Sunday, February 24, 2019

That's Not What I Wanted to Embrace

Hey Friend,

I'm a little late in looking back over 2018, but better late than never, right?  My "word" for 2018 was "embrace".  In choosing this word, I wanted to go into the year with arms wide open - ready to embrace everything God had in store for me.  I started reading through the Bible again and had an anticipation about how God was going to speak to my heart.

I had visions of closeness, contentedness, revelation, and "Ah-ha" moments.  I  wanted to be alive in the Spirit.  Visions of goodness, like sugar plums, danced in my head.

What I hadn't counted on was that I was going to have lessons in embracing some things on which I would have rather passed!

2018 was a good year, but also a year that I was truly called to embrace the suffering of Christ.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  

I kept my streak alive, by having a 6th surgery in as many years.  I do not embrace winding up in the Emergency Room.  Though I'm no stranger to the operating room, I came out of this surgery only to have a terrifying panic attack as the anesthesia wore off. After a previous surgery, I lost my sense of taste and smell for two weeks, but what I experienced that night scared the daylights out of me.  No stranger to anxiety, this was the king of attacks.  I felt the presence of the enemy.  It was frightening!

As I recuperated from the surgery, I felt heavy and tired - like a freight train had just run me over.  I was severely anemic (deficiency in the number of red blood cells).  After more testing, they found I have another blood disorder BTM in which the slim number of cells that I have are smaller than they are supposed to be. These two forms of anemia together...well lets just say road kill looks more lively than I do.  There is no "cure" for this.  I have been coming to grips with this new "normal".  

People talk about having the luxury of taking a nap.  Taking a nap for me several times a week has become a necessity.  I have the jumbo size pill organizer for all the meds and supplements I need to take.  All I need now is my support hose and I'm good to go.  

This is NOT what I was planning on embracing.

To further compound things, a misunderstanding led to my feeling very betrayed that someone I worked with had twisted what I said and was rallying peers behind her position.  To say that I felt turned against and betrayed was putting it mildly.  Many tears were shed and sleepless nights left me tossing and turning.

Instead, be very glad--for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 1 Peter 4:13

It became apparent that God was calling me to embrace Christ's suffering.  

I believe that if we are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, then we are going to experience all the things Christ experienced, and a big one is betrayal and slander. Live long enough and you will eventually have someone who has an ax to grind with you. I’ve been there. It really hurts when the betrayer goes behind your back, seemingly rallying others to their side of the story.

When this happens, we are “sharing in the suffering of Christ” which the Bible calls us to. If we are to become like Jesus, we must suffer like He did as well. One of those ways is choosing to stand and stay in the face of betrayal. It goes against every natural instinct in us that yells, “flee!” But when we stay, we stand in the sufficient grace of God and that, in turn, builds our character and our confidence in God.

Jesus Praying at Gethsemane | Matthew 26:39: And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ...

Whether I like it or not, God was calling me to embrace the side of Christ that endured suffering. This was a far cry from what I was expecting back in January of 2018.

When we endure and persevere through the suffering, the joy of salvation and Christ's return will be supremely magnified, and freedom in eternity will be that much sweeter.  

We also learn that we are never alone....God is forever holding us up with His righteous right hand. I can testify that through it all, God NEVER left, nor did He forsake me. 

We can't testify to this truth unless we have been through the crucible of suffering. 

Has my character been growing?  YES!!  Has it been fun?  No!!  Do I believe God is at work in me?  Yes!!  Do I want this to continue?  No!!

As God promises in the Bible, His grace is sufficient for me.  He is true to His promises.  Even with a new battle with tinnitis due to hearing loss, God has been providing.  I've been learning to lean into Jesus like never before and to surrender my self-sufficiency and my worry.  It's been a real growing and stretching experience.

So what now??  God has given me a new word for 2019.  Not surprisingly, it's "REST"...  Sabbath rest....sacred rest. I will explore my journey to embrace and practice the "Discipline of Rest" in future posts.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  I thank you that your ways are much higher than my ways.  You, ultimately, know what is best for me and what will help grow and transform me into the likeness of your Son.  The path may not look like what we expected or what we would have chosen, but ultimately you are concerned about our character over our happiness.  Thank you that even though others may betray us or turn against us, you never will.  You are faithful to your promise to be steadfastly by our side.  Help me to lean into you and depend upon you when the road gets rough.  Thank you for my new "guide word" for this year.  In this world of busy, busy, busy, enable me to embrace the sacred discipline of rest.  Teach me what this looks like to You, O Lord!!  Draw me into your presence and give me rest for my soul as well as for my body.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you...has God been inviting you to embrace something you'd rather avoid at all costs?  Have you been called to embrace Christ's suffering?  If so, what did that look like?  What about rest?  Do you have any obstacles to overcome in order to truly rest in the Lord?  Would you please share??

Be blessed......

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Heaven - So What's In Store For Us?

Hey Friend,

Lately, due to things going on in my life, I've found that I've had a growing homesickness for a place that I realize I know little about.  Heaven...what's it REALLY going to be like?  I've been doing some digging among scriptures and theologians to get a better grasp on what I/we can expect.

I think I had a vision of heaven that many of us, unknowingly, share.  I envisioned that I would be some sort of ethereal, angelic type being with no real human-like features.  I'd be sitting among the clouds, and I would be strumming a harp and singing praises.  Yes, I would be with Jesus and with God which has huge appeal, but beside that, honestly....heaven sounded kind of boring and unappealing. 

Actually, the final destination of believers is not an ethereal place somewhere out in space.  Our final destination is the renewed heavens and earth that Revelation 21 speaks of.  Heaven will be a very physical and concrete place.  The Bible has over 600 verses that speak to what heaven will be like, but we, too often, get our ideas from movies, literature, and television.

Revelation 21 talks about how heaven and earth will not be brand new, but instead will be this creation renewed.  We forget that when God made heaven and earth, He pronounced it good.  Earth was not just good, it was perfect.  That was, of course, until sin came in and messed it up.  

The type of "newness" that the Bible speaks of in the Greek translation is kainos which means a "newness in quality" - something that is, is made better or different.  It's quality has changed.  

God will renew, transform, improve, and refresh His creation.  It will be a kainos heaven and earth.  

Actually this makes sense to me, because I have seen some things that I have had to believe were glimpses of heaven.  I've seen views from mountain peaks that have taken my breath away.  I've had the unconditional loving licks from my dogs.  I've smelled the newborn heads of my children.  I've seen animals, birds, fish, and flowers - large and small - that just ooze of the creative nature of God.  I've seen colors that have dazzled my eyes, heard music and seen dance and art that have made my heart leap with emotion. I've felt kindness in someone's smile, and love in an embrace.   

I believe that all things good in this world will continue to exist in the next, but they will be transformed and improved in the renewed creation.  It will be THIS creation, renewed. 

So...what can we expect in Heaven?

*  Physical bodies (Yes, I'll finally be a "10")
*  Emotions and relationships (joy, happiness, peace, love, but no drama!)
*  Nature with daily cycles of day and night and weather
*  Animals (including pets)
*  Work (Gen. 2:15)
*  Learning (1 Corinthians 13:12)
*  Science
*  Arts (Rev. 14:2-3)
*  Entertainment and Activities

"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."  (John 6-39)

So to answer my son's question, "Will there be ice hockey in heaven?"  I think I would now have to definitely say, "Yes!"

What will not be present:  no evil, no curses, no brokenness (emotional or physical), no more sin, no death, no more suffering or sadness, no war, no famine, and no temples.  This last one made me pause for a moment, but in heaven we will be in God's presence continually so there will not be a need for a separate house of God.  

The closeness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit 24/7...Wow!  Most glorious will be that heaven will be a place where Jesus (the very definition of "love") will be present and we will bask in His love.  

So what does heaven mean to me now?  It gives meaning to this life - as in it is a preparation for the life to come. God is about building our character for our eternal life to come.  Therefore, hard times now, will reap future rewards I believe.  It reminds me that in those very hard times, that there is more to life than this world.

It gives me hope for my future destination and strength for life in the present.  It gives me something perfect to hope for when this life is far less than perfect.  

It reminds me that this world, and its present troubles are but a blink of the eye in God's timing.  Heaven (perfection) will be eternal.  There will be no sorrow, or regrets, or guilt.  Rather, love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and other emotions that will be felt with new heights and depths.  Relationships will be all we can imagine and more. 

Heaven, however, is more than just a hope for the future, it is the very heart of God's plan for creation from the very beginning.  It is also at the very center of the human heart. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the plan for creation that you have had since the very beginning.  Thank you that your desire is not to leave us in this sin-filled world.  I bless you for the hope and even the homesickness that lives in my heart and yearns for eternity with you.  Your creation is not evil and we look forward to when you will renew, transform, improve, and refresh what sin has tainted.  What you began in Eden you will fulfill in Revelation.  Oh, what a glorious place heaven and earth will be and how awesome it will be to kneel before you in your presence.  Thank you for this hope that keeps us/me going.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about heaven?  What do you most look forward to in heaven?  What do you think it will be like when Christ returns?  What do YOU envision that gives you joy and peace?  What do you see yourself doing in heaven?

Be blessed...