But Why, Daddy?

photo-35“But why, Mommy?” “Because I said so.” This could sum up many of the conversations that filled the early days of my child-rearing- at least with one of my children.

My firstborn was not much of a questioner or tester. He wanted to please Mommy. He followed the rules. He rarely asked me why we had certain rules, he just focused on obeying them. Ah, that’s dreamy music to a young mom’s ears, right? Well, it definitely made life easier at times.

Then our secondborn came along. She didn’t seem to pick up the ‘don’t ask, just do!’ code from her older brother. Every other word was ,”Why?” Because I said so just didn’t fly with her. “Why do you say so, Mommy?” I could sense the tension and impatience in my body grow with this constant interrogation! Why can’t she just accept my authority and do what I say?  

The mind of my inquisitive daughter is like my Cutco knife sharpener. She definitely keeps me sharp! ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17)

Then there came a day, a few years later, when I personally started questioning some things I had been taught over the years. ‘What had always been done’ was being challenged by what I was learning through God’s Word. My heart so badly wanted to know the truth and to know the why about what I believed. Every fiber in my being begged for clarity. I was almost paralyzed from my aching to know what was right that I could barely move one step forward in my spiritual life. My mind was full of questions, not doubts. I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to understand God’s Heart! And if there was any wrong thinking in me, I desperately wanted it corrected right then and there. I wanted God’s blessing and peace in my life and wouldn’t let him go until He gave it to me.

I think maybe my questioning made my Father smile. As a friend of mine once said, “Be honest with all things before God. He’s got broad shoulders and He can handle it!” More than that, He wants to handle it. So, I took that advice and concluded, better to be honest about all things with God, because He knows my heart and every thought anyway! So, I started to ask away.

Why do we do this tradition in church? Is it really biblical? Or are we following some man-made ritual that has just been passed down from generation to generation? And if ‘principle A’ is to be followed, what is it suppose to look like in my life? If the first generation church lived out their faith in a certain way, how are we to also live it out in 21st century Suburbia, USA? “Why, Daddy?” “How, Daddy?” Surely my heavenly Abba felt the constant tugging on His Holy Garment from a child who was demanding answers!

And how did He respond? Patiently. Graciously. And with answers and wisdom. Not every question was answered immediately. He gave me just the right amount of understanding I could handle at once. He brought Godly teachers of the Word to direct me. Intercessors to pray and ask for discernment with me. Testimonies of many followers of Christ who were asking the same questions and discovered the why. Let me tell you, that when I started asking, God opened the floodgates and poured into me! If ever I could think of a time in my life where I could see the Holy Spirit working deeply in my heart and mind, it was at this time. The Holy Spirit prompted me, revealed to me, mentored me and brought understanding to me. But this was not without a battle. Satan did not sit idly by and watch God do His thing! No, I had to work for it. I had to guard my heart and defend my mind so that the riches that were given to me were not stolen by the enemy. With God-given treasures of truth comes sanctification. With sanctification comes opposition from the outside.

I look back and compare my daughter’s curiosity for the wonders of the world to my later-found curiosity to God’s wonders. It all has the same root- a hunger for understanding. As most of us moms may do from time to time (look back and wish we’d done things differently now that we are much wiser!), I have a much better appreciation for a child’sScan 107 questions. I see those questions as windows into their heart that they have opened with a trusting soul. What an honor it is when a child reveals their wonders and seeks understanding! And I believe that this is one of God’s great desires for us- to ask Him the question, “But why, Daddy?” so He can grant us great wisdom!

Proverbs 2:3-10

‘indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Then you will understand what is right and just
    and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.’

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God Rejoices Over Us with Singing

Unknown-6This morning, I caught a news clip about a You Tube video that recently went viral. It’s a video of a baby girl tearfully responding to the calming sound of her mother’s singing. It is so touching. I then started thinking about how God sings over us with love. I”m thankful that God doesn’t sing over us ‘heartbreak songs,’ as the video shows, but songs of love, grace and hope!

In my search for this Bible verse, I came across a devotion so beautifully written by Randy Alcorn. I couldn’t have expressed it any better with my own words.

So, here is Randy’s blog entitled, “God Rejoices Over Us with Singing.’ It is my honor to  share it with you all.

http://www.epm.org/blog/2007/Jun/30/god-rejoices-over-us-with-singing

And here is the YouTube video that sparked my search this morning. If you have not yet seen it, enjoy. But grab a box of tissues first.

The Great Physician

Unknown-5When I cut my finger, I desperately search for that box of bandages. I usually locate the box, but more times than not, it’s EMPTY! So I grab anything I can find and tend to my hurt with something that will stop the bleeding, protect it from getting infected and help it heal. Of course, I know that the bandage doesn’t really ‘heal’ me. The natural processes that occur within my body do the healing.

In a similar way, when we have emotional ‘cuts,’ we also tend to run for the bandages. Or in some cases, we look for a tourniquet! The problem is, those emotional bandages don’t really ‘heal’ either. They do provide some temporary protection, but they also cover up the wound. Exposing the wound, (at the right time and in a safe environment, that is) is a crucial part of the healing. You can’t keep it concealed forever.

Here’s an example. A girlfriend of mine finds out her husband has had an affair. She is devastated and deeply wounded. She feels excruciating emotional pain. She doesn’t want to tell even her closest friends or family that her marriage is struggling because she’s embarrassed or ashamed. Or maybe, her heart is so full of bitterness that she decides a divorce is what she wants, and she doesn’t want anyone to talk her out of it or tell her it’s the wrong decision. So, she privately deals with it while putting on her ‘happy face’ in public. It’s very difficult to deal with this kind of deep betrayal. Who could possibly understand it unless you’ve gone through it yourself? I get that. But please read on.

It is true that time can be a healer. But it doesn’t guarantee true, deep healing. Memories of pain, if left unhealed, will continue to hurt us. Sometimes they even seem worse as the years go on. But time can also be a vital part of the healing process. Rarely is anything healed instantly. It’s a process. But we need to cooperate with it and not keep ‘picking the scab.’ It will be tender and itchy as it clots. Let the healing process go through what it must.

Each one of us can choose the mending method, but it does not mean every method has equal effectiveness.

So, what should my dear friend do? Who and what can really truly heal her broken heart from an injury like this?

There is really only One that can heal our deep hurts. And His Name is Jehovah-Rapha-, which means, ‘the God that heals.’ And what does He use to heal us? The balm of Gilead. Let’s read what His Word has to say about this.

(Jeremiah 8:14-22, from The Message translation):

So why are we sitting here, doing nothing?
Let’s get organized.
Let’s go to the big city
and at least die fighting.
We’ve gotten God’s ultimatum:
We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t—
damned because of our sin against him.
We hoped things would turn out for the best,
but it didn’t happen that way.
We were waiting around for healing—
and terror showed up!
From Dan at the northern borders
we hear the hooves of horses,
Horses galloping, horses neighing.
The ground shudders and quakes.
They’re going to swallow up the whole country.
Towns and people alike—fodder for war.

“‘What’s more, I’m dispatching
poisonous snakes among you,
Snakes that can’t be charmed,
snakes that will bite you and kill you.’”
God’s Decree!

I drown in grief.
I’m heartsick.
Oh, listen! Please listen! It’s the cry of my dear people
reverberating through the country.
Is God no longer in Zion?
Has the King gone away?
Can you tell me why they flaunt their plaything-gods,
their silly, imported no-gods before me?
The crops are in, the summer is over,
but for us nothing’s changed.
We’re still waiting to be rescued.
For my dear broken people, I’m heartbroken.
I weep, seized by grief.
Are there no healing ointments in Gilead?
Isn’t there a doctor in the house?
So why can’t something be done
to heal and save my dear, dear people?

Asking if there is no healing balm in Gilead or a ‘doctor in the house’ are rhetorical questions. The author knew the answers. The balm and doctor are available, but they aren’t being applied! How often do we have the healing power right there in front of us, yet we refuse to use it?

This was eye-opening to me. I many times think I can heal myself. Then, as I see my method not working, I finally surrender and decide to submit my oozing and infected wound to the Father. Why do I allow the wound to get worse? Pride. Every time. And the hard question to ask is, “Can I see that God may have actually sent, or at least allowed, this disease or injury to test me?” We don’t like to think that God sends bad things. But I guess we need to carefully define what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad.’ The bad things, from a fleshly perspective, may actually be good, if they refine us spiritually and draw us to the Father. Though we would never ‘pray for cancer’, we know that through the battle, we are renewed inwardly and forever changed. We are told to look through ‘spiritual eyes,’ not with our temporal eyes. This tests and grows our faith.

Sticking with The Message translation, here’s what Hebrews 11:1-2 says about faith:

‘The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.’

Now, how does faith effect our healing? It allows us to trust the Doctor to diagnose our problem and follow through with His instructions to heal us. He will give you the strength and courage to do it. His instructions and prescription are of no use to us if we choose to just stare at it or throw it in the trash. There’s a little work to be done. If we could confidently believe in our hearts that His healing is really a ‘slam dunk,’ we will take the necessary steps to bring it to fruition, right? Well, what if I told you that the cure for your ailment is already revealed and available for you? Would you accept it?

Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.’ 

Jesus is the key to our healing! Forgiveness is a crucial part of the healing- offering it to those we have wounded and accepting it from those that have hurt us. We all are called to forgive, just as we have also been forgiven through Jesus. He empowers us with what we need to be healed. Remember, he already purchased the only lasting healing that cures our brokenness!

God bless you today as you yield to Him with all your hurts.

Matthew 6:9-15

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.’

 

Tumbling Along the Path of Life: My Early Years

Thank you for taking the time to meet me today for a little stroll down Memory Lane! I’mphoto-7 going to map out the first part of my life journey for you with signs and pictures. (Visual aides help me understand and articulate things better. I guess that’s why I always enjoyed picture books the most!) The first place I want to take you is a few miles back to when I was a young girl. I was blessed to be born into a very loving family. We were the typical All-American family- a family of four (one boy, one girl, happy parents) who lived in a modest split-level home, had a dog, took annual vacations, went to church and unknown-4-1hugged a lot. What more could a kid want? This part of the journey was sprinkled with lots of hearts and smiley faces.

Starting at the age of three, I took dance and tumbling classes. I found out quickly that it was a lot of fun being upside down and cartwheelin’! Many years ago, my brother, Rich, described me quite well in a newspaper quote… “Spontaneous energy. I remember when Lisa was little and we would all be photo-11eating at the dinner table. She would all of a sudden break away from the table and start doing walkovers on the kitchen floor. Mom was always telling Lisa to get back to the table. She was so full of energy that she couldn’t sit down long enough to finish her meal.” God sure has a sense of humor. He then blessed me twenty years later with two little ones who preferred to use their chairs as apparatus to swing around rather than a place to plant their little tushes!

As soon as I discovered I had the bug for gymnastics, I enrolled myself into my first gymnastics club. It was located in my front yard. My teammates (okay, any neighbor kid that wanted to flip around, too) and I would try tumbling tricks all day long in the summer and pretend we were training for the Olympics. My personally-appointed coach (my brother) would often ‘assist’ me with my stunts. He was great at launching me high in the air, but not so good with catching me on the way down.

One vivid memory I have of those summer days is when I learned an aerial  (no-handed) cartwheel. As usual, I had spent the whole day in training. It was now dinnertime and getting dark outside, but I had not yet accomplished my goal. My friends had all gone home. I was determined to do this trick, no matter how dewy the grass was getting or how late I was for dinner. I can still remember the excitement as I ran and flipped upside down and finally resisted the temptation to put my hands down! Mission accomplished!

My mom soon realized it was time to upgrade my training program so she took me to a 367_1062216949978_6619_nreal gymnastics club. Through a recommendation from my old dance teacher, we made a weekly trek to downtown Minneapolis on 6th and Hennepin to Dr. Watson’s Club. I was a petite eight year-old clutching my mother’s hand tightly as we walked from our car to the old, shady-looking building. The songs the men in the barbershop on the first floor sang as we ventured up those dark, musty stairs to the third floor always amused us. As I waited for my class to begin, I would watch with amazement as the older gymnasts did flips and twists. I felt in my heart that one day I would be doing them, too. After about a year of classes there, I switched to a club that was closer to my home. I was soon asked to join their competitive team at the age of nine. (Compared to today’s standards, nine isn’t exactly a young age to start competitive gymnastics.)

It didn’t take long until I was living, breathing, eating and sleeping gymnastics all year round. The gym became my second home and my team, my second family. I excelled quickly and by the age of 14, I had qualified twice to the US Junior Olympics and had competed all over the country and world.

“Quick learner! Good work ethic! She has talent that could take her to the Olympicsphoto-12 someday!” These were comments I heard from coaches and others in the gymnastics community. I was told often I had a special talent. I loved making my parents proud.  So this part of my journey seemed to be covered with trophies and accolades. But there would soon be a change in terrain just beyond the bend that would prove to be….. well, a bit bumpy to venture through.

During the highpoint of my club career, my coaches decided to moved away.  The last words I remember one of them say to me before she moved was, “Don’t ever quit!” I tried another club, but it just wasn’t the same without my former coaches. A series of emotions  started to take root in me- ranging from anxiety and self-doubt to fear of failure.

With all the changes occurring, I started losing interest in gymnastics and was becoming increasingly curious about life as a ‘normal’ teenager. Up until I was fourteen, praise and affirmation through gymnastics was all I knew. But now at 15 years old, gymnastics just seemed hard and uncertain. I didn’t have a good chemistry with my new coaches and skills and progress just didn’t seem to come as easy as they did before. So, I hung up my grips. I’ll never forget the painful words from a coach the day I left club gymnastics. “You are a loser for quitting!” Wow. Ouch. So, with that stinging departure and with no more golden trophies to proudly display on our family’s mantle, I started searching for other things that could fill this deep need for identity and purpose- this hole in my heart.

Off I went, seeking fulfillment and eager to discover ‘normality.’ I left the safe and familiar  road I had been travelling and decided to do some ‘off-road’ sightseeing. I wasn’t sure at  m4_10the time where it would lead me, but it looked fun, different and exciting. I had seen other others go there and I was curious to know what it was they were doing or looking for. So I followed….

One of the first positive discoveries I made was a successful track and field season. I saw how my Unknown-1gymnastics skills and fitness helped me find immediate success and ‘belonging’ on the team. Since I had more time to spend with school friends now, I found a new social life.  I had always wondered what happened at all those parties I had been missing out on. When I was in year-round gymnastics training, I was never free to attend them. I now finally had my chance! Unfortunately, I wasn’t very wise in choosing certain travel companions. My driving force at the time was that I just wanted to be accepted and liked by my peers. I tried to be all things to all people. To my athletic friends and coaches, I was dedicated and a winner. To the shy kid at school, I was their friend. I partied with the partiers. I studied with the smart kids. I went to church with the ‘good kids.’ If a boy paid me any attention, well, I enjoyed the attention. I went from virtually invisible to having lots of friends. My ego ate it all up. I didn’t intend to go down a wrong path. I just wanted to be known as somebody. But in that striving to be ‘somebody’, I forgot who I really was or what I stood for.

I noticed ‘Danger’ and ‘Caution’ signs all around, but chose to ignore Unknownthem. Besides, I was going to turn back soon, anyway. So I thought…

It’s amazing how quickly one small step after another can get you way off the road! The safe path I had left was becoming a distant memory. I had tossed aside many pricelessr1_1 and helpful treasures I had been given during the earlier part of my journey- including my parents’ wise counsel, my moral upbringing and my life dreams.

But there was one sign I noticed in that dark place that once in awhile appeared out of nowhere. “Follow Me. I will protect you.” It gave me finger-pointing-mdhope. I still didn’t know how to get out of that place, but I knew someone was watching over me and pointing a way out.

Let me explain to you who I thought the Maker of this sign was. See, going to church and learning about God was a part of my childhood, but it never felt very personal. The one positive thing I held onto was that, for some reason, God gave me many gifts- a great family, athletic talent and opportunities. But the performance mentality I had with gymnastics in many ways influenced the way I perceived God. I felt like I had to perform for God’s love and acceptance. At times, I saw him as this intimidating, stoic gymnastics judge sitting in His heavenly chair, pencil in hand, waiting to see if I was going to fail or succeed. I grew tired under the burden of high expectations from God, myself, and everyone else; which was the reason I left my original path in the first place. I was running away in fear.

Well, by God’s grace, I found my way out of that dark place and was back  ‘in view’ of the right road again. Along the way, I stumbled upon one of my most precious treasures- my love for gymnastics. My junior year of high school, I decided to get back into the gym- except this time, I joined my high school team. The enjoyment of competing without heavyphoto-13 stress was a great relief. The following year, I won the Minnesota State High School Championship All-Around title. I was grateful I had given gymnastics a second chance and felt satisfied to finish my career on a high note. But just when I thought I was done and ready to move on to other opportunities, I was awarded an unexpected gift. I was offered a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to the University of Nebraska! I knew competing as a Lady Husker would be a great honor because I had ‘Big Red’ in my blood. I grew up watching my Uncle Tim play football for the Huskers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. God had big plans ahead for me in Nebraska.

gbr_balloon_promoMy new view of the journey was now very red- Husker red, that is! The fall of ’87 I was off to Lincoln to begin the next phase of my journey- as a college-athlete. Everything was new. A new city, new friends, and definitely new challenges. The first day of practice, I thought I had accidentally shown up at thephoto-6 wrong place. It felt more like military boot camp, than gymnastics! I knew from that first day that it was not going to be a stroll through the park. Our team spent up to five hours a day, six days a week training in the gym, running or in the weight room. On top of that, we were expected to maintain excellent grades to stay eligible. This was a rocky, uphill part of the journey, but at least I was hopeful and going in the right direction.

Competing as a Lady Husker was a fantastic experience for me. Over my four collegiate seasons, I had surpassed my personal goals in many areas of my performance. Twice I was the Big-8 conference All-Around Champion, competed all four years at the NCAA Nationals and set numerous school records. As a team, we placed in the top five in the country, in 1989 and 1990. But 367_1062213389889_7904_nthere were other things that made my experience there even sweeter. For one thing, I found a very special new traveling companion. His name is Mike.

Mike was also a Husker gymnast. He was different than anyone I’d ever met before. There was something about him I couldn’t describe then- only that I saw an inner strength and peace in him. Things I never had. From witnessing the loss of his father and his career-ending injury, I noticed peace was always there. He never seemed phased by circumstances. He was Steady Eddie.

One time early on in our journey together, I asked him how he could be so cool and367_1062213749898_346_n collected about everything. He answered me with a question- one that seemed completely irrelevant at the time. “Lisa, if you died today, do you know if you would go to heaven?” I had never been asked that question before and I quickly tried to think up some good reasons that were in my favor. But the more I tried to list the ‘good things,’ the more I was reminded of all the mistakes and ‘wrong turns’ I had made in my life. It was like the movie of my past was playing in my mind, replaying over and over the bad experiences. I didn’t know how to answer him and that disturbed me. The view from this point of the journey was filled with question d9_10marks. Who am I really and where was I going?  And though I was at a place on my journey that appeared good and positive from the outside, I still had restlessness in my heart.  I especially started having serious questions about my relationship with God.

18366_487750440435_5052398_nOver a few months, Mike and I started attending a church together that ministered to college students. It was amazing- drums, electric guitars and clapping! Everyone was so nice and FUN! And another thing… the teacher encouraged us to bring our own Bibles and take notes in them!

Going back to my church experience as a kid, I had only remembered organ music and our minister reading from the Bible. Occasionally, we would recite some memorized creeds or prayers altogether.   Though I had grown up going to Sunday School classes where I had learned all the main Bible stories and Christian songs, I had never personally studied my Bible and read it for myself. I’m pretty sure it just sat on my top bookshelf collecting dust next to my once-read Judy Blume and Hardy Boys novels.

That nagging question Mike had asked me (about going to heaven) wouldn’t leave my mind. Every Sunday, our college pastor taught directly from the Bible. I began exploring who God really was and what the Bible was all about. It started to make sense and I was seeing how maybe I fit into God’s larger story. It all came together for me one evening during a church service. The worship leader asked the congregation at the conclusion of the service, “Do you want to know Jesus?” That was the cry of my heart, but this otherwoman-kneeling voice in my head was saying, “Why would God accept you?” But that night, the full Gospel message was shared with me. The REASON Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left heaven, came to Earth, led a ‘Perfect 10’ life,  willingly died on a cross and was raised from the dead, was me. I had heard all these things about Jesus a million times before, but now it was personal. He didn’t just die for all sin… He died for my sin.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I had no problem believing this for myself. I knew I had sinned a lot. I had always been aware of my hopelessness and rebelliousness apart from Him. But I had no idea what the remedy for my sin and shame was. This perfect God-man chose to be sin for me and willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty of my sin, which the Bible says is (eternal) death. He did this so I could have new life and real hope for a future. He had taken my 15752645-christianity-representation-with-the-symbol-of-a-crossplace on the cross and died for all my sins- past, present and future. And that penalty was paid in FULL! It wasn’t a down payment or given conditionally based on my future mess-ups. I was told that God would accept me right then and there. Romans 10:8-9 says, “If you just confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So that’s what I did. I believed and I confessed that Jesus is Lord!

This promise of eternal salvation was so comforting to me. Ever since I was a small child, I had been terrified of death. Now, knowing I could know for certain that when I left this life on Earth, I would be with God in heaven forever, was mind-blowing to me! To think, I was walking around with an eternal death sentence for 20 years, and now I have been pardoned through the blood of Jesus. Wow.

May I emphasize that this gift of eternal life (or salvation) is FREE.  Nothing I can do, or you can do, can earn this gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” In fact, Romans 6:23 says that, as sinners, what we HAVE earned is death!

He has also given me a clean heart. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the Lord says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Wow! I was set free from shame and filth!

Not only has the Lord given me the gift of eternal security and a clean heart, He has put inside of me His Holy Spirit- to love, teach and guide me. And to be my Peace, my Comforter, my Hope and my Joy. To transform my mind, strengthen me to turn from my sinful ways and walk in newness of life. Salvation was not a one-time decision. It was my spritual birth. From then on, it has been about growing up in Christ and deepening my relationship and knowledge of Him.the-light-at-the-end-of-the-road-109014-530-484

So, what’s the view of my journey at this point of my life? Well, I’m on a completely new road now. When I look behind me, I see my old path ending at a cliff. But there lies Jesus- creating a bridge from my old path to my new one. He stretched out his body for me to walk from death to life! Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

The Lord blessed me with an incredible opportunity right at the end of my college gymnastics career. It was 1991 and I was competing in my final NCAA Championships. My team did not qualify that season, but I qualified individually. So I was there with my two coaches and my athletic trainer, James. I was a pretty healthy athlete so James didn’t have much to do. I had just completed my competition and was back at my hotel. I was having a little pity party because I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to. But as I was sitting on my bed reflecting on the meet, I decided to pray and open my Bible. A few minutes later, I got a knock on the door. It was James. He wondered what I was doing, so I told him  what I was reading. He was very curious and had lots of questions about the Bible, Jesus, my church experience, etc. I was so happy to share with him what Jesus had done in my life! I could tell that just like me, James knew ‘about’ Jesus but had never had a personal relationship with Him. When I shared the Gospel with Him, I saw in his eyes that the Lord was touching his heart.  He thanked me and went back to his hotel room. Just a few minutes later, I got another knock on the door and it was James again. This time, he was there to tell me that he had given his life to Christ and wanted to share that with me! Wow! I sure wasn’t having a pity party anymore! I was rejoicing with the angels that James was now a new born-again believer in Jesus Christ! This eternal victory in James’ life definitely outshined any golden trophy I could’ve ever achieved that day! I love how the Lord uses all things for His glory!

My new path has not been perfect. Nor has not been easy. I still make mistakes all the time! But with each obstacle that wants to get in my way, the Lord has continued to walk with me and help me through all situations. I can’t imagine living without Him. He is everything to me.  I cling tightly to His Arm as he leads me. He gives me just enough light to see and take another step of faith. I am in awe of who He is. I trust He will lead me the right way because I know without a doubt, He is trustworthy and faithful. This last sign says it all for me: photo-14

Oh, and you may be wondering what happened to Mike. Well, he was gracious enough to ask me to be his wife and we’ve been married for 21 years! I’m so thankful my Lord Jesus has blessed me with such a fun life companion! With Christ at the core of everything, life is glorious!

And what about you? Was there anything you read here that truly resignated in your heart? Are you like me- maybe you’ve known about Jesus but you know you have never asked for forgiveness for your sins? Do you know without a doubt in your mind that you have received the free gift of eternal life that only Jesus can offer? If you need to make sure, I invite you to make that decision right now. Today is the day of salvation. We are not promised even one more day so don’t put it off. Where you spend eternity hinges on your personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Please remember this… it is much more about the attitude and sincerity of your heart than the words you speak. This is not a ‘formula’ to receive a free ticket to heaven. This is a life-changing decision. And it’s the most important decision you’ll ever make!

When you are ready to open your heart to Jesus and begin a whole new life with Him, express these things to Him and believe them in your heart:

1) “I am so sorry for sinning against you by breaking Your holy and perfect Law; 2) Please forgive me and cleanse me ; 3) Holy Spirit, come into my life, transform my mind and help me turn from my sin; and 4) Jesus, You are King of kings and Lord of lords. My Prince of Peace. Thank you for loving me and for saving me from eternal death! I am a new creation, the old is gone; the new has come!”

If you made this eternal decision in your heart and have repented of your sins, all of heaven is rejoicing over you! And if I don’t meet you in this life, I can’t wait to get to heaven and meet you there! What a big party we’re going to have!

For more information about the ‘next steps’ in your new life with Christ, please send me a message and I’d be happy to connect you to a variety of wonderful books and study guides to help you. (I also have more verses about salvation written in the “What I Believe- and Why’ section that may be helpful to you.)

Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop pursuing the Lord. Gather with other believers to encourage one another. Start attending a Bible-believing church in your area. And God bless you!!!

Compelled by Love

Have you ever had one of those days, that you are so overwhelmed by compassion that you have no other choice but to act upon it- sometimes in the most outrageous ways? You know it’s the Holy Spirit living out through you. You are compelled by the love of God! There’s no other explanation for such behavior!

I’ve had experiences where I just started weeping uncontrollably over someone. “Where did that come from?” And just recently, I was sitting in church next to a sweet, older Asian women who was no more than 4 foot 8 inches tall. The whole service, I just felt ‘compelled’ to give her a hug! I was feeling a bit awkward because that particular Sunday, we didn’t do our regular ‘meet and greet your neighbor’ thing. But I knew the Lord wanted me to express compassion and love to her. So, during one of the concluding worship songs of the service, I just reached over and put my arm around her. When it was time to leave, she leaned over and said, “Thank you for showing such kindness to me!” I didn’t know her and I certainly didn’t know what she was going through. But I was so happy I was obedient and did what God had asked me to do- even though it seemed a bit ‘out there.’ (Not everyone appreciates a hug, you know!)

Or take today. I was shopping for some new autumn decorations in a specialty shop and I saw the most gorgeous painting of a cardinal. Well, you may or may not have read my “I Praise You’ poem that mentions the cardinal (I reposted it below in case you missed it), but today I just felt ‘compelled’ to read it out loud to those lady workers right there in the store! I did ask if they wanted to hear it- as if they’re going to say no, right? And I did purchase the painting so they could listen to my poem! Ha ha! Anyway, the poem is about praising God through all things- more than it is a poem about a cardinal. But it felt amazing to shine a little of heaven into that store. And the lady that was ringing me up quietly thanked me for sharing it. “I’m a Christian, too,” she said. We then further discussed church and other things. You just never know where conversations can lead to when you let the Spirit flow out of you!

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But I kindly ask one thing of you…. please don’t run the other way when you see me coming. I don’t always feel compelled to hug! But if you need a hug, I will be more than happy to give you one!

‘For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ (2 Cor 5:14-15)

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Chicken Soup

I just have to share this…. I am always amazed when God teaches us spiritual lessons through the daily, common tasks of the day. Well, here’s my lesson today…

I roasted chicken this week, so today I was preparing chicken-rice soup. As I was deboning the refrigerated carcass that had been simmering in my crock pot yesterday, I carefully sifted through small handfuls of chicken to make sure every bone and other chicken-stock-2-7unpleasing parts were removed. I wouldn’t want my family to choke on a harmful bone or taste something gross! Then I removed my bowl of broth from the fridge. It had a solid layer of fat that I could easily remove with a big spoon. I turned on the heat and now it’s just time to wait until all those yummy ingredients start simmering again, then I’ll add the rice and veggies in the final minutes. Mmmm, I can’t wait! The delicious aroma will soon fill our home!

I couldn’t help but think that is what God does with us. As I watched my hands gently and thoroughly sift through the chicken removing harmful, unpleasant pieces, the Lord also desires to sift our hearts with His delicate fingers, removing any unclean thing that would cause us harm. And just as we remove the unwanted ‘fat’ from the broth that causes long-term problems in our bodies, He patiently waits for the fat to rise to the surface and then4369579850_f046c8f0dd carefully scoops it off, leaving only pure and healthy broth. He then adds heat to bring the mixture to a delightful state, which are the trials and suffering that we experience in this life. But those trials aren’t to harm us. They are to season us and make us a pleasing aroma to Him, the Master Chef, and to all those who can catch a whiff of the heavenly scent created by Him!

It’s also important to remember that this ‘perfecting’ process is not a one-time thing. As I’ve been continuing to check on the soup all day- removing more stuff floating around that I don’t want in there, tasting, seasoning, etc.- I’m reminded, and thankful, that the Lord keeps a continual eye on me and never stops doing His perfecting work in my life!

‘Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’  -Colossians 3:5-10

Open Hands

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Years ago, I observed a dear friend of mine doing something during a praise and worship event that intrigued me. It was not unusual to see her raise her hands and express her exaltation to the Lord, but it was the intentional gesture of her hands that caught my eye. With palms up and open and arms extending forward, she sang. I looked around thinking I maybe had missed the communion tray! Following the service, I asked her about it. She responded, “I wanted to receive all that God has for me!” Wow. Do I come to my Heavenly Father with expectancy to receive from him like that? I remember my first question about doing that was, “Doesn’t that just make me a selfish child to always have my hand out asking for gifts and favor? “

That experience led me to ponder about my relationship with God. And being a mom, I can now better understand his love for me, as his child. My love and desire to bless my children with gifts and good things is not dependent on their obedience, but on my unconditional love for them. Yes, I reward them for being responsible and finishing tasks I give them to do. But those are not ‘free gifts.’ They earned them. As much as I delight in rewarding them, I also love giving them grace gifts- those which are given straight from the heart and motivated by my unconditional love, not as a payment.

I believe God also delights in blessing his children with grace gifts.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.’ (Ephesians 1:3-10)

I am so thankful for every gift that God has given me through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus IS the gift that keeps on giving. We were given everything we need at the time we received salvation. Now, as believers and followers of Christ, we spend the rest of our lives into eternity unwrapping, discovering, using and enjoying this amazing gift of grace in all of it’s beauty and power!

‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.’ (2 Peter 1:4)

‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (I Thess 5:16-18)

Here’s a second thing about open hands I’ve learned. Sometimes the burdens of life we hold in our small hands really weigh us down and hurt us. We try to carry around those things that feel like sharp, jagged pieces of shrapnel. But Jesus tells us to cast our burdens onto him because he cares for us. So friend, open your fingers and let the broken pieces fall into his hands and trust him to heal you and do with the shapnel what he sees fit. The deadly ammunition that the enemy shoots at us can be transformed into the very thing that our sovereign Lord wants to use in his plan to teach us and use against the enemy. It’s our choice- will we put our troubles in God’s hands or in the enemy’s hands? Trust God! He is in control and all things are under his authority.

‘Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’ (I Peter 5:7-NLT)

One of my continual ‘heart checks’ is that I continue to worship the Giver and not the gifts. And I know that He can give and take away for my good, and his love for me never fails. I intentionally try to keep an open hand before Him- to receive what He wants me to receive and release the things He wants me to release. It is very freeing!

Open your hands to your Heavenly Father and be freed, be healed, be blessed and be transformed.

*** Special thanks to Pat and Ryan for being my hand models!

The Sweetness of the Lord

God is referred to many names in the Bible- each name describing a unique quality of His character. In Exodus 15, He is called, Jehovah-Rapha- which means,  ‘the God that 

To Sinai via the desert. Scene at the Springs of Moses; (Mara...heals.’ While the Israelites were traveling in the desert (that long, 40-year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land) they came to a town named Marah (which means ‘bitter’). There was water there, but it was bitter and undrinkable. Moses cried out to the Lord on behalf of the Israelites because they desperately needed water to drink.  God then told Moses to throw a piece of wood into the bitter water. When he did, the waters became sweet! God heard their cry for help and provided for them. Just as the Lord healed and satisfied the thirst of the Israelites several thousands of years ago, He also wants to satisfy our thirsty souls and heal our hurts today.

Does your spiritual thirst need to be satisfied? Do you need forgiveness? Or do you need love to forgive someone else? Has a circumstance from your past made you bitter, discouraged or resentful? Hold on… there’s hope. Let’s start by first reading this passage from Exodus directly from the text:

22Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.24 So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.

There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. 26 And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.” (Exodus 15:22-26)

We see that the Lord healed His people. He also told them to ‘do what is right in His sight’ and obey His commands, and He would protect them from disease. When I read this passage, I can’t help but think of that other piece of wood that God used to heal us today- the wood that He used to nail His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to. This was Hisflat,550x550,075,f ultimate provision of healing- eternal and complete, spiritual healing!

‘And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.’       (I Peter 2:24)

God provided the healing, but He also gave it with instructions:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (I John 1:9)

May the healing touch of that old rugged cross change your bitter waters of sorrow, pain and sin into sweet, life-giving water. He doesn’t just make it non-toxic and tolerable, he makes it SWEET! Drink up and be satisfied!

‘Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!’  (Psalm 34:8)

‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.’ (Rev 22:17)

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” (John Piper, desiringgod.org)

Fun Facts:

Some studies have shown that the type of wood that THE LORD instructed Moses to throw into the bitter waters was from a Mangrove tree. Here’s what it looks like and a little bit of information about the tree:

(The following is an excerpt from ‘Did the Mangrove Tree De-Salt Water?’ from ‘God As A Gardener’ blog):

‘Although there have been many books written on plants in the Bible, few authors suggested that the wood Moses threw into the water at Marah was from an actual tree. Of those authors, only Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz in Torah and Flora (1977) identified a possible source of the wood – a mangrove tree.  The Avicennia marina is a species of mangrove tree that grows on the Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea. It is called the gray or white mangrove because of the color of its bark.  The gray mangrove is both a pioneer and a relict species. Pioneer because it will be the first mangrove species that populates an area. Relict because it remains in an area after other mangrove species arenice-mangrove-tree extinct.  The gray mangrove  uses two mechanisms to extract salt from sea water.  First, leaves have special salt glands that are among the most active salt-secreting systems known.  Second, mangroves concentrate salt in the bark and in older leaves which carry salt with them when leaves drop. In normal circumstances, the process of trees extracting salt from water would take days; however, God was in the process as he was in the burning bush that was not consumed.  When God is present, natural processes can become supernatural.’

What’s a Lizard Doing in a King’s Palace?

wstlnd-green-gecko-351Years ago, I remember my Pastor speaking about Proverbs 30:28, which states, The lizard you may grasp with the hands,
 yet it is in kings’ palaces.’ I thought at the time, “What an obscure verse to base a sermon on!” But as he shared the meaning behind the biblical passage, I understood and was encouraged. But I would’ve never guessed how that message would again resurface in a fun and profound way soon after that service!

I was preparing to leave for my trip to Israel when I was sitting in church listening to this ‘lizard in the palace’ message. The basis of it, was that you never know where God may place you. He might just position you, (as small and seemingly insignificant as you think you are) in the King’s Palace. I immediately thought of Esther. I wondered if, as a young Jewish girl, she ever imagined herself as ‘Queen Esther.’ But there she was, chosen amongst all those beautiful ladies, to be Queen of the mighty Persian Empire! Now, that’s being placed in a position of influence!

Fast-forward two weeks from the sermon; I am touring a miniature model of Jerusalem,

2templ_modelright outside the actual city of Jerusalem. It was a beautifully intricate piece of art, depicting what the Temple would’ve looked like at the time right before it’s destruction in 70 A.D. We could walk all around the temple. We could locate where the Holy of Holies would’ve stood, where the Gentile Court would’ve been, and the covered Portico where all the Israelites walked around, hustling and bustling with their families and friends. I guess the portico would’ve been like our church lobby today- full of activity, people and exuberant conversation.

And then, I spotted an interesting site- the place where the presiding King resided during His stay in Jerusalem.  Just as I was taking a quick photo of the King’s quarters, a small gecko runs into the picture! (Oh, how I wish I could locate that photo once again! If I do, I will add it here!) It was an amazing moment. Instantly, I thought of that sermon I had heard two weeks prior. Was this a prophetic sign to me? I don’t know, but it tickled me. It also gave me confidence to know that if that happened to be my journey and I suddenly found myself in a place of great influence, I could trust that God would be with me and that He put me there for a purpose!

I don’t believe things happen by chance, but sometimes we don’t see these opportunities coming. Just as Esther was put in a royalty position at that important time of history, I believe He can choose to do that with any of us at any time. But there’s always a choice to trust God and be courageous…or not.

Esther’s relative, Mordecai, says to Esther, ‘For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’ (Esther 4:14)

Esther had to make a choice. Thankfully, Esther sought the Lord’s wisdom and guidance through prayer and fasting before taking action. The result was that her patient, courageous and God-led plan influenced King Xerxes to save the Jewish community living in Persia (which were her relatives and herself, as well) from annihilation! I might add, it also led to the vengeance of their enemies (Haman the Agagate and company).

We are not to think of ourselves as bigger or smaller than we really are. Instead, we are to trust in our God who is bigger than any challenge we may face.  May God be truly glorified in and through our lives!

The Lord is looking to-and-fro for Esthers of the world who will be courageous and trusting wherever He may place them. The great news is, He will never leave us or abandon us when He calls us to stand for Him!