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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Halfway to Goal

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I am not so sure how properly I set this goal, but I am halfway there. Posting a blog a day for a year has been a stretch for me. Some weeks ago, I had to take a break because pain was too intense for me to sit at the computer and now I am trying to fill in posts on those days I missed.

So what else can I say about where I am right now, six months into this?

I am still dealing with pain.

I am still limited by pain.

I seldom use pain as an excuse for my mood, attitude, behaviors, etc.

I am encouraged by things I have studied and read and sometimes very challenged by things I’ve studied and read.

I still have more questions than answers and that’s good, it keeps me seeking.

I have more good days than bad.

I sleep more nights than I don’t.

I have learned that taking care of me is ok.

I’ve learned that God is a holistic healer and is as interested in my overall health as He is in my physical health.

I have discovered that I am more interested in my overall health than I am in my physical health.

I am relaxing in this process and not feeling like I must/need to rush it.

I am still connected with a local church and involved there.

I have made a new priority list and I am not at the top of it anymore!

My prayer life has grown by leaps and bounds.

I am grateful for this process and whenever my healing comes, I will be grateful for that.

I am learning to set boundaries with other people.

I am learning to delegate things I can’t do anymore.

I think going into this that I had in mind that I would be healed before my year was up. I know I can’t put a time frame on God and I know that what He has done in me in these past six months has more eternal value than just healing my body would have had. I have had to change my expectations from Daily Devotions on Divine Healing to Almost Daily Devotions on Divine Healing and I am ok with that, especially if the other choice would be to just quit. I won’t quit, I will make it to May 28, 2014.

Dear Jesus, what can I say but thank You and humbly come to You and surrender my life, my expectations, my timeline, my plans to You knowing that Your ways are not my ways and Your plans are higher, bigger, greater than I could ever imagine. Use me, use this pain, use this blog in any way You deem best, I ask in Your precious name. Amen.

Unshakeable!

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My hope is in you, God
I am steadfast, I will not be moved
I’m anchored,
never shaken
All my hope is in you

William Matthews

 

Hope. We sing the song “Hope’s Anthem” by William Matthews often at church.  We are fast approaching the Christmas season where the word hope is tossed around quite a bit. And yet, we also find that depression is more common during this season than others. So even though we talk about hope, some people don’t have it.  I will admit that this year as we head into Christmas that I am not overly hopeful. I looked up the word in a Bible dictionary and found that it means a confident expectation – to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future. Hmmm…  So now I know what it is.

I continued digging and found this on LifeHack.org “Doctors know that hope affects our ability to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living”. This could explain why I am still in so much pain and have little enthusiasm for life. So now I know why it’s so important.

This same article said that one way to build hope was to develop hopeful relationships. Not being a Christian blog, she was referring to people. Build relationships with hopeful people. Perhaps that’s the problem. Most of the people I encounter daily are not overly hopeful. I’m going to have to go out of my way to find these hopeful people. So now I know one way to build hope.

One thing they all agreed upon was that hope was not wishful, pie in the sky thinking. I read this on Bible.org “… a biblical hope is not an escape from reality or from problems. It doesn’t leave us idle, drifting or just rocking on the front porch. If our hope is biblical and based on God’s promises, it will put us in gear”.  So now I know that hopes needs to be built on something more reliable than my wishes. It needs to be based on God’s promises. Hope based on His promises will move me out of a complacent funk to a purposeful state of mind. When my hope is in Him, I am steadfast, as the song says.  No matter what comes my way, I will not be shaken or moved.  So now I have an action plan – hang out with hopeful people and keep God’s promises before me.  I hopeful, I think I can do this.

My hope can only be built on You and Your character. All else is shifting sand like the song says. I have stood on the beach and felt my feet sink into the sand as the tide rose and fell and I know I don’t want to be washed away by everything or just anything that flows my way. I want my hope to be built on the more solid ground of Your word. I will keep my eyes on You and trust You to place hopeful people in my path and cause me to be a hopeful person to them. I ask in Your wonderful name. Amen.

 

picture credit: amazingamazingyou.com

Qualified

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…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 

 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Colossians 1:12-14

My son, who is homeschooled, is in ninth grade and the curriculum we chose this year has a built-in grading system. The kind most of us grew up with A,B,C,D,F. This is his first encounter with grades. I never used them because I have such an aversion to them. The first time he got a grade lower than an A, he was devastated. More than once when he got a “bad” grade, he would tear up, push away from the computer and leave the room. It took a lot for me to not trash the curriculum. Instead, I helped him over a period of weeks to recognize grades for what they are – a method designed to help us understand where he needs to develop more mastery of a subject and what grades are not – an assessment of his value or worth.

Grades are part of our lives for good or for bad. Even into adulthood, long after schooling is done, grades enter our lives.  I recently had my evaluation done at work. It felt a lot like being graded. And it was. The evaluation is done only to show me where I need to improve and what I am doing that meets expectations. Knowing this though doesn’t change the barbs that enter my brain for a lower mark. Grades and evaluations are also used to evaluate our qualifications to move on or move upward. I got a raise because of my evaluation. People get qualified for college scholarships for good grades.  This is how things work in our kingdom.

The problems come when grades and evaluations become something we internalize and allow to eat away at our sense of self worth or when they become a source of pride and cause us to puff up.

In the kingdom of God, however, things work differently. I am qualified to receive my inheritance (which includes healing) simply because Jesus made the grade, passed the evaluation on my behalf. I am qualified because He qualified me. When I tend to qualify myself based on my assessment of myself, I recognize quickly that I don’t make the grade and feel disqualified to ask for healing or anything else for that matter. Implied in the ability to disqualify myself though is the reciprocal of that thought – that there is something I can do to qualify myself for His blessings. And that is just plain wrong. I can’t do anything to qualify myself nor can I do anything to disqualify myself except to believe in the qualifying sacrifice Jesus made for me. Then I can boldly come to God and ask for and receive my inheritance.

Jesus, thank You for rescuing me from the domain of darkness and transferring me to Your kingdom where there is redemption and forgiveness for my sins. Thank You that qualifying to be in Your kingdom isn’t based on my ability to perform satisfactorily. Thank You for my healing and for allowing me to share in Your inheritance with You and all those that call upon Your name. When I am tempted to disqualify myself, would You please remind me that You’ve got that covered. I ask in Your name. Amen

picture credit:  amandastaysatchurch.com

Have A Coke

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 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.

He freed me from all my fears.

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Psalm 34: 4,5,8

My parents were very big on entertaining.  It was great fun as a kid to see the transformation take place in the “adult” dining room. The empty table was beautifully set and lavish dishes of food prepared. We, as kids, were banished to our bedrooms once the guests arrived but the air of excitement filled the house.

There are six kids in my family and when my parents converted a three-car garage into a family room, it was no surprise that it was wonderfully set up for our entertainment but also as a place to entertain our friends. It had a pool table, Ping-Pong table, jukebox, TV, comfy furniture, a commercial popcorn maker and a soda fountain. This was back in the days before convenience stores were on every corner with their soda fountains and getting a good soda meant drinking from the bottle or going to the neighborhood drug store counter. For us, though, it meant just going to the family room.

Coke was the answer to many childhood ailments. When I was sick, I was given a Coke. When my stomach hurt, I was given a Coke.  When I was blue, I was given a Coke. My son informed me that he read on the internet that Coke is the second most globally recognized word with OK being number 1.  Apparently, others have an attachment to Coke too.

It’s not surprising that I became addicted to Coke. I drank it for years and years and years. Coke was comfort food at its finest to me. It was hard to give up and I have discovered that I still crave sugar all the time and consume it in other forms. Some would dispute that sugar can be an actual addiction, but I have read numerous times that sugar is able to penetrate the membrane around the feel good center of our brain.  Heroin and Cocaine are two other substances that can penetrate that. Some doctors believe sugar addiction is every bit as powerful as addiction to those drugs. It’s a socially accepted substance and readily available and I am struggling to give it up.

Sugar leads to immune system dysfunctions and inflammation and so many other things. It could very well be a factor in the pain I am experiencing. Knowing this gives me reason to give it up, but not the power. I will only find the power as I turn to God and seek His help. Only in Him will I find freedom from this addiction.

Today Lord, I purpose today to be Day 1 or Hour 1 or Minute 1 of living free of sugar. I approach this with a degree of fear. I have tried and failed so many times. Free me from this fear and this addiction please. I choose to taste and see that You are good and trust that as I look to You, I will be radiant with joy and free from the shame of addiction. Help me to lean on You minute by minute, one step at a time, lead me to victory, I ask in Your saving name. 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

Unlimited Asking

The best way to be sure your prayer is answered… is to pray! 

God challenges you to do unlimited asking. 

To the one in need of salvation, He says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37)

To the one in need of healing, He says, “I will come and heal him” (Matthew 8:7)

To the one tormented by fear or dogged by failure, He says,”Come unto me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)

To the one who is slave to habit, He says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36)

Are you expecting an answer?

If you expect the Lord to do wonderful things for you, He will.

Believe it, and you will find, as I have, that prayer is one of the most wonderful experiences ever known.

This excerpt on prayer was written by Oral Roberts in his book Oral Roberts Answers Questions About …PRAYER.

I love the expression “unlimited asking”. Prayer is not something that interrupts God’s day. It isn’t something that He grows tired of hearing. He beckons us to prayer to ask so that we might receive. I love that prayer is something we can all do and that Jesus responds to our prayers. Our words don’t have to be perfect, our posture doesn’t have to be a prescribed position. Prayer is really pretty simple – ask and believe. So the question becomes – are you in need? Did you pray? Did you keep on coming to Jesus, and keep on praying and keep on asking and keep on believing? I know I am guilty of praying earnestly for a time and then moving on. Then, of course, I wonder why I don’t see more answers to prayer than I do.

A friend of mine and I have purposed to get up a half hour early and pray each morning. We are believing that not only will God answer our prayers because He is a prayer answering God, but that He will also redeem that time and we won’t miss that half hour of sleep.  So far, so good. Finding time to pray is something that doesn’t happen unless we make it happen. Care to join us? You can even stay in your pajamas and in your bed, and He still hears, isn’t that good?

Lord, I come to You in need. In need of healing and rest and freedom from busyness. I love that You hear my prayers, that You solicit my prayers, that You respond to my prayers and act on my prayers. You are so merciful and gracious to me. Help me and my friend as we purpose to rise early to seek Your face. Would You meet with us and lead us to pray for what is on Your heart each morning. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of bringing Your kingdom to my corner of the world. Love You, Amen.

picture credit: aheartforthehome.com

Need a Hug?

My sister reminded me the other day of the wonder of the ministry of hugs.  We grew up in the Dr. Spock era where parents were admonished to let the child cry for fear of spoiling.  That and the emotional unavailability of our parents meant hugs were rare, in fact, I don’t ever remember being hugged by my mother and only rarely by my father.

But God in His infinite wisdom and compassion gave us Ardella.  Ardella was a soft, bosomy woman who cooked and cleaned for my grandmother.  She made the most wonderful Chicken and Dumplings and gave the best hugs.  She embodied safety and peace and acceptance and love without even words.  Her ministry was hugs and comfort food.  I don’t know much else about her, I am sorry to say, but she made a difference in my life and my sister’s live through her hugs.

For years, I have worked with children.  Regardless of whether that is in churches or public schools or non-profit organizations or licensed child care, the teaching is the same – hands off the kids!  I get that; we could be falsely accused of something and we could be sued.  I do get that, I just don’t agree with it.  Not when it comes to hugs.  So I take my chances and I hug kids that come for one.

One boy comes to mind that I grew to love while working at a local nonprofit for kids.  This particular boy drove most of the staff crazy with his hugs; they were too tight, too unexpected, too demonstrative.  He was an out of control hugger.  He was, without a doubt, my favorite child there.  He told me one day that his mother had tried to sell him when he was an infant and he knew this as fact because his father showed him the papers to prove it.  How could I hear that and not allow him to hug me?

I left club for another job but I went back to see this boy a couple of weeks ago.  When I got there he was in trouble (he was pretty much always in trouble) and I found him sitting against a wall by himself.  Of the over 200 kids I met working there, he was the one I went there that day to see much to the wonderment of the other staff.  Really? Why him?  There were so many other easier kids there to miss and want to see and I get that.  But I went to see him.

When he saw me he jumped to his feet and ran out the door and hugged me.  It was not too tight, or unexpected or demonstrative.  He just clung to me and his body went limp into mine.  We stood there for a few wonderful, rule breaking moments and he pulled away, looked at me and hugged me again.  We were both fighting back tears.  Nothing was said; nothing needed to be said.  It was all understood in that hug.

Making a difference in children’s lives is why those of us who work with kids tolerate lower pay and stressful work and difficult kids and parents.  Sometimes we find ourselves wondering if anything we do makes a difference and many times we will not see the fruit of our labors for years, if ever.  There are so many theories of how to make a difference and so many restrictions on what we can and can’t do and so many things to keep in mind and yada, yada, yada, I get tired of it all.  Too many experts muddling up childhood.

Ministry is not without it’s muddling upness either.  The internet abounds with tips and advice and do’s and dont’s of ministry until it seems overwhelming and someone like me who wants to make a difference, who wants to minister in Jesus’ name gets lost in the confusion.  Years ago, before I came along, there were groups of people called Sadducees and Pharisees who muddled up ministry too.  And Jesus showed them to be wrong.  Ministry can be simple.  Almost ridiculously so.  So simple that really anyone (including me) can effectively minister to others.  Something as simple as a hug can be more powerful than a sermon or a conference or a Bible study class or whatever.

Once on a mission trip to Mexico, my friend Gail and I were ministering at the altar after a service in a very small rural church somewhere in mainland Mexico.  The service had translators but at the altar there were none.  Women came to Gail and me for prayer and poured out their hearts in Spanish.  Nothing in Bible school prepared us for this.  We knew the do’s and don’ts of altar ministry but not what to do when we can’t even understand the words pouring out of these women’s hearts.  We looked at each other perplexed, shrugged our shoulder and did what came to mind.  We hugged them.  And like me in Ardella’s arms and that boy in mine, we felt the release of their burden as they melted into our arms and the words stopped coming but the tears did not.  We stood that way for what seems like forever.  Nothing being said; nothing needed to be said.  The women left the altar with smiles and a peaceful countenance and tears.  Tears that were washing away only God knows what.  Sometimes a hug reaches a heart that can’t otherwise be reached.

We make things so hard; we have so many rules and do’s and don’ts and so much time spent trying to protect ourselves from lawsuits and accusations that ministry becomes as muddled as taking care of children.  Even as a young child I knew that I wanted to “work” for God.  I didn’t know what that meant then and even as an adult, often times get confused on what that means.  Going to Bible School only added to the confusion.  Perhaps it’s too simplistic, perhaps it could lead to a lawsuit or false accusations but I think that ministry or that making a difference in someone’s life could be as simple at times as giving a heartfelt hug to a person in need and leaving the outcome in God’s hands.

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