Top 10 Lessons Learned from 2013

generic_clock-150x150The clock ticks…the calendar rolls over from one year to the next…time continues as it always has. But the first day of a new year always feels special. What will define 2014? And what defined 2013?

For me, it began in January with a spiritual battle. At times, it felt like a tailspin- a close call to a crash and burn. But I  experienced gradual progress- clawing my way back. I saw glimpses of hope that helped me keep going forward. Was my struggle self-perpetuated? Was it a refining fire from God to get my heart clean and righteous? Or was it an attack from Satan? I could barely take it. I don’t ever, ever, ever, ever want to go through that torment again. But what has resulted? Humility. Dependence. Intimacy. Clarity. Grace. Mercy. Love. Compassion. Joy. Boldness. Becoming engaged in God’s Kingdom once again. Understanding. Creativity. Passion for studying God’s Word. Passion for being in His Presence. Fresh, renewed spirit within me. Hope. For those things, I am eternally grateful.

I still battle nerves and a racing heart- which is so physically uncomfortable and exhausting. Not sure if it’s from changing hormones in this aging body of mine, but whatever it is, I endure and I’m learning to turn my weaknesses over to the Lord. Oh, the flesh. Such a battle.

As I reflect on 2013, what were the lessons I learned? With all the battles, it was such a rich year for spiritual growth and victory. I feel compelled to share my ‘Top 10’ with you.

10) Learn from the past and then let it go. (Replaying negative past events is counter-productive. If I’ve asked for forgiveness, trust God’s promise to forgive, cleanse and heal. Then place those things at the foot of the Cross and leave them there.)

9) Don’t waste time evaluating everyone else’s spiritual condition. I’m not  an accurate and objective judge of other people, or even of my own heart. Seek and ask the Lord to reveal areas that need to be addressed and then obey what He says in His Word. (Doing a spiritual inventory is a healthy thing, but comparing my ‘good lists’ and ‘bad lists’ to others is not. God’s holy and perfect Law is my standard- and only by faith and in Christ’s grace can I be empowered to live it out!)

8) Thank God continually for His blessings- His love and presence in my life ARE my greatest reward! (And thanking Him for my trials, as well.)

7) One day at a time. Focus on what the Lord has for me, what He wants from me, right here and right now.

6) Be informed, but not consumed about world events. Look at all things from a biblical perspective, always having His eternal plan in focus.

5) Ask, “Okay, what now? How can I be a part of the solution, rather than just being a complainer?”

4) Separate ‘good things’ from ‘God things.’ There are many opportunities and time fillers available to me- even self-fulfilling and gratifying things. But what does God the Father want me to do?

3) Don’t hold on to the things of this world too tightly. Only clutch to one thing- the Lord…. and don’t ever let Him go!

2) Honor and invest in my commitments to my husband and children.

1) Forgiveness is freedom to my soul. (Forgiving others and forgiving myself.)

I’m sure there are many, many more things I could add. And each of us has our own unique list. But whatever it is, I pray that we each recognize how the Lord is working in our lives and then walk in it. God bless from our family to you and yours!


One Tree, Many Branches

One special field the Father has cultivated in me over the years is my love for Israel- His Covenant People and also His Covenant Land.  About twelve years ago, the Lord truly broke my heart. I had been clicking around the tv channels one day when I came upon a show covering a religious service. The two men on the stage were a Lutheran minister and a Jewish rabbi. The minister was asking forgiveness on behalf of his Christian brethren to the  rabbi and the Jewish congregation. He referred to the Jews as their ‘elder brother.’ I just wept. I had never heard this type of public confession or this choice of relationship with the Jews from a Christian leader in my life- at least that got my attention like it did this time. I was finding myself also asking forgiveness for the atrocities that were committed during the Holocaust- especially for those that were committed by professing Christians. During this somber moment, I clearly remember the Lord telling me, “Pray for Israel.” Honestly, I had never before had an inkling of a desire to do such a thing and at the time I didn’t really understand what He was asking of me. “Who is Israel?” was my first question! And my second question was, “Why would I, a 32 year-old American gentile woman care about a country the size of New Jersey on the other side of the world, or a people group I had very little interaction with?” It didn’t make any sense to me. But I could not deny what the Lord was telling me or the ache I felt in my heart. I knew I needed to first figure out who Israel was if I was to obey His instruction to pray.

I started with a few phone calls. My only Jewish-Christian friend gave me some guidance, though I could tell my inquiry baffled her a bit. When she came to accept Yeshua (Jesus) years before I met her, she seemed to have left most traces of her past Jewish heritage- at least from what I saw at church. I didn’t know her all that well. What she did in her home may have given me a different perspective than what I saw during Sunday morning. Though I do remember she loved to dance during worship. That may have been influenced by her Jewish upbringing. I would watch her with admiration, wishing I could express myself that freely and joyfully!

The Lord was so gracious to me as He continued to plant seeds of truth. Below are a few verses He led me to that helped me figure out how this ‘holy whisper’ about Israel fit into my life (and into the bigger story unfolding according to the biblical account):

Genesis 12:1-3

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

Psalm 122:6

‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.’

The next passage of Scripture explaining the relationship between Jews and Non-Jews is a bit long, but it is well worth a complete read through, so don’t skim! I’ve chosen The Message translation because it speaks my language very clearly. I hope you are blessed by it. Please look up another translation if you prefer.

Romans 11:11-31 (The Message) ‘Ingrafted Branches’

‘The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!

But I don’t want to go on about them. It’s you, the outsiders, that I’m concerned with now. Because my personal assignment is focused on the so-called outsiders, I make as much of4449810873_bbbc35e470 this as I can when I’m among my Israelite kin, the so-called insiders, hoping they’ll realize what they’re missing and want to get in on what God is doing. If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If the first thing the Jews did, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what’s going to happen when they get it right!

Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.

It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green.

If God didn’t think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you? He wouldn’t give it a second thought. Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God—ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don’t presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you’re out of there.

And don’t get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground. If they don’t persist in remaining deadwood, they could very well get grafted back in. God can do Unknown-10that. He can perform miracle grafts. Why, if he could graft you—branches cut from a tree out in the wild—into an orchard tree, he certainly isn’t going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you’re in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.

I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written,

A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion;
    he’ll clean house in Jacob.
And this is my commitment to my people:
    removal of their sins.

From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God’s enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God’s overall purpose, they remain God’s oldest friends. God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.

There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.’


So, this was the beginning stage of my newfound love of Israel. I consider it the closest thing to a life transformation, next to my salvation in Jesus. I guess I could better describe it as the fruit that flourished from my wild branch because of the strong vine it was now connected to!

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.

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.’


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!


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


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,

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.’