Thursday, March 27, 2014

Taking Time to Notice...

Have you noticed how often God puts us in a position where we are forced to wait? I don’t like waiting. I don’t like it one bit! But sometimes…if I really pay attention, I can see that God reveals a bit of His plan and gives me/us a glimpse of the purpose of all these waiting. 

The funny thing is that at times, this sort of waiting-room revelation is deeply transforming and earth-shattering…whereas some other times, it comes softly, like a quiet whisper that puts a smile on your face because it shows you not the point of the waiting, but an intimacy between you and the Lord that is irresistibly profound. Regardless of its purpose or of how it comes…perceiving a revelation from God is always completely amazing.

Recently, while I was feeling exasperated by a long wait, I had a moment that truly touched me. On our way back home from church a few Sundays ago, in the middle of yet another snowy morning, I realized I needed to fill up. It was just my sons and I since my husband Dan was out of town for a few days. Needless to say I was anxious to get home since I do not do driving in the snow well at all! I pulled in this gas station hoping for a quick filling to continue the rest of the 45 minute commute when I got stuck in the world’s slowest gas pump EVER!

I could not believe how slow that thing was! Especially since those were brand new pumps…all digital and what not! I mean, really! It was horrible and I was freezing! My fingers were numbed under my gloves! I tried squeezing the trigger thingy harder, thinking that would make it go faster, all to no avail. In the meantime, the snow began to cover the sleeves of my black coat. Soon I realized nothing I did would matter, so I gave up trying and just let it do its thing one drop at a time. 

I don’t believe in getting back inside the car while pumping gas, neither on playing with electronics while standing near the fuming pump…so I began to look for things to entertain myself while I waited. That’s when I took another look at my arm and I saw it…resting quietly on the black background of my coat sleeve, there were dozens of the most amazing little miracles I’ve ever seen!

I could not believe that after spending about twenty winters in snow country, I had never truly, really seen snow until this moment. For the first time I focused my eyes beyond the fuzzy stuff to discern the tiniest, prettiest, most ornate piece of delicate filigree I’ve ever seen. I was in shock at its intricate beauty. I spent the rest of the endless minutes it took to fill up my gas tank admiring this piece of art work that comes to us straight from the hands of our Maker.

Finally, my car was full and I climbed back in. I complaint for a few seconds about how my fingers were numb and how this was the world’s slowest gas pump, blah, blah, blah… then I told Grant and Dylan how I had just witnessed a miracle! I went on and on about how that was the first time I truly paid attention to snow… “Do you realize that the drawings of snow and the paper cut outs that you make at Christmas are all modelled after real snow? Did you know snow was even more beautiful than the flakes in Frosty?” I said with excitement to my kids…They did not share in it, though. Grant said, “we learned that in Kindergarten.” Dylan didn’t even say a word.

Yes, but have you really, truly seen it!? “Mom, I can’t believe we are miles away from the gas station and you are still talking about this,” Grant said, annoyed. “But, don’t you get it? God didn’t have to make things beautiful! He didn’t have to make snowflakes so intricately and delicately magnificent! Most people don’t even see them! Look at me, I’ve spent half of my life in this country and I never saw it until today. He put so much effort into this tiny part of creation just for our enjoyment!” I replied filled with awe. “Well, for God, it probably wasn’t much effort at all, you know?” Grant was just bent on crushing my amazement. “I know, but still, He didn’t have to make it so beautiful. He did it just because He loves us and He wants us to enjoy His creation. He is the God of details…” At this, Grant remained silent and so did I.

I couldn’t come up with anything else to say…so I just kept on driving, my mind filled with dancing filigree. 

It might seem silly, but to a girl from Panama, discovering the beauty of an individual snowflake was a big deal. It was an intimate moment between God and I. He knew that I would get a huge kick out of it. He knew that if He’d point it out, I would appreciate it. He also knew, of course, that for me to notice Him pointing it out, I’d need “a moment.” He gave me that moment. He gave me enough time to work through my frustration so I could calm down and finally notice…

How many times I go through life trying to hurry from “task” to “task” when what I should do is take my time and notice…This Easter season, I want to take it slowly and savor it. I want to seek His face and I want to be still to hear His revelation…to experience His intimacy…to notice His presence.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


"Nothing is too bad that cannot be forgiven…"

"As far as the east is from the west, 
so far has he removed our transgressions from us." 
Psalm 103:12 

And He remembers them no more… (Hebrews 10: 17)

Our inability to forgive those who have hurt us poisons our soul and corrodes our heart. It is not the easiest thing to do; but it is the right thing to do. It is one of the ways in which the Lord sets us free. It is how we drop the chains. It is one of the main acts of humility we can offer to the Most High. It is how we remember, honor and acknowledge that we too are forgiven without deserving it.

It is a statement of trust. Forgiveness tells God that we believe Him when He says:

It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." (Deuteronomy 32: 35)

If we wait in Him, He will avenge us. (Proverbs 20: 22)

He has a plan. His plan is perfect. He is Faithful and He will do what He promised. At this time of preparation for Easter, let’s prepare our heart to not only receive, but also to offer true others as well as to ourselves...

Linking with:  Whole Hearted Home and Little R and R

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring is Here!

The Sprout of the Spirit

As unbelievable as it may seem, yesterday was the first day of spring. I’m usually not overtly happy with the arrival of this season since I have pretty severe allergies; but this year, after such a harsh and long winter, all I have to say is, “bring on the pollen and the Allegra D!”

At any rate, God’s perfect timing found me e-mailing some rambling about the agony of the “growing season” to a dear friend at the break of dawn yesterday morning. I didn’t do it intentionally thinking about it being the first day of spring and all…but again, there are no coincidences in this life. The thing is that the e-mail got me thinking more about the subject...about the works of the Holy Spirit as He grows His fruits in our souls.

First, He comes in, and like the Good Farmer or Gardener, He clears the fields and prepares the soil to then plant the seeds that eventually will produce His fruits of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I thought of how that initial period is one of great energy. The dynamic actions of the Holy Spirit create a feeling of rush when His presence is so vivid we can almost see the Hand of God with our very eyes. But once those seeds are neatly packed in the ground, however, things begin to slow down. It is sort of a more “hands off” approach at this time. And again, like the Good Farmer, the Holy Spirit doesn’t walk away from a newly planted field. He doesn’t abandon it. He continues to nurture it, but it is a different stage. It is the stage when His main job is to just keep watch. To us, however, this is the period which often seems like we can’t hear or feel Him anymore. It is the growing season. It is the time when the storms hit. It is the time when the fiery trials are ignited. It is the time of testing. It is the time of struggle. It is the time we break.

Like the seeds in the ground, we struggle as we break free from our shells. The seed has to be destroyed before the sprouts can come out. It is the time we experience the pain of breaking out of our old self so we can become the promised new creation. 

Then, the feeble, little sprouts begin to pop out. Those weak, tiny shoots have to dig through the layers of dirt day after day… painfully struggling to get to the top. All these happens while the underground world tries to eat them…but always protected by the watchful eye of the Good Farmer. From our perspective, however, on the surface, we see nothing, we hear nothing…we feel nothing, except the pain. 

After a period that seems endless, finally a thin, faint, green thing peaks its head above the dirt, where it bathes in the sun light. What a miracle! But that’s just the first sign, because there is still a long way for that tiny sprout to produce any fruit…and that’s just one…there are eight more to go. But at least now, we can see something. This is when we see His hand again, on the other side of our time of great trial.

I look out the window and see the falling snow. I think, what in the world is going on? Spring is here, sprouts should be out! Obviously, the growing season for my fruit of patience is still a long ways ahead…but the more I think about it, the more I realize the amazing work of God in us. I look back and see all He has done and continues to do day in and day out…and I’m in awe. Praise Him for spring! Praise Him for the growing season and the growing pains. That’s how we know that our faith is for real and that He is here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

About Birthdays

Birthdays make us think of presents, cards, well-wishing messages on Facebook, cake! But once we hit “certain” age, with every birthday also comes reminiscing. We think about the way things used to be. We think about all the things we’ve done and we wish we hadn’t. We think about all the things we wish we had done, but never did. We think about the dreams that have yet to come true. We remember the desires of the heart that faded with the years. We question our choices. We ponder the future. And if we allow ourselves to wallow in the melancholic waters of our “what ifs,” rather than a celebration, our special day can turn out to be a pretty miserable occasion.

Jesus talked about a special birthday too. Not the one that marks the day we see the light for the first time as we come out of our mother’s womb, but the one when we see His Light…the day we are born again.

Our second birth is the day, as Jesus explained it to Nicodemus, when we “are born of water and the Spirit.” John 3: 6 

It is the day the Holy Spirit comes into us to dwell in us. It is the day the miracle of holiness becomes real in our soul; the holiness of Christ in us. It is the day that the chasm, the great divide between us and God is bridged by Jesus’ saving actions becoming true in our lives. It is the day of our adoption into God’s family. 

As Jesus continues in John 3: 6-8

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This new birth, as Jesus points out, is not of our own doing. It is divine. It does not depend on us. It is an act of God. Like the wind, like our birthday, we don’t create it, we don’t know how to control it…we just feel it…we just receive it…we just enjoy it…we just celebrate it.

So if for whatever reason birthdays are beginning to weigh heavily on your shoulders, think of them as another opportunity to celebrate the miracle of your second birth on this earth. Let’s see it as a chance to realize that although the dreams of our youth may seem to get farther and farther away from our grasp, the reality of an eternity in paradise never dissolves with the years, but rather becomes ever more real.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. John 3: 3

Happy Birthday, Danny

Linking with:  Whole Hearted Home and Little R and R

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spic and Span in the Light!

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

I love sunshine! After a long, harsh winter, I rejoice every time I see the sun, even if only for a few minutes. My husband likes it too. He loves to see our house flooded with sunshine, so he usually opens up all the blinds as soon as there is but the faintest sign that the sun may appear outside. I also like to see the house flooded with sunlight…most of the time…that is. There is one instance when I absolutely do not like it…the day we have company. Why not? Well, because the sunshine is the worst enemy of the lousy housekeeper.

So, what do I do the day that the sun happens to decide to shine and we have company? As I walk downstairs and see the rays of sunshine coming into my house through the blinds like thousands of fingers pointing at the dirt and grime all around the floor, tables and cupboards, I do what any sensible person would do…I quickly shut all the blinds tightly again.

I don’t want to be reminded of how horrible I am as a homemaker. The guilt is too much to bear.

As I began to think more about this, the thought of Jesus as the Light of the World jumped at me. Without His light, my life would truly be sunk in the deepest and thickest darkness imaginable. However, I often close the windows of my soul shut and sit in the dark. Why? So I don’t see the grime in my heart.

Shame and guilt overtake me because I forget that, unlike the light of the sun hitting the dirt in my house, Jesus doesn’t shine His light to force me to grab all my Swiffer gadgets and disinfectants to make my home spic and span on my own. Jesus’ Light points at my sin to remind me and to tell me that He can take care of it all. 

With His Light Jesus moves us to repentance and to the point where we accept that we cannot clean the mess we’ve made of our lives by ourselves. He points out the immensity of our sin to then show us His scarred hands and feet which were pierced by our transgression, and to remind us that by His wounds, we are healed and cleansed. And the best part is that once He cleans us from the inside out, He remembers the mess no more.

He doesn’t want us to shut Him out because we are ashamed. He wants us to let His Light shine brightly in us to show the world that He is the Only One who can clean up the mess we have created, so others can also come to Him as they see Him at work in us. So rather than feeling guilty as His Light points at my sin, I want to rejoice that He is willing to cleanse even me. 

No matter how terrible a housekeeper I am, I’m going to try to not be afraid of the sunshine for I rather live in the light and know that His precious blood covers all my dirt, than dwell in the darkness that corrodes and eats away my soul and my joy.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV

Friday, March 14, 2014

Service as the Antidote to Egocentrism

Do you ever feel like you deserve something better because of who you are, what you have done or who you hang out with? Does the work you do make you feel like you are of some importance? Do the things you have accomplished in life give you the impression that you have some special worth? 

I do…

Some of Jesus’ closest friends did as well…

James and John asked Jesus to “let one of them sit at His right and the other at His left in His glory.” (Mark 10: 37) WOW! The nerve! These two were certainly showing their humanity here. I guess walking with Christ had given them a sense of misplaced value that often comes up when our only preoccupation as a follower of Christ is obtaining the riches that we are promised…forgetting that the greatest treasure is Christ Himself.

In this material world, we struggle with the notion of being humble. Humbleness does not come easy if you are a human being; hence the constant reminders in the Bible. Becoming humble is a process that starts with realizing that Christ is the only Super Star in the history of the world and in the history of our lives. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9

We are not to boast since there is nothing to boast about for we have done nothing. If we were to boast, let it be about Christ who is the One who has done it all as He continues to sustains us even today! We are not even second in line after Christ, for as we know, after our Lord comes our neighbor…

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2: 3-4

We are supposed to be a distant third! Perhaps not for you, but for me, this concept is so very hard to grasp. Most of the time, I get caught up in the minutia of my days as I allow my every thought to revolve around my own self. At the end, when I finally realize it, I am ashamed because I have spent most of my time only focused on my own struggles first, forgetting I am supposed to be third. 

Jesus offers an antidote for such egocentrism. He tells us to go out and serve.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 45

This is the core message that He communicated to His beloved James and John in reply to their request. This is the same message He gives to us today as we fight our own sense of heightened self-importance. 

The King of Kings came down to us to serve…imagine what is expected of those who belong to Him. There is no room for the haughty in the Kingdom of a King who have humbled Himself to the point of dying for His subjects.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

God's Angels

The way we were...Indira and I a million years you, my friend!
The Word tells us that we are not to be afraid:

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91: 9-12

Today, I want to focus on how God promised to send His angels. I believe one of the ways the Lord fulfills this promise is by using His children as His ambassadors. I believe the Lord gives us not only Himself in the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in us, but He uses His children to bring His comfort and His love to His beloved who are hurting. 

I think of the blessing I had this past weekend when my dearest friend in the world took time off her extremely busy schedule to fly to my neck of the woods and spend a long weekend with me, offering me God’s comforting embrace in the warmth of her presence. 

I have known Indira for well over 20 years and we share countless life experiences. Through the years we have been able to stay closely in touch and for her friendship I am most grateful. God has certainly used her as an instrument to minister to me through the years and she’s always been there in my hour of need. Her friendship is a great reminder of Jesus’ love, and a reminder of how I must emulate His grace and extend it to others just as He constantly extends it to me.

As we were in our car ride back home from the airport after dropping off Indira, Dylan asked me, “Mom, are you sad your friend left?” I could hardly speak, so I just nodded. My older son Grant said, “you are giving your voice a rest for the first time since Saturday, huh?” At that I had to laugh and said, “yes, Indira is my best friend and it’s sad to see her go, but I’m glad for the time she was here.” Focusing on what we have rather than on what we lost is my goal…I want to rejoice in the fact that I had such a great time with my friend, and that soon we’ll see each other again.

It has been a very lonely time in my life for the last several months with a new house in a new town, enduring a harsh winter that never seems to want to end and going through health issues and financial concerns; but The Lord always gives us a respite…a breath of fresh air to renew ourselves and to keep on going. That’s what Indira’s visit meant to me… and for that, I am most grateful.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Peter's Reminder

I don't know about you, but in the Bible, I have always identified with Peter. Impulsive. Loud mouth. Harsh. Aggressive. Violent.  Deeply passionate.

Yep…me, me, me, me, me and me.

I love all about Peter’s road to redemption because it shows me that there is still great hope for a sinner like me.

Today, as I continue my meditations into the topic of suffering, Peter’s Holy-Spirit-inspired words rush to me like the rising tide.

1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

As I read these words, I imagine my buddy Peter looking at me dead on the eye, one hand on my shoulder, the other one extended toward my face as a flat question mark of exasperation: “Listen, how long have you walked with Christ?... And you’re still not getting this? Why are you surprised? C’mon, child, remember this is the way it is…but also remember, it’s just for a little while! (here, I imagine he puts both hands on my shoulders, as he gives me a bright smile)  He WILL restore you…I promise…better yet, He promises, and you know, He cannot disown Himself for His name is Faithful…so suck it up and toughen up, sister! (well, the last part is more me than Peter…but, you get the picture, right?)

And the picture is beautiful. It is the magnificent picture of Christ sharing life with us. It isn’t about the suffering, for the suffering is just the medium, the polishing solution that when applied on us, leaves our faith shining like the sun. It is about the glory that is revealed at the end of the polishing process. It is all about Jesus…the only one that matters…the name above all names…the one that we proclaim.

And Peter would know what he is talking about here. He’s kind of an expert on suffering. And he is also well versed and experienced on the depth of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Only by the restoring power of the Love of Christ anyone gets to forgive oneself after a major disappointing action such as denying Jesus right around the corner.

Therefore, I am going to listen to my old friend Pete as he reminds me not to be surprised by trials, for, as our Lord Himself promised:

John 16:33 ESV

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

And in Him…we sure are all great overcomers too!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Clinging to Hope

Suffering is something we can all identify with…It does not matter who we are or where we live. It has no regard for social status. It does not respect material riches or rank. Single or married, young or not so young, child-full or child-free, we all experience, one way or another, the sting of suffering.

Jesus felt it too. And before He felt the agony of the cross, I’m sure He experienced the agony of knowing that the cross was approaching. He knew His destiny. He knew what He had to endure. He knew He had the power to stop it. But He also knew that He wouldn’t. His love for us overcame His human emotions. Love prevailed over fear and anguish. However, as a man, I can’t help but think that, even though He ruled over His human urges to flee pain…the feelings did not just go away. 

As a man, of flesh and bones, I think His heart must have beaten a bit faster, and His hands might have felt a bit clammy as He talked to His disciples about His impending fate. 

“And the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priest and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10: 33-34.

As a human being, I can’t help but think that for Jesus, knowing that at the end, glory would be revealed didn’t make the path to victory any less painful…

But our Suffering Messiah is also here to emphasize that very last sentence that follows the description of the horrors of His passion… “Three days later, He will rise!” 

He knows exactly what it is to suffer for a while to then bask in the glory divine. That is why the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write 1 Peter 5:10:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

He is here to tell us that He too suffered the pain of this world, but also to tell us that His power will restore us, and that He is the One who: 

“will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 
Revelation 21: 4

That is His promise, and I am clinging to it. That is the Hope that does not disappoint. And I pray that the suffering I must endure in this world will develop, indeed, the perseverance that purifies my faith so I may, one day, have all my tears wiped away by the very hands of my Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Out of the Ashes of my Life

Today is Ash Wednesday, the door to the season of Lent…the time we prepare to receive the Risen King! I have fond memories of growing up in Panama and going with my Mother to Ash Wednesday Mass. There was something mystical about standing in line to be blessed with ashes on the forehead by the Priest. I treasure those memories as vivid reminders of how I got to witness my Mother’s constant faith and devotion.

This Ash Wednesday, I’m trying to concentrate on Christ. I am mainly trying to focus on all the trials and hardship our Lord had to endure. I think of the desert and temptation that Jesus had to overcome. I think of the triumphal entry quickly followed by the betrayal and His Holy suffering at Calvary. I think of the historic events that comprise our Savior’s last days on this Earth, and I think of what those events speak to me today. 

And one thing that I hear is about Jesus’ humanity. The humanity of Jesus is revealed in the suffering, anxiety, mental anguish, even in the fear He experienced during the last weeks of His mortal life. And it is thanks to that human experience that He is able to look us in the eyes, during the darkest hour of our souls and say: “I’ve been there.”

Life is terribly hard, so perhaps, God gives us the season of Lent to reflect upon the suffering we must endure as we walk on this side of Heaven. Perhaps this is the time He teaches us the way, once again, so we don’t aimlessly wander about lost in our pain. He knows that somehow, we must find a way to make some sense of it all. And such sense of purpose for our pain and suffering won’t be realized until we find comfort in trusting His plan. 

Therefore, I cling to Jesus today, as we enter this season. Only He can make something out of our brokenness for His honor and glory. Only He can restore us. Only He can turn the light back on in our darkest night. Only He can show us the point of all these and how we fit in the Father’s will.

Long gone are those days of my youth, when I would stand in line behind my Mother to receive the ashes. But even though I don’t have ashes on my forehead as a visible reminder of what I am, I pray my testimony shows how Jesus has given me a new birth out of the ashes of my life.