Saturday, August 19, 2017

Summer Meditations: We Are Wonderful!



13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

At the center of this magnificent Psalm we find, what I believe, is the core premise of the message: God created me, and God’s creation is wonderful; therefore, I am wonderful!

Regardless of what I might think of myself. Regardless of how lowly I consider myself. Regardless of how much of a failure I am convinced that I am…all that feeling of inadequacy comes only from one place: the enemy.

Everything the enemy plots has the general goal of separating us from God. What better way to interfere in our relationship with our Lord, than to make us think that we are not worthy of being in a relationship with Him. The enemy makes us feel ashamed of who we are. He fills us with guilt, so we would put distance. We hide from Christ.

Last school year, around January, I got a bit distracted with work so I stopped paying close attention to Grant’s grades. I didn’t check his progress as often as I had been doing until then. I don’t know where the weeks went…so, by the time I checked…he was failing math!!!!

I flipped! I yelled! I threatened! I made him feel ashamed…

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having problems in Math????? We could have helped you!!!!!!”

I got no answer…of course.

Sigh…

As he began to have issues with the subject at school, he started to feel ashamed. The more in trouble he got, the more ashamed he became. And the less inclined to asking for help from us he was…because he knows that I am a harsh judge…because he didn’t want to have to deal with my reaction…because he didn’t think I would be proud of his mediocre performance.

Double sigh…

We are the people our sons can turn to when they are in trouble in this world. I mean…the line of people who truly care about them starts and ends with us! They know that. But they walk away from us when they are ashamed even if it means that they will be alone, sinking in the pit of their problems because they are not able to help themselves…but they rather do that, than confront their guilt and shame.

I do the same. The Lord is my refuge and my strength…my ever-present help in times of trouble…(Psalm 46), but when I am in the type of trouble that makes me ashamed of myself…I walk away from the One who is able to help me get out of that shame-inducing trouble…

The thing is that we judge God with the same measure that we judge people. Grant knows me. He knows how I react to things like him not getting satisfactory grades. As it happens, parents are usually the barometer we use to attempt to gage God’s nature and behavior. We attribute our Heavenly Father the earthly characteristics of our biological parents. And, I don’t know about you and your parents, but in my case, neither me, nor my parents have been the best models of godly parenthood.

What to do, then?

Well, we go to the truth. Rather than trying to apply human traits to God, let’s go to His Word! What does Scripture say about the nature and logic of God?

Well, let’s take just one example: God created me, and God’s creation is wonderful; therefore, I am wonderful! Where’s the shame on that?

He created our “inmost being.” He “knitted us together in our Mother’s womb.” He knows every…single…detail about us because He made every…single…detail about us. And, even though He did…He still loves us and thinks we are wonderful. And we are wonderful not because of what we do, or performance or our behavior. We are wonderful because He FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE US! It is because of who He is and what He has done that we get the title of “wonderful.” And it is because of His breath of life in us that we get to know that full well.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer Meditations: Total Eclipse of the...



11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.


The Great American Eclipse! I’m sure most people in the United States have been saturated with information about this natural phenomenon that we are about the experience in a few days. By now, most of us are very familiar with everything about it, from the safest glasses to wear to be able to see it, to the top viewing spots. For some, the eclipse will be total, and even though it will be fast, the event will obscure the sun for approximately 2 minutes and 40 seconds, plunging the area where it is visible, into a sort of twilight in the middle of the day.

I don’t think I have ever experienced a total eclipse of the sun (am I the only person who wants to break out in song every time they begin to say the phrase, “total eclipse…”? It’s not funny anymore!) Anyway, I’ve never experienced one, but I’m sure it could be creepy. It has to be an assault to one’s senses. One second it is bright and sunny (unless you live in my neck of the woods, of course…where it is always dark and cloudy…) and the next thing you know, it is dark…I mean, c’mon? How do you prepare for that? I guess, that’s why there has been such a proliferation of information about. So, people can become as prepared as possible and the event doesn’t catch them by surprise.

Hmmm…

Darkness is not something most people are comfortable with. I’m sure that at the thought of darkness, many if not everyone shudders. I doubt it, however, that there is anyone who can honestly say that he/she has been able to escape going through moments of darkness. I haven’t. And, unlike for the Great American Eclipse, I have not been prepared to face it. All of the sudden, my bright, sunny day has become obscured by circumstances outside of my control, which were not even within my radar, and I have not known how to handle it. In the midst of such unexpected night of the soul, I have done nothing but panic.

To be honest, however, there have been other times in which…I have chosen darkness as my path. I have voluntarily walked into darkness. I have desired it. I have hidden in it.

I have deliberately turned away from the Light, because the Light is just too bright for my weakened eyes to withstand.

Sigh…

So, I have dwelled in the dark. Rather than keeping my eyes on the One who is Light, I have chosen the shadows that lead to nothing but spiritual death…not realizing that, even when the Light seems too bright when I am in the pit, there is a Divine Shadow outside of the great hole, under which I can take refuge until healing comes, instead of cornering deeper into the abyss. It is the Shadow of His Wings!

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91: 4

At those times when I have chosen darkness, I forget that there is an alternative to dwelling in pestilence:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91: 1

I have to remember that the darkness of this world is never an option. In those moments when the weakness of my flesh takes over and I want to hide because of my shame, I need to hide in Him!

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91: 2

On Monday, some of us will have the privilege to experience an amazing and rare natural phenomenon. As we do, let’s remember that the Light of God is never darkened because

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139: 12

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Meditations: God's Omnipresence



7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Today I am grouping verses 7-10 of Psalm 139 to reflect on the topic of God’s omnipresence. And, as I begin to think about this theme, it is impossible for my mind not to go back to my role as a Mother. I can’t believe how much God reveals to me about who He is, as He leads me through the troubled waters of motherhood…sigh…

At any rate, Grant is wrapping up two weeks of Band Camp at this moment, and they are gearing up to a full day at Kennywood to march in their first parade of the season, and also have a day of fun before school starts. As it often happens, the Band Boosters will chaperone this event, and they are looking for volunteers. My first instinct was to jump at the opportunity to go so I could keep a watchful eye on Grant. However, I have Dylan, and they don’t really like chaperones bringing their younger children since they want them to have their full concentration on the Band kids, of course… so… I’m totally torn!

How am I going to keep my eyes on both, Dylan and Grant at the same time?

No matter what I do, I will not be able to be with both…

God, on the other hand, never faces such conundrum. He doesn’t have to choose which of His children He is going to watch…He can and does keep His eyes on every one of us at all times regardless of where we might be. He sees us even when we hide from Him!

I know that if I would decide to chaperone, Grant would do all he can to flee from my presence all through the day. He’d only try to find me if he needed money…sigh…

I also know that if I would decide to stay home with Dylan, he too would avoid my presence for the most part.

Therefore, no matter what I do, I could never, truly, be there, holding their hands, guiding them, protecting them at all times. It is just impossible.

Our Heavenly Father, however, has us within the reach of His outstretched arm always! Hiding from His presence, trying to flee from Him is futile. No matter where we go, He is there! Even when we not just stumble, but deliberately fall into the deepest pit… even when we sink in the thickest darkness… even when we burn in the fiercest fire… His presence goes with us. His hand guides us. His right hand holds us fast and tight until we come out on the surface, into the Light, away from the fire.

Regardless of how convicting this thought might be for us, the truth of God’s omnipresence brings an infinite amount of comfort and peace into my heart and mind, for I know that His presence will go with me, and He will give me rest. (Exodus 33: 14) He will give me rest from my own self-judgement, from my own self-condemnation. And I know, that as He goes with me, He makes known to me the path of life…because in His presence there is fullness of joy and goodness forevermore! (Psalm 16: 11) Praised be His Holy Name!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

You Hem Me In...



5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 139 bring so much comfort to my soul. I began this meditation on the Psalm looking for a way to remind myself of God’s love toward me… looking for confirmation that even though I feel like a failure, filled with flaws and riddled with inadequacies, He, the God Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and of all life… loves…me… - Today, these piece of Scripture paints a beautiful image of this love.

“You hem me in behind and before…” This word picture brings back memories of my childhood. I grew up sitting on the floor by Rosa’s feet. Rosa is a seamstress by training, so she used every minute she had off after completing her work responsibilities around the house, to sew. She made all my clothes until I was a Senior in High School! I still have pieces made by her in my closet today, which I treasure dearly… but, back then, I just sat on the rustic floor of the back porch at my parents’ house, and watched her sew.

She patched holes, sewed buttons, made whole outfits from scratch, but above all, she hemmed. Inevitably, there was always something that she needed to hem every day. I am so not talented when it comes to making things with my hands…really…I am a disgrace at the fine art of craft making and such. With her divine patience, however, Rosa did manage to teach me how to hem. I remember watching intently as she showed me. The needle would expertly go in one side, through the material, under it, to then emerge again attaching both sides securely, but delicately at the same time. It was like magic to my young eyes. The process was long, but it had to be done paying close attention all the way throughout in order for it to be done right. Her eyes had to be on, truly on the whole way…otherwise the hem would be crooked and the stitches would be uneven.

Even today, the memory evokes an image of profound love, patience and peace. Rosa sitting on a worn-out chair by the light of the noonday, her hands on the fabric, expertly and carefully moving the needle softly in, behind and before…

The days of me spending hours sitting by Rosa’s feet while I watched her hem my Mother’s skirts are over now…but the vivid image of love and dedication those memories contain would endure in my heart forever...especially because they point me to this moment when...

I close my eyes and imagine God’s hand hemming me in with his thread of life into the fabric of His Kingdom, behind and before…all the way around, evenly, smoothly, perfectly…laying His hands upon me to sustain me...keeping His eyes on me to protect me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!


  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer Meditations: The Unruly Tongue



4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.


O dear! Verse 4 of Psalm 139 hits me like a ton of bricks.

Of all the behaviors that are…say…questionable in my character, an uncontrolled tongue is one of the worst. My kids would gladly testify on this one. Speaking life is not one of my attributes…sigh…

I snap too quickly, then, my frustration comes out in harsh words that leave behind a wake of sadness, regret and guilt.

My carelessness and selfishness lead me to saying things with the intention of hurting the one who hears them. When facing stressful situations or confrontations, rather than choosing my words wisely in order to keep the peace, I choose them wisely in order to wound and win the argument.

It is a behavioral issue that I have been working on since forever. The best way for me to not be harsh is by not talking. Therefore, often, what happens is that I just bite my tongue and stay quiet even when it would have been good for me to speak up. I just shut it because I know the second a word gets out of my mouth, it is not going to be the right word and it will cause the other person to say something that is going to trigger even worse words from me and the thing would not end well. Staying quiet works every time. The problem is that I cannot always do it, and that even if I am able to keep my mouth from producing words, the words are bouncing inside of my mind just as loudly and harshly.

I don’t think that’s the way it is supposed to go either, is it?

And the worst part is: God knows all of this! He knows all of my spoken and unspoken words even before they have been fully formed in my mind!!!

And the most incredible thing is: He loves me anyway…

However, He wants me to change, so He works in me constantly. My behavior would not truly change, however, until I surrender it to Christ. I have to crucify my unruly tongue and thoughts, as I nail them to the cross. That is the nature of “being crucified with Christ and no longer living, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2: 20-21) By allowing the blood of Christ to cleanse us as we crucify our sinful nature, we cease to exist in our old form as Christ re-shapes us and makes us new letting Him be the One that dwells within our souls.

The amazing thing is, however, that we don’t have to wait until we are new and perfect to come to Him. He has already adopted us just as we are. It is not up to us to renew ourselves. He is the One, the Only One who can accomplish that. We just need to have a willing heart and surrender it all.

So…what I need to remember every time I fail at controlling my mind and my tongue is that I have a merciful and compassionate Father who loves me even though He knows me.

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Revelations 21: 5a

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer Meditations: Just as I Am



Here we are again, back to Psalm 139. Today, we’ll take a look at verse three:

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Bottom line, the Lord knows me/us. He knows everything about us. He knows what we keep hidden in places we hope nobody would ever look, like our thoughts… and He also knows the outward manifestations of who we are, like our behavior…yikes!!!

Before we went to Panama, the whole side of the Dieter family spent a week at the Beach in South Carolina. I loved it! The kids loved it! If it weren’t for the long drive, we would be going there often during the year. The sense of freedom is just lovely! The kids are pretty much independent. They were in a room across the hall from us with the cousins. There was a pool in the house. The beach was across the street. The kitchen was fully stocked so everyone could pretty much get their own breakfast and lunch by themselves, at their own pace. For dinner, we took turns cooking so no one had to be stuck in the kitchen every day.

At any rate, the only things we truly had to worry about on a daily basis were,

1. Who is going to set up camp at the beach today?

2. Am I going for a walk?

3. Am I going to read my book or take a nap?

We spent most of the time going in and out of the house back and forth from the beach. And I spent a lot of time lying down in my beach chair, under my umbrella… doing nothing… and loving it!

As I have mentioned, I am a… er… rather controlling person/Mother, so I always want to know where my sons are and what they are doing. I worry when I don’t know. So I do all I can to try to find out. That week at the beach, however, I realized that if I wanted to chill and enjoy to the fullest the gift that trip represented, I was going to have to let go. If I wanted to truly honor the blessing by delighting in it, I was going to have to trust my boys to do the right thing and be able to fend for themselves. So I did.

Half of the time I had no clue where they were at. Suddenly, I’ll see them next to me. Then, I’ll see them in the water. Next thing, they would be leaving back to the house. Later, they’d be back next to me under the umbrella, on the sand. Shortly after, they would go back to the house to grab a bite. They were coming and going all day, and I was not familiar with all their ways!

My point is that even a highly controlling Mom like me cannot keep up with every step her children take. No matter how many tactics I device to try to stay on top of things as far as their very moves… I fail at the task. It is just impossible! And…would I really want to know my children’s every move? Would I still love them the same?

The thing is, the Only One who is ever able to do that is the Lord. Our Heavenly Father is the Only One who is ever able to watch over all His children constantly, without ever having to let go.

Not only that, but in spite of knowing us, in spite of being familiar with ALL of our ways…in spite of discerning the reasons for my going out and my lying down, He still loves me! Like I said earlier… that’s unfathomable!

He truly loves me just as I am!

And my response to such an expression of such a magnificent love is complete awe… This past Sunday, we sang the Travis Cottrell version of one of my favorite Hymns, “Just as I am” written by Charlotte Elliott almost two centuries ago. This version contains a new stanza that absolutely touches my very soul and summarizes what I have been trying to say in this highly convoluted post:

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ, the Lamb
And I'm welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Even though you are familiar with all of my ways, you still call me Your Own…unfathomable!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer Meditations: He knows what we do and think... Oi!!!



I admit that I tried to group some verses together during this in-depth look at Psalm 139; however, I realized, it would not be much of an in-depth look if I did. Besides, the next few verses speak such volumes to me, that if I were to treat them as a group, the post would be unreadable.

So here I am, examining verse #2 in this powerful piece of God’s Word:

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

During the three weeks that the boys and I spent in Panama this summer, we only had a car for a few days. I rented it to go to a couple of places that were about two hours away from our base camp. The rest of the time, we hung around our little apartment near the center of my hometown. It is a joy to be close to things. We walked everywhere. But, because we don’t have a car when we are there, we sit and rise quite a bit every day.

From early in the morning, the activity begins: “Grant, can you go to the store and get some orange juice?” “Grant, can you go get some bread at the bakery?” “Mom, can you go get us some chocolate milk?” “Mom, can we go to that store, what’s it called?” “Guys, do you want to go to the movies this afternoon?” “how about ice cream?” “Can we get churros?” “Hey, let’s go back to that store, what’s it called?” The sitting and rising goes on and on and on. We rarely spend a day in which we just sit and go nowhere. And when we do stay home, there is the cleaning and the washing of the clothes, which is done BY HAND…the kids are getting pretty good at it, I have to say.

Anyway, the thing is that my sons were very active the whole time. Grant went by himself to run errands on a daily basis, often more than once! Being the kind of Mother that I am, I want to always keep track of what my boys are doing at all times. Actually, I’m considering inserting a GPS chip into their skins… but I have to admit, that I couldn’t tell you how many times they came and went, or how many times they/we sat and rose during the last three weeks, let alone during the course of all of their lives! But the Lord knows! And that is just amazing to me…

He knows their every move…OUR every move… He is there… always… everywhere… without a GPS chip inserted into our skins… that is unfathomable!

Verse 2 in Psalm 139 not only tells us that He knows our every move…it tells us He knows our every thought too! Now, that’s mind-blowing…and scary…

As a Mother, I’d love to know what my sons are thinking at all times. And the reason I’d like to know, is so I could control their thoughts. I know, I have issues. God knows their thoughts even before they have been formed into their minds! He knows MY thoughts. He knows all of my thoughts. He knows the good ones, the bad ones, and the ugly ones.

I am embarrassed and ashamed at the thought of My Lord knowing my thought life. But He gives me/us freedom. He gives us freedom to drown His guiding voice in the murky waters of our darkness, as we continue to have those thoughts. And usually, a head filled with thoughts directed by our unregulated heads lead to nothing good. They lead to fear, panic, shame, rebellion, blasphemy, isolation, anger, lust, jealousy, envy and all the darkness this world has to offer. But, He allows us to indulge in those thoughts until the Holy Spirit is sovereign in our soul and we surrender them to Christ, and set them at the foot of the Cross to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus!

Not until we let go of our grip on our thought life and fill our heads with the transforming power of Scripture and surround ourselves with all things good and worthy, our heads would not be liberated from the corroding action of a mind controlled by this world.

I would never be able to know my sons’ every move and every thought. I would never be able to fully control what they do or think. But they are in the care of the One Who Does; and He is Perfect, as so is His plan for them…and for me…and for us. In the meantime, let us remember:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 
Philippians 4:8 8