Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lord, Give Me...

the heart of the Father...

Let me tell you something, if you don't already know it - that old man is crazy.  I mean a stark raving lunatic, no doubt about it.  He wants me to learn all about his god and follow all his lame teaching and obey what he tells me, and, well, you get the idea.  If he thinks I'm going to sit around and let my bones decay on the ole' homestead, he had better get a grip.  The sooner I escape this lunatic farm, the better off I'll be.  Yea, yea, I know, I'm supposed to wait until he's dead to get the goods.  He's such a soft touch, I know exactly how to play him.  After all, I'm the youngest - kinda the apple of his eye, if you know what I mean!  I know just the words to use and just the tone, just the youthful, innocent pretense he always falls for.  He doesn't have a clue!

Well, it was just like I said it would be.  The guy's a sucker, that's for sure.  I played the game, pretty much told him I wanted the cash, like NOW, and boom, just like that, he gave it to me.  Big brother isn't too happy and the whole town is laughing at Pops, but, who cares - I got what I wanted and that's all that matters.  I'm out of here now.  Who needs this place, the ole' man, or the god they worship.  Good riddance, is all I can say.

I wanted to break loose, to get as far away from this nightmare as I could.  I mean all the restrictions they put on me - it was as if I was some kind of fool who couldn't run my own life!  This new place is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I have friends that really care about me.  They invite me to all the parties, they drink with me, they drug with me, they sleep with me - they love me!  It's so great being free to be me!  I always dreamed life could be like this!  It's what I was made for!  That's right - God made me to be the way I am, so, I'm not apologizing to anybody.  This is the real me.  You don't like it, blame God.  He made me this way.

Oh, man, I'm out of cash!  I told some of my buddies and I haven't seen any of them in weeks.  It's as if they were just hanging around me for what they could get...  I was hoping some of them would pay me back for all the times I coughed up for the bill on the drinks and the chow.  Man, I'm in shock.  I thought they were my friends.  I mean I can't even afford a place to stay now.  I'm living on the street.  It isn't even safe out here.  This place is downright dangerous...

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"But, when he had spent all, he began to be in want..."
Luke 15: 14

Good grief, I can't even believe where I'm at right now.  I need to stay calm and just get a job - this is just a temporary setback - I'm fine - I mean I always land on my feet!  I'm the one who always wins!  I play by my own rules and that's the way I like it.  For now, I'll get a job until the money starts rolling in again - then I'll be fine!  You'll see!  This is me we're talking about!

Well, things didn't exactly work out the way I planned.  Listen to me!  I don't plan!  Life just happens and its all good - right?  Uh, maybe not always good.  This has only gone from bad to worse.  Turns out, for all of my smarts, I somehow don't have the skills to get a decent paying job.  Nobody appreciates me for me anymore!  They need to remember whose kid I am!  Back home, I'm my father's kid - that makes me important, just by itself!

Anyway I took the only job I could find cleaning out the poop from the pigs house - you would not believe the filth I am living in right now.  I know I can't believe it.  It feels like I can't get any lower.  I am so hungry, I fight the pigs to eat their slop.  Nobody ever comes by to check on me.  I'm filthy dirty, I smell like the pigs, I sleep with the pigs, I live like the pigs.  I can't take much more.  God, how did I get here and how do I get out?

"and he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate,
but no-one gave him anything..."

Luke 15: 16

God.  I haven't really thought of you in years.  I do remember hearing about you though.  My family told me about you.  Guess I've really been my own god for quite awhile...

Well, it's over for me.  I have to go back to my father's house.  I wouldn't blame him if he refused to take me in.  I mean, look at what I did with all he gave me.  Look how I squandered his blessing.  Look how I mocked him, even to his face.  He can't love me anymore.  He can't.  Even he isn't that much of a fool.  I have so messed up my life.  I flat out rejected everything he told me.  I rejected him.  I can't make that up to him.  But, I need him now, like I have never needed him before.  I'm going to go back.  I hope I can make it.  I am so weak, this has taken everything out of me.  With the last ounce of energy I have, I will go back.  I will beg him to forgive me.  If he will just let me be one of his servants, that would be so much better than this.  At least I would have some shelter and food.  I can't go on like this. I will be dead before long.

I don't know if I can do this.  It is so humiliating.  I am not even sure he will know me.  He has probably disowned me by now.  He might not even let me on his property.  The servants are all going to be laughing at me.  My brother will say it serves me right - and, that's really true - it does.  I wouldn't blame any of them, but, especially my father, if he never spoke to me again.  I am so sorry for what I have put him through.  I have been such a fool...

Wait - who is that man running so hard down the road to get to me?  Does he mean to kill me? Rob me - I have nothing to give him anyway.  Oh, no.  I don't believe what I am seeing.  It is my father.  My father whom I have hated and rejected.  My father, my father, my father... Oh, how I love my father...

"But, when he was still a great way off,
the father saw him and had compassion
and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him..."
Luke 15: 20

He has blown me away with his love for me.  He told the servants to get me some new clothes, and put a beautiful ring on my finger that is a gift from him to me - his prodigal child!  He never stopped loving me.  He said he searched for me every day, hoping against hope that I would come back to him.  He never gave up.  He loves me, even in my great sin against him.  I will never get over what he did for me.  He never gave up on me.  He rescued me when I was close to death.
He threw a party to welcome me home.
Nobody ever loved me like my father.

"...for this my son was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.
And they began to make merry...
Luke 15: 24


Friday, May 26, 2017

Manchester, England...

Manchester, England
So far away
But today I can reach out and feel your pain

Mothers and fathers screaming for their children
Ripped from their arms forever
Evil laughing in the streets over our grief

I am broken, Lord, God
Did You see what they did to my baby?
Were You there?
I can't feel You, right now.
There are no words for the depth of my heartache
No words
Please bring her back to me

Where is she now?
Do You know?
Do You have her?
Is she scared?
Is she crying for me?
Do You know how to love her like I do?
Why did You take her from me?

All of the innocent lives that have been stolen
All of the children who have been changed forever
What is happening to our world?
I don't understand
I hate all of this
Are You anywhere in all of this?
Are You still alive?
Are You still God?

Yes, meet me here, Oh, God
I will surely die...

Without You, Lord
I cannot go on
I cannot take another step
My life is seeping out 
I so need You, Lord
I need you to give me hope...

Never the same
I will cling to You
My Life
My Only Hope

Monday, December 26, 2016

Oh, Christmas Tree...

Look what I got...

Today is Christmas.  The birth of Christ.  Does anybody remember that, really?  I watched it all unfold around me this year.  I woke up early, wanting to celebrate the birth of Jesus into this world.  I wanted to do it with you.  Oh, I know, you live several hundred miles away from me.  But, still, I wanted to connect with you to share the blessing of this glorious day.  I called you mid-morning.  I didn't want to wake you too early on Christmas Day.  You let the phone go to the answering machine, like you always do.  I thought, maybe, you would answer it today.  It's Christmas...

It really hurt that you didn't answer when I called.  But, then, I tried texting you a couple of hours later.  Young people today, they tell me, prefer to text rather than talk on the phone.  So, I gave it a try. I guess you never saw it.  You didn't answer that either.  I was hurt that, on Christmas Day, you didn't even think of me.  I got mad then and decided I wouldn't bother trying to reach you again.  Who cares, I told myself.  I'm fine all by myself today.  

Your dad called me last night sounding very high on the emotions of the evening.  It was Christmas Eve and he had spent the evening with you all going out to dinner to celebrate before opening gifts. All the girls are home for Christmas.  Nobody called me to ask if I would like to join you.  I probably wouldn't have been able to drive in for it, but, it just hurts that nobody even asked.  Your brother told me how sweet it was back at your dad's house, everyone laughing around the Christmas tree, opening presents and enjoying the family on Christmas Eve.  I'm sure it was lovely.  I wish I had been there.

Christmas Day is drawing to a close for another year.  I have spent the day alone.  Your sister called me this morning before they left for Italy.  They are taking a much deserved one week vacation they have dreamed of for a long time.  I am so happy they are getting to do this.  But, part of me wishes I could just see them today for a few minutes...  I miss all of you so much today.

The phone just rang, as the day is ending.  It was you saying "Merry Christmas."  You couldn't talk. You're on the way to the movies with your family.  Just long enough to exchange Christmas greetings.  I'm sure you're glad you got that out of the way.  Yes, that's how I feel.  I have somehow become an obligation you tend to when you must.  Nothing more.  Do you have any idea how painful that is for me?  You are my daughter that I love. 

I don't understand what has happened anymore.  You have successful jobs that allow you to travel and enjoy life with most of what you want in life.  When you were struggling, I was there for you - I helped you buy the house you raised your children in.  I never envisioned the day I would become just an obligation to avoid to you...

I spent time on Facebook today, since I had a lot of time on my hands.  All the pictures I saw were of beautifully (even, extravagantly) decorated homes with Christmas presents piled so high they obscured the tree.  Usually multiple trees now - that's the latest trend they say - a tree in every room of the house.  These are almost always, gorgeous homes.  The table is set with gorgeous place settings and food beyond imagination.  The stories and pictures tell of the perfect Christmas - "look what I got - just what I wanted!" This, often from the adults.  When I was little, it was all the parents could do to put together a Christmas for the kids.  It was all about the kids.  Not anymore...

I remember if we got one or two things we were hoping for, we were so happy.  Before we opened anything, we went to church to sing to the newborn King.  We all knew what Christmas was all about. Now - not so much...

I miss that.  I miss what really matters at Christmas.  Oh, yes, I must remember, after all the gifts are opened, the food consumed until nobody can eat another bite, somebody adds "Happy Birthday, Jesus."  It's more of an afterthought, I think.  I don't think Jesus is listening.  He is weeping over what is taking place in His name. And so am I...

Note to the reader:  This is a heartfelt story of what it feels like to be forgotten on Christmas - to be left alone while the rest of the family is celebrating.  It's brutally painful.  No one should be alone at Christmas, and many, many people are.  Even more than that, it's about what Christmas has become in an overly self-centered, materialistic society, that pretends to care, and even, pretends that Christmas is still about Christ.  For the most part, that is not really true anymore, and I think we all know it.  We need to repent that we have allowed the culture to steal the Birth of Christ and turn it into one of the most pagan celebrations of the year.  I believe this grieves the heart of God. Sometimes, the truth hurts.  But, we need to face the truth, or we will never deal with it.  As the Church, we need to bow before God and ask Him to forgive us for our selfishness and idol worship of Christmas.  That's not what He intended it to be.  God forgive us and bring us back to the true meaning of Christmas... 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Take Every Thought...

to make it obedient to Christ...
2 Corinthians 10:5

You might, as I have in the past, read these verses and decide this is impossible. But, it has been impressed upon me, over and over again, just how important it is to control our thoughts - this is why God commands us to do just that.  It is in the battlefield of the mind that we win or lose the day.  If we battle depression, low self-esteem, thoughts of suicide, we can be sure our thoughts are at the root of the battle.  

I believe it is because the stakes are so high for us and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that God is so specific in commanding us to capture our thoughts in this way.  God knows that this is where the enemy gains a foothold in our lives and can destroy the future He has planned for us; our hope in Him; our joy in life; our peace; our sense of being loved, even our desire to continue living.  God knows the depth and danger of allowing our thoughts to rule over us rather than Christ.  Clearly, this is an area of enormous significance in our lives.  We ignore this scriptural admonition, truly, to our own peril.  

God directs our thoughts to those things that are healthy and life giving in our lives.  He doesn't leave us alone to figure this out - He makes it very clear how we should control our thoughts.  

You may be thinking, well that's fine for somebody else, if they can do it, but, I have a lot of stress in my life.  I just lost my job, my husband left me, I can't pay the rent, I am grieving the loss of my true love, I am seriously depressed, I want to give up... and on and on.  These are real issues that many people are dealing with.  These are the times when controlling our thoughts is vitally important.  If we allow the enemy to control our thoughts, he will.  We will find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into depression, feeling helpless, all alone in dealing with the problem, ready to give up, potentially, even suicidal.  We cannot allow our minds to run off on their own - someone will control our thoughts - either God or Satan.

I have a good friend and Christian Counselor who often asks me "Who told you that?"  In other words, ask yourself where that thought came from - is it from God, or is it from Satan?  It is essential to identify who is speaking to you through your thoughts. God will never reject you, never give up on you, never put you down, never, never, never lead you to thoughts of suicide.  If you are entertaining those kind of thoughts, STOP.  Take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ!  To not do so could give the enemy of your soul power in your life that God never intends or wants for you.  Satan is called the Father of Lies, the Destroyer, the Deceiver, the Thief...  He will lie to you about you or anyone else in your life, he will destroy everything that matters in your life, including you, he will steal your joy, your hope, your faith in God, your future...

God speaks love into your life, not hate; life not death; hope not despair; peace, not anxiety...  If you are not in the Word of God, do yourself a favor and get into it.  You will find life and healing for your soul.  It is through the Word of God that you will renew your mind. (Romans 12:2)

If you are not sure where to begin in this area, I encourage you to ask God to help you identify your thoughts and to "take them captive to the obedience of Christ..."

Challenge your thoughts - do not just accept them blindly - you have control over your thoughts - exercise that control!  If you are having destructive thoughts, ask yourself where they come from - is that from God or from Satan?  Be ruthless about rejecting any thoughts that are not from God about you or your life or, about God, Himself.  Please don't take this lightly.  Your life could depend on it, especially if you are struggling just to hold on another day.

I plan to do a mini-series on what the truth is that God speaks to us from His Word, vs. the lies the enemy speaks to us.  In the meantime, I pray God leads you to His Word, illuminates your thoughts to be His thoughts for you, and helps you in the battle to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..."2 Corinthians 10:5

Friday, September 23, 2016

In My Father's House...

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father's house are many mansions:

if it were not so, I would have told you.

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."

John 14:2-3

Reading these comforting words of Jesus, I thought of how often I am all tied up in knots with worries about the day or what might happen if... Yes, my heart is often troubled. Is yours? Are you facing a trial that you are dreading, wondering how you will ever get through? Have you experienced the unimaginable loss of someone dear to you that leaves you wanting to run away from life? Are you unable to picture your life without your dearest friend, loved one, child, spouse... Are you being threatened with the loss of your livelihood, or even worse, your life, for following Jesus?

These are frightening times we live in. As Believers, we are in the crosshairs of the enemy, who hates us because of the One we serve. Many of our brothers and sisters around the world are paying the ultimate price, in this life, at least, and are suffering persecution and martyrdom for their faith. Is it worth it? What does Jesus say to us as we face these trials and are tempted to cower in fear, to lose hope to walk away from our faith?

Jesus boldly calls His followers to faith - "You believe in God, BELIEVE ALSO IN ME!" None of these things come as a surprise to Jesus. He knows we tremble and shake and want to run away. He knows we are suffering for His name sake. He knows we are hurting, grieving our losses, dreading the trial ahead. He claims us as His own and boldly calls us to identify with Him, at all cost. 

Jesus doesn't pretend none of it matters, none of it hurts. No, He simply tells us there is a tomorrow we know nothing about. It is in "the Father's house." Jesus tells His disciples to look beyond what is terrifying them, depressing them, pulling them down. He comforts them, telling them lovingly that He is going ahead of them to His Father's house - where there are many "mansions". He assures them (and us) that He is going to "prepare a place for them, that where He is, we might be also..." 

Jesus is revealing His heart for His followers, here.  He knows they (we) are struggling, we are sometimes doubting what we know is true, we are hurting, we are being tempted to give up. He wants to reassure us, like a big brother who loves his little sisters and brothers, He is going ahead to prepare a place for us!  At the right time, He will take us there to be with Him.  I love how honest and real Jesus is in these verses.  He knows His disciples.  He knows their tendencies to give up. He knows their every weakness.  He loves them anyway!  He comforts them with His loving words.  

He is going to prepare a place for them (and us)!  Where, Lord.  We don't see it?  We are so limited in what we can see, and Jesus knows it.  He assures them, "if it WERE NOT SO, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU..."  How I love that!  He is saying, you can trust Me - have I ever lied to you before? I'm telling you where I'm going, what I'm doing and why.  You can take it to the bank - this is the truth...

I have needed to let that sink in a bit, to say the least!  Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Universe, is preparing a place for me and you!  He wants us to be with Him!  If that is not one of the most amazing truths of the Word of God, I don't know what is!  He promises to come back for us! He promises He has gone ahead of us to prepare for us!  He wants us there with Him, in His Father's house!  He could not promise us anything better.  Whatever we are suffering in this life, it has a limit.  It cannot go on for eternity.  Only God's love, expressed through the love and truth of our Savior, goes on forever.  And He has wrapped us in that love and promises to take us to be with Him in the center of the Father's love, in His house, where He has prepared a place for us.  Oh, that we might grasp the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for you and me...  May you be comforted by the promise of Jesus Christ, as you face the trials of this life:  He is coming back for you...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Springs of Living Water...

gushing out of you...

When I was a little girl, my favorite aunt came to visit from New York.  There just wasn't much of anything that happened in my family that surpassed the excitement of a visit from my Aunt Helen. I could tell you a lot about her, but, one of the things I remember most about her visits was the time my mom and dad took her "downtown" to see what they considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world, right there in our own home town of Chicago!  After all, she lived in New York, and don't you know we were always trying to "one up" New York! 

As I remember it, we all piled into our old jalopy to drive downtown to see Buckingham Palace - I mean Buckingham Fountain!  I was quite young though, and I was sure we were going to see Buckingham Palace - right there in our very own Chicago!  Surely, New York didn't have anything that even came close to that!  Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was just a water fountain! Granted it was a rather spectacular water fountain, but, it was "just" a water fountain.  Water was squirting out miles high from many different portals, all bathed in multi-colored lights that made it even more lovely to watch.  I sat in silence trying in my little girl head to figure out how that water was squirting everywhere from some mysterious place within.  How does one make water flow like that?  What's the secret?!

That is one of the pictures I have when I think of what Jesus promised us in the scripture quoted above.  That is quite a promise.  If you have ever had the experience of running or hiking a long distance without readily available water, you know that feeling of being desperate for a drink.  Our bodies are made to be hydrated.  We can't go for long without the simple, God given gift of water.  I remember hiking a long distance, running out of water.  By the time I got home to refresh my body, I was physically shaking all over, becoming disoriented and almost too weak to turn the faucet to get the liquid that, to me, was now more precious than gold.  

The truth is, I have often been dry and desperately thirsty.  Grieving a loss of someone or something I love with all my heart, leaves me parched, weak, trembling and disoriented.  I struggle to know who I am in God's world.  Does He still care for me?  If He does, why is He doing this to me?  Doesn't He know how devastated I am by this loss?  Doesn't He know, I am lost without my loved one or the dream I have clung to for so long?  What is He doing to me?  Why is He doing it? Does He see me?  Does He see my broken heart?  Does He see I am D E V A S T A T E D?

This is grief pouring out of our hearts.  We are confused by it, disoriented by it, devastated by it, angry about our loss, struggling to pick up the pieces to even want to go on.  I believe it is important to pour out our hearts before God - tell Him everything we are feeling - He can handle it because He does so love us, He wants us to come to Him, not just with our highs, but when we are at the bottom of the pit, also.  He will meet us there.

The link I am including in this post is a short story of a young couple who went through the tragedy of losing their beautiful four year old daughter in a car accident - every parent's worst nightmare. The dad is a pastor.  It's so important to realize that, just because a man or a woman is following Christ, even in pastoral ministry, they are not exempt from the suffering of the rest of the human race.  This man tells his story honestly - his rage at God for taking his baby.  His wife tells her story of the pain she went through - in a different way, but, just as real.  We grieve differently, don't we?   And that is okay with God...

The story of their pain and their loss ends with the promise that He will make streams of Living Water flow out of us from within - He will turn our mourning into dancing - He will restore to us everything the enemy has stolen... In my own struggle with grief, that is not something I ever wanted to hear, and didn't always believe.  But, I offer this to you who are grieving whatever you have lost, because I have learned that He makes good on His promises.  They are not frivolous, empty words.  They are the promises of our Good and Faithful God.  

Tuck this promise of God in a corner of your heart and let Him work it down deep within your spirit.  Watch and see, He will make springs of living water flow out of that very same heart that is broken right now.  You are in my prayers, always.  May God, our loving and gracious Father, heal you through and through...