Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trusting God's Sovereignty

“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace;
they find rest as
they lie in death.” Isaiah 57:1-2

I recently found the sham of a report issued by the Navy with regard to my brother, John's, murder in my mother’s things. As most of you know my mom passed away last year. Now I understand even more why my parents kept me and my siblings from reading it. The inconsistencies throughout this ridiculous report scream injustice, but my parents were powerless to change things. For me to read the report now, 30 years later, God must be up to something. My mind is going a mile a minute, thinking the time is now to re-investigate and write about what I find. Please pray for me.

After my brother’s murder, the verses above were given to my mother by a friend. As I ponder this passage from Isaiah, my mind takes me back to the first brothers, Cain and Able. I attempt to comprehend how hatred towards someone who does things right could escalate to killing them. Even though it is hard to understand, it is still happening today. As I examine my brother Johnny’s life, a model citizen, friend, and brother I have come to the conclusion that his goodness brought out murderous hatred in someone, somewhere in Jacksonville, Florida back in February of 1979.

Thank God for his promises. Thank his Son, Jesus, for rising from the dead, after dying to save all people, even those who hated him for being good, to give us life everlasting. And thank you Holy Spirit for surrounding us with special people who you prompt to remind us of God's great and precious promises in the middle of heartache and tragedy. When my mom's friend gave us Isaiah 57:1-2, I'm sure her intent was to comfort and console my mom and all of us family members. God’s powerful word did just that. My brother has entered into peace and found rest and we know, at least in part, the answer to, “Why?”

Dearest Lord Jesus,
I trust your sovereignty in my life, even when the why question is not answered completely. My time to be “taken away” is in your hands. Living in this broken world confuses me, so please help me to remain fully surrendered to your will and way, because there I can see and hear you and live your promised abundant life. I want to obey, by going where you lead and doing what you guide me to do-in your strength, not mine. You are the way, the truth, and the life. I love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Picture of John Arthur Browning, 1965, age 12.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Has your ear grown dull through grief?

God often gets blamed for the horrible things that happen in our lives. As a young woman, I was angry at him for years for allowing my brother to be murdered, that is until my twisted views of of my Father in heaven were straightened out. I am not alone in the blame game. I heard about a woman who accidentally ran over her two year old. At the young child's funeral the preacher said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." She never went to church again.

Great sorrow stuns us. It even makes us forget the best source of our consolation. I don't understand it, but that is the way it happened for me. Grief dulled my ears to his voice. For years I ran my own life without any real need for Jesus. But then something happened at the birth of my first child. I became desperate for God. I knew that I had a huge job ahead of me and felt quite ill-equipped.

I started to devour the word of God and found out that I loved to write about all I learned. As I began to write, however, God began to stir up all of the hurtful memories of my brother’s death, prompting me to deal with my long buried anger issues. Writing is known to be cathartic.

One day while attempting to record the story of my brother’s murder, I became so distraught that I had to push away from the computer. Later on, during my prayer and Bible study in Matthew 9, a flurry of emotions and tears erupted again. Even though I was reading something that Jesus had said to a woman with an issue of blood long ago, I heard the voice of my Savior speak directly to my heart and say, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” I knew without a doubt that Jesus had healed my soul from the bitterness and pain of my past. During that restoration experience I peeked into the heart of my loving Savior. He desires to heal all of his children, if only they will come to him and listen, hear him that their souls may live (Isaiah 55:3).

At that time, I finally realized how many times Jesus had called me to come to him so he could comfort and carry me through all of my troubles. I then understood the affects of sin on the world. It has broken God's perfect creation and ruins our fellowship with him. But because God is love, full of mercy and grace, he wants to help us through all that we face. May I be my Master's messenger? Let me remind you that you still belong to him. All of his promises stand firm forever, for he says:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2

I now echo Jeremiahs sentiments from Lamentations 3:19-26 in my own life and you can, too.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

May we all keep our ears open to the healing voice of our magnificent God and Savior. Amen!
picture by gballa86: "The Falls at Rushing River" courtesy of Flickr.com

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summertime--When the Living is Easy?

One of my favorite places to go is where I sit and bake in the sun. I don’t have to think about a thing, if I don’t want to, except for sinking my toes into the warm sand, smelling the salty air, feeling a fresh breeze dry the seawater on my skin, hearing the waves crash and seagulls squawk, and watching people of all different sizes and shapes. Relaxing on the beach epitomizes living easy to me, but my ocean-side vacation is not planned until September. For now, my easy living means non-stop action.

I’ve been living out of a bag for two weeks, visiting 3 states, not counting the ones I flew over. First, I was off to Chicago to the Write-to-Publish (WTP) Conference and then a weekend trip to Alabama to visit family, cruising through Tennessee on the way home. In between the two trips I had two proposals for my Listening Heart Bible study and articles to send off to interested publishers. I know schedules get out of whack over the summer, but whether you are having lazy days or not, won’t you follow me, and stay in the word, listening all summer? I have so needed his guidance and strength to stay on track.

Now that I’m back home and in the real world, there’s cooking and caring for my crew and doing things like sending my teenager off to camp and preparing for my first women’s retreat. I don’t want to forget all of the great stuff that I came away with at the WTP Conference. I was filled to capacity with valuable information while connecting with editors, and making great new friends and writing partners. To help me retain all that I absorbed during that week in Chicago and enjoy my full summer so far, I plan to follow Paul's advice who said:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I will say it again: Rejoice!

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

The Lord is near. (Hallelujah!)

Do not be anxious about anything.

but in everything by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

So come, let’s pray together, to make living easier. God's loving presence is like a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day--refreshment for the body, soul, and spirit.
photo "My Favorite Beaches" by Omnia, courtesy of Flickr.com