Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Intentionally Thankful

A couple of days ago, my devotional read: “I speak to you continually: through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, scriptures. There is no limit to the variety of ways I can communicate with you.” I read these words as I was enjoying a few days at my version of Heaven on Earth: a beach front room. Not only was I in my favorite place in the world, but I was there with some of my very favorite people in the world. The words in my devotional came alive since they called me to be what I need to be more like: intentionally thankful.

Allowing my eyes to wander from the balcony of our room to the immensity of the Pacific Ocean in front of me I reminded myself of the need to be intentionally thankful for every single thing, person, moment, experience the Lord has planned for my life…and not just the good ones. The key is to be intentionally thankful for everything…in every circumstance, obeying God’s command to:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Even in the not so pleasant days…even in the not so smooth rides…even in the not so happy situations, always rejoice.

Even in the scary times…even in the times of loss…even when we feel lost, always rejoice.

Even when the earth quakes…even when the wind destroys…even when the fire burns…even when the waves engulf, always rejoice.

Practicing the discipline of being intentionally thankful for everything that comes our way will open the path to freedom from anxious thoughts and from the slavery of pessimism and panic.

The few days I spent with my family at the beach were a marvelous respite from the craziness and stress of this life. We laughed, ate, took naps, talked, and tried to enjoy every minute of it. But most of all, it was a chance for me to practice making sure I praised God for the opportunity rather than lamenting how fleeting the days were. May the Lord help us to become intentionally thankful as we walk the days of our lives, rejoicing always, and being grateful in every situation as He has commanded us to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Same but Different

Shortly after I wrote about my High School reunion, I read the following in my devotional:

“Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.

It is hard not to want to please other people. In other words, it is hard not to conform to the patterns of this world. To obey God’s Word in today’s society is to swim against the current of cultural constraints. We can no longer assume that people follow any kind of Christ-inspired consciousness because for generations, now, people have grown up without guidance on the things of the Spirit. This guidance used to be a given. Kids used to find it at school, at home, at church. It used to be part of who we were as a nation. There used to be a sense of knowledge of who Christ is. There was a sense that everyone was the same and that everyone had the same values. That sense is harder to come by nowadays…I guess we might have taken it all for granted.

Today, I wonder, was the generalized knowledge and sense of devotion experienced in the past, just empty religiosity? Was the normal inclusion of Christianity in our society only a fleeting nod without much depth? Was the Christian consciousness just one more cultural expression that lacked the fervor, passion and intensity that our Jealous God requires and commands?

After all, no amount of instruction on the things of faith would ever be enough to achieve salvation since salvation is not attainable by knowledge or by deeds. Salvation is the greatest gift of Grace given to us by the sacrifice of Christ and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit who moves us to believe and accept.

The difference between our history and our present, I think is that unlike in the recent past, today’s Christian has something at stake. The fact that in order to live as a Christian in today’s society is way harder and requires more of us than it did, say, 15 years ago, implies a higher cost that never had to be paid before. This higher cost is the fact that we have to be different from everyone else. Today’s Christian cannot be the same as those around him or her. We have to walk, behave, dress, speak, look, act and feel different. Living a life that strives to please God is in direct contradiction with what society strives for. Therefore, we will be labeled different and it will take for us to put all of our skin, flesh and soul into the game in order to win it.

So…now that I think of it…perhaps we are living more intense times now after all. Perhaps my friends were right and looking the same is not a good thing…it’s not much of a compliment. I need to be different so I can be identified as a child of God. I need to have a spiritual make-over that is evident to those around me. However, such transformation is not easy or quick. It takes intentionality, trust, obedience and time. It takes tuning into the frequency of the Holy Spirit to hear His whispering. It takes imprinting the Word into our hearts and following its teaching as a lamp into our path. It takes a willing soul that, like clay in the hands of the Master Potter, is ready to be malleable so He can do the transformation.

I pray we can all become what God intended for us to be, so that in the end we are found on the side of the Most High.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You Look the Same

Thirty years…sigh. This year I’m celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of my High School graduation and I can’t believe it. As it happens, I’m in Panama right now so I was actually able to attend the festivities that were organized to commemorate this occasion. It was wonderful to walk around our old High School and hang out with some of the people who were so very important in my life back then. It was moving to reminisce…but it was also very revealing.

In the evening, the celebration switched from an informal gathering of old friends and acquaintances to a fancy party filled with glittery lights, delicate drinks, delicious foods, loud music, professionally styled hair and makeup, high hills, tight jeans and very…how shall I put it…extremely hip blouses. When I open the doors to the party hall I thought I had stepped into the set of the Kardashians or the LA’s Young and Rich show. It was surreal and it did not fit the idea I had in my mind of what a high school reunion would look like for a crowd of people nearing their 50s…

I was not sure what to do, how to act or what to say. People kept coming up to me whose names escaped me and whose faces I did not recognize. And among half-hugs and flying kisses they all uttered a comment over and over again to me: “you look the same!” At first, I took it as a compliment. As the comment kept pouring out of the brightly colored lips of those women I went to high school with, I began to realize that given my past history of whom I was when I was in High School, the words were not meant as a compliment. They were expressions of pity, lamenting the fact that I had not evolved. I was still the same plain, simple, not-fun, boring, not-interesting, nothing much to look at old self, unable to morph into the flashy, highly stylized model-type that most other women had become.

To say that I left the party early is an understatement. I walked away from the palace-like party hall feeling not even like the ugly step-sister, but rather like the smashed pumpkin that got kicked to the side of the road by the caravan of Cinderellas on their road to the ball. I know…dramatic, huh? But it was an eye-opening experience to say the least.

From that night on, I’ve been thinking a lot about women and beauty. Since I really don’t have much of a social life, I have not really had much opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with the cult of image and the obsession with youth and beauty that exists not only in the United States but also in small countries like Panama (I mean…have you seen Panama on a map? I dare you to find it!). It is such a waste of time in my opinion, but it is a reality that has cost millions spent on therapy (physical and emotional) as well as created a culture void of warmth and real depth of soul and spirit.

If this is the situation for the almost-50, I’m not sure things may be any better for young women out there. I think this is tragic and I am saddened by the state of things in today’s world. However, I am hopeful that as society disintegrates in front of our eyes, God’s plan will prevail and people will turn their eyes toward His face. I pray that as parents, we do as much as possible to disable such trends and impart purity, modesty and the need to cultivate the Spirit in our children so the cult of the body and the superficiality of materialism end up losing ground.

Let’s hang on to God’s Word and proclaim it to those who walk in the darkness of this world, hypnotized by the deceptions of evil so we can follow the light and seek the beauty within…the only one worth striving for. Let’s hang on to the One Who ALWAYS stays the same, so we shall not be shaken or sunken in the quick sands of today’s murky societies.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3: 3-4

Monday, July 11, 2016

When I´m Afraid, I Put My Trust in You

The enemy is constantly prowling, ready to pounce and attack. He knows our weaknesses and he is always looking at the exact and perfect time to make his move. The second we lower our guard, he is there, positioned to grab a foothold. The moment we get distracted he jumps. The minute we lose sight of the truth, he covers our head with a veil of lies.

We all have buttons that the enemy knows well how and when to push. Mine all revolve around fear and anxiety. These buttons are triggered mainly by worries about my health and the health of my loved ones. Even when I don´t have anything to worry about, I worry. I can´t stand it. I have prayed for years that God will change me, that He will free me from my fearful nature. I am so ready for God to take this character flaw away from me…but it is still very much there…and I´m not sure why.

However, when I think about it, I realize that this weakness, this thorn in my flesh, is there precisely to remind me that I am not a finished work. It is what keeps me humble. It is what keeps me aware of my total dependence on His power, mercy and goodness. It is what keeps me close to Him.

When fear grabs a hold of my mind I realize I have been looking away from His face, and I am reminded of the need to turn my eyes toward Christ. When the enemy pokes me with worry, I am reminded that the Only One who can bring me peace is the One who is peace Himself. The only one who delivers me from the evil one is the One who has already defeated him and stands victorious at the right hand of the Father.

Today, as I feel the flaming arrows of the chief deceiver, I pray:

Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.

My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.

What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56: 1-4

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Discipline Your Thoughts!

Today in my devotional greeted me with this:

“Discipline your thoughts to trust Me as I work My ways in your life. Pray about everything, then leave outcomes up to me. Do not fear My will, for through it I accomplish what is best for you.”

These words could not have been more appropriate for me at this time. The whole thing about disciplining my thoughts has always been a huge struggle for me. I try to control them but they seem to always break free from my feeble attempts at reining them in. My thoughts take over and my heart begins to tremble with visions of worse-case-scenarios and nightmarish situations that entrap me into a pit of fear and hopelessness.

I know…over-dramatic…but it sure feels this way when I´m under the influence of my out-of-control mind and negativism.


I pray the Holy Spirit teaches me how to discipline my thoughts and re-direct my eyesight to the One I can Trust. I pray that the Holy Spirit would open my eyes to the truth of God´s perfect plan for my life and how I must not fear it. I pray I may soon accept the fact that the outcome is in God´s hands, therefore, I should just sit back and relax as I pray and let go.

Yesterday, Dan and I were discussing his performance in a very important phone call he had just finished, and very uncharacteristically I said: “well, if it is God´s will, we know it´s going to happen no matter what.” And he replied: “Thankfully! What a relief to know that we can´t mess it up, huh?!” As I thought more about Dan´s reply, I knew there was a message in there from God to me. He seemed to tell me…once again: “Remember that, child…the outcome is out of your hands, so don´t worry!!! In the meantime, concentrate on my words: Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3: 2)”

The good news is that even when things seem scary, out of control, insane or just plain confusing, we know who wins in the end. We know how the story ends. It doesn´t end with the things of this world going right or wrong. Life is much bigger than the tribulations of this realm…it extends beyond our physical surroundings into a place with no more tears, no more suffering and no more fear. Jesus is Victorious and so are we!

So let´s discipline them thoughts and waste not another minute paralyzed by fright. Let us enjoy the freedom that Christ brought to us through His death and resurrection and keep our eyes fixed on Him. Let´s trust that His designs for us will all fall into place as He walks with us to the place where we will finally see Him face to face.

Friday, July 1, 2016

All that My Heart Desires...

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Psalm 37: 4

This verse was in my devotional reading this morning and the meditation on it pointed out that the Lord does give us the desires of our hearts, because He IS our greatest desire. We might not even realize it, but He is what we really need and want. Therefore, when we seek Him with all our hearts, minds and souls, He reveals Himself to us…and it is precisely in that revelation where we find the fulfillment of all our desires.

Nothing else in this world, not our family, not our loved ones, not our material possessions, not our jobs, not even our dream-beach-vacations (well, this is me personally talking here) will ever be able to meet the deepest longings that dwell in our hearts. I know this is true for me. My heart is always restless and my mind is always drifting away toward something elusive that I don’t have. The thing is that I don’t even know what “it” is that I don’t have and I need. It is just a constant void…an unfillable hole that can never be completely sealed no matter how much I throw in there to try to fill it up. Actually, the more I throw in there, the bigger the hole gets. The more I have, the more I accumulate, the more dissatisfied I feel.


Could it be, perhaps, that I am trying to fill this void with a whole lot of the exact wrong things?

Well, of course!

Creation is wonderful, but nothing created could ever do the job because the job can only be accomplished by the Creator! We get glimpses of this reality once in a while, don’t we? It might be different for every person, but we all have moments, precious moments when we experience the presence of God in a vivid, intense, evident and almost tangible way. And those moments are indescribable. The joy felt at those times of real intimacy with our Lord truly prove that we need nothing else when we have Him.

For me, those moments of clear awareness of God usually happen during worship. God uses the right hymn, the right praise song at the right time to speak to me…to reveal Himself to me in the most profound of ways. The experience is fleeting, though…that’s why it is so precious, because of its brevity and sparsity.


But it is enough to remind me that there will be a day when I will be in the presence of Our Lord and nothing else would matter because He is all that my heart desires.