In the Hand of God
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8 NKJV
Have you ever heard God whisper in your ear? Have you ever felt His presence as if He gently brushed against your arm? Have you ever just paused for a moment because you realized that the God who created the universe just made what seemed impossible happen?
We are but a speck on the canvas of the earth. There are millions of people on this planet, and yet God knows your name. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He sees each and every tear that falls from your eyes. If you call His name, He is there, ready and waiting to hear every word, It is truly amazing to realize that the God who controls the entire world, hears my every word.
I have come to realize that not many people really know God. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever know all there is about Him that He wants me to know. In the last few years I have been amazed at the people who are saved and know who God is, but really have no relationship with Him.
In James 4:8, we are promised that if we draw near to God, then He will draw near to us. Drawing near to God is a little more than going to church on Sunday morning. It isn't about tithing or serving on committees. In order to develop a relationship with someone, you have to spend time with them. You have to talk to them. Sit and listen to them. Tell them about your sorrows and your joys.
God is like that. He demands your love and obedience, but He doesn't want you to think of Him as a big God out there somewhere who controls everything and has little or no time for you. Even though He wants to bless us, I think He wants us to want more from Him than simply to be the "Daddy Warbucks of the Sky". He is our Heavenly Father. We are HIs children. He wants to be our Daddy.
I don't know who God is to you, but I can tell you who He is to me. He is my Heavenly Daddy. I run to Him when I fall down and He lets me climb into His lap and He holds me while I cry. When I am ready to try again, He gently puts me back on the path in the direction He wants me to go. He is always there when I need someone to talk to and even though He knows it already, He patiently lets me express my pain, my confusion, my wounds. He hears me when I yell at the top of my lungs or when I can't even utter a word. He is my best friend.
If you answered no to the questions in the first paragraph, then spend some time with my Heavenly Daddy. He loves you more than anyone on the planet. There is no one who can love you like He does. Get to know Him better. Spend some time with Him. Learn to hear His voice. Listen for His whisper in your ear. Know what it feels like to have Him so close that the hairs on your arm stand up. Let Him move mountains for you. Tell Him your fears, your hopes, your dreams. Learn to draw close to Him....and trust me, there is no substitute for what it feels like when you know He has drawn close to you.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 NKJV
"I found a closet." That's what the text from my husband said. I am left thinking, "He found a what?" With both of us being teachers, we will never be able to get ahead financially or send two kids to college, so we flip houses occasionally. We had purchased a house in much need of repair.
According to realtors, in order for a room to be a bedroom, it must have a closet. This house had the potential to be a four bedroom except the smallest bedroom didn't have a closet. We had debated for months about what to do about this situation, but had decided that building a closet inside the bedroom would cut down too much on the size of the room. We would just advertise it as a three bedroom.
While attempting to rewire the final bedroom, my husband started to notice that there was an unusually large space at the top of the stairs to the basement. Upon further examination he ended up finding a door. A door to a closet. A door to a closet in the fourth bedroom.
All these months of visits to that house, we had no idea that there was a hidden closet. All those moments spent debating whether to add a closet, while one was there, hidden, waiting to be discovered. But isn't life like that sometimes? We know what we need and we stress about how to get it, and there it is right under our noses if we would only bother to ask and seek.
Who would have imagined that the thing we needed was hidden just beyond a wall? God knew it was there. He must have chuckled each time we stood in there debating whether to build one or not. Sometimes God is like that. Sometimes He knows what we have need of and yet He keeps it hidden until the timing is right. Sometimes He just waits until we decide to stop trying to find the answers on our own and come to Him instead.
We knew we needed a closet, but we had no idea it was already there. Sometimes in life, the answers to the questions that we strive so hard to find, are already there and we just miss them. And all the while, God waits for us to ask, seek, and knock. Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it shall be opened. Why is it that we have such amazing promises and yet rather than following their simple instructions in faith, we attempt to find the answers on our own?
What if my husband had not decided to cut the hole for the outlet? He would still not know that the closet existed. Wonder how many things we miss out on because we fail to ask, seek, and knock?
The last seven weeks of my life have been tough. I have felt physical pain, defeat, frustration, and loneliness. Yet I have also felt unspeakable joy, unexplainable peace, and incredibly close to God.
I just finished a Bible study tonight that I was doing with a friend. I don't know that I was successful in reaching my initial goals for the Bible study, but I did grow in my walk with God in ways that I never imagined when I agreed to start the study. I wasn't expecting this study to be the kind of study in which you find yourself having your life turned completely upside down. It wasn't even that kind of Bible study. But here I am....changed. I barely recognize that girl who started that study the last week of July. She is different.
I won't go into all the details, but as the weeks pass you will see them start to emerge. In the past few weeks, I have talked with God. Not audible dialog, but dialog none the less. He has whispered in my ear more than once in the last few weeks. He has stripped me of all the props I used to hold myself up, and has let me learn to free fall...right into His arms. He has reminded of things that I had almost forgotten. He has sent me signs that let me know He is there.
I am learning to let go and trust Him. In our search for a new church home, I have tried to be quiet. I have tried to listen to Him, and to let my husband be our spiritual leader. I have tried to let my kids help to lead rather than be led. I will confess that I despise the process of looking for a church. When I was eight or nine, my entire family left the only church I had ever known and began the painful process of searching for a new home. I dreaded Sunday mornings because I always was the one who went to Sunday School alone with strangers. I couldn't understand why we had to make this change.
Yesterday we visited that church I left when I was eight or nine, for the second time this month. Yesterday morning my husband sang in the choir. I wanted to be up there too, but I wouldn't go. It's too hard for a broken heart to grab on to something too soon. The fear is too much. But last night I watched as people filed into the choir. I watched the song leader pick up the red church hymnal (one of the requirements a church must have according to my kids). I watched my husband stand up to go to the choir. It was too much. I was up before I knew it and headed for the choir.
First came page 34. Then page 4. And then page 76...Jesus Spoke to Me. Now, I'm not the best singer. I don't pretend to be. But I will say that I have learned how to carry alto pretty good on page 76 if need be. Last night I sang it, but not like I usually would. I don't know how loud I was singing, or if anyone could even hear me because my heart was beating so hard in my chest. And from the direction of the empty chair to my right, I heard that whisper again. A whisper, and yet so loud it was deafening. "Michelle, I told you not to be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you. I
will help you. I am holding you with the right hand of my righteousness."
There is was...my favorite verse, Isaiah 41:10. But it wasn't on a page in my Bible. He was pausing again for me. Pausing just for a minute to whisper a sweet peaceful reminder in my ear. "Michelle, you silly girl. You only missed two weeks. Here you stand with a red book in your hands in the alto section of the choir. My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways. The next time I tell you to jump, just do it. Haven't you learned by now that no one loves you as much as I do? Haven't you learned that you may fall, but you are never out of the reach of My hand?"
If I had to choose a verse to describe my life lately, it would be Deuteronomy 2:3. Who would find a verse in Deuteronomy to describe their life? Seriously, what is in Deuteronomy except a lot of speeches from Moses and more of the law?
Well there in the beginning of Deuteronomy lies this little verse: "Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward." Deuteronomy 2:3 KJV. Or in the language of the NASB just to make it clearer, "You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north."
That is what I feel like God has been saying to me lately. "Michelle. you have been here long enough. You have circled this mountain so many times you have it memorized. Michelle, stop going in circles, it's time to turn north."
A different direction...sometimes you just get used to same path, the same people. Sometimes you just find yourself getting so comfortable that you can walk the path and not pay that much attention.
And so maybe I have circled the mountain long enough. Maybe it is time for a different direction. What if sometimes we get so acquainted with the path circling the mountain that we forget to climb the mountain itself? Maybe we just enjoyed the mountaintop so much that we want to hang around and just keep circling what we knew at one point to be good. Maybe sometimes it's just that the mountain is familiar and that to us is good enough.
But sometimes if you listen, God whispers and says to quit circling the mountain and head in a different direction. For my family and me, this has meant a change in where we used to belong. It has meant a journey to find where God wants us to be. For me personally, it has also been a call to quit circling around the mountain carrying a backpack full of excuses. It is a call to lay down the excuses and all that encumbers me, and to quit circling and start climbing.
Maybe God is telling all of us that it's time to stop circling the mountain and to head north. What mountain are you circling and why?
"For everyone to whom much is given, from him
much will be required; " (Luke 12:48 NKJV)
If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times...."to whom much is given, much is expected." I never looked that verse up until he passed away. I didn't have a need to read it for myself because I knew that he knew it was there and he reminded me of the verse often enough.
I have been given much. I am blessed beyond measure. I have done nothing to deserve the blessings that have come to my life from the hand of God. I am merely the recipient of His undeserved grace and mercy. But for some reason they come....the blessings. They are there, too numerous to count. I find them behind storm clouds. I find them under rocks that I struggled to overturn. Sometimes they are hidden in sleepless nights or tears that fall way too easy. But there are blessings everyday.
Years ago I heard His voice calling me to write. I had asked Him how it was that I was supposed to share the many wonderful things I had witnessed Him orchestrate in my life to my kids . I had asked Him how I was supposed to begin to communicate to them how very real God was and how absolutely essential He had been in my life. He told me to write it down. My answer? I am not a writer.
And yet, here I am. I am ready to write. I had a dream in March in which He asked me to jump from a ledge, trusting that He would catch me, but not promising that He wouldn't allow me to fall for awhile. Since that dream I lost my precious grandfather, awaited news to see if my daughter had cancer, went on the trip of a lifetime, and have lost most of the titles that I would have used to define who I am. What changed my mind? Within five days in the month of August, I went from being a Sunday School teacher, choir member, Christmas program director, effective teacher, and Colossians 3:23 employee to none of the above. When I ran to Him crying that I didn't understand why I had to give up what I thought was my ministry. When I ran to Him and asked why I was defined by test scores or why the truth had made me a prisoner rather than free. When I ran to tell Him that I was overwhelmed and tired. What was His response?
First I found myself once again In the Hand of God, surrounded by the peace that passes all understanding. And then I heard that all familiar answer....write it down, Michelle. Yes, I give you my comfort, but I don't mean for you to keep it to yourself. And so according to 2 Corinthians 1:4, "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." , here is my blog. Maybe years spent being found in, and being led by, the hand of God, can help comfort someone else.
Since he is part of the reason for starting this, it is only appropriate that the one thing I wrote for him be here........
Several years ago he asked me to come back to his bedroom so we could talk. Anybody in our family could tell you that this wasn’t unusual, he always did that with somebody almost every time you were there. This time it was different. He asked me to promise him that I would write and read the eulogy for his funeral.
I tried to make excuses and he was frustrated with me. I
tried to convince him that he needed to have a preacher at his funeral, but he
insisted that he didn’t want a preacher to stand over him and tell about what a good man he had been. He wanted someone who knew him best and who would tell the truth. I could see that he was serious and that he really truly wanted me to promise to do this for him, so I asked him what it was he wanted me to say. He said that he wanted me to tell you that he was contrary, sometimes hateful, hard to get along with, that he was a hard worker, a good provider, that he loved his family, and that he loved the Lord. He also told me that he wanted me to read from Job 14 because it had been read at both his father and grandfather’s funerals.
So today I stand before you in honor of my grandfather to tell you that he was a little contrary sometimes and a little hard to get along with on occasion.. He was indeed a hard worker and a good provider.
He truly loved his family and he loved the Lord. He was those things, but he was more. He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He was a friend, a co-worker, a deacon,
and a neighbor. Most importantly, he was a Christian.
I was the oldest grandchild, and he often would tell me the story of when I was born. He often
told me that he remembered standing at the window of the nursery at the hospital and praying that God would bless me. God honored that request and has blessed me beyond measure, but I think that Pappaw never understood that God had already blessed me before he ever prayed that prayer….God had already blessed me by allowing me to be born into this family and to have him as my grandfather.
When I was little, I remember coming into my grandparents’ house and as soon as you entered the door you would see the coffee table….covered with an open Bible, commentary, Sunday School quarterly, and him getting ready for teaching his Sunday School class. I remember him sitting in the “Amen Corner” on Sunday mornings during preaching and hearing his occasional amen. He had been raised in a Christian home,
but wasn’t saved until after he was a father. I grew up hearing how he and my grandmother were baptized at the same time, literally at the same time arm in arm. He later was ordained as a deacon and when I was little he was the Chairman of the Deacons. He knew his Bible like the back of his hand and could tell you off the
top of his head where verses were located. As he grew older, he told me that one of the things that bothered him most was that he feared he could no longer bring verses to his recollection like he once could. He was blessed to never get to that point but even if he had, they were still written on his heart.
I loved to hear him pray. He always said that he didn’t have a way with words because he didn’t
have much education, but I will tell you that he knew how to talk to God. He would humbly thank God for the
privilege to call upon Him, and would name those he wished to pray for, always including those in the military “in harm’s way”. He spent most of his life talking to God and knew how to speak from his heart. Sometimes the prayers were beautiful and the words would flow gracefully from his lips. Sometimes the prayers were harder as he found himself in places where he found it more difficult to pray.
He was blessed with many friends. As the proverb says, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” He had a way of drawing people to him. He would talk to anyone and usually found something in common with them all. We were blessed this week to hear stories from friends, family, and neighbors, about what he meant to each of them. When you are grieving the loss of your grandfather, it helps so much to hear things like, “he meant the world to me”, “he always wanted everything to be done right, it had to be perfect”, “he taught me all kinds of things”, and “he was one of a kind”. A neighbor who was dear to him told us a story about how he needed advice
and went to Pappaw because his own family was gone. He said, “I asked Jim what to do, he told me, and it fixed it.” That was my grandfather. He absolutely loved to give his advice….whether you asked for it or
not. Most of the time, if you listened, he was right.
I watched him lose first his son, and then his daughter. He would go to the book of Job because he could draw strength from it. He could identify with Job. And so maybe he wanted Job 14 to be read today because it had been read at his father’s funeral or maybe it was because in part because it was his favorite book.
Job 14:1-6 reads: 1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. 2He
cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. 3And
dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? 4Who
can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. 5Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; 6Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
One of the things that Pappaw had learned was that life was a few days and full of rrouble. Serving God did not promise a life without hardship and heartache. He had suffered the loss of both his parents. In 1987 he lost his son and then in 2003 his daughter. Just as Job had lost his children, he mourned the loss and although he could not understand why God had chosen such a path for him, he continued on it. He knew as he himself grew older, that his time on earth was limited. He no longer could do the things he once did. He knew that God Himself knew the day he would leave and he felt it drawing nearer. He told me one evening at his house after a visit to the hospital that he was leaving and that he had an appointment in Heaven. He
wanted to go home. I was blessed to be there when he left. I had asked God to let me know when it was time because I wanted to be there to send him off. I woke up just a few minutes before it was time for him to leave, and I was able to kiss him, tell him I’d see him later, and to tell him that it was okay for him to go.
Job 14:7-15 reads: For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that
the tender branch thereof will not cease. 8Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; 9Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a
plant. 10But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11As
the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: 12So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. 13O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! 14If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Unlike a tree that has hope of regenerating even after being cut down, once a man dies, his life on earth is over. But it isn’t the end. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says “13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.14 For if we believe
that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Today we
mourn the loss of a great man, but he wouldn’t want us to be sad. He would want us to be jealous. We are sad because we selfishly want to keep him here with us, but he wouldn’t come back if he could, because he is where he spent his life waiting to go. The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Here we are, crying and sad because we didn’t want to lose him. If he could talk to us right now, he would tell us not to be sad. He has seen the beauty of Heaven. He woke up and found himself surrounded by beauty we cannot find words to describe. By now he’s found his dad, mom, brothers, and sisters. I’m sure Porkey and Susie were waiting when he walked in, so they could show him around. He’s probably talked to everyone he saw and as we say our earthly goodbyes, he is at the feet of Jesus. God has called and He answered. Now he is Home.
The last verses of Job 14 read as follows: 16For now thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin? 17My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity. 18And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place.19The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; and thou destroyest the hope of man. 20Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance,
and sendest him away.21His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low but he perceiveth it not of them.22But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall
Life brings suffering. Even a child of God is not immune to the heartaches this life brings to each of us. As Pappaw grew older he suffered with illnesses, aches, and pains. Things that once came easy to him, became difficult. It was hard for him to go from being independent and strong to being dependent and somewhat
weaker. He found himself relying more and more on those around him for help. But today that is no longer the
case. He doesn’t have a deformed heart. He doesn’t have to check his sugar anymore because there is no diabetes in Heaven. There will never be another day when he feels weak. He will no longer forget what it was he wanted to say. He has been healed from all the things that bothered him here on earth. Revelation 21:4 tells us that God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
There is a Hebrew proverb that says, “Say not in grief, ‘he is no more’, but live in thankfulness that he was.” So today rather than concentrate on his being gone, my prayer is that we can remember how blessed we were to have him in our lives. As much as we are hurting right now and as much as we wanted him to stay, we are above all, blessed. We had the opportunity to have this man in our lives. If nothing else, he made us laugh. It’s so hard to cry when everyone is sitting around sharing stories about him. The stories make us laugh and remind us just how great this man really was. My kids loved to go to his house when he got a call from a telemarketer. Everyone’s favorite telemarketer story has to be the day the lady called about the replacement windows. Pappaw told her he didn’t think he could use them because he lived in a tent. He went on to tell the lady he had a leak in his tent and if she could tell him how he could use one of those replacement windows to fix that leak, then he would be interested in buying one. She told him she would check on it and hung up. We were all at the table eating and a few minutes later, the phone rang again. He leaned back in his chair and reached behind his head to answer it. It was the telemarketer lady. She told him she was sorry, but she had checked with everyone in the office and no one knew how to make it work. He told her thank you and then got off the phone laughing.
We could sit here all night listening to the stories each individual would share. I wish we could. I would love to hear each and every one of your stories about him. And we would love to share our own stories….stories of him hurrying outside to shoot at birds without his suspenders. When Mammaw came to the door to tell him he had a call, she saw him go to shoot up in the trees only to have his pants fall around his ankles. Stories of the time he killed a cat, only to find it looking at him when he went to the barn a few days later. He just knew that cat had come back to haunt him. There are so many stories that make us smile, but perhaps the best illustration of him would be the story of his swimming lesson. Pappaw’s neighbor has a pool and her little boy, Jake, offered to teach Pappaw to swim. So one day Pappaw, who could swim like a fish, put on his swim trunks, and headed over to the neighbor’s for his swimming lesson. Jake worked and worked teaching Pappaw to swim, even having to rescue him from near drowning a couple of times. Finally Jake taught Pappaw how swim and Pappaw paid him $10 for his swimming lesson. That was my grandfather.
My grandfather asked me to tell you who he really was….what he was really like. He was strong and
devoted. He was a family man, a friend, a neighbor, and a servant of God. He meant something different to each of us….each of us has suffered a different kind of loss. I will tell you that there is no one on the face of this planet who has ever loved me like my Pappaw did. There is no one else who has ever had the kind of faith in me that he had. Wednesday morning I lost my biggest fan.
My grandfather was many things, but above all I am thankful most for the fact that he was a Christian. If Pappaw could talk to you right now, he would tell you about God. He would tell you that life iis hard. He would tell you that life brings pain, heartache, and suffering. He would tell you that God had blessed him beyond measure. His relationship with God was personal. He was a man of faith. If he were here right now, he would ask you if you were saved and if you weren’t he would introduce you to his Jesus.
If you ever have wondered if God was real, I can personally assure you that He is. The God Who created the Universe, Who hung every star in place, heard the prayer of my grandfather and granted him his request to go to Heaven rather than to stay here and suffer. My grandfather was there when I entered the world, and God allowed me to be there when it was time for him to leave it. I cannot find the words to describe what that was like. I literally felt him leave, not just die, but leave. God brought comfort to Chris through a dream. Just as Chris and I were in the car after leaving the hospital after Pappaw passed away, Chris told me that he was having a dream that Pappaw was better when my mom woke him up to tell him that Pappaw was gone. I told him that at the time he had the dream, that Pappaw was better. He was in Heaven. God brought him comfort. Our greatest comfort is that we are not saying goodbye….we are simply saying, “See you later.” On this Good Friday I am thankful for Easter and the fact that our Savior was crucified and rose again. Because of that and because years ago my grandfather accepted Christ, I have the promise of one day seeing him again. For that I am most thankful.