My Redemption Story

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!…” Revelations 21:5

Fifty years on Planet Earth gives a person a gift of great value, “Perspective”. When I earnestly started my relationship with Jesus back in the summer of 84 at Camp Sharon Church Camp, I felt like a brand new person. I deeply desired to make a 180 degree turn from the direction I was going to the direction Jesus would lead me. I had taken part in the start of My Redemption Story turning from spiritual death to spiritual life. I had no idea that God wanted to not only have me commit my entire life to Him and live in relationship with Him, but He was in the business of restoring or redeeming the things that I had chalked up to being broken forever. And from that point on until present He is still at work in my life redeeming and restoring the things that have been broken or lost along the way.

Forest Gump had it wrong, life isn’t just like a box of cherries. It is like a book, a book with MANY chapters. Or at least that is how I’ve been looking at mine. There’s the childhood chapter, the middle school chapter, the junior high chapter, the high school chapter, college, newlywed, new parent… all the way to where I am now. LOTS of CHAPTERS!!! Some of my chapters have been really enjoyable, others I am glad I survived and got to move on. There have been chapters where I have stood in awe of all the goodness of God in my life. There have been chapters I could not see Him or feel Him near because of the brutality of the storm. Chapter after chapter, and in these chapters there have been things that have happened that I’ve looked at as irreparable and broken.

This is where perspective helps out. When you live long enough to ride high on the good times and crawl through the tough, every once in awhile your remember a past chapter of your life that wasn’t so good. Mistakes were made, friendships lost, hearts broken, etc. but GOD!!! Some of these chapters “I” had the idea of how it should all be played out and my chapter should be written. You know how it is we want the perfect life, no conflict, perfect spouse, perfect kids, and perfect pets… One time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram should clue you in on this because we present our perfect world. But the truth is our chapters in our books are rarely what we thought they should be. Sicknesses happen, death occurs, hearts are broken, conflicts arise, messes are made and our chapter seems to be jumbled and confused. But standing on the hill of perspective looking back on my life I am seeing some things. Things that looked to be destroyed are turned around and as a matter of fact they are better than they were originally. That is how my Redemptive God works. When we allow the Master Author, God to write our stories the way He wants to write them the chapters always end in Redemption, He rescues us from the way it looks to be turning out, He pulls us out of our messes, He makes the broken whole, better than it was before. Our book of our life is an account of all the ways God makes all things new in our redemption story.

The Bible gives the account of an army commander in the times of the prophets of the Old Testament. Through a series of events this man named Naaman went to the prophet Elisha with a request for Elisha to heal Naaman of leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease that leaves irreparable damage and at that time almost always ended in a long slow death isolated from friends and family. Elisha told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times for God to heal him of this disease (a great inconvenience). Naaman eventually did what he was told and the Bible records this result, “…his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:14 NIV. Looking at my wrinkles and dry skin on my 50 year old body points out to me what a miracle this was. God did not just give Naaman skin to match the body of whatever age he was. God gave him “New Skin”, “Skin of a young boy”.

It may take some time for us to see the redemption and restoration of some of the chapters of our story. It may take us walking through some inconvenient steps to walk in obedience to God before we see the results. But our God is the God who “Makes all things new” and in time even the chapters of our life that we would rather have locked away in the corner of the recesses of our faintest memories (or honestly forgotten forever would suit them best) God has every intention of taking that horrific thing and giving it “New skin”, a “new chapter in our book”. A chapter that when we get to see how it turns out leaves us standing with our jaw dropped in awe at the God who has not only done miracles in the past, but is still working them in our TODAY! Because He is not finished writing our Redemption Story until we stand before Him face to face in Heaven someday. We can be assured of that and know that the God who started our story won’t stop until He finishes it and everything He finishes is NEW and GOOD!

The Best Days With You

As a young mother of one three year old son, I was pretty convinced that I didn’t want girls. I kind of grew up a Tom Boy. Didn’t wear make up til I was 21, and didn’t think I had what it took to conquer the world of pink, Barbie’s, and Tu Tu’s. Almost 23 years ago around this time of the year I was very pregnant with a baby that was bound and determined to not reveal it’s sex during the ultrasound. My husband and I were trying to prepare for baby number two clueless of whether to invest in pink supplies or reuse the blue. I took my son to a local park one afternoon to let him have some time out of our apartment. While there I looked across the park, and I saw a young mom with her cute little girl. There’s been a few times in my life when I have heard God clearly. That day was one. When I looked across the park, I heard Him say, “You’re going to have a girl, and it’s going to be ok.”

My baby girl

I’ve hesitated to talk much about that day, because I didn’t want to appear spooky, or weird. But through the years those words have been an anchor to a mom who has felt a little lacking in the femininity skills. After 23 years of tea parties, pink everything, Barbie’s being traded in for the One Direction boy band crush, training bras, prom dresses, sleep overs with girl friends, high school, college, moving out, meeting her fiancé etc. I quickly learned the girl mom ropes and loved the moments that this little girl and her younger sister have brought for me. God was right, I did have a girl, (two in fact) and it has been more than ok.

The pink princess

Times have not always been easy in our 23 years together as mother daughter. There have been disappointments, losses, hurts… Things we both learned a lot from and some stuff I’m sure we both would agree we would never want to repeat. But God has been faithful to us both when we walked through the hard stuff for a daughter go through and a momma to cry and pray a lot during.

Tea Party years ago

This Saturday we will celebrate the uniting of my girl that God gave to me 23 years ago to a special young man that I’m sure is God’s gift to her and to our family. It’s been a long road that has brought us to this point. The trip hasn’t always been easy, but where we have come is a beautiful place to be, and I am grateful that God is faithful and His promises are true. I did have a girl, now a woman, and everything is beautifully ok.

There’s a song this girl likes to play when she wants to make her momma cry sentimental tears. She usually waits until we drive to Sonic on a particularly hard day and try to drown our sorrows in a Strawberry Limeade. It’s called “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift. It’s a love song from a daughter to her mom. It says:

Me and my girls on a Sonic run

“And now I know why the trees change in the fall. I know you were by my side even when I was wrong. And I love you for giving me your eyes. Staying back and watching me shine and I didn’t know if you knew So I’m taking this chance to say that I had the best day with you today.”

Laura, I wanted to make sure and say that through it all and I’m sure on your wedding day these words will ring true. You are my sunshine, and I have had the best day with you today.

Love you!

Mom

Don’t Miss It- Once in a Lifetime

Awww summertime! Or at least we’re getting really close to the summer solstice. Family vacation usually sets off the official summertime routine in our household. This year we’re down to two out of our four kids still left at home. So a trip to Steamboat Springs in the Rockies seemed like the appropriate trip for our crew. From our neck in the woods it is about a two day drive, if you like to take your time and have plenty of breaks. So off we went. The evening we arrived and got ourselves settled in to our condo a peak out our window at the Western sunset over the mountains caused me to pause. “I’ve got to go out and look at this sunset. It’s a once in a lifetime event.” That may sound kind of crazy to the people who live in Steamboat day in and day out. They’ve probably seen thousands of the sunsets over that mountain. It may even be so familiar they don’t even pause to gaze. But the truth of the matter is for the minutes the sunbeams shine upon the clouds as the angle changes of the light with the setting sun, each second is totally different from the first. The hues of the colors transitions from bright orange, to red, to purple to dark. It really is a “Once in a lifetime event” for anyone, not just this Missouri girl. It was awesome! But I’m sure had I let myself be preoccupied, I would have missed it…

Then yesterday, my husband and I went over to our friends home. They own a deer farm. They’ve been at this for a few years. So seeing the little fawns and petting them is nothing new, but I saw something yesterday that quite possible could be another “once in a lifetime” event, a fawn be born. When we went out to the pens to look at their growing herd of deer, we noticed a momma deer that had had her first buck fawn of twins she was bearing. Carefully we walked into the pen that allowed a better look and stood in awe as we watched her labor for around 20 minutes and finally push the second fawn out. We stood there and watched the momma clean her fawn and nurse the other one until the light of day was so far gone that we could not see very well. Once again something I could have easily missed if I was too busy to stop, or too preoccupied in my mind to realize I was going to miss something so unique that I will never see it go down like it did last night again.

It’s funny how life is just that way. If we are too locked into what happened in the past or too preoccupied with what might happen in the future, we miss the now, something that only happens “once in a lifetime”.

Saturday is wedding day for my oldest daughter. The plans are made, the ball is in motion, things seem to be ready to roll. But once again I find myself fighting anxieties of what was, what is, and what may come… preoccupied. If I am not careful I will miss it. I’ll miss the moment that will only happen “once in a lifetime”. The moment her groom first sees his bride. The moment her daddy walks her down the aisle and gives her away. The moment they exchange their vows and unite their lives. I’ll miss it all and it will never happen the way it will on that day again.

Guilt, anxiety, and worries are robbers and thieves. They come to steal one of the things that means the most, the gift God has given to us as we sojourn here on earth, our present life. In John 10:10 Jesus said something that would do us all some good to have tattooed into the back of our brains ever present in our memories. “The thief (satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Some translations say “abundant life”. All the good God has for us is not stored up for us to only be released in heaven. God has goodness and mercy for us “all the days of our lives”. Psalm 23:6. It is satan who wants to blind us with his toxic whirlwind of afflictions to the mind and block us from seeing just that- God has goodness and mercy for us every second, every minute, every hour of every day. And blinding us with toxic thoughts is the only way he can steal from a child of God. Whispering lies and getting us to believe them so we get our focus off the truth is his only game plan. Because the truth is he is already defeated at the cross. Jesus gave us His goodness when our past was forgiven, our future with Him was secured, and our present is spent dwelling in Him.

May I never forget THAT when the enemy tries to get my focus off. God intended for me to live in the Present. Fully engaged in the life to the full that He gives to me, His abundant life given to His children He dearly loves and has chosen.

Shalom- God’s Remedy for Never Enough

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This morning during devotions I felt impressed to spend some time chewing on this verse. The punishment that brought us “peace” (Hebrew “shalom”- wholeness, completeness, soundness.) What Jesus did on the cross has made me whole, complete, sound in my mind as well as my spirit. I have walked in the identity of Never Enough. I am Never Enough for life’s situations. The feeling that I as “Never Enough” was me in my past that tries to haunt me, me in my present that tries to hold me back, and Never Enough in my Future that tries to paralyze me from walking in Christ’s plan. Praise God!! The identity of Never Enough stops at the cross. Because Jesus brings completeness. He is more than enough. I can walk in His confidence knowing that where I fall short He fills to overflowing. He is the God who turns a shortage of wine at a wedding into an abundance of the good stuff with water in clay pots. He is the God who takes a few loaves and fish of a boy willing to give them up and feeds 5000. He is the God who takes what little we have to offer and does exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think. His Shalom He gives us at the cross makes us complete. Happy weekend you all!

The God Who Can Do All Things BUT Fail

Every once in awhile life rattles my cage. It may be more than every once and awhile. In fact I bet everyone gets their cage rattled more than every once and awhile. My life the past two days has been like an 8.0 earthquake to my cage. Once again medical issues involving my husband’s heart have hit him. This has involved several calls to the doctors, a Mother’s Day trip to the ER , and finally an appointment for a cardioversion on Wednesday. For one who has a history anxiety and one who admittedly prefers to play it safe over taking risks this has challenged me. But God’s timing, as always is impecable.

I’m in this small online (Facetime) Bible study with a few friends that we started up when COVID hit. We’ve been studying a Fisherman’s Bible Study called “When Faith is All You Have”. This week happens to be about “When Faith Faces Death”. Let me clarify, I’m not thinking my husband is going anywhere, but stopping his heart for even a second, on purpose, is not my desired treatment for the issues he’s been battling with AFIB. An easy peasy pray and it is all good would be my preference, but so far it’s not what’s happened. The Bible study is covering the account of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. One aspect of the account has been echoing in my heart since I read it last week:

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Exodus 14:13-15 NIV

My Answer to the first question of the study. Just being honest here. lol

The Jewish people, who had lived in slavery their entire life subjected to the cruel overlords, never allowed to fight back, trusted God enough to follow Moses out of Egypt. Admittedly they had seen awesome miracles that God had done on their behalf as God unleashed the plagues on Egypt to soften the Pharoah’s heart so He would let them go. But they had made it out only to stand with the Red Sea in front of them, the Egyptians coming hot on their heels. Looking at their situation the Jewish people quickly forgot all the miracles God had already performed on their behalf and started to immediately cry out about how they wished they had never left, they were going to die, and they wanted to go back to Egypt. Not exactly how I would say a group of people should display their faith in the God who fights for them. God tells Moses “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” The time wasn’t to freeze up with fear, cower in a corner, but to step out knowing God was going to meet them there with a miracle. Which happened to be a split sea, dry ground, and eventually the total destruction of the Egyptian Army who wanted to enslave them again-FREEDOM.

Red Sea before Egyptian Army Behind. “Move On”

Fast forward to a verse in Hebrews 11, God’s Hall of Fame of Faith, verse 29 “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were drowned. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” This is where God’s grace amazes me once more. A group of people who were afraid, begging to be able to quit, doubting, were listed in God’s Hall of Fame of Faith. They were commended for their faith to walk through the Red Sea on dry land. They may have let circumstances shake them up, but they had the courage (however small it was) to take a step toward the sea in front of them where God met them with a miracle that was heralded with singing and dancing on the other shore- safe and secure from the enslavement of Egypt.

Yesterday, I went to town to go to the store to buy some toilet paper. Code words for “Get alone, to think, cry, pray and vent”. Most of the time spent talking about how I’m not enough for the path God has me on, and I’m not happy about the direction either. I don’t like the oceans of “trip to St Louis” complete with the Armies of “Afib, heart issues, and procedures for my husband” breathing down our necks… Especially on a day I’m supposed to be celebrating with my kids…”Mother’s Day”.

Then this morning after a scary to me moment in the middle of the night, my husband twitching in his sleep due to a weird dream, but me interpreting the twitching to be heart related. (Fear always makes things look so much bigger than they are) I got up, went to my recliner and looked for a worship song to focus myself on Jesus and get my eyes off my ocean and army threats. I stumble across the song, “Never Lost” by Elevation Worship. The chorus goes, “You can do all things, but fail. You’ve never lost a battle and you never will.” There you have it. God’s Grace on my life pumping some faith into my heart. He knows for me with my short sighted humanity, things look scary. But He also knows to remind me that God can do all things. He can work miracles on our behalf whether supernaturally or with the aid of a physician. He can work all this out for our Good simply because we love HIm and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8. And NO Matter how Wednesday goes, He can do all things, BUT fail! Because the truth is time and time again when I’ve faced the battles bigger than me, God has never lost them as He fought for me, and HE NEVER WILL! He is the God who can do all things but Fail as He shows Himself strong on my behalf over and over again.

Testify

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(Ugliest couch on the planet. The source of many fights on the way to church about how we needed a new one but couldn’t go into debt to get one. Thank God for the lazy boy recliner couch we have today. (Paid cash 😉) )

Our local church started their Sunday School classes up again today, something that COVID had put on hold for almost a year now. The lesson was on Sarah, Abraham and the angelic visit/ announcement of the coming supernatural pregnancy and birth of Isaac to a couple who were well past their 80’s. Sarah’s once laughed about possibility became her provision from God with laughter of joy brought to a heart sadden by infertility for years. A promise that looked to be forgotten, realized in God’s miraculous timing and in God’s miraculous ways. In the teaching I was reminded of God’s miraculous provision and God’s miraculous ways in my own life.

(One of our first cars. Used car made up of 2 different cars but so very dependable. I was just happy it had air conditioning,Car before that one didn’t. We’re driving a 2016 Jeep Wrangler now that we purchased because it’s just plain “fun to drive” )

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, the good things that God has done, especially in seasons of difficulty. I’ve spent many times writing in this blog about God walking with me in difficulty either of circumstance or of mind (my thought life). But I neglect to every once in a while just lay out the testimony of God’s Goodness to me in my life. Because the truth of the matter is, without the Goodness of God towards me where would I be? Not anywhere near where I am now. Though I have had trials, I have also had a blessed life, and I would do good to give thanks for that daily, hourly or more. Fixing my eyes on the One who is always with me and does cause all things (the hard, sad, and bad included) to work out for my good. Because I love God and am called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) The truth of the matter is He is no respector of persons and He is more than able to do that for you as well. Paul sums life up pretty well when he said “I know what it means to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty…” Philippians 4:12 We all get a taste of a little of both at times. The problem I have is my “squeaky wheel gets the oil”, or I tend to see the things I’m going through and tend to, wallow in the disappointment. Then I forget…

(First house- 1 bathroom, 3 kids (at the time)
We Ended up in a much bigger house with 4 bathrooms for our growing family of 4 kids. Got it for $85000 less than the owners originals asking price at an auction a huge blessing. We couldn’t have afforded it if we had to pay what it was really worth. )

Sarah in the Bible probably did the same thing. Years of waiting, wanting, crying, pleading, heart break… Only to find herself way on the other side of the childbearing years with a promise reminded and then fulfilled. When she laughed at the promise from her heavenly visitors, God didn’t say, “Well… you missed your chance. I’ll show you for laughing at me…” Instead He blew her mind and Abraham’s too with a fulfillment so outrageous, laughing for Joy while holding their son would be the only appropriate response. And here’s the deal… God didn’t just do that yesterday for them. He has done it today for us. He doesn’t change and He’s not surprised by my own struggles to take Him at His word at times. I think He gets a kick out of blowing my mind too. Because in that moment, I testify. I tell of His goodness that has brought me to a place of blessing. I tell of His presence that never leaves me alone in my time of need. I tell of how God took a small town Missouri girl, Gave her a smoking hot husband 😍, four kids, a grandson, a nice home, a Jeep and a good life. Not a life absent from trouble. But a life that is abundant with His grace, joy, peace, and freedom in the midst of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. God is good! Let me testify!

(My youngest 17 years ago. Breathing troubles when born ended up in the NICU for 7 days. Turned out it was just acid reflux. i.e. (God took care of him) He’s a 6 ft tall rugby playing, drummer, lifeguard, Junior in High School. Healthy and strong 😉)
(Family 2021. Together on Easter Sunday. Attending church celebrating the Goodness of our Resurrected Lord)

The Giant Question Mark Left Behind…Suicide

I went for a walk this evening and was thinking about today’s sermon at the church I attend. There was a statement our Pastor made that stuck out to me. He was talking about the events around Jesus’ death and resurrection and how Thomas doubted Jesus being alive. “Thank God He is the God of second chances!! Or third, or fourth or more.” In light of events in my week these words hung in my mind.

Last Monday my husband and I went for our evening walk on the track at our local YMCA. While finishing up our laps, we got a call from my oldest son with very sad news. A family friend that we have known him and his wife for several years, Clint, had ended his life by shooting himself. Leaving behind a wake of sadness and gigantic question marks in the hearts of his family and his friends. My husband and I went to the home of Clint’s best friend, also a family friend for decades. As I sat there with Clint’s wife and other ladies who knew him or were friends with the family, I watched different ones shuffle in and out of the house. It was that night that I watched a grown man, biker from Clint’s motorcycle club, cry harder than I have ever seen a grown man cry. My heart broke and I have had no words to say.

Clint, his smile could light up a room.

This is the third suicide that has touched someone I know in less than a year: One a friend’s grandson in his early teens, another a sister in law’s nephew in his 20’s and then Clint, a husband, father, grandpa, son and friend. Tragedies beyond any words to describe. All this leaving me thinking about my own struggles and trying to understand. As one who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I would be lying to say that I have never ever thought of suicide as something that would be the cure. It’s a horrible thing to have your mind running with thoughts so jumbled that ending the thoughts permanently seems like a good solution. Thankfully God has graciously helped me to see something in the distance, past the jumbled mess of my mind to hope in a second chance, or third, fourth or 50th.

It occurred to me tonight as I walked, that God is always waiting there with another chance. We turn down that chance when we say we’re done and take the final step ending it all. I’m not saying God is eternally done with us at that moment. But I am saying the chance we had here on earth to see Him make something beautiful out of our broken goes away. That’s probably why the big question mark is left with all those who knew and loved us. Why? If we only knew what could we have done differently to help? There is always hope. It’s just a momentary blindness to it that leaves us choosing the ultimate act of hopelessness and leaving a gaping hollow hole in the hearts of all those who loved us in the aftermath of that choice.

The story in the Bible of Jesus’ death includes each of His closest friends struggling to find hope. One denied his friendship. One doubted his resurrection, all of them scattered so many different ways. Of these, Jesus gave them each a second chance. It makes me wonder, “What about Judas?” If he had taken his mess of betraying Jesus to God in repentance instead of hanging himself, could his brokenness been made beautiful too? That’s yet another question mark left behind by the act of suicide.

I want to find myself on the side of always taking that second chance, third chance, fiftieth… Jesus paid a huge price out of His great love to give that to me. If I can get just get a glimpse of it. There is always hope no matter how small and far away it may seem. If we can somehow let Jesus in, even in our darkest hour, that hope will do the impossible with our broken pieces of our mess. Because that is what Jesus does. He makes all things new. Even the ones that seem impossible.

(Clint was a believer in Jesus. I want to honor his Memory. I am sure that anything that points to the hope found in Jesus would be on Clint’s heart right now for those who hear his story to grab ahold of, and even in these moments of extreme brokenness that all who knew him and loved him that are left behind feel, God still will take the brokenness and make it beautiful once more. That is what God does.

There is no shame in asking for help. If these thoughts of self harm plague you, talk about them. Reach out. There is no shame in getting help. I know in religious circles there can sometimes be a stigma with receiving professional help. I go to a doctor if I can’t get over a sore throat or a cough. I go to a mental health therapist if I can’t get past the thoughts that run in my head. This in no way negates what God can do. God can use these professionals to let the healing begin. Don’t leave behind a giant question mark for those you know and love to wrestle with. You are worth more than that to God and them.)

The Cross On Good Friday Was and Is Enough!

(Writing has been hard for me lately. There’s been so much going on in my heart and my head that words just don’t seem enough to express it all. It seems like God has me in a season of reflection on where I have been in my Faith, where I am now, and where I am going. It’s all good, just hard to sort through at times. Part of these reflections are what I am writing today. )

Filipino in Pampanga Province allowing self to be crucified for penance

There’s an image from years ago that’s been on my mind. I usually remember it during Holy Week. This year it has some particular meaning, because when I look at the pictures I see how I have often done myself. The province of Pampanga in the Philippines has an annual reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion every Good Friday. It’s not the kind of reenactment of symbolism alone. It is literal reenactment where devotees are nailed to wooden crosses with 4 inch nails in their wrists and feet. They also beat themselves with whips and crawl on the ground for great lengths to pay homage at the local church. They believe in paying penance to God this way, their prayers for healing and blessing will be answered.

How often I have found myself more or less doing the same thing. If I do “x, y, z”, then God will … Performance based Chrisitianity… once installed inside of you it is hard to shake. Whether through a legalistic church or an outright cult, it is easy to fall into it’s clutches and the damage done can affect your view of God for years. The events on Good Friday that happened 2000 years ago were not meant to be repeated. Jesus said it Himself when He hung on the cross, “It is finished”. The sacrifice that gives the right for us to stand in right standing with God was completed and done on that day. Often we are the ones convinced it isn’t enough, a lie conveniently placed by our enemy, the devil. If he can keep us busy trying to measure up and do all the right stuff, something we cannot do on our own, he has us distracted from doing the one thing that Jesus, Himself, said was the work that God has for us, “to believe”. (John 6:29) and in all of our wallowing in our unworthiness, the devil paralyzes us with the “I have to fix myself” cycle. God’s full intention was for us to enjoy being His childrren, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12) Living a life given by Him that is abundant. (John 10:10)

Every time I feel that I need to do something more for God to approve of me, I am no different than the poor Filapino devote who goes to the extreme of being nailed to a cross. Every time I wallow in unforgiveness to myself for past mistakes, I too have taken a handmade whip and beat myself as those in Pampanga do. Every time I think if I muster up a little more kindness, give a little more time, sacrifice a little more of myself…, I too am crawling in to the presence of God looking for a crumb to fall from His table of grace. Grace that is freely given and freely received in abundance if I only open my heart to it.

That is what makes the Holy week so special and Good Friday so Good. Jesus did what I could not do so I could be with Him, a place I do not deserve to be. We are not meant for a “to do” list of Christianity. We are meant for a transforming relationship, where God takes what was broken and stained by sin, us, and washes it clean in the blood of Jesus poured out for us years ago and healed by the very stripes that broke Him on that day. I can stop trying to do it all… and let Him do it all in me, the very things He had planned from the beginning. (Ephesians 2:10)

Filipinos self flagellating with whips on Good Friday

I can drop my four inch nails and my whip for self-flagellation. The Sacrificial Cross on Good Friday was and is Enough.

Wilderness Wandering

Several years ago me and God had this thing. That may sound a little strange at first, but hear me out. My house has an upstairs deck. It’s not very big, but it’s not easily accessible by my Great Pyrenees, and it faces East. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise without getting slobbered on on a beautiful Spring morning. Several years ago it was my spot that I went out on with a cup of coffee and my Bible, sometimes a blanket. I would pray and contemplate God and His goodness over my life. But I got busy… Busy homeschooling teens/ four kids, prepping for my volunteer work at church and in our homeschool community, keeping my house somewhat clean, the troups feed, etc… So even though I still maintained my quiet time or prayer and Bible reading in the morning, my moments of sunrise with Jesus went to the wayside.

As I’ve alluded to before in my blog, I’m in a new season in my life. All the indicators of this new season have been popping up all over: three of my four kids have graduated our homeschool, my oldest is married, my next one is engaged, my third is in college, my fourth is a junior and has a drivers license- never around , I’ve got a grandbaby, and I turned 50. I’ve felt a little lost here recently, a little bit like I’ve been wandering in a wilderness.

Today as I was reading my Bible. I came a cross a few verses that stuck out to me. Jeremiah 31:2-3 “This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”” The Message version puts it this way, “They found grace out in the desert(wilderness)…Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” Finding grace in the wilderness sounds pretty good to a person that feels like they’ve been wandering around in one here lately, and for a person who has been looking around trying to figure out how to rest, the assurance that God is out looking for me and gives rest freely is awesome.

I think from time to time in my 36 years of walking with the Lord I get myself off track. I forget what I am really seeking and find myself chasing after other stuff. The “other stuff” may not be all that bad, like the busyness of life: Raising a family, feeding the aforementioned family, cleaning house, church committments, community committments… not all bad. Sometimes it takes me waking up in a wilderness to show me I may have gotten a little off track.

The book of Hosea in the Bible is the story of a prophet who marries a prostitute. He loves the prostitute and tries to get her to quit running after her other lovers. It was a living illustration of what Israel was like to God. God loved Israel, and they continually ran after their other lovers, idols. I can see myself in that story too. I find myself too busy chasing other lovers and lose my way to the upper deck for “A Sunrise with Jesus”. Hosea records these words, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14. There are times it takes God leading us out into a spiritual “wilderness” to show us that our other “lovers” are not what will fulfill. The truth of the matter is God is not after all the things I can do… He is after me. He wants my heart, my love, my worship, my time…He wants me.

It hit me today after reading these verses, how much I’ve missed my “Sunrises with Jesus”. I may let my neck of the woods warm up a bit more before I head out the upper deck door, but I need that time to resume. It is in that place I can experience the rest of Jeremiah 31:2-3 I quoted above. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” God’s love and HIs kindness are revealed to us when we take the time to slow down and “rest” in His presence, when we’re quiet and calm enough to be able to receive what He’s been offering us all along, Himself.

Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, Dearly Loved

I grew up in a small Missouri town. When I say small, I’m talking one stop light and no McDonalds until I was a teenager. Population 4,600. And I must emphasize, I grew up in town, small house on a lot with neighbors close by. Since I moved away and married, I have ended up living in the country. Some people may term my property as a small farm. I can stand out on my porch and hear cows mooing in the distance. Having never owned cows or livestock of any kind as a kid, I was not aware of the extent of care they could require in the winter months. A few years ago my husband ventured out into the livestock arena. We purchased a few cows, had them bred, and watched the little calves grow. It was alot of fun and a learning experience for me. Things that never occured to me like giving them bales of hay on an extremely cold day and breaking the ice on our pond so they could get a drink were part of the daily norm until we sold them. Yesterday I was scanning my facebook account where I saw a brief video my niece had posted. Her husband is a farmer. They had a little calf that was near to freezing in these subzero temps from the “Polar Vortex” we are experiencing. He came into their house with an armful of calf to be warmed up in their bathroom for awhile. This was much to the delight of her little boy. That calf had achieved prefered status.

The scene from that clip has been rolling around in my head this morning as I have read my Bible. I’ve been spending some time chewing on a couple of sections of scripture. One is John 21:15-22 and the other is Ephesians 4:1-3. The section of John is an account of Jesus and Peter having a conversation after Jesus had ressurected from the dead. Just prior to Jesus’ death Peter had denied Jesus three times in an effort to save his own skin. I’m not so sure I would have done much better in view of the circumstances. Peter had watched Jesus be arrested and hauled off to an unfair trial and knew the hatred the religious establishment had for Jesus and His teaching. When questioned about his affiliation with Jesus, he made it plain to those questioning that he didn’t know Him, the One he had previously said He would fight for and die for, never deny. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Twice He used the term “agape”. Once He used the term “phileo”. “Peter do you agape me, ‘actively prefer me and self sacrifice for me’? Take care of my sheep.” “Peter do you phileo me- ‘ hold me affectionately in your heart’?”

Agape… digging around on my “Bible Hub” app. looking at the Strong’s concordance puts it in a brighter light. It’s a preferred love. A preferred status if you will. It’s placing someone as your priority, your preference that you would give yourself away for. Here’s where the second scripture comes in: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” That term for love comes from “agape” too. Except this time the focus of the agape is from God toward us. It speaks of us being chosen by God, set apart for Him, and dearly loved- preferred, sacrificed for. Kind of like that little calf of my niece and her husband. Quite honestly when I look at myself, I don’t see a whole lot for me to offer God. I’m like a little calf in a “Polar Vortex” freezing to death, but God looks at me as her husband, the farmer, did the calf, VALUABLE. Valuable enought to brave a cold winter storm, pick up the little calf and take it into his home to be warmed and cared for, given preferred status. Not every calf in the field gets the attention that little one did yesterday. The farmer saw the need and sacrificed to meet it.

I believe that from the moment we are born until the day we die, our enemy, Satan, spends his time trying to get us to view God as anything but the One who prefers us, the One who sacrificed for us, and the One who went out looking for us in our most desperate time of need so He could bring us in. Satan tries to paint the picture of God as the one who looks out on a sea of people that are expendible, and a pain in God’s side. Not enough time for us, not enough grace, not enough love, distant, uncaring, tired of our screw ups, etc… But God “agape’s” us. He’s the one who leaves the 99 to find the one. So He can give the prefered status of His forgiveness, care, and constant attention to us. It is when I am able to see myself as that little calf, brought in from the cold, delighted in that I understand God has set me with His “Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved”.

Letting the baby see the calf