Resurrected Thoughts

I have some of the happiest of memories: the look on my groom’s face when I walked in the sanctuary of the church and slowly walked towards him down the aisle at our wedding, he had the biggest smile; The first time I saw my first born as the doctor held him up over this sheet that covered the area where the c section was being performed, he was one mad little guy; the curls on my first daughter’s hair as a 3 year old and her sucking her thumb; my second daughter watching veggie tales in her bouncy saucer sucking on her passy when she was around 9 months; and my youngest son, at the age of almost two telling me verbally he wanted to nurse on “the other side” … time to wean that kid. lol I could go on and on with the good memories especially now that I have the good memory pump primed. But I, like many of you have also struggled with some very hard memories, traumatic ones. Things that when remembered, cause my mind to freeze up for a moment and feelings of fear to flood me. Those memories are hard to shut off once they get to rolling.

I was thinking about the nature of traumatic memories this morning. Having went to counseling for over 3 years, there have been tools that were given to me to deal with the reoccurring memories that try to play in my mind: the 5,4,3,2,1 method, distraction by doing something physical like exercise, etc. They have been helpful, but lately I have been on a quest for “Shalom” in my mind. Peace but a little more than just our English word for peace. It encompasses well-being, tranquility, prosperity, security, wholeness. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” That perfect peace refers to “shalom” a wholeness in my mind. This is promised to the one whose thoughts are “fixed on you!”. During my time in counseling there was established a “safe place” in my thought life that I could go if something came up that was unpleasant to think of. So bad thought comes, think about safe place. When I first thought about it, honestly, I thought, that seems pretty dumb… But with help I established that place, “in my mind” and it did “help” a lot. But I don’t just want “help”, I want “whole”, and the Bible has a concept very similar to this that promises to bring the “wholeness” I am looking for it is “fixing my mind on Jesus”.

Years ago, I watched “The Passion” Not an easy movie to watch… The accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and the beating he received just before it was horrendous. It occurred to me this morning just how traumatic of an event this would have been for his disciples to witness. It really is no wonder they denied, they ran, they hid, etc. Watching the torment of someone you love would be horrible. Watching the final breath… more than a person can take, traumatic. But God did not leave them there to deal with the repeated flashbacks of evil unleashed on the one they loved. God gave them a resurrection. Thank God that in Jesus there is always a resurrection! There is life beyond the hardships we suffer, the trauma we endure. He takes what was dead in us and makes it alive in Him. As the verse says He “makes all things new”. If there is a “Cross” and a “grave” in our life, there is always a “resurrection”. That should be the “safe place” in our minds, the place we go when the thoughts of a painful past try to replay over and over in high definition. That traumatic thought deserves its place nailed on the cross, but don’t stop there it deserves its NEW resurrected thought that always comes after the cross in God’s kingdom. “I am not there, I am FREE!”

Death cannot conquer HIS LIFE!!

The movie “The Passion” also has its short scene of Jesus in the resurrection. I am glad that Mel Gibson did not stop with just the death. In that scene, the grave clothes are empty and Jesus with His nail scared hands, stands, moving forward into His resurrected, victorious life. That will be my new “Safe place” thought. There is nothing safer than a life closely lived to the power and presence of the resurrected Lord. Traumatic thoughts of a crucified past… resurrected reality of our all-powerful risen Lord! Victory! There is no dead thought that can overpower the thoughts centered in His life! There is no thought wrapped in grave clothes that can hold His resurrected thoughts down! Hallelujah!!

So True!!

“Sick of It!” Eyes Off the Lie!

Last week my husband and I got away for our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a three night get away at Branson at our favorite hotel, The Savannah House Inn. Every night it serves blackberry pie, peach cobbler, ice cream, and cookies, an obvious winner. The week before I started looking for entertainment for us. We have been known to go to shows, my favorite so far “Reza the Illusionist” and “The Cleverly’s” when they are in town. I can do some of the other shows to keep me above boredom, but I’m kind of a child of the 80’s and Rock/ Metal is more up my alley. As I was searching the internet, I stumbled across a youth concert festival with some of my favorite Christian musicians. I had struck gold!! We the Kingdom, Zach Williams, and Skillet were some of the big names. We went to the door to buy tickets and “SCORE!!” we were in. We felt a little out of place since most of the people our age was “youth leaders” or “youth sponsors”, but we were not deterred! We were ready to rock! lol.

The night that Skillet played had arrived and I was super stoked! I knew it would be loud and I knew it would be fun! They did not disappoint! I just had to keep in mind that head banging when you are 50 feels a whole lot different than it does when you were 17. So, I tried to control my enthusiasm. Something impressed me that night that I have been thinking about ever since. The lead singer took some time before introducing the song “Sick of It” to the crowd. He said, “There are some things I am sick of. I am sick of Teen Suicide rates climbing. I am sick of Teen anxiety rates climbing as well. You have been lied to. The media has lied to you. The world has lied to you. It is time to get sick of the lies and take your stand!” Lied to! I may not be a teen, but anxiety has been lying to me. Telling me that I can never be free! Fear has been lying as well. All the self-help techniques haven’t been putting too much of a dent in it. But God!

So much truth in this song!

I’m not sure of exact timing, but I can tell you God has been redirecting me on how to take my stand against the anxiety and depression that has been predominant in my life for several years. It’s been about a year ago that I started to attend a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings called WOW “Women on Wednesdays”. At the time, I was trying to fight my anxiety issues, the best I knew how at the time, with my own effort. They had a slide that they displayed in their main session that quite truthfully, offended me. One talked about living in God’s Kingdom with Joy, Peace, Patience, His Goodness, etc. Then the one about the wilderness that listed things like “conformed to the ways of the world”, “Self-imposed captivity”, “Performing but not obeying”, all of which I could reason my way around but “Fearful and Anxious” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I figured, “They do not know what I experience on the daily. That is not something I can just control.” There was a part of me offended, but a part of me that thought “Could this be true?” “Could I be freed?” Even though those statements bothered me to no end, I kept going. Sometimes with everything I have had within me, making myself walk through the doors of the church each Wednesday morning after sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out why I was making myself do this.

Card of the slide I mentioned. It hangs on my fridge as a reminder.

One day One of the leaders said something to me that stuck out. “You need to write down what it is you want to ask God to do for you.” I went home and did just that. I wrote, “I want to walk in freedom from anxiety.” That was number one. Then I wrote, “I want to drop the Buspar (anti-anxiety med) – pop my eyes to Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run for Jesus and my response to be one who falls at HIs feet. Close to HIm”. This did not happen in an instant, but I can tell you today that I am closer to the “total freedom from anxiety” mark than the “Drowning in it” mark I was at a year ago. But it took something that John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, was describing last Wednesday Night at the Concert. I needed to get sick of it! I needed to be desperate enough to realize that I was not fixing me. It would have to be Jesus.

I don’t know if you have ever gotten lost as a kid. I did. I was around 5 years old, and my parents had taken me and my brothers to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I rode a kiddy ride, and my mom was waiting by the exit for me to get off. Problem was when I got off, I distinctly remember looking at the world of waist down humans walking around me. I couldn’t figure out where on earth she was. I was short, you know, 5 years old kind of height, and they were adults. So, I started to wander around, and because of my height, my mom couldn’t find me either. Then it hit me. “I am lost”. But it also hit me that I could see a hat sales booth just a little bit away. I went to it and told the worker I had lost my mom. I asked for help. Seconds later I looked up and there was my dad and my brothers coming down the hill. Talk about relief. I’ve been thinking about that time this morning quite a bit. Anxiety, fear, and depression can make you feel like you are swimming in a world of legs, like my 5-year-old perception did that day. It feels like there is no way to get above it, but determining that you will not stay there, you will go to Jesus for help is the only way to realize the peace of your Heavenly Father’s arms.

Swimming in a sea of legs…

It may be offensive to read this. It would have offended me, and I certainly don’t have the corner market on an anxiety fix. I’m just coming as one beggar who has found a place to get bread and wanting to share the location of the generous giver. Hanging close to Jesus and keeping your mind fixed on Him has been working pretty well for me here lately and believe me there are plenty of times I need to be reminded where I need to get my focus on, thank God for good friends. Because our enemy is relentless, and a bully, He won’t shut up until we get “Sick of It”, and deliberately decide to stop listening to his lies, and to listen to the words of Jesus instead, running to Him.

His Delight

“Grace (unmerited favor) and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 AMP

My Little man helping me unwrap my new Grinch Cookie Jar this Christmas

Let me start this off with a statement. “Being a Grandparent ROCKS!” I have a grandson that is almost 2 and one on the way. It is one of the biggest joys of my husband’s and my life. It changes you. I guess it’s because 26 years of being a parent wore off all the rough edges in us and now we’re mellow and relaxed. ha ha. I was commenting the other day while shopping with my husband at some Thrift stores how I don’t believe I have ever seen him in our 29 years of marriage spend more time in the Toy section of a store. When our kids were little, I could barely drag him through it. Now he gravitates toward it and spends significant time trying out every button and calling to me for my attention on what the toy does. To be fair, as a younger man, he was pretty stinking busy trying to make a living and provide for us and probably just didn’t feel like he had the time. But nonetheless, our little grandson has stirred up a favor within us toward him that no other has. If he comes over and tells me “Ganny, I hungy, Waffles” you better believe “Ganny” is plugging in her animal shaped waffle maker and whipping up a batch for my little man. Because he has my heart.

This Christmas season I have been thinking about the love of God and different aspects of the Christmas story. Last night I was drawn to the section of the Christmas story where the angels announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14. “Favor” when translated from the Greek means “satisfaction, delight, kindness”. Delight really stuck out to me. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor (delight) rests.

Me knowing me, finds it hard to believe in a God who “delights” in me, sometimes. But that is exactly how God, my heavenly Daddy feels toward me. The same kind of delight that my husband feels at a toy store contemplating the latest and greatest toy that would give our grandson a thrill, is the same kind of delight that my heavenly Daddy feels when He thinks of me, which is ALL the time. (a whole other blog I’m sure). The same kind of delight I feel when my little guy asks “Ganny” for waffles as he rubs his little tummy with his little hand, God feels towards me as He goes with me throughout the day. The good news is this favor/ delight is not just poured out on me. (though I’ll take it). It is poured out on all of us, and the more we spend time with God, getting to know Him, the more we experience His delight in us. As the verse above in 2 Peter says, it is multiplied to us as we become more intimate with our heavenly Daddy and Jesus our Lord. The more I know Him, the more I understand that God is love. The kind of Love that delights in me enough to come to earth on a Christmas day, live His life out displaying just how Good and loving He is, then dying as the sacrifice for all the wrongs/sin I have done. Rising again so I can live. That is delight that makes my mind “tilt” when I contemplate it. That is the delight, the favor, the grace that He multiplies towards me over and over, and not only toward me, but toward you. Because He loves us and He is Oh so Good!

An Oak of Righteousness on Display

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3

We live about an hour away from an old order Amish community. Every once and awhile my husband and I along with my sisters in law and my brothers in law decide to go and visit their shops. It’s relaxing to get out in their area of farmland, to see the occasional horse and buggy, and purchase some of their hand pies and whoppie pies from their bakery. I also enjoy looking in their furniture shops. The quality of their hand made furniture is amazing.

Oak Slab table that looks similar to my dream table.

This last weekend our little group of family made the trip up north. We stopped at the aforementioned bakery, and I enjoyed a handheld strawberry pie. Then we walked over to the building next to the bakery, the furniture store. When we walked in there was this handmade slab table made of oak. It was large and oh so beautiful, absolutely stunning would probably be the words that best describe it. It immediately caught the eye of each of us in our group. I could just picture it in my dining room with our growing family seated around it. I bet you could get 10 people around it. I stood there gently rubbing the smooth, shiny top admiring the craftsmanship. Then common sense hit, I probably don’t need it. I have a nice oak table now and I’ve got other things that an extra $4000 or more could be applied to in my life, like new carpet… So, I warmed by the wood stove for a minute, admired its beauty, and then hopped into the truck to go on to the next business.

A majestic Oak

The past week I have found myself parked in a couple of sections of scripture. Like I shared in my blog yesterday, I usually spend time reading the passage, rereading it, praying about, it and writing about it as well. It’s good for me. Isaiah 61 is the other section I’ve been trying to let soak into my head and my heart. When I read it verse 3 kept drawing me in. “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor”. Immediately my thoughts went to my own oak furniture, end tables, one bought at an Amish furniture shop, and then that gorgeous slab table I had seen. Oak is a quality wood for quality furniture made from an impressive tree. I started googling Oak trees. Turns out Oak trees are all over the world. I probably already knew that, but for some reason it seemed like an American phenomenon to me. They grow LARGE and they grow STRONG. They are some of the most magnificent trees. There is no trouble distinguishing the characteristics of an oak. An Oak tree is just that an Oak tree. And God says in His word that I am just that, an Oak of Righteousness. The two verses before that are among those quoted by Jesus in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry. He read how God had sent Him to proclaim the good news, to bind up our broken hearts, proclaim freedom and release to those held captive by sin and its effects, and to proclaim God’s favor toward us. He gives us beauty where there was nothing but ashes, joy where there was mourning, and praise over our despair, and as if that is not enough, He turns the very core of who we are into something new and enduring, an Oak of righteousness. An oak tree is an oak tree, no matter the size- from seedling to giant. It is an Oak. And we become an oak of righteousness. In Jesus, I am righteous. It’s not something I have to attain. It’s not something I have to work for. It is who I am. Not of my own, but of His doing. It is who I am. No matter what size of faith I may feel like I have, seedling to giant, He has made me 100% righteous in Him. This is all done for the display of His splendor in me. When I live in that reality, it points others to the beauty of what a life in Christ is, and just as I sat in that Amish furniture shop admiring the beauty of an Oak slab table, Christ’s righteousness on display in my life, shows just how beautiful and awesome the transformation of a heart made new really is. A healed, free heart, standing in His favor is beautiful and joyously echoing praises of the One who made them NEW. It is a display of His glorious splendor. That He allows me to take part in. All because He Loves Me and I am His. Excuse me while I stand in awe again of just how Good He is…

The Compassionate Father- He Loves

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Psalm 103:13-18 NIV

From time to time, I find myself parked in a section of scripture, thinking about it, praying about it, reading it over and over. Psalm 103 has been that section this past week. It was suggested by a friend that I read it and think about the theme of God’s love toward me about a week ago. In my time of reflection, I came to this and asked God what His compassion is like. Immediately my mind went back to a time almost 18 years ago when my youngest son was born. There is nothing more needy than a newborn baby. They are pretty basic: eat… poop… cry… repeat… No words of thanks uttered from their mouth, abilities to repay, nothing. Just the aforementioned cycle over and over. Newborns are so fragile and when a newborn has a health issue that requires care it is a time of great angst for the parents. My youngest son had a traumatic birth. We were seconds away from the resuscitation team being called in shortly after he was delivered. He was turning blue; it was pretty scary. Then the issues breathing kicked in a little later that night. He landed in the NICU. I remember being taken into see him shortly after being admitted. My 8-pound 2-ounce baby boy laying there with tubes all over him and prongs up his nose… hard to accept as a mom of 4 who didn’t have any issues with her first 3. My heart broke. Then the memory that is etched in my mind forever was when the nurses told me they needed to change the tubes out in his nostrils. They told me I may want to leave, and I agreed. As I was walking away, I looked back for a second only to see my baby arch his tiny back about 2 inches off the bed as they pulled the tubes out and changed them. I lost it. Tears flowed. I wanted him whole. No more pain, no more poking and prying his tiny little body. As I sat deep in the memory of that time, it occurred to me, how I felt then is how God does when He sees us struggle. That was the answer to my question of what God’s compassion is like.

I am much like a newborn when it comes to God. I find myself with nothing of real substance that God really needs, and the truth be known I am desperately needy of Him. But God, my heavenly Daddy, finds me to be so very valuable, because I am His. He knows just how fragile I am, “But dust” yet His love is with me, and though I don’t understand situations because of my limited perspective, He is there working in every way for my Good and His glory. The very same way I felt as I watched the nurses in the NICU working with my son, is the way God feels as He orchestrates the events of my life sometimes good sometimes bad in His sovereignty. He hurts when I do as well, and He promises that His love will NEVER fail. The comfort comes when I truly believe and trust. That is when God shows Himself to be what I needed all along, and He wraps His love around me and holds me close. He is the compassionate father who never fails.

I Have Never Regretted Us- Happy 29th Anniversary Baby

This is the time of year I usually go all nostalgic. It usually starts up when I decorate my Christmas tree. My decorating scheme for my tree could be described the way my now adult children call it, “It looks like Christmas threw up on the tree.” Handmade ornaments that go back to the year before I married my husband all the way to last year. There are the ornaments my college roommates made for our little tree in our campus house room, the ornaments my husband and I scraped up enough money to buy ornament making kits and we painted together our first year of marriage 28 years ago. Then there’s the assortment of ornaments my kids made throughout the years growing up. Plus, my latest treasure, my grandson’s first ornament for my tree, an imprint of his foot when he was almost 1. Each one a reminder of the good life God has blessed me with.

Our First Christmas Ornament

Since my husband and I got married on January 2nd, and we always plan a way to celebrate, my thoughts on the early years- the first time I saw him, our first date, our first kiss (we bumped noses because we were so nervous), the 8-month, whirlwind romance during our “summer of love”, his sparkly eyes… all that stuff runs through my mind. This year probably more so than most. We’re closing in on a big anniversary. 29 years this year. 30 next.

So much joy!

Midnight of January 1st 1992 I was at a party with some friends. We took the time to pray as the New Year came in. I had been planning a third short term mission trip with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) for the summer of 1992. This would follow up 2 previous trips to Mexico the two previous years. I was certain I needed to go again. I had my plans. Finish college, get involved in a mission organization, go live on the field the rest of your life. God however had other plans. I distinctly felt like I should stay home and take a summer class at college, something I would never do unless God was in it, Ha Ha (I hated college). So I registered for class and stuck around.

The Summer of Love
Engagement photo. Rich’s Mt Dew Can made it in the shot.

The church I attended in college strictly practiced courtship. They were loosening up some of their dating rules that year, but there were a lot of single 20 ish year olds there. Something noticed by a friend of my husband when he visited one Sunday. I believe he told Rich “I know a church you should visit. There are a lot of single women.” So you have to give Rich credit, he was out to pick up a woman and he chose church, not a bar. lol. So Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992, he walked into the church service and was sitting in front of me. At one point in the service that 6 ft 2, brown hair, muscular 19-year-old (I didn’t know he was so young then) turned around and winked at me. I being the hyper-religious/ courtship obeying girl thought… “What a flirt! He’s not serious about God.” Little did I know that God had begun to rock my world and set me on a very blessed course. I had my plans, but God had His and thank God for His love that directs our steps when we don’t really know where we need to go. He always does. January 2nd,1993 we were married.

Rich 19, me 21, just a couple of kids started our life together with nothing, literally. A little one-bedroom apartment by the Missouri River in St Charles that we shared with a roommate, roommate had the living room with an office divider blocking off the area for his bed and worked nights, so it “worked” for 8 months.

We were the masters of finding fun things to do that cost little to nothing. Getting married in January insured we would have some snow our first month of marriage. So it made sense to take the boxes from our wedding gifts out and use them for sleds on the hill next to our apartment. It was a blast!! Then there were all the evenings in the summer we spent fishing at Bush Wildlife Reserve. The time we dug through our couch cushions and emptied the money out of the ash trays of our cars trying to get enough money to go to Big Surf water park. (Which we accomplished).

The First Years

When we started our family with the birth of our oldest son, Rich worked hard to insure I could stay home with him. He has sacrificed much, working shift work, working all kinds of overtime, working his way up from a janitor at the local nuclear plant, studying hard to get a Reactor Operator license and beyond all this… to provide a good life for our family. And I have been able to work my dream job, a stay-at-home mom that homeschooled her four kids from Kindergarten to Graduation.

We have not been without times of struggle in our marriage. Just ask our kids about the “Budget discussions” we started doing after a Dave Ramsey “Financial Peace” class (highly recommend) which proved to be more of budget wars (NOT highly recommended lol). Personality differences, HUGE ones, fights…, disagreements, sadness’s, losses, struggles, etc. And yes there have been times we loved each other, but really didn’t “like” each other.

The secret sauce/ glue that has held it all together has been first of all our commitment to God (Specifically a relationship with JESUS). With exception of covid, and a few other weeks, we’ve been in a church every Sunday. The past few years we take time every work morning, hold hands and pray after breakfast. We read the Bible together on the Bible app. and spend time frequently talking about what we are learning about God. We pray for each other as we walk through our individual struggles we go through. God has been so faithful to us through the years and the past few years of our marriage have been some of the sweetest.

So, this year at year 29, I find myself marveling at the goodness of God. Having walked through some very hard seasons in my life off and on through the years, I can truly see how God stepped in and blessed me with His good life, and 30 years ago on a New Year’s Eve, He changed the course of my life. I didn’t end up with my degree or living on a mission field in a foreign country. God’s plans are not my own. They are BETTER!

The beauty of it is that God didn’t stop there. His grace has given me much more than I deserve, and God has truly worked all things out for my good.

Reenactment of the ill fated teeter totter incident we had when dating. Except this time Rich didn’t accidentally knock me off the teeter totter.
Go carting last fall.
Fishing with the best fishing buddy ever

On a personal note: Rich, I have never regretted us. You are that special young man God gave to me. Let’s do at least another 31 years. Love you more than I ever could express.

Happy 29th Anniversary to us 🙂 (Let’s swim with the Sharks. It will be fun)

Me and my Man 🥰

Christmas: To Know Him More

I grew up in the same town as my grandparents. So, I got to see them alot while I was growing up. My Grandpa and Grandma Burkman went to the same church I went to so I saw them Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and a weekend afternoon as well. My Grandpa Burkman was such a quiet man. My memories of him, when I was a small child, are mainly of sitting with him in his recliner eating peanuts that he would crack open for me. Which helped me to earn his nickname for me, “Peanut”. One of the other memories I have is him being in his shop. He was a machinist. He always had a project going. Sometimes I would navigate through all the projects (looked like junk) he had, or as he called it “Potential” to the back left hand corner of the big room in his shop to watch him weld. He’d give me a welding mask and I would stand there and watch the sparks fly.

Me in my 20’s with my Grandpa

Yesterday my parents posted a picture of him and my Grandma when they were very young on Facebook. My daughter commented to me how amazed she was that he looked soooo young. My memories are somewhere around the 60 + year old Grandpa. Hers’s are more the 90 + (he lived until he was a few days shy of 101).

Grandpa and Grandma when they were young.

After my Grandma died, is when I really got to know my Grandpa better. When I would bring my family home to visit, he would tell us stories of him racing Model T’s through the downtown area of the small Kansas town he lived in, and how they would pop wheelies with them hoping to impress the girls, a feat I didn’t know was possible with Model T. But he took the time to explain exactly how he did it. He also talked about racing boats on a Kansas lake, another thing I had a hard time picturing my quiet,gentle Grandpa doing. Then him working a promotional for the car dealership he worked for wearing what appeared to only be a barrel as he walked around outside the dealership. I was blown away with each visit at how much I really didn’t know about the man I had seen so much through the years I was growing up, and why my Grandma, who always seemed to be in for an adventure (camping, fishing, playing in the river, traveling, etc) would fall in love with such a seemingly quiet and calm man.

I’ve been reflecting on a verse in the Bible this week. Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ, yes to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” The apostle Paul had a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus, was a missionary to all kinds of towns, wrote several of the New Testament Books of the Bible. It struck me that the one thing he said he wanted was to “Know Christ”.

There have been times in my life that I thought I had God all figured out. I figured I knew how High I needed to jump to get His approval (a jump higher than I could ever make). I was pretty sure I knew the extent of the work I would have to do to be what I was supposed to be to make Him happy. And much like the 40 + year old Janet found out, the 5-year-old Janet didn’t really know her Grandpa, I have discovered I really didn’t even have a clue on who God really is or what He is like either. Which is why I find the words in John 14 very comforting. Jesus is talking to His disciples about knowing the Father. Verses 8-9 “Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us. “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…”

During the Christmas season, we often hear the name “Emmanuel” spoken. We talk about Jesus being “God with Us”. And then we reflect on how a God, that the Jewish religious leaders, thought they had figured out as being “rule based”, “unapproachable”, “distant” had all of a sudden said, “I will show you who I am. When you see this baby, born into a desperate world, grows to be a man who is kind, compassionate, good, and full of love, live His life as an exact representation of who I Am, you will see me.” The Jesus of the Christmas manger, the miracle worker, the forgiver of sins, the sacrifice on the Cross, and the resurrected King, through His Grace, is our way to “Know God” and “Knowing God” is exactly what we need. It is what God desires for us. He went out of His way to “show us the way” to Him. When we reach out and tell Him like Paul did, “I want to know you God”. He is there wanting to show us who He really is. Because the Jesus of Christmas and the Cross Loves us more than we could ever comprehend. It will take a lifetime and beyond to know Him more and the fulness of His love.

Jesus of Christmas and the Cross an exact representation of our Loving Heavenly Father. Oh to Know Him and Make Him known!

The Heart Set on Pilgrimage

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis

Finally the Christmas Season! I’m one of those Thanksgiving/ Christmas purist. My Fall Decorations go up toward the end of September and they stay up until the Thanksgiving Celebrations are over for our Family. This year it feels like I’ve been looking at pumpkins and scarecrows FOREVER! I want to properly spend my time in Thankfulness during the Month of November. Sometimes I think we miss just how important it is to give thanks. But now Thanksgiving is done it’s time to break out the Christmas decorations, pull out my Peanuts Christmas and Grinch shirts, and start wearing my new “Elf” socks that include a pair that says “Cotten headed niny muggins”. Oh yeah!!! But most importantly it’s time to focus in on the real reason for celebration, Jesus’ Birth.

A couple of days ago my Bible reading included Psalm 84. In it was a short section of scripture that has not ever stood out to me before.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭84:5-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The word “Pilgrimage” has been resonating inside of me each time I read it. It has me thinking about different kind of Pilgrimages. I live a couple of hours away from my home town, my brothers both live out of state. About a 7 hour drive for each of them. So each year we try to pick a time to meet at my parents house to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. It’s kind of like a mini pilgrimage home.

Then there was the Pilgrimage that Mary and Joseph set out on,before Jesus was born, to return to Bethlehem via decree of Caesar for a Census. Not exactly the type of Pilgrimage that Mary appreciated late in her pregnancy with Jesus, but totally ordained by God so that the prophecies about Jesus could be fulfilled. Some pilgrimages are joyful. Some are not. Some are easier than others, some not so much

This particular section of scripture has had me thinking of my “spiritual pilgrimage”. And how it says that I am blessed if my heart is “set on it”. This got me curious. What exactly is a “pilgrimage” so I consulted my handy dandy Webster’s 1828 Dictionary app.

PIL’GRIMAGE, n. A long journey, particularly a journey to some place deemed sacred and venerable, in order to pay devotion.

Painting my Grandma Fern Burkman did. Makes me think of our Pilgrimage from dark to light.

The Psalm points out that if my heart is “set upon this long journey to a sacred place, Zion, the Mountain of God, I am blessed. And that as I pass through the “valley of baca” (weeping, tears) it is transformed to a place of springs and pools and I go from Strength to Strength in this journey. What an assurance that God has His way of taking the chapters written about our pilgrimage that were hard, sad, and even unbearable and changing them to the chapters that produced the most beautiful endings in our lives! Our valley of weeping truly is changed to a place of fruitfulness by the touch of His hand.

Ask Mary and Joseph some 2000 years ago as they traveled a hard road to a place with no room for them during a forced pilgrimage, what God can do. A dirty stable can be transformed to a place of heavenly worship, complete with Angel choirs when Jesus “steps in”, or is “born into” our pilgrimage. He has a way of doing that kind of transformation just by being here with us, our pilgrimage is blessed as we set our hearts on the Him and the destination of our heavenly home with Him. Weeping truly is turned to Joy as we set our Longing on being with Him every step of the way to our Heavenly home. This longing for another world C.S. Lewis was talking about in the quote above is the destination of our pilgrimage that we were made for and the journey that God gladly goes with us on. That is who He is and we are reminded of this fact this Christmas Season.

Emmanuel, God With Us! Now and Forevermore!

Freedom From The Vortex Of Doom

Vortex of Doom

I love a good Sci Fi Movie or TV show, especially Star Trek. As a child of the 80’s, one of my memories of Saturday was catching the old Star Trek reruns, complete with Leonard Nimoy as “Spock”. “Peace, live long, and prosper”. One of the reoccurring themes is the Enterprise getting caught up in some kind of tractor beam that is unseen pulling it toward the impending doom of the entire ship and crew. There seems to be no answer then somehow miraculously, Scotty figures out how to get a little extra power after he exclaims in a thick Scottish brogue, “Captain, I’ve given all the power she’s got!” Yep! Good old classic TV.

Peace, Live Long, and Prosper

As one who has battled frequently with anxiety through the years, it occurred to me how similar a bout with anxiety is like being the Starship Enterprise being sucked into a Vortex of Doom. The tow begins with a thought and before you know it you feel like you’re swirling around the edges of plunging into the unknown. My approach for breaking free from it’s tow was much like the crew on the Enterprise, giving it all I have for effort and then hoping that somehow it would be enough to break the pull. Not very affective and quite the miserable way to go.

Tractor Beam on the Enterprise

Thankfully, this is not the way God wants His girl to live, and He has been showing me a new and living way (HIs grace) to stay above the pull into the “Vortex of Doom”. This is to simply get my eyes off of the “Vortex” i.e. the problem and onto the problem solver, Jesus. When I say simply, it is, but there are times it doesn’t feel that simple. So I need to be reminded that the tug of the Vortex does not mean to it’s time to throw up my hands and surrender to it’s pull. Nor does it mean that, in my own strength, with my own devices and coping mechanisms that I “cope” with Anxiety or even try to fight it. Relying on God’s grace to be free of anxiety is me looking to Jesus, calling out to Him, focusing on who He is: His Faithfulness, His Goodness, His Love. Then in His strength fighting the battle and standing in the victory He gives as I believe what He says about who I am and who He is in His word, the Bible. As I am writing this, I am reminded how new to me this way of freedom from Anxiety’s “vortex of doom” feels to me at this moment. But this way to freedom has been there all along. Jesus paid the price at the cross and won the battle with His resurrection from the dead. His Freedom has been there all along not only for me but for you as well. Because He loves us and He is Good!

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in HIm.” Psalm 40 1-3 NIV

WHY?… For Our Good For His Glory

Last weekend I got to get out with my youngest daughter and some friends for an overnight Ladies Retreat called, INSPIRE Retreat with Candace Payne as the guest speaker. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she is also known as “The Chewbacca Mom” for her viral video watched more than 145 million times. She was awesome! Such words of encouragement and also words that challenged me. The last session on Saturday has set off a churning of things inside that I haven’t experienced in awhile. Mainly because in her comical communicating she landed a concept of depth that I’ve not been able to grab ahold of for quite some time. All this from her thoughts on an account of a man in the Bible named Lazarus and a miracle that few have witnessed and seems to be impossible, but I guess that’s why it is a miracle, his resurrection from the dead. John 11 in the Bible contains all the details of this miracle, and the truth is I’ve probably read this, heard it read, heard songs about it, etc. off and on for hundreds of times throughout my 50 years on Planet Earth. But this time something finally hit home.

The account of Lazarus begins with him getting sick, and his sisters, Jesus’s friends, asking Jesus, a known healer to come and heal him. But for some reason Jesus gets in no hurry to go the two mile journey to their house. He waits for two days. The thing that has hit me so hard about this concept is just that “two days”. Why wait? Why allow Lazarus to go through the pain and suffering of the dying process? and Why allow Mary and Martha to have to sit and watch their brother go through all that pain? Especially if the journey only takes a two mile walk. That’s about 40 minutes at the pace I usually walk. Not a very long time or distance to go.

The more this churns around in my mind memories of my own experiences watching my Father in law die of cancer 10 years ago and my Mother in law die of cancer 1 1/2 years ago have been replaying in my mind. Mary and Martha must have felt the things I felt as I sat there and slowly watched my loved ones slip away. Helplessness, deep heart pain, the finality of it all, etc… Then there’s all the other things I’ve walked through in life that have been unfair, unjust, painful, just plain sad… I can relate to the feeling they must have had when you know that Jesus is soooo close, but for some reason He seems to be ignoring it all. This is where the profound statement that Jesus makes changes things. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV This is the point that God changes what we see as our “break down” as His “break through”, Our “End” as “His beginning” , our “dead end” as His “way through”. I’ve been becoming more and more aware as of late that Jesus does not ever “ignore”. He is always there, always hearing ever cry, always collecting every tear. He sees our hurt but what seems to be His delay really is His perfect time. Because He wants us to be able to participate in glorifying Him and even as He says when trying to explain His delay, it may just be for “our sake” that He waits and that He is “glad … so that we may believe.” John 11:14.

Prayers are not answered, unless there is a need that has to be prayed for, Miracles don’t happen unless there is something that is broken and in need of a supernatural intervention, Resurrections don’t occur unless someone has died. A life adrift and lost cannot be rescued unless it is just that “adrift and lost”. I think you may be getting the picture. All these things cannot happen and bring glory to God unless there is someone who needs Him to show up and show off all the Good He can do!

I know what it’s like to sit thinking “I am DONE”. There is nothing more. I can’t hurt any worse. I cannot fix this. But that is exactly where God steps in and shows me how He IS! Sometimes I need the delay of action on His part so I can see that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out of the mess I’ve been in and then finally take the chance to “Believe”. I think when we finally hit the “it’s either I believe, or I will die” mark, the end of us, that we see.

I don’t know I need a Rescuer until I realize I am in peril. I don’t understand I need to be free until I see just how enslaved I am, and I don’t know how I need a new/ resurrected life until I find myself rotting in a stinky grave of all the bad choices I can make. It’s only when I find myself spiritually dead that I realize how much I need Jesus to be that “resurrection and life” for me.

The cool ending to the account of Lazarus is a resurrected man, given back to his sisters. Great sadness turned into the greatest of joy! And the most important thing was all those around watching as two sisters grieved for 4 days over their loss, those who comforted them, cried with them, and stood by them in their sadness, saw what Jesus did and “Believed in HIM”. John 11:45.

Awesome song!!!

Whatever we face that breaks our hearts, deteriorates our bodies, or just plain hurts are all things that Jesus “The Resurrection and The Life” takes and makes a part of our story that brings glory to HIM and reason for us to Praise Him, the one who makes all things work out for our Good and His Glory! AMEN!