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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Lottery Ticket

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The school where I work is holding their annual plastic drive. Families bring in plastic trash and the classroom with the highest weight of recyclable plastic wins.  The school in the district with the highest weight wins. Last year, our school won and the kids would like to win again.

I brought in a large bag (4 feet tall by 2 1/2 feet wide) stuffed with plastic.  All of the kids wanted to take that to their class but only one bag so, in an effort to be fair, we decided on lottery tickets. I put kid’s names on tickets and placed them in a bowl and drew out one lucky winner.  Kids that did not hear their name called were disappointed for themselves but happy for the winner.  Probably slightly more disappointed for themselves. These are elementary aged children! We, as adults, would never act that way! Right?

I recently shared with a friend that God had healed me of fibromyalgia.  He has been in pain for years and has had countless surgeries and still not completely healed. I hoped to encourage him to not give up on God.

All he said was, “lucky you”.

Then he added, “congratulations”.

I wanted to say this wasn’t a lottery. Healing doesn’t depend on luck. God promises that what He has done for one, He will do for all. He is no respecter of persons. But he had that closed off look people get when they don’t want to hear any more.

I understand giving up on God. My healing didn’t come after one prayer, or one time of being anointed with oil, or one week of confessing healing scriptures. This blog is testimony to the time I have spent waiting on a healing and the posts only cover four years. I lived with chronic pain for over 22 years and then one day, the pain was gone. I can’t explain that but I know luck deserves no credit whatsoever.

I remember all too well hearing testimonies of people being healed and feeling sad for myself because I wasn’t. I didn’t credit this to luck as much to thinking I had done something wrong. Didn’t have enough faith or something like that. Maybe I waivered in my faith too much or didn’t confess enough.

There was a tremendous amount of torment in waiting for a healing that didn’t seem to be coming. And so I gave up. I gave up blogging and searching for answers. I gave up confessing scriptures and seeking God for a healing.

I never gave up believing, however, that God is a healer and that healing is the children’s bread. I simply gave up letting that quest dominate my prayer life and my thinking.

And one day I realized I hadn’t taken any pain meds in quite a while.

I couldn’t remember the last time I couldn’t sleep because of pain.

The pain that had been a part of my life 24/7 was gone.

That’s not luck, that’s God!

Abba Father, thank You.  Thank You for touching my body and bringing the long awaited healing. I praise You for not forgetting about me or giving up on me or turning Your back on me.  For those who are waiting on a healing, Lord, I ask that You touch them in a palpable way, remind them of Your love and grace and mercy.  And please, let Your healing flow to them.  In Jesus’ name, amen.  

 

 

 

 

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Do Not Worry – No, Really, Do Not Worry

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?  

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27

I could be a professional worrier. I used to have an odd believe that crept up on me unawares, I believed that if I worried about something enough, it couldn’t happen.  Odd, I know. When my oldest daughter began driving, I worried about her getting in a wreck because of the roads being bad (Montana ice and snow roads) and I worried that she would drink and drive and I worried that someone else would drink and drive and an accident would occur and on and on. Seemed to be no shortage of things I could worry about regarding her driving. There was something addicting and oddly comforting about worrying. Surely those things couldn’t happen because I worried about them enough.

When her car became airborne and hit a power pole several feet up in the air, none of those reasons were the cause. A neighbor chose to check his mail by parking on the wrong side of the road and when my daughter came around the turn, she saw headlights in what she thought was the other lane. She drove to the right of them, right into a power pole.

My worrying had accomplished nothing. Even in my wildest worrying imaginings, I couldn’t have come up with this scenario. I’d like to say I learned my lesson about worrying, about what a waste of time it is, but alas, I didn’t.  My worrying had no power to prevent anything. Worry only stole from me. Worry stole my peace and my ability to enjoy the present moment. Worry gave me nothing in return.

“When God tells us in the Bible not to worry,

it isn’t a suggestion.  It’s a command.

Worry and/or anxiety is specifically mentioned twenty-five times in the New Testament alone as something we should avoid.”  

Joanna Weaver

Apparently God takes this “Do not worry” command seriously and understands our propensity we humans have towards worrying.

Maybe one antidote to worrying is found in this verse in the question – “are you not much more valuable than they?”

 The more I believe in God’s love for me, the more I can trust in His care for me.  

I am more valuable than the birds in the air and He feeds them. He will feed me.

He watches over them. He will watch over me.

 He created them and designed them to be unique.

 He created me and designed me to be unique.

He hasn’t turned his back on the birds. He won’t turn His back on me.

Heavenly Father, how gracious You are. You know me intimately. You know the minutes, OK the hours, I spend worrying when I could be talking to You. You have proven Your love to me over and over again. Please forgive me for the times I allow worry to preoccupy my mind and my time and my affections. Thank You that my life is in Your hands and You lovingly watch over me and mine.  You are truly  a good God.  Amen.

 

Affect or Infect?

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Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help

and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.

But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.

 

Jonah 1:5

 When I read this the other day, my first reaction was, of course he was sleeping. Doesn’t it always seem like the person that creates the havoc can be oblivious to the impending wreckage? Sleeping away while others are scratching their heads and cleaning up the mess? Jonah was running from God, these people on the boat didn’t know Jonah or Jonah’s God, the storm hadn’t been predicted by the newscaster, the ETA for the ship had been announced and the people were settling in for what should have been  a safe little boat trip to Tarshish.  But then there is a twist in the tale; Jonah happened and the storm happened because of Jonah and the people were now freaking out because  the storm happened because of Jonah running from God and all this time, Jonah sleeps through it.

It is so easy to think that it is all about me. I think that lots of times and surely Jonah is thinking that here. I don’t want to do things God’s way, I don’t want to hear what He has to say, it is all about me and so I will just run far, far away. I don’t get in a boat and try to get out of dodge, no, I don’t have to do that, I can just be busy, too busy, too focused on me and what I want to stop and consider God’s plan for the moment. Or worse, I can consider God’s plan for the moment and decide that my plan trumps His. After all, it is all about me, isn’t it? Or is it?

The problem with that thinking is that we don’t live our lives in a vacuum. Our lives touch and intersect with others, planned or unplanned. Others that may know nothing about our issue with God or even care. But our lives have the power to affect others or to infect others. Jonah’s clearly infected others this day, almost to the point of death and he was so wrapped up in his drama that how he touched their lives no longer mattered.  Sad commentary for a prophet who had dedicated his life to speaking God’s word to people’s hearts.

Whether we are a prophet or a teacher or a mom or a friend, daughter, employee, sister…. our life touches others either for good or for not so good.  Ignoring that doesn’t change it.  Sleeping through the wreckage is only an option for so long. Sooner or later, the mess catches up with us.

Jonah owned up to his responsibility for the storm and you probably know the rest of the story. He is thrown overboard, swallowed by a great fish and then deposited safely onto dry ground.  God calms the storm and the people on the boat were carried to their port safely. Jonah was given a second chance and this time, he carried out God’s instructions.

My takeaway from this is just this: there is no storm, regardless of cause, that God cannot quiet. Even if the storm is of my own making, it doesn’t change God’s love for me or His willingness to rescue me. Or you.

That’s good news, isn’t it?

 

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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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Beloved

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“I have called you by name, from the very beginning.

You are mine and I am yours.

You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.

I have molded you together in your mother’s womb.

I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.

I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.

I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.

Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch.

I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.

I will not hide my face from you.

You know me as you own as I know you as my own. 

You belong to me.

I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse…even your child… wherever you are I will be.

Nothing will ever separate us.

We are one.”

I needed to hear this today. Probably yesterday and perhaps, again tomorrow. It is all too easy for me to forget just how much I am loved. What about you? Is it hard at times to see yourself as the object of God’s love? I found these words in Henri Nouwen’s book Life of The Beloved. He also wrote, “We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us.”

How would it change our day if we got up and allowed these words to sink into our heart?  We are known, warts and all, and loved anyway. We are watched over, every step of our day, every moment of our day. Accompanied by the God of the universe, who holds all things in His hands.  All of our need satisfied by Him, and never, never, never will he abandon us. Even if we look away from Him, He won’t look away from us.

It might mean that whatever the doctor said, whatever the bank statement said, whatever the symptoms said, or the voices in our head that would trash talk us, that God says differently. He says, I am with you. I am here for You. Whatever the future holds, whatever this day holds, you are not alone, we will face it together and I will care for you. You are my beloved.

I can scarce take it in. I am Your beloved. I don’t understand that kind of love but I want to be open to receive it. Help me to still the voices that would tell me otherwise so I can hear Your voice whisper to me of Your love. Help me to remember that You are with me, whatever comes my way, You are already there to care and provide for me. Thank You, Father. Amen.

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Payment Accepted

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So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.”

Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God.

The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.

Hebrews 10:19-22

Message Bible

Need healing? Need restoration? Need peace? Need something you can’t even put into words?

Feel like you can’t even approach God? You’ve been too distant – feel too unworthy – it’s been far too long since you even considered Him as a viable source for anything? Whatever the barrier that keeps you from God, He hasn’t placed it there. The only barrier was our sin, yours, mine, individual sins and collective sins, all of them, the sum total, the past ones, the present ones, the ones you haven’t even thought of yet. Those caused a barrier; but that barrier has come down. They came down when Jesus said, “it is finished”. The sacrifice made to  atone for our sins was made. God was pleased to call our debts paid in full and the barrier that separated us is no longer.

If we believe that, if we accept that, we can walk right up to God – without hesitation. We can take our needs, our concerns, our fears, our joys, our hopes (the ones that are alive and even those that have died) and we can confidently know that we are, as this verse says, presentable – inside and out. We don’t have to clean ourselves up first, we don’t have to dress up or act proper, we just come, as we are, and know that it was God’s desire to have the barrier of our sin removed so that we could come. He paid an incredible price for it. The only thing to be done now is accept that fact and walk right up to God.

The payment has been made; my debt is wiped away. What an amazing gift! I come to You, confident that I am presentable, inside and out, and ask for wisdom. I feel somewhat divided today. Does what I do honor You? Does it please You? I want, I need to know that what I do with my life is Your will and not mine. Would You show me, lead me, help me settle in my heart just what You would have of me? I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Really Jesus?! Children?!

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The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

Mark 10:14-15

Jesus was constantly surprising people by His word and His actions, even His disciples who had been with Him for some time. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, He dined with tax collectors, He touched lepers, He healed all, He fed thousands with a handful of food, He walked on water, He taught with such authority that people scratched their heads in amazement, He claimed to be the Son of God. And here, He has the audacity to tell His disciples that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Who but Jesus would elevate children to such a place?

Jews at that time would have been taught that the kingdom of God is something you earn your way into and how could a child do that? By their standards, most adults couldn’t do it.   The disciples attempted to shoo the children away,  thinking Jesus apparently had more important things to do. Once again, Jesus surprised the crowds, the Pharisees and the disciples by showing them what He considered worthy of His attention and His kingdom – children.

This is a beautiful story of Jesus welcoming all of us who can’t earn our way in to be able to freely enter the Kingdom of God. The kingdom prepared and planned by God, planned and prepared for us. A kingdom where Jesus is Lord over all. I don’t know what that kingdom will look like, but I suspect that if Jesus is Lord it might look a lot like all of these things He did on earth that surprised people. Loving the least of people, healing the all and the many, dining with the ones society might call unworthy, refusing to condemn those we would gladly point a finger at, opening His arms and His heart to children. Welcoming people like me and people like you and laying His hand on our head to bless us. Wow! I can’t even begin to imagine the healing that flows from His hand when He lays it on my head. Can you?

What a beautiful story this is Jesus of Your love for us all, for me. To be welcomed into Your arms, knowing full well I can do nothing to deserve such a love or embrace and yet…  Words fail me now, I am so touched by the thought of Your kingdom and Your hand of blessing on my head. Thank You. Amen.

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Worth Loving?

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“You need to love him”.  Those words, spoken by the Holy Spirit, woke me in the middle of the night.  I looked around, who is the he I need to love?  I realized He meant my husband, (now ex) Donny, asleep or should I say passed out next to me.  My response was immediate “I can’t love him, You see how he is”.  And with that I went back to sleep.

The next night, I was awakened by the same words, “You need to love him”.  I still didn’t have to think very long for my answer, “I can’t love him, You see how he is, he is so mean to me”.  And again, I went back to sleep.

This continued night after night and night after night, I added to the list of reasons why I couldn’t love my husband. It got harder and harder to come up with reasons and I found myself during the daytime thinking of more reasons.  It was getting old to me and every night I thought I had made my case and this would be the night the Holy Spirit didn’t wake me with the now familiar words, “you need to love him. But every night, He did.

One night out of frustration, when He spoke those words, I presented my whole list:

You see how he is, he’s mean to me, he’s seldom home, he’s almost always drunk, he doesn’t help out with anything, he’s unfaithful, he neglects me, he neglects his kids, he’s abusive, he abandons us for months every winter, he’s always at the bar.  I ended my list with, “no, I can’t love him because in my opinion, he’s not worth loving”.  I went to sleep satisfied that I had settled the issue.

The next night, I didn’t hear the words I had come to dread.  Instead I heard these words spoken in a very soft and imploring tone, “But, you weren’t worth loving either”.

Wow! I felt like Eve in the garden of Eden, naked, exposed, ashamed and desperately in need of somewhere to hide. 

I wanted to crawl under my bed and dig a hole through the carpet and the floor and keep digging until there was no chance of being seen. 

I was so ashamed.

When I realized there was no place to hide and no need to hide (He’d already seen my gross sin), I asked for forgiveness and the grace to begin loving my husband.

I’d like to say that as a result of that encounter, I was able to love him well enough that he responded to my love and responded to God’s love and changed his ways and we lived happily ever after.  But that’s not what happened; we were divorced three years later.

What did happen was a paradigm shift in my thinking. I had been raised to believe that love was conditional – conditional upon my being good as defined by … whomever.  I never was good enough and never felt worthy of being loved.

What I learned is that I’m not worthy of love, no one is really. 

We are loved simply because God decided to love us. Love is a choice, not a feeling. 

God’s love for me, for you, is not based on our worthiness, it’s not based on our good behavior or lovable actions. 

It is based on His character and His decision to love us – regardless. 

Isn’t that good news?

Good King, Bad King

I read the Bible for the first time in 1983. I was a brand new Christian and wanted to see what God had to say for Himself. I started at Genesis and read through to Revelation. It took about 3 months. When I closed the book I lay my head down and cried.

I grew up in a Presbyterian Church.  We went on Sunday mornings and almost every other time the doors were open.  I remember a lot of things but I don’t remember learning anything about God.  I am sure He was mentioned but I’m just saying, for me, church wasn’t where I discovered God.   I did, however, have an opinion of God. I envisioned Him with a large blackboard where with white chalk, He made tally marks of each of my sins.  Probably yours too, but in all honesty, I was way too self-absorbed to be concerned about your sins.  Mine scared me.  Terrified is a better word.  I lived in tremendous fear of His judgment.  I had no idea what His judgment would be like and I had no idea if it would be brought on by the sum total of my sins or one big, bad one that would tip the scale. Only that it was imminent.

I also had no idea of what sin actually was. I had enough knowledge of the Ten Commandments to know that I wasn’t supposed to steal, or murder or commit adultery and I wasn’t doing those things. But still I felt those tally marks being made and I had no idea how to stop them from being made or how to erase them. I lived with condemnation and fear that was crippling.

But then I read the Bible.

It was the kings of Judah and Israel that helped me see God.

And myself.

Reading through I and II Kings was an emotional roller coaster ride for me.

These books record the history of the reign of kings over the Israelites.

Some were good and some were exceedingly bad.

A chapter might begin something like this:

“Now Ahaziah was twenty -two years old when he became king…and he did evil in the sight of the Lord”  II Kings 8:26-27 .  

And I would cringe.

And then a new king would come to power and it would read like this:

“Then Jehoash became king and …. he did right in the sight of the Lord all his days”  II Kings12: 1-2.  

And I could breathe again.

But then the next king would come to power and it would read like this:

“Jehoahaz …became king and… he did evil in the sight of the Lord”   II Kings 13:1-2 

And I would fear for them.

This continued for chapters and chapters and years and years and years of their history.

And I couldn’t take it.

I just knew the tally marks were winning and they were doomed.

Like me.

Each time an evil king came on the scene I would want to scream at them the way I might do watching thriller movie when someone is in danger and doesn’t see it.

I wanted them to stop their sinning; I wanted to believe it was possible.

For them; for me.

I didn’t want to see what God would do to them because whatever God would do to them wouldn’t He surely do the same to me when my tally marks exceeded His limits?

What God did do surprised me.

He allowed consequences for their sin; sin always has consequences but His heart for them was always merciful, compassionate.

He stood with open arms to welcome them back.

To forgive them, to wipe away the tally marks.

Listen to His heart in this passage from Isaiah:

“For the mountains may be removed

and the hills may shake,

but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,

and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”

says the Lord who has compassion on you”

Isaiah 54:10

God isn’t watching over me to keep track of my sins; He is watching over me to find ways to tell me once again just how much He loves me.

Is it any wonder I cried?

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