Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Time for Letting Go

Hello friends,

My heart and my mind have been in a turmoil for much of this year. There are many reasons, but here's what it feels like.

Suppose that I am in a burning building, on the 10Th floor. To leap out with no where to go except down is simply impossible. But I don't want to stay where I am, and below me is real safety. When I look down, out the window, I can see a ring of fireman, stoutly holding a net. Do I jump, or do I stay? I sit on the windowsill, and my heart is pounding in my chest. Jumping is simply not going to happen. I clutch the hard wood beneath my fingers, until they almost break. I pray with all my fear, shouting to God. SAVE ME, LORD!!! And then I hear a voice.

"Be at peace. I will save you. All you have to do is let go." Then, I let go.

The rest of the story doesn't matter. It's the letting go that changes my life. Letting go is the first step to surrender. Holding on is defeat. Obviously, I am talking about my relationship with God and my understanding that He knows better than I. We simply don't think the same. My thoughts are selfish, and perhaps, self-serving. God's thoughts are perfect and often contrary to what I want.

So, at that point, I have two choices: to hold onto my desires or to trust in Him and let go. Over and over again I have this struggle. One would think that I would be comfortable with whatever God wants, before I see the outcome. I've practiced being stubborn, and I'm really good at it. Each time, I do repent, and I always wonder why I doubted God's perfect knowledge. Yet, I repeat my pattern of sin again and again.

The Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 7:15-16...For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.

Whew!! If that's not confused, I don't know what is! Yet, this passage of Scripture intimately illustrates the struggles of my very human spirit.

I've heard many a fellow Christian say: "Once I was saved, I never looked back, never faltered, never doubted, etc., etc., etc." This always annoys me. Because when they are looking at the perfection of their life, I am looking at the basket case that I often am. Sure, I'm going forward, but I'm stumbling all the way. In fact, I sometimes pick up the stumbling blocks, and with breaking back, I toss them ahead of me in my path, just so I can fall over them! At least so it seems.

Sometimes the way seems so certain. I can see the path that I want so clearly, that I mistake the difference between God's will and mine. I forget that God makes my path straight, as I step forward, trusting only in Him.

I don't know how some people live without God. Without even a desire to know Him. To seek. To find out. I don't understand. But, then, maybe they do look and desire, but they just can't let go of their naked desires. If only I could reach their hearts and tell them:

God reaches for us, as we are; not as we will become. He loves us in spite of, and perhaps in some way, because of our faults and imperfections. And He wants us no matter what. All you have to do is let go of that box of rocks that you carry around on your back.

It's true that letting go is the hard part. After that, letting God is easy. My struggle has been two-fold: my real fear for my country and my even greater fear for my daughters. You see, I've seen what God has done. He has done miracles in their lives, as well as mine. How can I doubt him? Why do I go to Him with my list of instructions? And why does He accept me back in spite of the same sin, again and again?

Today, I stand on the threshold of God's greatest blessing for me. He has fulfilled my dreams for my children, by fulfilling their dreams for themselves. Now, it is time for me to let go, and let Him make their path straight before them.

Father, I'm so sorry that I am so stubborn. I'm not submissive, nor am I the obedient daughter that You deserve. This day, yet again, I place my hopes and my dreams, my joys and my sorrows - past, present, and future - into Your loving hands. I understand that although I don't know the outcome, I can trust the One who does. So, Father, this is me, letting go.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Time for a Relationship

Hello friends,

There was a time in my life when I had no idea what "a relationship" meant. I certainly didn't come from a family where anyone knew or practiced a relationship. We were one of the original dysfunctional families. Some people say that in the dictionary, along with the definition of dysfunctional, there is a picture of their family. If that is true, then my family should have had their own page.

I don't quite understand why we had such terrible strife when I was growing up. Perhaps it was because my mother and father "had" to get married (my mother's words). Perhaps my Dad resented that, and my mother felt that she had sacrificed her youth. I have no answers. I only know that there was a battle, almost daily, and that I was a very unhappy child.

When I was in college, studying psychology, I actually had a private discussion with my professor, and I asked her about families like mine. I brought letters and told her about some of the most volatile arguments. My father was an alcoholic, that much is clear. No normal person can down a case of beer, in a day, and this would go on for weeks.

My mother would have grand periods of brilliant light and low periods when I couldn't get her out of the basement. Since none of these things were ever spoken of, I carried them around like bricks in a sack, and it was years before I could ever let go of them.

Let me not forget my siblings. Wait, let's forget them. Let's just say that there was a big enough age gap, that we never became close. I try not to remember the utter cruelty, twisted lies, and unbelievable lack of kindness, and that is all I will say.

So how could someone like me ever have a relationship? Where would I start? And what did that mean? Well, without knowing, I began seeking God. Then with the birth of my second child, something happened within my spirit. It may have been triggered by a physical event. I almost bled to death. Then, there was the fact that no one wanted my little girl, so that made me want her more. We have had the closest relationship for over 36 years.

By the time my last child came around, she turned out to be a ray of light. And light, my friends, is what a relationship is. It's not sex. It's not games. It's not flirtation. It's about seeking the light that God gives to each of us, that we either accept or reject.

Light cannot be forced upon you. It shines on you, and some people run from the light. I know, because I have run before. But God never gave up on me. He followed me down the dark roads of my life, and wherever I stopped, He met me there. I find the love of God irresistible, even as I found my husband's love irresistible.

When my husband and I met, we had little in common. You might say that he was blue jeans and tennis shoes, and I was more satin and lace. But we both loved books, and, by golly, my two youngest children fell in love with him. They lived to get us together, and they very much succeeded. We fell in love, married, and we just celebrated our 27Th anniversary.

At 62, I have traded the satin and lace for flannel and fleece. I don't move as well as I once did, but his hands holding mine are still warm and strong. He lights my life with a strong, masculine presence, and a sense of decency that still amazes me. He has made me happy, and that is a first class miracle.

So where am I today? I am in a deep, personal relationship with my Creator. I am a Christian who walks in the foot steps of Jesus. I don't deserve His grace, but I can feel His light all around me.

I believe that God held me in His heart from the first second of creation, and He holds me in His heart today. My life is that cool cup of water, with which He quenched my thirst. I was hungry, and He fed me. And He feeds me still. I cannot tell you why God has blessed me. Lord knows that I haven't earned it.

Because of Him, and His grace, I seek to become a better person, a kinder person. It's like this: what do I want to leave behind, when my Father in Heaven calls me home? Kindness. Gentleness. Forgiveness. And love.

Father in Heaven. How can I ever express my gratitude for all of Your mercy and grace? You have changed my heart and my life. You have given me a loving marriage and children who honor and love me. You, Lord, not me. I could not have done this myself. Why, oh why, would You choose me?

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Time for Victory

Hello friends,

I want to apologize for my rantings about American politics. This journey that I take with God is no place for confusion, anger, and resentment. There is so much more to my life, with little victories that I cannot take credit for. So, I ask for your forgiveness and for the forgiveness of God.

Politics in America can get pretty raw. Perfectly normal people become wrapped up in ideas, ideals, fears, biases, and (the closer we get to election day) insanity. Entering the election booth can be so intimidating, that my hands become ice-cold and sticky with sweat. Making a wise choice seems absolutely impossible. So, for now, I think it is time to abandon politics, and welcome you to another day.

Every morning is a triumph for me. I wake up before dawn, and I share that first sip of coffee with my husband and daughters. Soon we say our good-byes, and I am now alone. Sometimes I watch the sun rise in the mountains. Sunrises are breathtaking here. You have to watch carefully, so that you don't miss seeing the mist, suddenly, swept away by the heat of the rising sun.

The sun sends rosy streaks across the sky, then the first glint of morning's bright dawn shoots through the trees. The trees around my house are alive with birds who shout their welcome. My heart feels the warmth of a new, sweet day, long before the summer's heat sends me indoors.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I could barely pull myself out of bed. Hitting the floor with my knees was easy. Staying down as I prayed for strength to rise up, was often painful. Pushing myself up was an agony, and staggering into the shower was a major triumph. Later, while looking for answers in the Word of God, I found none. Serious, often life threatening, illnesses ruled my life. I was certain that I would never get well. Surely there would never be medications strong enough to treat my suffering. I was wrong.

I had made a conscious choice, before God, that I would accept physical illness, if He would send healing to my soul. But over the years, my resolve had gotten weaker, and I was very close to giving up. Then, in what seemed like overnight new medications were available to heal my body. I could not believe it. My life changed dramatically. How could I keep my balance now, when a whole new world seemed open to me? So, I keep God with me, within my new found hope.

Now, I race through the early morning dark, so that I can slip outside and dig in the dirt. Earthworms wriggle through my fingers, and plants reach for the sky. Do you have any idea just how triumphant it feels to force a weed to give up its home in the soil? It's as though you are this great giant ripping trees from the earth.

Like a little girl shaking her tousled curls, my garden moves in the wind. The cool morning breeze tickles my skin, and I begin the best part of my day. God walks in my garden in the cool of the day. I can feel his touch upon me. I see His smile in each nodding bloom that greets my heart.

God loves me, and I know it. He delights in what delights me. Oh, how could I look upon the beauty of this earth, that is still evident, even after we have polluted it, and say, "this was an accident?" Such notions are foolish, and the Bible makes it clear that to say there is no God, requires one to be a fool.

So, I believe, even as I have believed in my weakest moment. Despairing though I was, I knew that God loved me then, too. I thank Him for that grace, and it would be a disservice to disbelieve in Him now.

So, I now begin the dawn of my day. I wish you grace and peace no matter who you are. May the Lord light your path and make it straight before you. And may you find yourself safe in the palm of His hand.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Time for Identity

Hello friends,

"You're not from here." I have heard that comment many times, since our retirement from the Navy. People can tell by my voice, immediately, that I'm just not from the southern Appalachians. No, I'm not from here, although I've lived here since 1996, and two years in '92 through '94. I'm not from here, but I love it.

I love the people, whose honesty and kindness are a testimony to the lives they live. Never fear that you'll get stuck on the side of the Interstate if your car breaks down. Someone is going to stop to help. Someone else will contact the State Police, and, quite frankly, you're likely to draw a crowd.

It amazes me, and angers me, when I hear the people of the Appalachian southern states ridiculed or made light of, as though they are too ignorant to come in out of the rain. Let's not forget that this is the birthplace of Country music, which has made stars of guitar pickers from all over the world, including Australia.

When I was a little girl, I spent some wonderful days in the care of a half-Cherokee woman who taught me how to cook, sew, and to love. She was from Johnson City Tennessee, and her last name guessed it...Johnson. You have not lived until you've tasted her fried peach pies. And the thought of her buttered biscuits, dripping with orange blossom honey, still makes my mouth water. Yum.

My point is that much is being made of southern Appalachia in this election year. I've heard these dear people brushed off as "real rednecks," totally unworthy of the smallest modicum of respect. This hurts my heart. You see, my sweet husband is from Tennessee, and his twangy country voice was one of the things that made it easy for me to fall in love with him. The ignorance of many news people, simply boggles my mind. The very idea that intelligence can be determined by your colloquial accent is sheer nonsense.

Who thinks that Henry Kissinger is a low-brow, simply because he speaks with an accent. We all have accents. I have a north Florida accent, which means I sound like I'm from California or Indiana or any other place which has assimilated so many accents that anything original has been wrung out.

I feel deeply for Senator Obama when his speech is referred to as too intellectual. That too is nonsense to me. I understand every word he says. Is he brilliant? You bet he is. He's smart enough to know that he doesn't know everything, so he goes to the brightest of the bright for advice and counsel. I don't very much trust a person who "knows everything." That person is often a "self-made man" who adores his maker.

I can state very positively that with every speech, I wonder about John McCain's ability to guide our country out of the mess his party has given to us. After all, he is the one who has spent nearly 30 years straddling fences and "making deals" across the isle. Making deals does not necessarily mean compromise. It can also mean that you flow where the wind blows. Every word out of his mouth tells me he is not a nice man.

I am not amused with John McCain's political ads. Far from making me question Barack Obama's capacity to lead, McCain's ads make me question his abilities...not to mention his mental capacity. For God's sake, he's arm in arm with Rush Limbaugh, a radio broadcaster, whose army of "ditto-heads" still follow him blindly, in spite of his known drug addictions. It makes me wonder if they all gather together in someone's basement, shaving one another's back and putting their head's together to agree on the next political move.

This is not smart. Do they really think that the American voting public are idiots? Uninformed? In a coma? Believe me, even way back here in the boondocks, where the "real rednecks" live, we have the Internet, and I know very few people who don't have a computer. Oh yes, one of those computer illiterate people is John McCain.

Oh! Will this election cycle never end? I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the carrion picking the bones. Oh, for the days of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow! When news meant news, and "tabloid journalism" was shunned as not real journalism.

So, this is why I talk about this being a time for identity...a time to know one's heart. Who am I? And where do I belong? I've been asked that a lot, and I can definitely declare: I may not have been from here, but I am now.

I hope and pray that God sees the faithfulness of the people of this region. I hope that they receive the President that they need. This is where I will spend the rest of my life, among God's people, who turn to Him each day. There's a humility here, that touches my heart. I'm from Appalachia. This is my home.

Dearest Father in heaven grant us the wisdom that only comes from you. Hold our hands as we step out in a journey that only Your grace can guide. Help us to know our hearts, and help us to understand who we are, as well as whose we are.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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