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.

picture credit: sewinsanityblogspot.com

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Who Owes Who?

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For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6: 14-15

My husband surprised me with a new van.  Not brand new, but new to us and 11 years newer than the van I was driving. One day, a father was dropping off his children at work, saw me get out of the van and commented about it.  I told him how my husband had surprised me with it and he said how nice that was of him. To which I added (and I’m not proud of this) – well, he owed me.  The man looked shocked. Let me explain:

For several weeks, we were vehicle challenged. We went back and forth from having two that worked and one that worked and one day, neither one worked. My husband was frantically trying to keep us rolling, working on one and then the other. Most of the time he handled it very well, but then there were times, when, let’s just say, I wanted to run away from home.

Once he determined to give up totally on one, he began searching for another vehicle we could afford. He was back and forth to the car dealership and test driving cars and all during this time, I was under the impression he was getting the vehicle to replace his truck which is the one that died. I say, under the impression, because at this point, we were no longer talking and my opinion was not solicited. The tension in our home was escalating and the cold war between us raged on.  When he finally showed up with this van and said it was for me, I should have been elated, I’m sure, but I was still angry at not being asked my opinion about financing a vehicle. I did, however, drive it and thank him.  But I felt justified in saying he owed me based on what he had put us through because of his stress level over all of this.

So, back to my story, the father says, “well doesn’t everybody owe somebody?”

Of course, the father was right and I felt ashamed of my attitude.  Everybody owes somebody and I owe many somebodies. How gross of me to see it any other way. I have been forgiven of so much by my husband and by God and for me to withhold forgiveness to anyone is well,  just plain old gross. I repented and chose to begin the practice of forgiving others immediately and letting go of anything I may feel they owe me, because I know that what I owe has been forgiven by God.  I say “begin the practice” because I am a long way from accomplishing this feat but I am purposing to do this one day at a time, or one minute at a time, if need be.

Lord, how awesome it is to know that my sins are forgiven; that You are holding nothing against me. As my slate is wiped clean, help me to wipe clean the slates of those that I believe have harmed me. Help me to forgive freely and graciously, just as You have forgiven me. Thank You for my new van and a husband who would work so hard to keep us with transportation. Forgive me for holding his sins against him. I choose forgiveness, help me to offer it freely. I ask in Your gracious name, Amen.

Swinging Bridge

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Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

When I was 24 years old, I had three children under the age of 5. I was living in Montana miles and miles removed from my family in Texas. My husband, their father, was seldom home and not very helpful when he was home. I felt alone; I was alone. I had this recurring dream.  In this dream, I was trying to cross a swinging bridge with my three daughters. The bridge was high above rapidly moving water, water that would sweep us away in minutes should we fall, and the bridge swayed and seemed very unstable. I was trying desperately to figure out how I was supposed to get three kids across to safety when I only had two arms. I would wake shaking and terrified and overwhelmed. It wouldn’t take a dream specialist to interpret that dream.  In my waking hours, I was alone, I was overwhelmed and I was terrified. And more than once, I would question, how on earth, am I going to take care of these three kids by myself?

It would be years before I would know the comfort of this verse. Years before I came to know that I wasn’t alone and didn’t need to be terrified.  I don’t know how He does it, but God has a hand available for all His children to keep them from being swept away by life. I love this promise. I love the image it paints in my mind – a father, a loving father reaching out his hand to hold mine for as long as I need him to.  I am much older than 24 now and I don’t have 3 young daughters to raise anymore, but still, at times, I find that life can be overwhelming but I know that  when I feel alone I have only to reach out and the bridge doesn’t sway quite so much and the waters don’t seem so threatening. If I hang on to His hand, I can cross to safety.

Whatever the trial, whatever the bridge you or I need to cross, we are not alone. The God who promised His hand to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promises His hand to you and to me. We don’t need to fear or look anxiously look about. We only need to extend our hand to hand God has offered us.

Once again, I come to You, hand extended. Would you stabilized me again? Thank You for being my God, my Father, my Protector, my Comforter, my Peace, my Help. Thank You for always being there, for always reaching out to me, for always strengthening me. When fear tries to tell me otherwise, would You please remind me of this verse and Your love?  Thank You for being all these things and more to my precious three daughters, help them to come to know that they are not alone.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

picture credit: bkdunn.com

Getting Out of the Gate

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…and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.

II Chronicles 26:5

This is talking about Uzziah, a sixteen year old who became king and reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem. He started off on the right foot -he did right in the eyes of the Lord, he continued to seek God and this verse tells us that as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him. But something went horribly wrong because in verse 21 we are told that Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death and cut off from the house of the Lord.

We used to have race horses. Well, we had horses and some of them actually made it to the track. Mostly, they just made us broke. These were Thoroughbreds which means that most of their races were not sprints, they were bred for longer distances. Getting out of the gate in a sprint race has to be perfect, too much time out and it can’t be made up in a short race, but it can be made up sometimes in a longer one. A good start is crucial, but its the finish that counts.

Uzziah started well, and ended up poorly and if you read the story, you will see that his heart became proud because of victories won in battles and he stopped seeking the Lord and guess what? The Lord stopped prospering him.

When I started into this healing journey, I started on my own strength, that and help from the doctor and a wellness consultant. I had cried out to God for months and months to heal me or show me the way and He said NOTHING! At some unnoticeable point, I stopped seeking Him. The pills, the treatments, the supplements made some difference but I still had so much pain that I couldn’t deal with it any more. So I quit the prescriptions, the supplements, the treatments and decided to leave my healing in God’s hands totally. Either He healed me or I stayed this way.

I went back to seeking the Lord, which is how this blog began.  I started in search of physical healing but I have gained so much more. I have begun prospering in my life, not just financially, though that has improved, but mentally and emotionally and relationally and yes, physically. The only difference is that I sought the Lord through reading His word. That’s it, that’s all I did, and He has done the rest. In life, I don’t think our start in this life is as crucial as the finish as God allows us to start over daily, if need be. It’s the finish that counts in life, as in horse racing. And I hope, by His grace, that I finish strong and healthy and prospering.

Jesus, You paid for it all, my health, all of it, my mental and physical, financial, relational well-being are so important to You. I can’t attain to a level of health in any of these areas without seeking You and Your word and following hard after You. Thank You for turning me in my tracks back to the only source of healing for me. Thank you for the increase in my health in all areas of my life and please, please, help me to finish strong. In Your name, I ask. Amen.

picture credit: resaliens.com

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Let Us Settle The Matter

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“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson they shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Some time ago, I became aware of the fact that unforgiveness can hinder physical healing.  Fred Luskin, PhD at Stanford University says; “Not forgiving – nursing a grudge – is so caustic.  It raises your blood pressure, depletes immune function, makes you more depressed and causes enormous physical stress to the whole body”.  Ok, I got it. I asked God to show me anyone I needed to forgive and over a few weeks, He did just that. People just came to mind and I made the decision to forgive them. Some were easy, others were not. But with God’s help, we went through the list. I’m not saying I’m done, only that He hasn’t shown me anyone else.  At least not until the other day when He showed me who is most probably the most difficult person I have needed to forgive – me.

Wow! I did not see that coming! I could, however, instantly see the truth of that. I am quick to tell people they need to forgive themselves when I hear them verbally beating themselves up over something they did or didn’t do, but I don’t very often extend that mercy to myself. I wasn’t even sure how to begin. I remember I teaching someone once did on forgiveness and he said it begins with a decision to forgive, not a feeling to forgive. So even if I don’t feel forgiving, I can decide, as many times as I need to, to forgive and if I keep at that, the feelings will come.

So I am choosing to forgive myself. Choosing to accept the forgiveness Jesus paid for. I am settling the matter in my heart that my sins are covered and even though there are consequences to those sins, the stain of the sin is washed away. I am choosing to stop beating myself up for things I can’t go back and change. I am letting myself off the hook for expecting so much more of myself than I would expect of others. I am allowing the healing that comes from forgiveness to do it’s work in my life, my heart, my mind and my body.  And when self-incriminating thoughts come, I am reminding myself that it is settled and I am forgiven both by God and by me.

Lord, I do love Your word and how it shines the light of truth into my life. Sometimes that truth is a little painful to see, but it always brings healing. Thank You for Your word and for Your grace to allow Your word to do its work in my life. Continue to show me when unforgiveness is present in my life, I pray. I choose to forgive myself; help me to remember that when I talk otherwise to myself.  I ask in Your name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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

No Favorites

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Peter fairly exploded with his good news:

“It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites!

It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.

The Message he sent to the children of Israel

that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again

well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

Acts 10:34

Good news is really hard to contain.  Peter fairly exploded (but Peter fairly exploded often!) with his good news. It is really good news – God doesn’t play favorites.  What He has done for one, He will do for another, for you, for me. I think this is awesome news, because I have discovered, and perhaps you have too, that pain doesn’t play favorites either. Doesn’t matter what race or gender you are. Doesn’t matter what your economic position is or your political affiliations.  It doesn’t matter what church you go to or that you go to church. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how bad you are. If you are a member of the human race and still breathing, pain can interrupt your plans and your life. Life sometimes stinks  – for all us.

This message that caused Peter to fairly explode should have such an effect of us as well.  It is tremendous news. I am no less loved or no more loved than anyone else. So when I see in scriptures that Jesus went about healing people, or as this verse would say, putting everything together again, I know I am included in that group called everyone.

He’s the one who healed the leper. He heals me.

He’s the one who dined with sinners. He will dine with me.

He’s the one who embraced children. He embraces me.

He’s the one who extended grace to the woman caught in adultery. He extends grace to me.

He’s the one who raised Lazarus from the dead. He will raise me from the dead.

He’s the  one who fed the hungry. He will provide for me.

He’s the one who healed the woman with the issue of blood. He heals me.

He’s the one who delivered the man possessed by demons. He delivers me.

He forgave those who persecuted Him, rejected Him, despised Him, neglected Him. He forgives me.

He’s the one who entered our world, so that we could learn how to enter His. He is with me.

And He will do the same for you.

Jesus, I am entering the Christmas season and my life  just got so busy. I don’t want to lose sight of You through this time. Turn my heart towards You; help me not to forget the message of the Christmas season. I feel You are beckoning me to remember that all that You did, to know that You did for it me, for each one of us, everyone of us. How precious we are in Your sight and dear we are to Your heart. Thank You for not playing favorites and thank You for coming to put everything together again. Amen.

picture credit: hesmyallinall.com

Hard Things but Not Too Difficult

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Ah, Lord. God! Behold Thou hast made the heavens and the earth

by Thy great power and by Thy outstretched arm!

Nothing is too difficult for Thee!

Isaiah 32:17

My daughter arranged for us to have this sign donated to us by friendly strangers off of a blog she read regularly.  At the time, we were going through a very difficult time. My husband had been diagnosed with cancer in several spots of his skin and lips.  I was becoming more and more frustrated by the lack of answers over the chronic pain I was in and the intensity of the pain 24/7. There were other things going on then, but these were the biggies. The sign hung as an encouragement to help us get through and now hangs as a reminder that we can indeed do hard things. We can go through hard times, but I know, for me, I couldn’t go through hard times if I didn’t believe God was in control and that truly nothing is too difficult for Him. Nothing. Not cancer, not undiagnosed pains, not arthritis, not addiction, not rebellious kids, not distant spouses, nothing. I don’t believe I could go through hard times without that hope.

Hard times come and hard times go. Some are much harder than others but regardless of the intensity, hard is hard. We made it through those hard times and many, many others. I keep hoping for that high plateau that keeps us above hard things, but life is oftentimes, just plain hard.  In those times, for me, it is helpful to remember that hard times, like the seasons, change. They don’t stay forever; they are temporary. I can almost hear some saying, “but this one has gone on forever”. I know that feeling all too well. But still, it is a season and destined to change.

When the pain is so great I can barely walk, I remember that nothing is too difficult for God. When the pain has caused too many sleepless nights, I remember the God that has always brought me through. I’m still here. I’m still standing. Only God!

Whatever difficult or hard times you may be facing right now, please know that with God nothing is too difficult, nothing is too big or small for Him to be concerned about. He is not so busy that You have been put on back burner. He loves and cares for You and there is an appointed time for your hard time to end. Only God!

Where would I be if You hadn’t brought me through the hard times? Which one of them would have swallowed me up? I have nowhere to turn but You; only You have words of life and power to overcome the most difficult of hard times. Only You know what it’s going to take to free me from this pain and bring me to victory. I trust in You, I count on You, I look to You, I depend on You. You are my Ever-Present Help in time of need. Thank You for the countless times You have brought me and my family through hard times. Amen.