O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

This week I watched my mom and her siblings walk a heart breaking journey that ended with saying goodbye to their younger sister. At 57 years young, my aunt lost her battle with lung cancer. Her final days were spent in a hospital, hooked up to a machine that aided her breathing surrounded by family who hoped, prayed and waited for a miracle.

Some will look back and think that God did not answer our prayer. Some may even get angry with God. The day before she passed, I found myself questioning God’s purpose in her suffering. But God is always faithful and instead of doubting Him, I chose to cling to my faith. I chose to trust Him confessing that His ways are not my ways. He called her Home the very next day.

God’s timing is always perfect. My aunt had been on a ventilator since Sunday evening and didn’t pass away until Thursday afternoon. She passed away on her mother’s birthday. Her mother, my grandmother, passed away in 1987. I believe the timing of my aunt’s death was God’s way of reminding us that as a believer, death can be something to celebrate. What a blessed birthday present my grandmother received this year welcoming her baby girl into Eternity!

In our humanness, we will grieve. My mom and her siblings as well as my aunt’s children will most long for my aunt to still be on this side of Heaven-not suffering, but still living. But in our faith we can rejoice through the sadness, celebrate through the heartbreak and be reassured that my aunt did get her miracle. God did heal her. Rather than heal her here, He chose to heal her with perfection.

The day my Aunt died, I woke up with two thoughts-The first was this: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55. The second was the song No Matter What by Kerrie Roberts. The chorus kept swirling in my mind.

“No matter what! I’m gonna love you. No matter what! I’m gonna need you. I know that you can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not (if not), I’ll trust you. No matter what!”

The best way to walk through grief is to know that death has no victory over us and to choose to trust God even when we don’t understand His ways.

Be blessed and please keep my family, primarily my mom, her siblings and my aunt’s children in your prayers as they grieve my aunt’s Earthly absence and experience this side of life without her.

Stainless

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Psalms 51:2

I am neurotic about clothing stains.  If I catch one on my clothing before I leave my house, I will quickly change into something else that is stain free before facing the public.  If I spill something on myself during the day I will do my best to get the stain out or try to make it unseen.  I will also obsess over it fearing people can see it or worrying that the clothing item is ruined because of the stain.  I count it a great success when I am able to launder the item and permanently remove the stain.

My son is a three sport athlete.  Throughout the year he busies himself with american football, basketball and baseball.  Two of three sports are notorious for creating many stains on his uniforms.  It’s most challenging when his uniform is white.  Within in minutes of a game his jersey and/or pants are adorn with grass and mud stains.  I’ve spent many late nights soaking uniforms and buying all kinds of stain remover sprays to return the uniform back to its unblemished look.  Again, I’m usually successful but sometimes, the stain simply doesn’t wash out.

Sin is an ugly stain we walk in daily.  God sent His son to cleanse us from all sin but we still struggle with the stain of sin every day.  Christians are not free of trials, tribulations and most definitely not from temptation.   We have an enemy who waits and watches just looking for the perfect opportunity to lead us into sin.  Some believers even have strongholds they continue to be slaves to even after choosing Christ and saying the prayer of Salvation.  Just like an impossible stain on a clothing item, a stronghold can seem like an impossible stain of sin in our lives.

Jesus’ blood is the ultimate stain remover.  1 John 1:7 explains it this way; “…if we walk in the Light as He Himself is the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Christ’s blood was shed to cleanse us from every sin possible.  He died before you and me ever existed.  In a sense, Christ’s crucifixion was a pre-treatment sort of scotch guard that doesn’t protect us from sin but protects us from the stain walking in sin brings. Even though we are born into a sinful world, every sin stain is removed when we give our lives to the One who died to save us.

Here’s a better explanation.  Imagine salvation like a white fur coat.  You’re so in love with this fur coat that you don’t save it for special occasions, you proudly adorn yourself with it every day.  After all, Christ does call us to take up our crosses and live out our salvation daily.  Satan is like a fur protester waiting and watching to throw red paint all over your fur coat while your running errands, heading to work or engaging in some other ordinary routine part of your day.  I’m not a dry cleaner, but I cannot fathom that red paint all over a white fur coat would be easy if even possible to remove.

That’s what satan wants for our lives, to be so stained in sin and strongholds that we think it’s impossible for Jesus to ever wash us clean.  When we are in this mindset, we feel hopeless, ruined and beyond repair.  If we think Jesus can’t fix us or make us clean, how will ever strive to seek Him or walk in His ways?  How can we ever recover from mistakes and addictions if we believe we cannot be saved.  The enemy uses sin and strongholds to fool us into believing God cannot and will not redeem us.

How do we combat the enemy’s lies?  Very similar to how we combat clothing stains. With the best stain removing tool out there.  In the Christian world, our best stain remover is God’s word.  The Bible is full of promises that remind us of what He has done and how He cleanses us from all our sins. In fact, that’s exactly what 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Unrighteousness is a stain that God promises to purify (cleanse) us from.  Isaiah 43:25 explains it even better; “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

Stain removers for clothing have come a long way.  There’s even a laundry stick called Tide To-Go that one can apply to clothing as soon as something is spilled in an effort to be proactive in preventing a stain.  In faith we don’t have a Tide to Go, but we do have a God to go to every time we are tempted to sin (stain prevention), when we get caught up in sin (similar to a coffee stain on a shirt sleeve after accidentally spilling it on yourself) and especially with every stronghold we are chained to (those continuous sins we can’t seem to get free from.)

Just like with clothing stains, we can be proactive against sin stains too.  For clothing, we may carry a stain stick for anticipated spills.  For sin, we can carry our Bible, download a bible app to our smart phones and tablets and especially memorize scripture.  To combat the enemy’s attacks and in anticipation for whatever “red paint” he throws our way, standing on God’s word and reciting the right scripture will protect us from being permanently stained.  If you’re struggling with the idea that God cannot fix you, buy yourself a Tide to Go and on the back side of the package, write down Isaiah 43:25.  Carry it with you and confess it aloud as often as it takes for you to believe that Jesus made you stainless!

What’s Your Worth?

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

 

In today’s world people are desperate to feel valued and scrambling to find their worth.  Popular magazines write articles about value and self-love.  There is a plethora of self help books covering this same topic.  Music apps are full of songs with lyrics revolving around finding one’s worth.

There are many ways people define their worth too.  Some chase after success.  If they are successful in their career, their relationships, athleticism, etc. they feel worthy. Others define their worth solely in romantic relationships.  If they’re dating or married, that means someone loves them and that person’s love, makes them feel worthy.  Then there are those who define their worth in their looks.  Physical fitness, perfectly coiffed hair, daily make-up regimes that are professional grade and wearing designer labels makes them feel as valuable as a rare diamond.

Working hard and having a successful career is a good thing. Being a top performing athlete is a great thing.  Doing the work for a steady and trustworthy relationship is definitely something to celebrate.  Even taking care of your body and valuing how you look is important.  But-none of those things make you anymore or any less valuable that someone else.  That is a sentence that may be quite upsetting for some to read.  Upsetting or not, the truth is, success, marriage, dating, having a super model body, even being an Olympian athlete, does not make you any more valuable than someone who doesn’t work, isn’t into sports, may be overweight and perhaps single, divorced or in a bad relationship.

We wear ourselves out placing our worth in material things and in human beings.  When our worth is defined through the success of our business, what happens when that business fails or we lose our job?  Does that make us a failure?  Not at all.  When we define our worth in our relationship status, what happens when our spouse wants a divorce, our partner cheats on us or we’re chronically single for a decade?  Does being single with an empty date card make someone less valuable that a married couple who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary?  I certainly hope not because personally, I’m on year nine of that “chronic singleness with an empty date card” path.  How about overweight people?  Are they less valuable than someone who works out hours a day twelve times a week and eats like a caveman? The answer again is NO.

Defining our worth in things, status or relationship can lead us to feel unworthy when things don’t work out the way we think they should.  I am firm believer that suicide has been attempted and completed when someone is at their lowest point feeling unloved, unwanted and unworthy.  Young kids have taken their own lives after being told they should kill themselves by their peers.  Adults have killed themselves after being rejected by their spouse or lover.  There are others who have taken their lives after losing their business or career. When we lose what we think defines are value and worth it’s inevitable that we are going to wrestle with despair and feel lost.  It’s also inevitable that we will believe we aren’t valued or worth anything. People struggle to choose life when they feel they are have no worth.

Personally, I am guilt of defining my worth in my career, relationship status and my physical appearance.  I worked a dead end job for 10 years and felt completely devalued on a daily basis.  I have been dumped more times than I count and tend to chase after the guy who only sees value in what my body can give him or wants to control me.  I have felt more worthless in a few romantic relationships than I have felt these last few years of singlehood.  Physically I have struggled with weight gain for years and am currently at my heaviest weight I’ve ever been (even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant with both of my children.)  I look in the mirror and see minimal glimpses of my youth but more and more changes that occur when one is considered “middle aged.”  I dress to hide all the bulges that are present with being overweight and out of shape.   I have spent many years feeling completely worthless.

If success, relationships and our physical appearance do not define us, what or who does?  There are only two things in life that can define worth. One is the dictionary.  According to Google, worth is defined as “the value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration, the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” Deserving is the key concept in that definition.  Worth is dependent upon what is deserved.  This definition makes it natural to get caught up in the idealogy that we get what we deserve so if we are getting failure, rejection and heartache, we must’ve done something to deserve it.

The second definer of worth would disagree.  The other definer of worth is God.  His definition of worth is simply this, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God is the defines our worth because He is our creator.  He created space, Earth, the planets and galaxies, the sun, moon and stars, and every creature that roams the Earth, including you and me.  When an artist creates a painting, they know how much the supplies cost and how much sweat and tears went into making the artistic piece. Thus, they can set a price for it because they created it.  The same goes for you and me.  Because God created us, He knows us inside and out.  He defines our worth and sets a value to each of us.  The price He set for us is this-while we were still sinners, He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you and for me. (Romans 5:8)  Christ’s death and resurrection is was the ultimate sacrifice made for those who live before Jesus, walk with Jesus and for those (including you and me) who came along after Jesus.

The Bible is full of examples of God’s love, deliverance and redemption.  No greater story defines exactly what we mean to our Heavenly Father than Jesus’ crucifixion.  Christ was nailed to cross and crucified in order that we can be cleansed from all sin and spend eternity with Him. Second Corinthians 5:21 explains it best, “God made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”

If you belong to God, you are His pride and joy.  His love for you is endless and He pursues you daily. Your worth is defined in Him and Him alone.  There is nothing, not your past, not your definition of failures, NOTHING, that can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38)  If you don’t yet belong to Him, I pray this message moves you to seek more about Him, His love for you and exactly how He defines you. I want to encourage you to attend a Easter church service or watch a sermon on YouTube to learn more about Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  I pray you choose Him, become a believer and seek His truths.  But whether you know God already or not, know this-whenever you feel worthless or devalued, God says you are more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and He thinks you are to die for!

From my family to yours, Happy Easter.  May God’s redeeming love penetrate your heart and His love overflow in you and through you today and always.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do We Cry

Why do I cry when you speak harshly?

As if your words could ever define me.

Your violent words seem to shred me

But God’s Love continues to heal me.

Why do you cry when he doesn’t come home?

As if it’s a worse feeling to be alone?

It’s not your fault he has a want to roam,

God’s love makes you whole, even as one.

Why does she cry when he doesn’t respond to her chase?

She looks in the mirror and thinks it’s because of her face.

His interest in her is a game at his pace.

But God’s interest in her is a lifelong love, not just a phase.

Why do we cry when the world is mean?

When nobody cares is what it seems?

There’s a God above who sees our pain,

And brings sunshine in every season of rain.

Dry your tears and I’ll dry mine.

For there’s a love far greater than any human can define.

There’s a man who pursues you and me every minute of the day.

He keeps His promises and never goes astray.

His name is Jesus Christ and He died for you and me.

He showed His unconditional love on a cross at Calvary.

The only names He calls us is “beloved” and “grace”.

He only sees beauty when he looks at your face.

He says we are fearlessly and wonderfully made.

And when we believe in Him, we are saved.

He chases you and He chases me.

He longs for us to chase Him daily.

His love is not a game,

It is more fierce than an endless flame.

So dry your tears and I’ll dry mine.

The love that we long for is easy to find.

It’s in Jesus Christ

And His Love makes us refined!

Pride, Punishment and Futile Prayers

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'”

James 4:6 NIV

It’s a good thing I am not God.  If it were up to me to judge the world we would all be spending eternity in the fiery south if you know what I mean.  I’ve been called “judgemental” a few times in my life and while I have taken offense to hearing this, I’m realizing that label is a correct one.  Thankfully, with the awareness and confession, it’s not a label that I will keep.

I have sinned against many people in my life.  Sometimes it’s been accidental.  Often times, out of spite, it’s been completely intentional.  Yet somehow, God has extended more grace than I ever deserve.  I’ve sinned against God more times than I can count, often times even praying belligerent prayers.  Yet God still takes care of me, provides for me and guides me, no matter what I mistake I make.  I, on the other hand, have completely cut certain people out of my life all while striving to live “Christ like.”  Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Recently I had a disagreement with someone I considered to be one of my best friends.  Things said to me cut deep.  I spent the day alone crying and stewing over what was said.  It also emotionally threw me back to a time when I endure a lot of verbal abuse.  A time I don’t like remembering or going back to.  In this recent disagreement I set a boundary asking to not be spoken to in such a manner.  However, the next message I received was an ongoing response of cuss words and accusations.  Rather than continue to argue I chose not to respond at all. A mature choice, right? I also chose to block this person from communicating with me ever again.  I had resonated in my heart that I was done with this person and the friendship.

Since that time, my path has crossed this person’s path a handful of times.  Each time I have done an excellent job at completely ignoring their existence.  To be honest, I have actually been proud of this behavior.  Why?  Because in my past I was the doormat type who would allow people to be verbally aggressive to me and actually believe their angry words were my fault.  I spent too many years allowing others’ opinions to define my character.  The past four years I have flipped this unhealthy behavior but gone to the opposite extreme.  I’ve confused boundary setting with total disconnection.  This too, is an unhealthy way to handle conflict and definitely does not build or maintain relationships.

Last Sunday, at the new to me church I’ve recently joined, the minister gave a calling to pray for others to know Christ’s love and shepherding.  He asked us to think of one person we could commit to praying for daily.  Guess who’s name immediately popped into my head.  I knew it was from God but I mentally argued and literally asked God to send me a new name.  He of course, is far more stubborn than I could ever be and I resonated with the fact that He was still calling me to pray for this friend.  I reluctantly agreed.  However when Monday morning hit, my heart was almost too hardened to pray.  In fact, I expressed great impatience with God’s timing as I have prayed for this person for several years.  I did soften and pray. I stuck to my commitment and have prayed for this person every day, with a stubborn, stony heart. I also ignored this person again when our paths crossed just a few days ago.

Yesterday I felt a stirring in my spirit that I was not walking in love or acting Christ like. I finally broke down and confessed this to two friends asking for help in processing the right way to handle this situation.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

As painful as this disagreement and separation of friendship has been I have learned that I am full of pride.  My choice to block this person, to completely ignore them when I have run into them, even some of the prayers I have prayed for them have all been done from a heart filled with pride and pain.  You know how God handled me during my own sinful time this month?  With more grace and blessing than I could ever deserve. I’ve been a jerk and God has continued to lavish His love and provision over me and my family.  If the real Judge of the world chooses to love me in spite of my bratty behavior, why do I struggle with choosing to love others in spite of theirs?  If Jesus chooses to pursue me even when I am acting my worst, why do I just give up on someone when he or she shows me their worst behavior?

The truth is, in my own human strength there are people I do NOT want to love.  They are toxic, untruthful, vengeful, and abusive.  Who wants to love any of those qualities, right?  Surely God doesn’t love those qualities.  But God DOES love the person/people who display these behaviors. God also calls us to love everyone, in spite of their behaviors.

There’s another person I don’t always choose to love.  She’s impatient, undisciplined, unkind and at times, hateful at others.  She cusses and thinks really mean thoughts when she’s mad.  Her temper has embarrassed her more times than she can count.  She doesn’t always keep her word. She can hold a grudge for a decade or longer.  Her list of faults is endless really.  But God-He loves this woman more than she could ever comprehend.  Which means, I need to love her too.  That woman, is me.  I even judge myself.  I went from refusing to let others judge me to judging myself.  I can be really harsh on me too!

Pride and punishment do not come from God.  Yes, the Old Testament is full of stories of God wiping out entire nations with leprosy, plagues, famines and wars.  Yes, the New Testament tells us we will all face judgement day. However, the New Testament also reminds us of what Jesus did on the cross.  Scripture depicts exactly how Jesus handled toxic behaviors and personal attacks.  He took it and He prayed for his offenders.  He did not walk in pride nor did He seek out punishment for His accusers.  In fact, Luke 23:34 tells us that while Jesus was hanging on the cross, nearing death, He prayed for those who were screaming “CRUCIFY HIM”, for those who spat on Him and beat Him.  He prayed “Father for give them for they know not what they do” as people were casting lots for His clothing.  God calls us to do the same thing, to pray and forgive those who have offended us.

The advice my two friends I spoke with yesterday and today, gave me included this: Instead of blocking someone, pray and ask God to give you eyes to see them the way He sees them and a heart to love them the way Jesus loves you and me.  They both also talked about forgiving this friend and asking myself how would Jesus handle this situation. If you’re going through something similar, I want to encourage you to study what God’s word says about pride, recognize what is and isn’t Christ like and ask the Lord to remove your heart of stone, replacing it with a heart of flesh.  Most importantly, confess your own sins, be reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness extended to you and always choose to walk in love.  One last thing, just this morning I confessed to the Lord there are people in my life that I want to hate (the friend described in this post is not one of them) especially if hating meant they would change their toxic behavior.  God answered me with this: Hate is not what changes the world.  Love and intentionally choosing to love those who are hardest to love is what brings about the change I desire, within them and within me.

Don’t choose pride.  Never choose punishment. If you do, like I have, expect your prayers to be futile.  Instead, choose love and choose forgiveness.  Then watch how effective your prayers will be!

Can We Change God’s Mind?

“But Moses objected. ‘What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?’ he asked the Lord…”

Numbers 14:13a

I’m currently on my second round of reading through the Bible in its entirety.  Right now I am in the middle of the book of Numbers.  It’s not one of my favorite books to read.  I find all the census stuff and statistical information to be boring.  But when I start reading about Moses and the Israelites, God gets my attention.  Chapter 14 is a prime example.

In this chapter, the Israelites are complaining about God’s way of rescuing them.  In fact, they don’t feel rescued at all.  They not only grumble, but they question if God is even helping them.  The chapter begins with the Israelites saying, “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!…Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?…” (Verses2b-3a)  This grumbling makes God’s anger boil.  Enter Joshua and Caleb to intervene by reminding them of what the Promised Land looked like.  The Israelites want nothing to do with their encouragement.   Instead, they actually discuss stoning Joshua and Caleb.  Now, God is enraged.  He appears before all of them but He speaks only to Moses.  This is where the passage gets interesting.

God is so fed up with the Israelites doubting Him that He declares He will disown them.  He is ready to wipe them out with a plague and make a new nation “greater and mightier than they are!” (verse 12)  But Moses objects.  Now if you’re familiar with Moses, then you’re probably aware He questioned God’s calling for Him to even lead the Israelites.  He ended up with Aaron as a helper because He doubted God’s ability to make Him an effective leader.  Now He is in the wilderness with this same group, they’re mad and grumbling, ready to stone Joshua and Caleb.  God is enraged and Moses is caught in the middle.  Suddenly he gets a bout of courage and objects, TO GOD!  Here’s a paraphrased version of how Moses responds to God (and by paraphrase I mean my own modern day terminology of Moses’ rebuttal to God’s wrath.)

Moses musters up courage and responds to God with,

“Dude listen-I get it.  You did all these amazing acts of rescuing them from slavery, providing for them every step of the way and defeating every enemy they crossed paths with.  I mean You’ve literally made it rain with bread (manna) and foul (quail) just to prove Your power in their lives and again, to shut them up from all their whining.

“Here we are again dealing with their doubts, lack of faith and grumbling.  But the Egyptians are still around.  I’m just curious, and I mean no disrepect in asking this question, what do you think the Egyptians would say if You wiped out the Israelites now, here, in this wilderness?  What message would this send Your enemy?  They know the power You displayed rescuing Your people from their land.  They know You’ve appeared to us face to face and that it’s Your cloud that hovers over us.  They know that You go before us by day and by night.  If You destroy Your people now, Your enemy will say, “The Lord was not able to bring them into the land He swore to give them, so He killed them in the wilderness.” (Verse 16.)

Moses continues by asking God  to prove His power once again and even reminds Him of His own words that He is a God “slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion…” (verse 18.)  God responds by agreeing to pardon the Israelites as Moses requests, but denying all who have grumbled against the Lord access to the Promised Land.  Their death sentence is secured right in that wilderness.

If you read this passage at face value, it could be interpreted as Moses changing God’s mind.  In fact, it’s almost as if God is being irrational and Moses steps in and says, “Ok God, before You bring the plague, let’s take a deep breath and see if there’s another solution that won’t ruin Your reputation with the enemy.”  Seriously, it almost looks like God is flying off the handle and Moses is like, “Calm down! Let’s rethink this.” Did Moses actually change God’s mind?  Can you or I change God’s mind?  The answer is, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

God is not a being who can be reasoned with or who’s mind can be changed.  God is also not a being who gets irrational.  God is God.  He is omnipotent and omnipresent.  He always was and He always will be.  He ordained everything that has happened and will happen throughout the entire world’s existence. He is the Master of the Universe.  Therefore, nothing that happens, not even an entire nation grumbling against Him, surprises Him.  Before God even ordained Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God knew most of them would be faithless and never see the Promised Land.  But He chose to rescue them anyway. I don’t believe He ever intended on destroying them with the plague he threatened either.  I believe God said what He said to Moses in chapter 14 to test Moses’ character and to sharpen his leadership skills.  God already knew how Moses would respond to His wrath against the Israelites.  He knew yet He made the threat anyway.  He did so, giving Moses the opportunity to intervene for the people God called him to lead.  I also think God did this to remind Moses of the kind of Power God really has and that His word is not void.  God always keeps His word.

Numbers chapter 14 is a great reminder of God’s faithfulness and His ability to test our character.  If your character is being tested, God is simply sharpening you for the position He’s called you into.  If His direction or response seems irrational, step up and speak out His own word to remind yourself that He is in control, He is all powerful and His word is never void.  Don’t try to change God’s mind.  If you or a loved one is messing up, do intervene, with prayer, concession and confession.  Like Moses, your confession and intercession could be the game changer in their life or your own.

Who’s Your GPS?

“…whether you turn to the right or the the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

Recently I had to attend a work conference that was in a city a few hours south of my home town.  I’ve traveled to this city on many occasions and tend to get lost every time.  Knowing I would be doing a lot of traveling during my three day stay, I planned ahead and fully relied on my phone’s map app.  Even though it took me a different route each day of my commute, surprisingly, I never once got lost.  I did however yell at it and tell it to “shut up” on one occasion when it was insistent upon me turning left through 8 lanes of heavy traffic with icy road conditions.  It did not like my decision to turn right and then safely turn around to the proper direction when traffic allowed me to do so. HA! HA!

My favorite feature of this app is the notification it gives you of how long you will travel on each road before having to turn onto a new road.  It’s not just one notification either.  You could travel on one road or highway for fifty miles (or 80 kilometers) and receive several notifications that you are approaching your next turn, lane change, etc.  It even gives you warnings about detours and road construction before you’re near any of them.  It’s definitely been a useful tool for me for many traveling experiences since owning this specific series of smart phone.  I’ve even personalized it by giving it a male Australian voice and nicknaming it Jarryd (after Australian rugby player, Jarryd Hayne.) So yes, when I “yelled” at it, I actually said, “Shut up Jarryd, trust me, I know what I’m doing!”  LOL

Navigating life can be just as confusing and challenging as driving through a big city.  You’re apt to get lost a time or two.  For the directionally challenged like me, you may get lost over and over again.  This can lead to feeling like you’re reliving the same journey or spending your life walking in circles.  Been there.  Done that.  My entire 30’s felt like I was on a hamster wheel running a marathon that led absolutely nowhere and left me feeling defeated and completely worn out.

Did you know there’s a life GPS?  His name is God and His map is the Bible.  In fact, I’m feeling so creative today I think GPS should really stand for God’s Placement of Situations.  Is life not merely a series of situations?  How many times have you heard sayings like, “She was at the right place at the right time?”  or “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time?”  Funny, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “She was at the wrong place at the right time” or “He was at the right place at the wrong time” though.  Have you?

God’s GPS doesn’t work like iMaps, Google Maps or even Garmin.  God definitely uses the Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re going in the wrong direction or about to make a poor decision.  However, God’s direction doesn’t always instruct us on how long we will be on a certain path or in a certain situation before He changes our circumstances, delivers us from the struggle we are enduring or even before He advises us on a major decision we are seeking His wisdom on.  In fact, there are times when people believe they are walking in the direction God told them to go and everything in their life seems to be going completely wrong.  In times like these, it’s human nature to question if we even understood God’s leading or if we took a wrong turn somewhere, right?

Joseph is a prime example of someone who could question God’s leading.  God told him he would be a leader over even his family some day.  He traveled through abandonment, slavery and false imprisonment before that ever happened (Genesis chapters 37-47). Daniel followed God’s direction and ended up in a lions’ den.  On another occasion, Daniel fasted for 21 days before an archangel showed up with a response to his prayer.  The archangel admitted the delay was due to spiritual warfare (Daniel chapter 10).  From Elijah, to David, and to Paul, the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of God’s direction leading to questionable circumstances.

Often times, people get a word from the Lord, respond with an obedient heart and willing spirit and then nothing happens.  I’ve read numerous devotionals and stories of how God spoke to certain individuals, they complied with His direction and then waited sometimes years for the results of their obedience.  This is similar to driving through a detour that seems endless, isn’t it? God doesn’t always make the directions clear and He doesn’t always give us forewarning to obstacles or detours we may face.  He also doesn’t give us a time frame as to when we will reach our destination.  When there appears to be a delay as to what He told us would happen and when it actually does happen, we can feel like we’re wandering aimlessly or even hopelessly lost.

That’s where relying fully on His word comes in to play.  The enemy will plant doubts in our minds. Impatience may take over and pressure us to give up or go in another direction.  We may even try to speed up the process and interfere with God’s actual timing.  No matter what, I firmly believe God will remain faithful in His word.  If you’ve received a word from the Lord, if you’ve especially taken an action in obeying this specific word and are experiencing a detour, trust in Him, remain faithful to His direction and believe His timing is always perfect.  While you’re waiting and wandering, stand on these two passages:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

“…At the right time,  I the Lord, will make it happen.”  Isaiah 60:22 (NLT)

Lastly, remember this, if God places you in a situation, He will guide and direct you through it.

 

 

Love Actually

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Do you see the man Jesus made you to be?

Or do you see who the enemy has fooled you to believe?

How do you not know that you were made for love actually?

 

When you greet an old friend what are you thinking?

Are you happy to see them or do you fear they may judge you?

When meet a new face you keep many things hidden-

Afraid of letting most see the real you.

 

When you look into the mirror what do you see?

Do you see an aging face and life enslaven?

Or do you see yourself as Jesus sees you-

A royal heir to His Kingdom of Heaven?

 

When someone shows you love, how do you feel?

Do you open your heart and receive it?

Or do you reject what doesn’t seem possible?

How do you not accept that Jesus’ love is unconditional?

 

You let your mistakes define you.

Jesus longs to let His love refine you.

You hide behind jokes and forced smiles.

You embrace a false positivity instead of a healed lifestyle.

 

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

You see a monster living with pain, regret and infidelity.

This view overrides what Jesus is showing you.

You are forgiven, accepted and loved actually.

 

When  I look at you  I see eyes that glisten

with a hope that you will be healed from this brokenness.

But your smile tells me you feel empty and lonely.

Your embrace says you fear you will never know wholeness.

 

My heart wishes I could change your view

Of yourself, your life and who you are meant to be.

But all of my efforts just get rejected

because you aren’t ready to accept love actually.

 

We love because He first loved us.

This piece of scripture means you were made for love.

The enemy longs to keep you thinking you’re a monster.

As God keeps showing you you’re worth fighting for.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

A man of God fully redeemed-

That is my prayer for you for 2019.

When you look in the mirror  I pray you will see

That you are a man filled with His love actually.

 

 

 

 

A Year of Faith in Review….

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”                                      Isaiah 43:19

Although Christmas will be celebrated tomorrow I can’t help but reflect on the fact that there are only six days left of 2018.  Hard to believe that another new year is right around the corner.  I ask the all to common question of “Where did the time go?”  So I thought I would use this post to reflect on God’s work in my life this year and the hope I have for whatever 2019 holds.

A week before 2018 began, I received an unexpected blessing and endured an incredibly expensive car repair.  The blessing was greatly appreciated-the car repair so close to Christmas, not so much.  But God was faithful and provided transportation for me while my vehicle was in the shop as well as means to afford the cost.  My vehicle was back on the road and driving safely before January 1st, began.

I rang in 2018 singing karaoke with my high school best friend.  Our friendship will celebrate 30 years next year.  In high school and our early twenties we were inseparable.  I even kept a toothbrush at her house because I was always there getting ready for our next adventure or outing.  A falling out divided our friendship for many years but God restored it several years ago.  I am truly grateful.  Although life’s busyness keeps us from getting together as often as we’d both like, I cherish the moments, like New Year’s Eve celebrations, that we can share together.

In February, I was gifted a five day vacation to Las Vegas.  I’m not a gambler nor am I into strip clubs so imagine a pg rated Vegas vacation.  I say pg because I was with more high school besties (friends since 1989) and we did enjoy some adult beverages one evening while site seeing on the strip.  The rest of the time consisted of budgeting buffets, and being the typical tourist taking pictures of everything.  Aside from having 5 days spent with women I adore, my favorite part of this trip was being on the strip at night, watching the fountains “dance” to Dean Martin.  Dean Martin makes me swoon so you can imagine the rush of seeing this elaborate light and fountain show move to Dean’s “Luck be a Lady”.  Pretty sure I was frozen in awe smiling ear to ear.

Sadly, while I was on this trip, much demise was happening at my job.  I learned people had lost their jobs as well as our contract had been threatened.  That job was a contract based job and if it had been pulled would mean me without employment.  It was a very stressful and worrisome time.  Those of us that still had jobs walked on pins and needles wonder who was next.  When I returned from my vacation I actually cleaned out both of my offices just in case I was next on the chopping block.

In March my employer learned that our contract would be valid for one more year but many changes had to be made.  As the months progressed our work environment grew more and more dismal with increase in work load, no room for error or delay.  My whole demeanor changed and it effected my personal life.  I had prayed for years for new employment with many closed doors.  As work grew more intolerable for me, I finally resolved that no matter what, I would not be working at that job by summer of 2019. I knew that mean I would need to reduce my debt in order to explore the idea of taking a lesser paying job but I set a goal and prayed for God to deliver.

In April my dog, who was ten years old, underwent surgery.  This was another expensive out of pocket expense as well as four weeks of feeling like I was caring for an infant again.  She is a very small dog and seeing her in a fragile start was difficult for my children and me because she is not just a pet but a member of our family.  God once again provided the means for her surgery and she recovered fully.

June brought more car repairs.  This time my faith was worn out.  Not because of the financial strain-God provided the means to pay for it very quickly.  However I had to wait two weeks before I could get it repaired and it had become unsafe to drive.  So for two weeks I relied on other people to commute back and forth to work.  This I’m sure was a test of pride for me because I am not one who enjoys asking for help or being a burden to anyone. Thankfully God used friends with more than willing hearts to be my chauffeur until my vehicle was repaired.  God also gifted me a mechanic who not only repaired my vehicle in the time he said he would but also fixed the error of another mechanic’s work for free.

In July my daughter endured a minor out patient surgery.  Although her surgery was a success the first week of recovery was rough for both of us.  She endured a great deal of pain.  The pain made her lose her appetite so she would end up taking pain meds on an empty stomach.  A couple of times this led to vomiting because as most know, many pain meds can make one sick if you take them without food.  Three nights in a row we both endure minimal sleep because the pain would wake her up and then she would wake me up for ice packs and meds.  Add to this many sporting activities for my son who’s a three sports kid and had games, camps, practices and tournaments for all three throughout the summer months.

Fall brought mourning as our community lost two members only a month apart.  One had cancer.  The other, took his own life.  Watching my sixteen year old daughter walk through grief after losing a friend to suicide is not easy.  There are not words of comfort that can help or heal.  You just have to watch, comfort and be readily available whenever and however they need.  Suicide also opens the door to have the hard, difficult and not always comfortable conversations with your children about depression and self harm.  But God especially shows up through tragedy.  In fact, my daughter, who has questioned God’s very existence clung to faith to hold her through her grief.  Through the first week after her friend’s death, including attending his funeral, she showed very little emotion.  When I asked her about it she simply said, “I’m said but I know that I will see him again so that is helping me get through this.”  Although my heart was broken for her it smiled knowing her faith was being restored through this.

Fall also brought a serious injury upon my son.  One ER visit after a football practice and a cat scan later we learned he sustained a serious concussion.  This injury caused him to miss school, get behind on school work and all together be out of football for three weeks.  It was a very tough season for him as it brought much frustration, anger and impatience.  Not being to even attending practices made him feel like he was no longer a part of the team.  To an athlete, sports are your life.  Going without them for even three weeks can seem like an eternity.  Thankfully God healed my son in time for him to play his last two football games of the season. He’s since moved on to basketball season and still doing well.

Late fall brought a job opening in my children’s school that I was encouraged to apply for.  Reading through the job description, I wondered if I was even qualified for it.  It did have a lot of office duties I was already skilled in but it also detailed things I was not familiar with.  I hesitated to apply because I felt under qualified.  I also expected it would lead to yet another closed door.  In fact, I waited until the very last day they were accepting applications and I scanned mine and my resume to the employer.  I told only the person who had encouraged me to apply.  Two days later I was called to take their pre-hiring exam.  A day after I completed the exam I was called for an interview.  One day after the interview, I was offered the job.  I was over the moon with shock and excitement all in one.  I started this new job last month and it is everything I have ever prayed for and so much more. God has completely wowed me!

It’s now the day before Christmas and although my cup runneth over, the enemy still keeps throwing curve balls.  This month alone I received word that my biological father was on a ventilator, hospitalized, and not expected to make it.  It happened the same day another family crisis was going on.  Two of my siblings shared they were going though divorces.  A community member endured a life threatening stroke.  Other families I know have endured other health scares, financial difficulties or relationship struggles.  The enemy has even attacked my own home with discord between one of my children and me.  I have wrestled with great anxiety over much of it.  But God remains faithful.  As much tragedy that has struck, no matter how many curve balls get thrown, God’s hands can be seen in each circumstance as He performs many miracles and answers prayers in an epic way.

2018 has been a roller coaster year.  But through it all my God has been my one constant.  His faithfulness remains.  He is unshakable.  His word is true.  Through all of this I have learned that I have two choices-I can worry or I can pray.  When I worry, nothing gets done.  But when I pray,  I mean when I actually stand on God’s word and pray it over my circumstances, God moves my mountains or He moves me further up the mountain.  I am thankful for very good and bad experience this year because each one has molded my character and drew me closer to Him.  Character building and deepened faith is all anyone of us can ever ask for.

Christmas Joy

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.'” Luke 2:10 NIV

We are two days away from another Christmas holiday.  Many have already begun celebrating a season that is supposed to represent peace, love, hope and joy.  It’s the season of giving and receiving.  For Christians, it’s also the season to celebrate Christ’s birth which represents miraculous events that can only be explained through a belief system that supersedes human logic.

Christmas can also be a season of stress, exhaustion, worry, depression and sadness.  In two days there will be children waking up to no presents, not even a Christmas tree and maybe even no food or heat in their homes.  Families will gather for dinner with at least one empty seat reminding them of a loved one whom they lost this year.  Kids will divide their time between households of split parents who may or may not get along.  Somebody is going to get drunk or misuse drugs to self medicate.  Fighting and abuse will increase.  Not every household in our neighborhoods and cities will be filled with love let alone experience Christmas joy.

Personally I have seen life threatening illnesses attack family members and community members.  There are people who will be fighting for their lives over the Christmas holiday.  I have also seen marriages and relationships recently come to end.  In two days there will be people experiencing Christmas without their spouse or significant other whom they lovingly shared this holiday with in the past.  If children are involved, they will be spending this holiday away from at least one of their parents adjusting to a new normal.  People have or will lose their jobs or perhaps have been jobless for months.  In  a season that is supposed to be happy and joyful, suffering seems to insurmountably increase.  So the question is, how do we find joy in such desperate and heartbreaking circumstances?

The answer? Joy in all circumstances is found when we turn our focus to Jesus.  Christ’s birth is the perfect example of bad timing and finding joy amidst dismal situations.  Mary was a virgin who’s fiance’ thought she gave herself to another man.  Joseph married a woman pregnant with God’s baby and couldn’t consummate the marriage until after Christ was born.  The mockery and judgement they must’ve endure would be enough for even the strongest in faith to question God.  But then in the end stage of Mary’s pregnancy they have to travel a distance for census purposes.  This was not flying coach or calling an Uber.  This would consist of riding a donkey or camel for days.  There was no telephone or internet to make reservations ahead of time so when they arrive in Bethlehem they find no lodging available.  One innkeeper offers them his barn to sleep in.

I’m going to interject right here-this is Mary, carrying God’s child.  God, the creator of all universe, all powerful and all knowing, knew Mary and Joseph’s story all along.  Nothing surprises Him.  God knew before He ever put Jesus in Mary’s womb exactly how Jesus would enter this world-in a barn among farm animals.  This was not a clean or sterile environment.  I can only imagine that this was not the ideal place Mary would have chosen to give birth to any of her children, but especially to God’s son.  If Mary’s faith was like mine, she would’ve had super high hopes for an elaborate birth and be sorely disappointed when she was laboring in a barn.  But when it was all said and done, Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV)  Jesus was born into a world filled with sickness, disease, addiction, abuse and heartache.  He was born into this world because it was filled with such sadness.  His purpose was to save us all from the demise of a fallen world.

Cancer, stroke, heart disease, pneumonia, divorce, discord, anxiety and debt do not care that Christmas is 2 days away.  Bank accounts don’t magically have excess for Christmas presents and special holiday dinners.  Loneliness doesn’t take a vacation on December 25th.  Christmas doesn’t gift the return of a loved one who passed away.  There is nothing in this list that exudes joyfulness or describes Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year.  Yet God calls us to joy.  Choosing joy means praising God amidst the storms that heap pain, sorrow and devastation.  Choosing joy means clinging to God’s promises and faithfulness even when He feels so far away and we question what His plan is.  Choosing joy means gratitude for another day to celebrate Christmas even though our worlds may be crumbling.  Choosing joy means knowing God’s timing is always perfect and victory will always be His even when it seems as though our enemy is winning.  If nothing more, choosing joy is simply an act of obedience because God tells us to choose joy in all circumstances (Philippians 4:4.)

Christmas carols celebrate joy.  Decorations are adorn with the word “joy.”  No matter what we are facing today there is always a choice to live in our feelings or to choose joy.  Joy in all circumstances will always bring peace that exceeds human wisdom.  When you know that kind of peace your faith will soar because you will finally believe God’s promises will be fulfilled no matter what chaos is happening right now.  Every circumstance reflects a season.  Christmas is a season of joy in spite of our circumstances.  Take time to sing the lyrics to this Christmas classic today and every day this week with a mindset of choosing joy.  When you hear these words, “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME…” Belt it out with a heart that chooses joy and watch how unshakable your faith becomes.