Sunday, February 25, 2018

Allow For Mystery

Hey Friend,

I can only imagine, that when I was little, I was one of whose inquisitive (pesky) children always asking, "Why?"  I have always had this insatiable need to understand why things happen or take place, why people do the things that they do, and say what they say.  

As I've grown older this search for the "Why" has transferred over into my relationship with God.  I want to know God, I mean really know Him, and understand His motivation behind why He does the things that He does.  I want to know His logic...His way of thinking...I want to know and understand the mind of God.  Ironically, the fall of man began with the desire to eat of the tree of knowledge.  Maybe there are just some things we aren't meant to know.

A good friend of mine once said to me, "You know you think way too much.  I rarely think about or question all these things."

I guess you could say being a "deep thinker" is a blessing and a curse.  On the good side, I think I truly want to know God more intimately.  On the not so good side, I'm not willing to take things at face value and leave it at that.  

So why does God do the things that he does?

I can understand the story of Joseph, wherein, his brothers sell him into slavery out of jealousy and tell their poor father that Joseph is dead.  I get the scripture in Genesis 50: 20, where Joseph says to his brothers:

Nothing can thwart the will of God.  What others mean for evil, God can, and indeed does, use for good.

But what about the cousin of my sister-in-law - a young talented actor on Broadway - who was driving home, skidded on black ice, and now is paralyzed from the chest down?

What about the devoted father and man of God who has served all his life, is stricken with cancer, and despite the prayers of many, loses his battle to this awful disease?

What about the woman - a mother of three - who goes out for a run and collapses on the pavement of a heart attack and leaves her children without a mother?  

Why do bad things happen to good people, while some evil people seem to prosper?

I want to know these answers, but I realize that if I was able to comprehend these answers then that would put my mind on the same level as God's and....

Do I really want to have a God who is no smarter, greater, more awesome than I am?  No, I don't think so. 

The truth is that, in this lifetime, we only see part of the picture - and even that we see dimly.  I/we need to grasp and cling to a more eternal perspective that says we won't know all the answers now, but we will, and in that time God will reveal His mind to us and it will make sense.

So what do we do in the meantime?

We allow for the mystery.  It's okay and, in fact, we will have to live with answering the question, "Why?" with, "I simply don't know."

1. I may not be able to answer all the scenarios above, but I DO believe that God is good. 

2.  I may not know why good people suffer, but I DO know that God is loving and faithful and He cannot deny Himself.  

3.  I may not understand why evil people prosper and like, in the case of Job, God will allow Satan to test those who are righteous.  

Why do the wicked live on,
    growing old and increasing in power?
They see their children established around them,
    their offspring before their eyes.  (Job 21: 7-8)

God does not allow us to suffer for no reason, and even though the reason may be hidden in the mystery of His divine purpose - never for us to know in this life - we must trust in Him as the God who does only what is right.

What I don't know:  Too many things to list.

What I DO know:  God is loving, good, patient, and filled with lovingkindness.  He is just, righteous, all-knowing, all-powerful.  He is the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end).  He is the One true God who never leaves nor forsakes those who love Him. 

He is my Healer, Redeemer, Rewarder, Restorer.  He is the bounty for my sins through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He gives me every breath that I breathe.  He gives me the sun every morning and the moon every night.  He is the God who sees me, knows me, and despite my sin, sent His Son to die for me.  This I know.

As for all the rest, I will have to allow for mystery and accept in faith.

What about you?  What "Why?" questions do you wrestle with?  What, in this world, is hard for you to accept and why?  What do you do with your doubts and your "un-knowing"?  Will you share?

Be blessed.....and as our prayer, let's pray the Truth written above...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Non-Expert's Advice on Self-Care and Rest

Hey Friend,

Usually, we think that writers write from a place of knowledge or expertise.  Today, I am writing about something at which I truly stink and need to do better.  

As the President/Director of a growing non-profit ministry, I seem to repeat or follow the same mode of operation.  I go, and go, and go until I finally hit the brick wall, and then, in exhaustion, I collapse.  This isn't good for me.  It's not good for those I serve, and it certainly isn't God's way of doing things.  

I've been going to the Source for a little Godly advice and self-talk. Here are some things I found and some new methods to try.  I know I'm not alone.  I know there are many who work tirelessly for the gospel despite their own deteriorating health.  Might you be one??  I know I am.

There is just so much need and good work to be done that carving out time for rest and self-care seems selfish and counter productive.  

That, my friend, is our own human thinking - but what does the Bible have to say about rest and self care?

1.  We should enjoy our food and keep up with personal grooming.  

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.  Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.  (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8)

So, I guess yoga pants, a workout top, and my hair pulled back in a ponytail with a baseball cap wouldn't make the cut?  I'm not a fussy girly girl, but after reading this, I did get myself in to get my hair cut and colored (long overdue) and I decided to be "clothed in white" by whitening my teeth.  I love to smile, but my smile has been looking a little aged and yellowish, so I invite you to join me on my teeth whitening adventure compliments of Smile Brilliant.  Stay tuned for Before/After photos and giveaways to come.....look what came in the mail.....
Me with my hair down....

2.  We need to take care of our body because it is the temple of God.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

This includes exercising and putting nutritious food in our mouth.  I'm an emotional eater, so this becomes a challenge at times.  Also, not only what we put in our mouth, but in our ears and our eyes is important.  They are part of the body as well.  What are you feeding your senses?

3.  We are to be loving and caring toward ourselves.  It's okay to practice self-compassion.  

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body.  (Ephesians 5: 29-30)

Also the Bible tells us to "Love your neighbor as yourself."  How well do you love yourself?  Would God say, "Relax and give yourself a're being too hard on yourself?!"  Hmmmm.....thoughts to ponder.

4.  Resting is an act of faith.  We rest because God says we SHOULD AND WE CAN.

A.  We need to enter in a Sabbath-rest.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.  (Hebrews 4:9-11)

B.  God will continue to work and take care of things even as we are resting.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.  (Psalm 127:2 NASB)

C. It is important to set boundaries.

Mark 6:30- 31:  The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he (Jesus) said to them, "COME WITH ME BY YOURSELVES TO A QUIET PLACE AND GET SOME REST."

Even Moses' father-in-law chided him in Exodus 18:  "What you are doing is not good,  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."

D.  Rest for the mind is essential.

I love the words of Ruth Haley Barton in "Invitation to Solitude and Silence"  (by the way pop over to Linda Stoll's study on this book):Click HERE to pop over to Linda's place

Chapter 6 - Rest for the Mind:

"The human mind is perpetually busy trying to control things, trying to figure things out, clinging to the latest idea, grasping at the nearest straw.  It works very hard trying to make sense of things by endlessly seeking to put everything into categories and boxes and systems of thought.  Sometimes even God himself gets relegated to a category or a box in my mind rather than being free to be God in my life.  It seems that my mind will go to great lengths to fix things, control things and defend against anything that would disrupt my carefully constructed equilibrium."

*  "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."  (Jeremiah 31:25)

*  "My presence will go with you and I will give you rest."  (Exodus

*  "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you.  I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.  I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings."  (Psalm 61:1)

Lord, let me look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field that do not worry.  They rest in you abundance.  They don't toil because they know You will provide.  You call me into rest in You....Oh Lord, draw me in, settle my restless heart, hold me close to Your heart of love for me and let me rest in your arms.... let me sleep in the soft rhythm of your heart beating next to mine.  Let me be still, in You....and simply rest. Amen.

Be blessed and thank you for reading along with my sermon to myself.....

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Cure For If Only

Hey Friend,

My dad would have turned 90 this past week.  There are still so many times that I wish I could ask his opinion on certain subjects.  My dad was a man of few words, but when he did speak, he either had something important, or something funny to say.  I dedicate this post, which is featured in "A Moment to Breathe" book of daily devotions, to my dad......

A Cure For If Only

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result - the survival of many people."  (Genesis 50:19-20)

I have so many bookshelves in my home that are overflowing. I have even more books - boxes of them - in the attic.  In an attempt to pare down and simplify, I started going through the boxes to see which books I should give away.

Meanwhile, some conversation - and some arguments - had been taking place with one of my adult children.  All of this had me wondering:  If only I had done something different, perhaps things would be different now.  I was plagued with "if only this..." or "if only that..."

As I sorted old books in the attic, a sheet of paper fell out of one of them.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at my father's words written in block print - typical of an engineer.  My dad had passed away five years earlier, and there had been many instances when I wished I could ask him what he'd do in a given situation.  And here in front of me was the answer to my mulling.  My father's handwriting revealed some sermon notes from years before.  The title of the sermon was "A Cure For If Only."

With his words on the paper, held tenderly in my hand, my father reminded me that, indeed God is at work fulfilling His plan through the failure and regret.  

Just as Joseph's hardships eventually brought him to a place where he could serve an entire nation, God has a plan and He's in control.  No matter how badly I screw up, no matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how many "if only's" I have, God can redeem them.

Our mistakes can never thwart the sovereign will of God.  And in this we find great hope and deep peace.

A Moment to Breathe...

Whatever "if only" you find yourself pondering today, give it to God.  Give it all to Him - every last worry and fear.  Then thank Him that he is, indeed, working every circumstance in your life to come together for good.


I have found that our parents don't always speak to us in our love language.  My love language is "words of affirmation."  My dad was not a warm and fuzzy guy given to expressing his love in words...that just wasn't his style.  

Since his passing, I have really learned how to appreciate the ways he spoke to me in his love language which was "doing things for".  He put a roof over my head.  He was steady and reliable.  He fixed my broken bike, roller skates, toys, and beloved turntable.  I could rely on him to show up at appointed times and he provided a sense of security.  I know I took a lot of this for granted.

I encourage those of you with parents still living to not look for them to always speak to you in YOUR love language.  Listen as they speak to you in THEIR'S.  If you really look and listen you just might learn a "new" language.

Pick up the phone; pay them a visit; write them a note; you'll be glad you did.
Psalm 139: My Days Are Numbered ... How many days do I have left? I don’t know. No one does, except God. He knows the exact number of years, days, ...

If you have been the victim of abuse or neglect, know that your Heavenly Father does not want you to stay in toxic relationships, but He wants you to hear His heart of love for you.  God's love language is always that  of lovingkindness.

Love and miss you dad.....

Be blessed....

Sunday, February 4, 2018

When Deep Calls to Deep

Hey Friend,

It is no coincidence that I started on Feb. 1st to begin reading through the Bible in a year (again).  Why, you might ask?  Well first, I know that Scripture is alive and every time we read it (even the same verse for the umpteenth time) we get new nuances of truth by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Also, I found, like the deer panting for the water, I was needing spiritual refreshment.  I had a thirst that couldn't be quenched by anything I was "doing"; even things I was doing for the Lord.

This might sound odd, but in a weird way, I found myself looking back on my days of sitting on the sofa, reading and meditating on God's Word because I couldn't walk for two months, with a sense of homesickness.  I couldn't "do" much of anything, so I learned the beauty of just "being" in His presence....and it was good.

I was kind of slow out of the gates to start the "Bible in a Year" resolution in January.  Where did that month go, by the way?  Do you find you need a month just to recover from the previous year??

So, February 1, 2018.  Genesis 1-3:  In the beginning God created.....

February 2, 2018.  A text came in the middle of the night that a good friend would not be meeting me for coffee that morning.  Her son had collapsed, gone into seizures, and was rushed to the ER.  She was with him now and they were running tests to find out what happened.  I prayed, but sleep did not come easily.  I know the heart of a mother.  No matter the age of your children, you will always run to their side and you will be given over to worry.  They weighed on my mind.

The sun finally came up and another text came from a friend's wife.  John's brother had a massive heart attack and was in the hospital hooked up to all sorts of machines that were trying to sustain life.  

Several texts throughout the morning....unconscious, can't breathe on his own, kidneys failing.  

A little after noon.  The final blow.  John's brother had passed away.  One day up and making people smile and laugh with his sense of humor.  The next day....gone.

Deep sadness and melancholy fell over me.  I prayed breath prayers throughout the day for my friend's son, for my friend, for John, for his brother's now widow and family, for all the family dealing with this sudden grief thrust upon them.  

To keep my mind occupied, I went about doing some laundry and putting away some folded clothes.  I was in my bedroom, when I heard two very loud "thuds".  I immediately rushed to my window and looked out into our back yard.  I couldn't see the road because our yard, that slopes downward toward the house, is surrounded by a tall wooden fence.  

I didn't see anything because of the fence, but soon I heard the sirens and then the top of a firetruck and an ambulance came into view above the fence.  I later came to find out that a car had lost control coming around the bend, and perhaps in an attempt not to hit another car, came up over the curb (thud one) and then hit a tree on the other side of our fence (thud two).  

Had the car not hit the tree, it would have come careening through the fence, down our back yard and, most likely, would have hit our house.  

God created.....but it became very clear to me that day, can be taken away just that quickly.  

The tears were just below the surface.  I wanted them to come.  I wanted the expelling and cathartic cleansing they would bring.  But the melancholy hung on and the tears didn't come.

The mail truck stopped, mail was flung and the mailbox door flipped shut.  In a sort of stupor, I wandered out to get the mail.  Bills, ads, junk, catalogs, and a letter with no return address.  The address was typed out RCF, Inc. (the non-profit ministry I head up).  It was postmarked Billings, MT.  I didn't know anyone least not that I could think of.

I opened the envelope and there was a copy of a page from my blog with one part, highlighted in orange, about sponsoring a child (orphan) for one year so that they could get off the streets and into school.  The anonymous money order for $180., neatly tucked inside, would give one precious child life, hope, Jesus, textbooks, a nourishing meal every day, a backpack and Bible to call their own, friends, family, and most of all love.

The tears streamed down my face burning hot trails on my cheeks.  

The words to the song "Blessed Be The Name" came into my mind:  "Blessed be the name of the Lord....He gives and takes away, but my heart will choose to say, 'Blessed be the name of the Lord.'"

In the beginning He gave....He created.  Every day He gives abundantly.  On Feb. 2nd, He took away and sorrow swept over me.

But blessed be the name of the Lord....He gave life again from someone I don't know in Billings, MT.  My tears of sorrow turned to tears of thanks for His goodness.  God accepts both as offerings unto Him.

So back to my Bible in a year plan.  I realize how much I NEED Him.  I NEED His word.  Like the deer, I pant for His truth.  I will never know what a day may hold, but I can hold onto His Word when deep calls to deep - when the waterfalls and waves keep crashing over me. 

I realized this day that being in His Word is not optional if I am going to get through the trials of this world.  It came very close to my door on Feb. 2nd.  When it literally knocks on MY door, or my phone rings, I need all the inner ammunition I can get to cling to Him.

Psalm 42[a][b]

For the director of music. A maskil[c] of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life...Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Dear Heavenly Father, please be with those who are suffering and mourning great loss.  Draw near to them and surround them with your gentle loving arms.  We claim your promise that you will not leave us comfortless; you will come to us. (John 14:18).  I ask not only that you create in me a desire for your Word, but enable me to have the will, obedience, and joy to come to meet with you there.  I need You.  I need Your Word.  I Need You in my life...not on a surface/superficial level, but on level that will survive the deep calling to deep of the waters  and waves that keep on coming relentlessly. Thank you for letting me come to you....please keep me coming. In Jesus name I pray,  Amen.

What about you?  Is God calling to the deep places in your heart?  Have you been avoiding Him?  If so why?  What distracts you and what can you do about it?  How have you found being in His word not only helpful, but necessary?  Would you share??

Be blessed.....