Change Your Mind

SPOTTED PUPPIES

You a little “different?” Or maybe you love someone who is?
GOOD! God’s got you.

Was JESUS like all the others? No, He was not.

That “fit in” thing? Usually bad advice. Not in THIS fallen world!

When my dog had a litter of five puppies, they all looked like her. Except one. He was spotted. The runt, not very strong. I fell in love with it at first sight.

That runty little spotted puppy had to wait in line while its stronger brothers and sisters nursed. Had to stay blind a couple days longer than the rest, since his eyes were slower to open. Was last to struggle out of that 6 inch tall nesting box, while the others were already out playing days before.

That one grabbed my heart in a special way.

Do you see? God must love US “spotted puppies” best too, or we wouldn’t be here, would we? We need Him more than most.

The world yells “different” or “weird” but He adores our precious spots. The WORLD praises the strong and smart and rich and famous.

GOD turns all that upside down.

So, if you need a little more than other people, hurt a little more, can’t quite keep up sometimes? Not pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, famous enough? Just one word: GOOD. You have a special place in God’s heart, I promise you.

Does it FEEL like it? Probably not, most the time. But feelings are bats in a cave. Up, down, all around. But God? Real. Solid. Always the same. Those “everlasting arms” are wrapped around you, spots and all. Because He loves you with PERFECT and everlasting love.

He made you and all you have to do to be “enough” is be His child.

I loved watching that little spotted puppy whine and yelp to keep up with the others, do what they were doing. Falling back in defeat most the time. Slow to grow, needy and weak.

Guess what? He became “Pick of the Litter”! The one everyone wanted! And made the most beloved pet of all.

So, if you are a little different, be careful not to believe what you hear out there, or see in the mirror. Listen to the One who made you like you are! Trust His reasons. Be His “Pick of the Litter.” He knows what “they” don’t know. Holy! Beloved! Special! Pick of the Litter!

Be spotted, baby! Be who you are! Who you were made to be. And He will love you for it.

Forever.

God’s GOT you! Psalm 68:19
He is looking out for you! II Thessalonians 3:3
He made you and loves you forever! Jeremiah 31:3

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Hate is Easy…Love is Not

“It’s good to know who hates you and it’s good to be hated by the right people.”                                                                                        –Johnny Cash

I had never been HATED before. Abandoned, rejected, abused, neglected? Yup, yup, sure. Very wounding. But HATED? It’s a new one. Hard to process.

The FLESH reflex is, of course, to hate them BACK.

God’s way, though? For those of us who really want to know? More complicated. We know we aren’t perfect, wonder if it was something we did wrong. Flesh prefers to dwell on what THEY did wrong. Spirit wonders WHY they did it.

Maybe THEY were hated as a child. Seems normal to them.

Maybe they want something we have. First cousin to jealousy maybe?

Mental illness? Delusional, irrational, over-medicated?

NO WAY TO KNOW. WE AREN’T GOD.

But we DO want to know what we should DO about it. How we should respond. Jesus was pretty plain: FORGIVE.

Yeah. Easier said than done, Lord. CHOOSING it. Processing it. Crying about it. Does that count?

Some of us complicate it by fighting back. Venting. Passing it on, even. Have a lifelong tendency to open that can of WhoopAss over every slight. Maybe we had to do it where we grew up, maybe that was our model. But we struggle with the tendency now that we’re Christians. Have to add a little SHAME to the final goal when we ARE able to forgive.

Some of us are not fighters. My own wounded flesh from childhood preps me for “Flight” not “Fight.” That makes me more susceptible to the devil’s whisperings and my own negative thinking. SELF condemnation. Those FALLEN spirits looove to tell us what WE did wrong. “Easy pickins,” someone told me once. Sadly, yes. Adding DEPRESSION to the final goal when we ARE able to forgive.

Either way, an outright HATE ATTACK is hard to process. “WWJD” becomes the dilemma, the heart’s inner plea.

What WOULD Jesus do?

JESUS TELLS HIS FOLLOWERS TO FORGIVE… 70 TIMES SEVEN!!! (Matthew 18:21-23)

Ouch. I’m 69 tries behind on that one.

But I’m working on it.

The things from His Word that have helped so far:

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

  1. LOVE them. Whaaat?!?!!? Yes. “Love” in scripture isn’t the warm fuzzy FEELING we tend to think it is. It is simply wanting God’s best for someone. Pray for them. That they have a heart attack and go away? Probably not what God meant, O darn. Pray for their SOUL. If they HATE that much they are NOT “saved.” HATE is the devil’s language, not the children of God. Our mission here in this fallen world is to bring others to heaven not hell.

  2. BLESS them as able (thoughts, words, or deeds). Speak kindly BACK to them, maybe even go FIRST. Scripture even says when we do that we “heap burning coals on their head.” CONVICTS them of their behavior. Gives them an EXAMPLE of how a true believer DOES behave. WARNING: A Biblical “but…” In Matthew chapter 16 He warns his apostles to be “wise as serpents, innocent as doves.” If the hater is DANGEROUS, He doesn’t seem to expect us to sit still for more abuse, does He? Even warned them to “flee to the next city” if they were persecuted in that same chapter. So BE SAFE and PRAY FROM AFAR!

  3. Hating YOURSELF for whatever mistakes you made is not God’s way EITHER. If you sinned, you ask Him to forgive you with the intention in your heart to not repeat it. Bottom line, God LOVES you. There is now NO condemnation. Works on YOU just as well as it works on THEM. And has an ETERNAL reward instead of a fleeting gratification.

Hope this helps some of YOU going through something hard. Hope some of you share what has helped process a similar trial. We ARE all in this together. Even when it FEELS so very alone.


The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:22

…therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [o]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

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LIES and the LYING LIAR Who TELLS Them

 

There is someone who hates you and wants to steal your soul.

What? Too much?

You might as well know.

Whether you are so sure you have it all that you’ve quit looking. Or lost without hope in suffering.

Someone hates you, envies you, wants to cheat God out of your eternal soul. You hear the whispers? The lies? Embedded so deep you think they are part of you:

–Some HAPPY LIES that loving parents pass on–Have nice things! Be good-looking! Ain’t this money/house/fame wunnerful? Demand respect! It all about YOU!

–Some SAD LIES toxic parents pass on, yelling how you are bad or worthless or a liar or…things you NEVER wanted to be, hope you AREN’T…but your brain stores anyway.

But wait. There is someone who LOVES you and wants you to live with them forever.

Someone who knows all your dirty little secrets, knows what your heart really needs. Instead of the empty promises of money, food, sex, drugs, whatever you cling to.
Shhhhh…listen:

–I love you! You are my child forever! Look up, say what I say: Holy! Beloved! Chosen in Love! Good! NOT bad! You are safe, you are loved, you are not alone. The tears were a gift, the Bad Thing not for nothing. I will turn it ALL to good!

BUT YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE.
You don’t have to change, try harder, clean up, or anything you don’t think you can do to measure up, deserve it, win that love.

But you DO have to CHOOSE.

Go to the light.
Or stay in the dark.

Maybe you prefer the darkness…so familiar. But can you deny the hunger, the longing, that teasing hope that there is more to life? The nagging fear you are going to live forever with regret that you missed it?

The one who hates you lies to keep you in the dark. Without wings. Wounded or puffed up. Crippled in your soul.

The one who loves you tells you the Truth…but only if you choose to hear it.

If there was an easier way we would have found it by now, huh? We’ve tried everything we could get our hands on to be happy, haven’t we?

Life made you crazy. Bad Things happened. Kept you frozen ever since. Evil tells you stories you believe, maybe even pass on. Shames you for looking up, whispers to stay in the dark. .

WHAT can overcome all THAT?!

The perfect Misfit, the One who knew you all along. Jesus. Murdered for preaching love and forgiveness!! The world sure wasn’t having any of Him either. We are in good company. Better to believe who He says we are than the labels the liars in the world tape to our backs.

We are NOT what happened to us. NOT the words the devil whispers, or fallen people call out loud. No. Not mistakes. Not ruined forever. GOD loves us! Knows our name! Wants us for HIS family!

And, wherever you are, however you are…you are not alone. God LOVES you. His people here and above love you. Hold hands with THEM instead of the demons who beset you.

There’s a reason you never trusted God before. You thought He was like everybody else. Waiting to tell you what you did wrong. Or worse.

NO!

There’s a reason you never looked into the basement of your own soul. Afraid to turn the corner for the smell that wafted up the dark steps down. You didn’t want to face what you knew you couldn’t fix. You knew there was no one to love you, keep you safe, hold your hand, while facing the carnage there. There never was!

Until now.

That is the simple beauty and power of the gospel: we find out who we REALLY are by discovering who the creator of the universe says we are. Him we might believe. His love never shames us.

No, we didn’t deserve the Bad Thing that happened to us.
Neither do we deserve the grace that transforms it all.

The suffering. The grace. The glory.
That is the holy journey.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

How great is the love God has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it does not know Him (1 John 3:1).

We can never be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:39)

We become God’s children (Galatians 3:26)

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SO, How’s That First Week of LENT Goin’ For Ya?

Give up chocolate? Booze? Facebook, sugar, Pokémon or TV?

Maybe you gave up something too deep to tell anybody but God.

Does your sacrifice remind you of His? Or your own self-pity?

The IDEA, in the Spirit, was to join Him in His suffering so we can feel closer to Him in His victory when He rises again. Spend 40 days in the “desert’ of temptation like Jesus did before He began His mission.

A holy and beautiful thing.

Then….

BAM!… Reality. Flesh. Failure.

Nothing like failing to keep a genuine, heartfelt Lenten commitment to demonstrate, yet again, what hopeless, fleshy losers we are, huh? Why we so desperately need saving. Why we love Someone who says He will not only SAVE us, but FORGIVE us when we fail.

What I’ve learned from my Lenten journey so far is that I never would have made it this far without the Lord’s grace and mercy. And that I won’t make it another step without it now.

AND I see how HIS 40 days in the desert, tempted by the devil himself, was necessary. Praise GOD He went first, huh?!

The devil hasn’t changed. He tempted Jesus and lost. But he’s still after us. When we fail, we smell his presence. Especially those of us misfits with very wounded souls. He knows our weak spots and he targets them all the time.

Seems like the holier our GOALS, the harder he tries to shoot us down. The guy lounging by the pool or watching TV all day isn’t much risk, is he? Why bother? But anyone looking to give glory to God, build up His Kingdom? BAM!

I think of the monks of old, wearing scratchy hair shirts as a sign of repentance. Thomas Becket was wearing one when he was martyred, Charlemagne was buried in one.

But today we just don’t deny ourselves many creature comforts. Spend most of our time, in fact, seeking new ones. A new exotic food, or stylish clothes, rare wine. It simply doesn’t occur to us to WANT to suffer. Mainly just to avoid it at all costs.

Then comes Lent. And we want to try. Some of us strong and pure enough to do it and succeed “as unto Him.” Some of us shot down by our broken, wounded flesh. Again.

He knows our struggle. Carries us anyway. Loves us anyway. Not because we are so loveable, but because He IS love. (1 John 4:8).

Thank You, Lord. Thank You for carrying us when we fail. For loving us when we grinch and groan. For forgiving us when we stubbornly refuse to do Your plain and obvious will instead of our little plans. Thank you. You knew how we would be and loved us anyway. Whew.
*******
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

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‘Til The Storm Passes By

A storm rages outside and a small bird huddles on our windowsill, head bowed into the wind.

Like us, when things get tough. We huddle with loved ones, wait and pray.

Cry out to God, yet still suffer.

Ask, but no answer comes.

We love God, believe Him, study His Word, but still don’t know what to do. Everyone around has a different opinion. Sometimes we lose hope, almost give up.

Yet our faith tells us He is there. So we bow our heads and pray into the storm.

God didn’t even let MOSES know EVERYTHING. Moses wanted to SEE God but God told Him he’d DIE if he did. So He hid Moses in a cleft in a rock and let him “see” His glory pass by. (Exodus 33:17-23) Maybe it’s not safe to know everything. Maybe not a way to build our soul.

Through our faith, God keeps us safe too, while we wait.
Like that frail bird, we have no other options while it storms.

One day we notice the winds are not as strong. The fear not as overpowering. The rain less. We are weak, frail, still confused.
The tiny bird on the windowsill ruffles his feathers, stretches one wing, then the other.

Does HE have all the answers? NO. Only that he can go out again. Work again. Maybe even SING again.

So we do too. Step. Step. Step.

Answers? No. FAITH.

Our mission here, like Moses’, is not over yet. We learn to trust, love, wait. Spread our wings a bit when we can.

What if we DIE?!? Our frightened hearts anguish.

And His Spirit finally answers:
…What if you FLY?!

*** *** *** *** *****

From an old hymn:

TIL THE STORM PASSES OVER AND THE THUNDER SOUNDS NO MORE
TIL THE CLOUDS ROLL FOREVER FROM THE SKY, HOLD ME FAST LET ME STAND
IN THE HOLLOW OF YOUR HAND , KEEP ME SAFE TIL THE STORM PASSES BY

MANY TIMES SATAN WHISPERS THERE IS NO USE TO TRY
FOR THERES NO END OF SORROW THERES NO HOPE IN THE BY AND BY

BUT I KNOW THAT THOU ART WITH ME AND TOMORROW I’LL RISE
WHERE THE STORM NEVER DARKENS THE SKY

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WORLD’S BEST VALENTINE

 

 

Love really IS the most powerful force in the universe.

But many of us are still lookin’ for the SECOND most powerful force. Because it doesn’t always go like we hope.

Here’s what we just don’t GET about LOVE: We think it’s like the movies and songs. Part hormones, part looks. If we’re lucky, even a happy partnership. O, it is WAYYY more than THAT.

The LACK of it when we were small crimped some of our souls. Others of us are trying to love someone like that without understanding them.

Maybe “LOVE” was the first mistake you ever made? You listened to the Hollywood “chemistry” lies in movies or your young body’s new hormones?

Maybe it was what your mother or father never gave you, leaving a hole in your heart?

Worse, maybe you had a pure love for someone who passed away?

LOVE HURTS. Pain is the flaw in love.

But LOVE HEALS too. It is the only CURE for what ails us, the main thing we crave.

Some of us found substitutes for love and let them ruin our lives. Drugs, crime, sex are so easy, so available.

Or we believed the wrong person’s lies and were wounded.

Or we wounded someone else we meant to love.

Complicated. Makes us wonder about what we are even doing here.

I asked the Lord once: “Why did You make me?”

“To love and be loved,” He whispered into my soul.

Yes. That is what we all want. Even God. Maybe that is how we are made “in His image.”

But it’s so hard to get Love to come out even. I love some people more than they love me. And know some who love me more than I love them. Some we love die before their time and leave a hole in our heart. And we crave the love of some who do not seem to have it to give. It’s confusing; disheartening.

Unless God really IS Love, just like scripture says:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; ….
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4

THEN it would makes sense that GIVING love would be the same eternal Joy that GETTING love would be!

So, I do hope you get lacey valentines with candy or prose. I want some myself. But what we REALLY need is the BIG one. The one that CAN”T be lost and WON”T reject and NOT dependent on hormones or whims.

The Valentine from GOD.

So here’s the SAFE Valentine! The BEAUTIFUL one! The FOREVER one! And it is for YOU!

Maybe you can share it with someone YOU love in our imperfect way. There IS a special “warm and fuzzy” that comes from GIVING what we never GOT 🙂

GOD’S VALENTINE:

My Child,

If I was your mother or your father in this world,
I would have loved you more than anything.
My touch safe and tender,
you would never have wondered if it was right or wrong.
You would never have learned shame.

I would not have spoken to you through a haze of alcohol or drugs.
And I would never have left you alone.

I would have used my words and arms and food and smiles and gifts to tell you how special you are.
I would have brushed your hair so gently, whispering my love.
When you cried, I would have held you.
I would have believed you and not them, preferred your company to theirs.

But some did not choose the holy way.
How old were you when they hurt you?
That is how old you are in your wounded soul.
So I speak to your soul like a child.
Because I love you more than the stars and moon and flowers.

You are safe with me; let me hold you. Sh shh shhh.
I made you. It is no accident you are here.
You are here because I love you and want you to love me back.
So simple. But so hard.
Because they hurt you when you tried.

But you are a hero now!
Look how the journey has made you strong and clever!
Maybe you need to forgive Me now, precious baby.
Because I could not save you from them without stealing their souls, turning all of you into hollow puppets.
Everyone has their choice, even the bad ones.

Your journey is only now beginning. Forever is a long time, my child.
Your real life is before you.
I am breathing forever into your soul
and no one can ever take it away or hurt it.
Because you are MY child now.

So lie back in my arms. Say this:
Thy Kingdome come. Thy Will be done.
Surrender.
I am holding you.
I am brushing your hair.

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Kleenex

Just got back from the drugstore looking for the magic cure for a cough. Shelves almost bare, line too long, more cooties than the hospital.

It’s that time of year. Time to buy Kleenex stock and call around town lookin’ for chicken soup.

Even the most spiritual mystic finds himself on the toilet with cramps or hacking up a lung with the flu. The vast majority of every prayer list going around every group is requests for physical healing.

“Brother Ass,” St. Frances called his body. I must concur.

Tell that Donkey of a body “no” and it whines for a sweater or a fan, chocolate or coffee or wine. Tell it “yes” and it eventually tires and disappoints, sometimes with scars.

Even people whose bodies no longer operate properly are stuck with its demands. My first quadriplegic patient years ago always asked me to scratch his nose for him. And those with amputated legs were still plagued by “phantom pain.”

I saw a television documentary once of a severely brain-damaged young man, almost blind, palsied, unable to speak or walk. His aging mother carried him on her back from place to place, taught him to play piano. Loved him, fed him, taught him the gospel.

Most of the program was narrated by the interviewer, asking questions of the sweet little mother herself, not really including the young man, as he was incapable of speech.

At the end of the interview the narrator did turn to the young man and ask: “What does ‘love’ mean to you?”

He struggled to the piano bench, leaned his head back, face toward heaven, and played “Amazing Grace” as beautifully as I’ve ever heard it played. I still get teary when I remember that scene.

Yes, our bodies are a challenge. Yes, the Lord has His ways.
There are several design “flaws” I intend to bring up with the Lord someday: Why couldn’t he have made teeth removable? The dentist would be a wonderful thing if it was a shop where you could drop them off.

And why is the place we swallow our food right next to the place we take in air? Choking is an ever-present danger.

Which is not to mention the unfortunate placement of our private parts, life creating functions laughably close to excretory ones. It’s almost as if our Creator wanted us to be humble, not take ourselves too seriously.

He must have His reasons for leaving us here with our disappointing flesh until the day we are freed to live with Him without it.

Maybe to learn to walk by faith. Or the spiritual virtue of humility.

Maybe our “forever” is being worked out by our choices here in the desert.

We cannot know. We can only have faith. And faith does not mean faith in us, in our faith. It means faith in His reasons, even though we cannot know them. Faith in His love. Faith in accepting that our finite little brains cannot hold the whole truth, but that His does.

And faith that He really WILL “turn it all to good.” (Romans 8:28)

After ten days layin’ around the house, wheezing and blowing my nose, too puny to do much, I WAS able to listen to scripture verses on my phone. (Hey, God’s got His ways). Heard some hope and beauty that my whiny flesh has not heard lately. Received some gifts I will keep close to me now.

For one, a new love and hope infused by this ancient Psalm (103). A way to receive hope AND give thanks…both of which I’ve needed. A LOT.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget none of his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

OOOoo yes. Thank You, Lord, and amen. Bless us, keep us, heal us, use us. THANK YOU for Your promises and a million little mercies. Even the Kleenex.

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Broken Heart, Sacred Heart

 

 

Reporting LIVE from the Dark Tunnel !

So far NOT the “Happy New Year” we were lookin’ for?

Some things we just can’t FIX. Can’t even think what WOULD fix it. Don’t even know WHAT to pray for. We feel the pain in our actual physical heart, JUST like thorns.

Took me this long to crawl back to the computer and share what I’ve learned from the Lord’s own ever present mercy. Hope it helps you somehow too.

Early in this recent dark tunnel, reeling from shock and despair, I poured my heart out to a friend. “I don’t even know WHAT to PRAY for!” I sobbed.

God spoke through her straight into my heart. “Well, how did Job feel when he lost everything? What about Abraham’s gut pain when God told him to kill his own son? Did THEY know what to ask God for?”

No. They didn’t either. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.

Misery DOES love company. And such good company! Two icons of the Bible right there, hopes dashed, hearts broken, no clue what to ask God for.

Like us.

That gave me the strength to sit before the Lord WITHOUT any “answers” of my own. WITHOUT a request for a specific thing. Just with my broken heart and confused faith. Was able to OPEN myself to Him and WAIT for the “why” and the “what.” You know…TRUST HIS LOVE.

The Lord led me to a scripture that reassured me and shocked me at the same time. Isaiah 41 where he promises His love and care, then His judgment against faithless perpetrators. As people of faith, none of us being hurt were fighting back. We offered love and help and forgiveness every way we knew how. All rebuffed. Leaving us shocked and dismayed. But never seeking revenge or knowing what to do at all.

Spiritual mentors for hundreds of years have called these hard times the “dark night of the soul.” We feel alone and wonder what we did wrong. The World says “get over it” and some say “be grateful” and friends say “get even” and none of it works in the darkest places.

We feel shame because our faith doesn’t instantly fill the void with peace and joy. We even try our own toxic little cures: food, drugs, sex, shopping… Nope. Nuttin’ works. I felt shame because I had a hard time loving someone who could do those things to us. Felt like I should try harder to accept them, get help for them.

On the ninth day of our stunned suffering, the one wounding us did it to themselves. Revealed themselves to everyone, did the one thing that gave us peace to walk away.

God protected us while they did it. Got us the help and affirmation we needed.

It was like a popped pimple. Pus all around and complete healing yet to come. But opened in a new way I never knew to ask for or expect. Only the WORK of healing yet to do. Not the fear of what or why or how. Because God did what needed done. Like He said.

And what am I learning?

–Well, not to ASK so much as TRUST. Was more into BEGGING before. Figuring it out myself and begging God to do it. This one I couldn’t figure out. Good to know, Lord! And thank You!

–Learning to quit worrying what other people think of me, sit before the Lord and ask Him instead. His “Beloved” answers my “ashamed.” Huge. Try it.

–Learning He does, indeed, “turn it all to good.” Even the impossible seeming things. (Romans 8:28)

–Learning to walk in a new FREEDOM … we don’t have to have the answers. Don’t have to be theologians. Just have to choose His way, do the best we can, trust His love. “It was for freedom Christ set us free” Galatians affirms. And there’s all kinds of freedom.

–Learning a bit more about “good vs evil” too, I don’t mind saying. Those NOT laying their lives before the altar of God’s Truth and love are handy tools to the spirits NOT of Him. We tend to think the devil is just a joke in a red satin suit for Halloween. Uh….no. Him and his fallen cohorts are still here, “prowling around like a lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8). Whispering to some more than others. But GOD is still in control.

–And that we do not have to be PERFECT. He sets our holy GOALS and we study and admire them. But only He was ever perfect and came down here to take us across that rickety bridge because He knew we couldn’t.

–Mainly, learning to trust that God is is doing the very thing we ASKED Him to do when we CAME to Him in the first place—shaping our SOULS to live with Him forever. A high and holy thing. And sometimes very painful, like any surgery.

So what do we do, when we wash up on the shore of that lake of tears? What DO we do with our fragile faith?

Same as ol’ brother Job, from the top of the ash heap after he lost everything—children, money, health: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

Praise Him ANYWAY. Hope and pray. Wait.

When we reach around the pain, He is there. Slowly the darkness lifts. We hear His voice: “There is now no condemnation.” What? Not even our own? We AREN”T bad? He loves us ANYWAY?

The tears still leak out, but we let them cleanse, not drown us.
Feel that pain? The holy shaping of an eternal soul. WHEW. NOT all for nothing! All for EVERYTHING!!!

So take heart, my fellow pilgrims. The dark is very confusing at first. Hard. But when our eyes can ONLY SEE GOD and NOTHING ELSE, it opens a new treasure in our souls.


All that we have and all that we offer
Comes from a heart both frightened and free.
Take what we bring now and give what we need.
All done in his name.

(Gary Ault, 1969)


I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
13 For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you. Isiah 41:9-13

So we do not lose heart. .. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison II Corinthians 4:16-17

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; Colossians 3:12

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

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The HOLIDAZE

Church calls it “Advent,” World calls it “Holiday.”

“Merry CHRISTmas” vs. “Seasons Greetings.”

The spiritual expectation of something holy. And the flesh expectation of a lot of THINGS.

Some of us trying to have it both ways. WHEW. On the one hand, we need to do the things we’ve done for love of friends and family for years—gifts, meals, get-togethers. On the other hand, we long for the “silent night” as baby Jesus is born in our hearts. Hard to do in the wild n crazy commercial shuffle it has become.

Plus….keepin’ it real here…lots of painful things mixed in with the beauty of this “season.” What we DIDN”T get that we needed. The things we CAN’T “fix.” People we loved and lost. Others we don’t understand. All magnified by the emphasis on “giving” this time of year.

The World calling us to BUY stuff to give. The Lord calling us to draw near to the miracle of His birth as a human baby.

The sometimes crushing challenge as we walk the line between the two? I call it the HOLIDAZE.

Always a dilemma. We feel we can’t “do it all.”

But we CAN have it both ways!

We might not have enough MONEY for all the ringing charities, enough TIME for all the work, or enough ENERGY for all the festivities.

But the BEST gifts are from our spirit, as scripture says, “every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). And simple as choosing to give one.

So here’s a Christmas miracle for you! Search your own heart for your own unmet need…then give it to someone else.

Not feeling the love? Give love to someone else who isn’t. I know for sure, if Jesus had left me a hundred dollars it would not have meant as much as the promise that He loves me.

No peace? GIVE the gift of peace–acceptance, forgiveness–to someone who might not “deserve” it, who suffers a turmoil you cannot “fix.” Feel the gift go down into your OWN soul.

Lonely? There are many who need a phone call or visit.

A million ways to give what you aren’t getting yourself. Many richer blessings.

This is one way we can share the Christmas miracle AND still honor our part in the World’s demands. NOT to add to your chore list. Just the one open hand with a gift.

I recommend LOVE. There’s NEVER enough of THAT goin’ around. And God couldn’t have put it plainer:

~Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7

Forgiveness works too. I myself am in the dark gut process of forgiving someone I love for something hard that I don’t understand. Every step closer I get to doing it, I heal from the rejection and pain myself.

~…bear with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

Anger does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:20

Many true “gifts.” The ones our real Father gives to us. When we give them to someone else, our souls heal.

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What Are YOUR Top 3 REGRETS?

We don’t have room to list ‘em ALL do we? So here’s the top Three:regrets

1. COULDA

2. SHOULDA

3.  WOULDA

Older n wiser now, we have that killer 20/20 hindsight.

Know we COULDA finished school instead of partying, picked a better mate, had that baby, eaten better, lost weight, been nicer, taken better care of ___, gone to…Well, a million of them, aren’t there?

We kick ourselves cuz we know we SHOULDA quit drinking earlier, been more careful driving, gone to the doctor sooner, paid the bills on time, …….yeah.

And the odious WOULDA…Woulda done them all better if we hadn’t found a million ways to lick our wounds, many lying ways to “cheer” ourselves. Eat, drink, smoke,”use,” sleep, our way through the dark.

So even when we know the Lord and kneel before Him grateful for His forgiveness, His guidance, part of us knows we missed the mark a million times and feels guilty for it. Inside we wonder, tremble a bit, cry when we could sing, afraid He’s disappointed in us. Cowering in fear we will mess up again and ruin it all.

God is not like that. People can be. God is not.

A favorite blogger sums it up perfectly:

bread

“If you feel like you’re late to the party, just know that we are ALL late to the the party. It’s been going on for 2000 years now, there’s just nothing we can do about it, this is when we were born. Come to the table, bring your stale, brackish, dirty water. Because Jesus is waiting to turn even your murky water into the sweetest wine. The feast must go on.”

John Lewis (“Not for Punks” on wordpress.com or healthy-people-don’t-need-a-doctor.com)

I wish I could take back every day spent watching TV, every night on the town, shopping spree and 99% of what we did in college. Would spend it another way now that I know what I know.

But the Bible doesn’t talk about REGRET when it talks about miracles and new lives and His wisdom. Joy in Heaven when we come to Him, that’s all He talks about. We can FORGET what lies behind, and just press forward to the eternal prize.

Because the party doesn’t start until WE GET THERE! And once it starts, it lasts FOREVER.

….forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

                       I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

                                                                        Philippians 3:13

 

 

 

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