Thursday, November 14, 2019

Terrestrial Angels


"When God provides, it usually is in the form of people."  I read these words in the blog of a missionary family in Haiti who is in the midst of impossible situations, facing shortages, scarcity, violence, uncertainty and all kinds of trouble in the name of Christ...in a land where evil reigns and where hope seems to fade...but...God!

How many times we read in the Bible about circumstances similar to what is happening in Haiti today, then we read: "But God..."  Those two little words usher in encouragement.  They introduce the supernatural healing power of God's hand, and how He can, with one glance, change the seemingly inevitable doom that the visible course is directed towards.  And...if we think about it, often, such redirection is prompted by our encounter with a person.  When doom is impending, He sends someone.  It could be someone through a song, through a book or in flesh and blood...but a person, indeed.

Discouragement was threatening the stability of the souls of the missionary family in Haiti; but God sent tenderness and healing in the shape of a group of people who came to minister to them, leaving their hearts revitalized.  Loneliness threatens to push a dear one into the pit of darkness and desperation; but God sends the blinking light on the phone with fresh messages of hope from someone in the distance who deeply cares and is willing to be "there" for her.  Fear and anxiety threatens to swallow up the fragil resolve of the one who waits for results; but God sends a message of a prayer chain from those who support her with hands lifted up to the Lord.  Precious children are in grave need of life-saving medicine in a remote place in an island that hope seems to evade; but God sends a man willing to sacrifice security and comfort, to deliver the valuable medication into the hands of those who will safely bring it to where is needed.  The entire world was lost; but God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus to be the Christ who saves...

Today, we pray for us to recognize those "...But God..." moments that come around wearing the garment of the common folk; but who in reality are God's terrestrial angels who were willing to say "yes" to a mission that for many would be impossible.  I pray, specially and specifically for Sam, whom today is one of those angels...travelling across miles to spend an hour bringing hope for the future of the "least of these."  May God's grace, mercy, love and protection be with you.  May the Holy Spirit bring comfort and peace to your family in the knowledge that God is traveling with you...and in the trust that He is in control.  Godspeed, good friend.  Hoping to hear your stories upon your return.  In the Precious Name of Christ! Amen!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Making it to the Team

"Okay, Dylan, you've got to give 150%  of yourself.  Treat every open-gym as if it were the tryouts.  Actually, treat every practice as if it were tryouts.  That's how you show you're worth being picked for the team.  That's how you show you are valuable.  Perform well and they will want you!" 

Gosh...basketball season is exhausting and tryouts are still a week away.  We know it will be crucial for Dylan to make it into the school team this year, so we are pushing him more than ever to perform...that's how you get what you want in this life, right?  You've got to make it happen, otherwise, you get left out...

You've got to show your worth...or else, you get passed on for that promotion, or you don't get into your dreamed college, or you don't get picked to be part of the team, right?

"My kingdom is not about earning and deserving; it's about believing and receiving." These words from my devotional reading this morning (Sarah Young's Jesus Calling) challenged me and deeply convicted me and my way of thinking...

In a world where competition seems to be the only way to win...where performance is the only base to be rewarded...where our worth is measured on what we can and can't do...God stands on the complete opposite side...sending Jesus to tell us: Follow me!

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11: 9-10

The contrast between the way to achieve things in the world and the way to be fulfilled in Jesus is stark.  When the world says: your destiny is what you make.  Your efforts determine what you get.  Jesus says: Come to Me...seek Me...be still...trust...see...

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8: 32

Lord...forgive me for getting caught up in the traps of this world.  Forgive me for falling for its alluring and seductive ways.  Forgive me for forgetting that You are the Only Way.

The things that effort, performance and self-reliance can get us will eventually and inevitably fade away.  Dylan might make it to the basketball team and have a brilliant season.  But, years from now, what would that amount to if he does not have God in his life? And, on the contrary, even if Dylan doesn't make it to the basketball team, he will be alright as long as He stays on the path that Jesus has traced for him. The basketball team is irrelevant.  The team that matters, the team into which is crucial he makes it is the one labeled: Children of God...

May we understand this truth as we continue to guide our kids through the path that they should follow.  In Christ Precious Name! Amen!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Whatever is Excellent and Praiseworthy


8 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

Do you ever feel so overwhelmed with life's worries/circumstances/situations that it seems as if you were trapped in the washing machine spinning cycle?

Lately, that's exactly how I have been feeling.  My stress level keeps rising, and often, I find myself irritable and numbed to what's around me.  I can't continue like this.  The spinning cycle must stop!  This is not what the Lord wants for us.  I lift up my eyes from the computer and stare at a big poster of a quiet, gloriously gorgeous beach I have hanging on the wall in front of my desk...and immediately, I start to long for that quietness I see on that picture.  Wouldn't it be nice to be there?  I can feel the warm sand on my feet and the salty breeze playing with my hair.  I hear the relentless sound of the waves crashing and the occasional seagull calling as it rushes pass by me in her pursuit for her daily fish.  What would I give to be there...summer morning...nothing to do...nowhere to go...just breathe and be still...

I move my eyes from the picture and the image collapses when my mind hits the reality of my surroundings: a messy desk, a needy dog, a dark/cloudy/rainy/cold morning, piles of work all around me and constant worries about upcoming tests, looming deadlines, threatening worries...

How can I re-create the peace and quietness of a summer week at the beach in my everyday life?

I think Paul has a hint as to what to do:  it's all about the things we think about.  We are called to control our minds, not to allow our minds to control ourselves.  How do we control it, you may ask? By choosing what we think about.  Whenever the daily worries start creeping in, we need to remember Paul's words:  "find the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable...excellent and praiseworthy...and think about such things, and such things alone.

Excellent and praiseworthy is Your Name, O Lord!  In the moments of desperation, high stress, numbing fear and worry, may Your Name come to our minds as a lifesaver, to pull us out of the choppy waters and keep us afloat...more than afloat...alive and assured of the Power of Your Steady Presence, for there is Great Power in the Name of Jesus!

I can't think of anything more excellent and praiseworthy than the Name of Jesus!

Let it roll out of your mouth from the overflowing love of your heart and allow the sound of each letter to soothe your troubled soul as a tender lullaby.  Cherish each syllable as it's pronounced by your own voice, audibly, for the walls to shake and your heart to calm down.  And let His Presence bring you comfort, rest and peace to help your mind be still.

I Praise You and Thank You, Dear Lord for Your Precious Name!  How Excellent and Praiseworthy Your Are, Lord.  Your Name has the Power to calm my storms and quiet my mind.  Invade my soul with Your Presence and stop the crazy/spin cycle of my heart, in Your Excellent and Praiseworthy Name!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Whatever is Lovely and Admirable!


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

I saw the Big Dipper!  Can you believe it?  For the first time in my 51 years of age, I saw Big Dipper!  The thing is, growing up in Panama, looking for and talking about star formations and constellations was not a thing.  Those who did were considered a bit...how shall I put it? ... strange?  I guess sailors and fishermen did know about such things, but I didn't know any sailor or fisherman.  Therefore, my knowledge of stars was limited to the "Three Marys."

Do you know about the "Three Marys"?  No?!  Let me tell you.  That's what we called the three stars in Orion's Belt...in reference to the women who went to the tomb of Jesus the morning of His resurrection.  Yep, everyone knew about them.  That's the only thing I ever saw on the night sky as far as star formations...Then, I come to the United States and boom!  I'm about the only person around who has never heard about things like "Cassiopeia," "Ursa Major," "Little Dipper," "Orion," "Big Dipper."

At any rate, we got a telescope last Christmas for Grant, and we still haven't had time to figure out all its features.  We got to see the moon a few times, and I have to tell you, it was mighty impressive...but I have to admit, the Moon is about the only thing I can ever find on the sky anyway.  I still can't quite see Orion other than his belt (A.K.A. The Three Marys).  But this morning, as I took Link outside in the brisk, still dark wee hours of our fall dawn, I turned my head toward the northern sky...and there it was!  The Big Dipper!  Right in display for me to see!  It was so clear, I can't believe I've never seen it!  I have been taking Link outside before sunrise for over a year now, always looking up at the sky, marvelling at God's creation, and never saw anything until this morning...

It was huge!  Kind of upside down, but perfectly clear.  It was as if God had opened my eyes.  It was so "there" that I still can't believe I never saw it before...it was like a veil had been removed and I could finally see...and it was admirable!

I was so excited, I came inside and announced it to everyone, and ... nobody cared.  "I saw the Big Dipper!" "I saw the Big Dipper!"  I said, "OK, cool" I heard in response...it wasn't a big deal for them.  But it was for me.  It was a gift, an it was lovely!  And it made me think of the glory revealed in His creation.  Who, other than Our Amazingly Creative God would have thought of forming the stars for our amusement and amazement? And to think that He made the atmosphere clear so we could see it!  WOW!  It's no wonder David, a shepperherd used to spending nights without end staring at the sky, couldn't help but proclaim:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

Paul guides us as to where we should invest our thoughts into.  He tells us to place them into whatever is lovely and admirable.  Well, I tell you, today, in a world that seems to be in decay, with not much to find lovely and not much to admire, there is still God's creation and its ability to surprise us with its grandeur and majesty! Therefore, when I find myself falling into the default darkness of  my mind, I am going to remember to look up and be marveled at the lovely and admirable glory of the work of His Hands proclaimed by the skies!

p.s.:  I still can't believe I finally saw the Big Dipper! LOL!


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Whatever is Pure


8 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

Yesterday afternoon, as Grant and I were spending a few, precious minutes being lazy, and he was letting me mess up his hair, I just buried my face in it to inhale its fragrance (somehow, Grant's hair always smells beautifully)...at that moment, I was transported to the night when I first saw him, over 17 years ago...wrapped in a hospital blanket, wearing a crazy looking beanie in his head that tried to cover his messy dark curls...and the memories of the overwhelming feelings I experienced at that moment, years ago, came back rushing into my heart and mind with the same force.

"How can you love someone so much, that you just met?"

I heard that phrase in a movie once, years before Grant was born.  I didn't get it at the time...until I was holding my newborn baby boy for the first time...the power of the love is unreal! And one has to wonder...where does this pure, unmitigated, sheer, unadulterated, unpolluted, absolute, unchangeable, unconditional, never ending love comes from?

The only thing I can think of is:  it is God's.  The overpowering love a Mother often feels for her newborns is a manifestation of the way God loves us: His Children.

There is no other place it can come from.  He is the One Who IS Love! So Love, pure love comes from Him.  And we experience it, because He first loved us. (1 John 4: 19)

At that moment, when the bond between Grant and I got securely cemented, fastening our hearts together, I experienced a glimpse of the most pure form of love: the love God has for me.

Therefore, when the Apostle Paul commands us to think about "whatever is pure," I think of the way God loves.  How He loves us, OH, How He loves us!  The force of His love is the purest thing I can think of.  Free from anything that weakens, untainted, perfectly pure...that's His love.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

The fact that purity is found in His love, doesn't mean, however, that life is going to be a carnival.  Of course not.  Those of us who are parents have figured that out, haven't we?  The pure love we feel for our children comes with a devastatingly heavy burden that we must constantly carry for the rest of our lives.  The burden of love reminds us that we are not home yet...that we are not strong enough...that we need His Arms to sustain us every step of the way.  But it also reminds us that He is present, and that He is Good, that He is with us all the time, and that He is a Great God!

After a few short minutes, Grant left my side to do his own thing... I covered my face with my hands to push away my tears and suffocate the pain of the thoughts of him leaving home in less than a year to go to college...and I focused on the joy God allows me to feel knowing that the love I feel for my boy is, but a small fraction of the love He has for His own.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Whatever is Right

Dylan celebrating his 14th birthday at Sunday School at Church. 

8 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

"Let me give you my password, Mama..." said Dylan as he waited for me to grab paper and pen to write it down.  It took me, what seemed like an eternity to react/respond. I think it was pure shock what kept me from moving immediately.  I think he was surprised to, so he just began saying the password while I was still staring into the void, unmovable...finally, after he repeated it a couple of times, I snapped out of it, fiddled through my junk drawer and found a piece of paper and a pen to record the important piece of information Dylan was volunteering without my prompting...as I wrote the combination of letters and digits, finally my mind cleared up and I realized the reason for my shock:  Dylan had chosen to do the right thing on his own...

I know it sounds harsh, but 14 year-old boys don't usually think about, much less actually do the right thing on their own accord.  Maybe yours do, but my sons need lots of priming.  Dylan is particularly stubborn ... all the time ... anyway.  The thing is that finally, after about a year and a half of Dylan begging, demanding, reasoning, explaining, rationalizing, manipulating, psycho-persuading us on why he needed a cellphone, this weekend, he got one for his birthday....sigh...I'm still getting used to the idea; but he got it.  For as long as he has been wanting a phone, Dan and I have been telling him about all the rules and conditions he would have to follow and meet in order for us to even begin thinking about the remote possibility of him having one.  One of the conditions/rules that we established from the beginning was that he was going to have to tell us his password and that he was going to have to leave his phone in our room at night before going to bed: the no phone to bed rule.

When he got the phone, we allowed him to enjoy it without bringing the rules back to his face right away.  He worked on it all afternoon, trying to figure out the features and getting used to the idea of having his own phone.  We never mentioned anything about the password or about the no phone to bed rule.  We gave him some space.  I wasn't even thinking about asking him for his password...and that's when he surprised me by giving it to me without me even asking.  At the end of the night, he carried the phone to our bedroom and placed it on my dresser, where we had instructed him, what seemed like a million years ago, that would be its place at night.  He thanked us for the gift, hugged us and kissed us good night (no, he did not kiss the phone, which was very surprising to me) and went to bed...leaving me with a sense of awe, praising the Holy Spirit for helping Dylan make the right choices...at least for today...

Like Paul says, "whatever is right" ... in this world where right and wrong seem to no longer be a standard of behavior, as Christians, we must consciously and intentionally decide to choose "whatever is right."  And for us, "whatever is right" is right in Scripture.  This means, it would be impossible for us to think and do whatever is right if we do not know His Word...

Think about it... how would we decide what is right if we don't know what God says? We would be swept away in the confusion of this world without the Word!  The world tries to define things apart from God.  In our moments of decision, let's not forget that our standard is the Bible!  Let's make sure we know the Word of God as well as we can, so when the prince of this world tries to deceive us, we don't even have to go look, because we have internalized His Commands... Let's make His Word our own, so when the road gets foggy, we have the Light that makes it bright and clear right here with us.  This way, we'd know which path to follow and how to direct our steps.  Let's drill Scripture into our minds, so it comes to us in our moments of doubt, clearing up the way, prompting us to think and do whatever is right.

I know Dylan is going to make mistakes with that darn phone.  I know he will misuse it to the point that we will have to take it away for long seasons...but for now, I am rejoicing in the fact that it is possible to choose to think and act the right way...as long as we know what that is.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Noble


8 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

I'd like to continue looking at the things the Apostle Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on.  Today, I'd like to look at the word "noble."  I don't know about you, but "noble" is not really a word I use very often.  The first association that comes to my mind is royalty.  And, unless I'm watching a Jane Austen-inspired film, there aren't many royals around in my everyday life.  

The context of the verse, however, is not really pointing toward that particular meaning of the word "noble."  Instead, the verse is instructing us to think about things that are of high morals,  principles and ideals.  Paul reminds us that our minds should be inspired by what's righteous, virtuous, good, honorable and honest so we can escape the inner webs that it could knit for ourselves when not carefully directed.

Much of our character is informed by our thought-life.  Therefore, having a healthy control over the thoughts we entertain will help us take steps towards becoming the person God intended us to be.  Filling our mind with what is "noble" can help us move closer to this goal...but...how do we stay focused on what's noble, when we are surrounded by the opposite?

There's the trick: don't surround yourself with ignoble things!

Easier said than done?  Of course...just like anything else that is worth our while.

The only way to accomplish the goal of saturating our thoughts with noble things is to examine ourselves and pray that The Lord guides us in this examination and gives us the strength to renounce to those things that don't meet the standard of nobility in our lives.  The problem is: what if what we are talking about renouncing involves loved ones?

sigh...

Unfortunately, the toxicity that surrounds our lives often is channel to our souls, hearts and minds through the presence or absence of those who are supposed to love us most.  We become paralyzed...unable to move on...trapped in a pit of darkness and loneliness without a chance for escape because we feel we can't remove ourselves from the influence of the toxic person.

What are we supposed to do?

I don't know...

But, I do know God loves us and He does not want us to be enslaved.

God is Sovereign and He can do all things.  He can solve our situations by merely saying the Word. (Matthew 8:8)  In many cases, however, He doesn't change the situation, but He changes us.  And often, such change comes about through the help of a Holy Spirit-inspired professional that can guide us in our journey to allowing God to heal us as we surrender to Him the person who inflicts all the damage of ignoble thoughts into our minds and lives.

Again...not easy, but, by the power of the Most High, nothing is impossible!  And this is the encouraging message!  We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength! (Philippians 4:13)

May the Holy Spirit speak the truth into our ears constantly so we are always reminded of His presence and His might!  Amen!