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And He Felt Compassion for the Multitudes

We are so frail. As humans, our hearts are only able to handle so much emotion, so much feeling. In our individual lives, we may have a dear friend or family member who is dying from cancer. We hurt with them. When they cry, we cry. But, if we hear of a stranger who is dying of cancer, we care, but we do not cry. Why is that? I think it is because God gave us a limited capacity to feel. As weak humans, we cannot take on the pain and hurt of this world. We are simply not able to carry the heartaches of many. We can only handle intense pain and hurt in small portions. The things in our own lives can become so overwhelming that we can not even see past our own problems to feel the pain of others. It feels like all we can do at times is just make it from one hour to the next because this life is hard and difficult.

But God, unlike us, has no limit to the hurt and pain that moves Him. Unlike us, He DOES cry for the pain of a stranger, because to Him, there are no strangers. He made each person, crafting them cell by cell in the womb, fearfully and wonderfully. He knows them intimately. He knows their thoughts before they speak. He knows when they get up and when they sit down. His eyes move to and fro across the earth and in doing so, He sees each and every precious person. Each one matters to Him. None are worthless. None are so evil He will not show compassion.

The Lord has been nudging me and nudging me with 5 little words. “He felt compassion for them.“ (see Matthew 9:36) These 5 words keep repeating in my thoughts. “He felt compassion for THEM.”

When I see a crowd of people, I don’t feel compassion. I don’t know them. I have no connection with them. They are just a large group of people. But, Jesus saw “multitudes” and felt compassion for them. Did you know that a word didn’t exist in Greek or Hebrew that expressed what the disciples were trying to convey regarding Jesus’ response to the multitudes? So, they had to create one. They created a word for “compassion.” It was a total-body response, full of heart and feeling, bringing in the pain and hurt of the multitudes. It was not a human response, as we could not feel at that intense level. But Jesus was God and man. He had the capacity to love, far beyond our capacity, and to care for these hundreds, if not thousands, of precious people. Matthew 9:36 says WHY He felt compassion. It says these people were, “distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.” The Bible says Jesus came to save the sick and the lost. He LOVES the sick and the lost, the distressed and downcast. Do we? Do WE love them?

A few weeks ago, I could not fall asleep. As I often do before I drift off, I started praying. I remembered a news broadcast about ISIS and the persecuted Coptic Christians who were being raped, tortured, and beheaded in the Middle East because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. So, I began praying for them…that they would be strong and stand firm under persecution. But, quickly, the Lord moved me. In my heart, I heard Him say, “No.” No? He continued, “Pray for the women and children of ISIS.” Women and children? I didn’t know any women and children. Again, He said, “Pray for the families of ISIS.” Families of ISIS? There are families in ISIS? So, I prayed for people I didn’t know existed. I prayed for the women and children and the families of ISIS. And as I prayed, I began to cry…for strangers.

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I believe that night, the Lord blessed me with the ability to feel just a portion of the compassion He feels toward the women and children and families of ISIS. Perhaps He led with “women and children” on my account, because He knew it would be easier for me to pray for people with whom I could relate. Perhaps He then moved my thoughts to “families,” because I have positive thoughts about families and care about them in general. I don’t know. But, I do know that I cried. I felt the pain and the hurt of His precious women and children and of His families. Then, He continued. “Do not pray for the living, for they are already Mine. They go from life to life. (Speaking of the persecuted Christians) Pray for those who are dying (ISIS), who step from death to death, who do wickedness and evil, who use their power for evil. Pray for them. Pray for their salvation, that they would know Me, that I will be their God. Pray they repent of their wicked deeds as they are shown love by My children. Some who come to Me will be my most loyal bond servants. Pray for them.”

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And so I prayed. Over the next few days, I felt a heavy burden to share what God told me with other praying Christians. I wrote my Pastor and told my close friends. I posted it on Facebook in hope that others would also be moved to pray. And, consistently, the tears for ISIS would well up in my eyes each time I would stop to pray. Yet, it is difficult, as a human, to pray for people who are committing such vile sin. Just their wicked deeds alone cause me to want to look away and not care about them. Yet, Jesus sees these people and is moved with compassion. As a Holy God, He is more aware than I am of their demonic, dark practices. He is not fooled by their religious works or veils of demonic worship. He is clear that they are “distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” He is deeply grieved by their sin, at depths we cannot comprehend. He withholds His wrath from destroying them in the blink of His eye because He, “feels compassion for them.” He is both Holy and Just. He sees all and knows their thoughts. And yet, the God of the Universe has asked us, His Beloved, to pray for their salvation. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing? It is honestly more than my own mind can grasp. I believe, when I pray for them, that He has been allowing me to feel just the most microscopic portion of both His grief over their sin as well as His compassion for them. It makes me realize the vast distance between my ability to love and God’s enormous, infinite, eternal ability. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is God. We are not. We only get to choose to follow Him in loving obedience or turn away.

So, I pray you too, will ask the Lord Jesus to give you the ability to not turn away, but to look at the multitudes and feel compassion, to understand that they are distressed and downcast and without a Shepherd (Jesus). Can you imagine what the leaders of ISIS could do with the money and power and connections they have, if indwelt by the power of the Holy Spirit? What could they accomplish, if they were passionately indebted to Jesus Christ and willing to go to death in order to obey Him because of His great mercy and grace?

That night I laid in bed awake, the Lord also gave me a vision. My perspective was as if I was Jonah, sitting up on a hill, looking down over the wicked city of Ninevah. God told me, “ISIS is like the city of Ninevah.” So, I re-read the book of Jonah. And there it was…Then the Lord said, “Should I not have compassion on Ninevah, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

Jonah had avoided “crying out to the people of Ninevah” because Jonah, “knew that God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one Who relents concerning calamity.” We too can avoid God’s call to pray for ISIS. But, if we are WILLING TO PRAY and LET GOD BE GOD, both Holy and Just, perhaps as it says in chapter 3 verse 5 in the book of Jonah, “Then the people of ISIS believed in God and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest of these (the leaders…the fathers) to the least of them (the women and children).”

Please, I beg you, who profess to know Christ, who pray diligently to the God of the Harvest, please join with me in this call to obedience and pray for the “woman and children and families of ISIS.” Pray they will be brought to godly sorrow. Pray they will fall on their faces, even in the moment of beheading and raping, in humble repentance. Pray the Lord will continue to extend compassion and withhold calamity toward the multitudes, until every person has repented and believed in the only One True God, Jesus Christ our Savior. For it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.

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What I do When I Can’t Sleep, There’s no Internet and my Cable is Out…by Candace

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I think of things for which I am thankful. (See what I did there? How I avoided ending my sentence with a preposition? It was tempting. Sometimes, I just WANT to. Like that. Because, I know it will annoy all of the grammar nerds out there over 30, who actually take offense at such careless oversight! …But I digress.)

I think of things for which I am THANKFUL. The list is pretty long. It’s getting longer by the hour, actually. You see, a lot of people are thankful for THINGS. And, well, I am too, but it’s not really the THINGS, it’s the people behind them. It’s what the THINGS represent, to me, the love they hold, the memories. (Yes, I am about to break out in the song from CATS, sung best by Barbara Streisand and imitated poorly by me with my hairbrush in front of my bedroom mirror. “Memories….of the moments of my life…Little something colored memories… of the way we were.” I can NEVER remember lyrics. When I sang in high school, my absolute, number one, most horrible FEAR was standing on stage with a microphone in hand, starring dumbfounded at a completely, still audience with NO words to sing. It’s kind of like that dream which repeats itself, where someone is chasing you and you are running to get away, all the while you are screaming at the top of your lungs, “Aaaaaaahhhhhh!”, but there’s no sound. Nothing. Just your mouth hanging open,… Yeah, just like that. But, I digress. Again, sorry. It’s all of theses medications. I blame them.)

I think of things I’m thankful for. (Ha ha! I did it. Such a rebel.) There are so many things God has given me through the kindness of people who love me. I call them “friends” because that’s the word people use to describe people who aren’t related to you, but who care about you, as if you WERE, actually, biologically connected, but I don’t like it. It seems…lacking, at least for the amazing people in MY life. I wish there was a better word. I will make one up someday when I can put all of the fullness of love and kindness I have been shown into one, single word. Wow. That’s quite the challenge! For now though, can I just tell you about them? They are pretty awesome and I am so very thankful.

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My friend gave me this couch and a side chair to go with it. Do you know WHY she did that? She wanted me to have something new, which was mine. I had a couch. It was a good couch- comfortable, pretty. But, it belonged to a person in my life who was quite toxic and controlling. The couch, although a good couch, brought with it, bad memories, and the lingering presence of this past, unhealthy relationship. God has healed me from these memories and the wounds, but the couch was STILL in my living room. I had nowhere close to the amount of money one would need to buy a new couch. So, along came my friend. She drove me to a furniture store and let me pick out whatever couch I liked. I got to choose! Do you know how very cool that was? To be able to decide for myself what piece of furniture would be the focal point of my home? Well, it was amazing! So, I am thankful for my couch. But, I am more thankful for my sweet friend, who searched deeper into our friendship and saw a gap in my heart. She decided to give a gift to fill a gap, which Jesus had restored and made ready. Now, when I see my couch, I think of her and her love for me. I think of how she loved well and sacrificed much to give me back my dignity, my value, ownership over my space. I think of how she was sensitive to my feelings and noticed, on her own, something she could change. I am thankful for my couch because it reminds me of the way Jesus loves me. And for THAT kind of love, the word “friend” is just not enough!

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This is my bed. It’s the absolute BEST bed ever! I am not trying to shove this in your faces, but I cannot deny the truth. So, I speak it in LOVE. I have the BEST bed in the ENTIRE world!!! There. Know why it’s so awesome? Well, besides the fact that it’s comfortable, it’s covered in love. Now, that probably sounds a little weird, but it’s the truth! (And again, I speak it in love.) See those sheets?…the cream ones hiding under the sage quilt? Those are MY sheets. They were a gift from another precious friend. She was over for a visit one day when I couldn’t move from pain and weakness. She offered to make my bed and saw that the sheets I had were quite worn, ripped in a few places and stained from a bad accident with an overly full bottle of bleach. She made my bed and said nothing. Then, at Christmas, I opened new sheets! They. Are. The. Softest. Sheets. On the planet. Period! They are London Fog sheets that I think have, like a bazillion thread count or something like that, and they are amazing!

When I slide into bed at night, and my body hurts so much, I am so deeply grateful for my friend, who saw past the menial task of making a bed, and beyond a simple thing like bed sheets and blessed me, a survivor of childhood abuse, where beds were never a safe place. She blessed me with new, cream, clean, soft, girly, shiny, sheets. They are healing for me. They make me feel loved, cherished, caressed, and valuable because I know they are expensive. It’s the smallest things that matter so very much. Don’t you think? I love my friend and her incredible ability to see the details in my life, the ones that matter most. By the way, she also gave me the beautiful, sage quilt on top! My old one was quite tattered as well. Hmm. The simple things… She is a friend whose blessings never end…Just like Jesus. No matter what, we cannot out give the Ultimate Giver!

I have another friend. I know. I know. You’re probably shocked that one person could have more than just a couple of incredible friends. But, I do! It has been one of the ways the Lord has “turned ashes into beauty” and has “restored what the locust have eaten.” (These are Biblical references, but I am horrible at remembering which chapter and verse. So forgive me. My mind just doesn’t work that way. I see the page in my head. I know where it is in my Bible. That’s enough for me. But, if you want to, I guess you could copy and paste these phrases into a Google search and find the references for yourself. J) There are even more stories, like these that I could share with you, but the pages would multiply and my post would suddenly become a book. Which may be a great idea! Anyway, this friend is a special one. I met her more than 10 years ago, soon after becoming a Christian. I visited a small church in a rural town. The church only had about 100 members, including children, but I believed the Lord had called me to it and so I attended regularly for 5 years. This friend was a tall, tower of strength. In her later years, she was absolutely beautiful! She carried herself with grace and class and Scripture sprung off her tongue in regular conversation. I had observed her from a far for a while when one Sunday she asked me, “Honey, What has the Lord been teaching you?” Oh dear. I quietly explained He had been convicting me about the sin of grumbling. “Oh Honey!”, she said. “The Lord HATES grumbling!” She went on to talk about the children of Israel and other things. And, I just stood and soaked up every minute. (Even now, I can hear her words and they cut just like they did that day. Such a gift her words have been, to remind me to be thankful and not grumble as it grieves the Lord deeply.) A year or so later, I was in a serious situation where I needed good, solid counsel. I called her and asked for help. She was gracious in lending an ear and giving me firm, straight direction. She offered a peaceful, biblical solution and her advice poured water on a very, dry soul. Many years have passed since that long conversation, me- sitting on the counter top crying, 3 states away from her- soaking in a tub, listening patiently. A year ago, I became even more ill than before and am no longer able to work. This friend wrote me around Mother’s Day to share that the Lord had told her she should, “help me like her dear Mama had helped her.” She said, “That’s what mothers do.” (Wow. That’s what mothers do. Can I tell you what those words meant to me? So much.) She began sending financial gifts each month. She doesn’t ever ask what I do with the money. Unknowingly, she buys my groceries, my medication, pays for parking when I go to the doctor, and co-pays at the counter. And, each time, I spend some of her generous gift, I am thankful. I am thankful that God would give me a spiritual Mother, who loves me so much, who cares that I have the things I need. She is more than just a “friend”, as are the others, which is why I really need to come up with a better word. J

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See this chair? It was a gift too. I sit it in every day for hours. I hurt so much. Where I sit, and how I sit matter. The wrong seat can dislocate my joints and cause more pain. My precious friend asked about my comfort on the phone one night. (WHO does that?) She was concerned that I didn’t have a place to rest during the day that was comfortable and helpful for my body. I told her my current chair, although beautiful and comfortable, was not good for long periods of sitting. A week or so passed and there was a card in my mail box which a check inside for, well, a lot of money. Included was a simple note which said, “Please buy yourself a recliner.” (WHO does that?) God does that. He is in the business of lavishing us with more love than we can ever imagine! I knew when I saw the check, that God had a purpose for this money. He did. Two weeks later I was in the hospital and unable to return to my job. I lived off that money for 5 months. This gift, this offer of a piece of paper with an amount written upon it, was more than just that. It has been my comfort, my pain relief, my rent payment, my utilities, the money to buy medicine and pay medical bills. The Lord has stretched it like the 5 fishes to cover so many needs. So, I am thankful. My friend is a precious, beautiful lady, who loves Jesus, loves to laugh and loves life! She stirs me on to “love and good works!” She sees a need and gives with no hesitation because she believes, like I do, that all we have belongs to the Lord and should be used to show love and bless others. Her gifts are full of many lessons. They teach kindness, generosity, humility, the God-given gift of being a gracious receiver and a generous giver, faithfulness, steadfastness, patience. These are the things for which I am thankful. They are like shining jewels, which speak to me from simple, everyday things made of cotton and wood.

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There is one last friend I just must tell you about. She is dear to me in so many ways as she teaches me much about putting God first, acting like a lady, praying fervently, serving furiously, working diligently and trusting God to fill her hand each day with what she needs. Since I have known her, she has had very little money. You would never know it. Her home is glorious, with specifically chosen pieces, which work so well together, and remind me of what I imagine God’s temple would look like, if it were here on Earth, nothing extravagant, but perfectly elegant. Her outside is as beautiful as her inside and, for some reason, the Lord moved her heart to let me in to her sacred sanctuary. We were given a treasure when we met years ago in that we both love words. Our friendship began with reading books to each other over voice mail. That was in the days when we had answering machines which could record for 30 minutes or longer. We would each enjoy the other’s chosen story, listening at night, as we would drift off to sleep. It was wonderful to have someone read to me. I never had that as a child. What a gift! Over the years, she has given me the gift of her time. It is her most precious commodity, like the woman who threw her pennies into the offering and Jesus knew it was all she had to give. (It reminds me of the perfume the forgiven girl poured over Jesus before He died. It was a precious, valuable gift that only He understood at the time. There was more purpose in her actions than just causing Jesus to smell good. She was preparing His body for burial as the Passover Lamb.) Like this, my friend’s time has had more purpose than she may realize, as her kindness and love over the years have nurtured the wounded child in me, tenderly leading me along, overlooking my stumbling and seeing me as Christ sees me, whole and complete. Recently, she saved up her pennies and purchased a material gift she hoped would help me to have a healthier diet. Her gift was a blender for smoothies. I use it almost every day. And, each time I pull it out of the cabinet, I think of her. I think of her love, her wisdom, her loyalty, her strength and her passion to see others come to know Jesus. What a gift she is and how thankful I am for her.

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And so, day after day, I sit in my home. Hour after hour, I am surrounded by love. There is so much more I haven’t even told you about, more friends, more mothers, more sisters, more fathers the Lord has given, dear, precious Saints who have loved me well and have been pleasing to the Lord in their sacrifices not just to me, but to those around them. They are Saints who give when no one is looking, who would prefer to stay unnoticed, who practice cheerful giving in private and who are more than willing to “sit at the rear of the banquet table.” They give out of hearts full of lovingkindness. (Isn’t that a wonderfully unique word? “Lovingkindness.” I have never seen it anywhere except in the Bible. I think that’s the perfect place for it, as I don’t know of any other Love which is so perfect except that of God’s love.)
I have learned one thing through these long days of illness. God has taught me to be thankful. He has proven to me that it is essential for living every hour with hope, for fighting off the shadows of despair and discouragement, for refocusing my mind on things which are “good and pure and holy.” Being thankful can lift me out of my decaying body, up into a heavenly place of peace and love and stillness, a place where all of my anxious thoughts disappear and I am resolved to rest and wait for the Lord. Being thankful opens my heart and my ears to hear what God has to say to me in that designated moment. Being thankful enables me to encourage others who may also sit in dark places, needing a hug or word of confirmation. So, I am thankful for my Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for my God-given friends who are “closer than a brother.” I am thankful for simple things which bless me during the day- clean water, a hot shower, a cool bath, electricity to cook my food and wash my clothes, maintenance men who think of me and come without being asked to take my trash to the dumpster and deliver packages, the warm sunshine that pours into my living room in the morning and the birds that sing and sing. I am thankful I can join them. The Lord gave me a singing voice and I have found, time and time again, that using it to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving literally heals my soul, soothes my physical body and fills me up with the Holy Spirit as my heart speaks His Word. God is good! He commands us in the Bible to, “Give thanks!” So do it! Give thanks! Give a lot of it! And don’t stop, ever. It will change your life, no matter if you are reading this in a hospital bed, caring for a sick child, worrying about paying bills, or enduring great physical and emotional suffering. Just give thanks. Be thankful. I promise, you will thank me.

THE MOTHER I’VE ALWAYS WANTED by Candace Lyons

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It happens every year. Rain or shine, you can count on it. It always comes on a Sunday, so there’s no way to avoid it unless you fake sick and skip church. Nope. No matter what, somewhere between April showers and May flowers, it will sneak up behind you, tap you on the shoulder and remind you, it’s Mother’s Day. And, that crack in your heart will get a little wider.

About two weeks before the big day, the preparations will begin. Television commercials will present their holiday sales, Hallmark will offer the “perfect gift for Mom”, the stores will fill with greeting cards, and families will make plans to celebrate some amazing woman who wore tights and a cape! She was the one who not only made delicious dinners, baked chocolate chip cookies, and never even considered actually sweating while scrubbing the house, but also tucked you into bed at night, listened to your heartaches, prayed with you and would always be the most faithful, loving, best friend for life! This has always been the “mom” I have imagined people celebrate on Mother’s Day, a cross between Caroline Ingals and Carol Brady.

I figure this must be the case.
Right?

Every year on Mother’s Day, during the church service, there will be a time to honor all mothers in attendance. The oldest Mom. The youngest Mom. They may offer roses or some small gift like “Mom Awards” for being a wonderful mother. And, then, they will make a “special mention” of those who may be hurting on this “very, special day”, which by the way, will feel so far from “special”.

They will mention women who have lost children. They will mention those who have lost a wonderful mother who passed away too early and is no longer here to celebrate. They will always mention the barren women who ache for the opportunity to become mothers. And all of these things will be terribly painful and make Mother’s Day very difficult, but none of these things ever describe our pain. It is as if our situation is unmentionable or seemingly too taboo to share in church. Yet, I wonder how many of you, stand next to me, around me, in front of me, who will be standing in my exact, unmentionable shoes.

Perhaps it seems disrespectful, against the very commandment of, “Honor Thy Mother and Father.” I don’t know. What I do know is many of us have had, at best, difficult relationships with our mothers. There were homes where heroes didn’t exist. There were situations to which no greeting card speaks. There were Mother’s Days where no celebration was even held because the person, who held the title of “Mother”, wasn’t a mother at all.

It is not polite to say, “I had a bad mother.” It is not nice to share family secrets. But, for some of us, we didn’t even live lives where things just didn’t meet the standards of Leave It To Beaver or even met the level of crass projected on the TV show Roseanne. Our lives were so much worse. Some of us never experienced what having a mother could or even should be. These were homes so dark, so twisted, so depraved, that nurturing, compassion, and trust never even entered the front door.

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Perhaps your “mom” was an alcoholic. Perhaps she drank herself into a stupor before you even got home from school. Passed out on the couch, she never knew or seemed to care if you came home or not. Maybe you were her mother and your bedtime routine included holding her hair as she vomited up her closest friend all over her ceramic altar. Maybe she had no idea what your name was half the time, much less remembered your birthday or showed up for things like your high school graduation. Maybe she never even paid attention to you at all, so that you felt invisible.

Perhaps your “mom” enabled or even pushed you toward men who hurt you. Maybe she did it for money. Maybe she did it out of fear. Maybe she acted like she never knew you were being hurt; yet all the while she plotted and manipulated the abuse of her own child. Perhaps she had no love to offer you, ever. Maybe you weren’t even wanted. Maybe the only purpose for your existence, as far as she was concerned, was to make other people “feel good”, to be used, abused and thrown away. Maybe this is so true for you that just the word “mother” leaves a sour, stale taste in your mouth, convinced there is absolutely no reason to celebrate anything.

These kinds of scenarios are not uncommon, though I wish they were. But they aren’t things we talk about in church, when everyone is dressed in their Sunday best. These things are painful to say and even painful to read. If any of these things ring true for you, you may suddenly be feeling an inner shaking about now, a strong desire to slam shut the door called “mother”, that I just opened. It’s so much easier to pretend everything was fine or just not mention Mom at all since, no one usually asks and you will be able to slip out of the sanctuary before anyone notices, taking your leaking heart home with you again this year.

But is this really all there is for those of us whose mothers weren’t what we wanted?

The Bible says we are to, “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), both truth and love, not one without the other. So what do we do now? We know the truth. We know what really happened. Deep inside, we know what it was like to long for a real Mommy. We know the pain of having no one to dry our tears, tuck us into bed, read us a bedtime story, or even be willing to protect us. We fully understand the silence of never speaking ill of “Mother”, as that is just “not done”. So, we don’t speak at all. We go on, year after year, and our wounds grow deeper, wider and more painful.

But, what about love? How does love play into our upcoming day of celebration? Where are truth and love on Mother’s Day? Surely that doesn’t mean a sugar-coated display of only the good things, as that’s not really truth at all. But, it also can’t mean the whole truth as that would be way, too ugly. We know the facts. We know what happened. Yet, we may be left with so much pain. Even now, we may be filled with anger, bitterness, shame, and even fear toward this woman who gave birth to us, our mother.

You only get 1 mother. There is only ever 1 woman who carried you for more than 9 months and to whom you can be assigned. If she chose to keep you, there were many options as to how you could grow. The impact of a wonderful mother could have had miraculous results. Yet, the depths of wounds inflicted by a mean, cruel, neglectful, selfish, critical mother, may haunt our very souls far into adulthood. And so they we are, standing during worship, awaiting this so-called celebration,… wishing, hoping our reality was something completely different.

If your heart is full of hurt, where can love fit? The Bible says, “Out of the heart, the
mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).” If your heart is filled with anger, bitterness, shame or fear, how can your mouth speak love?

Years ago, while on my own healing journey, I met a precious lady who shared with me this truth, “People cannot give you what they do not have to give.” Pretty simple, huh?

Looking back, we may never have had a real mother. We may still be longing for that moment to be held and rocked like a mother rocks a baby. But, now we are grown. What do we do with these longings, these feelings that creep up to burn our eyes with tears on days like Mother’s Day?

First, we empty our hearts of the pain inside. We create space for love. We feel the feelings we have spent years pushing down. We cry the tears and allow ourselves to fully grieve the mothers we never had. This may take a long time. We take the time. We let every, single, last tear exit our big, wounded hearts and then, we pray.

We pray from our guts, begging God to fill us. We ask Him to give us the love we don’t know, the love we never had, the love we need and needed when we were small and helpless. And through faith, the Holy Spirit begins a most perfect work of coming into our tattered, ragged, see-through hearts, healing every section, piece by piece. He gathers every broken portion and makes it new. He binds up the walls and fortifies them with strength and courage. He cleans every, single step and ledge and book case, not missing a thing until the color of our heart turns from gray and brown to pink, purple, green, yellow,…“a heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezk 36:26).”
Then, He pours into us, love. He pours and pours until love is overflowing, until we are overcome by the goodness and tenderness of Jesus. Then, He holds us, tightly to His chest, as newborn babes. We lay still, suddenly aware that we are loved. We are wanted. We are cherished. It is how it should have been. We feel a mother’s love for the first time. And, it is beautiful. And the tears flow, but not tears that burn and sting, but tears of hope and joy and gladness.

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It is out of this healing work, that we can now speak the truth in love! Now, we have known love and we have love to offer, lots of it, for friends, for family, and yes, for our own Mother. But, this will not be an empty celebration. We will not brush aside the truth. We will keep both. But now, when we, “Honor our Mother”, it will be with a right heart before God, seeing all that was and still being able to offer love. We can love her with the love with which the Lord Jesus Christ has loved us! And we will expect nothing in return, understanding that a heart full of pain has no love to give. It may be a very one-sided love, but we will remember that that is exactly how our relationship was with Jesus. He first loved us, when we had no love to give. And it will be beautiful. On the breast of Jesus, we will find a mother’s heart. And, that, dear friends, will be reason to celebrate. And, when Mother’s Day comes and we are standing in church, even though our scenario is never mentioned, we will be at peace, because God knows all of it and loves us anyway.

BOXES OF CEREAL

Kashi

It was some years ago, but I remember it in detail.  I was working in a dental office next to a lady who was more than 20 years my senior.  She was everything I believed then, I was not.  She was classy, wearing perfectly neat layers of color with perfect accessories.  Her hair was beautiful, with different folds of gold and copper.  She was quiet, but not shy.  She would often whisper insults my way.  She seemed to simmer in some kind of unspoken bitterness and resentment toward me. Our employer was often complimentary of me in front of our team and often in her presence.  I think this only stirred the contention.

I never really understood why this tension existed since we had never had an argument.  Perhaps she had disdain for me because of my age or because of the attention I received from our employer or our patients.  I don’t know.  After two years of working together, she gave notice.  She decided to leave our practice and move south to be with family.  The other ladies I worked with were much like her, older, established, wealthy, fashionable and often joining her in circles of gossip.  There was a clique created by these women and I was definitely on the outside.  Who knows why this was.  I certainly looked much different, wearing clothes from thrift stores, garage sales, or places like Walmart and Target.  I had little leftover money once I paid my bills and rarely went out to eat, unlike their clique which went often to nice restaurants during our lunch hour.  I spoke about my faith and my church with patients, if it came up in conversation.  I wore barrettes, looked like Holly Hobby and was sort of a perceived “loner” who, as they often told me, “needed to get a life”.

Her last week in our office was full of well wishes, cakes and expensive gifts from the other ladies.  They gave her crystal and gold earrings as going away gifts.  I sat and watched these displays of excess and wondered what I could possibly offer to match or even come close to what the “clique” had given.  I went to the grocery store that evening with the intention of going afterwards to Marshalls or Ross, hoping to find something nice and fairly expensive which had been significantly marked down and so hopefully affordable for me.

As I went through the isles of the grocery store, I prayed, “Lord, will You please help me to find a gift for (her name) that will bless her?”  In my mind, I was still very focused on the things of the flesh, having only recently come to know Jesus and still learning my worth in Him.  I so wanted to be liked and included.  I wanted approval and acceptance.  I hated standing out and being apart from what I perceived was the popular group. When I prayed, I was preparing in advance for my trip to the other stores.  I always like to plan ahead, so praying in advance seemed like a good idea.

I continued shopping and suddenly heard very clearly from the Lord, “Buy her cereal.”

“What? Buy her cereal? No, Lord. You don’t understand.  I need something NICE.  I CAN’T give her CEREAL! She will think I’m ridiculous, a fool!”

But the Lord repeated Himself, “Buy her cereal.”

I remembered how she had spoken many times about the new cereal Kashi.  She said she ate it as a snack before bed and had to be careful to not eat too much or she may gain weight.  Stomping my feet in my heart, I very reluctantly surrendered, and went to the gift isle.  I chose a large, pink gift bag and returned to the cereal isle to add 2 boxes of Kashi to the bag. They fit perfectly and there was still room for more. I prayed again, “Lord, is there anything else?”  And, as I continued to shop, He reminded me of her favorite candy, her favorite gum, her favorite popcorn.  Soon, the bag was full and I checked out.

My stomach felt sick.  I feared the insults which would be thrown my direction and the laughing mocking the other ladies would offer as my co-worker opened her bag full of cereal and food.  I was convinced “food” was NOT appropriate for a proper going away gift.  I barely slept that night, somewhat irritated at God that He had not directed me toward something shiny and beautiful to give her, something that would make me look good.  I stewed in my bad attitude all the way into the office the next morning.  When I entered the front desk area, she was sitting alone in the corner.  No one else had arrived yet, so I figured that would be the best time to give her my “gift”.  I hardly stopped walking as I set the bag on the floor in front of her and said in almost a whisper due to my shame, “Um, I got you a going away gift.  It’s probably stupid, but…here it is.”

I went to my desk on the other side of the short wall and waited.  The office was quiet that morning and I could hear her moving through the tissue paper.  Then, I heard tears.  TEARS!  She came over to me and said, “This is such a perfect gift! You bought me snacks for my drive.  You gave me everything I love to eat and I don’t have to pack any of it!  I can just take it with me in the front seat of the car. Thank you!”

I just stared at her in unbelief.  WHY were there tears in her eyes?  Why in the WORLD was she so emotional over boxes of cereal?  I mean, it was CEREAL!  I just responded with a quiet, “You’re welcome”, but felt like a hypocrite even saying that, as I didn’t want to give her that gift,…God did.  And then, I remembered my prayer the night before, “Will You please help me to find a gift which would bless HER.”  In my heart, I repented.  I prayed silently, “Lord, I am so pathetic.  The gift was for her and I wanted something for ME.  Please help me to obey You right away next time and to trust You know best.”

I learned then and have seen it repeated time after time since, that God often calls us to do things that make absolutely no sense to our fleshly wisdom, yet are perfectly planned and orchestrated by His loving hand.  He may call us to be fools for Him, laying down our reputation, in order to obey His direction.  I don’t often like it, but I now know Him.  I know He will never lead me somewhere He will not go with me.  We will always go together.  And, as I have been willing to do what He has asked of me, my faith has increased and this adventure of living the Christian life has been exciting and terrifying all at the same time! But, it is always an ADVENTURE! Oh me of little faith.  I realize the more I know Jesus, the less I can rely on my own reasoning or intelligence.  His ways are just NOT my ways and His thoughts are NOT my thoughts.  He is GOD, Creator of all things.  He knows EVERYTHING!

My encouragement to you, my dear friends, is be willing to give “boxes of cereal”.  If you hear Him prompting you to do something which makes no sense, yet you know in your spirit, it is of the Holy Spirit, then do it.  Delayed obedience is disobedience.  Do it quickly and then watch and wait to see what God will do through it.  I believe you will be quite amazed and it will only deepen your desire to know better the God of the Universe.  ❤

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him,
    and He will make your paths straight.

IDK

IDK

“IDK.”

This may be a familiar acronym to you.  I use it.  It says, “I don’t know.”  It’s a humbling response.  Yet, for me, right now, it should be placed on a HUGE banner over my life.  “I DON’T KNOW!!!”… I don’t.

For years, I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I hurt from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  My hands and feet would throb, as I sat at my desk helping patients, trying to look fine.  I was so NOT fine.  I could do nothing but go to work and go back to bed.  I would cry from the pain of carrying groceries.  My hands would turn super red and hot and they would swell to the point I could not close them.  I missed parties.  I missed church.  I missed work on days I just could not lecture myself into a shower and clothes in order to show up at my office.

Since I have spent 22 years in healthcare, I mastered the art of hiding.  I could smile through bouts of piercing agony and use my best coping skill of bouncing my right toe through one pain storm after another, counting in my head with each pounding wave, while still carrying on a funny conversation with a patient who needed an appointment or an explanation of their insurance policy.  Most people never knew I was sick, unless they were close friends.  My precious, dear friends knew I often turned down invitations to go to dinner or a movie.  The ladies in my Sunday School class knew I missed many Sundays.  But, in general, I faked how sick I was for over a decade.

Behind the scenes, I went to doctors, a lot of doctors.  I kept looking for answers, for reasons why I hurt so badly and was too tired to do anything but work, and even that was a struggle.  I had a lot of medical tests, x-rays, blood work, but almost all of the results were within normal limits.  “Normal for who?” I thought.  Not me.  My body was so far from “normal” that I was literally sleeping the entire weekend, unable to lift my head off the pillow and then still beginning my Monday mornings with more internal lectures to, “Get out of bed and get in the shower!”

“I don’t know.”  “I don’t know.”  “I don’t know.”  It was my answer again and again and again at times when I could no longer hide my pain or keep my smile and someone would ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

You can only hide for so long.  At some point, the rubber meets the road and the truth must be told.  I am so grateful for my God and His never-ending grace.  It was always sufficient for me.  He provided the strength and the resilience to persevere day after day.  By that same grace, I completed 26 years of working 40+ hours a week.  And, in August of 2014, the Lord provided answers.  I now KNOW I have a rare, genetic, connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  My current doctors think I also developed Fibromyalgia from being in such severe pain for so many years.  So, basically, all of my connective tissues, my tendons, ligaments, fascia, etc. are a loose matrix and stretch way too much.  They do not hold my bones in place.  So, my joints dislocate often.  When I walk now, the bones in my ankles shift so much that the surrounding soft tissues become injured and, in literally minutes, my ankles will swell and turn red.  The pain is horrible, like someone suddenly beat my ankles with a bat repeatedly.  So, now at age 43, I use a wheelchair to move distances.  When I bought my wheelchair, I thought it would solve all of my mobility issues, but I didn’t realize I would need to push the wheels with my hands and this would tax my wrists and then they too would dislocate and hurt.  So, I don’t go out much.  I spend most days in pajamas because they are soft against my skin and that way I am always dressed for the odd hours my body can finally sleep.

I live on the 3rd floor.  There are 40 steps to get to the ground and 40 steps to get back up.  When I need to go to the doctor, I have to brace my leg joints to keep them in place on the stairs.  A friend has to drive me and then push my wheelchair, as I cannot.  Even if I could push the wheels, my fatigue is so severe that I am very weak and spend much of my day with my eyes closed, even when I am awake.

I am sharing all of this to say that even though I now KNOW what is wrong with me, the questions never stop.  I am now asked, “How are they going to fix it?”  “I don’t know.”  “Are you ever going to get better?”  “I don’t know.”  “Why isn’t God healing you?”  “I don’t know.”

Illness is just ONE of many things that helps us to realize we are human, frail, and like the Scriptures say, “like a flower that fades away”.  We are NOT God.  We do not have all of the answers.  But, there are some things I KNOW, because my God has told me.  I know that God knows the answers to every one of my questions.  I trust Him.  So, I am waiting for Him to tell me, show me, draw me a poster of what I need to do during all of this.  I KNOW He has a purpose for this.  He wastes nothing.  Every struggle I have leads me to pray, for strength, for His help, for His intervention, for His presence.  I wonder if other people who are well and healthy are reminded as often as I am how much I NEED Jesus.

There are so many things for which I do NOT have any answers.  After being unable to work or drive or even take out my trash for the past 7 months, I don’t know how I will pay my bills going forward.  I don’t know where I will live when this lease ends.  I don’t know if and when I will be approved for disability.  I don’t know if I will ever be without pain again.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to bounce down the stairs, jump into my car and drive away, alone.  I don’t know.

But, you know what? I don’t HAVE to know.  I just have to rest in the loving arms of my Holy Father and be.  I just get to be, like a little child, I just get to go through the day and KNOW that my God will provide what I need for each and every minute. I KNOW He is with me and will never leave me.  I KNOW He loves me.  I KNOW He has no limitations and can do the impossible.  I KNOW He can heal me in a heartbeat.  And, even if I get all the way to Heaven and nothing with my physical body changes, I KNOW I will be 100% healed when I see Him face to face.  I KNOW He will give me the grace and wisdom to get through the hard days.  I KNOW He has every one of my tears in a precious bottle because to Him, I am precious. There are a lot of unknowns in this life.  But, there are many things we can KNOW because God tells us what is true in His Word and He cannot lie.  His truths are known and we can KNOW them through knowing Jesus and learning to digest the Words of His Holy Scriptures in the Bible, hour by hour.  I need a lot of feeding.  I need a lot of truth.  I require bunches of things I can KNOW, because my life on this planet remains on shifting shadows.  But, again, with God there are none, no shifting shadows.  I KNOW He loves me and I KNOW He holds my future.  What else do I really need to know? ❤

May I Have Your Attention?

Arise oh sleeper

The Lord Jesus is a gentleman.  He asks.  He waits.  For me.  And, oh how I make Him wait too long and too often.  I have been more and more convicted about my lack of time with Him.  I often go through my day meditating on Scriptures I know by heart, praying periodically as things come up, but it often feels stale and repetitive, academic.  Or, I look over some verses while drying my hair and pray between hair gel and hairspray.  But, HE is not my only focus.  He doesn’t get all of my attention.  He is just added in to what I am already doing.  He is not getting my best.  He is not getting all of me…because I am only offering Him what is left over.  It is as if I am driving and texting Him on the side.  I multitask through my quiet time, which is not very quiet anymore…

I met a vivacious red head with a pink smile at church today.  After spilling half and half all over her purse, I invited her to sit with me in the service.  We stood side by side, eyes closed, in worship.  As I was singing, I felt prompted to ask my new friend a question. Why had she come to church?  Strange question.  I know.   But, that is how the Lord sometimes directs me- right to the heart of the matter.

When the service ended, I asked her.  Initially, she kind of shook her head and answered something about wanting to.  Then, before I knew it, she was in tears as she shared how she is really struggling, hurting on the inside.  Yet, on the outside, her friends think she has it all together.  She shared how she is always the life of the party, meeting others expectations and checking all social boxes.  I felt like I was looking into a mirror of sorts.  I was greatly aware of my own need for focused time with Jesus, so I asked her the question repeated in my heart….”How much time are you spending with Jesus each week?”  She told me she spends about an hour each week in prayer and reading her Bible.  She shared how she feels like she is working in a very dark career and was in a state of mental racing and confusion, working long, irregular hours.  I recognized the same feelings myself and have noticed the farther I get from a fresh in-flowing of the Word of God, the more I feel confused, the more my speech becomes course and careless, the more my mind focuses on fleshly, sinful things, the more I compromise.  We prayed together and as I prayed, the Lord gave me Ephesians 3:18.  I prayed it over her, but at the same time I was reminded it was my salvation prayer.  I prayed it out loud the day I met Jesus and He changed my life forever.  It was my desire, then, to know Him to the very core- that I  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love.

This past week I have been reading parts of Romans chapter 12.  I went there on purpose as I was dealing with a stressful relationship and needed to focus my heart on loving the other person.  I read verse one and remained on verse 2…Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.   I know the healing the Lord has performed in my life is directly related to His Word being written on my heart and mind.  He has used His Word to direct my steps, transform my innermost being and make my crooked thoughts straight.  Yet, as I have moved on in my relationship with Jesus, I find myself spending less and less time with Him and more and more time relying on what I learned years ago, playing back the same verses and reading the same passages.  There is nothing wrong with this necessarily as some will say I am still in the Word.  Yes.  And, no.

I think I am missing out.  I am missing the other side of this love relationship.  Jesus doesn’t want me to know about Him as much as He wants me to know Him and be with Him.  My new friend and I continued sharing and I told her I often think about the verses in Revelation where John admonished the church to not forget their first love.  I told her I remember the mornings after I first met Jesus.  It was like a honeymoon period, waking each morning with His name as the first word on my lips, “Jesus”.  I remember the excitement and anticipation of what He would do, what He would teach me, where He would ask me to obey Him.  I was in love…with Jesus.  I gave Him my attention willingly.  I had no TV then and spent much of my alone time reading my Bible and praying or taking long walks.  It was a time of refreshing.

But, now?  Now, I wake and forget to even acknowledge Him.  I forget to thank Him for the day.  I think of how I should read my Bible or spend time in prayer because it is the right thing to do.  Having begun in the Spirit, I try to move forward in my flesh, checking boxes and meeting my perceived spiritual obligations.   I remember the “good times” I had with Jesus when I would journal about the areas where He was growing me.  I would give Him praise for the growth.  My love relationship has turned sour as I have made it a have to instead of a want to.  It shouldn’t be this way.  He only asks for my attention.  Can I not give Him this small thing with all He has done for me?  I can, but I don’t.

Today, my dear Pastor taught us from Revelation chapter 2.  John called the church of Sardis to “wake up”.  Jesus also called us to “watch and pray”.  Ephesians calls us to “awake sleeper making the most of the time”.  Oh, how we are all given 24 hours, yet waste much of it on things with no eternal value. I am missing the one thing.  The most important thing.  I am missing Jesus.  And, I think,…He is missing me.  It is time to wake up and give Him my attention.  I will be setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier starting today.  Will you join me?