Could Not Have Been Made Better

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“God sat down for a moment when the dog was finished in order to watch it…

and to know that it was good…

that nothing was lacking…

that it could not have been made better”

R.M. Rilke

His name was Houdini because he could escape anything I put him in. He was one out of a litter of  9 Standard Poodles I had some years ago. I donated him as a puppy to Summit Assistance Dogs to be trained and used as a therapy dog and I was given a clay wall hanging with those words written on them as a thank you.

The accolades given dogs amaze me. I am a dog breeder and love them but I don’t think they walk on water, in fact, I’m pretty sure they don’t. They are wonderful, and perhaps those of us who adore dogs would readily agree with those words written about them,  but I wonder if we changed the words above to read like this how many of us would still agree with it.

God sat down for a moment when you were finished, when I was finished, in order to watch us…

and to know that we were good…

that nothing was lacking…

that we could not have been made better

I can almost hear a collective groan. I know I’m groaning. I groan because I think I could have been made better. I groan just thinking about the number of times I have envied some feature someone else was born with and lamented that I was not or vice versa.  Because what? I know better than God how I should be? Comparison is such an insidious thing, robbing us of recognizing our uniqueness. What if we could actually embrace those words, that God was pleased with us, just the way He created us; that we could not have been made better? Isn’t that what He is saying here:

…for You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.…

Psalm 139:13

If God is pleased with me, with how He made me, why is it so hard to accept myself the way I am. My physical features don’t need to look like someone else; they need to look like me. I need to accept that I look exactly how God intended and He calls His creation good. I think a big step in healing would come from just this – recognizing and accepting that I am who I am by God’s design and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made even if I don’t look exactly like what society calls good, even if I don’t look like what I might call good, God calls me good. He didn’t make a mistake when He made me and He didn’t make a mistake when He made you.

Father, how hard it is to see myself just as You do. Do You watch me with a smile on Your face? Do Your eyes light up when You see me? Am I really the apple of Your eye? Are You proud to show me off – there’s my daughter, my beautiful daughter? Forgive me for seeing myself as anything less than Your creation, Your masterpiece. Even as I write these words, I know I am a long way away from truly believing them. Help me to believe them as I give myself permission to believe them and thank You – thank You for creating me just the way You did. Amen.

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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.

‘Tis the Season

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

I promised a kid at work we would make Christmas ornaments out of Rice Krispies in time for Christmas. ‘Tis the season and guess who forgot that promise! She looked at me shocked and horrified when I admitted I had forgotten. Promises are especially precious to this little girl. She is in foster care and for over a year her mother has promised her that she would get clean and get the family back together. It hasn’t happened yet and it’s easy to see that, at times, this girl’s hope is fading. I reassured her and together we made a grocery list of things we need to make these treats.  We will make them next Monday. I know she won’t let me forget again.

God doesn’t give out His word and then forget it. Even with the myriad of things He no doubt has on His mind, He still remembers His promises and performs them. I don’t know why some take longer than others to materialize but I know His word and His character and both are trustworthy.

He sent His word and healed them,

And delivered them from their destructions.

I don’t know about you, but there have been more than a few destructions that I have needed God to deliver me from – addictions – cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, co-dependency, mental torment, debilitating fear, bad temper… the list is longer, but enough said. I am delivered by His word and healed by His word. The God who delivered me from addictions can and will deliver me from arthritis, chronic pain syndrome and carpal tunnel. This I believe. His word sent to me, sent to you, will not return void, it will accomplish what it is sent for. What word are you standing on? What deliverance are you in need of? It’s not too much for God to heal.

Lord Jesus, be Lord of my life. In the good days and in the not so good days, thank You for Your presence in my life and for watching over Your word to perform it in my life. Thank You for delivering me from my destructions when I couldn’t deliver myself. For this little girl who has heard a few too many empty promises, would You show up strong in her life? Help her to know that You never break Your promise and that she can depend on that. I ask in Your name and because of Your saving grace. Amen.

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.

My Dream Back Yard

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“Do what you couldn’t do before and do it until you can do it easily”.  I read this from a book on divine healing. I have heard similar exhortations before, but this time, I got it. I prayed about it and picked one thing I have not been physically able to do in a very long time – yard work. I don’t particularly care for yard work, but I do like a nice yard to relax in. Our back yard had become anything but nice.  Between the overgrown garden and the dogs and the piles of things that seemed to grow exponentially every year, the yard was a mess.

I decided to put this teaching to the test and began the process of reclaiming our back yard. The first Saturday, I worked for about 3 hours, not non-stop but throughout the day. It was hard and at the end of the day, I needed pain medication, badly.

The second Saturday, I worked about the same with the same ending, me on the sofa taking pain meds. But the third Saturday, I worked just as hard, for just as long but at the end of the day, I didn’t need any pain meds!  Not even Tylenol!  How exciting! The fourth Saturday was the same – no pain, then the rains came and I haven’t been out since! I am so encouraged by this. Chronic pain has kept me from so many things for so many years and to be able to do just this yard work is nothing short of a miracle. I am so grateful.  My yard is a long way from looking like my dream back yard, but it is now in the range of possible instead of impossible.

Sometimes, I think we are waiting on God to do the miraculous and He is waiting on us to accept the fact that the miraculous is a done deal. I still have pain, but as God leads, I am going to reclaim my life (and my yard) and do the things I couldn’t do when pain ruled my life. I will hike with my son and putter in my back yard and keep my home cleaner and groom my dogs better and…and…   Most of that is not too exciting but it is stuff I have not been able to take for granted for the past 18 years.  For the first time in a very long time, I see possibilities in my life instead of impossibilities. Only God could have turned that around.

Father, when I think of Your goodness, I am humbled and blessed and speechless. What can I say but thank You? Thank You. You are my healer God and I am amazed at how You continue to work in my life. What a wonder You truly are! Thank You for the yard work I have been able to do and the possibilities of reclaiming my life that are rising up in me. Please continue Your work in me and lead me in Your perfect will. In Jesus’s name, I pray, Amen.

A Balanced Equation

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Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 

3 John 1:2

I am relearning Algebra. Not by choice, but in an attempt to help our 9th grade son with his school work.  One thing I learned is that equations need to be balanced.  For example 2 +5 = 10-3 is a balanced equation.  You probably remember from high school that what you do to one side of that equation, you have to do to the other side to keep it balanced. An equation can be unbalanced if you don’t do to the other side what you do to the one side.

When I looked at this verse recently, I saw it as an equation.  What if it could be written like this:  prospering and being in good health = your soul (mind, will and emotions) prospering. What if the power and the truth of that verse lie in the balancing of that equation?

One aspect of the meaning of prospering is that nothing is missing and nothing is lacking. Having what is necessary to have a successful journey here on earth. Money is part of it, but it encompasses so much more. What is lacking in your life? Joy, peace, forgiveness, health, love…?

If, and this might be a big if, our mind – our thinking patterns, the tapes we play over and over in our head, our outlook on life, lined up more and more each day with the word of God, wouldn’t that affect our will and our emotions positively?  And if that happened on that side of this equation, wouldn’t it cause for more prospering and health on the other side of the equation?

Too many times, it is easy to allow feelings and emotions to guide our thinking and our behaviors, but what if we reversed that? What if our feelings followed our thinking and our thinking followed the word of God?  Wouldn’t there be healing in that area of our life?

If one side of this equation effects the other, then my soul prospering will raise the level of prospering and health I experience in other areas of my life, like my finances and my body and my relationships.  I think that’s kind of exciting and a worthy goal, to have my soul prosper and my life follow that. How do I do this? By reading the word of God, meditating on it, and applying what I learn in my life by God’s freely given grace. Daily.

Once again, I am renewed in my mind by reading Your word. Once again, I feel hope arise in me. I desire to prosper and be in good health, I desire to finish the course You have set before me and I need Your resources to do that. I need Your word and Your grace and Your provisions. I need good health. Help me to feed upon Your word, to allow it to have its perfect work in me and help me to be fruitful in every good work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Communion

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He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross

so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on.

For his wounds have healed ours! 

I Peter 2:24

Today at church, we will celebrate communion. It is a time to reflect on what Jesus’s death on the cross means to us. Forgiveness is usually the message that is spoken at communion services, but I have come to think of communion as more that just that (although that alone is reason to celebrate).

Joseph Prince has this to say about communion: “To see God’s grace toward us when we are sick is to see what Jesus did for us at the cross…Beloved, see Jesus carrying your symptoms and diseases on His own body. See Him taking one lash after another until His back was shredded to ribbons. See Him falling again and again under the brutality of the scourging, only to rise again and again for more beating until ALL your diseases were healed! Receive your healing as you receive what His perfect finished work at the cross has accomplished for you!”

We are told to celebrate communion and to remember Jesus as we do. To the disciples that would include remembering all the people He touched and healed and the lives that were changed right there in front of their eyes. To me, it would include thinking back on all the times He has been faithful to His word in my life, the times He touched me and healed me and changed me. It would mean looking intently at Jesus and knowing that all that He took upon Himself on that cross, He took so that I could live free of its power over me.  Free from sin, free from death, free from sickness and disease. Free to enter into a relationship with my Father God without shame or condemnation or a sense of unworthiness.

Today Jesus, as I approach the communion table, prepare my heart to receive all that You purchased for me. Open my eyes to see You more clearly, more dearly, more intimately. Thank You for doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself – be cleansed from all unrighteousness, be healed from all diseases. Today, would You touch my heart, my body, my life in whatever way You desire as I keep You in remembrance as we celebrate communion?  Have Your way in my life, I surrender it to You again.  Amen.

Name to Face

 

Look at the sky and see.
    Who created these things?
    Who brings out the stars one by one?
        He calls them all by name.
    Because of the greatness of his might and the strength of his power,
    not one of them is missing.

Isaiah 40:26

 

Taking care of kids involves a lot of paperwork. One piece is our Name to Face sheet. On this we put the name of each child who is attending. Then every time we take them from one room to another or from inside to outside or vice versa, we are to call out each name, hear them say “here” or see their face, and check them off. It takes time but keeps us from losing a child. In my defense, though, I ‘d like to say that I never lost a child even without the list! But that’s not the point.

God created the stars and He named them one by one. He knows the names of the stars! Every single one! Astronomers estimate over 100,000 million stars in the Milky Way alone. How many can you name?  Me, not very many, maybe only one – the North Star, but He knows them all. And not one is missing. He must have His own Name to Face sheet for the stars.

If God would take such great pains to keep stars in place and know them by name and prevent even one from being missing, wouldn’t He do the same, if not more, for His children who are the crown jewel of His creation?  He has engraved our names upon His hand and numbered the hairs of our head. We are far more important to Him than the stars and yet look at how He cares for them.

Whatever the difficulty you face right now or the trial you may be going through, God isn’t unaware. You are not Missing in Action. He knows where you are and what you are going through and He knows the exact date it will be over; the very moment when your deliverance, your breakthrough, your healing comes through. It isn’t planned for our timetable but for His and while I don’t understand that at times and wish He would move on my timetable, He is faithful and not one of His children will come up missing or in lack or want. That’s good news, isn’t it?

Jesus, You are Lord of all creation, even me. The stars tell a story of Your intimate knowledge of my life and my comings and goings. Not once have You forsaken me or forgot about me or lost me. I am Yours and You faithfully, lovingly keep watch over me. Thank You that I am recorded on Your Name to Face sheet and in Your Lamb’s book of Life. Thank You for hanging on to me even when I fail to hang on to You. Especially when I fail to hang on to You. Have Your way in my life and in my heart and in my family, I ask in Your powerful name. Amen.

 

picture credit: anyasgarden

The Puppy and the Peanut Butter

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“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”   
     Voltaire

As I write this, our Goldendoodle puppy Sadie is persistently attempting to clean the insides of an empty peanut butter jar. She has the top part really clean but hasn’t figured out how to get her face and tongue far enough down to clean the bottom.  She has been working on this for over half an hour! She has gotten the label all the way off and has bent back the edges of the plastic jar enough to get her face further down, but there is still peanut butter to be had.  Watching her determination is funny and heartwarming and sometimes, makes me think that maybe she isn’t all that smart.  Or maybe she’s smart enough to know that persistence pays off. Even if to others it looks like a lost cause.

I think that sometimes of my pursuit of healing. Why not just give up and accept that this is what it is and move one?  I would bet that to others that my determination may at times seems odd and, at times, may seem heartwarming, and maybe at other times, it just seems like, well, maybe she just isn’t all that smart. To me, though, there is something bigger at stake than getting the last bite of peanut butter. My healing, your healing is worth pursuing. It has been paid for and the price was high: Jesus taking all our diseases on the cross with Him to put an end to their destruction in our lives.

God made it clear in scriptures that Jesus came to do the will of God and Jesus went about healing all. ALL.  I am sure that sometimes, these people who came were to Jesus looking for healing were viewed as odd. I mean, who tears a hole in a roof to let someone down into the house on a pallet? That’s major league cutting in line, not to mention just plain odd. But they persisted and the man was healed. If I had been willing to say enough is enough and move on when we were believing for our son John, I am not so sure he’d be here today. I can’t help but wonder what other miracles I have missed because I was unwilling to persist to the end.  I don’t want to quit believing for my healing any more than Sadie wants to give up on that last bit of peanut butter, regardless of how it looks to others (and myself at times).

Jesus, You know the struggles I have had with faith, how it waxes and wanes, how some days faith comes easy and others, not so easy. Help me to be steady, to be persistent to the end when I see this promise of Yours manifested in my life. I’m not resting in my ability to believe, but resting in the faithfulness of Your love, Your character and Your word.  Thank You for bringing our promised son, John into our lives when it seemed impossible, and thank You for this healing You bring into my life even when, at times, it seems impossible. Forever Your humble follower, I thank You. Amen.

Reflected Light

 By your words I can see where I’m going;
    they throw a beam of light on my dark path.

Psalm 119:105

I’ve been looking for answers. Not just about this pain but about other areas of my life that I feel need changing. I  haven’t as yet gotten any definitive answers. But I am reminded of a teaching I heard Larry Huch give. He said the priest that entered the temple wore what is best described as diamonds or jewels on the shoulders of their robes. The light from the lampstand stand reflected off of those stones and onto the letters of the Hebrew alphabet that were on the lampstand. Every letter  (all 22) was on there. One letter would be illuminated at a time spelling out a word from God for the people. It was a way for them to discern God’s will.

I don’t have a lampstand or a robe with diamonds on it (would that I did!) I do, however, have God’s written word, His indwelling Spirit, and a heart to follow where He leads. He hasn’t lit my way with floodlights but He has illuminated my path, one step at a time. And for now, that is enough.

Through the maze of prescriptions and supplements and tests and diagnosis, I have at times been so lost that I couldn’t even tell which way to go. It was in those times when God’s word throws a beam of light on my dark path and I know the next step to take. One step at a time can be incredibly frustrating for a planner like me. I want answers and I tend to want them now, but that isn’t how this has been working for me. Among the many things I have learned about healing through this process, this may be the hardest. I’m not totally content with this one step at a time thing but a lamp or beam of light only illuminates a small portion of ground at a time and it moves as I move illuminating the next step.

Some years ago, at a Tim Story healing service, God told me that this was a complete healing. He said my body has been out of whack for a very long time and He is putting it back in whack (His words, really). I had no idea some 18 years later, I would still be looking for that healing to be completed. My body must be more out of whack than I thought! I hold on to His word and His faithfulness to His word and trust that as I take this one step, He will show the next.

Lord, You know how difficult this has been for me. Probably the worst has been all the unanswered questions and the not knowing when it will all end. I am not asking for those answers anymore, I am asking that You continue to guide me one step at a time until this body is back in whack and then even beyond that incredible day. I can’t make this journey without You or Your word, continue to illuminate my path and grant me the grace to take those steps in faith without complaining and murmuring. Forgive me for all the countless times, I have demanded answers. I ask in Your name, Jesus. Amen.

picture credit: nzorzin.com