Taste and See

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Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8

Recently, in an effort to be more organized, I went through a large stack of cooking magazines.  I glanced at the recipes and, if they looked good to me, I tore out the pages and filed them in a recipe binder. I threw away more recipes than I collected but still I had more than I would probably ever make.

Recipes are good to have and fun to peruse but looking at them doesn’t tell the story.

The story comes in the tasting.

In order to taste them, I have to make them.

This means a trip to the grocery store and time to prepare the food.  Nothing overwhelming about that at all, but just saying, reading about a recipe and tasting the outcome are two different things.

This verse leads me to think that there is more to our relationship with God then simply reading the Bible, though that is a great beginning.  But if our relationship ends there, we have missed tasting and seeing that He is good.  At some point, we have to internalize what the Bible says. We need to meditate on His word, let it soak deep into our hearts and allow the words He wrote to replace the words others have written in our hearts about Him.

God gets a fair amount of bad press. If we based our opinion of God on what others say about Him, we might not decide He is all that good. He gets blamed for sickness and death, floods and famine.  Even fair minded individuals may say things like, “well God allowed me to be sick, allowed my child to die, allowed my finances to be in the toilet, etc… to teach me something.”

It becomes all to easy to think God is good – sometimes, maybe for some people.  But to believe He is good all the time, even when bad things happen, well, that’s often difficult. Years of tasting God through His word, through His faithfulness, through His continual presence in my life (even when I don’t sense His presence) have helped me to see that He is indeed good.  I didn’t come to that conclusion after one pass through the Bible; I came by it the hard way, through years of seeking and searching and dare I say, tasting.

I don’t always get my prayers answered the way I think they should be. I was in constant physical pain for 22 years now and believed for my healing all that time and I, will be honest, often wondered if God is really good. If He was really good, why was I still in pain?

But the more time I spend in His word and in fellowship with other believers, the more convinced I am that He is indeed, good whether I am healed or not. He has healed me of fibromyalgia but I am still waiting on healing from arthritis.  Why one and not the other I don’t know but this I do know – God is good all the time!

Forgive me Father, for the times when I have doubted Your goodness.  Forgive me for questioning Your goodness when my prayers did not get answered the way I wanted.  I know You are a good God and a gracious, loving Father. Thank You for not giving up on me and for not turning away from me.  Help me to come to You, to feed on Your word, to seek Your presence, Your peace and Your goodness, especially when I don’t feel like doing so.  Amen. 

 

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In The Presence Of My Enemies

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“Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”.

Psalm 23: 5

I  wonder what good food would do for me in the presence of my enemies. Am I going to pelt my enemies with spaghetti and meatballs?  Do I poke their eyes out with bread sticks? This part of Psalm 23 didn’t really make sense to me and I would ordinarily skim right past.

But recently, I saw this verse differently. The table He has prepared is laden with everything I have inherited through Christ – every spiritual blessing, every physical blessing, every weapon I will ever need, every provision I will ever need. All there – laid out for me. When I am in the presence of my enemies there I will find my weapon. The God who spoke this world into existence and created the many species and ecosystems and gave each exactly what they needed not only for survival but also to work in relation to other ecosystems for mutual survival, prepared a table for us! An orderly, lavishly decorated table with everything we have need of in the face of enemies.

When the enemy of fear comes against me, all I have to do is look at the table prepared before me and find what God has provided to combat fear – peace, truth, the spirit of power and a sound mind.

When the enemy of pain or sickness comes against me, I can find on this table the healing Christ paid for on the cross.

When the enemy of worry comes against me,  there on the table lays the  peace that passes all understanding.

When the enemy of rejection comes against me, I browse the table until I find the adoption papers that assure me that I am His.

 

All these and more are piled to overflowing on this banquet prepared by the Lord. And all I have to do is believe and feast on His provision.

 

 

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God’s Economy

 

 

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Years ago, when I lived in Montana, I had a wonderful gelding named Apache. The whole family loved that horse. Anyone could ride him; he was totally trustworthy. I especially liked taking him out on short jaunts in the woods. Fearless, smart and oh, how he loved to run, but there was one thing he would not do. He would not jump over anything. No, not ever, which most of the time was fine. But sometimes, in the woods, when a tree had fallen across the trail it would have been nice if he would have just jumped it. But alas, he would not.

One day, I came across a fallen log in our path. Way too big for him to step over and no way to go around the log. I sure didn’t want to turn around and go home and he sure didn’t want to jump it. I got off and studied the situation. I got behind him and pushed him on his rump. He glanced back and me and switched me with his tail. Out of frustration, I kicked the log and, to my surprise, the formidable roadblock  just caved in.

Dust flew upward and pieces of bark fell downward. Where the log had crumbled, I noticed tiny evidences of life. Intrigued, I bent down for a closer look. The log which had appeared to be dead, totally useless, too rotten for even good firewood, concealed underneath it an entirely new ecosystem. The sprouts were white from lack of sun exposure and unidentifiable to me.

At the time of this trail ride, I had just ended a 23 year marriage to a man who preferred drinking to sobriety, other women to me and being gone from home more than being at home. I spent a lot of days kicking myself for what I called wasted years.

But, while I studied this undergrowth, the Holy Spirit spoke these words to me, “In God’s economy, there is no such thing as waste.”

Hope blew across me like a gentle breeze.

What wonderful news this is when we are going through a time of limitations. A time when we say no more often than we are able to say yes. Ever feel like this time of being sick or being in pain or hanging onto a relationship that destroys your life is such a waste? I certainly have. Then I remember this story and I am comforted to know that God doesn’t call those times a waste. He is able to bring new life out of old and even in the midst of our waiting and wondering, He is able to use us and our seemingly wasted years for our  ultimate good and His incredible glory. That’s good news, isn’t it?

 

pic credit:  Diane Reid

 

System Of Inequality and Divine Healing?!

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 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 John 2:2

I have been in hot pursuit of divine healing for upwards of twenty years. Healing is promised in the Bible and numerous verses can attest to that fact. I have read them and memorized them and confessed them and put my trust in them and still I am not healed. My pursuit continues.

I read this verse a while back. No doubt familiar to those in search of divine healing  – every book on the subject I have read has included it. But this day, I saw the promise differently.

Instead of seeing it as an iron clad promise of healing, I saw it as an algebraic equation. Weird, right? It struck me as a system of inequalities. On one side of the equation are the variables of prospering and being in good health. On the other side would be the variable of our soul which is our mind, our will and our emotions. Three variables on one side and two on the other.

The question becomes what symbol is between the two sides. Is it an equal sign or not equal, greater than, less than?

My desire to be free of physical pain has so occupied my quest for divine healing that I never even considered the other variables that combine to make my health, holistically speaking.

I simply didn’t care so much about the others; I wanted to live free of physical pain. But God, in His wisdom, knows how much I need all of these variables to be healed if I am going to live the life abundant that has been promised. He is a holistic healer.

I have had to relinquish my ideas about how my healing would manifest and give God permission to heal other areas of my life, even if that means I continue to live with chronic pain while He balances out the equation.

What about you? Are you in need of healing?  I would love to pray for you and join my faith with yours for your healing.

If you have a testimony of how God has healed you, I would love to share it here with others who need encouragement.  

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A Special Secret

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I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation  

Philippians 4: 12

Paul didn’t have a particularly easy life. It may not have gone the way he planned. Maybe he thought following Christ would make his life easier. I mean, don’t we think that at times?  Paul was in jail as he wrote this letter, facing probable death if he wasn’t released. He could have twiddled his thumbs, he could have slept the day away, complained, grumbled, started riots or felt sorry for himself or gotten angry at God and indignant about the things he was going through because after all, he was doing this stuff for Christ.

But he didn’t. He wrote letters to the people he wasn’t able to hang out with, people that for all he knew, he would never see again. He had no way of knowing that those letters would be read today, cherished today as a large part of the New Testament.

We all go through times where our life isn’t what we thought it would be. Oh, we may never be imprisoned for our faith, but let’s be honest, somewhere between Once Upon A Time and they lived happily ever after, things can go horrible awry.

So what do we do when we find ourselves stuck in place that wasn’t our choice, didn’t fit the trajectory we had for a life?  We have choices of what to do while waiting for the way out.

Paul tells us he discovered a secret. A secret that got him through shipwrecks, beatings, and imprisonments. A secret he wasn’t born knowing; it had to be learned in the ups and downs of life, but one that sustained him through the good and bad. He learned the secret of contentment.  Contentment may be defined as being more than ok on the inside in spite of what is taking place on the inside. Having peace and rest in me regardless of the turmoil outside of me. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

It behooves us then to know this secret and fortunately for us, he shares that secret with us:

 “for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power”  

Philippians 4: 13

The best part about this is I don’t have to do this myself; I don’t have to conjure up contentment. I don’t have to fake it til I make it. I just turn my eyes to Jesus, the One who lives in me, the One who gives me strength and power to carry on contentedly, knowing that the ultimate outcome of this present situation is in His hands, in His timing and will ultimately be for my good and His glory.

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Sweet Sleep

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But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    you are my glory,

the One who lifts my head high.
 I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain.

 I lay down and slept;
   yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.

Psalm 3: 3-5

I love the sound a sleeping child makes – the rhythmic melody of their breathing. When my kids were young, I would check on them at night while they slept. Standing in the dark, I would listen for that sound that reassured me that they were ok.  When I couldn’t hear the sound of their breathing, I would watch intently until I saw the up and down movement of their chest at they slept. I can’t do that anymore; they have grown past the years of mom checking on them. But not past the years of mom wanting to be reassured that they are ok.

It’s probably every mother’s desire that her kids are ok and beyond, but there comes a time when we can’t kiss their boo-boos away and make it all better when things aren’t ok.

Gratefully, I know someone who can. What greater peace can I have as a mother than to know that the Lord is watching over each one of my children and grandchildren as they sleep? He is a shield around them and when they (and I) cry out to them, He answers. He hears their rhythmic breathing and their quiet sobs and knows the deepest longings of their hearts and being moved with compassion, He acts on their behalf.

When my children were young, we said this prayer every night:

Be near me my Father, 

I ask Thee to stay,

Close by me forever

and love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children

with Thy tender care.

Prepare us for heaven

to live with Thee there.

Amen.

That is still my prayer for my children and my grandchildren.

I know He hears, I know He is watching over them,

I know He keeps them in safety.

I don’t have to hear their rhythmic breathing or watch for the rise and fall of their chests as they sleep.

Because I know the One who does! 

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Give Us This Day…

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Give us this day our daily bread.

Matthew 6:11

Jesus teaches us how to pray in what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. One sentence reads “Give us this day our daily bread.” I don’t know about you, but I have never really had to concern myself with getting my daily bread. I may not have been able to eat whatever I wanted, but there has always been food. I tend to take that for granted. Jesus teaches us to ask for what we have need of this day. Not what we may need tomorrow, but what we have need of today. I tend to think that while that includes the nourishment for our bodies it probably includes everything else I may have need of today.

That has transformed my thinking recently. When family members were diagnosed with cancer and our new normal was frightening and terribly unknown, it was hard to even think about, much less verbalize, what our needs were, but Jesus knew. And yet, He says, we need to ask. There is something very humbling about that. There is something about that that makes me look deeper and be more honest about my need.

In trying to put that into practice, I would consider in the morning, before getting out of bed, just what was the daily bread I had need of for this day. That meant laying aside my concerns for a week from now when Bruce was to have surgery, or 6 weeks from now when radiation begins or how will we pay the bills that are coming and my concerns about my daughter’s diagnosis and upcoming surgery and on and on and on. It meant taking one day at a time and asking for just that day. Simply asking for the daily bread I have need of for just this day.

I have found that my need list has grown shorter in spite of the increased demands placed on our resources of time, energy, and money.

Today what I have need of is strength to keep going.

Today what I can most use is grace to not allow this to be about me.

Today, I do need bread, I need gas, I need a tiny bit of time to myself.

Today, I need to be reminded of Your presence, Lord.

Most of all Lord, today I need to be reminded that  You have promised to meet my needs for today and You have taught me to ask for them.

And so I ask, that You would give to me this day, my daily bread.

And I will leave my tomorrow til tomorrow.

Jesus, thank You for teaching me how to pray. Thank You for showing me that You are concerned with the daily things that make up my life; things I might have considered too small to bother You with, except that You said to ask. Thank You for showing me through this season that You provide for my daily needs and that You also give grace to help me let go of tomorrow, knowing that when it gets here, I can, once again, ask for my daily bread and You will hear and respond. You have been so gracious to us through this time and so faithfully providing our daily bread. I am grateful. Amen.

 

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Siege Mounds

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Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it…

Jeremiah 32:24

Walls were built around the cities in ancient times. Walls that were designed to keep the people safe from enemy invaders. Walls that probably gave them a sense of security until the day they noticed that their enemy was building up mounds of dirt along the wall to enable them to get over it. Can you imagine sitting inside this wall and hearing the report that the enemy was advancing and preparing to cover over the wall?  Can you imagine the fear and dread that that would have produced in those people?

Siege mounds came up against our family. We were doing just fine, believing all was well and then a bucket of dirt landed outside of our wall, beginning the process of destroying our sense of security. The first dirt to land was a diagnosis of cancer, not just in my husband but my daughter as well. The biopsies were done on the same day.  The next bucket load of dirt was a water pump that went out on my van, then the brakes, then a delay in payment from disability insurance, then the company my husband works for informed he they would not pay his insurance premiums during his time off from cancer treatment, then bills started stacking up.  One bucket load of dirt after another. I saw the walls we had built for security becoming smaller and smaller while the dirt mounds became bigger and bigger.

As the Israelites watched the siege mounds grow bigger and bigger, Jeremiah the prophet, turns to God imploringly and do you know what God said?

He said, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too difficult for Me?”

I think He would say the same thing to me today.

Are the siege mounds stacking up against you?

Does it seem hopeless?

Are you watching all your plans and hopes go down the drain and feel helpless to stop any of it?

I think God would say the same thing to you to today –

“Is there anything too difficult for Me?”

The people in this story of the Bible go through difficult times, the wall is penetrated and the enemy does indeed take over the city. But through it all, God was faithful and the last thing He said to them at the close of this chapter was, “I will restore their fortunes”.

I used to believe healing meant not going through something, just being delivered from it. And sometimes, that is how God works, but sometimes, He allows the hardship to be something we go through. It doesn’t change His love for us or His compassion or His faithfulness to us when He allows these things to be a part of our lives. He hasn’t turned away, He hasn’t forgotten us, He isn’t punishing us, He ignoring our cries and in the end, He promises restoration.

That first bucket load of dirt was overwhelming and I felt so powerless. Like, Jeremiah, I have no where else to turn but to You, Lord. You are the God of all flesh and I believe nothing is too difficult for You. You know how much I would rather see You just remove the cancer from my loved ones, but I am grateful that Your path of healing for them leads them to restoration. I trust You to work that in their lives. I pray for them that as they see the dirt mounds growing higher, that they would lean closer into You and see Your power at work in their lives for their good and Your glory, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Fear – You’re Going Down!

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Since the children have flesh and blood,

he too shared in their humanity so that by his death

he might break the power of him who holds the power of death

that is, the devil

and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Hebrews 2:14-15

 

This may seem morbid, but I promise you, it has a happy ending, so please keep reading. When Bruce was first diagnosed with cancer, all sorts of fears surfaced, the biggest being the fear of death. We didn’t face it openly. We didn’t talk about it or even allow our thoughts to go there. But, still, you know how fear is, it hangs around and haunts and taunts and tries to break denial into tiny little pieces. And that is just what happened, the denial gave way and we were left with facing that fear.

We discussed it. We cried. We prayed. We held each other. We cried some more and prayed some more. We held each other some more. We checked life insurance policies and Social Security benefits and mapped out a way that our son and I could financially survive should this possibility become reality. Fear lost some of its power. There was no real way to face the emotional aspects of this but we found peace and joy in knowing that should Bruce pass on, God would be with us and Bruce would be in a beautiful place surrounded by beautiful people all enjoying beautiful health and wholeness. Fear lost more of its power. Peace came easier and we knew that whatever came, we would face it without fear.

I just read a wonderful article by Dr. Alex Lickerman in Psychology Today. He writes of his journey to overcome his fear of death. He comes to this conclusion after much soul-searching and anguish about his perceived imminent death… “even more desirable than being able to die peacefully is being able to live fearlessly”.

Imagine facing cancer or a divorce or a reversal in finances or addiction in a loved one without fear. Imagine how much of what the situation brings your way is cloaked in fear and removing that fear would make the situation lose some of its power to leave you crippled and emotionally wrung out. Can you imagine that?

Jesus, knowing these things would come our way, knowing our inclination to let fear rule our lives, knowing our deep need to stay in denial and live in fear of death, chose to fear us from that burden of fear. He chose to slip into a human body, so that He could take in His body all that fear could throw at us and ultimately set us free from its power to destroy our lives.

We will all die; we know that, but we don’t have to live in fear of that. We can live in peace knowing that Jesus won the victory for us and fear and death have no real power over us. And when that day comes when our bodies are laid to rest, He will call our name and we will rise to new life with Him forever.

I told you this has a happy ending, didn’t I?

How have you been crippled by the fear of death?

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, what a wonder You truly are. How it must sadden You to see us living with the fear of death, allowing it to cripple and maim us when You so willingly and lovingly paid the price to free us from that power the devil would hold over us. I am amazed by You, in awe of You, and so very grateful for You. Thank You. What a glorious day that will be when You call my name and I see You face to face! I love You. Amen.

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Especially Then

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I will never forget his smile. I hope I never forget his smile. I don’t think I will ever forget his smile. Or the words he spoke or the way he spoke them. Simple words, all he said was “especially then”.

He was ringing up my purchase at the hydroponic store (think veggies here) and we got to talking about our kids. He has three. We talked about annoying behavior as well as not so annoying behavior.

I made a comment about how obvious it was that he adored his kids and how I hoped he would treasure every moment with them.

He said he did and I added, even the annoying moments?

Here’s where the smile came in. He answered back, “especially then”.

It wasn’t said in humor; it was spoken with grace. His smile spoke volumes. I haven’t been able to quit thinking about it and the gentleness with which he spoke those words.

How blessed are those kids to grow up with that kind of understanding and acceptance. To have a father who adores them and can adore them even more when their behavior is less than desired.  And to be the recipient of that kind of grace and loving smile. How blessed indeed!

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,

that we should be called children of God; and such we are.

I John 3:1

When I read this, I can’t help but think that when God, our Father, looks at us, even in our most annoying, most undesirable, most reprehensible moments, that He sees us the way that father sees his three children. With eyes and a smile that radiate grace, understanding, warmth, love, forgiveness and acceptance. Not because we are so lovable, but because the price for our annoying, undesirable and reprehensible behavior was paid for, the debt for them has been removed and even the memory of them has been removed from God’s mind. WOW! Can we get our brain around that?

If you could picture the smile God would smile when He looked at Jesus, you would see the smile He has for you as well, one filled with love and acceptance. One that can honestly convey that even in our bad moments, He love us. He loves us. AMAZING!

I can’t help but believe you prepared that moment for me when that man smiled and spoke those words about his children. They have blessed me and filtered through my thinking so many times since. I want to get my brain around the fact that You have that kind of smile for me and those kinds of words for me, but it is so incomprehensible to me to consider myself loved like that. Would You help me with that? Help me to receive the love You have for me, to trust in that love and to rest in that love, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

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