Sunday, April 26, 2009

THE LETTER

When I was a little girl, about 3 years old, my daddy worked in Vietnam as a civilian on American aircraft, because it was good money. It kept him away from his family – me, my two older brothers and my mom, but he was able to provide for his family. I remember my daddy would send me gifts in the mail and letters telling me how much he loved me and for me to be a big girl for mommy. I still remember this one particular letter he wrote. It was on very thin, delicate stationary with pretty flowers on it. I remember the international envelope it came in with all the postmarks on the front. Since I was too young to read, my mother would read it for me. Every time she would start reading, she would have to stop because it would make me cry. I missed him so much. I was just a tiny girl. How could I have loved him so much? My mother was very good to me and my brothers. She always made sure all our needs were met. She poured herself into us during the time my daddy was away. I loved my mother just as much as my daddy, but he wasn’t there and I needed him emotionally to make my life complete.

This weekend at our ladies retreat, there was a letter address to each of us lying on our pillow. I knew what it was because my husband had let the cat out of the bag last Sunday, by apologizing for not writing me a note. I encouraged him to try anyway and then forgot about it. After our icebreaker activity, during our break, I went to my bedroom and read my letter. I know my husband wrote it because he said he loved me "more than chicken nuggets." That is an expression my son coined when he was only 3 years old (for he absolutely loved chicken nuggets...and still does) and has been a statement of just how big our love is for each other. Everytime I took out the letter to read during the retreat, I was overcome with emotion, just like when my mother used to read my daddy's letter to me. My husband wrote such a simple love letter to me, but he hardly ever writes me love letters or even sends me cards, so this was a real shocker. I immediately thought about my daddy’s “love” letter to me when I was three years old. I felt like that little girl again, unable to take in just how much someone would love me.

Why God is that so scary for me? Is my whole concept of love based upon the love of the two most important men in my life? Why does so much rest on those relationships? An even bigger why is WHY is it difficult for me? I still have a loving relationship with my father who eventually came home to live with us and he and my mother became Christians and raised me and my brothers in a Christian home. I have always felt love and acceptance from my father and allowed him to do things for me…but as a young adult and now a middle aged adult, I still find it hard to accept other people’s love for me…including yours God. I’m getting better at it, but to actually become vulnerable and rest in someone’s love is very difficult. I have spent the past 20+ years becoming self sufficient and not dependant upon others for my needs, for the sheer frustration of always being disappointed.

Now this letter from my husband expressing his love for me and acknowledging what is important to me, a deeper walk with you God, is exactly what I’ve been praying for and it melts my heart. I've never heard him express his gratitude and love toward me like he did in that letter. It takes two people to "hear", one to express and one to receive. Perhaps I have not been receiving what he's been saying to me these past 21 years. But even more than the expression of love, he goes on to tell me what his hope is for me during this retreat which tells me he cares about what I care about, a deeper relationship with God. He truly connected with me on all levels. I am so lucky and blessed. How God, how do I embrace this kind of unconditional love? How do I take the clothes off of my defense system and just be loved…by my husband and by you?

God the other night you laid me down and poured your love all over my body and soul. Your peaceful yet powerful, healing Spirit, cooled and soothed my aching body and soul. You released me from the grip of pain in my neck and back. Allowing myself to be completely at rest in your arms was a step toward deeper intimacy with you, God. I am learning to be still and let you love me. Thank you for breaking the yoke of self sufficiency. Please continue to teach me to depend upon you for all of my needs…not just my spiritual ones, but my physical and emotional ones too. Dependence upon you is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Thank you God for wooing me and going slowly with me, for I am still that little girl who loves and misses her daddy…even if YOU haven’t gone anywhere.

I’m ready to grow up Papa God. I’m ready to move on to the next level in our relationship. Let me hold your hand and walk with you. Don’t let me wonder too far anymore. Keep me close by. Show me again how to dance with you and be joyful.

“My beloved speaks and says to me, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one. And come away, for behold the winter is past the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE LORD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES…OH REALLY!

I know I usually wait until Sunday to post, but I thought I'd throw this one out there for fun.  Besides, this weekend I'll be attending a ladies retreat through my church and I know there will be plenty to write about for Sunday.


 “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.  Whose hope is in the Lord his God…the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.” Psalm 146:5-8

 

        Recently, one of my readers said to me “Have you ever heard of, The Lord helps those who help themselves?”  I said yes I’ve heard that but that is not what my writing teaches.  I didn’t want to get into a deep conversation with him at the time, but that statement bothered me.  As I walked away I asked God, “What am I to say to that statement?”  Many people feel that way, that they should be good enough to solve their own problems.  Now, I firmly believe that a person should do everything in their own power to meet the basic needs of themselves and others in their care.  I believe God wants us to work hard for what we have.  However, from our biggest need to our smallest need, we really are not capable of doing anything to meet that need without God’s help.

 

        God doesn’t want me to “help myself.”  What can I do anyway?  Can I change the setting sun?  Can I tell the ocean where to stop?  God is the boss.  The very fact that I exist is by God’s design and not of my own power.  God delights when I depend upon him and only him.  Nothing I do of my own power is good enough to offer as a gift to God.  The only thing God wants from me is to acknowledge him as my sovereign maker and rejoice in his love for me. 

 

        God’s love makes me complete and happy and empowers me to accomplish what needs to be done.  My happiness pleases God.  I was designed to bring pleasure to God.

 

Readers, what are your thoughts on this subject?  

“Enquiring minds want to know.”  (National Enquirer)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FORGIVENESS + ______________= PEACE

I shouldn’t be a surprise that writing a book about forgiveness would trigger warfare that requires me to experience first hand both giving and receiving forgiveness. I’m not sure which is worse, giving forgiveness or receiving it. The agony of being wronged, betrayed, mistreated, hurt or violated creates an explosion of emotions that need to be address individually. Ultimately forgiving someone is the bridge that closes the chasm between me and fellowship with God and possibly with that other person.

Equally challenging, at least for me, is receiving forgiveness from someone I have wronged. The thought of hurting someone, especially a friend and loosing their trust, cuts deep into my heart. I tend to punish myself even after making amends. Continuing to beat myself up after being forgiven is the work of the enemy. He loves taking my mistakes and shoving them into my face as a constant reminder of how unworthy I am to do God’s work.

The truth is, I am unworthy to do God’s work, but God doesn’t require me to be worthy. That would be impossible in this lifetime. But God does require me to be open and honest with Him. To be a living and breathing creation that seeks to serve and worship God and to bring the light of truth to the people around me. In order for me to accomplish that goal, I need to accept forgiveness…from people who offer it and especially from God. How do allow that forgiveness to stick and take effect even when I don’t feel worthy? The gift of forgiveness from God, is always accompanied by another gift, one that makes it possible for forgiveness to “stick.”

Grace is the gift of glue that makes forgiveness stick. My friend and pastor recently reminded me of the grace factor. He said, “Our holiness doesn’t hang on what we do right, it hangs on Gods grace and forgiveness for what we do wrong.” I know I’ll never be “good enough” for God, and I’ll make plenty of mistakes, but my ability to “be good” or “not” isn’t what God is interested in. He is interested in my heart’s desire and my decision to receive his grace and forgiveness for “not measuring up”.

What about you? Do you have a hard time accepting the FREE gift of grace and forgiveness from God for the wrong in your life? When you open that first free gift of grace from God, it comes with a personal trainer called the Holy Spirit, who teaches you how to exercise your heart to seek after forgiveness and grace. The absolute best part of using the gift of forgiveness and grace is the radiating peace that pulsates through your body, stimulating the aroma of joy. What a delight to walk in the fragrance of God!

Romans 3:23-24 pretty much sums up my thoughts:
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,"

If you are reading this blog, then God has a gift for you...what's keeping you from opening and accepting His gift? I'd love to hear your story. Leave a comment or send me an email.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

EASTER: IT'S ABOUT CATCHING NOT COLLECTING

For little kids, Easter usually means dying hard boiled eggs as well as hunting and collecting plastic eggs filled with candy. It’s exhilarating to hunt for and find those pretty eggs with the surprise inside. Even adults are having fun hunting virtual eggs on Facebook and collecting them onto their profile.

My son is a teenager now, but still a collector. When he was little, he collected Hot Wheel cars, rocks and Pok√©mon cards. As he’s gotten older, he started collecting movies, video games and baseball caps. Maintaining these various collections at different stages of childhood, created a lot of work for me and him to house, display and care for. His desire to collect is still strong. Recently, he went fishing with some friends and caught a crappie fish. He called me on the FRS radio all excited that he had caught this fish. I rejoiced in his hard work to be patient and persistent enough to actually catch a fish. He was so proud of himself that he wanted to keep it. Now had it been his first caught fish, I might have conceded, but it wasn’t his first. I said “What's the point of keeping it if you can't eat it? What purpose does it serve to keep it?” Then I said, “Remember son, it's about catching not collecting. You need to throw the fish back into the lake.” Reluctantly he agreed with me and released the fish back into the lake.

I thought about that phrase, “catching not collecting,” while sitting at the park waiting for my son and his friends to fish. In my current walk with God, he is showing me new and exciting things that I have never seen or heard before about his will in my life and the power he wants us Christians to use over the enemy. God doesn’t want me to catch his Spirit and just hang onto it like a collection! He wants me to release it and share it with everyone I meet.

So what about you? Are you catching or collecting this Easter Season?
Jesus "releases" us into the world to share our faith in Him. Follow his example and don't keep Jesus all to yourself. If you've "caught" the spirit of God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the risen Savior and son of God, then share him with everyone you meet!

Matthew 28: 18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

MOMMA, I NEED YOU!

The other day, my daughter and I "discussed" her choice of foods for breakfast. She wanted a Popsicle and I offered her cereal (her #1 choice) and several "mother approved" options. The result was a whinny dissent that resulted in a her retreating to the floor under the dining room table to woller in her misery. I on the other hand, continued to enjoy my breakfast ignoring her attempts to have her own way.

After a vocal five minutes, I heard, "Momma, I need you!" I had just taken my last bite of breakfast while sitting at the kitchen table, so I got up and went into the dining room, got down on my hands and knees and crawled under the table with her. She was so happy that I had met her down in her "pit" that she rolled over to me and laid her head on my arm, looked up at me with her velvet brown eyes and a big smile on her face and said "Mommy, I sorry." (Totally uncoached by me.) Without hesitation, I kissed her forehead and said, "Thank you for your apology, I forgive you. Are you ready to come and eat breakfast?" To which she replied, "I want cereal." As we both crawled out of "the pit" I was reminded of all the times God met me down in my "pits" with arms of forgiveness and an opportunity to try again.

I am so grateful that God forgives me when I ask for it and gives me second, third and fourth chances. On some virtues, I've stopped counting the "second" chances for they are too many to count, but ALWAYS, God is there to receive me and shows me the way out of the pit.

I have also learned that when I have a spirit of repentance the way back to God seems easier each time I need to travel it. The hardest journeys have always been the ones where pride prevented me from repenting. Now that my relationship with God the Father is restored, I am crushed when I mess up, but quickly turn to him for help and guidance.

As my love, admiration and passion for God increases, my desire to please him also increases and my trust in him to help me walk with him increases as well. Psalm 143:7-10 express my heart's desire and cry:

"Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge!
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!"

What about you? Do you want out of your pit? Jesus has already been to that same pit and knows the way out, but you need to trust him to help you. Then you have to move toward him...repent of what got you in that pit and walk with God out of it. Let me know how it works out for you.