Saturday, October 12, 2019

Are You Struggling With Suffering?

Hey Friend,

What is the most asked question on Google?

I stumbled upon an article on this topic and was curious.  What was the burning question on everyone's mind???

If you know me, you'll know why I didn't even understand the is:

What is my ip?

I admit that I didn't know that "ip" stands for "internet protocol".  Over 3 million people ask this question every month.  This question doesn't keep me up at night, but another one used to:

Is there any good purpose to suffering?  or Why do good people suffer?

My life story is marked with joy, but it's also been marked by A LOT of suffering.  I remember people telling me that God comforts us in our suffering, and my response was, "That's nice, but I'd rather be comfortable without the suffering...thank you very much."

I remember thinking that God had truly abandoned me.  There is nothing so awful as thinking that the God of the Universe has given up on you and you are all alone in the mess.  It's agonizing.

I went to get my flu shot and before me was a little girl getting her shot.  Understandably, she was terrified.  She wanted nothing to do with that needle.  The more her mother tried to console her, the more she grew anxious.  Upon injection, she let out an ear-piercing scream.  It hurt!  Why was the nurse hurting her, and why was her mother holding her still and just looking on?

Her mother didn't relish the anguish that her daughter was suffering, but because of her child's health concerns, she KNEW that the painful shot was the BEST thing for her delicate daughter.

Through suffering, I have learned that God is more concerned about my character than He is about my comfort. 

He never wanted me to suffer, most of my life, with mental illness, but I have been plagued with anxiety and depression as far back as I can remember.  I have had several despairing experiences wherein I seriously contemplated taking my own life because ANYTHING would be better than the intense suffering I was experiencing.

So what have I learned from this suffering?

1.  How to pray for strength to endure.  I KNOW what it is to persevere.  A counselor once told me, "If 'Perseverance' was a course in school, you'd get an A+." 

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.  And HOPE does not disappoint us...  (Romans 5:4-5a) 

Hope is a byproduct of suffering, ironic, but true.

2.  I've learned compassion for others and developed an intimate relationship with the Lord.  Having gone through a season of six years marked by six major surgeries back to back, I have a compassion for others, that I know I would never have, had I not gone through such trials.  Suffering has born in me an empathy that allows me to speak the love of Christ into other people's lives when they are suffering.

I also know, that suffering is the necessary crucible that refines me and it has taken me to the deepest levels of my faith.  I know, without a doubt, that God is faithful to His promises.  He is good.  And, He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I can look back and see how His righteous right hand has held me through it all.  I would not have this confidence had it not been for the seasons of suffering.

3.  It has built my hope in the future.  Romans 12:12 foretells a time when "no resident will say, 'I am sick.'"  A day is coming when God will cure chronic illnesses that are beyond the power of modern science to solve.  We will be returned to our "youthful vigor."  

I don't have a "bucket list" because I know that this life is fleeting.  I'm not putting all my stock in the limited years I walk this earth.  I know that the real living will be accomplished in eternity.  This life is practice and a time of learning for what is ultimately to come.  

4.  It has helped me to experience true joy.  God graciously gives me glimpses of the joy to come.  After the suffering that came from being abandoned after 25+ years of marriage, I have joy and gratitude that I never could have experienced in my marriage of 5 years, had I not experienced the dark days of sadness.  I thank God every single day for the blessing of my husband and the second chance at living in a covenant relationship that He's given me.

5.  Struggling/suffering indicates the presence of Christ working in my life.  When Christ is vibrantly at work in and through me, the enemy is furious.  He wants to take me out.  I have never felt so persecuted as when I have been doing the Lord's work.  Working as the Executive Director of a Christian School that is bringing the hope of Jesus to orphans in the Middle better believe I'm constantly under attack, but I'm called to take up my cross and follow Him.  

If we follow Christ we will share in His suffering as well.  

The dark brush strokes of suffering make the bright brush strokes of joy stand out more brilliantly.

God's omniscient and all-knowing mind knows everything.  He is above ALL things, even evil.  Even though some suffering "seems" to have no good purpose, an "all-good" God has a good purpose for everything.  

God never desired suffering for us.  He created a perfect world and man ushered in the presence of evil.  We may suffer because of consequences of our sin or we may suffer for apparently no reason at all.

I DO KNOW that God can and will redeem every moment of suffering we experience and He will catch every tear that falls.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that you are an all-knowing and good, good, Father.  Your plans are plans for me to prosper, not to bring me harm. Help me to know, that even if I suffer, you will bring beauty from the ashes.  Enable me to lean into you and to know, with all confidence, that you will never leave nor forsake me.  Give me the strength and perseverance needed to walk THROUGH these trials with you.  I cling to your righteous right hand.  Thank you for the joy that you want to restore unto me.  Give me faith and trust when I have doubts.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you question why you or others you love suffer?  Do you want God to replace your doubts with belief?  If you are suffering, what might God be at work accomplishing in your life?  Do you trust His goodness?  What lessons have you learned through suffering?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Finding the Narrow Road to Life

Hey Friend,

Even our GPS seemed perplexed...

My husband and I had been winding our way down and around country roads for close to a half hour.  We could see our destination marked on the GPS system, but when we got to where we thought we could get to it, there was no road.

We made a right and traveled on what we thought was the correct road, but it didn't lead to our destination.  Frustrated, we turned the car around as a few cows lazily munched on grass and looked at us curiously.

We made another pass by and still we couldn't find the way in.  Finally, creeping along the main road, we saw a narrow gravel road leading off the road we were on, into the tall oaks.  It looked like the proverbial "road to nowhere."  We decided to follow it out of utter curiosity.

We wound around a few curves in the road, going deeper into the mix of pines and oaks, until we finally came upon a narrow gate.  The sign read, "Lavender Oaks Farm."  We'd found it!!  

Five hundred feet on ahead, the gravel road opened up to reveal a gorgeous lavender farm that was beginning it's spring bloom and burst into beauty.  What a gorgeous oasis out in the middle of nowhere.  

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

I have had to ask the Lord to open my eyes to the emptiness of this world - the broad road.

One of the allures of the wide road is self focus.

Yes, we need to take good care of God's temple - our body - but there is a shallowness to the whole booming business of self-care and self-pampering.  I love a good massage as much as the next person, but when my spiritual tank is empty, instead of a mani-pedi, I need to get into God's word and hang out with Him for a good stretch of time.

Those that seem to "have it all" often die unhappy, unfulfilled, and separated from God.

Another allure of the wide road is idolatry.

The world idolizes actors, actresses, models, singers, and sports figures.  There is a big difference, however, between fame and success.  I pray that I will not be tempted by the wide road that leads to destruction.

Instead of idolizing the shiny new car in my neighbor's driveway or how perfect her kids appear to be, I need to focus on thanking God for what and who He has put in my life.  Gratitude is a great cure for the green-eyed monster.

In my life, I want to be continually transformed into the likeness of Christ.

The real purpose of life is not to be "entertained," but to walk with the Lord and serve Him and serve others.

In my quiet time, I found this profound and alluring piece of scripture that I don't remember reading before.  It really spoke to me about finding the narrow road to life.  

In it, it refers to a narrow road that is called "The Holy Way".  I invite you to read it slowly and take it in:

A road will be there and a way;
It will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.

Fools will not wander upon it.
There will be no lion there,
and no vicious beast will go up on it;
they will not be found there.

But the redeemed will walk on it,
and the redeemed of the Lord will return
and come to Zion with singing,
crowned with unending joy.

Joy and gladness will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee.

(Isaiah 35: 8-10)

Dear Heavenly Father, enable me to find the small gate and the narrow road that leads to life.  I know only a few will find it.  Help me to not be lured by self focus and idolatry and all the other shiny things the world has to offer.  When my spiritual tank is empty, let me come and drink from your springs of life.  Let me have a thirst for your Holy Word.  What a glorious road it will be into Zion.  No sin, no beasts will walk upon it.  Fools will be turned away and only the redeemed made righteous in Christ's blood will find it.  What joy and gladness will overtake me and my tears will be wiped away forever.  Thank Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  How does the world lure you away from "The Holy Way"?  How is God calling you to redirect/change your ways in order to find the narrow road to life? How does this scripture speak to you, personally?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blessed Are The "Hot Messes" - The Forgotten Beatitude

Hey Friend,

"Blessed are the "hot messes," for they shall be rescued and made clean and new by the Lord."  (The Forgotten Beatitude)

You there, in your yoga pants and spit-up-spattered, over-sized t-shirt, the one with the perpetual pony tail who is writing her grocery list in her Bible margins while cramming in "quiet time" in the carpool line. You there, running late again for work with two shoes that don't match, making a mess of your mascara as you dial in on the conference call. You there, crunching carrots and celery and hyper-hydrating before you jump on the torture-trainer (aka the elliptical machine) so that you don't embarrass yourself at your high school reunion. You there, who thinks anyone could do your life better than you do it...I've got a message for you!

God loves you and He has a HUGE heart for hot messes!

How do I know??  Because I am one!  And this isn't me...I'm not that skinny, but I liked the t-shirt!

I love The Beatitudes because they cheer on and encourage the underdog.  The beatitudes are dogma for the down and out.  They lift up the "less than's".

The beatitudes are part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus provides a discourse on the law of Moses and it was meant to show all people that it was impossible to fulfill all of the law and as such, we could only come to God and ask for mercy and grace that became available through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

Who, more than a "hot mess," needs mercy and grace?

Though there are eight beautiful beatitudes, I'll focus on two of my favorites.

#2: Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
Jesus is talking about mourning the loss of a loved one, but He also expands the definition to mean mourning the loss of any relationship - marriage, family member, friendship.  In the world today, we might even mourn the fact that so many people are not in right relationship with God, or mourn the depravity of our society.

Jesus said that He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit would comfort us and provide a balm for our hurting hearts.

#3:  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
This beatitude is often misinterpreted.  It doesn't refer to meekness as a lack of strength or substance.  The Bible clearly talks about how God resists the proud, but gives strength to the humble.

I remember being called "meek" once and it wasn't a compliment.  It was a put-down because I wasn't a very outspoken person.  The word "meekness" means strength under control. The meek understand and willingly submit to God's authority.

Jesus said that if we wanted to be great in His kingdom, then we would have to be servant leaders.  Servant leadership is the definition of meekness. 

The blessing for the "hot mess"??

God will surely come to the rescue of those of us who think we continually make a mess of our lives.  Truth is, we DO make messes.

For our mess, Jesus offers cleansing that can only come through accepting the gift of grace that makes us PERFECT under the veil of Christ's blood, through which God views us. 

Only Jesus can take us from complete mess to profound perfection.  What an awesome God we have who makes provision for all our weakness.  We can't keep the law, but through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we can be comforted, find strength, and be made perfect in God's sight.  He will give us strength to obey.

You the yoga pants...have I told you you're amazing?? God says so over and over again in His Word.  In Christ, you are a new creation.  If you're a "hot mess" this is God's message for you today!

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you that you cheer on the underdog.  You meet us whether it's in mourning, meekness, or any state in which we yearn for You.  Thank you that your values are not what the world values.  Help me to realize that you value humility, right standing, purity, peace-making, and those that would lay down their lives for you.  Help me to be counted among those who are blessed because they rely and depend solely upon you.  Bless me and make my "mess" clean.
In Jesus name I pray,  Amen.

What about you?  Do you feel like a hot mess at times?  What answer do you think God is laying before you?  What steps do you want or need to take?  How do the beatitudes encourage you?  Will you share?

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Be blessed...

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Prescription For the Spiritual "Blahs"

Hey Friend,

It was still well before 6 am.  Eyes still half shut, I pushed open the screen door and ushered our beagle out into the darkness.  I turned on my heels to head toward the coffee maker, but something made me change my mind.  

The weather, for the first time, was refreshingly cool.  I stepped out onto the deck and the moon cast a silvery light-soaked pathway down our back hill.  There was not a cloud in the dark sky and the stars shone brightly.  I simply had to stand there and take it in.  

The longer I stood, transfixed, goosebumps raised on my arms, but in my mind I was transported back to a night sky that looked so similar, so many years ago. On that long-ago night I lay on my back in the cool grass. I was just thirteen. I could hear guitars around the campfire still strumming in the distance, but as I gazed up I knew, without a doubt, that I didn't want to go through life alone.  I wanted Jesus Christ to be the Lord of my life.

I repented of my sins and invited Him in to take the pilot's seat - to be Lord of my life.  I knew He was the One who could fill the gaping hole in my heart. 

That night the love of Christ and the reality of what He'd sacrificed for me set my heart ablaze.  I was on fire for the Lord for the very first time in my life.

That was over 45 years ago.  I wish I could say that my heart has burned brightly for Him ever since, but that would be a lie.  There have been seasons, both long and short, that the embers were fanned and burst into flames once again.  There have also been long and short seasons of apathy, disinterest, laziness, obligation, and general spiritual blahs.

The Problem can be summed up in Revelation 2:4-5:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.

These words were directed to the church in Ephesus.  They were a church that had endured and persevered through suffering, but their love had grown cold. They were simply going through the motions of religion.  Their deeds were good, but there was no love motivating them.  

How often am I like them?  Doing what I do out of obligation vs. a burning love for the Lord and wanting to serve Him?

The Solution can be summed up in 2 Timothy 1: 6-7:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

Since my life-long MO is continually defaulting to pursuing "self-sufficiency" when I have the spiritual blahs, I think it's up to me to get busy and muster up some fiery faith.

The verse from 2nd Timothy reminds me that the source of my faith is NOT me, it is the Spirit of God moving in me.  

We are to fan into flame the GIFT of God.

So if the Spirit is the source of my faith, HOW do I fan this gift into flame?


I remind myself that apart from the Lord, I can do nothing. 

I don't do something, instead, I ASK the Lord's Spirit to work and move in me.

(Remember Seek, Knock, Ask...and it will be given unto you?) ASK the Spirit of God to move in you and guess what?  He will.

Now the part that's up to me is to obey.  What does obedience look like?

Obedience means I have to be in His Word daily.  I need fuel to start a fire. 

I need to be reading, meditating, dwelling, abiding, and communing with God.  He's the lighter fluid.

Then, ASK for the spark of the Spirit and pretty soon you have a roaring fire!!

I have found that I can't "feel" my way into actions, but I can "act" my way into feelings.  

When I get a case of the spiritual blahs, I seek; I ask; and then as God promises, I find.

Praying for you sweet friend, that the Lord would answer the desire of your heart and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, He would set your heart on fire once more. With God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ALL things are possible.

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you for kindling a fire in my heart so many years ago.  I thank you that when the flames die down and my heart grows cold that I don't have to try, on my own, to muster up faith again.  You have given me the very catalyst I need in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Enable me to humble myself to ASK for a rekindled faith-fire.  Give me strength to do my part in obedience.  Let me abide in your presence Lord and wait with great expectation for what you will perform in my life.  Set my heart ablaze once more. I'm asking. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Has your heart grown cold or apathetic?  Do you have a case of the spiritual blahs?  What steps is God calling you to in order to be set on fire again?  If you've never experienced the life transformation of inviting Jesus to come into your heart, forgive you of your sins, and be Lord of you life, might you want to ask Him now?  Will you share in the Comments?  If you'd like for me to pray for you...feel free to email me.

Be blessed...

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

When God's Best Surpasses Ours

Hey Friend,

I love this version of Ephesians 3:20 from the Message Bible:

Ephesians 3:20 God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

If you regularly read my blog, you'll remember the post before this one: "I Cursed God Out and He Responded With Love."  In it, I share a very ungodly, ugly-human moment I had in response to continual physical infirmities.  It was NOT a shining moment in my faith walk, but it reinforced my trust that God loves us unconditionally and can, and will, shoulder our raw honesty with love.

After coming to grips with a third torn meniscus, I set my sights on our one and only upcoming vacation to the beach.  Even if I was still limping, I could forge my way to a beach chair, plop myself, and take in the beauty of God's awe-inspiring creation.  Like many, I am lured by the ocean's siren call.  

The ocean called, but Dorian answered.  Hurricane Dorian came right up the coast and forced evacuation of the beach where we were headed.  (Insert another, not so pretty, temper tantrum on my part).  Really?  I was not willing to settle for a "stay-cation"!! Couldn't just one of MY plans work out?

God, in the only way a holy and merciful God could orchestrate it, began coaxing my heart not to "settle for a tootsie roll," but instead, to "set my sights on a Godiva Bar."  God was up to something I could not imagine, or guess, or request in my wildest dreams.  

God doesn't often lead me to go on line, but this day, He did.  In my inbox was an email from Delta Airlines on frequent flyer deals.  It had some incredible post-Labor Day fares listed.  One was a round trip fare from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago for only $100. round-trip.  My curiosity was peaked.

I love the "Windy City". For five years, it was my home.  I made a quick check on the weather forecast.  Sunny and 70 degrees.  Awesome!  My fingers were tapping excitedly.  Hotel rooms...last minute deals...Magnificent Mile... downtown...great rates.  I booked it. My heart was beating faster.  I was rarely this spontaneous and impulsive. I'm a rut-loving planner by nature. It was kind of a rush - jumping in the deep end of the pool like this.

My husband has on his "bucket list" to see as many baseball games as he can in different ballparks.  The White Sox were going to be in town.  I grabbed some great seats between home and first.  I couldn't wait to surprise my husband.

All that was needed now was to put the beach clothes back in the drawers and pull out some Chi-town attire.  I packed my knee brace, ice pack, pain meds, good walking shoes, and then I prayed.

"Lord, you've allowed several monkey wrenches to close the doors on my wishes and plans.  I'm trusting that you have something even better in mind for me.  You know my physical limitations right now.  I am asking for Your divine strength to see me through this adventure you've placed at my feet and in my heart.  I'm going forward with this, trusting that through You and in You, I can do all things. In Jesus name I pray, Amen."

God had called me to "be brave" and step out in faith.  I did, and my husband did.  I'm here to testify that GOD'S best pretty much ALWAYS surpasses our best laid plans.  

We paced ourselves.  I iced, elevated, and girded my knee.  God rolled out the best Chicago had to offer.  We couldn't have had a better four day jaunt.  We literally went where the Spirit led us and weren't in any particular hurry.  The skies were bluer than blue and the sun was warm and gentle on our faces. This was the joy that cometh in the morning after weeping endured for the night. 

We enjoyed breathtaking views and dined in authentic Greek and Italian eateries. We saw some of the best the city had to offer and still, didn't even scratch the surface.  We couldn't have orchestrated a better trip if we had tried.  My knee, miraculously, held up and we were blessed with the together time we both were craving.  

God is good, He is good, indeed.  Even when I doubt and question, He still delights in blowing my socks off with His love and compassion.  This lesson has helped me to look at the big picture of life a little differently.  I get so caught up with how I would like things to be or how I would orchestrate my life, that I stifle God's ability to bless me with something that is far greater than my wildest imaginings.  

I thought Chicago was incredible.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for me in paradise.  In the thick of a season of suffering, God chose to infuse joy.  

Life is hard, but God is good!  May His name be praised!

I share the following pics with a heart filled with gratitude:

What about you?  Are you in a season of suffering?  Have some of your best laid plans been met with disappointment?  Might you be settling for something less than God's very best for you?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  If you have enjoyed what you've read, here, today, might you consider subscribing to my weekly blog posts (and nothing else - I promise)?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above and enter your contact information.  Then BE SURE to look for a confirmation email link in your "inbox".  Click that and you're set.  Thanks for reading...

Monday, August 26, 2019

I Cursed God Out And He Responded With Love

Hey Friend,

This is the first year, in a long time, that I haven't seen the inside of an operating room.  I've been celebrating by enjoying walking outdoors in God's creation.  I've been stopping to smell the roses.  I've also been serving God, with thanks, for bringing me through all the surgeries as well as holding my hand through a divorce, mental illness, losing my job, and a scare with the dreaded "C".  It has felt good to feel healthy for a change.

That's why I was happy to be able to participate in our church's mission project - Project Classroom.  Thursday found me happily loading 90 colorful gift baskets for teachers as well as classroom supplies in my SUV.  I had fun working with two women I had just met, carting the baskets and supplies in to the delight (and some tears) of teachers who were getting their classrooms ready.  It felt good to be able to bless others. 

Thursday was a red letter day...and then came Friday morning.  As soon as I put my feet on the floor and went to stand, my knee buckled and I had a terrible stabbing pain on the inside of my right knee.  I knew I had felt that type of pain before, in my left knee, and I prayed it wasn't what I thought it was.

As the day wore on and the pain became worse, the tears started to flow. Once again, I was in an invalid state - unable to walk at all.  I felt an anger, like I've never experienced before, rise up like an erupting volcano from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head.  I was furious.  "Really, God?" I shook my fist at Him.  "Is this what I get for doing your work??  I guess no good deed goes unpunished?" I snarled with angry sarcasm.

I rarely curse, and I haven't ever said "F-you" to any human being, but suddenly I was filled with such inexplicable anger.  I had weathered and persevered through six previous surgeries with LONG recuperations and I felt like I had maintained a "God is good" attitude.

I had praised Him for restoring the years the locusts had devoured after a long, difficult marriage and equally painful divorce.  I clung to Him in the not knowing times of medical tests, and biopsies, and uncertainty of where I'd get the funds to pay for necessities.  I faith weathered the storms.  Not easily, but I made it through.

But in this crucible moment all trust, all faith, all clinging to "God is good" went out the window and I raised my fist and screamed as loud as I could, "F-you God."  I didn't do it just once, with each time I yelled at Him, I shook my fist harder, and my voice rose a few decibels..."F-you God...F-you!!"  Over and over I screamed and cried and shook my fist at Him.  I have never felt such rage in my life.  I wondered if I was losing my mind??  Was I having a nervous breakdown?  Who, inside me, was yelling these words?

I wish I could say, a cathartic peace came over me.  Far from it.  I was good and mad and utterly miserable to my husband, my mom, well-meaning friends.  I was downright nasty.  I didn't feel at all like myself, but I couldn't change my attitude.  I didn't want to change my attitude.  Platitudes and Christian cliches made me even more incensed.  I had lost myself and an ugly person had taken my place. I'd hit the brick wall and had come to the end of myself.

The orthopedic doc at the Urgent Care confirmed a torn meniscus.  I'd need an MRI to asses the degree of damage.  Two of my previous surgeries were for meniscus tears.  More icing.  More elevating.  More sitting and waiting would be my destiny.  I had been here, done this, and was in no mood to do it again.  I slept fitfully. My husband slept in the other room.  Even the dog didn't want to be near me. I can't say that I blamed him.

Sunday morning dawned and the first words out of my mouth were, "I certainly wouldn't go to church even if I could walk."  But, I looked at my husband who had made me breakfast and like the Grinch, I felt a slight softening.  Tears welled, but wouldn't flow.  After breakfast, I called my mom and apologized for how awful I had been the day before.  She said that she forgave me and she loved me.  More softening.

My husband sat beside me on the couch where I had sat for weeks and months in the past and he reached out his hand.  I remembered how he had held me up in the shower and had gently washed my hair when I couldn't put weight on my leg.  What seemed like so long ago in the past came flooding to the forefront of my mind.  "I'm so sorry," I said, with tears in my eyes. "You don't deserve this."  

While he was at the grocery store getting supplies for the week.  My sister-in-law shared how she had been angry with God.  More than anything she would love the companionship of a good and caring man.  I had that.  God had blessed me with that. My stone cold heart softened slightly more into flesh.

Later, a good friend who was recuperating from surgery, reminded me just how difficult it is.  She had cursed at God and was wondering the same gigantic "WHY??" She didn't know how she was going to pay for expenses with being out from work for so long.  My husband had a good job.  I didn't have that worry if it came to surgery.  God had, indeed, blessed me. More soft flesh.

My friend and I made a pact to dust off our gratitude journals and each day we'd talk and share what we had listed for the day.  All of a sudden, I didn't feel so alone.  God had given me a companion to walk through whatever was to come.  God blessed me, yet again.  In addition, He showed me how I could bless someone else. 

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.  No power in the sky above or the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8: 38-39) 

This scripture about super-glue kinda love came to mind after we talked.  My friend had reminded me that God's shoulders are broad enough to handle my anger...even really ugly anger.  I don't know that I've ever REALLY put that part of my faith to the test.  I didn't think that I could be THAT angry with just wasn't right.  I feared that He would be disappointed with me and would give up on me, or even worse, disown me. 

Could God take or accept my cursing Him??  I am great at "doing guilt".  But what I WASN'T feeling, surprisingly, was guilt that came in the form of condemnation.  I felt remorse for what I'd done and said.  I asked God to forgive my heinous behavior.  And then I sat with it.  Tears of remorse came...but NO condemnation.  

Could God love me and care for me even at my very ugliest?

Therefore, there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

I had really put this verse to the test.  

I'm still sitting here, waiting to get an MRI, waiting to see if we need to cancel yet another vacation??  I don't know what the upcoming days and weeks will hold, but this I know:

God loves me and NOTHING can ever separate me from His love.  There is NO condemnation, only Love.  

What an awesome God I have who loves with no conditions and no boundaries.  His love is unfathomable.  When God says He wants to have a relationship with us, He can handle a good and honest, no holds barred, relationship.  That's what I gave Him - a strong piece of my mind.

In return, He gave me a big piece of His heart. 

Dear Heavenly Father,  Please forgive me for my anger and my ugly behavior.  I praise you that I can come before you with all of my gritty, honest feelings and emotions, and you love me just the same.  I praise you for your promise that NOTHING...absolutely nothing can separate me from your love.  Help me to fathom the depths of your love for me.  Thank you for dying on the cross that my heinous sins would be washed white as snow with your blood.  Without you, Lord, I am a dead man walking.  With you Lord...I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Keep this always at the forefront of my mind and heart. If it be your will, heal me, O Lord. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Have you ever gotten REALLY angry with God?  Do you trust that He will never abandon you?  What does it mean to you to be able to be in true relationship with God, through Christ, His Son?  Will you share?

Be blessed...

ps.  And the WINNER of the (In)courage Devotional Bible is Robin B.  Congrats' Robin!! Thanks to ALL who subscribed.  If you like what you've read here today, might you consider SUBSCRIBING to receive weekly encouragement?  Just go to the SUBSCRIBE tab above.  Be sure to click the link in the confirmation email that will come in your inbox.  Thank you!

**With the uncertainty that lies before me, I may take a short, two week blogging break.  Prayers are welcome that I could go on vacation instead of to the OR. Prayers for God's strength either way...**

Sunday, August 18, 2019

You Are Never Off God's Mind

Hey Friend,

The driving beat, echoing from the subtly swaying dance floor, fell slowly silent with each stealthy step I took along the promenade deck.  Like a runaway trying to elude capture by ever-luring temptations, I slid along the starboard rail.  People sat, like robots on stools, fixated, plunking coins in slots and pulling magical levers in hopes of hearing the victorious cascade of good fortune.

Further on, gracefully entwined swans presided, with an icy glisten, over a gluttonous spread of midnight culinary madness.  It was all I could do not to be lured away from my destination.  After all, I had a divine appointment to keep.

The world quieted with a gentle hush as I stepped onto the bow of the boat.  A handful of people were either wrapped in an embrace or staring skyward from their posts on deck.  With a plethora of lounge chairs to choose from, I slid anonymously into one in the middle and pulled the soft, salty blanket up around my neck.  I leaned back, took in a deep breath while closing my eyes, and then upon exhale, I opened them to a breathtakingly magnificent canopy of galactic wonder.

For as far as the eye could venture, all I could see were colossal clusters of galaxies and millions, no, billions of incandescent bodies in a brilliant, better-than-Christmas, light display. This midnight panorama of the heavenlies was intoxicating. 

For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by starry nights.  They call to me like a siren.  This night, I knew, I would remember always.

 “When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

It was hard to fathom that David, nearly three thousand years ago, gazed at this same star-filled sky and wrote these infamous words.   

What, exactly, does it mean that God is mindful of me?  Does it mean that I am occasionally brought to the forefront of His mind like a got-to-get grocery item?

Curiosity sent me digging in my Concordance and flipping through the Hebrew dictionary to find out what "mindful" meant in this particularly scripture.

Mindful or zakar in Hebrew has fine nuances of meaning.  In this context, "mindful" means: God extols me.  He commemorates me.  He speaks of me and my worth. He remembers me always. 

Others may forget me, but I am never off God's mind.

What am I that God honors me and finds me worthy of mention?

On the sixth day, God created man, and from him, woman as His crowning achievements in Creation.  After creating day, night, sun, moon, stars, water, mountains, fields, and all the creatures that dwell on the earth, He created Adam and Eve...and then He created YOU!  

There is nothing in this world that has ever been created beyond You that is greater than what and who YOU are!  (read that again)

You are the pinnacle of His perfect Creation.  It doesn't get any better than You. You are the best thing since sliced bread, my friend!

Just as God lovingly caressed each and every star with his fingertips and then purposefully placed it in the dark sky and gave it a name, God created You.  

He fearfully and wonderfully knit you together in your mother's womb.  He numbered the hairs upon your head and every day of your life has been recorded in His book of life.  He has engraved you on the palm of His hand. He has never created anything or anyone better than you. You are unforgettable.

God's tender eye, filled with love and adoration, is always upon you.

You don't just come to mind every now and again...

God extols you to the angels...

God commemorates your existence...

God honors you above all living creatures...

God has spoken, "You are worthy!" over you...

God is the God who remembers you...always.

Furthermore, God cares for you.  He has given you a number.  He has counted you as His own.  He pays close attention to you and would surely notice if you were missing.  He will come to your aid.  He will come for you as He would the lost sheep.  That's how much you matter.

I hope and pray that the next time you gaze at the twinkling stars in the sky, you will be reminded that, just as the stars gloriously reflect the sun's light, YOU were made with purpose, for a reason, for such a moment as this to shine brightly in a dark world so as to illuminate the blackness around you with the Son's love...and certainly, God is mindful of you and He cares deeply about you!

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you that you are always mindful of me.  The world may forget me, but you never do.  I praise you that you care for me yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.  I am never out of your thoughts.  Help me to remember that I am created in your image.  You created me, not because you needed me, but simply because you loved me.  No matter where I roam, you are there and your tender eye is upon me.  I am never out of your reach. You count me as Your own. Enable me to see myself through your eyes and know I am worthy because you said that I am. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you believe that God is mindful of you, personally, all the time?  Do you trust that God never forgets about you...that you are never off His mind?  What does it mean that God counts you as His own?  How might you walk forward in that knowledge?

Be blessed....

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