The Light of Christmas

 

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“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

What does this mean to you? I love this quote, yet without a light how does it work?

By thirteen, my parents war-zone marriage and divorce left my Mom’s emotions shattered.  I was her primary support.  Burnt out at fifteen, I journaled, “I feel like a candle that has not been lit.”

After I left my religious upbringing, I bumped into a believing neighbor and inhaled the gospels with young people who loved Jesus. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

I read Jesus’ words and they drew me to His light, Biblical truth and insight into behavior from human feelings. “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh…” Galatians 5:17.

Who doesn’t struggle with the effects of their own and others vices and destructive choices? We have all succumbed to anger or withdrawal and control instead of humility, courage and love. The battle inside wages war—daily actions, rational choices, guided by our limited selfish and torn human nature or by the divine Spirit of a loving, just, and merciful God clarified in the book of Romans.

Drawn to Jesus’ truth, His wisdom and kindness as evidenced in the gospels, as His warnings and insight to deceit and fear, I asked Him into my heart. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in…” (Revelations 3:20 NIV)

Peace settled in my mind and spirit, sleep ensued, and I experienced harmony with others closest to me. I woke daily and read my Bible like a first cup of coffee in the morning. I couldn’t start the day without it.

 “For you Lord will light my candle. The Lord my God will lighten my darkness,” a young King David sang in Psalm 18:28 (NKJV)

The music in my soul stirred. With unexpected wonder. I read these words, aware of the new song rising inside me. I met the same Wonderful and wise God to follow into forever, who loved me and everyone in my world with forgiveness, healing and hope. He pierced my darkness and continued to do so. Through the darkest nights, I have always known His light.

Candles bring comfort even in death, as we note at vigils surrounding grief.

As you curse the darkness know there is a Light. He made the stars, including one that shone over His birthplace 2000 years ago—wise men followed that star to find Him.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

 

 

Dry…Watering our Soul in a Seasonal Drought

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“Sometimes I wonder where are the fruits of the Spirit in my life?” A friend recently expressed frustration…not feeling joy or peace or patience…fruits of the spirit.

“I know I’m feeling sorry for myself, but sometimes I just let myself go there.”

Of course I said what she knows, “the pity pot is a dead end road.”

Trouble is, it’s easy to rest and hang in that space…even when we know better.

Always remember there is always someone somewhere else in the world who would be happy to change places with you.  I read that last week…just when I began to throw myself a pity party.  Watching the news, I am daily reminded of my blessings. (that I don’t always count one-by-one)

“I am so tired it seems I don’t have time to hardly pray anymore.”

We can all get there, with good reason. Kids that demand care and nurturing day in day out. Add social or learning difficulties, mental or physical handicaps. Parents that require attention and caregiving…and their own sadness. Grieving their friends or family members dropping like leaves daily from their once thriving tree of life. Spouses dealing with demands and life transitions that drain them or dull them or tweek them.

Somehow, we have to find the time to water our souls.

Today I have to water my Dad’s pine tree.  I will leave early on the way to the gym and stop at Lowe’s for a long soaker hose. The pine tree is dropping mountains of brown needles now and I can see the poor dry branches praying to the heavens.

Unfortunately, LAST SUMMER a friend, an arborist, told me to buy a 50 foot hose and irrigate the pine for several hours every two weeks. Lay it around the base of the tree spreading it several feet apart. Cover the hose with mulch and leaves which will improve the soil.

Have I done it?  No. Until today, it hasn’t been bad enough. I felt really sad for that tree looking at it.

I think we do the same things to our souls.  Given particularly long seasons of giving and caring, dry, with children, aging parents, or trying times in marriage….sometimes we get tired of nurturing. So we don’t even nurture ourselves. We dry up and wilt on the pot. WE know it. Others see it. Our behavior displays it.

Trouble is, no one can water us, unless we do. Our arms are that handle to the watering jug just like it was once the arms of the little teapot. Remember the song we sang growing up?

“I’m a little teapot short and stout (isn’t that the truth), here is the handle here is the spout, tip me over and pour me out.”

We’re still children. We’re God’s children and we need His care.

When I am feeling dry as the summer heat, it is time to sit in the backyard early morning. Birds sing there. Shade shields the sun while the air is cool. The Psalms sing God’s loving kindness and I can be still enough to inhale trust in my Heavenly Father, like a little child again, enough to last the day.

I can inhale grace that brings compassion for those around me who need me to be there for them today.

And I can exhale criticism that leads to complaint and discouragement and disease in me.

No, I, we don’t need to curl up and turn brown like an unwatered rose bush. So I prayed with my friend this morning.

We watered ourselves with the fountain God provides daily. His grace like a fountain, His grace sufficient for the day. We will continue to live and thrive even in the drought.

Just because it’s a dry spell doesn’t mean our plants have to wilt and brown and curl up. I just finished watering the roses. I’ve filled a large cup with ice, water, coffee and mocha mix. I’ve got my Bible and devotions, my journal and my pen. My guitar and my chords. It’s my turn.

Jeremiah 17:7   But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Psalm 87:7  As they make music they will sing, All my fountains are in You.

Psalm 1:2,3   Blessed is the man whose…delight is in the Law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in season and whose leaf does not wither.

 

 

 

Forgive Again? Yes, it is Good Friday

Bay bridge day

 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21, 22 NIV)

Peter had been traveling with Jesus and eleven disciples—so many personalities, habits and moods to contend with daily. Some are flexible and spontaneous, above board and honest, like him…or so he thinks.

Others are quiet, thoughtful, and slow to move and speak. They question everything and seem resistant, even critical of anything Peter says.  Peter is learning from the Master, but he’s struggling with the brothers, especially one. And this time Peter runs to Jesus, tired of forgiving over and over. The guy just doesn’t care about Peter’s feelings.

Downton Abby, a famous PBS series, just played episode seven, where Mary, the older sister brings pain to her younger sister, Edith, once again. She humiliates her in front of her family and betrothed catalyzing a break-up.

Edith lashes out and calls Mary on her horrible behavior. Hurt, she flees to another city. The rift between the sisters is strong. Yes, Mary is remorseful but sees no way to fix the trouble she has caused her younger sibling. She is not a people pleaser. Nor does she like to admit fault. It is easier to wait, and in time….

In a surprising turn of events to Mary’s benefit, Edith forgives Mary—unasked. She is not ruled by pride. Always the humble one, she closes the breech by coming to Mary.  Longing to bridge the gap, Edith declares the importance of keeping their bond, despite their innate differences.  Their upbringing and family history, their parents and Granny, their deceased sister and children—no one else could know the nuances of their family, the way they both understood.

Isn’t it interesting? It seems in life, the people hardest to forgive are the people closest to us. A woman married fifty years once stood in a church foyer and stated how she made it—“breathe forgiveness.”

Sounds a lot like seventy times seven.

Jesus knew the value of forgiveness and our human feelings.

            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27 NIV)

A blessing for a curse?  It sounds paradoxical. Jesus knows forgiveness is a decision and love is active. He knows, as we do, we all need His forgiveness for our wrongs and we rely on His love and mercy to cover our mistakes. He paid a price for us to be forgiven, and expects us to be merciful to others in turn—to sacrifice pride and judgment, even pain—and choose to forgive. It is never easy. There are depths to pain and forgiveness like the depth of the ocean, the deeper the pain, the darker the water. But forgiveness releases the victim as well, from misery and hate.

Matthew 5:45 reveals when we forgive we are behaving like children of our Father in Heaven. We bring God honor through forgiveness. We release others from guilt.

Yes, sometimes the people closest to us, spouses, siblings, children, parents—can seem like the enemies Jesus said to love. Their words pierce deeper because they are the closest to our heart. They are the ones we have decided to trust with our thoughts and emotions. We want to believe they are always safe people to live with and love us as we love them.

“My daughter is breaking my heart,” a tearful nurse erupted as she arrived at work. Her fourteen-year-old had said goodbye with the words, “I hate you.”

It’s hard to love and feel loved when actions and words flip day to day, or week to week. Love and hate, blessings and curses. The wheel spins inside the brain and words fly off at alarming rates sometimes. There is an enemy of our soul who loves to surprise us with a hit, when we least expect it. Ambushed, we can feel like we are battling something unseen. We are.

Mary, was in pain and inner conflict when she callously opened Edith to humiliation. Those closest to us, in their pain, can cause ours. “Wounded people, wound people.” And those with deeper wounds are often not aware what they are doing. They are minions of emotion and confusion, creating crazy circles of crisis for themselves and others.

Enemies may come from horrible bosses or backstabbing, burden laying peers. I have prayed Jesus’ words to cope with an unsavory work environment. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36 NIV)

Attempting to do my job clear-headed without having to constantly address the virus of emotions running in the background, spurred by comments and actions unrelated to our job positions, I prayed to love them.

Daily I had to shake the bird nest of bitterness trying to camp in my mind. “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest.”

Just this morning a friend told me her work has improved. “I decided to forgive my boss, carte blanche. I just don’t let it get to me anymore.”

There is power in forgiveness, not just for us, but for those around us. We are not expecting them to be something they cannot be. Because we are praying, we are not as easily disappointed or frustrated by their behavior.

Our unseen enemy, Satan, is out to divide—to bring pain and build walls with pride and animosity. Hatred is the opposite of love. If we give into hatred we cannot do the good Jesus asks of us. We cannot walk worthy of our calling as believers or help those we love, because we are not able to use the greatest power given to us by God—the power of love.

Love is stronger than hate. God’s way is stronger than the way of the world. He can empower us through the Holy Spirit to forgive, because we are attached to the Vine. The Vine is Jesus who hung on a tree and died for our sins, while forgiving those who drove the nails into his hands on the cross.

Today He is alive, and the power to love pours through His veins. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But with Him, we can choose to forgive—simply by asking Jesus, the One who knows how best to help us.

For Those who Hold a Light of Hope…to Help

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Often we don’t hear the words. “Your voice counts. Your presence makes a difference.” So many times those beside someone digging through a dark wall, can wonder if they are any help.

 

Sometimes we underestimate the power of our presence.

Holding a light of hope while they chip away at a tunnel toward freedom feels paltry compared to their groans. Even bolstering words can sound limp. “Hang in there.” “God will see you through.”

Just being there shows empathy and value. They often feel lost and alone, too weary to respond. To say thank you one more time, in their seeming never-ending marathon.

Recently, I was surprised by a comment after a meeting, “Your voice was needed today.” It had brought change and relief to someone holed in bureaucracy.

Loyalty. Faithfulness. Love in action. Maybe you feel it is not much. After all, you cannot chip at the tunnel for another. It is their course.

They must lift their own feeble arms and use their own strength to advance through the quarry facing them daily. They must bear the weight of dirt laden boots shuffling through the quagmire of bleak circumstances day after day. It is their cross, and the Lord is with them. He has given them enough grace to fight. We are given the insight to pray.

They may face a terrific trial of the soul, oppressed by a demanding boss, unfair teachers or backbiting peers. They may fight insidious inner voices sabotaging their reason and sanity, dominating siblings or spouses, jeering bullies. Medical maladies. Another round of radiation therapy. Complications from the last surgery. A drug-addicted child…or spouse.

Grievous to them…and to us. We wonder too, when will this ever change, God?

Your presence helps them know…you believe this too will pass. It is a struggle for you not to take a boulder in your own hands. Make calls, torpedo words and create your own explosive actions—absent God’s will and plan and timing.

But you have learned about timing. You know, “our times are in God’s hands.” (Psalm 31:15 NIV)  Theirs as yours. You have learned your lessons, navigated your own tunnels.  If you slam the walls too hard from impatience, around and above, the ceiling can cave in. Tunnel passages require a slow chipping, a slow suffering, not a hasty block of dynamite.

Is your voice needed to intervene for a child, a teen, an elderly person, a single parent, those who are sick?

Prayers can take a long time to be answered. Persevere. Pray for tenacity for those moving toward their future goals, derailed easily by dark doubts and haunting yesterdays. Or those weakened from invisible battle wounds of the heart. Ask for fresh words and ways to encourage those with chronic illness or sudden physical setbacks, remembering people cope differently with loss or transition.

We watch and wait in hope. We know when the wall begins to crumble and the light angles through the cracks, they will feel a gust of fresh air shift—that first deep inhalation. We know the tunnel is ending when we glimpse tears pooling in once dull eyes, and shoulders straightening.

Then we will know, as we believe now—we are where we needed to be, doing what God has called us to do. Nothing big, nothing grand. Just to stand. Stand with them hidden from the public eye. Watch and pray trusting God until their breakthrough to hope and peace.

For, if you have been comforted by the Lord and His presence through others, if you have known His patience and faithfulness in your own life, you will be able to encourage others the same way you were encouraged. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

 

Knights of the Light, a Star Wars devotional

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Knights of the Light

The Jedi knights in the Star Wars films  are brave guardians of the Universe destined by blood lines, they train from youth at the Jedi Academy through the power of the Force to defeat the tyranny of the Dark Side.

Recently while my husband and I watched the series, spiritual parallels surfaced.

In the New Testament Jesus states, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness…” (John 8:12)

Who is the Prince of Darkness? Satan. Deft at mental warfare, he throws fiery darts of doubt, fear and unbelief to keep us from completing God’s purposes. He intends to stamp out the Light of God’s presence, diminish God’s goodness and benevolence to man and steal the peace and health God gives His people.

Targets of the Dark Side

The Emperor taunts Luke Skywalker to react emotionally when he attempts to do what is right. If Luke reacts in rage, fear or pride, victory is aborted. In the same way Christians daily gird our minds to overcome the Accuser who lurks at every turn. Not until the End of the Age will we be free from Satan’s strategies to sideline us from accomplishing God’s goals.

We are Satan’s targets. He is like a “roaring lion who prowls” (I Peter 5:8) seeking to devour us. We call upon God to warn us internally, by the Spirit’s nudge, to avoid traps and temptations the enemy uses to weaken us.

How the Spirit Leads

Paul, out martyred leader of the faith, aware of his own tendency toward pride taught young believers, “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)  “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” (I Peter 3:15)

When we decide to follow Jesus, we experience the force of His love and power of His words. Only then, will we obey what He says instead of what we feel. We trust Him more than ourselves.

When we walk in the Spirit, God may lead us in ways we can’t understand. The Jedi closed their eyes, shook off fear and doubt and let the Force lead them. We must shut off our barrage of thoughts. Stop the anticipation and internal conversation and ask God to lead us, and help us to hear the voice of His Spirit. Often His principles and ways may not sync with our human reason or the timing of those around us.

Those closest to us, even our leaders, can crumble with fear under duress. All can drift from the truth found in the pages of the Book, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) We all face dark principalities that seek to undermine humanity and destroy God’s Kingdom. But each of us are equipped with divine spiritual armor.

Saber Lights and Teamwork

Jedi’s pursued the discipline, focus, and skillset to handle their saber lights—amazing laser-like swords which deftly destroy creatures of any composition. The Believer’s sword is the Word of God. To grow strong in their faith and deft with their sword, they must desire to know the Word as a baby craves milk. (1 Peter 2:2)

Unity, teamwork and trust within the Jedi Council is imperative in decision making and a successful mission. Suspicion causes hesitation and can undermine a timely strategy. Guided by the will of God to serve Him and His purposes, we will care for one another and refuse unhealthy competition and pride.

Maturity helps us to share our victories and exalt our Commander. Our motives are transparent, our actions reveal integrity.

Obedience to God’s command to wait or stay, rather than move out of His will provides peace and safety when pricked by darts of restlessness. The discipline of restraint produces composure in anger, reason in conflict, and effort over ease. It creates the character necessary to persevere through crisis and challenge.

  Shield and Helmet

Wear the shield of faith. When we accept His wisdom, and act and speak accordingly, we retain dignity. If others are given assignments we desire, fiery darts of jealousy or self-pity stop when we raise our shield of faith. When we deflect those poisonous darts—the enemy is disabled, unable to sabotage our trust in God and loyalty towards each other with lies, the way the Emperor poisoned Vader toward the Jedi Council.

“Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Similar to Jedi, each of us are open to attack through our mind. The helmet of salvation safeguards our identity when we are assaulted by thoughts of inadequacy. We belong to the One who has the power. “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.” (Psalm 89:7 NLT)

We must keep a strong mind when any voice assails our faith. When we are surrounded by unfamiliar people in new territories, we center our spirit by acknowledging the presence of our Master and positioning ourselves to listen.

Time is short—our eyes must rest on the Light of the World, His voice and instruction. Sharpen our sword of truth to forge our destiny as it once did for His disciples in centuries past.

“Go then, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you ‘all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion) to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).” Matthew 28:19,20  Everyday Life Bible

.                                                                              © Dee Aspin

 



 

Gaps and Grace. Growing in Marriage.

winding path in NZ

“You need to give each other more grace.“ Our marriage counselor intentionally looked each of us in the eye last week.

Gaps. My gaps stare at my mate. His stare right back at me. And our marriage counselor sees it all.

“Grace to focus on the motives and attempts. The grace to ease up on each other with patience and perseverance, instead of addressing the Gaps. “Lots of grace…” the message comes through no matter what the issue of the session.

“Honey, I’m sorry you’re having a bad day and I hope the rest of the day is better.”

This is the note I keep on my desk to remind me how to speak words of empathy.

Brilliant if I remember when the occasion actually arises

These are not words that spill from my mouth when my spouse is under fire from within or without. I have questions and advice or suggestions. Not this.

Gaps. Gaps and more gaps. In bad times they expand. In better times they shrink.

Recently I ran into a boomer newlywed who asked how I was doing two years into my marriage.

 “My husband is my iron man,” I winked quoting a verse… “as a friend to a friend, so iron sharpens iron.”

“This is hard!” The second-time arounder’s eyes widened, “We are going from Bible study to Bible study trying to figure this out.”

A professional communicator told me awhile back, “It took me ten years to learn how to communicate with my husband.”

Why does communicating—talking, listening and understanding each other have to be so hard?

 “Men’s and women’s brains are different,” our counselor relayed again last week. When we forget—we judge incorrectly.

The male mind sequences events and words in order—one event and action followed by the next, logical. He processes one thing at a time well and focuses on one project at a time. That allows him to complete his work.

Women’s brains have neurons that shoot from side to side and connect both sides of their brains at the same time. They can multitask because of it. They can have a few things going at the same time, whether conversation or projects, leave various ones and pick up where they left off on others, easily. It’s a brain function.

Some of our adjustments are because we have different personalities and methods of assessment and decision making.

“You are random—he is linear.” No protest.

“Steve can’t understand you when you make comments aside from a spoken context or speak quickly and change topics. You need to slow down, pace yourself and give what you say a context. It’s not a group of women chit-chatting away and running off on a hundred rabbit trails that intersect and eventually wind up complete.”

“Don’t talk to me like you talk to your girlfriends,” my husband kindly reminds me…often.

One thought at a time?  Easy to say. It’s easy to think I can but as I’m thinking and speaking of one thing, other thoughts pop up that add reference. At least I think it does? My husband says they are another topic. Hmm. A woman and ADHD. God help me, because I have to change…and I have always been this way. And so I pray and ask God to change me. When I married Steve, I committed to be the best I can be for this man, for our marriage. And he, me.  We are both so thankful we have a person who gives us wise counsel and feedback we sometimes can’t receive from each other.

“You have a different style. You need to find a compromise. Your way is not better or worse than his/her way,” we have both heard this reminder multiple times. It means dying to myself and what I want, including waiting to address issues he is not at the moment ready to address! I am the spontaneous—not the diplomat. It means Steve bends also in his time and focus. Humility and pleasant words, promote instruction. It is the growing ground for couples. “I can grow. You can grow. We can grow together.”

When one of us is in a dormant season or having a bad day, the other will have spaces and gaps that are not filled.

We will fail to meet each other’s needs and feel empty spaces in those places. We need to forgive the neglect and forget the bleakness of harsh words and bad attitudes.

Grace from God who loves and accepts us in our crazy ins and outs—is what fills the void. His unconditional love and presence makes up the difference every time and carries us through to the flowers. To the love that blooms again.

A love that is intentionally voiced or texted daily in our marriage simply as “I love you.”

Why? Because as we decided in premarital counseling to take this advice. It restates commitment to each other in good times and bad. Loyalty. Perseverance. Dedication to devote ourselves to being present even when we don’t feel like it. Presence. 90% of life is showing up,” I have posted in my bathroom.

But the future of our marriage is more than being around. It is actively planting seeds of love and kindness, of talking and listening, of apologizing and weeding—when the time is right. Seeds planted today, irregardless years of marriage, will sprout and blossom into fragrance we can each enjoy season by season and flowers we can each touch. Sowing seeds reaps real life displays of colorful growth in our garden of love.

At two and a half years young we are feeling less gaps, as we give each other the learning time God gives us. When I feel the Gaps within myself (or Steve’s) are expanding—I spend more time with Jesus. And so does he. We each need our Mediator, our most Wonderful Counselor who is always available 24/7.

We receive His grace to say the words, “I love you” daily. As we allow the Lord to fill the gaps with His love and comfort, unconditional love we don’t always give to ourselves or each other so readily—Jesus gives freely. Our hearts needs are soothed. His grace fills the gaps as we grow closer to God… and closer and more patient with each other.

 

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

 

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.

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. 

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