“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

A Beautiful Mind—A Mind Made New

Life has it’s way of leaving scars on us. No one is exempt. We may like to pretend like we all have it all together and put up a pretty facade, but behind the good exterior is an inside that has had it’s share of struggles. Some scars come because we jumped right into a hurtful situation feet first with eyes wide open. Some scars come because good intentions did not work out and situations were more than anyone could fix. To be a player in that type of play is tragic in many ways, but God… He has a plan to work all things out for our good, even the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Psalm 147:3

Last week I found myself contemplating life’s issues and suffocating with anxiety. As I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the anxiety and the physical sensations that go along with that, I shot an honest assessment of my feelings up to Him. “God, I hate my mind…” There are times in battle that it seems victory is far away. That pretty well summed up my situation at that point, but deep inside the still small voice spoke in a whisper, “You have a beautiful mind”. Though my mind may have scars from times past, scars point to something greater, Healing. Though there may be remnants of the hurts that still need for God’s hand to touch, there has already been so much He has already healed. So my mind, with it’s struggles and sometimes pain, is actually a display of what God can do for someone who has fought a long, hard battle on the inside.

It’s been a long, long time since I have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, and to be honest, I barely remember it. Except for the plot which was about a mathematician, John Forbes Nash Jr., suffered with a psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia. He fought a long hard battle inside his mind, and then finally went on to do extraordinary things in his field of mathematics earning awards in that field. Reading bits and pieces of his story on Wikipedia today has made me think about the struggle we all face, and the tenacity we all need. I, however, fight my battle with an advantage that I am unsure if Mr. Nash knew about. The healing power of the blood of Jesus, poured out for me.

John Forbes Nash JR. And his wife Alicia

There is a popular worship song that comes to mind. It’s wording is fairly easy since it repeats ALOT! “Surrounded”- “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” Some versions throw in “At your table”. There is a place that I can take my mind as it tries to run the show for me with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. That place is at the table that God has prepared for me. It is in His presence that I am surrounded by His peace and wholeness can be found. It is there at His table that I am strengthened to get up, set my mind on what is True, Noble, Right, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) i.e. Get my eyes on Jesus, and It is at His table that I am made new by Him renewing my mind. 1 Corinthians 12:1-2.

This morning as I sat down at His table, my time with God in His word, I contemplated some hard memories that have recently hit me of days gone by. It was there that I sat saying, “God I know, You have said, “I have a Beautiful Mind” because Your word assures me that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16.) I can’t imagine a mind more beautiful than His. I pictured the blood of Jesus pouring over my mind again and again, calming the anxiety, healing the hurts, restoring the broken. Because that is exactly what Jesus does. He makes all things new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He is never late concerning His healing, His strength, His power. He is always right on time. At times, I may not feel all the feels about the truth of God over my situations, but I can rest assured that what He started He will complete, and that includes the transformation of my mind into what He had prepared for it to be all along, “A Beautiful Mind”.

The God Who Sees

I got to do the Grandma thing yesterday. SO MUCH FUN!! My grandson is about 1 1/2 years old. So he’s trying to talk and full of personality. Watching him reminds me of his dad, my oldest son. If there’s one thing his daddy liked as a 1 1/2 year old and that my grandson likes too, it would be attention. His daddy refused to play in his room. Every toy he had was brought out to the area I was and played with. Sometimes the mess would be overwhelming and I would wish he would play in his room just once, but NO DICE! For the longest time I thought one of his favorite phrases was, “Look MOM!” Then yesterday, I noticed how much my grandson loved it to realize I was paying FULL attention to him. If I sat down for a second, he would grab my hand. Time to play! There is nothing like having all or Grandma’s attention on you to know you’re valued and you’re loved. The more I thought about this the more I remembered that all four of my kids as they grew just wanted Mom to see them, to see their accomplishments, their needs, their likes or dislikes, etc. There is such security in being seen.

Watching my grandson play at a local nature center.

This morning as I spent time with God I thought about all this and then my mind went to the value of being “seen” by God. As God’s children, there is nothing like knowing that He has His full attention on you. He’s always there, God with us! He refers to us/God’s children as “the apple of His eye”. Zechariah 2:8. Jesus talked about how God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and we are “worth more than many sparrows”. Then of course, our value in God’s eyes is worth so much more than we can ever fully imagine. He was willing to pay the ultimate price for us, Jesus’ death on the cross, so we could be what He desired so greatly, His Own!

But alas, we live on planet Earth and I’ve got to admit there have been times in my life that I have wondered just how much God was seeing me. Sometimes life’s troubles, circumstances, my personal screw ups, or things done against me have left me wondering, “God did you see that?!?!” “God have you forgotten me?!” Doubt creeps in, and instead of going to God I froze under the weight of it. The thing I love about God is He does not freeze! He’s the One who may have 99 in safety yet still goes after the one!

Genesis 16 has the account of Hagar, Sarai’s slave. She was mistreated and abused and finally she ran away into the wilderness. Afraid and alone, God sent an angel to find her in her time of deepest need. Hagar gives this name to the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me”. Hagar at her lowest sees that God does see her, both in the good times and the bad.

What a hope! The times of loss, the times of abandonment, the times of sorrow, the times of pain, etc. “God Sees”. Nothing is bigger than His ability to See us and not only see us, but be there. I have to become more and more like my little grandson, always looking God’s way to reassure myself that what He says is true. He’s right there cheering me on during the good times, comforting me during the hard. Always holding me and always being “the God who sees me” because He values me enough to always keep His face towards me, His precious child. He sees me! And know that wherever you are, whatever you have done, He sees YOU! His face is towards you and He wants to give you peace and show you how valued you are!

We Are the People of Hope

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Praise in the Park 7/10/2021

Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.

This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.

A small clip of the gathering

I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.

One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.

Some of the band
God’s People

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message

We are the People of HOPE!!

Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”

“An Enemy Hath Done This”

My garden in a good year.

Awww, Summertime! Since my kids are older I find myself with a little more time. As my kids were growing up, summer was consumed with Cousins staying with us for a week, swim lessons, pool cleaning and maintenance, and keeping the peace between siblings as they enjoyed their break from school work, more time to fight… Those days are now a memory and my latest occupier of my time has been gardening. Gardening has been an area of challenge for me through the years. When we moved to our current home, 13 years ago my husband always thought it was a great idea to have a garden, and he really wanted me to think that too. But for some strange reason I had this mental block where I thought I was just no good… Probably the giant weed patch experience we had and the shame it produced in me was the biggest affirmation that I needed to leave gardening to the pros so I did… Fast forward to around 4 years ago, I find myself sitting in a Counselor’s office struggling with some of life’s issues and she looks at me and says, “What do you like to do?” Something that for the life of me I could not find an answer to… “How about gardening?” I replied to her “I did it once and I’m no good.” She replied, “It’s because you haven’t really tried”. And lo and behold she was right! I came home that afternoon and told my husband if he wanted to try to put a garden in I was game to try. I studied youtube videos and web sites, made a gardening board on Pinterest. The love for gardening was born.

Probably one of the things I love the most about gardening is when I am occupied with the manual labor of it, I take time to pray and almost always I think about the different places God talks about gardening in the Bible. Every once in awhile I get behind on my weeding, that’s when the Parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 13 comes to mind. Jesus tells about a man who sowed good seed into a field, and then in the night an enemy comes out and sows weed seeds in the same field. The quote I reflect on is verse 28. I always hear it in the King James Version. It just seems more indignant… “An enemy hath done this”. I get it. Every time I have to pull out one of those weeds, especially the ones that has prickly stems on it, I grit my teeth and think the same. Oh had it not been for the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden!! All this effort would be less sweaty, tiring, and actually less effort all around! ” An enemy hath done this!”

Weed wrapping around my bean plant

Today as I was pulling weeds and grass surrounding my green beans plants I noticed one weed wrapping it’s way around one of the bean bush. I tenderly unwound it. Then the time Jesus spoke in the Bible about weeds choking out the good plant sown in the thorny area. Jesus was talking about our heart’s responses to the word. Sometimes the word lands in a heart that is ready to let it grow. Sometimes the word falls in a heart that life’s circumstances/ worries of this world choke out the good plant. Yep… once again “An Enemy Hath Done This”.

I’ve been praying a lot lately about keeping the main thing the main thing. That is knowing and experiencing God’s love to it’s fullest. It amazes me how sometimes I look at the ground of my heart and think, “Looking good, no weeds, freshly tilled and watered. Good stuff will come out soon.”

Before the Weed invasion…

Other times I look at it and see a weed patch that somehow sprung up ultra fast, not exactly sure how all the weeds got there so quickly, except to understand that “An Enemy Hath Done This”, and If I don’t allow the master gardener, Jesus, to pulls some weeds out of my heart everything that is good will soon be choked out.

Daily maintenance of my heart’s garden, helps to keep it weed free. Especially when it comes to looking at the depths of God’s love. The enemy would like for nothing more than to choke out God’s good love with satan’s weeds of worry, anxiety, depression, anger, or anything else he can throw into the garden of my heart. But Jesus wants for us to have our hearts abounding with His love. Our willingness to participate daily with His heart gardening maintenance is what we need. Daily allowing His word to cultivate our hearts and allowing Him to pull out the lies/ weeds the enemy has sown using the power of His truth. Then His love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self control are free to grow. Especially His love! Because it is the first seed He sows into my heart, a very tiny seed, but with His care it grows to be the biggest plant in the garden. So big that others can find refuge in it and experience the shade from the harshness of life under the shadow of His love growing in me.

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!

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 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.