Your Days Are Numbered

Your days are numbered.

Did you know that?

As in:

1

45

16,782

Numbered.

And not ONE of them is worthless or unimportant.

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Whoa. So, how do we number our days? Well, the first few verses in that chapter give us some clues. It’s basically this:

Realizing who WE are and what We’ve done in the light of realizing who GOD is and what HE’S done.

Moses starts the Psalm by talking about the greatness and eternality of God.

v. 2 – “Before the mountains were born
   or you brought forth the whole world,
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

So, basically – we must try to see our lives from God’s perspective, since He’s been around a bit longer than we have, and knows a whole lot more than we ever could.

To make sure we get the point, Moses goes on to describe our humanness and mortality.

v. 5 – Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
   they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
   but by evening it is dry and withered.

Or

v. 9-10 – All our days pass away under your wrath;
   we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
   or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
   for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Pretty gloomy sounding, isn’t it?

Almost in one breath – life is here, then it’s gone.

Does it matter to us?

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with being my own god.

By living my life as if it is going to go on forever, and forgetting why I was created.

I forget that by original design, this world is not my home and the things of it are as frail as a snowflake.

I live my life as if I am the author of my future, the keeper of my past, and the conqueror of my present, but I deceive myself.

The eternal Time Keeper sees the big picture of my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly- and weaves them all together to make me into a child fit for Heaven.

The troubles, the trials, the heartache, and pain, serve a grander purpose. Moses’ words help us put grief and trials in their proper place:

See verses 14-17, particularly verse 15:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
   establish the work of our hands for us—
   yes, establish the work of our hands.

It’s really all about seeing things from the right perspective. Who we are and who He is.

If his ‘unfailing love’ truly satisfies us, then whatever the ‘affliction’ or ‘trouble’, we can ‘sing for joy’ and ‘be glad all our days’, because we recognize the extravagance of the Father’s love.

When we are satisfied with His ‘unfailing love’ – then everything else falls into its proper place. Our deeds and our ‘works’ no longer control us but are controlled by the Holy Spirit in us.

The number of our days no longer matter – it’s how we fill each one of those days that begins to shape our points of view.

I don’t know about you, but I really need to get my mind off of me – and onto Jesus!

Blessings,

pepper (1)

Knowing Changes Things

aa322c2dI was at a writer’s conference once and started chatting with the person in line behind me. No surprise there. My dad says I could carry on a conversation with a block wall. It’s a family trait 🙂

Anyway, this lady and I had a pleasant conversation about life, family, her writing, my writing. Nothing spectacular. I didn’t think anything more of it than a friendly moment in time.

I finished getting my food and sat at a table when one of the other guests touched my arm.
“You looked like you were having a pretty good conversation with Angie Hunt.”
Angie Hunt? Angela Hunt! Award winning author of over one-hundred books!!
(To read more about Angie Hunt, go here!)
So the pleasant little conversation suddenly changed to one of those shocked moments that you write down in your journal to share with all of your posterity and even devote a blog-post to it 🙂
Knowing WHO she was, changed the way I saw the situation.
unsplashpic4It wasn’t just a sweet little moment in my day. It was momentous. Knowing WHO she was made a BIG difference on my perspective.
There’s a familiar story in the Bible about Jesus calming the sea. (And though Angela Hunt loves Jesus, knowing her and knowing HIM are two very different things 😉
To paraphrase the Gospels, here we go:
The disciples follow Jesus onto a boat and they head out onto the sea. A big storm whips up out of nowhere, so dangerous that the disciples start to freak out. They start crying out for help, and where is Jesus? In the middle of the howling wind, crashing waves, and pelting rain…sleeping!!
The disciples wake him up and say something like, “Don’t you care that we’re all going to die?”So…Jesus tells the storm to hush up. And it does. Then he looks at his disciples and says, “Oh you of little faith. Why are you so afraid?”
Now some Gospels put Jesus’ rebuke before the calming of the storm and some after. Just imagine Jesus waking from his nap to the hurricane-like conditions and screaming through the wind at the disciples. “Why are you afraid?”
I can only imagine the disciples giving him a look like Jesus, have you seen the size of those waves? This is NOT a dream. We’re going to DIE!
When Jesus calms the storm with his words, the disciples start to freak out in a very different way, because they suddenly were struck with the truth about WHO Jesus really was. The external storm on the water suddenly flew inside their hearts. Whoa! Jesus’ words brought calm to the chaos, as God- The Creator’s- words brought order to the chaos of the universe. Proving that he truly was, who he’d said he was. Spectacular.
So, in one respect, Jesus is saying: If you guys really knew who I was, you’d be able to sleep through a storm too.
There are a few poignant truths in this story.
1. The storm wasn’t a shock to Jesus. He knew it was going to happen and went to sleep anyway.
2. Knowing who Jesus really is, helps us see the storms of life from a new perspective.
Jesus leads us into storms sometimes to refine our faith. So the question is, how do we respond in the middle of the storm? It’s easy to view in hindsight, or predict your response in foresight, but what about in the very middle when the hurt, fear, worry, and grief are the greatest?
This was convicting to me, because if I really know Him, worry becomes obsolete and fear melts into a minor obstacle. His peace settles a heart during the most frightening storm or by streams of living water and green pastures. My heart should find rest in either/or.
The great thing is – he wants us to get to know him better, because he wants us to rest in him.
Psalm 62:1 reads: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”
Psalm 119:1: Blessed are they that keep his statutes and seek him with all their hearts.”
Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
When we know WHO holds us, who loves us, who guides us through the storm – then our perspective on the power of the storm changes and our security in the Maker of the storm overcomes our fear.
May we take this verse to heart and find rest in His promises:
Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

The Ultimate LifeSaver

booksigningI had the wonderful opportunity last weekend to have my first booksigning even at Barnes and Noble. There was a great turnout, and despite my discomfort at being the center of attention, I loved getting to share the experience with friends who have followed my writing journey a looooonnnnggg time! Particularly my college buddy, Jessica, (namesake in the book) and some of my coworkers and friends from my FIRST JOB in Charlotte, NC (15 years ago!!!). They drove all the way to Asheville to celebrate with me. Wow!!

So, as you can see I decorated my table with some fun stuff. A box for the $50 gift card raffle, scones and gingerbread (straight from England as a gift from my wonderful cousin-in-law, Judy), books (0f course) and….lifesavers.

Why lifesavers?

booksigning1Well, if you’ve read The Thorn Bearer, you get the reference. It’s a ‘sweet’ theme between my hero and heroine throughout the book, but on a much deeper level there is reference to a “Lifesaver” working his ‘sweetness’ throughout the lives of all the characters.

Also…my poor characters are getting on a sinking ship! Who wouldn’t want a life saver, right?

Tragedies, tensions, and difficulties strike us all. Maybe they don’t all involve childhood secrets or sinking ships, but some can be just as life-threatening, debilitating, devastating, or life-altering. In essence, there are going to be times in life where we are all in danger of drowning under the flood of living in a fallen world. Whether our tragedy comes at our own hands (as a few of my characters discover) or at the hands of others, we are certain of one thing…. no one gets out of this life without some stings and pains along the way, that’s why we all need a true LifeSaver.

There are doctors, counselors, family, and friends who can help us during our broken times, but their reach can only make it so far, because the ultimate issue at the heart of every person, is sin. It’s the whirlpool beneath our skin tugging us under, further and further, and without some divine intervention, we will (inevitably) drown.

But there is a Rescuer for this particular darkness…and only one.

The Ultimate LifeSaver.

John 3:17 – (Jesus said) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESV)

Colossians 1:13-14 (from The Message paraphrase)

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Psalm 91:14-16 (booksigning2from The Message paraphrase)

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

God’s best care is at the soul level. Through Christ, He does what no one else can do – cleans our hearts and rescues our souls. The sort of sweetness He brings through His healing goes beyond the trials, sufferings, pains, and heartaches (that will continue to come) because we are still living in a broken world and waiting for a heavenly one.

But he is efficient 🙂 He will use our trials here to make us more and more fit for our new homes and to bring about in us the Ultimate Plan of the Ultimate LifeSaver, because he’s not in it just for today…but for eternity.

The Ultimate Courage…and Kindness

www.disney.com  Disney Enterprises Inc.
http://www.disney.com
Disney Enterprises Inc.

My daughters and I went to see the new Disney movie, Cinderella, recently. Oh my, what a fantastic movie! The sweetness of Cinderella, the quirkiness of the fairy godmother, the ruthlessness of the step-mother, the ‘charm’ of the prince?

Truly charming.

They did a fantastic job of taking the endearing animated version and bringing out a deeper thread through this version. Prince Charming had a personality!!

Now, I’m a cry-er anyway – and I cried twice in this movie (along with my oldest daughter), but there was such a sweetness to the family stories of both Cinderella and Kit (the prince). They both had been loved deeply by their parents, and in return you see this beautiful amount of love they share with others around them.

The overarching theme, that is repeated on several occasions, is “Have Courage and Be Kind”. What a fantastic theme to share with anybody, let alone the thousands of girls watching. Throughout the movie, Cinderella is constantly putting these to qualities into action, through her interaction with her stepmother and sisters, of course, but also in her kindness to the mice, the fairy godmother, and even the king.

She’s utterly endearing and if Prince Charming didn’t fall for her, we’d have his head examined for certain! 🙂

But in all these sweet moments, something stood out to me more than any other in the whole movie.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

At the end of the movie, when the glass slipper fits and she’s getting ready to leave her family home behind, she turns to her stepmother and says “I forgive you.”

Whoa! Now THAT takes the ultimate courage and the ultimate kindness!!

To be able to forgive someone who has mistreated us, slandered us, abused us, been cruel to us? It is a feat of courage that shakes the very core of a human. How can we even do it? Because we recognize the ultimate kindness! One fuels the other.

www.disney.com
http://www.disney.com

Forgiveness is ‘powerful magic’ because it has the ability to hit the deepest, darkest places with a light of reformation! It can be shocking, counter-cultural, a relief. With it comes peace, reconciliation, release!

You know where I’m going with this?

The Ultimate Courage and the Ultimate Kindness was found in the very holiday we celebrated a few weeks ago. Christ, the perfect one, had the courage and the kindness to take on the cross, death, hell, and the grave. He wore the cloak of God’s wrath, felt the soul-ripping loneliness of being separated from his Father, carried the burden of shame equal to the sins of eternity! Courageous? You bet. Kind….like nothing else in all of history.

He did all this so that he could turn to us and say “I forgive you” for everything you have done or will do. “I forgive you” for your rebellion and pride. Your doubt and lies. Your self-righteousness and anger. “I forgive you” and NOW you are ready to be with me in my home…

Oh, what a love!

So, with his strength and wisdom to guide and support us, we can truly face this world with the ability to

Have Courage and Be Kind.

Splinters and Stings

199034_1941704983009_6955720_nSplinters, something so small that can cause a whole lot of trouble. My daughter, Lydia, got one in her toe the other day and being the self-controlled six-year-old that she is, proceeded to wail, scream, sob, and whine from the playground to my side.

At first thought, one might think her entire foot was going to fall off or that the splinter was more the size of a 2 x 4, but….no! Upon inspection, I discovered the 1/2 cm speck of wood chip stuck in her big toe and waiting for maternal surgery (which I actually enjoy…he, he, he)

Lydia wanted to try to get the splinter out herself, so she took my little set of tweezers and went to work, wailing and moaning along the way. After a few moments of vain attempts, she handed the tweezers back to me. “I can’t do it!”

“Are you ready for me to try?” I asked.

“Is it going to hurt?”

“Yes, it is, but I’ll try to be as careful as I can.”

She sniffled, nodded, bit down on her bottom lip, and started wailing before the tweezers even touched her toe. I have no idea where she gets such a melodramatic personality from…

So, after the trauma, she put both her arms around me and gave me a hug. “Thank you, Mama. I’m tougher now.” Sure she is!!

God, I can do it. I don’t want to give it to You! You might make me hurt….you might lead me through pain…..You might guide my paths through the valley of death, or the road of bankruptcy or up the hill of rejection…..God, can I trust you?

Do you ever secretly wonder these things? For example, “Lord, if I really give you my whole heart and trust you to do whatever you will to make me more like you…..what will you do? What will you make me go through?” At the heart of these questions, is doubt. We doubt that God loves us and has the best in mind for us.

Somehow, we forget the amazing truth that God sent his son Jesus down to die for our unworthy, hateful, embittered souls…..why? Because of love….REAL love.

Sometimes we forget God’s promise of working ALL things together for our good and His glory because we doubt His control and His love.

Lord, help us to love you with our whole hearts so that the fears and doubts which so easily distance us from you, will be wiped away in the shadow of your great love. Help us to offer our lives up to you for service, in whatever way You see fit and may we look out what comes into our lives as opportunities to trust You. Help us to believe you truly love us and You are in control. Amen

Different Perspectives on Being Sick

102_0707(I wrote this post from a memory of 5 years ago)

If you are like any other family in the U.S., this particular time of year can be somewhat unpredictable. Flu runs through the schools, possibly even pneumonia, and sometimes the ever-exhausting stomach virus. My kids had the virus this past weekend and in the middle of all the ‘excitement’ and cleaning, I stopped to pay attention to their responses to being sick.

Aaron, my 9 year old, was the first one to fall victim to the virus. He had a horrible case of it, but he never complained. The only way we knew he was sick was because we heard him vomiting in the bathroom. He spent the day relaxing and watching movies, but he never asked for anything except something to drink.

Lydia, my 7 year old, was next – and you would have thought her arms were being ripped off. She whined, moaned, cried….I’m sure she felt horrible too.

Ben, my 11 year old, was next. He didn’t complain, but his response was very interesting. He said, “If I could just ‘throw up’ in a predictable pattern it wouldn’t be so bad. You know, if I knew it was coming every 30 minutes or something.”

Samuel, my 3 year old, decided to stand in the bathroom for long period of time ‘just in case’ he got sick. He never did :-)…but he was prepared.

Phoebe never got sick either and was pretty oblivious to what was going on around her.

I thought about their various responses to being sick and wondered if we as adults have some of the same types of responses to troubles in our lives. Some of us glide through and trust our Heavenly Father to take care of it….(this would not be me). Some complain, moan, cry to God because we don’t like it, we’re uncomfortable, and we want a change. Others of us could handle it so much better if we could control it a bit more… and then there are those of us who are so worried about something bad happening, we don’t’ enjoy the present.

There’s something very comforting and beautiful in the Christian faith. Knowing that Someone greater than yourself knows you and holds you in His hands, gives a great deal of relief during times of unpredictability, grief, hardship, or despair. no matter how we handle it, God is still God and His love is strong enough to protect and strengthen us. It’s nice to know we can trust his control when life is out of control…we can give our worries and fears to Him….we can cry into His love for peace.

When God Opens a Window

hippensteal2and you don’t think you’ll fit through it?

What do you do? 🙂

Ever been there?

Sometimes God’s best way to refine us is to challenge us. It automatically tosses us ‘out of control’ and (if we’re good little kids of the King) we have to run to Him for the answers.

So many times in my life, God used situations that looked way too impossible to stretch my faith and trust in Him. It’s a good moment to resize our thoughts and remember His plans are best.

As a child of the King of Kings “we KNOW that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”

even if the window looks small 🙂

Blessings,

Twas the Night Jesus Came

Twas the night Jesus came and all through the town, Not a person would guess The Messiah came down. The earth gave no warning to speak God’s intent But this magical night I would never forget.

The streets were all busy with strangers from far; No time to hear singing or see the bright star. As my young friends and I kept our watch o’er the flock We had no idea we’d soon get a shock.

When out of the darkness there rose such a light, I sprang from the hilltop to gaze at the sight. An angel came shining as bright as noon-day, More fearsome and brilliant than I’ve words to say.

At first he said, softly, “There’s no need to fear.” Which I found hard to do since this host first appeared, But he said, “Be of Joy! I bring you great news! Your Savior is born, there is no time to lose.”

i-am-the-light-of-the-world“This babe wrapped in cloths has no crib for his bed, But rests his sweet head in a feed-trough instead.” And then other angels, more than I can know, Rejoiced through the dark with their songs and their glow.

Like millions of stars dancing down to the earth, They lifted their voices in praise of his birth- Singing, “Glory to God.” Through the stillness of night “and peace to all men,” then they flew out of sight.

It didn’t take long to break out of our shock. We ran down the hill leaving our field and flock, And found the sweet baby inside a damp cave, But could this be Christ – the whole world to save?

The donkeys and horses had left a foul smell. The straw was all muddy, the manger as well. But everything was as the angel had said, A babe wrapped in cloths in a crude manger bed.

Then I know – it was clear. Where else would he be? The Teacher and Healer to make the blind see. The Savior who’d carry the sins of us all, Where else would show love than an old cattle stall?

This baby, The Christ, would clean up all our messes. He’d take on our curses and give us His blessings. So as I adored Him, God’s Son, the true Light, God seemed to be whisp’ring to all a “good night”

copyright 2009 Pepper D. Basham

Romancing the Wicked Witch of the West – The Gospel

Oh come on, isn’t she lovely? With skin the color of sweet peas, a voice to scrape paint off the walls, and a nose with enough hook to catch a fish. She’s sweet too. Oh so sweet. Really. Who cares about a girl and her little dog too?

The Wicked Witch of the West is a fantastic heroine, right? Definite romance novel material.

Oh – and what about Senator Palpatine (aka The Emperor) off of Star Wars, especially after his electrifying facial. Mmmhmmm…can we say beautiful. Skin the texture of old leather, eyes the color of dried blood, and what teeth he does have hold a pale yellow candescence. Hunky!

I’ve got it! The Joker. What a great sense of humor, right? Sure, it gets a little out of hand, but that chalky white complexion and pasted grin can sure make my heart flip. And the eye makeup, or the redness around his mouth. Sooo complimentary.  And the laugh? Or the clothes? What’s not to love.

Would it sound very weird if I said – we are all villains?

Yep. Just as beautiful…probably worse, than the three I’ve just discussed. Even at our best, we’re pretty atrocious. We don’t want to admit it about ourselves. We want to believe (or make other people believe) we’re pretty good people – but at the core of who we are, we are irrecovably broken, flawed,…’our righteousness is as filthy rags”.

And yet – we are loved by the most beautiful being in all eternity.

God sees us as we are, in all our disgust, and romances us. Who would EVER read a book like that? Really? When there is nothing loveable AT ALL. What hero would seek out a woman like The Wicked Witch of the West? None in the books I read…unless, the books are trying to point to the greatest HERO of all.

John 3:16 should SHOCK us to our souls. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God! Loved us THAT much. Loved US. US – those villains with breath to wilt apples, or enough evil to slay people’s thoughts with a glance. US.

God came down from Heaven and romanced the villains. And we weren’t even LOOKING for a love.

John 3, as Nicodemus visits Jesus by night, talks about how the ‘world’ wasn’t even looking for Jesus. Didn’t even want to see him. Verse 19 says, “men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

Evil. Villains. The World. Us.

The people for whom Christ died.

And now for Him We LIVE, because a love like THAT transforms us.

No longer beasts, but because of love – beauty. His love changes our sin-cloaked hearts and shapes them into magnificent vessels overflowing with the possiblities of our Lover.

He inspires, even enables, us to become Heroes in this story he’s writing with our lives.

Oh what a Prince, Savior, Lover of our Souls.

The Fingerprints of God

There’s nothing that’s quite so arresting as awareness of God around us. I mean really near. Not just the cursory acceptance of the verse “I am with you always”, but the raw knowledge that Someone has direct involvement in our lives.

It can be the evidence in God’s creation – the vast mountain landscapes or torrent seas.

It can be in God’s provision – the great and the small.

It can be in His people, from the touch of a mother’s hand, the laughter of children, or a newborn baby’s cry.

They all speak of God’s ‘touch’ in our lives.

We often think God is far off – up in His Heaven somewhere, but His Spirit is actively at work around us – providing hands and feet through people.

Kind words spoken, a hug of comfort, a phrase of encouragement, another shoulder to bear the burden, and understanding/listening ear.

He’s here. His body.

And it’s absolutely amazing when we step back and ‘see’ them.

God provided it for me in so many ways this week – from a ‘word in due season’ while meeting with Beth Vogt at BRMCWC to a chat with my 5 year old about faith. God was there. Right there- leaving his fingerprints all through my life.

And all through yours too.

Open your eyes and see the wonder of His love and know He is not far off.

He is near.