Category Archives: Devotions

Guard Your Heart

I saw it.  Perhaps you saw it too.  In your Facebook News Feed and posted on various news sites, we saw this headline:

“Mother shares heartbreaking final moments of 4-year-old’s battle with cancer”

Along with this headline was a heart shattering photo of this little boy lying on a bathroom rug while his mother took a shower because he wanted to be near to her.  Did you click on it?  Were you able to handle reading the story?  I didn’t click on it.  I didn’t simply and honestly because I couldn’t bear the sorrow.  In fact, I won’t even link to the story here.  If you missed it and want to read it, you can do a simple Google search.  The story is still out there.  I purposed in my heart that I would not read it.  It was too much for me.   As I scrolled past this story, my heart cried out to this mother, “I’m so sorry this happened to you, but I can’t bear to read your words right now.  I’m too weak and full of my own sorrow to bear yours too.”  Though I couldn’t read the story, I did pray for her.  It was all I could do.

This mother posted her story on her Facebook page, and then through the power of social media it was shared and shared and shared to the masses.  Though I don’t know the full background of this story, I’d like to believe that she didn’t mean to expose the photo of her precious son to the world.  She just wanted to share her heart with those closest to her, but they shared it until the story went viral, and strangers like me have to grapple with how to respond.

We are told we need to show empathy, but is empathy a healthy response?  In an article on the Psychology Today website that explains the difference between sympathy and empathy, the author expounds on four terms:

  • pity: I acknowledge your suffering
  • sympathy: I care about your suffering
  • empathy: I feel your suffering
  • compassion: I want to relieve your suffering

It seems to me that in our culture, empathy is elevated as the ideal response to human suffering.  People who lack empathy are seen as villains.  I Googled, “is empathy healthy,” and found this article:  Five Reasons You Should Be Less Empathetic.  I especially appreciated the #4 and #5 reasons:

  • #4: Empathy is emotionally exhausting (but compassion is not)
  • #5: People in pain don’t want you to feel their pain; they want you to be there for them

Empathy is emotionally exhausting and overwhelming.  When I am exhausted and overwhelmed, I am not in a place where I can be with someone who is in pain.  It occurred to me that I cannot pull someone out of a pit by getting into the pit with them.  That would compound the problem.  In order to help someone, I need to be strong and healthy.  I need to have sure footing, a firm grasp, and patient persistence to hold onto them while they climb out themselves.  I personally think that empathy serves its purpose in alerting me to people’s needs, but sympathy and compassion allow for me to actively aid those in need and still protect my mental health.  People in professions who care for people who are facing their most difficult times: doctors, nurses, clergy, counselors, etc. are trained in how to work with people in crisis.  They learn that self-care and boundaries are vital and a priority so they can stay on higher ground while lifting people up.  I haven’t had that kind of training.

People in crisis don’t want you to fix them.  They want you to be there.  They want you to listen to them and acknowledge their pain.  They don’t need you to have the perfect thing to say.  In fact, saying nothing is usually the wisest thing to say.  I think about the Biblical account of Job.  Job suffered incredible pain and loss.  His three closest friends heard about his troubles and traveled a great distance to comfort and console Job.

“When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him…When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him.  Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights.  No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.”  Job 3:11-13

Then someone talked, and things got messy.

Through the past few weeks I feel like I’ve been in a wrestling match with anger, bitterness, and sorrow.  It’s like they are heavy weights on a barbell that I am struggling to bench press off of my heart.  That’s why I made the conscious decision to bypass the article about the little boy.  I knew if I read it my heart would be crushed.  This is the Scripture I was meditating on:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  Proverbs 4:23

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The word “guard” here does not mean to lock up your heart, but more of a sense of put a watchman on guard around your heart, and to be aware of what you allow in.  The next few verses in Proverbs give suggestions about how to guard/watch for anything corrupt that could damage your heart:

“Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech [be careful what you listen to], and fix your eyes on what lies before you [be careful what you look at/watch].  Mark out a straight path for your feet; and stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil [live your life, carry the burdens that are yours to carry, stay away from things that would tempt you to sin].  Proverbs 4:24-27 (brackets mine)

All of this comes down to the fact that if I am to be of any good to someone who is going through painful circumstances then I need to be in a healthy place where I can see and think and speak clearly.  Jesus addressed this in His Sermon on the Mount.

“Any why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  Matthew 7:3-5

Take care of yourself.  Set up healthy boundaries.  Know your limitations.   Be careful what you listen to.  Be careful what you say.  Be careful what you look at.  Remove the log.  Guard your heart.

God isn’t Odd!

That time of the day when everyone is safely tucked in bed, and I can lie down, relax, and exhale.  Then, from my son’s bedroom comes a blood curdling scream, “MOMMY!”  I jump up and run to his room.  He is shaking and crying, trembling in fear.  I just tucked him in, so he couldn’t have had time to fall asleep and have a bad dream.  He wasn’t sick or hurt.  The skies were perfectly calm.  No wind.  No storms.  What was he frightened of?  I asked him what was wrong.  After a while he was able to squeak out, “5 suns!”

I knew exactly what he was talking about, and I shot up a quick prayer, “God, give me wisdom!” and I sat on his bed.

“Five suns.  You’re talking about Odd Squad, right?”

He stopped crying, but was still upset, and said, “Yes.”

For the uninitiated, Odd Squad is a children’s program on PBS wherein child agents (all of whom have names that begin with the letter O) use math to investigate strange and odd goings on in their town.  I personally think it’s a really cute show and a creative and fun way to teach math concepts.  Just before going to bed, Aaron was watching an episode that had to do with things mysteriously splitting into fives.  There was a picture montage, and one of them showed five suns in the sky, and that picture was very disturbing to his autistic mind.  It wasn’t how things should be.  It was weird.  Strange, and quite unsettling.  Odd.

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God answered my prayer, and I suddenly knew exactly what to say.  I said, “Aaron, isn’t it wonderful that when things are as God made them to be it feels right and we feel safe?”  He sat up in bed and gave me his full attention.  I went onto explain, “When God was doing His work of creation, after each thing He created, He looked at it and proclaimed, ‘It is good!’  God liked the way He created things, and we like it too, don’t we?”  He nodded.

Then it occurred to me, “Sometimes humans try to imagine what things would be like if they were different.  They try to imagine different worlds, different kinds of creatures, and whenever we do that, whatever ideas we come up with always seem strange, odd, and scary.  But we can thank God that what He created is GOOD.”  He decided that he wasn’t going to watch Odd Squad anymore, and then went to sleep.

Does this mean that he doesn’t read books and watch movies that have to do with alternate worlds?  No.  Aaron loves The Wizard of Oz and The Chronicles of Narnia.  I do too.  But I have to admit that when the characters are in Oz or Narnia there is a sense of uneasiness, and I finally feel good when they are back where they belong.  When Dorothy wakes up from her “dream.”  When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy tumble out of the wardrobe.  Things are as they should be.  It would have been strange if Dorothy was trapped in Oz, or the Pevensie children in Narnia without the means to return to their homes.

As much as we like to imagine it, no one really wants to be immortal, have superpowers, or travel through time with a Time Lord in a Tardis (yes, I like watching Doctor Who).  Most of us just want to live a quiet life, and to do good and enjoy the time we have on the Earth.

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My greatest longing and desire is to live the best life possible, and that is accomplished by completely surrendering myself to God’s plans and purposes and seeking to live the life that He intended.  That is my pursuit, and in so pursing I have experienced a very rich and fulfilling life.  God’s ways are never odd.  They may be challenging.  He may ask of me things I don’t think I can do, but when I trust Him and step out and try, He always empowers me with His grace to see it through.  God’s ways may put me at odds with the rest of the world, and often do.  However, I have no regrets.  The choices I’ve made have brought me here, and I am very blessed.  Life is good.  God’s ways are good.

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Ramblings about Prophecy

God is alive and well and actively involved in our lives.  One way He demonstrates His involvement is through the operation of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in and through people who have surrendered their lives to Him.  I have no intention of getting into an intellectual, theological discussion.  I do not have a seminary degree nor do I hold a leadership position in any church that would give me the authority to do so.  Please just allow me to express some of the things I’ve been thinking about…which is the purpose for my entire blog—a place for me to unload my brain.

There is a difference between the Gift of Prophecy and the Office of a Prophet.  The Gift is something that all believers in Jesus have the potential to experience and walk in; however, that does not make each person a Prophet who has a specific calling from God and a particular jurisdiction in which to operate—some locally, some globally, and yes, there are true Prophets in the earth today, and we should pay attention when they speak.  Much more to say on this subject, but I wanted to focus on the Gift of Prophecy for this writing and share some of my personal experiences.

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The purpose of prophecy is to make known the secrets of God.  The apostle Paul expresses his desire that all in the church would be able to move in this gift—that means everyone.  He desired that all believers would walk in such intimacy and unity with the LORD that He would lay bare the secrets of His heart to them and that they would give expression to the things He reveals for each of them to draw closer to God and to one another…to be enabled to encourage and challenge one another toward a deeper life with God.  Most if not all believers desire to hear the voice of God, and they want everyone to know/think they’ve heard from God, when sometimes all they’ve heard is the desire of their own hearts for what they would like to see God do.

I’ve had a number of people tell me that God was going to give me a singing ministry; however, I can’t carry a tune, and if I hear one more person declare that I am royalty and will stand before kings, I’m going to throw up.  I’ve had a number of people prophesy things that they would like to see God do in my life, but they were just that, good wishes.  How do I know the difference when a person is speaking from their own imagination or when they are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit?  I have my own relationship with God; I am a sheep who knows my Shepherd’s voice.  I also have a bit of a process I follow when someone prophesies to me…I actively forget about it.  This is not to say that I reject it, rather I put their words on a shelf, so to speak.  More often than not, I don’t give those words another thought and their memory fades away.  Sometimes I can’t shake it.  Those words keep replaying in my mind.  That’s when I pay attention and act on them, mostly by praying about it or grabbing my Bible to study deeper.  Another time I pay attention is if someone speaks something that enhances or gives further insight to what God spoke to my heart previously.

For the first seven years of our marriage, my husband and I were childless and wanted to become parents.  At the end of a church service, one of the elders of our church came up to me and whispered in my ear.  His wife was horrified when I told her what he whispered, and all I could think at the time was, “Wow!  You’re brave to say that to me.”  What did he say?  He said, “God told me that you are pregnant.”  Not “you will be,” but “you are.”  I put those words on the shelf.  A little while later, during the same service, another elder, who had no idea about what was whispered in my ear, was praying for me and my husband.  He was about to say something, but stopped.  He was hesitant to speak.  We dragged it out of him, “I just keep seeing a baby.”  A week later I took a pregnancy test and saw a faint line.  I wanted to be sure, so I requested a blood test from my doctor, and she called me a few hours later with the news, “You’re going to be a mommy!”  Wow!  It happened.  We were thrilled.  Then we went to my first OB/GYN appointment, and there was no heartbeat.  Wait, what?!  That baby was prophetically announced!  How could there be no heartbeat?  There wasn’t.  A miscarriage.  Devastating and overwhelming sadness.  How did I respond to that?  I lifted my hands before the LORD and worshiped singing, “Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  He gives and takes away.”  I still don’t understand why this happened, but it did, and God is still good.

Well-meaning people said that they knew I would conceive again soon.  I didn’t.  Each month was met with renewed disappointment and sadness which culminated when we reached the month when the miscarried baby should have been born.  We decided to pursue adoption, but then God surprised us with another positive pregnancy test.  This time there was a heartbeat!  Just after that first OB/GYN appointment when we knew everything was going to be fine, I attended a women’s retreat.  The main speaker was a woman who was known for a strong gift of prophecy.  During one of the meetings she was encouraging the mothers in the room to teach their children to spend time with the LORD and to recognize God’s voice.  Suddenly, she pointed her finger at me and declared, “You have a prophet in you.  He is called to be a prophet of God.  He was prepared in Heaven for this time, and God specifically chose you and your husband to be his parents.”  I felt like a lightning bolt shot through me.  I was only ten weeks along, so there was no way of knowing if my baby was a boy or a girl at that time, but 8 weeks later it was confirmed through ultrasound—a boy!  Months later, at my baby shower, there were several prophesies from well-meaning people about the baby in my womb, most of which I forgot, but one I didn’t…the prophesy was that there was something very remarkable about my son.

We have yet to see if my son will become a prophet.  He is 8 years old and very remarkable.  He is not like most boys his age, in fact, he is autistic.  Wait, what?  The prophetic words were that he was called to be a prophet, prepared in heaven for this time, remarkable.  We were not prepared for him to have a special need that prevents him from attending school and making friends and functioning in public normally.  Nonetheless, my son sees things from a different and insightful perspective that is truly remarkable.  Time will tell.

An example of a time when a person prophesied something the LORD previously spoke to me was when God was calling my husband and I to transition to a different church.  During prayer I saw myself standing on the banks of a river and a barge floated by heading east; however, I felt an urge to go west.  I felt the LORD say, “If you get on board you will be taken far away from where I want you to go.”  I understood that the barge represented the church we were going to at that time.  I am not at all saying that the church was heading in a wrong direction, just not the direction my husband and I were supposed to go.  We knew we were supposed to leave the church; however, we didn’t know where to go, and we didn’t want to jeopardize valuable friendships.  We held this vision in our hearts.  About two years later, a prophet came to minister at this church.  He asked me to stand, and he declared, “God is taking you out of one river and putting you into another.”  Yes!  That word brought me back to the vision of the barge.  We were released from the church.  We shared this with the pastors who were sorry to see us go, but completely understood.  We left with a blessing and in blessing them.  All friendships are still intact.

Of course there are many more stories I could tell about how God has involved Himself, intervened, interacted, and initiated things in my life.  It humbles me to know how interested He is in my life…who am I that the Creator of the Universe would take such notice of me?  I am His workmanship.  I was created for His purposes in the earth, even my small part.  In the same way, He is interested and takes notice of you.  Cool, huh?

My New Year’s Resolution–To Be Content

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good.

These are the words of Israel’s wisest king, King Solomon.  The Book of Ecclesiastes is his reflections about all he learned in life.  At least it is my understanding that King Solomon is the author.  There are different thoughts about who penned these words, but I like to think it was King Solomon as he, when he was given the opportunity from God to ask for anything, asked for wisdom.  I like to think that he experienced everything people typically want to experience, and within this book of wisdom, he reveals the greatest lessons he learned.  In many of his observations about human life he declares that the efforts of mankind are ultimately vain, empty, meaningless–a mere chasing after the wind.  So, of all the things that he observed and experienced, what was the one thing he saw that was truly good?

It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.

The ultimate good that man can experience is to be content with who he is, what he has, and what he does.  To recognize that his lot in life was sovereignly planned, and that God has a reason and a purpose for all life.

Usually at this time of year, I think about what I want to accomplish in the upcoming New Year, and I write down some goals.  I start planning how I will accomplish those goals and imagining what it will feel like when those goals are realized.  Last year my goal was to finish a half marathon in under three hours.  Didn’t happen.  I did finish a half marathon, but due to cramping and spasms in my right calf muscle, I had to walk the final four miles, and I finished in 3 hours and 15 minutes.  So, do I beat myself up about not reaching my goal?  No.  Did I fail.  NO!  I’m not going to quibble about 15 minutes.  And, yes, I have some running goals in mind for 2015, but I decided that there is something much more important for me focus on this year–contentment.

I, more than anything, want to find a way to remain in a state of happiness and satisfaction with who I am, what I’m doing, and to recognize all that God is doing in the present and to realize that my life and everything and everyone in it are a gift from Him.  I want to be aware of all the wonderful things God is doing in and through my life, right now.  I don’t want to miss living in the present.

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life–this is indeed a gift from God.  God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past [or worry about the future].–Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (italics mine)

What a concept!  To be busy just enjoying life.  That’s what I want most.

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The Right Thing To Say

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The kind of person I am is revealed by the words I speak, and in the twelfth chapter of Matthew, Jesus compared my words to fruit.  My words can be sweet and nourishing or they can be hard and bitter.  What is the taste that lingers when I speak?  Do people want to hear more of what I have to say, or do they want to get away from me?

…For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (Mt 12:34b)

My words reveal my heart. If I want my words to change then my heart must change, and by “heart” I mean my attitude.  In another parable, Jesus compared the heart to the soil of a field. The soil was either hard, stony, thorny, or good soil, and on whichever type of soil seeds fell would determine how those seeds would grow.

So, how do I change my heart to ensure that the soil is good so my roots can grow deep and my branches produce good fruit?

If my heart is hard:
Jesus taught that people’s hearts are hardened based on what they hear and what they see (see Matthew 13:15-17).  So, in order for me to cultivate the soil of my heart, I need to be careful and purposeful about what I’m listening to and what I allow my eyes to look at.

This doesn’t mean I plug my ears and sing, “La La La” to block out any opposing viewpoints, but I need to be a gatekeeper for my heart.  It’s important to understand other people’s views, but I need to determine how listening to them is affecting me.  Do I need to change my viewpoint, or do I need to respectfully listen and make a choice to leave their views with them?  Does that make sense?  Paul wrote about not having a weak mind that is tossed about with every wind and wave.  So, it’s important for me to be secure in myself and my core values, and be careful about what I allow myself to think about.  Another effective way to soften a hard heart is through prayer and worship.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

In the same way, I need to be careful what I allow myself to look at.  In Job’s defense, he stated,

I made a covenant with my eyes… (Job 31:1)

I need to do the same.

If there are stones in my heart
I believe the stones represent wounds, so to dig out the stones, I need to forgive those who hurt me.

If there are thorns in my heart
I need to cast my cares and worries upon the LORD, and trust Him for every aspect of my life.

Cultivating the soil of my heart, breaking up the hard ground through prayer and worship, digging out the stones through forgiveness, and casting my cares upon the LORD prepares me to receive the good and incorruptible seed, which is the Word of God, which produces abundant fruit in my life by the words I speak.

Sovereignty: The Ultimate Superpower

What’s a good word to describe God?  Omniscient?  Omnipotent?  I like the word sovereign when describing how God works in my life.  Omniscient makes me think of some giant pulsating brain that controls the thoughts of the masses, much like the evil force on the planet Camazotz called IT in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and the word omnipotent conjures images of Zeus hurling lightning bolts down on whomever displeases him.  When I think about the word sovereign I see a kindhearted, benevolent King Who is omniscient and omnipotent and at the same time lovingly orchestrates and oversees the events of my life to ensure that all things lead to my benefit, people’s good, and ultimately God’s glory.

It is a simplistic and childlike viewpoint, to be sure, because there are things that happen in life that are horrifically painful and terrifying.  In the past few weeks we’ve seen videos of innocent men brutally beheaded by those acting under the forces of evil (convinced they are doing good), we’ve read accounts of children being mutilated and decapitated and sliced in two, and we are always reminded of those who are languishing in prison for no other crime than being a Christian.  There are many, many– too many–other people groups who are suffering dreadfully.  Much closer to home, there was a 20-year old man killed in a car accident just yesterday, and also yesterday, a dear friend of mine who was nearly full-term with her second child discovered that he died in her womb, and she will now have to give birth to a stillborn baby boy either tonight or tomorrow morning through induction.  In my personal life, my husband and I are navigating the unfamiliar territory of supporting our son who was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  How do any of these things benefit me, bring goodness to people, or give God glory?

If God is omniscient, does He know that all these terrible things are happening?  If He is omnipotent, is He powerless to stop it?  Why doesn’t He just stop it?  How can He allow it?  Many others have written much more eloquent answers to these questions than I can write.  I am not a theologian nor a Biblical scholar.  I’m a middle-aged working mom who trusts in God’s sovereignty no matter what, because I know that He knows, I know that He can, and I know that He will bring all things to right in the end, and it is this faith that enables me to endure.

Miriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who faced the death penalty testified,

“I had my trust in God,” she said. “My faith was the only weapon that I had in these confrontations with imams and Muslim scholars, because that’s what I believe.”

While God is sovereign, there is still the reality that we live in a fallen world, and that through the Fall control of the earth came into Satan’s hands.  During Jesus’ temptation, Satan told Him he would give Him all the kingdom’s of the world, and Jesus didn’t dispute the claim that these kingdoms were Satan’s to give.  As Christians we believe that Jesus is coming again in power and glory and will exercise His sovereignty to hurl Satan into the Lake of Fire and set up His rule and reign in a Millennial Kingdom.

Even as we wait for His glorious return, and as we still suffer challenging situations and hear of atrocities around the world, we have hope that He is not powerless to move and work on our behalf now.  I trust in my simplistic, childlike way that God is the Ultimate Superhero, endowed with Sovereignty, and that He works all things for my benefit, for the good of all who have faith in Him, and that His Name will be glorified.

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Love and Respect for God

One thing I have learned over the years is that God is complex and multifaceted.  People try to simplify Who He is so that our finite minds can grasp His infinite wisdom.  If asked to describe God, most people would say, “Well, God is love,” and they would be correct.  However, that is only a part of the overall tapestry of God’s intricate nature and character.  In these days, many teach that God is a Papa who loves His children, and we can run to Him, jump on His lap, and even tug on His beard.  Others like to portray Him as a good friend you can laugh with and have a good time together.  I’m not saying that God isn’t a loving Papa nor that He is unapproachable, because He is both loving and welcomes us with open arms; however, He is also holy and worthy of respect and awe.  Years ago, I heard John Bevere speak about entering into God’s presence, and I believe this point is contained in his message Drawing Near.  He points out that the scene in Heaven (and this is New Testament!!) of worship before God’s throne is not of the elders casting their crowns at His feet shouting “Love! Love! Love!”  No.  They are declaring He is “Holy! Holy! Holy!”  God is completely loving and at the same time He is completely holy, and our response to Him should be loving and respectful.  If we don’t have both, we’re missing out on knowing God for Who He truly is.

This is something I’ve pondered over the years, and I’m thinking about it again as I’m involved in a Bible study on the Book of Jonah.  Jonah is a little book in the Old Testament.  Only four short chapters telling a story of a prophet sent by God to the city of Nineveh (in modern-day Syria) to proclaim God’s wrath and judgment because of their wickedness and violence.  Jonah’s immediate reaction was to hop aboard a ship heading in the opposite direction.  God sends a raging storm, Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale.  For three days Jonah was crushed inside the belly of the whale.  He cried out to God and the whale spit him out on land.  Jonah went to Nineveh.  The people listened to him and repented of their wickedness, and God, in His great love and mercy (this is the Old Testament), relented and spared them.  The story basically ends with Jonah getting mad at God for not destroying the city and making him look like a fool.  It’s kind of a weird story and leaves me scratching my head wondering what this is all about.

The story of Jonah has captured the imaginations of many.  You can see the story enacted on stage in Branson, Missouri, and it is the subject of a major motion picture, okay, a VeggieTales movie.  The final song says it all, “Jonah was a prophet…but he really never got it.”

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My take on Jonah is that what he never really got is an understanding of Who God is.  Everything Jonah did was based on fear, and everything God did was His sovereign way of orchestrating events to reveal Himself to Jonah.  Even after being expelled from the whale, he went to Nineveh, not out of love for God or compassion for the people, but fear of what just happened to him.  His reaction to God’s mercy reveals his lack of love and respect for God.  This reminds me of Lester Sumrall.  As a young man he was stricken with tuberculosis and was about to die.  On one side of his bed he saw a coffin.  On the other side was a giant Bible.  God told him he must choose.  Well, he didn’t want the coffin, so he chose the Bible, and was miraculously healed.  He began to preach the Gospel all around the countryside; however, he really didn’t care if the people accepted his message or not.  All he cared about was not dying.  He told of one time when he asked a lady if she wanted to accept Jesus, she said no, and he yelled, “Then go to hell!”  One day he had a vision of people from all the nations of the world walking off a cliff into the fires of hell, and in the vision he tried to stop them, but they wouldn’t listen to him.  He heard the LORD say, “Their blood is on your hands.”  The result of this vision was that compassion for the people rose up within him.  To hear more of this man’s amazing life, I highly recommend the book The Life Story of Lester Sumrall.

I have difficulty with the idea of the “God of the Old Testament is mean” and the “God of the New Testament is loving.”  God is God of both the Old and the New Testament, and there are many occurrences of grace and mercy in the Old Testament, and occurrences of judgment and wrath in the New Testament (anyone want to talk about Ananais and Sapphira?).

All this to say that it is important that we know God for Who He is.  Understand His heart for the people He puts in our lives.  Understand that He is worthy of all of our love and all of our respect.  One of the best examples of this concept is a married couple.  Love isn’t enough to keep a marriage together.  In fact, it is important to understand that women speak the language of love and men speak the language of respect.  For a man and woman to truly walk together in unity is to understand how to speak and understand the other’s language.

Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband most often reacts when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts when feeling unloved.

My greatest desire is to know God…all of Him.

Coffee and a Journal

I have the day off, so I’m spending some quality time with some coffee and a journal. Anne Frank found she could only confide in her beloved Kitty. I sometimes feel that the only one who truly understands me are the pages of my journal, my blog, or whatever scrap of paper I can find to jot down the thoughts swirling through my mind.

Writing gives me an outlet to release some of the inner pressure I feel as the tumultuous sea of life tosses me from wave to wave. Writing enables me to throw off excess weight so I don’t sink in the storm. Writing is therapeutic and brings comfort to my soul. Writing is an effective method of prayer.

One of the most powerful lessons I learned while in Bible school was that it is not who I am in the public arena that matters but who I am and what I do when I’m alone and no one can see. I learned the importance of the secret life, the inner person, the things hidden. These are what I cultivate and develop in times like these when only God can see. It is during these times that I lay my heart open before God and allow Him to reveal secrets.

So, here I am with my coffee and my journal alone in the food court of my local mall. Please don’t feel sorry for me. And for goodness sake don’t interrupt me. I treasure times like this.

These times alone with God, my coffee, and my journal are invaluable to me. This is a beautiful quiet time when I can think, pray, write and be who I truly am.

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Love Bears All Things

“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.” 
John 16:12

Imagine with me, if you will, sitting with Jesus and His disciples around the Last Supper table. However, you don’t know it’s the “last.” Jesus whispers something to Judas and he abruptly leaves, you think to offer tzedekah (traditional gift of charity) to honor Passover.  However, he has a much more sinister plan.  What you don’t know is that Jesus needed Judas out of the way so He could tell you and the others what was about to happen, so you would be ready and not lose heart.

Jesus opens His heart in ways that puzzle and trouble you.  You followed Him for three years.  You listened to Him teach.  You witnessed amazing miracles.  You believed He was Messiah…the One who would deliver Israel from the tyranny of Rome.  You put your hope in Him.  You left everything…family, home, livlihood…for Him.  Now, He’s talking about leaving.  You are troubled but intrigued by all He is saying, yet He says that there is more He would like to say, but He can’t because you can’t bear it.

Perhaps the disciples could not bear/take in more of what Jesus wanted to tell them because they were too full of their own pain and sorrow. He didn’t rebuke them for it. He understood that they were not in a place to consider God’s great plan of redemption which was about to play out. They only saw the present sorrow they faced hearing that Jesus was leaving. Hard too for Jesus knowing He had to face death alone–those He was closest to would abandon Him.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:7

This is what comforts and quiets my soul during difficult times…trusting that He sees the whole picture, the end from the beginning. He knows how it will all turn out, and I can trust Him to lead me through.  When I can fully trust Him, lean on and rely on Him, I don’t have to understand.  Understanding will come.

 

Are You Thirsty? Water and Wine

I am currently involved in a Bible study on the Book of John. Today’s section was about the first miracle Jesus performed, turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. A few years ago during a time of prayer, the LORD showed me some interesting things about water and wine.

Water is a basic necessity of life. You drink water to keep hydrated. Water quenches thirst, but there is no taste. Water refreshes–it is necessary for the health and functioning of the body. Water cleanses. Water is not valued until there is a lack of it.

Wine is a luxurious treasure. You drink wine to relax, to celebrate, to unwind as you enter a place of rest. Wine has strong flavor, so strong you must sip it slowly. There is an art to tasting wine; it takes skill and practice to discern all that you’re supposed to exerience as the taste lingers in your mouth. Only the mature can partake of wine. Wine has medicinal qualities.

Passover begins with water and ends with wine. It begins by a ceremonial washing and ends with a celebratory partaking of wine.

Wine is for those whose thirst has been quenched. In a dry and thirsty place all you want is water; wine would burn. When your thirst is quenched then you can take the time to taste the wine.

You are not to drink wine alone. It is a covenental drink–it’s meant to be a shared experience. You employ all your senses when you drink wine:

  • hear the cork pop
  • see the color
  • smell the bouquet
  • taste the richness
  • feel the tanons coating your teeth

When you drink water you just swallow.

So we must stay hydrated and keep our thirst quenched so we can experience the deeper, richer flavor of the wine.