Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Word

Well, the last day of the year is finally here. Today, I would like to continue a new tradition I started a couple of years ago. Rather than a New Year’s resolution, I want to have a theme word for the year that’s about to begin. Last year’s word was “refocus” and it was a good word for me. I will keep that one for ever since I will never be truly focused while still on this side of heaven. The year before it was “hope” which will never end either! …but in 2015 I will add “revival.”

I have actually been thinking about this word for a while now. I’ve been praying for it to occur not only in my own soul but in those around me. This is actually a word I pray would transcend beyond the walls of my own house. I pray for revival in my extended family, in this town, in this nation, in the entire world! I pray the Lord will bring revival around my kitchen table, around Grant’s lunch table at school, around Dylan’s playground at recess, around our work places and in the lonely hearts of those who feel left out from the promises of God.

So, on this last day of 2014 I lift up the prayer of the six “Rs” of revival:

I pray Our Heavenly Father would reclaim us and rescue us from this world.

I pray He would redeem us.

I pray He would restore us.

I pray He would reveal Himself to us.

I pray He would re-direct our paths.

I pray He would revive us!

For You have rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 116: 8-9

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5

I just can’t believe it is the end of 2014. I must be getting old fast since this year was nothing but a vapor. Remember when we were kids and the years seemed so long? Remember how it took forever to get to Christmas? Remember how our parents would say the opposite? “I can’t believe the year went by so fast!” I would hear my Mom say…and I just couldn’t see it…till now…

Well, as we stand on the last two days of 2014, there comes the inevitable look at the year we are leaving behind.

This exercise has never been particularly easy for me. I get attached too quickly and it is hard for me to let go. Some things, however, I’m glad to see gone, but for the most part, I intensely dislike the melancholic feeling of saying goodbye. But we are called to examine ourselves, and what better moment to do so that the end of the year.

I look back and shudder at the frightening things I had to endure. Radioactive pills, isolation, full body scans, ultrasounds, countless blood work, and the unbearable anxiety of waiting to hear from test results are all memories that bring back accelerated heartrate, sweaty palms and a bitter taste in my mouth. New jobs for Dan, new challenges at school for the boys, added responsibilities in my own work all piled up painful stress that I can still feel on my shoulders. Unresolved issues, deep suffering and lack of reconciliation in my side of the family continue to be a constant heartache.


Then I realize that there is no way I can survive if I concentrate on the bad. Then I remember my word for 2014…refocus…and how God allowed me to actually refocus my attention from the circumstances to the work that He has been doing through them. He has showed me, by helping me refocus my vision that all things, indeed, work out together for good for those who trust Him! He delivered me through the fire of radioactive iodine treatment and in each anxious moment, He showed me His presence, His mercy and His love. He used my illness to bring about some unexpected changes in the seemingly unchanging brokenness of relationships in my extended family. New jobs and new responsibilities have made life more interesting and have helped us in trying to refocus our energies on what we really want to do with our professional lives. The challenges that our sons are experiencing are teaching us to rely on God for parenting and to turn our eyes and put our trust on the One who controls their destinies.


All in all, thanks to our Lord’s merciful autofocus, I can see how the year we are waving good bye to was not a tragedy but a triumph. We are closing the page on a thought-provoking story that could only make sense when read through the eyes of the writer…the Divine Story Teller who pieces everything together to perfection. I can’t wait to open the new one He has composed for us in 2015! For now, Happy New Year!

Lamentations 3:40

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Post Christmas Reflections

Well, Christmas has come and gone, and the following reflections are some of the memories and lessons the blessed season has left us with:

- Making Christmas cookies is a lot of fun!
- Oversize-fluffy stuffed bears are the best!
- Good things come to those who wait!
- Brothers could be alright.
- Dylan is not ready to handle electronic equipment on his own in a responsible manner.
- Grant is a rather sensible 12 year old who still enjoys being a little boy.
- We need an invisible fence because it is very hard to take Link out for a walk early in the morning during a break.
- A little bit of exercise on a daily basis can make a huge difference.
- We all needed some time off to do absolutely nothing and recharge our batteries.
- God is Good ALL the time...All the time He is Good!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Out in the Fields

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 
Luke 2: 8

Out of all the people involved in the birth of Jesus, the shepherds are the most intriguing to me. I don’t know the first thing about being a shepherd. I don’t know the first thing about sheep. I don’t know the first thing about protecting a flock of anything. But I do know a bit about being lonely. I know a bit about what it feels like to be “living out in the fields.” Not the literal ones, but those figurative and very real desolate fields of the soul.

I know what it feels like to be alone in your home…alone because you don’t know where you belong.

The story doesn’t end there, however. For in the silence of the night, these solitary men, considered outcast and unclean, were the chosen ones to receive the greatest news ever revealed,

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  
Luke 2: 9-12
This is the hope for the lonely. Emmanuel is here. He is near those in need. He mends the broken heart. He makes all things new.

May every child of God who sits alone this silent night, feel the grace of the living God coming into their hearts to bring them light. May the presence of the God with Us be real tonight!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Lord's Servants

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1: 38

This statement pronounced by young Mary over a couple of thousands of years ago continues to be one of the most profound affirmations of faith and one of the most powerful examples of trust spoken by a mortal that we find in all of the Scriptures. Mary’s simple words show the complexity of accepting God’s will in our lives. They show that for God’s will to be done, to be fulfilled in our lives we must surrender…we must first become the Lord’s servants…

That’s the revelation of true trust…we trust that God’s will is good…that it is perfect rather, so much so that we are ready to submit our own will to His. We do it because, even though we can’t really understand it, we know it is the best plan…it is the plan that will bring Him the glory…so we surrender to it…for the joy of our Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8: 10)

Mary’s words of acceptance always make me think about how hard it is to surrender to God’s plan for me. This year, however, in addition to that, these words have also made me think of how hard it is to accept God’s plan for those we love.

It is one thing to surrender to the hardship that the will of God often brings to ourselves because, deep inside, we know that the suffering is temporary, only for a little while (1 Peter 5: 9-10). We know that our current difficulties will bring about ultimate reward (Romans 8: 18). We know that God’s unique kind of love for us is demonstrated in His desire to make us better and draw us closer, which at times, it requires chastisement and pain (2 Corinthians 7: 9-10). We accept His designs because we know that He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8: 28). We trust His plan, because, even when we don’t understand it, we know it is perfect, good and made to prosper us not to harm us (Jeremiah 29: 11).

When it comes to those we love, though…for instance, our children…things may be a tad different. The feelings we experience may be a bit more unstable. The pain may be a whole lot more intense.

We hold our babies in our arms and we can’t help but dream wonderful dreams for them. We see them take their first steps and we can’t help but imagine the amazing places they will go. We watch them develop and we can’t help but appreciate the untapped potential inside of them and the incredible things they could do with it. Then, we blink, and they have grown into someone we never expected.

We pray that God will direct their paths. We pray that God will tell us what to do to help them. We pray that God will change things around…we pray because we don’t particularly like what we perceive God’s plan is turning out to be…we pray and cry and manipulate things in hopes that our children and loved ones would choose the right path…and we pray and cry and despair when we realize they won’t.

Suddenly, when pain, suffering and hardship become obviously part of God’s plan for those we love the most, surrendering to God’s will for them doesn’t come.

Then, we realize they too are God’s servants…

Then, we realize that they too have to go through it, just like we have to…

Then, we realize that there is hope, because the same promises that are true for us are true for them too.

Then, we find peace, because regardless of the pain, God’s plan is as good for us as it is for them.

May this Christmas bring us the comfort and assurance of knowing that Emmanuel is God with Us…not just with me…which means He is also in our loved ones who belong to Him.

Friday, December 19, 2014

God With US

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

These divinely inspired words that Moses spoke to his people are not only valid to the Israel of thousands of years ago, but to us too, the spiritual descendants of those who walked in the dessert guided by God’s Pillar of Light. And this promise of God’s constant presence became eternally tangible the night Jesus was born among men in that little town of Bethlehem.

In that moment when the time was full, Jesus the Christ made His appearance in the flesh under the watchful eyes of angels and outcasts. The Immanuel, God with Us, has finally physically come to walk among us, blessing the very dirt that He touches.

That is the gift…the first Christmas gift, the only one that matters.

In the midst of our fears, anxieties, concerns, doubt, depression, loneliness, illness, loss and all the problems of this world, the truth is that God is here, and He gives us hope.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7: 14

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31: 8

For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. Psalm 94: 14

Thursday, December 18, 2014

When Nobody is Looking...

Well, last weekend, Link, the new member of our family, showed us that he cannot only be the cutest dog in the world, but also a menace!

As we headed out to spend a few hours away from home, Dan and I decided that Link could stay in the basement rather than in his crate so he could have more room to walk and also access to water and food. Dan did a great job creating a safe environment for him, so we felt satisfied and we left him trusting he’d be OK. After all, he has showed us that he is such a good boy!

After enjoying the activities of that Sunday afternoon we came back home, pulled in the garage and opened the basement door. Link immediately came out cheerful and tail-wagging as usual. We were happy to see him, until we sat foot in the basement, that is!

I did not know what had happened. It looked as if a tornado had just hit! It took me a few minutes to realize what the mess was. Apparently, Link found the bin where I keep new school supplies and decided that colored pencils, markers, crayons, clay, pens, glue and assorted craft material were just a blast to play with. I don’t know how he did it, but he got in that bin, pulled out as much as he could and destroyed everything he got out. His little teeth chewed up everything, and the remnants were scattered all over the floor topped by a present right from his little intestines…augh! He is such a good doggy! How could he behave like this? He had not had any real behavioral issues! He is a perfect little doggy when we are around…but, things obviously changed once we were not watching him…

As Dan and I cleared the mess and cleaned the floor, I began to think how we are not all that unlike Link. We behave properly, do (or try to do) the right thing and act like civilized human beings when all eyes are on us. The way we behave in the secret, however, may be slightly different.

God’s children are called to be like Jesus. He is our role model. However, it is not easy. I know it all too well how hard it is to try to do the right thing at all times, and especially when I’m alone. That’s why we are not supposed to do it alone. Our Lord knows that, and He invites us to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, to encourage one another, to sharpen one another and to be accountable to one another. Likewise, that is why He sends the Holy Spirit to us, to fellowship with Him, to surrender to Him, to let Him guide us and to keep us accountable even in the secret.

The truth is, we are never alone! That is precisely the miracle of Christmas: God is with us, always. We don’t have to rely on our own power and strength to do what we are supposed to do. We lean on His power and His strength so He can do it through us. Attempting to do it on our own will only lead to feeling like a hypocrite, which in turn makes us feel frustration, guilt and failure.

Link is still the cutest dog in the world. The day we made the decision to adopt him into our family we received him just as he was. And there’s no turning back. We love him just as he is, and no amount of disasters will change that. Time after time, we would get down on our knees to clean up his messes and mishaps. Then, after we give him a reprimand we’ll show him how much we still love him and how much we care for him, and we’ll continue to enjoy his presence among us…

Sounds familiar?

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. 2 Corinthians 8: 21

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. Hebrews 13: 18

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Home for Christmas?

The Home of My Youth

Ever since I left my parents’ house back a million years ago, the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has become a conflictive tune that stirs up too many undecipherable emotions. The song is the anthem of the displaced. I know I am not alone. The melancholic circle of those who don’t even know where “home” is anymore is heavily populated.

I read a post today that touched on that. My Facebook friend mentioned how “home for Christmas” means being with her Mom. Home is, therefore, not a tangible place. At least, it’s not tangible in the physical sense. The concept lives in the abstract world of our soul. We touch it and sense it with our heart.

Growing up in Panama, Christmas was the most anticipated of holidays. I am the youngest of three (and by a lot!). I was still a teen at home with my parents while my brother and sister where already grownups, living in the big city four hours away from our hometown. Christmas was, therefore, that special time of the year when the whole family would get together.

I remember my parents’ exhilaration in expectation of the gathering. My brother already had two children, so the burning desire to see my niece and nephew made our hearts burst with pure joy! My Mom would start planning the details for weeks ahead. Rosa would get busy cleaning rooms and making sure everyone had what they needed. My Dad would pull down boxes of Christmas decorations down from the highest storage places in our closets. I would spend hours setting the Nativity and figuring out ingenious ways to make an ages-old silver Christmas tree spark like new. Those memories are truly precious…that really felt like home.

Today, however, it is all gone. My parents are not around anymore. The house that always felt like it would be ours forever is out of our reach. Even the relationships with those we love are stray making a reunion something that belongs to the land of distant dreams.

Does that mean that “home” is no more?

Well, in many ways…yes…

The truth is that the Baby we celebrate at Christmas reminds us that we will never find our true home in this world. I may have a family of my own now. I may have a beautiful house filled with Christmas cheer. But none of it is really “home.”

The same way Christ came to bring us salvation and left us the Holy Spirit as a sign of His eternal love; home is found in that Love. Home is in the Love who was born in a manger over two thousand years ago. Home is the Love who died for us. Home is the Love who calls us. Home is the Love who leads us to believe. Home is the Love who tells us that in Him we could have eternal life and dwell in one of the mansions that He is preparing for us.

I guess the dream is that none of us will really be home for Christmas while still on this side of Heaven. And, believe it or not, there is deep joy in that realization. The joy is in the fact that, whether confused about where home is or whether surrounded by all the warmth and joy the season could bring, it is all but a pale comparison of what it is to come when we are truly home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Puppy Love

This is the first picture we ever saw of Link and the one that made us fall in love with him.

Well, here’s my “I got a dog” post. The thing is that, yes, about one month and a half ago, we got us a dog for our family. His name is Link…’cause he is the missing link…get it? After 20 years of marriage and 2 kids, Link is our very first pet EVER…and in my book, that’s a big deal. Also, Link is MY very first pet EVER…and after having spent a lifetime afraid of dogs…that is a REALLY big deal in my book.

Growing up in Panama, my Dad had dogs. He loved German Shepherds so he had several over the course of my childhood and adolescence. It was kind of funny. They were his dogs. Nobody else really cared about them. I, for once, was terrified of all of them. He had, I think, four…not all at the same time, though. He’ll have one, and then when that one died, he’ll get another one. But they were his. He was the one who took care of them while they lived, and he was the one who mourned each of them when they passed away.

My Dad was a traditional man who loved continuity and stability. This trade was reflected in his relationship with his dogs. You see, in Spanish German Shepherd is “Pastor Alemán.” So guess what my Dad named all of his puppies…yes, he named them all Pastor. Everyone made fun of him for his apparent lack of creativity. But my Dad didn’t care.

At any rate, long story short, all those Pastor dogs were, not unlike my Dad, rather intimidating. They seemed more like wolves to me. I never EVER got near them. There were parts of our back patio I never went into. The last two, however, lived in a pen my Dad built in the backyard so I wouldn’t feel like a prisoner in my own house.

Ever since, I have not been one to get friendly with dogs…until now, that is!

In the weeks Link has been with us, I have made light-years of progress in my relationship with our four-legged-furry-pal. From cleaning “accidents” to taking him to the Vet, to caring for him in his convalescence after surgery (yes, we … you know…) all the way to sneaking “goodies” in his dish…I am feeling almost like a pro. He is so cute and sweet. I can't help but enjoy him. He is a very distant cry from my Dad’s Pastores, but I think he would be surprised and proud of me if he could see me now.

Link was a stray dog that was found by a loving family in Ohio who couldn’t keep him. They wanted to find someone who would love him…and God brought him to us. I feel humbled and honored that He thinks we can faithfully care for His little creature. Like our children, God has entrusted us with this tiny being, and as such we are responsible. We have adopted Link. And I don’t know what the lesson is in all these…all I know is that when I hear my sons’ laughter as they play with him, my joy is complete!

In this Christmas Season, I want to say that I am thankful for the gift that Link is…he has brought a special kind of joy to our home…he is the missing Link for sure!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Spirit of Christmas

This past Sunday was a day framed around the theme of giving. I sat at my beloved church´s Sunday school class to watch the video series that they are working on, but the video wouldn´t work. Class time was not lost, though, as the discussion took an interesting turn that ended up with a challenge to giving generously during this Christmas season.

Later in the day, we went to a Casting Crowns concert and Mark Hall; the lead singer gave an exhortation to those in attendance to give generously. He said, “God gives us so we can give to others.”

Christmas is called, among other things, the season of giving. And all these reminders are making me think about the way I give. Am I truly giving in the Spirit of Christmas? Or am I just going along with the mad-rush that this society pushes as the proper way to give?


Of course I want to give my sons nice presents. We save up money all year so we can afford to buy them some of the things that they want. Of course I try to give other family members nice presents. Of course I try to get myself some nice presents. Of course I want to get nice things for the house. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But these last couple of days I’ve been thinking that perhaps I need to look somewhere else as well.

This year, my key word that was supposed to be a guide throughout the days, weeks and months of 2014 was “refocus”. I thought it was a great word for me since my life had been a bit scattered and I knew I needed to concentrate, pay attention and fix my eyes on Him. I am praying that this Christmas season Christ helps me to do one final refocusing in which He helps me see what He wants me to see. I pray that rather than focusing too much on the material and on the gathering of stuff, He refocuses my attention and my sight on the things unseen and on the matters of the heart. I pray that this Christmas I am able to give more generously not only to my beloved, but also to those whose paths cross with mine and are in need of a helping hand. I pray that during the coming days and weeks I learn to give more generously of my most prized possession, my time.

May we all make time to celebrate Christmas in its true Spirit:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3: 16

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent and The Silence of God

The Advent season has arrived and with that, boxes of ornaments and decorations get unpacked, the tree gets propped up and twinkling lights begin to spark as we prepare for Christmas time. And that is precisely what Advent implies…preparation…expectant waiting…

This year I want to truly prepare for another celebration of the nativity of our Lord. I want to really expectantly await His coming! I want to thankfully receive His gift…the gift of His presence among us in His Word and in His Spirit.

As I contemplate yet the advent of another Christmas season, I praise Him for all He has done for me and my loved ones. I look back at the year and see His Faithful Hand directing my every step. Likewise, I look at Scripture and realize that looking back is part of our walk with God. We can’t really move forward in our path to Him if we don’t take a good look at what’s behind. Scripture is the place to start for this exercise.

One of my favorite verses for this time of the year is Galatians 4: 4-7:

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

I love reading about how we are adopted into God’s family and as such, we are His heirs. But I also love considering verse 4…”when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” In that verse advent is contained. These words reflect the fact that there was a time which was NOT full, not appropriate, not right. There was a time of waiting. And, indeed, there was. After Prophet Malachi stopped receiving God’s revelation, he became the last prophet of the Old Testament which concluded God’s Word at the time. And the only thing the Jews heard from God during the next 400 years was His silence. There would be no new, “hear, you Israel.” There would be nothing more revealed…until the Word became incarnate when the time became full again.

One faithful night, in that little town of Bethlehem, the Son was given unto us, for the salvation of the world. The Messiah who was long expected finally arrived wrapped in swaddling clothes. He came as a baby, but He grew up to be God’s perfect Lamb and High Priest, and with His resurrection, His Spirit came to dwell among us to change our relationship with God so He could become our Abba…Daddy.

And that is what we prepare to celebrate, the advent of the living God, The Emanuel, the God among us. And yes, there has been silence from God again, this time for over 2000 years and counting, but that doesn’t mean God has forgotten His children. Though He might be silent in the traditional sense of the concept, He still speaks through the completeness of His Word and through the voice and actions of His beloved as they are enabled by the Holy Spirit, the God with us who lives in the heart of every believer.

The silence of God is, therefore, a way to hear His voice through the discernment that only His Holy Spirit can provide. May we know how to listen to His whispering as we anticipate His coming.

By  Ray C. Stedman wrote, in his Series: Adventuring through the Bible, the following words about the Silence of God:

It is amazing how God utilizes history to work out his purposes. Though we are living in the days that might be termed "the silence of God," when for almost 2,000 years there has been no inspired voice from God, we must look back -- even as they did during those 400 silent years -- upon the inspired record and realize that God has already said all that needs to be said, through the Old and New Testaments. God's purposes have not ended, for sure. He is working them out as fully now as he did in those days. Just as the world had come to a place of hopelessness then, and the One who would fulfill all their hopes came into their midst, so the world again is facing a time when despair is spreading widely across the earth. Hopelessness is rampant everywhere and in this time God is moving to bring to fulfillment all the prophetic words concerning the coming of his Son again into the world to establish his kingdom. How long? How close? Who knows? But what God has done in history, he will do again as we approach the end of "the silence of God." 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Please, Do Not Delay!

I’ve always been fond of the Psalms, but as of late, God has manifested Himself to me through the beautiful Words of these songs in a very special way. For instance, Psalm 40 has been ringing particularly loudly in my soul during the last few weeks.

One of the things God has been pressing on me is the reminder that my joy cannot depend on my circumstances for they constantly change and what seems good today, may very well be bad tomorrow. On the contrary, my joy is only complete in Him, for He is the Solid Rock that doesn’t move…that doesn’t change.

In Psalm 40, He has also showed me that my joy is complete in Him, and Him Alone because my destiny is in His book…the story of my life is written on His pages…my name is in His scroll (7). What more can I desire? What could possibly be more important? There is no situation, suffering, trial, pain or illness that could ever change the fact that I belong to Him and that His saving acts are true! It is me He was thinking of when He went to the cross and it is me He was thinking of before I was even born.

My joy is complete in YOU and only YOU, Lord…not on the things of this world, but in You. May You continue to teach me to find my joy in You…even in this world, even if I can’t see you with my limited vision, may my joy overflow as You fill my cup with Your Love!

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1: 8-9

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. Malachi 3: 16

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one

who trusts in the Lord,

who does not look to the proud,

to those who turn aside to false gods

Many, Lord my God,

are the wonders you have done,

the things you planned for us.

None can compare with you;

were I to speak and tell of your deeds,

they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—

but my ears you have opened —

burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—

it is written about me in the scroll

I desire to do your will, my God;

your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;

I do not seal my lips, Lord,

as you know.

I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;

I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.

I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness

from the great assembly.

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;

may your love and faithfulness always protect me.

For troubles without number surround me;

my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.

They are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails within me.

Be pleased to save me, Lord;

come quickly, Lord, to help me.

May all who want to take my life

be put to shame and confusion;

may all who desire my ruin

be turned back in disgrace.

May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”

be appalled at their own shame.

But may all who seek you

rejoice and be glad in you;

may those who long for your saving help always say,

“The Lord is great!”

But as for me, I am poor and needy;

may the Lord think of me.

You are my help and my deliverer;

you are my God, do not delay.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Unfailing Love

Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.  How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36: 5-7

Our Thanksgiving this year turned into a week-long celebration thanks to the visit of my dearest niece Nicole. Often she spends Thanksgiving with us, but this year, she had told me it was not going to be possible. A couple of weeks before the holiday, however, she called me to tell me that the company she works for was sending her to Pittsburgh for a meeting the Monday of Thanksgiving week and that she had made arrangements to stay here until the following Saturday. The unexpected news were the cause for much excitement in my heart.

Nicole is more than my niece. She is my sister and friend. We basically grew up together. She made me an aunty when I was only eight years old. We both grew up in Panama, so now that we both live in the US we are practically the only close family we really have in this country. Unfortunately, we live far from each other. On the other hand, that makes each moment we spend together all the more precious.

When we are together is like time hasn’t gone by. We are able to pick it up right where we left it and enjoy each other’s company. I truly praise God for her life and for how she has impacted my own. God has showed me a glimpse of what unconditional love looks like by placing Nicole in my path for the long run. Through her life experiences I have also been able to learn more about how God is the Only One who can exercise unfailing love.

Not another soul in this world is capable of loving perfectly. When it comes to loving others we all fail at it. Nobody has mastered love…Only God…because He IS Love. And whatever love we may be able to express in our limited ability comes from Him. Without Him, we don’t know what love is. What the world calls love is nothing but a fleeting emotion that has more to do with our own selfish needs and self-centered feelings than with the object of our affection. When we seek the love of this world we chase after a combination of warmth and excitement that may resemble an electric current charged with sweet chocolate running through our bodies. The love of God, on the other hand, takes us through the difficult path of surrender and sacrifice, which leads us to the Cross.

His Love endures forever, and it is the same when we rejoice as well as when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death and evil. It is unchanging and unique. It is indescribable. It is perfect. It is the love that sends Himself to die for His beloved.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and so has Nicole. We took her to the airport yesterday and it was very sad to hear my sons talk about how much they miss their very cool cousin. I hope we get to spend more time together in the coming year, but for now, we cherish the memories we built this past week. For now we cherish the love that binds us and we praise the Love that will keep us together through time, space and circumstance.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you. 
Isaiah 54: 10

Me, Grant, Nicole, Dan and Dylan in the front - Pittsburgh Airport 11/29/14

Saturday, November 29, 2014

With Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
his love endures forever. 
 1 Chronicles 16:34

Not just yesterday or the day before or today...but every is by His grace that we get to enjoy another opportunity to be his in this world.  It is by His design that we get to be here one more day to discover His face and His will for us on this side of the shore.

To Him belongs all the praise.
He gives and He takes away, but my heart will, by the power of His Holy Spirit, always choose to say, Blessed be His Name.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, Thank You!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lord, Deliver Me!

As it happens, every day there is something new to worry about…just like Jesus said in Matthew 6: 34:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

He sure knew what He was talking about.

Every single day comes with its own set of events and circumstances that cause us to become anxious, stressed out, worried. The trick is not to let those events and circumstances paralyze us with fear. In my case, I find it very easy to slip into the proverbial slippery slope once I’m faced with a new situation that scares me. I feel the chills rising rapidly up my spine. My pulse accelerates while at the same time my heart seems to stop (not sure how that happens, but that’s how I feel). I am weak and too attached to this world. Therefore, I panic at the first sign of something wrong.

I cannot allow myself to do this to myself any more. It distances me from Christ. It creates a barrier where there should be trust. It digs a hole where there should be a bridge. It swallows me in despair when I should have hope.

Jesus reminds us, as an antidote to this overwhelming fear, to trust in His provision and in His love, and to concentrate on seeking Him! He’ll take care of all the rest…and in turn, He will give us rest…I don’t want to be a “ye of little faith” (Matthew 6: 30). I want to have the kind of faith that trumps fear and causes mountains to jump into the oceans! I don’t want to be all-shook-up at the slightest thing that doesn’t go according to plan. I don’t want to be too attached to this world.

I want to seek Him and find Him. He promised! So I want to cling to His Word, which is flawless. I want to experience what David experienced when He wrote:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34: 4

I pray today to my God, that no matter what the day may bring, please,

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. Psalm 40: 11

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On a Budget

My husband Dan and I are a rather frugal couple. I know he may say that this statement is only half true (you can guess what the half that he thinks is not true is…get it?) But, honestly, for the most part, I think it is true.

We try to make conscientious and sensible choices when it comes to spending money. Like, for instance, we have never bought a brand-new car. And I don’t think we ever will. We never did, because we could never afford it before. And we never will, because now it is a matter of principle. We just don’t think it is a smart thing to do.

And that’s when it hit me.

Is our frugality a form of pride?


Are we becoming frugal snubs? Do we look down on people who make different choices? Do we think we are so much better because we live on a budget and we save money? Are we cultivating a spending sensibility that borders on idolatry?

Double hmmm…hmmm

I would like to think that the answer to all those questions is a firm NO…but I am not sure…the reason I am not sure is precisely what has prompted this meditation.

We are to examine ourselves more than once in a while. We are to look at the intentions behind our actions. We are to ask God to search us and test all our ways and show us if there is fault in them so He can, in turn, change things around and make us holy. Therefore, even the things we do which are good need to be put to the test.

That is why today I come with a desire for Christ to cleanse my intentions in the area of money. It is such a fragile and highly corruptible field. It could so very easily invade our soul and take up the throne. It could so quickly occupy all of our thoughts…regardless of whether we have a lot or we don’t have any…thinking about money issues is pervasive and corrosive. Regardless of whether we are doing the right thing with money…it could pretty easily get turned into something twisted. For instance, focusing too much on being frugal is still focusing too much on money! So where is the balance?

I believe the balance is in the intentions behind our choices.

What motivates me to make the choices I make? Any choices? Am I motivated by a sincere desire to give God the glory as I am a good administrator of the riches He has so generously placed in my hands? Or am I motivated by pride? I want to make choices that honor God. I praise Him that He has turned Dan into an amazingly good steward of all He has given to us, and that He has given me a spirit of frugality which I never really had before (and that He has helped me accept the dreaded budget – though I still fight it once in a while : ). But I pray that He also gives us a desire to share His riches with those who need it and that He helps us be cheerful givers…that all we do is in His precious name and for His honor.

It is, therefore, a matter of intentionality. I want to intentionally make the best choices for His Glory. I know I am going to fail more often than not, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I also know that He will show me the way. His way may still not lead us toward buying a brand new car or to a budget free life, but I pray it leads us to being more intentional about extending grace to those around us...for grace never needs to be on a budget!

Monday, November 17, 2014

He Is Making Us New!

The last several months Dylan has been going through some kind of “testing the limits of my power” type of period. His strong-willed tendencies have flourished and needless to say, it is driving me crazy! As it turns out, Dylan’s strong temperament clashes with my own. We can both put on a really scary show that makes the mild-mannered (Grant and Link) in our household scatter and run for the hills (or for under the table, whatever is more accessible and quicker) to escape the fireworks of wrath.

I have a really hard time controlling myself. Therefore, I feel like a hypocrite of Biblical proportions when I tell Dylan to control himself. Who am I to tell him that? Me, who can’t tolerate the slightest test to my patience??? I have no authority to tell Dylan to calm down and exercise self-control, when I myself can’t keep it together…and the worst part is…Dylan knows it all too well. So he doesn’t listen to me because he is seeing I cannot do what I say he should do…so we are locked in a vicious cycle of yelling and screaming that doesn’t seem to be broken.


As I read the book a Praying Life, by Paul Miller, I have discovered that I have not been praying for this situation with Dylan. I have been trying to fix it all myself, by my own power. I have been thinking of ways I can make Dylan listen and obey so things smooth out between us. The result? Total failure! Nothing I try works and no matter what and how I tell him, he continues with his defiance, which prompts my bursts of anger…and the vicious cycle’s endless spin continues as well.

I think I can shape Dylan’s will. If I only had the right technique…if I only could tell him the right words…I could certainly change him…


I can change Dylan just as much I can change an orange into a mango!

God has reminded me, through the book A Praying Life, that He is the only one who could change anyone’s heart. But He has also reminded me that there are, indeed, words I can speak which have immense power: His Word! The author of the book says that he has index cards with Scripture that he prays over his children constantly…that gave me an idea (I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before…). I needed to pray the Lord would lead me to His Word in a way that I could find something I can claim for Dylan and pray it back to God. So I did. And the Lord, in His mercy, led me to two places.

First, He led me to Ezekiel 36: 25-27:

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.…

The part I am really claiming for Dylan is where God tells us that He will give us a new heart as He puts a new spirit within us…I pray that for Dylan, but I also pray it for me too…I want that the stones that sit where our hearts need to be would become alive with the presence of God, and that with each beat, His life would overflow our souls and make us new.

He is the Only One who can do this…as He reminded me in the other part of Scripture that He sent to me:

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Revelation 21: 5a

He is making us new! He is not done yet. He is still working on us and in us. There is still hope. Dylan will be a new creation by the power of the Most High, by the power of He who sits on the Throne…and so will I.

I just started this, so I can’t tell you that Dylan’s strong-willed heart has subsided yet. But I do realize that as I recite the words in my head, I am finding a new kind of rest.  

Once again, He has showed me that, when in doubt, go to His Word for His Word is, indeed, the Lamp unto our feet that allows us to see the way! (Psalm 119:105)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Walking with Loss

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43: 2

For two years now I have been walking with loss. The death of my Father has left a deep void in my heart which continues to be difficult to fill. Two years ago today, I arrived at my childhood home in Panama to find it empty. The house that had been a permanent source of comfort to me stood eerily quiet…desolate, rather. The ever presence of my Father was irreversibly gone.

As I stood at the doorway, I sensed my years in that house vanish…it is hard to explain what I felt. It was as if life as I had known it up until that day had ended. Nothing would be the same again.

The walls that had received me since my first days on this earth and had kept me safe, known my hurts, heard my secrets, witness my joy, were now cold reminders of the finite state of this life.

I remember walking by my parents’ bedroom that day…all of my life, every time I walked by that door I had turned my head to peek inside and find comfort in seeing my Mom in her rocking chair praying or my Dad taking a nap, stretched out on his bed, the same bed they got when they married a lifetime away…it was different this time…it was painful…there wasn’t anyone there…the rocking chair was still and the bed spread sat neatly straight.

I walked carrying my loss throughout the house that once was filled with love and life. I dragged my feet to a dark bedroom and I slept as if to pretend it was all a dream.

But it is not a dream. It is reality, the new reality of my life. The old has passed away. The new is coming.

I surrender my loss to His Hands…the only hands that can mend the broken heart.

Though darkness is thick and terrifying, My Lord turns my darkness into light (Psalm 18: 28) for He is the Light!

For now I have tears of mourning, but one day, they will dissipate and usher in the complete joy of the promise fulfilled…

“ ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21: 4

It is hard to lose your earthly Father. Regardless of the type of relationship or lack of thereof that one may have had with him…knowing he is gone from the land of the living makes our hearts tremble. The gift is that Our Heavenly Father is here to stay. No matter what or where, in the depth of our loneliness, agony, despair, fear, pain…through the valley of the shadow of death…through the dessert…through the storm…through our loss…He walks with us and brings us to the other side, unharmed…

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46: 1-2

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

God's Timing

For the revelation pertains to an appointed time— it speaks truthfully about the end. Though it delays, wait for it, because it will surely come about— it will not be late! Habakkuk 2: 3

I am not a patient person. I believe I have commented on this fact many times before. I like things to happen when I want them to happen. I have reflected on this issue of mine over and over and over again, and yet one more time, for it is a huge struggle I have. I get nervous when I don’t see results fast. I become anxious when there’s a perceived delay. I fear the uncertainty involved in the process of waiting.

Usually, what happens while I wait is that I construct scenarios in my head that contribute to my despair. Although rarely things came to be with the melodramatic hues I imagine in my head, I still can’t help being afraid. I turn to panicky prayers instead of calmly resting in the shadow of His wings. I demand what I think I need to get in order to bring peace to my soul, rather than requesting that His peace that surpasses all understanding would cover me regardless of what happens. I forget that my ways are not His ways…and that in the end; His plan is always perfect even if I can’t understand it at the moment.

I forget to…

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27: 14

I forget that I must surrender not only to God’s plan and will, but to His timing as well. Even though it may seem as if He is hiding his face from me…as if He is distant…I must trust Him…I must trust His timing. I must remember that even though, in my worldly state, He may seem to delay, He is never late!

I have been carrying these thoughts in my mind for a while now, and every time I feel as if I start to fall into the despair of an anticipated long wait, I repeat it in my head: I surrender to Your timing, Lord.

It is actually another example of the paradoxical ways of the Lord…in God’s logic, surrender leads to freedom. May we all experience the liberation that comes with giving it all to Him and surrendering to His plans, His will and His timing for our lives and the lives of our beloved.

I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. Isaiah 8:17

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.” 
Isaiah 55: 8

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In the Valley of Decision

May the multitudes upon the multitudes realize that the day of the LORD is near! Joel 3: 14

May the nations awake and hear your voice!

May the peoples believe and know: that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth…Philippians 2: 10

The day of decision is here.

May we choose inspired and guided by divine wisdom so when He comes, He finds us standing on His side.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Special Day

Last birthday I celebrated with my Dad in Panama.

Today is a very special day in Panama, my country of birth. Today the entire nation celebrates Independence Day. I remember as a kid, I used to love November. It was always so festive and so full of national fervor, let alone the days off! The school year, in Panama, ends early in December, so once it hit November, we considered it almost all done.

November 3rd was always doubly special in my home because it was my Dad’s birthday.

I don’t really know how things work on that other shore of eternity; however, I’d like to imagine that today my Dad is enjoying the day hanging out with my Mom. Perhaps, today isn’t a special day for him anymore. Perhaps, every day is special now. For my Dad, maybe November 3rd has no real significance anymore. The luster is probably all gone and replaced by the inexpressible and incomparable brightness and delight of being in the presence of Christ. The concept of time might not even be anything we would concern ourselves with in Heaven. For me, however, who are still voyaging in the choppy waters of this life, the day brings back the sadness and emptiness of my loss.

Praise the Lord I am not alone in this journey. Besides Jesus, Himself, God has graciously given me faithful travelling companions to hang on to. And for that I am infinitively grateful. It is, however, still hard to look back and remember those who are no longer with us…especially those who played such a crucial role in our lives…But hope remains! And I cling to it…I cling to the source of all my hope…of all my peace…

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.…
 John 14: 1-3

I cling to this promise with all I’ve got!

And as I have also lost my childhood house, I am sure glad that Jesus is preparing a new place for me there...a place that no one would be able to take away…a place where I can fellowship with my parents again…a place that I could, forever, call home.

For now, all I have to say is: Happy Independence Day, Panama…and Happy Birthday, Papa…

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4: 13

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Sweetest Treat

Fall is here, in full swing. The season of colorful leaves, chilly mornings, windy evenings and sweet treats. My sons went out hunting for candy and came back home with a bounty.

I stayed behind to greet the parade of fluffy ducklings and pumpkins, pirates, witches, Star War heroes and general assortment of unrecognizable creatures that knocked at my door searching for the sugary reward.

Upon my children’s return, Grant commented that one of our neighboring families was a Christian household. I listened attentively as he related with delight that his brother and he had received the nicest treat, a Snickers candy bar along with a track. He handed the little bag to me as he pulled out the folded paper. It was, indeed, the pathway to salvation framed on candy corn and smiley pumpkins. Dylan showed me his too, and it told of the story of God’s plan from the fall to Christ, all so neatly and concise.

Both were pleased, but Grant, in particular, was visibly impressed by the gift. He had not expected anyone to greet them with the good news of Our Great God. I think he really appreciated the intentions and it helped him keep the perspective of the celebration: a candy holiday is alright once in a while, but the sweetest treat is, by far, the one that comes from above, the gift of Grace from our Lord.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We are trying to guide our older son, Grant into a more relaxed, confident, stress-free state of mind as he is going through the typical anxiety of the pre-adolescence/adolescence age. Thought, I said “trying,” I am, in no way, implying that we may be succeeding… However, I believe we might have been able to make a bit of progress thanks to one piece of advice we have given him:

To change the way we feel, it helps to change the way we think.

The short devotional readings I do every day present this concept quite often, and today there it was again. The idea was associated with the passage of Scripture from Philippians 4: 8-9,

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

This magnificent, Holy Spirit-inspired command that Paul gave to his friends in Philippi ages ago, still fits us perfectly in today’s world. In a society where the lines between right and wrong, and good and evil are so faint, and where the normalization of sin has become institutionalized, Christians struggle to stay true to our faith. Young people are bombarded by all things dark and carnal. Purity is laughed at and innocence is quickly becoming extinct. Parents who want to protect their children’s souls and shelter them from the filth around us are left without any resources from the secularized culture that wants to swallow us whole. What is there to do, then?

We hang on to this passage, seek out whatever is pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, worthy of praise and dwell on such things! Better yet, as parents, we are to do what Paul says here…we are to model all these, live them ourselves, become examples to those we want to influence, so they can practice these things, the things they have “learned and received and heard and seen” in us. We are not just to tell our kids to do these things. We have to do them ourselves first! We have to die to our not-so-pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, worthy of praise habits and become people who follow the light and seek the Kingdom of God!

I don’t know how good a model I am being for my sons on this one. Actually, as a matter of fact, I don’t remember ever paying attention to verse 9 on this passage before. Today, however, I realize that the responsibility of helping my children change the way they think at this stage of their lives falls primarily on their Mom and Dad…(aka me and Dan). Most likely, they will end up modeling what they see in us.

I want them to enjoy the presence of the God of peace in their lives. In order to achieve it, they need to shape their thought lives…and I have a hand on helping them do that. But to accomplish such a goal, I need to shape myself after someone…someone who can model the above pattern to perfection. So I choose to model myself after my Savior.

I pray I can measure up to the task of guiding my children into a path of a transformed thought-life. I know for sure I can’t do it on my own. I need the strength and wisdom that comes from My Lord so I can learn how to change the way I think and the things I think about to be in tune with what I see in Him, and in turn, become a good role-model.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bold Surrender

As I work my way through the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller with a group of young, faithful women, I was once again struck by how clearly the author presents deep truths about prayer. For instance, one of the women in the Bible study commented that she was very moved by the concept of how prayer consists of a balancing act between “asking boldly” and “surrendering completely.” (p. 132)

I cannot agree more with my young friend. I believe achieving such balance is the key to prayer.

Jesus, Himself, illustrates this truth in His prayer at the Garden before He was taken by the guards to be led unto His final days walking on this earth. In the midst of His agony, He called on His Beloved Dad…

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 
 Mark 14: 36

The essence of prayer is contained within this profoundly simple statement. Jesus asked boldly…even though He knew it would not be granted…for His Father, His Daddy, to take away the bitterly cruel cup he was about to partake. He didn’t doubt His Father’s power to remove such burden from His shoulders. Jesus perfectly and firmly knew, trusted, believed God’s ability to just say the word and make the whole thing stop…but He also knew the plan…and the plan involved His Holy and Perfect sacrifice. Even though, His humanity was revealed on the feelings He experienced on that fateful night and in His bold prayer, Jesus’ complete trust on the wisdom and righteousness of God’s divine plan was demonstrated in His surrender…”yet not what I will, but what you will…”


This morning, after a restless night sleep, tossing and turning, troubled by concerns regarding my older son, Grant, I remembered all these we discussed at our Bible study meeting…and it hit me…

…when I pray for my most desperate needs, I may pray boldly…but I lack surrender…

This has been the story of my prayer life. I am not afraid to pray for the supernatural to happen. I do not doubt My Heavenly Father’s power to make all things possible. I believe Jesus when He says, ask anything in my name and it will be given to you. (John 14: 13) But I struggle surrendering to His ultimate, final and perfect will. I want the prayers to be answered my way. I want the answer to be what I requested in the way and timing that I petitioned. I don’t really want my answers to be conformed to God’s will, because I am afraid God’s will, may not be my will.

This morning, as I worried sick about Grant, God called me on it. He made me realize my lack of surrender. He pointed out how I want to solve all the issues on my own. He showed me how I want to engineer the outcomes of my son’s issues by my own power and wisdom (both of which are extremely limited at best). And I was convicted.

Immediately, I said to my Lord, “Grant belongs to You. You love Him. And You will take care of Him. No matter what I think, Your will is perfect, and I ask You to teach me how to accept it. I ask You to teach me how to be the Mother that my sons need me to be. I ask You to teach me how to do my part, and my part alone. And I ask You to teach me how and when to let go.”

I know that I may fret again…but I also know that He will remind me, again, and again, to surrender my concerns to Him in my prayer so I don’t panic if the answers are not what I had wished for.

I want to boldly surrender to God’s plan for me and to trust His Love, His Nature, His Mercy and His infinite wisdom as He leads my loved ones and I into His presence and into the “story God has placed us in.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tears of Joy

“I want to cry…” my son Dylan said to me last night after we announced to our boys that, for the first time ever in our little family, we were going to have a dog.

Both boys have been asking for a dog during the last few years. Dylan, however, has been the most persistent. Every picture he drew of our family lately has had a dog in it. He has been thinking of names for a dog. He has been dreaming of a dog. Needless to say, when we told them last night, he was beside himself.

Even though it was such a roller coaster of emotions, it was beautiful to see him. First he looked at us in disbelief. Then, he gasped. Finally, he did a noiseless scream. Quickly after I showed him the picture of our future-newest-member of the family, he grabbed paper and crayons and began to draw him. That’s when he started to get weepy and came to me all confused…wondering why he wanted to cry…that’s when I realized that my son had just found out it is possible to shed tears of joy.

It is not often that we are so overwhelmed by happiness that we cry. But it does happen. And for that, I praise the Lord! He allows us to experience, on this shore of eternity, not only the valleys of tears, but also the peaks of joy. Once in a while, mountain-top-moments come to us as a precious gift to remind us of the great love and mercy of God…to remind us that He cares…to remind us that there isn’t a pain so great that He cannot make go away…to remind us that He knows us and that He is there.

He leads us through every path, and He takes care of us. He wants to give us great things. He wants to lavish us with his inexpressible love. If we, who are bad, can give good things to our children…what more would we receive from our Heavenly Father, right? (Matthew 7: 11) Praise the Lord, O my soul!

I know that there will be moments in our near future when our new 4-legged-friend is going to disappoint Dylan and perhaps, even annoy him. But I’m also sure that he will savor the feeling of ecstatic delight he is enjoying right now, for a long time. It will probably live in his memory until he is a grown man. He will probably recall it when as a father himself; he gives his children their first dog. For now, I am the one savoring his happiness, and in turn, enjoying my own...

Tears of joy will stream down their faces,

and I will lead them home with great care. Jeremiah 31: 9

Am I Good Enough?

“I’m not a Christian…” said our son Dylan in between sleepy sobs. “Why would you say that?” Dan and I asked worried. “Well…” Dylan replied, rubbing his teary eyes, “I am a bad boy…I don’t know how to be good, and you have to be good to be a Christian.”

Dan and I looked at each other and sighed.

Isn’t that one of the biggest lies the enemy tries to deceive us with? Isn’t that one of the biggest misrepresentations of how Christianity works?

Actually, there are two equally confusing patterns of false logic at play here. One version says: “I’m not good enough. I’ll never be good enough. Therefore, I could never be a Christian.” The other version suggests sort of the same misguided logic, but in reverse: “I’m not perfect, but I am better than most people I know. I am a decent and pretty good person. I’m OK!”

Both these theories have basic flaws. The first one is a fatalistic idea that denies hope by limiting God’s power. It insists that God is not able or powerful enough to change even the greatest sinner. It forgets about God’s Mercy and it doesn’t value Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The second one simply implies that one can work his/her way into eternity by his/her own means and good deeds. Plainly stated, we’re OK, and we don’t need a Savior.

The truth is,

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” Romans 3: 10-12

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1: 15

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 23

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2: 8-10

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3: 16

That night, we tucked Dylan in after we talked to him as plainly as we could about how we are all sinners, and there is no one good…and that’s why we need a Savior. We reminded him that Jesus loves him and that if he believes that Christ died for him to forgive his sins and save his soul, he is a Christian. “I believe,” Dylan said with a more calmed expression in his face. We said a prayer, kissed him good night and walked out of his room hoping his little heart is really ready to open up to Christ coming in to dwell in him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dylan's Birthday!

My younger son, Dylan, candidly told us yesterday that one of his biggest fears is to be “taken away.”

I looked at him and assured him that nobody was going to take him away from us. He smiled and went back to what he was doing, seemingly satisfied with my reply…sigh…

Later I thought, aren’t we all, in a way, afraid of being “taken away”? Isn’t that a fear that lives not only in the young mind of a nine-year-old boy, but in the minds and hearts of most people? 

Personally, I am certainly afraid of being taken away, which could also be interpreted as being pulled apart from those I love. For example, I don’t want to be separated from my family. At least, not prematurely…I want to enjoy being with them for as long as possible. I want to enjoy the warmth of their presence. I want to be cheered by the sound of their laughter. I want to be tickled by the funny stories they come up with. I want to feel safe in their company. I don’t want to experience their loss. And I don’t want to be taken away from them either.

As much as I reassured Dylan, however, I cannot control the future. I cannot be 100% certain that we are not going to be pulled apart at some point in our lives. How does a soul find rest in such uncertainty? How do we remain calm in the face of one’s deepest fear?

You got it!

We find rest in Him. We cling to the Only One who is always there. We grab hold of the Only One who would not be taken away from us and the Only One who would never let go of us. Even when everyone else abandons us…even when everyone else is gone…even when we have been pulled apart from those we love…even when the world becomes the loneliest place…even when we feel as if there is no one left…we must remember, our hearts are deceiving, our emotions blind us, our feelings betray us, for He is always here. He tells us in His own words:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31: 6

Today is Dylan’s birthday. He has been counting the days since the beginning of the month. He is thrilled that his special day is finally here. As we surround him with all the love we can provide, and we hold him tightly in our arms, I pray that he would know not to rely on us for permanence and constancy. I pray that the Holy Spirit teaches him that there is Only One who is ever trustworthy and eternal, and that His trust must rely on Him and Him alone.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

During the last few years my husband and I have been through several difficult issues from which much anxiety and fear have stemmed. Today, for example, is the first anniversary of my second thyroid cancer surgery. Needless to say, my hands become sweaty just typing about it. It was today, however, that I heard on one of the Christian stations a very wise gentleman (I can’t remember his name, sorry) talking about the root causes of fear and anxiety.


What a “coincidence,” huh?

Of course not. The Lord provides exactly what we need at the exact time.

In this radio program, the guest speaker said that, generally, more often than not, the main cause for fear and anxiety is the fact that we concentrate too much on the future and forget to praise God for the blessings of the present.

The more I thought about, the more I realized the truth in that statement. Right next to lack of trust in the Lord’s promises and love for me, stands the fact that I concentrate way too much on the “what ifs.” As soon as a situation comes up which may, in some way, present the remote possibility of a threat to my future and the way I have designed it…fear and anxiety pop in.

I fear the future because I don’t know what the future holds…and I don’t like not knowing where I’m going. The truth I often forget is, however, that, even though I may not know what the future holds, I do know who holds the future. I also forget that I do know where I am going. In the end, this is not my home. And I am glad! My true home is a place of no tears and no darkness. My true home is a refreshing dwelling where there are no more illnesses, loss or fears. And even before I get there, I know that my Lord delivers me from what entangles me while I’m still here on this world.

Jesus wants us to focus on Him right now. He knows that is the only way our human hearts can find some rest. He knows all too well that for us it is impossible to look at the future and not fret…therefore…He commands us to

“…do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6: 34 ESV

May Our Lord, Jesus the Christ extend to us His comforting presence today, so we may praise Him and not be anxious about what will come.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Remind Me Who I am

Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

Reading these verses in church yesterday caused me to pause for a minute. Really, it was the phrase “anxious thoughts” what caught my eye. The Lord knows all too well how anxious thoughts wreak havoc in my mind more often that I can say. That’s when it hit me. Since God, obviously knows me better than I or anyone else knows me…since He created my “inmost being”…since He knows my every thought and my every word completely even before they form…the searching that He does in me is, perhaps, not for His own benefit, but...for me.

He doesn’t need to search me to figure out who I am. He already knows it! He searches me so I can know me.

I am the one who needs to know herself.

Therefore, I pray the Lord will search me so I may know my own heart and know how deceitful it could be. I pray that He will search me and show me how I should not trust the inclinations of my feelings and emotions. I pray that He will test me so I may clearly see that my anxious thoughts are nothing more than that…thoughts…they are not real. They are a fabrication of my unsettled mind and of my untrusting heart. I pray that He will show me if there is any offensive way in me so the Holy Spirit may lead me out of it and into the way that will take me to life everlasting.

Search me, test me and let me see who I am and who I can become in You.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Intentional and Patient

As I was, once again, fretting about test results yesterday, the Lord gently pushed me toward the Psalms and in its pages He gave me a place to rest and be calmed. As His will determined it, I picked up my reading at Psalm 27. The entire Psalm is pretty amazing, but today, I want to bring up verses 13 and 14:

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord 
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord:
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord.

Reading these verses felt like waking up. As I struggled with the anguish of the unknown, wrestled with my own soul to allow His peace to cover me while I combatted the enemy’s fiery arrows of deceit, these words, His words, The Word, came to my rescue, putting things into perspective.

Like we always say, God IS Good, and He is good ALL the time, for He cannot be anything else, but Good! Sometimes, however, we tend to think that His goodness and/or the fruits of it won’t come to us until after we cross to the other shore and enter into Heaven. However, is that placing a limitation on God’s power? By thinking that way, are we not implying that God’s jurisdiction does not include this world? Are we forgetting that He reigns over ALL!?

I guess, sometimes, I do forget. I know I do limit Him. I’m guilty of doubt and shaky faith.

That’s why He, in His infinite love for me, and for all His children, kindly reminds me and all of us that His goodness knows no boundaries. The power of His hands extends limitlessly, and His will is done in Heaven AND in earth.

The goodness of the Lord IS in the land of the living, among the pestilence, the wars, the death, the illness, the heartache and all the loss, He is King, His light bursts through, His love endures.

Appreciating His goodness in the midst of this world’s tragedies and darkness, however, is not easy. We need to exercise some discipline. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to make us intentional and patient.

Intentional: we need to be intentional to be confident. When we are intentional about getting to know God and His nature, we gain all the confidence we need to look beyond what things may seem, and see with the eyes of faith. When we are intentional about being confident we discover the beauty out of the ashes (Isaiah 61: 3). This way, we realize how that gorgeous sunset was created just for us, that out-of-this-world flower was designed just for our enjoyment, that soaring bird was put here to bring us hope, and the laughter of our kids within our hearing range was intended to bring joy to our hearts.

Patient: we need to be patient so we can take heart and wait for the Lord to show Himself in every situation that we go through. Patience helps us wait for Him to work out the good in all circumstances in His own time (Romans 8: 28). Patience develops our character and brings up the hope that never disappoints (Romans 5: 4-5).

It is therefore, doable if we are willing to allow Him to “teach us His way and lead us in a straight path.” (Psalm 27: 11)

May the Holy Spirit let us find rest in His hiding place, where all our fears disappear. Peace is possible; peace is real…even while we’re still here, in the land of the living.