Thursday, February 27, 2014

Give Thanks to the Lord

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. Psalm 118: 1

His love endures forever and I pray my thanksgiving would too. I don't want to ever forget to give Him honor, praise and thanks for His unfailing love and His faithfulness. He has delivered me from the evil that surrounds me. He continues to uphold me with His right hand. He has never abandoned me and He is not about to start now.

He makes me face my fears so He can crush them into a million pieces. He holds on to me as I walk through the stormy waters. The winds don't break me for he is my shelter. May the Holy Spirit never stop showing me His leading hand and may I always see His guiding light.

As I walk through the dark alleys of health problems, He reveals His Name, Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.  The Provider of all our needs.  The Calmer of our fears. The Sustainer of our lives.  

Blessed be His name

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Forgotten Prayer

As I am facing my first appointment with the Endocrinologist after my treatment for thyroid cancer, I find myself a bit nervous. I shouldn’t be. My post treatment scan showed that things are going well. But once again, my weak nature overcomes me and fear creeps in.

I try to hang on to His promises, but I’m shaky. I still struggle with trusting Him completely and not allowing the anxiety of uncertainty push me off my Solid Rock. I grow impatient with myself and frustrated by my inability to control my jitters. Then, the whisper from my Lord comes unexpectedly as I scroll down the newsfeed of my Facebook page…

“Prayer trumps panic every time.” 

These simple and profound words spoke loudly to me and convicted me because they pointed out the things I’ve forgotten. 

I forgot to pray…to pray for the Lord’s presence to be evident in me at this moment when anxiety threatens my peace. I forgot to pray for my soul to remember the assurance of His promises. I forgot to pray the Lord will remind me that He works it all together for good. I forgot to pray, pray and pray again.

I want to go to sleep tonight in confidence, with the certainty of His love trumping over any uncertainty in my life. I want to enjoy the peace of the knowledge of His power in me. I want to breathe easy as I realize He is the air I breathe. I want to crush the face of panic with the stumping force of prayer. And I want to praise Him and thank Him for His wonderful deeds unto me…

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Psalm 107 28-31

God's Unique Kind of Love

Among the things one is able to do when in isolation from the world is to get caught up with Bible Studies. So, last month, as I had the opportunity to spend 5 days withdrawn from the human race, I decided to get caught up with the video series on the Book of Romans we’ve been doing at Sunday school for the last few months. The original intent was to just watch those episodes I’ve missed, but then I decided to start with number one, and continue until I felt tired. 

As The Lord would have it, I got hooked! It is a REALLY good two volume Bible study by Tommy Nelson which I totally recommend. Of course, being on the Book of Romans, the subject is inherently compelling and absolutely fundamental to our faith. The study was bound to hit many cords in my heart and stir turmoil in my mind. In my current situation, the passage that has stayed with me after that marathon video-watching session was Romans 5: 3-5.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Suffering is a source of joy! Talking about a change in perspective…I always tended to view suffering as some sort of punishment, or a cleansing ritual at best, but never really as “joy.” The reason why our suffering in this world should be considered a moment to rejoice is because that is the proof that our faith is real. The trials we face are the experiential manifestation of our security in our faith. They are an expression of God’s unique kind of love, a love that He pours out in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by whose power we are able to persevere in our suffering and get to the other side filled with the hope that does not disappoint…and with our faith strengthened.

How are sufferings the experiential expression of God’s unique love for us? It is in the trials that our faith is perfected. It is in our struggles that our faith is strengthened enough to persevere through the struggle. It is in the suffering that our faith becomes evident and carries us through and sustains us. It is in the storm that our faith is tested. It is in the fire that our faith is refined so it can shine like pure gold! It is in the hard times that God, in His mercy, shows us that our faith is the real deal and that we can therefore, rest assured that He is with us, and will never let go. 

Even if we feel faint in our faith as we struggle through our suffering, the Holy Spirit carries us and we can do the impossible. We would never get to see the miracle of the impossible becoming possible with God without trials. Life would just be one long, pleasant cruise in fair weather. How would we know our faith is for real if all we get to do in life is sip margaritas by the pool in the sunshine? How would we be sure our faith is the kind that can move mountains if all we get to do in life is have it our way as we ride along pleasant valley every day? How would we know our Heavenly Father loves us and is with us always if we never get to travel through the dark alleys of shadow, loss, fear and death? 

One wise lady told me shortly after I got my diagnosis of thyroid cancer, “well, that is life. You cruise around for a while, all is well, and you hit a road block or a big bump along the way…you get over that one, cruise some more, and then hit another one…”

And another one, and another one, and another one…but with each bump on the road, if we overcome them by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, our character will be developed, polished, perfected more and more and more each time. After all, this life is the place where we are to go through the process of sanctification, which is a life-long polishing process so we can come out the other side so buffed that we got no grime left in us, ready for the day when we get to rejoice in His glory forever.

In the meantime, every time we find ourselves in the middle of suffering, let’s not forget, that is one more step toward experiencing a perfect faith. It is the expression of God’s unique kind of love for His children (granted, it may make us ponder how much we want Him to love us, huh? just kidding…the more trials, the more polished we end up and the biggest the reward!) 

I ended up watching the entire volume 1 which was 12 episodes. How marvelous the things you get to do when you have nothing else to do!

Linking with:  Little R and R and Whole Hearted Home

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Calling Upon His Name

“…at their wits’ end…they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.”  Psalm 107:27 – 28, NIV 

How many times a day do I call out to the Lord? I’m not sure…a lot! I don’t think I could get through a single day without calling out to His Name. It is the source of my strength and the way I survive my self-induced anxiety and the mental anguish of my days. If left to my own devices, my mind would shrivel my soul and dry it out until it disintegrates in the wind. 

Thanks to His promise, however, I do not wither and die. I survive because I cling to His Word as it is written that: to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace [will flow] to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1: 2-3 

I believe that His “Grace and peace” will fill me as I call upon Him, as I trust Him, as I realize that He is permanently at work in me, as I rest in His care and in His perfect will. I got to believe it. Therefore, I am not ashamed of my weakness for I am strong in Him, who is strength. 

That is why, like the group 7eventh Time Down suggests in their song “Just Say Jesus,” I will… 

Whisper it now, or shout it out 
However it comes out, He hears your cry 
Out of nowhere He will come, you got to believe it 
He will rescue you 
Just call out to the Way, The Truth, The Life. 

When you don't know what to say
Just say Jesus 
There is power in the name 
The name of Jesus 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 

~ Matthew 11:28, ESV

Monday, February 24, 2014

An Apple a Day

I have always been fascinated by apples. I remember growing up in my tropical paradise country of birth; apples were more of a Christmas treat. During my elementary-school years, the day of our class Christmas party, the teacher would bring in this mysterious looking boxes with strange writing printed on them, and as soon as she’d open one of them, the fragrance of apples would fill the air, announcing that the Christmas season had finally arrived! I would anxiously wait for the teacher to hand one to me so I could hold it and inspect it. I never ate it, though…many kids didn’t…I never liked the texture of it…it was more like a mythical creature from which I’ve heard in canned TV shows, traveling from a distant land fresh in a box…so the wonder of holding one in my very own hands was plenty satisfaction. 

At any rate…I digress…

Today, I’m reminiscing of a time not too long ago when I was in the middle of a medical diet and I began feeling the cravings for something sweet to eat. Then, I couldn’t just reach for the cookies in the pantry or the donuts on the counter. I couldn’t make a special trip to the bakery either. If I wanted desert, I had to make it myself…from scratch to make sure I have complete control over the ingredients that went in it. So I flipped through the electronic pages of my magical cook-book to see what treasures I could discover in this department. As soon as I saw “apple cake” on the title I knew I have found my next experiment. After all, “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away…especially if it is baked into a cake!”

I looked through the ingredients and I smiled with delight when I realized I had them all except one…the apples. I only had Dylan’s “spicy” apples at home (please, don’t ask). I didn’t think those would be good in this recipe, so I ventured out into the unsurmountable task of selecting the right apples to put in an apple cake. The recipe didn’t tell me what kind of apple to use…but in my vast knowledge of pop culture, I remembered a movie I’ve seen where the protagonist is stealing some apples from her neighbor to bake a pie…they were of a greenish/golden color, so as I stood, scratching my confused head in front of the fifteen different varieties of apples at the grocery store, I grabbed a bag containing one of the many Grandmother variety which were colored similarly to the ones in the movie.

At any rate, I went home, closely followed the recipe and in about 1 hour I had a small gem in front of me. Needless to say, the wonderful smell from the oven was enough to signal my success. So when I finally contemplated the golden treasure I knew it was good.

It was good, indeed! The treat was so yummy I can still taste it today, over a month later. God showed me His love in the goodness of His creation and through the imagination of those who know how to compose delicious treats out of the fruits of His hands. Little did I know when I was a little girl in Panama that the mysterious red marvel that came to us in a box from a land far, far away, would, one day, so deliciously relieve my cravings and ease my anxiety in my hour of distress. He takes care of our every need, no matter how minute, insignificant or irrelevant it may seem in the great scheme of things…if it is important to one of His children, He will take care of it in the most loving way.

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17: 8

Linking with:  Mondays Musings

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Riding in the Back Seat

Still thinking along the lines of how to let go of my obsession with controlling the way things go, my mind went back to the afternoon of my treatment for thyroid cancer. On January 16, only a month ago, I had to take a radioactive iodine pill which would hopefully ablate any thyroid cells that may still be in my body after having surgery to remove the cancer infested gland. A small feat when compared to chemotherapy and other cancer treatments…a big feat for someone who has never been able to swallow a pill whole…but that’s another story. 

Today I’m thinking of the ride home after a day at the hospital having tests and taking the treatment. Due to the radiation that my body was emitting, I had to be isolated from people for five days. The ride home was tricky, since I couldn’t drive and the closest people should be near me was 3 feet and for no more than 1 hour. The trip from the hospital to my Mother in Law’s house, where I would stay in isolation for the next 5 days, was a few minutes longer than 1 hour. Our compact car doesn’t have more than 3 feet of space between people…so I rode on the back seat, to put as much distance as possible between me and my husband in our small vehicle. 

God gave us a beautiful and pleasant afternoon that day and my husband was able to fly through the miles as fast as he could legally do it. But even though the trip felt shorter than usual, I still had time to think while sitting on the back. I thought about the analogy between riding in the back seat and riding alongside life’s highways with our Lord. And as I leaned my head back and began to relax, I realized I like riding on the back…the steering wheel was not really meant for me. That is Christ’s seat.

However, there would be no way for me to find out how nice it feels to let another one do the driving, until the Lord put me in the back seat without offering me a choice or an alternative. It is in my nature to not want to let go. I want it my way. The Lord, in His infinite patience, is showing me that letting go is actually a sweet thing. It feels good knowing that someone else is in charge, especially when I have no clue of what to do! Knowing that God is in control sounds like a heavenly song to my troubled ears when in the middle of a storm. He controls the wheel and He drives us to safety while keeping us sheltered as we journey through the waves and the winds.

That afternoon, I was able to look out the window and enjoy the sight of our beautiful rolling hills, and the familiar places packed with memories up to the brim. I remember closing my eyes and thanking God for the blessing of allowing me to discover the joy of riding in the back seat. Today, I pray He will help me remember that is my seat…so I can let Him be behind the wheel.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

Linking with: Little R and R and Whole Hearted Home

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Remarkable Moment

One of the very few pictures of Ida that we still have.
Ida was my husband’s paternal Grandmother. She passed away in the seventies, many years before I even began to dream about the remote possibility of living in the U.S. let alone marrying her grandson. Over the years, however, I’ve heard a lot about Ida and her love for the church which became my church, her house, which became my husband’s childhood home, for flowers and of the smell of lavender which constantly surrounded her. She’s always intrigued me. I have a feeling that I would have liked her, had I ever met her.

At any rate, the last night of my isolation period, which I spent at my Mother in Law’s, my husband’s childhood home, Ida's home, I was looking forward to the highlight of my days, dinner time! Every evening, at about 5pm or so, one of my dear Dinner Angels would show up with the most delicious meals ready for me to enjoy. I have to admit, I loved that aspect of being confined : ). Anyhow, on that last evening, my dear friend June, who used to be my neighbor up until very recently, called me to let me know it was her night to bring me supper. Shortly after I saw, not her, but her son Tim deliver it since it was not a nice night to be out in the weather ( I guess that made Tim sort of my Dinner “He” Angel that evening???).

As soon as he left, I rushed out to the front porch to pick up the awaited containers, then I saw there was also a note. I gathered everything and went inside, put the containers on the kitchen table and read the letter. June had typed precious words of encouragement and prayers for my recovery and for my boys. Then she added a p.s. written in her own hand writing: “the ham loaf recipe was given to me by Dan’s grandma, Ida. I’ve used it for years.”

I sat down, fork in hand…immersed in the silence of such a moment…

Then, I carefully opened the container and saw the wonderful-looking ham loaf sitting among golden scallop potatoes. I took a bite, and as it melted in my mouth, I could not help but thinking: this is truly one special moment…

There I was, sitting at what would have been Ida’s kitchen, eating her ham loaf, several decades after her passing from this world…a special moment, indeed…

I often worry and lament that my sons didn’t get to meet my Mother or Dan’s Father, but moments like that evening make me realize that it is always possible for them to get to know our beloved departed beyond the material world, thanks to the shared memories of us who did have the privilege of meeting them on this side of Heaven. God will always provide opportunities to let His children be remembered through the years. Their influence is passed down through the kindness of their actions which live in the minds of those who experienced and treasured them.

The days I spent in that old farm house, a house filled with over 100 years of memories, were truly special. There is so much contained in the walls of that home, good and bad, but all valuable, and I got the chance to share into it if only for a fleeting period of time. How remarkable is that?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Enduring Friendships

Valentine’s Day in Panamá, where I grew up, was usually, for me at least, more about friendship than romantic love. Over the years, it kind of changed and the friendship aspect of the celebration faded into the background. This year, however, I want to bring it back to a special place by praising God for the people He has sent to me to provide support, warmth, assistance and love, particularly during the times of struggle I’ve experienced recently. Thanks to the provision of our Great God, I have not had to go through this rough road alone. He has given me His presence in the presence of those He has surrounded me with.

I’m thinking particularly about those who have prayed for my recovery, sent me cards, and words of encouragement, called me on the phone, texted me, sent me e-mails, and prepared meals during my time in isolation. This last group I very affectionately call, my “dinner angels.” Through their willingness to serve, God showed me His delicious provision! Every day, at dinner time, one of these ladies would show up at my door, where I was spending my isolation time, and drop off the most amazing foods and treats, just custom made to meet my every day needs!

The first night, after enduring a low-iodine diet for the last few weeks, along came Judy, my first angel. I was so ready for something flavorful and different from my usual bland menu, I didn’t even know what I was craving for. But as soon as I waved good bye to Judy through the window and saw her walk away, I went outside, grabbed the containers and anxiously put them on the kitchen table. Immediately after I opened the first container I knew my prayer had been answered. Judy had prepared an amazing, Asian-inspired dish that was exactly what I didn’t know I needed! I fully enjoyed every bite of it… Judy even came back the next day with a bowl of an incredible dip (though the word dip falls way too short in describing what this dish was) with a bag of tortilla chips that tasted just like summer. I gobbled that thing down like I’ve just been rescued from a shipwreck.

Next day I spent the whole afternoon day-dreaming of lasagna…my mouth waters just thinking about it. I don’t know how, but Glenda got the message and among a huge selection of the most thoughtful treats and a gorgeous journal there was a carefully packaged dish of home-made lasagna rolls…it was heavenly!

Later, my brain and stomach remembered that I hadn’t had any bread for a few weeks, so the craving for bread began. Thoughts of warm bread and melting butter were overpowering. But I didn’t have to worry because, just in time, Diana showed up with a loaf of home-made bread and wedding soup, plus a fluffy piece of heaven called: “sneakers caramel apple salad.” The bread was better than my dreams and I treasured every piece of it as my own personal manna from Heaven.

The next evening was a particularly snowy one, so I was happy when I saw that June had sent her son, Tim to deliver dinner because the sidewalk was extremely slippery and I was nervous about her walking on it. So, I guess that night I had a “he” angel too : ). I wrote about June’s dinner in a separate post since it stirred a different trend of thought that I elaborate on that upcoming entry.

And the last day, even though I had told her I didn’t need it because Dan and the boys would come and get me in the afternoon to go home, Shirley, the woman who organized the “angels” (I guess that would make her, “Head Angel” in “Angel Central” …she’ll get this reference : ) insisted in bringing me food for lunch. And I am so glad she did! It was another wonderful soup, perfect for a cold and snowy day. I saw the rather large container and I thought I would save some for dinner, but when I opened it, I said, “nah.” And I gobbled down that tasty broccoli and noodles treat with great delight. 

That same evening, back at my own home, I realized my boys had been taken care of by their own dinner angels as well. My sister in law, Laura, had not only taken my sons for a sleep over during the weekend, but she had sent Dan home with enough food for a few days! The Pastor of a new church we’ve been visiting also came in with his wife and dropped off lasagna and bread. And even a complete stranger from that same church, who heard about our situation, brought in a full meal for Dan and the kids which allowed me to take it easy the rest of the week while I adjusted to life at home and back to work again.

These are just a few examples of the kindness of my brothers and sisters in Christ who looked after me during my time of trial. The Lord, in His infinite love, provided, once again, all I needed and more. And though I know my trials in this world are far from over, I also know that no matter what, I will not face them alone. For this and more, I dedicate this Valentine’s to the love that flows from enduring friendships! May we, someday, reminisce about all these up above, when we make it home!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV 

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up.

Linking with:  Essential Thing Devotions

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Do We Renew Our Mind?

Today I read a wonderful post by my cyber-friend Candace, an incredibly insightful and godly woman whose blog is truly inspired by her ability to see God’s hand in her life and circumstances. Her post today made me think about transformation. Therefore, it inevitably brought to me Romans 12:2a

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

While reviewing this passage, my mind became a top, spinning round and round in different directions. It finally landed, however, on a thought about how I am not a very flexible type of person. Literally, I have a hard time even bending my knees to pick up a pencil from the floor, let alone go with the flow. I have plans! Change doesn’t come easy. Making adjustments is hard. I resist recalibration. Therefore, thoughts of transformation are a bit unsettling precisely because transformation has to do with change. What kind of change, though? Well, the hardest change of all…the changing of our mind...

Then I read Romans 12:2 again and I saw that an important element in the process of renewing our minds is “not to conform.” Huh? I am not to conform to the things of this world! I have to be a rebel and NOT go with the world’s flow. I need to go against it. This gave me a bit of hope since it sounded as if my tendency to resist going with the flow may come in handy after all…

But I also discovered that the transformation that comes with the renewing of our minds perhaps means more than a simple switch. It kind of looks like I have to not just go against the current, but jump out of it entirely and go into another river?! Transformation is a complete metamorphosis that implies the changing of our very core and composition. This sort of transformation can only be initiated by the Hand of our Great God reaching into the world’s river and pulling us out of it to then drop us into His. 

Once the Holy Spirit shows us this truth, the truth that we need a Savior, and we accept it and receive Him, the Lord pulls us out of the tainted river, and delivers us into His Living Waters so we can finally be transformed and begin the renewing of our minds. 

This brought me back to the process of sanctification and how renewing our minds is part of it. It is not a completed action, like salvation was by the sweeping deeds of Jesus. Renewing our mind is on- going …hence the use of the word “renewing” in the expression: “by the renewing of your mind” as supposed to: “by your renewed mind.” Like I heard a teacher explain: 

“not because you are a Christian it means that everything just clicks and all of a sudden you are a brand new creation…it means that we are free to become that new creation.” 

God rescues us from the filthy waters of this world in which we were immersed so that we can be transformed as we intentionally and continually keep on surrounding ourselves with all things good and godly: reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, meeting together with the body of believers, serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the list goes on, and on, and on for as long as we continue to be on this side of Heaven. 

That’s how we transform ourselves, by allowing Him to transform us as we dive in head first into His glorious river. Once in there, we keep on swimming forward with His flow, one breast stroke at a time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stop Hearing the Lies!

Please, tell me that there are days you too feel like a failure! Because I don’t want to be alone on this boat…it’s sad in here…it is the boat of desolation and hopelessness…and as we all know, misery loves company…

Sometimes, I just wonder if there is anything I do that is not a complete disaster…I feel like I don’t fulfill any of my roles well. Being a Mother, forget it! My poor sons got the short end of the stick when they got me as their Mother. I feel as if everything I do will scar them for life. I wound them on a daily basis. I’m harsh, impatient, short-tempered, can’t cook, can’t do math, can’t play video games, can’t skate, I’m not gentle, I yell a lot, I lose my temper quickly, and did I mention that I’m harsh and not gentle? The poor kids are getting a long lesson on how to deal with difficult people. 

Being a wife? Let’s just say that it’s a miracle we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. I fail as a wife daily. But I’m sure my husband would be better equipped to talk about this subject since he’s had more personal experience with my failures in this department. 

I also fail as a friend, sister, aunt, etc, etc, etc…you name it…I’m inadequate in every role. I am not meeting the mark. I am way below average. I am a failure. I have many voices inside of me that don’t let me forget this fact. The reminders of my shortcomings are the sad/long faces around me. The proof of my mediocrity as a human being is my constant feeling of ineptitude. The worst part is that such feelings rob me of precious joy in my soul. Thinking I’m unfit to perform my roles in life put me under a permanent dark cloud. And that only makes things worse for those around. Feeling defeated and unappreciated doesn’t strengthen relationships, it weakens them.

That very thought got me thinking. What if all these feelings are nothing but a lie? The enemy knows perfectly what buttons to push in order to get me to a place where I am the farthest away from God and from all things godly. He knows how to manipulate me in order to make me believe I don’t deserve healthy relationships with my loved ones and especially with Christ. What if I am but just another victim of the enemy’s dirty schemes? 

When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 
John 8:44b

I must stop believing the lies. I have to fine tune my ears and stop hearing distorted messages. I have to start trusting who I am. I have to start believing that I am God’s beloved. I am a Child of the Most High King, which makes me a princess in the kingdom of heaven! I have to look back and see all He has done to transform my life. I am miles away from who I was twenty years ago. He is working in me, and He who began a work in me will not stop until He sees it completed! I am not completed yet, but He will keep working in me until I am. For as long as He keeps me in this world, He will continue to refine me and those around me should be blessed by the work of His hands. I am not a failure. I am a Child of the One True King! And as we well know: He didn’t make no junk!

I hope I remember that I have a choice every time I sense the feelings of failure creeping up in my soul. I have the choice to refuse certain thoughts (Ps. 101:2-3). Like I read in a message from a wise and godly sister in Christ not too long ago: Harmful thoughts are among those things referred to as Satan’s “flaming arrows” (Eph. 6:16). We may not be responsible for such thoughts popping into our heads, but we are accountable for our response to them. If you find yourself pausing on or entertaining unhealthy ideas, ask God to redirect your thinking. Then thank Him because Jesus Christ purchased your forgiveness at Calvary.

If we can manage to remember this truth, soon the boat of desolation where I’ve been traveling will be empty and forgotten.

Check out this song by Matthew West:  Hello My Name Is...
Linking with:  Whole Hearted Home and Little R and R

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Am I a Slave to My Own Designs?

Do you sometimes wake up angry or in a bad mood? I do…and it usually has to do with something that happened the night before which didn’t get resolved. Or does it? 

If I look deep inside myself and I am totally honest, the root cause of most of my discontent is selfishness. I have my own agenda. I have my own plans. I have my own ideas of how things should be done. I have my own time table. I have my own ways. AND when someone/something messes with my well thought out plan, conflict arises. Hence, discontent comes my way.


The problem is that I like things to go my way. I don’t want to give up my hopes, dreams, ventures, plans. I think they are worthy. I don’t see them as selfish. 

The thing I have to ask myself is: am I being governed by my own designs? 

I have to honestly answer questions such as: Am I a slave to my dreams? Does my plan leave room for God’s plan to be fulfilled in my life? Am I flexible enough to accept the fact that God’s will, must be done in me as He has predestined it even if it is different from my own will?

I have intellectual knowledge of God’s sovereignty over all things (which include my life and plans) but sometimes I realize I don’t have the spiritual maturity to accept this truth in my soul. I resist His will. I get annoyed by life’s interruptions. I become frustrated by the detours. I am afraid of deviations. I am nervous when faced with the unknown. I want to revert back to my old path. It’s like a disease…like some kind of disorder and I don’t know what the medicine is.

Or perhaps, I do know it, but I am not strong enough to take it.

I’m not strong enough to swallow the fact that life won’t always go my way. I’m not strong enough to find peace in knowing that God’s plan is the perfect one, not mine. I’m not strong enough to realize that even with the suffering and pain, God’s way, as indecipherable as it sometimes may seem, is the only way.

The only thing left to do is to go to Him, the source of that strength that I lack and hang on to Him as He leads me through His intricate path until I get to where He wants to take me. He is the only one who can carry me there and the only one who can free me from my bondage to my own self. I want to live a life in freedom from my own snares. I don’t want to walk the selfish road anymore. It is too lonely in there. So I pray the Lord will change my focus and shine the light on His path so I can follow it confident that it is the one that leads me to Him...and that He makes “that” the only place I want to be.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8-9

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wallflowers No More

“Today at Sunday school we learned about how God chooses us not the other way around…” Said my 11-year old son as he got in the car when we were leaving church last Sunday. As a rule of thumb, Grant doesn’t talk to us much about what goes on at any school…so we knew that this lesson must have touched him in such a deep way that he was moved to share it with us. Dan and I silently waited to see if there was more that he wanted to add…soon we realized that was the extent of his sharing, so we made some comments on the truth of what he had learned. “Did you know that’s how it was?” We asked. “No, I didn’t…” He answered. “I remember the first time I heard that, myself” I said, “it was a huge revelation!” I added… 

Have you noticed how God works His lessons in themes? There are periods of time when a theme is recurrent and He weaves it together in different occasions and encounters. Sometimes, things we hear in a sermon tie perfectly together with something we read in an e-mail, which then ties together with a song we hear on the radio and something someone else mentions at work…In this instance, my son’s comment was the culmination of a series of lessons God had been teaching me on the fact He has chosen us. Among the most poignant parts of the series in this particular theme has been a blurb I heard on Christian radio. I don’t even know the name of the person who was talking, but he said, “all humanity is lined up against the wall, and God points His finger at you and says: ‘I pick you.’”

When I heard that, my mind went back to my teen years. I so did not enjoy that stage of my life. Between the ages of 11to18 I never stopped feeling/looking awkward. I also felt unwanted. At the handful of dances I ever attended, I was the permanent wallflower, always leaning against a wall or a railing as if looking for something to hang on to while the whole world seemed to be having fun, except me. Those were the days when girls had to wait to be picked by the guys. Girls had to wait to be asked by a boy to dance. Otherwise, we just had to resign to a night of shame by the wall. I can count with the fingers of one hand the times I ever got asked to dance by a guy (and I would have like three fingers to spare). In other words, I hardly ever got picked.

I still remember the loneliness of those days. I guess that is why hearing the message of how the Lord chooses us never gets old to me. That message means that I don’t ever have to feel like a wallflower anymore! And the good news is that neither do you! The truth of God’s selecting us descends on us like a comfy blanket that keeps us warm in the coldest of winter days. As my son is still dealing with the huge transition of moving to a new area and going to a new school, I’m sure he feels the sting of loneliness pricking at his young heart on a daily basis. Therefore, hearing that the God of the Universe has picked him since before He created the world, has to bring joy to his soul. 

“And the best part is, that you didn’t have to do anything for God to choose you…” we pointed out to our son. “He chose you just because of His great love and mercy and for that we are humble and eternally grateful.” Because now, we don’t have to be wallflowers anymore.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1: 3-5