Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love Prevails Despite the Storm

I love gushy love stories. I melt when the strong male character reaches over and takes the woman in his arms, looks deep into her eyes and pledges his love and protection forever. I swoon with her, wanting to feel that emotion so strongly that it takes my breath away. 

Along life’s way, I also had this stupid notion that life ought to be like the Walton’s. The whole family working together for the good of each other and the land. Lots of kids. Grandparents living in the back room. Table set for twelve. Yep, I had that dream, too.

Real life usually isn’t like that. I don’t think love is either. Maybe. Maybe not. But not in my household. Yes, there is love. But it’s the kind that digs into each day and does what it must do, and then comes home late looking like left-over toast, half-burned. 

Those scenarios were in the early years of marriage, job, kids, school, commotion, and chaos. Now life has settled down to the two of us. 

Love changes as you get older. Your challenges are different. Your calendar is marked up with doctor appointments and drug refills, not playdates, school activities, and homework. You aren’t running to the gym; you’re running to the bathroom. You don’t jump out of bed and do a few kip-ups; you moan and groan and stumble to the coffee maker to get your morning inspiration.

For the last few months, I’ve been in a life-storm and God has been nudging me with scripture, thrusting devotionals in my direction. 

“Love from the center of who you are, don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil, hold on for dear life for good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” Romans 12:9-10 MSG

Love from the center of who you are.

That’s a grabber, isn’t it? The center is the tender part.

Don’t fake it. Dig deep and be the real you that lives in that never-never land of love and excitement, in that tender part of the center.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor. 13:4-7 NIV

Have I done these things? Dishonor? Self-seeking? Keeper of the record of wrongs?

I think God is sending me a huge message. A strong message I cannot ignore. 

Looking back, I see where I have not been as loving as I should have been. I’m still learning, still an apprentice at love. God is helping me define love through His Words. He wants more of me. 

So for the past few weeks, I have stepped back, focusing on these Words. I see areas that need fine-tuning and others that need to be eradicated. God especially wants me to stop acting on my self-centered interpretation of events or actions from my spouse, and love from the center of who I am, not faking it. Genuineness. 

The other morning I sat and looked at my man of forty-eight years. That’s the same man who worked hard to provide for the family. That’s the same man who at sixteen taught me how to laugh and how to dream. He is solid. He is a man of faith.

Be good friends who love deeply. Who could ask for more than this? Good friends often seem to love easier, offer kindness quicker.

Jesus is still working on me. He wants to chisel me to a fine image of Himself. He also knows I am resistant.
“If you are griping, you’re not listening.
And if you’re not listening, you’re not learning.
And if you’re not learning, you’re not understanding.
And if you’re not understanding, you’re not honoring.
And if you’re not honoring, you’re not loving . . .
anyone but yourself.” (Life Lines)

I am a stumbling block in my own path. Today is demolition day!

“If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

“We, as Christians, are called by God to reflect that love to our spouses, our families, and our world. And the more we reflect it, the more we give it away to others, the more we experience it in our own lives.” (Dr. David Jeremiah)

This Valentine’s Day will be different. I am going to be different. I want to love like Jesus loves. I want my spouse to feel Jesus when he is with me. Today I’m asking God to keep me mindful of who I am in Him.

“Father, in the same way we give our highest loyalty to You, help us today to be devoted to one another in love, honoring each other above ourselves. Amen.” Romans 12:10

Love one another. Always and forever.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I Can See Clearer Now

I love this song by Johnny Nash, “I Can See Clearly Now”. It’s so upbeat, lifting spirits and filling the soul with joy. 

Don’t we all want to see clearly? I know I do.
Even when I doubt life’s challenges, I know I am beginning to see clearer. God is pointing out the obstacles and stumbling blocks I continue to hang onto, giving me a plenty of time to work through them with scripture and prayer.

Seeing clearer is often amplified when scripture suddenly jumps off the page. All of a sudden, a verse I’ve read many times stands out bold and filled with truth. Just to think that verse had been there all along hidden from my eyes until that very moment is poignant. You know that “Aha!” feeling.  

Ephesians 1:17 is very special to me.

How humbling it is to know that Jesus, in His timing, wants to give me special insight into scripture, life, hurting, and discipleship. I know on my own I could not begin to unravel the mysteries of the Father, faith, or fearlessness. God will give me wisdom as He feels I am able to incorporate it into my faith-living.

Thank you, Father that you give me moments of divine revelation by pulling back the curtains and supernaturally letting me peek in and glean from Your life, character, grace, promises, love, and blessings. Thank you for defining areas I need to grow in.

This is the opportunity we all have when we open the pages of God’s Holy Bible. We learn how to live, love, and follow Jesus Christ. And at just the right moment, we begin to see God’s truths a little clearer. 

Hope surges.

Faith abounds.

Love is richer and more meaningful.

I pray your time in scripture will be rewarding and enlightening. In God’s Holy name I pray,

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Beginnings 2018

2017 has closed down.

In a short period of time 2017 will be nothing more than a mere memory. All the living. All the chaos. All the blessings. All the angst. Few things will make it through the memory-portal as the year slams shut.

Over the last few days, I’ve been richly embedded in 2017 memories. Some were laugh-out-loud moments. Others tugged at my heart. Then there were those times that highlighted my insecurity or picked at a wound that should have healed. 

What do we do with all these things? Do we drag them into a new year, a new beginning? I’ve been pondering these things for days. Why? Well, I think it was to get me to this day and read the scripture highlighted in my journal.

“Finally, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is right, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. 

You know something, all those memories were priceless, even the hard ones. I think I grew closer to God when life sat me on the edge of a cliff. God certainly taught me a multitude of life lessons while I winced and recited “do not be afraid” a million times. I’m certain He laughed when I wondered “how long”. God knew the exact, perfect moment to ease the tension. I knew it, too.

Come to think about it, I’m going to take all my memories with me into 2018. I wouldn’t give up all the lessons for all the blessings. Every intervention, every wait kept me on the narrow path, following Jesus.

I know life in 2018 will present me with different kinds of confusion, calamity, and chaos, but I’ve had some great training. You know, I’m getting excited about all the opportunities and challenges the new year holds.  

Are you getting your praiseworthy thoughts ready for the upcoming year?

Think about such things.

God bless you,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Common Thread of Suffering

Everyone suffers. We experience or watch it every day. But it seems harder to digest it this time of year. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Baby Jesus. A sense of everything glowing and bright. And the expectation of a new year, a new beginning.

In the last month, I’ve had numerous texts, emails, and phone calls asking me to pray for love ones and friends who are suffering. Liver cancer. Pancreatic cancer. Breast cancer. Cardiac issues. Opioid addiction. Death. Emotional crisis. COPD. Stage 4 kidney disease. An angry son who has left home. A pregnant teen just released from the hospital after a brutal beating by a boyfriend. The list goes on and on. 

When I turn on TV the world shatters into a thousand pieces as I hear unthinkable words: killing, death, murder, adultery, rape, and incest. Nothing about this brings joy. Quite the contrary, it brings grief, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, remorse, brokenness, and sometimes turning away from God.


But wait a minute . . . let me attach God’s story to this whole theme of suffering.

When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God pronounced suffering as a punishment for disobeying His only command. Eve would suffer in childbirth. Adam would toil a cursed ground for sustenance. For the first time, they felt shame. Then God drove man out of Paradise into a foreign world filled with suffering and death. Immortality came to a screeching halt when the cherubim raised the flaming sword to block reentry. 

By Genesis Chapter 3 paradise is over and suffering begins. Suffering is sin induced. But Praise God, He spends the rest of Genesis and the next 65 books in the Bible offering redemption to mankind by giving him the choice to honor Him and follow His commandments. That’s the good news. 

We have to understand the beginning of suffering to begin to understand where we are in our suffering. How do we manage it? Do we suffer well? By that I mean do we honor God while we are suffering, acknowledging His involvement in our life, and His continual love and care? 

David exclaims, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:50

David believed and followed God. Yes, David sinned and suffered, but David’s cries for help and forgiveness were to God. God blessed David even while he suffered, and David gave God the credit. David suffered well because he had a personal relationship with God and knew God’s mighty hand had saved his life on many occasions.  

In the New Testament God sent His only Son, Jesus, to redeem those who would follow Him. During Jesus’ ministry He called disciples and apostles to walk with Him so that they would continue the ministry after Jesus’ death. Following Jesus was filled with blessings, healings, and miracles. It was also riddled with ostracizing, hunger, thirst, beatings, prison, blistered feet . . . all forms of persecution and horrific deaths. Suffering.

We are told suffering will exist until the promise is fulfilled at Jesus’ return where He will set up His kingdom on earth.

From Adam and Eve until now, God has been weaving a tapestry of suffering. Our suffering is woven in and around other’s suffering as we share our concerns, hurts, disappointments, and brokenness. Thousands upon thousands of lives depicted in a giant masterpiece. Tears blending colors and overlaying landscapes of brokenness. Can you imagine its intricate complexity? Then go one step further and envision the tapestry’s border woven from Jesus’ suffering and blood. Each tear, each heartache, each prayer, every hurt, all threaded by God’s hands into a unique pattern, encapsulating every thread, binding every suffering to the border of Christ’s suffering.

Paul reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corn. 1:3-5

So, what do I do when I get news of suffering?

I do what Jesus does for me. I try to comfort. I cry with them. I ache as they talk or as I read their labored words. I pray that Jesus heals their hurt and heartbreak. I listen. I offer love. I follow up with cards, calls, or texts to get updates and send more encouragement afterwards. Then, I continue to pray.

I am part of God’s tapestry of suffering. I have a common thread with every other sufferer. Every day I pray:

I cannot live without You, Lord. I cannot trudge through valleys of disappointment alone.
I cannot watch innocent people destroy their lives on drugs and maybe never know that You are with them, always. I cannot hear the cries of the destitute and hopeless without knowing You are the hope and anchor in their lives. I cannot listen to sounds of agony and pain without knowing You are with them, ministering to them.
You, Lord, are our common thread in suffering. There is nothing we’ve been through that is foreign to You. You are the border that keeps suffering contained within the boundaries of Your love, grace, and mercy. Lord, weave us tightly and securely. Don’t waste a moment of our lives. Use all of us to serve You even in our affliction. You are the golden thread that binds us. Our love pours out to You.

In all these things I pray,