Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Dance of the Seasons

Life is a series of seasons. They all look a bit different. Some are bright, some are dark, and some are in between. They all have different lengths. Some are no longer than a sigh. Some seem to never end. They even have different taste. Some are sweet. Some are bitter…and of course, many are just bitter-sweet.

I believe that’s the implication of King Solomon’s wise affirmations in Ecclesiastes chapter 3. There is, indeed, a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3: 1)

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then that things change from one day to the next…but somehow, it always catches me off guard when I find myself at a different place…traveling through a different season. It’s as if I get so complacent in the world of my own creation that I fall for the idea that I control it. That’s why, when it suddenly goes off script and life unexpectedly switches backgrounds on me, fear paralyzes me but for the imperceptible trembling of my soul.

There is no way to avoid it…seasons change. No matter how much we pretend all stays the same, nothing really does…and the realization makes me feel afraid.

However, it doesn’t end there.

I just have to remember it’s all a dance. The very fact that seasons are not static is what brings us hope. Whenever I find myself or my loved ones in a season that is not particularly of our liking…we just need to hang in there, for in a little while, do the dance, and know that it will change again. That’s the beauty of the truth in the seasons. No matter how dark and how cold and how harsh and how miserable winter ever is…it does invariably…eventually…always come to an end. There is always summer, somewhere, waiting to warm us up and melt the snow away.

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3: 2-8)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Uniquely Gifted

“I’m such an idiot!” This is an expression that often comes out of our younger son Dylan’s mouth much to our great chagrin. Although we know he uses it to do a fair amount of manipulation, we also realize he does feel ungifted at times. He struggles with learning disabilities which in turn make him feel like he can’t do anything right. He compares himself to those around him and he believes he is always behind. However, as we give him chores and tasks here at home, he has begun to discover that he does, indeed have plenty of areas of giftedness.

He could be super detailed when it comes to manual things. He’s got amazing control of his fine motor skills. From puzzles and Minecraft to neatly folding sheets, blankets and clothes all the way to picking up and decluttering his room Dylan has a truly keen eye for organization. He is also very aware of people’s feelings, which not only gives him an incredible ability to know exactly what buttons to push and how to best annoy each and every one of us including the dog, but also gives him a heightened sensitivity to know when I am not feeling well and need one of his healing hugs.

As parents, it is our job to pay attention and recognize our kids’ abilities and areas of giftedness to then help them explore them and develop them. When they feel like “idiots” it is our job to point out their strengths and talents. When they feel like losers, it’s important we re-direct their energy into seeing their worth and value. It is our job to remind our kids that they should not compare themselves to anyone else, because they are gifted too, just in different ways. If we don’t, our children may grow up thinking they are good for nothing, getting lost in self-pity.

I believe the same happens in God’s family. We have a hard time seeing our strengths and talents. For some reason, we often feel like losers that are good for nothing. Upon occasion we think we are just idiots lagging behind while everyone else is way ahead, enjoying their lives and gifts. We lose sight of where our worth really is. We forget our value is in Christ. We forget that our worth is not on what we do or who we are, but on what He did and on who He is!

Also, I believe that as a Father, God points out what our gifts are. It is His job to remind us that we all have gifts, and that even though they are not all the same, they are all uniquely fit for His plan and purpose:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6

In addition, I also believe God places individuals in our lives to remind us as well. The same way God places parents on this earth to help kids discover their gifts; He places people around us to show us too. Like parents see the gifts in their children clearly when the children’s vision is blurry, those walking alongside us have an easier time seeing the areas we are gifted on clearer than we do. Therefore, the implications are two-fold:

1. Let us not neglect our job to be on the lookout for the gifts of those in our lives.

2. Let us be open to hearing those around us express their opinion about what they see as our gifts.

Discovering our gifts is a life-long journey, sometimes. And this journey starts by recognizing we do have gifts. We are all uniquely gifted. The rest is a matter of listening and seeing while we serve. We listen to God’s Word and to the word of those walking alongside us. And we see others not to compare ourselves to them, but so we can serve as their compass when they feel lost too. And we do it all as we offer our lives in obedience to the service of His beloved.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Sixteen could be a fun number.  It could be a sweet number when it is the number of years a young girl has lived.  It could be the age you commemorate important milestones toward adulthood.  For instance, it could be the age you get your driver´s licence which in turn becomes a new found sense of freedom.  It could be the age you get your first job, which also constitutes a first step towards that same goal of independence.  Or it could be the amount of years someone dear has already spent enjoying true and eternal freedom.  

That is the case for me today.  It has been sixteen years since the passing of my Mom.  After a battle with lymphoma, she finally transition to her final destination where she is inhabiting her forever home.  

It was devastating for us left behind to see her depart.  But we find consolation in the fact that she is not missing out anything down here that she can´t get many-fold in Heaven.  We also know that one day, we will join in with her and our other beloved in a family reunion that will never have to end.

Until that moment, we will carry my sweet Mom in our hearts, cherishing the memories of her gentle spirit and caring heart, as we move along in this valley of shadows and tears, by the hand of the One who will make it us all whole again one day.

Happy Sweet Sixteen Anniversary in your new location, to my Dear Mom in Heaven!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Gift

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York has a sermon series on generosity where he explores different aspects of it in an intriguing way. For example, he talks about the need to be generous with the way we use the gifts we have received.

To talk about this, Pastor Keller presented a one-line summary of Genesis 12 which was certainly thought-provoking. I can’t remember the exact words, but the idea was something like: God makes the most amazing promises to Abraham and then He tells him to get out and go!

The point is that God showers us with His generous gifts not exclusively for our own benefit and comfort. The purpose of His generosity is so we can use what He gives us for the good of others…so we can be generous in return. Like with Abraham, God called him and gave him all these blessings and promises, but let´s look closely at verses 2 and 3,

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

We see here that although God is, indeed giving Abraham many gifts, the personal promises result in promises to all. Basically, all of God´s children will be the recipients of great blessings through the blessings of Abraham. Though in a smaller scale, I think that is how God works in every Christian. And I think we, as Christians, see it pretty clearly. What might not be so clear is the fact that we ALL do receive gifts to share with others.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard dear sisters and brothers in Christ saying that they don’t think they have any gifts. I think that before we make a statement like that we need to meditate on 1 Corinthians 12. Please take a look at that chapter and then let’s consider the following: If we declare that Jesus is Lord, we have the most important gift, the One True Gift: The Holy Spirit.

“…no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” 
(1 Corinthians 12: 3b)

That is the miracle. That is my greatest Gift: Christ in me.

The rest is just trimmings. As we examine ourselves while performing certain tasks we begin to discover our passion. Notice I said, “while performing…”. I tend to think that we discover our talents as we remain actively participating within the church. In other words, I believe God reveals our gifts as we serve. The more generous we are with our time and abilities, the clearer we see where we fit best. And it happens the other way around as well.

I remember, many years ago, I volunteered to teach in the after-school program our home-church offers to community elementary-age-kids. It didn´t take long for me to discover such area was NOT my gift. I did not enjoy it one bit. The program ran only once a week, on Wednesdays. I’m sad to say that Wednesdays became an ugly day for me. However, I continued to do it out of obedience to God and loyalty to my good friend who was in charge of it. But, simply, it was not my thing. Working with young children is not what I do best. Maybe the Lord will change something within me later in life and I will be able to joyfully serve that age-group…but that change has yet to happen.

The good news is, had I not tried it…I would still be wondering. A few years later, I was approached to lead a women’s Bible Study, and to speak at our annual women’s retreat. I said yes to both invitations, and I LOVED THEM BOTH! I would not have thought speaking at the women’s retreat was going to be anything I’d ever wanted to do, but once I did it, it just felt right.

Again, had I said no because of my nervous temper and constant feeling of inadequacy, I would not have felt such joy. Once again, God reveals His gifts as we serve.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6

We will continue to take a look at our gifts in the coming days. Hopefully this journey will help us discover what God is trying to tell us and where He wants to place us as we serve and love Him and His people.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Getting Out of Myself

As I have shared before, I often wrestle with fear as well as with a nagging feeling of inadequacy. To tell you the truth, I´ve always identified with the Israelite spies that Moses sent to explore Canaan. When they came back from their exploration of the Promise Land, they gave a rather sobering report:

…“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13: 31-33)

I totally get it. I mean, really! What is God thinking? How does He expect us to even begin to tackle this thing…this is too much! It’s way bigger than us/me…We/I don’t have what it takes…I’m too weak…I’m too afraid, I’m too _________________.

I’m too much of a grasshopper!

I am a tiny, insignificant, self-absorbed, unfaithful, little grasshopper who doesn’t trust the One Who Made her.

I get so wrapped up in my own fear and worry that I forget to look up to He Who Holds each day of my life in His hands. I panic and all I see is the giants approaching. I cave in terror, waiting to be crushed. My eyes focus on the problem, on the disruption to my agenda, on the inconvenience to my own little world, on the lack of control. I lament the loss of my grip on the direction of my life, and I become even more self-centered than my already very self-centered-old-self.

I forget that in this world I will have trials and will face seasons of struggle. I forget that such times are also in God’s hands, and are custom-designed for me, to develop my perseverance and to refine my faith. I forget that even though I might feel alone, God is with me not only in the good days, but especially in the bad days. I forget that even though it is dark at the moment, His Light burns in me. I forget to keep my eyes on His face.

Then, as it often happens, God delivers me from my trial or through it…and I rejoice! I fall on my knees and give Him praise and thanks. I cry. I jump up and down. I call my friends and tell them to join me in my joy. I go out and celebrate. Then…I forget again.

I forget His great deliverance and I go on my merry old way, as if nothing had happened. All I want to do is to resume my static state of “normal.” All I want is to go back to live my life the way it was before the trial.

Today, however, I think…if I do that…the trial was all for nothing. Was I truly refined? Has my faith really gotten any stronger? Have I moved ahead on my sanctification process?

Of course, from God’s perspective, the answers to all of these and other questions are yes. He knows how many tests we need to take before we pass and move up to the next grade. From where I sit, however, the improvement is not truly visible or palpable until I learn to open my eyes to what God is doing in my life. Not until my heart softens to His will and purpose for my days will I see the point.

Until I learn to say: “I trust you will show me what to do with the gift you have given me,” I won’t see the result of my test. Until I let go of my own self-centeredness, I won’t see the glory of His designs for me. At least this is what I think and what I have been hearing from Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. In his sermon series on generosity, Pastor Keller has been hammering hard at what it means to be generous not just with our money, but with everything else: our forgiveness, our time, our gifts…

In the coming days, I would like to explore a few of the points that have stuck with me from this sermon series here on this blog. I pray that some of my musings may bring truth to your life as well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Made to be Me

We have walked along the path of Jesus’ parables found in Luke 15 to explore some of the precious aspects of God´s Grace. We have particularly paid attention to the fact that we, the children of the Most High, inevitably, once in a while, get lost along the way. We have also seen how that is no reason to fret because our Heavenly Father is always on the lookout and never loses sight of us...even if often He has to go after us, to bring us back home. Then, we´ve witnessed how after such incidents, there is always a good time of celebration and rejoicing.

This series has brought great joy to my heart because it has reminded me that God´s Grace is wrapped in infinitive love and forgiveness. The journey has also taken me into a closer look at my own life history, at my own family drama, at my own old wounds. It has been a time of discovery. As I have revisited melancholic and painful events of my past, I have opened my eyes to the fact that I still harbor resentment which I have yet to place into the scarred hands of My Savior. I have discovered that I still need to forgive. I have discovered that I still have to extend much grace to others, as well as I have discovered that I still need to be forgiven…mainly by myself.

I have been carrying the burden of unforgiveness for far too long. And I am exhausted. I have not extended grace to others. I have not extended grace to myself. I have been too harsh to those I´ve perceived as my offenders. I have been too harsh on myself. I have found inadequacies on my loved ones. I have felt completely inadequate myself. I walk around most of the time feeling like a failure and a fraud…and I´m tired of it. I am no more a failure or a fraud as I am a human being…a child of God, wonderfully designed and carefully made…placed on this earth for a purpose which securely rests upon the hands of My Maker.

My younger son Dylan reminded me of this fact the other day. As it happened, I was yelling at him…again…about something so important that I can´t even remember what it was. When I came to my senses and realized I had completely overreacted…again…embarrassed and morally bankrupt, I apologized to him. Then, Dylan totally surprised me by saying, with a big smile on his face: “Don´t worry, mama, that´s what makes you, you…”

I admit that the affirmation convicted me, but also cheered me up. The terms of conviction are obvious even to the most casual of observers. Grace showed me the reason to rejoice on that statement.

I am who I am…there is no other way to go about it. But He not only made me to be me, but He lives in me so the version of me that survives is the one governed by Him. There is a reason why He made me the way He did. He doesn´t make mistakes…or makes no junk! So I reject the enemy´s plot that tries to humiliate me and guilt me into walking away from My Lord only because I feel unworthy. Of course I am unworthy! My worth is not on who I am, but on The Great I AM! My identity is in Christ, and my purpose is God´s plan. I am a Child of the Maker of Heaven and Earth. I am His heiress. I am His daughter, and He loves me, just as I am.

So yes, my flaws, failures, aloofness, short temper, impatience, selfishness, passion, craziness, etc., etc., etc., make me, me…and that´s all I have to be…because that´s who He made me to be. I don´t have to compare myself to anyone else. I don´t have to feel bad because I don´t measure up to this world´s standards. I just have to concentrate on being the best version of me I can be…empowered by His Spirit who dwells in my soul. The rest, Grace covers it all.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Shared Brokenness

Looking at Jesus’ parables recorded in Luke 15, we see that they follow a rather similar pattern that involves three steps:

1. Something/someone extremely precious and valuable is lost

2. The “owner” becomes the “finder”

3. The joyful reunion is unabashedly celebrated.

I also believe that the underlying theme that ties the three stories together is Grace. We can appreciate the subject of Grace, particularly in the parable of the lost son. And we can certainly appreciate that this message of Grace that Jesus is offering is clothed in Forgiveness.

First of all, look at His audience,

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 

Gathered among the Savior of the World were the wretched of the world, the despised, the rejected, the outcast…the ones who knew they needed forgiveness. Jesus was surrounded by people who thirsted for the living water of forgiveness which only flows from the endless fountain of God’s Grace.

There were, however, also those who didn’t get it:

2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

It is no wonder Jesus had said earlier:

47"For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." Luke 7: 47

The Pharisees didn’t understand the concept. The kind of grace Jesus was illustrating in the parable of the lost son was inconceivable. He talked about a grace that extended forgiveness generously to a son that didn’t deserve it. And to make matters worse, this forgiveness Jesus was talking about was not just some sort of lip-service. Jesus preached a forgiveness that seeks restauration. The Father not only forgave the undeserving child, but He welcomed him back home and restored him to his righteous place as a son.

It is no wonder that the Pharisees didn’t get it. We have a hard time getting it as well. That is why Jesus elaborates more on this parable by introducing the other son. Jesus recognizes the complexity of the issue of forgiveness and reconciliation by not neglecting the perspective of the offended party.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

It is SO easy to identify with the older brother, isn’t it? At least it is for me. And, I believe it is because, as children of God, we see ourselves as the older brother.

In reality, however, I think we are both.

The thing is that the older son is also lost. Although for a different reason, or a different sin, the seemingly faithful son also walks away. His pride leads him to a place of separation from the Father, just as his lust led the younger son away as well. The older son’s anger kept him from joining in the celebration. His sin kept him out of the banquet.

From our perspective, it is just so clear cut, isn’t it? The younger son does not deserve such open-arms welcome back and other grandiose gestures. He deserves the destitution he got when he went and disowned his family. The older son is right! He sure should not step a foot in that party. He should not be part of such a travesty.

What does the Good Father do?

What else? There is only one thing the Finder can ever do: He leaves everything behind and goes out, seeking for what he has just lost.

In the other two stories, the shepherd and the woman both became the finder right away. Isn’t it interesting that the Father becomes the Finder only when He goes out looking for the older son? He never went looking for the “lost son.” The Father knew he had to let him go so he could hit rock bottom, open his eyes to the truth and then make the decision to come back. Here, however, the Good Father leaves his recently recovered child and the entire party behind to chase and plead with his older son.

We are His children who walk this earth broken by sin. This sin tears us apart from the Father. And it is only His love what brings us back.

As we see, the offended older son doesn’t want any part of it. He yells at his father, instead. “Look at all I’ve done for you, and this is how you repay me?” he seems to say. “Look at all the work I do at the church.” “Look at all the money I give away.” “Look at all the missions I support.” “Look at all the soup kitchens I serve.” “Look at all the ministries I’ve began.” “Look at all the time I dedicate to you.” “And this is how you repay me? By allowing my good-for-nothing-brother to keep more than his share of the inheritance, by giving him a ring, by forgiving him?”

The heart of the Father is poured out. His love for the older son is revealed in the compassion he feels at the witnessing of his hurt:

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

I think it is very intentional that Jesus left the story there. We don’t really know if the older son walked alongside his father into the celebratory feast. It’s an open-ended story from that stand point. I believe it is not relevant to Jesus’ point to know what happened. I think the message that Jesus is trying to drill in is the revelation of the heart of the Father and how there is nothing in there that isn’t love, compassion, Grace and forgiveness for each and every one of His children.

Let’s celebrate this truth and embrace the Grace that calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Friday, April 1, 2016


At the closing of each of the parables in Luke 15 we see one thing in common: Celebration!

5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Jesus makes sure He closes each story with a celebration so we remember that joy is part of Christianity…and that this joy is to be shared. There is a gathering of believers rejoicing together, celebrating the reunion that makes the family whole again!

7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

There is a big party in our heavenly homestead when a lost child returns. Can you imagine it? Just thinking about gives me goosebumps! Just thinking about the possibility of reconciliation…


Among the posts I´ve shared there are deeply personal stories from my family. Although I´m writing them from the relative safety provided by the distance those years gone by have offered, the issue is yet to be resolved. The stories still carry the sting of a recent hurt and the pain of an open wound. There has been no celebration, no big feast, no reconciliation, no family reunion.

That’s why any comparison between Jesus’ illustrations of Our Heavenly Father’s relationship with His children with our earthly family relationships is always lacking. It’s always wanting. It’s never complete. That is precisely why Jesus used examples from our messed up world and flawed relationships. Because we could relate to the great elation that imagining the possibilities in each instance would bring to our souls. That’s why He started the parables by saying: “suppose” …because we can only imagine it.

We can’t imagine God as the best humanity has to offer. The best humanity has to offer is still infinitively far too beneath God. Read Psalm 104:

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;

you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 

Read it all and breathe in His Majesty.

He is the Only One who can make the impossible, possible. That’s why the celebration of the pure joy of the ultimate reunion happens within His Court. While we toil on this hard land, we suppose and imagine and get a dim sense of the jubilation. But, although vague, our hope is not an illusion floating among the clouds. While we don’t necessarily get to fully celebrate here on this earth, we do have the certainty of victory, because our victory is not really ours. Our hope is grounded on He who makes us victors. Our Hope is our Lord Jesus the Christ! The One and Only who seeks us while we are lost. The One and Only whose sacrifice spilled out Grace, the Grace that opens the blood-stained path that leads us home.