Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Random and not so random fears

Both of my sons are afraid of random things.  Grant, my older one, even though he would never admit it, is afraid of closed shower curtains.  Every time he walks out of the bathroom, the shower curtain is open.  I would close it, and later in the day, I will find it open again.  I don’t mention it, but I know it is him.  I don’t know why; but it makes him nervous.    

Dylan doesn’t like to see my closet doors open.  He is not ashamed of admitting it, though.  He unabashedly says, “I don’t like your closet doors open.  They’re big fat scary.”  Who knows why these things scare them.  Nobody knows how such fears began.  They can’t explain it.  It’s like when Grant used to be afraid of buttons.  From age 2 until not that long ago, he would not be caught dead in a shirt with buttons.  The sentiment was so rash, that sometimes he wouldn’t even want to see me or anybody else wearing shirts with buttons.  It was crazy and irrational, but it was real.  I would try to convince him that buttons were cool.  But he wouldn’t budge.  I would try to make him tell me what he had against buttons.  But he couldn’t put it into words. 

Tonight, I contemplate my own fears.  I don’t like to think about them.  They are “big fat scary” ones.  Some of them scream irrationality, like my fear of having the emergency break in my car accidentally pull up all by itself in the middle of me driving, bringing the car to a sudden and dramatic stop.  Does that make any sense?  (Please don’t answer)

Others are based on lack of confidence, like my fear of not being able to do a good job at work, home, church, or anywhere because I stink at everything.  I also fear that I will let down and/or hurt those I love the most because I am unreliable, selfish and self-centered.  I fear I’d make the wrong decisions because I am impulsive, impatient and arrogant.  I fear I will miss the joy of life because I tend to always be dissatisfied.  The list goes on and on.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  I feel like I’m drowning hopelessly in an ocean of fear.  And I am tired of it. 

The origin of fear is lack of trust and faith in the delivering power of our God.  I know it in my head, that He will never leave me nor forsake me, like I read in Deuteronomy 31:6; but I still doubt it in my heart.  I still don’t take God at His word 100%.  My faith is still lacking.
However, it doesn’t have to continue to be this way.  I pray without ceasing that He will increase my faith.  And I know that one way to start trusting Him for real is by remembering His promises.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal His Truth to me through His Word so that I will really and truly believe it in my heart.  And I know that in the meantime, every time I feel the cloud of fear hanging over me, wanting to cover me like a lead blanket, I can open up my Bible or even better, I can recite His Words by memory and aloud. 

The enemy, who brings in the dark clouds, wants to distance us from our Lord, Jesus.   He would hate nothing worst than to cause us to invoke Christ’s name and proclaim His Word every time he tempts us with our fears.  It would probably be a good antidote to his schemes if every time we feel fear taking over, we would rebuke it by reciting Scripture aloud.  The enemy would not like that one bit, and who knows?  One day we may find out that buttons are cool.  We may realize that there isn’t anything big, fat or scary in Mama’s closet,- besides Mommy’s pants, of course.-  We might even understand that a wet-open shower curtain creates mildew; therefore, it is better to close it for it to dry out completely!  And the enemy might even leave us alone…

Here are some to start:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

Even 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. (Psalm 23:4)

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10)

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can Man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Word is Near...

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."  1 Timothy 4:1

Keep the Word near so we may know it and obey it.  May it be a lamp for our feet, and a light on our path.  (Psalm 119:105)  Please help us to keep in mind that our struggles are 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)  Develop in us keen awareness and high levels of discernment, Lord Jesus, so we will recognize quickly and without hesitation the most finely crafted lies. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I just want to be inspired...

I remember watching the movie Jerry McGuire years ago and being somewhat touched by the line, “I just want to be inspired,” which the lead female character told Jerry in response to a “mission statement” that he had put together in a moment of self-awareness, the night before.  

Today, many years later, I have appropriated that line.  I just want to be inspired.  I don’t want to live my life aimlessly wandering without purpose.  I don’t want to just navigate my days among piles of laundry, unread/unopened mail, scattered shoes, broken toys, sticky notes and relentless dust.  I don’t want to just go through the motions of preparing meals, packing lunches, getting kids ready to go to school, surviving work, and family life.  God is an all consuming fire, whose love is like a hurricane.  He is an untamed lion, The Lion of Judah, and as such He dwells in us.  He consumes us and moves us, and awakens us.  He even shakes us up once in a while, to get us out of the rut.

He is certainly moving in my soul right now.  I just wish I could understand the way that He wants me to go.  Since I know my ways are not His ways, I pray He’ll show it to me.  I pray He’ll inspire me. 

I want Him to touch me and to let me see the beauty of His presence with the eyes of my soul.  Like the air, I want to feel Him near me, embracing me, surrounding me, holding me, and building me up so I can be re-energized to fulfill His will for me on this earth.  I want to meet my destiny as I walk toward Him.

I am willing to go, as long as He comes with me.  Lead the way, and I will follow.  I just want to be inspired. 

In this world of chaos, and darkness; I want Him to be the Light into my path and my feet. 

Please, don’t let me trip.  Clear the path and hold my hand.  Give me strength.  Give me truth.  Give me wisdom.  Give me You. 
Inspire me.

This song is a great proclamation of Jesus THE WAY! by Jeremy Camp.  Listen to it if you have a minute,

Monday, September 19, 2011

God is very special

“…I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1b

I had just finished yelling at my two boys about not having said grace before starting to eat their dinners, when Daddy came home from work.  Since he did hear some of the rigmarole (one of my Mother in Law’s favorite expressions, which I am still not sure what it means, but I’ll use it here anyway, since it sounds like it’d fit…) he asked Dylan if he knew who he was praying to when saying grace, just to make sure…because with Dylan, we never know.  To Daddy’s question, Dylan quickly replied, “to God.”  As we both nodded and smiled, we heard him add:  “Daddy, you know?  In the Bible, God is very special.”  I heard Dan agreeing with Dylan and telling him that God thinks he was special too because He made him and loves him.  To this, Dylan muttered something about Jesus that nobody could understand, and got back to his dinner. 

At the kitchen sink, I looked back at my little boy and thought to myself, “you sure are special, alright…”  Later, as I was remembering Dylan’s words, I thought of what Beth Moore talked about at the simulcast a couple of weeks ago.  She said that “God never overlooks one single ‘me’ in the bigger ‘we’.”  The Most High God, The Creator of the heavens and the earth, and of the universe, and of everything else, cares so much about each of His children regardless of his condition, not overlook any single one of them in an ocean of souls.  The thought took my breath away.  He cares about little Dylan, and Grant, and Dan…and me too.  What makes us so special that He knows our names and calls us His own?  What makes me so special?

The truth is that I formulated the question backwards.  It is not I who is special.  It is so clear in the Bible that even a five year old can see it, feel it, understand it and articulate it.  It is Him.  It is God who is special.  He is The Righteous One, and because we are not, He became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to die for us and thus allow us to be righteous in Him.  He took our sin and gave us His righteousness; so we would be special because He is special.  And once we belong to Him, He doesn’t overlook us as individuals.  He is the God Who Sees, and He does see each and every one of His children. 

I pray that as we continue to read His Word, we would truly see how “special” He really is, as well as how special we are in Him.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fill it up God!

One of the many joys of small-town-country living in Western Pennsylvania is that with fall it comes a season of  melancholic beauty, colorful leaves (which could also be a curse…depending on who you ask : ) and my favorite, a myriad of festivals all around, almost every weekend from September to Thanksgiving.  As it happened, we just had our township festival a few days ago.  Of course, there was a parade, which we had the blessing to have pass by right in front of our house.  At around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, we armed ourselves with sweatshirts and baseball hats to cover up our pjs. and our morning hair, and down the driveway we went.  Grandma stopped by and encouraged the kids to get bags to collect the bounty of candy that was about to start pouring out the windows of the various vehicles in the parade.  My little Dylan grabbed his bag, opened it wide in his outstretched arms, took a deep breath, closed his eyes, looked upwards and said:  “fill it up God!”

There were basically two ways to react to this.  One way was to look at him, laugh, and think to yourself, “what a big bum,” which was exactly what I did.  The other way was to see it from a whole other perspective, and exclaim with a sigh, “o the faith of a child.” 

I have to admit that it has taken me till now to see it the second way.  I think it is, perhaps, because my faith is certainly not like that of a 5 year old.  I have become cynical and too dependent on my own means for provision.  I worry too much about tomorrow and I keep my “bag” tightly closed so nothing can get out of it.  But then, I started thinking about what I heard a while back on the radio… “what if we live our lives with open hands, that way, God can take away whatever He wants to take away, but He would also put in there more than we can ever imagine.”  What if I were to leave my “bag” wide open for Him to take away the heavy burdens that weigh me down, and replace them with His immeasurable treasures, which I would otherwise miss, if I were to keep it vacuum-sealed?  Maybe this is something I need to put into practice more intentionally.  Maybe that’s the secret to a more content life.  Maybe this is something to think about…

In the end, you can guess, Dylan’s bag did get filled up with goodies, which now I have to ration and hide.  But I am grateful that I have been able to understand the reminder of the joy of the Lord’s faithfulness and generous provision, which brings smiles to my face like sweet treats in a crisp fall small-town day.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
                                                      Job 1:20-21

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Am I someone worth dying for?

Once again, the whisperings of the Holy Spirit came to me while listening to a Christian song.  This time, the song was “Someone Worth Dying For” by the band Mikeschair.  As you can very well guess, the song is about finding your worth in Christ.  The title of this song immediately suggests the question…am I really someone worth dying for? In my mind, I tend to think that there are those who are definitively worth the price that Christ paid, but certainly I’m not among them.  Why would a perfect God love me so much that He’d send his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)   There is nothing in me worth loving, let alone loving to the point of sacrifice. 

Well, the truth is that nobody is worth the sacred blood of the Perfect Lamb of God.  Not even one.  And this is the core of what makes God’s love for us so unfathomable, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  This is the extend of the Grace of God, that even though nobody deserves His sacrifice, He did it anyway, for He is Love and Mercy is His nature. 

Nothing compares to His love and nothing we do would ever make us worthy of Him.  Our worth is in Him.  It is by Him that we are made righteous.  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)  Any good in us comes from Him who justifies us.  That is why we walk in humility; because we had no part in making ourselves worthy of Him.  It is not by what we do, but by what He has already done, that we walk among the saved, and we count ourselves as part of His flock.  That’s why I sing, “Jesus help me believe that, [in You] I am someone worth dying for.” 
1 The fool says in his heart,
   “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
   there is no one who does good.
 2 The LORD looks down from heaven
   on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
   any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.   Psalm 14:1-3

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I couldn't have done it without you...

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”  This common, every day expression of humility and recognition of the value of team work came alive from a whole other perspective at the Beth Moore live simulcast last Saturday as she suggested her second principle:
“An individual calling can only be fulfilled in a ‘we’ context.” 

It is not hard to find Biblical illustrations to proof this principle.  Beth chose to look at Paul.  One of the greatest pillars of our faith, the ex-Pharisee whom God chose to be the apostle to the gentiles so we, today, may know Him, needed to be in good company in order to fulfill his great commission.  He traveled all around the known world of his time in the company of those whom God had appointed to form his very own “we” context.  He needed these companions in order to fulfill his destiny.  He “could not have done it without them.” 

The need for companionship is most evident when, nearing the end of his career on this earth, Paul sent out a moving plea to his friends to come and be with him as he saw his last hour approaching.  At that time, however, only Luke remained.  As a matter of fact, Luke probably was the one writing down 2 Timothy as Paul dictated it.  It was probably Luke’s pen which wrote the urgent plea of verse 9:  Do your best to come to me quickly,” for the others had left him and “only Luke is with me.”  It is chilling to imagine Luke as he heard Paul dictate the words, “…only Luke is with me.”  Luke, the physician who joined Paul’s adventures somewhere between verses 8 and 10 of Acts chapter 16, became Paul’s “we” context.  It was a very lean “we.”  It was a “we” of just two; but a mighty “we” context nonetheless. 

Likewise Jesus developed His ministry within a “we” context.  He didn’t need to do so.  Jesus didn’t need the help of anybody to fulfill His redemptive plan; but He chose to walk in “good company.”  He is our greatest example on how to live our lives, and what He showed us was that we need others so we don’t have to walk alone.  His yoke is light because He carries it for us and because He gives us the opportunity to have other believers around who can lend a hand. 

He also gives us gifts to be put at the service of others.  Out of these gifts, God designs our mission.  While He does stretch us and pulls us out of our comfort zone, He doesn’t call us to a destiny that we are not equipped for.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NASB)  He will fulfill His purpose for me, like Psalm 138:8 says.  And in order to do so, He provides the necessary gifts through His Holy Spirit.  These gifts are not for our sole benefit.  Like Peter tells us in his first letter, chapter 4:10:  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” 

God empowers us to administer His grace to others within the context of Christian fellowship.  Therefore, the gifts we have received from God must go back to Him in the form of service to His children.  We are the vessels of His grace and His grace must overflow from our cup to bathe others in it.  What good is there if we are filled with grace but keep it to ourselves?  Grace becomes wasted in an immovable pool of stagnant water.  Hording grace doesn’t benefit anybody.  Grace must flow like a river.  The more it overflows, the more it fills up again with fresh blessings and provision.  The more we strive toward putting our Spiritual Gifts at the service of our brothers and sisters in Christ, the more we are refueled by new and refreshed portions of His grace.  Something else miraculous happens as we serve others and share grace.  We figure out our calling. 

Many children of God struggle to find out what their calling is.  They even go as far as thinking that they don’t really have any Spiritual gifts to share.  Scripture states, however, that it is not a matter of Christians not having Spiritual gifts.  It is a matter of differences in our gifts.  There are different kinds of gifts, all distributed by the will of God to each one of His beloved.  We see it clearly in Romans: 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-7)  The question is then, how do we find out which gift we have been dealt.   

Of course the Lord can supernaturally reveal our gifts to us in any way He would choose.  However, many times He chooses to reveal His will to us, and our calling, when we are caught up in the midst of active fellowship.  It is by staying in the fellowship of believers that our faith becomes actions, as so does our love.  It is in the fellowship of believers that we discover the leading Hand of God.  And His Hand almost certainly will lead us toward and not away from others.  His Hand leads us to our “we” context where we will figure out what He designed us to do.  We know this.  The more involved we are at church, the more phone calls to serve we receive.  The more we do, the more we are asked to do.  It is in the middle of these “doing” that we hear His voice guiding us to where He wants us.  He will call us according to the gifts He has given to us and in the measure that we use them for the furthering of His kingdom and the benefit of His children.  So it sure is true that we can really not do it without “you.” 

 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"We were created for good company."

I spent this past Saturday at a neighboring church watching a live simulcast of Beth Moore’s Living Proof Ministry.  As it has been the case every time I have studied Scripture under the guidance of Beth Moore, the experience was singularly out of this world.  Beth (for some reason I feel like we are on a first name basis type of relationship : )  spent the entire day walking us through the life of Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and of the Book of Acts.  As we journeyed through the humble path that Luke’s life took, we discovered a road map on how to walk the walk of a follower of Christ. 
The study revealed seven main points, the first one of which was:
          “We were created for good company.”  Under this heading, our teacher reminded us that we are not to journey through this life alone.  We have a God-shaped-hole in our heart.  Like Augustine said at the start of his Confessions, "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you." Therefore, that hole can only be filled by Him, that restlessness can only be put at ease by the peace that surpasses all understanding, which only He can provide.  However, He also created in us a desire for company.  Anyone can attest to this.  Even if some of us enjoy, need and/or crave some “alone time” here and there, we can’t deny that loneliness withers the soul.
          God is relational in every aspect, even within Himself.  He is the Triune God.  The Great I AM co-exists within Himself in perfect fellowship with all Three Sacred Persons, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.  This is the ultimate treatise in fellowship perfection.  He Himself is the origin of our need for “company.”  After all, we were created in His image.  His image is one of relationship among the Trinity.
 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33) I thought that perhaps this was a good moment to remember this verse as we sigh…  He is indeed unsearchable.  He is untamed and impossible to be fully grasped.  Like we read in Ecclesiastes 11:15, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”  We can’t completely understand His ways and His work, but He has “fearfully and wonderfully” made us; and as such, He has given us clues that lead us to Him.  He reveals Himself to us if we care to seek Him, and as we press on in our mission to know Him, He speaks His reality to us. 
          Back to this desire for company, we see how it can lead us to disaster if we are not careful and intentional about whom we let into our lives.  Like Beth Moore said, “we were created for GOOD company.”  Not just any kind of company.  Not company for the sake of company.  We are to surround ourselves with goodness and “22 flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  (2 Timothy 2:22)  We must seek fellowship with other believers as a form of communion with like-minded people who share their faith in Jesus Christ.  Even though we live among unbelievers, and we are called to love all; as the adopted children of God, we are part of His family and we are primarily called to share true fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Him who gathered us together. 
Fellowship is then, a different kind of relationship.  It is a relationship designed to provide the means for Christian growth.  It provides nourishment, strengthening and support for our faith.  It is impossible, then, to have fellowship with non-believers, since we would not be able to do any of these things in such relationship.  Therefore, the fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ is a must.  There is no growth without it.  There is no fulfillment of our mission to serve and to love without it.  There is bitterness and loneliness without it. 
We need to walk alongside those on the narrow path in order to lift each other up, build each other up, serve each other, contribute to each other’s faith growth, lead each other toward Christ and hold each other accountable when we stray.  This “good company” is then our need to be in fellowship and communion with brothers and sisters in Christ so we may not walk alone.  We won’t make it alone.  Jesus knew it.  That’s why He began His ministry by calling His disciples into His fellowship.  That’s why He instituted the Sacrament of Communion as one of His last acts while in the flesh.  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
            Just like Paul’s life was blessed by the good company of Luke who stayed with him until the bitter end, our lives brighten and our load lightens when we walk alongside our fellow adopted children of God, along those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Lord Is My Portion

Back in January of this year, I heard about a neat and new alternative to the old “New Years Resolution” thing.  This idea suggested selecting a word to live by during the whole year.  The idea sounded very intriguing to me, so I thought about it for a few days.  One word…a word that could become sort of like my theme word for the entire year…hmm.  By the end of January I had it.  My word would be “portion.”  I mean portion as in, the Lord is my portion. 

Psalm 142:5 says:  “I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."  Psalm 119:57 also talks about it when it says:  “You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words.”  Some Bible versions translate it as “inheritance.”  However, I want to stick with portion as my word, for He sure is.

The Lord is the giver of all things.  He certainly gives us what we need, when we need it and in the exact measure that we need it.  How perfect He is!  He knows us so well, so intimately, that He can cater specific details, made to order just for us individually.  He knows that the best way to cheer me up when I’m down is to give me a bright sunny and warm day.  He knows that days like that transport me back to my carefree childhood in the land of the eternal summer.  Whatever it is, He gives it to me and to you in the correct portion that you and I need it. 

He knows that some of His beloved are specially touched by rainy Saturday mornings because it brings them back to the time when, as children, they would curl up in bed with their Moms and a good book.  He knows that you may perhaps enjoy a thunder storm because it reminds you of His might.  He knows that you may love spring time because it shows how He makes everything new.  He knows that you love fall because its melancholic beauty reminds you that nothing is forever.  He knows that you may like nothing better than waking up to a winter-wonderland because it makes you feel like Christmas.  He knows that you may be at your best when standing in front of the ocean because it makes you feel free.  He knows that you may rather be in the mountains because nature declares His glory.  He knows that you become alive when surrounded by little children because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like them.  He knows that your heart pulls you to spend time with the elderly because you treasure wisdom. 

The list goes on and on.  It is endless.  It doesn’t matter what it is, He knows it.  He knows you.  His hands formed you. (119: 73)  He created your inmost being; He knit you together in your mother's womb.  (Psalm 139: 13) 

He also knows when you need to be called out on something.  He knows when you need to be reminded that it is not about you.  He knows when you need to be humbled, and even when you need to feel a little ashamed.  That’s exactly what happened to me the other day.

It was a day I let the enemy get a hold of my most intense fears.  It was a day that I let my mind play tricks on me and couldn’t stop myself from hysteria.  It was a day when I forgot all about trusting Him.  It was a day, when I later discovered, I needed to feel a little stupid.  And stupid I felt! 

That day, I was throwing a self-pity party, and of course I didn’t want to “celebrate” alone, so I wanted my husband to share in the “festivities.”  In order to do so, I sent him an e-mail expressing my state of mind and venting, or rather, dumping all these baggage on him.  As it happened, the e-mail didn’t send.  It got lost in cyber-space, so with an added “portion” of anger, I re-typed it.  When I was done spewing all my venom, I hit the “send” button again.  To my delight, this time around, the message in question did go, only not to my husband! 

Yes, the venting session ended up in the electronic pages of the Principal of my children’s school.  Needless to say, when I saw the confirmation with her e-mail in there instead of my husband’s e-mail my heart sank.  I immediately and, quite frantically proceeded to try to retrieve it to no avail.  Then, I composed another one profusely apologizing for the previous one and how it wasn’t intended for her and that due to the very private matter of it, I would appreciate her deleting it (preferable before READING IT! – I didn’t say that, but really prayed hard about it). 

At any rate, right after I sent it, I called my husband on the phone and as soon as I heard that he was able to talk, I broke down crying.  I scared him half to death, until I finally was able to give him more details.  He comforted me, like the sweet man he is.  “You are only human,” he said.  And very good at it, I thought.  I had to go to class in like 2 minutes, so I did the best I could to compose myself after I hung up the phone.  I went to my class feeling miserable, but in a strange way, better.  I felt as if I had unloaded a very heavy burden off my shoulders. 

As it happened, after I got done with class, I checked my e-mails and there was one from the School Principal.  As the godly woman she is, of course she told me that as soon as she began reading the message, she realized it wasn’t intended for her and that she deleted it without reading further.  She told me that she loves me and that whatever it was, I needed not to worry.  I was safe and held in good regards.  I felt so relieved.  It was unbelievable.  The sense of peace that came over me was indescribable.  The funniest part is that I was even able to use the story in my class and it was a huge success!  The ways of the Lord...

Later that day, as I was driving back home, I thought, “boy did I feel stupid today.”  Then, as if on a cue, my word came to me.  He is my portion.  Indeed, He is!  He gives me what I need.  I guess I must’ve needed to feel a little stupid that day. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

To Love, To Serve and To Trust

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1)

“Dios da para todo…” were the words my dearest Rosa whispered to me as we tightly embraced the day I had to leave her in my far away hometown.  I left her all alone down there, carrying the heavy weight of caring for my ailing, frail, and aging Father.  Roughly translated, these words could be interpreted as, “God provides for everything.”  Not long before, I had been thinking about how I wanted my parting words to her to be comforting and encouraging so she would not feel so alone carrying such a heavy burden which shouldn’t even be hers to carry in the first place.  When the moment came, however, overcome by emotion I could say nothing.  All I could do was hold her as tight as I could and sob.  The one I sought to comfort was the one comforting me. 

I have never met a more selfless soul as Rosa’s.  She is an example of a life dedicated to serving others.  She is a living reminder of how to put others first.  She is the last person she ever thinks about.  She is the first one to step up when a need arises.  And she does it without thinking is a burden or an obligation, for she does it out of love.  She might not have deep intellectual knowledge of Scripture; but she lives it.  She lives the love every day.  While I sit and ponder what “Agape” love may mean, she is out there practicing it.  She is the closest thing to sacrificial love I’ve ever witnessed in a human being.  She gives me a glimpse of the radiance of Christ here on earth. 

Watching Rosa and even just thinking about her make Scripture come to live in front of my eyes.  She is a living example of our commission to serve and to be humble.  Like Jesus said:  “28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:28)  How hard that is for me to grasp, however.  My selfishness and attachment to this world and all its things turn this lesson into a jagged pill to swallow.  But my reluctance to accept it doesn’t change the truth, and the truth says that we are called to serve, and to serve in the name of Christ, following His very example, as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-7:
 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Being God Himself, He made Himself nothing…
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24-25)  That same God, in the person of Jesus the Christ, took on flesh and dwelled among us, and suffered the worst of punishments and death to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice to cleanse the sins of those who receive Him and declare Him Lord of All!  How can we do less than that?  He is our example to follow when dealing with our brothers and sisters in Him.  It is by our love that they will know we belong to Him, and that love is commitment and sacrifice.  That love is actions of care toward others.  That love is surrender to Him who is the only one able to give us such love.  We cannot love this way on our own.  It is humanly impossible.  We cannot selflessly serve by our own power.  We cannot die to the world and to self by the engine of our own will.  Love by our own human power is never complete.  It is never perfect.  It is by Him, who loved us first, that we would be able to love Him back and show our love for Him in our love for our brothers. 
It is a hidden gate and a narrow way that which leads to Him.(Matthew 7:13-14)  The only way to go through it and stay on the narrow path is by His propelling power.  We have not the strength, for we are weak.  But, “He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Rosa kissed the boys goodbye and walked away in silence that sad afternoon that we departed.  She didn’t look back so I wouldn’t see her tears.  I sat in my window seat on the bus that would take us to Panama City and looked away so the boys wouldn’t see mine.  My heart aches for Rosa since I have left her all alone with a burden that should be mine, but The Lord does provide.  In His grace He offers to us His divine providence, which is sufficient to meet any and all of our needs.  We just need to trust, surrender and obey.  We have been entrusted with the “secret things of God,” and though the world may not understand why and may wonder how, we know that our faith is on the Lord.  His Grace is sufficient.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Breathe on me, Breath of God

After another grueling afternoon spent with my younger son and “Tommy Triangle” and “Ricky Rectangle”, my husband walked in the door and asked his usual question of every evening, “did anybody get the mail?” (Why he doesn’t just get it as he pulls in the driveway still beats me, but I digress…) To which question I gave my standard reply, “no.”  However, this time, “something” moved me to also say, “but I’ll get it!” 

Kicking around shoes and toys left laying everywhere on the floor, I made my way to the front door.  Before I swung it open, I put on my older son’s favorite flip flops as an afterthought.  Finally, I stepped out the door.  The gentle breeze of that late summer afternoon caressed my face so tenderly that it made me stop on the front step to take in a deep and refreshing breath.  I lifted up my head and looked around inhaling as much as I could of that fragrant summer air.   It was a gorgeous afternoon indeed.  I felt as if I had just broken out of a box in which I’d been trapped for a mighty long time.  It was as if the breath of God was breathing down on me.     

I started to walk down the driveway and soon I thought to myself, “boy, these dumb flip flops are very comfortable! No wonder Grant wants to wear them all the time.”  It was as if the darn things were massaging my sore feet with every step I took.  I checked my feet again to see how well those bright blue flip flops fit me.  Surprisingly, they fit me perfectly.  “How has that boy grown…,” I thought with a sigh.  I kept on walking toward the rusty old mailbox and my spirits continued to be lifted up with every step.  I looked up and around and breathed in the beauty of the early evening.  I do love summer.  The soothing breeze touched my face again and made me smile.  Summer fits me like a pair of old comfortable shoes…
In my mind the lyrics and tunes of an old Hymn mixed in with a contemporary Praise and Worship song.  “Breathe on my breath of God, fill me with life anew…this is the air I breathe…Your holy presence living in me…I’m lost without you…”    He is the breath we breathe.  His Holy presence living in me is the Holy Spirit who dwells inside every Christian.  This is the air we breathe, His peace.  This is the air we breathe, His strength.  This is the air we breathe, His Holy Spirit, like He told the Apostles in John 20:21-22 when He said,  21 “…Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  He is the air we breathe.  His breath comes with the four winds, like He told Ezekiel when He was about to breathe life onto the dry bones. (Ezekiel 37:9)  And we are like those dry bones, which He renews with His Holy Breath.  
On my way back to the house I was joined by my little Dylan.  I handed him an envelope, and tried one more/last time, “what shape is it?”  As if by magic and to my great delight he replied with a big bright smile on his face, “a rectangle!”  YES!!!  I said aloud and gave him a high five. 

The Lord provided me with exactly what I needed at that moment.  He gave me what He knew would cheer my heart.  He gave me a beautiful summer afternoon.  He not only gave me the glorious afternoon, but He made sure I didn’t miss it!  He touched my shoulder and moved me to exercise a mundane activity which I never do, and with that, He ministered to my soul.  He even gave me the blessing of comfy shoes for my tired and hurting feet.  He turned the irritating “shoes on the way” into a blessing I’ll never forget.

“You are my portion, O Lord.” (Psalm 119: 57)  Thank you for being a loving and caring Father.  You are the God of the details.  You know your children so well that you know perfectly what would fill their hearts with joy at the right moment.  You are the breath I breathe…I am lost without you.  Breathe on me Breath of God, fill me with life anew.