Thursday, October 27, 2016

Love like a Hurricane

Tonight I will have the privilege to go see David Crowder live at Geneva College (one of the perks of having a husband that works in PR at this institution) and I can´t express how excited I am. I think David Crowder is a smart and talented contemporary Christian singer, song-writer…not to mention that cool beard.

At any rate, in my opinion, Crowder’s lyrics are thought-provoking and intense. For example, in one of his songs, he refers to God’s love as a “hurricane.” To some, that image is troublesome due to the image’s association with devastation and trauma. I can see that perspective. However, to me the thought of God loving us like a hurricane reflects the idea of God’s power shaking us up and destroying all the things that must be destroyed in our lives in order to take us one step closer to being holy.

I’ve never been in a full-flesh hurricane. Even though I was born and raised in a country with a Caribbean coast, Panama doesn’t get the full force of hurricanes…a huge blessing! We tend to only get the tail end of those monster storms. But let me tell you, that’s enough for me to have the utmost respect for that event of nature, and to know that only what is strongly rooted in solid ground survives it. Like palm trees, for example…O boy, I love palm trees! They weather hurricanes like nothing else…bending, but never breaking…enduring, but never uprooting…


Perhaps, that’s why I am not disturbed by the image of God’s love like a hurricane. Since I am a profoundly flawed person who walks through life accumulating unnecessary and often damaging junk, I need God’s love to be forceful. Maybe it is because my sin chokes my spirit with roots that constantly seek to wrap around my heart, mind and soul, that I particularly like the song. The idea of God’s love being so forceful that once it grabs a hold of me, it won’t let me go until I am clean and purified speaks to me and gives me hope…even if it involves destruction.

I don’t know… but I think of Jesus talking about how God prunes us like the vine so we can bear more fruit, (John 15: 2) or how He puts us through a sieve, and shakes us through that strainer until all the chaff is gone and just the grain remains (Amos 9: 8-9) and I see God’s love as a powerful force, capable of destruction for our own good…and then, the image of a hurricane doesn’t seem too farfetched.

I understand the negative connotation of a hurricane, particularly considering recent tragedies resulting from this natural phenomenon, but I also see and appreciate the association with God’s love. Sometimes all we need is the gentle breeze of His presence to encourage us to join Him along the way…oftentimes, we…OK, maybe it is just me… need the absolute strength of God’s hand falling upon me hard, to re-direct me and dust off the useless excess that threatens to suffocate and kill any hope for good fruits popping within my soul…

God’s love manifests itself in many ways. There are no limits to what God can do as there are no limits to what He can use for His purposes and for His glory…be it a whisper or a loud bang, a breeze or a hurricane. I pray I can keep my mind open to Him so I can find Him everywhere.

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me.

David Crowder - How He Loves Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Eyes on Today

I have an anxious temperament by nature. It doesn’t take much to shake me to the core. My nerves are constantly rattling like maracas in a Puerto Rican band. I have asked God to give me peace and to make me steady, to increase my faith so I can be calm in the storms of life, but I continue to be this troubled soul whose sweaty palms smear the ink with which the Lord writes His story on the pages of my life.


A few days ago, I read in my devotional a thought that made me pause. The main idea was that anxiety and fear are the product of focusing on the future. I’ve meditated on this thought before…but today it hit me in a special way. As I contemplate the fragility of life, I realize how easy it is to look at the future and fret. Especially, when we are faced with sudden loss and unexpected hardship, our sense of stability is shattered and we can’t help but to panic about what is to come. Anxiety and fear run rampant in times of trial and we find it almost impossible to control our emotions…I’m speaking from personal experience, here…

How do we ever keep our eyes from going into the murky waters of the future when the present is pointing to nothing but scary turbulence and rising tides?

Well, there is no simple solution. It takes discipline. And one thing I have discovered is that the middle of a crisis is not the time to start acquiring a spiritual discipline. That is the time to apply it. What does this all mean? It means that during times of calm we need to meditate on the truth of Christ and practice taking our thoughts captive. Yes, that is the one thing that will keep us from falling into the pit of despair…holding on tightly to our thought-life so we can pull the reigns as soon as they begin to get out of control. And a crisis does not create the right circumstances to develop this ability…

Therefore, like I mentioned above, it is during those seasons of smooth sailing when we pay attention to what God is trying to teach us. And controlling our thought-life is chief among those lessons:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4: 8

Until we learn to gain control of our thoughts and develop strategies, guided by the Holy Spirit to fill our minds with the joy of the Lord, we will continue to struggle to weather the trials, fires and storms that we face in life. Until we learn to concentrate on God’s presence in us today, we will not win the battle against the panic-inducing, constant focusing on the future, the unknowns, and the “what ifs.”

Once we/I gain the spiritual discipline of minding our/my thoughts, we/I will finally understand that…

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 
2 Corinthians 10: 3-5

May the Holy Spirit grow the fruit of self-control in us so we can exercise holy authority over our thought-life and concentrate on the peace like a river that flows from the heart of Christ.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trust over Fret. Prayer over Despair

In this times of political uncertainty during which concerned citizens of this great United States nervously skip through political ads on TV and anxiously scroll down their Facebook and other social media accounts not really knowing what to say, do, comment or think…I have made a decision:

I will choose trust over fret and prayer over despair.

Regardless of who the president is, God already knows.  God is King, forever in His Throne. Our future is in His past. He is already there, and He knows how this story ends. And it doesn’t matter if I don’t know the details of what is about to unfold for us in this country, I trust the One who designed the plans and whose will puts it in motion.

I am hanging on to His Word. And even in the midst of this storm, I will continue to praise Him and rest in the confidence of His care, under the shadow of his wings.  

As I wait, I will cling to Scripture like this...take a minute to read it.  I pray it brings you comfort:

Psalm 103New International Version (NIV)

Of David.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Alone at the Flagpole

I know that social media is full of stuff that could be categorized as junk. Many of the stories going around are intensely troublesome. Some of the debate going on is just plain scary. And often I just feel like dropping off all interaction through media. However, a few minutes ago, I read something that truly touched me. If you think about it, this story is still troublesome and scary, but it also contains hope…and not a hope that is baseless, but a hope that is deeply rooted.

The title of the post was: “The boy who stood at the flagpole alone.” It showed the picture of a teen boy, not unlike my own son, standing by the flagpole in front of his school awkwardly, like a normal teenager, arms pressed against his sides, eyes tightly shut and head slightly bowed. I took one look at that picture and I began to sob…I mean, really…I was afraid the dog was going to freak out, so I put him outside so I could continue to cry out loud to my heart’s content.

This boy, I don’t even know where he is from, and I don’t care because it really doesn’t matter…stood alone, just like the title says, at the “See You at the Pole” event which took place last week around the country. It is very sad to see that nobody else showed up to pray on that morning at his school. But it is really encouraging that he did!

As I’m currently involved in a Bible study that is asking us to look at our weaknesses and to pray for revival to begin within ourselves and our small circle of personal influence, I can’t help but to see this young man as my inspiration. He is standing within his hula-hoop-size circle of influence and doing what he is supposed to do. He is being obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to be faithful even if he has to stand alone. He is allowing God to start a revival within himself, even if nobody else is around. He is allowing himself to be available for God to use him. And when we do that, just watch…we are in for a God Show!

That’s what God wants from me…from us…from all of His children: that we are available. He wants us to have hearts that are willing to stand with Him even in the midst of awkwardness and vulnerability. He wants us to take the step of faith and be obedient even if nobody else follows us. He wants us to trust Him to use our ordinary lives to do extraordinary things.

As it happened, social media went crazy with this story in his town and he was dumbfounded by the response. May God receive the glory for this lone warrior and many other kids around the country who decided they were going to take a step of faith and stand, even if alone, to pray on that day. I wish my boys had been among them. I’m sorry to say they were not…but I will show this picture to them this afternoon and see what God may stir in their hearts, as I continue to see what God stirs in mine.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Gift of Fall

My soon-to-be-eleven-years-old son Dylan is so excited about fall. His birthday is in late October so he thinks that every leave that turns its color is a gift from God especially tailored to him. It’s so funny! Every day he’d make sure I take a good look at the trees and join him in his rejoicing for what he calls, “the season of his birth.” Little does he know that his Mom has a love-hate relationship with fall that she, herself, can’t even explain…

The way I see it, fall is truly a melancholic season. It is a season of loss and lows. For me, personally, loss seems to usually happen in the fall. I lost my Father in the fall. I lost a family relationship in the fall. I lost my identity in the fall. Job loss and health loss have also occurred in the fall. And the bummer of all losses, every year I lose summer in the fall!

I pondered all this stuff while I was on a power walk around my neighborhood this morning since it is my day off! As the thought of loss creeped into my mind during my walk, I felt a burst of sadness chocking me at the moment when I realized it will be four years this November that I lost my Dad. I was surprised by the wave of emotion at the reality of my still very fresh sadness for the loss of whom I used to consider my pillar on earth. I was embarrassed to think that someone might have been watching me out the window from any of my neighboring houses…and as I kept walking with my head down, I saw a single, small leave on the pavement. It was its bright color what caught my attention. I would have missed it otherwise. I got closer and looked at it for a while. It was truly a thing of beauty.

I kept walking and thinking: “why would God make something become so breathtakingly beautiful right about the time it is ready to die.”

A thought came rushing to my mind: “because there is beauty in loss.”

Everything He has created is good! He doesn’t make no junk! Even loss, if we look closely, brings about a renewal that can be beautiful in itself. If I look closely, after every experience of loss I have had, there has been a period of challenge, intensity and incredible growth that could not have occurred but for the loss that preceded it. I just have to tune into the Holy Spirit to see it, to accept it, to receive it and to praise Him for it.

Fall will always be a time of deep melancholic feelings for me. But, perhaps, if I hold my thoughts captive and allow the Lord to renew my mind, I could finally join Dylan in his rejoicing for the season as I learn to see that fall is indeed a great gift from God to us all.