least and most

Every morning as my husband and I drive into work we pass the homeless.  There are those who are gathered at the outreach center for meals and assistance, those who are asleep in the doorways and on benches, and the three or four we pass with their cardboard sign asking for assistance, signed with God Bless.

I don’t carry cash, so I can’t give a monetary handout.  And in someways, it seems like the least amount of engagement, tossing money at someone, while never meeting their eyes and validating who they are as a human being.

One gentleman I pass each day holds a sign that reads, Down and out Vet, anything helps. God Bless.  I don’t know his name, but when I see him, I feel my heart tug toward him, wishing there was something tangible that I could do.  Something that would help him know he matters.  Right now, I make a point to say “good morning”  to him and look him in the eye.  He greets me the same way.

This man reminded me today of the verse in Matthew 25:40 about the least of these. The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

What would happen if the way Jesus allowed us into Heaven was not based on His Grace given at the Cross but only by the grace we give to others?

What if the brutality we showed to people who were “different” than us would be reflected back at us when we stood at Heaven’s gates? This idea does concern me, especially as I read further in Matthew 25. He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

May we remember we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We are to love the “least of these” and show them they matter.  Whether it is a smile, a word of kindness, or a meal.  The more we love, the more Jesus shines in our dark world.

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Love His way

Once again my newsfeed has been filled with “outrageous” actions by others.  I find myself silently agreeing that these actions are horrifying, saddening, and yes, sickening.  I also know that if I chime in, my voice will just be lost in the cacophony of millions.  It won’t make a difference in the long run, from Eternity’s point of view.

So, once again, I find myself praying.  Praying for the hearts of people who have grown cold to the value of others, of God’s creation, of themselves.  I find myself praying for leaders in government who are the policy writers, praying that they will awaken to the way God wired each of us.  Praying that they will see we are all to be valued and treasured.

I am saddened by a society that has grown so busy that we need to be reminded that our treasures are in the back seat, strapped in, waiting for us to bring them into the store we are running into for “just a minute.”

We are called to see each creation God has blessed us with in life as the glorious treasure that it is, created by the hands that carved the canyons, dug the oceans, and can count each hair on our heads.

We are not called to chastise, criticize, or belittle, or worse- dismiss others because we cannot find the value in them, we see them as wasted space taking the oxygen from the rest of us.

My heart wants to scream out– But, I know that no amount of yelling, no amount of ranting, ever changed a human heart.

So I pray.  I pray that God will use people, maybe me, to prick the hardened, cold hearts of those who have forgotten that they too, bear the image of God.

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote this song years ago for his oldest daughter, it fits for all of us today– may you be encouraged to see yourself this way and to love others because they are seen the same way from Heaven. May we all remember to Love His way.

The Treasure of You

But the one who carved out the oceans
And painted the stars in the sky
You are His prized creation, the apple of His eye

There’s no one else in the world who could take your place
Just the thought of you brings a smile to His face
God loves you with amazing grace

Your are a treasure, worth more than anything
Under the sun or the moon, God’s greatest treasure
Is the treasure of you, the treasure of you

So take a look in the mirror in the light of the truth
Oh, yes it’s true
See there’s nothing more you can say or do
God loves the way He created you

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calling out

During the past twelve months or so, God has been challenging me a lot.  In good ways, healthy, healing ways, in ways long overdue.

I have been challenged to trust more, forgive more, love myself more, and give grace to myself more.  Please understand, I am able to give these things to everyone else without flinching.  As to myself… well, not so much.

As I mentioned in the game reel,  I have been stuck on an endless loop trying to fix the things I have done wrong and seeking a time machine to go back and fix it. Today, I was reminded that God isn’t the kind of god who dwells in the past– He doesn’t ask us to sit in our mess until we make it perfect– especially when the “mess” has been “cleaned up” by His Son’s sacrifice.

So, I began thinking about when God says, Leave it.

Abraham, then Abram, was told to leave what he knew to go to a land God would show him (Genesis 12:1).

The disciples left their nets when Jesus told them, to follow Him instead (Matthew 4:13).

Paul was on the road to Damascus when he encountered Jesus, Who challenged him to go a different way (Acts 9).

Each person expected to go in one direction, but God called them out to go a different way.

He told them to leave things where they were and follow Him to new things, new experiences, new adventures.

All they had to do was trust and follow.

What if God is drawing you, calling you to bigger, more incredible things, than what you can see?  What if you are splashing in a puddle when He wants you to be sailing on the ocean?  What if you are making mud pies and He wants you to be making sculptures for His glory?

What if you are called to be more through Christ– if only you would allow Him to move through you?

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:11-13

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the game reel

My dad spent much of my early life being a high school football coach.  I spent many Friday nights cheering for the team, playing with the other coach’s children and learning the cheers for victory from the sidelines.

One of the most important parts of the football season happened on Sunday afternoon at my house.  After church, the team would gather in our den to watch the game reels to see what did and didn’t work the previous Friday night.  The intent was to celebrate and continue doing what went right and to figure out what went wrong in a play so it wasn’t repeated.

This morning I realized I often play a game reel of my own.  I review the different things I have done, the things done well yes, but most of the time I review the ways I have blown an opportunity.  But it doesn’t stop there, just like a irate coach I berate myself for not catching the mistake and fixing it.  This kind of thinking, when not stopped, can feel like it is on an endless loop.  It happens at night when I am trying to settle in and sleep.  It happens when I have a moment of stillness and I let my mind wander.

It is destructive.  It is debilitating. It is wrong.

When God looks at me, yes, He does see my failures– but here’s the difference– He sees them through the blood shed on the Cross by His Son.  He sees them redeemed.  He sees me redeemed.

God sees me as I was, as I am, and more importantly, as I will be.  He is the God of the past, present, and future– all at once– and that is how He sees me.

Scripture is full of verses that remind us because of Christ the past is gone, the new has come.  We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Thankfully, every day we live isn’t on a Groundhog Day  repeat, but instead His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Or the verse from Psalm 103:12; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 

Isaiah 43:18-19 says it best, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

My game reel must be seen through the eyes of God: His mercies, His grace, His redemption.  The enemy will always try to show me where I fumble, but with Jesus as my team Captain, I will always be victorious.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

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if I had a million dollars

I was challenged today by someone dear to me to dream–not just little dreams, to dream big.  “Haven’t you ever thought, if I had a million dollars– I’d do this, and this, and this?”

I stopped in my tracks. No, I never had.  Maybe as a little kid I did dream like that, but not as an adult.  It was impractical, it wouldn’t happen, so why bother?

As a little girl, I remember reading a book about minerals and mining, including mining diamonds.  There was a picture of diamonds and jewelry that was so beautiful.  I was just learning about God and how He answered prayers, so I prayed, asking Him to give me some of the diamonds from the book. I ended up falling asleep and when I woke up there were no diamonds.

I figured I didn’t deserve them or that God didn’t want me to have them.  Somehow though, the idea that I shouldn’t ask for things like that was planted in my spirit.  Flash forward nearly forty years and I am still like that little child, believing the lie that I cannot dream of or ask for crazy, wild, big things.

When I was challenged this morning that feeling struck me again. Don’t dream, why bother?

A still, quiet voice whispered a counter-thought in my ear, “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). 

My God owns everything. Yet, I have been living my life like I have to create my own things and make something out of the scraps around me. Is that really how the Child of the One True King should live?

Now, I don’t have the power, the authority, or the ability to do these things. But God does.   And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I don’t need diamonds, they have long passed in importance, but I do need to remember that I can dream– and dream big, because my God is big.  I do need to embrace the possibility of what could be.  And if it’s worth pursuing, see what steps need to be taken to make that happen.

If I had a million dollars, I would…

 

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resentment, kites, and Genesis 3

I woke up today needing an adjustment.  I wish it was something a chiropractor could adjust, but it’s a matter of my heart and spirit.  That kind of adjustment needs to be made by the Holy Spirit.

I found myself chafing about something (once again). I felt my resentment toward this thing growing, making me angry and frustrated at almost every moment.  I wanted to be free of the ties that were keeping me bound to what I didn’t want to do.  I bristled, I yelled, I came up with a million reasons why I should be allowed to do what I wanted and not what I had to do.

And then I remembered the story of a kite.  When a kite soars high into the sky, it tugs and pulls at the string that connects it to the person on the ground.  The kite doesn’t realize that the very string it wants to be free from is the very thing that allows it to soar high.

And then there is Eve.  We all know she ate the fruit and caused all sorts of problems that we are still facing today.  But the root of the issue is that she didn’t trust God. She allowed the serpent to challenge her thinking and recreate what she was told.  God had said, “Do not eat of the tree.”  Eve told the serpent that she wasn’t even allowed to touch the tree (Genesis 3:2).  God never said that, Eve created more boundaries than God did.  God allowed freedom within boundaries, but Eve saw chains.  Eve decided she knew more, she wanted more, she may have thought she even needed more.

What do we need, truly need, in our lives that God will not provide for us?  It is our fallen post-Genesis 3 situation that causes us to doubt.  We doubt if God has our best plans, our best situations- as we would see them, in mind as He cares for His children.  Doubt makes us forget all the good that God has done, all the good God will do, if we just trust Him for our needs.

So, this morning I asked God for grace. Grace for my wandering, resentful, un-thankful heart.  Grace to forgive myself and to remember that trusting Him is always the best choice.  I may have to begin all over again tomorrow, but now, I will focus only on today.

God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good (Psalm 73).

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Friday and 100

It’s been a long week for us, the heat is coming back and even with the air conditioning on at work it feels warm.  I started thinking about the end of the week and what it represents.

It’s time to be joyful, to celebrate the week that has finished, the tasks accomplished, and the relationships that have deepened.

It’s time to remember all the good that God has done in your life and mine.  It’s time to give thanks, be grateful, and live the life described in Psalm 100.

I learned the second half of this psalm as a chorus in church during the 1970’s and it is still the best way to remember to give thanks where it is due– to the God of the Universe!

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

   Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

So let’s make a joyful noise!

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tired

I woke up tired today.  Monday morning-after-a-long-weekend-of-hard-work-tired. It’s Thursday, I have two days of work left before I can wake up when I want to, sleep as long as I need to, and work on the house.

I don’t normally need a boost in the morning, but today, I do.  Not for my spirit, but for my body.  My spirit is willing, as the Scripture says, but my flesh is weak.

When I have days like this, which aren’t very often, I seek God more.  I know on days like these I will not thrive without His Holy Spirit working within me.  The Holy Spirit is a lot like an energy bar that continues to power me through my day. I know I can rely on God in His Triune presence to fill me with what I need.

The more I lean into God, His promises, His Word, and His very presence, the more I feel myself filling up within.  I find myself feeling restored, refreshed, prepared, and revitalized to continue in my daily tasks– whether they are taking calls at work, or cleaning and restoring our home.

I often look to the words that God has given me about Himself and what He will do with my life when I trust Him with it.  One of my favorite words that He has given me is restore.  Restore is to bring back, build up, strengthen, revive, repair, rescue, and revitalize.  These are the very things God has done for me in my life-sometimes daily and all at once.

I don’t know how you are today, maybe you are tired I was, maybe not. Whatever your situation, this is my prayer for you today.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

May you be fully restored through His goodness and grace.

Blessings….

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walking wounded

My husband and I were working for a Boy Scout camp set in the Sangre de Christo Mountains when we met. I loved everything about being there.  Thousands of scouts came through the camp to experience the outdoors, history, and richness of the region during each summer.

Occasionally a scout would be injured while on his hike and he would have to come into base camp to get medical attention.  Most of the time, the scout would remain in base camp until the injury was healed or his troop came back from the hike.  These injured scouts were called the Walking Wounded.  Their injuries were evident by the bandages, crutches, or other outward signs that something was not as it should be with them.

Unfortunately, in the rest of the world, there are thousands of Walking Wounded, but their injuries are inside, not easily recognized and identified by the naked eye.  It can make situations much more difficult to navigate.

The world’s Walking Wounded can take many forms; people who have been abused are at the top of the list–the most critically wounded, those who have psychological disorders, then comes those who struggle with addictions in their various forms, and people who have experienced emotional and physical abandonment by loved ones.  There are more I am sure, who have not been able to show their brokenness on the outside with a cast, but are still in great need of a Physician.

One of the issues that often comes up with the Walking Wounded is their desire to wound others, to not feel alone in their pain.  This reactionary wounding can be subtle or volatile, it just depends on the person.

The key, actually, one of many keys to this kind of person, is to find the balance to acknowledge his or her pain without being drawn into their pain so that it becomes our pain as well.

It can be much easier in theory than in practice.

Some ways the Walking Wounded may be helped:

1. Love them where they are— they may be too broken to see a path out– don’t try to force them to do what they are not able to do at this time.

2. Pray for them— often. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reach them and draw them to the Great Physician for healing.

3. Acknowledge their pain, but don’t wallow with them in it.  A broken person can be very good at manipulation and can pull you into his or her drama before you realize it.

4. Keep strong, firm, loving boundaries.  It is imperative to your own emotional balance to not allow their brokenness become your own or overwhelm your life.

5. Seek help. Help for you through Al-anon or other support groups for people with addictions, a counselor for you to keep yourself whole in the midst of the broken person’s situation. Offer to get them help if they are willing, if they are not drop it.  Hounding and nagging never changed a person.

6. Be patient. It took time for the person to become broken, it will take time for them to heal.

7. Recognize that their wounds are not your job to heal. Yes, walk with them in the healing if possible, but you are not God, you cannot heal what only God can heal.

Finally, understand that some Walking Wounded have been hurt for so long they cannot see their lives without the hurt.  In other words, they may be unwilling to seek healing.  It is a sad situation to see, especially when we know that Jesus is the Ultimate Healer and Restorer of our Souls. (“for I am the Lord, who heals you.” Exodus 15:26 …he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:3).

My recommendation is to continue to follow the steps above. Remember, each of us is made in His image and are precious in His sight.  We matter to God, we should matter to each other, too.

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doubly good

Living at our new home has filled me in places I didn’t know were empty.  Each morning I wake facing the east window in our room, opening my eyes just as God opens the day.  Each sunrise is different than the day before, little differences maybe, but each one is new- just like the day it celebrates.

The birds sing, chatter, and chirp as they greet the dawn and warn of the neighbor’s cats on the prowl for breakfast.  I have yet to use an alarm clock since we moved in, there hasn’t been a need.  Nature has been the best alarm clock for me.

Other little places that were empty and are now filling include how my soul sings again inside with the sound of the screen door slamming shut and stairs being clambered up and down as boys, now young men, seek a tool, a ball, or a game to play.

The blessing of sitting together again at a table, a real table, not a card table, as a family to share a meal.

Seeing my sons work together to accomplish tasks, each filling his own role, yet in unison.  The blessing of fresh berry pie for dessert, made by my eldest after being assisted by his brother in the picking, cleaning, and preparing of the berries.

Yes, our house is still in progress, wallpaper is still being peeled off the walls, carpeting still is being taken up, walls prepared for painting.  Yet, in the chaos, we are finding the one thing we have been craving– the one thing we have been seeking– a place to call home.

After a year of wandering in the wilderness, and in some ways even longer than one year, we have found the place where we will sink our roots deep, fill our hearts and souls with laughter, love, and tears and finally exhale.

Our empty hands and cracked spots in our spirits and souls are being filled and restored.  We are finding new friends, new experiences, and new blessings at every turn.

The Lord has truly been good to us.

I found this song as I thought of God’s goodness and the lyrics describe so well the experiences we have had and continue to have in our new land.  May they bless you as well.

“If you see the moon rising gently on your fields
If the wind blows softly on your face
If the sunset lingers while cathedral bells peal
And the moon has risen to her place

You can thank the Father for the things that He has done
And thank Him for the things He’s yet to do
And if you find a love that’s tender, if you find someone who’s true
Thank the Lord, He’s been doubly good to you

And if you look in the mirror at the end of a hard day
And you know in your heart you have not lied
And if you gave love freely, if you earned an honest wage
And if you’ve got Jesus by your side

You can thank the Father for the things that He has done
And thank Him for the things He’s yet to do
And if you find a love that’s tender, if you find someone who’s true
Thank the Lord, He’s been doubly good to you

You can thank the Father for the things that He has done
And thank Him for the things He’s yet to do
And if you find a love that’s tender, if you find someone who’s true
Thank the Lord, He’s been doubly good to you
Thank the Lord, He’s been doubly good to you”

~~Rich Mullins, lyrics, Doubly Good to You

 

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