Monday, November 26, 2012

Guilt, Mercy, Grace, Responsibility

"Give me a sign of Your goodness..." 
Psalm 86:17

I was guilty. Guilty of what the officer initially pulled me over for: exceeding the speed limit. I didn't see the sign. The speed limit abruptly changed from 40 mph to 25 mph on the pretty country road, and I didn't see the sign notifying me of said change. 

Or maybe I wasn't looking.

When I received my driver's license at the age of 16, I also took on the great responsibility of knowing the rules and laws of the road. With the privilege of driving comes the responsibility of obeying the rules. Watching for and obeying the road signs keeps us all safe and traveling in the right direction.

This recent unexpected encounter with a law enforcement officer reminded me that it's the same with being a Christian. With the blessings of being a Christian comes the responsibility and requirement to know His Word, His commandments, His precepts.

His Word guides us, protects us and keeps us traveling in the right direction. "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)

"I delight in Your decrees;
I will not neglect Your Word."
Psalm 119:16

Psalm 119:16 reverberates in my heart daily. I am to delight in His decrees. I am to not neglect His Word. No one else can do those things for me. Not my husband, not my children, not my girlfriends and not my pastors. Me. I am responsible to not neglect His Word. To not neglect knowing and delighting in His Word. To not neglect my relationship with Him, the Word became flesh. (John 1:14)

I am responsible to seek, to look, to know.

And when we do neglect and don't see or look for the signs, there is His grace. There is His mercy. This is my life's testimony passage:

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:4-7

His mercy and His grace save us.

I asked the police officer for mercy. I hadn't been looking diligently for the signs along the road and I was guilty of exceeding the speed limit. Remorseful, I confessed to him that I was wrong. And I asked him for mercy.

The officer went back to his patrol car for a few minutes and then returned to my driver's side window. Handing me back my car registration, my insurance certificate and my driver's license, he said, "Happy Thanksgiving. Drive Safely."



My only response to the mercy and grace of a holy God should be reverence and humble obedience.

I thanked the officer and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving as well. He then asked me to roll down my rear window so he could reassure my daughter that everything was fine. With tears still rolling down her cheeks from this unexpected and frightening event, the officer reassured Gabrielle that her mommy had an excellent driving record and that everything was fine. He reminded her that police officers are to protect everyone, and that is what he was doing. Gabrielle understood and was grateful for his reassurance.

The police officer's mercy and reassurance were treasures to me and my daughter.

The gifts of God's mercy and His grace are invaluable to this sinner's heart. "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) God reminded me of the precious relief and life He gives us. In the shadow of our guilt is the light of His mercy and grace.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Hebrews 4:16

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Truth Set Me Free

"Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free."
John 8:32

"He will keep you strong to the end,
so that you will be blameless on the day of
our Lord Jesus Christ. God who called you
into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord
is faithful." ~ 1 Corinthians 1:8-9

(Part One of a Three-Part Testimony)

Flashing blue and red lights in my rear view mirror commanded me to pull over. Surprised at this unexpected encounter, my heart jumped as I carefully looked for a safe place to pull my car to the side of the road.

After just dropping Joshua off at his friend's house for a sleep over (a few nights before Thanksgiving), Gabrielle and I were driving home on beautiful River Road along the Delaware River in Bucks County. As I turned onto another quiet country road, she was chatting with her girlfriend on my cell phone when the lights lit up the evening sky behind me and interrupted our peaceful ride home.

Startled by the patriotic flashing lights, Gabrielle told her friend she needed to hang up quickly because "my mom is getting pulled over". Happy day.

I asked Gabrielle to call dad just to have his presence on the other end of the phone as it was dark and we were in a somewhat remote part of our county. 

Jim always has my car registration, latest inspection report and insurance card neatly placed in a zipped pouch next to my driver's seat. I calmly gathered my paperwork and license and waited for the officer while Gabrielle was comforted on the phone with her daddy on the other end. 

The police officer turned a spotlight on my vehicle which nearly blinded me as it reflected off my side view mirror. I saw his image cautiously approaching my car. His posture spoke volumes: he was suspicious.

Shining his flashlight in my face, we greeted each other awkward hellos.  Handing him my paperwork I said, 

"May I ask you why you pulled me over?"

"You were speeding. You were going over 40 in a 25 mph zone."

"I was?  Where is it 25 mph?"

"Just before you made your turn, the speed reduces to 25 mph."

Ugh. I guess I missed that sign! The officer was right then. I was exceeding the speed limit for that short span of road. Feeling sick and thinking about the waste of money the ticket would be (especially just before the Christmas season), my remorse quieted my heart and my lips. 

Until the officer's next words:

"So, not only were you speeding, but you have been drinking too?"

Shocked by his false accusation and conclusion, my countenance contorted as I looked at him and said, "Excuse me?"

"You have been drinking, ma'am. I smell alcohol."

"I have bread in the car to make Thanksgiving stuffing, I have mint gum in my mouth and I am wearing Cherry Blossom perfume. I don't know what you smell, but I have not been drinking. I don't drink alcohol at all."

"Well, I smell alcohol. I think you've been drinking." 

Offended by his false accusation but knowing the truth, I responded: "You can go ahead and test me. I haven't been drinking. I don't drink alcohol."

Then from the back seat the quiet, tearful, scared but sure voice of my daughter sweetly entered the conversation:

"My mommy doesn't drink. My mommy doesn't drink. My mommy doesn't drink."

Tears streamed down my face and a lump in my throat made it almost impossible for me to swallow. My sweet Gabrielle was scared. But in the midst of fear and uncertainty, she spoke up on my behalf. 

My daughter had my back. With whispers she fervently repeated the truth.

Quietly, but with surety, she spoke up from the back seat and said what she knew was true:

"My mommy doesn't drink." 

As tears rolled down my cheeks, I silently thanked the Lord, Thank You, Lord, that my daughter can say that and speak the truth with absolute surety.

Locking eyes with the officer, I told him that my 10-year old daughter was scared. I asked him to please be sensitive that an impressionable child was in the car listening, absorbing and observing.

"Hang tight."  

Walking back to his patrol car with my paperwork, I reached back and held Gabrielle's hand and told her how much I loved her. She handed me my phone so Jim and I could quickly chat while the officer was in his car. I told Jim that, while they pulled me over for exceeding the speed limit, I was now suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Jim spoke calming words to my heart and also told me to ask the officer for mercy for exceeding the speed limit.

Suddenly in the dark night sky, there were more flashing lights approaching us. More patrol cars surrounding my vehicle. What is going on? I thought.

"Mommy, I am scared. I am so scared. Why are they doing this? I am scared, Mommy."

I handed my cell phone back to Gabrielle so she could hear her father's loving voice on the other end during this very unexpected and unsettling event.

"I love the LORD
because He hears my voice
and my supplications."
Psalm 116:1

More officers were arriving on the scene and looking at me like I was a criminal. It sickened my heart that people were coming to conclusions about me without knowing the truth. Without really knowing me.

Guilty of one thing. Suspected of something else. I was stunned.

The officer returned to my window.

"I called for back-up because I didn't have a PBT in my patrol car."

"What is a PBT?"

"Portable Breathalyzer Test. You said I could test you, so I am."

" know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance. Perseverance must
finish its work so that you may be
mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:3-4

I think my jaw dropped. I knew the truth: I had not been drinking. I don't drink. But he was going to test me. I knew he was just doing his job to protect and serve. But I wanted him to protect me and my daughter!

A bit of panic set in. What if the Listerine I used this morning shows up? What if somehow this test shows bad results? What will he do with me and what will happen to Gabrielle?

My quiet stream of tears became audible sobs. My heart was grieved.

But from the back seat, the truthful, soothing words of my courageous daughter who quietly but consistently continued to speak up on my behalf in her time of fear when her mommy was suspected of doing something she didn't do.

"My mommy doesn't drink, officer. My mommy doesn't drink."

"My daughter is scared, officer. This is making an impression on her. Please be sensitive to that."

Nodding in understanding, he unwrapped the PBT. Instructing me to blow in it like I was blowing up a balloon, I was intent on being respectful to and cooperative with the officer even though this was humiliating and offensive.

The officer looked at the screen and the results showed what I knew to be true.  What my daughter knew to be true.

"My mommy doesn't drink."

The officer seemed surprised by the results. He was certain he smelled alcohol. He was sure I was guilty.

"Wow. You are right. You are completely clean."

"Yes, I know."

By His grace, I am clean.

Surrounded by suspicion. Others come to conclusions about you when they didn't really make the investment to know you or the truth about you. Back-up is called in and you look guilty to onlookers and those passing by.

The truth will set you free. 

Apart from Christ, there is no good in me. "You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing." (Psalm 16:2) But as I abide in Him and endeavor to live an honorable, blameless life before Him, He keeps me on the narrow path and protects me.  "Righteousness guards the man of integrity..." (Proverbs 13:6)

And serendipitously, a sweet, courageous, quiet voice comes from the back seat speaking the truth on your behalf. "...testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me." (John 18:37)  

My Sweet Gabrielle

I told the officer the truth, but he didn't believe me. So God spoke the truth through an angel, my daughter. Through her tears, she spoke up for me.

"Speak up for those who cannot 
speak for themselves..."
Proverbs 31:8

There is value in knowing the truth. There is life in knowing the truth. "Your word has given me life." (Psalm 119:50) 

And as we respond with respect and cooperation to the testing, He can do a necessary work in our hearts.

God beautifully showed His faithfulness to me in this very unexpected, unsettling event. I was surrounded and suspected. Humiliated and offended. But He sent a quiet, loving, sure voice to speak the truth on my behalf. 

A daughter speaking up for her momma. She stood as my sister in Christ defending me. Defending the truth.

Apart from Christ, I have no good thing. That's the truth. He allows testing in my life so I am mature and complete, not lacking anything. By His grace, He holds me firmly in His grip. He gives me life and strengthens me so that I am blameless. Thank You, Lord.

"The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Phone Is In The Oven!!!

"...he prepares his meal, 
he roasts his meat and eats his fill."
Isaiah 44:16

Six words I never imagined I would hear myself screaming:  "The phone is in the oven!!!" But there I was on a Sunday afternoon screaming them.

I was trying to do too many things at once. My sweet mom was spending the day with us so I was caring for her, I took a call from a neighbor while busy preparing side dishes for dinner and managing two roasts that I had put in the oven an hour before. 

Crooking my neck and holding the phone between my right ear and my right shoulder, I opened the oven door to put an aluminum foil tent over the roasts so they didn't brown too much. My right hand accidentally met with the side of the scorching hot oven and two of my fingers got burned. Natural reflex jolted my hand and body away from the hot oven and the phone went flying away from where it was tentatively perched on my shoulder. At first I wasn't sure where the phone went, but then I saw it in the roasting pan comfortably sitting next to one of the roasts! 

A phone never knew life could be so good.

More concerned that the phone would ignite and start a fire than ruin my roast or itself, I proclaimed and then planned in the midst of panic.

"The phone is in the oven!  The phone is in the oven!  The phone is in the oven!"

Screaming the alarming news flash for my family, my husband and children came running from different directions in the house. All with jaws dropped and, not sure whether to laugh or scream themselves, they stood shocked. All of us were bent over staring at the savory site before our eyes.

Indeed, the phone was in the oven.

With a quick strategical search and rescue mission underway, I picked up the long metal tongs from the counter top and pulled the wire oven shelf out as far it would come. With the tongs, I grabbed the marinating phone and placed it on a towel. My husband dried the outside of the phone off and then disassembled it so the insides could drain and dry.

Phone au jus.  Not what I had planned for dinner.

Nursing my burned fingers under cold water for several minutes, I realized where I had gone wrong:  Doing too many things at one time. Had I slowed down just a bit I would have waited until I was off of the phone to handle the roasts in a hot oven. Or I could have returned the call to my neighbor later that evening when things were more settled.

Everything I was doing was "good" ~ caring for my mom, preparing dinner for my family and taking time to talk to my neighbor on the phone. But sometimes we do too many good things at one time, and we get burned.

In His sweet goodness, God whispered to my heart through this now-funny kitchen mishap. Keep in step with Me.

By His grace, God lovingly leads us through our days. He is faithful to show us how to spend our time and our labors of love. He invites us to LET.IT.GO. and allow Him to guide our steps. We need to only ask and yield. "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way." ~ Psalm 25:9 

Ask and yield. Humility and surrender. Letting it go and allowing God to lead. A daily, moment-by-moment surrender.

My friend Karen's newest book encourages us to give God His job back!

From my November 9th post here, I am delighted to announce the winner of the book I am giving away to any new likes of my FB page ~ "Why Is My Raincoat 'Dry Clean Only'?".  The winner of LET.IT.GO. is Ruby Robbins Grisham! Also, a little serendipity here today, an additional winner ~ Janelle Hepfner!  

Karen will be giving away more copies of her book and TWO KINDLE continue to leave comments (click here) until December 5th!!!

I encourage you to begin your day today, or pause in the middle of it, and open His Word. Need a place to start? Read Psalm 119. His Word is the essential lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

"I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths."
Proverbs 4:11

Friday, November 9, 2012

LET.IT.GO.~Book & Kindle Fire Giveaway!

"And He is before all things, 
and by Him all things are held together."
Colossians 1:17

Welcome to Joy In The Truth!!  I am delighted to be participating in the giving away of THREE copies of my friend Karen Ehman's newest book LET.IT.GO.!  Also, you have an opportunity to win one of two Kindle Fires!!!  So exciting!!

Here are the details!

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us --
establish the work of our hands."
Psalm 90:17

God alone should establish the work of our hands, and He ordains our times of rest. His favor rests upon as we yield to Him and allow Him to establish how we spend our time. Yet, we often make our daily To Do Lists and hustle along throughout our day without consulting Him.  Yes, we take care of our responsibilities and do honorable things.  But did we really spend our time according to God's plan for us? This question should challenge us and gently convict us.  

Women are wired to control. We make sure the house is clean, the meals prepared, the children are dressed, and everyone gets to where they’re going on time. But sometimes our strength of being conscientious can morph into the weakness of being a slight—or all out—control freak! This humorous, yet spiritually practical book will help you to:

·         Take control of your schedule yet welcome interruptions from God;
·         Draw the line between mothering and micromanaging;
·         Influence your husband instead of manipulating him;
·         Learn to control your emotions when you can’t control the circumstances; 
·         Stop pursuing the appearance of perfection and start pursuing God.
To enter to win a copy of LET.IT.GO., leave a comment below with your name and contact information.  You will automatically be entered.

For another chance to win a copy of LET.IT.GO., just "like" my Facebook page (click here). You will automatically be entered to win!

Also, you have an opportunity to win one of two Kindle Fires!!!!  When you leave a comment on my blog with your name and contact information, you will automatically be entered to win a Kindle Fire.

To enter to win the second Kindle Fire, click here to enter the Chaos to Calm Christmas Challenge!

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in You."
Isaiah 26:3

THREE LET.IT.GO. BOOKS!  TWO KINDLE FIRES! ~ You could be a winner!

This is all so very exciting! I am rejoicing with my friend, Karen, in the release of this excellent, very practical and sensible book!! Be sure to enter to win a book and a Kindle Fire! 

I am tickled you stopped by!  Please visit often!