Home

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What do you think of when you hear the word home?

Some people think of a house or apartment, the place they live, maybe with family or friends, maybe alone.  Home to me is the place I live with my family and my pets and many good things:  hot and cold running water, fridge and pantry full of food, appliances that do most of the work, space to be with people and space to be alone.  Home is very good to me.  If someone asked you to describe “home”, what would you say?

“Home” might mean different things to other people.  To a college student or a deployed soldier or resident of an assisted living facility or a prison, what they think of as home might be somewhere other than place they live.  To someone living on the streets or in a refugee camp, what is home? And to others – a battered spouse, the child of addicts – home might be where they live, but it doesn’t seem good to them, like it does for me. 

In the same way, different people can have vastly different connotations of God.  He’s the “man upstairs” making the rules. Or maybe God is nature, or perhaps there are many gods, or no god at all.  If you asked ten people what their view of God is, you would likely get ten different answers.  And if someone asked you to describe God, what would you say?

Many people rarely think of God, because to them he is distant and inconsequential.  Some people deny God exists.  To a lot of people, God is the one who will punish you if you break the rules and reward you if you follow them.  Some people think God hates them, or is angry at them, or is out to spoil their fun.  Quite a few people think of God as a giant puppet master pulling everyone’s strings to tell the story he wants to tell. Most of the people I know believe that God is basically good but that he sends things like sickness and injustice into our lives for some higher purpose. But where do people get their information about who God is and what he’s like?  Why so many versions? Can we know for sure what’s true and what’s not?

 We can’t know absolutely everything about God while we walk this earth.  Our puny human brains can’t get around everything he is and does.  But we can know enough.  A baby doesn’t understand everything about his mother, what she was like before he came along, how she does what she does.  But the baby can know that his mother loves him and is taking care of him.  That’s all a baby needs to know at that stage in life. 

 All we need to know about God is that he loves us and is taking care of us.  We can learn a whole lot more by reading the word, because God has described himself in the Bible.  If we approach Scripture with an open heart, setting aside the pictures of God that we got from the movies or even from church, truly seeking to know him, he will show us who he is and what he wants for us.   To me, God isn’t distant or scary at all.  He’s absolutely the best thing ever.   It makes me sad that people don’t know that God is good, and that he loves them no matter what, that his plans for them are all good, all the time.   I struggle with coming up against others’ versions of God.  When I think of home, it is good.  And when I think of God, it is very, very good. 

Not everyone has access to a good home.  But every single person on this planet has access to a very good God, and an eternal home where every need is met and there is nothing but peace and joy and love. 

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Open Letter to Someone I Love

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If today you will hear his voice, harden not your heart. (Psalm 95)

There was a time when you were young, and innocent, and trusting. When you had a sense of God as a good God, and you knew He loved you, and you wanted to please him. Then someone who should have loved you and protected you did not. Someone you loved and trusted and wanted to please was NOT pleased. They rejected you and hurt you and used you, and cursed you with their words and their actions.

You were crushed, not just once but many times, and each time there was a scar. The devil whispered lies in your ear: “You are not enough. You are not good. You are not loved. God doesn’t care. He won’t protect you. You must protect yourself.” And so like an oyster protecting its tender flesh from a jagged grain of sand, you built up a hard layer, and another, and another. You stopped trusting your tormentor, and you stopped trusting God.

Your shell might look like a beautiful pearl, but there is still a jagged edge buried inside. You built a shell, but you could not remove the grain of sand. And so time passed, and your connection with God grew more dim. Part of you believed the lies, and part of you knew the truth: that you are valuable, and good, and acceptable just as you are. But are you loved? You look to family, to friends, to coworkers, to strangers, needing to be loved, needing to be accepted, needing to be needed. Some seasons are happier than others, but the innocent, trusting child that you once were is long gone. There is no one worthy of your trust, not even yourself. The pain never stops for long.

You are loved, just as you are. You are cherished by me, but to a far greater extent you are cherished by God. He yearns for you. He wants to restore you and give you every good thing. His love for you fills my heart to bursting. It keeps me up at night. He is your creator, and he loves you exactly the way you are. Nothing you have done or will do can separate you from his love.

In the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16)

Not judgment, not condemnation, not hoops to jump through or laws to keep. Fullness of joy. More joy than you can handle, and peace that words can’t describe.  He’s waiting for you like the father of the prodigal son, searching the horizon every day, never giving up on you. Turn to him, ask him to show you his love. Stop listening to the lies and receive the truth: you are valuable, and good, and accepted, loved beyond measure by the Creator of all. Enter into his presence. Experience the joy.

Thankfulness

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FallThanksgiving Day in America has a lot of traditions.  People gather with family, eat too much, and take naps.  Some families watch football, some play outside, some go shopping.  When I was a kid we talked about the Pilgrims and the Indians and how they celebrated the harvest together. (That’s clearly out of fashion now, I know.)  Hopefully people still take time to be thankful.  I woke up early today and spent an hour thinking about what I am thankful for.  Here, in no particular order, is my list.  I hope you write your own.

I’m thankful for the beauty of nature, for the natural beauty of the place I live.  (The picture with this post is the view from my kitchen on an autumn afternoon.) I’m thankful for the seasons, each with their own appeal.  I am thankful for my family.  I’m grateful for my husband, that he has stayed with me even though I am a completely different person than the one he married. I’m thankful for my kids and my grandkids, who each have a big place in my heart. I’m grateful for my parents, for their love and example. I appreciate my siblings and their families, who are an important part of who I am. I’m thankful for my extended family and their diverse talents.

I am thankful for my job and the good people I work with.  I’m thankful for my friends from school and church and the neighborhood.  I am grateful for all those who have spoken into my life, shared themselves with me, and taught me.  I’m thankful for the country I live in, with all its resources and opportunities. I’m thankful for my health and the amazing design of the human body, and the incredible diversity of plants and animals around me.

I appreciate the comfort and conveniences of my life.  I’m thankful for hot baths, blankets and pillows, dishwasher and washing machine.  I appreciate all my kitchen gadgets and the opportunity to cook and bake. I’m thankful for my car, not just because it gets me where I need to go, but because it carries what I need and provides a safe and quiet space where I can think.

I’m thankful to God for the opportunity that he has given me to know him and to be with him.  I’m grateful that he has good plans for me, that he has given me a purpose and provided everything I need for life and happiness. I’m grateful that he cares for me and speaks to me.  I’m thankful for his promises and that his word will never fail.  I’m grateful that his love is the one sure thing that I can count on no matter what happens, no matter what I do or fail to do.

Today, and every day, be grateful.  Practice the art of counting your blessings.  It is truly time well spent. All the blessings in your world can only bring you joy if you take the time to appreciate them.

 

 

 

My Lamborghini

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lamborghini cropped   I drive a 2013 gray Ford Focus.  It’s a small, economical, unremarkable car with a few dings and almost 100,000 miles on it.  On the outside, I’m a lot like my car.  I’m small and unremarkable and have a few dings and gray hairs.  Like every human being ever created, I have a body, and I have a soul. My body is what you see on the outside; my soul is where I think and feel and choose and believe.  (Mind, will, personality, and heart are all words that refer to the soul.)  Then there’s my spirit.  The thing that sets mankind apart from other creatures is the fact that we each have a spirit.  God is spirit and he created us in His own image.  In addition to our minds and our bodies, he gave us each a spirit.

In my spirit, there’s a flying Lamborghini.  On the day I was born again, I became a new creation, not in my body, and not immediately in my soul, but in my spirit.  It’s like God gave me a Lamborghini parked in an invisible garage.  This is the new creation that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians.  We relate to God and everything in the spirit realm through our spirits, not primarily in the body or the mind. Before I was born again, God did speak to my spirit, but I didn’t know it was His voice I was hearing.  I felt things and didn’t understand where they came from.  After I became a believer, I learned to recognize His voice better and hear Him more clearly.

Just like a Lamborghini can do things that a Ford Focus could never do, my spirit can do things that my body can’t.  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in my spirit (Romans 8:11).  The power to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and cast out demons dwells in my spirit.  The power to display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control also dwells in my spirit.  But while my Focus is powered by gas and my body is powered by food, my spirit is powered by faith.  I can’t pull into the local gas station to fuel up my spirit.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).  I build my faith by hearing the word of God; not just by listening to someone preach or by reading the Bible, but by digesting what God is saying to me personally.  I need to be willing to let His word change me from the inside out.  There’s a lot involved in changing from a Focus to a Lamborghini!

I’ve seen the power of faith in my life far too often to doubt that it is real.  But every time I go to drive my Lamborghini, I need to have faith for the moment.  It takes faith to love someone who is being hateful toward me.  It takes faith to offer to pray for an acquaintance who is suffering from a health problem, even knowing that I have been healed of the very same issue.  I know that God won’t withhold healing from them, but the person might not be able to accept it.

My goal is to bring glory to God by letting Him use me to heal those around me; not just their physical ailments, but the emptiness inside them that makes their lives emotionally painful. Physical healing is great, but knowing how much God loves me and wants good things for me is far better.  I want to share that peace and joy with others.  That’s why I write this blog.

Happy Birthday, America!

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flag mapToday, as we celebrate the 239th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it is good to remember the purpose and text of the document.   The thirteen New World states were declaring their independence from Britain, and the Declaration was written to explain why. These lines convey the foundation and essence of American liberty.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Recently there has been a great deal of sentiment expressed over the Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage throughout the country. Christians have spoken out on both sides of the issue. But it is not and never has been the purpose of the American government to decide what is right and what is wrong, only (as the declaration states) to secure the rights of its citizens.

I find it interesting to note that Jesus refused to engage in the political issues of his day, and instead talked about the kingdom of heaven. He said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” My purpose as a Christian is to represent Christ in whatever circumstances I find myself. Jesus never required anyone to be without sin before he talked to them, ate with them, healed them, loved them, or died for them. His death provided forgiveness for all of us, while we were yet sinners. Jesus’ purpose is not to condemn, but to save. Followers of Jesus should diligently share the love, compassion, and mercy of our God with every person on this planet, whether their sin is blatantly obvious or cleverly disguised as self-righteousness.

As Benjamin Franklin (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) said, “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.”

Diving into the Waves

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waves

Today I was alone at the ocean.  I’ve always enjoyed being in the water, but my experience today changed me.

The surf was so high that the red “do not swim” flags were out (but no one enforces these things.)  As the waves pounded toward shore, I eagerly walked toward them.  By the time I was in water to my waist, the incoming waves were over my head.  If I tried to stand against them, they knocked me backwards.  But as each wave approached, just before impact, I dove into the base of the wave, and the foaming water passed harmlessly over me.  I came out on the other side laughing.

I did this for quite a while, wading deeper, facing higher waves, until I could no longer touch the bottom.  Then I swam beyond where the waves were breaking.  In the deeper water they were just high swells, constantly moving.  I floated on top and gazed at the puffy white clouds dotting the deep blue sky.  There was so much power in the water, but there was no reason to fight it or fear it.  It was the perfect place to rest and relax.

I was reminded of the passage where the apostle Paul prays that we might “comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love.  I was barely a speck in the water in the tiny bay where I floated on the edge of a vast ocean, and could not begin to imagine how much water surrounded me.  But that’s how God’s love is.  There is so much power in it, but I can rest in it as easily as I floated on those waves.  Nothing I face is too hard for God.  Nothing I need is beyond His capacity to provide.  When life’s circumstances come at me and threaten to knock me down, I can dive into God’s love and come up laughing on the other side.

Paul concludes his prayer, “know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.”  To that I say, Amen!

Don’t Blame God

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Nearly eight years ago, I sat at dinner in a restaurant with my husband and three youngest children. My youngest son, six years old at the time, was behaving a little strangely. While waiting for the waitress to take our order, he drank his water, then he drank mine, then he drank his nearest sister’s water. I wondered what he had eaten that made him so thirsty. As the dinner was served he continued to drink everything he could reach every time the waitress filled our glasses.
That night, after everyone was in bed, I went downstairs and looked up symptoms of diabetes. At that point, my son had only two of the symptoms. I hoped that the crazy thirst was just a fluke. The next night, as my son got out of the bathtub, I noticed that I could see every rib. Sudden weight loss is another symptom of type 1 diabetes. Again I put everyone to bed and retreated to the basement. This time I begged God to spare my son. I pleaded with Him to give me the diabetes instead. Normally my prayers ended with “Thy will be done,” but not this time. I was NOT ok with my son being sick and I made that very clear.
At the doctor’s office the next morning, the diagnosis was confirmed. My beautiful little boy was doomed to constant finger pricking and insulin injections and counting the carbohydrate value of everything he ate or drank for the rest of his life. There is no cure. We were sent to spend three days at the children’s hospital to stabilize his blood sugar and learn how to cope with this disease.
I brought my Bible along to the hospital, but I didn’t read it that week, and I didn’t pray at all. I was angry at God for giving my son diabetes, and I was hurt that He had not answered my prayers. Like nearly everyone I know, I believed that God was “up there” controlling everything that happened in my life. If only I had known then what I know now.
Many Christians believe that God is good, and that whatever He does, He does for a reason. They believe that someday they will understand why He caused or allowed every rotten thing they have experienced, just as I eventually became resigned to the diabetes and told my son I didn’t know why God gave it to him but to just trust Him because He knew what He was doing.
Fast forward many years to the time I began to read the Bible with the revelation that it is all true. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” That makes it pretty clear that if there is stealing and killing and destroying going on, it isn’t Jesus doing it.
When Jesus was on the earth, He healed the sick, He fed the hungry, He gave sight to the blind. He willingly suffered all the punishment we deserved so that we might have life. It is the thief, Satan, who comes to steal our joy and destroy our lives and kill us by war and crime and accident and disease. Why doesn’t God stop him?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He planted a beautiful garden that contained everything needed by mankind. And it was all good. There was no sickness or crime. There wasn’t even bad weather! So what happened? We know about Eve and the forbidden fruit, but why was that such a big deal?
God had given mankind dominion (power and authority) over the earth. Once God says something, He never goes back on his word. So even though man did not do what God intended, God could not take back the authority that he had given. It’s like you give your daughter a car and tell her to use it to get to school and work and wherever they need to go. You give her only one rule: never let anyone else drive. Off your kid goes, and pretty soon, she picks up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker is a really smooth talker and convinces your daughter that everything will be so much better if she lets him drive. He gets behind the wheel and proceeds to start speeding, driving recklessly, and mowing down little old ladies. That’s not what you wanted the car to be used for, but you did give it to your kid. Once you signed the title over, there’s only so much you can do. When the hitchhiker goes spinning out of control, your child is going to pay the price.
So God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth, and they handed it over to the devil when they chose his smooth talk over God’s intentions, kind of like your daughter let the hitchhiker drive. And that’s the deal with God and the earth. God still wants good things for us, but He is spirit, and he can only act on earth through people. He gave us free will and never violates it. We can choose to act in accord with His will and reap the blessings He has promised us, or we can go our own way and suffer the consequences.
God did not choose for my son to have diabetes any more than He chose for Cain to murder Abel. God created mankind perfect and whole; there was no disease in the Garden of Eden. That original sin opened the door to all the corruption that is in the earth today. Sometimes our suffering is a result of choices we have made, sometimes it’s a result of someone else’s choice, and sometimes it’s just a result of living in a fallen world that has been corrupted by every wrong choice since the time of Adam and Eve.
Eventually, through studying the Scriptures, I came to realize that God is still good. He does still love us and want good things for us, just like we want good things for our children. He sent Jesus to get our authority back from the devil, and as believers in Jesus we have His power to defeat the works of the enemy. I am in the process of learning about the authority I have and learning how to use it. I have stopped blaming God for what the devil does to us and what we do to each other. Instead, I thank God that He has given me, and all believers, everything we need to live an abundant life.