Control, Faith, grace, Insecurity, Restoration, Sanctification, Surrender, Trust

Neon Signs

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and

He will make your paths straight.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Neon signs, although effective, annoy me because I can’t ignore them. They are the sign equivalent of yard gnomes. You don’t want to look at them but you can’t help yourself. Throughout my life I have encountered God placed, in your face, neon signs. It always means He’s leading me into some kind of change which is usually painful.

The most recent God placed neon sign I’ve noticed is Proverbs 3:5-6. First, I saw it during a Bible study on Proverbs. Then, I heard it during a message on the radio. Finally, I heard it again before a worship song at church. And, just this week, I read it in a friend’s blog. Unable to ignore the neon signs, I opened my Bible and read…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Proverbs 3:5a

What came to mind was an incident that happened when I was eight years old. My father bought a small motorcycle and wanted me to ride it. He set me on the seat and then he hopped on the back and told me to take off.

Scared out of my little mind I shouted, “I can’t do it! You’re too heavy!”

He laughed confidently and said, “It’ll be fine. Let’s go!”

I took off but we immediately crashed (just like I knew we would). The motorcycle fell on my left leg so my father, worried that I would get burned, thrust his hand under the bike to free my tiny limb, slicing his palm in the process. I was fine but my dad wasn’t. I felt responsible.  When I went inside the house to check on him I saw my mom in full R.N. mode cleaning his wound. At the time I didn’t know how bad the wound was.

“What happened?” I asked.

Smiling he said, “Look what you did,” as he showed me the bloody flap of skin on the palm of his hand.

That hurt. I still cannot look at any bloody wound without feeling sick. In hindsight I know my dad was being sarcastic, perhaps trying to lighten the mood, but my little girl heart was broken. I felt betrayed. My father, who was supposed to protect me, was blaming me! What I learned that day made a life-long, therapy worthy, impact.  Because I listened to my dad I was physically and emotionally hurt. Therefore, I cannot trust my father.

I know many of you, if not all, have wounds too. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. What matters is the message we perceived. The neon signs at that time in my life said, “If bad things happen it’s all your fault” and “I can’t trust anyone to listen to me or take care of me so I have to protect myself.” Because of this, it is not natural for me to trust anyone. Of course, I trust God with all my head but not with all my heart. I naturally lean on my own understanding and acknowledge Him when I run out of ideas or hope. Then I get confused when His will or path is not clear.

Unfortunately, because of my experience, I still feel deep, deep, deep down inside that I have to protect myself above all else. At some point in my childhood this became my mission — self-preservation. I didn’t get it from the Bible. (Stop looking, it’s not there.) On the contrary, Jesus tells us that we are to die to ourselves. Matthew 10:39 says, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”

Ironically, loss is what I’m trying to avoid. I think of Churchill’s speech when he said, “We will never SURRENDER!” Surrender. The one word that came to mind when I read this verse along with Psalm 3:5-6. Trusting the Lord is giving yourself over to Him like a bride gives herself to her husband. It is a willing love offering that acknowledges His death on my behalf because He first loved me and “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

Have I surrendered my heart to God in a way that allows me to always be of one heart and mind with the only One who loves me perfectly? Hardly! But God is pursuing me to this end. I am so thankful for His persistence and faithfulness.

Have I unintentionally sent similar messages to my own children? Yes! I pray for God to heal their hearts and redeem the pain, using it to help others as they learn to trust God’s perfect love even though mine was far from perfect. I pray this prayer because that is what God has done for me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Commitment, Faith, Obedience, Perseverance, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Chomp Chomp

“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!” Psalm 20:5

Recently, my husband and I spent the weekend in Gainesville, Florida visiting our oldest son, Sean.  On Saturday we made our way to the UF football game. Traveling by foot through campus in the human current of orange and blue we passed some professional tail-“Gators” anticipating the sure victory over Colorado.  However, the majority of fans were, like us, eagerly speed-walking to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, nick-named “The Swamp.” It was the second hottest (and I’m guessing the most humid) game-day on record for the Gators. Regardless, we all rose up the ramp in ant-like procession. Everyone was so excited — joyful even — as they took their seats.  Although fans (literal paper fans) were waving, no one complained about the heat. Apparently Gators don’t sweat.

Soon, the band played and everyone cheered as the team streamed onto the field. Then it happened. Thousands of arms lifted, right over left, elbows locked, and moved up and down, like an alligator’s mouth. At the same time ninety-thousand voices shouted,”Go Gators!” Go Gator’s is their battle cry but there is something about this chomp, chomp motion that motivates both fan and player. It gives them a sense of belonging — a confidence because they know they are part of a winning team. And (chomp, chomp) they wanted their opponents to know it.

Wow! This kind of community is inspiring! I’m not even a football fan and I enjoyed it. However, this experience made me question my own approach to the spiritual battle we find ourselves in as Christians. We too are a part of a winning team. However, we are not always excited to gather together. And even though we have the best quarterback, coach and manager in the universe we don’t always trust Their judgement. We may have a rag-tag team but because of Jesus – because he resides in us – we are victors! What is our intimidating war cry? “Jesus lives!” and our motto, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37. What is our uniform? “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience Colossians 3:12.

Do I believe Jesus has secured the victory? Do I act like it? Do I confidently endure all things by faith? Struggles, like conflict, pain, heat and injury, are expected by the football player. But, he doesn’t overcome these obstacles alone. He stands on that battlefield as part of a unit. We too are part of an enormous community. The “great cloud of witnesses” cheer us on because they already know the outcome.  The individual Christian is encouraged while doing his part as the sure victory unfolds because God provides us with a team called the Church. Instead of The Swamp we have The Sanctuary and instead of a war cry we have praise. Instead of tailgating we have fellowship and instead of a winning season we have salvation by grace, through faith in our leader, Jesus Christ. So, this Sunday put on your game shirt and cheer on your “team” while raising your hands and shouting with joy! Chomp, chomp!

“For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” Psalm 18:39

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

Anxiety, Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Patience, Pride, Trust, Worry

Waiting

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.”  

Psalm 25:4-5

 

Although waiting is defined as “The act of remaining inactive or stationary it seems it takes more energy to wait upon the Lord than it does to jump ahead of Him and do what we think He wants us to do.  Right now, my husband and I are experiencing a time of waiting and it’s hard. At times I feel like a little kid holding my breath, about to burst with anticipation. It isn’t a matter of doubting God’s goodness or faithfulness but it is a matter of not trusting His timing. As we wait I feel restless and sometimes anxiety rises as I think about the options before us, including all the possible outcomes. I find myself wanting to do something, anything to make me feel like there is progress being made. But, the Bible says to wait upon the Lord. The problem comes when I focus on the next step rather than on the relationship. In all things God draws us to Himself. In waiting He is asking for us to trust His love. He is asking us, as our Heavenly Father, to believe His plans are for our good.

However, right now I feel like I’m warming a bench at a bus stop. I’m not sure of the bus schedule but know it will come eventually because my father told me it would. But it’s been awhile and I’m starting to wonder if I heard correctly, so I call Him.

“Hey, Dad, it’s me.”

“Hi sweetie! How are you?”

“I’m ok. Just sitting here waiting for the bus. It’s been twenty minutes. I was just wondering if I’m at the right stop.”

“Are you where I sent you?”

“Yessss!”

“Then you’re at the right stop. Is there anything else? You seem stressed.”

“No. I just think it’s taking too long. I was thinking of walking.”

“Just wait there. I’ll talk with you until the bus comes.”

“Ok. I’m kind of anxious about the trip anyway. I’ve never been there before. How do I know I’ll like it?”

“I understand. Doing something new is hard, but I wouldn’t send you someplace that wasn’t going to be good for you. And you can talk to me anytime. Just trust me.”

“I do. It’s just I don’t always feel good about it.”

“Just remember I love you. That’s it. I love you.”

“Okay Dad. I know. I love you too.”

Do you believe God is there, talking to you in the waiting? Many times, instead of talking to God I look for the next step. Something to “do” instead of spending time with Him in intimate conversation. Of course, sometimes it’s hard discerning between the vision and the timing. Like Abraham, God showed us a picture of what would glorify Him–what He wanted us to do by faith, and yet we do not have the green light. Instead of peacefully waiting on the bench God has provided, I feel like walking or hitch-hiking or maybe taking a scooter. I want to be set free to do what I want (for God of course) without any restraints. But God is not incompetent, nor does He procrastinate. The waiting period is a time of molding and testing and a time to cultivate intimacy with Him. Just like a wild horse is mastered in the coral, God pens us in for the refining process, keeping us close to Him as he works out the willful pride and self-reliance that I am so easily bent toward. I don’t like it–AT ALL! But, because of His love, I am willing.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3.

Anxiety, Faith, Trust, Unbelief

Irrevocable Trust

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

My father stood across the living room in his purple, cotton shirt. The ceiling of the Quonset hut curved behind his wavy, black hair.  His bleary eyes stared at my mother who was dark with anger. Sitting upright on the Naugahyde couch, she cradled my sister and me on either side of her.  I could feel her thin build stiffen next to me as she narrowed her eyes. There was vomit on the green, shag carpet from a guest who had passed out – the catalyst of the argument. Earlier that evening, the house was full of laughter as colorful people drank and talked in our living room.  Cigarette smoke swirled overhead while ice clinked in glasses and the reel-to-reel boomed songs by Sinatra and Martin. I was young. Four or five. Alcoholism was not in my vocabulary.

“We’re leaving!” my mother announced as she ushered us into the bedroom.

My sister was older by two-and-a-half years.  Her taller frame stood next to mine on the bed as my mother briskly tied our puffy kimono-like robes around our thin, tan frames.  My mother’s short, black hair did not move. Everything about her was efficient, clean, crisp. She was an R.N. and worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on base.

“You’re not leaving! I won’t let you!” my father said as he entered our bedroom.  The gun was obvious, but my mother didn’t flinch.

I loved my father. When he was sober and wearing his Air Force blues he seemed safe. But, I couldn’t trust him.  He was unpredictable. Scary. In my heart that night I vowed that I would never trust a man.

“Go ahead. Shoot us!” my mother blurted as she scooped us up and walked briskly outside before plopping us in the car.  We drove away to the sound of locusts screaming in the trees.

For many years this event, and others like it, colored my relationships, even my relationship with God. To cope with the instability I withdrew, surviving through a world of fantasy.  Fear defined my inner life. Fortunately, many years later, God revealed the vow I made as a little girl, “I will never trust a man.”  This vow was like a seed that germinated behaviors like self-protection and distrust, enabling me to shut myself – my real self – off from the world. But, God rescued me at the age of twenty-eight and brought me into a love relationship with Him that forced me to question my normal. Intimate relationships were terrifying, painful and not worth the effort. Eventually, through prayer and counseling, God revealed several deep-rooted lies that had been hiding in my heart for years.  The lies, like weeds, choked out the roses of security, love, patience and trust that God longed for me to experience. He spoke these tender words to me from Isaiah 43:1-3…

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”  

An unstable childhood is a reality for many of us. Like me, you may have struggled with reconciling the truth of your past with God’s character. When I was a young believer God’s personality was morphed together with my father’s.  It was a distortion; a Holy God I couldn’t trust. A God that may not be there when I need Him most.  A God who loved me but wasn’t always delighted in me. A God who would abandon me…someday, just like my father.  It took many years for me to see how I was dishonoring God with these lies. Fear and anxiety took over as I tried to protect myself and failed.  The pain crept in and I felt…abandoned. Forsaken. Betrayed.  In a pit of self-pity God showed me my sin saying, “I am not a man that I should lie. I am not your father.”

He is not my earthly father. He is trustworthy and always patient. He will not love me one minute and dismiss the next. He will not abandon me. He is Love. I can trust Him…irrevocably. It has taken many years of walking with God to come to a place of owning these truths. I still struggle with trusting men in general and have lapses where I forget I have a Godly husband who loves me. The trust struggle also continues with God as I recognize the familiar feelings of fear and anxiety in situations where I feel helpless. However, I have learned to accept these moments as gifts of reflection. No one likes to have their faults exposed (ouch) but God gives us the gift of a holy mirror, allowing us to see the smudges of sin on our faces.  Only then will we allow Him to gently wipe them clean with His blood.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Psalm 23:1-6, NIV

Control, Faith, Insecurity, Life, Obedience, Overwhelmed, Perseverance, Rebellion, Repentance, Trust

Soda Can Heels

“I will walk in freedom,
    for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”

Psalm 119:45 NLV

When I was a little girl living in Okinawa on Kadena Air Base, my sister and I would slip soda cans onto our heels and walk, clinking and clanking, down the hill. Pretending to be “grown-up” we endured hot asphalt on our toes, just so we could know the boost of adulthood.  We also felt free, even while the pinch of sharp aluminum pressed against our heels. Though we had fun pretending to be autonomous at the time, now I know that freedom is a powerful motivator, especially when it concerns parting from oppression.

Of course, war is proof of this.  As a child I was unaware of history and could not comprehend the horrors the Okinawan people witnessed during the occupation period, nor did I understand their fear of being pushed into the Vietnam War.  During one trip to the fish market we had to bring our German Shepherd, Bo, for protection. And, like fish in a bowl looking out on the world, we drove through a crowd of anti-war/anti-American protestors in our station wagon. They yelled; Bo barked; I stared. Hate and fear stared back. On the other side of their experience, I could not appreciate how they felt. They wanted their independence—their soda-can heels—so they could feel safe from China. But, what they needed was a freedom that only comes through surrender.  They needed God.

This reminds me that I need God too.  My freedom doesn’t come from something I do (like squish soda cans on my heels) but from who I am. Anger and protest will not bring me peace and no dog can protect me from the world. It is Christ’s blood on the doorpost of my heart and His Word applied by the Spirit that causes me to walk in freedom. That brings me to a confession.  Lately, as we are in a time of transition, I have found myself neglecting the fact that I need God. The time spent with the Lord has been microscopic compared to my “normal” and I have paid a steep price. Ironically, studying for Christian Ministry has been one of the main distractions along with moving, travel, serving and working out. Forgetting that blood was shed for my freedom, I have neglected God’s Word. Now, instead of walking in freedom I find myself taken by apathy and anxiety, fearful of the future and reaching for my soda cans.

Fortunately, God has a way of reminding me of the basics. “I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments” (Psalm 119:45, NLV). In other words, I will live a life free from spiritual oppression because I have spent time with the Lord and have been in His Word. Recently, Charles Stanley set me straight by challenging me (through the radio) to confess and repent the sin of neglect. He talked about how easy it is to drift away from God right into a prison of hard-heartedness and confusion. In a way I felt like that little girl in the back of the station wagon looking out on the ugly world as I clung to my dog who was not entirely safe at the time.

Oh, how I love our Father who speaks so tenderly to us, even when we run off. Perhaps He is not so safe either. He may still ask us to go to the fish market during war-time in a hostile setting.  But we will never be alone.  From now on leave your soda cans at home and walk with Him.

“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:20-23 (NIV)

Commitment, Faith, Love, Submission, Surrender, Trust

Brothers & Sisters

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:19-22

Reading Hebrews 10 is like drinking from a firehose.  Here Paul assures us that we can draw near to God with confidence because the Way was made possible through Christ’s death and resurrection.  We are no longer guilty but cleansed and washed by blood and water.  The Old Testament sacrificial system was a shadow of Christ’s atonement and could never take away sin.  But God, from before the foundation of the world, provided all we need for life and Godliness.  But, this promise was directed to a community of believers; a family of “brothers and sisters” in the faith, whom Paul assumed would read his letter as they gathered together as one body.

Therefore, we can conclude that community is an important part of our walk as believers.  Without it we are prone to the harsh elements of this world as well as single-minded interpretations or conclusions based on our own feelings and experiences.  To illustrate, this past January, after leaving a case of water in my car overnight in three-degree temperatures, I discovered that only two of the water bottles were frozen.  Only two out of  twenty-four froze because only two were separated from the rest.  They had somehow popped loose of the plastic wrapping and were leaning out of the casing, no longer touching the other bottles.  They froze because they lacked the insulation the “community” of water bottles offered. Disaffected, distanced and divided from the group, the water in the bottles hardened because they were vulnerable to the affects of the outside world just like the human heart.

In the same way,  we can become cold and hard hearted when separated from a community of “brothers and sisters.”  When our family first moved to New England from Oregon it took an entire year before I plugged in to a local church.  During that time I was angry with God and felt sorry for myself. “What were You thinking moving us across  the country without providing a church family?”  My heart was hardened to God’s timing and sovereignty.  However, not being connected to a community of believers allowed me to indulge in self-pity.  Eventually, my jaded attitude led to a divine spanking in the form of a Poison Ivy rash all over my body, my very first EVER sinus infection because, what do you know, I’m allergic to New England, and finally, walking pneumonia with chest-burning coughing spells during the worst winter in who knows how long that included a Nor’easter which dumped three-feet of snow in one day.  It does seem like God was trying to get my attention.

However, in God’s defense, He did provide a Mother’s of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group and a loving Christian neighbor.  Unfortunately, I was too distracted by my expectations to notice His provision and chose to pop out of the plastic wrapping and freeze.   Not only will I never forget this experience, I also share it with others in the event that they are tempted to “give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”  Whether you are planning to move, taking a second job or just don’t want to commit to being a part of a church, I beg you to pause and consider the consequences.  Don’t allow your heart to harden to God’s love for you which He demonstrated on the cross and is experienced through His church.  You were made for community to “spur one another on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23).   See you at church!

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Hebrews 10:23-25

Faith, Trust, Victory

That You May Know

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening.  And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.” 1 John 5:13-15 The Message

Is there someone in your life with whom you can be “bold and free” in their presence? Imagine that someone trying to put you at ease by saying, “Trust me, it’s going to be okay.” What would your response be?  Mine would probably be, “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that.”  But, it would honestly depend upon the level of trust I had in the person reassuring me.  That’s why, when it comes to salvation, eternity and Heaven I believe God wholeheartedly.  No, I don’t just believe, I KNOW without a doubt that it is really going to be okay.  The unity I have with Christ is secure, not because I say so but because I have experienced what God’s Word calls being “born again” (John 3).

However, I have experienced trust issues with people (mostly men) all of my life.   Because of abandonment and betrayal early in life I learned to question the intentions of others and protect my heart.  It is no fun assuming the worst of people, even nice people.  More than that, it is exhausting.  Fortunately, God has given me relationships that have redeemed the past and I am slowly learning to trust again.  Not long ago my husband helped with this process by wearing a name tag that read, “Your Godly husband who loves you,”  during a time when I was struggling with trust in our marriage.  Most of our life together my husband was not a believer but a few years prior to the name tag incident he had given his life to Christ and truly was a different person.  Our relationship had changed but I refused to relate to him as a Godly husband who would “never leave me or forsake me.”  Fortunately, one day my counselor said, “You are not secure in your own reality,”  and it struck me that I was not believing truth.  You see, even though it was true that Marty and I were married and he was loving I still responded to him the same as before.  Self-protection was a comforting habit that created a barrier in our relationship.  I was not free to approach my loving husband because I refused to believe it was true.  What more could he do to convince me? Nothing.  It was obviously true that there was nothing I could do to lose his love.  It was all in my mind.  I needed to step out of the looking glass by faith, into reality and relate to him based on the truth.  This was scary trust.  This is what God calls us to do with Him as well…trust.

In the same way, we can offend God by acting like He’s not trustworthy.  However, God would not give the free gift of eternal life and then take it back.  He  would not adopt a child and then disown him.  That does not line up with Scripture and it is not the heart of God to leave us in a state of uncertainty.  Now, there are those who may believe they are born again but have never confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).  These people would rightly question whether they were truly saved.  This is not, however, an indication of loss of salvation, rather it is an awareness of your separateness from the Spirit of God who is prompting you to respond to Christ’s invitation to believe on him.   If you do not experience intimacy with God in your Spirit then you can ask God to give you the faith you need to believe in Jesus, inviting Him to come into your life and take over as Savior and LORD.

But, for true believers, a consequence of uncertainty is insecurity.  John wrote 1 John 5 to ensure those who are God’s children that they have eternal life so their relationship with God would be one of freedom and trust.  Look closely at 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”  If we doubt our adoption into God’s family,  unsure where we stand, then we will not be so bold as to approach Him in prayer, asking anything in His name.  A very effective tactic of the enemy is to distract and deceive, convincing us that it is no use praying, relieving us of a very powerful offensive weapon in a very real spiritual battle.  For this reason, God desires a knowing deep in our hearts that we are His.  Only then will we be “bold and free” in his presence.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

Further reading: John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5; Hebrews 6:4-6

Gospel, Grief, Hope, Life, Overwhelmed, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

O Death!

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

My friend is hurting.  The sudden loss of her beloved husband of twenty-five years on May 5th, 2017 to complication from brain cancer has left a void that can only be filled by God’s grace. She and her five children are grieving his absence but know He is in the arms of Jesus.

I cannot stop the tears as I grieve with my friend and sister in Christ. We were roommates before we both got married. She made my wedding veil but now the veil of physical death separates her and her husband, David. Yet, she is not alone. She too is in the arms of Jesus.

There are no words of this world that bring comfort to those who are separated from people they love. The covenant words “till death do us part” ring in our minds because it happens…to other people. Standing at the altar we don’t believe we will be separated by death, at least not at fifty and not while raising children. But our gracious God knows the number of our days and the days of those we love.

Praise our victorious God that He has conquered sin and death!  Before it is too late, share Christ’s eternal love and plan of redemption with those God has placed in your life.

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I love you Julie.

Faith, Humility, Overwhelmed, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Look Up

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

Imagine a well-lit stadium full of enthusiastic believers before a Casting Crown’s concert. Now imagine a “no sense of direction” me trying to find my seat in a sea of people when finally, an usher brings me to “my” seat but in the wrong section.  I was overwhelmed and confused because my husband was not there and was texting, “Where are you?” when I thought I was in the right place.

“I’m lost,” I explained to a different usher, handing him my ticket.

“You’ll need to go all the way up the stairs and around to the next section,” he said, while handing the stub back to me.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because he immediately said, “I’ll take you,” and bounded up the steep stairway.

Just then the stadium went dark and, trying to follow him with two water bottles, my purse and my phone in my hands, I tripped on the concrete steps and fell, dropping the bottles and my pride somewhere in section N.  Disoriented and embarrassed, I looked up and saw the light.  The usher was holding his iPhone with the flashlight shining down the stairs so I could find my way up to him.  Just follow the light.  Walk in the light.  Thankfully, I arrived at my seat without further incident.

A bit shaken, It took me awhile to start enjoying the concert but the genuine love, patience and grace shown by the usher moved me.  This is God’s heart.  His light is always there for us to follow.  He waits patiently for us to get up when we fall.  He doesn’t make fun of us or even chastise us for looking stupid or being late or making a mistake. When we are confused He meets us in our confusion and orders our “steps.”

In many ways this experience had a profound effect, changing my way of thinking about walking in the light as well as living in a state of humility.  In the dark we cannot see and WILL have an accident, be disoriented and lose our way.  However, if there is light, any light, and we focus on it, it serves as a calibrating force in our hearts and minds, pulling us to safety.  Humility, though, is really a sense of selflessness where you find it easy to “look up” and follow God because you are consumed with neither pride nor shame, only Jesus, the Light of the World.

So, although I was embarrassed at first, when I looked up and saw the literal light I chose to follow it instead of hide in utter humiliation.  Now, to be honest, thoughts did swirl through my head like, “Everyone must think I’m drunk, or stupid or clumsy or…” but that kind of thinking is self-focused and not even based in reality.  The fact that everyone was actually watching the concert and NOT me was evident but I felt like they were judging me! Capturing my thoughts was no less awkward then retrieving the rolling water bottles but, like living water, so worth it!  Because God’s light is there for me (both physically and spiritually) I was able to walk out of the darkness by faith one step at a time.

Compare these two Psalms:

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” Psalm 40:12

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

The first Psalm reveals a self-focused heart heavy with guilt and shame.  The second a God-focused heart full of love and faith.  Although my tripping may seem like a “silly” example, there are all kinds of ways we trip and fall; some more severe and painful then others.  The circumstance doesn’t really matter because the principle is the same.  God is there for you.  He is patient, kind, loving and gracious and waiting for You to… look up.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Faith, Insecurity, Surrender, Trust, Unbelief, Uncategorized

Who Am I?

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

My father told me I was Italian.  Growing up in Las Vegas our family would go to the local Italian-American Club and eat Italian food with the other Italian families.  My father spoke Italian and competed in Bocce Ball tournaments.  But, although we had dark skin and dark hair, we were not Italian. It was a lie.

My true identity was revealed right before my wedding, seven years after my father’s death. Having been estranged from her brother for thirty-years, my father’s sister, Aunt Lee, traveled to Oregon from Rhode Island to attend my wedding. We connected after my father died but had never met.  Aunt Lee told us that my father left their family as a young man, cutting off contact with them for reasons too sordid to explain here. In spite of the circumstances she was excited to meet us and asked all kinds of questions.  Photo albums from our childhood and newspaper clippings of my dad playing in Bocce Ball tournaments were sprawled on the table. It wasn’t long before her brow furrowed in confusion as her dark eyes darted from picture to picture.

“Do you think you’re Italian?” she asked.

“Yes. We are Italian. Why?” I answered.

“Because you’re not, she beamed,  You’re Portuguese!”

Aunt Lee’s brown eyes were laughing as she spoke; then her round face revealed a smile.   She was amused but I was not.  It was shocking. This statement changed my perception of myself and of my father.  My earthly father lied to me about my identity.  What else did he lie about?  Later in the conversation Aunt Lee told us they grew up on a little farm, not in Reno, Nevada like my father claimed, but in Fall River, Massachusetts.  We also found out he had been married twice before and had three other children.  Why all the lies?  We may never know my father’s motives but, either way, he was not who he said he was and I am not who he said I was either.  My father defined me with lies.

So, who am I?  This identity crisis is one many struggle with even after coming to know Christ.  We are all targets of well aimed, fiery arrows launched from the enemy’s bow carrying messages that are meant to define us and undermine God’s Word.  They are all lies too.  The problem is they seem to to be true because of life experiences.  For example, when the “You are not wanted” arrow comes flying overhead it can be difficult to argue against if we’ve suffered rejection.  We may even let it pierce our heart because it’s what we know.  Therefore, believing God’s Word over any other source is key if we are to live in true freedom.  If we know what it says about His character and how He defines us as His children we will be able to recognize lies when confronted with them.   You know, the ones that start with, “Did God really say…” Our defense is to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul, believing Him above all else, which is faith.  But how can we truly know and love someone we don’t spend time with?  His word is His love letter to each of His children and His character is defined by the cross, not our circumstances.

Let’s be thankful to the Lord today that he is “not a man” and for His Word which is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Only He defines you in truth and love.  May we open His love letter, allowing God alone to answer the question, “Who am I?”

But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name,  He gave the right to become children of God.     John 1:12