Thursday, November 5, 2015

Permission to Fail

So who's coming with me?

This is one of my favorite parts of the movie.  The blockbuster has a couple of racy scenes, I admit. But this part right here is full of lessons, at least in my eyes.  First of all, you may notice right away, the looks on the people's faces.  Skeptical looks.  Doubtful.  Disbelief.  Embarrassment.  Schandefreude.   Maybe even some looks of empathy.  No one needs to say a word because the looks say it all.  They believe "Jerry" has lost his senses.  And they are certain and positive he's headed for failure.  The scene is priceless.  Jerry, however, is on a "mission", and he's relentless.  It's almost like he knows that although the future is uncertain for him, there's no turning back now.  And it goes on to show that in fact, he was headed 100 mph toward failing miserably at the "mission" he was inspired to go after.  If you've seen the movie, you know that he learns many lessons along the way, the hard way.  He makes mistakes and lets people down.  And finds himself alone with the realization of what started out as just a dream or aspiration, but has no one to share it with.  If you've seen the movie, you also know that it has a good ending.  Jerry's perseverance gets him what he had dreamed, hoped, and worked so hard for.

So here's what I love about "Jerry"... He's  self-determined, and although he seems somewhat unsure of himself at times, he keeps tracking.  He keeps moving.  Even when everything is pointing to slimmer and slimmer chances of success.  He goes out on a limb and is willing to take the chance to fail. It's almost as if he knows his chances are slim, and he very likely will fail, but he's gonna try anyway.  It's like in his determination not to fail, he is willing to fail.  Does that make sense?  Read it again.  Think about it.  Being willing to accept failure becomes part of the determination to not fail.  Otherwise, we are afraid to mess up, so we steer away from opportunities that could very well lead us to growth and success.

Yet, when we stop fearing failure; when we give ourselves the okay to mess up,  we are simultaneously making the "possibility of failing" part of our success.  So failing or making mistakes, or messing up, losing, falling short, whatever you wanna call it, is no longer viewed as something bad but instead it becomes part of the success story.  It becomes part of the process in which we learn how to succeed.  It teaches us what not to do again.  It teaches us perseverance.  It makes us stronger.  It makes us more resilient.  And it helps us to become free.

Yes, free.  If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you might recall (maybe not) my very first post.  It was titled "Free, Free to be Me". Hence, I expressed my full heart desire to live out my life with the freedom to accept myself for who I am.  In doing so, I am accepting many many flaws because, unbeknown to public knowledge, I am imperfect.  I've messed up on a number of occasions.  I've done wrong.  I've made bad decisions.  I've hurt people.  I've lied.  I've cheated.  I've fallen short.  And yet, I've succeeded!  I've learned to humble myself.  I've learned to forgive.  I've walked the hard road.  I've learned to persevere.  I've learned courage.  I've gained grace and strength.  I've been able to empathize with others.  Others who have messed up too.  And ultimately, I've learned that in all of my mess and in all of my failures, I am loved and accepted as I am.  I am loved by a God who loves to turn failures into stepping stones to greener paths.  He turns our mistakes into springboards to greater things.  That's the God I know.  And it's been through my times of "failing" that I've learned to be most dependent on Him.  I've had to learn to trust Him and His love for me, even when I didn't even love myself.  That's how I've found the freedom to be me!

In His word, He tells us that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"- Romans 8:28.  You see God takes our failures and all of the things that we just aren't all that proud of, and He brings about His purpose for us. He makes us better than we were before we failed.  That's who God is!  Rest assured that your mistakes and failures are okay in His hands! Rest assured that although you are likely to mess up, God has a purpose for it and He can make it part of your success story.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Paved Paradise

 As we sang the lyrics at church, I just kept thinking about the fact that truly there is nothing my soul wants more than to be close to God.  And as I survey all other relationships and experiences, nothing can compare to the feeling I get when I'm in His presence, when I feel that connection with God.  Nothing compares.... and truly there is no place that I'd rather be.

I've had "best friends" and I have a very loving family.  Yet, as much as I love them and love spending time with them, none of it compares to that feeling I get when it's just God and me.  In that space and time, I feel loved in unconditional abundance.  And I'm safer there than anywhere else.  I'm always welcomed. Always accepted.  Never rejected, in any way.  I'm at peace in His presence.  I experience joy that is like no other.  I experience courage because I can trust His promises for me. There's no other place I rather be.

But still I get distracted and busy with other things.  And I sort of drift away from that connection with Him.  In fact, I might even begin to replace the relationship.  I mean I don't set out to do so; at least not intentionally.  But nevertheless, I do.  I look for joys and peace elsewhere.  I strive for love and acceptance from the people around me.  I begin to seek thrills and contentment in things like entertainment or my career endeavors.  I'm seeking, searching... and all the while, my soul is yearning for that connection with God.  All the while, my soul just longs to be in His presence.  And He's waiting to meet me there.  

There is a song that holds some very interesting lyrics... "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot".  And I can't help but think that that is precisely what we do with God and His loving kindness toward us.  We have it all in Him.  We have it good!  We are blessed in Him.  We can rest assure in Him.  And yet, we wander and look for those things in other places.  In places where the love and kindness only last but a short time.  We look to find joy and assurance in people and things, but all of it will fall short.  In essence, "we pave the paradise God offers to put up a parking lot". As if He's not enough.  As if we knew better.  As if His promises are not sufficient.  How foolish are we!!

Don't misunderstand.  I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with wanting good and intimate relationships with others.  Or that there's something wrong with seeking to enjoy life and its endeavors.  But when the God of all creation longs to be in connection with us, and deep inside, our souls continually yearn to be close to Him, why do we wander?  Why do we turn from what is truly the best place to be?  

Nothing, I mean nothing can take the place of His love for us.  Nothing can complete us like His grace can.  Nothing can ever be better than being with Him.  Nothing.

I encourage you, if you're skeptical, to allow your soul to rest in His presence.  To allow your soul to be at peace because of who He is.  And when you experience that, you too will say, "there's no place I rather be".

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What Are You Afraid Of?

Try, if you will, to picture this illustration.  You're one of over 7 billion stick figure people in our planet.  And, as a result you feel very small and burdened by the congestion of living in a crowded world.  And as if feeling crowded wasn't enough, you sense that, just like you, every other person in this planet carries their own issues and concerns that weigh them down.  And when you set your mind to comprehend it, you feel like you're in the middle of a whirlwind, where the world is spinning out of control.  So much so, that it spits you up into the air, and now you're the one spinning with no safe place to land.  

I hope that you were able to get some of that.  And if you managed to capture a glimpse of it, that you could see it like I see it: in black and white.  It's sort of crazy, I know.  But that's how I've felt lately.  I'd like to blame it on the aging process and possibly anxiety.  I can also blame it on the the old, "that's the culture we live in" theory.  And when you stop to think about it, there may be some truth to my conclusions.  

You see the older I get, the more seriously I look at things.  I remember how eager and excited I was to be turning 16 because that meant that I could go test for my driving permit, which in turn meant that I'd be able to practice driving, which would lead to being able to drive myself to and from school.  I was so determined and motivated.  And I did exactly what I set my mind to accomplish.  No sooner did I turned 16, I was taking the permit test, which I passed on my first try.  I recruited my step-father to give me the driving lessons, and within a couple of months, I was a driver.  What a confident feeling!  And I'd drive myself and friends to school.  I'd teach others to drive.  I'd hand over the wheel to unlicensed drivers.  I thought this was the coolest thing in the world.

Well, I've now lived long enough to know that driving is really not all that fun.  In fact, driving causes me a lot of unwanted stress and tension.  And at times, I hate to admit it, but I experience great anxiety behind the wheel.  Bridges, tunnels, narrow roads, construction sites, big trucks, etc... all make me wanna pull over and walk. Most of the times, I pray or sing myself through it.  That tends to help.

But what to do about the culture we live in?  Lately, I noticed that I've been feeling more and more bombarded with information about things that I have no real control over.  Thanks to our latest forms of social media, I can learn an array of things in a matter of seconds.  I realize I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  We are informed about the conditions of people living in other countries, the cruelty brought onto animals around the world, the need for cure for ongoing diseases, the crimes being committed against humans, missing children, police abuse..... it goes on to finding out what everyone is doing at all times and everywhere, reading other people's opinions about everything there is under the sun, selling the latest weight loss products, skin products, vacation spots, restaurants, movies, books, and on and on it goes.  24/7.  

This is when the illustration I described above begins to emerge in my mind.  Everything is spinning out of control.  Or at least, that's how it feels.  And I can't grasp it.  I can't get my mind around it all.  So it slips out of my hand, and I feel helpless.   Like this life is out of my control.  This then leads to feelings of anxiety because I want to have some control over my life.  And it all feels so insecure.  And I don't feel feel safe.  And I'm afraid.

And so I'm scrambling to find my Bible.  The old fashioned book bound kind; not the YouVersion, so that I can sit a while and just read God's word without distractions.  I'm scrambling through my phone book, the one that sits somewhere in the back of the junk drawer because texting is so much more convenient, but I want to make a phone call like I used to do.  I'm driving out to visit friends because I want to value the time spent with others more than their pictures on Facebook.  Hence,  I'm scrambling to stay grounded because I don't want to spin out of control without a safe place to land on.  

And you know what I find?  Do you know what I come to  in my scrambling and trying to go back to the basics, I begin to find my place in this world.  I begin to settle down.  It all slows down.  And I'm not anxious nor afraid. I'm reminded of God's love.  A love that is greater than all else.  A love that is stronger than the chaos.  A love that will always be enough.  A love that never runs out.  Being reminded of this brings such peace.  

If your world is spinning out of control today, try scrambling for the basics.  Or like my son would say, "bring it down a notch".  Shut off the media influence.  Turn down the outside voices.  Try some alone time.  Quiet time.  Just you and God.  Now there's an innovation!  Try it... What are you afraid of?  There's nothing to lose, when it comes to alone time with God.  There's only gain.  No loss.  So I encourage you to try slowing it all down.  And experience peace.

Romans 8:38,39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sloppy Wet Kisses

Some things just help us feel good. Some things make us feel special and loved.  It can be little things to some; big things to others.  But there's something about the things that make us feel loved.  For some it's a bright sunny morning. The breeze that makes trees sway.  The chill on a spring morning.  The damp feeling on our skin after sitting on the shore for a while.  Walks by the sea.  Walks in the woods.  High mountain peaks.  Benches on city parks.  Famous paintings.  A child's scribbles.  Phone conversations with distant loved ones.  A brief text with three simple words... I love you. The feeling is the same, but what does it look like for you?

My friend shared with me that her recently adopted daughter woke up this morning with a new found desire to express herself.  And so this little one planted big open-mouth wet kisses on her over and over again.  I could just imagine her too.  She is just a toddler and hasn't even been here in the states one full month yet.  So she's transitioning and getting acclimated with what is now her home and family.  To say it hasn't been easy is an understatement.  So the fact that today she woke up to plant sloppy wet kisses on  her mommy's face, makes for a good day!  
I got to spend time with my own daughter today doing something that feels special to the both of us.  We drove out to one of my favorite places for breakfast and simply sat together and enjoyed what we like to call intricate foods.  The background music in the quiet relaxed atmosphere, the large cup of decaf sprinkled with cinnamon served with tasty quiche, the pleasant service, the fresh lavender flowers on the table, the curious paintings on the wall, the vast variety of cookies and pastries inside the glass case, the homey feeling we get every time we go there, just gives us a good feeling inside.  I'm not one for comparing material things to heaven on earth, but today I had to reconsider.  As I sipped on the coffee and ate off the plate, I felt like God was planting a big wet kiss on my forehead, and I felt special... loved.  To top things off, my daughter and I sat beside each other afterwards to do some reading.  She read her book, while I read mine; and then, I can't remember who extended her hand first, but as we read, we held hands for a long while.  Another wet one from above planted on our heads.

Later I had a conversation with someone I met a while ago.  He is now twenty years old, and although he's doing the best he can living life as an adult, he is still very much without the guidance and care of parents.  He grew up in an orphanage and is now trying to make it on his own.  Then again, that's what he's been doing his entire life.  Making it on his own.  This guy is amazing.  He tells me that he is doing service work to help minority people with things like work, education, and finances.  He tells me he is in need of a real job and education, but is thankful that he has a place to call home and food to eat.  He tells me that he is not concerned about the future.  He lives for today.  He says he likes to wake up each new morning and wonder what the day will bring.  He lives in the moment.  And he is at peace with that.  He called himself strong.  I reminded him that he is strong because there is a God who has been making him strong.  I reminded him about how God has brought people and opportunities into his life to help him be strong simply because He loves him. And he agreed.

And so I wonder... what would make someone like him feel special and loved?  Would something as ordinary as a cup of coffee or a plate of tasty food do the trick?  Would a homey cafe help?  I'm not sure, although I think he would enjoy it.  But I have an inkling that he would trade in a cup of coffee for a long walk and conversation.  I think simply spending time together would suit him just fine.  

Sloppy wet kisses come in a variety of ways.  And no matter what they look like, one thing remains.... God loves us.

I'm currently reading a book titled, "No Longer a Slumdog" by K.P. Yohannan, and it's got me thinking very reflectively about things of real value and those who are lacking.  The book tells of different real life stories about children who face all sorts of abuse and neglect in foreign countries.  It tells of occurrences that we cannot even imagine actually take place.  In essence, the book serves as an eye-opener to the reality of suffering in the world.  It leaves you wondering how you can make a difference, if at all you can.  And so as I read and my heart is breaking into a thousand pieces knowing that there is a little girl tonight, same age as mine, hiding in a room, while the men line up outside her door to get their turn with her.  My heart breaks and I cry out where is her sloppy wet kiss from heaven?!  Where are the sloppy wet kisses for the children who suffer in this world, while I'm sipping on my cup of coffee?  Does God not love them?  And if He does, how will they know they're loved?

And then I read about the stories of the children who have found hope and love because of Christians who have sought them out and brought them hope.  Children being freed from bondage because someone cared enough.  I read that God does love these children.  They are not forgotten by God.  But if I'm honest, would I dare to say that I'd give up all of these pretty little things that make me feel so special just so that children would no longer suffer?  Would I dare enough to give up all the sloppy wet kisses that God allows me just so that one child will be free of pain?  And what if I don't dare?

I'm envisioning my future daring... I envision myself walking alongside those children, talking with them and sharing with them.  Showering them and loving on them.  While God plants lots of wet sloppy kisses on them.

He gave up His own son to set us all free.  Because He loves us.  ----   I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. Jeremiah 32:37

*If you'd like to know how you can financially help the young man I mentioned above, please send me a private message on facebook.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Thing About Sisters

I know this week is Mother's Day, but I'm thinking about my sisters.  So this one's dedicated to all the women who know how much they're loved simply because they're sisters.

Who do you recall being there with you in the most trying times?
"Jesus' mother stood near his cross.  His mother's sister was also standing there, with Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." John 19:25 (ICB)

Something special jumped out at me when I read this part of the crucifixion story.  Mary the  mother of Jesus had a biological sister who stood by her in her greatest and most profound grief.  At first glance, it is simply women at the feet of the cross crying over Jesus' death.  But the fact that it wasn't just His mother standing there, that Mary was not alone in this her lowest estate, but that she had sisters who would grieve with her.  That is what makes it so special to me.

I love that the scripture points out that Mary's biological sister was there, but it also mentions the other women by name.  Scripture does not tell us whether or not these ladies had close-knit relationships, and it doesn't really matter because  in that one moment of time, they were closer than ever.  Death brought them close.  Sharing the loss of their child, friend, teacher, savior.  That's what made their connection unique.

In fact, there is something so special about sharing in the suffering of another person.  I can recall being there with my friend as she literally broke down upon learning of her child's cancer.  I remember thinking for a moment, "it is about 11 pm and I am standing here in my friend's bathroom holding her up... this is a powerful and very special moment"  It was strange how in the presence of real pain, there was also an overwhelming peace that we were in the right place, found in God's grace.   At the feet of the cross.  Suffering takes you there.

Celebration can also take you there.  Not too long ago, I got together with several ladies and we celebrated friendships.  It was kind of funny because of all the ladies in the group, only a couple were actually close friends.  For the most part, we are acquaintances and sisters in Christ.  And we came together to celebrate the friendships, the sisters, and women in our lives.  Those who are with us and those who are no longer with us.  That commonality brought us together. It was special.  Still even more special is the common ground we find in that we are all sisters because of Christ.  In essence, it's like we all stand together at the feet of the cross, as our savior's death brings us together.  Just like with Mary and her sisters.  And whether or not we spend lots of hours together sharing in each other's mundane, we are still connected by something that outweighs hours of walking closely.  It defines who we are as the body of Christ.  And that's something we can celebrate.

Then there's my sister, the one who God chose to have me grow up with from the time I was born.  That's wild!  To have someone else that's not a parent, witness your life simply because you were born into the same family.  And mind you, I know some siblings have a tough time caring for one another.  It's not always blissful to build on those biological relationships.  However, when you've been granted one that is rooted in deep love for one another, you cannot take it lightly.  My sister was there for me even before I could walk.  She actually bears a scar on her leg because of her tendency to mother me even early on. She would change my cloth diapers.  Yes, I said cloth!  And so one day she accidentally pierced her leg with the pin that was intended for my diaper.  Ouch!  I'm not sure how old she was, but being that she's five years older than me, I take it she was pretty young.  But that's my sister.  She is a caretaker by heart.  And I've learned loads of valuable lessons simply by shadowing her life.

I was normally in the background growing up with a girl who was always extroverted.  And I observed.  And I learned.  In fact, if I had to decide on a person to identify as the most influential teacher in my life, it would be my sister.  It's funny that we are sort of like night and day, as far as our personalities go.  She takes on sensibility, while I'm sensible.  She is literal, while I'm more into metaphors.  She's factual, while I can enjoy a play on words.  She's mature, when I'm acting ridiculously silly.  She provides the reality check when I'm acting flighty.  And I could go on and on... So what could two very different people find so endearing in knowing each other?  What could bring us so close?  Is it merely the fact that we are related?

I would say not.  In fact, I know that it takes more than blood relations to give the greatest value to a friendship or relationship.  For my sister and I, it has been the blood of Christ.  The knowledge that there is a God we both love.  The comfort in knowing that our lives are forever intertwined due to the sacrifice our savior paid by dying on that cross for us.  The joy that we will never be separate nor alone because of His promises.  The sufferings we have shared and the joys we've enjoyed have all been defined by the underlying truth of knowing God's love and grace.

So as I think about Mary, her sister, and the others standing before the cross joined by the suffering of His death, I can't help but imagine myself standing before the throne of God along with my sister, and all the other sisters I've made.  Joined not only by the suffering of Christ's death but by the glorious eternity we've been promised in Him.  Greeting one another, reacquainting with those who've gone before us.  Celebrating our common bond.  Living in eternal peace.  No longer standing at the feet of the cross, but alongside our creator and savior.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Brother's Keeper

You ever watch the show "What Would You Do?"  For a while, I was hooked on watching every episode.  I found it so interesting to see how people react to different and possibly awkward situations.  It sort of surveys the degree of morals a person may or may not have, and reveals those who will speak out in uncomfortable circumstances. I guess for some, it's not too difficult to speak out against something they feel strongly about.  But I don't think it's ever an easy task to speak up or speak out for something you believe in, specially when you know that what you do or say will affect the reputation of others.  

Are you familiar with the term, "Snitches get stitches"?  Yeah, I've heard it from time to time.  Sounds a bit childish, but it basically means that people who "tell" on others, deserve retaliation.  I think for the most part, people will remain quiet about things that are not directly affecting them.  We are prone to be selfish beings, and so if it's not a bother to me, then why should I bother, right?  Then there's the "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" famous saying; a proverb that in our Western world basically refers to lack of moral responsibility.  All in all, we are persuaded to convey a message that says "mind your own business".  

And what is my business?  Is it just what affects me directly?  Or does it also include those things that are affecting others?  Well, the other night as we were on the turnpike driving home, we noticed that the vehicle in front of us was swerving from side to side.  The person would swerve into the shoulder lane and then back into the dividing lines between the lanes.  He would go from driving right in the middle of the two lane highway to almost hitting the trees along the shoulder.  This went on for quite some time, and we were afraid to pass him, thinking he might hit our car.  Well, I did something I had never done before.  I called 911 and reported the vehicle.  It felt awkward at first, but then it just became the thing to do because he was not only putting himself in danger, but the rest of us drivers as well.  I'm not sure that the state police ever stopped him, and we did get home safely.   However, the whole thing got me thinking of our responsibility as part of the body of Christ.

So "what would you do" if you see your Christian brother or sister doing something that you know is wrong?  Like if she walks out of a store with something that you know she didn't pay for... Or if she is excessively striking her child in public...  Those things might be obvious and in your face, but what about when she makes the decision to leave her spouse?  Or what about when he is getting drunk on the weekends?  What do you do when they've confessed to you their deepest secret and worst sin?  What do we do when our brothers and sisters are living lives that do not reflect the light of Christ?  

 The Bible talks about holding each other accountable. As part of the Christian family, we are reminded that, "if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the spirit should restore that person gently"-Galatians 6:1.  I sure hope that we find ourselves prepared and know exactly how to respond in these types of situations in a manner that would bring glory to God. I think about how that driver who swerved from left to right on that highway last week, was in fact in danger and possibly putting us in danger.  In the same light, I find that when a brother or sister is living irresponsibly, he/she is not only in danger but also possibly putting others in danger as well.  But even more importantly, I feel that the fact that they may be severing the relationship they hold with God is the most dreadful predicament.  It hurts to see my sister blinded by temptations or sin.  And it hurts to see my brother seemingly clueless and unaware of the entrapment Satan poses.  

So once again, what will I do?  Well, I know one thing for sure and that is that God is not blind to any of our circumstances.  God is aware.  Therefore, He knows, just as I might know, when a brother/sister is failing spiritually.  And many times, He will allow me to see it, in attempts that I will act justly and intervene for this brother/sister.  As if to say, "What will you do"  now that you see your brother failing?  You see, if I just sit back and watch my brother fall, then in essence, I've fallen too.  Because what hurts one member will eventually hurt us all.  And if I do not act righteously, then I'm failing too.  Therefore, we must look for ways in which we hold each other accountable.

James 5:1-6
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Luke 17:3
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

Hebrews 10:24
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

Genesis 4:8-21

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[a] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How'd I get Here?

How'd I get here?  Ever been there?  In that place that you're not sure how you got to, so you're a bit unclear about where you're really at?

I don't mean when you're on the road trip that suddenly becomes a scary adventure becomes you can't find your way back to the highway, after stopping for gas and a bathroom break.  You know the one?  When you try to stay calm even while you're going around in circles with no clue about where you need to be and how to get there.  Or when you just keep going straight on the road because there are no intersections or streets to turn into, and suddenly you read the sign that says you're 80 miles from Canada.... Canada!  I thought we were heading south!

I've got a funny story.  The day after we were married, my husband and I were on our way out of Philadelphia and heading to Massachusetts.  Or so we thought.  He was nineteen; I was twenty, and it was our first time out of Philadelphia on a road trip by ourselves.  But we had a destination to get to if he was ever to finish up his military training in Devens, Ma.  So we had someone draw up a map for us; this being our first time driving out of the city on our own.  And we did our best to read the drawn out map, but that lasted about 15 minutes.  We were barely outside the city lines, when we were lost.  We were on the interstate, which was good, and heading north; yet we had no idea what else to do to get to our destination.  But we kept moving.  And then I saw a car with Massachusetts license plates.... 

We followed that car all the way up to Massachusetts that day.  My job as the co-pilot was to keep my eyes fixed on that vehicle, while my husband just kept his foot on the pedal and followed the driver.  At one point, the driver pulled over for gas, and we did the same.  He seemed very suspicious of us, though we explained our predicament.  And who could blame him!  Still with great uncertainty, he agreed to let us follow him all the way.  He tried losing us a few times, but we were on his tail the entire ride.  Needless to say, that was an experience I will never forget.  

We finally did make it to our destination that night.  But if you asked me how or where I was, I couldn't tell you.  In fact, we lived in this little town in Massachusetts called Ayer for a little over a month, and I still have no idea where I was all that time.  You can rightfully say we were naive, and I'd admit we were very naive.  

That may be how we all end up in that place that we are not sure about how we ended up at.  Maybe we were too naive.  Or perhaps we knew exactly what we were doing, but we did it anyway.  When it comes to sin, my experience has been that many times it will present itself in subtle ways or in small increments before you can actually see it in its full blown nature.   So the racy conversation you had with that friend of the opposite sex, seems funny at first.  And the lunch date was just a coincidence.  The Facebook private message was just a friendly hello.  The texting?  Well, that was just because the conversation became very interesting and so it seemed harmless.  

But now you're wondering, "How'd I get here?"  How is it that I am now having feelings for my boss?  My co-worker, my secretary, my good friend?  And how is that?  That we can go from doing the right thing to finding ourselves immersed in sin?  Or at least at warfare with falling into sin... I cannot answer the question for you.  It is for you to answer.   You see, what may lead me astray might look completely different for you.  And what leads you astray may look unappealing to me.  But nevertheless, we are all prone to stray.  Even if only in our minds.  

And so are we to throw in the towel and give in?  Do we, knowing how naive we really are, simply give in to temptations and sin?  Of course not.  There is a God, the one true God, that sees us as we stray, as we are lead into the subtlety of sin and later find ourselves completely lost.  He sees us where we are, and knows exactly how we got there.  Better yet, He knows the way back.  And He provides a way for us to turn from sin.  He clears paths for us... and will hold our hand to walk with us.  If only, we call out His name.  

May this be our daily prayer.  Psalms 119:133, "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Everything Stands Still

You put the phone down.  Try to register what you just heard.  It didn't sound good.... Health concerns are never good.  And so now you're standing alone on the kitchen floor. And it truly feels as if everything stands still.  

Today's to do list is on hold.  
The plans for the weekend are no longer as important.  
It's like a halt has been put on your life.  And nothing else matters as much as the bad news you just received.  On the other hand, there is something that is not remaining still, and that is your mind.  The pacing of your thoughts going back and forth.  "How did this happen?"  "Why didn't I see it?"  "Why?"  and "What does this mean?"  Your questions are followed by clear statements.  "This will bring pain."  "It will be hard."  "I'm scared."  Uncertainty creeps in and fear begins to make itself comfortable inside.

On their own, bad news or painful circumstances limit us.  Keep us from enjoying life.  For what is there to enjoy, when your days are now a number?  Or what is there to appreciate when your family is falling apart?  Could there possibly be any good in the bad?  Good is good and bad is bad, right?  

Well, according to the maker of the universe, good is good and bad can be good too.  I know it sounds crazy, but I can actually attest to it.  I guess it depends on what you consider to be good, though.  You see some people take things at face value, and fail to look deeper into the eternal value of things.  So they take the bad for what it is on the exterior.  Simply bad.  However, if we learn to take the bad and search for what good could possibly come from it, we'd be able to enjoy and appreciate everything we face in life.  Good or bad.  

There was a time in my life when I was so grieved and in turmoil that to say I was angry with the world, is an understatement.  So much so that on a drive home one night, I literally almost drove someone off the road.  Soon after that incident, I got a hold of my emotions, and basically crumbled before God.  I began to surrender my emotions to Him, and He lead me to His word.  Consequently, His word began to shed light on my circumstance, and I began to learn and grow from the experience.  It was one of the few times that I can say I was longing and yearning for God the most in my life.  I just couldn't get enough of the words that brought me life again.  His word.

And so this scripture reference comes to mind, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (Psalm 119:71 NIV)  It's perfect!  There is good in the bad.  We just need to look for it.  Though it may only truly be found in God.  And though the turmoil may not cease promptly.  And the pain may last for a season... God brings good from it.  He changes us for the better.  He heals our suffering with grace.  He shows His mercies each new morning.  He cares for our distress.  He draws us closer to Him.  And He enables us to stand still in His peace.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Talking Crap

My son was filling me in on one of his required readings, "Dante's Inferno", and I was definitely intrigued by the content.  He said something about how for different sins, hell would grant specific types of torture as punishment.  He mentioned a few, but I was really taken back by the details of the sin of flattery.   Yes, flattery.  It is a sin.  Some might wonder...  And still others, like me, have wandered.  And I've known, first-hand, the face and the taste of flattery.   It is upon reception, simply lovely, but once it is unveiled, it is sure to leave a bitter taste; and there is no lasting enjoyment or satisfaction in it.

So the author of "Dante's Inferno" made the flatterers face torment by having them lay in a river of human feces.  Wow, what an illustration!  It's almost as if to say, flattery is the same as human poop, for lack of a better word. So what's so wrong or dirty about flattery?  Well, for one thing, it stirs you in the wrong direction.  It is not straight-forward and transparent.  Therefore, instead of honesty, it is rooted in deceit; and it is misleading.  It will tell you what you'd want to hear and what will sound good at the moment.  It will buff you up, and then it will deflate.  There is no real substance to it.  Hence, flattery will leave you feeling humiliated.  

Further still, flattery means nothing without a beholder.  In order for it to take on its effect, it must be spoken.  It has no real effect, unless someone uses it.  And so the flatterer in some way, is also being fooled.  He or she is also mislead by the thought that using flattery will bring about something good.  And when they put it to use, the words seem to flow so easily.  So smoothly.  It isn't until the effects begin to show, that maybe, just maybe, the stench will seep through and they will begin to see flattery for what it really is... a whole lot of talking crap.  Haha! 

"Excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one's own interests", that is the definition for flattery found on my google search.  I wish I had looked this up, when I was being smitten by flattery.  And still, flattery doesn't just say something about the flatterer, but it also says a great deal about the recipient.  I know for me, it was the need for approval and a desire to be admired.  And so like a little puppy wanting attention, I soaked it up all up.  Until, that is, I came to the realization that I was not only being fooled but I was fooling myself.

And what a fool I was!  To value someone else's opinion that much, and by the same token, hold such little value for my own.  Moreover, to overlook the fact that God's opinion about me surpasses anyone else's.  And oh, how he values me!  Oh, how He lavishes on me!  And still I was foolishly seeking that which God offers, somewhere else.  Thankfully, I learned my lesson.  Although, it did not come without a price.  Still it was a very valuable lesson!  

Hence, I encourage you to measure your words before speaking.  I encourage you to even be slow to speak.  I encourage you to guard your heart and to value yourself.  Not by your own standards or the world's perceptions, but by your creator's blueprint.  He created you.  He has taken great pride in the purpose He has laid out for your life.  And He sees your true worth.  Therefore, there are no words or even actions that anyone else can offer you that would surpass what God has already designed for you.  

Furthermore, I encourage you to walk away, if needed.  Look away, when needed.  Do whatever you must to not be swayed by the loveliness of flattery.  Remember its true nature and how it is known to leave a bitter taste and lasting stench.  

Psalm 12:2-3, "They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak."

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's a Beautiful Day

The weather is gloomy today in these parts of the world.  It's cold, and it seems the sky's taken a permanent turn for a grayish tone on its canvas.  It's only 4:30 pm, and yet it looks like the sun will set shortly. Although it seems like it never did appear today.  And still what a beautiful day!

I'm not being sarcastic.  Though one may think I am.  It's beautiful.  I mean I confess that I had my January winter days planned out since early September when I began calculating the cost for flights to sunny and warm Florida.   And as I'm sitting here typing, I can't ignore the permanent chill on my feet.  It's cold today. It's strange though... I feel like God is definitely the one behind this settled feeling inside of me.  It's like for some reason the heat at home seems warmer than any other year and the firewood has be replenished over and over again.

Firewood.  I have firewood.  For my fireplace.  When you grow up in a little concrete row home on a very narrow concrete street in a very big and overpopulated concrete city, you don't ever imagine having firewood.  You think about how good it feels to set your hands right above the silver-coated radiator that sits in your living room. But you don't think about the luxury of having a fireplace.  Not unless, you read lots of novels and picture your life as someone else's.  And that was not me.  I didn't fantasize about living in someone else's shoes.  In fact, I never really pondered on the fact that my family was barely making ends meet.  It never occurred to me that I was actually poor and would be considered just another component of statistics that tell others what the poverty-stricken parts of the city consist of.  In the meantime, I had my can of Chef Boyardee for dinner and/or white rice with fried eggs, and was fine with that. You see, there was something else I had.  Something that made me feel richly blessed.  And something that not everyone is lucky enough to have.  I had a mother.  And I had two siblings.  And we were very close.

Last night I watched yet another documentary about several American families and their journey to adoption.  They adopted children from China.  And theirs were very emotional stories.  Each with happy and hopeful endings.  These families adopted children who had special needs.  A couple of the kids were blind.  One girl had no arms.  Another had one leg shorter than the other.  But the families were determined to give these children a home and a family that would accept and embrace them.  It made me reflect on the issue of adoption from a slightly different perspective than I've had in the past.  I'm learning that adoption is not just about us going out there to rescue an unwanted child.  Although it appears that way on the surface.  And it's not merely about what we might gain from bringing a child into our homes.  But it's about giving a gift.  Giving love and acceptance to those who otherwise, would not experience it.  It's about giving someone a family.  Mere words do not truly define the value of what that might mean.  

Yet, I am certain that abandoned kids are not sitting on their cots or beds or graveled roads thinking or dreaming about having a home with a fireplace.  Instead, they dream about having the gift of family. They long for the  acceptance and love found in a family. Still, it seems that there are many emotionally cold days for them in those parts of the world.

Toward the end of the documentary, there was a girl shown, who is awaiting a family.  She is ten years old and cannot speak.  I couldn't help but go to sleep thinking of her.  I looked up the meaning of her name, and found that it means "plants".  And so then I thought of what I could call her... Lily?  A lily is a beautiful flower.   And as I awoke, she remained in my thoughts.  I've been praying for her.  And could it be, that I'm the one to give her the gift of a family?  I'm not certain. But I do know that I have a gift which is priceless.

Then there's my daughter.  Oh, my little girl! Who's soon to be in her very own double digits.  And oh how I delight in her!  Even on a dreary day such as this one, I could still see her laughing, as she climbed on me on the sofa today.  She warms my heart, much more than the firewood in the fireplace could ever do.  Family is priceless... and it's a beautiful day!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chasing the Winds

Ever try chasing after the wind?  It is pointless, I know.  And try as you might, you will never catch it.  That's the simile the Proverbs use to describe what chasing after the things of this world is like.  In essence, it is in vain that we chase after things.  And yet, we keep chasing...

There's something about us that makes us want to explore.  Something about us that makes us curious and wonder about the what ifs.... What if I were smarter?  What if I were thinner?  What if I tried harder?  What if I could make them love me?  What if I stay... what if I go?

And some of us are a little more gutsy than others.  And we don't just ask the question, we actually do go!  We study harder.  We get thinner.  We try harder.  And we do whatever necessary to get what we want.

But what is it that we want?   And do we want too much?  And how much is too much?  Is there such a thing as "enough"?  Some of us strive to find the answers to these and more questions.  And we do not tire until we find out.  And so we take the risks and chances.  We face the challenges and we attain victories.  Only to find out that the accomplishments are but temporary because we find ourselves wanting still more.  And we are never satisfied.  One degree leads to another.  One relationship leads to the next.  One promotion points to the other... and so on and so on.

We envy what others have.  We discreetly wish for that which belongs to our neighbors and friends.  And I don't just mean material things.  We chase after relationships.  Those that were not meant for us to have.  We chase after money that was not meant to be ours.  We chase after positions and roles that were meant for someone else.  And the heart grows weary and our souls tire, and we become restless.  Just as restless as the winds.  Still we chase the winds of life.

And here's what happens while we find ourselves busy chasing....  While we're out looking, and wondering, and wanting, we miss what was intended for us.  While we're gone desiring something more or simply something other than what we have, we lose sight of the purpose and beauty of what is actually ours.  Isnt' that how it happens for many broken marriages?  We're so busy chasing after the "fairy tale" ending, that we can hardly see the everyday commitment of a loyal spouse.  We're so entertained by the seemingly glorious lifestyle someone else proposes, that we forsake the person who is constant and present in our lives.  We get so caught up in chasing a name for ourselves, that we can no longer identify ourselves as children of God.  We become so consumed by the image we want to portray, that we lose ourselves.  Chasing....  it is in vain.

And it keeps us from what God has already granted us.  It keeps us from appreciating our lives.  It keeps us from contentment.  It keeps us from our purpose.
Here's what I have found.

The winds take on their own route and paths.
They have no earthly lord.
Their only compass comes from God.  Therefore, no man can attain.
Such force, who will master?
Not while on this side of heaven, can we fathom ever reaching them.
If they please, they touch us, as they find us standing in their way.
Yet, they keep moving.  No one can stop them in their tracks.
And so I stand in my place, waiting for just a glimpse of their force.
Knowing that if I try and catch up to them, I may lose sight of a beautiful display right in front of me.
If I try to chase them, I will never fully hold them.
And I will find myself aimlessly flighting and still not finding.  My place.  Myself.
For it is in vain that we chase after the winds.