What If?

I’ve often wondered how many opportunities have passed me by just because I feared failure. Until recently I’ve not dared to imagine the “what if” I succeed?

The Cultural Misfit

I used to play softball in middle school; I grew to love playing and looked forward to each practice and game. BUT it wasn’t always that way.

That year I had a friend who played softball and encouraged me to join her league. I don’t know how I allowed my friend to talk me into playing softball; when I went to practice, I felt my heart melt into my stomach. My parents wouldn’t let me quit; they had bought the glove and weren’t going to lose their deposit! I was almost paralyzed with fear each day I went to practice and play.

It was quickly apparent at the first of the season that I had no idea how to play the game; I had no idea how to correctly throw a softball, catch a softball, or even hit the ball correctly. I vocalized my fear and lack of confidence in…

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Everything

“Your eternal word, O LORD, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:89-91‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Everything serves Your plans.” It would seem from that statement that no experience on earth is useless. How could everything on this journey  be useful? The hurts, pains, sorrows, and aches of this world, what possible profit could they bring to anyone?

I’ve had my share of painful experiences that have made me wonder, “What was THAT all about?” At the time, it certainly didn’t feel or look like something that could in any way be part of God’s plan. God is good, and everything about Him is good.

You are good and do only good….”
Psalms‬ ‭119:68‬ a NLT‬‬

In fact, His goodness is so overwhelming that it is awe-inspiring!

“But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the LORD their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the LORD and of his goodness.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We hear it in church, from friends in greeting, “God is good, all the time, God is good.” But in our hearts we struggle with the reality of the aches and pains of life assaulting us on every side and wonder, “How can God be good in this? What kind of purpose can He derive from something so destructive, so painful?” Then, if we are honest with ourselves, we ask the question, “Is God really good?”

For some unknown reason, we seem to think that as believers we should have a “free pass” in life. We should be free from all troubles and trials, why, isn’t that what we were promised when we received Jesus? Weren’t we told that “Everything is going to work out fine.” When sickness, financial troubles, and, depending where you are in the world, civil unrest fall on us like a thick fog – we are bewildered. How could this happen? How could God let it happen?

Jesus put it plainly when He said in John 16:33 NLT “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Accepting the fact that trouble will come to us in this sin-riddled and fallen world is one thing, but being of “good cheer,” or having a good attitude in the middle of it?  Peter even takes it a bit further when he said in 1 Peter 4:12,13 NLT “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 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.”

It would seem that Christians have long hoped for that “free pass” on the aches and pains of life. No matter who we are or where we come from, life will happen and trouble will ensue. The question that we have to answer in the middle of the trouble is this, “How much will this temporary problem effect eternity?” We have an Elder Brother (Jesus) Who was, like us, touched by the pains of life yet He managed to keep His eyes focused on the prize that was to come.

What was the prize? Heaven? Streets of gold? A nice mansion, never having to clean house? Quite the contrary, the prize Jesus sought for was you and I; we are the prize He suffered to win. He understood there was so much more than what He faced on any given day; He knew He had to finish His life’s earthly journey well for others. His journey left Him scarred, but He got the prize. So who are we to imagine that we won’t get out of this life scarred as we serve Him?

A lifelong missionary, Amy Carmichael, penned these words in her poem, “Hast Thou No Scar?” (Click for full version.)

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

Every day gives us an opportunity to look into eternity as we let God connect the dots of our life experiences. Yes, the devastating ones together with them amazing ones, they all get sewn together into a wonderful tapestry of God’s amazing plan. The people we meet, those we help, those who help us, ultimately end up playing a part in His plan.

It bears keeping in mind that this world, even at it she best, can never compare to the Heaven we will one day inherit. Why do we live as though this life on earth is eternal? We are but foreigners, strangers on this earth, looking for a city whose Builder and Maker is God (Hebrews 11:13-16).

“We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only one short hour to win them.” Moffat

 

 

Have a Doughnut

Have you become frustrated with the ongoing reports from “them” about what is healthy and what isn’t healthy? I took some time recently and thought about the health trends that have come and gone over the years:

  • It used to be “no pain no gain” but now “they” say that’s wrong.
  • “Low fat” was all the rage at one time but now “they” say there are good fats.
  • Now “no gmo” and “vegan” are all the rage – but I wonder how long we’ll go until “they” have another idea!

Makes me want to eat a doughnut…and I haven’t had a doughnut in I don’t remember when! It is all very confusing.

We aren’t the first ones in history to need clarification on a subject. When it comes to spiritual matters, Jesus said:

Luke 11:34-36 NLT vs. 35 “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.”

How could we possibly live in darkness when we have claimed Jesus to be Lord of our lives? The Gospel was never meant to be popular or well received. Everything about the Gospel goes contrary to the standards that the rest of the world holds to: forgiveness, joy, living up to a standard of honesty, integrity and a deep reverence for God and His ways.

This way of living is otherwise known as living in the fear of the Lord. It is to this life that we have been called so we can make a real difference to the world around us. That is as clear as a message can possibly be.

But when it comes to what is the “in” way of eating? I still don’t have a clue! If you’re in doubt, I guess it’s ok to go ahead and have a doughnut while you wait for the answer.

 

 

Dad Brought Me

I’ve been thinking of my dad a lot lately as we are in the holiday season. Last year, for the first time ever, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my dad – what a great memory!

The Cultural Misfit

How did I get here?

When I was a child and teenager, the “how did I get here” questions of life never crossed my mind. I suppose it’s because there wasn’t enough history to my life to think about how I got somewhere. If I was ever asked that question, it usually was in reference to how I got to school, a friend’s house or park for a party. Why it was obvious how I got there – my dad brought me. My dad brought me everywhere: to softball practice, youth group, family gatherings, and doctors’ offices when I broke my arm or got bitten by the neighborhood dog (strange thing, that dog was a labrador retriever – not a dog that would typically bite someone!).

Life has a way of taking you places; at least it seems as if life has taken us places. Actually, it’s the Father, our Heavenly…

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Time to Clean Up!

Forgiveness is one of those Christian words that we all are used to hearing. Forgiving others for the wrongs they have done is difficult; the effects of not forgiving someone for their wrongs can have lifelong – even eternal – effects. Those of us who have been around a church or group of believers for any length of time have heard the “forgiveness message.” We’ve heard how important it is and have learned that we don’t always “feel” forgiveness; we’re making that forgiveness journey with others.

But what about forgiving ourselves?

Everyone comes to the Lord with his/her own set of baggage and little by little the Father begins working in our lives to relieve us from carrying that heavy load. He begins by offering His forgiveness to us. Then, He challenges us to forgive others. While that step of forgiving others might be difficult, for the most part, we eventually “get it” and begin the process of forgiving those who have wronged us.

But what about forgiving ourselves?

There’s a deep sense of shame that accompanies recognizing our sin. God has offered His forgiveness to us – which we accept but on the condition that we live in self-condemnation over the lives we lived outside of His grace. Somehow we feel obliged to live in shame and unforgiveness toward ourselves. This becomes a real bondage in our lives as we steel ourselves against actually receiving the forgiveness of God for how could He really forgive all the wrongs we have done? He must require us to live in the shadows of shame.

It’s a crushing feeling – to feel as if you aren’t good enough to be loved fully by the Father.

My youngest daughter is now experimenting with cooking (she made me a snack of chips, peas, raw onions, an apple, and sliced cheese). I have no problem with her making “snacks” within a few boundaries: don’t use knives and clean up after yourself. She obeys not using knives – but cleaning! Cleaning isn’t my little girl’s favorite thing to do. Her toys are regularly piled where they aren’t supposed to be. On occasion she will feel guilty for not cleaning and say, “I’m bad for not cleaning” and we have to chat about receiving forgiveness. I forgive her, she’s my child and my forgiveness of her not cleaning is ongoing for I know she will fail to clean properly for years to come. My goal is just to teach her and that’s what I tell her. Once she understands Mama is not angry, just teaching, she cheers up and even begins cleaning up her mess (until I’m not watching or something more interesting catches her attention).

Receiving forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and not holding them over our own heads is a huge step in going farther in our faith. If we don’t receive forgiveness and forgive ourselves, we live under the crushing weight of that sin. Thank God, Jesus has made a way for us!

 Luke 4:18 Aramaic translation “The Spirit of THE LORD JEHOVAH is upon me, and because of this he has anointed me to preach The Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal broken hearts and to proclaim liberty to captives, vision to the blind, and to restore the crushed with forgiveness.”

Don’t live one more day “crushed” under the weight and shame of sin. You’re loved, cherished and forgiven. It’s time to forgive yourself and allow the Father to love you – He’s not holding that mess you left behind against you. He wants to help you clean it up. Why not let Him?

Red Shoes

My oldest son recently celebrated his birthday. I’ve had a few days of nostalgia as I’ve remembered him growing up. He was a busy boy! It seems he was born to get things done and take the lead. He crawled early, walked early, ran fast, and was passionate from the start to get it done “by myself.”

I remember one time in particular when he was just a toddler when he was heavily concentrating on tying his shoes. He cried and cried when he couldn’t get it done and declared after nearly an hour of trying that he would no longer wear those shoes. Not an hour passed after this declaration that he was back at it, trying to tie those red tennis shoes. It wasn’t long before he was off and running with those shoes tied as best as his little hands could manage and telling his daddy, “I did it by myself!”

His victory was short-lived, however, as the laces came untied rather quickly. He tripped and skinned his knee. Tears quickly ensued followed by my swiftly collecting my independent one in my arms, kissing the tears away. When the tears dried, we tried together to tie those shoes and the day came when they no longer came loose. A tough lesson for my little one! Yet, he learned that day to let Mama teach him how to tie shoes. Time went by and he grew, but he learned to come and get help when he couldn’t figure something out.

In the same way my son had to learn from his shoe tying exercise, I’m learning to rely on lessons and victories of the past to help me move forward, to help me tie my shoes!

1 Samuel 21:9 NKJ So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

If you remember the account of David and Goliath, David killed Goliath (the champion of the Philistines, Israel’s dreaded enemy) with Goliath’s own sword. What a victory that was! However, it seems after that victory, Goliath’s sword – the symbol of that victory – got put away, forgotten until the day David needed it.

There will be times we go through things in life when the victories of the past return to us at the right moment to bless us just like the sword of Goliath came back to David. At that moment, answers come, victory is assured, because we remembered God brought the victory before, He will bring it again.

I encourage you to reach back for those swords, those victories and, like David, declare, “There’s none like it; give it to me.”

One More Time

One More Time

It hasn’t been long

Since I last heard your crying to be fed in the night

And I held you close, rocking you til you slept

Holding you for hours in my arms

Seems it was only last night.

Only a short time ago

Holding your hand tightly in mine

We went to school one cold winter day

Worried as I left you

Praying for you all the day.

Weren’t we together today

I watched you play football in the sun

“Throw it again, Daddy!” in earnest you called

“Can’t you play just one more time?”

How did those days pass me by?

Did we forget to hold you

Or tell you we cared?

Did we neglect to help you

Or hold you when you were scared?

Did we seem too busy to hear you

Or listen to you when you cried?

Can’t I just hold you close to my heart just one more time?

When did yesterday turn into today?

And the night turn into morning?

How have we watched you grow

And not seen a new day dawning?

Today, yesterday’s baby

Has grown into a young man

But I still long to see him

Tommy, can’t you play just one more time?

Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.”

Written for Tom, our firstborn, in 2003 as he graduated high school and left Africa to continue studies Stateside.