A year ago, I was out in Nevada, across the country, waiting to say my final good-bye to my Mom. This once strong woman, who gave me birth, raised me the best way she and my Dad knew how, and continued to be one of my best friends through life, until her last day on this earth. We had our moments… even arguments that extended into a year or better of no contact. However, even as a non-Christian at the time, I loved my parents, with all their flaws and forgiveness and  reconciliation was only a matter of time. Even afterwards, when we got together, we shared not only a great deal of shared talents and tender moments, but gave evidence to the verse “iron sharpens iron”. When we got into it, it was irresistible force meeting immovable object. Now, after a lifetime of moments, Mom was dying, and even though I thought I could deal with it, I was not as strong as I had thought.

While the family had gathered at her home, we visited with her, even though she did not respond much of the time, and much of my time was spent by her bedside reading to her. At first, it was Dale Black’s “Flight to Heaven”, which continued to be a comfort to me afterwards, then I read to her out of John, 1 John, and Psalms. The night I lost all my composure and broke down into an inconsolable grief was a turning point for me. As I woke the next morning, praying … repenting, I asked God to help me love the unlovables, then confessed to Him that I was not handling ‘this other’ very well, either. God knew, and I knew, what I was talking about… losing my mother. As I wept openly to God, and continued praying, the scripture ‘For surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’… popped into my mind.  As I thought about the scripture, not even wondering where it came from, I admitted to my Heavenly Father that I did not understand that scripture. I never have.

“If He has already borne them, why do I feel so crappy?” was my question to God. No answer. Oh well… for now, it didn’t matter. I resolved to chew on that scripture and seek the answer until I had it. As I finished praying however, I realized that I had already forgotten it! I went into a quiet panic. God, I forgot that verse already! Please, help me to remember it… what was it??? It came back, and this time, it stayed. And, yes… I have been chewing on it, meditating on it for the past year.

A few days ago, I was thinking on the verse in Romans 5:19 “  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. “, I had an ‘aha’ moment. A true revelation that I believe ties in with the scripture God gave me a year ago. Of course, it does point to Jesus, whose obedience gave us the pathway to becoming a totally different creature. I was born into sin… a son of Adam, or son of man. Every person born into this world has a sinful nature because of the devastating consequences of Adam’s high treason against God. I have known this for years. And I also knew that Jesus was my Savior, who suffered at the hands of evil men, was crucified, buried, and then resurrected. I knew this in my mind, but the realization that I was truly a new creation… yes, born ‘again’, when I accepted God’s answer for our dilemma, I am now no longer a son of man, or son of Adam, but a son (or, in this case, daughter) of God, who has adopted me. Just as I was born into sin into my mother’s and father’s family years ago, I was also born into the family of God by the hand of God through Jesus. It is not arrogance, far from… it is rather humbling… mind boggling. It has nothing to do with what I have done, but rather what Jesus has done. Yes, He HAS borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. And yes, I am a new creation, not because of anything I have willed to do, done, or thought, but because of a mystery that God has done in me.  All I had to do was receive it.


A Father’s Love

We all yearn for love… and we long for it intensely. I would dare say many, if not most, of our decisions are based on the need to be loved and cared for. Sometimes we are so blinded by this need, we look for that love in all the wrong places (as the once popular country song puts it), much to the chagrin of those around us who see trouble ahead. Some are involved in one bad relationship after another, while others find comfort in work, money, job status, alcohol and/or drugs. Our desire to be loved, I believe, is one that has been placed there by none other than God Himself, and I also believe that, while there are those on this earth He has given us to love and receive that love from, there is a God-sized hole in our hearts reserved for Him alone.

I love movies, and one of my favorites is The Princess Diaries… a story of a plain Jane teen who discovers she is a princess. She takes ‘Princess lessons’ from her Grandmother, Queen of the small country of Genovia, and on the very night she has decided to turn down the crown, she finds a letter written to her by her deceased Father. His gentle loving words to his daughter he had never met in person are powerful, and recently, as I watched this clip of the movie, it dawned on me that our Heavenly Father has also signed His love letter to His children, ‘love, your Father’.

The gospel of John makes the bold statement that ‘as many as received Him (Jesus), to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them who believe on His name’. Christians (and others) are very quick to note we are all ‘Children of God’. But, we are not ALL children of God, but those who ‘believe on His Name’… that is.. the name of Jesus, who came to reveal the love of God and take on Himself the retribution for the sin of every person who has ever lived, is living now, and will live. That is a lot of wrath to bear, all for the sake of love.

The idea of being royalty, let alone children of the living God, staggers the imagination, but it is a vital part of who we are as Christians. It is not in our works, prayers, church going, or any other activity we can come up with, but rather yielding to His love, what He did on the cross, and surrendering to that relationship with Him, getting to know Him and learning to trust Him daily. If we don’t truly know Him, we won’t trust Him, and if we don’t trust Him, how can we ‘rest in Him’ as the Bible instructs us to?

My mind keeps going back to the tender, loving voice speaking words of encouragement to his daughter, who was frightened and ready to run away. I remind myself that, no matter what scares me, no matter how life hurts, my Father loves me with that same tenderness and I CAN trust Him. As God has been teaching me to stop striving and just rest in Him, the message gets clearer … I am a child of the King, and do not need to fear. God DOES love me, more than I can love myself. Our family, spouse, friends will let us down in one way or another, but God’s love is not a selfish love… He is not as earthly fathers are, but loves with a perfect love. The question is… do we dare put down our defenses and let Him love us, or reject Him as so many have? Do we venture to the cross where God lay down His life for us so that we can enjoy that loving relationship with Him forever? Our response to Him will determine our eternal destination, as well as our contentment here in this life on earth.

Struggles of the Heart

It has been a while since I have posted. Not that I haven’t had anything to say, but sometimes, the chaos in my mind does not slow down enough to get it all in order. This past year has been quite an adventure. I felt as though I was being drawn into all the vitriol, bitterness, and hatred that seems to revel in our society these days. There is a lot to be angry about, and I was indulging.

Unfortunately, as a born again Christian, it is not my place to be standing in contempt of anyone, and I took it to God. I prayed and basically told God that I was tired of being ‘mad’ all the time, and didn’t believe He wanted me hating anyone, so what do I do with all of this? Immediately, a new prayer fell from my lips … ‘God, help me to focus on the eternal rather than the temporal’. I had lost my sight of all that is REAL and was being sucked into the popular cynicism prompted by people and events in my beloved country that I never thought I would ever witness, and I knew my attention was on the wrong things.

Within a couple of weeks, I was led to a book … ‘Flight to Heaven’ written by Dale Black. Intrigued by the title, I read the synopsis, then bought a copy and had it read in a day. I could not put it down. Little did I realize the impact this book would have on my life, as God was using it as the first step in answer to my prayer. So affected by the message in the book, I bought several copies and gave them out to people, including my youngest sister, who was taking care of my Mom, who was in hospice care at home. I told her I was sending her the book, with the instructions she was to read this book to Mom.

Sadly, she never had the chance… she got it started, but Mom took a turn for the worse, and almost immediately after I had sent her the book, she called with the dreaded phone call… “Barb, it’s Mom… we are not looking at weeks or months, but days’. I closed down the business and flew out on the 8th of April… Mom died on the 18th… a day that will hover in my thoughts for the rest of my life.

What did I do during the 10 days before Mom died? I read to her… the very book I had sent Kim insisting she read to Mom. Mom could not speak, so we had to work out a ‘blink’ code, since, as I would finish a chapter in the book, she would be lying there with her eyes closed and I would wait. She opened her eyes, and I would ask her if she wanted me to continue… she blinked at me a ‘yes’, and I would continue. This is how we finished the book, and sitting there by her bedside, reading this wonderful book to her during her last days are actually the most powerful memories I have of that time.

The night she died, most of us were around her bed… talking, singing, and even some laughter, although subdued. Mom and Dad both loved song and laughter, and someone in the room started the ball rolling, and insisted that I sing one of her favorite songs… I insisted that I did not feel like singing, but ended up doing the song, tearfully, reminiscing during the entire song of the days Mom taught me both the melody and words. I sang it to her.

Before I get off subject, I must take the time to admit… I did not have it all together, although I was telling myself ‘I can handle this’. One night shortly before Mom’s death, I lost it. Total control, out the door. To make a long story short, it was so bad, I woke up the next morning praying. I asked God to forgive me for messing up so bad, and asked Him to help me love the ‘unlovables’. Then, as I started to let the tears flow, I told Him, ‘I am obviously not handling this other very well, either’. I knew He knew what I was talking about.The words were no sooner out of my mouth, when part of a scripture from Isaiah popped into my head … a verse I had not read in a long, long time…. “for surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”. I admitted to God I had never understood that scripture and boldly asked ‘if He has already done it, then why do I feel so crappy?”

My praying continued on for a while, and just when I attempted to think on the verse I believed God had given me, I discovered I had already forgotten it!!! How could I do that?? I almost panicked and asked God to help me remember that scripture! Well, it did come back and stayed this time.

After Mom’s funeral, I returned home and tried to start pulling myself together again. One day not long after returning home, I tuned in to a preacher on TV (Joseph Prince… I had never heard of him). He was talking about our works versus the ‘finished work of Christ on the cross’. I honestly don’t remember anything of his message but those words, and as he spoke them, I was instantaneously taken back to that morning I had cried out to God when my Mom was dying and was reminded of the verse God had given me that day “for surely, He HAS borne our griefs and CARRIED our sorrows’. I am not delusional, but it was almost as if God had tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘the work is finished… it is a done deal… you just don’t know it yet’.

That was back in April, and since then, it has been more lessons on the same track… God’s grace and the finished work. I guess the question is: ‘how do we walk in that grace? In that victory? How do we get to the point where we realize with all of our being that God has already done the hard part and we do not have to carry the load? Since those initial prayers and pivotal experience in my life, my times with God have been consistently pulling me toward ‘abiding in Him’, finding the ‘secret place of the Most High’ that Psalm 91 talks about, and being quiet… not just not talking, but quieting everything … body, mind, and spirit, so I can really get close to God and get to know Him. God says in His word: ‘Be still and know that I am God’…. Psalm 91 has been prominent in my study as well … “He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of His wings’. … I probably have the words mixed up, but the point is … where is the secret place? I think God wants us to seek it out. Abiding under the shadow of His wings? When I read that, I think of the proximity we have to have to anything to be in its shadow … we have to be pretty darned close. And if we are that close to God, the maker of all that is, how difficult would it be to distract us from His Presence by all that is going on around us?

On closing, as I was reading a part of Genesis one morning, I discovered (I love to do word study) that “Noah” means ‘rest’ in Hebrew… Noah entered the Ark and was saved from the storm. Abiding under the shadow of His wings, to me, denotes a safety and rest. I believe what God was trying to tell me was all I need to do is rest IN HIM… that is the only place I will find it, and that means stop striving, in mind, body and spirit.

Learning and growing

As time has gone on, and I’ve grown older, but not always the wiser, I find myself observing the changes in the world around me with an ever increasing dismay and …. anger.
It is this anger I have been contemplating the past couple of days. While I do not consider myself a political person, I do get deeply passionate about issues, especially during election years, and this past election was no different. Totally disgusted with some of my fellow Americans at their seemingly pathetic choice for our country’s leadership, I wanted to both run away and become an activist at the same time.

There is a lot wrong with the world and the way things are going, but the real problem is that the intense anger and frustration I experienced was becoming a bitterness and even hatred (or at least intense dislike and disdain) for those who saw things differently than myself. It had become a matter of ‘us versus them’, and that was referring to my fellow Americans! We are all supposed to be in this together, but social networking sites, for one,  were full of the vitriol (on both sides) that I found myself taking part in, although I tried to stay above the fray, but kept forgetting the enemy is not my own countrymen.

By the time the elections were over, I didn’t even want to watch the news, since it only angered me more, until I got to the point I just caved and told God “I am so tired of being angry and hateful.”… Yes, anger and hatred is a very heavy burden to bear, a burden we were never designed to carry, and becomes heavier with each and every day. As a conservative Christian, I know this kind of hatred for anyone is not right, nor am I to subscribe to beliefs that many liberals hold fast. This left me with the perplexing question of what to do with these intense feelings of helplessness and frustration in watching the country I love falling apart and ruthlessly being destroyed by those who (in my view) did not love this nation, but were on their own self-important power trips.

 I tried looking for answers in my Bible, also searching for a renewed hunger for God (yes, I was mad at Him, too, although it took me a long time to get past the denial). At first, I was reading just bits and pieces of it, hoping for that spark that would ignite into a full blown inferno for God, but my efforts were rewarded with white pages with black words staring back at me, and no excitement or enthusiasm stirring in me.

But God … God is faithful, and was there to start me on a new segment of my journey with Him with a lesson … a very important lesson … one I probably should have learned a long time ago, but maybe was not ready for it yet … with a book.

Written by a pilot, Dale Black, only 160 pages long, ‘Flight to Heaven’ was the tool that God used to basically get my attention and stir up that hunger within me. Intrigued by the title, I downloaded a sample onto my tablet and when I got to the end of the sample, immediately bought the whole thing and had the book finished by the time I went to sleep that night. It was an eye opener…

In closing this post, I will just add that some of the experiences Dale recants in his book were similar to my own, even though I’ve never flown a plane, let alone died in a crash, went to Heaven, and then came back. While I have never known many of the challenges he faced in coming back, what I did have in common with him and could all-too-well relate to was his faith battle, questions, and his intense disappointment with God when He didn’t answer prayer the way we thought he should. There were even some answers buried in the depths of that book that helped me to see some things about myself, others and God. And so, the learning and growing continues … more tomorrow.

Curves, Hills, and Speedbumps

It has been a while since I posted last, but have decided to, once again, untangle my thoughts long enough to provide some insight into our wild world that seems to be spinning out of control sometimes.

We all face challenges … some seem very minor, more of an inconvenience, but then there are those that appear as a mountain before us… a daunting, and discouraging, obstacle that will not move or bend.
Since I am the type of person who has to have complete control over my life, these forbidding trials that come into my life test me to the core. As I have lived more than a few years, I have learned that, sadly, we do not have control over many of the events that affect our lives, and it is how we react to, and live with those events that reveal who we are.
As a born-again Christian, my faith is not supposed to be in myself, but in God, the Father, and Jesus, His Son, who does watch over this madness on Earth, even as I sometimes wonder “Where are YOU??” For myself, it is very difficult to witness the incredible selfishness of mankind and the trouble it causes, only to be reminded, by the overwhelming kindness and selfless acts of others, that, while God may be quiet at times, He is still ever present here and the guilty on this Earth will not go unpunished.

The Bible also states that judgement begins at the house of God … that means us … His children. As I face the sad fact that ‘ … there is none good, no not one’ as stated clearly in Psalms, Romans, and other passages, I also face the truth that it includes me. No matter how virtuous I like to view myself, or how rightly I like to behave, deep down, my thoughts, motives and innermost desires are self-centered. How many times in a day do I think “I”???  It takes the saving power of God to set me free from my selfishness.

So, as I critically observe the world spinning around me, out of control, I have to come back to the truth that all those foolish, stupid faults I can’t help but notice in those around me can also be found in my old human nature, which drives me back to the foot of the cross, once again seeking forgiveness, not only for my own acts of wrongdoing, but my ill conceived thoughts and motives.

God is watching, and the guilty will not go unpunished.  Evil is rampant in our world today and multitudes suffer at the hands of others. This angers me, but I also know that the difference between myself and those I so easily criticize around me is that Jesus has stepped up and taken the wrath of the Father in my place by virtue of His great love for me, and those around me… the wrath that has always been there, but held off to give us a chance to accept the sacrifice He so willingly and lovingly paid at such a great price. My challenge as a Christian is to hold fast to the faith He has given me and allow Him to work in me, resulting in less of me and more of Him … less self-centered pre-occupation with myself and the world I live in and more love and compassion for others, knowing Jesus died for them as well as for me.

Hello world!

As I considered starting a new blog, there were so many subjects clamoring for attention. I know we all have too much to say, and very seldom take time to listen. Tonight, even at this late hour, my first and foremost thoughts are of the unbelievable news of the dramatic rescue of the miners in Chile who have all been rescued.

I am so overwhelmed by gratitude to God for sparing those men and their families and that nation from yet another tragedy. When I consider the magnitude of the accomplishment, I also know that, without the help of God, it would have been an abject failure.

So, I thank God for the lives of those and can’t help but wonder what He has in store for them. I congratulate the miners and their rescuers for this wonderful outcome…. we all know it could have been and was expected to be much different.

In a world so filled with pain, despair, anger and desperation, it is so heartening to witness such an awesome miracle… of life, hope and jubilation. Maybe we can know from this that there is light at the end of the tunnel (pun intended).