Give Me Life

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I have been greatly humbled, Lord Jehovah;

give me life according to your word.

Psalm 119:107

Pain, lack, limitations, broken relationships, financial pressures are all humbling experiences. I tend to have emotions that run the gamut from fear to peace and back again.  When my emotions try to get the best of me, I turn to the Psalms. The writer’s of these psalms wrote of their emotions, our emotions. They, too, knew what it was like to be humbled by circumstances beyond their control. They understood the emotional upheaval it can cause. These are some of the emotions expressed in the psalms:

fear, joy, abandonment,

betrayal, despair, sadness,

blessedness, joy, gladness,

pain, grief, anger, fear,

anxiety, guilt, shame, reverence

What I find so interesting about the Psalms is that most of these psalms relating humbling circumstances and painful emotions end in praise. Somewhere in there, there is a turn, an and yet… or a but.. and the psalmist breaks out into praise and a purposeful, intentional, looking at God. So, if they can do it, we can too, when circumstances are causing our emotions to run amuck.

“The Psalms challenge our shallow experience of God. How deficient we are in expressing everything to God – our joys, sorrows, frustrations, and fears. God wants us to tell him everything. Every emotion and every experience can be the context of worship when expressed to God.

The Psalms are the prayers of Christ. As a faithful Jew, Jesus would have prayed these regularly. The Psalms would shape his faith and practice. Even more, every Psalm speaks of Jesus. In his humanity, he fully experienced every one of these emotions-complete identification with humanity. What greater reason could we have to make these prayers our own-patterning our prayers after them!

The Psalms teach us what it means to experience God with our whole being in every circumstance. We discover that true prayer involves speaking to God in every situation and with every emotional expression. To close part of ourselves to God is to fail to worship God truly and fully. God wants the expression of all our heart – mind, will, and emotions – in every situation to be an act of worship. Only when we fully embrace all we know, feel, and do and express everything to God – the good, bad, and the ugly – do we truly worship!” *

I think this is where the but… or the and yet… came in. The psalmist felt free to express his emotions to God, the good, the bad and the ugly.  And when they acknowledged these painful emotions and prayed them out, worship exploded inside them. They were revived.

When we are willing to tell God of our difficult emotions during trying times, He hears, He cares, He isn’t judging us, condemning us for feeling that way, or even turning aside until we get over ourselves. He is waiting patiently, knowing that in the end, His word will have its perfect work in our life and we will be revived according to that word.

How truly grateful I am that I can bring my emotions to You. I don’t have to hide them for fear You will be angry with me. It is so good to know You love me enough to be my “dumping grounds” where I can dump my feelings while, together, You and I sort through them. Your word has revived me so many times in the past, and I know Your word will continue to be my source of life in good times and in bad. Thank You for Your word and the life it brings me. Amen.

 

*I found this excerpt on theocentric.com.

pic credit: consumerstock.com

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Whoa, There Pony!

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For we all stumble in many ways.

If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man,

able to bridle the whole body as well.

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.

James 3: 2-3

When I was a kid, I wanted a horse more than anything. My uncle, who raised horses, offered to give me one, but I couldn’t have one because of my father’s allergies.  So, my mother gave up hours on a Saturday, every Saturday,  to drive me to Westheimer Stables so I could rent a horse for one hour. The drive took one hour each way and my mom would settle in and read a book for the hour I rode.

Ever ride a rented horse? Well, I’ll tell you how it was for me, regardless of the horse, they had two speeds. Leaving the stable, the horse walked at a snail’s pace. Nothing I did, no amount of kicking or coaxing would speed up that horse. So, for the first 50 minutes of my hour we walked slowly away from the stables. It wasn’t so exciting, but it was a horse and I loved it. What really made it worthwhile though, was the second speed which came the moment I turned that horse back to the stables. What took 50 minutes to walk, took less than 10 to run! Again, nothing I did would slow that horse down. No amount of pulling on the reins phased the horse at all. Those 10 minutes were a highlight of my week!

What I learned when I had my own horses is just this: simply putting a bit in a horse’s mouth doesn’t really control him. There is more to it than just that. A horse can harden his mouth against a bit so much so that it doesn’t hurt him at all when it is pulled on. He can also raise his head up high enough that the bit that was meant to control him loses all effectiveness because the angle of his head gets the pressure of the bit off his mouth. A horse learns, however,  with proper training to submit to the bit and drop his head down into a place where the bit can gently lead and guide him.

Likewise, we can harden ourselves against doing and saying what is right. We can develop a hardened heart towards someone that has hurt us and use that hurt as an excuse to hang on to unforgiveness and allow bitterness to take root. When we do that, we stumble. We can also raise our head high enough in haughtiness and pride that we are unwilling to yield our mouth and control our tongue. When we do that, we stumble. We all stumble and this verse tells us that a lot of our stumbling starts with our mouth and the things we say. The word tells us elsewhere, that the words that come from our mouth start in the heart. A heart that won’t yield itself to the gentle leading of the Spirit of God is just like that horse that refuses the leading of the bit. When we don’t yield, we are about as useful to God’s purposes as that horse is to the rider’s purposes. We can go our way or we can yield to His.

Almighty God, how ugly I can be when I don’t yield to Your ways and Your desires for me. How haughty I can become when I want to do things my way. I have felt the pressure of the bit You place in my mouth and oftentimes, I have just raised my head higher. Please forgive me. Help me to yield to Your gentle leading, Your gentle hand on the reins of my life as I submit to You and Your will. Help me to use my words to bringing life and healing and not judgment and condemnation, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

picture credit: pinkequine.com

Has Everyone Gone Postal?

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If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go

Psalm 91:9-11

I was at the Post Office the other day, standing in line waiting to mail a package when someone behind started grumbling. He complained that he was standing in this line to ask a clerk a simple question and some man just cut in front of all of us and began asking the clerk for help.  I didn’t see the man cut us, I was busy texting on my phone. Others saw it though, and within a few moments, 5 or 6 people had joined in the grumbling about this man cutting us in line. Their voices got louder and louder and then instead of grumbling to each other, they began yelling at the clerk and the cutter. I kept my head down, hoping to stay out of this, get my package mailed and make a quick exit. The yelling continued and the clerk apologized, the cutter finally turned around, looked at everyone and went back to his business. A man behind men said loudly enough for all to hear, “I wish I had a rock in my pocket, I would throw it at him”. To my surprise, others thought that was a great idea and commented that they wished they had something to throw!

It gets stranger still. Finally, the cutter left, the clerk began helping other people and the line began to move. As people were leaving the post office, each one of them turned to the person near them and wished them a great day and parted as though they were old friends.

I was amused, angered, and totally perplexed by this. How rotten does a person’s life have to be that someone cutting them in line, slowing them down for probably what – three minutes –  could start this kind of mob reaction? Then turn and be BFF and see nothing wrong with what they had just been part of?

I never felt unsafe in there; I never for a moment considered that anyone would get physical, but of course, I never would have imagined seeing grown up people act like that in a Post Office. And right before Valentine’s Day! Sure didn’t feel the love in that place and odds are, some of those people were probably mailing off packages of love to someone!

I am grateful that in these days when people are on short fuses and bad behavior seems acceptable and hurting others is apparently ok, that I have the protection of the Most High God. I have made Him my refuge and He promises to keep His angels around me and not allow evil to conquer me. That same promise if for you, too. There is comfort in that isn’t there?

Lord, You are my refuge, my safe place in a world that sometimes doesn’t seem so safe. You are my shelter and I thank You for the angels You have put around me to keep me safe, thank You for the angels You have put around my family. I pray for those people in the Post Office, I pray that You would meet them at their deepest point of need and heal their hurts and help them to accept the love You have so freely given and may they in turn, be able to pass that on.  In Your name, I pray. Amen.

Good Gifts

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We love, because He first loved us.

I John 4:19

For Valentine’s Day at work, I helped a group of kids make a present for their mom or dad. We used old decks of cards and made a book called, 52 Reasons I Love You. Each of the 52 cards had a reason on it. It was a difficult project and a number of kids didn’t finish. But for the ones that did, it turned out to be a great gift for someone special.

I made some also. I made one for my husband and one for each of my four children. It was good for me to do this, making these books, thinking of reasons why I love each and every one of them made me look at them intently and purposefully and record what I saw and what I loved about them.

Did you know that the Bible is the book God wrote to tell us why He loves us? He tells us to what extent He went through, will go through to shower us in love and how much it means to Him that we are His beloved.

It would take a lot more than 52 cards to spell that out for us.

So, why do we love Him? This verse tells us we love because He first loved us. But I wondered while making these books, how many reasons I could come up with for why I love God. And wouldn’t it be a good exercise to start that list? To put me in remembrance of all that God means to me, all that He has done for me, all that I believe He has in store for me. Even if I could, there probably would not be any reason any greater than that He first loved me. He loves me.

I think that healing in whatever form in our lives need healing begins when that thought really sinks down into our heart. When we know that we are loved, completely, unconditionally, never-endingly and when we come to trust in that love especially when we feel totally unlovable. Maybe my next project will be a book called “______ Ways God has shown His love to me”.  How about you, do you have reasons that could go in that book?

Heavenly Father, to think that You love me is mind-boggling. Sometimes it is just so much more than I can comprehend and sometimes, I don’t even think about it. How awful is that? Please forgive me, for taking Your love lightly, for dismissing it at times when I feel unlovable, for choosing to feel unworthy of such love when You paid such a tremendous price to declare me worthy. Thank You for seeing me in my sin and in all my unlovableness and loving me anyway. Help me to let that truth truly sink down into my heart and help me to spread that truth to people who need to hear it, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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The High Price of Sin

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I breed dogs. I started with Golden Retrievers way back, I don’t even know how many years ago. Long enough ago, that they sold for $50 and that was a fair price. Then I began breeding Standard Poodles and now Goldendoodles. Like other things, puppy prices have gone up. And down. I’ve made an observation about prospective puppy purchasers. A puppy valued at $1000 is going to bring people who have done their homework. They have researched the breed and other breeds, they have read how to pick a good puppy, they have generally made plans on how they will take care of this pup when everyone’s at work or they go on vacation; they understand that a puppy is an awesome new member of the family and that they have responsibilities for that new member.

On the other hand, when I lower my prices, I get more impulse prospective pet people. They got their tax refund back and the kids want a dog and, no they don’t know too much about Goldendoodles or even what is involved in taking care of a puppy. I am not saying they don’t provide wonderful homes for the puppies, I am just saying they may not have considered the cost, the full cost of that puppy.

I have found that, in general, people value what costs them something more than they value what costs them little.

In the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus, God established that the price for the remission for sins would be the shed blood of an unblemished male animal. He gave specific instructions on how to handle the blood of the animal; the blood was precious, it was considered the life of the animal. People watching the animal they brought being sacrificed would recognize the cost of that sacrifice and know that that was the cost of their sin. It was designed to make it very hard for them to take the sacrifice lightly, to think that their sins had no cost.

We don’t do that today. I’m glad, I couldn’t imagine picking one of my male, unblemished puppies and raising him up to be slaughtered. But I do realize the cost that would become mine to absorb if I did that and it makes me see a little more clearly a fraction of the cost of my sins. No puppy will be sacrificed to cover mine, mine were covered by Jesus, the unblemished male offered to cover the expense of my sins. It’s easy to overlook that sometimes and think that sin is no big deal, or that some sins are no big deal. But every sin, big deal or not, cost the life of Jesus. When I think of the price paid for my salvation – forgiveness for my sins and healing for my body – I can not overlook the cost because it is a very big deal that Jesus would surrender His life for mine.

Jesus, all I can say is thank You. How humbling it is to think of what You have done for me. And that You did that freely, knowing at times, that I would not count the cost, that I would take Your sacrifice for granted. I am so sorry for doing that. Please forgive me and whenever I start to think of my sin as little and no big deal, remind me of what it cost You for me to be forgiven of that sin, remind me of the cost You paid for my healing. I ask in Your most holy name, Amen.

Flu Season

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The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,     

a scrubby plant in a parched field.

There was nothing attractive about him,     

nothing to cause us to take a second look.

He was looked down on and passed over,     

a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.

One look at him and people turned away.     

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—    

 our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,     

that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,    

 that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.    

 Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.     

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong on him, on him.

Isaiah 53:2-6, Message Bible

 

Flu season rolls around and it seems people around here are preparing to get sick. Getting medicine, just in case, getting the shot, checking their PTO days to see how many they’ve got for when they get sick, all as though getting sick is a certainty. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these things are bad and that we shouldn’t take measures to prevent the flu, but isn’t staying well through flu season just as likely a certainty as getting sick, given whose we are?

When I read this passage from Isaiah, I think that it is more honoring to God to plan to stay well, to recognize the provision He made for my well-being, not just protection from the flu, but paying for my health, taking the stripes that brought my healing. I have heard it taught that each stripe represented a major disease. I don’t know about that, but I believe that God anticipated flu season when He promised healing to His children. And I think it is good faith to anticipate staying well through the season.

Father, how wonderful is Your provision for our well-being, You thought of everything. I can’t imagine watching my son take the stripes for someone else, knowing my son didn’t deserve them and others did. What it must have done to Your heart to see His body bruised so badly and to think that He did that for me. Forgive me for times when I have taken that for granted. As flu season gets underway, help me to keep my eyes on my Healer, Your precious and wounded Son. I ask in His name, Amen.

picture credit: eiu.edu

I’m Going Down

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Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.  

   Proverbs 18:21           

“I’m going down, I’m going down”.  A boy I was playing a card game with keep chanting these words over and over again. We were playing a version of double Solitaire we call Touchdown and was just a tad bit slower than me!  I suggested he change his words to something that might help him win like “I’m coming up, I’ve got this, I’m gonna win”, but he didn’t buy into it. He just kept saying he was going down. And he did go down.

I’m not saying he lost because of his words; he lost because I am simply the reigning champion of Touchdown and he didn’t have a chance! Just kidding! It seems simple to think that we could change anything about our lives simply by changing our words, but this verse speaks of the power of our words. Power to raise us up or power to bring us down. Listen for just one day to the words that come out of your mouth, or the words that come out of the mouth of someone you love. Do they encourage and bring life or do they bring you down?

Remember Eeyore in Charlie Brown? Here’s a conversation with him from The House at Pooh Corner:

                  “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore.

“However,” he said, brightening up a little,

“we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

Eeyore was charming and endearing and totally a bummer, but we loved him. How much of an Eeyore are you?  Am I? Our words reflect the condition of our heart, the hope or despair or indifference that we carry with us. Our words probably won’t change too much until our heart changes which is something only God can do. But He waits for our invitation to do that. While we are in the process though of having our heart changed, we can practice speaking words of life and curtail the words of defeat that we speak. We can “fake it til we make it”.  Gloom and doom was cute on Eeyore, gloom and doom on us is not so cute; it may even be keeping us down when what we really want is to be coming up.

Forgive me, Father, for the times, so many of them, when I would rather speak gloom and doom then words of life. I don’t always think of the impact of my words on other people or even on my life, or how offensive my words may be to You after all You have done for me to live a life of joy and peace. Help me to fake it til I make it, if need be and change my heart, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bay of Pigs

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A person plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

The Bay of Pigs invasion was apparently a poorly advised and planned invasion of Cuba designed to diminish Fidel Castro’s influence on the Cuban people. The newly elected President Kennedy had been advised by his military leaders that Cuba’s alliance with Russia posed a threat to the United States since Cuba was so close. The story of the invasion reads like a tragic comedy – American planes disguised to look like Cuban planes, loud speakers making noise on boats offshore to sound like gunfire to scare the people and using some 1400 Cuban refugees to lead the charge. Long story short, it failed:  some 1000 of the refugees were killed, hundreds were taken captive, America looked foolish and the popularity of Castro grew tremendously as did his connections with Communist Russia and he built nuclear missile plants in several places across Cuba. It cost the United States $53 million dollars in baby food ( I told you it read like a comedy) and medicine to buy back the exiles. Afterwards, President Kennedy took responsibility for the fiasco but commented that just because someone is a high-ranking military officer doesn’t mean they know that much about the military or something to that effect! He learned a valuable lesson – be careful whose advice you take.

So, let’s bring that closer to home. If you are going through a difficult time, have been given a horrible diagnosis, are in a relationship that is failing, whatever the hardship may be, be careful where you get your advice. Just because someone is a pastor, or a doctor, or a lawyer or a teacher or a parent or a friend or a bartender doesn’t mean they have the best advice, even though they are probably very willing to give it.

We can plot and plan and try to figure our way out of the situation which tends to lead to confusion and perhaps, a Bay of Pigs incident in our lives, where our best efforts only make the situation worse. Or we can learn to trust in the leading and the timing of God. How does God lead us?

Sometimes through His word – we could be reading along and all of a sudden a particular verse, even one we have read many times, just resonates within us and we know it is a fresh word from God for us.

Sometimes God uses other people, maybe through advice, but probably more through example or by inadvertently pointing us in a different direction.

Always, He leads us by His Holy Spirit, whispering in us, maybe sometimes shouting, nudging us, prompting us, bringing to our remembrance some scripture we read that applies to our situation now.

Always, He leads by peace. He is not the god of confusion and disorder, He is the God of order and peace and clarity. But we have to be still and listen.

Ask for His wisdom, His plan, His purposes and be willing to listen and wait for His answer.

Lord, I have certainly had many Bay of Pigs disasters in my life as I followed advice from well-meaning people but You have never led me wrong. You always lead me in paths that are right for me and I thank You for that. I am grateful that in the midst of the cacophony of voices that would tell me how to live and what to do that You whisper to me, “here is the path, walk in it”. You are the great Counselor and I thank You. Help me to still the noise in my head and listen for Your still, small voice, I ask in Your name, Jesus, Amen.

The Baby With the Bathwater

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I believe in divine healing even though I still have pain in my body. I first learned about divine healing experientially. Members of my family were healed because someone prayed.  But experience isn’t the same as biblical doctrine. While living in Tulsa, I encountered the Word of Faith teachings of Kenneth Hagin, Bob Yandian, Billy Joe Daugherty, Richard Roberts and more. It was new to me; I had never in all my years of attending church, heard this message of healing. Since I needed healing, I gravitated towards it.

Having been healed instantly on occasion and not having been healed instantly led to many questions and I began digging deeper, which is also the purpose of this blog. Is healing really for today? Is it really for everyone? What happens when the healing doesn’t come?  The Word of Faith movement has quick answers for these questions and maybe they are spot on. Maybe they aren’t. The WOF movement has received much criticism and much praise. Neither of which makes it right or wrong.  I personally know people who have been hurt by this teaching when faith didn’t produce the results they were after and I know others who have dismissed the whole thing because of a healing that didn’t come. That, however, strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bathwater because I also know people who have been healed by this.

Have some people gone off the deep end with this? Probably.  Have some misused it? No doubt. But do those things make the underlying truths false?  I don’t think so.

When we build our doctrine on our experiences (or lack of experiences) or build it simply on the message preached by some or dismissed by some, we are in danger of rejecting truth. The very truth we may need to turn our live around.

My doctrine needs to be based on the word of God. Period.  Did God say it? Then it must be so. If I don’t understand something about God’s word the place to go is to other parts of the Bible and let it lead me into a better understanding. The Helper I need is the Holy Spirit who is available to help me understand truth. Listening to preachers and teachers is good and has it’s place, but it can’t take the place of doing our own homework and building our faith on what God teaches.

Let’s don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, let’s examine scriptures and build our faith on what God says and find our healing in His word.

Lord Jesus, sometimes the questions demand answers, answers I just don’t have, answers You have chosen not to give me. I know, by reading Your word, that You are my healer God and that nothing is too difficult for You. With You all things are possible, even my healing. Thank You for standing by Your word, for establishing Your word in my heart and giving me the Helper to lead me into all truth. Where my doctrine is off, would You lead me into Your truth. In Your name, I pray, Amen.

 

picture credit: pgannon.com

You Dirty Worm!

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Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Proverbs 18:21

Some kids at work were playing the other day. I don’t know what the game was but a little girl was pretending to be very, very sick. She was laying on the floor, curled up in a ball and the “doctors” were deciding what was wrong. They were saying things that sounded like death to me, things like “I don’t think she’s gonna make it” and “We’d better call an ambulance”.  I came over and suggested that maybe they could speak words of life over her – you know, speak words that would help her heal, not words that would help her get worse.

So the “doctor” says, “Get up you filthy worm and walk or I’m gonna kick you!”

Not the exactly the words of life I had in mind.  We all laughed, the “worm” got up and the “doctor” pronounced her healed. So I suppose there is a happy ending there, after all.

It reminds me, though, of words spoken by many of the Word of Faith movement when someone doesn’t receive their healing. Words like, “well you just don’t have enough faith” or “there must be some sin in your life”. I know several people who have been hurt by words like that. In all honesty, I withdrew from people when my healing didn’t come because I was afraid someone would say those words to me and I was hurting enough without them. Sometimes, they were probably spoken in good faith, with good intentions but the message comes through as condemnation and blame, no matter how nicely they may be spoken. Those words are translated as “it’s my fault I didn’t get healed”.

I am far from settling all divine healing questions in my own life, but I think there is more to the story than this.  When Jesus healed the many, or the all, don’t you suppose there were some there who had little faith and some who probably had sin in their life?  I’m not saying these can’t be reasons some don’t get healed, but wow, could we be led by the Holy Spirit on this one and not just offer pat answers because it is what we have been taught? Or because we don’t know other reasons.

What if, instead of kicking the worm and heaping condemnation and blame on people, we minister grace and mercy and words of life? The kids didn’t get that when I tried to explain it but we are all adults here, we can get it, can’t we?

Lord, I have been afraid to have anyone speak those words to me; I can blame myself and get under condemnation without any help from anyone, but I know others who have been hurt by those words. Would You heal them? Would You bring comfort to them and whisper Your love and acceptance to them? Help us all to remember that when we are hurting or withdrawn or sick that You haven’t forgotten us nor left us alone and help us to be ministers of grace and mercy and life. In Jesus’s name, Amen.