Friday, December 7, 2018

Our God Does More Than Just See

Hey Friend,

Like Hagar, I take comfort in knowing that God is "El Roi" - the God who sees me.

We ALL long to be seen and to be known by an Omniscient God.  But, is there more?

I think back to the story of Abraham who has been commanded, by God, to take his only son Isaac (the one for whom he waited long into his senior years) up the mountain to sacrifice him there.

I put myself in Abraham's shoes.  I have been obedient and righteous in my actions before God.  I have followed His commands, and now I hold my son's hand in my right hand and my servant carries wood for the sacrificial altar on which I will place my precious little boy.  Oh the angst I am feeling.  Why would God ask me to kill that for which I've waited all my life?

I see the terrified look in my son's eyes as I tie him up and place him on the wood pile on the altar.  I pull out my knife to slit my own son's throat, and God speaks. 

"Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy," He says, "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22: 11-12)

God sees me. He sees Abraham; and not only does God see, but He sees to it.

Just then, a ram is caught in a thicket offering.  God sees Abraham's obedience and He PROVIDES an answer.  God provided the sacrifice that would save Isaac.

Fast forward and Abraham's descendant's, the Israelites, have continually made covenants with God and have continually broken them.  No sooner do they repent, vow to not make those same mistakes again, then they are back to worshiping other Gods and engaging in all sorts of sinful behavior.

God saw the predicament man was in.  He saw and He knew that there was no way we could keep the Law - the covenant of the Old Testament.  He saw and then He saw to it.

Unlike Abraham's obedience, God sees our disobedience.  He sees our propensity for sin and that we do what we don't want to do, and we don't do what we want to do.  Our predicament is without hope.

Once again, God not only sees, but He provides. 

He sends His only beloved Son to earth, wrapped in human skin, so that Jesus might live and walk among us and know what it's like to be fully human while still being fully God.  

God also knew what would have to happen to His only Son.  Unlike Isaac who was spared, He knew that Jesus would have to be the sacrificial lamb.  Christ would be God's provision for our sins.  

What an awesome God who not only sees, but provides a way for us.

This Christmas season, perhaps a loved one has passed away and there is an ache in your heart and the merriment is salt in the wound.

God sees you and He will provide you with His comfort...I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

Maybe your spouse has left and you are feeling abandoned, alone, like a failure, and unloved.

God sees you and He will provide you with your identity in Him. He will catch every tear that falls upon your pillow...You keep track of all my sorrows.
      You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
      You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8)

Perhaps your child is walking a prodigal path that is far from the path you have shown him/her to walk.  Your heart aches at the destructive choices they make.

God sees you and He will provide you a place of comfort and peace beneath the refuge of His wings...How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

God sees and He will provide: love, mercy, grace that is sufficient, forgiveness, compassion, peace in the face of worry, trust where there is doubt, kindness, goodness....

Whatever it is that you need, God will provide, because He is our good, good Father who does more than just see.  Take heart.  Take hope.  Let Him take you into His arms so that you may hear His beating heart of love for you....His beloved. For you He will provide.

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you and thank you that you see me and that I am fully known, and fully loved by you.  Thank you that you provided the answer for my sin.  When I couldn't save myself, you gave me a Savior.  Lord, you know where my heart is hurting and the cracks that need filling in my soul.  I claim your promise to provide whatever I need in my circumstances - be it love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, or a combination of your good gifts. Let me lean into you, knowing you will see to what I need.  Enable me to rely and depend on you.  Help me to know you more intimately this Advent season.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Cracks in My Soul

Hey Friend,

I don't know about you, but the holidays, for me, are often bittersweet.  Our Christmas season doesn't resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and I find myself becoming envious of those who seem to have those perfect family holiday Facebook posts and Christmas cards.  

Thanksgiving was filled with tears for more reasons than one. Surgery, family illness in all varieties, unforgiveness, adult child issues, struggles, then add in missing those who have passed, and a new "normal" has been thrust upon me that I'm not willing to embrace.  I realize I have cracks in my soul that need filling.

But, as I make this pilgrimage toward the birth of Jesus in a manger, I am drawn to the Psalms of Ascent.  These are Psalms or songs that the Israelites sang as they made their way back to Jerusalem for the various feasts and celebrations. 

I as read the Psalms, I was drawn to the verbs or actions of those making their way home:

1.  "Call"      Out of the depths I call [to the Lord]... Psalm 130
2.  "Wait"     I wait for the Lord, I wait...Psalm 130
3.  "Bless"    Lift up your holy hands in the holy place and bless the Lord...
                   Psalm 134     

4.  "Trust"    Those who trust the Lord are like Mt. Zion...Psalm 125
5.  "Fear"     Happy are those who fear the Lord, who "Walk" in His ways...
     "Walk"    Psalm 128.
6.  "Rejoice"  I rejoiced...Psalm 122
7.  "Pray"     Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem... Psalm 122

And perhaps my favorite:

8.  "Lift"       I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come
                   from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and
                   earth.  (Psalm 121:1-2)

My "help" does not come from better health, restored relationships, lack of struggles and trials, no, it comes from the Lord.  Through it all, I cling to the fact that God is good.  He is faithful, and His grace is sufficient in all circumstances.  He will never leave nor forsake me.  

So instead of looking around me to my circumstances, I lift my eyes to the mountains and I call, I wait, I bless, I trust, I fear the Lord, I walk, I rejoice, and I pray.  

God is gracious and He will fill in the cracks if we simply call upon His name and ask.

God not only fills the hole in our heart, He fills the cracks in our soul.

I think sometimes I get a little greedy and I want it all (all good and no bad).  The rain, however, falls upon the just as well as the unjust.  I need to realize that God has already given me every good thing. I need a renewed perspective.

He has given me Himself and He has given me the gift of salvation and Sonship through the sacrifice of Christ, my brother.  He's also given me the gift of a holy guide and counselor.  I have it all...everything else is just the cherry on top. 

God can take the broken pieces of my life, fill in the cracks with His love and grace, and build a beautiful mosaic of my life that points directly to Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me please to adopt a more eternal perspective as I view life.  Let my joy be in my salvation and in my relationship with You.  Give me the strength to count my blessings with gratitude instead of counting my sorrows.  I give thanks for this Advent season as I wait, with expectant anticipation, to celebrate the good, good gift of Your Son.  Thank you for filling, with love, the hole in my heart and the cracks in my soul.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

Monday, November 19, 2018

This Is Who I Am

Hey Friend,

Though my father was a great dad, I very vividly remember him telling me to "stop wearing my heart on my sleeve and toughen up."  For this ultra-sensitive young girl who felt things SO deeply and cried at the drop of a hat, he might as well have said, "Go climb Mt. Everest." 

I've had friends tell me that I "think way too much." I've grappled, for a long time, with these being "bad" things.  I always felt that I needed to have a tougher exterior and to let hurtful comments roll off me like water off a duck's back, but that's not how God created me.

He gave me the gift of vision (all that thinking), and He also gave me these deep feelings so that I could have the compassion to actually feel others' pain - to relate to them in the heat of their struggles.

I don't think I would have had the love and passion to start a school for orphans in a terror-ridden country had I not been that girl who wore her heart on her sleeve and was pretty tender inside.  God designed me this way for a reason, and even though it's sometimes hard being me, I am coming to realize that God was "knighting" me for a mission.

In following God in a plan that only God, Himself, could have dreamed up, Redeemer Christian Foundation has grown from a handful of orphaned and impoverished children to be seventy-three strong and growing.  Several years ago, I approached Samaritan's Purse (Operation Christmas Child) about getting Christmas shoe boxes to the children we serve so that they would have something to open on Christmas.  Sadly, they told me that where we operate is TOO DANGEROUS even for them to go in.  There had to be a way....

Unlike other countries, no missionaries or even western humanitarian aid groups are allowed to come into this Middle Eastern country that many ministries deem to be the most hostile to Christians.  A clinic that was set up to immunize young children from polio was bombed by an extremist group.  Things have only gotten worse.  We can't fathom what it's like to live there day in and day out??

At Christmas and in the year ahead, I so desperately want to tell these precious children that they are NOT FORGOTTEN.  We have to work with the rare few Christians in this country to bring the love of Jesus and the hope of an education to them.  In their country they are spit upon and called "the unclean ones."  I want to bring them presents that say YOU ARE GOD'S BELOVED CHILD.  Jesus came this Christmas just for YOU!

"Giving Tuesday" (a movement started to combat all the commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday) is November 27th this year.  I was wondering if you would join me in telling these precious children that they matter to God, to us, and they are not forgotten??  Let's give to those who have so little.

RCF, Inc. is a 501c3 charity with Gold Seal status with GuideStar - the "go-to" authority to track non-profits.  All gifts are tax deductible.  

You can visit our website:

Or mail a check to:  RCF, Inc., 103 Silver Lining Lane, Cary, NC  27513.  Be sure to include your email address for tax receipt.

Ariel view from the top of the school to surrounding slums

What a contrast of love found inside our school! 
Sweet little Rose, one of our youngest students

Monthly Park/Sports Day to get out of the slums and get to be kids :)

Then say to the Lord your God: "I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them." (Deuteronomy 26:13)

Thank you and blessings to you this Thanksgiving...

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Pittsburgh Story of Love vs. Hate

Hey Friend,

I grew up in Pittsburgh, not far from where the terrible shootings took place.  Though not in that neighborhood, I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood south of the city.  My best friends were of the Jewish faith.  I've been to worship in the synagogue, have attended Hebrew school, been the guest at many a Passover Seder, and have celebrated Bar and Bat Mitzfahs as well as weddings of Jewish friends.

As a follower of Jesus, knowing Jesus' faith draws me closer to Him.  He was a Rabbi after all.  Reading the Torah, or first five books of the Bible, gives me the history of my faith.  In order to know Jesus, you need to know HIS heritage.  The prophecy of the Old Testament prophets brings rich meaning to the New Testament fulfillment.  Israel, her people and descendants, are God's chosen people.  I, as a Gentile, am grafted in by faith.  

I am so tired of the heinous acts perpetrated on those of another faith.  After visiting what is left of Dachau concentration camp and seeing the appalling pictures and reading the horrible stories in the museum, I just can't believe man's inhumanity to man. Where and when will it stop? 

I believe that fear drives hatred.  Fear and ignorance.  If we took the time to get to know and appreciate each other, fear would dissipate and so would the hatred.  Unfortunately, my Jewish brothers and sisters are not the only victims of religious hate crimes.

I am the President of a non-profit ministry that runs a Christian school for orphans in a Middle Eastern country whose Christian population is about 1%.  This country is considered one, if not THE most notorious for persecuting Christians.  Christians who live there are called "the unclean ones".  They are considered to be on the lowest rung of society.

Most of the Christians there are illiterate and are forced to work for slave wages and they work the most menial and labor intensive jobs (like making mud bricks).  Their children are the first to be caught up in human trafficking, abducted and sold into child prostitution, made to work as slaves, caught up in begging rings, and if starving and disillusioned - recruited for extremist militia training.

Extremists have detonated themselves in their churches and at Easter gatherings in the park.  They throw acid on young Christian women while jeering, "Unclean ones."  One young man who confessed to being a Christ follower was doused with gasoline and set ablaze in broad daylight in the city streets.  The authorities did nothing. Other Christians have been executed in cold blood or burned alive in brick kilns. 

It is in their Constitution that if you say that Jesus is Lord you can be legally stoned to death.  Young Christian boys have been beaten to death by their schoolmates of another faith.  Christian men who have been overcome by fumes while cleaning city sewers are refused treatment at hospitals because they are Christians.  

There is much more religious hatred than I can write about here.  I just can't wrap my mind around a heart and mind so filled with hate that they could commit such atrocities to another human being??  9/11 was a religiously motivated act of terrorism and hate. 

If anyone says there is no such thing as spiritual warfare going on then they
are in denial. There is a full out battle being waged between good and evil.  There are forces of evil in this world that can only be defeated by love.  Fear fuels hatred, but perfect love casts out fear.  

I can't change the whole world, but I can pray, and I can be committed to showing ALL God's children love...even my enemies.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and will all your mind; love your neighbor as yourself.  (Luke 10:27)

THIS is the only answer.....

Be part of the answer....

Sunday, October 21, 2018

What is Your Super Power?

Hey Friend,

You know that Hollywood has gone through just about all the super heroes when they get down to "Antman and the Wasp".  I wasn't standing in line to buy a ticket for that one.  

Some people think the Bible is boring, but all you have to do is look in the book of Judges to find an amazing super hero named Samson.  God's calling upon Samson's life was that he was to be a judge (law enforcement) in those times.  His purpose in life was to deliver the Israelites from the persecution and oppression by the much stronger Philistines.

Man to man, the Israelites were no match for the aggressive Philistines, but God gave Samson to the nation of Israel.  Samson was endowed with super human strength so long as he let his hair grow and it was not cut.  Samson showed his awesome strength by killing a lion with his bare hands.  I think that would make a great action movie scene?!

Then, Samson goes up against 1000 Philistine soldiers and single handed, he takes them out.  Even when he is captured, he is able to break the ropes and constraints that bind him....that is until they learn the secret of his super human strength.  Like all heroes, Samson has his downfalls - one of them being women. Even Biblical heroes were human like us.   

I can't leap tall buildings with a single bound, nor swing from skyscraper to skyscraper to entangle the enemy in my web, but I DO have a super power.  Want to know what it is?

Resurrection Power!!

Here is what the Amplified version of Philippians 3:10 says about resurrection power:

And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];

As I understand it, this verse says that we can not only know Christ, but we can experience the awesome power of His resurrection because it is active in believers. 


Think about it...the very same power that enabled Jesus not only to descend into hell, but to rise up and overcome hell and its power, enabled Christ to defeat death once and for all so that we could have everlasting life with Him in paradise...that power resides in us as believers...WOW!  Now THAT's a super power.

When I face extreme trials or am faced with hurdles that I think there is no way to possibly get over, I remember this verse.  In my humanness, apart from Christ, I can do nothing; but with His resurrection power residing in me, I have everything I need to defeat the enemy, take his lies captive, and defeat the power of evil in my life.  

Now THAT's something worth making a movie about!!

Furthermore, the Bible goes on to say that In Christ we are more than conquerors.

So what does it mean to be "more than a conqueror"? Throughout Biblical history and modern history there are stories of one nation conquering a nation and then another nation conquering it back. Using a modern example:  The Germans conquered all of eastern and western Europe.  The US and the Allied forces then came back and conquered the Germans and re-established the free world.  

When the Bible speaks about being more than conquerors, I believe it is saying that, through the resurrection power residing in us, we can conquer death.  Our salvation is secure and no power can come back and re-conquer us or defeat us.

We know how the story ends and we, along with Christ, are victorious.  We win a victory that cannot be reversed.  

So when you wonder, what is my super power?  Be reminded that through Christ living in you, you have the same power that was able to defeat death and allowed Jesus to rise from the grave.  You are not only a conqueror, but you are victorious in the battle for salvation.  The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in you and the defeated enemy cannot reverse the outcome.  

That, my friends, is beyond Super Power!!  Take Heart!!

Dear Heavenly Father, I know that in my humanness - apart from you - I can do nothing.  I am so grateful that, as a believer, you give me the same resurrection power that enabled Christ to rise and defeat the grave.  Give me courage knowing that your power dwells within me.  I praise you that, through Jesus, I am not only victorious, but I am MORE than a conqueror.  My victory in Christ cannot ever be overturned.  Let that give me hope and courage.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Have you experienced resurrection power at work in your life?  How might God be wanting to give you courage through these verses?  Do you believe that, in Christ's power, you can break the shackles of guilt, shame, fear, etc. on your life.  Do you need to claim, today, this power that is available to you?  Why not do that now?

Be blessed.....

Monday, October 8, 2018

Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness? A Personal Profile

Hey Friend,

This is a rather lengthy and very personal post, but several things have happened this past week that have convinced me that I need to speak up on this subject.  Here is one thing that was posted on Facebook and Instagram:

It was followed by some joking remarks and quite a few laughing emojis.  Now if someone cracked jokes about cancer, or heart disease, or MS, etc., people would be disgusted, yet mental illness is fair game and the stigma is far from being erased.  After all, "It's all in your head," right?  Obviously they don't know that OCD is considered one of the most insidious of the anxiety disorders.  

A young man I know, has an agonizing obsession that loops around, and around, and around endlessly in his brain.  It says, "You're going to hell."  Compulsively, he is led to pray and read scripture continuously (for hours on end) as a way of warding this off from happening. The more he tries, the more anxious he becomes. Meanwhile, he knows somewhere, consciously, that this is irrational, but the obsessions present themselves as being VERY real and threatening, and he is helpless to make them stop.  That to me is hell....not a joke. 

I hope you'll read my personal story and perhaps glean some information that previously you were unaware of.....maybe even read up on mental illness.  Chances are someone you know has such an illness!

I can vividly remember my dad asking me, "Are you still dwelling on that?" and then saying, "For Pete's sake give it a rest already."

When I would start a new job, even a simple job like working in a fast food place, I would get so anxious that I would literally get sick.  I was sure I was going to screw up.  

I intrinsically knew I looked at the world differently.  I didn't have as carefree an attitude that others seemed to have.  I was plagued with self-doubt and was certain that anyone else, if placed in my shoes, would do a better job at managing life than I did.

Fast forward to my first child being born.  I couldn't wait for his/her arrival.  I loved this baby and was anticipating its coming...until she came, and a dark cloud blew in and settled over me.  Another friend, who gave birth around the same time I did, seemed to be enjoying motherhood.  I was a nervous wreck.  I had terrible thoughts like I wanted to give the baby back because I didn't like how I was feeling.  I wasn't the glowing happy mom that doted on this precious child the way others did.  Even writing this now, I feel horrid, ashamed, and embarrassed.  It's hard to think about, let alone write about it. 
I couldn't sleep even when my daughter slept.  I obsessively wrote down and tracked everything she did and when.  I couldn't go to bed at night without putting my hand on her chest and feeling her chest rise and fall.  I'd kiss her and exit the room, only to return seconds later to see if she was still breathing.  This process of checking her breathing, going back and forth, could last for hours. I feared she might die if I left her alone and didn't keep checking. 

I sank deeper into a sadness and despair at what my life had become and felt guilt and shame for not being more grateful for this gift that God had given me.  I would walk around the neighborhood in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep and one time I remember just running.  I was running and crying, and I didn't know where I was running to, but I just wanted to run away.  I remember driving by myself and thinking I just wanted to turn and head into oncoming traffic so that someone would hit me and put me out of my misery.  What on earth was wrong with me?

I finally confided in my family doctor who said I was experiencing post-partum depression and as long as I didn't feel like I'd hurt the baby (which I didn't) that I should just give it time and it would pass.  It was the "baby blues" and it was not unusual and given time I'd feel like myself again.

The trouble was that I didn't feel like myself again.  I felt somewhat better, but I knew that I just didn't feel like I should. I loved and adored my daughter, but something bigger, greater, was wrong.  

It wasn't until around my daughter's third birthday and potty training just about pushed me over the edge, that I was thankfully and mercifully diagnosed as having OCD (an anxiety disorder) and depression (a chemical imbalance in the brain).  

I started taking medicine (albeit with great hesitation) that worked on both the OCD anxiety and the depression.  It took a while, but I began to feel like I could cope.  I wasn't as anxious about things - especially taking care of my daughter.  I didn't have that feeling like if someone said to me, "Could you pour me a bowl of cereal?"  It sounded like they were saying "Go climb Mt. Everest.”  I began to feel joy return. 

I didn't like taking the medicine, however, because that meant I had to admit I had a mental illness.  Well-meaning people told me that if I just read more scripture, or prayed harder, or had more faith then I wouldn't feel this way, nor would I need to take medicine.  I was a Christian, after all, and medicine was a crutch.  

I felt flawed, less than, like my faith wasn't enough.  Surely, if I was just a better Christian I wouldn't be in this state.

These are the thoughts I wrestled with.  I remember going to a new dentist and having to check off medical history.  I would get to the part where it would list anxiety, depression, or mental illness and I’d have to check the little box.

Fast forward many years and I now realize that Mental Illness is, just that, an illness!  It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or by extreme circumstances (like what many of our returning vets experience).  Sometimes it's a combination of chemistry and experience. It's also genetic.  Many people self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, etc. 

The truth is, it's not my fault.  It's not your fault.  You have an illness.

If someone had diabetes, you wouldn't tell them they didn't need insulin, but just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, think happy thoughts, mind over matter and they'd be fine.  Perhaps reading more scripture would alleviate the diabetic symptoms?  Sounds silly, right? But this is how we treat the mentally ill.

I am a cancer survivor.  Cancer, though terribly scary, was something I could wear like a badge of honor that I battled and survived.  No one talks about battling/surviving mental illness in these terms.  When I hear about someone committing suicide and others saying things like, "How could he or she be so selfish to do something like that?"  All I can say is that unless you've lived the pain and suffering of depression or anxiety or intense fear or all other symptoms of mental illness like mania, or rages wherein you feel like a monster, or multiple personalities, you have absolutely no idea the pain and suffering that a person endures.  It is so bad, and if left untreated, I can understand that a person could get to a point that they are in so much pain, that ending one's life is the only way to make this horrid, unbearable pain stop.

Mental illness is no respecter of persons.  

Most people would not peg me as the poster child for mental illness.  I was the captain of my cheerleading squad.  I graduated 8th in my class of nearly 800 students in high school.  I excelled in college.  I held leadership positions and have worked in Christian ministry most of my adult like.  I love to write and have been published. 

Mentally ill?  No, those are the homeless people begging for money on street corners, right?

I am the face of mental illness.  I know what it's like to wear the gray glasses and have the dark cloud come in and settle over you.  I know pulling the covers over my head and not being able to get out of bed for days at a time.  I know pain so intense that all I can do is let the Holy Spirit groan, "Jesus" on my behalf.

I needed and still need medicine and counseling - hand in hand - to get me to, and keep me in, a healthy place. It's still not a cure.  I have my episodes with OCD and depression, but I am able to function and cope in this world. I can experience joy and can find hope in scripture.

I've learned that stress, and lack of sleep and exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to a greater likelihood of returning symptoms.  I know coping techniques like distracting and holding the lies I hear in my head (from the enemy) up to scripture and if they don't match up with scripture, then I need to take those thoughts captive to Christ and let Him cast them far from me.  I can call on my faith now, because I was able, thanks to medicine and prayer, to get to the field.

Christians, Mental Illness, & Scripture - A Football Analogy: It’s like you are on a football team. God is the Coach and the Bible is His playbook. In order to benefit from the Coach you first need to be able to get to the field so that you can hear the Coach’s instructions from the playbook, practice on the field, and get the encouragement and discipline He offers. The only problem is... you can’t even get to the field. You are stuck miles away in a pit so large and so deep that you can’t possibly climb out of it by yourself. You need medicine or counseling or both to even be able to get out of the pit, to get to the field, to sit at the feet of the Coach so that He can coach you from His playbook. You, first, need to be able to get to the field.

Mental illness is the thorn in my side (like what Paul experienced).  The Lord has not removed it, but I have learned that in it - as in all trials - His grace is sufficient.  He has never left nor forsaken me and He has been faithful to walk with me THROUGH the valleys and has not left me stuck there indefinitely.  

I believe that I have a compassion for others that I would NEVER have had it not been for what I have dealt with and continue to deal with.  I would NEVER have the close relationship that I do with Jesus had I not had to call out to Him from the utter depths of despair and to know He was still holding onto me even when I couldn't hold on to Him.  

So why do I say all this?  Two reasons.  One is to let the world know that God is faithful.  He knows the pain of the mentally ill and is close to the brokenhearted that deal with this illness.

Second, I would like to erase the stigma of mental illness.  One day, perhaps NFL teams will wear bright lime green cleats, gloves, and mouth guards to bring awareness to the one in four people who suffer from mental illness…including Christians. 

One day we might talk with ease about bipolar, panic attacks, anorexia, OCD, depression, schizophrenia, etc.
I strongly encourage you that if you have felt or experienced any of the symptoms I've mentioned, that you PLEASE seek medical advice and counseling.  There IS help and there IS hope!!  We just need to talk more about it.  Take it from one who's been there.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:1-3) 
Thank you for reading.... maybe you know someone who needs to read blessed....

Monday, September 24, 2018

How Can We Bless the Lord?

Hey Friend,

I love the Psalms.  They minister to me in so many ways.  There's a unique group of fifteen Psalms (or songs) called the Songs of Ascent. Many scholars believe the title indicates that these songs were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Psalm 134 has taken on new meaning to me lately.

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion, 
he who made heaven and earth!
(Psalm 134)

When it comes to blessing, I naturally think of God as the "Blessor" and me as the "Blessee".  After all, when God blesses us, He adds something to us.  He bestows gifts like grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, kindness.  That's God's job, after all isn't it, to bless us? 

Psalm 134, however, continually talks about us blessing the Lord.  This concept is a little harder for me to get my mind around.  What does it mean to "bless the Lord"?  After all, God is totally complete unto Himself.  There is nothing we can add to Him or detract from Him. Nothing we can give Him that He doesn't already have.  In essence, He really doesn't "need" us, but He chose to create us anyway.  

I believe that by blessing the Lord, it means to constantly keep His name in the conversation.  By blessing or praising the Lord, we enhance His reputation here on earth.  One might say, "We give God props!"  Not to go all Southern on you, but when good things happen here in the South, there is always someone who will shout with gladness, "Praise the Lord!!"  They are giving credit where credit is due. Our job is to bring glory unto Him. How good it is to bless His holy name!

I recently received a short email from a friend, and at the end she signed it, "I'm grateful for you, Bev."  Those words of gratitude and blessing brought a smile to my face.  I believe that when we bless the Lord - lift Him up and glorify Him - there has to be a smile on His face.

Recently, here in the Carolinas, we lived through a devastating hurricane.  Slow moving Florence dumped record levels of rain on us, sweeping peoples' homes away in floods and toppling trees on others with her wind gusts.  She even closed down I 95 which is a major north/south interstate.

I distinctly remember standing by the window, watching the rain pelt against it and watching the huge trees in our back yard bending, almost parallel, to the ground.  I pleaded with God to place a hedge of protection around hold those trees by their roots, to not let the rains flood us. I cried out to Him. 

Our small slice of NC was relatively spared, but 40 miles to the east, people lost everything in the flood waters.  Entire homes were consumed.  To the west, trees were toppled on houses and roads flooded out.  If there was ever a time to shout, "Praise the Lord!" this was it.  Sometimes we won't be spared the crucible, but when we are...what is our/my response?  Do my words and my actions bless the Lord?  Do they enhance His reputation?  Do they let others know that I firmly believe God is at work?  Even in the disasters? 

I'm good at pleading, but am I good at blessing?

And what about "lifting up holy hands"?  You have to understand that I grew up in a staunch Presbyterian church.  If anyone raised their hands in church...well, they were just plain crazy. Boy have I changed.  This girl's hands just automatically raise when the Holy Spirit moves in me.  We all worship differently, but for all the goodness God has given me, I can't help but raise my hands and bless Him.  I can just picture the sojourners to Jerusalem, singing songs of praise and lifting their hands to bless God on the way to His temple.  Might we learn something from them?

I did see a very humorous Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, who does a hilarious routine on hand-raisers in church.  "First," he says, "you have those who 'carry the t.v' - that's when your elbows are at your sides and your hands are held out like you're helping someone carry the t.v. into the house.  Then you have 'wash the window'," he goes on, "those are the ones with one arm up, palm flat and forward, and they sway and swoosh their hand back and forth as if washing that window clean.  Ultimately," he concludes, "you have 'touch down'.  That's both arms up high like the ref signaling six points."  Cracks me up....Yes, I digress...but I do believe that hands raised in praise do bless the Lord. 

Finally, I love the progression of this Psalm:

1.  First WE come and Bless the Lord.
2.  We lift up our hands to the Holy Place.
3.  We THEN call upon the Lord's blessing from on high - the maker of heaven    
     and earth.

I admit that I often have it in reverse:  God, you bless me first and THEN I'll bless you.  I also know that exclamation marks are not often used in the Bible.  Look at how many in this short Psalm....three!  These folks are SERIOUS!

And so I serious am I about blessing the Lord?  How often do I keep His awesome name in the conversation?  How often do I give Him credit where credit is due and speak of His lovingkindness?  How often do I give Him props?

Coming through this hurricane has given me time to pause and reflect.  I believe this sister needs to get her southern on and shout, "Praise the Lord" and lift my hands to the holy place!  Can I get an Amen?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for ALL the blessings you have bestowed upon me.  Help me to not take them for granted.  Please be with those who have had devastating losses in this latest storm.  May you give them peace that passes understanding and may those of us who were spared reach out to help.  Lord, let me continually bless YOU by keeping your name on my lips and in the conversation.  Let me lift up my hands in praise to You for you are more than worthy.  Let me come into your presence with singing for you are truly good, Lord...oh so good to me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  When was the last time you blessed the Lord?  Take inventory...what in your life makes you want to raise your hands to Him in praise?  What have you experienced when you bless the Lord?  Are you waiting for His blessings first?  With what have you already been blessed?  Do share...

Be blessed.....