Saint Patrick and Jonah

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day.  When I was young it seemed to be a day of wearing green, pinching those who didn’t wear their green.  As an adult it was a day to party, eat and drink things that were never intended to be green but were altered for this day.

When I became a Christian not to much changed.  Until I researched who St. Patrick was and what he had done.

Saint Patrick died on March 17th – Wow!  That alone is humbling, we aren’t celebrating his birthday so maybe less on the green cupcakes and green beer, eh?

Patrick was taken by Irish Warriors out of his British home and given as a slave when he was 16 years old (NOT a sweet 16 by any means).  He said it drew him CLOSER to God.  I would’ve possibly gone the other way blaming God or deciding there must not be a God.  He was treated poorly, he was a slave.  At the age of 20 he had a message from God that he would escape and a few days later was able to escape.

Upon arriving back in Britain he went into religious studies and became a bishop.  He then felt the Lord telling him to return to Ireland and share the gospel.

I would call this loving your enemies.  I think of Jonah who hadn’t ever been a slave in Nineveh and how he did NOT want to go preach salvation to a bunch of heathens.  After a three day time out in the guts of a fish he came to repentance and chose to obey God, and yet he was still more thankful for a tree that gave him shade than for souls that found salvation in repentance.  My how I have a lot in common with Jonah.

St. Patrick went back to the place in which he was captive, enslaved and wronged in many ways.  He preached and taught and loved and didn’t just go to spend a short time he devoted his life to loving the Irish the way Christ loves them.  He could only do this through the love of God that he believed and embraced.  He was dead to his own life, pride, rights, ideas and ideals or vengeance.  He knew how to die to self and live for Christ.

How now shall I live?
I will begin by blessing those who curse me.  I’m being for real here – instead of instigating or retaliating when cut off in traffic or in any other way annoyed by drivers who….(you can finish the sentence).  I will bless them.  I will actually ask Holy Spirit to nudge me as I’m about to vocalize a long string of self righteous condemnation and instead of putting a curse on that driver and all who they hold dear I will pray for them.  I will imagine that wherever they are going is a matter of life and death and they deserve to be ahead of me.  I will smile at Jesus and thank Him for giving me an opportunity to live out my faith and prove myself to be a worthy soldier of Christ who indeed has fruits of the Spirit such as PATIENCE, LOVING KINDNESS, GENTLENESS….

Although I don’t consider other drivers true enemies I must start somewhere, I must renew my mind, train my heart and tame my tongue.

For some of us we need to start with just blessing and loving those we say we love, like family, friends and our church family.  Maybe you’ve got that down pretty well – so like me you’re on to those annoying drivers, shoppers in line who get in the 12 items or less line with 30 items, they write a check and don’t even bring it out of their handbag to begin writing it until the transaction is completely finished.  I am hoping to get past these things and move into a place of truly loving enemies.  Those who have harmed me deeply, those who not only harm me but don’t care and would do it again given the opportunity.  I know I’m like Jonah but will I raise the bar and be so transformed that my life reflects Jesus the way Saint Patrick did?

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, the day of his death celebrated as an example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunatic, Liar or Lord?

I recently was given an opportunity to have 2 books for the price of one.  How could I pass that up?

The catch – I was limited to which books I could choose from.  I admit without this strict boundary I wouldn’t have chosen:

“The Fellowship – The Literary Lives of the Inklings” by Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleske The Inklings

In this book I have been introduced to people I really knew nothing about, though I thought I did.

C.S. Lewis?  Of course!  The Narnia Series.

J.R.R. Tolkien?  Come on now – who doesn’t know “The Lord of the Rings”?

Now when it comes to Charles Williams and Owen Barfield I can admit I don’t know who they are.

I didn’t, in all honesty, know anything about any of them.  And now, as I learn of the book “Mere Christianity” (that has sat on my bookshelf unread for years) I’m amazed.   I’m encouraged, I’m excited and I run to the bookshelf and there it is – and I find on pages 51-52 the exact excerpt of “lunatic, liar or Lord”.

I go to “bing it” and there it is again – EVERYWHERE – Wikipedia, YouTube, Preachers and antagonists and on and on and on.

Where I have been?

Well, I guess I didn’t need it until now.  Given the times we are in and the desire to share Christ with others, who often fill with contempt to the mere idea of talking about Christ, I find the timing to be right on target.

The most wonderful insight is that C.S. Lewis was an atheist for most of his life.  If anyone knew how to argue Christ as Lord it was indeed Mr. Lewis – as a scholar from Oxford he knew all to well how to make an educated argument.

Here is an excerpt from the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis page 52

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” – C.S. Lewis

(I chose to “bold” a portion of the text)

There are many youtube videos, I liked this one and you may enjoy it as well.  The full reading of pages 51 – 52 from “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis

Are You A Mean Girl?

I heard God speak to me and this is what He said:

“Are you a mean girl?”

“I see the shock on your face; I hear the gasp as your heart skips a beat and your mind races.  You don’t know whether to scream out “NO!  Lord, You know that I’m NOT!” or burst out crying at the horrific thought that I would even ask such a question (for then it may somehow be true).

 

You think of how you love others, how you have the gift of encouraging others, you look at so many girls and women and you have never been one to judge others about looks or attributes, you see through the outside into the heart of a person.  Sure (you mull over in your mind) there are times when you have been angry or impatient with someone but not like a mean girl.  You aren’t shallow; you aren’t wanting or even trying to be popular or worldly.  You wouldn’t brush someone off or attempt to hurt someone to get ahead.

 

Do you want to know why I asked you this?  Are you ready to hear and to know what I see?

I agree with you, overall you are a kind person.  You do love people and see them, for the most part, how I have gifted them, that they make mistakes out of their pains.  Overall you are patient and you see the depth of a person and the value they have.  But this one thing I notice, there is a girl you are not so kind to – there is a girl you are actually mean to, the things you think about her, your opinions, your harshness and callous heart toward her are pretty awful.

 

Again you scramble, trying to think of anyone from your life, past or present in which this person may be hidden, maybe deep down in the dark corner of your heart or mind.

Just stop, take a deep breath, I will reveal to you who she is, it’s why I’m talking to you now.  You see – it’s you.  You are being a mean girl to yourself!

Surprised?  You think it is okay to be hard on yourself?

Will you consider my words “Love one another as you love yourself?”

Can you imagine how it breaks my heart to see the lack of forgiveness, grace and mercy you are willing to extend to yourself?  You may think you can insult yourself but you insult me – you are my creation, you are my child, my daughter.  I don’t want anyone talking about you like that, not even you, in fact ESPECIALLY not YOU!  I formed you when you were in your mother’s womb.  I knew all of your days long before they were even fashioned.  I knew your joys, sorrows, struggles and successes and I loved you.  I still love you, every mistake and shortcoming I see I am reminded that you were made from dust.  You are greater than the sum of all of your mistakes, you are a dear treasure to me and the destiny I have in you and for you are beyond what you can take in.  You make a difference in the smallest things you do, you make the world I created more beautiful just by being you.  I have watched as you have damaged yourself with your unkind thoughts and sometimes abusive actions.  I am asking you to stop.  Open your eyes and see yourself with the same grace, love, kindness and forgiveness that you offer your friends.  As you begin to love yourself you will begin to see a change, it will take time but you will be changed and represent my glory in a much bigger way.  Take every thought into captivity and anything that doesn’t line up with what I have to say about you needs to be thrown out.  You will still get Holy Spirit insight of your errors and you will face your flaws with Me, repent, forgive yourself and I will show you the way to making changes.  No longer will a mistake set you back days or weeks because of self-loathing.  The devil has been using this trick too long with you and it is time for it to stop.  You were a child and walked in childish ways and now I invite you to walk with Me as a mature woman in Christ.  I believe in you!  I love you!  I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and to make a future for you – join me and do it in love.  Love Me, love your neighbor and please, do Me a favor and LOVE YOURSELF!”
-Your Heavenly Father (Abba)

Turkish Delights

In C.S. Lewis’s book “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” we find a boy named Peter entering Narnia.  He has heard of this place from his sister who had been there before and now he finds that it indeed is real.  The witch (or queen as she refers to herself) comes by in her sled and questions who he is, after realizing who he is she says to herself ‘but he is only one, and easily dealt with.’

She goes from demanding questions into a kind and caring form and begins to meet his needs.  She first states (not asking) ‘my poor child, how cold you look, come and sit with me here on the sled and I will put my cloak around you and we will talk.’

Peter replies ‘yes your majesty’

And so begins her keen way of wooing him, she magically provides hot drink and asks him if it is good.  She then moves on saying it is dull to drink without eating, and asks him what he would you like to eat.

Turkish Delight!

Providing a large box (more than he could imagine), wrapped in ribbon and full of wonderful tasting Turkish delights, she begins her questioning of him to find out all she needs to know.  Then promising him more if he brings his siblings to her she continues to appeal to him.  He would become prince and eat Turkish delight every day, then become king and he would rule over his siblings. Asking for more Turkish delight he is denied until he returns with his siblings.

 

I’ve read this several times and always thought Peter was so naïve and believed in my heart I wouldn’t have fallen for any of that.  And yet…. Well, we will get to that later.  Now I want to look at the temptation of Jesus after His 40 day fast.
Then Satan appeared and said….  Here we go into the 3 things that the devil tempted him with, I wonder if the devil even said to himself ‘but he is alone and easily dealt with’.

The first is food – knowing Jesus had fasted for 40 days he appeals to his hunger, his physical needs.  The devil uses scripture and yet Jesus, not being fooled by the letter of the law sees what so many Pharisees couldn’t see and uses scripture back revealing the Word of God with the heart of God.  “Man shall not live on bread alone but by every Word of God.”

Secondly he is offered to become a ruler over all he could see.  The devil was given rule over the earth and it was his to give.  He appealed to the human need for acceptance and the greed of wanting to be in control, to rule, and to be worshiped (fame).  But the cost was set very high, Jesus would have to betray His own Father and again Jesus chose scripture saying, “It is written that you shall worship the LORD your God and serve Him only.”

Last but not least, the devil takes another shot and goes to the heart of it – to tempt God.  To question who He is and what He really said.  If all of the mission and ministry of Christ is to be fulfilled then surely God must rescue Him from dying prior to the cross, or even dashing His foot on a stone.  It’s an age old trick, the desire to question God and what He really said.  Jesus knew all to well it is written NOT to tempt the LORD.

There are similar things found when Satan speaks with Eve.  Appealing to her appetite for food, for wisdom to be a god or just like God, questioning God and what He had really said.

Back to Peter (the character in our story by C.S. Lewis) he fell for it. And as I wonder how and why I quickly notice a few things.

#1 – The witch is a woman, this is a familiar thing to Peter.  It isn’t as if she showed up as a troll or a half bird half bear or some other creature.  Peter is familiar with women, he is also familiar with being questioned by them.  He has a mother, an older sister, he has had teachers and the housekeeper – in charge of his uncle’s home where he is now staying is even “in charge”.  Coming across a woman who barks out questioning and demanding from him is nothing new, nothing unexpected.  He would of course feel obligated to answer.

#2 – She nurtures and provides for his immediate physical needs.  She pities him saying “oh poor child, how cold you look” warming him with her own cloak, drawing him near and magically causing him awe and wonder as she gives him hot drink.  She then asks him “what would you like to eat” and gives him exactly what he had asked for in the grandest way.

#3 – After drawing out his story, for he is now her captive willing subject, she begins to launch her plans for what she wants.  When he questions and doubts it, shrugs it off because his own needs are being met she goes for the gusto.  She appeals to his desire to rule, he will live in a palace, become a prince and later a king and eat Turkish delight every day.  He likes that idea and is ready to go – but she says, he will need subjects under him.  She will make his siblings duke and duchess’s under him.  He doesn’t seem to care to much about that, there is nothing ‘special about them’.

She then takes the Turkish delights away and abandons him with the empty promise.  As he asks for just one more Turkish delight to eat on his way back home it is denied.  Leaving him with a craving he can only fulfill by obeying the witch and betraying his own family.

 

How similar is my own story after all, there is no doubt that I have been tempted and fallen for all of these things.  The things I have done to have my needs met, even as a born again, head over heels in love with Jesus, Spirit filled child of God I have fallen for the things most familiar to us all.

It comes down to this – we all have needs, physical, emotional and the psychological.  We want to be warm, covered and our thirsts and hunger met.  We want to be important, to have rule or control of at least our own lives if not over others as well.  I’d go as far to say we believe having fame is not only wonderful it is now a much more possible thing to achieve, therefore many pursue it.  Finally we want God to answer to us as to why, when, where, etc. we find it our right to question Him and if He proves Himself according to our ideals we will obey.

I don’t have to share more than that, I can give many examples in my own life.  The thing that strikes me the most at this point in my life is that my temptations and straying away doesn’t come as a troll or a red horned devil with a pitchfork, it comes as the familiar.

My recent area of growth was with my electronic devices.  I’m not against them but I will say this – they are familiar, acceptable and even the refusal to have or use them is frowned upon.  Yet, I found that as I embraced this familiar acceptable thing in my life I became distracted and began going to it more often that I was going to prayer, worship or Gods Word.

I craved playing my games, seeing if I could beat the next level or have my name at the top of the leading score board.

I wanted to show everyone how my life was going and to see what everyone else is up to in the world (my own minute of fame and the opportunity to comment on and possibly control someone else with my opinions).

I enjoyed scrolling through dozens and dozens of little pictures to find recipes, craft ideas, inspirations and things that made me laugh.

I was using hours and hours of time – pushing aside my need for sleep, daily chores and even relationships.  Most importantly, my time with God.  I would of course read a scripture and devotional every day, but I wasn’t pausing – I wasn’t giving my full attention to sharing with or hearing from God.

I realized this only because He loves me so that He brought it to my attention.  I challenged myself (or He challenged me) to 40 days of setting down the main thing that was causing all of the distraction.  Now 40 days later I can’t imagine going back.  I still use and did use much of my electronic devices, I really only gave up the 1 thing on a device that I was really being controlled by.

I pray God will work with you and for you to open your eyes, ears and heart to know what familiar thing in your life is feeding you.  Which of your basic needs are being met by something other than God?  In what ways are you being distracted or questioning God?

By examining these things we can break the hold on us that keeps us from being who we were designed to be, we can grow and flourish and produce the fruit we are intended to and reap the harvest that He has given to us to reap.

May we all choose to store up treasures in heaven, to be what we were created to be fulfilling our purpose.  May we bring the kingdom of God down to the very place that God has given to us to influence.  Lovingly devoted to our Lord.

The Frog, the Owl and the Cross

Have you ever wondered how to share your faith, your testimony or your love for Jesus with others?

Many people wear a cross indicating there belief that Jesus died and rose again from the grave.  I can’t say that wearing my cross necklace has brought about many conversations about Jesus.  Those who are Christians may look at it and say “oh, that’s so pretty” (of course the cross in reality wasn’t pretty, necessary, but only beautiful in the sense of the gruesome sacrifice on my behalf).  So, while I do wear a cross and it reminds me of the amazing sacrifice poured out for me I can’t say it’s lead to conversations with those who don’t believe.  At times I think it has even caused people to shy away.

I recently met a woman at church who had on a beautiful frog necklace, it was made with crystals or some sort of gems/jewels.  It was quite unique and really caught my eye.  I said “Oh, your necklace is so pretty!”

She responded “Thank you, do you know what it stands for?”

“No” I replied

“Fully Rely On God” she smiled “you know I’ve gotten more compliments from wearing this necklace and so many opportunities to really share about God, how real He is and how He has been reliable for me than I ever had when I wore a cross.”

“Wow!” I marveled “I bet you have, it’s very eye catching and who can refute a personal testimony?”  It’s easy to argue a belief but there isn’t much left to say when someone shares a piece of their life with you.

Well, needless to say I felt inspired and it got me to thinking.  I didn’t have a frog necklace, but I do have an owl necklace.  It too is made of crystals, it’s eye catching and every time I wear it someone makes a comment about it.  Maybe not Christians but let’s be honest, I’m not here to share Jesus with those who know Jesus!

So what can I say about my owl?  What kind of acronym can I use to make this an open door opportunity to share about Jesus and something He has done for me and is anxiously waiting and willing to do for ‘whosoever’?  Being a creative person with words you’d think I’d come up with something quickly.  I did, but nothing that really worked.  So I prayed (if you read any of my posts I have this shameful pattern of praying AFTER my self sufficiency wears out – I really need to deal with that).

I felt like God was saying “What about what the owl says?”

“You mean ‘whoooo’?”  I asked.  Then pondering on that I had it!  I can share that the owl reminds me of “Whose I am” and “Who I am”.

Now that is something to start a conversation about!  It can open all sorts of doors and I can use either or both depending on the situation and what the Holy Spirit puts on my heart to share.

I have numerous testimonies of times of needing to be reminded of “who I am” especially when the world, family, friends, etc. seem to bombard me with their versions and ideas of who I am or who I should be or who I have been.  Isn’t it a glorious discovery to find that Jesus says that ‘who I am’ is such an amazing thing that it brings hope, life and joy to my very soul in spite of where I’m at in life?  When God tells you who you are in Him it is life transforming, even more so when you grab on to it as fact and walk in obedience to Him.

Likewise, there is the “Whose I am”,  my daughter had a poster for many years on her door that read “I AM a princess!  My Daddy is the King of Kings!”  Boy does she believe that – I have to get back to child like faith and embrace that for all it’s worth.  To many times I grow distant from the fact that my Abba Father is a King, He has adopted me and I am indeed a princess.  I may be living like a pauper, like many tales of the princess who is banned from her royal life to a hard world full of pain, isolation, misunderstanding and often cruel task masters.  But why is it there are so many of these stories out there?  Because we relate, in our shallow mindfulness we wish it were true and that we’d soon be rescued.  But in the deep recesses of our soul our spirit cries out “it IS true” we DO have a KING who will arrive on a white horse.  He will take possession of this world and the demonic lying task masters we find ourselves fighting.  He will set a crown on our heads and bring vindication (though I doubt we will care about vindication at that point).  We will live “happily ever and ever and ever and ever after” for eternity.  What does this world and those in it do to me that I can’t overcome with a reminder of “Whose I am!”

So, whatever you wear, be it a frog, an owl, a cross or something else that can strike up an opportunity to share your testimony I encourage you to do so.  I just realized in writing this that I now wear a scar on my neck and of course people ask “what happened” and I get to share that I was in an accident on a major highway with a car that came at us head on from crossing the highway divide.  It is a story people want to hear and it is all about how God saved my life that day.  I encourage you to pray and ask God what it is you are wearing or could wear that will lead someone else to ponder the reality of God.

Blessings upon you as you go out on the highways and byways to share of the gospel that saved your soul and of our King who will soon return!

*and by “highways and byways” I mean workplace, shopping, neighborhood, etc.

Hope for a “Happy” New Year

I ended 2016 on a good note, which was nice given it was a difficult year.  I had far to many transitions happening all at once, a heap of life changing moments sprinkled with some shocking disappointments and topped off with a giant misunderstanding.

I want to give details just so you’re convinced I know what a struggle is, however I don’t trust that it wouldn’t trail off and become a depressing account of events to painful to read through and I’d lose you before you got to the good part!

The weeks before Thanksgiving and going on through to Christmas were tough enough, the holiday days themselves went well, good overall – different in a dozen ways than anything I’ve ever had before but good (all things considered).

I read a blog by Lana Vawser about 2016 isn’t over yet – so don’t give up.

https://lanavawser.com/2016/12/i-am-so-convicted-by-his-decree-in-my-dream-this-really-is-theephesians-320-season-the-revelation-and-manifestation-will-increase-evenin-the-remainder-of-2016/

This gal is inspirational – a prophet, she’s got great news except I find my life rarely lines up with her words (makes me wonder about my life!).  I keep reading partly out of hope and part desperate desire that my turn for good, prosperous, breakthrough, miracles, etc. IS going to happen for me.  I guess it’d be the same reason so many keep buying a lottery ticket – it doesn’t cost me that much to invest in the possibilities and I believe my chances of being blessed are just as good as they are for anyone else.

Well, as much as I wanted a “Christmas Miracle” in any of my many areas of life that so desperately need a miracle I spent Christmas realizing having Jesus in my heart is a miracle enough and I am grateful for that.  Christmas came and went.

On Dec. 28th the home we were trying to sell, that had been such a nightmare of events just to get it on the market (after an unforeseen disaster), finished in escrow and closed.  It was sold, keys handed over and finally done.  It was a huge relief emotionally, financially and physically.

Dec. 29th I watched a video at Celebrate Recovery from “The Skit Guys”http://skitguys.com/ called “Gods Chisel” https://skitguys.com/videos/item/gods-chiseland had a realization life is a process – I’m not finished yet and as painful as change can be it can beautify my life in ways that nothing else can, it breaks me out of patterns, habits, situations, relationships etc. and frees me up to be who I was intended to be, which inevitably creates in me another level of joy.  An amazingly freeing Ah-ha moment.

Dec. 30th I have an exciting day.  It started with the miracle of my husband and my son cheerfully helping me unpack and sort through about a dozen boxes from our move.  Then my son (who isn’t the “hang out with Mom type”) actually asked me (just me!) out to lunch and an outing.  We had a fabulous day – went to lunch, went on a 45 min. car ride having a great conversation on our way to our shopping destination.  I then scored BIG TIME at my favorite place to buy books (36 books for $18.90) – ok, ok I’ll spill – it was at Value Village, they had 99cent book day, plus buy 4 get 1 free and then I had my 30% off total purchase coupon.  My son and I chatted joyfully all the way  home.  He had also found a few treasures.

Dec. 31 New Years Eve, a night I spend alone with my nonverbal quadriplegia daughter every year.  Usually quiet (except neighborhood explosions).  This year we had a school mate of hers come over with her Mom in the afternoon.  It was wonderful, the girls hit it off beautifully and we discovered they are truly friends and a great match.  My daughter hasn’t had any friends, which is heart breaking, but true.  Having a glimmer of hope that this wonderful girl and her Mom would be happy to begin a weekly hang out was a joy, a gift, a miracle that I have been praying for for 19 years.  My heart rejoices, my God has not forgotten my child and He is providing for her as she enters into adulthood.

Then – I get a last minute call “Hi Mom, will you babysit?” my oldest son and his wife got free tickets to a concert and I was given the opportunity to watch my 1 1/2 year old grandson – a treasure I value immeasurably.  We have a quiet evening and he falls asleep in my lap.  I pick up my book “Epic” and finish it.  I realize 2016 ended wonderfully.  I’m blessed even in my mess.

“LBook Jacketife, for most of us, feels like a movie we’ve arrived to forty minutes late. Sure, good things happen, sometimes beautiful things. But tragic things happen too. What does it mean? We find ourselves in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, usually a confusing mixture of both, and we haven’t a clue how to make sense of it all.” – John Eldredge

When I read the above quote on the back of the book it caused me to buy it desperately proclaiming “Please!  I relate – tell me what you know of this conundrum I find myself living!”

It’s a great, tiny, short read, terrific for an end of or beginning of a new year impact.  A great read for movie goers as it is full of references to movies (especially those that men like to watch).

I can see that each year is like a new chapter, my life is a story – and yours is also.

My hope and prayer for all of us –

May we understand how immensely valuable we are in the grand scheme of things.  We aren’t to big or to small, to young or to old, we are “just right” perfectly and purposefully designed and created for such a time as this.  To do just the very thing we may find to be ordinary and mundane but is, in reality the very thing keeping our world together and functioning in order to bring Gods kingdom and His will into being.

May we take great value in realizing that like a clock –  every cog, nut, bolt and screw must be in place and must work together so that time itself can move forward as it was intended.  Every second is necessary;  for a year is just a pile of days made up of hours that just don’t add up without each minuscule, underestimated, often ignored yet precious second.  We count!  It is “A Wonderful Life” and it’s truly “EPIC“!

Happy New Year!  2017 has now begun…

Here are some scriptures that have gotten me through tough time and inspire me:

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Philippians 3:12-14 “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 

The Holiday Battle: Joyous vs Jealous

Entering into one of the peak seasons of the year in which we have so many opportunities to rejoice (unapologetically) and yet fall into the bombardment of temptation to be jealous, I challenge you (and myself) to take captive every thought and emotion for full examination.  We are only human, made in the image of God and God Himself is both full of joy and yet a jealous God.
Let’s make no mistake, we ARE NOT God and we are not called to be jealous.  We are repeatedly called to be joyful.  We’ll get to all of that later, but please, please, don’t just scroll through, take time to read this tiny excerpt from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.  Trust me, every word is impactful,  it will go quickly, it’s a story you’re familiar with.

(open of excerpt* with Fred, Scrooge’s nephew)

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.  “Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in `em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, `every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

“Nephew!” returned Scrooge sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

“Keep it!” repeated his nephew, “But you don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then. Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!” Scrooge demanded, but his nephew would not be put off.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned Fred. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

(end of excerpt*)

* this excerpt taken from http://www.timelessteacherstuff.com/readerstheater/ChristmasCarol.pdf which I edited the format.

 

Well, we have no example of jealousy there.  Scrooge was jealous of no one but full of contempt and bitterness (no doubt from abandonment issues, self-sufficiency etc.).  And no one seemed jealous of Scrooge, in spite of his fortune.  But oh the joyful heart of Fred, the unrepentant abounding joy that burned so brightly within him it refused to be snuffed out.  Admittedly he knew his situation and, in the absence of denial that he financially was poor, saw every good and holy thing Christmas time brought.

Now about us:

Christmas is just one of every holiday that can spur joy or jealousy.  We are inundated with commercials, store displays, fliers in the mail all suggesting what we should be giving or getting for that particular holiday.  Gone is the time when even an anniversary would be celebrated with paper, cotton, fruit, wood…. Oh NO – we aren’t truly loved and appreciated unless we jump straight to gold and diamonds.  No need to wait for a 50 year anniversary for that and while you’re at it Christmas, Valentines, Birthdays – well what better way to pledge unfaltering love than jewels and treasures (toys, electronics, cars…)?  Now to all that I say “Bah Humbug!”

Should you give gifts?  Yes!

And what is a way of building joy?  Giving!

But how we give and what we give should be tempered with the guidance of God and the means into which He has given to you in that season of your life.

Recently I found myself depressed.  I love to give and yet we are strapped financially.  Stuck in a ridiculous story of unfortunate events we are learning to be lean (or rather remembering how from our early years).  This bothered me to a point of being up at night tossing and turning.  Besides Christmas coming upon us I have a dear friend and care giver of my disabled daughter who was turning 40.  Now what in the world could I do to bless her?  I finally prayed (shameful it took me being unable to be self-sufficient to bring me to my knees) and when finally silent before God I heard Him ask me

“What do you have in your hands?”  He meant look at what I have, what gifts, what resources…

“I don’t know, I don’t have time to quilt something or craft something” I ponder and realize that I can write.  So, up I got and I prayed and wrote and scrapped one idea for another and at the end of the day I had a beautiful and meaningful book that honored, challenged and blessed my dear friend.

I’d like to keep my blogs short – they aren’t books after all.  I want to make sure I give a few lists of scripture.  You know jealousy does us no good, it breeds into us hatred, strife and murder.  It’s as old as Cain and Abel and as recent as the last local news report.  Being joyful is a bit more convoluted, it has plenty of scriptural references but we must first determine this:  will I choose to believe what the world tells me about joy or will I decide to search out and follow after the joy of the Lord.  Until you know what joy really is, how it comes to you and how to keep it you elude yourself with a search without answer or end.

Here are some places to get you started should you desire true, unshakable joy:

Using the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible:

“Joyful”

Psalm 5:11, 30:11, 89:15, 94:12, 98:6, 112:1, 119:1-2, 127:5, 128:1-2, 144:15, 146:5

Proverbs 3:13, 8:32 and 34, 16:20, 29:18

Isaiah 54:1, 66:5

Habakkuk 3:18

Zephaniah 3:17

Acts 14:17

1 Thessalonians 5:16

 

“Jealous”

Gen. 26:14, 30:1, 37:11

Numbers 11:29

1 Samuel 18:9

Ezekiel 8

Matthew 20:15

Acts 13:45

Romans 11:11

1 Corinthians 3:3, 13:4

Galatians 5:26

James 3:14, 4:2

 

Jealousy comes from comparing ourselves with others, interestingly it isn’t just the obvious of wealth, health, family or status.  It was (and is) among Gods own people as they are jealous of each others spiritual gifts.  Yikes!

I end with my prayer for you.  “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

Inspiring Joy with a Quick and Easy Read

If you LOVE Christmas and are in the “Christmas Spirit” you’ll love these books.

If you are NOT feeling it or loving it and you have the “Bah humbug” blues you may need these books.

The holiday season is so busy, so full that I have leaned on easy reads in December.  Here are a few of my favorites.

I’ve read “The Tale of Three Trees” in several group settings and at Christmas parties, it’s a wonderful way of sharing without being “offensive”.  It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it, and I practically know it by heart!

 

 

 

 

 

I learned about “Simple Acts of Faith” while I was doing some care giving for an elderly client of mine who I adore.  She was giving them as Christmas presents and my task was to wrap them.  I had to peek – and I only needed to read one of the pages to decided to buy one for myself (then several more as gifts to my family and friends).

 

 

 

 

I found “A Simple Act of Gratitude” at the public library on accident (divine conspiracy is more accurate) at a time in my life in which I hurt deeply.  The cover at that time was a mailbox (sort of in the middle of know where).  I had wanted to hike a trail that ends with a mailbox at the peak and so I opened it and read the jacket which talked about a guy going on a hike, during the holidays, and his life was a mess.  Well, the book went home with me – and then it changed my life.

 

 

Product Details

 

I can’t remember how I came across “The Quilt makers Gift” but I loved it and I like to think that the man who walked away from Jesus because Jesus said he should sell everything he owns and follow Him may have turned out like this.  I like to hope the best about people and I know that I often make choices up front that I later realize I need a change of mind and some new actions are needed.

 

 

Product Details

 

“Christmas Jars” is a novel, it’s hard to put down so that’s why it ended up a quick read for me.  We had a person in our church get a “Christmas jar” and post it on Facebook, of course I was interested in what that was all about.  The fb post created many comments about people jumping up and checking their front doors for a jar.  A definite game changer for those who love to give and for those who don’t.

When Holidays Hurt

Entering into the holiday season it would be easy to do some sappy, pretty worded sharing of all the things I’m grateful for (and I am!) but that would be to expected and not raw or real.  So let’s be real!

What happens when holidays hurt?

I suppose we could launch off on all the ways you could hurt during the holidays.  Grieving a loss would top the list.  The obvious loss of a loved one (person or pet), finances, possessions, dreams.  These are all reasons that cause grief, pain and loneliness.

The bottom line is we have encountered the loss of joy.  The loss of expectations being met, the expectations can be impossible ideals or very real and valid needs.

I remember many painful holidays.  Probably to many to list, we had the Thanksgiving morning at 5 a.m. announcing the death of my Mother in law.  We were numb, I made the turkey, we didn’t want to tell the kids that day, we thought we could “be strong” and hold out until the next day.  Boy was that a dumb impossible idea!

The many pained holiday seasons with issues from my daughter having multiple disabilities and her quadriplegia CP, seizures etc. causing the reality of life to meet the ideals of holidays in a train wreck leaving little sanity in tack.

There was the Christmas Eve we took our family pet to the ER and had the Christmas morning phone call that he had died.  No faking it through that one – I didn’t even bother trying to make the turkey meal.  I think we had turkey about 3 days later just so it wouldn’t go to waste.

The Thanksgiving with a table with few if any people sitting around it or people but little food or food that was burnt, raw, dropped on the floor….

There is the painful and awkward Christmas gift you bought someone and it just sits there because they died a week before Christmas or the family fight means you won’t be seeing them or exchanging gifts after all.

One of the worst was entering Christmas with my son lost and on drugs.  Wondering if he was dead or alive, wondering how I would ever be able to be “strong” for my other kids.  How would I decorate a tree, wrap gifts, make cookies, sing (really – there is no way to sing!)?  That Christmas was a game changer.

I was in my room trying to wrap gifts and crying (bawling actually) but crying out to the Lord (best way to cry).  I have wrapping paper in front of me that says “Merry Christmas” and I am next to screaming in my heart to God “HOW?  It isn’t possible!”  I am cutting the paper to the size of the box and the scissors go through the word Christmas making it say “Merry Chris” (my son’s name is Chris).  I thought I’d lose it, I decided this was a perfect example to show God how impossible it really is.  I said “See!  You can’t even SPELL Christmas without Chris!”  I think Jesus must of jumped up out of His throne seat with absolute joy, beaming at the opportunity I just opened myself up to because this is what I heard next (and it was a game changer).

“Well, I guess you didn’t see the “t” -you know, that letter that looks like the cross.”

Have you ever heard a sentence and it just flooded you with such open eyed wonder and  understanding it’s as if you heard a multitude of things all at the same time?

I could hear in that one sentence things like:  “I know your pain, My son died also”,  “It isn’t about having anything – family, gifts, cookies, it is ALL about the cross”,  “The joy of the LORD is your strength” and on and on and on.  It was an ah-ha moment.  It was a chance to choose to focus on Christ.  To put into practice all those pretty little words I say and sing “I surrender all”, “Rejoice in the LORD always and again I say rejoice”, “I will praise you through the storm”,”it is well with my soul” the list can become endless.  And I am not alone, King David, Jesus, Moses, Job, Paul….. there is a book of history written in which time and time again in the midst of loss and pain and suffering broken hearts are given a choice between being sensitive or turning cynical.

I love Psalm 42:1-11

These verses in particular are good to meditate upon if you are entering a holiday with grief:

Psalm 42:3  My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where [is] your God?”

4 When I remember these [things], I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And [why] are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him [For] the help of His countenance.

It is my prayer that you can be real.  Be fair to yourself, open up the Pandora’s box of emotions (dangerous as they are) and lay them before the LORD.  He is big enough to handle it.  He knows you better than you know  yourself and He is waiting to walk you through your sorrows, He alone can turn your sorrow into joy.  He can give you reason to be thankful, for He alone – if nothing else existed, is reason enough to be thankful.

If you are hurting, crying, dying then close your eyes and take a deep breath and thank the Lord for breathing the breath of life into your lungs.  I have had learned (the long 40 years in the desert way) that the sacrifice of praise is just that – I praise whether things are right or wrong, it is my sacrifice to the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

Kings and Conspiracies

In the midst of elections I found great hope as I read the book of Esther.  I don’t think I would have noticed it as much had I not been reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (a must read for any Christian interested in maturing in Christ).

In the participants guide for “The Divine Conspiracy” DVD lessons the 1st question is:  “What is an example of something God is doing in the world, but many people don’t notice or realize it?” (The Divine Conspiracy, Participants Guide, page 15, video discussion question #1).

My answer was “that ultimately God is choosing our leaders, presidents, kings, etc.

I believe God gives us free choice.  We want our way and often He steps aside and lets us have it.

1 Samuel 8:4-9 is all about the people wanting a king over them.

1 Samuel 8:22 “So the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Heed their voice, and make them a king’”

I find it comforting that if I end up regretting who I vote for I can cry out to God, after all, He has experienced the very same thing!

1 Samuel 15:10-11 “Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”  And it grieved Samuel and he cried out to the LORD all night.”

My hope and joy comes from the history throughout the Bible of Kings, Pharaohs, and leaders of any and many varying titles chosen and yet being moved by the divine hand of God.  God has a very long track record of moving hearts, changing minds, and setting into motion a series of events that pushes forward His will, His way and protects His people.

I read the book of Esther the other day (actually I listened to it on a Bible app) and I was so struck by the most common everyday subtle circumstances that put into motion a chain of events so monumental it was life changing.  Have you ever seen a cartoon of the tiny snowball rolling down the mountain side and becoming a giant ball of snow that squashes an entire city? snowball effect cartoon by Gar-E

Sure, you know Esther becomes Queen but…there is SO MUCH MORE!  The King didn’t just agree to Queen Esther’s request without some back story.

First of all Mordecai saved the Kings life (Esther 2:21-23) vs. 23 ends by saying “…and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.”

Now let’s skip to chapter 6:1-10.  Esther 6:1 “That night the king could not sleep.  So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.”

WOW!  How many sleepless nights have been God at work!  You see a conspiracy was already going on by the kings’ advisor and right hand man Haman to kill the Jews – especially Mordecai.

Coincidence?  NO WAY!  The story doesn’t stop there and as I said before, the entire Bible is full of God working, moving, loving, protecting, guiding and changing both individuals, nations and the entire course of history.

The LORD created the earth and everything in it.  He chose to walk among us and speak to us one on one in the garden, we chose to disobey and hide. (Genesis 2 and 3).  He has always been seeking us, calling to us, reaching out to us.  Noah heard Him, Abraham listened as did many afterward and still do.  Moses spoke with God and Israel sought to hear from Moses what God said (Exodus 20:19), his father in law wisely advised Moses of creating judges (Exodus 18:13-26).

In time Israel wanted a king, ‘like the other nations’.

Note to self:  Why do I often think I’d be better off having what the world has as well?

So, history marches on – here we are America, ready to vote or maybe you’ve mailed it in already or refuse to vote at all.  In any case be of great cheer and take courage believing in the GOOD NEWS that God Himself is in control!  He may give us just what we ask for yet He is up to something grand.  He puts in motion what is to be and has a “book of chronicles of The King” (the Bible) which has record of His faithfulness to us.

The bigger picture is a divine conspiracy, honestly it’s no secret, and He gives us a sneak peek of His overall end game.  The plan, if you will, (whenever it comes) is that we (His chosen) will walk with Him again in His garden (Revelation 22:1-5).

God Bless America and bring forth His Will!