a particular moment when the husband began to share his story of how God changed his heart and my eyes caught the eyes of his wife….my dearest friend….and I broke! I wept like a little baby. God pulled open the curtain and I saw his heart. I saw a man deeply humble and deeply repentant over his failures in his marriage. I saw him like God sees him.  I also saw two people standing as one after many years of brokenness. It is never easy to have a good marriage when you have two broken people trying to have a healthy marriage. But then when God brings breakthrough healing can begin.

Breakthrough also began that day for me. As soon as the session was over and we were dismissed I walked up to my friends and repented for my offense and asked for forgiveness. I felt like a boulder has been removed from my shoulders. I felt my heart breathe again and I felt God’s love for my friend’s husband for the first time since 1998. God did in a moment by His Holy Spirit what I had struggled to do on my own for years. I was free again.

Mark 7:20-23 says this, “And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”  It was the anger that grew into a giant boulder in my heart that was the problem. It was not what they did it was what I did. The offense I carried had damaged my heart. I needed a miracle. God did heart surgery in one moment in time and I was whole. They were whole. We are whole!

Today our relationship is restored and we have the pleasure of their friendship. I have suffered hurt from the hands of others, most likely so have you, but taking on an offense and harboring it for years was on me. It was my fault and mine alone. I am grateful for a loving Father, forgiving friends and one divine moment!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

The Good, Bad and the Mundane

I am sure you are aware that life has cycles.  It changes all the time. However, there are seasons in our lives like there are seasons in weather. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall and yes, I do not like them all. My favorite season is Fall. It is a pleasant season for me. It is not too cold, not too hot, it’s just right! I dislike hot summers tremendously. I do not function well in hot weather. I become a hermit when it is HOT! I am always looking down the road for that cool down in late September. It seems that it cannot come soon enough for me. I can’t control the weather even though I wish I could.

At times I wish I could control the seasons in life as well. The “Good” is a piece of cake, right? All is well. There seems to be a right balance in your life. Just enough routine to keep things running smoothly and some fun and excitement thrown in on a rotating basis to keep things interesting. You are sailing along and enjoying life.

Then there is the “Bad”! Oh my, who invited you to show up? Some drama begins to show up, problems with the kids, financial stress, a rift in your relationship with your spouse or a close friend, you can fill in the blank. Do you want to hibernate? You are not a fan of this season at all! Why did the BAD have to show up and mess up your perfect life?

And then there is the mundane. The word mundane means lacking excitement, dull. I will go out on a limb and say most of our lives are mundane. Daily routines keep on going, you get up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, go to bed and start all over again. Nothing very exciting about that, right?

Isn’t it interesting that when we find ourselves in any of these particular seasons we sometimes struggle to find the contentment in each of them? We are always looking down the road for a change. I, just like you, can miss the moment we live in because we want the change that is eventually going to show up to show up today! I find that we miss what God is doing because we are wanting change so much. God only promises us today. How many times have you or I missed what God was trying to show us because we could not walk in contentment in the NOW?

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I Timothy 6-8. Contentment is something we need to strive for in each season. We miss so many things when we try to create change when it is not time for it. We can grow in each phase of our lives whether good, bad or mundane. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3.

Today began another day for each of us. Maybe we need to enjoy the day God has given each of us and not try to look down the road for a change. Let’s put our minds on the good things of each day and see the blessings throughout each. We will see that in each season God is there and God is speaking to us. I know I need to slow down and enjoy them all with the variety the hold. I am sure we can find that God is present in all the good, bad and the mundane. He is a good God and we need to look for Him in every season. Enjoy your day and be thankful for all God has done and He will do as you trust in Him.

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

COMMUNITY

In 2017 technology abounds. We have every imaginable gadget available for our use at any given time. We can tweet, instant message, use snapchat, scroll on Facebook and of course we can reach out to one another the old fashioned way by calling someone but what we are missing is community.

I was born in 1952 and I am a baby boomer. When I grew up as a child we knew every one of our neighbors. There was Mrs. Gaines on one side of our house, The Moyt’s on the other. Across the street were the Cook’s, Van Hoosers, the Lyon’s, Arnold’s, and I can go on and on. We all knew each other and all the kids played regularly together. Today you probably don’t know much about your neighbors and most likely do not know many of their names.

We had neighborhoods that were safe to play in. We all could stay outside in the dark and play kick the can in the middle of the street. We rode our bikes around the block and played Cowboys and Indians. We couldn’t play that now we might be sued by some liberal activist that would say it is offensive to call them Indians. We walked to school together with our friends in the rain, snow or heat. We had secret clubs in our neighborhood that we thought nobody knew about (ha, ha), dance party’s at the school and we interacted regularly as a community.

Not everyone where I lived went to church, however, we had several churches within walking distance. Even after I became a Christian in 1970 I went to one of the Baptist Churches less than a mile from my house. People I knew from school attended these churches because they all were close to where we lived. It was another part of our community. We attended Sunday School class together, there were church dinners to attend and church wide fellowships on a regular basis. We stayed connected.

Now we seem to be more disconnected. Today we find that the local church has trouble gathering the majority of their membership over a four or five-week span. When people do come they want “drive-thru” church…..in and out! They do not want to be involved but they want the church to feed them and meet their needs. That is not community. In Acts 2:44-47 we read this “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”

Today we have all these electronic devices that can “reach out and touch” someone but it is not face to face communication. People need human interaction to thrive not just electronic communication. We have trouble gathering people to our churches because we have lost the environment that breeds community. Unless people participate regularly with others there is little to connect you. We stay connected when we share our lives and our hearts with each other not just a text, instant message or a Facebook post. Perhaps we need to find a new path to community similar to the way the early Church did.

Church culture in 2017 cannot compare to what it was in 62 A.D. but the need for community has never changed. To thrive you have to abide. You cannot thrive disconnected. Programs won’t create community, gimmicks won’t create community but a people joined together in intimate fellowship with the Lord and one another plus the power of the Holy Spirit moving freely will produce a culture for growth. It did in the early Church and it will today.

People need people not programs. People are starving for intimacy whether they recognize it or not. People are hungry for love. We were created in the image of God and God created us for relationship which comes from being a part of community. We are not designed to be alone. Remember to thrive you must abide! That happens when you stay connected.

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

Freedom Paid with Blood

Today we celebrate our 241st birthday as a nation. This nation was formed from people who came to this land in the late 16th century. People from Great Britain and other parts of the world came to escape tyranny, poverty and religious oppression. It did not happen overnight. Colonial America lasted until it finally declared its independence on July 4th, 1776.

This nation’s freedom was bought with the blood of many who were willing to give their lives to keep that freedom. It cost them everything! People who were tired of being held captive wanted freedom and they willingly paid the price.

Our Creator who longed to see His creation free from the grasp of Satan’s tyranny also had a plan. It took thousands of years instead of hundreds to deliver the people. He used men to lead His people to victory from their captors, to show them that God was their deliverer. He had men like Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others to rally their different generations to turn to God. However, God knew that these efforts were not enough to provide true freedom from their enemy.

The blood of goats and lambs would only provide a temporary reprieve until the divine plan of redemption would unfold. In the fullness of His timing our Creator brought forth a child supernaturally conceived with all the DNA of divinity to set His people free.

Unlike our nation that struggled nearly two hundred years until it’s day of freedom was declared on July 4th, 1776 it took thousands of years for the true deliverance from tyranny for mankind to come forth. But a glorious day arrived when Emmanuel arrived as the deliverer of all mankind. As He grew into adulthood He knew His mission was already planned. He was willingly going to sacrifice His life for theirs. He was going to shed His blood to buy their freedom. On a cross deliverance from tyranny would come. Jesus would lay down His life and as the blood flowed down to the ground it bought our freedom!

Freedom paid with blood! As a nation was born from bloodshed and sacrifice so a new creation is made possible by bloodshed. We become a new creation in Christ when we say YES to that sacrifice. Freedom from the enemy is ours.

If you are a Christian and an American you have two freedoms to celebrate. We are blessed beyond measure. “What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.” Psalm 33:12. Because God has His people living in the land we help preserve it. Be thankful for this nation and our good fortune to live here. God bless America!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn

 

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet the opening scene of act 3 begins with these words, “To be or not to be, that is the question?”  I would like to play with this a bit and say the question for many now should be “To tweet or not to tweet?” With all the electronic devices available to us in the digital world we live in it is far too easy to get away with being completely out of control with our words.

“People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” James 2:7-8. I think we can change the word tongue to thumb for purposes of getting my point across. The thumb is restless and full of deadly poison. Today people get on their twitter pages and let their thumbs do all the talking. They malign people viciously with words that they can type out without seeing their victim.

This digital world we live in will never leave. We are here right in the middle of it in 2017 and technology is only going to find more ways for us to communicate electronically. Technology is an amazing tool if it is used with integrity. We can communicate quickly, we can inform others of emergency situations in an efficient manner, get a text message to a friend, or make a video that goes viral. But we also can bring great harm to someone by simply typing some words on our phones, tablets, or laptops and hitting send.

We used to teach people how to treat other people, to be kind and treat them the same way you would like to be treated. We taught people to be respectful to those around you in your daily life. Say please, thank you, yes ma’am and no sir but today the culture of social media has unleashed an epidemic of malicious words that will have a digital life forever. People feel comfortable spewing on twitter or Facebook with no accountability.

When I was a young girl we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” So untrue! I say it this way, “Sticks and stones may break my bones and YES your words can hurt me.”

Each of us has said something we cannot take back. I have been corrected for saying something unknowingly that offended someone. I have had to be more conscious of how I say things in order not to cause harm but today there seems to be no boundaries. We have a culture of poisonous speech in digital form today that comes from Generation X, Millennials, Retirees, news media and all the way to the President of the United States.

I believe we need to address the problem at every turn. Especially as Christians we have an opportunity to use this technology for good not harm. We can affect the culture by using technology at hand to bless not curse. Somehow we need things to tone down. I pray we all will think before we tweet!

Living by the brook,

Marilyn