How About That Noah?!!

 

What a day we live in!  I have been thinking of late how we forget that the Bible was written to be a guidebook for us, to help us, to encourage us to teach us, yet often it is the last place we look for wisdom and for strength.  I think back to when I first became a Christian at the age of 21, not having grown up in a Christian family, once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and was introduced to the Bible, the words would jump off the pages and I would be so into what I was reading there would be nights when my head would fall asleep with my face right in the Bible!  Twenty-nine years later I am chagrined at thinking how it has become difficult to find the time to read the Word of God and how, especially at this time in history it is the answer to so many of the questions we have because it is very much the LIVING Word of God and as the Bible says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

Also it is spiritual food for us and I have found myself discouraged, depressed, depleted and anxious when I don’t take time to read it.  It is spiritual food for our soul.  It was written for a purpose and the purpose was for us to grow in our relationship with Him.

The fascinating thing I have found is how as I have grown in my walk with the Lord what I have read has been stored within my heart.  Reading the Word of God helps us to hide his Word in our heart and often time we don’t even know that is occurring until a scripture just jumps out in our minds! I get tickled by this because it is the Holy Spirit bringing forward a word of encouragement to my remembrance when I am praying for answers.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”  (Proverbs 3:5).

The Bible is also a map for us.  I was thinking this week about the days of Noah, how often we forget that that is a TRUE story, one that can be applied to our lives today.  As I have thought about the world today and how many do not choose to follow God’s Word or believe it I think about examples of such times as are written in the Bible.  The people in Noah’s time thought he was insane.  Building a boat when there wasn’t any rain.  They laughed at him.  They mocked him, they made fun of him, they went on living, working, marrying, carrying on with their lives (such as we do today) not heeding God’s warning or Noah’s words.  Then the day of rains came.  Can you imagine the shock and horror of the people when they realized that all along what Noah had been doing was right?  It was too late!  The world hasn’t changed.  The Bible talks about the days to come, yet still we go through life not believing, not giving it much thought that what God’s Word says will come to pass.  Just as in the days of Noah.  Just as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Even as a Christian I can see my own faults, weaknesses and sins before me.  It is so easy to get discouraged – especially during the times when God feels so far away.  Ol’ Slewfoot and his dominions would have us really believe that God IS dead.  That He is not concerned with us, our needs or our lives.  He would have us doubt God’s promises and turn away. He would have us be discouraged or disheartened.  But the TRUTH of the matter is that God LOVES us.  That He is NOT dead.  That He is very much alive.  That He CARES.  We live in a day and age where people are looking those of us who are Christians and struggling and they mock us and laugh at us and wonder WHY we would serve a God who clearly makes us suffer.  And sometimes, as a cancer survivor who is struggling to make ends meet for my family – I DO question God.  I ask Him WHY.  When it seems like what is such a big problem for us is a little “ant hill” to Him.  WHY doesn’t He just alleviate the difficulty I have. WHY do I go through the things I go through when I have a Father who could just snap His fingers and take away my burdens like He was flicking a piece of lint off His shoulder and honestly there are times when I rage and I cry before Him and I ask Him, “Lord HOW do you receive the glory in my being burdened by A,B,C??? Why won’t you help ME??? Your Word says, “If I being evil give good gifts to my children how much more so will you help ME?” (Matthew 7:11)  There are times when I cry out to Him, “Abba Father!!!!” And He seems quiet.  He seems distant and far away.  That is when the scripture promise I cling to:

“I will never leave nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

And I have to remind myself that regardless of whether or not I understand what I am going through.  The Bible also tells me:

“The steps of the righteous are ordained by God.” (Psalms 37:23)

Remembering that my righteousness is NOT my own – that I have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ – who loved me enough to die on the cross for forgiveness of my sins.

I know without a doubt within my soul – that also as the Bible says: 

 “He is the way, the truth and the life.  The ONLY way to Heaven.” (John 14:6)

He is: 

The peace that passes ALL understanding.”(Philippians 4:7)

You see?  In reading His Word, I have hidden such scriptures in my heart.  The faith part comes with BELIEVING them.  STANDING on them.  Holding FAST to them.  Not to go by my feelings – but to know that my Heavenly Father cares.  He’s There.  The Word also tells me:

“He is an ever present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

He is:

“The lifter of my head.” (Psalms 3:3)

I can trust Him.  He knows what He is doing.  Jesus even said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)

We are living in a time where we have to choose who we are going to believe.  satan or God.  We have to decide who’s voice we are going to listen to.  It is NOT easy.  It is so easy to feel as though God is far away – especially when we look around at ALL the things that are going on in the world.  There is NO common sense anymore.  There is NO common courtesy.  Even Christians are not living and walking in the manner that God intended them to walk.  The Bride is NOT ready.  We have become wordly – and we need to ask God to forgive us and to help us be ALL that He intended us to be. 

The Bible talks about the days to come.  The last days. 

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2nd Timothy 3:2 – 3:5)

It is SPELLED OUT right on the pages of the Word of God.  So WHY does it come as such a shock to us when we hear about it in the news, when we see it happening right before our eyes?  When we find OURSELVES acting in a manner that does not glorify God? 

When I look on my life over the last 29 years of being a Christian.  My answer to those who see me struggle as a cancer survivor, a divorced woman raising two of her three children on her own.  My answer is – don’t look at ME.  Look at HIM.   I am not IN this life because of what God can do for me – although daily I hope He will help me with the burdens I carry and the things I go through in life.  But the fact of the matter is I love Him and have become a Christian not for what he can DO for me, but for what He has DONE for me.  He died on the cross for forgiveness of my sins.  He made a way for me to be able to enter into a relationship with God the Father because of His obedience.  He made a way through His shed blood for me to be able to go to Heaven when I die.  NOT because of anything I have done but because of WHAT HE has done.  I am in it because I love Him.  I am in it because I trust Him – even when I rage and have temper tantrums.  I am in it because I know that His Word (regardless of how in frequently I have taken time to read it myself of late) is TRUE and the Words written in God’s book – The BIBLE WILL come to pass regardless of those who think is nonsense.  Just as in the examples He has allowed those God inspired men He used to write it, write it for us to read.  He wrote it as a love story for us – so that we would be encouraged.  So that we would SEE how MUCH God love us.  The choice (which he also gave us – free choice) is OURS.

As you look out at the world and the things that are occurring around you – what will YOU choose to believe?  Where is your hope? How do YOU go forward in life in a world that often times seems as though it is growing darker and darker.  (It is…) But if you read the same Word that I read – you will be encouraged to know that Jesus said:

“He is the Way, The Truth and the Life.” John 14:6)

  We only need to walk in it… I’m going to continue trying – how about you?



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The Me You See – Dedicated to My Pink Sisters

I was never a fearful person before cancer.  I think when you go through a life threatening illness at the time you stoically go through it because you have no choice. I had no choice.  Treatment is so regimented it is like you have been drafted in an army… 

Actually, I was drafted into an army – a Pink Rover Line that is so long and so wide that it would surprise you.

Cancer is no respecter of persons, it doesn’t matter your financial status, your race, your religion, your age. Once you get drafted, you are drafted and the drafting will leave you shell shocked but before you can even wrap your brain around WHAT is happening you are enrolled in a regimen that you have no choice but to be an active participant in.

I suppose it is a good thing that it is so regimented because it doesn’t give you much time to really think.  You go from doctor to doctor to oncologist to nurse, to surgery, treatment, radiation – in such a manner that it physically wears you out.  Chemo is no walk in the park.  I remember my first round.  I was a newbie, doing what I was told to do.  I came armed with books, my cell phone, my laptop. It was going to be okay, I was use to multi-tasking. Holding out my arm for the IV I said, “Here I am!  I got this!”  And then came the first dose… It takes hours… And the chemo I had is nicknamed “The Red Devil” for a reason. That chemo is NO joke – it means business as it runs through your veins.  Six years later I can still recall the taste, the smell the feeling of that chemo going through my body.  It hit hard and like a red tidal wave rushed with my blood through my veins to every part of my being.  I couldn’t read, I couldn’t type, all I could do was feel and what I felt was exhaustion.  It was like something I had never experienced before and would not have known what to expect.

That first night, I could taste it, I could smell it, it was in my pores.  Exhausted I went back to my childhood home and collapsed on the bed.  That night I had nightmares, I dreamt of hell and heat and sulfur and woke up scared out of my mind, my heart racing, my skin drenched in sweat.  No matter what I did during that time of treatment with Adriamycin, cytoxan and Taxol – I could not get that smell out of my nostrils.

The thing about treatment is this – that in a sense it is so regimented that you don’t have much time to think – you just go through.  For me, that was my saving grace – I followed a treatment schedule, I was in the Pink Army now.  “Deal with it Soldier! You don’t have a choice!”  So I did.

Early detection is key – I cannot say that enough.  After rounds of two different types of chemotherapy (I hope I remember this right… Adriamycin, Cytoxan and Taxol) and then I endured 35 rounds of radiation.  Radiation – a crazy thing that takes what looks like a red laser to your cancer site location and burns the absolute hell out of your skin in the matter of minutes. But it works… It’s role, to make sure it obliterates any cancer cells that *might* have survived those rounds of chemotherapy. Honestly, worse than any beach sunburn (while using baby oil) that a person has ever gone through, but you do it because you are in the army now, it is part of the regimen AND it works. And really, you don’t have a choice.

The second hardest part (and I say second, because the first hardest part is hearing you’ve been diagnosed with cancer) is post treatment life.  This is the time when you have done your time in the Treatment Service and all of a sudden – you are done.  You are cancer-free.  Some people choose to use the repulsive term “in remission” but those are the people who are sitting there “waiting” for the cancer to return.  I was not part of that delegated group.  Nor will I EVER be.  I was declared, “cancer-free” with a shake of the hand and a congratulations, I was released.

Released.

What next?? Actual time to think? What happened? I looked around and all of a sudden a flood of feelings hit me like a tsunami.  WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT NOW?  HOW? WHY?

All those feelings came upon me like a floodgate. Not only did cancer affect my body – it affected my life.  I became keenly aware during the time I was in the Pink Army Regimen of treatment of who outside my Pink world had abandoned me. People I NEVER would have guessed.  People who were close to me who while I was sick didn’t know how to talk to me.  I was still the same person, I hadn’t changed – cancer happened TO ME it wasn’t what I had become.  Yet in looking at me perhaps it made them look at their own mortality and they were “awkward” with me.   They didn’t know how to identify with me anymore. It seemed like there was a lot of “head nodding” and fake smiling and small talk which perhaps they didn’t think I could pick up on… But I did.  I don’t blame them, I get it – you don’t have common ground anymore.  You have never been where I was.  This is where the  bond between my Pink Sisters came in.  My Pink family, “the girls” the ones who got it.  The ones who knew.  We could just look at each other and get it.  We could act as goof-bally as we wanted or cry or scream or vent or laugh like crazy women and we got it.  WHY because we understood.  We understood that we were drafted, that this wasn’t our fault, that we had no control over it.  We were there for each other – holding tight to each-others hands – not letting go.  In many of our cases the holding of those hands (emotionally speaking) was what kept us fighting.  For those of us who experienced people we loved falling away from us – those hands became lifelines.  Holding on for dear life.

It’s been six years.  Some would say, “why are you still talking about it?  You’ve been healed! You are cancer-free! MOVE ON!” To which I would look at them with a mix of emotions – anger, pity, rage, sorrow and disdain because unless you are a survivor you have no idea how very difficult that is.  Each of our journeys have been individual, unique.  Each experience different.  The thing about the Pinks is that we understand that.  We allow each other to feel whatever it is we feel.  It’s okay if you’re angry, or scared, or sad, or whatever you  feel  – ALLOW yourself to feel it.  It’s okay.  That’s the difference between a survivor and someone who hasn’t been through what we’ve gone through.

I don’t say any of what I’ve written in bitterness.  God has given me a second chance at life, and I am every day thankful.  I have Pink sisters who didn’t make it and they were no less deserving than I. 

I’m not the same person I was prior to cancer.  My life has changed, my body has changed, my family has changed.  I’m still trying to come to terms with it.  Some days are easier than others.  Some not. I didn’t ask for cancer to happen to me.  I didn’t ask for my life to change – but I was drafted.  I have chosen not to become bitter – but there are times when I don’t know HOW to become better.  I hurt. Even as a Christian, I feel lost along the way.  There feels like there is such a responsibility to being given  the gift of a second chance at life – but there are added responsibilities that are due to the fabric of my life changing so drastically.  I did not sign up for this, I did not expect this.  The range of emotions I go through from gratitude to anger, to intensive fear is something I suppose will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I know that this is something that my Pink sisters feel too.  Cancer is not just about what affects the body, it affects all of what makes YOU you.

If I were to be truly transparent – I would have to say that more than the fear of going through it again (which a survivor worries about every time they go for that next oncology appointment, because you didn’t expect to get cancer in the first place – once bitten twice shy) – and that fear comes up every time you walk through those hospital doors. Even after 6 years the fear always comes up with every appointment.

But more than that – the fear of being loved and left again.  The fear of being hurt.  The fear of being alone is one that for those of us who went through it and saw people walk away from us is something that is a scar as real as any surgical scar. It’s the PSD following the Pink drafting.  The residue of what is left as you try to pick up those pieces (and even after 6 years I’m still picking them up) and move forward.

What encouraging advice can I give? The good that has come from cancer? The rainbow after the storm?  I can say that you learn to love deeper.  Like a tornado that unexpectedly comes upon the house of you – it rips the hinges of your bullshit meter door right off your house.  GONE.  You no longer have the capacity to deal with bullshit or pettiness or drama.  WHY? Because you realize how short life is.  You have had a crash course in what is important and what is not.  Many survivors have become just raw.  We have a tendency not to sugarcoat ANYTHING.  We ARE the REAL McCoy.  We tell it like it is.

That’s refreshing.  And if a survivor loves you – you are in for an intimate full blown love affair like you have never experienced in your life.  Survivors love completely, passionately with all their hearts because they know that no one is promised tomorrow. NOT ANYONE OF US – all though we all live like God owes it to us – He does not.  So being around a cancer survivor can be refreshing because they are honest and straightforward and to the point… At least most of us…

I choose not to live in bitterness – I choose to become better, but I am a work in progress.  I get filled with fear of the unknown.  I  get scared…  When you go through cancer, you learn to depend upon yourself because honestly – NO ONE is going through it WITH YOU.  It is happening to YOU.  It isn’t until it is all said and done that you are even able to think what it must have been like for your loved ones (the ones that chose to hang around) because during the treatment regimen it is taking ALL it can for you to get through it.  You don’t mean to be selfish or self-involved, it just leaves you no choice.

Six years later – my life has changed.  I can see the better now.  There IS a rainbow after the storm.  You just have to believe and wait and see.  And most of all – walk in forgiveness and love and trust that even if you don’t know the WHY of it.  God sees everything in its fullness.  After the worst of the storms comes some of the MOST beautiful rainbows.  I see it now – the rainbow… Sometimes it feels a lot farther off in the future than it actually is, but that is all about perception.  The fact is – it’s there.  You just have to look hard enough for it…    

 More Words For Your Journey

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The Rawness of Me – No There is No “Pretty Pink Ribbon” About It…

They say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger… I don’t know about that… There are days when I don’t “feel” strong. There are many days since cancer, that I just feel plain vulnerable. Cancer took a lot of things away from me and stripped me of a naiveté I didn’t know I had. It showed me who would be there for me and revealed who wouldn’t. It left it’s mark on my body – but more than changing my body – it changed who I am. I found out about myself – I don’t trust easy, I don’t believe mere words, I know what it is like to believe people will be there and then they are not. I learned to grow dependent upon myself and upon God. I chose to become better and *not* bitter. Cancer (like a tornado)  took the screen door called bullshit clear off “the house of me,” what you see in me is a woman who is genuine, who does not play games, who does not get caught up in drama, who does not sugarcoat, who is strong because she had no choice but to become strong. The tide of cancer washed away a lot of things in my life that I honestly had thought were solid, stable pillars. It made me realize what is really important and what isn’t. My life use to be in beautiful water color type hues – but now it is in vibrant passionate colors.  

I know what I want, to live an uncomplicated  “Henry David Thoreau” simplicity type of life in the middle of nature  – writing for the Lord, building people up, loving wholeheartedly and being surrounded by those I love.  I love fiercely with ALL that I am because I know that tomorrow is not promised to me. Wholeheartedly without reserve, without pretense, without games, without stipulations or hidden agendas or expectations or “strings attached.” It sharpened my God given gift of having a discerning Spirit.  I can see through the crap and through games.

I notice everything (even if I don’t mention what I see). I think that having experienced cancer gave me an “honest strength.”  Yes, there is definitely a vulnerability within me – one that is so scared to screw up living. One can’t help but feel a huge responsibility when one is given a second chance at life. The only zombies I believe exist are people who are living empty lives. Chasing things like a “dog chasing their tail” people who just don’t get it – they want “MORE” and are never satisfied with what they have. They are superficial and one dimensional. They think there is someone or something “better” out there and what happens is they miss out on the blessing before them because they can’t recognize its right in front of their very eyes. They are living, but really – they are who the Jones’ really are – the walking dead.  It shouldn’t take a life threatening illness for people to wake up to what is important in life – I think most of us think that the bad things in life “will never happen to us” – but it can and it does.  Cancer is no respecter of persons – be it wealth, race or age. So think about what you really want out of life.  Someone once said to me as a child, “If you have your health you have everything” – I didn’t realize until after cancer how true that is.  Love double-fisted. SHOW people that you love that you love them – DON’T wait. SHOW THEM NOW. Tell them! People NEED to be told – and often!  If you have been hurt in your past, don’t allow that past hurt from keeping you from being loved.  If you do, the only one who is hurting you – IS YOU. Holding back could keep you from the very thing you have been longing for. Life is waaaaaaay too short for that.  Be open to allow yourself to BE LOVED.  You just *might* be surprised. 

YES, I can admit to feeling vulnerable but I don’t think that is a weakness. I think admitting it shows my strength. A person can be vulnerable and wise at the same time. What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger – no, what didn’t kill me made me wiser, took the pretenses off my life and showed me that all I want is to live a life of simplicity, honesty, and love and that I am not dependent upon myself – but on God who holds my life in His hands.  It also taught me to pay it forward in ANY way I can – I am doing just that because I know that the best is truly yet to come… Come “best” I’m ready for you.   

More Words for Your Journey

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The YOU Plan

One day God got an idea in His head… One that He couldn’t wait to begin.  Oh how excited He was… He is the Creator, and creating is something God loves to do.  This special day, He had the plan of YOU.

Gently He molded YOU, a pinch here a pat there.  The Potter lovingly kneaded the special ingredients of YOU.  In His mind’s eye He already saw YOU in complete formation.  Each kneading with His hands lovingly done.  Caressing the makings of YOU.  You see, YOU were being created in the image of Him, formed in God’s image.  How excited God must have been over the creation of YOU.  He knew YOU would be one of a kind.  Lovingly He filled YOU with the breathe of life, floating around in amniotic fluid YOU were surrounded by His Holy Spirit, no matter the situation of how YOU came to be – YOU came to be because He chose YOU to be. YOU were never a mistake.  YOU were a plan.  A God ordained well formulated plan.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

YOU were not a mistake.  YOU were not a surprise.  No matter your conception – YOU were created in love by God.  Oh how proud He must have been as He stood back to see the results of His work in YOU.  Watched YOU grow in your mother’s womb with joy and expectation and pride and a fatherly love.  He took joy in the creation of YOU.

“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.: (Psalms 139:2-4)

God developed YOU.  He knew the day YOU would arrive into the world.  Like an expectant Father, He watched as YOU took your first breath.  Your entrance a gift to the world.  How hard it must have been for God to release YOU into the type of world He did not originally create it to be.  Your birth was not into a Garden of Eden type of environment that God had originally planned for YOU to exist in.  But into a cursed world full of dangers and temptations and experiences that God originally never intended for YOU to have to face.  But knowing that in advance, He put into action the plan of Jesus, a chance for YOU to be reunited through Jesus back to Him.  Did He kiss YOU on Your forehead before You were born and whisper into your being that along with all the other gifts He had created in YOU for YOU to discover along the course of your life – He had given YOU the gift of free will.  Oh how hard that gift must have been for God to give each one of us… Free will… To choose Him or to deny Him.  He has loved YOU since He created YOU and in that love given YOU the choice as to whether or not YOU in turn will choose, in the course of your life to love Him in return.

“In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.” (Luke 15:10)

It is not easy for a parent to allow their child to journey on their own, knowing fully well the dangers they may encounter along the way… But your Heavenly Father allows certain things to come into your life that will give YOU the opportunity and the knowledge that YOU need Him.  As long as YOU have breathe in your body – breathe that He originally put within YOU, He gives YOU the chance to recognize Him for who He is.  He is your Father.  He created YOU, He loves YOU, He believes in YOU and the only thing that He wants is for YOU to love and believe in Him.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalms 34:8)

There are no words to be able to describe that no matter what YOU go through in life, what comes your way – the absolute joy and knowledge that God is with YOU.  He has been since your creation.  Even during the times when YOU have been at your lowest moments and those times when you have felt the pain of loneliness.  YOU are not alone.  You are His precious child – even if  YOU don’t recognize it, it doesn’t change the fact that the One who formed and created YOU loves you beyond any adequate words I could write.
Deep within your being – is a part of YOU that He reserved to be filled with Him and Him alone.  There is a cry that is within your soul that desires to be filled with one thing – HIM.  Nothing that YOU try to substitute in that spot will quench the thirst that is as much a part of YOU as the color of your hair, the freckles on your nose, your lopsided grin… There is a part deep within YOU that was made to be filled with a love so amazing, so transforming, so fulfilling that nothing can compare to it.  YOU just need to choose Him and see for yourself.  YOU see, it is called a “personal relationship.”  It is between YOU and Him.  It has always been just between YOU and Him, YOU just never recognized it.  
“But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
 
Quiet yourself for a moment… Listen… If you quiet your mind and listen, YOU will hear.  He is summoning YOU.  YOU will recognize the sound of His gentle voice – for it is one He spoke over YOU when He formed YOU.  Listen – deep within your heart YOU will hear a voice you previously may have drowned out with the business of life.  He loves YOU.  He always has.  Every tear YOU have cried, every disappointment or hurt that has come your way.  He has wanted to reach out to YOU and let YOU know that YOU have never been alone.  He does not love as the world loves.  He does not disappoint as the world disappoints.  He longs to show YOU His original plan of YOU.  For YOU to love and be loved in return.
Those are the blueprints for the plan of YOU.

“Lord, I hear you – and I choose You this day because long ago, when You created me – You chose me.  I love You, I need You, I want You to come into my life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I believe You were born, that You died for my sins and that You rose again. I choose You Lord as You chose me before my days even came into existence.  I choose to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior.  Please come into my life and guide me.  I love You Lord – and I choose YOU.”

More Words for Your Journey

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The Pathway Continued (Part III)

 
A gentle reminder – some of life’s most precious moments happen when you least expect it…

As previously referred to in another wrote (see post from March 2013 entitled “The Pathway)  – I was traveling down a beautiful  road, one that I thought I was destined to travel upon  all the days of my life only to have been chased off the road but the fattest, ugliest, sexless looking of trolls.  It was a private way and the disgusting troll had reminded me that the road belonged to her, pulled out her ownership papers, barked at me to be on my way off her property. Heartbroken – I had no other choice but to change route and cross over upon another path.  Looking behind me at my beloved road one last time, I realized that the road was subservient to its troll and would always be.  The pure natural and vibrant beauty of the road would remain unrecognized, unappreciated and neglected – its location taken for granted –all the days of its existence,  which was a shame for its beauty was such that had I been able to remain upon it, I would have danced and frolicked and appreciated its natural beauty all the days of my life.

My head downcast, and being such, I did not see the different kind of beauty in the new path I’d taken. Different from whence I had come. Golden sunshine peaked down in between tree leaves; birds sang joyfully, honeysuckle pungent and thick filled the pathway with a natural wild sense of beauty.  Yet, I missed it all for my gaze had gone to my feet – not in front of me, and my shoulders were slumped in defeat, I cared not where I roamed.  Like a leave flitting about in the wind, I went mindlessly forward, all that had been vibrant and full of color now in my present state of mind, had become black and grey. I couldn’t venture on the road I longed for, so I no longer cared, the beauty had dissipated in the world around me.

Walking with downcast eyes and a heavy heart I did not see the tall oak of a man until I bumped right into what apparently was a set of trunk sized knees, it  startled me (so lost was I in my own thoughts of sorrow).  Like a startled deer poised for flight I froze in the headlights of this unexpected intruder. (Although truth be known, I suppose I was the intruder, since I was the stranger upon the path).

“Whoa…,” Said a strong steady voice.  He stretched out a solid arm with large hands to keep me from toppling over.

I lifted my head up. This man was so tall I had to lean back and stretch my neck waaaaaaay up to see. Hazel eyes in a heart shaped face looked down at me with amusement.  A red beard handsomely mapped his lower rectangular jaw. He looked like a combination of a woodcutter and a leprechaun gone giant, but there was a gentleness that exuded about him that looking upon him, made me feel unafraid.

“Why are you so downcast?” He questioned, raising a large pointer finger to lift up my chin so we could be eye to eye.  “You should be looking ahead of you, not down.”

“I suppose I should,” I responded with a sigh, “yet I care not where I go.  I am journeying wherever it is my feet choose to lead me…”

“Such a lovely face should not be wearing such a solemn look.” He stated.  “Come, no doubt you are hungry and I am pleased to share my lunch with you along with some words of encouragement to make it all the more palpable.”

He led me along the pathway to a small flowing stream.  This gentle giant of a man sat cross legged on the ground and encouraged me to do the same.  Sighing, I obliged. He opened a lunchbox, which I had not noticed was beside him; broke off a piece of bread and a chunk of cheese and handed it to me.  I was about to decline except for the dead giveaway sound of rumble from my stomach, so I decided to partake of his generosity.

“Tell me your story,” He said encouragingly, leaning forward to listen attentively. His face so close to mine I could count freckles that danced upon his nose.  His red well groomed beard gave him an almost regal look, and the kindness in his eyes encouraged me to share my tale… About the unexpected beauty I had fallen upon, the temptation to proceed, which I gave into, the joy and love and completion I felt walking along what I had thought was my own little beautiful road… How I got chastised and commanded off by the horrible troll and found myself alone, discouraged and at a loss as to where to go. When I was finished, I rubbed my hands together to free them from the crumbs and looked up into the face of this gentle giant to see his reaction to my tale.  How astonished was I when I saw eyes filled with tears and compassion.

He was quiet for a moment, this giant of a man. When I gazed up at him I saw a range of emotions cross his face and it seemed as though he was trying to gather his thoughts.  Why should one feel so strongly for the journey of a stranger?

 He was quiet and I was uncertain whether I should stand and leave or sit and stay.  And then he spoke…

“In life you will encounter many various roads and pathways… I have found that the best ones are those that travel wide enough for two and go “both ways.”  Even those that are not easy on your feet teach you endurance and perseverance; and though you may not realize at it the time, strengthen you for the journey ahead.  The most important thing is not the beauty in the surroundings around you or the context of the road itself – but how you travelled it… Life is a journey down many roads.  Think on this – what did you learn from this last road you took?”

I listened to his words and thought long and hard before I answered.  “I learned of love and friendship. I learned that life is much better when shared.  I learned that there are many more meanings to “unequally yoked” than what I had been originally taught.”

“So you see,” said he. “Although you no longer journey down that road (and not at your own choosing) you have gathered a lot of insightful treasures along the way.  Hence, the roads that you travel end up coming together and forming a map called, “YOU.”  Think now, what else did you learn?”

I tapped a forefinger to my lower lip as I recalled my journey through the road that I loved.  “I learned more about myself.  Humbleness, compassion, mercy… I learned forgiveness and most importantly of all that each person’s journey is their own and not to be judged by the observer.”

“Well then,” he exclaimed, “It seems to me that was a road worth traveling no matter its end… You are a better, wiser person for it. Or so it would seem to me.” He rose from his sitting position and once again loomed high above me. He reached down to extend a hand to me to help me up.  I could not help but notice how small my hand was in his immense larger one.

“Who ARE you?” I couldn’t help but ask, curiosity taking over and then blushed with embarrassment at my straightforwardness, for surely it was not my business.

He grinned at me – such a boyish grin for a gentle giant and responded, “Just a traveler like yourself.” He gathered up the remainder of his lunch box, closed it shut and tucked it under his arm.

Looking around at my unfamiliar, yet beautiful surroundings – seeing the newness of the path for the first time, shyly I asked, “would you journey with me a while?”

He looked at my shy expression and laughed a deep laugh, his hazel eyes filled with amusement.  “It seems as if we already are – for you stand upon the same path as I.”

“Very well, “I said my own laughter ringing with that of his. “Lead the way…”  And, although he took up most of the pathway with his size and his girth – He did.


The moral of the story is to always try and find the beauty in whatever path life leads you. Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” The choice is ours, it may not be the pathway you imagined you would journey on – maybe it’s not the one you wanted or perhaps the choice has been taken out of your hands, not yours to make… It just might be better than anything you would have chosen for yourself…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Psalms 3:5)

 

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Are You Captivated?

He Came to Set the Captives Free – And That Freedom Includes YOU Too!!

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18)

There He is, Jesus – with the key to your jail cell.  I have a vivid imagination, as I read that scripture, I picture one of those large old fashioned skeleton keys – you know the kind, you see them in every old cowboy sitcom or movie.  There Jesus is standing there, outside your cell, unlocking the door with a key only He has.  The door creaks as it opens wide, Jesus is telling you to come forth! That you are free!  What is your reaction?

You have been in the dark for so long – You think you are having a mirage.  There stands a man, in blinding white light outside your cell.  You can hardly look upon Him for the light surrounding Him is blinding. You say to yourself: “This is not real, there is not a man dressed in white with a beard and a key outside of my cell.  I’m having an illusion.”  You blink your eyes from the brightness and turn your head to face the wall which you have faced for many a season…

Or…

You run out that door as quickly as your legs will carry you, stopping only at the opening to throw your arms around the man who has rescued you, throwing your arms around Him and say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!” Tears of joy and relief and thankfulness streaming down your face…
Or….
You look at the man releasing you with a look of distrust wondering what is in it for Him.  What will this cost you? Thinking that this is another trick.  “No thank you, the devil that you know is better than the one you do not…”  
Jesus came to set the CAPTIVES free!  He can set us free, but He cannot MAKE us accept that freedom!  The cost was His life for YOURS.  He gave it willingly, obediently and with more love than we will not fully understand until we truly stand before Him.  What are you going to do??
I understand all of the above reactions – because I have felt them.  Have you?  I say that humbly and with shame.  Often times when we don’t walk out of our situation thankful for Jesus having made the ability for us to do so, is because we lack enough faith… (Ouch…)  Faith to believe that God is BIGGER than any situation or problem… Or that He even cares enough about us to do anything about it.  If we don’t become discouraged or depressed we become mad at God because we think He doesn’t “love us enough” to help us get through whatever situation we are in.  Even if it is a situation that is of our own doing… And yet that is another reaction we have.
“Lord, this is my mess… I made it.  It is my fault – Mine! Mine! Mine!  I deserve whatever hell I have allowed myself to be in…” 
That is an absolute LIE from the pit of HELL.  There is not ONE of us worthy! Or Righteous! NOT one!!!  The Bible tells us:
“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
and also:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
 
There is no degree of sin.  And all of us sin!  (Oh yes…) But the good news is that Jesus took those sins upon the cross with Him! He died for forgiveness of our sins!!  The problem that we have is that we dishonor Him by believing that that is not ENOUGH to get rid of them!  We believe we deserve to be miserable or to stay in the cesspool we have probably created ourselves.  And that is simply not true…
If you were in the ocean drowning, and you were to be rescued – say they threw out a floaty to you.  Would you reach out and take it? Or would you continue to drown, thrashing your arms and yelling, “Help! Help!”
Your help is right before you!  Take the hand of Jesus and allow Him to pull you out of whatever mire you are in.  It doesn’t MATTER the reason.  The Bible tells us:
“You have searched me and known me.You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.…” (Psalms 139:2-3)
Nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  He knows you intimately.  Let Him love you, let Him heal you, let Him deliver you.  He is there at this very moment that you are reading this.  You may not be able to see Him physically with your eyes.  But if you soften your heart, and just quiet your thoughts – you will by the Holy Spirit feel Him.  TRY IT. Don’t just take my word for it – experience it for yourself, what do you have to lose? Listen…
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelations 3:20)
Do not allow your own captivity to keep you from experiencing the freedom that Jesus bought with His own blood…  Do not allow doubt, or sorrow, or depression or self-hate to get in the way of allowing Him to free you.  He is BIGGER than your situation.  He loves you.  Truly loves You.  Don’t hold yourself back.  Walk through those cell doors that Jesus has opened – rejoicing.  Thankful.  it is WHY He gave His life.  He gave it for YOU to walk freely away. 
The price is to turn away from whatever it is that held you captive previously.  Believe that God has better in store for you…. It is true you know.  He wants you to walk through those gates or doors that have held you captive so that you can live the life that He has created you for!  You have a purpose!  You have a reason for being!  Isn’t it time that you found out what that was?  There is nothing more satisfying than walking in the purpose that God has for your life!  Take time to discover what it is, if you don’t know already!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Now that is a loving Father, don’t you think?  You are consecrated!!!
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Take His hand. Talk to Him.  You don’t need fancy words – just talk to Him.  Share yourself with Him, it is not as though He doesn’t know you already, He does… But He likes to hear you share your mind with Him.  It’s called “having a personal relationship.”  And that is what He desires.  The Bible says:
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalms 34:8)
It is the only way that you can discover it and enter into a relationship with Him.  Just like that floaty, you have to reach out and grab it.  It is there – just receive it! Accept it! And when you do – cling to Him.  He is your forever eternal life line.  Once you have tasted and seen that the LORD is good – you won’t ever want to let go!  And guess what?  If you find yourself walking back into that “cell” – you’ll stop and turn around and say, “No!  I have been there and done that! No!  Once those God has freed are free indeed!!!”
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
You will reach a point where you know – whatever place you are at in your life that what God has for you is so much better than what you had for yourself!  And no matter how many times you turn around – God will be there directing you, strengthening you, encouraging you, loving you, believing in you…
Go! Be Free! Walk out of that cell that has held your mind captive!  And believe in your freedom that He has bought with His own precious, precious blood.  
“God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)
Look! The door is open! Fly high! Glide! Soar! Walk in that freedom and don’t look back!  The best is YET to come!
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Are You at the Point of No Return?

 

 

What are you running away from?  Or headed towards?  Have you even really thought about it – or do you just find yourself running and you don’t even know to where?

There are several different ways of escape.  If you are looking for one, you will surely find it, but before you open that door – whatever it maybe, perhaps you should stop for a moment and collect your thoughts and think.  Just quiet your mind and try to gather up your thoughts.

Try and think about what has brought you to the point you are at in the first place. Is it a traumatic event?  Is it a family upset?  Do you feel lost and like you just “want to run away from it all?”  Do you feel as though God let you down?  Or perhaps you thought you had heard the voice of God and things didn’t turn out so well and now you are confused.  Maybe someone has disappointed you and you are hurting and all you want to do is run away from the situation.  Everything inside of you is screaming out, “ESCAPE! RUN!!!” And you know you are in flight mode.

Stop in your tracks. Calm down. Breathe.  This is when you are at your most vulnerable. This is the point where most Christians become prodigals.  Instead of running towards God, they run away and become disoriented, confused, angry, sad, frustrated and lost.

Watch out! You are headed right towards one of ol slewfoot’s traps and you are getting ready to step right in it! And once you step in it you’ll become all tangled up.

How do I know? Because it happened to me.  Sometimes unexpected situations occur in our lives that we didn’t see coming.  They are outside of our comfort zone or realm of understanding.  No matter how much we try, we can’t seem to make heads or tails of it. “Why Lord? How? I followed Your rules, I did what you asked – WHY did this happen to me??!!”  We lose faith in God and be it in anger or confusion or sadness we step away from Him instead of towards.

What has been your escape?  Perhaps you entered into it and you weren’t even aware that you were taking that first step into the unknown.  You didn’t see the “Beware” or “Danger” sign – maybe it was your own ignorance or maybe you were so tuned into your own emotions that you didn’t even see it as you passed it by.  You entered a realm that was not meant for you to venture into.  Perhaps at first it felt soothing.  It took your mind off your situation or your problems.  It seduced you and made you walk deeper still into its escape.  There are so many different kinds – one for every personality.  Was it drugs? Sex? TV? Alcohol? Work? A pretend world? The Internet? These are just to name a few.  Like entering a spider’s web, did you get stuck in it?  Did it disorient you and give you a euphoric sensation?  Did you feel accepted? Loved? Did you feel as though you were able to escape who you were? Or where you came from? Like you entered an oasis.  Maybe the farther you entered into the escape the less you wanted to return to reality.  You were cajoled, enticed.  Usually a form of escape has some appeal to it – it just depends upon your personality, your likes and your dislikes.  Deeper you walked into it until even if you looked over your shoulder, you couldn’t see your way back.  The way you once knew was gone.

Maybe it didn’t happen to you but someone you love.  Maybe you saw them become less and less who they were and right before your eyes they were disappearing and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t reach them.  The fact is – they couldn’t see you anymore and they didn’t want to be reached… Sometimes the only one who can reach them – is meant to reach them is the One who created them. Not YOU.  But here is the thing, God has given us free will.  He has given us the ability to make choices.  Good choices and bad and sometimes He sits back and watches us and allows us to make mistakes.  It is not the path He chose for us but He allows us to walk it.  Knowing fully well it will bring us pain and regret and sorrow but hopefully more importantly it will bring us growth.

It couldn’t have been easy for God to watch Adam and Eve make the worst decision of their lives.  How much sorrow and pain it must have brought to God, knowing fully well that the choice they made would not only affect the two of them but everyone throughout the course of history.  He made them out of love and they turned their back on Him.  We could get mad at Adam and Eve for what they did – but the truth is we all turn our back on God at one point or another in our own walks.  (Ouch – that one hurt to write…)

Yet all the while God had another plan in place.  He knew what was going to happen and while I’m sure it pained Him, He already had a plan in mind of how He would unite us once again to Him. This time for all eternity.

Adam and Eve when they sinned tried to hide from God.  We try to hide from God.  We try to hide from situations we create.  The truth is – we can’t.  It’s (pardon the pun) “fruitless” to even try.  Whatever escape you are trying or have walked into – it is only temporary.  You can’t run from or escape from God.  The consequences are not those that He intended you to experience. Guilt, sadness, regret, confusion, embarrassment – to name just a few. How many times along the pathway home did the prodigal hesitate and want to turn around and not face his father?  Yet he knew that there was no going back the way he had come.  He also knew that he was a different person than the person who had left his father’s house with his inheritance at hand.  Hopefully he was wiser.  I’m quite sure he was humbled beyond words.  Every step back home must have felt heavy.  How many times did he play what he thought would be the reception he would receive in his head?  (And more than likely it was not the one he ended up receiving!)  I’m quite sure he did not expect to see His father running down the pathway to meet him halfway!  I’m quite sure he did not expect his home coming to be celebrated!  He probably wanted to just disappear into the woodwork of the house due to shame and embarrassment.  How shocked was he at his Father’s joyous embrace?  How long did it take him to be able to receive the forgiveness and acceptance his Father so freely, graciously gave him?  And how many things that his brother said to his father about him had he himself not thought?

Making your way back home is harder than any words I can write.  But for every prodigal I say, keep trodding.  Keep stepping.  Keep walking.  Keep praying.  Keep looking ahead and not behind.  The journey back home includes having to walk in forgiving yourself for your own transgression.  There may be things along the pathway that would try to tempt you and pull you back – but they will have no hold on you, for you know that their escape is really not one of escape, but pain, regret and falsehood and entrapment.  In order to go forward in life you have to walk through the pain.  Pain caused to you or pain you have caused.  In order to walk forward to where God wants you to be you have to realize that there is ONE reality and no matter how hard you’ve tried to hide from the reality, the reality has always been the same.  It has never truly gone away.  Instead of trying to escape a situation – face it! Head on!  Has someone disappointed or hurt you? Forgive them!  Communicate with them, they may not even realize that they have hurt you or made you feel rejected.  If they DO know that they have done it and don’t care – then know that you are not responsible for someone else’s actions – only your own.  This is where we learn to walk in forgiveness.  When you release someone – you also release yourself. Sometimes the only thing we can do is release them into God’s good and capable hands.  Its not easy to do – but sometimes its the only thing we can do.

Here is another thing… God can turn things around.  Use our mistakes and bad decisions for His glory.  Through my prodigal period I have learned that it is truly nothing but God’s love, His grace and His mercy and His forgiveness that has saved me.  The truth is – I was NEVER good enough to earn redemption or Heaven.  It is totally by His grace and love.  I think on some level, I felt as though I had “never done anything bad enough.” But the truth of the matter is there is no degree of sin.  Sin IS sin.  The prodigal in the Bible found himself eating pig slop.  I’m sure in his eyes it wasn’t possible to get any lower than that.  God can take your lowest moments and be glorified through them and when it happens, you will realize that it is TOTALLY God and not anything YOU.  I think God allows us to make our “bad” choices because He knows that we will grow from the experience and will be able to extend the right hand of fellowship once we have arrived back home from that journey and help someone else or have compassion and not judgment upon someone else who is going through a similar experience.  So what ol’ slewfoot meant for trouble – God uses to for His glory and to draw men closer to Him.

Next time I feel like running – I will run towards God and not away, like a child who is afraid and runs into his/her parents arms for protection, I will run towards my God because the only TRUE escape one can find, is in Him. Isn’t it time you stopped running? Stopped trying to make an escape? And ran to the One who can give you what you truly need? Who knows what you truly need? He is a balm and will provide you with the peace that passes ALL understanding – just run towards the LIGHT – the light is HIM.

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Are You Becoming Contagious?

Wherever you are in life – don’t let the weeds of worry choke out the joy. Rise above it and allow yourself to bloom and be a blessing. Roses have their thorns but they are NOT their thorns. Lift your face up to the SON and allow yourself to blossom in the manner He created you to. Once you do, you will experience in the midst of whatever storm you are in what it means to have “the peace that passes ALL understanding.” It is a daily doing – one that we must practice until it becomes a habit. I’m ready, are you?

 

Worry, WoRrY, W O R  R Y, WORRY!  Ever notice how worries reproduce themselves in your head?  Maybe you start out with just one teeny weeny concern that leads to another and another and another until they begin to drown out all the good things in your life.  Until they consume you.  Until you can’t think about anything else except your next concern.

It can become habitual!  Worries spread!  Worries are contagious!  They can infest your head until they become so big that they are no longer little “nitpick” thoughts but big ol’ anxieties that make it difficult for you to even see past them anymore.

For the last few weeks, I have found myself waking up early in the morning with a worry in my head. Believe me when I say it is *not* a fun way to start the day.  This morning, I woke up with a worry – and I decided. NO MORE.  I am not waking up like this ANYMORE.  The best way I know to combat things that I feel I have no control over and am “worried” about is to PRAY.  So today I woke up declaring the Lord’s Prayer.

 “This is the day the Lord has made I WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT!!!”

When I said it – it was more like I was commanding myself.  I WILL!  If I have to wrestle a worry to the ground and roll around and straddle it and contain it – I WILL!  As I lay there having this wrestling match with this worry – I got to thinking about Jesus.  The thing I love so much about the Bible is that it is the “living” word.  It may have been written in the past – but it is very much present and useful for today.  The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9  “There is nothing new under the sun.”

I’m quite sure the things I worry about are things that other people worry about. And here is the thing about worry – sometimes we spend so much time worrying we spend less time concentrating on what we can do to alleviate the worry.  We give “glory” to the worry!  Have you ever noticed that most of the things that we “worry” about don’t even come to pass? Worrying can become an addiction! -And I decided, that that is one club I refuse to become a member of!
Problems are real.  Situations are real. Concerns are real.  I am not “belittling” them- they are all parts of life.  We acknowledge them for what they are, we do our best to work through them and we PRAY about them (put each one into God’s more than capable hand) and we learn to release them.  We recognize that there are things that are out of our control. We work on the things we can resolve, we seek help over the things we cannot figure out how to resolve on our own – and we try to have the wisdom to recognize the difference between to the two.  There is a very well known prayer called “The Serenity Prayer.”  It goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We all have weaknesses and strengths.  Certain “worries” may  be the results of areas that God is trying to strengthen or teach us.  Skills we need to learn (for instance for me – it is the area of finance). Things we need to work on to better ourselves.  Those things take time.  In a microwave society – such as we live in, we can be impatient especially with ourselves.  Our impatience can expand our worries like someone blowing up a balloon.  Think about it… The worry is a tiny little balloon, but as we put more worry and thought and energy into it, as we get anxious that little flat balloon gathers air in it and gets bigger and bigger and BIGGER and BIGGER!  Until it fills every corner of our life – pushing out all the good things that are there.  There becomes no more room for anything other than that “worry.”

I don’t want to live like that – do you? I don’t want to look back on my life and think, “yep – I lived from worry to worry…” Because guess what??? Problems ARE a part of life.  But they SHOULDN’T BE the main dish!  When I woke up this morning, I realized I’ve been living worry to worry!  Crossing off worries from my list and moving on to the next one!  Are you doing the same?  It’s time to stop.  It’s time to take the power back from your worries. And contrary to popular belief a person who is an optimist CAN still be a worrier!

I got to thinking about Jesus’ life.  He is suppose to be our example, right? So maybe His life is a good thing to examine.  Here is someone who was born with a calling like NO OTHER.  From day ONE. If anyone had caused to worry – Jesus did.  People were trying to kill Him from the day He was born! Yet from what my Bible tells me – He was filled with peace. He is referred to in the Bible as the “”Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)  If anyone had cause to worry – Jesus did!  But time and time again He would look at people (with wonder it seems) and ask them:

“Why do you worry? Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. What you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food? And the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-34)

What did Jesus do when He was concerned? His concerns were unselfish – they were about others and not about Himself.  Yet, when He came to the garden of Gethsemane and the worry of the cross weighed Him down – He didn’t “sit there worrying.” HE PRAYED.  Jesus knew that regardless of what He faced, His Father’s will would be done. He was born for a reason. WE were BORN for a reason. As I thought about Jesus, I thought about how He had a purpose.  His life had real concerns. But I can almost bet that Jesus took pleasure and joy in the things in His life too.  He went to weddings, He ate at people’s houses.  He played with children. I can bet you that Jesus found enjoyment in life. He never lost focus He kept His eyes on the path before Him. 
He walked in grace, mercy and love. Maybe He’s telling US we need to do the same.
This day I am *choosing* not to walk my life in a thick mire of problems and worries – I’m not going to give them any more power than I already have.  I will acknowledge them, and do the best I can to work through them  – but I will NOT allow them to rise up like weeds, wrap their cords around me and choke the enjoyment of life out of me.  I won’t let them be my focus on living anymore.

How about YOU?  Will you look back on your life and see it in terms of what you worried about? Or will you look back at your life and see all the sweetness of the things that made life worth living? And all the lessons that you learned because of it?

Don’t sit there worrying about – give it to God. Release it. Pray about it. Realize that you are only ONE person. You are human.  There is very little that we have control over in our lives. A lot of our worries are over those that we love. Recognize that as much as YOU love that person – that God loves them more. He created them!  He really does! Give that child that husband that wife that situation to GOD.  He is much more capable of taking care of it than YOU are.  Trust Him.  He has your best interest at heart (and also their’s. Here is something for you to remember – you can’t out love God!)  Also, remember that sometimes God allows situations to come into our lives to mold us into what He wants us to become.  It’s not meant to destroy us.  It’s meant to help us grow.  Sometimes our problem is that we fight Him every step of the way.  Like a child dragging their feet as they go. Maybe our situation is one that He is telling us to trust more in Him.  He is our Heavenly Father – remember that we only see in part – but HE sees in full.  He knows SO much more than our little minds do.  We need to trust Him. As those worries come to our minds we need to recognize them, acknowledge them and give them to the One who knows.

He didn’t give us life to live “worry to worry.”  Life is suppose to be a gift – not a burden.  It’s time to live it as such, don’t you think? 

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What Exactly IS Good Enough?

 The doctors all tell me I should cry. But I am like a faucet that you turn on and the water doesn’t come out.  All you hear is the “squeek” of the metal as you try to turn the water on…. They tell me that with all I have gone through in the last year… Breast cancer, chemotherapy, emergency room visits, a marriage that has fallen a part, fighting for my life, loneliness…. That I should cry. But I can’t.  I just CAN’T.  Why is that?  I’ve wondered that a lot lately – but I think the truth is that if I start crying – I don’t know that I’ll ever stop.

I thought that chemotherapy was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through. But what has actually been worse – is the devastation I see of my life from all that has happened over the last year.  You see – when you go through chemotherapy – they give you premedication that makes you sleepy. That keeps you from feeling overly nauseous.  But after treatment – the pain of all that has occurred is raw. Its numbing, its mind blowing.  And all of a sudden you don’t have physicians, oncologists, nurses, radiologists all around you.  You’re no longer a “specimen on a petri dish.”  You’re standing there by yourself and for the first time YOU FEEL THE PAIN. The emotional pain is worse then the actual physical pain itself.  The awareness of the people who have shown not to be your family or your friend because a lot of people don’t know how to “deal” with what you went through. And there you are picking up the pieces of your life.  Wondering how you go on from there.  You’re not the same person you were before cancer and you certainly don’t know the fullness of the person you’ve become… You only know that your bs meter has no “pre screening” that you look at people who complain about tiny little nonsensical things and you want to say – “REALLY???” “Really???!!!”  And all the things that you had before put on the back burner of your life – have come front and center because you realize you JUST CAN’T GO BACK.  You can’t.  And its not a question any more – its just you know you can only go forward – only you don’t KNOW what forward is.  And your life feels overwhelmed with fires that you are trying to stamp out with your bare feet. And the tiredness is worse then the tiredness that came with chemo – because its no longer a physical tiredness – but an emotional one….
You feel like God isn’t there. Maybe because of things you’ve done. Maybe because what you’ve experienced in your life isn’t all “cut, dry and clean” like many of your brothers and sisters in Christ like to act like it SHOULD be.  Why is it that some brethern take such “pleasure” in the fact that you’re struggling? Does it give them a sense of powerfulness? Why are there so many of us Christians HURTING in the church? And afraid to talk about it because fear of judgement FROM OUR OWN body of Christ?  And so we quietly stew in our own pain, not certain how to get close to God again.  Forgetting that “He knows our thoughts before we even think them.” Forgetting even that during the time when WE FELT GOOD and WORTHY that we never really were???! Not one of us have ever been WORTHY. It is only through the blood of Jesus that ANY of us are able to come up to the cross.  I was reminded of that tonight.  That there is NO good enough.  That is only through the blood of Jesus that I can boldly go before His throne.  And so on top of everything I pray – “Father – forgive me. Forgive me for way back when things felt good and felt right before You that somewhere in my head I must have felt as though I was “good enough” but I am a work in progress. It is only by Your strength, Your grace, Your mercy that I can stand before YOU at all.  Maybe its the realization of that that will draw me closer to You.  For I can do nothing in and of myself.  It HAS to be You. It always has been YOU.  Forgive me for not seeing that until now.  I can NEVER be GOOD enough. But I don’t have to be. Because YOU ARE.  Thank you Father.  In Jesus name I pray.
Amen.
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Pardon Me, I Should Have Begun with My Testimony

When I was a little girl – I would go with my parents to the summer cottage in the Cape.  Oh how I loved to kick my shoes off and feel the heat (or the coolness depending on the time of year) of the sand under my toes.  There was a rocky pier that I would go out and sit on and think.  And oh how I loved the spray of salt water that would sprinkle me whenever a wave would crash against the boulders of the pier.  We would go usually in the Fall.  A time when the cottage would be empty of renters and people. How I loved the quiet solitude of those days.  I think even before I became a Christian at 21 I was always a “thinker.”  One of the first introductions I had to “God” was the book – “Are You There God?  It’s Me Margaret.” By Judy Blume.  On the brink of womanhood I read that book and I learned soooo much. I began to “talk to God” – “Hi God, its ME – Kelly.”  Growing up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood the daughter of parents who were agnostic they never forced a “religion” upon us.  We were free to explore and learn and choose.  I started going to church by myself when I was a teenager.  I felt something “lacking deep inside of me.” A need to feel closer to God. I chose a church that had solar windows (I thought that was cool). I would go by myself Sunday after Sunday – but the Reverand of that Church only spoke of the history of the Church. There were “prayer books” in the pews but I didn’t understand them (there were no Bibles in the pews). The people were kind enough – but still something was lacking deep inside of me…

Ever since I can remember – I wanted to be an actress.  Since the age of three. Talent shows, musicals, plays, make believe – whatever involved theatre – I just had to be a part of. I knew when i grew up I wanted to be an actress.  There was no doubt, no changing my mind – that was it.

When I was in College I was the only Theatre Major in a school filled with women that were going to be teachers.  It was an all girls college – I had been told that I would be able to take my theatre classes at Harvard.  Not sure who it was who told me that – but it ended up not being true. Talk about a square peg fitting in a circle setting.  I didn’t see the need for college – I wanted to get an agent, head out to California and begin to act.  Oh how wise I thought I was at 17. How little I really knew.  However – again, there are times we go through things for a reason – even if we don’t know what that reason is.

I loved my father (my earthly father) very much. But he was very strict.  It wasn’t until I was a freshmen that I discovered MEN!  And ohhh the men that would come to my college because it was an all girl school! I became a sweetheart (little sister) to a nationwide Fraternity.  Parties galore – studying?  What was That?? I even tried to pledge a sorority – but was appalled by the things they did to us while pledging and couldn’t possibly consider someone who spent weeks and weeks tearing me down during the pledging process being someone I would WANT to call sister when it was said and done.  My whole pledging line – quit.

How interesting it is to see how the Lord allows things to form – to set up things that occur to sometimes bring you closer to Him.  While on my way to a pledge meeting (before I dropped out of the line) my sister pledgers and I were walking down a semi-tough section of town.  I had grown up in an expensive part of town – so I wasn’t familiar with this neck of the woods.  A man was running towards us – not to us – but in the same direction.  In his hand he had a gun.  Another man was running after him.  Yelling, “He robbed my store!” We quickly got out of the way and someone (I think called the police).  We continued walking to the Sorority Sisters House we were expected to appear at.  But I was crying and I was trembling.  It really shook me up.  Three weeks later – I was at a “under 21 club” with the same group of friends.  A fight must have broken out within the club and someone yelled in the darkness of the club “He’s gotta gun!!!”  Again I was in the midst of unfamiliar terroritory and worse – caught up in a stampede of people trying to get out the exit door.  And yes – it was just like what you see in the movies – when you see cattle charging for whatever reason… How weird it was to feel oneself being pushed along with the crowd everyone scared and wanting to get out as quickly as possible.  For a young woman who had not witnessed anything violent – these two experience shook my foundation to the core.

I have lived a very sheltered life, you see.  I’m not ashamed of it and I love my parents for all they tried to shield me from.  But when i faced things I wasn’t familiar with it was like a genuine culture shock to my system. It absolutely terrified me. I felt small and vulnerable…   Shortly after that time – my grandfather died.  Now in a Portuguese family the grandfather is really the head of the family.  I loved my grandfather.  We had a very dear and special relationship.  And although my family will laugh and probably each of us grandchildren will say the same thing “I was his favorite.” (Of course I’d be the only one telling the truth… Winking at you).

When my grandfather died – I was at the end of my rope.  There HAD to be more than just this.  It was at this point I was approached while waiting for the bus one day – by a certain cult we are all very familiar with and I shall not name. They asked me if I wanted to study the bible and I agreed.  I began to study with them – much to the dismay and fear of my mother.  She was so fearful that she made an appointment for me to meet with the Reverand of the Church I had gone to by myself as a young girl.  She even went with me to talk with him. He sat behind his large cherry wood desk and began with the religious stain glass windows behind him.  Smiled at me calmly and said – “So Kelly, your mother tells me you have questions for me?”  And I did indeed.  You see the cult I had been studying with had prepared me for this conversation.  I turned to him with my first question and I asked – “Do you believe we are descendents from Adam and Eve?”  He looked at me and said (this is the truth) “Well, I don’t really know… We could be descendents from Monkeys for all I know.”  I looked at him and blinked.  I asked him my next question – “Do you believe that there will be a judgement day?”  He looked at me again and answered “Could be… Could be not.. We may all be blown up in a nuclear war – who knows?”  I looked at him astonished and I grew even more confused. I felt like why was he a Reverand if he didn’t believe things that were key to his Christian faith?  At any rate – the meeting with him made me determined not to go back.  But an interesting thing began to happen.  Although I had not become a “member” of this cult – I did continue studying with them and as I did – i became fearful.  They were causing me to separate more and more from my family and my parents and my brother meant the world to me. I felt.. uneasy… So I finally told them I wouldn’t study with them anymore – and Ohhh how ANGRY they were.  And at that point – since I wasn’t a Christian yet – my response was what anyone with a Portuguese temper would be – PISSED.  And after she told me where she thought I would go – I told her what she could do with her little book.  And from that point on – I determined in my head that my relationship with God – would be JUST THAT. My relationship with God.  No one else’s business. It wasn’t until a couple of years later – when I transferred over to another University and they were having a fleamarket day – I was inbetween classes and walking around looking at the different booths. I came across a table with something called – tracks on it. a girl my age was sitting behind the table. She asked me if I wanted to talk about God.  I looked at her with an eyebrow raised and said firmly – NO. She indicated to me that she was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ of the Intervarsity Fellowship program at the school and I was welcome to join them for prayer or Bible study early in the morning.  I looked at her, blinked and said… “Ahhhh… no…” And kept on walking.  How odd it was that a few weeks later I had gotten into school early.  I wandered around the university and found myself outside of the chapel.  I went inside so I could “talk with God” by myself.  I felt an emptiness inside of me and no matter what I tried to fill it up with – auditions, Shakespeare, Plays, partying, friends, men – there was an emptiness deep inside of me.  I felt as though there had to be MORE to life than just THIS.  Along came “Julie” the girl I met on the fleamarket.  She came quietly and sat beside me and said, “I’ll leave if you want me to – but it might be helpful if you share what your feeling with someone.”  And so I did. I shared with her all of what you have just read and she told me she wanted me to meet the Director of the Intervarsity Fellowship Program, would I come back tomorrow?  The next day – I came back.  It was early morning.  Students were gathered around in a circle reading from the Bible. There was only one seat left – available.  It was next to this very tall, very slender waayyy older black woman.  I looked at her and thought “Good for her! College is for any age!” And I sat down next to her.  The reading was over in a few short minutes.  Julie approached me and said, “Hi Kelly! Glad you could make it! I want you to meet the Head of the International Varsity Fellowship Program. She turned to the woman next to me.  Who smiled at me warmly gave me a big hug and said with a wonderful southern accent.  “Praise the Lord Kelly! Ahhh have heard all about’cha. I’m sooo glad you came to join us today…”  She looked at the little red book I was carrying in my arms.  You see – the foundation the cult had set in me was still there.  Because no one had ever taken the time to share the Bible with me.  Sarah looked at the book and asked me if she could see it.   I handed it to her.  “She flipped through the pages with a knowing smile.  She glanced up at me and she said… “Ahhh have one question for you.”  Her beautiful dark brown eyes looked at me wisely.  I looked up at her thinking about that Reverand I had met with and I smiled.  Ready for her to be as much as a pushover as he was. She paused for a moment before she continued. “Who wrote this book?”  My face crumbled… Such a simple question.  Unexpected – and yet there I stood not knowing the answer.  Feeling like a fool because there I was believing these beliefs and NOT knowing who’s beliefs I was believing in.  I may be many things – but I’ve never been a stupid woman. I’m much smarter than people think… But in this circumstance, my face crumbled and I began to cry.  I felt alone, I felt confused and I felt very, very lost.  Sarah looked at me compassionately, took both of my hands in hers and said with her musical southern accent, “Kelly, ahhhhh wanna tell you about someone who loves you very much.” (I glanced up at her wondering if she knew one of my fraternity brothers…) She raised my chin with her finger and said, “His name is Jesus Christ. ”  (Now you have to remember – I grew up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood.  Wonderful rich culture. And while I had learned much about the Jewish faith – I had never learned about Jesus.  He was more like a “Christmas fable” to me).  Sarah began to tell me about how Jesus had died on the cross for forgiveness of my sins.  How he would never leave nor forsake me.  How He defeated sin and death by His victory over the cross by rising again.  She told me that it wasn’t “church” or a “building” that would save me.  She told me she wouldn’t “make me” go to a certain church. She told me that all I had to do – was to believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus was Lord and I would be saved. I didn’t see what difference it would make, so i went over the Sinner’s prayer as that goes something like this: 

Dear Father,
I now believe that Jesus Christ is Your only begotten Son, that He came to our earth in the flesh and died on the cross to take away all of my sins and the sins of this world. I believe that Jesus Christ then rose from the dead on the third day to give all of us eternal life.

I honestly didn’t know at the time what a difference that prayer would make in my life. I had NO idea what was taking place in the spiritual ream while I prayed that prayer. And I also thought to myself – “Lord if you are REALLY REALLY REAL – I need you to reveal yourself to me.”  Sarah gave me a Bible.  She had indicated to me – that I could go out to any Christian bookstore and buy a bible myself.  I think it was important to her that I realize that I wasn’t being “forced to learn something, join something or go somewhere” to be close to God.  You see when someone has a cult type experience its important that they not feel “pushed” into something.  I was overly cautious and very appreciative that she was not “making me join a certain church” although she encouraged me to find a church where i could worship and have a body of other believers around to support me. For the first six months of my new Christian life – i didn’t join a church.  I hungered for the Bible.  I couldn’t read enough of it.  Learn enough about Jesus.  The Apostles – the stories in the Old Testament.  I understood what I was reading.  I fell in love with the Lord.  His Word I hung onto deep within my heart.  You see – its not about being “religious” its about having a “personal relationship with the Lord.” One where you can be REALLY REALLY REAL.  And the most wonderful thing about it – is that He in turn, is REALLY REALLY REAL right back at you…  All of that was 22 years ago.  So hard to believe how quickly time has gone.  I have learned soooooo much – but I have yet sooo much MORE to learn.  That is the most amazing thing about being a Christian – you never stop learning, growing in Him.  There is a peace that passes all understanding.  And its not something I can describe to you because the Bible says – “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalms 34:8).  Its like trying to describe to someone who has never seen – what the color “blue” is.  You can’t.  But once you know Him – you really do realize that “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” 

As I indicted in the beginning of my blog – I don’t have all the answers… I am far from perfect (especially during THIS time in my walk) but I can point you towards the One who IS Perfect… His name is Jesus – and while people will disappoint you all the time – HE NEVER WILL.

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