Friday, March 31, 2017

Seek Him First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Donuts and Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Rawness of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Martha that Chooses Like a Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From Chattel to Thinkers

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

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

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

Boy, did Jesus change things, huh?

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Jesus, Amen!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quiet Time with Our Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grave Clothes

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

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

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

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

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

It makes no sense. But it’s true.

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

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


I don’t want to be a mummy anymore.

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lazarus, Come Out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Lazarus does it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Take Away the Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lord, Increase my Faith

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

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

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

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

John 1:3

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

Colossians 1:16

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

1 Corinthians 8:6

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

John 1:10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Divine Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

"See How He Loved Him..."

35 Jesus wept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 1

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

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

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

Philippians 4:6, Isaiah 26:3

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

Not Yet 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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