Thursday, May 25, 2017

En los Portales del Cielo



Hace un par de días recibí un mensaje desde Panamá que me informaba del fallecimiento de un tío muy querido para mí…mi Tío Rafa. Él era uno de los hermanos de mi madre. Ella era una entre diez hermanos y hermanas. Ya solamente quedan cinco. Tío Rafa, sin embargo, tiene un lugar muy especial en mi corazón y siempre lo tendrá.

La razón principal es porque Tío Rafa fue un amigo fiel de mi padre, desde siempre, hasta el final. A diferencia de mi madre, mi padre solamente tenía un hermano y este hermano vivió siempre en su pueblo de origen. No se veían mucho y murió antes que mi papá. Al casarse con mi madre, papá adoptó a nuestro pueblo como el suyo y hasta llegó a ser hijo meritorio reconocido. Mudarse a nuestro pueblo lo obligó a también adoptar a la familia de mi madre como si fuera suya. Y así fue, de corazón. Mi Tío Rafa, fue un verdadero hermano para mi padre.

En las buenas y en las malas, mi tío Rafa siempre estuvo allí para mi papá. Hombre de pocas palabras, Tío Rafa visitaba nuestra casa a menudo. Él llegaba siempre después de la cena, en su pick up. Desde niña fui testigo de incontables repeticiones de la misma escena. Al escuchar el sonido del “picupsito” de Rafa, a mi papá se le dibujaba una gran sonrisa en la cara y se levantaba inmediatamente de donde estuviera para abrirle la puerta a su gran amigo. Juntos se sentaban en el portal del frente de mi casa donde había un juego de muebles de patio que se mecían. Tío Rafa se sentaba en una silla y mi papá en otra y allí, en la tranquilidad de la tarde, conversaban de los aconteceres de la vida. Mi mamá formó parte de ese ritual hasta que falleció. Por los doce años que pasaron después de la muerte de mi madre, y hasta la partida de mi padre, mi Tío Rafa fue un constante compañero en el portal de nuestra casa…dos siluetas maduras, con palabras serenas, en el atardecer de sus anos, contemplando melancólicamente hacia dónde se les escapaba la vida.

Sin interrumpir, yo era testigo de esos momentos cuando silenciosamente pasaba por la sala para encender la luz una vez que caía la noche. Casi instintivamente, siempre supe que lo que veía a través de las ventanas, en el portal de mi casa, ilustraba fraternidad.

Ahora, casi cinco años después de haberse ido mi padre, mi tío Rafa se le une en el cielo. Los que quedamos aún rezagados en nuestro camino terrenal sentimos un agudo punzado en el corazón al darnos cuenta que tan querida figura no nos acompañará más de este lado de la eternidad, pero al mismo tiempo nos regocijamos al estar seguros de que una gloriosa reunión familiar se lleva a cabo en estos instantes en los portales del cielo.




Distractions Part 2



Back to the topic of distractions and how that was the key thing that Jesus pointed out about Martha when she asked Him to rebuke her sister…I tend to think that when we… or at least I… get caught up in the distractions of life is because I am having trust-issues. In other words, I think that distractions signal lack of trust.

I mean, Martha was in the presence of the One who had fed 5000 people with a few fish and bread! Couldn’t she just relax, and trust that He would take care of a dinner party?

I know…it might sound simplistic, but I think there is something here. In my personal case, for example, every time I have a gathering here at the house I go full-Martha…including the whining about nobody else doing anything: “Woe is me…I do all the work and you guys just sit around playing your videogames…boo hoo.” I fret and I labor until I am so exhausted that when the guests arrive I am spent. I have a hard time enjoying the party because I have no energy left. And, then, inevitably, everybody brings so much food, that whatever I made doesn’t get eaten… sigh…

What a waste of effort. What a way to misplace my priorities. What a missed opportunity to be still and enjoy the company of my loved ones to the fullest…

I think that if I don’t hold the reigns tightly wrapped around my fingers, they will slip and the whole wagon would go down a cliff. The truth I keep forgetting is that I am just a passenger! I’m not driving anything other than those around me insane! All my efforts and laboring are in vain most of the time. In the end, I see my hands are full of cuts, my back hurts, my legs are swollen and, the funny thing is that at the end of the day, I end up where I should have started, laying on the couch with my feet up…but instead of feeling drained…feeling relaxed, waiting for my guests to arrive!

I have to give up the idea of control or I will spend the rest of my life miserable and missing the point.



I pray that I can have an attitude of trust in everything I do, so the panicky anxiety that surfaces when I think I have to do it all, subsides and I let the true Driver … drive. Maybe that way I could finally just chill by His side and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eyes on Him!



As we hear about yet, another attack in which many people die and many more are wounded, the majority of which are probably in their teen years, we wake up and wonder where God is in all of these? Often, I feel despair and I tremble at the thought of the world my sons will inherit. I look at my students in college, their attitudes, their unreliability, their lack of basic morality, their inability to articulate coherent thoughts, their spiritual voids, and my heart sinks.

Where is God?

This world, our society, our families, our marriages, our souls are corrupted. It feels as if darkness is winning and the Light is about to be extinguished.

It is in moments like these, when the follower of Jesus feels discouraged, that we need to realize that the reason we feel this way is because we have turned our eyes away from our Leader. Like Peter, just when he began to take his first steps on the water, he began to sink because he took his eyes away from Jesus and focused on the waves and the winds…we too allow hopelessness to penetrate when we get distracted by the fallen state of the world around us, and forget to concentrate on the One Who is Always in Control!

The sentences of wisdom I received today from my devotional called me to “approach each new day with a desire to find Christ.” That should be our goal: to keep the desire to find Him as the leading principle of our days. As we seek Him, we will find Him even in calamity and disaster. As we seek Him, we will realize that He “has not abandoned this sin-wracked world” because He is still on His throne!

I lift up my eyes to You, Lord Jesus. May your presence richly bless us today. By making Yourself known as we walk through this valley of the shadows of death, allow us to fear no evil, for you are with us…every step of the way.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Martha-Life/Messy-Life



Back to the topic of my Martha-life, I read this this morning in one of my devotionals:

“when things don’t go as you would like, accept the situation immediately. If you indulge in feelings of regret, they can easily spill over the line into resentment. Remember that I am sovereign over your circumstances and humble yourself under My mighty hand.”

Those sentences really spoke to me. As I have mentioned in more than one occasion, I’m a person who likes things to go as planned…so when they don’t…well…I get…how shall I put it politely…a bit out of sorts.

I come home from work having a mental plan of all the things I have to accomplish, but the second I open the door, I see dog-puke on the rug. By the time I get done taking care of our furry friend, Grant walks in the door back from school, and after hearing some of his stories, I remember I haven’t checked his grades in a while. I get into the electronic site where I can do that and…O NO!!!! He’s got a D in Math and I didn’t know about it! We are not done with the lengthy discussion that follows, when Dylan walks in the door back from school too. He’s got a ton of papers I need to review and sign. The battle of the wills between Dylan and I begin shortly after that to see who wins this round of video-game playing v. go do your homework already! Dinner! I have not gotten dinner ready! Open the fridge to see what’s in there that takes less than ½ hour to look like homemade… “What’s that smell?” Dylan says, “chicken!” I reply. “Can I have Subway tonight?” Grant asks. “Not today, sorry.” “Daddy’s home!” “Darn it! Dinner is not ready!” “Hi Babe, how was your day?” “Let me tell you…” “Has anybody fed the dog?” “There isn’t any dog food!” “Scraps tonight…sorry…someone take the dog out…by the way, he puked today…I wonder why?”

Everybody is finally asleep…what was it I had to do? I don’t know…I’ll do it tomorrow…I gotta go to bed.

The frustration and the stress of things accumulated cause me to get undone… cause me to reach that moment when the plans I have in my head violently collide with the reality of my life…then…sparks fly…and not the good kind…from the small to the big, every time that I have to change course, my brain goes into some kind of short circuit. It’s like, say, when a serious thunder storm passes by and lightening makes the lights go off. Then, you have to go down to the basement to flip some brackets on and off a few times in order for the lights to come back on again… like that… It is not pretty. Those who have the privilege to witness one of those episodes don’t like it one bit. Those few seconds of darkness are terrifying for anyone around me.

…sigh…

“I’m sorry…” It’s all that I have left to say afterwards. Then, regret and upon occasions, even resentment settle into my spirit, wrapping it into a heavy blanket of dreariness …

Today, as I stand in the midst of the messy life I lead, I choose to pray and to trust in Him. I pray that the Lord would help me find a venue to vent my frustrations in a healthy way. Today, I trust and I place all my plans into His hands…in humility. Please Lord, let me abandon the pride behind my plans and priorities. May your guiding Hand teach me to be humble and submit all of me to You…In Christ’s Name…Amen!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Distractions

One of the issues with Martha, as we recall, is the fact that she was distracted.  Yeah...distraction is an important characteristic of the Martha-lifestyle.

I am a multitasker.  I like to do more than one thing at a time, possible 3 or 4.  Last night, I decided to iron all 85 dress shirts that were hanging in the laundry room for the last month and a half...or maybe it was 25 shirts...I don't know.  I strongly dislike ironing, so 1 is 1 too many for me.  In order to be able to remain sane while ironing, I played a kid-friendly movie on the TV so Dylan could watch while attacked the task.  Then, I made sure I filled my mind with thoughts of how to organize lesson plans and activities for a Spanish Summer Camp I was asked to teach in June...whose great idea was to accept that request?  I'm still looking for the culprit...

The thing is that I am NOT creative, so as I trudged along with the ironing, my head was busy thinking of ways to use play dough, glue sticks, construction paper, crayons, and other stuff...except for glitter.  No matter what anybody says, I will not use glitter!... to teach some Spanish... Every time I hit a breakthrough idea, like a pretend market center activity, Dylan would call out to me to watch something funny in the movie, or to ask me a question, or to tell me a story of something that happened at school and he just remembered or even to tell me to come and sit with him to watch.  I mean, in the attention-seeking-scale, Dylan scores REALLY high.  He would see nothing wrong with chaining me to his wrist so I could be there for him every second of the day.

I was so frustrated!  He kept interrupting me!  I couldn't concentrate on my ideas.  He kept distracting me!

...cue crickets...

...sigh...

At that moment, Martha's story made me realize that perhaps, I got this whole thing wrong.  Dylan wasn't distracting me.  I was distracted by the myriad of unimportant things bouncing in my head.

Like I heard Dr. Tony Evans say about Martha: "it's not that she didn't need to worry about feeding Jesus and the other guests.  It's that she didn't realize that a casserole would do just fine!"

My job as a Spanish teacher is not the most important role in my life.  Being a wife and a mother are my real jobs.  I know that I need to be the best I can at work...but, not at the expense of my real priorities.  I need to learn to make a good casserole for work, so I can prepare the five-course meal for those God has placed in my life to care for.  If I don't, I will forever regret it.

I know I have just precious little time left with my soon-to-be twelve year-old boy wanting me to hang out with him, to tell me his stories and thirsting for my attention.  Soon, he won't care anymore...and it will be too late for me to change things around.

...sigh...

I pray Jesus helps me re-prioritize my duties to achieve the right balance in my life.  Thanks to Martha's example, I think I might be on the right track.

Friday, May 19, 2017

My Martha Life

I've been thinking about all these messages the Lord is sending me about letting go and surrendering, as well as all the meditations I've done on the passages pertaining to Martha and Mary, and I have come to the conclusion that the topic is not exhausted yet.  Therefore, I've decided that I would like to continue exploring it for a bit longer.  I think I'd like to dedicate a few more posts to the look I am taking at my own life as a Martha...

As a Martha, I like to plan.  I like to know that things are going to get done as I have arranged them in my mind.  As a Martha, I also dislike it when the characters (the many "Marys") in my play/plan don't do what I assigned them to do...

In other words, I am a control-freak, frazzled, bossy, rigid, inflexible person who has a hard time surrendering to God's plans and finding peace in the midst of life's chaos.

I'm an action-driven woman, who is desperately seeking to slow-down enough to hear and discern the ways in which the Lord is leading me into a place of contentment and stillness.

Like, for instance, right now: I am teaching an online course that is only 2 1/2 weeks long.  I have done almost all the work of uploading, arranging and organizing the material that the students need in order to get through the lessons and perform well in this class.  Due to the online nature of the course, students are 99% responsible for the learning.  There isn't much I can do to guide them unless they reach out to me and ask me questions, which usually doesn't happen much online...that is precisely why they chose to take the class in this format, so they didn't have to interact much and could do the work at their own pace, independently.   So...what am I doing?  Relaxing? Yeah, right... I am sitting here, worrying that I'm not doing enough!

I can't chill!  It is so out of character for me to be in this passive role of facilitator.  I'm comfortable being in charge of a class, telling everybody what to do and how to do it, driving the learning process with a very short leash ... control-freak-alert ... that now, I don't know what to do with myself!  I keep sending my students e-mails at a rate I know they can't keep up with.  I keep posting things on our classroom page, that I know they are not reading.  I keep finding ways to have a more involved role in this class than an online format is suited for... I am worried I will drive students, who took this course online to have more control themselves, away and end up with an empty virtual classroom.

I have issues...sigh...

Anyway...the good news is that in all her neediness (I have a theory that all these control issues stem from deeply rooted insecurities and an insatiable need for approval) there was someone Martha could never drive away:  Jesus!

Just like He did with her, Jesus speaks to me at a level that I understand (if I can be still for a second!).  He knows how to reach me.  He knows I do, like Martha, love Him with all my heart.

And as He did with Martha, I pray and I trust that Jesus will allow me also to receive His revelation as I come to Him just as I am.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Abeyance

Well, I was talking about how there has been a recurring theme going on in the messages I've been getting from the Lord.  Lately, I've been hearing a lot about how I need to surrender to Him...funny...2017 is the year that I chose the word "surrender" as my guiding word...hmmm...

The messages have all been about surrendering my plans...not an easy thing to let go of.

I don't know about you, but I like to keep a tight reign on my plans.  I like my plans.  They make sense to me.  I want them to go...well...as planned.  I don't like deviations.  I don't like changing them. I like everything to go just the way I...well...planned it.  The Lord doesn't operate like that, though.  He has His own plans.  And the thing is that, more often than not, His plans...well...are not my plans.

Today's reading, of course, went according to plan, and spoke to me about my plans.  It said: "Come to Me with your plans held in abeyance."

...hmmm...

I had to stop right there.  You know why?  Well, because I didn't know what the word "abeyance" meant.

So, I looked it up.  The dictionary said that abeyance means kind of like a temporary state of suspension...of dormancy...of uncertainty...

After I found out the meaning, I decided I did not like the word "abeyance."  I don't want to hold my plans in a state of suspension or dormancy.  And I particularly did not like the idea of holding them in a state of uncertainty!  No way!  That is exactly why I make plans.  So I know what's going to happen and I don't have to have any uncertainty!!

Well...God has other plans.  He wants me to subordinate my ideas: plans, to His Master Plan.  He wants me to accept the fact that He is Sovereign over every aspect of my life.  He wants me to trust Him.

...sigh...

Then, I looked at the definition again, and realized that there is a qualifier in there.  The word "temporary" is tucked in there behind all those other scary words.  When I saw that word, I began to feel more comfortable.  Maybe God only wants me to suspend my plans for a little bit...hmm...

I don't really know the Mind of God.  It is unsearchable, indeed!  But what I do know is that I need His help to create in me a new heart....a heart of flesh that would submit to His will in peace, without fear, trusting that His ways truly ARE higher than my own lowly, pathetic ways and that His plan contains the best for me, because He loves me and He knows best...even if I don't understand it...even if I don't want to let go.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Tyranny of the To-Do List

The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about my priorities.  I know, that statement might sound far-fetched.  I don't really hear, like audibly...you know...like I hear people, for instance, Dylan...boy, I wish I could hear God's voice the way I hear Dylan's!!!  There would be NO doubt...I would have NO problem understanding what He wants from me... I don't even know where I'm going with this...

The point is:  the message of how messed up my priorities really are has been in the air lately.  And I take it as a message from my Heavenly Father.  Almost every reading I've done in the last few...more than a few...weeks has had that message. So I think I need to really pay attention and think about re-adjusting my lists...

Yesterday, for instance, one of my readings said this:  "You can make some plans as you gaze into the day that stretches out before you.  But you need to hold those plans tentatively, anticipating that I may have other ideas."

Boy, did that speak to me!

I live my life by lists.  I've tried to organize my life in a different way...so I can come out from under the tyranny of the to-do list, but I continue to be trap under its crushing weight...sigh...

And the funniest thing is that I believe that I actually have control over what I do or don't do out of the endless items listed on that paper...or variety of papers.  You know? I'm a disorganized mess.  I make lists, then I lose them, so I have to make another one, and then another one...then I think of something else to put in there, but I can't find it, so I start another one, then I end up with a bunch of scrap pieces of papers everywhere I go with different versions of my list, so in the end I have no idea what I need to do.  Don't even ask me about my purse!

The thing is: I need to chill!  He knows the plans that He has made for me.  They are not mine.  They are His!  I just need to live the day-to-day to see them unfold in my life.  And the best thing:  they are perfect plans!  They are the best!  His to-do list for me is way better than anything I could have ever concocted...

And it is written in beautiful paper that doesn't get lost.  And the items in it are in perfect order even if it is an order I don't understand.  He doesn't ask me to...He just asks me to trust Him.

I pray I do!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Exhausted



Yesterday was the last day of a really hectic, stressful and at times, just plain scary semester. It was full of chaos and extra work. I think it is safe to say that during the last few months, work has consumed me. I have not had time for anything, let along writing. Some days I got to work unsure of whether or not I brushed my teeth!

Needless to say, the fact that work has taken most of my time also means that the house is a complete disaster. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink. I haven’t even been able to do regular grocery shopping trips, which means we’ve been doing the drive-through rounds more than I’d like to admit. And the kids have had to be on their own several afternoons due to longer than usual work hours.

Sigh…

In more than one way, I have been making Martha proud…distracted to the core.

The good news is that, in spite of my messed-up priorities, our Heavenly Father has been able to penetrate through the noise, clutter and distractions in a way that has brought me peace and comfort in the midst of my messy life. The way He has done this is by giving me daily, short readings that have provided a way for me to hear His voice above the deafening gongs being struck all around me.

The Lord has spoken to me a constant stream of words about peace, thanksgiving and surrendering in a way that has been impossible to ignore. Even in the middle of my distractions, He has spoken directly to my issues…and I have noticed:

“Come to me for all that you need…”

“Do not search for security in the world you inhabit. You tend to make mental checklists of things you need to do in order to gain control of your life. If only you could check everything off your list, you could relax and be at peace. But the more you work to accomplish that goal, the more things crop up on your list. The harder you try, the more frustrated you become.”

“If you learn to trust Me…really trust Me…with your whole being, then nothing can separate you from My Peace.”

“Do not long for the absence of problems in your life. That is an unrealistic goal since in this world you will have trouble.”

And one of my personal favorites:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can bring good even out of your mistakes.”



Lord, You know me better than anyone. You know what I need to hear every day. You know I am like a toddler who needs repetition in order to learn. You know I am deeply flawed. You know I deal with an overwhelming mountain of insecurities. Thank you for being here with me…even when I don’t deserve it. I pray for a summer of peace, beauty and health…but above all…for it to be a time to keep my eyes on You, the creator and sustainer of all that I am.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Moment of Calm and Stillness



Well…as I commented yesterday morning, I had decided to embark in a little adventure. I was not going to fret about every tiny detail of one of my classes that I was particularly worried about. Like I said, I usually have every minute of every class period perfectly planned so there is no “mindlessly-browsing-my-phone” time available to my students. Needless to say, accomplishing that makes me a very frazzled teacher. Yesterday, I was bothered, nervous, anxious (all of the above) about one particular class for which I was not confident I had enough to do. But I chose to trust God rather than to go into a frantic re-planning session.

I went in armed with what I had previously prepared and without rehearsing in my mind how to do this (that was SOOOOO hard…I caught myself constantly trying to rehearse/re-rehearse in my mind…and making myself stop was a task). Anyway, I distributed the activity which involved a significant amount of reading. I hardly ever give them in-classroom reading activities because that is just WAY too passive for me. I usually assigned reading activities as homework. And in the rare occasion that I do give them a reading to do in the classroom…I hardly give them enough time to finish it…why? Because I hate the silence!!!! I get nervous thinking they are going to just pretend to read when what they are doing is secretly using their phones under the desk…

I have issues…yes…that’s the point of all this!

Anyway, I introduced the task. I gave them the reading. And I let go. I kept glancing at them to make sure they were actually reading, and to my surprise…they were! They even seemed interested!

I decided to give them until the half hour marker so everyone would finish the entire reading. And, yes, I had to stop myself from the urge of cutting the reading time short…but I managed. At the set time, we began a rather productive discussion and before I knew it…time was up! Go figured! I survived an unrehearsed, non-fastidiously planned, non-action-packed, non-frenzy-inducing, but rather calmed class!

I forgot to mention, I commended my mind and soul to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before I did all these, of course. Otherwise...you know…

I trusted God to take care of me in the little things, and I pray I can learn to trust Him in the big things…for He is always with me…even when I am not aware of His presence.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, even the most stubborn of Martha’s can have a small Mary moment of calm and stillness… how refreshing!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Panicky Planning - a Sign of a Serious Martha Condition



I am a paradox tangled into a contradiction. I am an obsessive controller who is disorganized. I am a poor planner who stresses out about endless to-do lists. I am a type A/action-driven person who wastes enormous amounts of time. I live on the edge and I’m afraid of everything.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s very confusing being me.

By God’s grace I’m able to finish my days in one piece.

For most of my life, I’ve been spinning in a wheel of frantic pacing, panicky planning and fearful attempts at controlling everything around me…and boy, I sure am dizzy.

Here’s just one example. As a teacher, I want to have every second of my class planned. If I don’t, I lose my students to the evil phone devil…so, I frantically spend most of my mental time preparing for class to make sure that those 50 minutes are packed full of things to do. I’d wake up in the morning and the first thing in my mind would be the long list of things I had to accomplish that day, and of course, on the top of the list it would be a mental rehearsal of each of my classes. I’d drive myself crazy with step-by-step self-instructions…the day would not start yet, and I’d be exhausted.

Then, God in His great mercy and love for this anxious daughter of His, placed in my hands a devotional that speaks to me directly, and for days, weeks really, I have been hearing from God a message of letting go. He has been speaking to me about depending on Him and Him alone…and to stop thinking that I can have it all under my control. This is what He says to me today:

As you look into the day that stretches out before you, you see many choice-points along the way. The myriad possibilities these choices present can confuse you. Draw your mind back to the threshold of this day, where I stand beside you, lovingly preparing you for what is ahead.

You must make your choices one at a time since each is contingent upon the decision that precedes it. Instead of tying to create a mental map of your path through this day, focus on My loving Presence with you. I will equip you as you go so that you can handle whatever comes your way. Trust Me to supply what you need when you need it.


I’m getting ready to go to class, and there is one that I am worried about because I don’t think I have enough activities to do with them today…but I am resisting the temptation to go into panicky planning and just trust…maybe it will be a relaxed classed!!!??? Where my students are not in some sort of Spanish frenzy…well, that’s a thought I never thought about…hmmmm…let’s see how it goes, shall we?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rush, Rush




Back in 1991, I think, entertainer Paula Abdul had a hit song called Rush Rush. It was a slow-paced, romantic ballad that Dan and I adopted as “our song” during the early days of our relationship. He even made me a super cool video to this song…I’m so sad I can’t find that thing…but don’t tell him, OK? I think he believes I still have it…yikes!

Anyway, back then I didn’t know much about Bible sisters Mary and Martha…let alone the fact that I was showing the first signs of being a die-hard Martha. The fact I liked this song, however, should have been my first clue of how I was going to turn out. Little did I know the sensual beat of “Rush, Rush” was going to become the cantankerous cackle of “Hurry UP! Hurry UP!” that is often heard nearby my surroundings, coming out of my mouth…

I rush because I always feel like I’m running behind in life... I start up my days earlier than I have to hoping to enjoy a slow morning…but it never happens. Inevitably, I find myself rushing up and down the steep steps of my house (my knees will eventually slow me down, I know it) trying to leave the house as soon as possible so I can have more time at work and take it easy, to only end up rushing back and forth in my office and hurrying down the hallways so I can get to my classroom earlier and then continue rushing through my class periods until I’m done and I hurry back to my office so I can do some work before I hurry back home to start rushing the kids to do their homework, make dinner, finish up work, do some housework so I can have a few minutes of “quiet, slow-paced” time with God which I end up rushing through so I can go to bed and get some sleep…which doesn’t come easily because my mind is rushing through all the things I have to do the next day…

It is impossible to get all caught up with my life… so I keep on the “rush, rush.” And I’m exhausted.

The truth is (which I have not yet learned) that there is a lot of truth in the expression “Who cares?”

Dan has dared to tell me that upon occasions. He has said things like: “Who cares if the house is not clean to your standards?” “Who cares if the dishes are still sitting in the sink since this morning?” “Who cares if the bed didn’t get made?” “Who cares if the laundry is piling up?” “Have you realized that you are the only one who actually cares?”

I was infuriated the first time he talked to me like that!

But…

Sigh…

Later I realized, he is right…

That’s not what life is about! I’m wasting my time rushing around to accomplish tasks of lesser importance, while the truly significant things that matter in life lie unattended.

This are the moments when my Martha nature gets in the way of true worship. Rather than keeping my eyes on the Most High, I focus on the circumstances, issues and tasks of the day thinking that I’m in control and that I can juggle them on my own. It is no wonder that I’m stressed out and constantly in a hurry. Nobody can do life on their own. I need to learn the lesson of Mary and pray the Holy Spirit helps me realized and act upon the fact that sitting still by the feet of Jesus is the best way to get things done. It might seem too passive for an action-driven person like me; but it is the most effective and efficient way to accomplish the most important goal of my goal-oriented life: basking in the presence of Christ…

It is time for me to stop the senseless “rush, rush” crazy cycle I’ve been spinning in for the last 20+ years…and learn to lean on Him from the smallest to the largest of tasks.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Power of Prayer



There is always something thrilling and majestic, but also something overwhelmingly humbling that pops into our hearts and souls when we get to witness the power of prayer. I mean, it isn’t as if our very lives weren’t a miracle in and of themselves, and that prayers are not answered every second in this world…but sometimes, oftentimes, at least in my personal experience, I am so distracted that I don’t notice the divinity of ordinary moments.

God, however, in His desire for us to be inspired, moved and transformed, upon occasion chooses to display His power in a way that is impossible to take for granted or to think of as ordinary. Even the most distracted of Martha’s could not ignore it when Our Lord decides to show His power for us to see. And last week it happened to me.

As we sat in fear waiting to hear about the serious condition of a dear friend…more like a surrogate mother really…I prayed in earnest, from the bottom of my heart, as did an entire congregation of souls who sincerely love this woman of God.

When I went to visit my friend at the hospital, I have to admit I walked out of there and had to sit in my car at the parking lot for a while because I could not stop sobbing… Even though she had shown signs of recognition, I felt as if we were going to lose her this time…suddenly, however, I did experience a surge of hope. And the prayer that came to my heart was: “Until you say otherwise, Lord, I will continue to pray for her complete and full recovery…until you say otherwise, Lord…”

I repeated that prayer over and over again during my hour-long commute back home. That very same night, I got word that my dear friend had made a miraculous come back and that things were looking up. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving popped all over the place as those who had been hard in prayer recognized the Lord´s hand all over the situation…from the moment she collapsed at church, instead of in her house where she would have been alone, losing precious time, crucial for recovery, to the moment they removed the tubes and she began to speak again, Christ’s power has been made evident for all to witnessed.



I know she has not fully recovered yet; but I trust God’s plan and by His grace she will be a testimony of how our lives are in His hands…the safest place to be.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter Reminder



Lent and Easter have come and gone, and with them, a rather intense season of my life has taken place. March was an awfully stressful month and whatever has passed of April has not been much different. Choppy waters propelled by doctor’s appointments and tests added to house-guests and extra responsibilities and frustrations at work plus the everyday battles fought at home, have left a tail of anxiety trapped within its wake.

I have to confess that my Martha condition has been exacerbated by the events and circumstances surrounding me these last two months to the point of utter distraction…and I am ashamed…

I have not exercise my ability to come to the feet of the Lord with my burdens and just sit still in His presence, like Mary. I have been Martha all the way, every day…seeking His face just to complain and to throw panicky words on His direction in a desperate attempt to grabbed a miracle that would pull me away from a pit that I failed to realize was of my own doing. I dug the very hole where I sink. And I forgot that rather than continue on my frantic pace to be my own god over my circumstances, all I had to do was to be still and let Him be God.

It even got funny, now that I think back…for example, when I announced that we were going to host the family for Easter at our house, my sons yelled in unison: “NOOOOO!!!” Not because they didn’t want to spend precious moments with their relatives…but because they knew what that implied: a relentless push to clean and prep the house so it would get to my impossible standards of tidiness. They knew the days of slavery to a mop, broom and bathroom chemicals were upon them and they felt helpless.

Sigh…

But, the good news is that Christ loves us way too much to leave us in the pit. Like He did with Martha, He spoke to me in a language that I could understand…and on Easter morning…He rose in my heart again when He showed me my older son, Grant, carrying the cross at church in the short drama the youth put together during the sunrise service. I filmed the whole thing…and I replayed it over and over again to re-live the emotions that I felt when I saw Grant doing a most moving job playing His part as Jesus in this drama…and in those brief and unassuming minutes, my soul was finally attuned to the reality of Christ in our midst.

It was as if Jesus was telling me…in a whisper…”nothing else matters…The Cross leads to Victory! Our troubles are momentary, I have paid it all…you owe nothing…just seek me, and you will finally be free…you will finally have peace.”

Sigh…

Easter Sunday dinner at our house was a success. I overcooked the appetizers and corn bake. The icemaker was malfunctioning. The TV set broke. It rained for a while and the dog threw up in my new rug. All in all, however, it was a great day. The rain eventually stopped and the sun began to shine brightly, warming our weary souls enough to see the kids, young and old, play and be silly in the backyard. When the rain came again, we sat in our TV-less family room and chatted until a calm and contented feeling settled in our hearts and it was time to say good-night.

God is Good, All the Time…and All the Time, He is Good. His Love and Mercy reaches even to the most distracted of Marthas and His face shines even in the darkest of pits. I pray you all had a most blessed Easter.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

On the Road Again



I have crossed the threshold of Martha and Mary’s house. I’m back on the dusty road. My feet are beginning to get dirty again and pebbles are starting to crawl into my sandals as the distance between me and the sisters’ house increases.

Sigh…

One thing is for sure, the time I spent visiting with them has confirmed as well as revealed much about the inner workings of my soul and about the specifications of my design. I am a Martha that needs to learn one very important lesson from Mary: How to choose to seek Him first above all other things. The way I seek Him, however, is as a Martha, for I cannot be a Mary.

I need to surrender to Him. I need to let go of the things that entangle my everyday life. I need to trust Him so peace like a river can flow all over me as I leave behind a frantic lifestyle that makes me frazzled and overwhelmed.

I am a restless spirit who needs to learn how to rest.

I am a mover who needs to learn how to be still.

I am an action-prone woman who needs to learn that sometimes the best action is to sit down and listen.

I am an intellectual who needs to learn how to tune in to her heart so mind and spirit could be in sink.

I am a doer who needs to learn that she cannot do it all.

I am a hurricane who needs to learn to discover the joy in the gentle breeze.

I pray that the journey with Martha and Mary has been as productive and enriching for you as it has been for me. Please let me know if you’d like to share any of your Martha and Mary stories. I would love to hear from you.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Seek Him First



I think I am finally coming to the end of my Martha and Mary series. I walked into their house. I saw the dynamics between the sisters and Jesus. I witnessed Lazarus resurrection. I walked back home with them. Now, the mourners are leaving the sisters, and so am I.

As I prepare to cross the threshold again, to go on my way, I think of how I do identify more with Martha. I feel that I’ve walked more than one mile in her shoes. I get where she is coming from and where she is going. Simply put, I am Martha. However, the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, has positioned me, at times, in Mary’s shoes too.

Even though that is not my natural state, I know a bit about being a Mary. I know what it is to be at Jesus’ feet, realizing that, regardless of what I might sometimes believe about my own powers and abilities to direct my path and control my destiny, I am always utterly and completely dependent on Him.

Over three years ago, for five days, I had nothing else to do but to place myself in Jesus’ hands, sit at His feet and trust in the wisdom and perfection of His plan. As I secluded myself in my Mother in Law’s house, alone, on my own to wait for the radiation of my cancer treatment to leave my body enough to not hurt those around me, I, perhaps for the first time in my life, was able to encounter the truth about being a Mary.

I couldn’t do anything. I was dependent on the love of my friends and family for food to sustain my body and on My Lord for the sustenance of my soul. I encountered Christ like no other time in my life as I rested on my Mother in Law’s couch day and night. I was so weak I couldn’t really do much at all…so in that lonely family room, I listened to His whispers and basked in His presence.

At that special time when the Lord allowed me to look at life from Mary’s perspective, I found out that the secret of peace is to trust in the Lord Our God enough to Seek Him First and to surrender our will to His as our main goal for as long as we walk in this valley of tears.

Those five days are not days I want to re-live again anytime soon. But what I gained from that solitude and state of forced contemplation and stillness is priceless…for He showed me in magnificent ways that He is, indeed God…and that He fights our battles when we are spent…mends our hurts when we are in pain…comforts our hearts when we are broken…lifts up our heads when we are ashamed…and gives us His victory when we think we’ve failed.

Once again, I don’t believe the purpose of Mary and Martha’s stories to appear in the Bible is to make us think we all need to be Mary. I think, one of the greatest messages is that from whatever position we are, the important thing for each of us is to trust Him completely and to keep our eyes on Him at all times, be it as a Mary or as a Martha.

I pray that this series has brought some insight into your lives which you can apply and, perhaps share so we can together renew our minds and seek Him first!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Donuts and Heaven



The story of Martha and Mary also reminds us that we are not yet in heaven and that this world is sorely fallen. On the one hand, Christ’s presence and miraculous deeds cause some to believe and follow Him…on the other, the same causes intrigue, malice and dissent. The best example of this reality within the context of this story is found in John 11: 45-47:

Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 

The actions of those whose intentions were to stir chaos, eventually resulted in the process of Jesus’ persecution, mock trial and execution.

I often forget that this is not our home. I get so caught up in the things of this world that I mistakenly begin to feel as if this is it. Then, when things go wrong, I wonder why. When things do go my way, I am surprised. When disappointment, pain, suffering and trial come, I despair. The root of my state of shock is that I expect this world to offer me the benefits of heaven, right here…right now. But it is just not possible.

The other morning, Dylan discovered I had brought home some rather delicious doughnuts for breakfast and he was delighted! He took one bite and said: “WOW! I wonder if we will have these in Heaven? If we do, I could just eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never gain weight…always be able to still be light! Isn’t Heaven fun?”

Dan and I laughed at his childish enthusiasm for the treat. Today, I think back on that moment and I realize that Dylan actually has a better understanding of Heaven than me.

He knows that we only get a glimpse of what is to come here on Earth. He knows that the benefits of our heavenly home are impossible to be fully enjoyed while we are still here on this world. He anticipates the day when Heaven would be a reality and he rejoices dreaming about it. He knows it will be different. He knows it will be perfectly delightful!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21: 3-4

Just as it was true in the days of Martha and Mary, when people who witnessed the same glory and radiance of Christ reacted differently as an illustration of the fact that heaven is not on earth yet…it is still the same today, when life and its misfortunes catch us by surprise. This is not heaven. We are still toiling in the land of tears.

The important thing is to remember that “blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life!” James 1: 12 And that in the meantime, we ought to keep our eyes on the price,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 12-14

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Rawness of Life



God is Good…all the time! And He gives us what we need at the precise moment when we need it. In the case of our friends Martha and Mary, we see how Mary was given to Martha as a reminder of the need to choose wisely, and above all, to seek Him first! Martha, on the other hand, was given to Mary to remind her of the need for action and to give her a push when all she wanted to do was just to sit around, dwelling in her pain and loss. The crowd of friends and mourners was given to both sisters as a support network in their time of great anguish and grief. Lazarus was given not only a new life, but helping hands to get him out of his grave clothes and back on the road again. And, of course, Jesus was given to all as a Comforter, Savior, Redeemer, Giver of Life, God with Us…

In our very lives, God also manifests Himself to us in the way He meets our needs. The problem is that often, at least in my case, I fail to see Him. I beg Him to make His presence evident in my life…and I fail to see Him in the beauty of the sunrise. I wonder where He is, when He is in the middle of the storm. I shake my head in fear when I don’t feel Him near, and I miss Him in the warm embrace and kind words of those around me. I allow anxiety to overpower me, because I forget that He is my Strength!

Over the last few weeks, I have been falling into the abyss of fret and worry due to pending health exams both for me and for Dan. If there is one thing that can monopolize my sanity and thought process is upcoming tests. Around the same time, I received an invitation to join a private social media group that was trying to gather as many of those who were part of an ESL class 30 years ago as possible. What happened was that in 1988, 60 kids from Panama, including me, received a scholarship from the U.S. government to come to this country to attend college. That’s how I landed on this neck of the woods. But, before we could all arrive at our destinations, the 60 of us spent an entire year as residents in a dorm at the Panama Canal College in Panama City, studying English and American culture in preparation for our university experience. We lived in this dorm for 12 months, 7 days a week. It was a total immersion program. We did everything together. And, out of that experience, unbreakable friendships and even marriages emerged.

The thing is that it is impossible to keep in touch with a group that large. Therefore, once we departed for our colleges, we were only able to continue our close-knit unity with the few closest to us. Years upon years have gone by, until, all of the sudden, out of the blue, I received an invitation last week to join this social media group. I entered my phone number and in I dove into the most amazing social experiment I’ve ever participated in…actually, it feels more like the continuation, or part two, of the most amazing experiment I’ve ever been a part of…

People whom I haven’t heard from in almost 30 years were reunited again, and what has unfolded has been more than miraculous. For me, in particular, this has become the most effective escape valve God could have ever provided in my time of anguish and anxiety. As God would have it, I have been able to read and interact with my old pals almost non-stop! And it has been a true God-sent gift.

Last week, we read the really sad announcement that the Mother of the one under whose initiative the group was formed, passed away. The demonstrations of friendship, love and solidarity in his loss have been truly moving. Many, including me, have manifested the incredible timing of this group in our lives and the huge difference it has made. God has blessed us beyond what we can see in the material world…He has given us each other again to help carry our burdens.

In talking to one of my dearest friends, she mentioned how we have been able to witness “the rawness of life” during these past days. Yes, indeed…life is hard…life is raw…but we have a Great God that knows it, and takes care of us as we walk through this valley of shadows and tears.

Just like He did with Lazarus, He gives us those who help us get out of our grave clothes so we can start to live again.



Praise You, Lord Jesus…Name above all name…Emanuel!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Martha that Chooses Like a Mary



As the crowds of observes dissipate and the sisters cling to their brother’s arms to start the procession back home along the side of those closest to them, I marvel at all that has happened. The journey back home is full of reminiscing. I, for one, keep thinking about that moment when Jesus said to Martha, in Luke 10: 41-42:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I realize now, that the Lord didn’t say to Martha, “be like Mary.” He said, “choose like Mary”

That realization brings me great comfort, because, deep inside, I know I could never become a Mary. Christ can turn me into whoever He wants me to be…of course…however, I believe that He doesn’t want to do that. I think, Jesus wants me to be the best me I can be. And, what I am, resembles more a Martha than a Mary. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have a license to stay stagnant just because I have to be true to my nature. Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit is hard at work in me. Jesus is in the business to make all things new. The Father commands me to be holy and sanctified. Therefore, because I have been called by God, saved by Jesus and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, it is my job to walk a road that leads me to become the version of me that I was designed to be: the image-bearer of the Trinity.

As such, I am to mind my choices. Regardless of who I am, it is my calling to seek Him first. My victory comes when I fix my eyes on Him. I overcome when I drop the distractions, the strongholds, the shackles, the doubt, the fear that come from a life lived gazing away from the face of Christ, and turn my eyes upon the glory of the One and Only, the One Who Overcomes the World, The One Who Makes the Dead Alive Again!

As I ponder on these things, I am reminded of something I read:

“Trust and Thankfulness get you safety through this day. Trust protects you from worrying and obsessing. Thankfulness keeps you from criticizing and complaining: those “sister sins” that so easily entangle you.

Keeping your eyes on Me is the same thing as trusting Me. It is a free choice that you must make thousands of times daily. The more you choose to trust Me, the easier it becomes. Thought patterns of trust become etched into your brain. Relegate troubles to the periphery of your mind so that I can be central in your thoughts. Thus, your focus on Me, entrusting your concerns into My care.” (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young)

I wish I could be a Mary; but I’m afraid I’m not. Guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, however, I can learn to choose like her more…I can become the best Martha I can possibly be…the best Gisela I am supposed to become.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From Chattel to Thinkers



As we are approaching the end of the meditations on Martha and Mary’s experiences with Jesus, I’d like to mention that someone pointed out at church this past Sunday how women in the Gospel knew Scripture and how revelatory that was. The fact that women knew the Word might not seem significant, let alone revolutionary to thinkers of the new millennium. Two thousand years ago, however, women were chattel, not higher than a mule or a horse. I think a camel ranked higher than a woman. And what business do a mule, a horse or a camel have knowing about Sacred things?

That didn’t mean women were not absorbing whatever knowledge they could get their hands and brains on.

I did read, that Jewish women were allowed to receive a little education on religion and the main religious instruction in the home was given by the man and not the woman. But they could not be disciples of any great rabbi, they certainly could not travel with any rabbi.

Boy, did Jesus change things, huh?

He had women following Him, learning from Him, receiving His revelation all along the years of His ministry! Martha is a great example of this! Remember that exchange between them, when Martha was sort of recriminating Jesus for not having been there to avoid Lazarus’ death? What did Jesus do?

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 23-27

Jesus took the time not only to talk to Martha, but to meet her at an intellectual, rational level. He did not regard her as an inferior being who does not deserve the grace of His Word because she’s got the brain of a mule. He knew she could handle thought provoking ideas. He knew she knew what Scripture said about death and resurrection (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea), so He challenged her because He knew she was up to the task. He gave her His revelation for the world to read centuries afterwards because He knew her mind was capable…for she, too, is part of His creation.

Jesus openly elevated women. He demonstrated to the world that women were not chattel but human…that they were not brainless, but thinkers.

Thank you, Jesus, Amen!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quiet Time with Our Lord


As I meditate on the need to taking off the grave clothes and clothing myself "with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh," (Romans 13: 14) which in my case involves obsessing about my problems, worrying about my circumstances and/or becoming anxious about "what if" scenarios, I think the key is, once again, to seek His presence.
My devotional reading has much to say on this topic, but today's quote was right on:

"Learn to live above your circumstances.  This requires focused time with Me, the One who overcame the world.  Trouble and distress are woven into the very fabric of this perishing world.  Only My Life in you can empower you to face this endless flow of problems with good cheer.

As you sit quietly in My Presence, I shine Peace into your troubled mind and heart.  Little by little, you are freed from earthly shackles and lifted up above your circumstances.  You gain My perspective on your life, enabling you to distinguish between what is important and what is not.  Rest in My Presence, receiving Joy that no one can take away from you."  (Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young - John 16: 33, John 16: 22)

Sitting quietly in His presence.  I believe that is a practice that could definitely help me to begin to have the discipline to seek His face, first as I fix my eyes on Him...and allow the background to blur and eventually disappear.

But if I don't set aside time to sit quietly with My Lord, how will I ever allow Him to quiet my soul long enough to see Him and hear Him?

Dear Jesus, please guide me into a quiet time with You, starting today!  

Grave Clothes



The next command Jesus gives in this scene is very revealing: Jesus said to them, 

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11: 44b

Lazarus is alive again. He has been resurrected. A new life has been granted. He is born again, in a sense. However, there’s still something left to do in order for him to be completely free: quit dragging around the grave clothes!

How many times does Jesus have to deliver me? How many times does He have to rescue me? How many times does He have to bring me back to life for me to drop the old grave clothes and put on the new me?

I have to confess that I have a hard time letting go. It doesn’t even have to be a good thing, either. I have a hard time letting go of the bad things in my life as well.

It makes no sense. But it’s true.

God has healed me. He has given me a new chance. He has defeated my enemy. But I’m still afraid. I’m still anxious. I’m still in shackles. I’m still wearing the grave clothes.

Someone, please, take them off of me and let me go!

Sigh…

I don’t want to be a mummy anymore.

Lord Jesus, please give the command. Just say the Word, and I will be finally free.



Friday, March 10, 2017

Lazarus, Come Out!



43 …Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. John 11: 43-44

This is one of those Jesus moments in Scripture when I totally get covered in goosebumps! Wow! The majestic power of the Word in action right in front of the world to see! Praised be His Name, the Name above all names!

Our Jesus is certainly in the business of bringing dead people back to life! At the sound of His voice, the stones quake and the dead rise!

I can’t help but to imagine what Martha must have felt at this moment. For a woman whose entire life revolves around action, this must have been the ultimate instance of the insanity of movement. There is no record of anyone saying anything…that’s probably because even Ms.-I-always-have-something-to-say Martha was speechless. I mean, really, what could anyone possibly say here? The only thing left to do is to fall on one’s knees and worship the One and Only, Jesus the Christ!

But let’s just take a quick look at something here before we fall flat on our faces. See what the Lord did? “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”’

Yes, He speaks and things happens. The creative power of the Word is in display in this event. But, what does He actually say?

There is no incantation being pronounced. There are no magic words being said. There isn’t any mysterious formula being spoken. Jesus simply calls out his friend’s name in a loud voice and commands him to get out of the tomb. That’s all…

And Lazarus does it.

The man that had been dead and buried for 4 days because Jesus had the audacity of not being there to prevent him from dying, now walks out of the tomb on his own two feet as if waking up from a long nap, still dragging his sheets around.

That is the story of our lives. He may as well be saying: "Gisela, come out!"

As we walk alongside with Christ, often, we fall behind, get trapped in a hole, fall into a pit, get tangled in webs of deceit, get lost in the darkness of this world. We are left for dead. We drag the sheets that wrap the old self and sleep-walk through precious days that won’t come back, without the power of freeing ourselves from the chains that bind us to the circumstances that enslave us.

We know Our Heavenly Father wants us to live the abundant life, but we don’t know how to get it. And that is because in order for us to be free, Christ has to first, call us! We cannot resurrect ourselves. He has to say the word, and we shall be healed. He has to call us by our name, and then we will hear. He has to command us to get out of the entrapment we are in, and then, we will be free.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11: 33-36



Let us now fall face down on the floor and worship His Holy Name!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Father, I Thank You that You Have Heard Me."



Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” John 11: 41b-42

Regardless of all the misery in this world, and of all the disappointments in our lives, and of all the fear the enemy may stir in us, and of all the negative vibes put out by the doubters who surround us, God hears us. He remains Faithful!

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5: 14

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

And for that we need to be thankful. Just like Jesus did in this section of the passage, our gratitude needs to be heartfelt and evident. Thanking God should not be reserved only for one-on-one moments between God and me. I need to be intentional about giving evidence of my Thanksgiving for those who surround me to see that God’s goodness is worthy of praise regardless of the circumstances.

Jesus wants us to break free from the shackles that bind us to this world and believe! He demonstrates to those who listen, that He is the God with Us, sent by the Father to save us, to guide us, to lead us, to give us life, and life in abundance!

He is the Only One who can rise us above the things of these world and transform us…from the inside out.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12: 2

But this transformation, this total makeover of our souls and minds won’t come until we take a conscious step to make Him our All

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6: 33

This is the key of our existence, to seek Him first! To keep our eyes on Him. To know Him. To follow Him. To cease our striving and concentrate on the Light of His Presence. To trust, so we can have peace and live a life of hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15: 13

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Take Away the Stone



41 So they took away the stone. John 11: 41a 

The good news is that Christ is bigger than our lack of faith. And that is one immensely comforting thought. No matter how heavy the stone of our unbelief is, Jesus can command it to be removed and it is gone.

It doesn’t matter how much of an infant Christian I am. Regardless of how little solid food I actually consume, and how attached to the things of this world I am, My Jesus is able to remove the stone that keeps me buried and dead. He is in the business of bringing people back to life!

I’ve been dead for far too long. I’ve been dead in my distractions, in my worry, in my fears. I’ve been buried under a pile of rubble that keeps me from seeing the Light and crushes my face onto my circumstances. I’ve been drowning in the waves of storms of the material world, and I’ve forgotten to seek the face of the One extending the hand that rescues me.

But it doesn’t matter, because He grabs me anyway and pulls me out so I can breathe again.

It doesn’t matter how much, like Martha, I focus on the problems and can’t see the glory standing right in front of me, because glory can’t be hidden. Radiance can’t be covered. Light can’t be contained. At the appointed time, the stone always rolls away and it’s impossible to deny the Divine.

Please, Lord, remove all the stones from my life that keep me from You!  Set me free!  Make me alive again in You!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Lord, Increase my Faith



38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 
John 11: 38-40

This segment of the whole story of Mary and Martha and their interactions with Jesus really speaks to me. I mean, really! I imagine Jesus standing there, in front of the tomb in all His might. He Commands the stone to be taken away with all authority in His voice. Remember, Jesus is the Word! He is the Word that creates. He is the Word that when spoken, the world and the universe are set into motion.

John 1:3

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.




Colossians 1:16

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him.




1 Corinthians 8:6

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.




John 1:10

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.


And there is Martha…Martha, Martha…reverting back into her default:

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Martha’s practical mind interferes with her faith. It is hard for her to separate the material world from the forces and powers of the spiritual realm…even when the King above all Kings of all that is visible and invisible is standing right in front of her.

What is it going to take for Martha to just be quiet, trust and have unshakable faith?

Lord, what is it going to take for me to be quiet, trust and have unshakable faith?

I want to be still and let you be God…but I so often fail…

I know it all in my head. But I need the Holy Spirit to convince my soul that regardless of whatever may happen with my circumstances, You will take care of me. I need the Holy Spirit to remind me over and over again, what You have already told me a thousand times:

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”


Lord, increase my faith and rid me of my unbelieve so I can see Your Glory, the Glory of the One and Only, my Lord, Jesus the Christ.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Divine Love



It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 7-8

This is the good news of God’s love for us. Unlike the love the world preaches, divine love is inscrutable. It reaches a level of sacrifice that the human mind cannot understand:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

It is so multi-dimensional that for us to be able to begin to grasp it we need to be, ourselves, planted in its very core:

“I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” 
Ephesians 3:17-19

We need to be in a deep knowledge of God to know what love is, because

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4: 8

The good news is that, regardless of the riddle that true biblical love is, God, in all His mercy, gives us ways to get glimpses of how this little thing called love works. In my case, I have to look no further than to my own life as a Mother to get close to a small window into God’s love for us.

I love my sons dearly. I would gladly give my life so they can live. I would go without so they can have what they need. I would limit myself so they can reach a limitless potential. But, even in all my extravagant love for them, I don’t give them all they want. And the reason I don’t, is because I know better. As parents, we work on trying to shape the good characters of our children. We want to spoil them, but deep inside we know that is not good for the development of who they will be when they grow up. It is hard to deny them the things they want, but we do because we know better things are in store for them if they wait or if they let us do things our way and in our timing.

Take my son Dylan, for example. His latest obsession is the Rubik’s cube. He discovered the wonders of that colorful, shifting-squares, 1980s icon about a month ago. He is REALLY good at it. He mastered it in no time. But, in doing so, he, we, also discovered that the iconic toy has morphed into dozens of different versions, and of course, Dylan wants to collect them all!

We were so excited about him being able to solve it, that we let him buy a few more with his money and I bought him another one when he ran out of his own cash. But, he kept wanting to buy more and more and more. We finally made a deal, that we could think about buying more for his birthday as long as he could solve all those he already has. What has happened is that he has been hard at work trying to figure out how to solve them, and now is able to solve 3 different types (one of which is brilliantly complicated, if I may add). The result: he has become quite the sensation at school.

I believe, Dylan is ripping far greater benefits by mastering the puzzles he already has than by giving in into his wishes and desire to accumulate for the sake of merely collecting.

Our relationship with our children is a pale reflection of our relationship with Our Heavenly Father, but it serves as a tangible example that our finite and material minds can actually grasp.

The doubts and fears and lack of trust we feel when we perceive God’s silence or negative responses to our demands and petitions as distance, neglect or lack of love from His part toward us should dissipate once we remember that He knows better. He is the ultimate Good, Good Father. He knows what He is doing, and all He does works out together for the good and benefit of those whom He loves: you and me. We need not doubt His power, His goodness or above all, His love. He is working in us a far greater future than we can even begin to imagine. He is making us new!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

"See How He Loved Him..."



35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11: 35-37

We have seen how Mary finally made it to Jesus and found comfort in Him, like we find comfort in the best of friends’ company…a friend who feels our pain…a friend who heals our wounds.

After Jesus spent precious moments with Mary, He asked to be taken to the place where they had buried Lazarus. Right there, in front of Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus exhibited one of the most profound expressions of His humanity: He wept.

Those who have gathered around the scene saw Him and while some were moved by the evidence of love that Jesus displayed, others, however, began to stir some descent among the witnesses by adding an element of doubt about the power of Christ. “Why, if He is so powerful, couldn’t he save Lazarus?” “Who was that blind man, after all? A good-for-nothing-sinner! And He healed him! Why did He have to let Lazarus die? A good man…the only support of his two sisters who are left now destitute?” “What kind of a holy man is this Jesus supposed to be?”

Yep, I know the type. Upon occasion and more often that I dare to admit, I’ve been one of them. I’ve passed judgement on the wisdom and timing of God’s ways. I have voiced my concern about the way He allows things to unfold in my life and in the lives of others. I have doubted. I have not trusted. I have forgotten what He has tried to teach me over and over and over again:

8"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.… Isaiah 55: 8-9

Our God is not made into our image. He is not a tamed lion or domesticated pet. He is the God of eternity. At the sound of His voice, galaxies are made. Of course, our ways and our thoughts and our timing is not His. Why do I always forget this?

I forget because I want a God that obeys me. I want a personal genie who grants me my every desire. After all, He has told me repeatedly that He loves me. Don’t you want to give it all to your beloved?

I forget because my understanding of love has been thwarted by the world’s understanding of this concept. The world, and more specifically, our society, teaches us that love does not deny and does not delay. If you love yourself or others, you don’t want to deny yourself or your loved ones the best, regardless of cost and in the most abundant quantities and without any waiting. Let’s continue to dig into this passage in the next post and see if God’s expression of love differs from the world’s interpretation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 1

While in the topic of surrendering and seeking Him first, I came across in my devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, the following entry for today, which I thought is very fitting.  I'd like to share it, because it has brought me great comfort for today:

"When something in your life or thoughts makes you anxious, come to Me and talk about it.  Bring Me your prayer and petition with thanksgiving, saying, "Thank You, Jesus, for this opportunity to trust You more."  Though the lessons of trust that I send to you come wrapped in difficulties, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

Well-developed trust will bring you many blessings, not the least of which is My Peace.  I have promised to keep you in perfect Peace to the extent that you trust in Me.  The world has it backwards, teaching that peace is the result of having enough money, possessions, insurance, and security systems.  My Peace, however, is such an all-encompassing gift that it is independent of all circumstances.  Though you lose everything else, if you gain My Peace you are rich indeed."

Philippians 4:6, Isaiah 26:3

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit may cover us with His all-surpassing Peace and that as we make the choice to Seek Him First, we would be blessed by His presence...the cure for every ill, the solution to every problem, the joy in every situation.

Not Yet 4



Back with Mary and how she stayed at home with the mourners instead of running to Jesus…in this particular case, it seems as if Jesus wanted Mary to get moving too. He wanted Mary to get out of the house and come to be by His side. He knew the only way Mary would find true healing was by seeking Him, literally! She needed to get physically moving, drop her sense of protection, step out of her comfort zone, use her pain as the engine that would help her rise, and go seek Him first. And as we have seen, Mary needed an extra push too…a push from non-other than her rather pushy sister, Martha.

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.” John 11: 28-31

As we make it our purpose and our choice to seek Him first, like Mary seems to have chosen, there are some moments, some rather especially troubling and radical moments in our search, which call for a radical change, a change from our default and out of our comfort zone in order for us to find peace…to find Him. The problem may be that in these types of situations, dropping our hang-ups might require Jesus staying put on the outskirts of our vicinity, as well as a push from one of His angels.

Sometimes we are so deep in the darkness of our pit of sadness and pain that we can´t move. We can’t see that He is there, waiting for us. We can’t see that we need to go to Him. We can’t see that it will take an action from our part to be in the awareness of His presence once again. That’s when, in His mercy, often, Our Lord puts people in our lives to get us going.

Also, more often than not, we have a hard time moving because we are too caught up in our circumstances and in what we are doing. The truth is that to be in Christ’s presence we have to drop everything and come to Him…to seek Him first we cannot be seeking after other things. But that is a very hard thing to do, even when what we are doing is suffering.

Our pain and our difficulties may become our center. I speak from experience here. Upon occasions, I have gone through moments of an anguish so gripping that it becomes the focus of my entire attention. My concentration is fully on the situation and the circumstances of my sorrow become a distraction, a barrier between me and My Lord. The worst part is that I´m so into my own, that it becomes almost impossible to let the pain go. I mean, is this messed up or what?

In situations like that, when the anxiety level rises and fear crawls up and down my spine, I can’t talk about anything else. My thoughts are consumed by my problem. I drive my relatives crazy because I seem obsessed by my worry. I don’t do anything right. I walk around with a dark cloud hanging over my head all the time. I’m in a bad mood. I resent those who refuse to understand or join in my concern. And I forget that even then, I do have a choice: I could to turn my issue into an idol that I worship daily at the altar of despair or I could turn it in at the foot of the cross and worship the One and Only who can take my burden, heal my brokenness and make me new.

And of course, this is not just during times of loss and sorrow, but the truth is that the choice of seeking Him first implies total surrender…dropping it all at the foot of the cross, issues, circumstances, hurts, pain, suffering, possessions, loved ones, worries, joy and sorrow…it all belongs to Him. And in return, He gives us His peace and His presence.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Not Yet 3




Back to the topic of when Jesus stays put somewhere seemingly outside of our periphery…we see that often, not only it looks as if we do need someone to come and fetch us…to get us moving, but implied in the act of moving is the act of dropping whatever we are doing…

Let’s back up a little again, and remember the scene: Lazarus is dead and buried. The sisters are left behind, desperate and alone so

19 “…many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.”


Then,

20 “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.” John 11: 19-20

We have examined how Martha jumped right to her feet and went to meet the Lord. Let’s look a bit more at Mary now. She made a choice again, this time, to stay. Curiously enough, this choice does not bring her closer to Christ. She could have joined Martha and run to Jesus as soon as she heard He was nearing town, “but Mary stayed at home…”

Intriguing…

On the other hand, after Martha is done talking to Him, Jesus also chooses to stay since we see that once Martha leaves Him, 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. John 11: 30

He stayed put where Martha left Him. He did not keep going. He could have, but He chose not to…hmmm…

In the meantime, of course, Martha, as we have seen, went around the world in thirty seconds! She becomes the line that ties her sister to Christ. 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”
And, as we will see later, the dust hasn’t settled yet, when Martha is back by Jesus’ side. But I’m jumping ahead.

Mary’s choice kept her at home, surrounded by mourners, deeply consumed by her grief. Jesus is right outside of town, but she hadn’t noticed, or worse yet, she ignored Him. She did not follow Martha when she rushed to Him the second she heard He was near. She stayed put too, like Jesus…hmmm...

Why did she stayed home?

Was she too exhausted? Was she so physically and mentally spent to even move at the sound of Jesus’ name? As we know, grieve is draining and often one feels as if energy has left the body forever. So, Mary might have been just too weak to move. Or, was she, perhaps, too comfortable to move? Had the pain and suffering become a crutch she was hanging on to? Had the pain of loss blurred her vision? Was she too busy being sad? Was she settling into a rut that would lead to an emotional paralysis out of which she would have a hard time escaping from later on?

Whatever reason made Mary stay home rather than go running to Jesus, is not going to be the solution to her situation. This time Mary is not to find comfort at home. This time, she is not to find healing in the midst of those friends and relatives who have come to mourn with her. Nope! Mary will not find the comfort that heals for as long as she keeps hanging on to whatever it is that she is hanging on to in her corner of the house.

Let's ponder on this and continue tomorrow...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Grieving Like Martha?



Let me interrupt here the topic on how sometimes Jesus seems to stay outside of our periphery for a minute and let’s take a look at Martha again.

Do you remember how she ran to Jesus as soon as she heard He was outside of their town while Mary, on the contrary, stayed home…potentially drowning in her own sorrow and grief? Well, that’s one interesting study on contrast, if I’ve ever seen one.

Mary hangs out with the mourners at home, but our friend Martha…not so much. There is no evidence of Martha wallowing in sadness at the death of her brother and protector. There is no indication of Martha being still at this time of grief. On the contrary, she sprinted out of the house the second she heard Jesus was at the outskirts of town. This action led Martha to the ultimate comfort of Christ’s presence and words as well as to the gift of receiving one of the most important revelations in Scripture. But even after sharing such intimacy with Jesus, we don’t see Martha going somewhere quiet to ponder. Sooner than she got done having such a spectacular moment with Christ, she took off again to get her sister. I mean, really, you can say what you want about Martha, but the girl is a mover and a shaker…if you don’t believe me, ask Mary!

She can´t stop! Much like when faced by a crowd of hungry visitors coming to her house, Martha deals with the stuff of life through action. It is not a big surprise, therefore, that she deals with grief in the same way. I can only assume that action helps her cope as it gets her mind off of things a bit. Even though she is busy going from one place to another, at the risk of distraction, I cannot help but to wonder if the motion gives her a time to process what has just happened, and a chance to get in touch with her emotions even if at a non-emotional level...just for now, at least.

Grieving is one of the hardest things we would ever do in this life, and everyone does it differently. Some, like Mary, go through the more immediate route of confronting their emotions right away as they sit in the stillness of their pain and sorrow. Others, like Martha, choose to postpone the emotional charge of grieving by busying themselves and feeling productive by doing...by avoiding… Either way, however, facing one’s emotions is the only way that will eventually lead us to a bearable level of healing.

I remember when my Dad passed away over 4 years ago, in Panama. At that time, action was my friend. Dan and I had to get on a plane just hours after we heard the news, which meant figuring out what to do with our kids, getting tickets, finding money to get tickets, packing a few bags, getting to the airport and so on in a matter of minutes. The trek from our front door to the doorsteps of the home of my youth was a whirlwind. And, once that beloved blue door opened in front of us, there was nothing but more actions that needed to be done.

It was absolutely draining. It was a completely different experience from when my Mother passed away many years earlier. My Dad was still there. He took care of everything. So, I did, literally, nothing but grieve from the distance, since I could not be there for the funeral. When the last of your parents is gone, however, life suddenly hits you on the face with the added bonus of having to deal with decisions about what to do with the material remainings of a life that no longer exists.

My sister and I are both Martha´s, therefore, we pushed through and got everything done in record time. By the end of the week I was exhausted. It felt as if I’ve just blinked, and we were landing back at home. Through the following months, grief would fill my thoughts at odd moments as the realization of my Dad´s passing would feel unbearable. It has taken me years to be able to think about him not being here anymore without experiencing that sinking feeling I used to feel. Sometimes I think that, consciously or unconsciously, I made myself so busy back then, after his death, that I did not give myself time to contemplate and just be sad. So, the sadness accumulated in my heart until it had nowhere else to go but out, in often ridiculous ways, but out indeed, until the gallons of sorrow finally emptied out, and I was able to replace them with the fond memories of the man who was my pillar on Earth and with the joy of a quiet sense of peace.

What I’m trying to say is that regardless of their outward appearance, the Marthas of this world are truly made out of mush in the inside. The action-figure, visible image of women like Martha often signal a cover that tries to hide a person filled with the same emotions and sense of spirituality as those who are more open about them…the difference is only in the way they get in touch with them, and express them.

In the end, whether we do it like Martha or like Mary, the bottom line is not to skip the process, because it will catch up with us one day in unexpected ways if we don´t allow ourselves to grieve.