Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Being Alone

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I'm most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.
Anne Hathaway 

I've always had a huge fear of dying or becoming ill. The thing I'm most afraid of, though, is being alone, which I think a lot of performers fear. It's why we seek the limelight - so we're not alone, were adored. We're loved, so people want to be around us. The fear of being alone drives my life.
Jennifer Lopez

What is it about being or feeling alone that affects people so much?  It's like we're created with this innate desire for fellowship with others.  God didn't create Eve simply to initiate the world's population.  Eve was Adam's companion.  Even with animals and the perfect natural setting, Adam was still in need of company.  And God knew that, of course.  And so He provided.

And so it is with us today.  God knows our need for relationship.  That is why He brings people into our lives.  Some arrive in a subtle way, and others are obviously heaven-sent.  

There was a time when I sought out to see a counselor to help me cope with some major hurts.  I don't really remember how I heard of this one place, but I called and set up an appointment for consultation with a lady that went by the name of Jesse.  At first, I was very nervous and anxious about how this was going to be helpful.  But after my first and second visit, I became eager for my visits with Jesse.  I never missed an appointment, and was blessed each time I was there.  Jesse's fees were extremely low, and she'd not only give me sound advice and pray with me, but she'd give me material for me to take home for free.  We'd spend an hour talking, and I felt such peace and sincere concern from Jesse.  I was soon convinced that she was not a real person but an angel that God had placed in my life for such a time.  I'm still wondering.  

Okay, I know that sounds really weird, and you're probably not sure what that has to do with the topic.  Well, I believe that God will go to the extent of sending angels to accompany us just so that we understand His love for us and His promise that "we are not alone".

Lately,  it's become almost a theme for me personally, since God keeps reminding me that I am not alone.  Which lead me to the question... "what is it about being or feeling alone...?"  Why is it so difficult to handle for most of us?  Consider Facebook for a minute. What's the purpose of it, but to keep people connected.  And people want to stay connected.  People want to be included. Nobody wants to be left out, and everyone wants to belong.  People want to be heard and considered.  And so in my eyes, Facebook serves the purpose of reminding people that they are not alone.  I'm sure that's why it's become such a popular thing and a lifeline for many.  

The problem is that feeling lonely can create in us a mental fog that leads us to believe that we truly are alone.  However, spiritually speaking, and if we are children of God, we are never alone.  That is a promise from God that can be found in numerous scripture verses reminding us that we are never alone.  The fact is that we may feel alone and physically be alone but God is ever present and omnipresent and as His children, He is always by our side.  Last night I was listening to a podcast sermon when I heard the preacher say that he's fed up with Christians praying these words, "Dear Lord, please be with so & so, and please be with me, and be with this person and that person".  His point was that we shouldn't be asking God to be with us because HE ALREADY IS.  God is with us.  God is with us.  God is with us.  And when we truly begin to comprehend what that means, we no longer feel alone and we begin to experience a sense of peace and fulfillment.  The kind of fulfillment many of us are seeking out in Facebook, and the kind of fulfillment we cannot even yet imagined.  

Another reminder came from another sermon in which I heard that "God whispers because He is near."  When you hear that still voice within you drawing you to Him, leading you into the right decision, and so on, God is near.  That's why he's whispering.  God has not left you.  He is not far.  He is near, and you are not alone.

My last example comes from something my eight year old said today.  She told me that she thinks it's funny how people say things like "way up in the sky" or "as high as the sky", as if the sky is so far above us that we cannot reach it.  She went on to say that she feels like the air IS the sky and that she can easily touch it by simply extending her arms up.  I thought that was kind of weird and silly in a way.  But now that I think about it, that is perfect!  Because if God is in the sky, and the I can touch the sky, then God is very near.  And I am not alone.  

2ndCorinthians 13:11 "Finally, brothers, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."

Hebrews 13:5b "... for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you'."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Past Weekend

Like with most weekends, I got to spend time with family and friends this past weekend.  It was nice...

This past weekend, a young girl tried to end her life, a baby boy waited for a heart transplant, a wife and husband ended their "lifelong" journey, a teenager became an addict, a young boy passed away to cancer, and a woman shot and killed a man.  
This past weekend, was not as a nice as I thought.  

While I worshiped in church this past weekend, someone was being beaten to death.  While I partook of the communion with my brothers and sisters, a young man cut himself again.  And while I enjoyed dinner out with family, a brand new runaway hit the streets of Skidrow.  

And now I reflect... how is it possible for such evil things to take place in the same world that beautiful and wonderful things occur?  How is it that while some are rejoicing about the good in this world, others are partaking in evil?  How is that good and evil abide under the same majestic sky?  And while some of us are seeking peace and God's will, others are doing wrong... How is it possible, Lord?  And are you even aware?  Where are you, Lord, in all of this?

"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things." Isaiah 45:7

"The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." Proverbs 16:4

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:20

My dear friends, let's not be blindsided.   The reality of this world is that evil and suffering distorted the perfect relationship and place that God intended for us.  I have friends who are suffering today because of it.  
So while it is a precious thing that we serve the Lord and congregate and share with others, let's not forget that there are others who have still to experience the hope, grace and forgiveness we have.  Moreover, let's be more intentional about sharing the gifts that God has blessed us with so that more and more people will also be rescued as we once were.  
We are living in a spiritual warfare.  Every time, one of us kneels before God in worship and surrender, someone else is being tormented somehow.  It could be someone you know or someone you've never met.  But Satan is at war trying to make havoc all over this world...  Just take a quick look at the news.

That doesn't mean we stay silent, in fear of what he may do.  It means we shout praises to the true God and lift our hands to Him in surrender and live our lives seeking to glorify Him in everything so that we may be, the light of this dark world, as God intended for us to be.  If you are wondering what your purpose for living is, this is it!  You are a light in a dark world.  That's your weapon.  Therefore, Shine! 

And therefore, God makes all things new... God brings life to the dead.  He alone brings hope to the hopeless and despaired.  God is the Light of the world.  And every evil or suffering, can and will ultimately be used to bring Him glory.  

So in the midst of your plans for the weekend, don't forget that there are those whose weekend won't be as nice as yours.  Don't forget that we are still at war.  And you must be the one to stand in the gap and Shine for Christ for His glory and honor.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'm Confident

There's a portrait of me at two years old at my home and another like it at my mother's house.  Both pictures were taken on the same day.  I can barely remember that day, of course, since I was only two.  But I have somewhat of a distant memory of how afraid I felt  because of the camera and photographer at our home.

It's funny, but the picture truly depicts what my character and temperament were like.  I was always shy...  I was the last of three children, and it seems I was always in the background.  I barely spoke, out loud, that is.  My siblings did enough of that on their own.  They were lively and outspoken, at least, that's how I saw it.  I, on the other hand, was observant.  I'd watch... and internalize.  And when spoken to, you'd usually find me hiding behind my mother's stature or my sister's big and outgoing personality.

In fact, as I was growing up, not much of that changed.  My mother was my hiding place and my sister was the one who lead.  I was her student and follower.  Always timid and quiet on the outside.  Observant and internalizing.  "She's so shy", that's what people would say when they'd meet me alongside my siblings.  By the time I reached my adolescent and preteen years, I lacked self-confidence.  In most occasions, I was my sister's shadow. Never truly believing in myself.  My sister was my hero, but I knew I'd never be like her.  And although she'd be the first one to tell me that I was beautiful and that I had so much potential,  I wouldn't believe it.  I lacked confidence.

Well, today I can honestly say that the timid two year old is still somewhere inside of me; possibly hiding.  But thank God for His amazing grace!  Thank God for His powerful love!  His loving mercies!
Because of who God is and how He has shown His favor for me, I can freely say that I am confident.
I am still not very confident within my own skin.  In fact, I question myself all the time.  But truly I am confident in this... God's love for me, His power within me, and His ultimate plan for me.

He has poured His love on me time and time again assuring me like nothing else in this world can.  He has enabled me to do amazing things like forgive others and love them too.  He has empowered me to walk through life's storms, even if it meant eyes closed and holding on to the hem of His garment the whole time.  I am confident in God.  Not in myself, for there's not much to boast in all on my own.  But with Christ, I am strong.  I am at peace.  I am kind.  I am joyful.  And I am able... to do anything.

Most importantly, I admit, I'm a working progress.  I'm still learning and growing, and God is my teacher and guide.  Not only did He seek me out and begin to enable me with countless possibilities, but He continues to.
And I look forward to the day when I meet Him face to face and this timid little girl will confidently say, "I've arrived!"  and with that quickly add,  "Thank you".

Until then, God is not finished with us yet...

Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

So What's Wrong with Being Martha?

    I'm a Martha, and I'm not ashamed to say it.  Unless, of course, you are Mary.  
You know, the Bible story about two sisters named Mary and Martha?

     The truth is, I don't really like that I'm a Martha.  Martha was scolded, and for good reasons I guess. Martha was busy, multitasking.  And Martha was complaining.  It wasn't enough that she was "keeping house" while Mary gave their special guest her undivided attention, but Martha was also frustrated that Mary wouldn't help carry the load.  Yep Martha, that's me.

I've got to admit, I worry too much and don't trust enough.  I manage the details and keep things in order, as I run down my checklist.  I super analyze and think things through... over and over again.  I carry the burdens of others and me.  I feel responsible, for them and me.  And I get grumpy, I admit.  Because of the burdens I carry within.  

Trying to measure up and meet my own expectations.  I set the bar high and try hard to make it.  My expectations are high- at times too high- both for myself and others.  Martha.  That about sums it up.

So where does that leave me?  How does God see me?  Am I unlovable, unworthy because of my shortcomings?  No.  God loves me just as I am.  He loves Martha just as much as He loves Mary.  In fact, both Martha and Mary had a true and real relationship with Jesus.  They were friends.  (Luke 10:38-42, John 11:5)

And while Mary may have been a very attentive listener,  Martha also knew who to turn to with her concerns.  Martha felt close enough and comfortable enough to complain to Jesus. ..."When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, and said to Him, ' Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.'" (John 11:20-22)  
The conversation continues with Jesus reminding Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? (verses 25-26)  
To this Martha responds, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the son of God, who was to come into the world." (John vs.27)
However, later in the course of what was taking place, as Jesus was getting ready to bring Lazarus back to life, Martha's analytical mentality rises to the surfaces, and she says, "But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." (vs. 39)
I can almost picture this scene.  There is Jesus, a crowd and his close friends, Mary and Martha, as they are about to witness one of the greatest miracles of all time.... and there's Martha, "But, Lord" putting her foot in her mouth again.  
(Don't you hate it when your kids question you?  But, mom!)
To this Jesus responds, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (vs. 40)
---Martha, you're about to see the glory of God!
And we can only imagine the joy and gladness that was had among friends that day.

Well, guess what?  I kind of like Martha.  She sounds a little feisty and all.  But she knows her God.  She knows who to turn to when she's frustrated, angry, sad, etc.  When she's in need, she knows who to call on for help and who to struggle with.  I guess because she knows how much He loves her.  She knows He will speak truth to her, and care for me, and provide for me, and forgive me, and love me... just as I am.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bathing with the Frogs

I don't like frogs very much.  Honestly, I really don't like them at all.  My sentiments go back to early years in my life, when having to bathe meant having to walk inside an outhouse.

We had no running water or electricity.  So once the sun went down, my daily routine of a nightly bath became a major task.  At least, that's how I see it now in retrospect.  Back then, it was normal.  It was what we did and what we knew.

And so I remember having to walk out of my little wooden home with a towel in one hand-- PJ's and undies on the other, as I bravely walked down to the back of the house and into what I viewed as a dungeon.  I'd have to count on the light and reflection coming from the beautiful moon and stars to guide the way.  That first part of the routine was not so bad, actually.

And then I'd enter the outhouse, mentally prepping myself for a quick bath.  I'd use one hand to hold a cup with which I would scoop up water from a big laundry pail.  And the other hand served for the soap lathering.  And there I was, in this mostly dark room, surrounded by a modest stench coming from the hole in the ground, the sounds of night insects, the "coqui's" melody surpassing all other sounds.  And while I felt right at home--this was normal--it was all I knew; I could never get used to the frogs staring back at me, while I bathed.  I'd hold very still, maintaining  a good balance--performing my very own balancing act.

The frogs scared me.  I was okay with the darkness of the evening and the tropical forest-like sounds in the background.  I was even okay with the stench in the air, but the frogs freaked me out.  They just sat there.  Staring.  And I always expected a sudden jump.  Sometimes it happened as I expected, but most of the time, they just sat there, as if playing a bad joke on me.  And I'd fall for it each time.  Still, in my little seven year old mind, I'd whisper a prayer to God for protection.  I knew He'd hear me.

Even today I'm still much more scared of frogs than I am of the dark.  And I'm scared of other things too like learning that a loved one is hurt or sick.  I'm scared that each time I say good-bye to them, could be the last time.  I'm scared of other things too like not remembering special moments or forgetting about what really matters.  I'm scared to be forgotten, or having another good friend pass away.  I can go on to form a list, but truly what would be the point of that?  Life is scary.  It's normal.  Life is filled with scary things that can ultimately lead to whispered prayers spoken in the dark connecting us to God.  And what could possibly be better than that?!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Praise like Dandelions

My voice I'm lifting
My hands join in
My spirit fills up
with Joy within

It overflows and like dandelions
when a child makes a wish
Sure enough they float
Sure enough they drift 

And soon enough
Nature joins the chorus
that my heart is singing
From deep within
For you My King.