Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Your Heart Is Laid Bare (Part 2)


Hey Friend,

Last week I began Part 1 of this post.  In order for this train of thought to be cohesive, I encourage you to go back a week in the "Archives" to read the first part.  I left you as I was heading out of town to the funeral of Uncle Bob, my husband's uncle, who was like a father to him.  I posed the question as to whether there was a reason why we must suffer?  I related a story of my suffering and I admit, I've wondered at times if God truly cares about the suffering I/we endure?

Uncle Bob knew suffering.  After multiple strokes, he lived inside a body for sixteen years that couldn't walk or speak.  Look around and we see suffering every day...people struggling with degenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, to name a few (not to mention their caregivers).  Many people silently suffer with mental illness themselves or have a loved one who suffers.  Prodigal sons and daughters break parents' hearts every day and gravesites are dug for children and youth long before their time. "Why?", we cry out.

Simply put, God does not cause suffering.  God allows suffering because He allowed us (mankind) to have free will and we brought sin/suffering upon ourselves when we disobeyed God. 

There is, however, an intricate and redeeming relationship between suffering and comfort.


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.  (2 Corinthians 1: 3-7)

Phew...there's a lot there that could take chapters to break down, but let's glean several nuggets of truth and hope.  Here are some things God has revealed to me...

The greater the pain of our suffering, the greater the depth of comfort we will receive.

If we fall into a pit that is ten feet deep, God's arms of comfort will be there to catch us.  If we fall into a great chasm, God will go down to the depths necessary in order to comfort us.  His consolation knows no bounds. 

In my life I have learned that there is a great correlation between suffering and God's love.


The greater the suffering endured = Greater realization of the depth of God's love for me.

Had I not gone through the trials I have gone through, I never would have known the boundless love, comfort, compassion, and consolation of God.  In my greatest pain, I have found the greatest love.  Certainly, there have been times when I've said, "I get it God...you love me...could you remove this suffering please?"

God is the source of every comfort.  Comfort begins with God.  God does and will comfort us in every affliction so that we may be able to comfort others (in distress) with the very same comfort by which we have been comforted. In other words, God pours out His comfort on us and in turn we are empowered to pour out His comfort onto others.

By this painfully beautiful act of comfort being poured out upon others' suffering we build bridges of vulnerability, trust, and intimacy.

Still with me??

Once saved through grace, we are also called to grow in our likeness of Christ.
 

We can't be the hands and feet of Jesus unless we have walked in His sandals.


To do so, we must learn how to share in His suffering.  Christ endured the gruesome cross...through what form of suffering are you being conformed into Christ's likeness? 


Sometimes my suffering has been truly unbearable.  I'll be honest, I hate it when I'm IN the crucible.  That's when I need to cling to an eternal perspective - that these troubles will seem "seem light and momentary" when I burst through these shackles into eternal paradise and freedom with Christ.

My "patient endurance" is building character in me for the Kingdom work I will be called on to perform when the new heaven and earth come. 

A mentor of mine once said to me, "Girl, based on the suffering you have persevered through, God must have some mighty big Kingdom work in store for you in Heaven!"  You better believe I won't be sitting around on a cloud strumming a harp lol. 


This might be a little corny, but here goes...

When suffering makes you want to just QUIT...remember you are a KWIT (Kingdom Worker In Training)

On a more serious note, God knows and deeply cares about your suffering.  He is the God who truly sees.  He will go to whatever depths He has to in order to lovingly lift your head.  He catches all your tears and counts them.  He will match your suffering with His furious love.

From 1 Peter 5, read and...

...know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

How have you grown in God's love and comfort through suffering?  Are you suffering right now and need others to pray for you?  Please let me and others pray for you either through commenting or contacting me.

Be blessed...





ps.  Check out my two new tabs, "Missions" and "Comment"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

When Your Heart Is Laid Bare

Hey Friend,

Yesterday I read a very real and touching blog post by one of my favorite writers - Lisa-Jo Baker.  She wrote a post entitled, "For Those Who Feel Like They Are Dying On The Inside" on the (in)courage website. (See blogs that I follow).  The very first comment on her blog was from a woman who had just miscarried only 48 hours previous to her reading Lisa-Jo's post.  The woman, who was obviously grieving, dared to lay bare her heart on a public forum because she needed to know that someone out there cared.

282 more comments, pleas, prayer requests, and guttural groans followed.  It struck me that we live in a very broken and hurting world.  When someone answers, "I'm fine," chances are they are not fine...not fine at all.  Sin is in this world and it manifests itself in the form of pain and suffering.  The rain falls upon the just and the unjust and the fact that we have a relationship with Christ does not exempt us from suffering.

Sometimes I wish I was more like a duck - that things rolled off my back more easily, but I'm not.  I often felt a little like an alien in my family who held their emotions, like a poker hand, tight to their chest.  Me, on the other hand, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  It's hard being so sensitive sometimes because I feel things, like my and other people's burdens, so deeply. It was no surprise to me that when I read the woman's comment about losing her baby, tears began to roll down my cheeks.  My heart ached for her that she wouldn't be able to count those ten little fingers and toes and smell her newborn baby's tiny head.  
Though I have never miscarried, I felt the sharp knife of her pain. 

I do know suffering.  I've had many trials in my life and if triggered the right way, the pain can come bubbling to the surface like it was yesterday.  I remember in 1999.  My children were eleven and six years old.  It was the beginning of December and I had told my kids, in an attempt to keep Christmas as "normal" as possible, that we would go through the giant drive through Christmas light display.  It was a Christmas tradition, only this year we'd being doing it without their father because he had packed his things and left just two months earlier.   I was beginning to herd my children into the minivan when my neighbor came over.  I could tell by the look on her face that what she had to tell me was not good news. 

"I saw your husband with another woman,"  she began, "and I could tell it wasn't just a friendship relationship."  The sharp knife cut open my heart and it was laid bare before her.  She hugged me as I cried.  My kids, unaware of the bomb that had just been dropped, were calling my name to go see the lights.  Armed with this new knowledge I drove off into the darkness to see the light display with my children.  Thankfully the inside of the van was dark as the carols played and my babies oohed and ahhed at the light displays.  They couldn't see the tears burning their way down my cheeks. They couldn't see my heart laid bare.

So why am I relaying these stories?   What is the purpose of, and how can we find hope in suffering?  I have never done this before, but I am going to ask you to check back in next week for the conclusion of this post.  My heart is very heavy right now with grief over losing Uncle Bob - my husband's favorite uncle - who was like a father to him and who welcomed me into the family with open arms.  Our energies are needed right now to comfort our lovely Aunt Pat who lovingly held her husband's hand until he passed on to his Heavenly home.

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.  (John 14:18) 

In His love,

Bev

ps.  Thanks for your patience as my blog site is "under construction".  I hope you like the new look, but again for reasons mentioned above, I have not had the time nor the energy to update my "Pages".  I ask for your grace...be blessed. 





 





Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is A Little "Me Time" Selfish?

Hey Friend,

I have a confession to make.   Until just a few years ago, I had never been to a nail salon to have a manicure or, of all indulgences, a mani-pedi.  I seriously thought those were reserved for those who didn't do any work around the house or the yard.  When reading the "Mother's Manual", I mistakenly read "martyr" instead of "mother". 

On the rare occasion I'd treat myself to a coffee shop latte, I would see people sipping their specialty coffees as they placidly sat there reading a book or the newspaper.  Really??  I wondered, how do people do this?  Isn't the phrase "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" biblical?

Actually Thessalonians 3:11 says:  "For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies."

The idleness that Paul was talking about was being a gossip or a busybody.  If you were engaged in this idle behavior, you were wasting time that could have been used to help others and build God's kingdom.

Idleness is NOT the same as rest.

The Bible is very specific on advising people to rest and take a break from work - from hectic life.  The very first example of this can be found in Genesis, Chapter 2.

And on the 7th day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested...Then God blessed the 7th day and sanctified it...

Sanctified = to make holy; set apart as sacred

If God needed time apart to recharge His batteries, was it pride that made me think that somehow I was the exception when it came to needing a rest?  I think so.  Proverbs tells us that "Pride goes before a fall (or before destruction)."  How true.  I would go and go and go and then burnout and be useless for long periods of time...that was my M.O. What's your mode of operation?

The shepherds rested their flocks - so does the Good Shepherd want us, his sheep, to rest.

Taking a little "Me Time" is far from selfish...it is God's will for us. 

Don't believe me...

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.  (Psalm 37:7)

Perhaps, this spoke to me the most:

And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while."  For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  (Mark 6:31)

How many meals have you eaten standing up?
How many cups of tea have you savored sitting down?

Physical rest, Spiritual rest, Mental rest...they are not a luxury or an I'll fit it in if I get a chance...they are a NECESSITY!

I challenge you to write the words "Rest in Me" on a sticky note (or several sticky notes if you're like me) and post it somewhere you'll see it all the time.

Fridge, bathroom mirror, steering wheel, on the dog...

I also challenge you to make a list of the things YOU would like to do to take a little "me time" and rest as the Lord would have you rest.  I'll get you started with some suggestions:

Knit or crochet
Take a bubble bath
Read a book
Take a walk
Go see a movie
Snap some pictures
Dance
Paint, sketch or draw
Play an instrument
Write something
Plant some flowers
Go to a sporting event and cheer
Learn a new language
Have coffee with a friend
Get your nails done (**note to self)
Sit in the sunlight
Lie on the sofa and daydream (aka do nothing)

Will you pray with me?  Lord, help me to set aside my pride that tells me the world won't get along a little while without me while I rest in You.  Help me to know, deep in my soul, that my worth does not come from what or how much I do, but from the simple fact that I am Yours.  Enable me to know that I am better able to bless others if I take some regular "me time" which is not selfish.  Thank you for this great big world that you have created for my good pleasure.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

In His love,

Bev

Comments:  Many of you have told me that is next to impossible to comment on my blog - especially if you don't have a blog or a "Google" or "WordPress", etc. account.  I want and need your input and feedback.  I want to learn from you too!  Question:  Are you good at taking "me time"?  Why or why not?  How might your life look different if you did take more time for yourself? 

Here's How: 
Go to Comment section
It will say "Comment as: Select Profile"
Choose option Name/URL (Enter your name and leave blank the URL space)
Hit Continue
Hit Publish
Prove that you are not a robot by checking the "I'm not a robot box" lol. (it may ask you to type a number if it is suspicious you are a robot)
That's it...Yay!!
or
Choose option Anonymous if you don't wish to leave your name.

Share:  If what you read here helps, challenges or enlightens you to God's love...feel free to share it :)

Redeemer Christian School:  The children send you their love and thanks for contributing to keeping the doors of their beloved school open!  Your love, prayers and financial gifts continue to send a message of hope to these innocent ones who live with evil on their doorstep. Please continue to pray for their safety...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Breaking The Grip of Perfectionism

Hey Friend,
While going through some boxes in the attic, I came across an aged and yellowed article from my old college newspaper.  In the feature were pictures of five young women, myself included, who were up for voting for Homecoming Queen.  Underneath my picture - the essence of a fresh-faced all American girl - was a list of all the organizations I belonged to and held leadership roles in.  It was followed by the various honor societies I belonged to.  I was even up for the award of College Woman of the Year.
One would think I had it all together...the picture perfect life. Actually, inside I was a massive ball of insecurities.  I had bought into the lie that in order to be worthy, I had to earn it.  My value as a person was based on other peoples' views of me.  By my early thirties I had accumulated such a resume of achievements that I literally came apart at the seams. 
Learning to insert the TRUTH where lies held sway for so long, became the truth that set me free.
Perfectionism, born out of insecurity, is a nasty, legalistic game.
But what about just wanting to do a job well I hear you asking?  Doesn't God want us to give our very best in whatever it is that we do?  Don't we all wish to hear some day, "Well done good and faithful servant"?
Yes, indeed.  But what is my motivation?  What is my starting point for wanting to do a good job?  I do believe that I possess the spiritual gift of Administration, but I was using my gifts and talents - not to glorify God - but to satisfy some lacking sense of self worth.  This is not God's desire for us.
There is a job well done and then there's perfectionism. 
My theory is that behind every perfectionist is a false identity and given time, that false identity is bound to unravel.
So...how to break the grip of perfectionism??
Start at the beginning.  What is it exactly that declares me worthy?
"Therefore, being declared righteous by faith (not works), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Romans 5:1)
Definitions for "Righteous" include words like: just, pure, holy
Truth be told, you can't get more perfect than being just, pure and holy.
Note the key point - that righteousness does not come from our own works, it comes through Christ and His death on the cross for me.
Christ is my Righteousness.
Jehovah Tsidkenu = Our righteousness.
Somewhere in the depths of my soul I knew this to be true, but the enemy and the world are so adept at selling you/me a bunch of lies that if we are not aware and armed with Truth, we are tempted to buy into them. 
I love this quote I found in a recent post by Melissa Michaels:  "To be a fully devoted follower of Christ, we have to be willing to surrender the preoccupation with our needs, our weakness, our agenda, and our own insecurities so we can remember our purpose to show love to the world and rest in our identity found in Christ."
Letting go of lies and taking hold of Truth can and does break the grip of perfectionism. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  (Psalm 139:14)
When the lies begin to creep in...and they will...I need to meditate on God's truth about me.
You shall know the Truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
I guess you could call me a "recovering perfectionist"...a member of "perfectionists anonymous".  Hello, my name is Bev and I am a perfectionist.
We all have perfectionistic tendencies, but on a scale of 1 - 10, I'd say I used to be a 10. 
Thankfully through scripture, trials, prayer, mentors, and yes, falling apart...I have learned to rest in my TRUE identity that can only be found in Christ.  Anything else is a cheap imitation.  I am a work in progress, but the Truth is traveling from "head knowledge" to being "heart knowledge".  If God can do this for me, He can do this for you too!
Do you struggle with perfectionism to any degree?  If so would you pray with me?
Lord, I thank you that you alone are my righteousness.  I am not worthy because of anything that I have done, but solely because of what you have done which is dying on the cross for me.  Enable me to know in my heart that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that you delight in me simply because I am Yours.  Let me not settle for lies and imitations. Let me be set free by your Truth. In Jesus name, Amen.
In His love,
Bev
Welcome to the Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Club :)


ps.  If you would like for me to pray specifically for you, please don't hesitate to contact me...be blessed!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

Hey Friend,
This may seem like an odd question to be asking myself when I am 53 years old.  I was never one of those kids who always knew what they wanted to be.  I envied those who had dreams of being a doctor, nurse, actor, lawyer, engineer, policeman, dancer, etc. 
The one thing I do remember wanting to be as a young girl, was a wife and mother (yes, I hear the collective groan of the feminist movement).  My mom's predominant role was being a good wife and mother and I looked up to her. 
I remember sitting down with my parents to decide what I was going to major in in college.  I remember our humorous conversation reminiscing about my dad trying to help me with my math homework and me always ending up in tears.  From those experiences, we deduced that I probably wouldn't make it as an engineer. 
Since I didn't have any great desire to "be" something, we started with what am I good at?  English and writing rose to the top. (That's why I cringe with ending a sentence with the word "at" lol)  Okay, English/Communications Major was what I would be.  Finished. End of discussion - except for my dad's final parting words, "Make sure you take a typing class."
I did well in my major in college, and I did take that typing class.  Jobs were scarce when I graduated so my typing sustained me for awhile in temporary jobs until I finally landed in the Human Resources department for a large holding company.  I walked employees through their relocation benefits as they moved about the globe.  I discovered that I loved working with people and helping them.  After getting married and relocating, I worked my way up as Relocation Director for a large Real Estate and Construction Company.  It's interesting how God takes us down paths that we would have never imagined.
Finally it came time to be what I always wanted to be - a wife and mother.  I would say, by far, this was the most demanding, most exhausting, yet most fulfilling job I have ever had.  I loved (on most days) being home with my kids.  I felt like I was in that sweet spot where God wanted me to be.  Sure, I had my days when I wanted to run away from home. 
I still remember vividly the day the UPS driver came to the door to deliver a package.  I was in sweats, my greasy hair up in a pony tail, wrestler's knee pads on my knees because I was scrubbing tile floors.  Barbie, and her excessive wardrobe and yacht were strewn all over the floor and Steven, my youngest, was running around in a t-shirt only because being naked from the waste down was the only way he seemed to "get" the necessity of getting to the bathroom when nature called.  I will never forger the look on that driver's face when I opened the door to sign for the package. Yes, this is what I had dreamed of being?!
Fast forward through many years of being a stay at home mom.  That is until infidelity and a divorce blindsided me.  I was immediately thrown back into the search for a job.  Only thing was that while I was busy being Mom, the computer age blew by me and left me in its dust.  What marketable skills did I have?  After much searching and fretting, I signed on as a teacher assistant at a private Catholic school that was just opening its doors. 
God certainly was looking out for me as I was assigned to work with a beautiful Christian teacher in the third grade.  Kim and the children filled a gaping hole in my life and as much as I helped and loved on those kids, they returned the favor ten fold.  So I could now add "teacher" to my resume.  I followed up teaching grade school with becoming a preschool teacher for several more years. 
Then, God brought a wonderful man into my life...or I guess I should say back into my life since we had been friends in high school and at the same time I was sidelined with two major surgeries that took a long time from which to recuperate.  My work life came to an abrupt halt and it quickly became clear that I would not be able to return to a job that required a lot of standing, stooping, kneeling and getting down on little people level.
It was during that time that my blog was born.  Out of sheer boredom and not being able to put any weight at all on my knee, I rediscovered my love of writing.  Once again I felt like I was in that sweet spot...only problem was that it didn't pay the bills. 
Once again, God's timing was impeccable.  My husband and I were married and I was excited to once again be in the fulfilling role of wife.  I was still needed in my role as mother to grown children (Mother is a job from which you never retire).  I sunk my teeth into my blog and being the General Contractor for a myriad of repairs needed on our 18 year old home that desperately needed some TLC.  My wonderful husband encouraged me to take some much needed time for myself - just to be good to myself after many years of neglect. 
This felt good for awhile, but I was always used to serving.  You name it, within the church and the community, I had done it.  Everything from Sunday school teacher, to MOPS (Mothers of Preschool) coordinator, to Junior Achievement board member, to helping start a Christian School in Pakistan,etc.  Serving has always been as necessary as breathing for me.
So here it is January 29, 2015 and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up?  I apologize that this post has been less about answers and more about journaling questions in my head.  I feel, once again, like I am back at square one wondering what I want to do with my life.  Do I go back to work? And if so doing what?  Do I serve in another area and if so where?  Do I take classes to improve my computer skills?  Do I learn another language?  Do I take up playing the piano again?  I honestly don't know...I am thankful, however, that I have the luxury of making a choice and am not back in that world of being a single parent trying to make ends meet.
All I know is that God brings us to these crossroads in order that we learn to wait expectantly on Him.  I do believe that He wants us to not sit passively, but to strike out in a direction in which we feel led and if that's not the way, He will close doors.  (This has happened to me already). 
I am brought back to having the scale read "less of me and more of Him".  I need to trust and believe that He has a perfect plan for me.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)
Notice, from this scripture, just who it is that has the plans that will give me hope...the Lord!
I am not good at waiting and being patient, but God's word has instruction on that as well:
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31)
And so, I wait...and I pray...and I listen for His still small voice.
I know I want whatever I do to glorify Him and to build His Kingdom.  That is about the only thing I'm sure of.
What about you?  Do you ever struggle with the question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?"  Would you share how you have found direction.  I love stories that give us all hope. 
Thank you for reading the ramblings in my head.  I pray, as always, that you would be blessed in your endeavors no matter what part of the globe you are tuning in from!
ps. Please continue to pray for safety for the staff and children of Redeemer Christian School.  If you want to see REAL faith in action, follow the lives of Christian servants working to spread the gospel in places where radical Islamic ideals prevail.  I pray earnestly for our world...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You Are Never Alone

Hey Friend,
This may sound a little sacrilegious to some, but I have learned many lessons about the nature of God from my dogs - the two I have currently and the one who passed away a couple years ago. 
I could come through the door after being gone for hours, or I could have been gone for ten minutes and I would get a greeting that said, "You're the best thing since peanut butter!"  Tails would be a wagging and a whirling with pure unconditional love.  A glimpse of how God sees me.
Recently, I got yet another glimpse of God's loving nature when I was down and out with an episode of OCD anxiety and depression.  Fortunately these episodes are few and far between, but when they hit...they hit hard.  It's hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it, but sometimes the best way to cope is, like when you are sick with a cold or flu, to go to bed and rest.  Resting or sleeping gives my brain a chance to take a much needed break from the onslaught of the repetitive, anxiety producing, obsessive thoughts. I may be in bed for a day, maybe two. 
Amazingly though, I am never alone.  Even if my husband has to go to work, Topper, the beagle, will jump up on the bed and curl himself into a ball near my chest.  He snuggles in nice and close, shuts his eyes, and there he stays.  Zoe, the senior lab, will lumber up the stairs (aching joints and all) to find me.  When she does, she lies by my side of the bed, lets out a big sigh and there she abides. 
All day they stay, they abide, and they never leave my side.  They are there and I never feel alone.
Another glimpse of God...
They forego their fun times in the back yard to comfort me in my pain.  They know I am hurting and though they can't make the pain go away, they can bring me love in the midst of it. Does this remind you of someone?
"Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave or forsake you."  (Deuteronomy 31:6)
In this passage, Moses is speaking to the Nation of Israel who is on its way to the promised land.  The "them" Moses is telling them not to fear are the nations/enemies that lie in their path.  If you read the longer passage, I love how Moses reminds them of the path that God has already cleared thus far. 
In The Message version it reads: "God is striding ahead of you and is right there with you." 
I love this because only God can be striding ahead of you and right beside you at the same time.  He is omnipresent.  He has also been with you in the past.
Past, present, future...with God you are NEVER alone!
I don't know about you, but this brings me great comfort.  I may not feel  God at the moment, but if I choose to go with the facts found in scripture, I know that He is always there with me and will never leave me or forsake me. 
He is Jehovah Shammah - The Ever Present One
Not only is God with us, but He promises us strength and help.  He even promises to uphold us when we can't stand in our own strength.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
The Lord even promises to fight our battles for us if we will only be still.  Who does that?
A God who thinks you are the best thing since peanut butter...
A God who loves you with an unfathomable love and has fought to the death with evil in order to save YOU...
A God who draws near to you, abides with you, and never ever will forsake you...
That's who.
Draw upon these facts whenever you feel alone...
"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  (Joshua 1:9)
"Behold, I am with you to the end of the age."  (Jesus speaking in Matthew 28:20)
All three persons of the Trinity are with you always.  The Bible tells us that God sends us a Helper - the Spirit of Truth (Holy Spirit) who dwells in us and we can call upon Him in times of trouble. 
I don't know about you, but that's a pretty strong defensive lineup!
The days are sunny and bright now, but I am confident that when trials come, I will never ever have to face them alone. 
Lord, thank you for your promises to us, over and over again, that you are our constant companion and that you will never leave us or forsake us.  Thank you that you promise us strength, help, and will even fight for us.  Help us to claim the truth of these promises.  In Jesus' name, Amen.



ps.  Will you please pray for Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan?  Pray for God's hedge of safety and protection to surround them and keep them safe from the evil that is in this world and on their doorstep.  Pray for protection for the leaders and teachers and the innocent children. Pray that Jesus' light would shine victoriously.   

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fitbits, Facelifts, and Best Kept Beauty Secrets

Hey Friend,
Obviously the title of my post is a little tongue in cheek, but I titled it such after reading an article in USA Today.  It talked about how cosmetic companies and cosmetic surgeons are capitalizing on the "forever young" mindset that pervades our society.
The article went on to say, "Boomers, in an attempt to keep the dreaded signs of aging at bay, will push the U.S. market for anti-aging products from about 80 billion dollars now to more than 114 billion dollars in 2015."
I am a baby boomer, and I would by lying if I said I didn't own any of these coveted fountain of youth serums.  In fact I once owned a small jar of one of the finest, most expensive creams on the market.  You see, my ex-husband had a very good work relationship with a certain Chinese company.  As is their custom, when they would come to visit the States they would bring lovely gifts usually from their country.  I had gotten to know them as well and so they would always bring me something beautiful - a silk scarf, a piece of jewelry, an art object. 
One year when they visited, we were all out to dinner and the Chinese contingency presented their gifts to the Americans gathered around the table.  For each of the men - a silk tie.  My turn came (note I'm the only female at the table)... I reached into the gift bag and pulled out 1.7 ounces of, you got it, anti-wrinkle cream.  All American eyes turned toward me awaiting my reaction.  I admit, at first, I wondered what they were trying to tell me, but after Mr. Lee piped up and said that his wife gives him big hugs and kisses when he brings her this cream from his world travels, I knew that it was being offered as a generous gift, sure to delight.  And delight it did...right down to the very last scraping of the bottom of the jar.
Fast forward to exactly one year ago when, at the age of 53, I walked down the aisle in a small intimate ceremony and I can honestly say that I have never felt more beautiful.  Even in my youth, with fresh soft skin and many pounds less than what I carry now, I never felt as beautiful as the day I married my husband Dave.  Friends described me as "radiant" and "beaming". 
Why was I able to pull off what no face lift or anti-wrinkle cream could? 
I was simply mirroring and reflecting the love that was being shown to me.
I was radiant because I was flowing together with the two greatest, most unconditional loves of my life:  My Lord and then my husband. 
And all of us, with unveiled faces, reflecting like bright mirrors the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same likeness, from one degree of radiant holiness to another, even as derived from the Lord of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  (Psalm 34:5)
As we come, unveiled, just as we are, before the Lord and spend time in His presence we are transformed into the same likeness and begin to radiate His glory and likeness to those around us. 
Spend enough time with someone and eventually they begin to rub off on you.
What also helps is a shift from "exterior thinking" to "interior thinking".  I'm not knocking your resolution to join the gym to lose those extra pounds or getting a facial or a new "do".  We are called to take care of our bodies - the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:3-4:  Do not let your adorning be external - the braiding of hair and the putting on of jewelry, or the clothing you wear - but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
"Imperishable beauty" the kind of beauty that transcends laugh lines (aka wrinkles), sagging skin and extra pounds is a gentle and quiet spirit. 
Think of the type of people you are drawn to in a room...yes, at first glance it might be the toned, tight skinned externally good looking people...but after awhile, who do you want to linger with longer?  Might it be the person who possesses an inner beauty or charisma? 
Beauty truly is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30).  If you don't believe this, pop in on your 30 year class reunion. Just kidding... 
Once the youthful good looks are stripped away, all that is left is the soul.
Perhaps because I have an anxiety disorder and have battled depression, I can look into a person's eyes and easily see into their soul.  Behind fake smiles, I can pick out in a heartbeat those who are dealing with depression or an illness of the spirit.  I am also able to see the radiant beauty of those who love the Lord.  I think it's because I am both of those people??!
But, how are your insides? What is the condition of your soul?  Look in the mirror.  Does your face scream wrinkle cream or are you radiant because you are mirroring the One who loves you unconditionally? 
God does love you unconditionally...just as you are.  You don't need to "pretty up" in order to come before Him.  Crawl into His arms and let His great love strip away your shame and let time in His presence radiate beauty from your countenance.  Like early morning sunshine shimmering on a lake, so will His holiness glisten in your eyes.  Just come.
Lord, let me come with an unveiled face before you.  Let me spend time in your presence so that when others look at me they will see the beauty and glory of your face.  Amen. 
In His love,
Bev
Happy 1 year anniversary to my loving husband, Dave!! 
Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan:  Thanks to your generosity we have big plans for 2015.  We will be adding additional books and school supplies as well as seeing that each child has their own Bible.  The children are already joyful over the scriptures they have committed to memory.  We always have the ongoing expenses of rent and teacher's salary.  On our wish list is being able to add tables and chairs (the children currently sit on blankets on the floor) and possibly a second teacher.  If you would like to help this dream come true:
Send donations to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                              103 Silver Lining Lane
                              Cary, NC  27513
Smiles of joy have replaced faces filled with despair as the children celebrate Jesus' birthday.