Friday, July 7, 2017

The Journey





I have expressed in several occasions that I have issues with letting go. The more I think about it, however, the clearer it is that these issues come from a lack of trust. The secret to letting go is to trust. And, in order to fully trust someone, we need to know that someone… really well, by the way… Consequently, for Christians, our ability to let go depends on how intimately we know our God. To know God, it is imperative that we dig into His Word… that’s how He has and continues to reveal Himself to us.

Therefore, as I see it, reading and studying the Bible is the key to reaching a level of trust in our Heavenly Father that can allow us to withstand all and any storm, help us to climb any and all mountains, protect us from and through every and all fires, keep us as we endure each and all trials we may face in this life.

Knowing God and His promises allows us to regain perspective when things don’t go our way, so instead of crumbling under the weight we know we cannot sustain, we let go, instead.

Knowing God’s Word allows us to relief the stress of thinking that all we have is our own abilities, skills and strength to work things out for our own good. Realizing that we are not alone and that we are not left to go through life by our own limited devices is the first step in our quest to letting go… and our first step in trusting God. But that step must begin by knowing Him.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 23 states God’s admonition: "Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.

I have trust issues, but I recognize that the root of my issues is that I don’t seek to know God with all my heart and strength. Instead of obeying Jesus’ command to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6: 33) I worry about the pursue of all the other things that I’m not supposed to worry about because the Father takes care of all of them. I forget that He knows I need them and therefore, He’ll take care of those for me. I worry about tomorrow, even though I’m supposed to stay put on today. But, the more I read Scripture, the more I memorize it, the more I make it part of me… the more I know His promises, the more I remember He is in charge, the more I remember He loves me, the more I remember who He is… the more I trust Him.

And… the more I let go.

The funny thing is that I often forget that I ought to trust Him not just on the big things of life, but also on the small, the trivial, the mundane…I have to trust Him in the thunder, but also in the quiet. I have to trust Him in the winds and the waves, but also in the breeze and the calm. I have to give Him all my plans, not just the big and complicated ones, but also the seemingly simple, trivial and uncomplicated. The truth is that, there aren’t any plans too small that I can handle on my own.

For instance, right now, we are about to leave on vacation for the beach. This is a week I have been anticipating since last winter. I have it all under control. I have planned this trip to the last detail. There is nothing I cannot handle… right?

WRONG! Of course, I have to give this plan, this adventure, this seemingly insignificant event to the Lord as well! And I do, right now! Please Lord, take this trip into your hands. I cannot do it without You…not a bit. Even in the fun days ahead, I want to seek you intently. I want to seek You First. I want to see Your Face in the face of others. I want to praise You and thank You for everything, and I want to see Your hand everywhere we go.

To make sure I seek Him this week, I will keep a journal, which I will post as I can to have a record of how the road to keeping Him with me in the pleasant journeys of life works out.



See you at the beach!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!



Praise the Lord for another 4th of July! Happy Birthday to the greatest country in the World!

Even though I was not born here, I have been adopted by this great land and I feel honored to call it my home. I celebrate this day as a day to honor freedom and the limitless potential of human ingenuity when guided by God. The United States experiment has been one of trial and triumph. Trial, because we have tried to make something wonderful here, but it has not been easy. It has been a journey marked by toil. But it is also an experience filled with triumph because the efforts have given amazing results.

We are not perfect. We know we are not. Those who label Americans as arrogant do so because of a lack of understanding of the essence of what it means to be an American. It is not arrogance. It is love. And anyone who has ever loved anyone or anything knows that it is almost impossible not to feel proud of the object of their affection. I love this country. Therefore, I am proud of it.

All these said, I cannot deny the fact that there are seriously profound issues that need to be addressed and hopefully fixed. However, today is not the day for that. I am not going to spend my 4th of July complaining. I am going to spend it with my family, praising the Lord for all the blessings and for the life He has given me here.

God Bless America, My Home, Sweet Home!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Emotional Intelligence and Faith



Well, I guess I’m still thinking about emotional intelligence and Christianity. My thoughts today led me to the idea that lack of emotional intelligence might have something to do with lack of faith.

In the workplace and in secular society, when people talk about someone having low or no emotional intelligence, they refer to people who are often impatient and get frustrated easily. It also applies to people who overreact and who have low levels of tolerance and empathy. They are not sensitive to the feelings of others and find it annoying when others expect them to know how they feel. They usually blame others for what goes wrong, particularly because they think they are always right.

As far as recommendations to increase emotional intelligence, secular thinkers say things like: “hit the pause button” and avoid having knee-jerk reactions when things don’t go your way. Pause and listen to others and to yourself. Choose wisely how to respond to situations. Practice empathy. Be humble.

The way I see it, all these advices could be summarized into one: Read the Bible!

For Christians, emotional intelligence is a matter of belief. We study God’s Word. We learn about His promises. We believe in the fact that Jesus gave it all for us. We know God loves us because He is love. We trust that He has a plan to benefit us and not to harm us… to give us a future and hope. We trust that we can do all things in Christ who gives us strength. We know that He is always with us, and that He walks with us even in the valleys of the shadows of death. We accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. And we know that He who begun a good work in us will complete it because all things work together for the good of those who trust in Him.

As we know, understand and believe the truth contained in the Word of God, we see our faith grow. We see our humility take a leading role. We see our empathy increase. We see the futility of demanding to be first, for we know that the kingdom of God belongs to the last, the mild and the lowly. We see our hearts fill up with love, the kind that gives it all in sacrifice to others as the Holy Spirit makes His fruits blossom in our souls.

I have lived a life in which emotions have often taken the wheel leaving nothing but the rubble of my neighbors’ feelings scattered all along the path behind… As a result of my lack of sensitivity, lack of self-control, impatience and above all, lack of faith and believe that God is in control, I have failed to be who I was designed to be. But I am finding out that the more I seek Him, the more I find His peace, and the more I realize I am nothing. The more I understand that it is not for what I do, but by what He has already done that I am a beloved child of God, saved and forgiven. Therefore, surrendering to Him is a most. It is not about me and what I do. It is about Him and who He is.

By releasing control, trusting Christ and having confidence that God’s plan for me is perfect even when I don’t understand, I grow in my faith… in a way, I get higher emotional intelligence. Perhaps, secularists will never admit to the fact that Christianity is the anchor that could bring the most effective emotional stability to those around them. But we know better. I mean, it is not that Christians have it all figured out and are perfect. Not at all! Exhibit A: insert picture of ME as an illustration of a failure…But we know that the road to emotional intelligence is none other than the road to sanctification, which is the road paved by the precious blood of Christ, open to us by the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Let’s just stay on that road, fed by the Bread of Life, guided by the Word that is the Lamp onto our feet, and strengthened by the Solid Rock, fitted in the Armor of God and robed in humility and love…one step at a time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Emotional Intelligence



Let me just start off by clearly stating the fact that I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or anything remotely like that. I don’t pretend to know anything about the human mind or any mind…mine or anyone else’s. I am just a regular gal that likes to think about things… and one thing that has popped into my head recently is the topic of emotional intelligence.

Psychology Today, a magazine published every two months in the United States, founded in 1967 by Nicolas Charney, Ph.D with the intent to make psychology literature more accessible to the general public, defines emotional intelligence as:

the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.

Hmmm…

I guess the basic elements of emotional intelligence could be bullet pointed as follows:

1. Self-Awareness

2. Social-Awareness

3. Self-Management

4. Relationship-Management

I might be swimming in murky waters here, but when people in my professional circles and other non-Christian environments speak to me about Emotional Intelligence or the value of Emotional IQ… I can’t help but thinking that all those highfalutin concepts of which secular thinkers are so proud… are non-other than ideas long-held by Christians throughout the ages.

I mean, really, have any of the psychiatrist and/or psychologist that came up with the idea of Emotional Intelligence ever heard of say… The Fruits of the Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23

If this is not referring to self-awareness and/or self-management, I don’t know what does.

How about the “Golden Rule”?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7: 12

The way I see it, this is the best relationship-management tool ever invented.

The myriad of verses on empathy and solidarity with one another shout social-awareness and our divine call to mind the needs of others:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12: 15

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4: 29

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12: 26

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4: 32

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6: 2

And of course, the greatest commandment sums it all:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31

This very small sample of basic Christian teachings has been speaking to believers in terms of Emotional Intelligence for as long as the Bible has been around…which is WAY longer than the day modern psychiatrists might have coined the expression. And these are only examples from the New Testament. The Old Testament is filled with the same teachings… if in doubt, look at the Proverbs and the 10 Commandments!

I don’t purport to be a leading thinker on the subject. I just wonder if secular minds might have, perhaps missed the fact that the lack of what they term Emotional Intelligence might be, indeed, a lack of the presence of God in the lives of those experiencing such a situation?

Sigh…

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Waiting Part IV



To go full-circle on the whole waiting-at-the-airport adventure from last week, I have to tell you that, I did meet up with my sister and niece in NYC after all. Also, after the days we spent there, I found myself … you guessed it… waiting at the airport… again, on my way back home.

I spent about 8 hours at JFK that Sunday… gosh… this time, it was not due to airplane malfunctioning. It was due to brain malfunctioning… my brain! Just to avoid taking a cab by myself from the hotel to the airport, I decided to leave with my sister and niece… both of whom had super-early-departing flights…sigh.

After the initial shock of realizing the insanity of my decision, I found a place to set camp for my wait. Feet up on my suitcase and hotel pen in hand, I began to write down my thoughts about the trip… o yes, and I also bought a really neat, but highly over-priced journal at the airport because I ran out of space to write on my itinerary and boarding passes…

…anyway…

In summary, the so long-awaited and anticipated visit with my sister and niece started on a high point at the Empire State Building, went down very quickly as we sailed under the Brooklyn Bridge, to then stabilize and go back up again thanks to some black-market dealings in China Town that shall remain unspoken. All I’d like to say is that a bit of retail therapy has an effectiveness rate rarely outmatched.

All in all, the trip was mostly a learning experience that allowed me to discover the power of prayer and the gift of self-control… or shall I say, the fruit. Saying that self-control is a gift is not only biblically inaccurate, but it may lead us to latching onto the idea that it is a gift we don’t possess; therefore, don’t ask me to display it ‘cause I don’t got it! Wink, wink…

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, one of which the Apostle Paul tells us we would be recognized by. – I’m in big trouble here -. But, once we are able to see this fruit’s richness appear…Oh, what a gift it is!

The same with every fruit… patience being anther one of them…

I also learned a lot about the fact that I don’t want the thought of lacking hope crossing my path anymore. I want my faith to increase. I want to be recognized by my fruits. I want the truth that I am a child of God to be evident to those around me on the way I act!

Isn’t it funny how things turn out so unexpectedly sometimes? I had been looking forward to this trip to New York City for a long, long while…and today, I can honestly say, that the most memorable, productive and positive thing about it ended up being the time I spent at the airports…waiting…maybe waiting, in a way, could be considered also a gift, after all.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting Part III




Well, yes… that’s what the Holy Spirit placed in my mind that early afternoon, last week, while stuck on a plane, in the middle of the Pittsburgh airport’s runway, waiting to take off to meet my niece and sister in NYC… “it is in the waiting that we find the gift.”

I think it is not necessarily the actual period of time that we get to spend waiting what the true gift is… but, rather, that the wait is the packaging where the gift comes wrapped in.

As it is easily inferred from my writings, I allow my thoughts to run wild, once in a while, to the point of causing unnecessary stress and uncontrolled anxiety. Therefore, waiting for me usually becomes life-threatening… particularly if I leave my mild idle. Waiting for that delayed flight to NYC last week was a good example. During that time, I realized that the best thing for my sanity and that of those around me, is for me to keep my mind occupied whenever I am faced with having to wait.

Knowing that about myself, I happened to grab a book on my way out of the house which I had started earlier this year and had to put down because I was so busy I couldn’t finish it. Well, guess what, the delay on my flight gave me the perfecto opportunity to get caught up on my reading of that book. As God would have it, the chapter I picked it up at was on the topic of… wait… wait for it… yes, it was on the topic of waiting, of course!

The Lord has a way of speaking to me in a loving, caring and sometimes, VERY clear way – this was one of those times.

The thoughts on waiting paired up with an actual wait, topped by a book with a chapter on waiting… c’mon… even I could not miss that message…

Anyway, how often God puts us in a position where we have nothing to do but wait? In my case, rather than taking the waiting time as an opportunity to discern what God wants me to learn, I have wasted many of those moments fretting, panicking or being upset. Waiting for test results has, over the last few years, been a re-occurring example of such a waste. Hands sweating, body shaking, back aching as I wait for the telephone to ring… until, one day, the Holy Spirit led me to the Word. In one of those occasions, I picked up my Bible and began to read through the Psalms, starting with #1. Ever since that day, that has become my ritual every time I have to wait for test results.

Covering up the icy-cold rooms of anxiety and fear with the warm blanket of the Word as I wait has helped me, in those moments, to refocus by taking away my eyes from the circumstances to center them on Jesus. The key is to always do that…to always be able to re-direct my sight towards the One who is Hope so I can unwrap the gift that comes to me neatly packed in the wait…like for instance, these meditations I was able to jot down while waiting for the airplane to depart.

Sigh…

Therefore, though I might not totally agree with the author of the book I was reading when she pointed out that the waiting is the gift… I do agree with the idea that waiting might just be the packaging where the gift is packed in. The time we wait should be then, used to unwrap it so we can enjoy it! Simple, huh?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Waiting Patiently Part II



Patience is something I’ve ever been accused of… waiting patiently has not been anything, anybody has witnessed me doing much at all… ever!

As I sat in one of those airport chairs, last week, still waiting to hear about our flight… isn’t it funny how they make those chairs look as if they are comfy, when actually, they are not? … anyway, I read a line in the book I was trying to finish that stroke me: “waiting patiently is about hope.” Hmmm…

What did that statement mean? Well, to me, that means that if I find myself not being able to accomplish patient waiting, that signifies that I have no hope. If I have no hope, that means I don’t trust the One Who is Hope… and that if that’s the case, then I have little to no faith…

Sigh…

Next, the book presented the idea of considering the waiting periods in our lives as a gift. Needless to say, I found that concept hard to accept. Gifts are usually things that I like receiving. I don’t like to wait…so, how am I ever going to consider waiting as a gift?

By this time, I was no longer waiting at the gate, but I was actually on the plane, in my seat. But we were still waiting. The plane had begun to move, but suddenly, it stopped again…waiting became unbearable! How is it possible that we got on the plane, the plane pulled off the gate, moved around the runway, to then just stop! UGH!

How can I consider this a gift?

In this scenario, the real gift is to spend time with my niece and my sister, NOT SITTING ON A STOPPED PLANE in Pittsburgh!

Sigh…

The way I see it, the wait is chipping away at the gift!

How could I ever begin to consider waiting as “THE” gift?

Sigh…

Well, after my desperation gave way to a rare occurrence of peace, I realized that one way to accomplish that different perspective could be by choosing wisely what I do while I wait.

The Holy Spirit felt restless inside of me as I waited, and He moved me to grab a pen and whatever piece of paper at hand. Luckily, I’m still a bit old fashion when it comes to airplane tickets, so I always print them along with the itinerary. Therefore, I had some paper I could use. Then, I wrote:

It is in the waiting that we find the gift.

Hmmm…

Monday, June 19, 2017

Waiting Patiently or Patiently Waiting



To wait… patience… two concepts that have a dark and resounding heaviness in my soul. I know, the adjectives I’ve chosen to describe the feelings that the words evoke in my heart do not necessarily go together. At first glance, the adjectives might sound too concrete, not the most accurate to define abstract concepts, but in the depths of my being, they do make sense.

Dark: opposite to light – what happens when it’s dark? Well, when it is dark, we can’t see very well or at all. When I’m confronted with the reality of waiting, suddenly, there is a darkness that comes upon me, blinding me… I can’t see what’s coming. I have to wait to find out. Like when I was on board an airplane not too long ago, to go to NYC to meet my sister and niece for our yearly get-together, unexpectedly, the waiting began. There was something wrong with the plane and we had to wait… there was not much info given to the passengers… just the wait… in a fog of sorts, in the darkness of the unknown…

Resounding: when something is described as resounding, the idea of loud comes to mind. But it is a loudness that causes waves, that reverberates. It can also be something huge, very great. To me, waiting can become very loud as my mind screams at me with an ocean of scenarios, many of which are absolutely terrifying. The waves caused by the loud noise of my mind often threaten to overpower me as they become bigger and bigger with the increasing worries of my overactive imagination. I’m going to never make it to NYC and I’m going to miss out on a wonderful gathering with my beloved!

Heaviness: a crushing weight hard to bear. Waiting asphyxiates me. Whether it is waiting in traffic, at the doctor’s office, at home by the phone, at the airport for some news of what’s going on with my flight, waiting causes me to stop breathing regularly and my chest feels as if under a press. Physically, I feel the crushing heaviness descend upon me when I’m faced with a wait, and the interruption of the air flow drives me to desperation. Waiting, therefore, results in a very physical, concrete reaction within me... I know… I have issues!



Now, throw in the word “patience” or “patiently” in front or after the word “waiting,” and the reactions become exponential…

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Into the Rapids



I read something a few days ago that talked about the writer’s experience doing white-water rafting for the first time, and it reminded me of the time Dan and I also went on this exhilarating experience. It was a LONG time ago. If I remember well, it was during our first year of marriage. We went to Costa Rica and booked the tour…and boy, was it an experience!

We had never done anything like this before. We were in a group of…8 people? I think. They gave us a little training before we hit the water in which we learned where we were going to seat, 4 on each side, with the leader on the center back, at the “driver seat”. I remember thinking I better pay attention ‘cause my life might depend on it, so I focused y on the leader’s instructions as best as I could. The kid, I mean, I guess I was a kid back then too, was Australian… and one thing he said in his cool, down-under accent, which made everyone chuckle, was “OK, mates, remember your left from your right…don’t forget which side is right and which side is left…don’t laugh…because there’ll be a time when you might not remember…” Then he said: “always, listen to me and do what I say!”

We carried our raft to the river and on we went… or is it “in”?… The river is called, “Río Reventazón” which means something like “Big Burst...” or something like that…yikes… And burst it does. Those rapids came in quickly, my friend. Before I could ponder whose great idea that was, we were immersed in a whirlpool of roaring waters, and I saw nothing but white all around. I soon realized I had no clue what to do! Then, I remember what the guide said: “always listen to me and do what I say!”

“Left ahead, right back!!!” “Right ahead! Right ahead! Left back” “Left ahead! Left ahead! Right back!!!” Gosh… am I right or left? What’s ahead?

There was no doubt, I had forgotten my left from my right…

Someone fell off the raft. “Grab him by the lifejacket!!!” the guide yelled. “All ahead! All ahead!” “Left back! Right ahead!” We were trying to pull the raft mate out of the water and into the raft, while still paddling in frantic confusion. Soon we realized we needed to ACTUALLY pay attention and listen to the guide or else we would never get out of the river alive! Eventually, our raft began to move forward more cohesively as the inexperienced rafters became more comfortable following the barking orders coming from the leader... and remembering our left and right.

Once we understood the significance of truly tuning into the guide’s voice and doing what he commanded, the fun started and we were able to enjoy the ride. I mean, it was still hard, and exhausting (I have never felt more physically drained in my life!) but it made sense and we were able to have a meaningful experience.

Thinking back today I see how during the moments of relative calm, we navigated more on cruise control, without much instruction…but as soon as we hit the white waters, keen awareness of the leaders’ voice and acute obedience to his commands became a most.

Sounds familiar? Well…of course. As Christians, we have a Leader who is giving us guidance and precise instructions every step of the way…but often, in the midst of the struggle, when we are deep into the rapids, panic sets in and confusion wins the hour. We get so caught up with the circumstances at hand, and are so blinded by the bursting waters that we forget what’s left or what’s right! It is not until we intentionally tune into our Guide’s voice that we will listen to His instructions and be able to follow them. It will not necessarily make the waters be still, but it will make us know what to do to get us out of the whirlpool.

Matthew 17:5

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May Panama Never Forget



Today I heard the news of the passing of Manuel Antonio Noriega. I don’t expect that name to mean anything to many reading this post, but to me, the name still stirs a violent combination of fearful memories, deep anger and an age-old frustration mitigated only by the almost thirty years that separate his last political actions from the people of Panama.

Noriega, known to Panamanians as El General Cara de Piña, is responsible for countless acts of terror against his own people. He breathed his last just hours ago… and my heart was conflicted, I have to admit.

The news of his death brought to my mind the still vivid scenes of my witnessing of the dramatic invasion of Panama in December of 1989 by the United States under Operation Just Cause. It was, indeed, a Just Cause operation because otherwise the people of Panama would not have been able to get rid of Noriega, but that does not deny the fact that experiencing it was horrifying. Being the recipient of the punishment of the USA’s military force is not to be taken lightly regardless of how just the operation is. The panic of realizing the lights you see in the sky are not fireworks is not easily forgotten. But neither are the years of living under the ruling of a ruthless dictator that treated the country as his personal farm and the people as his slaves.

I was born under a military dictatorship. General Omar Torrijos was in power at the time. Although more benevolent than Noriega, Torrijos taught me to live without the ability to be completely free. It is said that Noriega planned the “accident” where Torrijos died. After a quick succession of rulers, Noriega rose to power when I was a sophomore in High School. By the next year, hearing about people who had been thrown in jail for speaking their mind, disappeared or/and brutally murdered for disagreeing with Noriega’s rule were a common occurrence. Once I graduated from High School and moved to Panama City to attend college, things were so bad my sister and I lived in a constant state of worry that caused us to fear even buying white toilet paper… every day at noon, in Panama City, people from the tallest buildings in downtown would unroll white toilet paper from the windows like streamers of protest as others banged pots and pans in hopes of being heard by a world that seemed to be asleep to the plight of the people of Panama.

Anything white was banned. Nurses had to carry a special permission to walk about wearing their uniforms.

The night of the US invasion of Panama, I remembered I called my Dad and told him what was happening, since the heavy fire was only in Panama City. Back in our hometown, 4 hours away, things were still quiet at that time. My Dad would talk about that phone call for the rest of his life: “Dad, can’t you hear it? The sound… the sound you hear over the phone… that’s bombs, Dad, bombs from the sky!” He would repeat what he remembered as my words when I called every time the conversation revolved around the events of that December night…

That night, he quickly gathered my Mom and whatever he could, got in the car and drove away to seek refuge at one of my Mom’s brother’s house because our neighborhood had been targeted as one that would receive retaliation from Noriega’s forces if the US ever decided to invade…besides, our house was around the corner from the military headquarters of our province…easy target either way.

I remember my Dad saying how he locked the gate at the bottom of our driveway, got in the car, and looked back thinking that’d be the last time he’d see our house standing…

I owe all these memories and many more I don’t have time to relate here, to General Noriega. Mine are happy compared with those of the people directly at the other end of his gun. After the invasion, Noriega landed in prison in the USA and later in Panama, where he was when he got sick last month and later died last night. There is a whole new generation of Panamanians who do not share my history either because they were too young to be affected by it or were not even born. I pray that they do know it, however, so they are not bound to repeat it.

As for me, when I heard of his passing my heart was conflicted… then I read a devotional reading which heading says: “Expect and Extend Mercy.” The title made me shudder… but as I read it, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself into my heart showing me that the right thing to do is to forgive and to pray for God’s absolution. I am not his judge. God is. May He have mercy on this man’s soul. And may the people of Panama never forget.

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!