Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Am I Going to Be OK? Peace is a Person



It’s the day before Thanksgiving and I’m home with my boys, enjoying a peaceful, cold, November afternoon. My belly is full and so is my fridge because Grant, Dylan and I spent the entire morning working on our Thanksgiving banquet. Ever since the grandchildren stopped being babies, leftovers at the Dieter Family Thanksgiving dinner became non-existent. Therefore, I have been making a whole meal for us here at home, so I can enjoy the holiday without having to worry about cooking for a few days. This year, the boys were interested in helping with the cooking, so it was very special.

Now, I’m sitting here with joy in my heart and peace in my soul, which brought me back to the book You’re Going to be Okay by Holley Gerth. Today, I wanted to meditate on one of the many wonderful concepts that the author offered in chapter two: You Are Stronger than You Think. In this chapter, she walks through several of God’s Names, but the one that touched me the most was: Jehovah Shalom: The Lord is Peace. (Judg. 6)

Sigh…

Peace… from my perspective, peace is the most sought-after treasure … and in this chapter, I came to the realization that Peace is not a thing, a place or even a state of mind. Peace is a Person.

“While external circumstances may be difficult, it’s the inner turmoil that often wears us down most. We worry. We fret. We lie in bed and stare at the ceiling…We think if things were only different, we wouldn’t be so uptight. But then, when things change, the worry stays-we just switch the focus.” (43)

I read that, and I had to pause…I had to pause because that is so true. I never heard it articulated, but it is completely true in my life. I get done worrying about something I didn’t even need to worry about in the first place, when thoughts of other things that may be bad pop into my head, transforming what should have been a season of peace into a fleeting moment, too short to even appreciate.

Sigh…

And that is because my peace is based on my circumstances. Circumstantial peace is not real. It’s an illusion. It’s unstable too because circumstances change with every breath we take. Therefore, peace cannot be based on anything that could be attained, grasped, purchased, manufactured, manipulated, shaped, controlled, packaged or locked away. Peace is not a thing. Peace is a Person:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33

Jesus Himself is Peace. He is the Prince of Peace:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9: 6

He is Peace made into flesh, and He is with us at all times, regardless of our situation or circumstance…He stands with us in quiet, slow, lazy, November afternoons when everything is right with the world, as well as in dark, stormy, frightening nights when the world is at war inside our souls.

Peace is a Person who lives in us, not a thing to be attained.

He is stable. He is strong. He is always with us. And most amazingly of all, He loves us. To whom then, shall I fear?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Am I Going to Be OK? I am an Overcomer!



Well, like I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my dear, dear, dear friends and sister in Christ recommended the book You’re going to be Okay by Holley Gerth, and it has been such a blessing to me, that I decided to blog about my experience reading this wonderful little book. Of course, I’m not just going to re-write this book here on my blog. I’m simply going to meditate on the things that touch me the most. Since the book is proving to be really speaking to me, I anticipate this series to take a while.

Today, I wanted to write about the segment where the author talks about the fact that we are overcomers. We are! Jesus Himself told us so:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 33

I’m not a native speaker of English, as you can tell, so I find myself consulting my good, old friends Merriam and Webster quite often. Today, I looked up a quick definition for the idea of overcoming. Here’s what I found:

1. to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: to overcome the enemy.

2. to prevail over (opposition, a debility, temptations, etc.); surmount: to overcome one's weaknesses.

Hmmm…

Pretty powerful word that is, isn’t it? To say that Jesus overcame the world is totally verifiable, acceptable and unquestionable. To say that I have overcome the world, however… yeah… not so much.

I look at my life… my every-day-life, and see nothing but defeat. My struggles, my day-to-day struggles drown me in worry, fear, anxiety, panic, and make me feel weak and often hopeless.

I am definitively a glass half-empty person. Actually, I am an empty glass person because even though the glass might still have water in it, I know, I see it already empty in my head...just waiting for someone to knock it over and not only spilling its content but shattering it into a million pieces.

Pathetic, I know… what can I say? This is my greatest struggle in life. To trust God enough to let go of my fears… to let go of the idea of control I have ingrained in my mind. And just let Him be God in my life… all of my life.

The good news is that Jesus does not leave us where we are. He moves us along in the path that He has designed for us. In my case, He usually drags me kicking and screaming, but He does get me moving. His power is made perfect in my weakness, remember? (2 Corinthians 12: 9) And boy, He is really strong, ‘cause I’ve got a lot of weakness in me…

The point is that, He speaks to me, through His word, through song and music, through the people He has placed on my road, through teachers, through books, so, here comes this book stating that:

“God’s victory in this world does not depend on you. It depends on one thing alone: Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection three days later. You can’t lose the war for God or for yourself. It’s not about you or me at all. We simply get to partake in the victory. That means there is no shame in losing a battle now and then. It means we are imperfect people in a broken world.” (page 26)

How I love these words!

Let’s take another look at what Jesus said, again:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 33

He has done it all! He is not saying here that we have to do anything at all in order to overcome the world. He is telling us that He already has, so we don’t have to. He is telling us that all is left for us to do is to have peace in Him. Regardless of the troubles that we will have, ‘cause He does state the fact that we WILL have trouble, we can rest in Him and be at peace in the truth that He has already taken care of it all and we get to be a part of that victory that we did nothing to obtain. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about being ill-equipped or inadequate for the battle because He has already won the entire war all on His own!

It is mind-blowing! We get to win the war that we didn’t even have to fight. And it is all because Jesus fought it and won it all by Himself… for us…

How could I still be concerned, afraid, anxious or worried? Because I’m imperfect and live in a broken world…but He has overcome it, and He is here, reminding me of it so I can take heart again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Am I Going to be OK?



I recently finished working my way through Psalm 23rd where the focus is on the fact that The Lord is the most perfect Shepherd anyone, sheep or human or human sheep may ever want/need…that He is the Giver, Sustainer and Protector of my life… and yet… I still wonder if I am going to be OK? Why is that?

Why does it seem like I look for worst-case-scenarios even subconsciously just, so I could be immersed in anxiety?

Sigh…

I think I lack self-discipline. I think the Holy Spirit is working in me to grow the fruit of self-control, but I keep rejecting it. Without self-control, my mind just runs wildly through the open fields of insecurity, fear and lack of trust that lead me to a place of darkness and to a longer stay at the valley of the shadow of death, very far away from those green pastures and quiet waters of peace that He promises to all His sheep…but…I continue to refuse it.

Double sigh…

There is no wonder that Paul’s inspired words command us to:

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

The renewing of our minds is key to finding Christ. The one who is able to reign in his/her thought life would be able to be free to seek God’s presence…the ultimate goal! The thing is that we can’t do this alone. It involves self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) and it is the Holy Spirit who grows it, and all of them in us…through His work in our Soul and the surrendering of our will to the wisdom and power of His hands.

Little by little… step by step… one day at a time… for the rest of our lives we witness the Great Companion and Counselor, the Gardener of our souls, weed and prune until one day we get to enjoy the beauty that comes out of the mess that once was our life. I believe that this day might not come while on this side of eternity… However, I do believe that we get to see glimpses of what our life is meant to be as we walk through the valleys and mountains of this world. And that is what we hope for: that those glimpses are enough to get us going as they get longer and longer so our gaze can hold steady as our hearts stop racing and our pace slows down to allow us to perceive the pure joy of a true encounter with our Lord.

I’m not talking about mysticism, here. I’m talking about reaching a way of life in which our purpose is to truly seek Him first in everything we do, at work, at school, at home, changing diapers, making dinner, watching TV, going on a trip, struggling through homework, health issues, financial hardship, brokenness of all kind…a life that is above circumstance and that in every situation holds fast to the promise of His presence and to the promise of His strength through us and through our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12: 9, Philippians 4: 13)



In order to accomplish this, often, The Lord sends to us a person, a situation, a movie, a song, a piece of Scripture, a book that speak to us in a way that we can understand…in a way that helps us move closer to where He wants us to be…closer to learning how to live above our circumstances. Right now, one of my dear and very wise friends and sister in Christ recommended a book called You’re Going to Be Okay, by Holley Gerth, and let me tell you, that book is moving my soul. In the soft, gentle and often funny style of the writer, God is communicating truth to me in a way that I get. I think this book is a good tool for restless hearts like mine to find a moment of quietness near the green pastures and still waters that we so long to dwell by. Therefore, I think that I will start posting about things I read in this little book which touch me deeply and shake me to the core. If you’d like to join me in this journey, I pray it will be a blessing for you as well.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Breathe Again!



And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Forever. Psalm 23: 6b

Do you remember playing with your friends to see who could hold their breath the longest when you were a child? What a silly competition. I still play it with my kids whenever we are in a swimming pool. We get in there, plug our noses, go down and wait until one of us…inevitably…as inconspicuously as possible, begins his/her trek back to the surface. The two of us that remain, watch expectantly, chlorine pocking needles into our eyes, for the moment when we can at least claim we were not the losers. Then, when we can’t hold it anymore, we burst out of the water with a loud splash as we let out the old air that had been getting stale into our lungs and gulp fresh, delicious, life-giving, oxygen-filled new air to be able to breathe again. Then, of course, the argument begins as to who lasted the longest…which is never defined unless we try again, and then again, and a few more times until we get bored….

Well, when I read the last verse of Psalm 23rd is like I’ve been holding my breath for a long time…watching expectantly…then… these words come to me, signaling the moment when my head finally bursts out of the water, allowing me to exhale the staleness and toxicity that had accumulated over the time I’ve kept it beneath the surface, to finally be able to take a deep, renewing, deliciously reviving gulp of fresh air.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever… aahhhhh….

The Spanish version that I remember translates “forever” as: “por años sin término.” I love that imagery… “for years without end…” And that’s why I feel renewed when I read the last words of this beloved Psalm… because the idea of spending years without end in the House of the Lord surely sounds magnificent! It sounds glorious, especially after spending what seemingly felt like years without end under water, unable to breathe in the joy of God’s presence to the fullest, unable to clearly see Him through my chlorine-blurred eyes…

Praise You, Lord, for this wonderful promise. Please allow us to find comfort in it until the day comes when we finally dwell in your house forever!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Following



Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Forever. Psalm 23: 6



I think I will separate verse 6 into two. Today, I will look at part A: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”

This first half of the verse makes me feel secured.

You know, it just occurred to me that I’ve been sharing my thoughts on this blog for a while now…I wasn’t sure when I started, so I scrolled down and saw that I actually began in 2011. That is 6 years for those of us who don’t do math. In my universe, six years is quite a long time.

But, that’s not what I’m thinking about today. The word that made me ponder on my blogging activity was “follow.”

Those in social media recognize that word. The word usually evokes feelings that could be considered as opposing concepts: a curse and/or a blessing. I remember earlier in my “career” as a Christian blogger desiring a big “following.” I craved to see more and more and more little pictures on the little corner that shows who follows my musings. I incessantly checked my posts’ statistics to see if people where actually reading my writings. I linked to several “blog parties.” I actually had like a sort of calendar, where I would link to different “blog parties” every day. I read every article on how to increase readership. In summary, I spent a decent amount of time trying to put my word out there to get the coveted followers.

After a few years of doing this, I realized that not only had I not increased my following, but it had actually decreased. There were less and less little pictures on my followers’ corner. This fact made me realize that I had probably just wasted my time. The only way I’d ever be “viral” would be if I got the flu. So, I stopped trying and I went back to the true purpose of my blog: to have a conversation with the Lord…a moment with Him…just the two of us…about something pressing in my mind and heart. And if others happen to stop by, and be blessed by it, well, Praised Be the Lord who inspired the whole thing!

Writing helps me think. It helps me concentrate. It helps me go deep. It helps me meditate on God’s truth. I’m not craving followers anymore. I’m craving the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m not seeking a spike on my stats. I am trusting that by growing closer to Him who sustains me, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Anointed



You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over. Psalm 23: 5



This verse usually makes me feel confused. I have to re-read it a few times until… I can finally start to marvel on what it says.

I can’t really separate the three lines of the verse. I have to read them together in order to grasp its meaning. Otherwise I would be like, “what?” “Why would I want anyone to put me at a table in front of my enemies…really!?” And, by the way, where did the Good Shepherd go? Is this the Good Shepperd setting the table…a table I don’t want to be at?

Sigh… Like I said…I’m so confused!

I feel as if there is a different imagery going on in here. Somehow, the Shepherd is now clearly The Lord. No metaphor here. God is revealed in the figure of the Shepherd. He is the One who prepares that table in the presence of my enemies. I know…I don’t want to be there. I’m uncomfortable. I’m nervous. I’m afraid. Imagine if I’m still the sheep…well…sheep usually don’t seat at the table…they end up on the table, if you know what I mean? But He has prepared that table. Therefore, it must be good. Although the enemies don’t just disappear, He is with us as we face them.

Not only is He there at the table with us as we sit in the presence of our enemies, but He anoints our head with oil. I mean, really?

This is another cultural practice that I don’t know anything about. All I know about pouring oil in my head is that it will make my hair shiny…and greasy…which might be a good thing so it is not so frizzy.

But anyway, I checked in my Jon Courson’s commentary and it refers us back to the Shepherd. It says that a Shepherd would pour oil on a sheep’s head for 2 reasons:

1. To keep the ticks and bugs out of the ears and eyes of the sheep.

2. To deflect the blows of bigger sheep when they butt heads.

Hmmmm…

I also read somewhere else (https://www.gotquestions.org/anointed.html) that in Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or calling. (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8; James 5:14). A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc.

In the New Testament we see another meaning for the word anointed: "chosen one." The Bible says that Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News and free those who have been held captive by sin (Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38). After Christ left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Now all Christians are anointed, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God's Kingdom (1 John 2:20). "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Well…the bottom line is that to be anointed by God Himself is a mighty amazing thing. This is God sending as clear a signal as possible to the enemy sitting in front of us that we are not be messed with. This is God saying we belong to Him. We are set apart. We are of great value, and that whoever bugs us will have to answer directly to Him.

And finally, not only does God plant the equivalent of a big, bright neon sign on our heads that says “step off,” but He fills our cup beyond the brim until it overflows. Wow!

Picture God filling up your cup.

How do we begin to wrap our brains around that image?

The God of the Universe…serving us…serving me…the lowliest of His creatures.

Unfathomable!

I went from feeling confused to feeling overwhelmed with awe.

Praised be the Good Shepherd. Praised be His Holy Name!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Scary Valley



Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. New King James - Psalm 23: 4



It has taken me way too long to get back to my look at Psalm 23rd in which I’m pondering how the verses in this treasured piece of Scripture make me feel. I am thinking, besides the fact that I have been insanely busy the last couple of weeks, that probably the main reason for the delay has been that this particular verse makes me feel…uneasy…

I have always loved this verse. I have found comfort in it in times of trouble. It has helped me regained confidence while in shaky grounds. It has brought stability when life has seemed up-side-down. But it also has made me feel worried while cruising.

One thing is to read this verse when I’m in the middle of that darkest of valleys; another one is to read it when life is all bright and sunny.

While in the pit, this assurance of the presence of God brings peace. While in the green pastures, reading about the valley of the shadow of death, truly, gives me the creeps.

I’m just being honest here. I know this is probably not your average meditation…but feelings and emotions are very personal…and this is what is inside my heart. I don’t want to think about the valleys when I’m up high, enjoying the view from the mountain-top. I don’t want to remember darkness when I am in the light. I don’t want to be reminded of the fact that there will be yet, another valley waiting for me at some point…while I am being refreshed near the still waters.

I am so selfish and so in-love with this world that I just want to make the superficial happiness of the material, last me every day of my stay on this Earth. This verse, however, brings me back to a place where the reality of suffering is made evident. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is not something that happens only to “other” people. It happens to me too. And, though I may forget while on the mountain top…valleys of shadows of death are all too real.

Nobody likes walking through them. But some go through these valleys more graciously than others…I am not one of those gracious valley-walkers. Therefore, anything that reminds me of the fact that shadows are part of our wandering in this world makes me uneasy.

What to do?

I just have to finish reading the verse and BELIEVE IT! I have to believe He is Trustworthy! I have to believe that His promises are true and claim them! I have to claim His promise for my own life: He is with me in the valley of the shadow of death…He protects me. He takes care of me. He comforts me with His power and above all, with His presence. I know it in my mind. I just have to believe it in my heart and trust Him so I can take Him at His Word. That is the only way that the valley won’t seem so terrifying to me. That is the only way I won’t become queasy when reading this verse. That is the only way I will fear no evil as I continue my walk with The Lord.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Divine Navigation



He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

For a person who is always lost, the second part of verse 3 of Psalm 23 represents great hope.

Before I ever got a smart phone…which was way later than most people…my GPS used to be my husband Dan. Before I left for a place I was not familiar with, Dan would sit down with me, map in hand or in front of the computer screen and walk me through the route to wherever I was going. He would explain what I could expect, and give me landmarks so I would know if I was going the right way or if I had made a mistake. Often, I would have to call Dan from the road because something went wrong and he would guide me through every stop and turn until I found my way.

I don’t think I have ever thanked Dan for the years of long-distance-navigation-assistance he gave me. Thank you, Dan! I could have not gotten there without you.

I’m telling you. That’s why I don’t clean the house…if I did, how would I find my way without the breadcrumbs?

It is the same in life. I make a million decisions in one hour. But I spend months second-guessing myself. Did I choose the right meal for dinner tonight? Did I buy the right detergent? Should I have bought that laminating machine I saw at Aldi’s? Should I have said no to Dylan when he first asked me to watch that Michael Jackson video he is so obsessed with now? Should I had not pushed to move? Should I had pushed to go back?

Sigh…

I never know if I am going on the right direction. I get distracted by the lights on the road. The incoming traffic blinds me and I get disoriented.

It is a relief to remember that He, the Architect, Designer, Master Builder and Conductor of this thing I call my life is my Navigator, the most perfect one, who will never get me lost, even when I don’t know where I am. And why does He care? He cares because it is for His Name’s Sake. It is for His glory that I get where I need to go.

My Lord and My Shepherd, allow me to trust You enough to follow Your direction so I don’t have to feel lost ever again. Like the sheep follow the Good Shepherd because they know him and know he would take them to the good pastures, let me follow You, Lord…wherever you may lead me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

I am Restored



He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

How do I feel when I read these verses above? Mmmmm… I feel…restored, indeed!

I don’t know anything about being a sheep, but when I read this I just want to be one. I want to be that little sheep that gets to lie down in a field as green as emeralds, and that runs as far as my little sheep eyes can see. And when I’m thirsty, I want to be led by the water…preferably still, so I don’t have to be afraid or nervous with it being rough or rushing too hard.

But, as I read the first part of verse 2 again, I’m wondering...why does it say: “He makes me lie down…” Why does He have to “make me”? I mean, really?

This kind of makes me think of my sons, especially my older one, Grant. That kid does not like to lie down. He has never been one for sleeping much. When he was a little boy I had to “make him lie down” otherwise, he would have never taken a nap or slept at all. Later, he informed me that the reason was that he didn’t want to miss anything…man! Who cares? I wish I could take a nap. I wish…wait a minute…what am I saying?

Am I saying that I don’t voluntarily lie down either? What’s this: “I wish someone would make me take a nap”? Am I that restless that I need to be made to lie down?

The answer is a resounding YES!

People at work always make fun of me because I don’t stop. At home, everyone gets tired just to see me enter the house because they know peace has ended. They actually love it when I take a nap because they can finally chill. I am always on the run. I am always rushing. I’m exhausted.

Yes, I need to be made to lie down in the comfort of the Lord’s green pastures that He has reserved for me. And, since He knows I love me a beautiful water-front, He has placed the picture-perfect still waters right upon my view.

I can see it in my mind as I close my eyes…

My soul is restored!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I Shall not Want



"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10: 11

I’ve been thinking about Jesus as the Good Shepherd a lot lately…not necessarily by choice, but because everywhere, at church, on the radio, in my devotions, the theme keeps popping up. Today, I did make the choice, though, to meditate on it for a bit.

The question that came to my mind was: what does the idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd make me think about? How does that image make me feel?

Well…as I begin to think about it to answer these questions, I decide it would be better if I take a look at one of my favorite psalms… the ultimate shepherd’s guide, Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Forever.

I know, King James version, right? Well, it just doesn’t have the same feeling if I don’t use the King James…and since we are talking about how it makes me feel…well…there…

OK…yes, there are really good, insightful, amazingly thought-provoking and marvelously written volumes on Psalm 23rd…why add to the collection when it is nearing perfection? Well, I guess, I’d like to do my own personal meditations this time.

Therefore, I will go through this beloved Psalm one chunk at a time. Beginning, well, at the beginning:

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not want.

I LOVE this verse. I never truly got it until I read Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23rd, my personal favorite when it comes to studies on this Psalm. I do recommend it! Anyway, before I read Keller’s book I was like, “I shall not want my Lord as my Shepherd? What?” Then, I finally realized it meant that since the Lord is my Shepherd, I will not be in want for anything because He supplies all of my needs. WOW…insert head explosion here!

Yep, no worries. As the sheep, I should have no worries about anything, because I have a Shepherd who is Good and who takes care of me. Then, how come I still worry?

Well, perhaps, it might have something to do with the fact that I don’t know my Shepherd enough to trust Him with my everything…

I think, yes.

Remember what Jesus tells us in John 10?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10: 27

He says that those who belong to Him “listen” to Him. But in order for the sheep to hear…to listen to His voice, they have to, first, recognize His voice, and second, be quiet long enough to actually hear His voice.

Me?

Well, I realize I don’t know My Shepherd enough to recognize His voice among all the other voices that call out to me inside my head. I listen to all of those voices without discriminating which one is the One and Only I should actually listen to. I don’t quiet my soul long enough to allow for this discernment either.

Sigh…

How do I get to know My Shepherd better? The same way I would get to know anybody else: spending time with Him.

How do I quiet my soul long enough to hear His voice? I take captive my thoughts, put them at the foot of the cross and accept the fact that I am not at the driver’s seat.

I am just a sheep. I am not the one carrying the staff.



Lord, please, help me to listen to Your voice and let it soothe my soul as it calms it down long enough for me to relinquish my thoughts to You and allow You to be the Shepherd of my heart.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Elephant on the Highway



How do you eat an elephant? Yeah…I know… the first time I heard this semi-rhetorical question I was confused. I was like, “what? … wait, does it taste like chicken?” I’m a little slow…so it took me a while to get it. And that’s how I am with everything. It takes me a while to get most lessons, especially those divine lessons God so diligently tries to teach me.

I have been so very overwhelmed by life lately, that I have not been able to write much at all this month. I don’t like it when I allow time to slip by without setting aside some to let the Holy Spirit cover me with His meditations as I type. This is my time with the Lord. The very sound the keys make when I press them down on the keyboard soothe me and center me. It’s no wonder I’ve been so out of whack, anxiously tripping by the days as if sleep-walking. I need to get back on track. I need to exchange the craziness of the last few months for moments of peace and freshness.

This past weekend was not one of those moments.

Let me tell you. I despise driving. My limit of driving without stopping is one hour… and a half if I really push myself. Well, last Thursday I had to drive 5 hours by myself one way…in the rain…part of it at night. It was probably the worse driving conditions, second only to a blizzard…btw, I have driven in a blizzard…

At any rate, I was not happy. When I got to my destination, if it hadn’t been because I know how dirty hotel carpets (all carpets for that matter) are, I would have kissed the floor. I did kneel down and praised God for keeping me safe and putting that awful drive in the past, though. Then, I realized I had to do it again in two days…sigh…

When the day to come back home arrived, I woke up as early as possible and as soon as there was light, I got on the highway. The day was bright and sunny and I was driving west, which helped. The trees looked beautiful and the music on the radio was fun! But the road looked as if it would swallow me up, still. My uneasiness with the highway was all the same as it had been two days before. There might not have been any rain or confusing, flashing lights passing me by, but the miles still extended the same distance. Then, I remembered the elephant.

Sigh…

So, I decided to eat the following 223 miles or so, one bite at a time.

I took advantage of interchanges and rest-stops to the fullest. And I broke up the trip in chunks… doable chunks… so when I got home I was not shaking uncontrollably nor feeling like I needed to plant my face on the ground and sob. I was refreshed, and able to enjoy the beauty of the day I still had left!

Then, I thought…this elephant menu makes a lot of sense to me now. I think there might be something there for every time I feel overwhelmed. My Father in Heaven does not want me to try to swallow up all the concerns of life in one bite. He’d never ask me to do that, because He knows I’d never learn what I need to learn that way. I’d be too consumed by the heartburn of my gluttony. He wants me to, first, give my elephant to Him… then, allow Him to cut it up into bite-sizes, to finally start eating it one piece at a time…why don’t I remember that, next time?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Warm Blanket of Peace



Do you ever get cold chills running up and down your spine when you are experiencing fear or anxiety? I do… and I really, REALLY dislike that sensation. I am tired of it. I don’t want to live my life trapped in a web built by my own mind and aided by the manipulations of the enemy. I want to be free! I want to get rid of the chains that keep me a slave of fear. I don’t want to be cold anymore. I want to feel the warmth of God’s love…

I want My Lord to cover me with the warm blanket of His peace so the cold chills of fear may finally disappear.

This is the prayer that I have been using to try to take my thoughts captive every time they start to get out of my control. The thing is that as I am in the middle of a season of waiting, worries about the uncertainties of the future brew a sense of fear in my mind and heart. Then, as the runaway thoughts come in like a dark fog into my brain, the cold shivers immediately follow as a sure sign that I have let my mind wander way too far.

Why do I worry about anything? Why do I insist in allowing my thoughts to go where I know they will find the switch to anxiety and flip it on? Why do I have such a hard time listening and believing the words Jesus Himself tells me in Matthew 6: 25a “Do not worry about your life…” Do not worry about any of it: the body, the clothes, the food, the drinks, and especially, do not worry about the future!

Don’t you love Jesus?! Don’t you just love how clearly He often speaks? It is so plainly stated here, almost as if He is saying, stop it! Quit worrying! It’s not worth it! Leave tomorrow in the future, believe me…you don’t want to bring tomorrow into today. Each day has its own things to worry about, so why worry double!? There is only one thing you need to do, child: SEEK ME!

Sigh…

Lord, help me, please!

During the last day or so, prompted by my niece, who is more like my sister, we have been sharing our favorite psalms among her, my sister and me. Not surprisingly, Psalm 23 came out as a popular one. Today, I want to recall one of my favorite promises this precious piece of Scripture offers us:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23: 4



Enough said…

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Fear of the Lord



As I was sitting in the car, looking for something to distract my mind from the obsessive thoughts I’ve been carrying around lately, regarding upcoming blood work and test results, I fell into Facebook’s lure. However, since God can use anything and everything for the furthering of His Kingdom, He directed me to a video-post by Christian Singer, Natalie Grant. A dear friend had actually sent me that video, but I hadn’t been able to watch it. Lo and behold, this afternoon I was able to play it, and in the video I learned how Natalie Grant is canceling her October and November shows due to an upcoming thyroid surgery.

Among other wonderful things, Natalie Grant explained in the video how she has found out through the current trial she is facing, the crucial importance of holding each and every thought captive. She quoted from the Amplified version, and boy, did that speak to me?

We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 5

I have a hard time controlling my thoughts. When it comes to worrying about my health…I lose the reigns and my mind becomes totally unruly. It gets away from me and it takes me to places I have no business visiting. My thoughts become so argumentative and sophisticated that they totally set themselves up against the true knowledge of God…driving me to a ledge… to a cliff…where they push me down the abyss of the “what-ifs.” There, I lay in helpless desperation, cowering under the attacks of the enemy, shivering with the cold sweats of fear…fainting in dismay.

And that is no place for the child of God to be!

Lord, how and why do I allow myself to get there?

In my case, because I do not have the discipline of taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ!

But, what does that mean? I have no idea…

But then, when I stop to think again, I think it actually is, maybe, an issue of attitude? Like, sort of a combination of staying or keeping an attitude of surrendering and awareness, perhaps?

The trials are real. The outcome could really be bad. The circumstance might not change. The situation can get worst. The end might truly not be ideal. The plan could totally change. It could seriously be a big deal…we are not supposed to deny it or avoid it or act in a delusional way…not at all, I don’t think so. But we are called to be disciplined and intentional as far as how we manage our thought-life while experiencing a rough patch in our path.

And I believe, that management begins with awareness. In my case, I need to be able to recognize when I am letting go of the reigns of my mind. I need to know when I am being attacked by the enemy. I need to see the signs, the warning signs of my thoughts getting out of my control, so I can get back to an attitude of surrendering them to the foot of the cross.

“There is a fear that drives away all fears: the fear of the Lord,” says Jon Courson in his commentary. The righteous man is the man/woman who fears the Lord, who allows the Lord to be LORD over all. The righteous man/woman gets a wonderful promise in Psalm 112:7-8a(AMP):



He will not fear bad news;

His heart is steadfast, trusting [confidently relying on and believing] in the Lord.

His heart is upheld, he will not fear…




As I pray for Christian performer, Natalie Grant in her current trial, I pray I can become the kind of woman whose fear of the Lord dismisses all other fears. I want to be a righteous woman who keeps her mind under control by surrendering to Christ and staying alert. I want to be a child of God who trusts Him and confidently relies on Him. I want to be the person who takes these promises and claims them for herself…so I may never let fear run my life again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Road



We put so much effort in constructing safe lives… lives in which we walk around covered in bubble wrap so nothing ever happens to us. We want the assurance of security and of a comfortable life. We want the safety of a plan that doesn’t get altered. We want to walk along a smooth path without any roadblocks, potholes, detours, ditches or tripping hazards. The smallest pebble under our feet symbolizes a failure in what we picture as the perfect life.

Sigh…

What’s wrong with wanting that?

Nothing!

The problem with that scenario is… that it is unrealistic at best, impossible at worst. No matter who you are, how much money you have, how healthy you are, how perfect life may seem…there will always be something that qualifies as a bump on the road.

So, what does that mean? Is happiness utterly unattainable on this side of eternity? What about this talk about joy? Paul commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” (Philippians 4:4) How can we rejoice when we are in de depth of our dark night of the soul?

I have no clue…

At the slightest sign of “uneven pavement” ahead, I crumble…I go into panic mode. I can’t give any words of wisdom on how to stay strong when the going gets rough…because I can’t do it on my own. If I were to depend on my own strength and abilities during my times of fiery trial, I would have been burned a long time ago.

I am weak. I can’t withstand the storm alone. I can’t walk through the rough patches on my own.

I need You, Lord. And I need all the help you can send me through your beloved. I don’t want to be a burden, but I am needy. I am in need of all the support I can get from those who love the Lord, and love me. I don’t like to appear weak, but I am, and if I don’t ask for help, I’d fall into the pit right ahead of me. I have to grab hold of those who have compassion on my soul, and above all, I have to hold on tightly to the robe of my Savior, Jesus Christ, My Lord!

I despair as I speculate about the future. I believe the lies of the enemy. I trust everything else, but the One that holds the whole world in His Hands. I need His presence. I need Him to break every chain. I need those He has placed along my path to help me carry my pain.

Life cannot be one long-smooth road. But it could be a road planted with wonderful trees that provide much needed shade when we need some rest. It could be a road where, at every rough patch, bump or detour, there is someone else there, offering us a tall and refreshing glass of cold water. It could be a road that I walk hand in hand with My Lord!

He gives and takes away…but my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name!

Friday, September 15, 2017

God's Timing



I was supposed to start taking an in-depth look at the metaphor of being a grasshopper, but I have become truly distracted by other things going on in my life. Therefore, I think I will take a detour here. Eventually, however, I will work my way back to the grasshopper…I know you are really anxious to hear about it…but, I honestly think my current frame of mind will take me back to the idea of feeling small…because, regardless of the perspective from which I get there, I often end up arriving at the topic of trust…or lack of thereof… and how that causes me a great deal of distress.

Yesterday, my mind circled around the idea of God’s timing. It is not the first time I wrestle with this concept. But yesterday, as I waited for test results, I really was led to pause and ponder on how different God’s timing is from ours.

As it happens, I was hoping to get my test results back the day before, but due to a series of events, which had to do with me not filling out and returning a form my doctor sent me back in May, they did not receive the results when they should have. So yesterday, after some maneuvering, they finally got them…but then, they informed me that the doctor was not going to be in the office until next Tuesday! So, I was left with having to continue to wait…augh…

Sigh…

Well…after I panicked for a few moments, I decided I was not going to let that bother me. I decided to trust. I was still nervous, but I was able to let go…even if only my kind of letting go, which means I had to continue to let go, over and over and over again. I repeated in my mind: “I trust You, Lord…I trust You…” like a chant… and I continued on doing my stuff. I didn’t become paralyzed with fear, like I often do. I was able to take my mind off of the worry and into productive things. Then, as I was getting ready to go for my evening walk with Dan…on a whim, I checked my e-mail…and guess what? The test results had been sent to me electronically! WOW! That had never happened…I don’t think? So, I took a deep breath…and clicked on the link to read that it was normal…

Then, I exhaled as I praised the Lord for His goodness, love and patience with me, a little grasshopper, trembling, trying to hold on to her faith as she trusts His perfect timing.



It never ceases me to amaze me how perfect, indeed, His timing is…and how different it is from mine, Praise the Lord!

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! 
 Psalm 27: 14


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rest



Last Sunday at church, our Pastor was talking about the need for us to rest. Boy did that message resonate! I am so stressed out right now, I feel faint all the time.

The beginning of the fall semester is always very challenging for me. After a summer mostly off, my brain cannot adjust quickly to a routine, and I feel scattered and disorganized most of the time. This fall, I have the added stress of having to prepare two big review packets because I am applying for tenure. Our Department is so small at the moment, that I had to go outside of it to find committee members to review my application. This was particularly stressful since I absolutely hate to ask for favors…

Then, I’m teaching a class in a one-night-a-week format, which is completely new to me. And I am teaching two periods of Culture in a not-so-near-by High School for a program I am volunteering.

All in all, I have no idea what I am doing at work.

At home is not any better. This is band season, so Grant is gone three days a week. We go to the games on Fridays and I volunteer to work at the concession stand as much as possible. Dan is back to his school and work routine. Dylan is in his last year of elementary. The house is a mess. The garage is full of junk. The dog needs a haircut and ear medicine. And, on top of it all, I have to have checkups in the coming days and weeks, which alone, totally freaks me out and gives me enough anxiety to fill up a whole year.

I. Am. Exhausted…

A sermon on resting was exactly what I needed. I even came up with a neat acronym, something I am never creative enough to come up with:

Refuel

Empty

Souls

with

Trust

I know… I had to squeeze in “with” to make sense of it…but I like it. I like it because, in my case, the reason I am so tired and in need of rest is because I’m lacking in the trust arena.

If I could just trust His word… trust His promises… I would not worry the way I do. I think I could actually relax in the midst of any circumstance. I believe I could just go with the flow and enjoy the ride…

I’m frustrated with myself. I mean, it isn’t as if He hadn’t proved Himself trustworthy to me. He has delivered me through many storms, fires, toil and snares … but, over and over and over again…when facing something potentially scary, I still get afraid. And I wonder, would that ever change? Would I ever see the day when I sense a storm brewing in the horizon and I don’t get overcome by fear?

I waste so much time being nervous, afraid and anxious. I’m totally sick of it. Fear also makes me distracted, irritable, temperamental, moody, impatient…all the horrible traits that I am ashamed of become enhanced when I am going through periods of tension and worry.

Sigh…

Therefore, I not only become extremely tired myself, but I make everyone around me tired and stressed out.

What a pathetic cycle.

Because of all these… I also become empty. Dragging the chain of fear everywhere I go empties my soul. I need Christ to break every chain that enslaves me, and I need Him to refuel me. I pray I can offer Him an open heart so He can work in me. I need help… I need to trust Him… I need rest.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD. Psalm 112: 7


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8: 28


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9


But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” Mark 5: 36

Saturday, September 9, 2017

No Yolk!



This morning, as I was preparing our usual lazy, Saturday breakfast of scrambled eggs, home fries and… yes… I’m sorry… bacon, I cracked one of the eggs into the pan only to see that it had no yolk! It’s no joke, either! Sorry… lame!!!

Anyway, I buy fresh eggs bi-weekly from a friend whose kids have this wonderful fresh-egg-enterprise. The thing is that I was really surprised by the all clear contents of that little egg. I’m not going to lie, I was startled!

A few thoughts went through my mind, many of them kind of gross. But then, a couple were rather interesting… at least to me… yeah… I know.

At any rate, one of the things I thought was that maybe I should start listening to Rosa and crack my eggs in a bowl, one by one before using them, just to make sure they are alright and good for use. I never do that. She has been telling me that since the first time she taught me how to crack an egg open, just about a thousand years ago. But I have never followed that advice. Especially not in my years living here in the United States where I have done all of my “heavy duty cooking.” Why would I do that? Why would Rosa want me to waste time like that? It is a completely unnecessary step. All eggs are created equal in the USA!

Today, I got it: it is not the same when we are dealing with actually, naturally-occurring things. During my growing years in Panama, we ate fresh eggs. They were not all the same. Therefore, some might have been different when coming out of the shell… not uniformed… I am remembering that, now that I am getting my fresh eggs. Before, whenever I’d open a carton of eggs, I’d know that everything in there would be exactly the same: size, shape and color, etc. …no surprises whatsoever. Now, when I get my fresh eggs, often, the recycled carton in which they come shows an uneven lid, bulging to one side, making it difficult to keep it shut. Once I open it, the assortment of shades of brown and sizes is a delightful sight. Nature at its best, delivering variety rather than monotonous uniformity.

In our society of manufactured and genetically engineered everything, from eggs, tomatoes and petunias, to cows, sheep and human babies, humanity has fooled itself into believing that we are the gods of this world. The enemy and master deceiver has actually manipulated our American ingenuity into making us think that we can control every aspect of life. We are convinced that we have control over every detail of naturally occurring things. We are so delusional that we blame individuals for a hurricane or an earthquake!

And that is what happens when we usurp the place that belongs only to God.

No matter how much we distort things, the truth is that we are as much the creators of the majesty of an egg as we are the creators of the beauty of a full moon. Believing in the possibility of taming nature might have surprisingly, unexpected consequences…one of which is forgetting that nature is inherently untamed. Science and manipulation may get us, at best, to a position of speculation, but never of true certainty.

Nature will surprise us, because nature was intelligently designed and carefully crafted by the Creator of all…the Almighty God, and He is not a tamed one… no human can fully explain Him, no man can fully predict Him… no person can fully understand Him. We have a Father in Heaven who will continue to surprise His children with His love and protection, but who also will continue to surprise those who try to push Him aside or kick Him out of this world. They might not recognize Him, still…but I’m sure they get the uneasy feeling that when something does not go as they planned it…it might be because there are larger forces at play…but, since they refuse to accept that fact, they try to explain it by blaming fellow human beings for things that are completely out of the realm of the human hand.

God’s voice is the only one that the winds and the waves obey. He is the One who determines the number of the stars, and the One who sustains the Earth on its orbit. He is the only One who can determine whether an egg will have a yolk or if it is best for the family to have a bit less cholesterol in its Saturday morning meal.

I hope I can remember this… so I’m not startled next time I find an egg with two yolks! Or maybe, I should just finally follow Rosa’s advice…

Friday, September 8, 2017

In the Eye of the Storm



Today…actually, during the last couple of weeks, it appears that a song like “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson is a most appropriate song to have in the background as the days go by and we continue to hear about the devastation caused by several storms in the Caribbean and surrounding areas. Remember Harvey? That wasn’t too long ago, and we are already bracing for Irma with Jose following. Then there is Katia in Mexico, plus the earthquakes that shook that country’s southern area plus neighboring Guatemala. Talk about tsunamis, 10 foot-storm surges, tornadoes…let alone other types of threats derived from storms and natural phenomena like these…it is no wonder even people way out of the way of such devastation are feeling totally scared and worried.

I truly don’t know what to do or say at this time. I just wanted to express that I am concerned, but that I also know that God is Good…and that He is Good ALL the time, and that He is with us always. He is Good whether the hurricane makes landfall in our hometown or so far away that we can’t feel it. He is with us in the eye of the storm as well as in the calm of the distance. He does remain in control, even when all around us there is chaos and devastation. And He can work goodness out of disaster. He is the God that can make all things new…and He will renew the face of the earth. He is the God that the winds and the waves obey…and He will restore us.

At this time, I pray for all who find themselves in the path of these current storms, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, surf surges, etc. May the protective hand of our Great God be with you. He will deliver you. And when calm returns, He will place His angels all around to help you rebuild.  In the meantime, let's acknowledge our weakness, and rejoice in the fact that once it is out of our control, it goes straight into His hands. 

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.  
Psalm 46: 1-3

He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed. 
Psalm 107: 29




Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Little Grasshopper 2



While pondering all the questions from yesterday, about whether or not I should be ashamed of feeling like a grasshopper or if I should aim at embodying the traits of a giant, I figured I’d like to know a bit more about both of these specimens.

Let’s start with the grasshopper today. Apparently, grasshoppers have been around for a long time. They are ground-dwelling insects that feed on leaves, grass, but also other non-plant related refuse...yikes… They don’t really fly, but have powerful hind legs which enable them to escape from threats by leaping vigorously.

When we went to Panama this past summer, we stayed at a beach for a few days, and discovered many, large, bright-green-colored grasshoppers hanging around the hotel grounds every day. I never thought about them much, but they did hang out by themselves. We never saw two together…Then, today, I read that they are typically a solitary-type insect…interesting…

Male grasshoppers spend much of the day stridulating: making a noise or “song” by rubbing a row of pegs on the hind legs against the edges of the forewings. Some females stridulate, but not nearly as much as males…they are too busy taking care of business J

An adult grasshopper has a life-span of only about 50 days.

Another interesting fact I was not aware of is that at high population densities and under certain environmental conditions, some grasshopper species can change color and behavior and form swarms. Under these circumstances they are known as locusts. So, this means, that the 9th plague God sent to Egypt to “persuade” pharaoh to let His people go was none other than an oversized swarm of grasshoppers…hmmm…

At any rate, how do I compare to a real-life grasshopper? And, do I want to be one?

I guess I should first create a list of the characteristics to then explore each of them in more detail. So let’s see:

1. Ground-dwellers

2. Don’t fly, but leap powerfully

3. Solitary individuals

4. Make song most of the time … if you are a male.

5. When in large numbers, they form swarms and then only concentrate on eating most of the time.

6. Don’t have a long life-span

Well, I guess we can begin our in-depth look at the grasshopper and see if this effort leads us to any beneficial conclusion or if it is all a waste of time…how is that for enticing? Hope to see you tomorrow!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Little Grasshopper



I remember it very clearly even though it happened about a million years ago. I was sitting on the floor. A group of folks were gathered together, as it had become the norm every Sunday evening, for a Bible study our, then, newly arrived Pastor held at his home. I always had a wonderful time at our meetings. It was the very first time I was ever a part of anything like that. It was truly special to sit around a group of seekers of the Word, hungry for the Bread of Life! I learned a lot at those Bible Studies…not just about Scripture, but about myself as well.

It was then when I realized that I was a grasshopper.

Indeed, I am.

I can’t remember exactly what we were studying. I do remember, however, that we were exploring something that had to do with Numbers 13. As soon as I heard Numbers 13: 33, I knew…: We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

There it was. I had probably heard that passage before at some point. After all, I had been raised in the Church. But the words had never spoken to me so loudly. I can safely say that I had never identified myself with anything so profoundly as I identified with the grasshopper back then…and still today.

I am that person who focuses on the problem. I am that person whose eyes immediately go to the obstacles. I am that person who is instantly intimidated by the size of the mountain. I am that person who becomes paralyzed by fear when facing the giants. I am that person who, in her own eyes, she sees herself as a grasshopper.

The root of my problem? Lack of trust.

Not unlike the ancient Israelites, I lack trust in the Most-High God. Not unlike the ancient Israelites, I have a hard time surrendering my all into the Hands of the One Who Made it all.

I am an ancient Israelite grasshopper!

Why am I thinking about this today, sooooo many years after that night at Pastor Doug’s house, you might ask? I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with the fact that the whole thing with me feeling like a grasshopper has not ended. I still feel the same today as I did back then, all those years ago. I’ve also been thinking, what is there for me to do?

Should I stop feeling like a grasshopper? Should I think of me as a giant, instead? This grasshopper v. giant dichotomy has been circling around in my mind lately. I’m not sure where this trend of thought will take me, but, if you are game, let’s get on this new boat and see where we land!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cold, September Morning



As I turn the page on August and September greets me with a rather chilly morning, I can’t help but feeling melancholic about the end of summer. I know that it is not officially over yet, but with Labor Day upon us…it may as well…

I have to admit that the thought of fall makes me shudder…

Yesterday, my devotional reading was about appreciating God’s radiant presence in the amazing sceneries He surrounds us with. The writer talked about the incredible beauty of some small paradise off the coast of Australia, and how unbelievable it all was. Overwhelmed by such splendor, the author worshiped God. I longed to be in places like that. My limited mind and corrupted heart coveted the author’s experience. I wanted to be in that small paradise off the coast of Australia. Why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I go to places like that? Why can’t I LIVE in a place like that? Why do I have to be stuck in a place with cold mornings in September?

Sigh…

Later, Dan and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. I treasure these walks because it is about the one time that my husband and I get all to ourselves in the day. We also, often, use this time to discuss things that are pressing in our minds. It was early dusk and we were talking about something that was making me walk with my head down, eyes on the ground. As we walked our last stretch, Dan looked up to the sky and pointed out the neat shades on the clouds. I finally lifted my eyes from the uneven pavement and saw a most delicate combination of blues, whites, and infinite shades of pink possible. It looked as if a Master Painter had decided to gift us with a beautiful sample of what He was capable of creating.

Sigh…

I had missed the point of the devotional reading in the morning. By complaining about the place where I live and being disappointed that I could not experience adventures like a trip to the small paradises off the coast of Australia, I had missed the fact that the splendor and majesty of our Great God transcend time and space. He displays His beauty and glory in all nature…even right here…in my neck of the woods. I just have to open my eyes, and look up! Be it in a hot afternoon in Panama, in a melancholic evening around my neighborhood or in a cold September morning sitting at my desk, I just have to fix my eyes on Him, see the creation that surrounds me which speaks His name and reflects His glory, and worship right where I am.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Got Talent?



-“I don’t want to play soccer, or baseball, or basketball, or football. I don’t want to join a swim team either!” Argh!

Sigh…

-“But Dylan, you are…”

-“I know, I know what you are going to say… I’m wasting my talents…”

This is a little dialogue that goes on at our house quite often lately. Dylan has incredible eye-hand coordination and, in my opinion, which is pretty worthless if you ask me, he is totally wasting it. He has gotten into his head that he doesn’t want to play any sports. And, to tell you the truth, I am tired of pushing.

This whole thing about talents is very frustrating to me. I consider myself rather talentless (here’s my insecurities speaking again). Therefore, I get really annoyed when I see gifted, talented people just … not using their gifts and talents…sigh…

I have to let go of that way of thinking.

Today was a good day to start.

As I was endlessly running errands earlier, in between stops, I heard bits and pieces of two broadcasts that really made me see things from a different perspective. First, I heard the last few minutes of a sermon from Pastor Rick Warren. He said something like: you are at the church you are because the church needs the talents you have…hmmmm

That got me thinking…

Later, I heard the last few minutes of a talk by someone I have never heard before, it was Pastor Dimas Salaberrios. This was a broadcast of Focus on the Family. At any rate, I heard Pastor Salaberrios wrapping up a speech about how God rescued him from the streets of the Bronx. Apparently, he had been a notorious drug dealer for a long time, and his conversion was nothing less than miraculous. He said that once he got out of jail, and was a fully committed Christian, His soon-to-be-wife took him to a church where they were going to have a mission that would smuggle Bibles into China. He said that his eyes opened wide at the thought of being able to smuggle for Jesus! He actually used the skills he had developed as a drug dealer to bring the Word of God into China!

As I heard that, I was like…WHAAAAT? It was a total slap on the face…but lovingly, of course…maybe more like Our Heavenly Father grabbed my face into His hands and shook it a little, like my Dad used to do when he wanted me to really see something…sigh…

Who am I to say I have no talents? Who am I to determine what God can and cannot use for the furthering of His Kingdom? Who am I to put limit on the Almighty? Who am I to judge how talents should be used? Who am I to decide when a talent is being wasted?

I cannot control what Dylan, Grant or anyone else decides to do with the gifts God has endowed them with. But I can control the way I look at their decisions. I can look at it from the perspective that God can and will use anything…even if we think we are not ready…even if we are not willing…even if we think we have nothing He can actually use.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer Meditations: Hanging On to Scriptures



I began these meditations on Psalm 139 earlier in August because of my constant struggles with insecurities. A deep-rooted sense of inadequacy is my constant companion. I feel like a fraud most of the time. Voices in my head yell at me things like: “You are a horrible Mother and the worst wife in the world!” “You call yourself a teacher? HA! You have no clue what you are doing!” “With friends like you, who needs enemies?” “You are a terrible sister and you were a bad daughter!” “You neglected your parents and now they are gone! You abandoned your siblings, now they hate you!” “You don’t know how to be an aunt.” “You do not deserve to be called a child of God!”

Sigh…

There is so much screaming going on in my head, I’m going deaf! I suffocate in the turbulent waters of my inner blame, product of my own self-creation and inability to make the noise stop.

I need to drown those voices, but I can’t…I cannot do it on my own. The Holy Spirit is the Only One who can silence, once and for all, the lies that bounce on the walls of my mind day in and day out. And I believe, the best tool of the Spirit to accomplish this divine task is to flood my brain with the Living Waters of the Word of God.

Here’s where precious pieces of Scripture such as Psalm 139 come into action…as a lifeline, a lifesaver…to which we hang on in order to stay afloat, until we realize we are truly standing on the Solid Rock…until we get our bearings back, and realize that we were always standing on the Solid Rock…for that sense of drowning, drifting and despair were nothing more than the deceiving work of the enemy.

No matter how I may feel about myself. No matter how inadequate I think I am. No matter how worthless I believe I am. No matter how much of a fraud I consider myself. There is nothing that can separate me for the love of God:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD. Romans 8: 38-39

I claim these words as my own. I hang on to them for dear life. And I use them as my banner, because His banner over me is love! (Song of Solomon 2: 4)

Psalm 139 stands as a reminder to all of us who struggle with insecurities about whatever, that He knows us…He knows us better than anyone, even than ourselves…because He made us. And in spite of knowing everything about ourselves, the good, the bad and the ugly, He declares us marvelous! Therefore, we are! He loves us and He says we are wonderful, because we are wonderful in Him, regardless of what the world may think.

So, as we allow our minds and hearts to be filled with and by the Way, the Truth and the Life there will be no room for guilt… no place for self-hate… no space for the voices of the enemy…no darkness…Only Jesus and His Light!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Summer Meditations: Make Me New, Lord!



23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

As we come to the end of Psalm 139 I am standing on the dawn of my first day back to work after a wonderful summer. I’m typing these words just minutes before I have to go get dressed, and I can’t help but being nervous about the new semester.

I look back at the summer months, running around with the kids…having fun…waking up every morning filled with the joy of carefree days…and I feel my heart become seriously melancholic. I love summer!!!!

Today, on the other hand, I wake up, stomach full of butterflies, head full of anxious thoughts. The fear of another stressful semester threatens to consume me…sigh…the fear of another season of self-doubt and sense of inadequacy threatens to paralyze me…

I want to be intentional, however…I want to be intentional about casting all my anxieties onto the Lord…I want to be intentional about trusting Him!

I want Him to search me once again, and know my heart. I want Him to test me, know my anxious thoughts and see if there is any offensive way in me, so He can wash it all away along with my fears and insecurities. I want Him to show me when I am being judgmental and self-righteous, as He gently reminds me to be humble, gentle and kind, displaying the fruits of the Spirit who is seriously working hard in me. I want Him to make me new. And I want Him to lead me in the way everlasting.

I have to go now, but tomorrow we will conclude our walk along the verses of Psalm 139 with a reminder that we are wonderful, regardless of what we might think of ourselves.