Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Get Out of His Way!

A couple of days ago a friend posted a phrase that someone very wise tells her often: “Get out of God’s way and let Him be God.” Reading that statement touched me deeply.

I believe that each person who reads this phrase may be moved by it in a different way. To each it may mean something different. To me, a control-freak and a worry-wart, it means, relax…chill…relinquish the idea that you have control over your circumstances…be flexible with your own plan and adhere to His plan, because your own plan is based on the temporary, and His plan is based on the eternal…your plan is based on the material, His plan is based on the Spiritual.

Stop being so attached to the things/people He has given to you in this world and become totally attached to Him…quit being so focused on the gifts and fix your eyes on the Giver.

I don’t believe, however, that we are to live our lives like a leaf in the wind without goals, plans or dreams. Absolutely not! We are called to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us. Be it our family, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our furry friends, our jobs, our surroundings, our home, our church, etc., etc., etc., we are to take good care of them. And in order to do that, we ought to use our brains and be good administrators, have goals, make plans. It is a direct admonition to take care of our own, and there are severe consequences if we do not:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 
(1 Timothy 5: 8)

There are many other Bible references that speak to these effects, go check this selection out and see what the Lord speaks to you on this regard:

Titus 1: 7-9

Colossians 3: 23

1 Corinthians 4: 2

Matthew 25: 20-21

Titus 2: 7

Acts 20: 35

1 Corinthians 4: 1

Luke 12: 42-46

Proverbs 11: 24

My point is, that we are certainly called to do our part in this world. We are not just to sit around and be bums, or even worse, to stand like robots with no conscience, just waiting for the master manipulator to activate us. That is not at all what I believe our relationship with Our Maker is about. Out of all the creation, WE are the bearers of the Image of God! We are the vessels of the Light of the World! We were endowed with magnificent brains and with the ability to think, process, analyze and discern. We are eternal beings who dwell on this earth for a while with the essence of God in our soul and the Breath of Life in our heart. Of course we are more than glorified bums or animatronics. We are the children of the Most High. We are the heirs and heiresses of the King! But yet…He is the Lord. And as such, we are to submit to Him.

Everything that we are and everything that we have He has given to us. It is all His. Therefore, when we plan, when we set goals and when we dream about the things and actions we need or want to do in order to fulfill His calling to provide and care for those around us, we must submit those to Him as well. We must take into account His sovereignty and see our designs as fluid, flexible and malleable to His designs. That’s what it means to me to have Him as my Lord…leading my life in a way that acknowledges Christ as the Ultimate Authority…a life that constantly honors that He is in control. I am NOT God, He is. Therefore, I recognize, in my deeply flawed nature, that I must get out of His way and let Him be God…get out of His way and listen to Him say to me:

Be still and know that I AM God! Psalm 46: 10

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Adventure of Being a Mom

Our 10 year-old son, in a moment of frustration, once told us: “you don’t take very good care of me…” That sentence has stuck in our brains ever since; and even though we often jokingly bring it up to try to make light of it…the truth is…it was a deeply convicting statement spoken out of the mouth of our babe…

Dylan’s words constantly resonate in my brain accusingly reminding me that I am not a good Mother.

Ever since I began this adventure on Motherhood I have felt truly inadequate. I am very aware of my mistakes. I feel defeated by my lack of self-control and extremely short temper. My impatience misguides me every day. And sometimes I wonder if gentleness will ever be one of my qualities?

My default mode is anger and my immediate reaction is generally harshness. It is almost impossible for me to remain calm in the face of anything that disrupts the “plan…,” “MY plan.” I don’t tolerate interruptions and my agenda is usually a rigid entity that does not allow room for changes or flexibility.

I could go on and on and on and on forever, listing my faults, venting my frustrations…all to no avail…sigh…

The only place I get by continuing this defeating attitude is a place where despair, anxiety and self-loathing reigns. And that’s not what our Lord wants us to do. As Mothers, no matter how bad we think we are, we ought to stand firm in our Lord, on the path of Christ, and co-parent with Him. Of course we’d feel like failures if we continue to believe that we are in this motherhood business all on our own. The path to a fulfilled experience as a Mother is marked by the blood of Jesus, and in order to follow it, we need to have blood stains on our knees.

Constant prayer is the only way. Constant communication with the source of all wisdom is the only way we can ever begin to feel a sense of assurance that we may be doing the right thing. It doesn’t mean, however, that we will be perfect and won’t make mistakes. Of course not! We are still humans. But it is the only way to not be plagued by consuming guilt and a crushing sense of inadequacy. It is the only way to remember that, for some reason unknown to us, God chose us to be the mother of our children, and even though we don’t know what we are doing, He does! And He is in control! He thought we could do this… and if He designed it this way, who are we to doubt it?

Parenting with Christ by our side is the only way to remain sane. By continuing to doubt my abilities and my wisdom as a Mother, I’m doubting His ability and His wisdom as God.

Our children will do and say things that would cut straight through our heart. They have the power to dismember us spiritually. But that is part of what they have to work out with God themselves. Our job is to persevere in the assurance that Christ leads us and that He is Lord over all, even over our faults, over our mishandlings, over our mistakes, over our sin. So as Mothers, let us forgive ourselves. Let us encourage one another, sharpen one another with the love and comfort that understanding the truth of our reality as flawed human beings brings to our weary souls, and let’s trust that the One who designed the plan is in control, and He is perfect so we don’t have to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Word that I Praise

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
Psalm 56: 3-4a

This is God’s word to us this morning. This is His reminder to remain in Him because He is Trustworthy. As we worry about the things of this world, as we worry about our loved ones and about ourselves, let’s remember that His word is true, and we need not be afraid.

It is hard for me not to worry. Especially when it comes to health issues, I cannot stay calm. But God is teaching me that the right response when something comes up is not to panic…it is to pray… pray in faith, pray and trust. I need to remember that when I am attacked by that old, enemy-induced fear I know so well, I have to go to Christ, I have to go to the Word! The Word that I praise, the Word that sustains me, the Word that protects me, the Word that shows me the way so I am not afraid.

This morning, I hang on to the Word and I trust He will take care of the fear in my heart and the worry in my mind.

For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Psalm 56: 13

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

One Smooth Stone

Today at Bible Study I had the opportunity to reminisce about the time of my life when I lived in Panama, particularly about living under a Military Dictatorship. See, the year I was born, a Military Dictator grabbed power from the hands of the rightfully elected president, and him, his successors and his minions held on to the government until the United States invaded Panama to take them out…just a few months before I left Panama for good to come to live in the United States…-of course at the time I didn’t know it would be for good, but the Lord had other plans, and 25 years later, here I am…-

The thing is that remembering the repression and oppression we lived in Panama, especially during the last 5 years of the dictatorship, brought back memories of the fear and instability that the people of Panama experienced back then. I was a young adult, living in the big city at the height of the most turbulent times in our history, so I clearly remember the feeling of frightening uncertainty and the nervousness that plagued those who moved around the streets…trying to live their daily lives as best as they could, hoping better days were ahead.

After considering that part of my history I realized, however, that the fear I experienced back then is nothing compared to the fear that grows within a soul that doesn’t rely on God. The fear of concrete things that oppress us from the outside can be combated by concrete weapons that we can usually find in the material world. The fear that consumes us from within, however, the fear created by the voices that scream doom into our head…the fear of those abstract things that crawl into our mind and spirit, threatening to paralyze us and destroy us though…

How can we combat those? They are way too much and it often seems as if we are left to face a formidable enemy all alone…with just some sticks and a few stones…

Wait…where have I heard something like this before???

Wasn’t there a kid who wasn’t suited to be in the King’s army for being too young and weak, but who faced a Giant with a sling and handful of river stones? Yeah…I remember…while King Saul’s army in all its might stood there, paralyzed by this seemingly unconquerable beast, David, armed with the weapon of a spirit that fully trusts the Most High, beat Goliath with the shot of one smooth stone.

It wasn’t the stone that killed Goliath. It was God’s great power, made perfect in the weakness of one of His children what defeated the mocking foe.

The armies of the world, be them in the form of oppressive military regimes or of ungodly societies that seek to lead people into a life void of God, will fight to crush us, to conquer us, to defeat us, to manipulate us. And if we, like King Saul’s army, allow the frightful creations of our mind to cloud our vision to the point of paralysis, the result would be defeat. But if like David, we clear our heads, re-direct our thoughts, and focus on God, we would be able to hush the lies the enemy feeds into our brains, and win victory from the hands of our giants.

I don’t think David was reckless. I believe he was nervous. But I know the source of his resolve was that He just knew God will come through. And the beauty of this whole thing is that we, too, know! We know that no matter what tricks the enemy plays on us, we are victorious! We have the right weapons to combat the forces of the spiritual realm…the best weapons…the only weapons:

…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
 Ephesians 6: 10-17

I drove away from Bible Study this morning feeling a melancholic pinch caused by the memories of those days in my past...but I also felt a quiet voice whispering in my ears, "do not fear, I am with you now, I was with you before, and I will continue to be with you forever..."  And that is my weapon, that is my smooth stone!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Beauty in the Prelude

Not long ago at a Bible study we were supposed to start off by saying our names and our favorite thing about fall. That was hard for me…I don’t like fall…

It’s not that I don’t “like” fall. Of course I like it! What’s not to like? The turning leaves are stunning in this part of the world. The scented candles make the house smell like a home. The varieties of mums and the glorious wreaths add to the all the neighborhoods’ curb appeal. The delicious apple cider and the thousand and one pumpkin everything treats make your tummy scream YUMMY! It’s all just perfectly wonderful…but o so fleeting…

The splendor of the leaves lasts, perhaps two weeks. The winds from the north turn the breeze into a cold chill that bares the trees and freezes the soul. The mums start to wither and the wreaths begin to fade. Soon the stomach cannot tolerate any more pumpkin flavored-treats, and the candles are all melted away. All the raking of the leaves make one’s back break, hands blister and nose sore with allergic reactions that cause you to sneeze all day.

It’s like you blink and what made fall special is gone and what’s left is not more than the ghosts of a beautiful thing that has faded away…a ghost that ushers the hard times ahead. So, I guess, that’s why I don’t like fall…because it is the prelude, the ever so brief prelude to something I dread.


By definition, a prelude is an introductory action, event or performance that comes before a bigger or more momentous one. Fall, therefore, is the introductory event that comes before a really more momentous one…winter… And if I don’t like fall for what comes after, I really do NOT like winter for what it’s worth. The worst thing is that this year the prelude seems shorter than ever before! The leaves haven’t finished turning, and this morning is already record cold!

Thinking of winter really brings my spirit down. I can’t help it! I was born in the sun, with blue skies as the backdrop of my life. I grew up in a place where the heat burns your skin and the sound of the waves is never far away. So winter and I have never been friends.

This morning, then, reluctantly, I go outside because life doesn’t wait and time doesn’t stand still. The grass is completely covered with frost, but I have to let the dog out and wait for the school bus with Dylan, who is still not sure what the white stuff on the ground is. He doesn’t want to wear a coat and I explain, in the most loving way I can muster up, about the facts and reality of frost bite…so he obeys…I follow suit with a deep sigh…and venture outside.

The bus comes and Dylan goes to school…now it’s time for me to go to work. In the 3 minutes that takes me to get to my office, I see the car thermometer go down 12 degrees…hope is running low…


By the time I’m done with work, I step outdoors again and guess what? The sun is shining, the skies are blue, the thermometer has recovered the 12 degrees it lost in the morning plus a net gain of 15, which means I don’t need the coat anymore, and my soul starts to smile with the scent of hope once again.

Then a thought began to form in my mind…though the good things of fall may be brief, and it is just a doorway to the harshness of winter, perhaps, there is beauty to be found in this prelude.

I have to say that at that Bible Study I gave my usual depressing answer of: “I don’t like fall, blah, blah, blah” which brought everyone down a bit. But now I think that maybe next time I am asked to state my favorite thing about fall, I should just check my attitude and adjust my focus so I don’t miss the gift of a season that, although brief, is full of warmth and gatherings, so I don’t miss the beauty in the prelude because I dread what’s next, so I don’t miss the blessing of every day.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” 
Genesis 8: 22

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Frazzled Working Mom

I love my job! I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and after many detours, disappointments and professional dissatisfaction, God opened up great doors of opportunity for me to finally get into the field of education. However, the fact that I really enjoy what I do for a living does not mean that teaching is easy or that I don’t have to work like a dog, day in and day out – (now that I have a dog, I really don’t know why this saying implies that working like a dog means working hard…if you ever see my dog, he is NOT AT ALL the picture of hard work…on the contrary…he is the living and breathing picture of a BUM!)

But I digress…

My point is, working full time outside the home, at any job, regardless of how much you love it, is HARD! Throw in a couple of kids, a lazy dog and a husband (just to clarify, I’m talking about two distinct people here, a dog person and a husband person…I never meant to say that my husband is a lazy dog)…anyway, throw all those things in a pot and you are swamped…up-side-down in the creek…drowning … praying for early retirement.

My responsibilities at work have grown exponentially in the 10 years I’ve been at my current job; and as much as I love the excitement of the whole thing…I come home exhausted…ready to collapse. But guess what? I can’t!!! Why not? Well…as all Moms reading this know, coming home means only one thing: the beginning of your REAL JOB!

I open the door and all I want to do is take my shoes off because my feet hurt, but I can’t because I have to take the dog out first. My back is killing me so all I want to do is sit for a few minutes in my comfy recliner, but I can’t because son A just came back home from school and he needs help with homework or getting some obscure supply for some school-project he had forgotten he had and of course is due tomorrow! I’m hungry because I had to skip lunch, but I can’t eat because son B came back from school and he shows me he failed two tests and have to do some remediation work. I’m still hungry, but I still can’t eat because there is no food cooked, and it’s like 30 minutes till husband comes home. So I better whip something up in the kitchen fast, where’s that 30-minute meal chick?

I finally get to eat some cold scraps, and I go upstairs to take a shower because I stink (feeling blessed that husband is taking care of the dishes) but then I realize that I (and evidently neither does anybody else in the house) have NOT any clean underwear because the laundry is still neatly sitting in 6 piles on the floor.

All I want to do then is sit in front of the TV and watch a silly movie to chill, but I can’t because I have a tower of papers to grade. The night is fleeting by and my head is about to explode; but it’s time to corral the kids to bed.

I come back to my bedroom, take a sad look at the ungraded pile of papers, another at the unwashed piles of clothes and one at the bed…guess where I head next? I close my eyes for a second, and it is morning again…I am having a déjà vu.

This is the life I chose when I accepted my jobs of wife, mother and teacher…this is the life I pray the Holy Spirit allows me to lead in a way that brings Glory to my Father in Heaven as I plow through the events of each day. This is the life I pray I can live without forgetting that only prayer and the Divine Hand of My Creator will help me find the purpose of its design and humbly accept the blessing of His provision.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Walk of Discovery

Do you ever wonder about all the times God’s mercy might have spared you from something catastrophic? I do. I think of all the almost-accidents, almost-falls, almost-illnesses that He has delivered me and my loved ones from. I rarely, however, consider the: why did He deliver me for?

Why, even if I did go through a hard situation, He made me come out the other side unharmed?


Back in April this year, I went to my home-church’s Women’s Retreat and, as always, it was WONDERFUL!!! This year, however, it was particularly poignant because, as part of one of the sessions, we had to take a walk alone around the retreat grounds. If you are reading this and you are one of the fortunate women who have been to our retreat site, you know how much of a treat it is to walk around “The Castle,” especially if it is a nice spring day. Well, that day, it was. It was a beautiful, early spring day, not too cold, not rainy and perfectly peaceful…absolutely conducive to a reflective walk by oneself.

The study guide, very appropriately called this section of the session: “A Walk with God.” The activity included some short readings and stopping points where we were supposed to pause and meditate, reflects in the Scripture and most of all, listen…listen to His still small voice in the quiet of our souls. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time quieting myself enough to listen to God’s voice inside of me. Life gets too much on the way. My thoughts are too loud. My worries scream inside my brain all day long. I have a REALLY hard time following Paul’s advice to concentrate on: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (Philippians 4: 8)

That April morning, however, surrounded by the glory of early spring, in the silence of the forest all around me, God allowed me a moment to still my soul.

I wandered to the back of the Castle and found a tree trunk fallen on the ground. I sat there, stretched my legs, took long breaths, contemplated nature and thought about nothing. After a while, my eyes fell upon a fire-pit type of thing, which I had not noticed earlier. It looked like an area that the maintenance staff uses to burn trash. I examined the area and it was pretty ugly. There were ashes everywhere, covering half-burnt objects, old tires and other assortment of garbage. The scene made me experience an eerie feeling down my spine. God’s beauty interrupted by a burn pile…it was not the most pleasant of discoveries. But then, as my eyes continued to run through the gray pile of ashes, a thought began to formulate in my brain…beauty from ashes…

Why did it take me so long to write about this, you may wonder? The reason is that I didn’t know then how to approach it. The image of the ashes haunted me all along, but I just hadn’t figured why. Today, as I found my retreat workbook and my scattered notes on the subject I started to think…

At that time, I was just beginning to learn how to breathe again after a few rough years of trials, illness, loss, changes, brokenness and all in all, incredible pain. At the table discussions in the retreat, I had begun to allow myself to dive into the joy of being delivered from most of my hurts. But today I see that the ashes I was sitting in front of at that moment were truly the ashes of my life. Those where the ashes of the things God had burned in me that now laid out of my body, out of my mind, out of my soul. It was like I was contemplating the trash God had burned in my life. He had gathered it right there, in front of my face so I would realize and accept that it was all taken care of. Those were the ashes of my hurt and my pain and they no longer inhabited my soul. I had been delivered from them and it was time to move on.

It was time to figure out what I had been delivered for.

Today, I still don’t know exactly what it is that God has designed for me…I still wonder what He wants me to do. I’m not sure of the path He wants me to walk on by or the mission He may have for my life…but I am sure He has taken care of me and that it is my job now to be open and let Him take me to the place that He delivered me for. That early spring walk around the Castle had been a walk of discovery. I discovered God's delivering power in my life...and I discovered my need to acknowledge it, loudly proclaim it and humbly accept it.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The View from the Visitors' Stand

Who in the world ever thought sitting on super cold/aluminum bleachers, enduring the cold autumn wind with your head buried in your jacket’s hood, under a very menacing sky, feeling your fingers literally go numb inside your pockets was fun? I for sure, never did. Where I grew up, 69 degrees was freezing!

However, after last Friday’s away football game, when Dylan, Dan and I experienced the description above just to watch and support Grant’s efforts to be part of something important in the Marching Band, I have to say I can’t consider it “fun” but I can think of it as “enlightening”…no pun intended…get it? “enlightening” … “lightening” … “storm” … mmmkay…

The thing is that sitting on the bleachers at the visitors’ stand represented a bit of a change of perspective. And I, for once, always welcome those since I can always learn a lot when I allow myself to step outside of my often so rigid stances and take the steps to see things from the other side.

As a Christian, I feel so secured in my points of views and opinions that I struggle to let others, who do not share my ideas, share their expressions of theirs. I don’t want to hear what they have to say. I strive to look at things through the lens of Christianity and the way I see it indicates that I need not concerned myself with mistaken and misguided philosophies. Looking at the band perform from the visitors’ stand, however, reminded me of the importance of getting a fresh look from a different perspective once in a while.

I remember the first time sitting in the visitors’ stand. That night right after the band came to the field to perform, Dylan asked me: “why do they sound different? and Why aren’t they looking at us?” “Well,” I said, “that’s because we are the visitors this time and they face the home crowd mostly.” As I sat on those cold bleachers last Friday, looking at the band players’ backs and listening to their distorted and muffled tunes, I began to think about this as an illustration of the difference a “point of view” really makes.

Unbelievers and people who do not dwell within the circles of Christianity do not see things the same way we see them. They see everything as if they were sitting in the visitors stand…they only see the occasional, courtesy nod their way, but they know, they are aware that the whole show is not really performed for them. They, therefore, get a very distorted and muffled version of the performance, as if everyone was standing/dancing/marching with their backs to them...without much care for them.

I don’t know if I’m right here, but the whole thing made me think that too often I am quick to judge and slow to put myself in someone else’s shoes. It is no wonder many unbelievers think Christians, church people, I am not welcoming. I’m not talking about compromising my Christian beliefs to get along and accommodate sin in the name of tolerance. I’m talking about pulling myself out of my comfort zone once in a while to try to understand where those, who don’t like me because of my beliefs, are truly coming from.

I’m not sure this reflection is going to make my experience at the next cold, football game any better; but it will sure be a reminder of my need to be willing to once in a while step out of the home crowd and see what it feels like to be in the visitors’ stands of life.