Monday, August 9, 2010

The Promise Land

Exodus 6:5-8

(5) Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. (6) “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. (7) I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. (8) And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”

LORD, I thank You that You have heard my cry, You have seen my tears, and You know the desires of my heart. I am but dust; never the less You care enough to listen. I thank You that You have remember my helpless estate and provide a way of escape, a way to victory.

LORD, I thank You that You remembered Your covenant. I thank You that it was based only on Your Word and Your promise. I thank You that it does not depend on my actions, my righteousness, or my promises for I could never keep them. I could never earn Your love.

LORD, I thank You that You bring us out from under the yoke of sin. Its curses have weight me down and drain my life. Sin’s lies speak of a future, but steal all hope. As long as I am its slave, I am not free to fellowship with Thee and I am cut off from Your presences, Your blessing, Your righteousness, or Your holiness.

LORD, I thank You that it is You that sets us free from sin. On my own, I could never be good enough, I could never do enough good deeds, nor could I love enough to forgive others or myself. I thank you for breaking the chains that bind our lives. You remove the shackle of sin that keep us trapped in the past, that tell us we are defeated, and have only more sorrows ahead.

LORD, I thank You that You redeem us with outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. Sin left a gaping hole in our soul, which cries out for loved. Yet, its acts demanded that we be found guilty, deserving of death. It created a chasm so wide we could not get back to You. You opened up Your arm on the cross and said, “This is Love,” although we had done nothing to deserve it, You choose to bare our debt. You set before us a priceless gift, that You only required we open. I fall at the foot of that cross and underneath Your blood and cry, “I love You.”

LORD, I thank You that You take me as Your own. Your grace and mercy cover me for I have no justification to be called a child of the Most High and Holy God. That You would give to me the assess of Jesus to come before You, the protection of angels, the power of the Holy Spirit, or the right to say, “Daddy” is more that I can comprehend. You are a good Father, giving good gifts, abundant blessings, and never-ending love.

LORD, I thank You that You are will to be my God and accept my worship. I freely offer You praise and honor. You are unlike any other gods for You alone are living, ever faithful, ever true and never changing. You spoke and created the worlds and heavens. You breathe life in to clay, and brought healing to our body, mind, and souls. You bring kings to power or fall at Your whim. You conquered death and hell. Your power has not diminished.

LORD, I thank You that You have brought me into a promise land of milk and honey. I thank You that You have given it to me as my possession. I thank You that You have given me a hope and a future. My eyes have yet to see it, but it is done none the less for You have sworn that it will come to pass.

I see the giants, curses, and strongholds before me but know that You are with me, and nothing is impossible for You. I struggle to be free from the fear and doubts that blow across my mind, but my feet are planted in Your Word and in Your promises and so I stand in faith. I fall down, but Your Spirit lifts up my hands in worship. My heart still trusts the heart of one that beats within it even if it cannot yet see His hand of provision. Until that time, Your grace is sufficient for the trails. You are only refining and purifying my heart. The results will justify the means.

Kathy Barnes

He Touched Me!

An old silver hair woman stood singing in a church choir, “He touched me.” Her heart was joyful as she offered up her hands in praise and thank to God. She could not carry the tune perfectly, but her soul sang. Her thoughts however, drifted back to a different time.

When she had been twelve, a teacher had given her a children’s Bible storybook. She had read it at night so her mother would not take it away. Under the cabinet, she had found more Bible stories on records; she listened to them when no one was around. A few times, she had slipped off to church, but her mother’s attempt to cleanse her with scalding water when she got back discouraged her. She had been looking for God, but He found her the day she could not live without him.

The day had started like most. She had gone to take the trash out. The metal can was heavy, and a torn piece cut her leg causing her to dump the trash in the yard. Her mother thought she did it on purpose and nagged her father into spanking her. The belt left a v shaped marks that covered her body completely from head to toe. She had tried to hide the bruise but had cried all the way to school and was sent home. Upon seeing her, Mom said, “No, you don’t. She can’t stay here. Take her to the woods and dump her off, or killer I don’t care. It would have been better if she were never born, she can’t do anything right, and is utterly worthless.” The dad then took her back to school and dumped her.

Later that day she came home and started dishes. The mom still being mad, that she was there; dumped honey, flour and the dirt from a flowerpot across the ones she had just washed and stormed. The girl being upset and distracted cut her hand on a knife. She was having trouble stopping the bleeding and thought if I don’t, it will kill me. It was followed shortly by thought, but that would solve many problems.

As she put the knife to her throat, she said a silent prayer. “God of Abraham, Jacob, and David I not sure if you even still exist. I have heard stories of old, and they are beautiful. If this, Jesus, that loves everyone is; I would like to met him one day. Could He love me too? I don’t know if we get to pick heaven or hell. I would choose heaven, but hell can be worst than this. I am not sure you could let me in. Heaven is said, to be perfect and I am not. I might mess it up.”

She took a deep breath and started the knife down. Something blocked her hands. A loud thunderous voice came from inside her head. “Thou shall not kill.” Taken back by it she found herself feeling hurt, and tried to explain that she would never hurt another person, or even one of the animals, that they were precious; because He had made them. She was only taking her own life and it was unimportant. Picking up the knife, she again put it to her throat. “Thou shall not kill, You!” roared like a mighty river, its power knocking her to the ground, and leaving her frozen in fear. If the anger had been directed at her, she would have perished. Her mother came back into the room, and seeing all the blood started yelling for her to clean it up. She responded without thinking.

Jesus, had found her that day. It was not the normal prayer of salvation, but then when had her life ever been normal. Strangely, she had been mad at Him for years for He had not let her die or taken her out of the situation. It had taken time for her to learn that He was there holding her hand, that He was planning some way to turn even this evil to good. At times, it was still hard for her to remember that He loved her, and considers her precious. But, as she stood singing, she was remembering all the times His healing touch had changed her and was still making her whole. She no longer had to ask if He was still alive, for she had met Him, she knew, and she would never be the same again.

Kathy Barnes

The Reunion

The honor guest would soon arrive and all the acquaintances were starting to gather for the event at least a thousand. Each waited to extol accolades and thanks for what she had done. Some were old, and some were young, some were well known, some not, and some had never directly meet her but each life had been touch in some special way by her. Each had a story to tell.

You are responsible for me having a new heart and living to see my grandbabies. Your love allowed me to be healed and I got see my kids grow up and spend ten more years with my wife. You see when our doctor was a teenager his parents fell and you helped provide care and food for him and his younger sister that had been born on crack. Without your help and other like you, he would have never become a doctor.

A preacher waited to present all the lives that had been touched because she had first touched him. He had accused her of blaspheme because she spoke of God as a real and living person. But an angel had directed his path to a 12 step where she had introduce him to God instead of offering up more rituals.

A group of happy carefree teenagers, waited to sit and swap stories of all the good things God had done in their life since last they talked. The first a beautiful blond girl strong and athletic, now that she was free from the cancer, was waiting to hug the woman that had been her second mother to her. A tall strong young man stood where once a thin child had sat crying on her porch because he was hungry and begging for food. A group of African children that had never seen her but had learned of God through the mission books sat waiting. Because of her offerings, a group of Russian children that learned of God from the airwaves sat next to them. A couple of the kids from her Sunday school sat next to her ready to tell her the rest of the story.

A once blind Chinese man, his family, and friends waited off to one side. Along with the Braille text books she had sent after her husband had read them she had send a copy of the Bible on tape and a few dollars to supplement the two dollars a day the government expected him to buy food, clothing, and shelter with.

A few old women and men, and a couple of younger adults also stood ready to congratulate her on the hard work and bruises she had received falling down the stairs during a passion play. She had given the tickets, help act out Jesus life, and open up their eyes to more important things than money, and fame. Now they waited to share with her all the beauty, glory, and love she had not been able to convey.

A large crowd of old friends was visiting sharing all the prayers that she had sent up for them and their families over the years. Each had long rolls of paper with the dates she had been prayed for them and the dates they had been answered in their hands.

A group of seniors stood with bowls of fruit and songs in their hearts. They remembered when she had come to a nursing home and sang hymns of praise for them. They were grateful for the example of God love. They had needed to know, that they were not forgotten.

An old Jewish couple offer up wine and bread to her. Just as she had once sent through an outreach a care box that let them celebrate Hanukkah, in a distant land.

The list of those waiting continued, for she had touched more than she knew. The moment before she crossed back over to home, she had thought herself a failure, not making a difference. Now at the end of the line she saw the face of one waiting to tell her, “Well done.” She was surprised at the lives she had touched, but wondered just how many she had missed. She cried a tear for them. The Master touched her face and wiped it dry. “You are not my only servant.”

Kathy Barnes

Death, Heaven and Hell

Death comes for us all no matter what our state.

It comes for:
The rich and for the poor.
The old and for the young.
The strong and for the weak.
The wise and for the simple.
The celebrities and the nobodies.
The righteous and the unrighteous.
For those who are prepared and for those who are not expecting it.

Death comes to all men equally, and no one can escape its grasp.

In the twinkling of an eye, I find myself no longer journeying in this world. Rather, I am in a strange and heavenly place filled with awe and splendor. My body is no longer sick and dying, but healthy and strong.

There is no sun, yet it is brighter than the brightest day on Earth; the light reflects off of every nook and cranny. The clouds once above my head are now beneath my feet.

The air is overflowing with music, and the sounds bring joy to my heart. I hear harps, violins, cymbals, and a million voices more beautiful than you can imagine and in perfect harmony. The result is a symphony beyond words. There are a thousand never-ending songs of praise, yet united as one skillfully-woven tapestry.

The streets are made of gold with a thousand feet dancing joyfully upon them. The buildings are grand, each one a mansion lovely to behold. They shine and shimmer brighter than any sparking diamond radiating rainbows of light in every direction. Wonderful marble and flawless pearl towers are everywhere.

Gardens are filled with beauty with a riot of color exploding everywhere, yet somehow balanced and dancing in the light. The grass is as green as emeralds, a lush blanket begging one to lie down and rest. A gentle stream gurgles and laughs as it travels on its way. The exotic smells fills my being with a sense of pleasure. No perfume made by man was ever as sweet as this, a pure delight.

The birds sing their songs of love while butterflies dance carelessly across the sky. The lion and the lamb sleep peacefully together, curled up tightly beneath the shade of the mighty cedars.

Time itself seems to stand still and peace is everywhere. Each day of exploring will be as exciting as the first.

I can feel a love here that I have never experienced before. It is as if He knows everything I have ever done, yet somehow still accepts me. A love that started before I was born and traveled across time. It saw my faults and failures but remained faithful and true. It wooed me as a groom longing for His bride, willing even to lay down His life for me. Such comfort, peace, and joy that I could never before have thought possible. It is as if the arms of everyone that I had ever loved are holding me tight.

Again, in the twinkling of an eye, I stand before a great white throne. Angels stand guard around it crying "Holy, Holy, Holy." The power it holds is unimaginable. A light so pure and innocent shines forth, and I can not bear to look at it.

I see myself as I truly am: unclean, contaminated, tainted, and containing no good thing. I fall to my face and shake in fear and dread. I am now aware of who He is and who I am. I feel every ounce of strength leave my body. I stand in court before my Judge and Maker. An angel eases me to my knees, and I bow before the King and confess His name. He shows me everything that I have ever done wrong including the white lies and the not-so-white ones, the cross words I had spoken, the pain I had caused others, the things I had stolen, the things I had taken for granted, the lust that had filled my body, the evil thoughts that filled my mind, the times I denied Him and turned the other way. I watch in horror to know that each sin, and the reason behind it, had been seen and recorded.

The trial seems to go on forever and I sink lower with each and every charge. When, finally, the last charge is read, He asks me how I plead. There is nothing that I can say. The excuses I had believed at the time seem so lame - even to me: "I'll do it later. It cost too much. It is not hurting anyone. Everyone is doing it. My way is just as good as anyone else's. It's only a little sin. No one will ever know. I am just as good as they are. No loving God would send anyone to Hell." But I remain silent because I know they are lies. He and the elders declare me guilty of sin. He pronounces the only sentence He can. Death and Hell.

Then comes a cry from the angel Gabriel. "Wait! Look in the Book of Life and see if there is a pardon there for her." "Please. Let it be there," I beg.
He looks once. He looks twice. But my name is not to be found. Christ looks upon His hand and my name is not written there either.

The name I had so many times spoken in vain, I now wish that I could claim. I had never taken it into my heart. I beg for mercy, for I know it is my only hope. He says it is too late; the time has come and gone. He shows me all of the times He spoke, the times He called to me. The times I saw His Holy Word that I failed to believe. He shows all the people He has sent to tell me about Him. People I had turned away. He shows me all the ones who knew Him, but turned away and never spoke one word to me. Lastly, He shows me when I knew that He was true, but turned my back to Him. Then He says, "Away with you, for sin cannot abide with me."

In the twinkling of an eye I find myself being dragged down to a fiery lake by two giant angels and thrown into a black abyss created for Satan himself along with the minor demons of fear, pain, hate, wickedness, murder, rape, battery, bitterness, unforgiveness, envy, selfishness, bigotry, prejudice and pride.

Darkness is everywhere - like a night with no moon or stars. Discordant sounds accost my ears, a cacophony of men and demons crying out in pain, and torment. Weeping and the gnashing of teeth are heard from all directions. The stench of smoke fills my nostrils with a caustic foul sulfurous smell. The super-heated smoke burns my throat and lungs, searing and cooking my flesh from the inside. I choke and fight for a breath of good air, but there is none. Each and every breath is pure agony.

My parched, dry tongue and cracked lips beg for liquid. The lake consumes every drop of moisture, and my body calls out for just one drop to lessen the pain of the fire that burns within.

I hear myself screaming as the nerves in my body pulse with horrendous, excruciating pain. I watch as my flesh melts before my eyes. I am on fire, but will never be consumed. There is fighting and jostling from one being to the next. All are hoping to find a way to relieve the torture, if only for a moment.

Again, time is frozen. But this time I beg for it to end. This place was not made for me, but I chose to come. I look above and can see the dimly lit reality of what could have been. A great barrier that allows only entry prevents my attempt to cross the chasm that separates me from God.

"If I had only" and "The choice was yours" never stop repeating. A thousand regrets fill my mind. As I beg for nonexistence, memories torment my soul. I long now for the one thing that I can never have - just one moment to sit at the feet of Jesus Christ and rest in His love so sweet, so good and so kind.

Why didn't I listen? Why did I refuse His gift? If I could only turn back the hands of time, I would gladly pay any price for it. Oh, to never see His face again, to never look into that heart so filled with love, that is too much to bear. Forever separated from Him by this place with no hope of rescue. I go on in despair, each moment worse than the last, knowing that it will never end.

Look! There come the angels with another soul. No! Go back! You will not like it here. Run before it's too late! Don’t join us here!

rewrite 8-9-10

Monday, July 5, 2010

I see

I see the stars hanging high above me extending unto ends of time
And I know that is how much more God’s thought’s are above mine.
I see the flowers of the valley painted lovingly by Your brush
They have beauty and awesome wonder enough to make anyone blush.
I see volcano rise up full of great power and unstoppable might
And I stand in awe that by the power of Your word You made the night.
I see all the plants and animals that with love you wove together
Each one prized, different, special and unique unlike any other.
I see life so abundant and free playing a game of tag among the reefs
And I know that You want me to be joyful and free of all grieves.
I see the many grains of sand stretched across the ocean floor
And I am aware just how many blessing you would lay at my door.
I see the magnificent mountain tall and proud lift their eyes to You
And fall down to the valley bowing in shame before the glory of You.
I see the angels worshiping before the light of Your righteousness
And I can’t begin to comprehend Your glory and Your holiness.
I see the brilliant sunrise and dance against the sky calling a new day.
It calls to us to look up toward heaven as if saying this is the way.
I see the nails that pierced and old rugged cross upon a lonely hill
And there they stuck the heart and hand of the one who paid my bill.
But for the life of me I cannot see why you would love one such as me.
Knowing full well that I and I alone deserved to be upon that tree.
I see love spilled out beyond my wildest dreams, and all reason
And for that, I will forever love you no matter what the season.

Kathy Barnes

The Widow and the Oil

Knock. Knock. Excuse me I need to borrow a pot. Acutely all you have that you can spare. I promise I will return them. No I can’t explain why, I am not sure I fully understand that myself. Please, have mercy on me. You know my husband died yesterday. Maybe I am still crazy with grieve; maybe I am so desperate that I will try anything. I beg of you loan me all your extra vessels.
This is how I spend my day, repeating this conversation with any one that would listen and like them wondering if I have lost my mind. My husband had been a good man, a Godly man, a prophet and faithful servant; but he had died suddenly and left me in debt. The creditor had come and told me that if I did not pay all by the end of the week he would take my two sons for slaves and throw me out on the streets. My boys were young not even twelve and I had no way to make a living. I did not know how I could afford to feed them, even if he did not take them. So, I sat crying by the grave.
I had not known what to do. I saw Elisha, God’s prophet, under which my husband had served, walking toward me and I beg him to intercede for me to God. He had asked me what I had and I told him only a little oil. He had told me to get every pot I could. My boys and I had spent the day gathering pots and clean them. My house was now full of pots. Everywhere you looked, there were pots. There were even pots on top of pots.
Now just as he said I closed the door and windows. I said one last prayer that God would see my need and answer me. Then I took down the jar that held maybe a cup of oil and I began to pour. A miracle took place for that jar just keep pouring. My son brought me first one pot and then another. So we continue for hours, until at last every pot was filled. I thank God. I went back to Elisha and told him what had happen. He told me to go and sell the oil.
My son and I loaded up the wagon and lugged one load after another into town to sell. The dealer said it was the purest oil he had ever seen. When we had finished I had enough money to pay my debt and seven years wages. My boys would be men by then and could make their own living and take care of me. God had had mercy on me and heard my cry. (2 Kings 4:1-7)

So often in our darkest most painful moments someone comes along and places one more burden on us and we feel we have reach our last straw. As we sit crying, God comes walking by looking for us. Maybe the husband has walked out on his wife and left kids with no support. Maybe the wife died at childbirth and the father has been left to raise a baby alone. Maybe the business venture that one has sunk their life saving into falls apart and the bank account is empty. Maybe the doctor’s bills leave one looking at bankrupts as the only way out. God asks us what we have, be it a dollar, a talent, a prayer, a hope, an idea, or a strong back then he said let me use that to multiply my blessing in your life. We may not be able to see the end when we start, but have to step out in faith. Others may think that we are crazy and lost our mind, and we may not be so sure we have not ourselves, but if we listen to God word and pour out that first drop of oil He will met us where we are and bless us because He loves us. Never will He leave us alone to deal with things on our own, if we will but ask for His help.

Kathy Barnes

Let Freedom Ring

America, happy birthday land of the free.
Let the liberty bell ring out once more her song.
Statue of Liberty lift high your light for all to see.
Stars and stripes wave your colors long and strong.

Freedom, oh so dear, was purchased with soldiers blood.
So precious was it, that many a brave man laid down his life for it.
The writers of the constitution gave this nation a chance to bud.
With prayer and supplication they lit this nations blessed light.

The Ten Commandments taught us right from wrong.
Schools were started to teach us how to read God’s Word.
Congress printed the first Bible in America before too long.
Jefferson led the nation in prayer to the one true Lord.

America called to the huddle masses to come and enjoy its bounty.
Basic on freedom to worship God, all were welcome to come.
Because we trusted in God, this land of grow into a nation of plenty.
Persecuted people from around the world traveled here to call this home.

Our founder’s wisdom enabled our nation rise to a great power.
We developed and economy that made us the breadbasket of the world.
Hard workers and manufacturing industry let us rise to the hour.
We stood as a beacon to the nations and freedom was unfurled.

This nation stood tall and was respected and honored.
But we forgot the origins from which we came.
And now our leaders serve with lies and great dishonored
Looking only to add to their glory and their fame.

We still have the power to fall down on our knees
We still have the right to vote our convictions.
We still have the freedom to rid our land of this disease.
We still need to return to God all our praise and affections.

Before more towers fall and virus are release across the land,
Before the debt and taxes rise, reach heaven door,
Before the dollar falls below the charts and we are all canned,
Before greed and corruption ruins the oceans floor,

Before Fannie May and Freddy Mac take us under,
Before waiting to see, a doctor and the price of medicine kills us,
Before for any more economic blunders led us asunder,
Before our voices of reason can no longer be express,

We have a duty to those who fought and died
To honor the sacrifices they made for freedom.
We have an obligation to remember we are on God’s side.
For any other side is just plain dumb.

Kathy Barnes