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A Courageous Heart

“Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts…” Psalm 139:23 NASB

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”― Mary Anne Radmacher

The Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram) test. I took it. It is not for the faint of heart because it definitely shows some hard stuff. Really hard. It shows the weaknesses and strengths of nine personality types. There are two books that I recommend, if you’re courageous, that are really helpful. They have a Christian foundation. You are More Than Your Number by Beth and Jeff McCord and The Enneagram of Discernment by Drew Moser, PHD. They will guide you through your type with the very important message of how beloved you are by the Father before any change is attempted.

I see myself and life as always lacking. Type 4w3. That’s me. I own it. My courage comes from being a beloved child of God. Without knowing how much I am loved by the Father, I will never peek into my heart. I don’t always feel beloved but I know I am.

Wounded child vs. beloved child. That’s the bottom line. Living life as beloved or wounded. Those that counsel with the Enneagram drive this home. I could never look inside and attempt positive change without knowing how loved I am by our Father. It takes courage to know and act in faith as beloved. David showed courage in the above verse.

The wounded stuff just happen—life in an imperfect world. Unconscious. Unaware. Childhood stuff. Life is too much! Life is one big scarcity! Life is one big disappointment. A courageous heart is required. With our Father’s help and the Holy Spirit, courageous change takes place. Sometimes just the right person, counselor, pastor, mature Christian keeps us going. Our Father provides so much support with one courageous step. Sometimes just showing up is all we can muster. Thanks okay. Your Father loves you.

Musings

To look deeply inside one’s heart is the most courageous thing one can do and it starts by knowing how much we are loved by the Father.  In the Bible it says, ““Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

The old Hymn, Just as I am, is right! You are beloved. Just as you are.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Just as we are — unconditionally loved. Because of what Jesus did, we can go on in grace and hope. Please remind us of how beloved we are so we may attempt courageous change. You created us before the foundation of the world. You thought we were a good idea. We can change because you loved us first.

Amen.

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An Open Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV

“Christianity is not the destruction of desire, rather it’s realignment with God’s desire.” David G. Benner

Will power. Self-improvement. Workshops. Retreats. Memorizing scripture. If there’s anything to do to make me more like Jesus, I was up for it. Sometimes I’d be aware and working on what I needed to change and should change like not swearing at the news and something or someone says, “Love your neighbor.”  Ouch! That would definitely take care of the swearing!

Trying hard can become a trap of earning our Father’s love, which we can’t. He already loves us. It can become a trap of ego. It can keep us from being vulnerable and honest with our Father and others. These things can be good things if they flow from an open and loving heart. Want to instead of have to. Upward call instead of naval-gazing.

That’s where the Psalms come into my heart. The 23rd Psalm is rich in relating and loving God. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” “He leads me beside the still waters.” “He restores my soul.” “He prepares a table in the presence of my enemies.” Yes, we do have enemies. Who is doing the work?  Who has the open heart? This is a difficult thing to grasp and live fully. After all, he’s the creator of everything and we are the creatures. It’s we. We need to be open to our Father’s loving care and companionship. We go to him first because our Father is not a domineering parent. He is the one that loves us unconditionally and completely.

It’s willingness to experience our relationship with our Father. I have never, ever changed a bad habit, a frustrating behavior, taken a risk without failing—several times. So, I go to the Psalms, pour out my heart and let our Father touch it. Transformation takes place. Not all at once. Not always alone. Sometimes just the right person or book comes into my life. Sometimes it’s just the Father and me. I am so grateful for the Father’s love because good things flow and bad things are squeezed out.  My desires become aligned with the Father’s.

Musings

Not only did Jesus, God’s only son die for us, but he loves us, guides us, forgives us, teaches us and provides for us. If honest, it’s our Father that transforms us. No, he doesn’t change our personalities. He designed all of us as unique persons with unique talents. It would be boring if we were all the same! He helps and encourages the good things in our personalities. We are in this together. We are in this for the long haul.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you that you want a relationship with us. A real relationship!  One that encourages us, teaches us, loves us and guides us. Like all relationships, there are dark times and good times, lonely times and celebratory times but all are for good. Thank you for your patience as we learn to know you better. May our desires align with yours.

Amen.

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A Forgiving Heart

“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.”  Psalm 130:3-4 NLT

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. It may but not always.

Forgiveness does not mean it’s done once and for all. It may but not always.

Forgiveness does not feel good. It may but it leads to peace.

Forgiveness does not mean you were right. It may but not always.

Forgiveness does not dismiss, belittle, condescend your hurt. It hurt! That’s a fact! And we may think we put it behind us and wham! Something triggers us right back to where we were with all the pain and confusion we thought we left behind.

Many years ago I fell in love with a handsome, intelligent, dynamic man. He called himself a Christian. Many women were starstruck by him. I was not. In the beginning any way. We dated. We had wonderful conversations and little gifts—all the things that make a new romantic relationship heavenly. Walking on air and sunshine! Six months in the abuse began. The belittling, the abandonment, the intimidation. I broke up with him—many times because maybe, just maybe, if I love him enough… But I participated in an unknown dance of terror. Last breakup. Then the stalking. I moved from my hometown and started over, with my son, I might add. My roommate was a male because I feared being alone. A few in my new church were lovely. No judgment. Included my son and me in many Church functions. In fact, I put him in the Christian school, which he enjoyed.

However, I was an anxious, traumatized mess. I was functioning quite well but I would jump at loud noise, refuse to go anywhere alone. Finally, I went to a therapist. With lots of work and prayer, healing began because (surprise!) I attracted and kept this man because of patterns in my childhood. A pattern I hoped to fulfill with love. So unaware! Childhood stuff!

I had to forgive myself first. I made horrible decisions in my personal life because I was unaware. But taking myself to our Father, a professional and supportive church friends along with time, the healing began. Have I forgiven this man? Yes. Was there reconciliation? No! Did I find forgiveness for my childhood traumas? Yes. Was there reconciliation? Not really. There were phone calls and limited visits with some tension. I learned my limits. I learned to set boundaries. The dance of terror was ended. Did I forgive once and for all? No. Situations always come up in life to trigger those dark times. But they’re a blessing in disguise, a caution sign. I walk away.

Musings

Knowing, deeply knowing how loved we are by our Father, deeply knowing Jesus and his sacrifice, deeply knowing a mature Christian counselor and/or friend makes all the difference in forgiveness. It’s another discovery process along the journey home. And the truth does set us free if we face the misery first.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for forgiveness, especially the things “we do not know what we’re doing.” Help us to see that because of your Son, love and grace we can face the dark and unknown with hope. Open our hearts. Open our minds. Open our hands.

Amen.

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A Fearful Heart

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”1 John 4:18

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.”— Unknown

I included two versions of 1 John 4:18 because fear is torment! Fear is also punishment! Our Father never gives us a spirit of fear or torment.

Remember as a child those beginning moments of learning to swim, ride a bike, ski, skate, drive a car and someone in our lives coached us, stayed with us holding us up? It could’ve been a parent, relative or friend but someone had your back. Someone caught you. Someone upheld you. But you still had to do the work and step out in trust.

That’s how I think of our Father.

Those sleepless nights, those anxious prayers, those glasses of wine or another activity to numb the fear. It’s torment! And then we put on our big girl/big boy panties and bluster through until exhaustion knocks us off our feet. We forget that feelings are not facts.

Our Father has our back. He upholds us with his righteous hand.

So we do the best that we can with prayer and we give it to our father. We may anxiously take back what is scaring us, paralyzing us but we give it back to our Father. We let go and we let our Father take the wheel. Let him drive and you enjoy the journey. Someone once said, “Who’s driving your bus?” Our Father is. Enjoy the discovery of who you are with your Father.

Musings

Only one person loves perfectly and it drives out fear.  We learn over and over that feelings are not facts. Where we are is where our Father is too because he promised he would never leave us or forsake us.

Prayer

Dear Father,

We may not feel your presence, acknowledge your presence or thank you for your presence sometimes but we know you’re with us. Thank you for your love that drives out fear. Help us to know without a doubt that you are with us in the fiery trials, the rivers that threaten to overwhelm us or any circumstance that threatens. It’s easy to remember you and thank you when life is all sunshine, and we do, but now we thank you for your presence when fear strikes us, slaps us, intimidates us because you’re with us then too. A steppingstone to trust and faith.

Amen.

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Who Are You Under Pressure?

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
 even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 NIV

“Character is who you are under pressure, not when everything’s fine.” Unknown

We know Christ’s character. Pressure shows us ours. Pressure shows us Christ’s.  

It really is easy to be kind, generous, understanding, grateful and pleasant when all is good with my life. That’s not the true Black Sheep Babz picture. Not by a long shot! My problems and character are nothing compared to the description of Jesus’ character. Broke? I become stingier forgetting God supplies all my needs. Lonely? He’s always with me but I demand the feelings of his presence. Criticized? Here comes bitterness focused on the criticizer. Pressure at work? Blame, blame, worry and control. Watching the news in fear and resentment forgetting who’s really in charge is a constant battle.

When grieving the loss of my husband, there was no relief, hope extinguished, isolation and destructive behaviors multiplied. There was no comfort in knowing Christ grieved. The concept of Christ being the resurrection and the life was not grasped. This was the greatest pressure of my life. The pain seemed an eternity. Quick fixes were abundant with no fix for the empty void. What was your Waterloo? Achilles heel? In hindsight, can you see where Christ bore the pressure?

Musings

Who am I under pressure? I’m Peter looking at the waves in the middle of the storm and crying, “help me!” Sometimes I’m Doubting Thomas praying, “I believe, help my unbelief!”  Sometimes I’m the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well skirting hard-to-face truths about myself. Sometimes I’m Pilate asking, “what is truth?” Sometimes I’ve grieved deeply with no hope like Martha and Mary when Lazarus died. Sometimes I’ve sold out for money. Sometimes I’ve cast my pearls before swine. Sometimes I’ve sowed seed in harsh and rocky ground. All under pressure. Thank God for grace.

Prayer

Father,

Thank you that we “vessels of clay” have the honor and privilege to “cast all our cares” on you. Jesus demonstrated his love so many times in scripture from washing dirty feet to the most shameful and painful death. All under unfathomable pressure. All within very short hours. He did this so we can walk in newness of life and to encourage his life in others.

Amen.

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Sunshine Christian?

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

Two angels came down from heaven. One to rule the world and the other to sweep the street. Both were pleased to serve. Both were honored to serve. There was harmony. There was humility.

Thomas Paine, one of the founders of our country, called some men Sunshine Patriots and Sunshine Soldiers in his work, American Crisis. All show. No go. According to American Revolution Facts, there were only 48,000 soldiers and no more than 13,000 at a time in battle. There is David and Goliath in the Bible too. They overcame.

We’re going through some very scary times in our country. The latest report says the average family is paying up to $5,000 more a year just for gasoline. Then there’s the grocery bill, taxes, utilities—they’re up too!  No baby formula. Threats of war. The shooting in Texas. I could list more.

What is the message? We humble ourselves. We become Sonshine Christians.

We matter tremendously to our Father. He promises to heal our land.

“We can overcome.” We have overcome many scary and depraved times in our homes, communities and country. We will again if we humble ourselves.

Musings

No matter how difficult the challenges, no matter how painful, Christians are still up to the challenge. Our Father expects this and helps us to do so. We still feed the hungry. We still clothe the naked. We still dry the tears and counsel those who have lost much. We still comfort the sick. We still assure the dying. We still pray. We still hold to certain truths. We still have hope. Our work is eternal but also affects this very day and those in our lives. We do these things for our Lord. Our inheritance is sure.

The saying that a snowflake by itself is harmless, but a whole bunch banded together can stop traffic is true. Mothers who need formula have banded together to save hungry newborns. Parents are becoming involved in their children’s education.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for our daily bread. Thank you for bringing us through another mystery. Thank you for the promise you will never abandon us. Thank you that we have each other. Thank you for the victory if we humble ourselves.

Help us to be SONSHINE CHRISTIANS.

Amen.

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Christianity is Learning to Love

“Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:34 NIV

“When people hurt us, it helps us to learn how to let go of wanting them to love us. It helps us to learn how to love purely.”
― Donna Goddard, Love’s Longing

The problem is failure, loss, shame, trauma and all sorts of painful experiences stop us. Who would love with all that? No one. Have you filled the void with stuff, drugs, food?  In Matthew, Jesus was filled with compassion because the crowed was harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.  That’s us, isn’t it?

Our Father knows our stories. Love demands courage and vulnerability. The cross proves this. The Prodigal Son story proves this. The transformation of Paul from a murderer to writing the most famous love chapter in the Bible. The rescue of a thief on a cross. A prostitute.  The Book of Ruth. The Bible is full of love stories. Our story is a love story too.

We start with our Father. If we make a small attempt to know him, he rushes in to save. He rushes in to love. Love is always action. There may be good feelings right away or they may catch up to us after some time. We love because he first loved us. Our spiritual journey brings love lessons, wrestling matches and healing but all is to be loved and then to love others. It’s the whole point.

If we don’t learn to love ourselves and others, how will we act with others in heaven?

Musings

Is love knowledge? Is it faith that moves mountains? Is it giving everything to charity? It’s action for sure, but motives? Is it because I love the Father or I want to look good? Sometimes it’s people-pleasing?

We learn to love. Sometimes passionately and sometimes with hurt or numb feelings. But love we must.

One thing is sure: All things will pass away except love.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you that you made us and thank you for your love. It’s so difficult, it seems, to love when the world is a mess, personal problems paralyze and health is fading but we know it’s the foremost commandment. Being a Sunshine Christian is easy. Following your son is difficult. Keep loving us so we may bring more to you and watch love multiply. Love is what we will be doing forever.

Amen.

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He Delights In You

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he takes delight in his way.” Psalm 37:23

“Cowards are cruel, but the brave love mercy and delight to save.” John Gay

Your peek into your sleeping child’s room and you are mesmerized by the sight of such innocence. You delight in your child.

An elderly man gently assists his wife on a twilight walk. He delights in his wife.

A beautiful rose is handled by the novice gardener drinking in the scent. The gardener delights in the rose.

A couple hold hands at a coffee shop drinking in the closeness and  good fortune of each other. They delight in their relationship.

You giggle at the antics of your rescue dog. You delight in such a simple love.

And our Father delights in us. More than we can comprehend. Sometimes we feel his delight while going about our day and gratitude wells up in us from head to toe. There’s nothing on Earth that compares. Sometimes a lovely surprise welcomes our day. Sometimes we believe that we are loved no matter what. A delightful gift from our Father. And sometimes we mess up royally. Our Father delights in pouring more grace on us.

And we delight in our Father.

We thank him every day.

We meditate on his word, creation and those he has given us.

We love others more easily because we delight in our Father’s creation.

We delight in the Lord and he gives us our heart’s desire. Our desires change into His.

We remember all the rescues he has done in our life leading to our salvation.

We become a little bit closer to being like his son. We delight in this transformation, though painful at times.

Musings

The Psalms are filled with praise, confidence, healing, promise and delight. Rich in feeling and wisdom. The Psalms help and teach us to delight in our Father should we be at a loss for words. The Psalms also help us to delight in ourselves—“We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” The Holy Spirit nudges our delight too. Trust this.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Our delight may not be as beautiful or inspiring as the Psalms. We may be childlike in expressing our delight in you, but maybe that’s the point. Thank you that when we’re sleeping, working, successful or mired in pain, you delight in us now and forever.

Amen.

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What if You Hadn’t Been Born?

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

“The moment the focus of your life shifts from your badness to his goodness, the questions becomes not “What have I done?” but “What can He do?” John R. Claypool, Learning to Forgive Ourselves.

It’s a Wonderful Life is so popular because the main character, George Bailey, gets to see and experience life if he hadn’t been born. A privilege indeed! On the other hand, Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, experiences his tattered, selfish life and all the missed opportunities of a bitter heart. Both were renewed to become better. Their station in life didn’t change. They did.

Our Father tells us in Ephesians 2:8-10 that he prepared in advance the good works we do. Wow! Powerful! Affirming! Validating! A gift! Purpose!

Until the daily grind, the grouchy boss, the critical parent, the bounced check, the troubled child penetrates our heart and joy is gone. Poof! Empty void. Condemning voice. Good works?

Yes. Because our Father helps us with these challenges. He teaches us. He loves us. He pours grace all over us. And somewhere along the way, we get it. We see the good works our Father gave us in advance. We feel blessed. We feel validated. We have purpose. We see how our Father knows best. Then we help another with love, generosity and compassion.

Musings

We are either George Baily or Ebenezer Scrooge. We are the shamed Prodigal Son or the Prodigal’s stay-at-home, resentful brother. Blinded. But our Father opens our eyes and hearts through the Holy Spirit. True, it may be a book, person or article that gets our attention, but it’s not a coincidence. Little signposts, gentle voice, encouraging nudge starts our good works.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for giving us good works in advance. We have purpose. We grow. We overcome. We love. Remind and show us what we are to do today with the gifts you have given us for your purpose.

Amen.

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I Do This–I Don’t Do That

I Do This–I Don’t Do That

“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:21 NASB 1995

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” Carl Gustav Jung

I am a mom. Do you know that I am by what I say or what I do? Does it match with what you see? Anyone can reproduce. But commitment? That’s a whole different animal. And it takes practice every day.

When I became a mom, I was a beginner. I did some things wrong (my son survived) and I did many things correctly. All was done in love. I did mom things like read to him, fed him, listened to him, hugged him. And sometimes I yelled at him, ignored him, said hurtful things. I don’t do that a lot less. Practice.

Are you like this?

You go to work. You don’t play hooky.

You are faithful to your spouse. You don’t flirt with others. Online or at the office.

You pay your bills. You don’t ignore your debts. You negotiate and communicate with your lender.

I’m not trying to be a sugary, do-gooder. Not by any means! Most all the things I do took practice, discipline, love, grace from others and God. Still do. I love the AA quote: “Progress. Not perfection.”

Here’s some others we may have done:

We got drunk. We didn’t care.

Spent big dollars. The item did not make us happy.

We gossiped. We did not feel good about it.

We are what we do. We are what we practice.

And oh so slowly and gently, our Father gives us another picture of who we are and what we do. And we stumble, practice and learn to do the things our Father wants us to do. “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Romans 5:20 NLT

Thank heaven for grace!

Musings

“By their fruit, you will know them,” Jesus said. It was true then. It’s true now. From the leadership of our nation to our homes, communities and work, our fruit shouts the truth. The other saying my mom drilled into me is, “Actions speak louder than words.” Quite frankly, I’m tired of do-nothing words.

We are what we do. We are what we practice. More importantly when we overcome, others see it has been done by God, our Father. We want what our Father wants. So, we do (practice) what our Father wants. What our Father wants is always good.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for your son, the perfect example for us to follow. Thank you for grace so we can haltingly, timidly and hopefully practice his example. It was all done in love. Love is a verb. Be with us as we practice. Encourage our baby steps. Let others see it was done by you.

Amen.

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What Would I Be Doing If This Hadn’t happened?

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18 ESV

“Faith is the only force that can hold you fast at all times.” Lailah Gifty Akita

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Your child has a bad report from school.

You received bad health news.

Your month has run out of money.

You had an explosive argument with your sweetie.

A letter from the IRS.

There’s a story about a woman who looked out the window and saw her pastor coming up the walkway. She knew it would be bad news about her husband who was serving in the army. She proceeded to put on the coffee and place cookies on the plate. She answered the door and pleasantly invited the pastor in and to have a privileged spot at her kitchen table.

“You know I have bad news,” he said.

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why are you making coffee and being so hospitable?” the Pastor asked.

“Because this is what I’d be doing today with a lovely visitor like you.”

There’s wisdom in this. When something blindsides us, rocks our world and knocks us for a loop, sometimes the ordinary tasks anchor us. They make room for a “still, small voice” to keep us sane. To help us adjust to the unexpected. To breathe. To say a quick prayer. To keep our dignity intact.

Do you go for a daily walk? Do it anyway.

Work out at the gym? Do it anyway.

Work in your garden? Do it anyway.

Go for coffee with a friend? Do it anyway.

The situation will still be there but you’ll be better prepared.

I’m not saying that this fixes the unexpected. It’s a way of calming and preparing the mind and heart for what’s next. And our Father is always with us and will let light in.

Musings

There will always be trials, struggles, disappointments in this life but there are comforting and instructive experiences too. May we remember what would we be doing when the unexpected times come. Let some sanity and light that comes from the regular, daily things. Keep your appointment with your routine and your Father. There’s something reassuring in this.

Prayer

Dear Father,

We overlook the power in keeping with the every day habits and experiences in our day. They so often are the very things that keep us anchored in the midst of the unexpected. We take them for granted. Please keep us anchored in you today.

Amen.

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Art in the  Broken

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”- Vance Havner

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of taking broken pottery and repairing it with gold and other metals. I just learned this! Searching the internet for images of this art was so rewarding, in fact, the broken and repaired items were more beautiful than the original. Do a search in your spare time. It’s marvelous!

And that’s us!

Thanks be to our Father.

My grandmother lost her leg because of a terrible disease. I was with her when the hammer came down and the doctor said, “Your leg must be removed or you will die from the infection.” She said she knew this was coming and with anxious acceptance, the leg was removed. She was in her mid-60’s. She did the exercises to build upper arm strength. She worked hard at her rehabilitation. She stumbled on her new prosthetic until she mastered it. And other disabled patients marveled at her determination. They were inspired. Did she notice? Not really, but she visited with them about their families, their stories and found something personally encouraging to say to each. I was the proud chauffeur to get Grams to her appointments. She had pure gold holding her together. She was even more beautiful!

I bet you are too.

Musings

We’re all broken and flawed, but our Father sees us as his masterpiece with a special project we are specifically made to do. We are the pottery. Our Father is the potter. In partnership, he is and we are “able to do more than we can ask or think,” things for his kingdom and our coworkers, families and even strangers. Broken people who know they’re broken are so approachable. Broken people who are repaired by their heavenly Father are irresistible!

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for the art in us and others. Help us to see it deeply with wonder and with an open heart. We are all broken. Your son was broken for us. The most beautiful of all.

Amen.

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Sifted Like Wheat

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

“Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.” Serenity Prayer

Sometimes it’s not consequences, disciplines, punishments for our actions that rip through our heart and soul like a tornado. We can do everything to the best of our ability, our motives are right, prayers are sincere, support is in place, hope and faith are ours and everything still falls apart. Darkness overtakes us. Could it be the Father of All Lies, the Murderer from the Beginning, the Power of the Air who attacks with an unmerciful vengeance? With a mocking snarl and a shout, “Gotcha!”

Well, apparently Peter was sifted like wheat. He was so brave and protective of his Lord when he cut off the ear of a Roman soldier at Jesus’ arrest. Hours later, Peter sobbed in despair because of his denials of Jesus. He ran from those who recognized him after the rooster crowed. He was sifted like wheat.

I was sifted like wheat when my husband became terminally ill and died. I was sifted like wheat when my son was in trouble. My faith did seem to fail. It sputtered. It left me. It mocked me. I turned over and over in my bed at night. “Tears were my food,” as the Psalmist said. I did not, would not, could not take this sinful world as it is. Truth is, I still don’t. I’m still appalled by the world.

Three things:

  1. Satan asked to sift Peter like wheat. Satan needed permission to harass and torment Peter from the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings. This is true for me and true for you. It blows our world apart. All seems lost.
  • Jesus prays for us. When all seems gone, friends are ghosts, desperate and toxic behaviors are evident, Jesus prays for us.
  • When we have recovered, we are to strengthen our brothers. The world is a hostile place. Our enemy, even more so. But Jesus prays for us.

Musings

Only in hindsight do I see Jesus’ rescue. The pain was too great! Looking at Peter’s life and mission after his great trial, I see how he became such an integral part of the church, the rock, the foundation. His letters are life-saving, inspiring and instructive. He died a martyr’s death, willingly and humbly. So, when all we can do is hang on, remember Jesus prays for you. Someday you will comfort and encourage others, but until then, take comfort in Jesus’ personal, attentive prayers and they’re just for you.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you that you are with us always and you pray for us. You know that on our journey home there are times when words escape us, faith seems gone, friends are absent but your son prays for us. We know those prayers are always answered. We thank you for the Holy Spirit who prays with deep groanings for us. Help us to hang on. Help us to strengthen our brothers and sisters.

Amen.

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What’s Your Why?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.” – Washington Irving

Jesus’ purpose was to seek and save the lost. He made 12 rag-tag disciples fishers of men. He said to love one another. His why was so the world would know they were his disciples. He made this rag-tag disciple one too.

But first… I became a Christian because I was a hopeless mess! I wanted to be saved from damnation and from myself. I wanted to fix my life and enjoy a lovely life. No more drama, toxic people, destructive choices. Please, Jesus, take my life and fix it. My why was about me. Most people start there—me. I want that rest. Paul says we were immature, still on milk like newborns. I think we all start there. We’re new. We’re beginners and God’s grace covers helps us grow from there.

But then persecutions come. Doubts overcome us. We may question what our Father is doing. You know that rocky, weedy, dried up path? We get in his way and do it our way. It may seem like the right way, feel like the right way, but eventually it’s a big let-down.  We start becoming a victim of others, things, our own minds.

Our Father’s why is different than ours. Our Father so loves us he wants to transform us into being like his son. Like the wise parent that he is, he develops our character. He guides us. He disciplines us. The why, again, is that we love one another so that the world may know we are his disciples. Attraction not promotion.

Musings

God’s why is for us to love one another. My why must be tranformed into his why. Do we do this at work? Yes. Do we do this for family? Yes. Stranger? Yes. Perfectly? No. The disciples didn’t either. They had to learn too. No matter what our goals, hopes and dreams are, the purpose must be love. Love of the Father, ourselves and others so that the world will know we are our Father’s. It is the most difficult to do but reaps the greatest rewards here and in heaven. His why, his desire becomes our desire.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for your why. You love us beyond all that we could ask or think. We celebrate, especially this time of year, the love your son had for us including torture and death so that we may live. Help us, as we set goals, achieve, work and even dream that our why is in line with yours. Our desires become your desires now and eternally.

Amen.

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Choosing Your Absence

“But he withdrew himself in the deserts and prayed.” Luke 5:16 ERV

“Choose your absence so that your presence will have more impact.” — Emily P. Freeman

Sometimes I withdraw to breathe. Sometimes I withdraw to cry. Sometimes I withdraw to play! Sometimes I withdraw to meditate and pray. These are healthy and growth-enhancing times—not isolation. It’s a positive choice. I can tell because when I rejoin life, I participate in life more fully. I have more to give. I don’t compare myself with others. I have spiritual, emotional and physical energy. That’s presence.

Isolation is not life-enhancing. Isolation is not living fully. It’s a compulsion. The presence, when with others, is like Eeyore, the depressed donkey of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. It’s a thundercloud and blocks the sun. Our light goes out.

What are some of the things we need to withdraw from?

Obviously, an addiction. Toxic people. Social media. Take a break from the news. Most of all, that nagging, parental voice in your head that seems to always condemn. That’s not our Father.

When we withdraw and place our focus on our Father, word, prayer, creativity, even play, we are filled. There’s a quote I love: “Even prophets and saints need a distraction.”  In Ecclesiastes it says, “And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”

Do we strive too much, work too much? Do we forget to enjoy our family meal? A board game with the family? Many I know, and I’ve done the same, work harder at going on vacation than at their career! There’s nothing wrong, in fact it’s good, to withdraw and enjoy our families with fun! Play! Humor!

And then we have a presence that nourishes others and ourselves.

Musings

We all, even Jesus, need time alone to reflect, pray and play. We are not “human-doings!” Our world reaffirms that we must do more, be more, try harder, when we need to withdraw ourselves. Count our blessings one by one, as the song says. Meditate on all our Father has done and is doing in our lives. Enjoy to the maximum the gifts we have from our Father. Sometimes being happy with what we have is an excellent expression of gratefulness. I know when I give a gift and the receiver is tickled, that’s the best thanks ever!

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for all the gifts you give us. They’re too numerous to name!  There’s nature, your son, others in our lives, our careers, our homes and a time to play and laugh. Remind us we are children. Your children. Absence is a time to relish you and enjoy the gifts you’ve given us and restore our souls.

Amen.

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Get Back on the Horse that Threw You

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”
― Cheri Huber, There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate

As you can see by my blog picture, I had a horse. Old Pete. He was a forgiving and very affectionate horse and did not cause my fall.  I fell off him once because I forgot to check the cinch on my saddle. Pete stopped knowing I was dropping to the ground. Pete was embarrassed for me so he got a little extra grain for his forgiveness. By the way, I always check my cinch after this humiliation!

Do you promise to stop a bad behavior, develop a new habit (exercise for me), read the Bible more, pray more, stop an addiction, love more, be accountable and on and on? And when you mess it up, you berate yourself, beat yourself into submission? It doesn’t work.

  1. Developing new habits and attitudes is never one-and-done. Willpower goes so far, in my case, not far at all. We start off with high hopes and determination, which is good, and then slip and give up. Acceptance that change is painful, arduous and a learning experience is so important to remember. Change is a learning experience with bumps in the journey. Little tots fall a lot when learning to walk. Adults do too.
  • Doing more than one goal is overwhelming and a set-up to fail. I’ve known people who, in good faith, quit drinking, smoking, overeating and spending at once! Whew! Then beat themselves with over-exercising, carrot sticks and eight glasses of water a day. This borders on abusive, at the very least, self-punishment. God holds our hand. We drag out our paddle! One thing at a time builds confidence in our faith and ourselves then we can attempt another.
  • Not having a trusted person for accountability. If we don’t share with a trusted person what we’re attempting to change, maybe we’re not ready. Maybe they’re not the right person. Fortunately, we have a Father we can confess this too and he starts the transformation.
  • If our Father has compassion for us, shouldn’t we? Self-compassion is a beautiful thing. When we are compassionate toward ourselves and what we’re attempting, it pours out onto others. Beautiful grace.

Musings

Remember the verse in Romans where Paul grapples with his humanity, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  I’m sure we’ve all been there and will again. He struggled too! But the hope is our transformation in Christ. Paul later in his letter passionately gives thanks that we are delivered by Jesus. He is the way. Only way. Look at the miraculous transformation in Paul. Jesus can do that for us too.

Prayer

Dear Father,

We lay our burdens down. We rest in you and your promises. We thank you that the only way we are changed is in your merciful son. Help us to truly grasp the peace that comes with your eye on us and your hand in ours.

Amen.

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Are We Feeling Deprived?

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Ephesians 3:20 NASB

“The real spiritual journey is work. You can make a naïve assertion that you trust in Jesus, but until it is tested a good, oh, 200 times, I doubt very much that it’s true.” — Richard Rohr

I pass on dessert and I feel deprived.

I give up drinking and I feel deprived.

I budget my salary and I feel deprived.

I stay home to parent my child and I feel deprived of a career full of money, accolades, attention and notoriety.

I become a Christian and I feel deprived. Others think so too. Can’t do this and I can’t do that. Are you sure God will take care of you? Really? What about… fill in the blank. It comes and many times out of left field.

Am I deprived? Or just feeling like I am.

Deprivation lies are so easy to sink into. Deprivation lies grow into self-pity and/or self-centeredness, envy of some kind. It’s the battle in the mind and eventually the soul. I do feel deprived! It’s not true I’m deprived, but oh how it feels sometimes. We forget the so-called deprivations we choose are made to obtain something much greater like a healthier body, a child growing up loved and secure, and to become more like Christ now and eternally.

Musings

Most of the habits I picked up were awful in the beginning:  the first cigarette, sip of beer, shady boyfriend/girlfriend. And so we “learn” to like, stuff the pain with it, be seduced by what is obviously harmful and feel deprived when we give it up. And we give it up over and over and over.

Now some experiences were and are deprivations: absence of a loving home, job closure, divorce, hunger, death of a parent/spouse/child. These need to be recognized, affirmed, prayed over and shared with a reliable person such as a pastor, counselor or trusted friend. Healing. But trouble comes when we use food, booze, drugs, people to fix the pain. Like trying to clean a stain and watching the stain get bigger and bigger because we’ve now got two problems: Our pain and an addiction. Only One can clean the stain completely. The bad feelings don’t disappear overnight, but it happens.

Prayer

Dear Father,

You never promised an easy journey, but you did promise to never leave us. When we are feeling low, deprived, frightened, struggling with a problem, remind us of all the times you worked in our lives in the past, especially what your son did for us. Remind us of your promises for the future and help us to live fully today.

Amen.

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Cancel Culture?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Galatians 3:28 ESV

“Welcome the huge, sticky, strong problems. In them there are the most powerful opportunities.” Unknown

We can’t get through the day without some mention of cancel culture. This person tweeted this, this person offended me, my rights are being taken, up to and including violence.

Do we cancel ourselves? Statements like, “I could never do that, I’m not smart enough, my past is so horrible, I’m too old/young I’m not a good person (none of us is).” Fill in the blank. We all cancel ourselves. Then blame, resentment, envy, isolation come in to destroy.

 My mind screams STOP!

Then I search the Bible. Let’s see… there was the Samaritan woman by the well who had five husbands. Then there was the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant and Jesus was amazed at this man’s faith. There were nine lepers Jesus healed, but only one returned and dropped to Jesus’ feet in thanks. He was a Samaritan. The 12 Jesus picked to disciple, from a tax collector to a political zealot and surely, they had animosity toward each other. There must have been some very intense and interesting dinner time discussions!

Jesus included everyone. He still does. That means you too. The hard part is knowing the right things to say and do to include others. The verse, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” presses on my heart. I’m sure you have had experiences where you did the right thing and much later, maybe years later, it turned out to be a wonderful thing. I enjoy the people at my local grocery and always visit with them, ask how they are, trade jokes and sometimes our challenges. One of the clerks moved, married and has a lovely home, children and career and we marvel at our relationship that came out of something unexpected and ordinary.

Musings

The reality is we don’t work, worship, live with what society and the media portray. My circle is struggling, everyday people, like me. Jesus’ circle was struggling everyday people too. He overcame evil with good in his earthly life and does so now. No cancel culture. Such simple efforts at relationships with our Father, ourselves and our communities makes life so much better. And hopeful. And rewarding.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for including us in everything! Some things are secrets that we will know someday and many things are available right now. Help us to not berate, demean, exclude or cancel ourselves and others. Remind us you are here every moment to encourage, set straight, include and most of all, love us. You make everything beautiful in its time.

Amen.

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Vulnerability is Hard

But necessary

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 NASB

“To love at all is to be vulnerable, love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis – Four Loves

I love authentic people, not only are they easy and fun to be with, but they give me courage to live authentically. They’re warm, inviting, graceful, joy filled.  They are not perfectionists. I leave their presence feeling just a bit better. Enlarged. May we be courageous enough to do the same.

And you will get hurt. You will be stunned. You will have a broken heart. You will be betrayed. You will be criticized and sometimes cruelly by spineless creatures on the Internet. Sometimes our own family. Yet, love we must, authentically, or it’s not love. It’s probably some people-pleasing, approval-seeking, manipulative, codependent behavior. It’s making someone else responsible for my well-being, my sense of self, validation. If that person disapproves, then I crumble. Thank God!  Work to do. There’s only one Person who can give us perfect love. And he waits for an invitation. He does not cross boundaries, threaten or intimidate. He does it perfectly. Where is our treasure? Where is our self-image? What is our idea of success?  

People die. Pets die. Plants die.  I read somewhere that the greater the love the greater the grief. Grief is the final act of loving someone. But it’s authentic, painful, agonizing, but part of who we are. What an empty life without authenticity. Love. The good and the bad. Joyful and despairing.

Musings

The most authentic, unassuming, validating Person I know is Jesus. From rabble-rousing fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes to me, what an authentic person! He had no advantages. He grieved. He wept. No status. No sports cars. No designer clothes. No media platform. No agent. Yet, people were drawn to him. Changed with him. Loved with him. Died for him. He experienced everything and more.

Prayer

Father,

Thank you that you have made us unique individuals with stewardship over the talents you’ve given. Help us to live authentically for that is the only way we can truly live and love. Love hurts sometimes. Your beloved son knows this. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Thank you for joy and a life with all the colors.

Amen.

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Who or What Defines You?

“As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” 1 Corinthians 4:3 NLT

 “Don’t judge me by my past I don’t live there anymore.” Anonymous

It feels so good when someone approves of me. It hurts when they don’t.

It feels so good when I receive recognition for something I’ve accomplished. It’s so discouraging when I don’t.

It feels so good to be taken care of. It’s scary when I alone must be responsible.

Do my parents define me? I think, to some extent, this is the one that traps me. False images and experiences as children that are so deeply embedded.

Does my boss?

My friends?

My enemies?

My church?

Boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse?

You?

Drinking/using?

Things?

Having people we love and who love us is important. Our Father know this and blesses it. People make this journey so much better with encouragement, support, love and wisdom. However…

I am not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s a good thing too, though it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, rejection is a brutal teacher, but teach he does.

Who defines us? Some self-improvement books say we do. God says we have a new nature and we do, but it’s a gift.  In my new family, my behavior or performance is moot. Transformation takes hold, which our heavenly Father does with joy, but we must be open to it. Many times we get a glimmer, a token of the beautiful inside us and we trust our Father’s definition of who we are. Real confidence.

Musings

We are chosen and loved by our Father. This takes a lifetime of grasping. If we could take into our heart just how loved by our Father we are, what would we say and do? The Prodigal is such a beautiful example. Joseph knew God meant the harm his brothers inflicted on him was for good. It took years! Our Father doesn’t change our personality. He enhances it and uses it for his good pleasure. That’s always good.  Always surprising. Our Father defines us. He delights in us. It’s his approval we seek. His definition. That’s just the kind of children we are. Be you. All the others are taken.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you that we are wonderfully and fearfully made. May we be open to all the unique talents, wisdom and love that are in us and cheerfully share with those in our lives, especially how much you love us.

Amen.

Leaving Home

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30 NLT

“There’s a saying that goes, ‘hurt people will hurt people.’ But I rarely hear the opposite, ‘Healed people heal people.’ Get healed. Then, go heal” – Unknown

No one has been healed perfectly. No one has loved or been loved perfectly. No one.

Mommy issues. Daddy issues. The deeper you go into your own childhood wounds the more you’ll see them. You’ll recognize them at work, church, the grocery store you frequent, the doctor’s office. People who haven’t left home. They and possibly you have moved clear across the country but you’ve never left home.

I had an employee with major passive-aggressive tendencies. Her father had committed suicide and her mother was an alcoholic. Not a well-rounded, loving and spiritual foundation by any stretch to build a full and loving life.

Who got the brunt of this? Why me, of course, her boss. Here’s the fun part–I was too easy on her. I did not confront her in a professional manner at first. Why? Because I had a very strict mother with a pretty damaging tongue. I never wanted to do to another what was done to me. So, I did nothing. Mommy issues. I own it. Blaming my mom accomplished nothing and kept me stuck.

Childhood wounds. Unconscious. Survival. They hurt so very much at a time we hadn’t the words or a trusted adult to confide in. So very destructive for everyone involved. Some never choose healing.

Luckily, I got more training and counsel. I learned that setting boundaries and being quite clear about the job performance and expectations are crucial for the company and life. This was for her sake as well as for mine and, of course, the company we worked for. The feelings were agonizing. After many warnings with documentation, I fired her. I cried buckets of tears because this young, single, head-of-household woman was so likable and down right funny! She had survival skills of a trooper. She decided to get counseling and worked hard at it. She is now a happily married woman to a Christian man. She has a career, loving family and lots and lots of friends. I’m one of them. When my old dog died, she was the first to comfort. When my husband died, she was the first to sit with me. She is one of my greatest treasures.

Musings

Healed people heal people. I like that so much better than hurting people hurt people.Jesus did say we’d receive some persecution, which may come from the very family we were born into. Jesus had a bit of trouble with some of his siblings. His brothers thought he was nuts! Jesus, their brother, thinks he’s God in the flesh!He healed people. Those people healed others. For over 2,000 years.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for our families, spiritual and physical. Some things are hard, but you heal them through your son and other Christian mentors. Help us to heal. Help us to heal others. The more we heal others, the more abundance we have here and eternally.

Amen

Trauma and Responsibility

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 NIV (emphasis mine)

“Today, I will not wait for others to see and care; I will take responsibility for being aware of my pain and problems and caring about myself.” Melody Beattie

A lovely woman died today. She was pretty, charming, intelligent, warm, talented and had a young son starting adulthood.  She also could be dramatic, unpredictable, cruel and deceitful. She was 56 years. She died from liver failure. Alcohol. There but for the grace of God go I.

Or was it childhood trauma? Both?

I knew this woman because my son dated her for several years. It was a highly tumultuous relationship fraught with drama and never-ending pain.  The short-lived moments of bliss would pull my son back in. She powered through several jobs with a bottle of vodka close at hand. I loved this woman. My son loved this woman. She was more than her drinking. She was more than her trauma. She confided to me her childhood abuse at the hands of her mother and emotionally absent father. My son and I tried everything to get her help. No. My son finally ended the relationship to save himself and rode a tremendous learning curve. He financially set her up for six months to help her get on her feet.  Another chance at life. This was a big sacrifice for my son and there was guilt and heartache involved too. Messy. Painful. She married another. She died. I am so sad for her. I remember our Father loves her more than I and more than my son did.

How do we know if we’re powering through something or passively victimizing ourselves? We learn from Jesus. First, we seek him. We seek wise counsel that is gentle and humble at heart. We take responsibility. Powering through will not work and leaves us spent. Passively letting life happen to us means we won’t know who we are or our potential. Both behaviors victimize ourselves and others. Trauma happened to us. We didn’t cause it but we have to come to terms with it if we want a full life.

Musings

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” This quote from Galatians is proof we’re on the right track. And it increases! It probably won’t be a straight line, it may not happen immediately (patience is in the verse), it probably will be very painful at first, but it happens.

Prayer

Dear Father,

We pray for this woman who is now in your care. We pray for others who may be in similar situations. We pray that you show how much you love them. We pray that you keep us in your loving grace. We pray to be a blessing for those struggling.

We thank you for your humble and gentle son, Jesus.

Amen

Testing!

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV

“A true test of character isn’t how you are on your best days but how you act on your worst days.” Unknown

Talk about a real let down for me when I read the above. I am a horrible test-taker! Anxiety, images of past failures and throw in a touch of ADD and my stomach churns, hands shake and doom sets in. In God’s world, it is a pass or fail. I believe and receive Christ or I don’t. No make-up tests. No extra credit. No dog ate my homework. No three strikes rule.

However, once we believe, the real testing begins. Faith is tested to help us become more like Jesus. Whether knowingly or not, when we believe in Christ, the Enemy ravages us with everything he’s got. He’s really ticked! The Enemy may come in so many disguises including “Angel of Light,” that discourage us. It’s a test.

Driving home from work in a blizzard. Was I joyful? No. It was white knuckling, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and sometimes I prayed like Peter, “Lord, save me!” But I didn’t fail the test.

God says to test him too, which is mentioned only once in the Bible. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10

Musings

Count it all joy. We can because of what Christ and the Holy Spirit do for us. Even when we’ve succumbed to an addiction, cursed our Father—so many grave disappointments, we come back just a little bit better, a little more steadfast in our faith and trust. We pass the test.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you that your son took the test for us with flying colors. No matter the challenges, joys and heartaches, with Jesus we pass the test here and in heaven later. No matter the outcomes here on Earth, we pass in heaven with joy. Help us to share this with others. Help us to live this truth. Help us to celebrate we are not failures.

Amen.

A Generous Heart

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offering sfor God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” Luke 21:1-4

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Never thought it would happen to me. Widow. I am not in the straits the poor widow in the above verse was but money has flown out of my hands with my husband’s illness and death. My life will never be the same and the financial freedom is gone too. I remember a Christian/recovered alcoholic speaker, with a lump in his throat and wet eyes, cautioned about money. He found the love of his life, they married, a short time later she was diagnosed with cancer and their money was gone. In a flash she was gone too. He never saved money again. He picked up what little he owned along with his shattered heart and started helping addicts. That’s the last I heard of him. But he still gave. He trusted God that “all things work to good for those who love him.” I believe our Father redeemed his pain now and eternally.

Jesus personified giving with gracefulness and trust. He had nothing and yet everything. He still gives from his abundant treasure. His mercies are new every morning.

He gave from the heart. These are tough times for so many of us but realize you have so much to give! It may be welcoming arms, an attentive ear, an encouraging word or time. Priceless! The fullness we receive is priceless too!  Cast your bread. Treasure in heaven.

Musings

When cash is flush, life is smooth and sunshine is everywhere, it’s easy to be generous. In fact, that’s the time I’m most thankful and giving. It’s easy to give from abundance. When dark and lean times come, the fanatical clutching of money, things and property is an overwhelming temptation. We lose sleep, anxiety is constant and control rears it’s ugly head.  Our tempers lash out. We forget there are many ways to give. We forget that our Father is a generous Father. “We can trust the man who died for us.”

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you that you’ve given us your son. Thank you that he became poor so we could be rich. Thank you that he died so we could live. Thank you for our daily bread. Thank you for our families, friends and courageous leaders. Thank you that you are faithful, even when we can only scrape up a mustard seed of faith. Open our eyes and hearts to see how generous you are and with the faith that sees the more we give, the more we receive—“Pressed down and flowing over.”

Amen.

A Tender Heart

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 NIV

“A tender heart is a wakeful, watchful heart. It watches against sin in the soul, sin in the family, sin in the calling, sin in spiritual duties and performances.” John Bunyan

“I’ve never met a strong person who had an easy past,” was said to me by a wise person.

The very sad thing is many of us have felt and been rejected by their own church family. Yes, many of us Black Sheep/Scapegoat types were rejected by our family but when our church family where love is to reign and we’re rejected, this can be so devastating.

A woman, who was a member of my church, was disabled and her hygiene was, let’s say, very bad. You could be three rows behind her and the smell was very nauseating. Am I exaggerating? No. And everyone in the church gossiped, judged and avoided this woman. The Harvest dinner was on display with so many scrumptious items on the table. All of us were having a bountiful feast with good feelings, thankfulness and humor. Then the woman with the bad hygiene rolled in. She filled her plate, sat down and began to eat. Everyone else took their plate elsewhere or went home. The silence was palpable, as they say. The smell filled the kitchen.

What would a tender heart do? I failed the test. I avoided, which is a subtle but just as damaging way of rejection. What would Jesus do? Well, let’s see… He embraced and healed a demon-possessed man. He raised from the dead a man who had been in a hot, dry dusty tomb for over three days. How about cleaning very dirty and dusty feet? And I could not embrace a woman with bad hygiene. I could not, with an open heart, visit without judgment and learn of her circumstances. I have tears for my lack of tenderness and compassion for this woman. She passed away from ill health. Is she, like Lazarus, in the arms of Abraham?

Then my turn came. My husband was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. Many avoided me during this agonizing time. Some family and friends abandoned me. Dementia is still a scary, unpredictable and terminal disease.  

Abandonment happens to everyone at some time when support, a tender heart is needed. Bewilderment along with loneliness may be the companions. Ask me if I have a tender heart now. I know it’s not perfect but some gigantic lessons have been learned. Scar tissue of the heart. Heart tenderizer.

Living with a tender heart. When times of rejection come even from our own Christian family, may we remember the Father’s son who gave everything for us and he too was rejected by his spiritual and his human family. It doesn’t mean we deny, suppress or avoid the pain. It hurts! But our Father will provide the healing, embracing and strength we need with a new and tender heart.

Musings

I did not have to be a person with bad hygiene to have a tender heart for the woman that did. I did not have to fix her. Just be with her. Validating her God-given worth would suffice. Our Father would do the rest. I would do anything for God but embrace a smelly woman? My friends did not have to know about dementia to provide a tender heart during my time of need. The old saying, “What would Jesus do?” is just another way of saying, “what would a tender heart do?”

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you for your tender heart towards us. There are so many times we’ve failed, didn’t fit the mold of a “good Christian, good boy/girl, good parent/child.” No matter what, every one of us is beloved by you. May we remember this. May we be a bit more tender, validating, compassionate toward the unlovely brought into our lives. We were unlovely too, even if it didn’t show on the outside.

Bless us.

Amen.

Heart Persuasion

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20 NLT

“Love is a divine act that can transform and bring a change of heart.”  Lailah Gifty Akita

What I truly love about Christianity is how the Lord waits to be invited. There are no mandates, dictates, bullying, controlling or manipulating. He asks. The Lord of Lords, the King of Kings asks. He knocks.

What I love about the Lord is how he transforms me in the midst of pain and fear, not with pushing, bullying, condemning or judgment.  He is with me in my darkest hour. He weeps with me. He prays for me. He companions me, whether I feel it or not. He redeems my pain and fear. You know, everything works to good for those who love him. I experience a relationship with him.

I have knowledge about God but the intimacy, the experience is priceless. There are relationship things like joy, trust, communication (much more one-sided than it should be), love, encouragement, inspiration, anger and yes, silence. Our relationship is more than feelings. It’s a trust walk. All good relationships work on trust.

All relationships have their ups and downs, misunderstandings, dark times and good times, even and especially with our kids, parents, siblings and colleagues. But real relationships start with the heart. No change in the heart– no change. No change in the heart– no change in character. No change in the heart–no change in behavior. No change in the heart–no intimate relationship. Knowledge is good and helps but it’s not the heart.

I managed a small marketing department and I had four single, head-of-house women working for me. They struggled, really struggled, being full-time parents, financial turmoil and exes that were so toxic. It was up to me to make it work! Some had just a GED. No college. No technical training. They lived in harsh environments. The only reason they were working for me was they had to. This was it. It looked impossible.

So, I loved them (and was humbled many times). Love is action from a persuaded heart. I acknowledged with praise what they did well. Learning was a fun, down-time activity. I knew their kids, their boyfriends and even their parents. Most of all I prayed for them. Most of all I prayed for me. But our Father through the Son made us successful. Was there an unexpected pregnancy? Oh, yes. Utilities shut off. Top Ramen for dinner. But we worked, encouraged, lent a hand and cash, overcame and cared. Mistakes were made but it drew us closer. Our Father brought us through.

Every one of these girls is now in adulthood with their own professional careers, loving husbands and families with awards and accomplishments they never imagined. We are friends. We all were persuaded. We all were transformed. All have a spiritual life. It didn’t happen overnight but it happened.

Musings

Whatever problem, person or situation, prayer for an open heart, a persuaded heart is required. A miracle! We learn to see with spiritual eyes and heart like our Father and his Son. We experience a joyful, loving relationship with our Father first and it flows to others. We gain the ability to love our Father with our heart, mind and soul as well as our neighbor.

Prayer

Dear Father,

We must see you first before all the things will be added to us and our loved ones. Your Son said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Oh how we stumble on this statement when our pulled-up- by-our-bootstraps mentality tempts us into self-sufficiency and toxic control and away from you. Thank you for persuading, asking, gently encouraging us. Help us to do this with others too.

Amen.