Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Good Bye TV

Well, after years of casually talking about it, only to always tabling the idea or flatly rejecting it, we got rid of television in our home. I can’t say that it was some higher ideal or noble cause what pushed us to make the dreaded move, though…it was a financial decision. We just couldn’t justify spending about $100.00 a month on a rather wasteful activity.

But as the kids and Dan were outside and I was left in the kitchen alone, I have to admit that it felt weird. First, I wasn’t sure what it was that made it weird…then, I realized it: it was the silence. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve experienced it, and it was just plain strange.

I have to say that even though it was mostly I who always brought up the subject of getting rid of cable/dish or whatever TV we’ve had, now that it has actually happened…I feel a little…lonely. It’s surprising how much company I got from my TV friends. I always had the TV on downstairs. Especially while in the kitchen…which is most of the day, I usually had the TV on to get my mind off the domestic chores I’m not so fond of. HGTV and Hallmark were my trademark channels in this house.

I’m embarrassed to say that I have discovered I was the person who watched the most amount of TV in our household. And I’m the person who misses it the most as well. The kids seem completely fine. Grant already didn’t watch much TV at all. Dylan watches mostly things in Netflix and so does Dan. I can’t believe I was probably the biggest consumer of TV in my little family. I don’t know how many times I caught myself thinking I was going to turn it on while I was cooking, only to remember I can’t. I’ve figured in the short 3 days we’ve lived without it, that I mostly watched TV as a noisy distraction. Now, I guess I have also discovered I don’t like the quiet too much. It makes me feel self-conscious: me and my thoughts…yikes! Scary stuff…

But guess what? God reminds me that:
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 9

Therefore, it is time for me to surrender my thought life to the Lord and seek venues to explore intimacy with Christ that is not interrupted by a mindless distraction…so, why not use those tedious chores I dislike so much to, instead of disconnecting, rather take advantage of the silence to plug back into my source of power, the presence of God in my life.

Maybe I will also finally discover that stillness is truly a gift and that my thoughts don’t need to be as scary as they’ve been so far if I become intentional about re-directing them to the higher thoughts of My Lord. Maybe now I can finally begin to redeem the use of my time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Folly of Insecurity

Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. Proverbs 14: 29

I sure am displaying a lot of folly (lack of good sense) today…another sign of my Spiritual immaturity. As I grow more and more overwhelmed at work, I’m noticing that my already short-temper is becoming shorter. Take this morning, for example, I was making pancakes for the boys and Grant spontaneously and beautifully said to me: “Mom, you’re amazing!” And what did I do? I got mad at him for saying that and told him to stop saying it…


Yeah! That’s exactly what I did!

Then, I stormed out of the kitchen and went to lie down for a while. As I thought about the incident I began to feel worse and worse. It was becoming a vicious cycle in my mind as I was getting angrier and angrier at myself for my crazy reaction to my son’s expression of love. Then, I knew I needed some sugar…so I ate something, and things became clear: I suffer from a terrible case of insecurity.

My feelings of inadequacy have convinced me that I am a terrible mother and that anyone saying otherwise is just a liar. So I talked to Grant. I explained, as best as I could and tried to make light of the whole situation. But the thing is that I truly need to have a Holy Spirit intervention in my attitude. Instead of focusing on the things of this world I need to keep my eyes on the One who makes this world spin. Instead of listening to the enemy and beating myself up because of my flaws, I need to remember that Jesus paid it all and it is finished from His perspective. He rescued me! Even though I still have to deal with my many issues while I walk on this world, I am actually free from where Jesus stands right now. My future is in His past. He can see the entire span of my life from where He sits at the right hand side of the Father, and from there, I am redeemed.

Concentrating on the truth is the only thing that will keep me from going insane. Concentrating on love will help me get rid of my fears and insecurities. Love never fails!

After all the craziness of this morning, I think Grant is fine now since a minute ago he hugged me and said: “you’re amaz…” and then he stopped himself and smiling he whispered: “sorry, I forgot, I’m not allowed to call you that.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

God's Grammar

As a Spanish teacher, I spend a significant amount of my work days thinking or dealing with grammar issues. In the particular curriculum I have to follow, students spend their very first semester of beginner Spanish in the present tense. They talk about their daily routines, their habitual activities, what they are doing, their likes and dislikes. For an entire 15 week period, students´ only concern in class is literally the here and now. I have to say that students do get a good feel for the present tense. And normally, that’s the tense they feel most comfortable with and remember the best after they have studied for a while. It’s their safe place and they never want to leave it.

It´s funny to see their reaction when they go to their second semester and have to start dealing with past tense. They go through different stages in this learning process.

First, they react in in disbelief: “What do you mean I have to use different forms of the same verb to talk about what I did last night?”

Second, they become really confused: “What is this? What??? How am I supposed to know how to say ‘I ate’ in Spanish?

Third, they want to give up in frustration: “This is impossible! Who can ever learn this stuff” (only they often insert expletives to make their language more colorful).

Fourth, they begin to accept it is a different language: “Ok…how does this work again?”

Fifth, they start using the new forms in a coherent way: “I get it. If I want to say ‘I ate a pizza last night’ I have to say ‘comí una pizza anoche’…”

The thing is that just when they think they’ve got it…I have to introduce other forms of speaking in the past, plus the future tense and a bunch of other tenses that completely throw them into a tail spin. After they are done with the third semester of beginner Spanish, they want to run so far away from the language that I never get to see them again until years later I see them at their jobs and then, they tell me how they wished they had stuck with Spanish because it would have really helped them in life…but that’s another subject…

All the stages, however, are necessary in order for them to really learn. If they don’t wrestle and reject in their confusion and frustration they never truly understand that it takes a change in their mind-set or perspective to acquire a different language.

Today, I was thinking about this process as I consider my relationship with Christ, particularly the issue of how God’s timing is not my timing neither His ways are my ways. What I realize is that God also has a different grammar. God is trying to teach me how living life from the perspective of a follower of Christ is not a static process that most certainly requires a change in of mid-set. As we mature and walk longer with Jesus in this valley of shadows and pain, we go through the different stages of learning. We think that life with Christ is going really well and feel really comfortable, then something happens that throw us off balance and we can’t believe it! “Why is this happening to me?” Then, we go through confusion: “How do I go on now?” Of course we often just want to give up: “There is NO way I can do this!” After much wrestling, we begin to accept that it is what it is: “God, you are in control. I surrender to the wisdom of Your designs.” Finally, hopefully, one day we retake the path alongside Christ stronger and more confident of His presence and guidance through the rough patches.

Another thing I realized was that there is something very different between my students and I…something I need to emulate: the fact that they understand that the present tense is a safe place and that if it were up to them, they’d never leave it. Unlike what I do in the classroom trying to help students move through all tenses to master them, God’s grammar encourages us to stay in the present tense.

He doesn’t want us to live in the past:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43: 18-19

He also warns us about not developing an obsession with the future:

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." --Proverbs 16:9


"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." --Philippians 4:6-7

The past is fixed and we can’t change it, but neither should we let it enslave us. The future is unknown, sometimes exciting but often just plain scary…so we should just trust. That’s why the best place for us to be is in today, with our eyes fixed on Christ not on the future or the past. Though He is not bound by the constraints of time He meets us in the present tense. He is the Great I AM…present…here and now…and that’s precisely where we need to stay.

Next time I witness my students’ reluctance to move onto other tenses outside the present, I will think of this reflection and hopefully use it as a reminder of where my focus needs to be.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

God Sighting

VBS has just concluded and I have to say, I think participation in this activity at our home church was truly a blessing for our family… and even though I was not involved with the event because of work…it has been a great blessing to me as well.

From Dan being able to volunteer as a station facilitator, and Grant having his first experience as a crew leader to Dylan opening his eyes to the reality of Christ in his life for, perhaps, the first time in his short 10 ½ years in this world…God was certainly on the move this past week in our lives in a palpable way. 

One of my favorite things about VBS is that the program encourages kids to pay attention and be on the lookout for what they call, "God Sightings."  These are basically moments when you stop and perceive God's presence and hand on the situation because otherwise what happened, the outcome, could not be possible in human terms. I heard quite a few of those illustrations as the kids recounted the program leaders' own, sometimes super funny and special "God Sighting" adventures.  Everyday I carved out a few minutes to listen to them re-telling the stories to me.

My favorite story is, however, the day Dylan came home super excited about one of the little papers they got. Each day they’d receive a really cute “Deep Bible Quest” card labeled “top secret” and “do not open until home.” I can’t remember what day it was, I think it was Wednesday, but as soon as Dylan entered the house he was just so talkative I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying. As he was frantically looking for something or other in the junk drawer, he kept going on and on about something at VBS while carrying in his free hand the “Deep Bible Quest” card he’s just got. Finally, he carefully opened the card and read aloud:

“For God loved Dylan so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that if Dylan believes in him, Dylan will not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s when I realized that what he had been trying to articulate and relate to me in his very particular “Dylan style” was the fact that he, for the very first time, had internalized the fact that God loves him intensely…He had had his very own "God Sighting" and so have I.  

I had been so busy this past week that it did not click at that moment, but this early morning, in the quiet of my house, as I type these precious words from John 3: 16 from the “Deep Bible Quest” with my beloved son’s name inserted in there I realize God did answer my prayer…in the busyness of my days, I had managed to pray for God to give my boys a personal encounter with Him at VBS…in my limited experience I have noticed that teens and adults of the male persuasion are not in the habit of talking much about their feelings and emotions…but praise God that Dylan still eagerly desires to share his most intimate thoughts with me so through his words I can witness God’s faithfulness to me even in the midst of my own unfaithfulness and spiritual immaturity.

At this time when I need to be most vigilant about my job and the functions I need to perform there in order to keep it, there is no reason I can’t do that without also keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Christ and on the people around me. He is the only one who can protect me from the defeating sensation that feeling overwhelmed can bring to my soul. After all, I need to remember that the day I breathe my last on this earth the only thing that will matter is what I did with Jesus and with the people he placed in my life while still breathing…may I not let the concerns of this world overpower or overshadow this truth…and the truth of God’s love for me/us…for He loved me/you Gisela so much that He sent Jesus to die for me/you Gisela so that if I/you Gisela believe in Him, we will not perish but have eternal life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It´s Out of My Hands

When thinking about concepts that do not contribute much to the wellbeing of the soul, I bet negativism and pessimism are pretty high ranked. As it is the case with many other dark tendencies and attitudes, I struggle with these conditions. In my daily walk I lean toward worse-case-scenarios when considering the outcome of a given situation. The way I see it, I don´t want to be disappointed so I adhere to the motto: expect nothing good, so when it isn´t as bad as you predicted it, you are pleasantly surprised!

Well, keeping that attitude becomes a burden that gets heavier and heavier as you continue marching along the road of life. At this point, I´m pretty crushed with it and I need to shake it off. I need my shoulders to be free from the yoke of a bad attitude and my soul to be cleansed from negativism and pessimism.

Accomplishing that means, once again, that I have to address my trust issues. I find it hard to be optimistic and hopeful about the things to come because, deeply in my heart I still believe I have to make things happen. I still believe that it is up to me to make it (whatever “it” is) work. And since I have this idea that I am responsible for the outcome of my situations, and I know VERY well I am not qualified to successfully deliver a good outcome…I dismay… I dismay because I keep forgetting that the outcome is actually out of my hands.

When confronted with a hardship, trial, fire, mountain, etc., I need to remember my limitations. I need to remember I can only take one step at a time…one day at a time…one thing at a time…one breath at a time. I do what I´m supposed to do at this very present moment and let go. One of the greatest examples of this process is parenting. For a little while, you get this precious child in your arms. For a little while you are in charge of their every move and take care of their every need. You teach and you try to mold. You love and discipline and love again, all in the hope that someday, when they are ready to leave your side, they know what to do on their own…

When the moment comes, however, we don´t want to let go. We don´t trust them to be able to figure it out without our guidance. We don´t trust God will be there with them. We don´t trust the Holy Spirit will speak and reveal Himself to them in a way that they will hear Him. We continue to think that we are responsible. We continue to think it´s up to us for their lives to turn out alright…but it´s not.

Our job is to be the best parents we could possibly be with the limitations of our all our flaws…after that…it is out of our hands. We doubt our parenting skills. We feel inadequate. Therefore, we are very pessimistic and negative about how our children will turn out to be. It´s hard for us to have hope when the outcome is based on our ability to perform perfectly. That´s why we sink in darkness…because we forget it is God who is ultimately responsible for the fulfilment of His plan and for the deliverance of His children…

Today, I pray the Lord will change my attitude, renew my hope and push pessimism and negativism out of their high ranks into the pit of fire so they disappear from my life once and for all…Today, I pray that the Lord will refresh my soul and fill it up with the living essence of hope, the true Hope we find only in Christ.  Once again I say: I chose to trust!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I have clocks all around the house. I have big clocks, medium clocks, and little clocks. I guess it’s safe to say that I´m pretty obsessed with time. It stresses me out a lot, mainly because I constantly worry about running out of it. Therefore, since I don´t like the thought of running out of time, I “multitask”. I don´t like rushing against the clock so I seek efficiency. But efficiency doesn’t always yield the expected results in my life. For instance, I don´t like feeling rushed, so I rush around to begin getting ready for a task-event-thing way ahead of time so I don´t have to rush to get it done, but then I run into the previous task-event-thing so everything collides together and I stress out because I´m running out of time and I feel rushed…

It´s exhausting…

My quiet time with the Lord has always suffered because of this time-conscious mentality. Therefore, the time I set aside for prayer is always surrounded by other things. I confess: I multitask my prayer time…yes…

Today´s devotional reading could not have been more spot-on for my circumstance. It said that I need to “wait patiently with Him while He blesses me.” What a wonderful thought! It continued, “don´t rush into My Presence with time-consciousness gnawing at your mind. I dwell in timelessness…Though you are a time-bound creature, seek to meet Me in timelessness…”

Now, here´s the trick: how do I do that?

As I am going through a period of waiting in my life when I am forced to realize that the things I’m waiting for are totally out of my hands, I wrestle against despair, anguish and anxiety. I look at the many clocks hanging all over my house and I hear the ticking away of time as if a bomb that is about to explode. I wish away days hoping for answers. I lose my temper because my hands are idle when I think they should be hard at work in trying to fix what is broken…thoughts rush through my mind as I try to figure out what to do when there is nothing I could do…except accept that it I’ve done all I can and now I just need to wait.

Then, a thought comes back to me…a familiar whisper that I’ve heard before but ignored: wait in the Lord. Use this time of waiting to go to Christ and remember that He is the Lord of all, even of time. Use this time to recall what He has said in His Word:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1: 8

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 
2 Peter 3:8

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3: 11

And that would be the blessing…intimacy with Christ while I wait.

I don’t want the clock to enslave me. I want to dwell in God’s timelessness and be renewed by the thoughts of eternity. I want to accept the fact that I do not own time and that the plan belongs to the Lord. I want to be able to say:

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me. Micah 7: 7

In His time…

Monday, June 20, 2016

As the Heavens Speak...

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19: 1-4

My devotional reading this morning directed me to this portion of Psalm 19 and it made me think of an experience I had few nights ago. It was nothing big, really…but oftentimes God speaks loud messages in a soft voice.

That night I was stressed out…not an uncommon state of being for me…I’m sorry to say…and the boys were watching a movie downstairs which I really don’t care about, so I decided it was time for me to go to my room to chill. It was shortly past nine in the evening when I went upstairs and I realized there was still light coming in the windows from outside so I didn’t turn on the lamp in my bedroom. I sat by one of my windows and I looked out…at that moment, the sight outside my window immediately transported me back over twenty years ago to a summer I spent in Clarion as a was attending the university there.

The details of that summer are very fuzzy in my mind now, but what is permanently engraved in my mind is the view I had from the room I lived in at that time. It was a room on the top floor of an all-girls dorm and it had a gorgeous view of the western mountains. That was back when I had just begun to experience the joy of the long days of summer. In Panama, regardless of the month of the year, nighttime comes down quickly and hard on us like a heavy blanket at around 6:45 so by 7pm it is pitch dark outside. So, to me, having sunlight at 9pm was and still is a marvelous perk of this neck of the woods.

The thing was that from that solitary room I discovered the beauty of sunsets. Not only the beauty of spectacular sunsets with an explosion of color…but mostly of quiet dusks in which you can distinguish a pale orange glow along the line of the horizon with shades of blue that go from light to really dark as you ascend into the eastern skies. I remember sitting by the window alone, just witnessing such a marvelous sight wishing to burn it in my retina and imprint it on the walls of my memories so the image would never fade away…for I knew someday I’d be gone from Western PA never to see such miracle again.

As life would have it, I did return to this side of the world and I have thoroughly enjoyed many spectacular sunsets…but I rarely have had time to contemplate the quiet ones…the business of life gets on the way and it is hard to spare the time that takes to sit by a window and watch the last lights of the sun shutting down as the day turns into night…

That’s why that evening was so special. While my boys were still busy watching a movie downstairs I was able to just sit…be still…and allow God to speak to me in the quiet declaration of His glory by the Heavens He has created. And for that I am most grateful. At a moment of intense stress God gave me the gift of stillness so I could once again witness the speech that the skies put forth without words just for me to hear in my heart.

That night I remembered the crucial need that I have to seek Him first and to let go of all the worries of the world because He is on His throne and He is taking care of me and my loved ones…if I only had the eyes to see it and the heart to believe it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. — Romans 8:15-16

Today is Father´s Day…a day to rejoice and celebrate heroes. That is precisely what Dads are: heroes. In this society where about half of children grow up without a father…men who purposely resolve to BE a Daddy, a Dad, a Father should be commended, supported and encouraged profusely. And I congratulate them and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them every step of the way. I pray they will become mentors to other men. I pray they will become intentional about following the Way, the Truth and the Life. I pray they can share their testimony to strengthen others who walk alongside their road. I pray there would be more.

I also pray that all children would honor their Fathers as we have been commanded (of course Mothers too, but today I would like to focus on Fathers, right?). It is not easy, but it is necessary. I pray that children who have their Dads with them would delight on his presence for they have received a valuable gift…priceless…unique.

Today I especially pray for the countless children of all ages who do not have their earthly fathers’ presence. The void that a father leaves when he is not there is like no other. There are different ways to lose a father, but his absence feels all the same. Although he wasn’t perfect, I did grow up with the greatest of Fathers, so my sense of loss doesn’t come from abandonment, but from his departure from this world. However, not having my Dad here on earth anymore makes me feel like an orphan.

I remember vividly when I got the call 4 years ago that he was gone. It was as if all of the sudden the floor had been removed from underneath my feet and I was in a perpetual fall into this bottomless pit of darkness and loneliness. Now, looking back, I realize that’s exactly how people who have been abandoned by their fathers feel all along. Every day, since the day their fathers leave them behind the falling begins.  The vertigo never truly ends and the balance is never truly recovered until that father comes back into their lives. The tragic thing is that many never do.

How does one ever regain the stability stolen from a child whose father walked away from him or her?

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 
 Psalm 27: 10

I know it may sound simplistic, but it is the only way. God the Father is the Only One who can fill any voids in our hearts, even the one left by an earthly father who has forsaken us. Once we surrender to Him and accept the fact that our needs, longings and deepest desires can only be fully met by Him we will begin to see the silhouette of the promised river of peace in the horizon. Once we resolve to follow Him and believe His Word, we will be able to jump in that river and give our hearts a rest.

We are NOT orphans! Our Abba, Our true Daddy loves us since before He created the world. No one can take that away from us. And though the road is hard and the feeling of abandonment is impossible to bear, we are not alone. Our Heavenly Father gives us His presence and the presence of those whom he places around us in order to give us a hand and help us carry the burden.

I pray that today all the fatherless will find hope and leave behind the despair because,

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Therefore, let us:

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27: 13-14

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The counter-productive inner-bickering within the body in the post-Christian era.

Some have stated that we live in a post-Christian era in the United States. Others say that Christians are rapidly becoming a minority in this country. The way we see Christian values being undermined in every aspect of our pop culture leads me to believe that those observations are correct. This reality causes great anxiety within the body of Christ. We find it hard not to become discouraged as we try to live out our faith. We sense a big battle approaching, but we can’t help to feel defeated before we have even begun the fight.

I’m not equating the situation in the United States with what the persecuted church goes through in places where being a Christian is a death sentence. But I think that the shifting winds and the cloud formations on the horizon announce that there is a great storm coming to these shores. And as a church we need to realize that the best way to weather it is to stand together, in the unity of one body.

Paul told us in Ephesians chapter 4 that one of the steps toward spiritual maturity is to maintain the unity within the church:

3. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (v.3) Remember we are one: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism. (v. 4-5)

The spiritually mature church and individual know that the focus should be on the similarities between the different parts that compose the body, not on the differences. We realize how the diversity brings about richness as the core truth binds us together under the roof of Grace and the blanket of Love, which covers a multitude of sins. (1Peter 4: 8)

It is difficult enough to have the rest of society trying to tear us apart. Let’s not empower those who hate us and want to destroy us by helping them destroy us from within.

I know it’s hard to get along. Trust me, I know! I’m not the most forgiving person you would ever meet. I’m very selfish. My ability to extend grace to others ends right before it involves me having to give up an inch of my own rights or an item of my full agenda. The good news is that it is not my grace what sustains me. It is God’s Grace! Our job is to surrender to Him and to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us and teach us how to be one body, united through the bond of peace among us in love.

So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12: 5

As we surrender to Him, I believe our ability to be humble and merciful increases. I believe also that there is a reason one of the steps to Spiritual maturity found in Ephesians 4 calls us to: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (v.2) We need these qualities in order to remain together. Anyone who has ever had to share their life with another knows how hard it is when you throw a couple of people (or more) under one roof for an extended period of time: chaos! It happens at work, at home, at school, at playgrounds, at grocery stores…even in the highway (which means that they don’t even have to be under a roof).

The only way to stop the inevitable bickering, inner fighting and power struggles that occur among those who have to co-exist in close proximity is by realizing that it is not a big deal. What I mean is: we are not all that important! If you think about it, the reason we are not humble is deeply rooted in a sub-conscious and sometimes not so sub-conscious idea that we are important. I know…I’m speaking from experience here. The only reason I get offended when someone says something careless is because I take myself too seriously. The only reason I get angry when someone doesn’t do or act the way I want them to is because I think I’m in control. The only reason I think I’m in control is because I think I know better. The only reason I think I know better is because I think I’m smarter than everyone else around me. And because I think all that, I think I’m so very important. Hence, I’m not completely humble. Without a well-developed sense of humility, I cannot be gentle…and forget about patient!

The main reason I am not patient is because I think I’m first…which stems from my lack of humility…which reveals the source of my problem: pride.

It’s a big cycle of sin with pride/self at the head.

The only way to break this cycle of sin is to place Christ as the Head!

It’s a long process, but the only one that will help us achieve unity…the process of toppling all other gods and accepting that Jesus is the Head of the Body…the One and Only Lord. As we allow Him to ascend to His righteous place, the differences would begin to fade away and the church will finally present a united front, dressed in the Armor of God, ready to fight the strange battle that’s ahead.

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. Ephesians 6: 12

Therefore, let’s not give the enemy fresh ammunition to continue his efforts to try to destroy us. Let’s resist the temptation to publicly degrade, insult, harshly criticize or put down the body. Let’s not allow our disagreements to irrevocably split us apart. Instead, let’s stand together behind the shield of Faith, guided by the Head of our Army: Jesus our Lord!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder

In this era of tragedy upon tragedy, violence upon violence, aggression upon aggression, in which the days that surround us are delivered to us covered in blood, fear, anger, injustice and all the depressing conditions that bring desolation, what is there for us to hang on to?

The One and Only…just like all throughout the ages…the Only Rock…just like at every disturbing moment in the history of the world…the One True and Mighty Fortress: Our Almighty God – El Shaddai. He is the Only One who can sustain us and give us the endurance to withhold the tempests of the times. Regardless of how much the world shakes and quakes, He is the Only One who does not move.

I’m afraid of what these days of desolation may bring…but I know that My Redeemer Lives! He still sits on the Throne. He is still in control. And even though the plans for the coming days may be scary from our human perspective…even though kingdoms may fall and nations may go in uproar…even though the earth may give way and the mountains may tumble into the sea…even though the waters may roar and the oceans may rise threatening to drown us…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. I cling to Him unashamed.

My hope for surviving the times resides in the One who is Hope Himself. No matter how much the enemy tries to crush us…there will always be a remnant. May we be counted among its roll.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Time and Money

Last Sunday at our home church, our Pastor talked about the crucial subject of the Lordship of Christ in our lives. Of course He is Our Lord. Of course He is MY Lord. I proclaim it day in and day out. I say it. I believe it. However, do my actions reveal it? Does the way I lead my life show that Jesus is Lord?

Pastor Doug told us one way we can detect the level of our commitment to the Lordship of Christ in our lives is to take a look at our checking account disbursements and at our calendar.

The way we allocate money and time are good indicators of who really is Lord over us.

WOW! That was convicting!

I have not dared looking into either of those yet…but I can tell that the stuff in both of those documents won’t scream Jesus is Lord…I am very jealous of my time. I spend too much of it doing the things I want. I don’t like interruptions. I don’t like changes in my plans. I make excuses. I hide. I hoard my time. And my money…well…let’s just say I’m pretty tight with it too. I’m just so attached to the things of this world I’m afraid Jesus is not comfortably sitting on His throne within my heart and my soul.

But rather than guilt, I choose trust. I choose not to be pierced by the arrows of the enemy who wants to extinguish the flame of victory that Jesus has lit in my life. I choose to trust His love, mercy and guiding hand which leads me back to His side when I´ve wandered off.  I choose to believe that He will help me be more intentional about making Him Lord over my time, money, loved ones, life.  I choose to believe in His Grace and I choose to rejoice in the truth that GRACE covers a multitude of sins. It is by what He did and continues to do that I am forgiven. Not by what I do (Praised be His Name!) And although sometimes I feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 38:4,

My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear…
I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin. (18)

I pray,

Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior. (21-22)

And I trust that He will. His Grace is sufficient. It cleanses the heart and soul of the truly repentant…it makes all things new…even me.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Pray before I Yell...

This past week I went to a women’s event called “Summer in the Psalms.” This is a delightfully casual gathering of women of all ages to take an in-depth look at a specific Psalm. Each time we meet we study a different one, and this week’s was Psalm 46…one of my favorite since it contains verse 10, which is the verse that has been sustaining me over the last few years in any way imaginable:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

As part of the study the facilitator asked us to do several very helpful exercises to really dig deeply into the Psalm. The closing exercise was different, however, since it was an application: we had to think of something very specific that this Psalm would inspire us to do in the coming days to help us deal with any particular struggle we are facing at this time.

Well, of course in my mind, the most difficult part about completing that task was to pick one, and only one thing I’m struggling with at this time…but God is Faithful and He directed me to something unexpected.

Like I mentioned earlier, one of my life-sustaining verses is in this Psalm and when I realized the study was going to be on 46 I was thrilled because I thought verse 10 was going to be speaking volumes to me again. As usual, I thought verse 10 was going to prompt me to speak and meditate on how it has helped me deal with thyroid cancer, whole body scans, waiting room anxiety and things related to that experience. Much to my surprise, however, God had a different plan…which should not surprise me in the least…one thing He is not is predictable…

Anyway, He gave me a fresh angle. He showed me a new insight I had never contemplated before. He guided my eyes to the first part of verse 9:

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.

When it came time for me to share my application, I said something like: “the same way He calms all wars to the ends of the earth, He calms the wars raging inside of me too. My inner struggles and the wars that wage in my mind cause me to react in a way that is often too aggressive mainly against my children, especially Dylan. So I ask God to lead me to pray before I yell. That when I feel the fury begin to bubble and rise within me, I may be able to stop, say a quick prayer and not yell, but talk.”

I praise God for giving me that moment of humility. As I try to be intentional about walking the road to spiritual maturity, I am growing more and more aware of how my extra heightened and exaggerated sense of self-worth interferes and hinders my ability to be humble. It makes me over protective of my time, my dreams, my goals, my agenda and in the meantime, it makes me trample over those I love the most while in pursuit of the fulfilment of my own needs and wants…emphasis on MY.

God in His loving care and desire for me to shed my infant clothes and step into big girl pants points out the truth: Life is not about me. It is first and fore most about Him. And it is also about those He has placed in my life to love as He loves them. The battles that rage inside of my soul are the direct result of that struggle to topple the idol I have entrenched in the seat that belongs only to God… but consequently, that is precisely the war that will finally overthrow the usurper: myself. And it won’t be over until Only God is back on His throne.

It is only then when I will finally be still and stop anger cause me to react aggressively, annoyed or impatiently when others need me to share my time, talents, gifts and life with them. It is only then that I could find peace. In the meantime, prayer will guide me through and hopefully pull the break before I yell.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Lord of All

Sometimes you have to tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to just sit down and shut up. TobyMac#SpeakLife

Well, I go this message on Facebook a while ago and I really liked it…it’s a bit irreverent, but SO right on! I tell you, that “negative committee” not only meets inside my head…it seems to reside in there permanently.

As I have shared multiple times before, I have a tendency to over-worry, to see the empty side of the glass and to fixate on the negative odds in every situation. I’m not proud of it and I pray the Lord helps me overcome these harmful tendencies. I know one day He will free me from all that bondage, because it is for freedom that He has set me free. As He guides me to freedom road, Christ is teaching me to pray for wisdom and discernment in order to pay attention to everything that happens to me. This way, I can see the message in it and try to extract the lesson in all circumstances…so I can move on rather than become stuck in the muck of negativity and fear.

Well…such has been the case lately in my life. As it happens, I applied for a promotion at work back in October. The odds were completely against me since one of my colleagues also applied and she is absolutely deserving of the promotion…way more than me… She applied for a different and higher rank than mine, but again, her portfolio is just so entirely astonishing that from where I stood, I didn’t have a chance. Actually, there were several times, while preparing the almost 15 pound-binders x 3 I had to turn in to the review committees (3 different committees, they each got a binder) I was tempted to give up and not bother with the application. There was one instance, at the very end when I actually got so upset that I told the chair of one of the committees that I was not going to apply. She yelled at me and told me to shape up…so I did, and I turned in the packets.

Anyway…the months went by and one day I overheard the Dean of our Department say to my extremely, super qualified colleague that her promotion was basically in the bag…I felt happy for her…but that was kind of confirmation that I didn’t have a chance. I had a feeling, though not confirmed by anything I had read or seen anywhere, that the committees would not approve two faculty members to be promoted in the same semester…so I kind of lost hope…

However, I kept praying. The Holy Spirit moved me to keep lifting up this promotion in prayer daily…and every time I prayed for it, all I said was something like: “Lord, I give you all the details of this promotion. I give it all to You. You are the One who decides, not the committees…You are the One who knows…” So every day, from October to May I prayed.

One day, I can’t remember when it was. I think it was toward the end of April, I came in to work and I saw my colleague, the one with the extra heavy promotion binders, crying in the doorway of our Department’s Office… “I’m not getting the promotion,” she said. I was dumbfounded! “What happened?” I asked quietly. “A technicality, a form with the wrong heading … one piece of paper, and they won’t even let me change it…” I felt so bad for her…I did! “You have to appeal! It’s not fair!” I commented, totally irritated by the ridiculousness of the whole thing. But no matter what she did, the committees did not allow the change and she was irrevocably disqualified to apply for promotion this year. She would have to turn in the three binders next year again.

A few weeks went by. I got busy with the end-of-the-semester preparations, so I stopped thinking about the promotion. The first week of May went by. We celebrated Grant’s fourteen birthday and then boom! There was a crack on the floor. Dan lost his job…

Although it was not completely surprising, it was utterly shocking. We began to make cuts to our budget as I wrapped up the semester and praised God for the summer class I would teach since that represented extra money. I also praised God for the way Dan manages our finances, which allows us to be debt free. I also praised God for the fact that Dan was finally free from a job that was toxic for him. I also praised God for the fact that losing this job has opened a door to a new adventure which may allow Dan to pursue what I’ve always believed is his true calling: teaching. But I can’t deny I also panicked.

A couple of weeks later we found out that unemployment benefits were denied. I was counting on that…

I kept praying for God to open and close all the necessary doors for Dan to find the path that will lead him to His will. The phone has remained silent. No job interviews… only a bunch of doors closing up on the one side, while on the other, the door to a graduate program seems to open wider and wider every day. I praise God for what appears to be a straight path. However, I can’t deny I’m still very nervous about finances. In the meantime, the sale of a piece of land I inherited from my Dad became final, providing the necessary funds for Dan to be able to go back to school without having to get into debt. Praise the Lord! But I can’t deny, I still fear.

The semester is over. I turned in my grades and shifted gears to get ready for the summer class I’m teaching. One afternoon I got home as Dan was sorting through the mail. In the pile there was a letter from the university. As usual, I immediately panicked. I grabbed the envelop in my hands and returned it to Dan unopened, thinking: I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, it can’t be good. Dan opened it and began to read it. The letter was WAY too short, not a good sign:

“I have reviewed the information regarding your request for promotion and have received the recommendations of the appropriate persons. As the President’s designee, I am pleased to inform you that I have approved your promotion in rank from Assistant Professor to Associate professor effective at the beginning of the next academic year.

I offer my personal congratulations.”

We have just found out that according to the bylaws, only one faculty member per department can be promoted in any given year.

As the Lord of all committees in the world has spoken…the negative committee that lives in my head finally sits down in silence.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Journey Out of Spiritual Puberty – Principle 2

My two year old, Dylan does not like to accept recommendations really well. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t like to listen really well at all. He mostly just wants to do what he wants when he wants to and he resents it when someone gets in his way. It is no wonder then that he finds himself at odds with authority (us) quite often. The thing is that I do not like it when people under my authority (Dylan) don’t listen to what I say. Therefore, Dylan and I clash a lot…to say the least. It is more like a constant match between two unruly, out-of-control, hot-headed adolescents, never mind the fact that neither of us is actually an adolescent.

At least, Dylan has an excuse: he is 10-years-old. My excuse? I’ve got none.

When I look at the second principle Paul directs us to in our quest for Spiritual maturity as presented in Ephesians chapter 4…I feel utterly ashamed:

2. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (v.2)

This is a command. And I am not following it. Completely humble AND gentle? I am neither. Patient…other than at a doctor’s office or a hospital, I’ve never really been called that. And of course, as a consequence of lacking the first set of requirements, I don’t do the “bearing” thing in love very well either…or perhaps it is because of my inability of lovingly bearing things that I don’t do the first few either? I don’t know…the thing is, how…

How to be humble, gentle, PATIENT and loving?

Have you ever tried on your own? If I could figure out a formula to be any of these I would write the most successful self-help book ever and become instantly rich! But I can’t, because I don’t know how? I don’t know it is humanly possible to become any of these things on our own.

We live in a fallen world and our will is corrupted by that same fallenness. If we could “be good” by our own efforts…why would we need a Savior?

It is His work in us. It is His plowing and watering and nurturing the arid soil of our soul what will grow His fruits in our lives. Our job is to recognize that it is not of our doing. That, I believe, is the secret of humility: to know, beyond a doubt that it is solely by His hand, by His word, by His blood, by His forgiveness, by His presence and by His LOVE for me, for my mind, body and spirit that I can be worthy of being called His own. My act of humility is to search for Him in everything that happens to me and recognize that I am “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2: 10)

I was created by Him, redeemed by Him and prepared by Him to do His work that He has assigned for me…so I cannot boast.

That’s all I need to know and accept today. There will be a day when the rest will be revealed and I will understand the reasons for the struggles I had to endure while in this life. And this goes for me as well as for my son, some day we will both grow up and figure it out. Meanwhile, like the song by Hawk Nelson, Diamonds says: “He is making diamonds out of dust. He is making diamonds out of us.”