“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.

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!

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.

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 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.

“Falling Into Grace”

It’s a cold, snowy day in my neck of the woods. Too cold for a walk outside and I’m too lazy to go to the Y so the treadmill it has to be. Walking on the treadmill requires something to keep my mind occupied otherwise it is the most mundane of task especially since mine faces a blank wall in my bedroom. Usually I spend my time watching “Garden Answers” YouTube videos so I can dream up new outdoor projects. Or I occasionally crank music as loud as I can through my headphones. Nothing like a good beat and blazing guitars to motivate the 30 minute walk on the “sidewalk that goes nowhere”.

I think it would work…

Today was a perfect day for loud music and the album of choice was “No Name Face” by Lifehouse. The past few days I’ve had one of their songs running through my mind. “Unknown”. The phrase that goes over and over in my head is “I am falling into grace, to the unknown, to where you are, and faith makes everybody scared it’s the unknown they don’t know that keeps me hanging on and on, and on to you.”

Performance based religion, legalism, when you’ve had that wired into your brain it’s hard to see anything else. There have been times that I have been involved in churches that lived and breathed performance… Fear of not being enough has ravaged my mind and heart. I believe the intentions of the people in those churches were very sincere. We wanted to live what the Bible said, and we would do it doggonit… , but sadly it was mainly in our own strength. That is a recipe for disaster. The truth of the matter is there is no system or set of rules, regulations, standards, etc. that will change the heart. Simply said we can’t do it on our own. Somewhere along the line we have to see ourselves rightly, more importantly see God rightly, and “fall into grace”.

Freedom for me hasn’t been in strapping myself to a list of things that I needed to do to be the Christian God wants. It has been in seeing that me, the one God wanted, was wanted when I was at my worst. As the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. And my value is not in how excellent I can be, it is in being the one God valued enough to pay the ultimate price for, His Son’s life and death on the cross. Nothing has hit me harder than that reality. You don’t pay high prices for things you don’t value. For example: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t waste my time paying $1000 for a chewed piece of gum on a sidewalk. It has no value to me. I wouldn’t pay a penny either. But I would happily invest $1000 in a hot tub. Actually more than $1000 if I could find one that cheap lol. Anything to warm these chilled Midwestern girl’s bones… (winter blah…) I value the hot tub. It’s worth something to me. In the same way, God saw something worth something in me and paid a price, His Son, to bridge the gap between us so I could be His. That’s Good News.

Yes Please!! This would be so nice right now!!

The issue for me is “falling into grace” is a bit like tandem skydiving with God as my skydiving instructor. Ultimately, when I take the jump out of that plane, I have to trust. I have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. I have to trust that He will do exactly what He said He will do. Here’s the big one… I have to trust that the parachute will open at the right time. As one who is afraid of heights, this whole example would never happen in the real world unless for some reason you got me on a small plane and something went horribly wrong. Then there would be no other option, but to jump and to trust that the Master Jumper was able to rescue me. Here’s the deal, my life, in fact anyone’s life is like the passenger on that “doomed plane’. There’s no turning around the mess I’ve been in in my own strength. It’s only in taking the jump of faith, and holding on to the One who has ahold of me. Nothing I can do or will do at that point changes things because God is the one who gets me safely to where I am going by whatever means He deems necessary to get me there. He does not let go. Thank God.

“Falling into Grace” is really the only viable choice for my heart.. Sitting there when your plane’s going down doesn’t make any sense no matter how scary the options of life may be. Life is a long series of “unknown” circumstances. I just don’t know how it all will turn out. But if I am jumping tandem with God, I know I will arrive,and His Grace will, as the old hymn “Amazing Grace” says, “lead me home”.

Do Not Fret/ Trust

This blog has been my outlet for the past few years. As a habitual “stuffer” I’ve found the best way to get stuff out and let a little pressure off has been to write. I often think of the old pressure cooker my mom used to can vegetables with when I was a kid. The gauge on top would shake and make noises the longer the heat increased and the pressure grew inside until she opened it a little and let the steam out and turned down the heat. Writing is just one of those tools that releases a little of my internal steam and pressure as I live my life day in and day out, amongst many other tools I’ve been developing to deal with anxiety and depression. (exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, etc.).

I would have to admit this week I’ve been thinking about exactly what I would say to help ease a lot of the tensions I’ve been feeling in my world and let off a little of the internal pressure I’ve been feeling. There are just so many angles and avenues of thought and discussion going on inside of me. Everything from interpersonal interactions, spiritual direction, the political environment as of late, and me knocking on the door of turning 50 years old in a matter of days. It all kind of shakes my internal pressure gauge and feels like something needs to be let out. Thus this blog entry…

I stand in pretty good company when it comes to blogging as a “feelings outlet”. My favorite “feelings blogger”of Biblical times, would be David. The book of Psalms in the Bible are mainly entries written by him as he too wrestled with inner pressures and outer circumstances. Reading his entries gives comfort to me on the regular. David was my kind of guy. He would lay out his feelings in poems, songs, and verses that would always end up concluding that God was the answer for all uncertain times, feelings, and circumstances.

This week, in particular, I’ve been reading and rereading Psalm 37. A Psalm written by an older more experienced David, who had seen a lot.

As a young man, David had worked in the Palace of a spiritually and mentally unstable King, who threw a spear at him. David had been a warrior in battles that had impossible odds (Fully armored giant vrs. slingshot toting Shepherd boy, David). He then found himself chosen and anointed by God to be the king of Israel. Then there’s David’s struggles with sin. David watching his own son turn against him, taking over the Kingdom. David hiding in caves, pretending to be insane to save his own life, the return to his Kingdom, etc. David reflects on all the ins and outs of life. The ups the downs. The good times and the bad. He says this:

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Psalms‬ ‭37:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:23-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A few days ago my 20 year old daughter and I went to the YMCA for our morning walk. She said something that kind of hit me. “Mom, a lot of my friends and the people I follow on Social Media talk about how they wish they had been born in a less complicated time, like the 80’s…” I told her I understood that sentiment. When I was her age, living in the 80’s I wished for a life as simple as the 50’s when my mom was a teen. It’s funny how there really isn’t anything new under the sun. Bad rulers have come and gone. Good ones have too. Times of peace and prosperity and freedom have been around, times more restricted and harsh have been too. But in the end when we stand with God we will be alright. Just like David said, “Evil people and their agendas will come and go. But God takes care of those of us who trust in Him.” It is only a matter of me keeping my eyes on God and staying close to Him in my relationship with Him.

David’s words “Do not fret” are what’s been churning around inside of me. I’m pretty good at fretting. I come by it honestly I guess. But God’s goodness to me proves I can “trust”. Somewhere along the line He is going to work all these things out. He has a plan and He is in control. I just need to keep showing up. Show up in my time with Him, reading His word (the Bible) and praying. Show up in my time with my husband and family. Enjoy them and soak up the gift they are. Show up for my friends, who are God’s gift too. Spend time with them and enjoy them encouraging me while I try to encourage them. Show up for those I don’t know that I’m around. You know… “shine your light”. We have been given God’s love to share. It is the cure for our struggles in the uncertain times. God will take care of His kids. That I can be assured.

David said “I’ve been young and now I’m old. I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken”. God will not leave us alone. Eyes on Him. It will all be alright.