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Miracle Worker

23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelation 21:23

Father in Heaven, you are a God of miracles.  You bring light when I am in darkness through your healing powers and in ways I can never fully understand.  Help me to see even the tiniest miracles that you perform throughout my day so I can lift up my voice in glory to You. Amen

If you were asked if you believe in miracles, what would you say?  Your answer would probably depend upon how you define a miracle.  Some might call it a rare event.  What if instead, you changed your perspective and recognized that God works miracles in our lives every single day?

A standard definition of a miracle is  “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.”  And again, how would you define “extraordinary?”  As I’ve grown closer to God and understanding His ways, my view of the world has certainly changed.  When seen through the lens of creation being the work of God, we can find any number of impossible things made possible.

37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

I’ve been blessed with being pregnant and giving birth twice.  Each time I marvelled at what was occurring in my body.  A tiny human being built from microscopic pieces of the universe in a body that itself is the perfect factory for human creation.  The parts all fit perfectly, just about every single time for thousands of years, millions upon millions of instances.  You don’t need to know statistics to grasp how impossible that should be.

Many say “that’s just science.”  Of course it is!  Science is the study of God’s amazing work – where the impossible happens all the time.  But let’s set human biology aside.  I can state for a fact that miracles happen regularly because I have experienced them.  Oh, if you had only known me 30, 20 or even just 10 years ago. You wouldn’t have seen Christ in my life.  You would have seen a woman desperate for peace.  Longing for joy.  Fearful of not being loved or appreciated.  A couple of years ago, a friend who has known me for some time commented how she could now see the work of Jesus in me.  Truly a miracle.  I’ve seen the same work in a few friends.  Ones I thought would never change.  And the change that has occurred is one that only the hand of God could’ve accomplished.

When you think “miracle” do you only think of cancer being healed?  A death avoided?  A financial windfall?  If so, you need to rub the scales from your eyes.  Just the fact that the sun rose again today was God’s miracle of creation.   His glory is revealed in so many ways.  Some include our continuous acts of human creation.  While other times through the medicines He has placed here for us to “discover.”  His miracle work is revealed each time a sinner recognizes their sin and asks God to change her and He does.  And yes, whenever we are blessed financially when we need it most. 

Friend, God’s glorious miracles are at work right now in your life.  Like our future Eden, He doesn’t need any outside source to cause the light to shine because He makes impossible possible.

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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Lessons from Cherith

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21

He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him.  In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days.  My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family.  This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow.  They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.

In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle.  But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck.  To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer.  As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life.  But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned.  Enough was enough.

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22

Let’s face it, we are only human.  We get our feelings hurt.  We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships.  We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol.  Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans.  We get to the end of our rope.  We have no more tears to shed.  

I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done.  I’m tired of being blamed for his problems.  I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help.  I’m angry how he treats our mother.”  And really, could anyone fault her?  But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it.  I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help.  Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:28

We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed.  Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving.  We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord.  Forgive me.” And He does.  

I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives.  My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others.  My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them.  And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I started this message about a man so broken from addiction.  A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God.  But God is a miracle worker as we all know.  So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.”  He turned to God for forgiveness and healing.  When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes.  To see God’s hands work like no other.  To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room.  We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I.  His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy!  His demeanor was clearly different.  I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted.  I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness.  He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.

My mother-in-law thanked him immediately.  She said, “I needed to hear this.  It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.”  And they wept.  For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days.  I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness.  And saw them weep from the healing love of God.  I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home.  He was in pain but was healed.  He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness.  And he knew he was loved.

Who do you need to forgive right now?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?  

It’s time for healing.

PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂

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A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.  A time to be born and a time to die.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

As a kid living in southern California, I had the opportunity to go to Disneyland a number of times.  Before each visit my brother and I would plan out how to strategically use our tickets – yes, back then we had ticket books for rides.  That’s where the saying, “It’s an E ticket ride” comes from, meaning the best ones.  In the ticket book there’d be loads of A tickets for the kiddie rides and shows.  But only a few, valuable E tickets.  I imagined how much fun I was going to have spinning around the tea cups and travelling through the Haunted Mansion.  But when I got to Disneyland all I could think of was the next ride.  And the next.  When we would leave, I felt a sense of disappointment.  Like I hadn’t really been there at all.  So, I looked forward to the day we could go back and begin the process of yearning for something better around the next bend all over again.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverb 27:1

That has been a lifelong problem for me – always looking for tomorrow to bring me joy and peace.  It’s also brought me a lot of worry.  And although God wants us to be good stewards of our life, planning and preparing, He doesn’t want our hearts and minds to be absent from today.  Or worse, trapped in the past.  During difficult seasons we can so easily project our life to what we hope it to be or catastrophize our life to what we are worried it will be.  We often also wish we could just go back to the way things were.  Back home, back to a perceived better or safer time.  

On my rides home from the Magic Kingdom, I would wish I could go back.  Go back and relish each ride, each experience to its fullest.   And while I was doing that, I was probably missing out again on what was happening right then and there.  I can only imagine Elijah, a quiet, rugged mountain shepherd on day 50 or 100 or even 200 in Cherith Ravine letting his mind wander back home to Gilead.  Being just a man, he probably once or twice longed for his old way of life where kings and queens weren’t threatening his life.  Where he could pick berries and drink fresh goat milk each day instead of relying on ravens for food.  But God needed him right there, right at that time paying attention.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

It’s a hard lesson when we are in pain, suffering through bad news, or being persecuted.  We are admonished to trust in God for tomorrow and not yearn to go backwards to home.  And yet, in the midst of my Cherith I found myself doing just that.

Both my children had returned to their own homes after saying their final goodbyes to their beloved grandmother.  My husband too had returned back to a job that needed his presence.  That next day, after a particularly hard few moments and, to be honest, watching my brother-in-law’s little family gather closely together, I needed to escape.  I felt so alone and incapable of the task of helping shepherd my mother-in-law through her final days.  I took my eyes off the Lord and placed them back on myself.  A phone call home had me crying out to my husband, “I can’t do this.  I’m not strong enough.  I want to come home right now.”

I wanted to go back to before the cancer.  I wanted to envelope myself in my comfortable routine back home.  Fear and loneliness wrapped around me like a heavy blanket.  And then I remembered Elijah.  I looked toward the majesty of the Colorado Rockies and remembered God can do all things.  And He needed me right there, right now.  Not longing for home or better times.  Not worrying about the future. Instead, paying attention to the beautiful moments and lessons He had placed before me for today.

22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22

I still will battle looking for the next “better thing” around the corner.  But the time between that search and remembering to enjoy this day has reduced to mere moments as I pull my thoughts back to looking for Jesus right now.  There is a time for everything. To prepare and to sow, to cry and to laugh. To keep and throw away. To mourn and to dance. When we step outside God’s timing we find ourselves at odds with His plan. But when we live in His moments, His seasons, we find ourselves in harmony. That is God’s promised peace.  And that my friends, is exactly where the joy is.

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From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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He Will Provide

Lessons from Cherith

The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.  Psalm 145:14

We had come to Colorado after receiving the news – my mother-in-law’s constant bowel pain was the result of peritoneal cancer, a rare and deadly disease.  She had never fully recovered from her bout with uterine cancer diagnosed just 18 months prior.  Her markers were clear but this painful and never-ending pain in her stomach kept her sidelined.  We will never know why it wasn’t discovered sooner but there are blessings even in that.

And so, after setting her up on hospice and determining that additional in-home care wouldn’t be sufficient and was well beyond what my father-in-law could afford, I offered to stay longer.  As I said goodbye to my husband who needed to get back to San Diego for work, I was faced with my usual self-doubt.  “I’m not good at this kind of thing” I said to myself.  “I’m not a sweet, kind, compassionate person” I lamented.  “I never know what to say in difficult times” I fretted.  

I was scared to face day-to-day the woman I love as my own mother as she lay living out her last days.  I was worried about how to be around my quiet father-in-law.  I definitely was concerned how to handle all her friends who wanted to visit and needed a shoulder to cry on. And then I finally remembered God.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 111: 4-5

I went for a walk and soaked in the beauty of the Colorado mountains and realized I didn’t need to have all those gifts.  He has blessed me with so many other gifts that were needed – organizing, communication, and more.  And what I now needed was to lean on Him for the rest of what was required.  

My BSGs had just finished Shirley Giles Davis’ study book, God. Gifts. You. Which takes a deep dive into the list of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.  Coincidently she lives and works in Boulder, Colorado, just a few miles from where I now found myself needing the strength of God’s gifts.  She reminded us that our gifts can be used for good and have their own pitfalls if used incorrectly.  She showed us how God’s beautiful world can only function properly when we appreciate and honor the intricate ways all people’s gifts are used in harmony.  

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Psalms 55:16

And so, I called on God in humility.  I thanked Him for the blessings of financial security that helped me be there.  I listed in thankfulness the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been endowed to me.  And I prayerfully spoke the following:

“Lord, I cannot do this without you.  I don’t have the right words for the right moments so I need the Holy Spirit to speak for me.  I don’t have the strength for this gracious Father.  I need you to keep me strong and lifted or I will fail.  Only through your loving grace, using my gifts that I have been blessed with and you filling in the rest will I be able to glorify you and help Bev and all those around her. Please Lord speak in place of my words and be my strength.” Amen

His intervention was immediate as He surrounded me with His love and peace.  All those worries and fears dissipated.  And for the next three weeks the Holy Spirit held me up and spoke for me.  He spoke to the friends who left Bev’s room crying in despair.  He spoke to family members who handle grief differently than me.  He spoke to Bev while I read her Psalms each day to comfort her.  And He kept me from being tired and weak.  I could wake at any hour with ease to administer medication, keep the house clean, and make meals for the ever changing number of people at the house.  He provided, just as He promises, just as He always has.

You are my strength, I sing praises to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.  Psalms 59:17

My BSGs recently completed Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah.  In her week 6 video she mentions the definition of faith as aligning our entire life with God’s 8,000 promises found in His Word.  Our faith doesn’t need to be some mysterious feeling that is undefinable.  It’s simple, when we believe God’s promises and live like we do then that is faith.  That’s what Elijah did when he went, as directed by God, to Cherith — a lonely, dry, desolate place. God provided in ways only He can with food delivered by ravens and just enough water to get by for about two years. Elijah knew he couldn’t make it on his own. He needed God to survive. All his knowledge and gifts weren’t going to help him. God would need to fill in where he was lacking.

Friends, God promises over and over to provide for us.  The Bible is filled with endless stories of His provision.  Our own lives are testimonies to those provisions.  Sometimes we just need to remember to humbly ask for Him to provide where we are weak and not gifted.

The morning my beloved Bev went to our Father I was blessed again to have God show me how much He had answered my prayer.  I needed some alone time so I decided to take a shower.  As I stood in the bathroom waiting for the water to warm up, I suddenly felt a huge weight press on me – like an anvil was placed on each shoulder.  I cried out in surprise and then it was gone.  I knew He was showing me what He had sheltered me from for the last few weeks.  And although I am still experiencing the grief of Bev being gone from this earth, that heavy weight has never returned.  I can thank God and the Holy Spirit for being my weight bearers.  And I can thank God that He will provide in our weakest moments.

Where in your life to do you need to ask for God’s provision?  
Where do you feel insufficient and weak?  Ask Him today He will provide!

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Rescue Me!

Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.
Psalm 44:26

I’ll admit I’ve had a bit of a rough relationship with God the last few weeks.  I have an on-going health issue related to my sinuses.  For years I’ve suffered through swollen sinuses, infections, allergies, clogged ears, excruciating headaches and more.  I’m in my third year of allergy shots and recently had a second sinus surgery.  And I feel worse.

A few weekends ago I spent most of the time feeling like my head was either in a tight vise or underwater. Conversations were muffled and my eustachian tubes felt as though a needle was being jammed in them.  I got on my knees and started praying desperately for God to heal me.  While at church I prayed continuously for healing.  And the pain continued.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?  Rouse yourself!  Do not reject us forever.  
Psalm 44:23

Have you ever felt the way the psalmist did when he wrote that verse?  Like God just isn’t listening?  That Sunday evening, I sure did.  I was in tears.  And so, I cried out to God even louder to please heal me.  For a brief moment I even felt myself being pulled back into my old way of thinking that God didn’t care about me or worse, maybe didn’t even exist.  But my faith journey has brought me too far to let me slide backwards.

There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season.  He makes new men of them; He give them a new heart and He puts within them a right spirit.  

Charles Spurgeon

My knowledge of God has led me to a place of greater wisdom.  Instead of asking God to “wake up” I started asking Him if this was to be my thorn, my constant affliction to cause me to rely more and more on Him.

It also led me to put my pain and suffering in perspective.  While my issues are painful and irritating, I am not debilitated.  I can still rise every morning and serve Him and the people around me.  And through a pounding headache I can still go out for a walk and experience a beautiful day.  I put my troubles up against my mother-in-law’s, who through a year battling cancer and diverticulitis has managed a smile each time I talk to her.  Yes, at her lowest she has cried.  But I’ve watched her turn back to God in faith, searching for His hand in all things.

I want God to take away my pain.  I know He can.  He can heal me as I write this.  And it is not for me to know why He doesn’t.  

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I would prefer not to be held to the same spiritual standards set by the Apostle Paul.  To seek God’s goodness when I feel my worst.  To feel His presence when my head is pounding.  To do the work required of me when the pain is almost overwhelming.  At times I just can’t.  That’s when I beg God to help me, to rescue me.

I’m not going to stop asking for healing.  But I’ve decided that I trust God that there is a reason He hasn’t.  And I know for certain, that in trusting Him, one day we will all be free from affliction and experience His amazing glory.

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The Blessing of Hope

And hope does not put us to shame, 
because God’s love has been poured 
out into our hearts through the Holy 
Spirit, who has been given to us. 
Romans 5:5

In February of 2020, my beloved mother in law got some disturbing news.  She possibly had uterine cancer.  We all started praying and hoping for negative tests.  But with each test, each imaging, we were disappointed.  Our hopes for it being “just a thing” were dashed.

In my prayers I lifted her up to God as one of His very faithful daughters.  And when the bad news came, I cried out to Him.  It wasn’t fair.  I couldn’t see why He would allow this to happen.

And as quickly as I cried out, He answered me.  “I have a plan.  You need to trust in me.”  So, I rested my hope in patience and faith and the knowledge that God has been there for her in the past.

Such hope as is the fruit of faith, patience, and experience, namely, the full assurance of hope;

Benson Commentary on Romans 5:5

When I read the verse from today, I wondered about the word, “shame.”  The clarification I found was that Christian hope will not disappoint or be deceptive.  God has proven Himself over and over of His faithfulness.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Jews and Christians in Rome, reminds us that even before we were willing to worship God fully He sent His son to die for us.  Think about that.  We didn’t have to prove ourselves to Him first.

You see, at just the right time, when 
we were still powerless, Christ died 
for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone 
die for a righteous person, though for a 
good person someone might possibly dare 
to die. But God demonstrates his own love 
for us in this: While we were still sinners, 
Christ died for us. 
Romans 5:6-8

He goes on to say if God would do this for us, how much more can we expect?  How much more hope can we put in the fact that God will take care of us?

As a maturing Christian this idea of “hope” has gone through a transition in my thinking.  And where I started mirrors what so many non-believers struggle with when looking at Jesus followers.  “If I pray and hope that someone is cured and they aren’t, doesn’t that mean God’s not listening (or doesn’t care or maybe the person doesn’t deserve it?).”  But friends, God’s plans are so beyond our own!

I truly believe that God allows us to experience trials so that we can change our perspective of what living a “good life” in the world means.  We, through our experiences, can offer hope to others that they can come out the other side with renewed faith.  And He uses people around us to show His love during difficult times.

Every single apostle, every single lover of God in the Old Testament went through extremely difficult times.  It was their hope they placed in Him that sustained them.  And it was their experiences that help us to remember He loves us.

As for my mother in law?  Praise God that through surgery and chemotherapy her cancer was eradicated.  But the message I got from God was that even if she succumbed to cancer, He still had her safely in His arms.  Because that is the greatest message of hope that Jesus gave us.  We are saved from wrath.  We are saved from the sins of this world.  And we will find a loving home for us waiting at the end.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Transformation Prayer, Uncategorized

Pessimist or Pollyanna?

I have told you this so that 
my joy may be in you and that 
your joy may be complete.
John 15:11

A prayer to live a joy-filled life.

Gracious God your gifts and blessing to me cannot be counted.  And yet so often I turn to the negative parts in my life and place my constant thoughts in them.  When I rise I forget to be thankful that I have yet another day in which to serve you and be blessed by you.  And as I go about my day when you place joyful moments at my fingertips I take them for granted.   When I lay my head down to sleep I can easily recall all that went wrong in the day rather than what went right.  But your joy is there for the taking.  I want to live basked in your greatness, your beauty and your joy.  I can and will, with your help, find joy in every circumstance.  You are working for my good at all times and I just need to remember that promise.  Thank you for giving us your Son who implanted the Holy Spirit in us – a spirit of joy and of goodness.  I pray this in your Son’s Holy name, Jesus.  Amen


I always called her a Pollyanna.  The term comes from the movie of the same name in which a young girl arrives at a small town filled with bitter people.  But her neverending, cheerful spirit wins them over.  Nowadays, a “Pollyanna” seems to be said as a negative.  That, along with wearing “rose-colored glasses” are attributed to people who just want to see the positives in everything.  I know, makes you sick, doesn’t it?

But my mother-in-law truly is such a person.  And this last year that cheerful, joy-filled spirit was truly tested, not only with all the lockdowns but with a diagnosis of cancer.  On her worst days she was a bit dispirited.  Yes, worst days.  I mean the woman seemed to look forward to her cancer treatments because she would probably run into a friend and chat for hours while the poison did its deadly work. 

A cheerful heart is good medicine, 
but a crushed spirit dries up 
the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 

At times being a “bit dispirited” can seem like my best day.  I’ve been a well-trained, tried and true pessimist for so long that the concept of daily joy is a lot of work for me to achieve.  It’s easy to sit back and marinate in the mess of life.  It takes work to get up, dust ourselves off and say “oh well let’s make the best of this.”  

Thank goodness our strength comes from the LORD.  I’m committing myself to stopping negative thinking and instead, like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo,” searching for the joy in the moments of my life.  I know they are there because joy is one of the promised fruits of His spirit.  

He’s there somewhere! Just keep searching!

I stood in Walmart the other day waiting in a long line to check out.  Normally, I’d be mentally lopping off all the heads of the cashiers for taking so long and planning my complaint letter to management for not opening more registers.  Instead, I settled in to God’s joy.  I was happy to have found all the items on my long list and the people watching at Walmart is topnotch!  I was so bathed in God’s joy that I even let someone with only two items go in front of me.

I could have turned a simple shopping trip into a miserable experience very easily.  I’m counting on God to keep giving me opportunities to flip the script from pessimist to Pollyanna.  Because when the day comes when I need it most, I want to be well-trained and tested in living a joy-filled life.

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Addition of Peace

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

As I write this, we are only a few weeks away from Christmas.  Around this time, we frequently see the phrase, “Peace on Earth!”  But like so many popularized snippets in the Bible the meaning can be confused when interpreted from a worldly point of view.  “Peace” so often means a lack of something – strife, war, noise, chaos.  But in God’s universe, it is an addition of something.

The misconstrued meaning of God’s peace

Having grown up in San Diego I had the fortunate experience of learning to sail.  As a Girl Scout, I started out in small, one-man sabots.  Eventually, I became skilled at sailing catamarans and larger sloops.  I’ve even been a crew member on an old sailing ship which sailed the 31 miles from Long Beach Harbor across the ocean to Santa Catalina Island.  What an amazing trip!  On many of those sailboats you’ll find what’s called a set of lifelines.  They run from stem to stern along the edge of the boat.  Its purpose? To be used as a last chance handhold before plunging into the water.

That’s how I see God’s peace brought into our world and more specifically my life. Peace, as brought about by the coming of Jesus, is not the lack of something, it’s the addition of our new lifeline. God promises throughout the Old Testament that He will send His messenger to wipe way our tears and to bring us salvation. And when Jesus arrived, so many people misunderstood His purpose. It was not to become an earthly king and conquer all our physical adversaries. He came to teach us that His ways are higher and His love for us so great. You see God doesn’t always want to change our circumstances, but He always seeks to change us. When we study how Jesus handled strife and chaos and follow in His ways we live in peace.

Peace I leave with you; 
my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you as 
the world gives. Do not 
let your hearts be troubled 
and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

This bringing of His Peace – the incarnation of Jesus – was more clearly defined for me this year.  About 11 months ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  I love my mother-in-law as my own mom.  She has taught me so much about Jesus and His ways.  She has shown me grace when I didn’t deserve it.  She has provided a warm and loving place for me to land when life has been too much.  I had been praying fervently for a more positive diagnosis.  

So that day, I went for a long walk through our nearby, secluded canyons and yelled out loud at God.  Yes, I yelled at the Almighty.  I pleaded with Him to not take her from me yet.  My heart, mind and soul were the opposite of peace.  And like the boat lifeline, He suddenly placed Himself between me and going off the deep end.  His Holy Spirit stood square in front of me and reminded me that death is not the end.  He showed me that when the day comes for my beloved mother-in-law to leave this world it would be a joyous one for her.  You see, she would be reunited with her own mother.  He showed me a picture of the two of them playing their favorite card games, teasing each other, and laughing their heads off.  And it made me smile.  It filled me with joy.  

I had accepted God’s peace.  There’s the covenant agreement.  He sent His Peace On Earth in the form of His Son.  And I accepted it.  I frequently try giving it back, but less and less as I place my trust more firmly in Him.

This year of 2020 had been very difficult for many.  As a Christian I have grasped a hold of God’s lifeline so often to stay in His peace.  It’s important for us to remember that God wants us to live in today, not yesterday or tomorrow.  So, when we dream blissfully about how much better 2021 “just has to be,” we make the mistake of missing out on how good God can be for us right now.  We miss out on the opportunity to live in His peace.

There has never been a year in the history of the world, after Eden, where there was not disease, strife, war, death and pain.  And 2021 will be no different.  But God’s promised peace is our lifeline.  It will guard our hearts and minds.  No matter the dark seas on either side, we can rest in the knowledge of His love and our eternal salvation.