Thursday, November 16, 2017

Am I Going to Be OK? I am an Overcomer!



Well, like I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my dear, dear, dear friends and sister in Christ recommended the book You’re going to be Okay by Holley Gerth, and it has been such a blessing to me, that I decided to blog about my experience reading this wonderful little book. Of course, I’m not just going to re-write this book here on my blog. I’m simply going to meditate on the things that touch me the most. Since the book is proving to be really speaking to me, I anticipate this series to take a while.

Today, I wanted to write about the segment where the author talks about the fact that we are overcomers. We are! Jesus Himself told us so:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 33

I’m not a native speaker of English, as you can tell, so I find myself consulting my good, old friends Merriam and Webster quite often. Today, I looked up a quick definition for the idea of overcoming. Here’s what I found:

1. to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: to overcome the enemy.

2. to prevail over (opposition, a debility, temptations, etc.); surmount: to overcome one's weaknesses.

Hmmm…

Pretty powerful word that is, isn’t it? To say that Jesus overcame the world is totally verifiable, acceptable and unquestionable. To say that I have overcome the world, however… yeah… not so much.

I look at my life… my every-day-life, and see nothing but defeat. My struggles, my day-to-day struggles drown me in worry, fear, anxiety, panic, and make me feel weak and often hopeless.

I am definitively a glass half-empty person. Actually, I am an empty glass person because even though the glass might still have water in it, I know, I see it already empty in my head...just waiting for someone to knock it over and not only spilling its content but shattering it into a million pieces.

Pathetic, I know… what can I say? This is my greatest struggle in life. To trust God enough to let go of my fears… to let go of the idea of control I have ingrained in my mind. And just let Him be God in my life… all of my life.

The good news is that Jesus does not leave us where we are. He moves us along in the path that He has designed for us. In my case, He usually drags me kicking and screaming, but He does get me moving. His power is made perfect in my weakness, remember? (2 Corinthians 12: 9) And boy, He is really strong, ‘cause I’ve got a lot of weakness in me…

The point is that, He speaks to me, through His word, through song and music, through the people He has placed on my road, through teachers, through books, so, here comes this book stating that:

“God’s victory in this world does not depend on you. It depends on one thing alone: Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection three days later. You can’t lose the war for God or for yourself. It’s not about you or me at all. We simply get to partake in the victory. That means there is no shame in losing a battle now and then. It means we are imperfect people in a broken world.” (page 26)

How I love these words!

Let’s take another look at what Jesus said, again:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 33

He has done it all! He is not saying here that we have to do anything at all in order to overcome the world. He is telling us that He already has, so we don’t have to. He is telling us that all is left for us to do is to have peace in Him. Regardless of the troubles that we will have, ‘cause He does state the fact that we WILL have trouble, we can rest in Him and be at peace in the truth that He has already taken care of it all and we get to be a part of that victory that we did nothing to obtain. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about being ill-equipped or inadequate for the battle because He has already won the entire war all on His own!

It is mind-blowing! We get to win the war that we didn’t even have to fight. And it is all because Jesus fought it and won it all by Himself… for us…

How could I still be concerned, afraid, anxious or worried? Because I’m imperfect and live in a broken world…but He has overcome it, and He is here, reminding me of it so I can take heart again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Am I Going to be OK?



I recently finished working my way through Psalm 23rd where the focus is on the fact that The Lord is the most perfect Shepherd anyone, sheep or human or human sheep may ever want/need…that He is the Giver, Sustainer and Protector of my life… and yet… I still wonder if I am going to be OK? Why is that?

Why does it seem like I look for worst-case-scenarios even subconsciously just, so I could be immersed in anxiety?

Sigh…

I think I lack self-discipline. I think the Holy Spirit is working in me to grow the fruit of self-control, but I keep rejecting it. Without self-control, my mind just runs wildly through the open fields of insecurity, fear and lack of trust that lead me to a place of darkness and to a longer stay at the valley of the shadow of death, very far away from those green pastures and quiet waters of peace that He promises to all His sheep…but…I continue to refuse it.

Double sigh…

There is no wonder that Paul’s inspired words command us to:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12: 2

The renewing of our minds is key to finding Christ. The one who is able to reign in his/her thought life would be able to be free to seek God’s presence…the ultimate goal! The thing is that we can’t do this alone. It involves self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) and it is the Holy Spirit who grows it, and all of them in us…through His work in our Soul and the surrendering of our will to the wisdom and power of His hands.

Little by little… step by step… one day at a time… for the rest of our lives we witness the Great Companion and Counselor, the Gardener of our souls, weed and prune until one day we get to enjoy the beauty that comes out of the mess that once was our life. I believe that this day might not come while on this side of eternity… However, I do believe that we get to see glimpses of what our life is meant to be as we walk through the valleys and mountains of this world. And that is what we hope for: that those glimpses are enough to get us going as they get longer and longer so our gaze can hold steady as our hearts stop racing and our pace slows down to allow us to perceive the pure joy of a true encounter with our Lord.

I’m not talking about mysticism, here. I’m talking about reaching a way of life in which our purpose is to truly seek Him first in everything we do, at work, at school, at home, changing diapers, making dinner, watching TV, going on a trip, struggling through homework, health issues, financial hardship, brokenness of all kind…a life that is above circumstance and that in every situation holds fast to the promise of His presence and to the promise of His strength through us and through our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12: 9, Philippians 4: 13)



In order to accomplish this, often, The Lord sends to us a person, a situation, a movie, a song, a piece of Scripture, a book that speak to us in a way that we can understand…in a way that helps us move closer to where He wants us to be…closer to learning how to live above our circumstances. Right now, one of my dear and very wise friends and sister in Christ recommended a book called You’re Going to Be Okay, by Holley Gerth, and let me tell you, that book is moving my soul. In the soft, gentle and often funny style of the writer, God is communicating truth to me in a way that I get. I think this book is a good tool for restless hearts like mine to find a moment of quietness near the green pastures and still waters that we so long to dwell by. Therefore, I think that I will start posting about things I read in this little book which touch me deeply and shake me to the core. If you’d like to join me in this journey, I pray it will be a blessing for you as well.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Breathe Again!



And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Forever. Psalm 23: 6b

Do you remember playing with your friends to see who could hold their breath the longest when you were a child? What a silly competition. I still play it with my kids whenever we are in a swimming pool. We get in there, plug our noses, go down and wait until one of us…inevitably…as inconspicuously as possible, begins his/her trek back to the surface. The two of us that remain, watch expectantly, chlorine pocking needles into our eyes, for the moment when we can at least claim we were not the losers. Then, when we can’t hold it anymore, we burst out of the water with a loud splash as we let out the old air that had been getting stale into our lungs and gulp fresh, delicious, life-giving, oxygen-filled new air to be able to breathe again. Then, of course, the argument begins as to who lasted the longest…which is never defined unless we try again, and then again, and a few more times until we get bored….

Well, when I read the last verse of Psalm 23rd is like I’ve been holding my breath for a long time…watching expectantly…then… these words come to me, signaling the moment when my head finally bursts out of the water, allowing me to exhale the staleness and toxicity that had accumulated over the time I’ve kept it beneath the surface, to finally be able to take a deep, renewing, deliciously reviving gulp of fresh air.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever… aahhhhh….

The Spanish version that I remember translates “forever” as: “por años sin término.” I love that imagery… “for years without end…” And that’s why I feel renewed when I read the last words of this beloved Psalm… because the idea of spending years without end in the House of the Lord surely sounds magnificent! It sounds glorious, especially after spending what seemingly felt like years without end under water, unable to breathe in the joy of God’s presence to the fullest, unable to clearly see Him through my chlorine-blurred eyes…

Praise You, Lord, for this wonderful promise. Please allow us to find comfort in it until the day comes when we finally dwell in your house forever!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Following



Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Forever. Psalm 23: 6



I think I will separate verse 6 into two. Today, I will look at part A: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”

This first half of the verse makes me feel secured.

You know, it just occurred to me that I’ve been sharing my thoughts on this blog for a while now…I wasn’t sure when I started, so I scrolled down and saw that I actually began in 2011. That is 6 years for those of us who don’t do math. In my universe, six years is quite a long time.

But, that’s not what I’m thinking about today. The word that made me ponder on my blogging activity was “follow.”

Those in social media recognize that word. The word usually evokes feelings that could be considered as opposing concepts: a curse and/or a blessing. I remember earlier in my “career” as a Christian blogger desiring a big “following.” I craved to see more and more and more little pictures on the little corner that shows who follows my musings. I incessantly checked my posts’ statistics to see if people where actually reading my writings. I linked to several “blog parties.” I actually had like a sort of calendar, where I would link to different “blog parties” every day. I read every article on how to increase readership. In summary, I spent a decent amount of time trying to put my word out there to get the coveted followers.

After a few years of doing this, I realized that not only had I not increased my following, but it had actually decreased. There were less and less little pictures on my followers’ corner. This fact made me realize that I had probably just wasted my time. The only way I’d ever be “viral” would be if I got the flu. So, I stopped trying and I went back to the true purpose of my blog: to have a conversation with the Lord…a moment with Him…just the two of us…about something pressing in my mind and heart. And if others happen to stop by, and be blessed by it, well, Praised Be the Lord who inspired the whole thing!

Writing helps me think. It helps me concentrate. It helps me go deep. It helps me meditate on God’s truth. I’m not craving followers anymore. I’m craving the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m not seeking a spike on my stats. I am trusting that by growing closer to Him who sustains me, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Anointed



You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over. Psalm 23: 5



This verse usually makes me feel confused. I have to re-read it a few times until… I can finally start to marvel on what it says.

I can’t really separate the three lines of the verse. I have to read them together in order to grasp its meaning. Otherwise I would be like, “what?” “Why would I want anyone to put me at a table in front of my enemies…really!?” And, by the way, where did the Good Shepherd go? Is this the Good Shepperd setting the table…a table I don’t want to be at?

Sigh… Like I said…I’m so confused!

I feel as if there is a different imagery going on in here. Somehow, the Shepherd is now clearly The Lord. No metaphor here. God is revealed in the figure of the Shepherd. He is the One who prepares that table in the presence of my enemies. I know…I don’t want to be there. I’m uncomfortable. I’m nervous. I’m afraid. Imagine if I’m still the sheep…well…sheep usually don’t seat at the table…they end up on the table, if you know what I mean? But He has prepared that table. Therefore, it must be good. Although the enemies don’t just disappear, He is with us as we face them.

Not only is He there at the table with us as we sit in the presence of our enemies, but He anoints our head with oil. I mean, really?

This is another cultural practice that I don’t know anything about. All I know about pouring oil in my head is that it will make my hair shiny…and greasy…which might be a good thing so it is not so frizzy.

But anyway, I checked in my Jon Courson’s commentary and it refers us back to the Shepherd. It says that a Shepherd would pour oil on a sheep’s head for 2 reasons:

1. To keep the ticks and bugs out of the ears and eyes of the sheep.

2. To deflect the blows of bigger sheep when they butt heads.

Hmmmm…

I also read somewhere else (https://www.gotquestions.org/anointed.html) that in Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or calling. (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8; James 5:14). A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc.

In the New Testament we see another meaning for the word anointed: "chosen one." The Bible says that Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News and free those who have been held captive by sin (Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38). After Christ left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Now all Christians are anointed, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God's Kingdom (1 John 2:20). "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Well…the bottom line is that to be anointed by God Himself is a mighty amazing thing. This is God sending as clear a signal as possible to the enemy sitting in front of us that we are not be messed with. This is God saying we belong to Him. We are set apart. We are of great value, and that whoever bugs us will have to answer directly to Him.

And finally, not only does God plant the equivalent of a big, bright neon sign on our heads that says “step off,” but He fills our cup beyond the brim until it overflows. Wow!

Picture God filling up your cup.

How do we begin to wrap our brains around that image?

The God of the Universe…serving us…serving me…the lowliest of His creatures.

Unfathomable!

I went from feeling confused to feeling overwhelmed with awe.

Praised be the Good Shepherd. Praised be His Holy Name!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Scary Valley



Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. New King James - Psalm 23: 4



It has taken me way too long to get back to my look at Psalm 23rd in which I’m pondering how the verses in this treasured piece of Scripture make me feel. I am thinking, besides the fact that I have been insanely busy the last couple of weeks, that probably the main reason for the delay has been that this particular verse makes me feel…uneasy…

I have always loved this verse. I have found comfort in it in times of trouble. It has helped me regained confidence while in shaky grounds. It has brought stability when life has seemed up-side-down. But it also has made me feel worried while cruising.

One thing is to read this verse when I’m in the middle of that darkest of valleys; another one is to read it when life is all bright and sunny.

While in the pit, this assurance of the presence of God brings peace. While in the green pastures, reading about the valley of the shadow of death, truly, gives me the creeps.

I’m just being honest here. I know this is probably not your average meditation…but feelings and emotions are very personal…and this is what is inside my heart. I don’t want to think about the valleys when I’m up high, enjoying the view from the mountain-top. I don’t want to remember darkness when I am in the light. I don’t want to be reminded of the fact that there will be yet, another valley waiting for me at some point…while I am being refreshed near the still waters.

I am so selfish and so in-love with this world that I just want to make the superficial happiness of the material, last me every day of my stay on this Earth. This verse, however, brings me back to a place where the reality of suffering is made evident. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is not something that happens only to “other” people. It happens to me too. And, though I may forget while on the mountain top…valleys of shadows of death are all too real.

Nobody likes walking through them. But some go through these valleys more graciously than others…I am not one of those gracious valley-walkers. Therefore, anything that reminds me of the fact that shadows are part of our wandering in this world makes me uneasy.

What to do?

I just have to finish reading the verse and BELIEVE IT! I have to believe He is Trustworthy! I have to believe that His promises are true and claim them! I have to claim His promise for my own life: He is with me in the valley of the shadow of death…He protects me. He takes care of me. He comforts me with His power and above all, with His presence. I know it in my mind. I just have to believe it in my heart and trust Him so I can take Him at His Word. That is the only way that the valley won’t seem so terrifying to me. That is the only way I won’t become queasy when reading this verse. That is the only way I will fear no evil as I continue my walk with The Lord.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Divine Navigation



He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

For a person who is always lost, the second part of verse 3 of Psalm 23 represents great hope.

Before I ever got a smart phone…which was way later than most people…my GPS used to be my husband Dan. Before I left for a place I was not familiar with, Dan would sit down with me, map in hand or in front of the computer screen and walk me through the route to wherever I was going. He would explain what I could expect, and give me landmarks so I would know if I was going the right way or if I had made a mistake. Often, I would have to call Dan from the road because something went wrong and he would guide me through every stop and turn until I found my way.

I don’t think I have ever thanked Dan for the years of long-distance-navigation-assistance he gave me. Thank you, Dan! I could have not gotten there without you.

I’m telling you. That’s why I don’t clean the house…if I did, how would I find my way without the breadcrumbs?

It is the same in life. I make a million decisions in one hour. But I spend months second-guessing myself. Did I choose the right meal for dinner tonight? Did I buy the right detergent? Should I have bought that laminating machine I saw at Aldi’s? Should I have said no to Dylan when he first asked me to watch that Michael Jackson video he is so obsessed with now? Should I had not pushed to move? Should I had pushed to go back?

Sigh…

I never know if I am going on the right direction. I get distracted by the lights on the road. The incoming traffic blinds me and I get disoriented.

It is a relief to remember that He, the Architect, Designer, Master Builder and Conductor of this thing I call my life is my Navigator, the most perfect one, who will never get me lost, even when I don’t know where I am. And why does He care? He cares because it is for His Name’s Sake. It is for His glory that I get where I need to go.

My Lord and My Shepherd, allow me to trust You enough to follow Your direction so I don’t have to feel lost ever again. Like the sheep follow the Good Shepherd because they know him and know he would take them to the good pastures, let me follow You, Lord…wherever you may lead me.