Thursday, September 29, 2016

God Doesn't Love Me



I’m still thinking about what my husband told me the other day…I live too heavy…I do…

The thing is that the enemy tells me all these lies about how life is supposed to be and how my life is supposed to look like…then, since my life isn’t unfolding anything like that, I get frustrated and afraid, even hurt, and that’s why I carry around a bag full of anger that explodes at the slightest bump on the road. Rather than going with the flow of God’s plan for me, I have mistaken the lies of the enemy for the truth, and I’ve been blindly forcing things, events and circumstances to fit into a pattern that was never real…a reality that never existed. Therefore, my days turn heavy and my yoke becomes extremely difficult to bear.

The enemy lies to us all. He is relentless. Regardless of age or situation, he spits out falsehood and deceit without discrimination. Sometimes, seeing it on other people, my loved ones especially, helps me see it in me. For instance, it is through Dylan, my soon-to-be eleven-year-old son that I see the clearest picture of how the enemy operates in me. Dylan and I are one in temperament and personality. Therefore, looking at him often feels like looking on a mirror.

The other night was a perfect example. I can’t remember what the argument was about, but all I can remember is that Dylan felt so upset that he said: “God doesn’t love me…”

Well, that was bad. I felt like I am doing a horrible job presenting the Gospel to my kid, and I didn’t know how to fix it. However, I also saw, first hand, the impact of the lies the enemy tells us. I mean, really, why would Dylan say that God doesn’t love him? The devil attacks young and old without discriminating against any circumstance or life situation. One of the enemy’s most effective weapons is to instill in us the thought that we are not worthy of God’s love; therefore, we need to distance ourselves from Him out of shame.

And the thing is that we believe his lies. We know the truth, but in our moment of weakness and vulnerability, we forget and fall for the deception.

First of all, of course we are not worthy of God’s love. That is precisely why it is so amazing that He chooses to love us! Who am I that the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth is mindful of me? (Psalm 8:4) That is the gift of Grace…the amazingly glorious gift of God’s riches at Christ’s expense:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

And it is precisely due to our inability to be good enough for God that we must run to His Mercy Seat! (Exodus 25: 17-22) Instead, when we believe the enemy, we do exactly the opposite of what we need to do. We distance ourselves from the One who can redeem us…how crazy is that?

I embraced Dylan that night and assured him that nothing can separate him from the love of God…nothing…

If there is a next time, however, I also need to remember to rebuke the enemy out loud and affirm that we belong to Christ. We belong to the truth!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Anger Part 2



I guess tomorrow took a couple of days to arrive, huh? Anyway…where was I? O yeah…anger, and what to do with it?

Well, I still don’t know…but going back to that sermon by Pastor Doug several weeks ago, I think he is totally right. If I think about my anger, I could definitively trace it to either feeling hurt, frustrated or afraid (and sometimes all of them together at the same time). I know those emotions all too well. In my selection of emoticons or emojis or however you call them little faces that we are all so fond of on our phones, the three most used in my selection are precisely those that express some level of these three emotions!

Hurt, frustration and fear are, indeed, my constant companions. Therefore, there is no great mystery about why anger surfaces so often in my life.

Back to the original question: What to do?

I wish I knew!

In my notes from that sermon, however, I found something Pastor Doug said that was as intriguing that Sunday when I heard it as it is again now when I read it. He said: “release anger in an appropriate manner.” Hmm… That was kind of a new idea for me. I always thought anger had to be controlled, stopped, tamed or even swept under the rug. I guess I never heard the idea that anger has to be released.

Of course I’ve known that fact ever since my first fit. Bottled up anger only makes things worst. As you can imagine I abuse such concept and use it as an excuse or justification for my angry explosions. But I can’t remember ever actually hearing a Pastor say it aloud from the pulpit. Is there really an appropriate way to release this emotion?

The more I think about it, the more a couple of ideas circle back in my brain. As I put them in writing, they come out as the following steps:

Confess it: when I feel anger bubbling up inside of me, I need to recognize it and speak it, hoping that saying it aloud could hit the pause button (or better yet, the stop button) and help diffuse it. “I’m getting really angry here…” (Note to self: avoid saying: “You are making me angry!”)

Give yourself a time-out: Once I confess the state of my emotions aloud to the other party/parties involved, it is probably a good idea to remove myself from the scene for a while. “Can we not talk about this right now? I need a moment.” (Remember not to say anything like: “get away from me before I hurt you!” that won’t go well). After I calm down and rejoin the human race again, I can come back to the discussion. At least I got to express the fact that I was angry and the time out might serve the purpose of not only validating the emotion, but also may allow time to find creative ways towards a solution or an agreement.

And when I lose it, apologize: Inevitably, I will, upon occasions (yeah…like all the time) not be able to stop uncontrolled anger to escape, and my unleased tongue will go on the destroyer mode. On those instances, I just need to openly and sincerely offer my heartfelt apology and express my sorrow for the offense. No matter what the other person did, I cannot justify uncontrolled anger. I cannot justify anger that seeks to crush and destroy. “I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have…” (Important note on this step: resist the temptation to follow that statement with anything resembling: “but, you...”)

Finally, move to the beach! I don’t see how anybody could ever be angry while living by the ocean!

Well, I’m not sure if any of these could count as help to anyone. As for me, at least it helped me as an outlet of honesty. I’m a deeply flawed woman. The good news is, the Lord is not done with me yet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Anger Part 1



For some reason I am wired in a way that anger is my default emotion. No matter what it is, I get angry first, then I ask questions later…maybe. The worst thing is that often I don’t even know I am doing it. It is only when I see the look of concern and/or fear on the faces of those around me that I realized I must have gotten angry about something. And I’m sorry to say it, but most of my angry explosions are usually directed at, and/or in the presence of the people I love the most.

Sigh…

Anger is very draining. It drains my joy and it leaves my heart feeling empty, guilty and sad. Let alone the damage to those around me…uncontrolled anger destroys my witnessing…it destroys any efforts I may have made to show others the face of Christ in me. It causes me to lose credibility. “How could a person who claims to be godly get so uncontrollably angry?” I imagine that’s what they think when they see me having one of my episodes. Needless to say, my lack of self-control and inability to tame my short temper causes me to experience deep feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. So much so, that I often end up crying in the shower full of regret.

Not that long ago, I heard our Pastor preach on this topic. He said that anger can usually be traced to three emotions: hurt, frustration and fear. What does that say about someone like me, a person who is angry a lot? I guess it means that I feel hurt, frustrated and/or afraid a lot. But why? Why am I inundated by such awful feelings?

Well,

I feel hurt because I take myself too seriously.

I feel frustrated because I am too controlling.

I feel afraid because I don’t trust God.

I take myself too seriously, therefore, I get offended easily.

I’m too controlling, therefore, I lose it when things don’t go my way.

I don’t trust God enough, therefore, it’s really hard for me to stay calm when life is scary.

My husband summarized it best. A few days ago he said to me: “You live to heavy.” At first I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. I think I know now. I walk around dragging a dreadful ball and chain that not only weighs me down, but also keeps me heavily secured on the ground…too earthbound…unable to climb the heights that God has prepared for me…unable to live my life with eternity in my heart.

Sigh…

What to do? I have no clue other than to pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit to grow His fruits in me as He softens my heart, making it a fertile soil ready for the seeds that were planted long ago to finally bloom and yield the long awaited crop.

I’ll get back to this topic tomorrow. In the meantime, let’s join in prayer, for the enemy to flee as we submit to the Lord and fight the battles of this world armed with His strength.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Time with My Lord



“The best way to receive God’s peace is by sitting quietly in His presence and trusting Him in every area of our lives.” This is one of the things I read in my devotional lately which I’m trying to take to heart.

Taking time to “sit quietly” in His presence needs to become my priority.

In this life of busy schedules, car-pooling kids around, work, meetings, cleaning, cooking, social media, Netflix, etc., etc., etc…carving out time to sit quietly with the Lord is something that has to be done intentionally, otherwise days fly by until we blink and we can’t remember the last time we spent time at the feet of Christ.

It is a delicate balance, however, because time with the Lord is not supposed to be just one more thing in our schedule. It is not another work or task we have to perform and cross out of our infamous list. Time with Jesus is meant to nurture our personal relationship with Him. Imagine if you’d look at time with your husband, boyfriend, friends, children as a task that needs completed, done and over with. What kind of relationship would that be? I know for me, that would NOT be a relationship. It would be a chore.

Time spent with the people I love is precious, and I treasure it. Even when they drive me crazy, I LOVE being with them. My loved ones are the joy of my life! A chore, however, I deeply dislike.

The idea of “having to do” something makes it unbearable. I don’t like “having to do things.” The time I spent doing chores is time I considered wasted. Therefore, I refuse to place my time with the Lord in a category of things I have to accomplish.

I want to spend time with Him because I want to know Him more and more. I want to be in His presence. I want to tune into His frequency and I want to plug into His power. I want to follow Him. I want to seek Him first. I want to have a relationship because I love Him.

How do I do that?

I surround myself with Him. I stay aware of His presence as I remember He is the Emmanuel, God with us. I get a Bible app in my phone so wherever I am, I can open up Scripture. I program the radio in my car with all the Christian stations so I can stay in touch through music and commentaries. I invoke the Holy Spirit every step I take, with every decision I make, at every moment I need guidance, every time I need inspiration. I thank the Father for the blessings and gifts, big and small. I carry the name of Jesus at the tip of my tongue, calling out to Him every time I’m afraid, anxious, joyful, peaceful, and all the range of emotions that keep me alive. I take advantage of moments in the day when all is quiet and I’m alone to turn my face toward Him to listen to His voice.

I make My Lord part of my life.

I want to sit quietly with You, My Savior. I want to be aware of your presence. I want to see your hand. I want to feel I’m yours.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Homecoming Day



Well, homecoming celebrations are in the air this month. I don’t know about where you are, but around here high-school and college kids are already getting excited about fancy dresses, suits, football games, queens and kings, dances, parties, tailgating, etc.

At our house, we too are in the homecoming celebration mood right now. It is a slightly different homecoming, though. We are celebrating the day our son Dylan came home to become the spice of our lives.

It was ten years ago today that our lives changed as we entered our house with a tiny 10-month old baby in our arms. Gosh, was he little! And cute! His hair was crazy straight, sticking up like a porcupine. He took to me right away. Somehow, he saw in me his anchor, and he latched on to my arms like a life-preserver. I wasn’t prepared for that. I have never been so needed in my life. I mean, we had Grant, but he was always so independent. This sense of neediness was entirely new to me. I couldn’t go anywhere…I mean anywhere…because Dylan would immediately start crying. He didn’t want to go anywhere either because he was afraid he’d lose sight of me. It was exhausting. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it.

I look at those days now, and I see me as that needy baby. I am that child, so completely helpless and frightened that I can’t take a step for fear of losing sight of my anchor. I’m so tightly wrapped around My Lord’s arms, that sometimes I wonder if I’m suffocating Him. The funny thing is that I’m not. Differently from Dylan’s grip on me, my grip on the Lord, no matter how tight, would never smother Him. That is exactly what we are called to do. We are to be totally dependent on Him. He is to be the air that we breathe. And no matter how deep and scary our neediness may be, He will never be scared or tired of it. We can be assured that we can come to Him with all the heavy baggage of our dependence, and He would never turn us away. He can handle it, and He would never even have to slumber or take a break.

Well, as homecoming preparations go on their way, we celebrate the day Dylan stepped into our lives. What a ride! What a blessing! It’s been challenging at times, and at others just incredibly amazing and joyful. My cup runneth over. Blessed be the Name of the One who thought we could handle it. Blessed be the One who makes it all possible. Blessed are You, Lord Jesus, the bearer of our burdens, the healer of our wounds, the calmer of our storms.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Let's Wear the Armor!



I don’t know about you, but I do believe that there is such a thing as spiritual warfare. I believe that’s exactly what Paul is talking about when he says:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6: 12
Peter talks about it too,

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5: 8

Boy, and did these two men know about spiritual battles, or what? Paul, the persecutor of Christians…Peter, the denier of Christ…by the power of the Holy Spirit, they both had to endure fierce battles and remain constantly alert as they stayed permanently fitted in their God-provided armors. I’m certain the enemy kept on attacking them until the day they finally joined the heavenly court.

Peter and Paul would not be talking about this or giving such advice if the war weren’t real. And the thing is that it is as real today as it was back then. We are attacked too…constantly, whether we are aware of it or not.

Do you know how I know when I’m being attacked by the enemy? I know the moment I realize I’m worrying about something that is already completely resolved. It sounds crazy, but that kind of stuff happens to me. I, sometimes, catch myself worrying about something I totally KNOW I should not even consider as a potential source of remote concern. I worry about things that are settled.

It’s exhausting…

It robs me of my peace…and that’s the main sign of the attack: when peace vanishes.

The enemy knows that I’m an anxiety-prone person and that when I’m nervous and worried I become short-tempered, impatient and angry; therefore, I lose self-control and I often sin…all these causing me to withdraw from God’s presence, which is the enemy’s ultimate goal. He also knows that peace is the antidote that breaks this vicious chain. Then, he makes sure that he plants the seed of worry in my heart even when there’s nothing to worry about, so I lose my peace and the chain of despair that enslaves me is securely welded back into place around my neck.

What is there to do? Well, pray! We need to remain in constant communication with the Lord, asking Him to help us keep on His Armor (Ephesians 6: 10-20) so when the attacks come we are ready and we can stand our ground. We need to be aware that the attacks will come, so we can recognize them as we see them coming to then cover ourselves with the shield of faith and fight them off with the sword that is the Word! Hang on to your faith and go to the Word!

A while ago I tried it for the first time, and it worked! I know…why should I be surprised, right? But I was. In my years reading about the Word as the sword of the spirit, I never wielded it until very recently. As I was deep in the waters of fear and worry, waiting for test results to come back, the Holy Spirit moved me toward my Bible. I opened it in the Psalms and began to read them all, one by one, until a sense of peace came over me, so much so that I was able to doze off on and off while reading…which could never had happened in the state of panic and stress I was. Ever since then, every time I feel the fright of irrational worry creep over my spine, I remember the Psalms and I go to the Word…and like a mighty warrior, I lift it ready to deflect and pierce.

I don’t know about you, but I do believe that there is such a thing as spiritual warfare. And I believe the way to fight it is to recognize it, to be alert and to use the weapons God has provided. Discover the weapons in the armory, and put on the armor of God every day. He will show you how to use it. He will show you the way.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Done" List



Well, I did it! I looked at my “to do” list, which is mostly random pieces of paper scattered all over my desk, and then created my “done” list. I have to say that the experience was terrific. I actually got a notebook and organized it by categories. So that’s already an improvement!

But seriously, looking at the rather LONG list of things I have accomplished already in each of the very many categories of tasks I’m juggling at this point in my life felt pretty good. By the end of the exercise I was already feeling a bit less overwhelmed. God has allowed me, in my chaotic and disorganized existence, to make actual progress toward the goals set in front of me.

There is one thing, though. I just realized that all the categories in my “done” list pertain to things of this world: work and home projects. They are all tasks that have to do with material things. I totally neglected to include a category for the things of the spirit!

How revealing…how convicting…

Isn’t the cultivation of the soul and my relationship with Christ the MOST important thing I get to do in this world? How come it doesn’t show up in either of my lists. What’s up with that? What does that say about my priorities?

Well, I tell you what it means…it means my priorities are topsy-turvy…(btw, I only learned this phrase a not-so-long while ago, so I’m proud of myself for using it here…I hope it is appropriate for the occasion???)

At any rate, this “done” list business has showed me how easy it is to fill up my life with the things of this world and how quickly I leave out the things of God. It’s not like I neglect God. At least I’d like to think I don’t. It’s just that I have realized that I spend most of the time concerned about things that have little to no eternal value. I burn most of my energy rushing through a million tasks that once completed are totally meaningless.

What a waste!

Now what? I was feeling so good about myself! - good feeling’s gone -.

I guess, this is when I go back to #2 in my list, and listen to the Holy Spirit whispering: “Be still and know…”

…know that I am God.

…know that I am in charge.

…know that I designed your every step.

…know that I am aware of your weakness.

…know that I love you with all your imperfections and flaws.

…know that My Grace is sufficient.

…know that I know…

I breathe a sigh of relief. And back to #1, take a look at my “to do” list of spiritual disciplines (there’s got to be something on any of these half-scribbled pieces of papers scattered on my desk that contains at least one thing I have to do regarding something spiritual…please!). Then, create a reverse list that includes the things I have done to foster my spiritual life and my relationship with Christ. And you know what the first item on the new spiritual “done” list will be?

1. Christ has done it all!

I love You, Lord! Thank you for always pointing me onto the right path…the path that leads straight to Your arms.