Friday, July 27, 2012

A Child of Light

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Living in a rural area means, among other things (gnats and mosquitoes come to mind right away, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about) that when the power goes out, it is really, REALLY dark. The other day, we were without power for a good portion of the night and as I looked out the window, I marveled at the thickness of the darkness outside of our house. I also marveled at the almost magical power of a small candle. It took me by surprise when Dan lit the scented candle I keep in the kitchen. I was in the living room, separated by a wall, and I saw the sudden glow of the light come out through the sides and cut through the darkness one room away.

That small candle provided enough light to chase away the spooky darkness and put my young sons at ease. That’s when Matthew 5: 14 came to my mind. We are called to be the light of the world! We are to shine our light and not hide it. Even if we think our light is small, let us make sure that it will shine brightly for this world is dark and light never shines brighter than when in the thickest of darkness.

Let’s not hide our light under a bowl. The time is now to let it shine high above. Whatever that may mean for each one of us, if we all let our light shine in our own sphere of influence, we will be fulfilling our mission and contributing to opening the path for His light to triumph.

Even though the days are evil, we must redeem the times and try to make the most out of every opportunity to shine the light. (Ephesians 5: 16) After all, it is ultimately His light what we shine for He is the Light and He dwells in us, so ours is but a reflection of Him.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5: 8-11

The power came back that evening and the kids finally were able to go to bed and fall asleep. Later that night, I remembered how thick the darkness was and how that small candle was able to pierce it with one flickering spark of its wick. I want to be that candle, and never forget that, though I am small, I ought to fulfill my God-given mission and live as a child of light.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When The Lord Sings

“Can you turn the music on, Mama?” Is my 6-year old Dylan’s usual last sentence of the night, pretty much every night…well, not counting, “can I have chocolate milk?” which is his relentless pitch.-if you know Dylan, you know about his love for that beverage and also his sense of “perseverance.”

At any rate, my boys, 6 and 10, share a room and also a love for music which carries out all the way down to their sleeping habits.  They usually fall asleep to the melodies of praise music or some classical tunes and lullabies.  I share that same love for music. Though I can’t play any instrument much less carry a tune, music is a very important part of my life and Christian walk.  I am convinced that the Lord has used music to reach me in ways nothing else could. 

Praise and worship music are part of my daily encounters with the Lord and I am so very thankful for Christian radio stations which help me come into His presence regardless of place.  I believe that the Lord rejoices in our musical acts of worship and that He is blessed as the notes ascend to heaven from earth,-even if clumsily performed by the musically challenged like me-.  Who knows, He might even tap His Holy Feet at the beat of Toby Mac and smile at Mandisa’s “Good Morning” song at the dawn of each new day?!  However, I rarely, or never rather, have thought about the possibility of the Lord Himself, singing.  

So, when I discovered this passage in Zephaniah, chapter 3: 17, I was completed awestruck. The passage speaks about Israel's remnant after a series of woes and a season of unrepentance. The verses that caused me to pause were:

 “He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I cannot fathom the image of The Lord our God, the Creator of the Universe, The Most High, singing…it is such a great picture, audio/visual rather, that I can’t help but dwelling in it.  Can you imagine?  I have no words.  What could He possibly sound like? Can you imagine?  What a privilege to hear the LORD our God singing.  Should I someday be so blessed to join in such heavenly chorus?  I certainly cannot imagine.

There are recorded instances in the Bible of Jesus singing while walking on Earth.  We see it in Mark 14: 26 when, after He and his beloved disciples had finished the Last Supper, “they had sung a hymn, [and] they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  The One and Only Christ, singing…

Scholars say that they probably sang psalms at this occasion.  Psalm 118 was one of the songs they probably sang that fateful night. I encourage you to stop by Psalm 118 sometime today and read it carefully.  As you read it, imagine Jesus himself singing it.  The God in the Flesh, the Physical God who came down to be the perfect sacrificial lamb, tortured and killed for our transgressions so we could be acceptable to appear in the presence of The Father in heaven…singing these words.  It will move you and give you a divinely inspired perspective that will hopefully remain with you until you see Him singing in person as He takes great delight in you.

I pray my sons’ love for music carries through their entire lives, and that it becomes as transforming for them as it has been for me.  I pray that someday they may be in the midst of a heavenly concert and get a chance to hear the tunes out of the mouth of Our Great God.

Monday, July 23, 2012


After sitting at the car dealership for about 45 minutes, the service agent came into the waiting room looking somber.  He sat next to me with a yellow form in his hands and said, “your car needs a lot of repairs.”  Those are not the words you want to hear when you take your car in for inspection. 

He proceeded to tell me all the things that were wrong with my car while he pointed at a series of scribblings on his yellow form which may as well have been hieroglyphics or Sanskrit.  He went on and on rambling about this and that and the other.  The only word I actually was able to make out was “strut.”  I had no idea what it meant, but as he said it I was able to semi-read it on the Sanskrit scribbling.  Later, I looked it up online, but after reading the first sentence of the definition,-  “a structural component designed to resist longitudinal compression,”- I closed my laptop and called Dan.  

I told the service guy to just do the essential and that I needed to go.  I drove away with a sticker that read “failed inspection” and a lighter wallet.  Thinking about it now, the whole ordeal could be summarized in one word, neglect.  This is a very sad word, indeed.  This is a word that brings up images of derelict houses in run down towns or dirty faces and filthy rags on children aimlessly riding their rusty bikes.  The word makes me think of one-bedroom apartments with 65 cats, empty dining rooms, silenced family rooms, sad puppy faces and withered plants.

Granted, my car has been faithfully servicing me for over 10 years so it is bound to have some issues.  But the issues that it faced today are the product of my neglect.  I’ve taken it for granted.  I actually love my car.  It has served me very well.  It is an incredibly reliable vehicle and it just will not quit, regardless of the level of neglect that I have subjected it to.  I trust it with the lives of my sons and my own.  We’ve made countless memories in that car, but I have not taken good care of it and it shows now, in the form of expensive repairs.

It is the same with everything in life.  Neglect is a fatal condition that threatens to destroy whatever falls under its claws.  Everything, you name it, could potentially vanish if fallen prey to neglect, especially relationships.  It is relationships' number one killer, if you ask me.  It withers interest.  It washes away desire. It nullifies communication.  It diminishes interaction.  It decreases affection. It erases good will.  It slowly poisons from the roots and if you don’t do something in a timely manner, before you realize it, the fruit is rotten to the core.

The good news is, (now I’m sounding like my Pastor : )  it is actually a reversible condition.  Like my car, a thorough inspection, diagnosis and treatment can and will make all the difference. Taking care of what’s wrong will stop the catastrophic effects that would result if left unattended.  And like my car, a basic and many times, simple maintenance plan carried out faithfully will keep it from being irreversibly damaged. 

Like in all relationships, the same is true in our relationship with our Lord and Savior.  It will wither away and not bear fruit if we neglect it, just like the writer warned us in Hebrews:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2: 1-4)

Paying “much closer attention to what we have heard” so we don’t go adrift is the admonition to believers who tend to neglect their relationship with Christ. We have all the evidence laid out in front of us, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”  We won’t escape.  Neglecting our relationship with Jesus will only result in diminished maturity and a life less than abundant.  Just like my car, which is as reliable as a work horse and will not quit regardless of the neglect, Jesus will not quit on us regardless of our neglect.  But the relationship won’t be the same.  It won’t be all that it could be and we will miss out on a smoother ride.  We will miss out on the ride of our lives.

I did walk out of the dealership and Dan made an appointment somewhere else where we won’t get overcharged.  My trusty Civic will get the needed repairs.  And one thing I know is that I resolve to not take it for granted any more.  I will pay “much closer attention” from now on.  The same way I will do all that I can to stick to a maintenance schedule in my relationships so I don’t have to worry about escaping “such great salvation.”

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Driving is not one of my passions.  Somehow, the Lord in His infinite wisdom has arranged my life, however, in a way that I have to, against my strongest desires, drive a lot.  At any rate, one of the reasons I don’t enjoy driving that much (I could write a whole series of posts about the things I don’t like about driving…hmm, sorry, I digress yet again) I was saying, one of the things I don’t like about driving is that I am disoriented by nature.  My internal GPS got damaged at birth, so unless I know the way like the palm of my hand, though I don’t know the palm of my hand that well either now that I think about it…anyway, unless I am super familiar with the way, I will get lost.

Therefore, I really exercise the “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17) command when I drive, particularly in the event I should hit a road block or a detour.  Needless to say, I pray a lot during spring and summer. : )

For instance, a few days ago, I needed to go to my Mother in Law’s house,-a road that is super familiar to me.  As soon as I rolled onto her nice country road I see the bright orange lights flashing next to a “road closed” sign.  “You’re kidding me?” I wondered aloud.  “She said the road was open! What happened?”  I knew the road had been closed for a few days due to some this or that.  Obviously, I had not gone down that way since.  But the day before, she told me it was open again.  Well, it wasn’t.

I remembered my husband saying something about another way to go there that was easier than the usual long way around half the county, so I figured it was time to test it.  Well, I figured wrong.  I drove around and couldn’t find it so I ended up having to back up and go on the long way after all, which means this time it was extra long.

After much frustrated mumbling under my breath, I made it to her house and I did what I was supposed to do there for her, but, boy, was I exhausted.  

I guess it is kind of the same way sometimes in our Christian walk.  For one reason or another, we encounter detours and roadblocks that cause us to go around the long way in order to arrive at our destination.  Even though the way that is closed is the shortest, seemingly smoothest and most effective, it is not the prescribed one,-ask the Israelites, right?  I mean, they hit the longest detour in the history of the world.

The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Joshua 5:6

Rather than going straight through, the LORD Our God made them wander around for 40 years due to their disobedience.  They were not ready for a straight through walk and a speedy arrival to the Promised Land.  They needed the extra time to think, to grow, to mature in their faith and to become a cohesive community which would withstand the test of time.  Their time going in circles in the dessert strengthened them as a people and as believers.  Without that time, the Israelites arriving to the Land of Milk and Honey would have been a sorry bunch of whiners and spoiled brats.  Instead, the Israelites who took Jericho led by their fearless leader Joshua did so in such a magnificent way because they faithfully trusted and obeyed the LORD.  

I know that my mission the morning that I hit the detour on my way to my Mother in Law doesn’t compare to conquering Jericho (all I had to do was feed her 15 year-old dog).  But it was an opportunity for me to meditate on the way of the Lord, which more often than not seems simply incomprehensible to me.  And a chance to praise Him for His plan is always perfect, even if it takes us around the long way home.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lord, Have Mercy On Us...

There is nothing more disorienting and troubling than waking up to tragedy. I hadn’t opened my eyes yet when I heard my husband Dan’s voice as if coming from a tunnel, “there was a mass shooting at a Batman show last night in Colorado,” he said. Of course I was able to make out his words only after he repeated them about 3 times for I was still two-thirds asleep.

“Dear Lord,” I half uttered, “…have mercy on us…” My head fell heavy back on the pillow after Dan left the room, and my thoughts immediately went to my nephews who were planning to attend the midnight showing last night. “Lord, have mercy…” I kept repeating over and over again in my head…

I could spend time trying to figure out the reasons that motivated this 24-year-old man to break an entry into that dark theater and open fire randomly on the innocent spectators who sat in their chairs, armed with popcorn, candy and drinks, hoping to enjoy a thrill that they never expected would hunt them, perhaps for the rest of their lives, and some to their graves last night. The exercise, however, would be futile for some things are never understood. So I won’t do that here, today. I am sure there will be plenty of people speculating and coming up with theories which won’t really explain anything in the end for who knows what’s hidden in the corners of a hardened heart, but the Lord Himself? I’d leave the theories to the “experts.”

Instead, I will rather plug into the source of power which never goes out and is always there to recharge our spirit and calm our storms. I turn to Him, who is forever seated on His throne regardless of what may be happening down here on this dark world. I turn my eyes from the screen and into Him, for I “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

There will always be senseless violence and innocent people will fall victims of actions driven by evil. But we are not to lose heart. He has overcome the world and so will we.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46: 1)

Though I’m afraid, I do not let fear overpower me, for

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)

Though I’m shaken, I am not destroyed. Though I have paused, I will not be paralyzed. I will look at my Heavenly Father and I will resume my walk because He promised:

“…do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10)

I don’t lose hope,

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing. 

(Psalm 34: 7-9)

Join me in praying for the people of Aurora, CO today. Let’s lift them up to our Merciful God that He may receive the victims in His loving arms and that He may comfort the survivors, the families and the people of this nation.

Lord, have mercy on us…Come, Lord Jesus, come…

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Faith Like Tomatoes or is it Tomatos? ; )

I'm not very fond of rain.  I don't like rainy days nor I find inspiration in cloudy skies.  On the contrary, rain usually has a negative impact on me.  Like yesterday, for the first time this summer I got to take my boys to the nearby swimming pool and yes, you guessed you didn't!  It didn't rain.  It was just the threat of rain.  There were a few rolling thunders heard in the distance and the dutiful lifeguards proceeded to close shop. I couldn't believe it!  But I guess it is better to be safe than sorry.

We obeyed and got out of the pool and after a short visit to our friend's house, we went home.  As it happened, rain didn't come for many hours later, almost on time to go to bed; but there I was, with the memory of a delightful day interrupted by the threat of rain. (ugh)

This morning I stepped outside to see my tomato plant. I have to make a statement here.  This year, for the very first time EVAH, I planted something with my very own glove-covered hands! I armed myself with the tools of the trade and I have been growing a tomato plant since early summer.  I am very protective of it!  It is like my little friend.  I even talk to it...only because I know that the CO2 from my breath helps it grow...not because I'm lonely or something else strange...she is not my imaginary friend...I'm fine! I am!

At any rate, yesterday, after our unnecessarily shortened pool day, I saw that my plant was looking very VERY sad.  I was very worried about it.  It looked like it would never recover from the damaged the heat had caused to it. So I immediately showered it profusely, but to my dismay, the plant didn't seem to be coming back as quickly as I'd like it to do.  I worried some more.

This morning, however, after last night's rain, the ground was still looking moist and when I approached my tomato friend, I saw, to my delight, that it seemed much revived.  It still had drops of water on the budding tomatoes and that made me smile.  

I know that rain serves a purpose.  Without it life doesn't flourish and we cease to thrive.  But I resist it because it brings me down.  Cloudy skies just do something to my soul.  However, looking how much better my tomato plant does when it receives the rain, made me accept the truth in my heart.  Rain is a gift from God and nothing really can replace it.  Nothing really works as well as rain.  We can artificially water, but nothing is better than actual rain from above.  And now I finally see it.

So who cares if my little pool day didn't work as planned or didn't last as long as I would have liked it to.  For my tomato plant's sake, I do appreciate the rain : )

He will come down like rain upon the mown grass, As showers that water the earth. Psalm 72: 6

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


It is funny how the unexpected always catches you by surprise.  It sounds like an oxymoron statement, I know.  Perhaps it is.  But when I look at my life, I realize, no matter how much I know in my head that I should not be surprised by unexpected events since they are just to be expected; my heart always skips a beat every time I'm hit with a surprise.  

Take yesterday morning, for example.  (Here, I must give you a warning since some of the discussion to follow my be disturbing to some, particularly those who have dentist-related-phobias.  Proceed at your own risk : ) I went to the dentist to have a filling replaced.  

I have been experiencing pain on that particular tooth for a while, so after several, previous dentist visits,  X-Rays and exams, my dentist said that maybe we should try just replacing the filling because the type I had on that tooth seems to cause problems sometimes.  So there I was, reclining on a comfortable position, totally relaxed at one of the most enjoyable places on wait, what am I talking about? Yes, the dentist of the most terrifying places on earth!  At least I do have to say that my dentist is the most gentle soul I've ever met.  He even hides the syringe behind his back so I don't faint at its sight.  He cares so much about my comfort that it is hard to despise the guy.   But, I digress again...there I was.  

My gentle dentist began to drill into my tooth as I tried to go to my happy place in my mind.  He drilled, and drilled, and drilled...I began to worry because he kept drilling so deep I thought he'd puncture my brain!  He would take breaks, have me rinse and go back at it again.  Suddenly I saw a newly discovered ferocity in my otherwise gentle dentist's eyes that made me grow alarmed.  Finally, he finished.  He took and X-Ray of my perforated tooth, a new procedure I'd never had before when just going in for a filling.  I held my breath and waited for him to come back.  

He returned and then proceeded to insert these funny looking wire-thingies in my hollowed tooth...what the heck? I thought, but since I was at a communicative impaired state at that moment, I had to hold all questions until the end.  He did performed some more unidentified procedures in my tooth and took yet another X-Ray.  He left again and there I waited.  

I usually don't  inspect my mouth while at the dentist because the thought of it alone freaks me out, but this time curiosity overpowered my fear.  I slowly and carefully moved my semi-numbed tongue toward the tooth in question and made a shocking discovery.  I had two wires sticking out of my now newly re-filled tooth!!!  I know I should have just left it alone.  I was freaking out!  The dentist's assistant came in the room and began talking to me about an experience she'd had similar to mine, blah, blah, blah...I couldn't concentrate on her words.  I had two wires sticking out of my tooth!  She said something about root I began to try to re-construct her talk in my severely disturbed brain:  she said her situation was similar+root canal= what?  I managed to say, "so, am I going to need a root canal?"  to which she cheerfully replied:  "you already got one, darling!"


Well, the rest is all a blur.  All that is left for me to do now is to wait for the bill in the mail.

At any rate, my point is...what was I talking about?  O yes!  I was saying that life is a string of constant unexpected events that sometimes throw us off our path and cause us to tremble, so we better get use to them, though it is a mighty hard task to accomplish.  

The important thing to remember, when life surprises us with the unexpected, is that He is in control.  It is not a surprise to Him.  He knows that it is going to happen.  He doesn't see it as unexpected.  And we can take refuge in Him who calms all storms, big and small.

He is the rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Deuteronomy 32:4

My gentle dentist didn't warn me of what was coming since he wasn't expecting to have to do a root canal on that tooth either.  He fixed the problem, though.  I have no pain.  I'm not even sore after all the relentless manipulation I went through.  In retrospect, a root canal is not the big bad boy it has been made out to be.  I don't want to have another one done any time soon, but even though it was hard to swallow (pun intended ; ) I survived it.  And now that I think about it, I might even say that it being unexpected took the edge of it a bit.  If I had known I was getting one that day, I would have been fretting for weeks ahead. This way, it was done without me even knowing it was happening.  I guess unexpected surprises have their advantage too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Feeling rejected, not good enough…do your part and let God do the rest.

Dealing with the feeling that you are not good enough is never an easy task.  Today I had to deal with the disappointment of being told I didn’t make the cut.  As part of my job, I need to submit papers for conferences and publications.  The field is very competitive and today I received notification that a proposal I have submitted a few months ago was rejected. 

It’s not like I was dying to attend that conference, though the prestige of participation would have certainly looked good in my CV.  What I found hard to digest was the inevitable sense of failure hidden deeply inside.  I began to think, then, that those nagging feelings of inadequacy seem to be popping up more often that I would like. 

That is not the way of the Lord.  He wants us to enjoy fulfillment not just in eternity, but also in our lives here on earth.  That is why He tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10: 10)  It is the enemy, that “thief” that comes in the night to “seal and kill and destroy” the one who invades our emotions and taunts us with failure.  God, on the other hand, is the Giver of Life, and He gives it in abundance. 

I can’t fall in the traps the enemy lays out in my path.  Instead, I must recognize them, realize they are indeed traps, and proceed to grab a tighter hold of my Lord and his promises, for He says:

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37: 4-6)

Who cares about that conference, anyway?  As it happens, I have been accepted to a better one, so I count it all as gain.  Yes, I will be rejected many times in the future, as I have been in the past.  I will get less than glowing evaluations and I will get negative critique to my work; but rather than allowing such experiences to bring me down, I must receive them as the fertilizer that will make me grow.  I will continue to do my part and let the Lord be Lord over all my work and all my efforts, for His glory and honor.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Lazy Saturday with "The Boss"

I don’t know what moved us to play some old Bruce Springsteen songs this lazy Saturday morning; but we did.  The guy’s got wacky thoughts and messed up political ideas, but I can’t deny I do enjoy his music.  It is tough-guy-poetry wrapped around catchy tunes.  People from old steel town, now turned rust belt America, fully understand and identify with what he talks about in his songs. 

Man, sometimes I toy with the idea that I might’ve been born in the wrong place for I sure understand and identify with it too.  I get the love-hate relationship with the town that keeps you trapped like a dog inside an invisible fence which shocks you every time you try to run away.  You love it and you hate it because it runs through your veins and you can’t escape.  This is where your sweat and tears drip down your face.  This is where you do your living and hope not to do your dying.  The twinkling lights at Christmas remind you of an age-old promise that turns it into a blessing.  The baskets hanging on the street lamps make it smell like home; and the rows of American flags in Main Street remind you that you are actually one of the braves, who lives in the land that is still free.  Though you reject the thought, this is where the Lord put you and you know it in your’s  not yet time to go.

Yes, I get it.  Even though I wasn’t born nor raised in the United States, in the figurative sense, I grew up here.  I became of age in small town America and I certainly consider it my own.  It was here that I met my Jesus.  It was here that He gave me life.  It is here that He fills me with hope.  And even though I’m not there yet, here on earth He has made this my home.  For as long as I continue to be here it is for me to seek Him first as I wait for Him and His Kingdom to come.

Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Friday, July 13, 2012

1969 Chevrolet Impala

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39

“I’m going to make you a book, Mama,” Dylan said to me last night and with great resolve he turned around and went inside the house to fulfill his mission.  I sat outside reading my book for a while longer, enjoying the gorgeous summer evening.  Evenings like that bring back sweet memories of my care-free summer days back in Panama when I was a little girl.  But it was time to come in the house for the mosquitoes were on attack mode already (another thing that reminded me of Panama). 

When I came in the house, Dylan walked to me with his “book” in his hands.  It was finished. It only needed stapled.  I took the bundle of folded papers from his hands and started to admire his work.  It was all a 6-year-old work of art should be.  I loved it all! But what stuck with me the most was the picture I saw as soon as I turned the first page.  It was a picture of a car with three passengers, Dylan and Grant on the back seat and Mama driving (he even drew me wearing my seatbelt!) 

The picture stuck with me.  It deeply touched me.  The three of us spend a great deal of time in the car.  It is in that old silver Honda Civic that many of our most intriguing, unexpected, irritating, joyful, profound and revealing moments happen on an almost daily basis.  My young son had captured a familiar scene in our everyday life which may impact his memory for many years to come; perhaps even for a lifetime…just like it did me.

One of the clearest memories of my childhood that I can conjure at will is the memory of riding in my Dad’s hunter green, 1969 Chevrolet Impala.  Don’t ask me how I remember the car’s year and make.  The fact that I do is a testimony to how imprinted in my memory the moments shared in that car still are.  I was just a very young girl when my Dad got it.  It was a formative moment for me, however, because it was the car he got when I first began to have real awareness of my surroundings.  It’s the first car, of all he’s had in his long life that I ever remember.  He got it in 1972 prompted by my brother who was a senior that year.  I still remember my Dad half-complaining about falling for my brother’s relentless quest to make him buy the car.  The thing was huge!  It’s the biggest car I ever saw! It barely fit in our carport.  I remember the 6-tail-lighted rear sticking out from under the roof.

There were so many wrong things with that car that it quickly became a money pit, and a constant source of complaints and arguments at home.  It would suddenly stall without warning.  The air conditioning never worked right. It consumed indecent amounts of gas.  It had an assortment of leaks of various fluids.  There was always some kind of warning light coming off and on.  Something was wrong with the brakes and sometimes it just wouldn’t start.  My Dad had a spare battery and a tool chest in the trunk, just in case.  Regardless of all its flaws, I know my Dad loved that car.  It was big.  It was comfortable.  It was smooth.  It was impressive.  It was his mobile castle.  My Mom never drove, so it was his baby.

He loved taking his family for a ride in it.  And that’s why I remember it so well.  I spent my childhood riding on that ship on wheels.  I can still feel the green leathery material of the back seat, and the sound it made every time I moved.  I could lay flat on that seat.  Often we would take long rides to Panama city and other distant places (4-5 hour-long trips tops) leaving early at dawn, so I’d lay on the green surface and watch the stars disappear and the sunrise come up all through the long windows of the Impala.

Many years went by and finally my Dad had to let go of his dear green dream-car.  It was a sad day.  We never had a big car again.  We never had an American-made car again either.  The era of the highly efficient, not-so-comfortable, nothing-special-about-it Nissan had come to stay in my Dad’s household.  Gone were the days when I could stretch out on the back seat.  No more dreams of green.  My childhood had also disappeared. 

I don’t know what kind of memories I am building with my boys as they constantly ride with me on the back of my beat up Honda Civic.  I know they are not nearly as comfortable as I was riding on the back of that big, old Impala.  I know it is not nearly as luxurious and impeccable as my Dad’s car was.  My car is an embarrassing mess.  It might not even be as leisurely and care-free as my experience was.  But I sure hope they are good memories that would last them a life time and that would make a positive impact in their lives.  I hope they can look back at these years when they are older and remember them with the same bittersweet nostalgia that I experience today as I remember the old days riding around in my Dad’s green, 1969 Chevrolet Impala.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4: 9)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Peace Be With All Tonight

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4: 8)

I can’t believe it…my wonderful day of doing nothing has ended…sigh. The boys, all three of them, are fast asleep. I’m the only dweller of this household who is still wide awake. I don’t want to go to bed just yet. I want to savor the wonderful taste of the day one last time.

The Lord has been good to me, and for that I praise Him. He gave me another day to enjoy His creation and my life. My soul overflows with gratitude for He is good all the time. I pray that I may always remember to give Him thanks in all situations.

It’s time to close shop now. The dark of night is here; but the promise of a new day lies a brief time ahead. Until then, I pray my soul will…
”Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” (Psalm 116: 7)

The Blessing of Today

As I reluctantly rolled out of bed this morning, the pain in my joints reminded me that I was alive.  I know…not the best attitude to begin a new day.  Shortly, however, after I managed to finally open my eyes I realized what a beautiful summer morning the Lord had given to the people around here today (and that includes me).  I looked out the side window of my bedroom and admired the blue sky.  I opened it and breathed in the fresh, cool morning air.  O how I love summer!  The birds were chirping joyfully all around.  I let out a sigh and then I remembered that I had no place to go to today.  What a blessing! 

I had absolutely nothing to do today that required the stressful effort of gathering my two boys and dragging them around in my car (visions of whining, toys flying and intense arguing in the back seat flashed by in my mind and I shuddered).  For once, I was not going to have to give them the 5-minute-‘till-we-leave warning.  For once, the boys were going to be able to have a day of leisure at home without having their Mama boss them around and yell orders from her command center about getting in the car, finding shoes, brushing teeth, putting clean clothes on (not in that exact order, of course).  Not today.  The thought of that made me smile.

This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it! I resolved.  (Psalm 118: 24) 

Who cares about achy joints?  That’s why they invented Aleve, right?  The blessing of a new, glorious day is here for our enjoyment and I don’t want to waste it!  His blessings are new every morning! Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

I walked out of my bedroom and the boys, who have been camping out in the living room for almost 2 weeks, were already awake and playing the Wii…I know…videogames…sigh. Grant had even fixed himself some breakfast! (Another huge blessing! That boy is such a picky eater; he just needs to start cooking for himself right now). I surveyed the scene and it was a mess down there, stuffed animals and other assortment of toys all around the floor and on the inflatable mattress where the boys have been sleeping. But today, I don’t care. I won’t make any kind of pronouncement about how they must pick up and how today will be the last day they keep their clutter in the living room. Not today, because today, I will rejoice in the Lord no matter what. Now, it’s time to go outside and bask in the blessed gift of this new day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

May the Healer Be Revealed

Driving down my favorite way to work one morning I heard a short devotional on the radio that was about when there isn’t much more one can do but to ask for God to “show up.” The brief meditation referred to those moments when darkness overcomes us, when the situation is too much for us to bear, when the hurt is too painful. It is in those moments when we are left with no means of our own and all we can do in our brokenness is to cry out to Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to us in a mighty and visible way.

I was very touched by the words and the Holy Spirit promptly moved me to action.  I immediately began to pray for the Lord to be revealed in my loved ones today.  I began to pray for Him to “show up.” 

I walk surrounded by wounded souls and broken spirits.  Insecurities, confusion and unanswered “whys” blur our vision and keep us from seeing His glory divine all around.  This is the moment to breathe and beg for Him to show His glory, even here, like the beautiful song by Mercy Me called “The Hurt and the Healer” say.    He sure can “breathe us back to live.”  He is the only One who can.

He breathes us back to life even when we are not even noticing.  He does show up even if we are not paying attention.  He reveals Himself daily in small details as well as in awesome wonders.  He shows up in the beauty of a summer afternoon that brightens the soul that is clouded by sorrow.  He shows up in the laughter of little children who play unaware of the hurt inside.  He shows up in the perfect song on the radio that lifts us up when we need to be picked up.  He shows up in the warm embrace of a friend and in the kind words of someone who cares.  Above all, He shows up, He reveals Himself to His own in His Word. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)

We may, however, miss His revelation if we lose our focus.  Like Peter, if we turn our eyes to the storm rather than keep them on the Lord, the waves overcome us and we sink.  While immerse in those moments of pain so deep that we can hardly move, the one thing we should not do is to sever our communication with the Most High.  The truth is that He has never left us, even when we don’t feel His presence.  He is always with us even when our feelings deceive us.  He never leaves us even if we can’t experience His revelation. 

Praying the Word of God while we wait in Him is imperative.  Prayer is what keeps the line of communication open as we wait for the Healer to reveal Himself, wipe away our tears and erase our pain.  Praying for Him to “show up” keeps us plugged into the outlet of His mighty power and allows us to be tuned in so we don’t miss Him when He does show up. 

The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. (1 Samuel 3: 21)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's OK..."There are a Billion People in China Who Don't Even Know..."

“There are a billion people in China who don’t even know this happened…” was one of the ways my Father in Law tried to console my husband when he was a little boy after losing a little league game he had been pitching.  My Father in Law was his coach.  My husband loved baseball more than most things.  He was crushed, but his loving Father was able to show him a perspective in a way that even a young boy could understand, so much so that the young boy still remembers many, many years later.

It was a perspective that emphasized the big picture, diminished egocentric thinking and de-emphasized self.  It was a perspective that today reminds me of the truth that it is not all about us.

Indeed, what happens to us, the moments of joy, peace, sorrow, fear, worry and exhilaration that together comprise our so-called-life, are not all about us; but about He who designed us and planned such moments even before we were born.  (Jeremiah 1: 5)  Each of those moments comes about to meet a purpose, His perfect purpose for our very existence which is to be part of His Royal family as His adopted sons.  (Ephesians 1: 1-10)  For His glory we were created in His image and as such we are to reflect that image and that light into this world.  That is our commission given to us directly by our Lord.  (Matthew 28: 10)

I’m sure my Father in Law probably did not anticipate his private words of encouragement to his young son to concoct such a meditation by his, then unknown future Daughter in law a few decades later…(boy, this sounds like something out of a “Back to the Future” movie : ).  The fact that they did, however, reinforces the truth that our lives are not our own and that it is all about Him who sustains us.  

Today we remember the man who uttered those words so long ago.  It’s been 17 years to this day that he went to be with the Lord; but his memory continues to live in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.  One billion people in China might not have cared about a little boy facing a devastating defeat in a game he loved.  But even the angels rejoice in having my Father in Law among their rolls.  And even though we still miss him and long for his wisdom, we rejoice too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Spark that Breaks the Clouds

Growing up in Panama I didn’t celebrate the 4th of July.  I remember watching firework displays on TV wondering what it would feel like to be present at one of those celebratory events.  I heard about the picnics and the patriotic songs that sing to freedom and liberty.  But I never, in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would join in the chorus of those who praise this great nation as my own.

The ways of the Lord are often inexplicable, like 1 Corinthians 2: 11 says: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Therefore, He would have it so that I became a citizen in the land of the free and one among those who call the United States their home.  As such, I look forward to the celebrations around Independence Day, which this year began with a beautiful show of music and fireworks.  

After several years doing something else for the 4th, this time we went back to see the fireworks “at the college.”  We arrived with plenty of time and found a place on the “hill.”  There, we enjoyed the patriotic tunes in the background and good conversation among our family.  The kids sat on a small blanket that Grandma had brought “just in case the children want to sit on the ground, instead.”  (Somehow, Grandma always seems to know what the kids would love best.)  The adults sat in folding chairs passing around a tin of pistachios, the only snack we had. (Once again, Grandma was the only one with enough sense to bring something to eat).

It was a lovely reunion and it brought back memories of when the boys were very young and this was the place we used to bring them to experience the 4th of July splendor.  I sat in my slanted chair with my legs stretched out to keep me from rolling over down the hill.  From there, I looked around at the, perhaps thousands of people who came to commemorate such an important day in our history and in the history of the entire world,-the birth of a nation that would defy what was known as the norm and would become a beacon of light and a source for good in this dark world.  

Then, I looked at my sons, growing up healthy and happy.  At that moment I thought how the only reason they are so is because we are here.  Had it not been for that change in the course of my destiny which the Lord orchestrated so many years ago, and through which He landed me here, my boys would not be.

The fireworks started.  The kids stopped playing and sat to watch them quietly and with a sense of awe.  The adults did the same.  A storm seemed to be coming, so each spark of color brightened the cloudy sky.  The cheerful explosions lighted up the faces of those who watched.  The crowd sat in expectation.  Each firework was a surprise.   I saw the faces of my children tinted by the color of the sparks.  I thought about their future and the future of this land.  At that moment, though, all the worry disappeared and united we watched and celebrated another 4th of July.  

The firework display ended and slowly we made it back to the car after we folded our chairs and said our goodbyes. (The only bad thing was that I couldn’t get my elephant ear : )  We drove home and into the dark clouds that forecasted a storm.  Once again I thought how unpredictable the ways of God are for growing up in Panama I never imagined I would, one day, be among those who sing to America as my “home, sweet home.”  I praised God for placing me here in this land where we still have a chance to hang on to our freedom and liberty, for He brought me here to give me life.  

As we drove by a church I saw a message on their board that said, “America, bless God.”  It wasn’t the typical prayer for blessings from God.  It was written as a command.  It was an exhortation to do what we must in order to survive.  

I look ahead and indeed a storm is coming.  Despite the fact that dark clouds surround us, I think of the sign on that church and know that we will be well as long as we continue to bless Him...He is the spark of light that breaks the dark clouds.  He is the One who calms the storm.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. (Psalm 33: 12)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

From a Point of Grace..

Sometimes I feel so proud of myself.  I look back at my “accomplishments” and I sense the tingle of pride in my chest for I think I have so many things figured out, way more than the average individual.  And just when I feel like I got it all together, something happens and my house of cards crumbles down leaving nothing but a pile of debris on the floor.  Just when I think I can tell others how to do things the right way or point them on the right direction, I hit a detour in my route and I get lost on my own way.  Just when I think I’ve been able to map out the road to happiness, unexpected suffering enters my life.  Just when I am ready to judge others on their missteps, I stumble and fall in the pit of my sinfulness.  Just when pride reigns, humility slaps me on the face.

It is at those moments when the Holy Spirits reminds me of the need to be humble before the Lord, for He will lift us up.  (James 4: 10)

Humility in the life of a Christian is an ideal state of being in which sufficient evidence of the gift of Grace has been poured into our lives to dissolve any trace of arrogance and self-centeredness.  It is such an ideal state that Psalm 149: 4 says that “The Lord takes pleasure in his people; He adorns the humble with salvation.” 

Walking humbly with the Lord goes hand in hand with our pursuit of a relationship with Christ.  When we let pride rule over us disgrace comes, “but with the humble is wisdom.”  (Psalm 11: 2)

Sometimes, however, we need a little “assistance” in our road to humility.  It is in those moments when the Lord is more than present to give us the “push” that we need in order to help us continue on our way.  The importance of being humble comes from the need that every Christian has to recognize that only by grace we are heirs in the Kingdom of Heaven

Human pride in our own self-worth and self-sufficiency may blur our vision and at times not let us clearly see how it is not by our own hand, power or actions that we achieve the status of adopted children of the Most High.  We have no hand in it, for we are chosen by God’s providence and predetermination through His amazing Grace which He bestows on us with Jesus atoning sacrifice on the cross.

False pride in our earthly achievements, however, may create an illusion of self-sufficiency.  That is why, when pride appears and misdirects us into a detour, the Lord brings us back.  The methodology employed by our Mighty God to re-route us back into our track often is a painful one.  He may prune us, and test us, and allow discomfort to enter into our lives with the purpose of making us humble before Him and before our neighbors and to make us know, “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8: 2-3)

Taking absolute credit for our accomplishments and deeds leads us to experience a sense of independence that may make us believe that we don’t really need a savior for we can save ourselves and others as well.  I speak by experience for it is very easy for me to think that I have it all together in my life, that I have it all figured out.  In His mercy, the Lord promptly removes the veil of my arrogance from my eyes and I see the vastness of my imperfections and the depth of my sin right in front of me.  He does this to keep me grounded and to bring me back to a point of humility from which I can move toward my neighbors from a position of grace.  He doesn’t do it to take me into a cruel guilt trip.  There is no guilt in His love.  He does it because we are supposed to “clothe ourselves with humility” especially when dealing with one another.  (1 Peter 5: 5)

There cannot be any pride in loving our brothers and sisters.  There cannot be any self-serving attitudes in serving others.  We love and we serve one another motivated by the grace that has been revealed and poured into us, for “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5: 8)  Humbly we love and we serve God’s beloved in honor of the fact that, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 45)

It is then, that clothed in humility we approach others from a position of grace. Grace is revealed to us often through suffering and painful situations for the purpose of reminding us that we do need a Savior. Grace is given to us abundantly and sufficiently for the purpose of passing it onto our neighbors whom may be caught in the deceiving web of worldly ambitions and pursuits. Grace is given to us freely so we can extend it to our brothers and sisters by the same price.

I pray that I remember this truth next time I experience a less than comfortable situation. I pray and hope I remember that there is purpose in pain, discomfort and suffering. The purpose is to develop an attitude of humility that allows us to acknowledge that we do need a Savior. The purpose is to realize that by grace we are chosen and saved. The purpose is to produce perseverance, character and hope. (Romans 5: 3-4)

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6: 8