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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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Are You Keeping Things Plumb?

Hey Friend,

As a little girl, I took it for granted that my dad, an engineer by trade, could fix practically anything. He was also a natural when it came to carpentry.  He pretty much built our lake house single handed.  I would watch him meticulously "measure twice; cut once."  Then, after pounding two by fours into place, he'd get out a cord with a metal weight attached to one end.  He'd hold it in such a way that the weight could dangle freely.  

When I quizzically asked what he was doing, he responded, "This is how you determine exact vertical."  He could see that I still looked puzzled.  "Carpenters use plumb lines to keep their work straight," he responded. Then it registered with me.  My dad used a plumb line as a standard against which he could measure what he'd built.  

A plumb line doesn't change or move with the whims of the carpenter.  It remains true, and all work must line up with it or risk being crooked.

God, the ultimate builder, and His Son, the Jewish carpenter, address the principle of "the plumb line" several times in the Bible.  God established a plumb line, or standard, in order to test the spirituality, morality, and genuineness of His people.

In today's culture, we love to challenge exact vertical.  We've become experts at justifying and rationalizing our behavior.  We try to skew the plumb line.

We justify and even condone sexual immorality.  Vengeance and all sorts of violence are accepted as the norm in video games, movies, and real life.  We rationalize that gossiping at the ladies bunco game is just "engaging in lively conversation."  No one bats an eye at couples living together before the extravagant wedding is planned. 

For me, personally, I am challenged by God's plumb line when it comes to complacency and pride.  When the pastor calls our congregation to serve in a certain capacity, it's so easy for me to sit back and let someone else answer the call.  After all, I've served...blah, blah, blah.

God's plumb line says, "When you see a need, meet it.  When something needs to be done, do it."  

I can be complacent and become spiritually lazy.  God loves me and wants to have a genuine relationship with me, yet I often give Him the leftovers of my time and energy.  

Pride?  Every time I rely on myself vs. relying and depending upon the Lord, I am guilty of pride.  There are no points on God's scorecard for self-sufficiency.  When I'm striving, earning, and trying to be good enough on my own, I am promoting my own self-righteousness rather than glorifying God by declaring that I am only made righteous through the blood of Christ.

Grace is a gift, not a prize to be earned.

God, in love, will shake us awake by allowing a test or trial to warn us that the relationship is degenerating.

Amos 7: 7-8 says, "This is what he showed me:  The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand.  And the Lord asked me, 'What do you see, Amos?' 'A plumb line,' I replied. Then the Lord said, 'Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.'"

God's moral standards are not subject to the opinions of man.  Wise people are those who line up their lives according to God's plumb line rather than trying to move it to satisfy their own agenda.

God dearly loves us and gives us redemption and grace.  If we rely on His grace without the law, or on His law without the grace, we will not pass the test. God expects that His grace will result in obedience to His law.  He will hold a plumb line against us to check our progress.  How are you lining up? Are you keeping things plumb?

The Lord is standing on the wall, He says, "Look, this is what you have to be like.  You have to be able to stand here next to this plumb line and measure yourself according to exact vertical. This will determine how upright you really are."

Are you up for the plumb line challenge? Are there any ways in you that need forgiveness and/or change?  Ask the Lord and know that He will willingly and lovingly answer...pray the prayer with me below...

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you that you are patient and long-suffering.  Time and time again, you forgive me of my pride and complacency.  You are merciful with my justifying and rationalizing.  You, however, are a just God and a time of judgment will come.  You lavish your grace upon me with the expectation that I will be obedient to your laws.  Help me to not take this lightly.  Enable me to live my life in such a way that I am in alignment with your holy and perfect plumb line.  May others see in me, a life that is being lived according to exact vertical.  I can only do this in Your power, Lord. Forgive me. Empower me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Join Me at (In)courage - Plus Giveaway!

Hey Friend,

I'm thrilled to pieces to be a guest writer today at (in)courage blog - which is  sponsored by DaySpring.  I've been a member of this wonderful community of women, who come together for spiritual nourishment and encouragement, for ten years.  

The writers there are REAL people who aren't afraid to talk about the gritty subjects of life.  Christ is the focal point as we kick off our shoes, cup our favorite beverage in our hands, and widen the circle of friendship.  There's always room for one more!

Also as an Added Bonus - I have a terrific GIVEAWAY!  (in)courage writers have come together to create the (in)courage Devotional Bible.

Enter the drawing to win a FREE hardback copy of the Devotional Bible (MSRP $34.99).  

HOW?? -  SUBSCRIBE to my blog between August 7th and August 23rd and be automatically entered to win!!  Just click on the SUBSCRIBE tab above, enter your contact information and be sure to look for the confirmation link in your email inbox.  (Check your spam filter if you don't see it).  That's it :)

I've written on this subject before and it quickly became a popular post topic.  Will you indulge me with more thoughts on "heavenly homesickness?"  

As an adult who is cruising toward sixty, I find myself asking God..."Are we there yet?" 

God has been so faithful to answer prayers in ways that I would have never imagined.  Some prayers went on for over twenty-five years.  It's beginning to dawn on me that some prayers will not be answered on this side of eternity.  We are drawn into thinking that this life is all there is, and prayers need to be answered during this limited time we have on earth...

Click HERE to pop over to (in)courage to continue reading my post...

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Be blessed...