Monday, May 29, 2017

It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

I woke up this morning hoping to feel refreshed and myself.  I haven't quite been my version of myself in well over two months. As I stood in the bathroom staring at my new swollen eye I found myself crying out to the Lord.  "I am tired.  Lord, no matter how much rest I get I am tired."  I pulled myself together and continued to pray.  And then like a sweet whisper I felt compelled to read Ruth 1.  So, out of semi obedience, I went to gather my bible and my journal. And after playing on my kindle for a while I finally sat down to read.

Ruth 1 begins with a family leaving Bethlehem and taking a short journey into Moab (enemy territory).  They left their home because there was a famine, Israel had no leadership, and the inhabitants were running a muck. And they feared for their lives.    Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, pack up their things and left.  I am assuming that Elimelech and Naomi were fearful that their sons would fall into a godless life if they continued to raise them in this unlawful environment.  I also think that is was a very spontaneous decision to move away from God and their community.  I say this because there is no mention of Elimelech or Naomi seeking God's will through prayer.  It seems like the two of them were having a moment of not trusting in God's plan.  

Seeking God's will can be scary and uncertain.  Sometimes the elements of His perfect plan seem to be not so perfect in our perception.  When troubles come our way we have three options.  We can choose to go through the fire, run from the fire, or become a pyro.  Well maybe this isn't the best fight, flight and flow picture but it's the one I felt fit for today.  If we choose to go through the fire we are most assuredly going to get burned.  And often we are left with scars and bitterness.  If we avoid the fire we will probably miss an important lesson God has purposed for us.  But if we stay in the midst of the fire and allow God to refine us we learn to become masters over our tribulations.  

In Romans 8:28 God clearly tells us that He will take our circumstances and make them work together for our good and His glory!  And as I continued reading Naomi and Ruth's story I see how God did just that.  Naomi became a widow and single mom of two boys.  And I can somewhat relate to how she may have felt.  I was never a widow.  But I was a divorced mom of two girls and one boy.  And in the beginning of that time in my life I was afraid of what tomorrow held for my children.  I felt deflated, angry and ashamed.  I remember looking back on all the things I had done wrong and felt I was getting just what I had deserved.  My heart was broken and felt pretty empty at times.  How was I going to be able to give love to my children when I felt so unlovable?  But just as life went in forward motion for Naomi it went for me too.  Mahlon and Chilion married Moab women. They were married to their wives, Ruth and Orpah for about ten years.  And both of Naomi's sons died leaving her with two daughter-in-laws to provide for.  Naomi decided that she was going to return to the land of Judah because she heard that the Lord had been providing for His people. But Naomi told Orpah and Ruth that she was going alone.  She told the widows that she was unable to provide them with husbands from her house.  She kissed them good bye and thought she was free to go.  Orpah returned to her tribe.  However, Ruth clung to Naomi.  And here is where God revealed to me this day that circumstances can and will work together for our good and His glory. Naomi tried all that she could to persuade Ruth to go away.  But Ruth saw something in her mother-in-law.  "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you: For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, And there I will be buried.  The Lord do so to me , and more also, If anything but death parts you and me."  Ruth, a Moabite, came to know God through Naomi.  And Ruth wanted what Naomi had  even if it meant playing with fire.  She wanted to do whatever it took to go through the Refiner's fire.  I think Naomi was a little annoyed but she silently led the way to Bethlehem. 

They arrived in Bethlehem for the barley harvest.  At first I wondered why God thought it was so important that we know that they arrived during the barley harvest.  And so I looked up when that harvest occurs.  And it is sometime in April, before Passover.  Spring has sprung.  All things become brand new.  Naomi returned to her people as a changed women.  She was weathered, worn and bitter.  She wanted to be addressed as Mara because she felt that the Lord dealt very bitterly with her. She was depleted and needed to be replenished.  And she came during spring because she knew God's provision would be waiting.  And Ruth had a different transformation.  She took a blind leap of faith.  It would have been easier for her to return with Orpah to the Moab community.  They would have provided her with all the comforts of home.  But Ruth wanted more.  She wanted to have what Naomi had.  She wanted to know the God of the Israelites.  For her this spring took on a greater meaning.  It was this new beginning that compelled her to follow in faith. And pushing fear aside Ruth trusted Yahweh Yireh that He would give her a hope for the future. 

It's hard to say what would have been or could have been.  A family leaves their homeland to escape death. And all but one dies.  Three graves in enemy territory and three lonely widows all because of a lack of faith. I can tell you that I have seen how God has truly worked all things together for my good in spite of my lack of faith moments.  Even when I have decided, like Elimelech and Naomi, to take flight God doesn't leave me or forsake me.  He always provides a way back; a barley harvest in the spring.  Living by faith is not easy.  Most of the time our fear gets in the way.  We look ahead and see danger signs everywhere.  In order to honor God we must trust in Him.  We need to accept His promises and seek (obey) His word.  We need to walk by faith in spite of what the world around us looks like.  We need to walk by faith regardless of how we feel about the situations currently facing us.  We need to walk by faith and trust God no matter what the outcome.  When we live by faith we glorify God and we show God's love to a lost and lonely world.  And we also begin to build on our identity in Christ each time we take a step in faith. And through this faith I can be sure that in spite of illnesses, hardships and change I will be walking into a great big beautiful tomorrow.  

I pray that as we continue to seek His truths that we allow ourselves to be blessable.  When we have been living outside of faith it can be difficult to come before Yehweh Rapha and ask for healing.  Or Yahweh Nissi to bring us to victory in our daily battles. Or to come face to face with El Roi who has seen us in our filth.  But He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator and King of Glory and His love is deep for us.  I pray that we don't let our past  failures prevent us from stepping in faith and walking through the door of a beautifully blessed new day!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sunday is Coming!!!!



I love springtime.  I would have to say it's my second favorite season. Birds flock together to sing praises like a well rehearsed choir.  The trees begin to dress up and dance in their beautiful new leaves.  And flowers bloom gracefully in a multitude of glorious colors.

Yesterday was Good Friday. It started out just like most days.  I got out of bed and my feet hit the ground running.  I had the day off.  But I still managed to fill my day with things to do.  I picked my mom up.  Took her to an appointment.  We went to breakfast and followed it up with a shopping trip.  I have been a little under the weather so we cut our adventure short.  I dropped her off and got home and took a nap before the grand babies came by for a visit.  In all the running I neglected to focus on just what this day was supposed to be.  A day of reflecting on the greatest sacrifice ever made for mankind.

As I laid my head down for a nap I began to pray.  I asked the Lord to place His healing hand on my body and give me strength to endure the pain and intense itchiness that I was feeling in that moment.  I knew that the medication would kick in momentarily but I was feeling desperate and tired.  As I laid there it hit me. Wow, I am such a selfish brat.  Here on this day of all days I am complaining about a case of shingles.  And here I am coming to the One who took on the penalty of my sin and asking Him to give me strength.  Tears rolls down the side of my face.  The burning pain I felt wasn't even a fraction of the pain my Jesus endured on this day 2017 years ago.  I complained about how just wearing clothing seemed painful.  And He carried a cross made of splintered wood on His flesh torn back without a grumble.

I closed my eyes and tried to place myself in the crowd of people watching as Jesus passed by.  His back that was torn open with flesh hanging and bones and internal organs exposed. He stops for a minute and turns His head and looks in my direction.  My heart sinks.  I am ashamed.  My selfishness and sinful ways are at fault.  I try to look away.  But His eyes are locked with mine.  He, in all His pain, smiles ever so slightly and whispers through the crowd.  "I love you and I chose to do this for you."  I stand there paralyzed in the crowd.  Everyone is gasping in horror as they see Him pass by.  There is a trail of blood.  Again, He locks eyes with me and says, "Come, follow Me".  I pause for a few minutes and close my eyes.  This is overwhelming.  How could I have done those horrible things in my past?  I knew the truth about His love.  But yet I still selfishly did what I wanted anyway.  I look up and I can no longer see Him.  I desperately try to find Him.  I look down and there I see the trail of blood that He shed for me.  I pause and faintly hear a whisper in the wind, "follow Me".  So the journey begins.

As I proceed to follow the trail of blood I hear the sound of a hammer being pounded with great force. The crowd is thick.  I can't seem to follow the trail because of the amount of bystanders blocking my way.  So, I get down and crawl through the sea of people.  I hear them laughing, gasping, and many even crying with each blow of the hammer.  The hammer stops.  I eventually make my way to the end of the crowd.  I stand up and before me is my Lord.  I touch His feet and see the bloodied nail that has been pierced through His feet.  His feet are cold but the nail is still warm from the blunt force of the hammer.  I can't bear to look up.  I can barely see through my tears.  It's dark and the wind is piercing through me.  But yet I hear a whisper.  "Kathleen, look up".  I stand up.  My legs are weak and I look into Jesus' eyes.  He says, "This is Love".  Even though His arms were nailed, one facing east and the other west, I felt the warmth of His embrace.  He comforted me in His darkest hour.  Reminding me that I am forgiven and that now my sins would be as far as the east is from the west.

I fell to my knees and then planted my tear filled face into the sandy dirt.  My tears mixed with the bloody soil in front of me. I felt myself being forcefully pulled away.  I stood up covered and muddy.  And as I began to walk away I turned once more. Jesus locked eyes with me and said, "It is finished".  I felt this rush.  As I walked through the crowd I felt people staring at me.  I looked down and realized that I was clean.  I looked perfect.  I was flawless.  How could it be?  My Savior covered me in His blood and I was forgiven of all my past, present and future sins.  With gratitude I turned once again.  But this time our eyes did not lock.  My Jesus was lifeless on the cross. I watched as they took Him down and placed His body into the arms of the woman who birthed Him.  As a mom I could only imagine her pain.  My heart felt broken.  But by the look on her face her heart was shattered.

I woke from my nap and went about the rest of my Friday.  The angel and sweet girl came for a visit.  My husband, while doing yard work, found a birds nest with an egg inside.  He took the littles out to see it and their faces were filled with amazement.  I thought about how inside this nest a new life was about to begin.  The egg was left unattended by the momma bird.  Amazing how a bird can show us what faith and trust in God can look like.  Another reason that I love spring it is a sign of God's faithfulness to restore us.

Later in the evening we headed to church for the Good Friday experience.  With my dream still fresh in my head I had the opportunity to reflect more.  As we walked and reflected at each station I came upon a table that displayed the nails, crown of thorns and the whip (cat of nine tails).  I felt even closer to Jesus at that moment.  Then the next room had a cross, hammer and nails.  The force in which I had to strike the nail to drive it into the wood was eye opening.  I was only able to hit the nail a few times before feeling nauseous. The whole experience left me feeling blessed and caused me to reflect on my life.

I pray that as we get through this day, the Saturday before Resurrection Day, that we all take time to reflect on what the cross means to us. Imagine the disappointment that the followers of Jesus must have felt day after this tragic event that took place over two thousand years ago.  There must have been great confusion and heartbreak. They altered their lives to follow Jesus. And they followed Him all the way to the cross and then to the tomb.  The Messiah, the one who was supposed to save the world, was "dead". Was there faith shattered for a moment in time?  They must have been numb because they didn't have the privileged of knowing how the story ended.  However, we do.  How often is our faith shattered when tragedy strikes?  How many times have we cried out because of the awful repercussions of sin in the world today?   How many times have forgotten that ......Sunday is coming!!!!  Yes, Sunday is coming! Jesus has risen and He is alive.  God's promise has been fulfilled.  Because of Jesus Christ's obedience we are forgiven for yesterday, today and tomorrow.  AMEN!!!

Happy Resurrection Day!



Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Where is your faith"..."If you are doing it for the Lord it will be a success".

God has been so faithful.  He has blessed our lives richly.  And our faith journeys have been full of peaks and valleys. Life is crazy and often spirals out of control.  God rejoices with us in the high places and celebrates the beautiful times.  Unfortunately, I find that in my faith journey I am the one who isn't always present in those peak moments.  I tend to forget how much I depend on His mercy and His grace.  Occasionally I have an attitude of " I only need Him when I want Him".  Then there are moments of great sadness and pain. Trials and tribulation or valleys.  When I am in those valleys of great sadness and pain I feel compelled to run to Him and seek Him.   I know that God is guiding me. He leads the way and protects me.  He is always there.

Funny how our children learn from our bad and good examples...

Over the past few months my youngest child has had more than his fair share of valley moments.  And as a mom it was difficult for me to hear of his tribulations.  But I knew that God was doing something big in this young man's heart.  Christian needed to be in the valley to reconnect with the one who calms the seas.  My son has always had a precious calling on his life.  From the time he was little I could see that the Lord was pulling him into the direction of being a servant, counselor, confidante, and friend. We often referred to him as "Pastor Christian" because of his ability to direct us to scripture in difficult situations.  He was a wise little man and loved the Lord.  I was certain that one day this boy was going to grow up to be a pastor in a church.  But that isn't at all the direction he took. No, the world was pulling him in a much different direction.  Boy did that apple look appealing to him.  Christian indulged in the trappings of this world one bite at a time.  He was honest and open about everything he did as he was taking (and still is on it) this apple digesting journey.

But let me tell you something quite profound...  There IS power in prayer!  My children have pretty much told me the good, the bad and the ugly about their walk with and without the Lord.  I have never judged them in the where, what and how's.  I have just prayed for and loved them.  I  tried to remind them that God has great plans for them. And attempted to point them in the right direction. God has a calling for my children, my husband, my grandchildren and for me too.

This past week I had a very deep conversation with my 23 year old son about  this very thing. We discussed deeply God's faithfulness and calling on our lives. At one point in our conversation he told me that he has observed that I, his mom, am not living up to my calling. I responded with, "I am so busy doing things that God hasn't called me to do and it is partially fear driven. What if I am not good enough. What if I finally finish writing that book?  Or what if my "pay it forward" pantry ministry is a failure?" And he responded with, "If you are doing it for the Lord it will be a success".

As our conversation continued I asked him about his calling.  And he said that at one point in his life he thought he was going to be a pastor of some sort.  But that in his head he thought that was the easy way out. How could he support a family as a pastor?  And he continued by stating that his life wasn't perfect.  He is still making unwise choices.  How could he be a pastor and eat the apple too?  I reminded him that we are all imperfect.  And that because of his imperfections he has a lot to offer.  He has this ability to give Godly advice to his friends, family and total strangers.  I have seen it and heard it.  And I have been the recipient of his friendship and counsel.

Time flew that night as we spent well over an hour building each other up.  We laughed once we realized that we both needed to take our own advice.  We all need to have more faith that God will lead us when we follow the calling that He has placed on and in our hearts.

He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and the marveled, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?"
Luke 8:25


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tis The Season....You Are Worried and Upset About Many Things

This morning on the first day of 2017 I spent some time looking back on this holiday season.  There seemed to be this overwhelming pressure to buy the perfect and most wonderful gifts for our loves.  Everyone seemed to be frantic.  Phones dinging with the next great deal.  The lines in the stores were extra long and smile-less. Traffic was overwhelming. The highways and back roads were packed with frustrated citizens switching from one lane to the next in hopes of getting to the next big sale.  Children had their eyes glued to the television and their excitement grew with every "I want that" commercial. And here we are today.  Yes I found myself sitting Indian style on the floor in front of my overly decorated Christmas tree thinking about all the stuff in front of me.

Stuff. Each item in front of me was lovingly and thoughtfully purchased.  And as tears rolled down my cheeks I prayed.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has blessed us with the ability to afford stuff.  But more overwhelmed with what was deep within my heart.  I never finished my shopping for "stuff" this Christmas.  I got to a certain point that I had no joy in my heart when purchasing stuff.  And I didn't want to wander aimlessly around the mall going store to store in search of the perfect gift.

The days leading up to Christmas Eve Eve (the day my family celebrates Christmas together) I found myself worried and upset about many things. I was so busy with the preparations to make our Christmas celebration perfect and lovely that I forgot what Christmas is all about.  Love.  Yes, God so love the world that He gave us, the world, His precious son.  And His son came in the form of a sweet baby that one day grew up to show the world how to love deeply.  Jesus never wrapped things up as a gesture of love.  No, He broke bread and spent time.  He embraced everyone and the only wrapping done was the wrapping of His love and grace around us.

We say that Jesus is the reason for the season.  But do we really mean what we say? I am not saying that tangible gifts are meaningless.  No.  I think that gifts are precious and thoughtful.  And often bring joy.  But I also feel that there is this overwhelming sense of obligation to buy stuff during the holiday season.  And to be honest I have a few people on my list that I felt obligated to buy for this year.

As I aimlessly wandered around the mall one night.  I had wonderful and precious alone time with my Savior.  I felt His presence walking beside me and whispering in my ear, "Kathleen, there is only ONE thing that is needed".  And me of course responded with, "Yes, Lord I know.  I am just trying to find that one perfect thing".  It took about an hour for me to realize that the ONE thing that was needed wasn't going to be found in a store or under the tree.  Like a 2 x 4 smacking me in the back of the head I felt joy for a moment.  I left the mall and headed to do something much more valuable than any present purchased.  I went to spend time with my daughter and her husband. And then came home to an empty house and sat quietly at my Lord's feet.

Time is the most precious gift we can give to each other.  Our lives are busy and often quite hectic.  And sometimes we are so busy being busy that we become overwhelmed and tired.  Too tired.  I am guilty of doing and doing too much that I forget to sit at the Lord's feet. I pray that as we begin this new year together that we stop for a moment and take time for the things that are most important.  Firstly, our relationship with God. Take time to sit at His feet and feast on His word. Seek Him with all of your heart, mind and soul. Remember that you are wrapped in His love and grace.  And next our family.  Yes, my hope for 2017 is to give the precious gift of time.  After all, tomorrow isn't promised.  So, love on those in front of you today.  And if tomorrow comes Praise God!  And let's make plans to have game nights, Sunday dinners, family gatherings, birthday parties, weddings and just time together.

Let's make 2017 a year of presence and not so much presents.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Out Of The Fog

 

I have been in a bit of a spiritual funk this past month and a half.  And up until this week I couldn't quite figure out why.  There is a force that has great delight when I am in a fog.  Especially when the fog is so thick that I can barely even see God.  I haven't been sleeping and I have been in a strange emotional place.  It's not depression.  It's not sadness.  It's just that I am foggy and disconnected.  The things that have given me joy seem to be less vibrant.  I normally read when I can't sleep but I just haven't felt the desire to read anything of substance.  I began listening to podcasts and found myself getting irritated by my headphones.  The words being spoken became jumbled every time I tried to adjust the earpieces.  I even ordered a headband that had earphones attached (Amazon is open at 3am in case you were wondering).  They arrived and were a huge disappointment.  I just got more and more agitated trying to position them on my head.  Eventually I just gave up.  And I became a pro at tossing, turning and staring into the darkness of the bedroom.

Eventually, I asked myself, "What the heck is going on?" And the answer was quite simple.  I realized that I hadn't been silent, seeking or sitting with God.  My ability to listen was nonexistent and the noise that surrounded me was loud, distracting and was consuming me.  The fog became think and dense.  And clarity became cloudy.

I had too much going in in the world around me.  Three deaths in a week and a half, a precious woman having health issues and surgery, a sweet young couple mourning a loss, a child making a tough but joyful decision, another child struggling with where their future will lead them, and co-workers who struggled with losses and life altering moments.  And the list goes on. My plate was full and I prayed and thought that I had offered this all up to the Lord.  But I never allowed Him to clean my plate.  The fog was so dense that I couldn't see His hand reaching for the fork.  I was tired and my heart was breaking.  These burdens were heavy and my head was too cloudy.

Finally, I knew what I needed to do.  I had to listen.  This was the only way that I would be able to come out of the fog.  I needed to come to the end of me and realize that God is God and I am not.  I have a horrible habit of making God less than who He is and what He can do.  As I sit here and blog about my fog I can feel God's hand waving away the thickness that has been consuming me. In Psalm 139 David writes, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." God's love is infinite and personal.  God is also infinitely wise and therefore able to plot the best course. Only a fool would refuse to let His infinite love and wisdom guide and guard their life and destiny.  And while the fog was thick I was lost and feeling a lack of direction God was ever present.  He whispered truth in my direction.  I just wasn't still enough to hear.

I decided that I needed something to remind me that He is God and I am not.  I am a sinner saved by His grace.  The grace that He freely lavishes on me every day.  I found a piece of fabric and braided three strands.  And placed it on my wrist.  It reminds me that God, the Father, is always there to guide and guard me.  And that God, the Son, has protected me from the pain of death by paying the penalty for the sinfulness within me.  And that God, the Spirit, is within me and floods my heart with light even when the fog rolls in.  I am overwhelmed by God's love, faithfulness, compassion, grace and wisdom.  And I am thankful that His mercy endures forever.

I pray that you are all feeling the blessings of our Almighty God.  If you are feeling cloudy I pray that you allow His amazing grace fill you with joy.  And that you too will come out of the fog and into His glory.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Quiet Nook on the Balcony....A moment of fear and lack of obedience.

Summer has been quite full.  And God has been very present in this season. I have felt Him guiding and protecting me continuously in these past few weeks.

Life is never dull.  I remember as a child on occasion saying, "I'm bored.  There's nothing to do".  How I wish I could have bottled those "nothing to do" moments and save them for now.  I feel like time is passing so quickly.  One minute you are kissing your babies as they are swaddled in your arms.  And the next you are kissing them good-bye as they head off to another town, city, state, and or country.  

Greg and I love the precious moments when our children are all together in on place.  Those moments are few and far between these day.  So, we have learned to cherish the moments we have.  This summer we had a dysfunctional family vacation.  We had everyone in one place if you count Facetime with the west coaster for a brief minute. We rented a house in Wildwood, NJ for a week. The house was spacious. And timing seemed perfect.  As one or two of the children were arriving one or two were preparing to leave. Like ships passing.  So we didn't have to worry much about sleeping arrangements.  There were moments of laughter, tears, frustration, joy, tranquility and exhaustion.  Greg and I spent the week serving our children and grandchildren.  And there were moments they were serving us.  This wasn't the most relaxing vacation.  However, there were many many blessings.  

During our stay at the beach I found myself  a quiet nook on the balcony early each morning.  The tranquility of that time had my heart smiling because God's voice seemed clearer in those moments.  A clarity I hadn't felt in a while.  I was able to be still, get in His word, and do something I enjoy.  Sit at His feet.  I also had time so I began reading book after book after book.  And I stumbled upon a book that I couldn't continue reading.  Not because I didn't enjoy it.  It was quite the contrary.  The author of the book asked a few questions and made a suggestion that literally stopped me in my tracks.  And out of fear, and lack of obedience in the moment, I put the book down.  But the questions he presented lingered in my head the entire day.  And the answers quite frankly made me uneasy. "What if you faced the sin in your life this very day with a period of mourning?  Genuine mourning.  What if you spent time reflecting and grieving over the sin in the world around you?  Is thinking about this going to change or transform you? " All these questions were followed by a challenge to, for seven days, go into a time of penitential mourning.

Wow, right?!?  What if?  I have to be honest.  I wasn't prepared for this.  I found myself praying and reflecting on the sermon on the mount.  And within a few weeks it was clear that I needed to be obedient.  Everywhere I turned God was gently whispering to me about this "state of mourning".  I turned on the radio and songs would play that made me think about my personal sins and the sins of this mad world. Each time I went to church the sermon nudged me again.  Ditto with my list of pod casts that I listen to daily.

So, out of obedience I am going back to the book, "The end of me" by Kyle Idleman.  I know that there will be great blessings as I seek scripture to back me up on this journey.  I pray that the Holy Spirit guides me through the process and places a hedge of protection around me in my most vulnerable moments and also on my prideful moments too.  

A few years back I had set out on a period of mourning my sins.  I had asked the Lord to allow me to see the sins of my past and present.  As memories of the horrible and dark things I had done flooded my head and heart I just sobbed.  I found myself in tears and broken.  I was overwhelmed by my sinful nature and became paralyzed over things I had done and said in my past and even in my current place.  To mourn my sins wasn't natural.  I had taken on this whole "sinner saved by grace" mentality.  I knew that if I confessed my sins before the Lord, He would be faithful to forgive me.  And as a result I became arrogant.  I stopped feeling the pain and repercussions of what I was doing.  And let me be honest I was basked in God's grace.  It became almost natural for me to point out the sins of the world and others around me.  I had become quite the Pharasee. Yes, I was a judgmental sinner.  I could see what everyone else was doing wrong.  But I gradually became complacent in grace.  I took for granted what God did for me in love.  The ultimate sacrifice wasn't as clear as it should have been. 

I praise God for giving me the memories of my sinful past.  He promises us that He will forgive our sins.  And that when we truly come to Him for that forgiveness those sins are as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)   During that sin memory flood Jesus showed up and became real.  I was broken and He was loving.  As I remembered each thing I had done I thought about the cost of that sin.  And the repercussion that each one had and still has today.  Gossip is the crown of thorns upon His head.  Hatred, the lashes to His back.   Jealously and bitterness the splinters from the cross rubbing as He carried them too.  And ultimately our sins of murder (if you think it you've done it), robbery (taking anything that doesn't belong to you...even if it was left behind), and selfish pride nailed Him to the cross.  

What does it mean when Jesus said, " blessed are those who mourn" and "blessed are those who are poor in spirit"? 


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Which Can is Corn and Which is Peas....

 Labels can be really helpful and important.  And they can also be harmful and misleading. Have you ever thought about the labels we give to things, places and people? I sometimes wonder why Adam called a giraffe a giraffe.  And how did he come up with a name for everything? And did he seek God's approval for each thing and place that he titled?  Maybe I spend too much time pondering on this reality.  However, recently this label thing has left me feeling a bit perplexed.

 Yes, labels can be very important at times. For just a minute I want you to imagine you are getting ready to head over to the grocery store.  You have a list of items that you need to purchase.  Lettuce, avocados, red onion, ground turkey, cumin, coriander, a can of black beans, a can of corn, and shredded cheese.  Guess what you're m aking?  Anyway, you arrive at the market and you walk in the door.  All of the produce is thrown on a table like a pot of vegetable soup.  And the shelves are packed with boxes, bags and cans.  Nothing is labeled.  The boxes are all tan with nothing written on them.  Each can is missing it's paper wrapper.  And all the dry good bags are made of an aluminum non transparent type material.  It may be easy to identify the Lettuce, avocados, red onion and maybe even the ground turkey.  But be careful.  Looks can be deceiving.  You find yourself feeling frustrated because you cannot figure out which can is corn and which is peas.  You arrive at the meat counter and they have ground pork, turkey, chicken and veal all side by side without any label indicating which is which. They look alike but the recipe strictly calls for ground turkey.  Just then you realize that the prices aren't  on the shelves or the items you need to purchase.  Yes in this situation labels are absolutely necessary.

So what is the deal with me feeling so perplexed.  Well it's the labels we give each other.  I am not talking about the positive labels.  I am talking about the mean, horrible, disgusting and judgmental labels we place on the people we don't particularly care for or even know.  We are all guilty of shunning someone at one point in our life.

This morning I sat and read Ezekiel 16.  I had to read it a few times to let it sink in.  My understanding of this scripture is that, even when our circumstances take us to places where our friends, family and strangers will label us with a, not so appealing, name, our Heavenly Father still lavishes us with grace.

Nothing will prevent God from using what we would classify as "unusable" people. You see we are all addicted to sin.  If you look throughout the old testament you will find that God uses liars, adulterers, harlots and even people, like the ones we have shunned, to change the world. "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 

I am pretty sure that Abraham, David, Solomon, and the woman of Ezekiel 16, along with others from both the old and new testament, would be escorted out of our churches if they showed up today. And I often wonder if Jesus showed up to a church service what label would we give Him? Would we run to Him?  Would our heart skip a beat?  Or would we label Him a street bum and request that He sit in the back to be less of a distraction?  Perhaps, we might find a reason to judge Him by His clothing or the color of his skin too.

When the world rejects us God search and finds us in the dumpster and showers us with His mercy and love. Then He pours His essence on us.  Clothes us in the finest garments.  Puts the most comfortable and fashionable shoes on our feet.  Initially, we are drawn to His side.  We wake up each morning and greet Him with a prayer.  We sip on that cup of fresh brewed grace and head out into the world.  Eventually the world seems to appeal more to us than the alone time we have with our Lord and Heavenly Father.  So, we gradually spend less and less time at His feet and more and more time in the world.  Only to wind up feeling judged, beat up, hated and confused. The world will take and take some more.  And when you are down and out it will beat you until you have nothing left to give.  The woman in Ezekiel 16 cared more for the things of this world.  She started out abandoned, rejected and alone.  But then in an instant was found and transformed into a princess.  Everything she needed her adopted father provided.  However, her desires for what the world had to offer became greater.  Her attitude was that of entitlement.  And she no longer wanted what her father, the one who found her abandoned in her filth as an infant, had to offer her. She left his side and went out to discover "herself".  She gave her money, jewelry, clothing and all her possessions away to anyone who would give her attention.  She even gave herself away.  And as time went on her life, along with her reputation, was ruined.  Every time she walked into a room she was labeled by the others. She was called a harlot, even worse than a harlot.  Prostitutes were even slinging labels her way.  There she was naked, cold, empty and alone.  The scars were too many for her to bear.  And just when she was ready to give up she hears a familiar voice.  His hand reaches out to her.  She hesitates.  How could he have known where to find her?  Why did he come to rescue her? She reaches for his hand and he pulls her to him and holds her so tight she can't breath.  Overwhelmed she cries and says, "Father, I am not worthy of your love.  I am a disgrace to your name."  Her father looks adoringly at her and kisses her muddy face.  He says to her, "You are a princess.  And those who know me will see that you are the source of my joy.  I have never stopped loving you."  He took her home bathed her, lavished her with love, and nursed her back to health.

Unfortunately the world will continue to be a harsh place to live.  We love to define and label people by the sin in their lives whether it be from their past or if they are knee deep in it currently.   If we are all made in His image why do we spend so much time pulling each other apart.  We should be blinded by God's unrelenting grace and His unconditional love. We need to stop defining each other by our skin color, hair, clothing, shoes, jobs and financial status.  And we must learn to forgive and reflect on God's mercies.  They are new every morning (Lamination 3: 22-23)   I  pray that the God of mercy and grace will renew our mercy for each other every day.  Not only do I pray the He renew mercy, but I pray that He'll make us tenderhearted.  God's grace has a divine never ending supply.  So, when the world gives you an unfavorable label just remember that your creator's name for you is the only label that matters.  God will come in and sweep you up and embrace what the world once labeled as an unworthy, broken, hot mess of a child and lavish us with mercy, love and never ending grace.