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

 

 

Don’t take the Wind out of their Sails- Communicating God’s Way

 

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Dad warned me in my single years, “You take the wind out of their sails.” Whether I asked for his advice or not—like father, like daughter. “You talk too much. You don’t always have to have the last word.”

This week I found a journal entry, Rolling, written those years. Timely in light of my recent daily prayer …for humility.

Rolling—

I’m so controlling,

I’m a ball that’s rolling

Over my man, again,

Taking the wind out of his sail.

My mouth,

A forceful gale.

God I need help…to stop myself,

I must lose

for us

to win

I don’t know what spurred this poem in those days, but we all know words have the power to build up or tear down. I’ve been working on my heart-mouth sync since I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord at 17. Then it was sarcasm and gossip. My delivery can take a twisted turn pretty quick.

Nowadays, I have a husband who picks up on the tiniest attitude, my sacred mirror. Bummer for me. I have to speak from a heart of respect and a thoughtful mind for a gracious delivery if I’m feeling at all tweaked.(impatient, judgmental, sarcastic,petty). Many times, silence is golden.

Pastor Greg Laurie gave a sermon at a harbor in Crete, Greece. Pointing to docked sailboats he explained in Ephesians 5:18 when Paul spoke of us being filled with the Spirit—it had the  meaning of these sails filled with the gusts of wind and ready for the journey.

James 3:4 says “although ships are large and driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go…”the tongue is like a little rudder that steers a great ship—

If any of you have struggled for a lifetime with mouth problems, I have found practicing spiritual disciplines really helps.

Start the day asking for humility and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we’re emptied of pride and selfish ways (impatience, judgment) we can be filled with His Spirit and gentleness—strength under control.

Jesus loves to be walking with us on this journey. He helped Peter, the impetuous apostle. He can help any of us who have the uncanny ability some will never know….to speak before thinking. Did I say that?

 “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”    Psalm 19:14

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 



 

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

Thoughts on Dating and the Maze and Haze

Dating is like figuring out a  maze. Last night I spoke with two single friends and am so glad I am done with dating after literally a lifetime—married now 9 months almost!!  But it is impossible to get married without the D-a-t-i-n-g  word so… afterthoughts.

Dating can be a craze-maze if we are still processing our dysfunctional past—if we were raised where we were not given the opportunity to voice opinions and reason, or negotiate to resolve conflict or differences growing up. If we are indecisive. Apprehensive. Afraid. Unsure of ourselves.Low self esteem. 1×1 = 1  Two whole people multiplied makes one whole relationship. 1/2 times 1/2 = 1/4  Yikes!

In single parent homes we often do not learn how couples communicate—because  men and women communicate differently.Their brains are actually physiologically different—we are shortsighted. ie. Men need their caves for refreshing. We need to let them go there. Not resent what we don’t understand. Women need communication. Men need to tell us what they are doing or not doing. And ask us questions. We both need to always clarify what we are hearing each other say. “I heard you say this… did you mean this” before jumping to conclusions…because we hear words differently.

It’s a maze if we were in a committed co-dependent relationship or marriage where in order to remain together we had to cease to exist (no voice)—and enter dating at twenty years old or dating again at forty years old we feel behind the curve of ability.

So with the empty bag of tools we possess to garden weeds out of a relationship and plant seeds…we learn it. We learn how to sow the ground for good communication through years of trial and error, counsel and observation, prayer and pain.( Unless we are blessed to meet a person who has great communication skills, which was pretty non-existent in my dating life.)

The good news is that God marries imperfect people all the time. Marriage doesn’t mean we have arrived as amazing communicators at any level. But it ensures we get to work on it if we marry someone who loves us enough to listen and we love them enough to listen so we can both learn to communicate well – we can grow together  and individually.

People will always get together, and even have successful marriages in spite of rocky courtships or relationships. Once I received a note from a friend who was in a dysfunctional relationship. I didn’t know the answers, but remembered stories, so shared…

I will be praying. Sometimes people don’t know what love is if it has always been dysfunctional. They don’t know that without all the intensity of the crazies, a secure and peaceful relationship with good communication is true love. They have to learn to like normal.

I know you don’t want to hold your hopes up, that is the hardest part. But this is your first break-up with Greg and he may realize later that he has the feelings—when you are not in his life. Emotionally numb.

I met a women who was happily married with children 15 years when I last saw her. But in her twenties her fiancé, now husband, broke their engagement  multiple times. We couldn’t believe her response hanging in there unruffled. She calmly prayed with her Bible study group the night he broke up the 5th time “Oh, he’s just afraid again.”

Another couple our age who were engaged and broke up recently are now back together and doing well. Dr. Dobson in his rules of dating, posted, “Many couples have a breakup before marriage. It is part of the process.  If it is not to be, then you are both better for having dated each other….because you know more what a healthy relationship should be.”

That’s why I never regretted old dating relationships. God uses all things for good. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly Ps 84:11

I am confident God has the right one for you, whether it is Mr Man in Question or someone we can’t see yet. YOu are wonderful inside out.  Stay focused. In quietness and confidence is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15) He will give you peace and steady you.”

Parting thought: As a dating single, I said to myself in those tough times when seemed no one is out there, or fresh from a  break- up–

“There is always another man.”

If you are a guy reading this, “there is always another woman.”

So don’t give up. There are many people looking for someone to love at all ages….

 

This Too Will Pass…Seasonal Pain

“Life is like marriage; it’s up and it’s down,” Grandma used to say moving her hand up and down in the air like an elevator on the blitz.

I often thought of her witticism in my twenties because it meant good times and bad times come to all, single or married, even as I longed for marriage to fulfill my life.

Before I had long-lasting relationships beyond the first few months of infatuation, it offered a wise perspective from a woman married many years.  It said unhappiness in a marriage (not talking about abuse of course) is not necessarily a problem with the marriage:  finances, health, purpose, relationships, focus, unfortunate circumstances as well as unforeseen blessings blow in and out of season for each of us. It meant we can’t blame someone else if we are unfulfilled or judge they are not contributing to our lives in some way if life is spiraling and stale.

A friend complained her fruit trees produce tons of apples last year and a lot less this year. We may feel we are stagnating in certain situations and want change now, married or single, when it could be better if we allow God to work with our attitude. Focus on what we have rather than what we don’t even as the seasons will surely change and all things will pass.

When I turned 39—the worst year of my single life because the Need-to-start-a-family-by- 40-Pressure is volcanic—I vividly recalled a conversation with a married friend.

I was single and in pain—love-stuck in an orbiting relationship. She was married and in pain, her husband out of work again, trapped in the mire of financial loss and unsettled emotions pervading their home life again.

“I can’t remember what it is like to live a day, a life, without pain,” she lamented.

“I can’t either,” my voice lilted. “I had a few moments today, at lunch and when I was shopping. Otherwise I’m always aware of the ache.”

Five years later we exchanged another similar conversation—that struck a chord in my memory.

“I’m doing good” She stated heartily. “I’m not in pain anymore,” she mused. “Can’t remember the last day I felt it!”

“Me too!” I rejoined. “Isn’t that amazing how God brought us through that terrible time a few years ago…when we were engulfed in it?”

I  will never forget those two brief conversations with the same friend because it echoes the lives of all of us…at some point and for different reasons. We all go through seasons of pain that God acknowledges in Revelations. It is not just an emotional week or brief encounter with sorrow. In Greek it means anguish. It is the ache of a broken life, an altered dream, an adjustment to a new normal or the hangover of a crisis. It feels like a prison sentence. And it will pass. It is important to know this when it feels like it will never end.

A single friend who married at fifty said she had the aching longing every single day of her forties until she married at fifty. A man who grieved the early loss of his wife bore it for five years after her death.

God separates this deep pain from more temporary sorrows and sadness in Revelations describing heaven, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sorrow (mourning in Greek) or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev 21:4

Isn’t it comforting to know God separates sorrow from pain? He created us and He understands our emotional needs.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed (wasting away), for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”                                                           Lamentations 3:24