Getting Through the Holidays When Your MIssing those in Heaven or Dodging those on Earth

“I just have to make it through the holidays.” A single friend dropped these words annually about the same time the leaves began to fall in clumps. “I dread this time of year.”

It isn’t easy to forget the impending doom and feeling “less than” if holidays became a cycle for pain. If siblings were shown favor during gift giving. Or family gatherings invited a troubling party environment of disjointed relationships and ugly personalities rather than a festive celebration of support and love.  If estrangement and alienation continue into adulthood, the holidays can evoke a feeling of emptiness when the reality of a fragmented family haunts the air by absent invitations.

I have a friend now, who is struggling with the loss of her immediate family. The pain of Christmas past, Christmas’s that can never be relived the same. Because those who loved her so greatly for so long are absent. Her original family are all in heaven and the children are adults with lives of their own. The pain of loss begins about now.

“I struggled for years at the holidays,” a woman gave a knowing nod as a group of us reflected on the heightened grief during this holiday time for many.“It’s different now because I remarried and have a new family…but it took time.”

“I struggle.” The soft voice of a widow wafted across our table. She lowered her head.

I’m just praying we can all get through the holidays with as little stress as possible and as much peace that all is at should be at this moment, wherever we are.  But how do we feed our souls the good stuff that will stick in our mind and carry to our emotions to help bridge the gap of our heart and our head? It starts with the Word of God. True. Tested. Timely.

“Your Word is my comfort in my affliction,” the Psalmist declared in Psalm 119:50 as he endured his personal desert by writing songs and prayers to God that filled his heart and mind with chords of strength

This morning, a dear friend sent a verse, a melody. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope , in the Power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Our peace comes through trusting God, His faithful presence, His promises.

Jesus walked amidst illness and death just as we do. It’s the same world. He is in heaven now and He is coming again. (John 14:1-6) One day He will make all things right. How? Because He is our Savior. As Christians, we celebrate the same good news the angels pronounced at Christmas. “Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,”(Luke 2:11) Today, we experience His love. He is alive. It gives us hope in our journey toward the Heavenly City just as it did for the saints of old. (Heb 11:16)

The Fog of Numb

Isn’t hope a blessing? It’s the light of God in our darkness—like a Lighthouse beacon when we’re nosing through the fog on a dark sea knowing the shore is ahead. Knowing what we are experiencing now is not what will be.

So, the holiday season resurfaces feelings of grief and loss from our human brokenness and mortality. (and our pets) We need the Heavenly presence of God to see us through.

It’s as if we stood on the ship deck inching ahead, there is nothing we can do. We can’t hurry time and make the ship go faster. We have to ride out the days and nights and just stay afloat. Until the ground is at our feet, we must focus on the beacon that keeps us steady—we are able to wait. To navigate the rough waters of memories and “missing”—the fog of numb.

There will be a morning after. We will walk again on solid ground, soon. The haze will soon pass into a new year and new beginnings.

How to Get Through the Holidays Halfway Decent

Rest through the season, as much as possible. Cut out the extras that spell s-t-r-e-s-s.

Do what you can. No need to plop guilt on yourself if you can’t make a function—If it’s too much energy just to get ready, don’t go. (and stop worrying what people will think- endless pit) Is there something you can attend that would relax you and you are interested in? a play, a symphony, a community fundraiser?

Be thankful as much as possible. For anything and everything. Lights. Fragrant pines. Heat. Shoes. Good books. Work. Friends. Family. Critters. Refrigeration. Sight.

Make Someone’s Day Better. Be aware of others in your daily rounds. Let the guy bagging your groceries carry them to the car and ask him how his day is going, or what he’s doing for the holidays. Wave to your neighbors or stop and say hi. Tell a child they have a beautiful smile. Or they are smart. Feelings rise when we show care.

Evaluate – Is it solitude or isolation? Solitude recharges so you can be with others. Isolation steals—you away from yourself and others. No man is an island. If gregarious groups are too overload, pick up the phone and arrange to meet someone whether planned or spontaneous. If the phone takes too much energy, email or text.(if you send to more than one person you have a better chance of connecting with someone if it’s unplanned) Coffee? a walk or movie? Can you invite someone over to watch a game or movie at your house? Make popcorn or throw a pizza in the oven. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Exercise, Engage. Get out even if a ten minute walk a day. Bike to the haircut. or library. Go to the gym. Walk the dog. Build a planter. Garden.  Is there a parent who needs to run errands, or have a break. Can you watch their kids? That will burn calories. Children bring a trust and candid curiosity—a genuine character that refreshes.

Serve others in some way, if possible. However you do not need to serve to be loved by God or prove you are a good person. Only serve because it is something you feel God wants you to do for others and for your emotional health. Contributing, whether in the form of service or financial, must be given without resentment. God loves a cheerful giver. There is a time to give and a time to receive. Be mindful of enough. Volunteering for one thing at one time slot is okay. More is not necessarily better.

Know you are greatly loved by God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit. (John 3:16, 14:23) You are never alone. There is a family of God that you belong to. Meet with them, whether in homes or at church. The Lord is with you.

Read God’s Word. The Psalms. Luke. John 14-16. Romans 8. Hebrews, 1 Peter 1  or           Listen with Bible Gateway (free app). Charles Stanley, InTouch.org or Chuck Swindoll InsightforLiving.org (podcasts, radio)

Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.    Romans 10:17

 

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Prayer and the Land of Entitlement

Yesterday my husband told me about a middle aged man who started a Christian motorcycle club for his friends. He planned trips and it started to grow. It was going really good for awhile. But then one man had a heart attack. Another took a spill on his bike and broke a leg. Someone’s aunt had cancer and asked him to pray for her. Pretty soon, he had so many prayer requests he felt burdened. Too many people having issues. It wasn’t fun—so he stopped. Why?

This morning I was thinking. The worst place for my mind to wander is into that Land of Entitlement. Have you been there?

It doesn’t matter how old we are, when that thinking starts discontent begins.

The thinking I don’t want a life of any problems or to hear about any more problems.

Well, we all know the truth is there is a circle of life we live in and so do those in our circle!  It goes like this:  “WE are either going into a trial (problem or testing) and amping up courage and wisdom to face it. We are in a trial and taking life daily, leaning on God to get us through. Or we are coming out of a trial hopefully having developed insights and character and a closeness with God—being the better for it. It is the circle of life.

“I have worked hard and put up with alot. I need to be able to rest without responsibilities.”

“I don’t want any drama. Just quiet and control—not controlling chaos. ( or listening to it.)”

“I have had financial difficulties before. Do I have to deal with them again God?” or someone else’s?

“Okay, I know my back is an issue, but not my knee…Really? “My spouse, child, nephew, neice , grandchild, co-worker, friend, dog, cat, just got well. What is going on now?”

“I brush my teeth every day! How can I have a cavity?”

The list goes on. And the older we get…every decade has a new set. I thought it would lessen when I reached a certain age, had a certain job, lived in a certain place, changed people around me, etc. etc. We cannot escape the unescapable. We will never be entitled to any benefits on this side of heaven other than the blessing of belonging to God, experiencing His love and the people He has given us to love.

Love means not only do we cast our cares on God because he cares for us, but we share care with our friends and family, because we care for them. We care about our parents, we care about the kids. We care about our friends and their kids. One prayer is sent out and five boomerang back. There is no motorcycle ride away from reality.

Instead more than ever, God is calling us to stay engaged. To trust. To keep sending up prayers to Him. Shooting star prayers, a friend once called them. Not prayers to load in our pockets and carry around all day. Release them to God in the morning in the evening, in our car on our breaks. Just shoot them up to God… and Let go. Honor Him with trust.

Only He is Able. Only He can help. It is a blessing to text my prayer requests to friends and feel physically eased and mentally relieved as the burdens lift. It is a blessing to give as I have been given and reciprocate for others. All of us depend on Him to answer sooner…or later. How we hope or surrender to even the worse case scenario, He can bring good in ways we cannot envision, determines our peace. A rainbow after a storm is a slice of beauty, even standing in wreckage.

“I will rescue my flock” Ezekiel 34:10

He is our Shepherd. He is our Rock, an anchor when the waves roll into tropical storms. We need to let the One who can walk on water lead us on and keep our eyes fixed on Him. Even if we see another storm rising in the horizon. Roll our eyes off the dark skies and rising winds and look at our Help. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Let the other sounds mute. Reach for the helping Hand of our Almighty God, not the almighty dollar or Uncle Sam. Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you have not seen. Jeremiah 33:3. Look for the unexplainable and the miracle which can’t be reckoned.

I recently read how a tourist in Jerusalem watched a little Jewish boy panic, separated across the street from his dad. “Abba , abba” he cried. A man crossed the street and swept the little boy up in his arms. The boy quieted, safe in his daddy’s arms.

WE are safe, our friends and family are safe, when we yell “Help” to our Abba Father. He has the whole world in His hands. His eyes are on the faithful in the land. He knows what to do. He has the wisdom and guidance to light our way through the darkness of difficulty and crisis of challenges in our lives. He has the counsel, He knows the connection to a multitude of counselors who can lead us safely with perspective and wisdom to make those decisions precisely at the Y in the road we need to navigate with jurisprudence. He will not let us stumble. His Word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path when we need to make good choices regarding health, finances, work and relationships.

We will never find refuge from care by dropping out or planning escape—watching reality shows about Pleasure Islands. Rather relief and comfort come when we call on Him for help like that little boy. Let God be to you the Father Jesus came to tell us about. “I am always working and my Father is always working,” he explained then as now (John 5:17) . Behind the scenes, upstream and out of sight. Just around the bend…He is working His will in all things as we ask and pray and believe.

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Suicide and Sympathy


I don’t blame Robin Williams’s daughter for wanting out of social media sites after she received discouraging posts/ unwanted trolls. People will be judgmental in the face of suffering.

Last week visiting a group of friends the topic of suicide emerged in light of the beloved actor’s untimely death.

“I am tired of the comments some visitors make to those suffering from chronic illnesses, “my nurse friend sighed—the undue guilt thrust on a patient when they don’t get well—labeled lack of faith.”

In the book of Acts Paul was hailed as a hero to islanders after he survived a horrific storm at sea and helped rescue all aboard. However, as soon as a viper bit him at a group campfire, his admirers abruptly changed their opinion. Obviously, Paul wasn’t in God’s good favor or protection or he wouldn’t now face a torturous death from poison—which he survived. Superstitious and judgmental, Paul quickly became the brunt of his host’s unmerciful criticism. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. At some point stuff happens to all, in this imperfect atmosphere called earth.

When I was twenty-something, a Christian friend from high school committed suicide. Tormented by the mental disease that had aborted his mother’s life, he won a football scholarship pointing toward a promising future—but lost the battles in his mind. He had a deep faith. He loved Jesus and literally handed his jacket to a cold homeless man on the street. He was loved and he was judged.

“He is not going to heaven,”

“How come?”

“Because he murdered—himself.”

How would that theology play out with Jesus who walked with us according to God’s sovereign plan of redemption? He himself endured scathing critics and yet consistently showed compassion to the sick of all categories: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

 In Luke 18:1 he said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”

Do you think if a person faints that God will then turn his back on them?

It is always difficult to navigate questions that torpedo in bringing a myriad of emotional fallout in the face of unexplained human hellholes. The devil advocates falsely to God’s lack of love and goodwill toward the weak or burdened, sick and harassed.

Yet, According to Isaiah 42:3 the Anointed One will not even throw out a damaged plant. “A bruised reed He will not break. And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…” He tends the plant and flames the fire.

Isn’t it interesting this prophetic verse is recited by Jesus in Matthew 12:20 in-between healing two illnesses, one physical and one spiritual? Targeted, Jesus is rebuked for healing a man’s hand on the wrong day of the week and criticized for delivering a man who was demonized.

 Biblical references abound where God addresses our human fear. Jesus admonishes His disciples to trust and not fear throughout the gospels. Would His character be consistent to punish the timid? Didn’t he reach out His hand to Peter even as he began to sink with anxiety on the sea, after an initial burst of courage?

Those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord, wear His robe of righteousness. The moment we reach to Him for salvation, for help and deliverance from the ultimate darkness of eternal life without His love and eternal presence, we are forgiven. If we deny we need His Act of Mercy at the cross for us then we are on our own. We have no High Priest to cover our sin, our failures, and our junk. If we believe we are good enough to worship at the Throne of God with all the angels of heaven who adore the Lamb who was slain for us ( Revelations 5:11,12)…then we are truly done.

King David expresses many prayers to the Lord for strength as in Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Again, what happens if our hearts fail and weaken and we lose hope and courage? Is our Savior One who is unmerciful and unforgiving, non-compassionate and judgmental of our human flaws?

Rather, the Scriptures teach eternal Death comes by pride. And separation from God by haughtiness, not by weakness. 

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Wings of Hope

  One morning  I visited the boys lockdown unit at Juvenile Hall and stepped on a folded paper. Curious, I picked it up—I could only imagine what it might contain. To my delight I stared at two penciled sketches of birds hovering in the air. How appropriate and beautiful. A young delinquent dreamt of winged creatures and drew them thoughtfully, now stuck behind cement walls.

Wings. Maybe he will never look at wings the same again.

I was mesmerized by the beautiful wings so viciously separated from Malificent in the recent Disney movie. Displayed in a glass barred case, secured and chained to prevent their use—all seemed wrong. Once restored and united to Malificent—surging  with power and expression and purpose—all seemed right again.

During wait for our nephew Patrick’s lungs, over a year ago, my husband and I found shells joined together at Laguna Beach. The shape of the shells resembled wings—even, lungs. Shells washed ashore as a gift from the sea, became a symbol of hope  to us from our Creator. Lungs on Wings became the prayer expression of thegift of lungs we knew could only come from heaven through the great exchange of life. Other times at other shores accompanied by prayers, we would collect more gifts from the sea and wait expectantly.

“What wings are to a bird, prayer is to our soul,” Corrie Ten Boom said. Prayer brings wings to our faith, to soar above our circumstances. The prayers crisscrossing from earth to heaven since my nephew needed a bilateral lung transplant as a result of his congenital disease of cystic fibrosis—echoed from thousands of people around the world. God sent Lungs on Wings and in His divine providence, granted Patrick the freedom to breathe, the gift of life—only two weeks ago.

Two days after his miraculous surgery of Monday, July 7th (which happened to be the very day of his true love, Nicole’s birthday) I drove past Daly City enroute to Stanford. A lone gull, wings outstretched in calm peace, glided on an invisible current above me. As I scanned the Bay cities from my vantage point, the nose of a plane pointed down, down toward a San Francisco airport runway. I focused on the dominant wings, that would land that heavy plane at it’s journeys end.

Wings.   I will never look at wings the same again.

Wings that soar above the daily traffic of life. Wings buoyed by wind, created by God and man who is made in His image and intellect.   To transport, to move beyond the immediate—the terrestrial…into the the realms of the celestial sky.

Wings are freedom and strength   Created in love. Intelligent design.   Wings mean purpose, provision and peace.   Power and Hope. Wings represent God’s heavenly existence, His presence on earth.

Are you feeling grounded? Stuck? Hopeless? Take a moment to be still today. ”Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 admonishes. Cease striving is the Hebrew translation. Look up. Pray. Ask God to renew your hope—a simple prayer that works in the deeps of our soul. Miracles never cease.

Jesus lives. Healing, leading, loving, comforting. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless.” Psalm 108:12

I will say to the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress. My God. In Him I will trust… Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.” Psalm 91:2-3

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A Song , A Psalm for the Weary Soul

 

desert storm

“I made it through that difficult time by praying and putting on praise music,” a friend recently shared when asked how she walked through a time of depression and angst.

I myself have found the Word of God and music to move beyond reason and my limited understanding to provide water to a dry soul.

How many times when our hearts are weary or low do we put on music that soothes our hearts?

In the book of Job, 9:27, the man afflicted with the loss of his children, home, health and business said, “I will leave off my heaviness and comfort myself.”In Isaiah 61:3 the great prophet wrote, “God consoles those who mourn by giving them a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.” When we reach for the earpiece or headphone or cd…it is a step toward serenity.

King David, warrior, King,writer, shepherd, worshipper of God wrote over 3000 Psalms—many reflecting troubled times. From the age of twenty-something, he cried out to God sharing his souls anguish and embittered mind,  only to consistently end his songs with comforting thoughts. A will to hope and express faith in a Mighty God beyond what his feelings dictated. A trust God would contend with enemies that assailed him relentlessly. The upward gaze was modeled byMoses too, the oldest author of the psalms who wrote Psalm 90 !

The Psalms, also called the Psalterium “ A Collection of Songs” to be used with Musical instruments, are located in the middle of the Bible. They were written by various men of God, but we can experience our own peace in the twenty-first century by reading them, singing them to musical instruments or by stringing them together –pulling out the verses that mean most to our particular situation and writing them out.

Recently I found a medley of Psalms I puzzled together in my late twenties after returning from overseas as a  traveling missionary–completely on empty. The job market had changed, I needed to adjust to new surroundings, friends, church ill with some bug that lasted a couple months. Unsure what my new direction was … the psalms helped express what I needed to say. Here is what I came up with and as timeless as music is…still comforts today.

“When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God whose Word I praise. In God I trust. I will not be afraid for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until this disaster has passed. I said, “oh that I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm. But I call to God and the Lord hears me. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged before me. I give vows to you O God, for you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling that I may walk before you in the light of life. Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.

 Your love O Lord reaches to the heavens.

Your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.

Your justice a great deep.

O Lord you preserve both man and beast.  How priceless is your unfailing love?

 Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. You will cover us with your feathers and

Under your wings we will find refuge. Your faithfulness will be my shield and rampart. He who dwells in the secret place of the most High will rest in the Shadow of the Almighty. The Lord our God in the midst of us is mighty. He will save

He will rejoice over us with joy. He will rest in His love, He will joy over us with singing” (Zeph 3:17 last verse)

If you are weary and wondering and praying…try going through the psalms and finding relief through prayer. God hears you and loves you.

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How to Weed Hearts and Grow a Garden for Two

 

Japanese Garden SF

Yesterday I weeded the little patch across from the sliding glass door where our budding rose tree dove toward the dirt midweek. Steve propped it up with a stake again and I yanked at crabgrass ½ inch round and 6 inches under—that nasty grass is back? Wow. I’d spent hours removing stones and crabgrass many springs ago.

 

Now, it felt right to have my  husband working it too—two tending their garden together.  Spring a decade past “weeding and writing” filled my days in the midst of writing my book and acquiring a fixer upper.

 

Gardening invadedmy thoughts after hearing “You have a garden with every person in your life.”  How was I doing maintaining the garden with various friends and family? I hated weeding which was a chore growing up.

 

Pondering this concept, I first practiced “weeding sessions” when I was dating.  We would share observations, disgruntles and negative emotions that were hiding dormant (unseen) by the other. Of course, many times we knew something was up because although hidden by silence, nonverbals would creep through like crabgrass roots strangling any beneficial growth. I knew once exposed and removed, seeds could be sown, beautiful thoughts and good acts and deeds to nourish the soil of our heart and create a fragrant garden together. It required care and commitment.

 

Every plot of land, every relationship or garden between two people needs maintenance. Is there a child we are at odds with? An estranged sibling? Difficult parent or spouse? Critical thoughts, like weeds must be chucked. God’s counsel, His Word, encourages us to forgive as Christ forgave us insults, being misunderstood, harshness, apathy. Failures, mistakes, and wounds from ill-spoken words or none at all.

 

People are fragile. Handle with care, a saying from my teens, reminds me of flowers. Hearts must be fertilized and tended, seeded by affirming thoughts and prayers resulting in spoken affirmations and validations. Making plans and creating good memories replants the ground of our heart with fragrant blooms where once weeds stood dominant. We must get past the past to plan and create thriving gardens, joyful flowers.

 

As we rehearse prayerfully and practice speaking the truth in love, we become more skilled. When we measure our words with respect and intentionally speak in a gentle tone, anger defuses. When we allow Christ to teach us humility, God’s ways, to practice understanding—we look at the beam in our own eye before mentioning the beam in someone else’s. The rubble and weeds of pride break free from our hearts. When judgement dies, mercy lives, mercy that triumphs over judgement.

 

I never garden in the rain. Nowadays I am learning to observe the sunshine or dampness on my husband’s face—like noting the weather condition in his life. It’s like God saying when. Wait. Not now, means more time to pray for softness for both of us. Ground that is ready. Diplomacy means we agree to meet… and weed. Without agreement stubborn weeds resist. Timing is everything. I love to weed after a good rain- the weeds come out with half the effort.

 

How do we live without grace? Not only being gracious with someone else but with ourselves. Each situation is different even if it’s the same issue whether with the same person or someone else. If we have avoided resolving conflict from fear of how-to, if we haven’t pursued building a relationship or garden with someone for awhile—our tools will be rusty. It starts with asking God for help and courage to start.

We are equipped with all we need—two ears to listen patiently, one mouth to say less over more and a heart that beats to love as God designed. We must let go of the outcome before we start, but not let go of an attitude of  faith, hope and love. It is impossible to plan a conversation or control it. We must trust  our Master Gardener to help us get in and start when he says now. He knows how to prune anything and how to grow every flower and fragrance we can imagine—or can’t.  

 

Pursue (think plant!)  righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness of heart.   1 Timothy 6:11 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Garden SF

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Shame, a Spiritual Battle

 

When God breaks

the Silence of Shame (haunting actions, thoughts and words hiding in our heads)

There is no End

To  GAIN

No End to AIM

only     An END to PAIN.

Humility and Shame can’t live together.

Humility shares what shame hides…from God, from man, from us.

When we receive, embrace and squeeze

the Gifts of Forgiveness,

Acceptance and Unconditional Love from our Creator…

Something breaks inside

Chains

that bind,

And wind us up tight

Into silence—begin

to slip

and slide.

Motivation returns,

Dreams,Plans, exploration…

life re-surfaced, renewed.

Once the barriers of self loathing vanish

so go

Cocoons and other dark things…

Love and Acceptance brings

Hope with Wings—

 

Shame seems to be one of the most useless, disabling emotions. It taunts “you are made of bad stuff” and there’s nothing that can be done about that.  It neglects the great gift of forgiveness and salvation.

It does not teach, “you are doing bad things and you can stop those actions and replace them with good ones.” It does not grace, “You used to act destructive toward others, but that is not your m.o. anymore.” It is the voice whether in ourselves or coming from the enemy of our souls that takes guilt and twists it all around inside of us, as one friend said so well. It is the voice that jeers, “you can never change what you will always be” and drops you off at the recycle bin.

 The invisible cloak of shame is worn daily by people of all ages and life callings.

Recently I sat across from a good friend, a really loving Christian woman. She shook her head, “I feel so much shame from my past.” She looked sad and I felt sad for her. How many of us can struggle with shame? Need to break free of the “bad” branding? Is the act of forgiving ourselves  and receiving God’s love and mercy long overdue?

Our accuser would love to pin us on a wall and leave us there, stuck with this label so we cannot walk or move about as loved and loving people of dignity and worth.

“I should be ashamed of myself!” a businessman spouted, “for not making a deadline.” Cringe. Yes, learn from the mistake, then let it go and time yourself better next time. That label can act like a weight around your neck and drag your head to downcast position for tomorrow—your new day!  

Last year I sat across from my husband at the kitchen table one morning. We had been going to counseling and I felt particularly ashamed of my eruptive temper that led to mistrust. Newlywed bliss had turned to daily banter. We prayed for courage and faith to overcome the doubt and despair in this season of crisis. We continued to work with God on changing our ways, but I needed to say something aloud to my husband. And say it with a conviction God inspired. It was the beginning of a turning point.

“I won’t stay in shame. I may have done a bad thing, but I’m not a bad person.

I forgive myself and God forgives me.”

“I have to build trust and work on forgiveness.”

We listened to each other and agreed as the sunshine beamed over our coffee. God heard our talk and our prayers. It was a new day and the beginning of a new way through our struggles.

Scriptures and thoughts to help you shine on the shame:

“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1;9

If God forgives us, why can’t we?  If Jesus died for our sins so we can have forgiveness, and we don’t receive it, we are saying, “What you did on the cross isn’t good enough for me Jesus.”

Why would Jesus die for me and my sins and freedom?

Because we are His treasured possession and He loves us. (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)

God began declaring His love for His people generations ago when He provided escape via the Exodus of His people from slavery in Egypt to freedom.

God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact Christ, our Savior died for us (Romans 5:8) when we didn’t even love Him or care). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus died on the cross to set us free from sin and shame. He said He came a light into this world, so whoever believes, cleaves, trusts and relies on Him—will not continue to live in darkness— but have the freedom of forgiveness and light of life to live under. No more darkness, shame and hiding and no more pining away in remorse and regret, dark shadows of the past. No more feeling like a walnut shriveled up inside its shell, but rather a branch that is laden with life and fruit!

 “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not obtained mercy, but now you have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)

Confess. Receive. Let Go. Live. Jesus our Redeemer said, the truth sets us free…He did not come to condemn…but to save. Now that’s good news any time of the day.

 

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Christmas Reindeer – remembering Sam

“Every Good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the Heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17  

Two weeks ago I thought about this verse as I  pulled two metallic outdoor reindeer and a strand of colorful lights out of my green and red outdoor box  in the garage rafters. I fastened Benji to the leash to watch in the annual tradition—placing two reindeer, one big and one little on the front hill. Each  are named.

 “Good to see you Sammy reindeer,” I felt a surge of joy as I pounded the tent stake into the ground to hold his bent feet in place.

Sammy, my beautiful Lab who gave me ten years of incredible love died in May. I stopped and gazed at the star studded sky. Your watching me  from up there instead of from next to me like last Christmas! I thought about Sam in his tie walking down the aisle in our wedding party last year, with his little brother Benji. His love and friendship and companionship brought soulful significance to a season of my life.

God, thank you for the wonder of animals. Thank you for the joy they bring to our lives . I am so grateful to have had a joy like Sam  for a decade of my life. He was such a gift, a heavenly gift. Life wouldn’t have been the same without him..

 As I scanned the stars that night, I felt a sense of wonder how God created Sam, just like he creates all our creatures , it seems just for each of us. What a wonder, that we have a Heavenly Father who gives such precious gifts money can’t buy.

Each relationship that fills our hearts with joy, whether friend or family or furry critter… all are the perfect gifts from our Heavenly Father.

And the gift of His Son Jesus,  has brought  love and forgiveness, meaning and purpose to every day of my life, through all times and weather and seasons of gain or loss strung together.

In Him was life and His life was the Light of men.  John 1:4

Merry Christmas Everyone.  May God shine His light on you today and grace you with His  love, comfort, hope and presence daily…

our Greatest Present .

 

Dee Aspin

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Fantasy Pain. When emotion rules reason.

fantasy pain

This blog on “Fantasy Pain” was kindled after talking with a single friend about something women can seem particularly susceptible to, whether they read Harlequin novels or not. Fantasizing about a Prince Charming  who is really a friend, possible friend, or… maybe only an acquaintance… and certainly not interested in romance!

Fantasy pain is crippling to a single person. It keeps one from walking in the certainty of real presence and exchange with another person, real love. It creates feelings of rejection, projection and disconnection with someone we don’t even have a defined relationship with, but we know and like.  I slipped into this at times as a single who found myself liking a man from afar, far away from the ability yet to take the risk of reality. Openess.

What is it? It is pain toward a romantic interest without the commitment of a relationship.

It’s when we really like someone and think about them and feel pain, the pain of our inner affection not being returned.  We perceive they feel the same. We may know them a little or a lot. We can hang with them, and desire a committed relationship with them, but nothing is verbalized. There has never been an exchange of vulnerability, ie sharing feelings for eachother or a “talk”.

Any “relationship” that hasn’t taken the step of talking about eachother to eachother becomes a “mind game”, a fantasy. We can think the person has feelings and involvement with us, but they don’t. They might, but we don’t know because there has been no risk. Risk and opening the door to talk is when the fantasy either becomes real because it is validated by the other person

If it remains locked in our minds and we feel pain, it is Fantasy pain—the feelings of rejection, projection, and disconnection often result. 

If we are not comfortable to expose our feelings and talk to this “friend,”  it is time to back up and out of the pain. It does not mean that person is not to be in our life. It does not mean we are cowards. It means we are not in a place and neither are they, especially if together many actions and words are double-messages, to have a healthy relationship right now. Healthy relationships take two people talking and communicating about life and feelings.

The answer out of fantasy pain is exposing it to the light. Recognize it. Respond to it , don’t run from it and deny it. Decide to call it” real.” Two choices are to talk or detach. Guard your heart. God doesn’t create us to live in unwarranted pain, fantasy pain. Whatever you want to call it. Trust God to lead the dance and start the music again with that person when the time is right if they are to be a dance partner for a season or for life.

If the talk has materialized and feelings asserted platonic on their end, Don’t feed the fantasy by calling a person and initiating contact. There’s power in a voice and presence. If the person responds to helping fill needs out of kindness or provide companionship for activities without display of a special interest—it will be misinterpreted as rejection. If a man is interested in a woman he will let her know.

Love requires commitment and commitment makes us  vulnerable to hurt from the start. It is a fact of love. But in that vulnerability, like soft watered ground, seeds of flowers germinate and sprout into flowers that bring fragrance and joy.

There will always be pain at some level when two people share space and thoughts and life. In a relationship, we ask God to comfort us as we work through the pain of imperfect people, us and our significant other, saying words and doing things that feel belittling, harsh or dismantling to growth and health.  This is part of life and every relationship I have experienced before and in my marriage.

We all know that love and some pain go together. Jesus demonstrated love before his walk to the cross. He chose to love disciples knowing they would sleep when He needed them most and run in fear instead of stand by Him in danger. He gave them a second chance to pull through as he gives us still today, modeling how we are to treat others.

Real pain when exposed in a healthy relationship will be tended and stopped. Together the tourniquet is applied to stop the bleeding from unforeseen scrapes and falls as we walk together through life, continuing to talk and move forward slowly—checking in with each other to assess if “we’re alright”. Walking or dancing, solid relationships communicate. It starts with care and connection from the first walk in the park to the first dance in the gazebo—and on into marriage through to the first, tenth and silver anniversaries.

 

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default iconRetirement Savings vs Dreams and Youth

                                  

I have mixed feelings listening to financial advisers to young people.

If you want to travel you must make a choice.” At 15 I loved listening to my friend’s mom whose adventures entertained two freckle-faced teenagers.“You either save and use the money to travel or you spend it on your back, clothes and shoes.”

That challenge ignited a dream. I wanted to travel more than a bee wants honey. My first paycheck after college,.I began to save for a trip to Europe. Each meal I didn’t eat out became a meal overseas. Vacation savings grew. My goal allowed one treat to Macdonald’s—once a month.

Stoking my ambition were the patients with dashed retirement dreams who would look up at the young spindly nurse from their beds. “Don’t put off today what you think you want to do tomorrow. You never know what your health will be like when you retire. “Make sure you live your life so you don’t have regrets looking back.” How grateful I am to those people for their perspective and bed of suffering to speak into my youth.

I trekked a backpack trip to Europe that remains a wonderful memory and included seeing relatives who passed soon after.

Saving for retirement and traveling when I could was not always the most prudent thing. Once upon returning to further education I had time but no money. Five weeks of travel in Israel, Greece, Egypt and Rome on plastic took two years to pay off. A poor financial move, but I was young. Egypt was safe at the time. I gladly made the payments later.

True if I had saved more intensely those early years, it would have multiplied for these later years. But there’s a balance in everything.  And now with health limits myself, those travel experience  prove irreplaceable. Those were my International study, poly sci and sociology classes wrapped up in one. I discovered God was as close to me 2000 miles away as at home and the community of believers are all over the world.

By the mid thirties those carefree years were over. Responsibilty ruled and prudence. Time to settle down and save for retirement. A season of life had passed and I knew it.

The advice of my girlfriends mother rang true. Clothes can eat our money. A house or condo can too. It is easy to be a material girl in a material world…but it can rob us. Who can tell if we wear clothes from consignment shops, or garage sales? Or that our furniture is a mixture of new and used?

If we are enjoying the fruits of our labor, God has given us enough to share. Scripture says, “those who gathered more had nothing over and those who gathered little had no lack.” There’s probably enough that we can choose to not add another dress or lamp or book and support a child in another country who has nothing. No shoes. No schoolbooks. Not enough food.

If we have change, a car and food in the refrigerator we are the top 2% of the world.

So let us enjoy what we have been given financially and pursue our dreams with choice and with cost. Hopefully in our financial planning we will include benefitting others to pursue their dreams too, so we may all live together grateful to God for the opportunities he has given us.

“Young man, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do. Take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do…don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator…”  Ecclesiastes 11:9 , 12:1

 

 

 

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