Wednesday, July 6, 2016

4th of July {Celebrating Freedom!}

For three years, we have visited the White Buffalo Resort over the 4th with my side of the family.  It is fun to rest, kayak, fish, visit, play kickball, and eat mass amounts of banana pudding, ribs, Mom's potato salad, bacon, eggs, fried fish, chicken salad...well, you get the picture.  It's our little paradise on earth and I am so thankful for my family.  We pile a bunch of folk into a couple of cabins and have ourselves a merry little time.  This year, my baby niece, Addison, graced us with her appearance!








 





















My Baseball Boy

High school ball is loads of fun.  Cade had a great freshman year, getting to start most JV games, playing center field and lead off hitter.  We are super proud to be cheering on our newest Wampus Cat.
















Friday, June 17, 2016

When the Heart Writhes

"The devil is really not the countertype of the Lord Jesus in the plan of man's salvation, but he is the countertype of the Holy Spirit whose function is to convict unto repentance or reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.  The devil counteracts this conviction."  (study notes from my Hebrew/Greek Bible)

Not only is there zero conviction of sin in our land, there is zero awareness that people are even sinning.  The sin has become celebrated and paraded, excused and tolerated.  The sin is beginning to look like the norm.  The sin has come upon the land as a dense fog, overtaking everything with its murderous grasp.  The sin has darkened all, so much so, that we can't remember what the light looks like.  There are small torches, where You, Yahweh, reside in the souls of Your children.  May it be enough to point towards holiness, "This is the way, walk in it!"  Bring back conviction, Holy Spirit.  Bring back holiness.  We don't deserve it and it is possibly too late, but I will cry out anyway.

My heart writhes in anguish as I behold less and less of You in our land.  Compensate and reveal Yourself more and more to me and to those who seek Your face.  Give me wisdom in the secret.  Give me glimpses, no not glimpses, let me full on behold your glory, your goodness, your grace in these times.  Don't let me miss You when all comes undone.  As they snuff You from our land, shine brighter and brighter through Your vessels.  Help us represent You well. We will need a heap of grace for the beauty of Christlikeness as fear and terror surround.

Put a hedge of protection around all we hold dear.  Please come down and show off, Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  Manifest Yourself so that all will believe.  I saw You in a dream.  A lion.  Pounding in the tall grass, mere steps from the open field where You'd no longer be shrouded or hidden or only partly known.  You were almost upon us.  Your righteous roar beckoning all to worship You.  Unveil Yourself, King of Kings.  Whether we know it or not, it is You we long for.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Slow Die

Having a blog with a very small readership is a plus in many ways. I don't feel obligated to post all the time.  I don't feel like I need to do something fancy in order to keep my audience.  And, I feel more freedom to post whatever is on my heart because this place feels secure.

Today, I want to talk about our nation.  Starting last June, God starting talking to me about the United States of America.  He hasn't stopped.  I want to do a small recap of what He has been saying and then talk about what may be on the horizon.  The title of this post is "The Slow Die" and hints to the grief I have felt since last summer.  I literally have felt like I am watching someone die (like I did with Herb.)  I frequently burst out into intercession and tears, all the while feeling like death is inevitable.  (At least the death of what we as a country used to be.)

Recap:

1. Amos and the plumb line (God said our nation is so far out of the true vertical that the collapse could not be prevented.)  God showed me these verses a couple of days before the infamous marriage ruling.  A key verse in Amos 8 says, "The long summer of God's patience has finally come to an end and there has been no harvest of repentance." God's heart is always that we would repent so He can relent from sending judgment.  This is His heartbeat, but one year later, we have still not repented.

2.  God punished the own apple of His eye (Israel) for her transgressions in order to purify her. No nation is exempt from this.  For some reason (arrogance, I suppose) we assume Americans will never experience judgment.  We are sorely wrong. 

3.  The words "war, famine, and disease" have been on my heart for this year.  I never realized it until this year, but when David ordered the census and then repented, he got to choose his own consequence, which was war, famine, or disease.  He wisely chose to fall into the hands of the Lord and not men, for He knew God was merciful.  The Lord sent disease.  (Lord, let us fall into your merciful hands and not man's.)  See 2 Samuel 24

4.  I've had the image (in my mind and through an actual experience) of glass shattering, breaking into so many pieces that it is beyond repair. 2 books of the Bible (Jeremiah and Isaiah) allude to God breaking the people like pottery so they cannot be made whole again. Without repentance, we are on this path.

5.  The handwriting is blatantly on the wall.  Our sins are not even hidden anymore.  Instead, they are celebrated, paraded, and legalized. Our nation has been numbered, weighed, and divided.  (see Daniel)  Last summer, God searched our nation with lamps, showing us how ugly we were.  He showed us how far we strayed from His heartbeat.  We turned up our noses and declared that we want nothing to do with Him. We have forsaken the God of our Fathers.

6.  I've had the word "ruin" on my heart this year.  In Joshua 6, the Israelites went forward to attack the city, Ai, without God telling them to go forward.  They in arrogance, assumed they could win.  They did not.  Defeat comes when we go outside of divine instruction, which has the potential to end in ruin.  Guess what "Ai" means?  Ruin.

7.  God told me He would manifest Himself as the Lord of Sabaoth this year...the Lord of Hosts...God of Armies.  Another word is, Jehovah Tsaba, the Lord our Warrior.  Everything and every person belongs to Him.  He is God over the multitudes and will sway things exactly how He desires, whether it be man, beast, weather, or starry host.  He will show off His glory this year.  The question is this:  will we recognize Him if He comes as a lion instead of a lamb?

8.  God led me to study the metal "brass" in the Old Testament and its significance.  It symbolizes judgment.  (The good news is that all who look to the Son of Man and believe shall not perish!)

New:

1. I look at our narcissistic Presidential options whose statements and lifestyles declare they have no need for God.  Judgment is here.  God has turned us over to what we wanted. Our own depraved minds have desired the options we have.  In His grace, early on, God offered us a righteous choice in Rubio (and a couple of other guys.)  (Righteous, not because he is perfect, but righteous because of the Savior's blood that covers him.)  We, as a whole, thumbed our noses at this option.  Thank you, Father, for graciously offering us a good choice.  Have mercy on us for flat out rejecting it. I believe the election is meaningless.  I believe there is no man or woman that can set us on the right path to America being great again.  The only thing that will make us great is the Holy Spirit of God moving on us in power so that we fall to our knees in repentance.  Jesus Christ is our only hope.

2.  Deception and deceit, deceit and deception.  The air is thick with so many lies, that I have to stay huddled in the only Truth I know, the Word of God.  Very few anymore have ears to hear and eyes to see.  We are the church that slumbers.  Wake us up from our selfish slumber, Lord!

3.  The absurdity of it all.  Boys in girls' bathrooms and the other way around?  I had no idea calling evil good would look so dad gum ignorant.  The real issue is this:  an attack on God Himself.  God created man and woman in His own image.  If Satan can confuse the issue or steal what God created, then the attack is on God Himself.  Satan wants the image of God obliterated from our nation.  This is what it all comes down to. 

4.  There is no shame.  We don't blush.

5.  If destruction comes, it is because we have not repented.  If destruction comes, then we need to see it as God's mercy, a last ditch attempt to have us follow hard after His heartbeat that offers life and not death. The worst thing in the world to happen is for Him to leave us to ourselves.

6.  The theme of division is heavy on my heart.  The Lord tore Israel into two parts right after Solomon's reign because he/the nation no longer walked in God's ways.  God raised up adversaries to do the work.  I keep thinking about Matthew 12:25 that says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and no city or house divided against itself will stand." I see division in our land everywhere I look.  Sometimes, I wonder if this will manifest physically, in the land form, as well.  See 1 Kings 12

7.  We need to prepare ourselves for the fact that this election may not look like anything we have ever seen.  We need to be praying for the redemption and safety of the candidates.  We need to open our eyes and see the civil unrest that follows some of these people.  The hatred in our nation is only escalating.  Pray peace over our nation. Pray unity over our nation.

8.  We need to man the ramparts, so to speak.  We need to spiritually dress for battle.  We need to gather courage for the days to come.  We are at war, this is a fight against the spiritual forces of evil, not necessarily against flesh and blood.  Find a spot to sit daily with Jesus.  Know your worth in Christ. Do battle with your prayers!  You are the light in the darkness!  Your words have power! We must slough off the apathy that says that nothing is wrong!  Pray for eyes to see and ears to hear!

God longs to throw open the door and allow us to know Him deeper than we ever have before.  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Dig deep into His word.  Crush every idol.  Fear not; His blood is sufficient to cover you in all things. Jesus is enough for our sin-sick land.  Cry out to Him like never before.

There is a full reward waiting...choose Him above all things. I am reminding myself that He will never forsake me.  I am reminding myself that suffering is the shortest path to becoming like Christ.  I am reminding myself that all these swirling events will one day bring in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to reign on the earth.

I would love to hear your thoughts about our nation and anything that God has revealed to you.  If you don't want to comment below, you can email me at ebstuart@conwaycorp.net

Monday, May 23, 2016

Like a River from Its Course

When I picked up "Like a River from Its Course," I didn't expect it to sear white hot into my soul.  After all, the story was not my own.  But, Kelli Stuart somehow made it mine.  Page after page, I smeared the paper with streaks of my own bleeding heart, a sacrificial offering to the beauty of story. The story refused to leave me pierced, though.  In the end, story is there, stitching up the wounds and gifting me with the word I dared to long for:  hope. 

Through my own story, I have found that suffering and joy always make the best dance partners. If I can make an incision into my own heart and let all of the joys and sorrows intermingle out into one grace swirled and bloody mess, then just maybe readers will get a taste of this Good Father who loves deeply.

Stuart does this beautifully.

While knee deep in the pages of WWII, I became each character, by some force outside of my control.  I am the fourteen year old, stripped bare and marched to the top of the killing ditch.  I am the soldier, doing the unthinkable in order to gain the elusive affection of my father.  I am the servant, throwing up my maggot infested rice.  I am the mother, wondering if I will ever lay eyes on my children again.

"Like a River from Its Course" is a roller coaster of an emotional ride that somehow left me quite satisfied. It left me better.

I couldn't be more proud of Stuart's debut novel.  She has a gift that only God above could ignite into flames. I look forward to what God births through her in the future.

Pre-order on Amazon today!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I am Gentile

I am Hagar.  I am servant.  I am cast out by my master, simply because I obeyed.  I am looked upon with contempt and dealt harshly with.  I am homeless, wandering the desert.  In all my affliction, who ever will be able to see me crying out in this wilderness?

God met me, the lowly Gentile there.  El Roi is my God, a God of seeing.

He tells me not to fear and points me towards the well of water.  He promises to be with my son and make him a great nation.

I am Rahab I am unholy enough to be labeled prostitute.  I am filthy, not ever capable of measuring up.  I am bold enough to deal kindly with the spies because I know in my heart the Lord has given the Israelites the land.  He is giving them my land.

I am offered a scarlet cord in order to escape.  I became part of the line that brought forth the Messiah.  I am the foreigner, now made family.  I am testimony that grace splashes over the sides of the bucket labeled Judaism.  Nothing can contain it.  All are free to worship Jehovah. 

I am Ruth.  I am childless.  I am widow.  I am foreigner.  I am hungry and wondering how I'll survive without my husband.  I glean the outer corners of the field, hoping for leftovers.

A kinsman redeemer takes notice of me.  I am now beloved.  I eat until I am satisfied.  There are always leftovers.  My husband speaks words of blessings over me.  I am the great grandmother of King David.  I am a picture of the greatest love story ever told.

I am
the unlovable
the ugly
the rejected
the overlooked
the unchosen
the bitter and weary and oh so exhausted because I am never quite good enough
the lost

A hand (ever so handsome) reached out and pulled me to His heart.  I lingered long enough for the old me to wash away.  It all changed.  The Love Story changed everything. 

Now, I am
the beloved
the beautiful
the accepted
the chosen
the peaceful and at rest and oh so relieved that another's 'good enough' covers me
the found.  Forever and ever found.

"Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me--a foreigner?" Ruth 2:10

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Bitter Prophet, a Mercy Loving God, and the Miracle of Miracles


I love the book of Jonah.  Something I'd never considered was that when Jonah fled, he had more reason than I'd ever dreamed.  Jonah knew prophecy.  The prophet Hosea was before Jonah's time.  He had penned that the Assyrians would be used by God as an instrument of judgment on Israel.

When God told Jonah to visit Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Jonah's heart shouted no.  His running legs were proof.  Jonah was a Patriot.  He loved his nation and wanted to do everything in his power to keep it from future doom.

Jonah believed the prophecies and took matters into his own hands, trying to change the plans of the Almighty. Jonah balked at the idea of the Assyrians repenting, because they would still be around one day to destroy the northern part of Israel.  Jonah was running from the Word; he wanted his enemy flat wiped out.  He did all he could to thwart God's plans.

Jonah ran.  Jonah boarded a ship.  Jonah did all he could to escape his God that was more merciful than he could stomach.

God started providing.  God provided a violent storm at sea.  God provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah whole.  God provided a vine.  God provided a worm.

Even when we run, we can't escape the provision that points to the Holy Glory of the Provider.

After being bathed in the stomach acids of a fish, Jonah bitterly enters Nineveh.  For a single day, Jonah announced, "In forty days, Nineveh will be wiped out."

I'm thirty eight years old and I've missed the biggest miracle of the book until now.  The biggest miracle was not that God chased after Jonah in his rebellion.

The biggest miracle was not that the storm went silent the moment the sailors threw Jonah overboard.

The biggest miracle was not that God sent the perfectly made fish at the perfectly assigned time to swallow Jonah in such a way that would not harm him.

The biggest miracle was not that Jonah was able to survive in the belly of this fish for three days and three nights, the stomach acids not eroding him to mere bones.

The biggest miracle was not that the fish vomited Jonah up on dry land instead of the middle of the deep.

The biggest miracle happened in the hearts of over one hundred and twenty thousand people that believed Jonah's message and repented from their sins.  A fish god was one of the many deities that the Ninevites worshiped.  Don't you know they paid extra attention to this prophet bleached in the stomach acids of a fish!  Don't you know the stories of him being spit up by a fish onto the shore had them talking!  They clothed themselves in sackcloth, from the beggar all the way up to the king.  They fasted.  They didn't just acknowledge their sins against the one true God, Yahweh, they turned away from them.  Every single person of Nineveh turned away from their evil lives.

The most precious miracle in the book of Jonah is that God turned the hearts of countless beloved souls over to Himself, using only a bitter prophet as His instrument.

Grace was the miracle that day.

Thousands of Gentile souls, all His.

What about the words of Hosea, that had prophesied Nineveh to be the instrument of destruction for Israel?

Those came true.

The Assyrians were used by God to bring utter destruction to the Northern Kingdom.  Apparently, the repentant hearts didn't bleed into future generations and they were once again defined as a fierce and cruel people.

In mercy, God (all over again) sent a prophet to their land.  His name was Nahum.  Nahum was on the scene a century after Jonah.  He predicted their doom, but the Ninevites would not listen this time.  The book of Nahum teaches us that God will always forgive repented sin, but He refuses to condone sin that continues.  The Assyrians later fell to the Babylonians.

God sets up kings and deposes them. He sets up nations and allows them to fall.  He does all of this based on the apple of His eye, his beloved Israel.

I look at my beloved nation, America, and wonder how it will all shake out.  Will God miraculously allow us a Jonah-Nineveh moment when we repent of our sins as a whole?  Or will we be like the Ninevites during Nahum's day, who refused to hear His warnings of judgment?

God deals with Gentile nations all the same:  He will always forgive repented sin, but He will refuse to condone sin that continues. 

His mercy longs to envelop us.  Will we choose repentance?

"If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned." Jeremiah 18:7-8

Monday, April 18, 2016

Beavers, Motherhood, and the Art of Building Dams

 

When beavers gather twigs, mud, and branches, they do the most random thing with it.  They throw it into the rushing waters.  One would think that every piece would be carried away, but God gave beavers the instinctive ability to engineer the materials in just the perfect way.  When beavers build dams, their materials don’t succumb to the mighty river.  When beavers build dams, just the opposite happens:  their collection of branches and muck actually slows down the flow of the river. 

Motherhood is a sacred gift.  When I was younger, I thought I had all the time in the world with these babies.  I didn’t realize the collective moments would go faster and faster.  When Asher came three years ago, I knew better at how deceiving the daily clock could be.  I cherished each moment, knowing it would be my last run at mothering a newborn and baby.  I was right.  Time didn’t mind its manners this time around, either. 

Here is my gathering of twigs in an attempt to slow down the river that is carrying my babies…my young men…into adulthood.  This is my simple collection of random pieces of wood thrown into the rushing waters in an effort to create a pool of remembrance amid the mighty roar. 

{Asher, 2 years, 11 months, and 20 days}
 
Asher loves to lick.  He will come up to me and either lick my shirt or my arm.  Instead of telling him he isn’t a puppy, I just give him a kiss right back, knowing that I’ll blink and he will be too big to sit on my lap like a lap dog, licking away. 

His words right now slay me.  There is nothing better than toddler-speak.  “Ah, don’t tick me!”  I lean in to tickle his baby soft belly and he screams, “Ah!  That ticks!!!”  His favorite line at the dinner table is, “It’s too tasty!”  This means that he doesn’t like the food.  Asher will scrunch his nose and utter our new favorite line. Another adorable line is when he wants me to carry him after his bath to go find clean clothes.  “Hode Jue.”  I don’t care what it does to my back; I’ll hold that one until he stops asking.  Tomorrow, the river will carry him towards better grammar, but today I will relish in these precious phrases. 

Yesterday, Asher painted the bathroom walls with his stuffed animals that had been dipped into the toilet water.  Right now, he is sucking on his big toe.  Tomorrow, he will once again choose to pee in his terry cloth training pants instead of the potty.  It’s probably a good thing that toddlerhood sails straight down that glorious river. 

{Sam, 10 years and 7 months}
 
I love to peer down into my ten year old’s baby face, all splattered with brown freckles.  I breathe in childhood and exhale innocence.  Sam exudes comfort.  He is easy to be around and never judges a soul.  He is my gentle giant, my kid who dwarfs everyone else out on the soccer field.  He cried the hardest when we had to put our golden retriever down.  Hysterically.  I am pretty sure God gave him an extra big heart to go with his extra-large frame. 

When baby-niece-Addison came for a visit, he wanted to hold her the most.  He still asks for a baby sister.  He has a special affection for little girls. They melt him.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if God gave him six or ten daughters one day.  He would be a great girl-Daddy. 

Hearing him play “Amazing Grace” on the guitar while I am cooking stirs up something deep inside.   Coming from a rich gospel music heritage, I see God’s imprints of harmony and melody on this third born.  His laid back style doesn’t love to practice for hours on end, so teaching him to be diligent with a God-gift is in the works.  One of the sweetest parts of motherhood is seeing the splatter of gifts on your children and watching them develop, hopefully, for the purpose of glorifying the Giver. 

Perhaps it is selfish, but I do hope the river carries Sam towards the musical worship of Jehovah.
 

{Eli, 13 years and 3 months}
 
The sweetest end to my days happens in Eli’s room.  He still loves for me to tuck him in, pulling the red Arsenal blanket up to his chin.  We make sure his favorite animals are close by…Dave, Bruce, Shifu, and Kipster.  Some nights I pray, and other nights, he talks to our God.  I like it better when he does.  His ever present joy seeps into his Abba adorations and it always makes me smile.  I have a feeling that God smiles, too.  

If Eli only had one gas to breathe, it would be soccer.  If he only had one food to eat, it would be soccer.  If he only had one pillow to sleep on, it would be soccer.  I’m worried he might change his middle name to Messi.  Center midfielder is his position.  In many ways, it can be the hardest position, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  Good midfielders have to be feisty, smart, and creative.  That sums up my second born to a T.  Center mids have to be able to see the field in a visionary way.  As this soccer-sight develops, I pray his ability to see continues to develop in the spirit realm, as well. 

I love that Eli will tell me details.  If I ask about his day, he will tell me that a teacher gave him a snack (little charmer,) that he ran a 5:35 mile in track, and that he invited another person to join their project because that kid needed a place to go. 

Eli’s river is named Delight.  No matter what God gives him to do, I am sure it will be done with joy.
 

{Cade, sweet 16 in less than 2 months}
 
He’s making me cry buckets right now, and he doesn’t even know it.  It’s hard on a momma’s heart when that river starts moving faster and faster. 

Saturday, I birthed him all over again.  The pain felt like it, anyway.  We hopped in the swagger wagon and I drove him around to various businesses, looking for summertime work.  I took him job hunting.  (I just need that to sink in for a bit.)  As we drove, the labor pains got stronger and stronger and I fought the tears as I pushed out a one hundred and forty three pound young  man.  I put him in a slingshot and sent him off to manhood.  Just like that. 

Shockingly, what was birthed was beyond my imaginations.  All of the prayers, spankings, crying out to God for wisdom on raising him, begging God to pour out His favor on this firstborn, the late night vomit fests, the math and history/baseball and basketball competitions…it all seemed to come together in a moment of exhale.  What a precious, wise, kind, Godly, funny, and uber-intelligent young man he is.  He is a joy to be around.  I know not everyone can say that about their teenagers.  I’ll call myself one blessed Momma.   

Watching Cade play high school baseball has been so much fun.  He usually gets to start the JV games in center field.  A center fielder covers more grass than any other position.  I wonder how much grass he will cover once he graduates…what college and calling will whisper his name?  I’ve lost track of the amount of hours he has put into this one passion, so seeing him get to live out his dream has been so satisfying.  I’ll wash blue and white uniforms all day long just to see that grin on his face. 

We bought his first tie.  Red with blue dots.  Timeless and steady, with a hint of fun.  Just like him. 

I trust Cade’s Maker.  I trust Cade.  Float away, young man…float away.