Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall is Here!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3: 1
Indeed, there is…and now is time for fall, the season of gathering.

Isn’t it amazing how fall comes upon us almost imperceptibly, and yet right before our eyes? One day we notice the morning air become just a bit crisper. Another day we realize is darker earlier. And then, there’s one afternoon, when the sun hits them just right, we notice a few leaves have begun to ripe.

I don’t know about you, but for me, every year, at that moment, when I see the color on the leaves start to pop, something in my heart also begins to turn. My soul overflows with a mixture of melancholy and sweetness…melancholy for the past that is leaving and sweetness for the beauty that’s approaching. But if I dig deeply, I also discover that I feel hope. I feel the hope of things to come. I feel the hope of God’s mercy that never leaves us in one state for too long. I feel the hope of the gathering.

After summer with its constant alluring towards the outdoors, with the endless road trips, the beach time, lake time, playground time, pool time, garden time, in comes fall, to gather us all back in. It’s the time for gathering the fruits of our garden. It’s the time for gathering the kids back to school. It’s the time for gathering the falling leaves, of course. It’s the time to gather together to say thanks.

That is the hope of fall…gathering together with those we love.

So this year, I resolve to welcome fall and focus on its hope…

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…Ecclesiastes 3: 11a

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Holding a Grudge?

Does anybody think holding a grudge is a good and productive thing?

Probably not many people do.

Are you holding a grudge right now? I am. Do I think it is a good thing? No, I don’t. Then, why do I insist in holding grudges?


What is a grudge? I really like the On-line, Urban Dictionary definition: “a grudge is a bad feeling or hate you hold against another person for something bad they did, or you think they did, to you.” My favorite part is, “or you think they did.” A grudge, therefore, is a matter of perception. It involves how you perceive others have acted toward you. The problem is, however, that our perceptions may or may not have anything to do with reality. Does it matter? No! It matters not one bit whether we are wrong or not. It is all about how we perceive reality to be. And the thing is that often times, our perception of reality is totally fabricated in our minds…or at least that’s what happens to me.


In my case, I hold grudges when I perceive the other person has offended me. I could be very sensitive in some areas. And when I perceive an offense there, I react aggressively. And no matter how the other person tries to explain they didn’t mean it that way…I hold a grudge. Why? Because they hurt my pride…yes, it all boils down to pride. I get offended because I am very sensitive to my pride.

I hang on to the offense, I hold the grudge until I see the offender humiliated enough to satisfy my wounded pride.

Beautiful! Really? Not according to Scripture, is not…I have an inflated opinion of myself. I am what the Bible calls, a haughty (I smile when I say this because with my accent there is no difference in the pronunciation of haughty and hotty : ) Anyway, this is what the Bible says about those like me:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Prov. 16: 18

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.  Proverbs 16:5

Yikes! I’m in trouble. My pride is nothing to be, well, proud of. God doesn’t look kindly upon prideful people. It is one of my biggest struggles. By myself I am helpless. The good news is that I don’t have to battle alone. There is something stronger than pride. There is something that defeats the arrogant heart. It is God’s grace. His Grace covers the sins of His children. His grace descends in the heart of His beloved and acts as a soothing balm that covers the haughty and clothes him/her in humility.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 

This command is only possible because of Grace. That is why I am writing about this; to remind myself that pride is not good. Harboring a grudge is against the law of love because it cultivates pride. Giving into a the satisfaction of holding a grudge is a temptation we need to avoid by breathing in humility and by remembering that we are not perfect either. We offend others all the time too. We are sinners. But we are also forgiven. Therefore, forgiveness needs to come into place as well. Forgiveness is the fresh scent of Grace. In my case, I also need to remember that I am not all that. I should not think of myself as something, when I am nothing, because…

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6: 3

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Praying Like a Child

Dylan, my eight year old son (soon to be nine, mind you) is what some would consider (meaning, me, mainly) very needy. His favorite word in the world is Mamma. In a given hour, he may say it around 60 to 100 times. I’m exaggerating, of course, but that’s what it seems like. And the funny thing is that he is not ashamed of his neediness. Regardless of how much his older brother makes fun of him, Dylan continues to express his desire to be close to me and his need to stay connected by communicating every single thought that comes to his mind, every minute of the day. He is not shy about requesting my attention. He demands it at all times. It’s like he carries my name at the tip of his tongue all day long! And I have to admit that sometimes (often times) I get annoyed by it.

I’ve been thinking about all these quite a bit lately as I am reading the book A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. So far, what I’ve taken away in the few chapters I’ve read is that when we pray, we are to:

-Come as we are. Be yourself. Stop thinking you have to assume some sort of posture when you pray. That will only make your prayer life feel artificial and rehearsed. Don’t feel like you have to get it together and fix yourself. You are not going to a ball.

-Come messy. Stop thinking you have to clean up your house before letting the Lord in. Stop shoving things under the bed. Stop hiding the clutter in the closet. After all, we’ll never be able to make ourselves spic and span, anyway. That is exactly why He came…because of our inability to wipe away our own sins. If we could stop being messy on our own, we would not have needed Him to die on the cross.

-Don’t be ashamed of your neediness. He is never going to get tired of us telling Him about the hurts of our hearts. He is not going to be annoyed by our constant nagging and whining. He is never going to yell at us for our overflowing stream of tears. We will never shock Him with our sin. He knows it already. He knows it all.

-Come often. Unlike some earthly parents, Our Heavenly Father never tires of our company. He made us for the purpose of being in community with Him. He loves us. He draws us to Him with His irresistible calling. He is the air we breathe. Therefore, we must come to Him at all times…without ceasing.

-Come like a child. Run to His arms like a little child. Stay near. Feel the safety of His presence. Enjoy the comfort of His shade. Drink in the fountain of His love. Dive in the river of His peace.

I have to remember all these things every time I get frustrated with Dylan’s interruptions throughout the day. I need to remember that there is a lesson for me in his behavior. Even if it is the 60th time in a half an hour that he demands my attention, rather than becoming harsh with Dylan, I need to remember that I must learn from his insistence. I need to remember that, unlike me, Our Heavenly Father wants me to come to Him as I am, messy, needy, craving His attention. He would never turn me away with a harsh word of exasperation. I should, every time Dylan calls me, think of how much more like him I need to become and start carrying my Father’s name at the tip of my tongue all day long.

Linking with:  Whole Hearted and Rosilind

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Not By What We See...

Feelings and emotions are deceiving. What we see isn’t always what it seems or what is real. Like the pilot who flies by what he sees out his window rather than guided by the plane’s instruments loses his bearings; Christians who live by what they see rather than by faith, lose their footing.

Those who live by faith don’t live by the way they feel…they live by the Word revealed. That is where God shows Himself to us. That’s how He communicates His message of hope, love and faith to us. Not that we would ever figure out the enormity of God in its entirety while still clothed with our earthly robes, but as much as God Himself planned to let Himself be known is all contained in His Word. And His precious Word is more than just letters put together. His Word is Our Savior,

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

Therefore, staying close to His Word is staying close to Jesus. When we hold His Word in our Hands is nothing less than a visit with Christ, a close encounter with the Living God, the Creator and Sustainer of life. We are not just reading a good story or wise teaching; we are hearing His voice speaking to us in a most personal way. It is no wonder, then how we can read a passage we are very familiar with, and find something completely new and fresh in it when we read it again.

Allowing ourselves to spend time in the Word is hanging out with the only friend who would always be there. It is listening to His message tailored to us personally. It is walking on the path to sanctification by the hand of our Savior. It is walking by the compass that would never get us lost. It is a refocusing tool that keeps our eyes off the frightening winds and waves and onto the very eyes of Jesus. It is the only way to let go of the way we feel, of our fears, of our worldly sense of reality and adopt a new perspective, one that is eternal.

Following the truth revealed in the Word is the only way to walk sure-footed on the steep hills, dark valleys and shaky grounds of this world.

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed--a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1: 17

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Not by Sight...

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5: 7 was in my mind this morning as I woke up after a troubled night. My younger son, Dylan, came into our room around 2am complaining of some sort of pain. We had a rough time trying to first, figure out what was going on, then, trying to make him understand that he needed to go to the bathroom. He was so confused, half-asleep, and panicky that he would not listen to us and rather just cry in fear. Finally, after much “encouraging” a visit to the bathroom did make things better… “Trust us” Dan and I said to him. “We would never do anything to hurt you, so when we tell you to do something, don’t be afraid. It may hurt a little, but after it is over, you will feel better.”

As I tried to deal with Dylan’s despair and panicky reaction to his own fears, I thought of myself. I have panicky reactions all the time. My fears make me lose control almost on a daily basis. The waves, the wind, the mountains, the fires, the news, the test results, the anticipation are all I see. My anxiety rises uncontrollably at the sight of real or imagined danger. I go crazy at the sight of trouble. It is exhausting.

Then, the Word comes and puts things into perspective. The Word comes, and makes us think. The Word comes and calms us down.

What does it mean to live by faith, not by sight?

To me, it means that I need to live by the promises of God and by His Word, not by what I see around me.

The enemy, however, prowls around me like a roaring lion (1Peter 5:8). He tries to trip me and make me stumble at every turn. He watches me closely, armed with my weaknesses; he pocks me with them every time I get distracted.

The One who never leaves me nor forsake me, however, is bigger than my enemy,

…because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1John 4: 4

Therefore, I live by faith and not by what I see that frightens me. Often times, things are not what they seem. Regardless of the ominous sights that surround us; God’s plan always prevails. Even if the odds seem against us, God’s designs are perfect. Let’s not fear God’s plan for us. It is meant to prosper us, to benefit us and to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29: 11).

And even though we may be walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil for His hand is with us, His rod and His staff protect us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23). And when it is all over, we know where we are going.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 5: 1-5

Dylan finally fell asleep, comforted by the thought that he can actually trust us. I pray that we can all rest in our trust on the Lord, the author and refiner of our faith, the One to whom the winds and the waves obey. And that faith becomes our guiding principle, regardless of the sights around us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Grace is Free...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship wrote some of the most profound meditation on grace.

He said,

"Grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Grace is very expensive, so expensive that no one can afford to pay its price. It is so expensive that God had to establish a sort of Divinely designed welfare system for humanity to be able to attain it. This plan makes grace free to us, but, as it always is the case, someone else had to ultimately pay the price.

Jesus paid it. He paid it all. He paid it as he accepted the bitter kiss of Judas. He paid it as He allowed His torturers to unleash their evil-inspired hatred on His precious flesh with every lash. He paid it as He carried the heavy cross. He paid it on the road to Calvary. He paid it with each nail that pierced His skin. He paid it as He carried our sins.

It is, therefore, free to us, but highly costly to Christ.

And to think that He did all these for us…little, underserving, ill-natured us…

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3: 23-24

Grace is a gift. Grace is free to us, but never cheap.

It is costly because it cost God His Only Son.

It is costly because it cost the grieving of the Holy Spirit.

Grace is costly because it cost Jesus His life.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"A Praying Life"

"I don't know how to pray!"

This is what my younger son, Dylan, always replies in frustration every time we ask him to say a prayer. Lately, we have been trying to teach Dylan the importance of praying and how he can go to Christ in prayer every time. Dylan, however, becomes a bit nervous when confronting the topic of prayer due to the great deal of confusion that he experiences when it comes to talking to God.

“it’s just like you are talking to us…” we try to explain, but he keeps insisting that he doesn’t know how to talk to God. It’s kind of funny because every time that we ask Dylan to pray, he always reverts to his little, “God is Good, God is Great, thank you for this food, amen!” It doesn’t really matter the occasion. It could be a bedtime prayer, a prayer for someone’s well-being, a prayer before going to school…that’s what he always says when forced to pray aloud.


The reason I sigh is because Dylan’s open admission of his lack of a prayer life may as well have come from my own lips. I too am confused about what a prayer life looks like. I am also confused about what I am supposed to do or say when I pray. I often feel like my prayers are insufficient, shallow and perhaps even irreverent. Like Dylan, I am not sure I know how to pray either.

Our Heavenly Father, though, in His great provision and graciousness always gives us what we need right when we need it. So, as it happens, this week I am hopefully starting a Bible Study in the topic of, yes, you guessed it, prayer. We are going to be studying the book, A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller.

I immediately knew it was the right book for me since in the third line he says: “God taught me to pray through suffering.”

After that, he moves on to commenting how most of us are confused about what makes for “good prayer,” and often feel like praying is not much more than “whistling in the wind.” I think what I’m enjoying the most about this book is the fact that the author keeps things real. So far, I have not felt like he is out of touch and convoluted. He tells it like it is. For instance, he pointed out something like, we don’t get a good grasp of prayer since our dialogue seems to be with the air rather than with a real person, especially since, in most cases, we don’t really hear the audible voice of God in His response to prayer. Therefore, our minds fill up with questions like, “how do we distinguish our own thoughts from God’s thoughts?”

I am not very far in the book yet, but I know its lessons have the potential of becoming prayer-life-altering. As the author digs in deeper into an exploration of the way we communicate with Our Lord, he said something I thought was simply wonderful: “The praying life feels like dinner with good friends.”

“It is a journey of a lifetime.”

Christ taught us once how to pray in Matthew 6: 9-13. I know He is still teaching us. He finds great pleasure in us, despite our faults. After all, He came to the world for the sick, the needy and the lost. He came to rescue those who were trapped. He came to free those who were in slavery. He came to redeem those who needed redemption. And He came so we could someday go home.

This weekend we celebrate Dylan’s homecoming day. It has been eight years since we brought him home and became a family of four. This is always a time of greatly intimate celebration in our house. As Dylan gets older he understands more and more the story of his life. He is growing comfortable with his reality and enjoys the perks of having two “birthday-like” celebrations topped with cake, balloons and, of course presents!

Obviously, a celebration is not complete without going out to eat, right? So we went to a restaurant of Dylan’s choosing (and amazingly enough, it was NOT McDonald’s). When the food arrived, Dan asked who wanted to pray. Without hesitation, and to our great surprise, Dylan volunteered with a cheerful, “I do!” Before we could say, OK, Dylan had folded his little hands, bowed his head and began his usual…

“God is Great, God is Good, thank you for….” And after an almost imperceptible pause, he continued, “this food… I love Mamma, I love Daddy, I love Grant and I love being here. Thank you God.”

My heart melted. I gave him a gentle hug. And as I kissed his spiky hair, I told him, “that’s the best prayer I’ve ever heard anyone say…”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Girls in Dresses

“There are three girls at the door, and they are wearing dresses!” Said our older son, Grant the other day with a hint of alarm in his voice…Dan and I looked at each other with a big question mark hanging over our heads??? “What?” I said. “There are three girls at the door wearing dresses!” Grant repeated. As he finished his puzzling statement, we heard the door bell ringing. I walked to the door, looked out the side glass window and, indeed, there were “three girls wearing dresses” standing outside.

I opened the door and greeted them as politely as I could given the fact I was still kind of confused. (We don’t get many people knocking at our door around here, let alone “girls wearing dresses” : )

At any rate, one of the girls, a gorgeous 14 year-old, was the one talking while the two younger looking ones stayed a few steps behind. She was visibly nervous, but mustering as much valor as she could draw from inside herself, she proceeded to give me a track and to invite me and my family to the local Baptist Church around the corner. While her hands shook and her voice faltered a bit, she explained about their Homecoming festival and how much fun that would be. The other girls reminded her to mention the hours and that there would be games and food too. The whole time I was just standing there in my doorway, admiring God’s amazing ways unfolding right in front of me.

I listened to them and responded with as much love as I could express. We said good bye, I closed the door and I went to talk to Dan about the exchange. I told him they came to invite us to their Church’s homecoming festival this Sunday and I also told him how nervous the spokesperson was. Then I said that I tried to be as nice as I could. Dan understood what I meant, and he reassured me that I had been very nice to them. (If you don’t know me…I am not particularly known for my gentleness and kindness : )

These girls were so precious, they were God’s little lambs, and I was hoping I had treated them as such.

Then I thought about their bravery. How much courage it takes for them to come into an unfamiliar neighborhood, knock at strangers’ doors to invite them to come to their church as a way to tell them about Christ. WOW…I thought some more about the encounter and I became truly convicted. There is NO WAY I could have done that at 14…or now…


A few days later, in my devotional, I read a verse from Zechariah 4: 6, “So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” Then the commentary said something like: “The power to be victorious comes from realizing the vow God has already made to us when He gave us His Spirit and His Word.”

Victory in our Christian life doesn’t come from the promises we make to God. The power to walk victoriously comes from the vow He has made to us! The power comes from His promises! And He promises that we can do all things in Christ who gives us strength (Phil 4: 13). He promises that what He commands us to do is not too difficult because it is tailored made for us. (Deut. 30: 11) He promises that He is with us always, that He walks right beside us, and that He will even carry us when we falter. He promises that with Him, anything is possible!

Our ability to be victorious does not depend on us. It depends on Him! He is victorious, and in His victory, He makes us victorious. But we have to trust Him.

That’s the miracle of the three girls wearing dresses. They were fully dependent on Christ and Christ alone. They trusted that He would walk beside them. There were no cars waiting for them down the driveway. They were walking by themselves, but never alone. He sustained them even in their nervousness. He gave them the words, even when the words would want to get stuck in their throats. He moved their arms to give me the track, even when the arm did not want to move.

That was probably one of the most difficult things those young girls wearing dresses had gotten to do yet. But they were victorious as they put their faith in God, not in the world. The walk to my doorway was probably the most intimidating steps they ever took so far in their young lives, yet they took them, for they knew Christ was leading the way…that’s when fear disappears…that’s when promises are fulfilled.

May God bless those girls wearing dresses, just as they blessed me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Do You Remember?

Well, it is September 11 again…a date that makes most Americans shudder, even after 13 years. For our generation, this is our Pearl Harbor. This is the day we can all recall what we were doing the moment we heard about it.

I know…I remember too. I was on a bus, on my way to the class I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh. And I was pregnant with Grant.

It was a morning like any other morning, except it was not. Something felt strange. I remember sitting there, on the bus (being pregnant was a perk in the morning commute : ) feeling a sense of uneasiness as I was overhearing a rather agitated phone conversation a young woman was having. She became increasingly louder, and louder. Most passengers tried to look away to pretend they weren’t listening, but it was hard not to. I can’t remember what she was saying because I really was not paying attention, except for a question she asked: “should I go get him?” She asked that to whoever she was talking to as her voice began to break into a whimper.

The young woman got off the bus in a rush, and a couple of miles later so did I. As soon as the elevator’s doors opened in the 13th floor of the Cathedral of Learning, where I taught and studied, I knew something was going on. Nervous conversations were happening all around me in different languages, since that floor houses the Italian, Spanish, French and I can’t remember what other foreign language department. I sat down to catch my breath and that’s when I got my own phone call. It was Dan. He sounded unusually flustered. He kept telling me about this plane that had hit the World Center in NYC…he wasn’t making much sense to me. I thought it was an accident, and I think Dan was trying to tell me that it was suspected not. Then, he said something like there was another plane that hit the other tower, and he mentioned the word “terrorism,” sending a deep chill down my spine.

The memories are a whirlwind after that…I made it to the office where the secretary was looking at pictures of the towers with smoke coming out of them. Nobody thought they would collapse at that moment… It was time for my class to start. I got to my classroom and my students were understandably restless. Their phones began to ring one after the other. They looked at me since I don’t allow phone usage in class, so I game them the “go ahead”…the chatter grew louder, suddenly, a couple of them said aloud, “we have to get out of here, my Mom/Dad said there was a plane that went down near Pittsburgh too!” I was incredulous. There’s no way, in Pittsburgh???

I can’t remember what I said to them. The thought of cancelling class was top in my mind, but I hesitated, until we heard the announcement on the loud speakers, “classes are cancelled for the day, go home immediately, the university is going to close, only the Student Union will remain open.” It was unfathomable…an unprecedented announcement for me in my years of higher level education.

That was it for me…the commotion was such, that there was no way I could get on any bus to anywhere. Dan could not make it to me either for the streets were jammed…the Student Union became my place of refuge for the remainder of the day. That’s where I saw the images over and over and over again. That’s where I finally began to understand that war had come home.

I can’t forget that day. I don’t want to forget that day, and I don’t think any American should.

What about you...can you recall that day?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

He Always Has and He Always Will

“Grant…Dylan, Jesus loves you, He always has and He always will…”

I absolutely loved it when the Pastor took time during communion to bless our sons and utter these words upon them as he looked them in the eyes with his hands placed kindly on their heads. I could hardly contain the tears. I tell you, the communion bread went down my throat in a knot.

It may be just me, but there is something about loving our children that feels like we are walking around with a knife stuck right in our hearts…it is hard to describe this kind of love. In my case, it feels more like pain than anything else. It is like I am in constant agony. So when I hear loving words spoken to them with sincerity, about the fact that Jesus does love my little children, my heart melts. I feel relief. I am not alone in the world loving and caring for these kids. I am only keeping them for a little while until they are released to do God’s purpose and fulfill His plan for them.

My job is to pray their every step into the road that will lead them to Christ. I cannot make them walk on that road. They have to hear His voice calling their names…but I can show them the way. It is up to them and to Their Heavenly Father to make them take it, but my responsibility is to point to it, and to encourage them to go.

It’s not easy, though…parents all over the world can testify…this is the hardest job in the world. It breaks not just your back, and your bank account, but it breaks your heart almost on a daily basis, and you don’t know what to do to fix it. It is exhausting. It makes you sick with worry and despair. Sleepless nights make for sleep-walking days. It consumes your mind. It weakens your soul. It turns your prayer life into a panic button, and peace seems to be nowhere in sight.

I can’t do this thing. I won’t make it out alive!

Well, perhaps I’m right. I can’t do this on my own. It is not meant to be like that. Parenting is something that has to be done on your knees, with Christ by your side. I could not survive without knowing that Jesus’ loving arms are there to receive my children when I have done all I can. There comes a moment in a parent’s day, when we can only go so far, and from there, our children have to walk alone by the hand of their Big Brother to meet the Father’s will.

We may not understand the road that God has laid out for our children, but we have to trust it will be a good road in the end. He cannot go against His nature, and He is Good, Faithful and above all, He is Love. He loves our children, He always has, and He always will.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Broken Shells

One gorgeous summer morning, while we were spending a wonderful week at the beach with my husband’s side of the family, my two sisters in law went for a walk. When they came back, I was already launching in my favorite spot under a beach umbrella. Criss showed me a broken shell she had in her hand and said: “aren’t we glad God doesn’t throw us away just because we are a bit broken?”

She then proceeded to tell me how her and her sister, Kerry were picking up shells as they walked, keeping the perfect ones, those that looked beautiful and whole, and tossing the chipped or broken ones, those that were tarnished or unpleasant to the sight. Then, the thought came to one of them, or perhaps to both at the same time (they are still arguing over who thought of the idea first!).

Of course I immediately agreed. I sure am truly grateful that Our Lord doesn’t discard me in my brokenness.

The ideas kept flowing from my sister-in-law’s heart inspired by every broken shell she found. She could see different situations in each shell. She saw how some of us are just chipped on one corner, ever so slightly that we could even pass as whole. Some others are broken in a million tiny pieces, almost impossible to recognize how we started out, almost impossible to put back together again. Some have an unsightly stain that covers our true self…

We are all, however, broken one way or another. Though some may hide it better than others, we have all been tossed around in the current, hit hard surfaces, stepped on, crushed, stained…and our brokenness spells out sin.

Praise the Lord for He can take those pieces in His hands, wipe away the stains, make us a clean slate again, and call us Redeemed!

Summer is on its way out now. The memories of that great trip to the beach live only in the photo gallery of our phones, but I’m sure my sisters in law and I would never look at broken shells again the same way.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Antidote

I have a disease…it’s called, self-centeredness.

I am too focused on myself. I am too attached to material things. I am too preoccupied making myself comfortable in this world. That’s why, when a trial comes, I shake. That’s why when something throws me off my comfort zone, I quake. That’s why when something doesn’t go the way I planned it, I crumble.

I don’t want to be like that!

I want to be free! I want to be free from the worries of this world…well, at least, I want to not be shaken at the slightest change in the wind’s direction. I want to be comfortable, but in a different way. I want to find my comfort in the assurance of His Hand upon me. I want to be firmly standing upon the Rock that does not move, so I don’t move. I want my heart to rest in the peace that is only found in Him. I want to keep my eyes off of me. I want His face to be all I see.

It’s time for me to get my eyes off of myself and the waves around me, and fix them onto Him. It’s time for me to find ways to do that effectively. Perhaps, the first thing I have to do is to stop saying “I” all the time : )

There are some very effective, God-ordained steps that all self-centeredness sufferers can follow to break free of such all-consuming disease, and they begin with the command to…

Seek Him. Matthew 6: 33 is Jesus’ grand conclusion of His statement on the uselessness of worrying. “Do not worry about your life,” He commands in verse 25. Don’t worry about anything, not about what you would drink, eat or wear. Don’t worry about housing, finances or health. He’s got it! He’s got it all under control! After all, isn’t He the One who commanded the universe into existence? Why can’t we trust Him with our little lives? He created them too! Our only worry should be to pursue Him. Our greatest desire should be to center our lives around seeking to know Him and His love. The rest…well…He will take care of it all.

Praise Him. If the fact that He takes care of us in the way Jesus explains in Matthew 6 is not good enough reason for us to praise Him, just look through the Bible. It is filled with reasons to praise God’s Name. The Psalms alone are one big collection of praise and worship songs. Take 100 for example,

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I mean, really, what else could I say to add to this exhortation???

Glorify Him. On the same token, we recognize that the chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God. Praise and Glory may be to Him all the days of our lives. We are to declare His glory among the nations and to proclaim His deeds among the peoples of the earth (Psalm 96). That is why we are here. Life is not about having a pleasant ride with as little bumps on the road as possible. Life is about reflecting the glory of God in our lives…for Great is Our God…the Only One worthy. Please read Psalm 145.

Serve His beloved. Finally, the progression takes us from knowing Him to loving Him and exalting Him until we pray He gives us His eyes so we can see what He sees and that He may use our hands and feet to do what needs to be done. This is how our faith grows. This is how our faith is made complete…by what we do (James 2: 22). This is the one fool-proof thing a child of God can do to forget about himself/herself: to look outward, toward the faces and concerns of our brothers and sisters in Christ. A life centered on service may very well be the antidote for self-centeredness.

And as we pursue a life of service to His beloved, we do it in His Name, we tell them about His love, we teach them to seek Him, praise Him and glorify Him.

May His eyes become our eyes.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not "Why" but "What"...

I heard Dr. Jeremiah on the radio say a potentially, life altering statement. Can’t quote his exact words, but it was something like: “when in the middle of hardship and tough circumstances don’t ask God, ‘why’? He won’t answer that. Ask Him, ‘what’? What do you want me to do/learn out of this situation, Lord?” This idea really can give one a productive change of perspective when in the midst of suffering or trial.

It’s “funny” how I heard this a day I was going out of my mind with anxiety, waiting for test results. Do you think it might have been a God thing?

When I got home that afternoon, the thought continued floating in my mind, so with sweaty palms and an accelerated heartbeat, I kept asking: “what, Lord…what?” 

Standing in front of a window, as I often do, my eyes wandered to my favorite spot on our deck. This summer I bought these really cute patio chairs and I have truly enjoyed them. I’ve spent countless hours reading fun novels sitting in those chairs over the last few months. I remembered one of my sisters in law telling me when she saw the cool chairs: “those are really nice! You can sit there and do your Bible reading every day!” I absently agreed to the comment and excitedly moved on to talk about how I had fallen in love with the chairs and decided to buy them as an early birthday present and as a reward for having worked all summer. I didn’t want to talk about how I had yet to sit in them to read my Bible.

Ever since I discovered online and, I rarely ever pick up any of my “real-life” Bibles. I have a couple different Bibles, but one in particular that is my favorite. It is a bilingual, Spanish/English NIV. My very first one I could read in English. Dan, my husband, gave it to me I don’t even remember how long ago. That’s the one I have filled with notes and underlined in many colors. Question marks and meditations on the margins make it really my own. I have been neglecting it for years, though, favoring the convenience of online efficiency. But that afternoon, as my soul was clamoring for a real-life revelation and a presence from the Most High that I could perceive through my senses, Iooking at the chairs and hearing my sister in law’s words in my mind made me grab my dear Bible out of the shelf where it had been sitting, collecting dust for far too long.

I sat down, not knowing where to start reading. I flipped through the pages and then I remembered Dr. Jeremiah’s commenting how in his darkest hours dealing with lymphoma years ago, he had devoured the Psalms. So I went to the soothing waters of David’s Holy Spirit-inspired songs to find some relief…

With a pink pen I found in one of the cover’s pockets threaded around my fingers, I opened my Bible and began on Psalm 1. I continued reading one after the other, non-stop. The words came alive in me. They reflected the breath of God through the agony and anguish of the psalmist’s troubled soul. His struggles were my struggles and his relief was my relief. The immensity of God’s love, His ability to commiserate with the suffering of His children and His capacity to provide exactly what is needed at the precise right time, like a calming balm to a burning wound are all encapsulated in the psalms.

I read and I read and I kept on reading, still waiting for the phone call, wondering why it hadn’t come yet. But I read and read until I felt the cold chill of fear begin to dissipate. My hands stopped sweating and my breathing became regular. I kept on reading with my feet up and the heat of late summer wrapping me up like a comfy blanket. Once in a while, a playful breeze would mess up my hair and refresh my soul. I read and I read until I dozed off in my chair on psalm 22…wondering why the phone call hadn’t come yet.

A thought brought me back from my cat-nap: “peace is found in Him. He wants you to experience His peace before you get done with your test.”

I opened my eyes and fixed them on my open Bible, the pink pen still in my hand…and at that moment…I knew…He had answered my “what”… 

He is Faithful and Good. He is the Refuge for those who call out His Name. He is the Shelter for those who belong to Him. Under the shadow of His wings we do find rest. Scripture does get us through any test. No matter what, He will take care of me and I will be fine.

The long-awaited phone call didn’t come for another couple of hours. It was a call of good news, Praise the Lord! But not nearly as good as the news I had gotten earlier…going to the Word does work!

Linking with: Whole Hearted HomeRosilind, and More of Him

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You Will Take Care of Me

Ever since I discovered Christian radio, that’s all I listen to anymore. I usually keep my car radio tuned into a Christian music station, so as soon as I start it, on comes the praise. Listening to the music and meditating on the lyrics has a calming effect which I crave on a daily basis, especially on days like the last few when I am waiting for test results and such.

Sometimes, however, the radio in my 12-year-old car has problems tuning into my favorite station. Yesterday was one of those days. As I was in the middle of my short morning commute to work, the car radio turned to nothing but static noise. I was almost to the parking lot, and I was still fiddling with the dial trying to see if any of the 3 repeaters of the station that I like would work. It was to no use, so I gave up, and just flipped it to the Christian Talk Station where they play not much music, but mostly Bible teaching.

As I pulled into a parking spot, I caught the last few words of a message by Charles Stanley on Levels of Faith. The words were so convicting to me at this particular season of my life that I had to write them down. He said: “Not to trust God is an insult to Him.”


It was as if I had done the ALS ice-water-bucket challenge all over again.

I have been seriously struggling with anxiety and fear which translates into lack of trust. I have been praying the Lord will deliver me, give me peace, the one that surpasses all understanding, and also good test results : ) but I continue to struggle. I know the Bible is filled with God’s promises and that they are all true. I claim His Word, and repeat it in my heart over and over and over again,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. Psalm 86:7

This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

But I still have trust issues and they result in my current state of anxiety. The enemy knows my weak spots and he uses them to keep me focused on myself and my fear rather than on the face of He who is Peace and Strength. The enemy is not very creative. He knows what works and he uses it repeatedly. I can recognize it. But I am weak and I succumb to his familiar schemes again and again.

But God is Faithful and He knows what He is doing. Where the Devil uses my circumstances to crush me and to keep me away from my Heavenly Father, God uses them to make me stronger and to draw me closer to Him. And just the same, God knows what I need and He sends it to me right when I need it most. He knows when I need the tender embrace of a friend. He knows when I need the kind words of someone wiser. He knows when I need to lighten my burden. He knows when I need to wake up.

He knew I didn’t need music that morning. He knew I needed the sobering words of a Bible Teacher to remind me, to wake me up like ice water to my face, that my eyes must be kept on Christ, that He knows what He is doing in my life regardless of how things may look like to me, and that not to trust Him is…well…an insult to His Faithfulness.

I know He’s got this. So I gotta let go of it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

With Him All Is Possible!

“Can you think of any need you have that would require more strength than God exercised to raise the dead?”


This question was in my devotional a few days ago. And I just can’t stop thinking about it. It is both, a truly challenging as well as a truly comforting question/statement to ponder.

There is only one right answer to such an inquiry…NO…there isn’t anything that I may be going through that requires more strength and power than God exercised to raise the dead. This is a clear illustration of the fact that “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1: 37)

The question has been pondered from the very beginning. Remember Abraham and Sarah’s doubt? When Abraham was told that his descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky, even though his wife Sarah was barren (and way past her fertile years), the heavenly visitor told Abraham: “Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son." Genesis 18: 14

Jesus also reminds us about the Almighty power of God when He tells His disciples that for mankind, salvation is, indeed, “impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19: 26.

If the Bible states such a truth, why, O WHY do we still fret?

I don’t know…I am certifiably the least qualified person to answer that question…

I do know, however, that in my case, my anxiety and worry may be the product of my current vulnerable state as I am in the process of overcoming serious challenges. I am barely taking the first steps into the road to surrendering and trusting the Lord after passing a major crossroads in my life. At that fork on the road, the Holy Spirit guided me in my decision process and I was able to choose trust. However, that decision was just the beginning of the journey. The road spreads long and steep in front of me. I am very far from arriving yet. Like I said, I’m just beginning to take the first steps of this difficult voyage. Complete trust lays still unseen in the very distant future.

Therefore, fear is still very much a part of my life. I can sense, however, that things are starting to turn. I can see that the decision to trust My Lord is showing the first signs of taking root, for I am way more relaxed than I was, say, a year ago at this very moment. While facing a test, I have been anxious just a couple of days compared to the long weeks preceding that same test last year. I count that as a victory! By seeing the anxiety as another opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to develop trust in me, I have been able to endure the time leading up to the test in a much calmer state than before. By focusing on the Omnipotence of God, I have been able to breathe more freely. By keeping my eyes on Him, I have been able to experience His love. By accepting the fact that His will is perfect, I have been able to exhale.

I have discovered, then, that there isn’t a magic potion or ritual we can drink or perform which would instantaneously give us full trust in our Lord. Trusting Our God develops as we experience a lifetime of trials and victories alongside Christ, as the Holy Spirit works in us all throughout the sanctification process. It is in the day-to-day faithfulness of Our Heavenly Father that we begin to accept His will as perfect regardless of its level of hardship and we stop panicking at impending suffering. That’s when we can begin to count it all joy and move on, trusting that His grace truly is sufficient and His arms truly are strong enough to hold us and protect us.

As I contemplate the reality of God’s omnipotence all around me, I am striving to make the prophet Jeremiah’s words my own, and with conviction express…

"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32: 17)


May this affirmation of total comfort and peace in the Power of our Lord steady our souls and dissipate our fears. Amen!

Linking with:  Whole Hearted Home and Rosilind

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trust Me

I have been trying to finish reading the book The Girl Still Got It, by Liz Curtis Higgs this summer, and I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. Last night, there was a line that particularly touched me. It said something like: 

“While we are busy fretting and worrying, God says ‘Trust Me.’”

I read it again, and one more time after that. I underlined it and this morning I woke up thinking about it too. The words feel as if they were God’s message penned just for me. I am the queen of worrying and fretting. I struggle with surrendering on a constant basis. I am riddled with anxiety about the future, the present and the past circumstances of my life. I have a hard time figuring out how to relax and just trust Him.

Over and over again, the Lord teaches me that there is no reason for me to fret. But over and over and over again, I continue to do so. I am faced with test after test to reaffirm the truth of His love, but I keep on failing…hopelessly failing…or so it seems…

Shortly before I read the passage in the book, I heard on the radio the encouraging word of the day, and it was 1 Thessalonians 5: 18

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The commentator stressed the fact that the rejoicing and the giving of thanks is to be done in ALL circumstances, even when the situation we are facing is hard…because that is God’s will for us, to rejoice in Him always! (Philippians 4: 4)

It is His will for us to find Him in everything that happens to us. It is His will for us to give Him glory in all situations. It is His will for us to be near us, holding our hands through the fires of this life. It is His will for us to deliver us and for us to boast about Him and His goodness and might. It is His will for us to guide us along the path that leads to complete trust and perfect peace. That path, however, may be marked by suffering and hardship, but even so, we are to rejoice because,

suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5: 3b-5

Let us not be discouraged by our suffering then, and let us see each challenge we come across as a chance to thank Him for another opportunity to develop complete trust in His love and find refuge in His hope.

As I am fretting about an upcoming test, He reminds me of all of these. And I thank Him, and I rejoice in this circumstance because He is polishing me, He is showing me His unique kind of love, and He is giving me another chance to rely on Him for all my needs as the trusted Provider that He certainly is…He is whispering in my ear: “Trust Me.”