Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wormy Behavior

Something strange appears every time it rains.
The slimy, slippery, earth dwellers can be seen crawling along the pavement at the first sign of a shower. Worms must have precipitation radar. The moment a sprinkle is in the air, the worms break free from their dirt abodes to slither across roads and sidewalks.
This worm phenomenon is nothing new. As far back as I can remember, I can remember worms and their rain appearances. I've just accepted that dancing, or more appropriately slithering, in the rain is what worms do. I've never stopped to ask myself, and the worms, why?
Until today.
Today when it rained and the worms came up out of the soil and made their way onto my sidewalk I questioned their presence as I carefully avoided crushing their delicate frames under my not so delicate foot. Why are you here? I said silently to the worms. How is it that all of you and your worm friends know that coming out to slither in the rain is the wormy thing to do? 
As you might expect, not a single worm replied. Worms, by nature, are tremendously quiet.
Since the worms weren't providing me the answers I desired I dove into my own research and soon discovered that worms come out in the rain as a mode of transportation. With the pavement wet and slick, the slippery body of the worm can travel effortlessly over land. Without the rain the worm can't move to new places because their very survival is dependent on moisture. If the air is dry the worms must stay underground, protected by the wet, damp soil. Only when it rains can worms safely surface from their hiding place and travel to new territory.
Worms are free to come out when it rains just like my faith comes out when it storms.
The behavior of worms, as odd as it has always appeared to me, isn't all that strange. God has designed all kinds of rains to fulfill His purposes. He allows the worms to use the rain for their travel. He protects them with the moisture. He mobilizes them with puddles and showers.
With His children, God uses storms to mobilize faith. He lets thunder and lightening stir trust deep within the soul. God allows drenching, soaking rains to flood the gates of peace that would otherwise be dry.
God purposely uses the storms of life to produce faith. He brings it to the surface when it rains and puts it into action. It is in the storms that are faith is purified and made perfect. It is under the canopy of clouds and the rinsing of rain that our faith is cleansed and made pure.
Storms are not God's curse. They are His blessing - for worms and humans alike.
Because worms come out when it rains and faith comes out when it storms, I can boldly request that God bring on the rain.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Misery meets its Master

I've had to learn to let go.
As my physical abilities have wasted away I've been forced to let go of my capacity to run and lift heavy weight. I've had to let go of the body I could depend on the stamina I enjoyed and the vitality I thought would never end.
I've had to let go of the simple abilities I so casually took for granted. Jiggling baby nieces and nephews and giving toddles piggy back rides are all activities I performed without a second thought. But now I'm too weak. My back is in too much pain and I've had to learn to let go.
I've had to learn to let go of the dreams of what I believed my life "should" be. I've had to learn to let go of the milestones I've missed and the expectations I've failed to meet. I've had to learn to let go of my plans and release my fixation on the future.
In the saga that has been this struggle I've learned to let go of my reliance on steady by the world's standards. It hasn't been easy or comfortable, but my death grip on dependable has been released. I've had to let go of knowing what is to come. I've had to let go of my misery, my sorrow and my pain, learning to rest with open, empty hands.

In all of this learning to let go I've been learning that in my hands and in my heart there is only one thing that I should be holding. To be at peace, rest and entirely surrendered to God there is only one thing I can be holding onto. I can only be holding God. He is who my heart can behold no matter what my physical condition. Christ is who I can behold when babies weigh too much and toddlers tax my back.
God has taught me to let go of everything other than Himself. Be holding nothing but His Son. Grip nothing but His Spirit. And as I've put His lesson on beholding into practice I've learned the purpose and the principle behind the letting go. It is when I let go of all I am and behold of who God is that I am complete. I am strong. I am at peace. I am content. I am full of joy. Not because of what I have to hold but WHO I relentlessly Behold.

Misery meets its Master when it is the Master who I behold. 

Jeremiah 45:3-6

Monday, April 24, 2017

I miss you

I miss you. I don't even know your name or who you are. All I know is that I miss you. Your absence has left a void in my life. I want to pick up the phone and call you but I don't have a number to dial. I want to meet you in a park and take a walk before we head over to the local coffee shop. When I'm sad I want to feel your comfort. When I'm happy I want to share with you my joy. I want to do life with you.
Whoever you are.
I miss you so deeply that my heart aches. In the pit of my soul I pine for you. I haven't even read a single page of your life story yet I long to memorize every line. I yearn to listen to the tales of your past and hear about your dreams for the future. I crave your quirks and characteristics that make you, you.
There is a place in my life that only you can fill. It is a special space carved out for you and you alone. I know it is there because God put it there. He made me with you in mind. When He formed me in my innermost being He left a place for you to reside. In my heart He created a desire and that desire is you.
Over and over again I have told myself that I don't miss you. I have done my best to deny the aching hole in my heart by pretending it doesn't exist. I've asked God to fill my void with a different desire but He has yet to grant my request and I doubt He ever will because I was created to desire you and made to miss you.
You, even the absence of you, are part of God's plan for my life. By missing you I am learning to love and appreciate you. God has designed this desire in me for you and set aside this time for it to go unfulfilled for a purpose. In it He is showing me how to love you and fanning the flames of my devotion to you. God is showing me that my missing you isn't going away. It shouldn't go away because my desire is going to be fulfilled.
One day, some day soon, I will no longer need to miss you. This void inside of me will be filled to the overflowing with your love and companionship. I will pick up the phone and call you. We will go for walks and drink copious amounts of coffee. We will cry together, laugh together and pray together. Soon, very soon, I know you are going to walk into my life and take away my missing. In the blink of an eye, with a simple hello, you will sweep in and fulfill this God-given desire placed in me especially for you.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Part 2: Goose on the road

My second goose encounter occurred as I maneuvered my car up the exit ramp, off of one interstate and onto another four lane divided highway. I merged into the right lane and slowed down just enough to successfully navigate the slight curve ahead. I was traveling on a familiar stretch of road that is always well trafficked, especially at noon as it was on this fateful goose day.
As I rounded the curve I instinctively glanced to my left to check my blind spot in preparation for the upcoming merge but as my eyes glanced out my window something caught my eye. Rather, some bird caught my eye. Standing in the patch of grass between my incoming lane and the two interstate lanes I was about to meet there stood, stock still as a statue, seemingly oblivious to the busyness and danger whizzing past her, an enormous goose.
Interestingly enough this is the very same highway that just a few weeks earlier and a few miles up the road, I witnessed my first goose. That particular goose, possibly the very same silly goose, was attempting to actually cross the the interstate highway at three on a Saturday afternoon when the traffic was steady and heavy. That goose was nearly hit countless times in the short minute I witnessed its journey but miraculously made it to the shoulder on the road without harm.
Now the goose was back.
Watching this particular goose was different from the first. Goose number two wasn't trying to cross the interstate highway but, given her position between lanes of traffic, had already successfully dodged danger and made it to her safe spot on the grass. I missed that part of the goose's adventure. All I saw was a goose at peace and blissful rest. 
As God so often does in my animal encounters, He used that goose on the road to teach me a lesson. This particular goose on the road taught me about risk and rest God's way. God showed me that in order for the goose to get to its patch of peaceful rest it had to take a risk and cross the road. It had to face danger and dodge traffic.
But the goose took the risk and enjoyed rest on the other side. The goose made the journey, took the step of faith to cross the road, and was rewarded with a lush patch of soft green grass. God protected the goose as she traveled the pavement, carried her over the troubled highway and delivered her to a place of safety.
And so it is with me.
As I step out in faith and walk on God's path He protects me even when faced with the dangers of disappointments and defeat. When I am on the journey with God as my guide He will carry me through my troubles of illness, confusion and pain. He is able to see me through every situation and protect me on every road.
There have been times and trials in my life when I have looked more like the first goose on the highway than the second. I've dodged speedy semis that have been powered by hopelessness and escaped becoming the road kill of anxiety and worry. My spirit has taken journeys that have felt more dangerous than divine yet God has been there with me all the while. He never abandoned this goose on the road and He never will.
The second goose on the highway taught me that when I trust God and walk faithfully on His path He will set my feet on the glorious grass of His peace and rest.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Praying for ink

I am a pen in the hand of God. My life is His instrument, used to compose His promises. My heart is a canvas for Him to write His truth. God has given me life and breath for this very purpose: to make a mark of magnification on this world that will bring Him glory and honor.

...But what if this pen dries up?...What if the ink of illumination and inspiration runs out?... What if God doesn't pick up my life to be used as His writing instrument?... What if He leaves the pen of my heart sitting on His desk?...

Inside my anxious soul I worry. Without God's indwelling in my very thoughts, giving life to my words I will have nothing to say, not a syllable to share.
Without God I am an ink-less pen. Without the Holy Spirit I cannot write. Without Christ living inside of me and breathing His truth into my spirit I empty and dry. I offer His paper nothing without the presence of His Holy Spirit residing in my heart.
I need God to take up my spirit into His hands and give it meaning and purpose. I need The Almighty Lord to take my emptiness and fill it with His life.
I can't do it on my own. I can't even write veined attempts at encouragement without His presence in my pen. Without the Spirit of God taking over I can't put a word to paper that will bring His eternal throne glory and honor. I cannot magnify God without being moved by the Holy Spirit living inside of me.

So I'm asking God to renew His Spirit in me. I need an infusion of His Holy ink. I am drying up; I can feel it. The words that used to flow like a flood have dried up to a trickle. The pen that used to pour out words is only making faint marks and vague scribbles.
I need the Spirit to infuse the pen of my life with abundant life.
I need Holy ink that won't ever go dry.
I need Christ to take my heart and use it to write the timeless story of His saving grace.
I need God to pick me up off of His desk and restore to me His purpose for my life.
I cannot make myself a useful instrument for God by my own will and works. I cannot fill my own pen with ink. Only God has the capacity to make me full of His Spirit and all He requires that I ask Him. And so I will ask. Over and over again I will ask.

God, don't let this pen go dry. Pour into me Your endless, abundant ink in order that I may pour it out onto this world for the glory and honor of your Almighty name.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Waiting on God's front porch

I wanted to hear from God so I went to His door and knocked. But He didn't answer. No matter how hard I knocked or how many times I rang His door bell, He didn't come to the door.
I was so disappointed. I was so eager to hear His voice and listen as He spoke. But I heard nothing. No footsteps in the house, no call from the other side of the door saying, "Just a minute, I'll be right there!" Where had he gone? Was God ignoring me, I wondered? Did He have nothing new to say to me? My internal questioning and concern only lasted a moment. Certainly God was inside His house. He was always in His house.
Convinced that it wasn't God who had run off, I searched for a way to make Him hear me. I tried cymbals and gongs but He never came to the door. I tried pounding on the knocker with more force but the door remained shut. So I thought to myself, maybe He is speaking inside of the house but I just can't hear Him. So I silenced the noise in my life. I turned off the stereo and TV. I shut up my books and talking heads. But all I heard were crickets. No voice from God. No word from inside the house.
Were my ears plugged up or had God gone on vacation? Exasperated and confused, knuckles too sore to pound on His door one second longer, I looked up into the Heaven's and begged God to break the silence. I'm here, ready to listen! Please come and speak to your daughter! 
But God didn't come to the door and He didn't say a word.
In that silent state, torn between emotions of frustration and disappointment, standing on God's front porch, a new thought dawned on me. Maybe God wasn't speaking to me because He was too busy to speak to me. Maybe God wasn't speaking because He was busy preparing a special surprise for me on the other side of the door.
While I was standing on His porch, incessantly ringing the bell, God was busy at work on my behalf inside the house. He wasn't speaking because He was orchestrating His beautiful and wondrous plans, accomplishing tasks to bring about my future's surprises. While I was waiting, knocking and ringing, God was working.
So I decided to stop trying to make God's front door open and instead to simply rest on the front porch. I took up a seat and got comfortable, trusting that in the right time God would come to the door, open it wide and speak His words of welcome. I waited in glorious anticipation, knowing that when it was time for the big reveal He would break the silence. At just the perfect moment God would usher me in to come and see what He had been busy preparing on the other side of the threshold.
It was there, peacefully waiting on God in the stillness and serenity of His front porch, that I learned a lesson about His holy silence. God never goes silent as a matter of ignorance or an act of ignoring. God goes silent while He works His grandest plans and prepares His greatest reveals.

Dear friend, do you want to know how I can be so sure that God's silence is His time of surprise preparation? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. While I was waiting on God's front porch I heard a little sound coming from the other side of the door. I heard shuffling and scurrying and the glorious movement of my graceful Lord. And then I heard the most amazing words whispered in God's sweet familiar voice. He said oh so softly, "Oh, I can't wait to see the look on her face when my beloved daughter sees all of this!" 
God's glorious surprises are always worth the wait.
And until then I'm enjoying His front porch.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Where I go when it storms

The thunder cracked and a bolt of lightening lit up the living room. I looked down and there she was, Molly, my scardy schnoodle.
Molly was born afraid of storms. Her fear became evident during the first storm she weathered as a member of the family. As the wind whipped and the rain fell our little schnoodle puppy was shaking like a leaf while her big, brave sister Pippy slept on the floor completely unaware that a meteorological disturbance was under way. Molly has grown up quite a bit since that first storm. She no longer chews flip-flops and she's completely house broken. She's even shed all of her puppy fur but she hasn't shed her puppy fear.
When storms come Molly is still just as fearful as she was during her first storm. She quivers, shivers and shakes. Unlike Marley of the best selling book "Marley and Me," Molly suffers from the form of fear that paralyzes and not the form that induces fits of destruction. Even in the worst of storms Molly has never destroyed couch cushions or chewed through wooden furniture. When Molly becomes fearful she goes completely silent and freezes, usually right underneath my feet while I'm cooking dinner.
Inevitably storms always seem to roll in at dinner time. The moment I see the dark clouds I know that my meal preparation is going to have a furry friend under foot. Fearful Molly always wants to be as close to human comfort as possible. She sits right on my toes as I stand at the counter, her little body practically glued to the side of my leg. Poor Molly gets stepped on countless times in every dinnertime storm but she doesn't let it deter her from planting herself as close to me as possible even when I'm moving around like a whirling dervish, tripping over her at every turn. Her kitchen presence during storms has caused me to take countless dangerous trips and near falls all while wielding a knife and cutting board.
Molly's unconquerable fear of storms and obtrusive presence in the kitchen used to frustrate me and produce in me exasperated sighs. When will she outgrow this? I would think to myself. At each rumble of thunder Molly's shaking fur would answer my question. Never.
Molly is three and showing no signs of overcoming her fear of storms. And that's okay by me because I'm no longer seeing her need to stand under my feet in fear as an annoyance. Now when I look down at my shaking schnoodle I have a new found compassion because I have a new vision.
You see, when I look down at Molly I see myself and my inner need to be comforted, protected and reassured by the steady and sure presence of my Master and Father God. When storms in my life come and the thunder shakes my foundation I run, just like Molly, to the feet of my Savior and Protector. I run to the foot of the cross. I take refuge from the wind and rain in His courage and strength. I plant myself underneath His feet and rely on Him to calm my anxious soul.
My Father God never loses patience with me while I cower underneath His cross. When I am fearful He does not push me aside or dismiss me as a burden. I am never in His way. He loves to have me at His feet. He cherishes the time I spend at the throne of His grace. He pours into me the strength I cannot gather on my own. He clams me with the peace I am powerless to produce. He loves me. Oh, how He loves me.
And so I will love on Molly when she comes to me in the storm, shaking in fear and overcome with distress. I will look down on her little worried face and have mercy on her even when she is in my way, causing me to nearly fall flat on the kitchen floor. I will stand as her courage and provide her my peace because that is just what Jesus did for me. That is just what Jesus does for me during every rumble of thunder, every crack of lightening and every battering wind. Because Christ stands strong through the storm I can rest assured in His presence and know that the sun will shine again.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Just the Savior I need

As I made my way down the elevator, through the tiled hallway and into the bright and inviting lobby I was met with a familiar, friendly aroma.
I hadn't been thinking about my favorite warm caffeinated beverage at six in the evening but the twenty four seven, freshly brewed pot in the hotel lobby beckoned me to come and fill up. So I did. The coffee was so hot I could barely pick up the insulated cup with my bare hands. Spotting a handy cardboard sleeve I reached for it, slipped it on my steaming cup and went on my way.
With the uneventful coffee fill up complete I continued on my intended journey out of the sliding glass doors and into the car. It wasn't until I was in the car, miles down the road and halfway through my coffee that I looked at the words imprinted on the hotel's complimentary cup sleeve. "COFFEE" it said in big bold letters, "just the thing you need." In that one simple, short statement I was overwhelmed by significance. The words were meant to be quirky and cute, the kind of statement that brings a faint smile to the face of the coffee sippers. But for this particular coffee drinker the words on the sleeve and the message they delivered were transformed before my very eyes, in my very hand.
When I looked at the cup, instead of seeing the word "COFFEE" I read the word "CHRIST." Instead of thinking about java and liquid energy, I saw visions of salvation and eternal life. From the cup that filled my car with the scent of freshly roasted beans I inhaled the aroma of grace and redemption.

Coffee, no matter how caffeine rich and invigorating, is not what I truly need. Even the best cup of coffee will only provide me temporary energy and life. Sooner or later the boost wanes and I end up back in the hotel lobby for another cup of "just what I need."
But Jesus gives me just what I need for eternity. The life-giving, soul-enriching, body-energizing life He gives doesn't need to be refilled. Jesus' salvation is sustaining, bought and paid for once and for all. On the cross, in His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ filled my cup with never ending life so that I would never have to fill it again. Jesus purchased for me just what I need all that I need. He  filled my cup, my life and my soul, to the overflowing. He provided me the sleeve of His mercy and gift of His abundant grace.

I like coffee, I may even go as far as to say I love coffee, but it isn't what I need, despite what the sleeve on my cup tells me. The perfect Son of God is truly all I will ever need. He is the infusion of eternal life that gives me everlasting vitality of the heart that does not crash and does not disappoint. Jesus Christ, He is just the Savior I need for now and for eternity.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Twenty seven years ago something unexpected happened.
I was born.
I wasn't a planned baby. I was a blessed surprise, as my Mom says. She had always wanted a big family with lots of kids but by the age of forty, she was content to be a Mother of two if that was God's plan. Little did she know in the summer of 1989 that God indeed had a plan she couldn't imagine - an unexpected baby.
By the time I arrived I was expected. Mom had set up a nursery and made her nest but what she didn't expect, couldn't expect, was a baby with a head full of black air and a complexion that looked more exotic than all-American girl.
As I grew up I continued to deliver unexpected surprises. As a newborn my young baby frame grew quite large earning me the affectionate name of "Sumo Wrestler" but that stage didn't last long. By the time I was ten months I had shed my sumo weight and was a full-time walker. The unexpected sight of a tiny little frame scooting around the mall and down grocery store isles caught the attention and awes of fellow shoppers.
From the very start my life has been full of the unexpected and in the past seven years the unexpected has soared to new heights. Unexpected illness and unexpected symptoms. Unexpected trials and unexpected struggles. But the most unexpected surprise of the past seven years has been the abundance of unexpected blessings and unexpected glimpses of God's goodness.
When this journey began seven years ago I could never have imagined the unexpected path God had laid out for me. I couldn't comprehend the unexpected plan He had for my future. But little by little, day by day, He has been revealing to me a plot and a story more creative and more compelling than any I could have designed. God has been filling my life with wildly unexpected twists and turns. From the very beginning, still just a baby on a sonogram machine, God had my future, my purpose and my unexpected path in life all planned and prepared.
On this my twenty seventh birthday I am in awe of God's unexpected goodness. He shows up in the most unlikely of places and shows His grace in the most minute details of my life. God specializes in the unexpected and I wouldn't have it any other way.
God has blessed me with an unexpected life. It is unexpected in trying ways full of tribulation and it is unexpected in beautiful ways full of sweet gifts of mercy. I have been blessed by the most amazing unexpected life and today it is just enough to celebrate that and praise God for it.
So, thank you God for giving me twenty seven years of life. I can't wait to see what you have in store for the next one. I know one thing is for sure, it will be full of the wonderfully, gloriously unexpected.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Again

The seasons amaze me. I know it seems like a silly thing to find amazing, but, to me, seasons are awe inspiring... the predictability of seasons, one always following another in seamless succession; the uniqueness of each season, no two the same. The differences reveal themselves in the budding flowers of spring, the brilliant orange leaves of fall, the sun's hot rays in the summer and winter's blankets of gleaming white snow. Every season is its own wonder to behold, amazing in its own special way.
Today as I walked in the great outdoors after a long winter of bitter cold and blowing winds I breathed in a new scent and took in a new scene. I breathed in spring. Despite the fact that I've experienced the newness of spring twenty six time before, every year this beautiful season catches me by surprise - by sweet surprise.
It always seems that the earth's transformation from winter to spring happens overnight. One day I wake up and immediately pull on warm socks and the next day I'm strutting around shoe less and fancy free. Spring enters swiftly. Closed windows open wide. Low hanging clouds disappear into a distant memory. Spring makes its grand entrance in flower beds and on the tips of tree. This glorious season arrives in the bright sun and sings its hello from the beaks of birds back from their musical hiatus.
I love spring. I love it for the thawing out of cold hands and frozen feet. I love spring for the blue sky and the green grass. I love spring for its perfect walking weather and soothing rain showers. But, most of all, I love spring because it is my yearly reminder that God is not done making all things new.
When spring comes and the flowers break through the barren earth, on their petals God writes me love notes. As the flowers bloom His message and promise to faithfully restore, renew and redeem is revealed. No matter how harsh the winter that preceded it, the budding blossoms, and the glorious message they bring, always return. God always remains true to His promise to revitalize the earth with new life after every cold, hard winter.
Come spring I am reminded that God is true to His word. Just like He brings new life to the earth, He brings new life to my barren heart.
No matter how harsh my soul's winter and how low my spiritual temperature falls, God can bring me back to life. He can make me bloom again. God can bring the birds of peace and praise back into my empty heart and fill me with songs of His glory.
My winter can be long, indeed it has been long, but spring will come. I know it will because it always does. It has for twenty six years.
This week is my birthday. I will be twenty seven. In many ways my life has been in a long winter. I've been sick for seven years now and this inner winter has felt like it will never end. But I have faith and hope in God's promise that assures me this winter will end. My spring of health and vitality will bud and bloom again.
On the petals of spring, written in the flowers, I see God's promise penned for me... "You, my dear, will spring again."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Stubborn Donkey

On Palm Sunday the Christian world celebrates a donkey. Well, we don't exactly celebrate a donkey but a donkey is certainly discussed. The celebration is ultimately about Jesus, the true reason for every celebration. But on Palm Sunday a donkey plays a supporting role in Jesus' story.
The classic picture painted by the preacher in the pulpit one week before Easter is of a young, baby colt draped in cloth, entering into Jerusalem with Jesus riding on his back. We don't know much about the donkey but what we do know is quite telling. This particular donkey had never been ridden before. He was, shall we say, a newbie to the stable scene. He was also a donkey particularly chosen for the task of carrying Jesus. This wasn't a random, "sure I'll take that one" kind of donkey. This was a donkey set apart for this journey, hand picked and specifically chosen. Other than those few facts, we know little about the particular donkey that provided Jesus' transportation into Jerusalem.
The rest of what we know about this young donkey comes from knowledge of donkeys in general. So, what do we know? We know that donkeys aren't easily spooked and won't go running at every unfamiliar sound. They are smart and attune to danger even when it is far off in the distance.
But donkeys are known to be stubborn, a not-so-beneficial side effect of being un-spookable. Unlike most horses, the typical donkey can be kicked, pushed and pulled without budging. It take extensive training and an abundance of patience to teach a young donkey how to be an obedient provider of rides, willing to start and stop on command. Naturally, the donkey doesn't want to obey. He wants to stand still when confronted with a new stranger on his back.
But not Jesus' donkey.
In every account of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem He is riding on a donkey, not being pushed or pulled on a donkey. The donkey is moving willingly. The young, never-before-riden donkey is listening to the Lord's voice and following the gentle commands of Christ. There is no scriptural reference to Jesus kicking the donkey or yelling at the donkey to move its stubborn behind through the lush display of palm branches. Jesus didn't need man's force to rule the donkey. With His very presence and spirit, Jesus directed the donkey.
Jesus' command over the donkey is strikingly similar to the command He displayed earlier in His life over the waves of the sea and winds of the air. Jesus, in His infinite power, simply spoke words and the earth responded. He directed demons to depart and they had no choice but to flee. Over and over again Jesus proved that He was able to do the unimaginable, the humanly impossible and the absolutely incredible.
The power of God to still the storms and move the stubborn donkey is still as real and present today as it was on the first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. Jesus can make mountains move and animals obey. So who is to say He isn't able to come into my stubborn circumstances - the disease I can't beat, the sorrow I can't shake, the trials I can't escape - and make the barriers to victory move? Can the God who made the donkey move, walk and obey speak into the nerves of my brain, the bones in my body and the muscles in my flesh and command them to bow down to His voice?
The lesson of the donkey is that God is able to overcome that which is stuck in our lives. He is able to break the chains of stubborn situations that feel utterly hopeless. God can make the mountains of trials move. He can command the winds of tribulation to cease. God is able. He was able with Jesus' donkey and He is able with the donkeys in our lives today.

My donkey is my health. This disease, handpicked by God specifically for me, is the most stubborn donkey I have ever come in contact with. And I can not make it move. I've tried. Oh, how I've tried but this donkey won't budge. I have kicked, screamed and yanked this donkey with every fiber of my being and ounce of strength in bones and the donkey hasn't even grunted.
It is one powerfully stubborn and obstinate donkey.
But God can make my donkey move. He can command the disease that has overtaken my body to flee in His presence. He won't need force and He might not even use a whip. With the power of His Holy Spirit and the might of His will, God can make this donkey move.
So I won't waste my energy kicking and I won't lose patience waiting. When it is right, when God so desires, He will break the chains of my stubborn donkey and release my body from this disease.
In God's time and by His power, God will speak to this donkey and tell it to move.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A view from my tight rope

I'm teetering on a tight rope, high above the sure foundation of the solid ground. I never asked to scale the ladder that led to this daring feat. It was never my intention to end up on the high wire. Yet, here I am living on the edge, pushing back my fear as I painstakingly take another step forward.
As I wobble back and worth I glance at the ground far below and immediately my mind is filled with troubling "what ifs."... What if my foot slips? What if the wire blows in the wind? What if I lose my balance?... I catch my breath, practically paralyzed by the limitless dangers of the "what ifs." If my foot slips, I'll trip forward and fall downward. If the wind blows the wire will sway and I'll lose my footing. If I lose my balance, I'll tumble right off of this wire and end up down there on that cold, hard, unforgiving ground. I'll end up dead. Defeated.
Reality pulls me back to the wire. I can't stop to think about the "what ifs." I can't stop moving. If I stop, I'll fall. I'll look down instead of looking straight ahead. If I think too much about the peril below I'll lose sight of the purpose ahead; the purpose of making it to the other side of this wire.
So I look back up. I close my eyes for just a moment and reestablish my footing. The wire is thin but it is steady. The wind isn't blowing and the rope is tight. I can walk this wire if I keep my eyes fixed on my destination. If I can just keep my mind fixated on victory I can overcome defeat.
I open my eyes once again and this time I don't look down. I look up, straight ahead. I stare with fixated obsession on the glory at the end of the rope. I look at the platform that signals safety and stability. And I walk. One deliberate, confident step at a time I move forward. I don't let my mind think of a single "what if." I cast off every fear. I look only to the future glory of life at the end of the wire.
With one sure and steady step at a time I make my way across the wire. It is longer than I ever imagined. The wire seems to go on forever but I'm not falling. I am upright and, with each successful step forward I am less fearful of the future. I believe that I can make it. I trust that I will not fall. My legs don't wobble as much as they did at the start and my feet don't feel as weak. The rope does not look as scary. The feat doesn't seem so daring.
I haven't made it to the end of my rope just yet. The high wire of my life's journey is still before me. I am still traveling, step by steady step forward into the future. But I am no longer filled with fear at the distance I must travel because I have confidence in the rope and who is holding it tight. I trust the God who is directing the winds and keeping me stable. I am not looking at the dangers of the ground below because I am looking at the glory above. And I have peace. Even on this rope I have rest and assurance because my God has placed me on this tight rope and established for me a way forward.
I will not fear the long walk to the other side of this tight rope because I know He is with me on the wire.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Chronic Crown

Chronic pain is one of those symptoms that is invisible to the naked eye yet the inescapably reality of every moment and every breathe of the suffering. Until chronic pain became my reality I could only imagine the agony of a life of constant discomfort and distress. Now I don't have to imagine. I live it every day and, these days, no where more acutely than in my skeletal back.
Years of spastic muscles have taken a toll on my back. The pulling and tugging of spasms in my left side have succeeded in yanking my back into a state of utter imbalance. My discs, ligaments, muscles and joints are all a mess that I've tried desperately to clean up. From castor oil to chiropractic, stability balls to Aleve, nothing has worked. The pain has only worsened.
The most severe pain occurs when I sit down so I try not to sit as much as possible. But sometimes sitting is inescapable, like when riding in the car. Pre-pain I loved car trips. I was a real road warrior. At one point in my life, Mom and I traveled thirteen hours with no more than five stops for gas and food fill-ups. We drove late into the night while belting out our favorite Train ballads to keep us amused and entertained. The trip was long and my legs were thankful to stretch and move when the journey was over but I never experienced pain. Now I can't drive across town without counting down the minutes until I am released from my sitting position.
In these past seven years of chronic illness I have had to come to terms with the reality of chronic pain. I am not telling you this for pity's sake or to gain a collective, sympathetic "aw" from readers. I'd by lying if I said that I don't mind the pain. Of course I mind. But I also know that this pain is nothing compared to plenty of other crosses I could have to bear. I could be in a country where I was persecuted for my faith. I could bear a cross that paralyzed my body or served me with a short life. But this illness and the pain that results from it is the cross God has given me.
After all of these years of pain the question I face is not will I bear the cross God has given me. At the end of the day, no matter how painful, the answer is always "yes." The real question that stings at my heart and rips at my muscles is not of will but of how. How will I handle this pain? Will I bear it like a heavy burden or wear this pain like a beautiful crown?
Yesterday I stepped out of the car after eight hours stuck in that upright, painful position wearing something new. I exited the car with a crown. Was there pain in my back? Without a doubt. Were there tears forming in the corners of my eyes as I stretched my stiff, spastic muscles? Absolutely. But on my head was a crown of glory. In my pain I found unity and communion with Christ. By enduring discomfort and distress I shared in a tiny taste of the suffering of Christ. Trapped in pain, I was given the opportunity to travel on the journey that lead to Jesus' victory over death and His, heavenly, glorious crown.
Every moment of pain that I endure is real and so is the crown I wear. I have been given this cross to wear as a crown, not to bear as a burden, so that, in the wearing of it, I will become intimately united with my Savior and Lord. On this journey, wearing a crown fashioned by the hand of God and perfected in the cross of Christ, I am being prepared for Heaven to spend eternity in the presence of my God and King, the conqueror of death and the everlasting keeper of the crown.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Welcome to a whole new world

The departure occurred so rapidly I didn't even have time to say goodbye. Not that a formal goodbye was in order. Time Warner Cable and I didn't have that kind of sentimental relationship. Ours was more of a customer service complaint and bill pay type of relationship - if there is such a thing.
But now our relationship is over. Caput. One day I turned on the TV and hear a smooth radio voice tell me that Time Warner was now Spectrum. The smooth voice assured me that I need not fear the continuation of my cable and internet service. The transfer to Spectrum would be seamless.
And just like Time Warner Cable trucks vanished from the streets, replaced by utility vans bearing a whole new name. The old internet site I once visited to pay my bill simply disappeared into the world wide web history books. The number I once dialed to connect to my Time Warner Cable customer service representative redirected me to a menu that had certainly changed.
Welcome to the whole new world of Spectrum.
Isn't it stunning how quickly the world as we know it can be transformed? Change can occur so quickly that, in TV land, Time Warner Cable can be provide the morning news and by lunch, Spectrum can take over.
And to think, that's what limited man can do with cable and internet. Can you just imagine what the almighty, all powerful God can do in the human heart and  the lives of His followers?
Friends, I am here to tell you that we need not imagine the drastic, dramatic and amazing works of transformation God can accomplish because we can actually be that drastic, dramatic and amazing work of transformation. God's marvelous work of change can be implemented with such swiftness that old self won't even have time to say goodbye. He can and will work that quickly if we allow Him to have control.
God's desire is to perform works of soul transfiguration in you and I in order that we can be made into the image of Christ. When we give up the rights we have to ourselves, God takes ownership and possession of our lives - body, heart and soul. He wipes off our old name, cleanses us of our sins, and imprint us with the mark of His Son. He changes us from the inside out, transformed into beauties of His glory with such superior quality and service that we are fit for Heaven.
God can transform you and I as quickly as Spectrum took over Time Warner Cable. The world won't have time to say goodbye but assure them they need not worry because the new self - the self made new in Christ - will be much better than the old self could ever be. The service will be better. The quality will be unparalleled. And a new name, God's name, will be on the top of the bill. 
Welcome to God's whole new world surrendered and saved in Christ.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sorry, Mom

I owe my Mother an apology. My offensive, disgraceful behavior occurred years ago but as of yet I have never asked for forgiveness. So today is the day to make amends and right my wrongs.
Mom, please forgive me for throwing a fit in Dr. Jackson's dental chair. I apologize for my screaming, yelling and thrashing about that led to the use of the office's straight jacket. I'm truly sorry for crying and slobbering all over my Gap kids outfit and causing your blood pressure to spike. And if I shouted out that I hated the dentist, Dr. Jackson in particular, please have mercy on my tongue - and blame the impending shot of Novocaine.
My dear, forgiving Mother remembers better than anyone that as a child I was a petrified pediatric dental patient. I'm sure I taxed not only her nerves but the nerves of the entire dental office staff. Even the thought of the dentist left me wrought with anxiety. I was convinced that anything that occurred inside that office was dreadfully painful and utterly unpleasant. The medical community invented straight jackets for kids like me; kids overcome with extreme dentophobia.
Looking back on those fateful dentist visits I now understand what caused me such fear. It was that very first shot of Novocaine. Despite the dental assistant's assurance that the pain would be over in just a few seconds, I didn't believe it. Or maybe I believed it but that didn't change the fact that I didn't want any pain, not even for a moment.
Mom can attest to the fact that I've grown up quite a bit when it comes to my dental visits. Suffice it to say the dental assistant no longer needs to employ the straight jacket. But I'm still not a fan of needles, shots or pain - momentary or long term. Even when the sting comes with the promise of quick relief, I'm filled with anxiety. I don't scream, cry and throw tantrums, but inside I'm overcome with fear.
The most intense fear comes when the shot is in the hands of God. On countless occasions I have come into His presence as a patient in His care and the treatment plan has started with the familiar refrain, "Hold still, this will only hurt a bit." But I don't want to hold still. I don't want to feel pain, not even a bit. I want to avoid all discomfort. I want to be made well without being given the shot.
But I've learned a thing or two since my childhood days in the dental chair. Fighting against the physician won't change the protocol.
God is more persistent than the dentist with a more effective strategy for commanding compliance. He doesn't even need a straight jacket. He compels my heart with the cross of Christ. He puts Jesus in front of me and instructs me to yield to His will and submit to the procedure of His plan. It may hurt a bit, in fact it almost always hurts a bit, but just like the Novocaine shots of my youth, this pain is momentary and for my good. The numbing is to save me from the pain of a life apart from God's care. I need the shot of submission to Christ in order to endure all of the drilling, filling and fixing that follows and makes me whole and eternally well.
I still don't like shots but I'm learning that in the right hands, in God's hands, they are necessary and for my ultimate good. God's shots are a vital tool He uses to save my perishing soul. Without His shot of spiritual Novocaine I wouldn't be able to relax, rest and peacefully endure the trials and tribulations that are part of making me fit for Heaven.
So, Mom I'm sorry for throwing a fit at the dentist and I promise to never put you through that dental torture again. I've grown older, wiser and I'm learning to cherish shots - well, at least one kind of shot. God's shots. Because I know I need them and I am choosing to submit to them. No straight jacket required.