Thursday, March 24, 2005

Weekly Word - Easter 2005

Weekly Word

Easter Week 2005

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Luke 19: 10)

For Christians, this week is one of the most “Holy” of weeks. It is the week leading up to the death, and resurrection of the Lord. It is a time to reflect on what Jesus’ Life, and Death, were about - - - for each of us . . .

“the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, (and) the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”
(Luke 7: 22)

Over the past two weeks, the messages have been about those “imprints” that are made upon our lives. “Imprints” from the hands of those who love us; as well as the marks of those who have hurt us. In an imperfect world, it is hard to find a person who hasn’t felt the heartache of a love that is lost, or doesn’t carry wounds deep in their souls.

I have told about the dream a friend of mine had, years ago. In her dream, she saw herself in a long white nightgown. She was in bed with her husband. As the dream progressed, she watched herself get up out of bed and walk over to a full length mirror. Standing in front of it, she took off her nightgown. Gasping, she saw her naked body covered by black marks - tattoos. She then looked over at the bed, where her husband was fast asleep. Looking at him, she knew that many of those marks were made by him! When she woke up, she wondered what to do. She loved this man - but she also knew his cruelty and anger had made their marks on her life.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16: 33)

Quite a few years ago, before Ted and I felt the first heartbeats of love, we both were involved in the same Christian counseling ministry. I had been working at the ministry for quite a number of years, when Ted came for help. His heart had been broken, and so, searching for help - he found his way to the ministry. As God brought about healing in his heart, Ted found new life in helping out at the ministry. There was a very old apartment on the property - one that seemed to need some work - one that “others” wanted me to move in to . . .

The apartment was very dark, and was contaminated with old insulation and rundown walls. The head of the ministry believed I should move in to it - but inside of me, my heart sank when I stood in this dingy place. How was I going to “live” here?

“I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”
(John 12: 46)

He started to tear the walls down in August, and to this day, I don’t know how he finished it before Christmas! Ted rebuilt that apartment. Every wall, every floor and ceiling were taken out. And the rebuilding began. As Ted began “rebuilding” that apartment, the Lord began to “rebuild” both our lives! The walls were put in place - - - the ceiling was built a little higher - - - and new floors were laid. All the while, love started to grow - - - and “new life” began where heartbreak and hurts had once been . . .

In order that Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life . . .
(Romans 6: 4)

Newness of Life . . . that is His Promise - and what this Holiest of Weeks is all about! There is a moment in time that I will never forget. It was a few months after I had moved into that beautiful new apartment, right around Easter, and the beginning of spring. Ted and I were still wondering what to do with this new love - that seemed so right - but others told us was “wrong”. We had agreed to put a distance between us - - - a time and space - to “let go”. With a heaviness, we were both there on this very special day. We had prayed together - - - and cried together. And then it happened! The white walls were covered with rainbows - colors and light filled the apartment. I had placed a single cross on the window. The cross had small crystals inside. As the sunlight poured in, Ted and I were surrounded by color - by such beauty and wonder! At that moment - - - the heaviness lifted, filling us with such lightness and joy! Hanging on to each other - - - we started believing God’s Promise - of “new life” . . .

New Life - Easter - the fulfillment of God’s Promise:

“Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life.”
(John 17: 1 & 2)

With this prayer - Jesus began to celebrate Passover. It was the beginning of His final days. When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples . . . and was betrayed. He - Who was “without sin” - was given over to suffering and death . . .

“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected . . . And be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
(Luke 9: 22)

Jesus suffered - - - He was rejected - - - He felt desolate and abandoned - by all He loved! He shared in our hurts - and felt our pain! And He did this for one reason - - - and one reason only . . . .

“I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”
(John 10:10)

He came that you might have life - - - and abundant life! Will you believe? Will you trust Him with your heart - and your hopes . . . Trusting Him with - your pain and suffering . . . Believing in His Promise - of healing and life . . . for the rest of your life . . .

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” . . . He is just waiting, for you to say “yes” . . .

But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
(John 20: 31)

God bless you as you celebrate this joyous time - this day of New Life - called Easter!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Weekly Word for March 18 - 25, 2005

Weekly Word - March 18, 2005

The Lord is my shepherd . . . He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .
(Psalm 23: 1 - 4)

As I turned on the radio, I heard that song again! Ted and I had just seen the video the day before, and found ourselves caught by the emotion the song brought out. It was a song about a young boy, and his decision to kill himself. The boy singing the song, asks all the questions that so many ask when something like this happens. “How could you get that lonely . . . And nobody knows?” The questions continue: “Why, how . . .” In the video, you saw people in their cars and trucks, driving somewhere and asking the questions. And then you saw it - - - they were heading to the cemetery. So broken and full of grief that you knew that they had loved him - - - and the questions remained . . .

Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses.
(Psalm 25: 16 & 17)

For I am lonely and afflicted . . . I wish I could say that none of us would ever feel like this - - - but the truth is that we do! Each of us will face heartaches and losses during our lives. Choices of how to handle our lives . . . Sometimes, those choices have “forever” consequences . . .

I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. The cords of death encompassed me, . . . I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord.
(Psalm 116: 1 - 4)

I was 16 when I first met this beautiful little boy! He was only three years old, and I had just started dating his uncle. When I met him, I believed he was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. He had the type of blonde hair that is almost white, and big blue eyes, and long lashes that every girl wishes for. When I looked at him - I wanted a little boy just like him!

After that day, I started to stop by to visit him after school. His grandma watched him, as his momma worked as a nurse. Jonathan and I would go on long walks, and he would tell me stories or ask questions the whole way. He was so smart for only three years old . . .

Two years later, his uncle and I were married. As the boys brought the car around for us to take on our honeymoon, a little voice started to cry. I looked over, and there was Jonathan, so upset! “They wrote all over your car, Uncle Joey” he cried. I looked down at this sweet little boy, and hoped I would have one - just like him . . .

Jonathan was just the first in a bunch of grandchildren that came along. Over the years there were cook-outs and whiffle ball games - - - times of laughter and joy! As the children grew - we all seemed to loose track of each other. I would hear how Jonathan was doing from his grandmother or others - but didn’t see much of him as he graduated high school and started working.

He was just 22 years old when he made that horrible decision - - - the one that ended his life. I had heard how he was working detailing and painting cars, and had even started working for some racing teams. On this particular night, he was out with some friends playing pool and doing what young 22 years olds do. He hadn’t been drinking too much - as he was driving. He had just gotten the brand new mustang for his birthday - and so they all got in the car to go home. He wanted to get there in time to get enough sleep, so that he could get to work early the next day. He knew he drove a little too fast - the number of tickets he had gotten proved it. So when he heard the siren - he decided he really couldn’t afford to get another ticket. This time, he might lose his license - and then what would he do?

That night, I will remember forever! He didn’t quite outrun the police. All his friends walked away from the car - everyone but Jonathan. He didn’t have a mark on his face - as his blonde hair and boyish face lay in the casket. We all had so many questions - - - Why? How? If only . . .

Choices of life and death - we all face them . . .

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; (Psalm 23: 4)

Many, many years ago; I found myself facing my own choices - choices of how to deal with heartaches and pain. I had known they were there - but had never really looked at why things hurt so badly. I knew that God was with me - but it didn’t stop my heart from wanting to die. In the middle of my pain - I couldn’t see clearly - couldn’t see the friends that cared - - - I couldn’t see anything! I only “felt” the losses. So when I finally decided that I couldn’t stand feeling this way any more - I followed the feelings. I had two beautiful little children at home, and still I believed it would be better if I didn’t live any longer. It was as if the abuse that had come at me over so many years - was all I could envision for the rest of my life.

I still remember being in a blur - and convincing myself that the children would be better off without me. After all, I hadn’t been such a great mother - and someone else could do a better job. Everything was swirling out of control - and I felt like I had no other choice . . .

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
(Psalm 27: 1)

Somewhere deep inside - I must have wanted to live. It was cold outside, but I had gone to a park where there was a brook and pond, and I remembered as being beautiful. The park was empty, that is, except for me. I started walking, looking at how beautiful the water was, flowing over the rocks and branches. And then I found the concession stand - with a phone next to it. When I picked it up, it was working. I called two people - my husband and my friend. And then I sat looking at the beauty surrounding me - screaming and crying for God to take my pain - to help me . . .

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters . . . He restores my soul . . .

I am so glad that I failed that day! But the truth is, I could have let the pain win! I could have let all the anger that had ever come at me - - - all that others had done to hurt me - win out in my life!

I remember being so surprised when my friends found me. And then I was angry! But they stayed with me - taking my hand - and listened to everything that had led me to this place. It wasn’t easy, but over the next few days I got help. I had friends and counselors, as well as others, praying - hoping - helping me to let go of the pain. It took time, but with help - I found God’s healing in my life.

A few weeks after all this had happened, I returned to that park. It still was cold and empty as I looked around at the place where I had run to - and finally been found! Then, I walked up to that phone. When I picked it up - it was dead. That’s when I realized what a true miracle that day was . . .

I did have to face the hurts that I caused my children, hoping they would forgive me - hoping they would be alright - hoping that I could make a difference in their lives - and help them face their own choices, their own troubles . . .

Bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins. (Psalm 25: 17 & 18)

Over the years, I’ve been there for others who have been just as lost and hurt. I’ve sat in kitchens and emergency rooms - listening and holding on to them - when they couldn’t hang on for themselves. You see - - - we all get hurt - and hurt others. All we can do is hope and pray that in those moments, we’ll let God in to help.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest . . .
(Mathew 11: 28)

God doesn’t promise that we won’t have troubles and hurts in our lives. But He does promise to walk with us through them. He does promise to bring healing and life where we have been hurt. What will your choices be? Will you call on Him - in times of sorrow - in times of trouble . . . He is always waiting - always!

I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him - as long as I live.

God bless you in this coming week ahead - this week leading up to Palm Sunday. It is a time to remember Jesus’ gift - His Choice . . . Of Life for you . . .

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Friday, March 11, 2005

Weekly Word for March 11 - 18, 2005

Weekly Word - March 11, 2005

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.
(Galatians 5:22)

Sometimes we get to see just a “glimmer” of who a person is - - - and sometimes we get to know their hearts and souls in a way that changes us forever . . .

The table was covered with pictures, of family and friends - smiling and laughing - preserving that moment in time forever. But one picture in particular drew my attention. It was of a young mother holding her baby. Her eyes told of such happiness - as she looked at the man behind the camera - her husband - my grandfather! It was a picture of my grandmother - my “Nana” - as we called her. She was holding her first baby - the little girl who would grow up to be my mother. Nana was always thin and small, and in the long dresses that were worn back in the early 30’s - she looked even smaller! Her dark hair was the same color as her baby’s hair - both shining in the sunlight - as she proudly showed her baby to the camera.

Holding that picture, I started to think back to who my “Nana” was - and the story of a life - that has since left this earth.

I knew my Nana and Grandpa as the people who came to visit us on special days - birthdays, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. They lived in the next town over - and we would visit there once in a while. As children, we loved to play at Nana’s house. She had this wonderful plastic table cloth - that was made just for us kids to color on. And her attic . . . Well that was the most wonderful place to play in! Especially for a little girl who loved to play house. Up in that attic, there were “real” baby things - crib, high chair, clothes - just a treasure of wonderful things to play with. It was here that I would spend my days - never wanting to leave - in my own imaginary world . . .

It wasn’t until I was older, that I wondered about all the baby furniture - and why it would be up there. After all, my mother was an only child . . .

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another . . . Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, . . .
(Romans 12: 10 & 12)

I was 14 when my grandfather died. He and my Nana had retired to Cape Cod only three years earlier - and on that particular week-end - we were all there to visit. He had been helping out at the local church, and he had come home for lunch. As he sat in the rocking chair - he looked so tired as my mother put a band-aid on the cut on his head. That moment is the last time I saw my grandfather - he died later that day - still helping at church. After the funeral, my mother decided that I could spend the summer living with my Nana - helping her so she wouldn’t be “alone”.

I have to admit, at first I wasn’t “happy” about the decision. I pleaded and begged for my mother to change her mind. After all - I had just begun a “life” at home - getting a part time job at the library - noticing boys from my home town! But my mother won out - and soon I was living with my Nana at the cape. It wasn’t very long though, before I was hearing her stories - and understanding a little bit more about this woman - who became so special to me . . .

Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance - proven character; and proven character - hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
(Romans 5: 4 & 5)

I always thought that my grandmother was an only child - until she told me about her little sister. Nana was 10 years old - when her little sister was outside playing. Her sister was only 5 - and she was playing on the side of the street. Nana told me how pretty her sister was - and healthy - until the next day when she got so very sick. Her grandmother knew medicine - and came to help - but her sister died anyways. Nana always wondered why it was that she had lived through the same sickness that took her little sister’s life. I have to admit - I don’t know why - but am so glad she did!

It wasn’t too long after Nana’s sister died - that her mother died. She was only 14 when her father started dating a lady that Nana didn’t like very much. When her father married the lady, Nana was told to leave the house - and she moved in with her grandmother. As Nana told me this story - I could hear the hurt in her voice as she told me about having to leave all her furniture - everything that was hers - she lost. So it wasn’t a surprise that when Nana fell in love - she and my grandfather (“Red” as everyone called him) eloped! They took two friends, and ran away to get married. Red and Grace (my Nana) were married in just their everyday clothes - in a simple five minute ceremony. The ring my grandpa gave Nana was small - having belonged to his own mother - with two little diamond chips he added on both sides. This is the ring that she loved the most - - - even after he gave her the “big” diamond years later!

Nana wanted babies - she wanted them so badly! But it wasn’t going to be easy for her. She lost quite a few - and started to believe that she wouldn’t be able to carry a baby. But her love of children was huge - and soon she took in foster kids. She took care of children that no one seemed to want- but her. And then she had my mother. Finally - a baby to hold! When I look at the picture - I see her happiness - her joy - at that little baby who was all hers.

Alice (my mother) wasn’t the only baby that Nana gave birth to! There were a few more miscarriages after my mother was born - and then she had “Baby Arthur”. Baby Arthur was born blue - with the chord wrapped tightly around his neck. When she took him home - she knew that he wasn’t like other babies. He was always sick, always having trouble breathing. In the two years he lived, he never learned to walk - or even to sit up alone. But Nana loved him! When she told me about the day he died - I could still feel her love for him - and her grief. She told me how he stopped breathing - and the doctor was called to the house. But he couldn’t do anything to save him. So then the undertaker was called. This was a man that they knew through their church - and so he came to the house to get the little boy who had just died. “When he came into the house - he didn’t bring a box or casket to take him away in - he just wrapped him up in a blanket - and carried him to the car” she told me. The love she felt for that baby was still as strong - so many years later . . .

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
(Mathew 5: 4)

She never had another child. Not because she didn’t love - but it just wasn’t to be. Soon after baby Arthur died - she had to have surgery - and never again would she be able to have a child. I asked her why she and grandpa never adopted - and she told me how wonderful a man my grandfather was - good and kind - loving and caring. But even though he cared for those other children - he wanted his babies to be his own. And so . . . My mother became an “only child”.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
(Mathew 5: 5 & 6)

Nana and I could talk about anything and everything - and we did. We talked about love and about hurts. She taught me about faith and trust in God, through the good times and the bad times. After that summer, it was to her that I would go with my troubles or fears. She always listened -always had a word of encouragement and hope.

When I think about my grandmother, I think about a person who had a gentle strength - she was quiet and understanding. She was always willing to listen - and to help. Her faith was unshakable - and it helped her through the toughest of times. She was someone I wanted to be like. She determined to stay in her home on the Cape. And so she lived there for another 25 years - alone - after my grandfather died. But it is that one summer - living there with her - that changed who I am forever! Her life and stories are the legacy she gave to me.

In purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love . . .
(2 Corinthians 6: 6)

Many will pass on from this earth leaving money and possessions behind for their children and grandchildren. But those with hearts that know how to love - to give - they pass on even more - - - they pass on faith and love. It is their legacy that changes lives forever. When I look at my own grandbabies - it is my hope that I will be able to give them some of what my grandmother gave to me - her faith and trust in God - her ability to love - her stories of living life . . .

What is your legacy? What will you give to those you love? It is my hope that you will have a faith and love - that endures - forever . . .

Love - bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things . . . Love never fails;
(1 Corinthians 13: 7 & 8)

God bless you in the coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Friday, March 04, 2005

Weekly Word for March 4 - 11, 2005

Weekly Word - March 4, 2005

Trust in the Lord, and do good; . . . Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37: 3a & 4)

It was going to be a “celebration” - a time to “honor” two people who had given of themselves to others. Both had donated time and money to their church as well as other organizations. So, as the preparations were happening all around, I heard these words: “They both deserve this - don’t you think?” and I wondered about that - about what we deserve . . .

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, . . . And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, . . .
(Psalm 37: 5 & 6a)

As the car sped along, the three of us wondered about the worry we saw on our father’s face. As the trees and houses sped by - we knew that something was wrong! Then we heard it, the police siren. We watched as my father talked to the officer, and then the officer wrote out the ticket. The rest of that day is a blur. That is, until much later when my mother heard about the ticket. “Didn’t you tell him that your mother was dieing?” she asked. My father looked down - shaking his head. “You shouldn’t have gotten this ticket” she said angrily. My father just looked away - the hurt filling his eyes - and all of his being. He hadn’t deserved to get that ticket - or the hurt he felt . . .

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, . . . (Psalm 37: 7)

“Sometimes I wish that I could hear the words thank you from others” she told me. “Just a simple thank you would be enough to make it worth all the work!” she continued on. And I thought about that - - - about getting what we deserve - - - and how so many times it doesn’t happen quite the way we hope . . .

Many years ago, I was babysitting. I started out watching their first child - a little girl. She was just 6 weeks old when I first started to take care of her. Her family was struggling to make ends meet - and so I filled in the gaps wherever I could. Jen and I became this little one’s second family - keeping her overnight whenever her mom needed help. As poor as we were - the house was full of laughter and joy! There was always games and singing - and I knew that this little girl was growing and learning good things in our home. Then her mom told me that she was having another baby. As we prepared for this second child - her mom and dad found themselves a better place to live - and better jobs. And then their son was born. With two little ones to watch - somehow things became more and more difficult. I had gotten very sick - but I still wanted to help out - I wanted to continue caring for both children. But things had changed - - - and I was no longer needed.

When I heard the stories - stories of the family complaining about me - stories that weren’t true - - - I became so angry! I knew that I had given good things to the babies. I knew that I hadn’t gotten enough money to even cover the groceries and diapers I bought each week for them. But it didn’t matter! I wanted to scream it from the hilltops - to tell everyone I saw - the truth! I had worked hard to help out - doing what I thought was a good thing! I deserved much more . . . I should have been given thanks - given honor - but . . .

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
(Mathew 6:1)

We all want to be “rewarded” for the good things we do - but it doesn’t always happen the way we think it should. Like so many others, I found myself struggling with how I felt. But then the Lord gave me a dream:

In the dream I saw myself just doing my job - cleaning, washing floors, doing things that were simple. As I worked, there were very important people all around. I knew they were much more important than I was! They were leaders, and they were collecting money to help others. They came to me and asked me to donate - telling me how important their work was - and I knew it was the truth. But I also knew that I didn’t have much money. So I told them that I had already given, but they didn’t believe me! Just then - the doorbell rang. When I answered it, I found a boy standing there - holding a scroll. He unrolled it and started to read. In front of all those important people, he read off what I had given. It was much more than anything I could have ever imagined! And then - looking at the others in the room - he said I would be rewarded for all I had done. Everyone in the room was shocked - including me! Then I woke up . . .

“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing - that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
(Mathew 6: 3 & 4)

I have told about my friend Norma - who has since passed on to be with the Lord. She worked very hard, for many years, in a ministry to young girls who were facing crisis pregnancies. Over the years, she developed classes for pregnant and new mothers. She worked with the towns in the area - helping these young mothers to go back to school - to help their families to become healthier and stronger. Then, Norma became very sick. She continued to work with the ministry - for as long as she could. As she became sicker - the time came when she couldn’t work at the center any longer. Then one day, when I went to visit her at home, she told me about a dream she had. In the dream, she saw a large trophy - that she knew she had won. The trophy was huge - bigger than a building! In the dream - she wondered why she had won it. And then she heard: “For all you have done - helping My little ones” . . .

During her life, Norma never won any awards for the work she did here on earth. As I sat with her that day - we talked about all that she hoped would happen with the ministry. She hoped that the classes she started would continue - - - that the girls would become strong and healthy, and become good mothers for their children. She hoped that somehow she had made a difference in some of these families’ lives.

The ministry that Norma helped to start - has changed a lot since her death. It has moved a few times - and become very different from when she was there. Did she make a difference? I believe she changed lives - including mine - forever!

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
(Mathew 6: 20 & 21)

Treasures in heaven . . . I know that Norma found her “treasure” - her trophy - there in Heaven . . .

As for the two who would be honored soon - - - did they deserve it? I don’t know. But I do know that God knows exactly what we deserve - and where our hearts are. There have been times when I know that I didn’t deserve something - good or bad - and still . . . It is what I got. I was divorced, angry, and hurt - - - not knowing if I could ever love again! Somehow though, God must have seen my heart - and known something that I didn’t. Because He gave me the life I now have - with Ted. Did I deserve it? I don’t know - but I thank Him every day - for the gift . . . .

“For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel: 16: 7)

For where your treasure is . . . There will your heart be also . . .

Where is your treasure? Will you look to the Lord - giving Him all that you do - every day? In that simple gift - He will reward you - with more than you can ever imagine! His rewards are better than anything we can give to ourselves!

God bless you in this coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers