Light, Glorious Light

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Through the coldest of winter months, our main source of heat is a coal furnace.  Anyone familiar with coal knows that it’s dusty.  You haven’t had dust until you’ve had coal.  Oh, it makes wonderful heat.  It’s so nice to have warm floors.  But the incessant dusting, yuck.

Recently, I enlisted the girls to clean all of the ceiling fan/light fixtures downstairs.  My dad commented on how dirty the kitchen one was in particular, which I took note of because he also has coal heat.  So I figured if he was commenting on how dirty it was it must be really dirty.  The kitchen fixture was a special trial as we had grease mixed with (coal) dust.  Grease-fighting dish detergent and baking soda were the choice cleaners as each fan blade was removed and scrubbed in the kitchen sink.  What a mess!  But then…

LIGHT!  I had no idea how dark our rooms had been until the globes were removed and scrubbed and replaced.  Light, glorious light.

I was sharing this story with a friend of mine and she began to laugh.  She and her family had been to another friend’s apartment in the same living complex as them.  She commented on how bright her friend’s living room was.  Theirs was dark and had to be lighted with lamps.  Her friend seemed amused.

“You have the same lights as me.  Just adjust them to where you want them to shine.”

My friend was in denial.  Even though the lights looked the same, she assumed they were an upgrade before this new friend of theirs moved in.

“I’m telling you,” her friend insisted, “go home and check it out.  They’re the same.”

My friend argued a bit more but decided to investigate when she went home.  “The lights are adjustable!” she exclaimed.  “Not only are the lights adjustable, but the bar they’re on is also adjustable.  I now have light where my computer is, light in the living room, and light over my kitchen sink.  Do you know that we’ve been washing dishes in the dark for over two years because I didn’t know that the lights were adjustable?!”

We laughed together.  How is it that things in life seem so dark sometimes?  Because of:

Grime.  I didn’t realize how dark my house was because it came little by little due to dust/dirt.  If it had happened over night, I would have been alarmed.  But it happened day by day, season by season.  What is it that we are letting into our lives that is causing darkness?  That is slowly eroding us spiritually and perhaps in all other ways?

I had an opportunity recently to go on a paid overnight bus trip out of state.  All I had to do was provide money for meals, and even one of them were paid for.  Part of the deal when we got there was, if it was a person’s first time in the establishment, they got an extra $15 food credit.  I watched as one woman squirmed in front of the man processing her.

“Have you been here before?” he asked.

She didn’t answer him but seemed to fumble with something in her purse.

“Ma’am, have you been here before today?”

She looked to the side at whom I assume were her traveling companions, or perhaps relatives.

“Ma’am, is this your first time here with us?” he repeated.

I was frustrated with her and I wasn’t even processing her.  I said to the relative I was traveling with: “I’m sure they can easily go back in their records and see if a person has been here before or not.  Is lying for a $15 food credit worth losing your soul?”

The thought jarred even me.  How many times have I lied and even for less?  How many times have my eyes lingered too long where they shouldn’t?  How many times has my tongue tripped down avenues of gossip?  How many times has unforgiveness or bitterness penetrated my heart?  How many times have wrong thoughts flooded my mind and I not only did not put them out, I let them set up camp?

“Come on, LORD, I’m trying to be pious here.  I’m talking about that woman squirming in what definitely appears to be a lie!”  I was beginning to squirm myself.

“We’re not talking about her,” He said.  “I’m talking about you.”

Ouch!

Aw, why did I have to hear the LORD so clearly?  Really?  He surely knows how to burst my self-righteous bubble.

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Let’s clean off the grime, people.  If things are a little dim, see if there’s something that needs to be cleaned.  Sin must go.  All of it.  Granted, it may go by degrees.  I find that’s the usual process of things, but let’s at least be willing to let the LORD scrub us. 

Things aren’t always dark due to grime, though.  Sometimes it’s due to:

Ignorance.  My friend had all the light she needed but she didn’t understand how to use it.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Hosea 4:6  NKJV

My friend’s whole family was “in the dark” because the light wasn’t being properly used.  If we don’t rightly divide the Truth, or apply what God has given to us using His understanding and wisdom, we may not only suffer, but those we love and the people around us may suffer.  Lack of knowledge has serious implications.  Ignorance is not bliss.  It can bring literal destruction.

Let’s ask God if He has given insight to us but we aren’t understanding or using it properly.  We may already have the answer, we just don’t know it.  Turn on the Light.  We have a loving Father.  He loves us even in our dirt and ignorance, but He loves us too much to let us there.  And thank God Almighty that is the case.

Are you brave enough to join me today and ask God to light up our lives with Holy Spirit’s searchlight?  That is the only answer to our dirt and ignorance.  The clean and the revelation that come will certainly be worth the time and effort.

May this song and scripture be our prayer.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.   

Psalm 139:23-24  NKJV

“Rejected”

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Our twins are doing an intensive art history unit study this year.  My youngest complains that she can’t concentrate on her work because she’s fascinated watching her sisters do theirs.  After Laura and Beth do the artist’s study, they move on to their assignment, one of which is an art project.  I have been enjoying seeing their creations immensely and, sometimes like Rachel, catch myself watching them in their progress.

They learned about the Salon, a place in France that hosted art exhibitions beginning in 1667.  I had read that between 1748 and 1890 it was the greatest art event in the Western world.  I was especially intrigued when the girls discovered that the Salon jury could make or break artists.  A rejected piece of art was literally stamped “rejected” on the back.  Imagine the impossible task of trying to sell something stamped “rejected”.  Imagine trying to establish yourself as an artist in France once that judgment was passed.  This tidbit gave me pause to think about rejection of our talents and of ourselves as human beings.

Some time ago, I read an interesting thought about a line in the LORD’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil….”.  We  have all been created with a purpose.  I believe this verse pertains most to those who know what their purpose is but are unwilling to give themselves time to mature and cultivate their gift.  This is a prayer that we will not be tempted to “arrive” ahead of time thereby incurring evil.

I’m going to tell you a minister’s story.  Well, at least what I remember of it.  He was praying over people in a prayer line and skipped a man.  The man moved down the line and I can’t remember if the minister intentionally skipped him again or not, but he most definitely skipped him at least that once.  The attendee would not to be ignored.  He insisted the minister pray for him.  The minister didn’t want to, saying,

“You have a call on your life but you’re not ready.”

The man was adamant that he receive prayer.  He was ready NOW.  If I properly recall, the minister prayed.  The young man was launched into ministry, greatly due to his own force.  He burned fast and hot.  And out.  Last the minister heard, the young man wasn’t in ministry anymore and quite possibly wasn’t even serving the LORD anymore.  If we cave to the temptation to get ahead of God, we may fall into evil.  That being said, there may be times when it looks like rejection, in fact, it may be all out rejection, but not in God’s economy.  In His way of thinking, it is protection. 

Being a writer, I’m going to look at this from an author’s perspective.  How many times can a poem, a manuscript, a sentiment for a card, etc., be rejected?  Many!  I’ve got the rejection letters to prove it.  This devotion clarified a lot for me.  What looks like rejection is protectionWhat if the manuscript would go on to film?  What if the sentiment would be one that manufacturers would want to use over and over again?  And what if that notoriety came too soon, before the maturity of me, the author?  I’m not saying we mature and never learn anything ever again.  I’m saying we must reach a place in our lives that our character is such, that we realize our need for Christ to sustain us in times of failure as much as, and perhaps even more so, in times of success.

As long as the rejection comes, we hone our skills and persist.  We continue to battle and we are alert.  But face it, in times of acceptance and accolades, we tend to drop our defenses.  Or worse, become prideful and believe our achievements are due to our own merit.  The LORD warned the Israelites numerous times not to forget Him when they entered the Promised Land, when they ate and were full, when they built fine houses and settled into them.  They were to remember and not believe their wealth was the making of their own power and strength lest destruction come upon them.  Serious, weighty stuff that is still applicable today.

When I was younger, I had the misconception that friends were friends forever.  I then began to see many of my friendships tested when I entered my teenage years…and probably just as many dissolved through those tender years and into early adulthood.  That put really big dents in my forever friends theory.  It used to crush me when people would enter my life and then leave.

Now, as an adult, I see life for what it is concerning most relationships: a revolving door.  Wisdom came with age and people exiting my life hurt less and less as I realized that people are tools in God’s hands.  Myself included.  We are positioned in each others lives for a season(s).  When done properly, relationships can be fertile soil for sweet sharing of ideas, talents, ministry, experiences, etc., even if only for a small amount of time.  We all have something to offer, something to help someone on their way to their purpose and vice versa.  We can even learn from people we wish we’d never met!  (It’s called learning how not to behave 🙂 ).

Whether the pain is due to a perceived fractured relationship or another failed attempt, chin up!  This is not rejection, this is protection.  Our skills and our characters are being tested and sharpened.  Much of how we handle “rejection” today determines our success for tomorrow.  Please believe me, God does truly desire that we succeed and fulfill all that He has planned for us.

Join me today in trusting God with our relationships and our purpose.  It’s hard, I know, but let’s relinquish control to Him.  Give Him Time.  Allow Him to bring the right people into our life at the right time and, if required, let them go when it is time.  And when we succeed, when we come into the land He has called us, remember, it is He who gave us the power and the strength to get there.

I leave you with “Your Time Will Come” (and a scripture verse).  I love the melding of voices, instruments, and the lyrics of this song!  I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

For He says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,

And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 

2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV

Dream Again

white dandelion flower
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If you blow all the seed off a dandelion in a single breath, your wish will come true, so they say.  I’ve also heard that if you can catch dandelion fuzz mid-air, make a wish, and then release it, your wish will come true.  Blow out all the candles on the birthday cake in one breath, your wish will come true.  Throw a coin in a wishing well/fountain and speak your wish aloud–it will come true.  Then, of course, the infamous:

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.

I confess to having done all of these.  The floating dandelion fuzz has taken precedence now that I’m an adult because I find it more challenging.  The greater the challenge, the more successful the wish.  Okay, I’m kidding.  Sort of.  I don’t put much stock in the “wishing games”, but I do still participate.  Sometimes it feels good to me to put an act behind my wish rather than keep it to myself.  I find if fulfilling to catch crazily spinning dandelion fuzz in midair, make my wish, then release it back to the wind, back to God.  Why not?  I’ve done something.  I’ve acted on my belief that God hears and I trust that He will answer, no matter how silly it seems.

One of my dear friends of decades–gosh, that looks like a long tome on paper–just celebrated a birthday.  I usually send her a card exalting friendship and its infinitesimal value, but this year I felt a different message was in order.  This year I’ve been mulling a lot of stuff over.  My ruminations spilled over onto my birthday wishes for her.  The card I chose was shimmery with a dandelion on the outside.  Plain, but pretty.  On the inside, the gist of the message: Just believe.  My personal note to her went something like this:

“Maybe it’s due to age, maybe it’s due to time, but it seems to me dreams sometimes get buried and may even feel like they’re dead.  This year, revisit your hopes, your dreams, and your wishes, and dare to believe that with God they will come true.  May this year be the fulfillment of what you’ve hoped for for so very long.”

Within a couple of days of sending that card, I was reading a letter from a minister and you’ll never guess what his topic was.  Pick up your dream again.  Confirmation.  Ain’t that something how that works?

That leads me to the crux of today’s post:

First: Remember.  Remember what God has said.  The LORD has directed me to return to my journals and collect the words He has spoken to me.  I’ve recently heard of others who have been directed to do the same.

What secret joy has been locked away so long in your heart that you fear it has died?  It isn’t dead, you know.  Think.  Your adulthood may be a nightmare.  In fact, much of your childhood may have been a nightmare.  But there is something there.  There is a memory of something that was spoken to you or something that you did that you return to that makes you smile.

My memory is when I was 5-ish.  I sat on bulky, stone steps and belted out “Jesus Loves Me” for the entire neighborhood and anyone traveling through it to hear.  I also scooped clay out of the little stream behind our rented trailer and shaped it for what felt like hours.  And swinging!  I loved to swing.  I aimed my feet for the sun and tried to touch it.  The heights I achieved freaked an elementary school teacher of mine out pretty good and all right.

Your memory may be like looking through a fog, but it’s there, and every time you consider it, it brings you joy.  Ask the LORD to bring clarity.  He will.  That is the moment, that is the place, when His presence was tangible to you.  In that moment you experienced a bit of Heaven on earth.  He wants to take you there again.  He wants you to live in that place, in His presence, His peace and joy, here on earth.  It is possible, you know.

Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
his miracles, and the rulings he has given…  1 Chronicles 16:9-12  NLT

 

Second, and this is going to sound totally contradictory to the first: Forget.

But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.   Isaiah 43:18-19  NLT

 

Forget what?  Forget the words of the father who said you’d never amount to anything.  Forget the words of the mother who said she wished you’d never been born. Forget the words of the former teacher who said you’d never succeed.  Forget the words of the ex who said you weren’t worthy of love.  Forget the words of the doctor who said you’d never be healed much less be whole.  Forget the words of the clergy who said poverty is a virtue.  Forget the life you lived when the words and actions of those around you broke your heart and crushed your spirit.  In Christ, all things can be made new.  In Christ.  Not religion, not some fantasy god, in Christ alone.

Third: Believe.  Believe what Jesus says.

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  John 6:63  NLT

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.
Mark 9:23  NLT

The very words Jesus spoke are spirit and life.  But we must believe.  And we haven’t a clue what to believe if we aren’t listening to Holy Spirit’s voice and reading God’s Word.  How bad do we want life?  I myself want to be a vessel and a conduit of life.

Join me today in: Remembering.  Forgetting.  Believing.

Let’s pick up those long gone hopes and broken dreams.  God is breaking the shackles of the past from off of us and doing a new thing.  Let’s believe and receive with joy and let Him do His work.

This song is going to seem like it’s over, but it isn’t.  Enjoy as you listen to the end.

 

Boogers Beware

yellow paint brush on gray steel bucket
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It was time to repaint the twins’ bedroom and replace the drab, flat paint with something more appealing and easier to clean.  We began the process of preparation, which I consider the worst part of painting: shoving furniture, taping off borders and window frames, etc.  Blah!  It was while we were wiping down walls that I came across a portion of wall that my cleaning rag snagged on.  I rubbed and rubbed but the particles were in-penetrable.

Frustrated, I asked the young girls, “What is this?  Do you know what this is?”

They looked a little sheepish and nodded.

“Well?”

“It’s boogers.”

“What?”

“Boogers.  We wiped them on the wall.”

“You wiped them on the wall?”

They nodded again.

“Why?!”

They shrugged their slender shoulders.  “We don’t know.”

If boogers could be patented and sold as an adhesive we would be millionaires.

“Why bring up boogers, Christi?  It’s gross.”

Yes it is.  You should try scrubbing crusty ones off a wall.  Or better yet, challenge yourself not to puke when you see a kid pluck out a long, slimy snot and in one swift movement, pop it in his mouth.  Gives me the shivers just thinkin’ of it.

I bring up boogers in honor of “cold and flu season”–so named by the powers that be in the world in which we live and everyone who’s looking forward to cashing in on our being ill.

Recently, Laura and I were folding clothes when she says, “Mum, I need to tell you something.”

She said it in the tone that makes a mother’s heart sink into her belly.

I looked her in the eye.  “What?”

“I have a little sore throat.  I had it yesterday and thought maybe I slept with my mouth open and it’d go away.  But it didn’t.  I still have it.”

And so began the snowball of sneezing, coughing, sore throats, throbbing, stuffy heads, restless nights, etc.  We all fell like Dominoes–except for Bob.  I’m glad that he dodged the bullet.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for any amount of time knows that I’m getting built up in the Word and pushing to break out of this world’s beliefs and things we automatically accept as true.  Like, giving our doctors all of our family’s history knowing full well that every physical affliction any relation of ours has ever had is going to be looked for in our own life…and we should expect to get their disease.  I don’t like that.  Jesus paid with His blood, His very life to deliver us from every curse, family oriented or otherwise.  This I say in the midst of nose blowing and coughing.  Ahem.

We have prayed.  Rebuked.  Anointed.  Took communion (and various herbs and cough syrups).  Made proclamations.  Etc., etc.  Anyone who’s been reading my blog for any amount of time would also know that it is usually at this point in the battle that I get a little frustrated because it isn’t over yet.  Not this time.

I’ve decided God’s Word is true.  It is His will to heal.  It’s bought and paid for.  And He can not lie.  Toying with unbelief has cost me too much.  Jesus said, “It is finished.”  Could I not believe Him?  Even when I stumble, could I at least approach Him like the loving father on behalf of his son and say, “LORD, I believe.  Help my unbelief”?

woman with black dots on face
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God has given insight, some of which came from my mom in the form of a conversation she recently had with a friend.  Mum wants to look into it further, but it was about black spots on the mind.  You know, things we keep returning to mentally that we shouldn’t.  We girls had one of those.  Well, several.  But one in particular.  See, Laura was hesitant to tell me about the sore throat because of the awful ordeal we suffered almost exactly two years ago.

We had been camping, our last trip of the season as I recall.  Rachel had a cold.  I didn’t give it much thought at the time.  We all have colds.  They pass.  Right?  Wrong!  We all fell down, even Bob.  All of us were on antibiotic (which is a rare occasion in this house) and we girls, twice.  We tried everything.  I can’t tell you how many nights I heard creaking on the stairs only to find one of my girls awake, sitting on the couch, with tear-filled eyes.  She could not sleep because she couldn’t breathe or she couldn’t stop coughing.  On and on it went like this.  The sleepless nights did ease up but we still had symptoms as late as Easter.  Mind you, this began the September before.  Getting a cold now to us is like the equivalent of seeing a bee after being stung and having a terrible reaction.

That thought struck me.  I took out my anointing balm, the one that smells a bit like cloves or cinnamon and a little piece of Heaven.  I went into the twins’ bedroom and anointed all of us.  I prayed something like this: “We have this black spot on our minds, LORD.  Every time we’re sick we return to this place and fear and dread come up inside of us.  I’m asking You to take Your finger and stick it on the black spot and make it white.  Heal the memory of what we went through.  Banish discouragement and fill that place with hope.”  I envisioned that mentally.  (Perhaps you want to take a moment to do that now with a thought/memory that’s been plaguing you.)

While walking in the process of healing this time around, I’ve been saturating my mind with scriptures, testimonies, and Christian music.  A phrase that turned up twice in one day was: Focus on the LORD; not the problem, not the trial, not the suffering.  Focus on the LORD.  The last time I stomped around this mountain I couldn’t focus on anything but my kids’ suffering and how I could make it stop.  I was operating out of fear, not faith…and that’s probably an active war zone for most parents.  I had to come to the place of letting go.  I have done all I could do.  Do I trust God or don’t I?

I have gone on to life as normal to the best of my ability.  Various couples in our church are hosting small group ministries.  I’ve joined one that I am thoroughly enjoying and didn’t want to miss this week’s chapter.  I resigned myself to going no matter how I felt.

Laura asked, “Isn’t there something in the Bible about being healed as they go?”

“Yes.  It’s about the 10 lepers who cried out to Jesus and He told them to go show themselves to the priests and the Bible says they were healed while they went.”

“I pray that for you tonight.”

I took her hopeful prayer for me to heart.

I was glad Bob joined me that evening and drove because I felt awful.  My head ached, my throat hurt, and I felt overall awful.  I spoke very little.  Still, I enjoyed the class and hung on to Laura’s prayer.  I would not let defeating discouragement take root in me.  When we came home, I sat in my glider chair to decompress a bit before bed and simply pondered the evening’s events.

I don’t know how many times over the course of this whole trial I said, “I believe Your Word, LORD.  No matter what it looks like or what it sounds like, I believe Your Word.  I am healed.”  I also coveted the flowering faith of my daughter concerning me and did not want her to be disappointed.

The pressure in my head ceased.  My sinuses opened up.  I still felt a little funk in my throat but the searing pain was gone.  I didn’t take any cough syrup that night and went to bed rejoicing.  It was the best night’s sleep I had.

As I said before, this faith walk ain’t no cake walk but the preciousness of it is increasing inside of me.  What an adventure!

Join me today in taking God at His Word.  When everything gets melted down in the pot, His Word is the only thing that’s going to remain.  Let’s get as much of it into us as we can so we can withstand life when the heat is on.

In light of today’s topic, I leave you with one of our Veggie Tales favorites.  We watched a lot of Veggie Tales silly songs during the midnight hours 2 years ago.  Hope you enjoy it.

p.s.

If you have something that will not stick, put a little booger to it 🙂 .

As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
But the word of the Lord remains forever.”  1 Peter 1:24-25  NLT

Be blessed with health!

Erase

person holding brown film
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I was outside taking pictures one day but it was incredibly difficult to see the screen due to the blinding sun.  With my old 35 mm camera I could clearly see through the window all of the time.  But with my digital camera, it’s a crap shoot as to what’s going to show up.  I came inside, out of the sunlight, and began scrolling through the pictures I’d taken.  Some of them were awful.  Since a few of the pictures weren’t worth developing, choosing “erase” was a no-brainer.  In a matter of seconds the undesirable pictures were gone.  That’s when I thought again about my old 35 mm and the surprise pictures I found after development.  Some of those candid pictures turned out to be my favorites.  Some of them, however, truly were awful, especially the ones where I accidentally took a picture of one of my fingers 😦 .  Sometimes the choice to “erase” comes in handy.  Sometimes I wish that button existed in real life.  Or, do I?….

Years ago I happened upon the end of a movie that made me pause to wonder much about the decisions we make, regrets, etc.  The gist of the movie was a middle-aged woman goes back in time to when she became pregnant to her boyfriend (who she ended up marrying) right at the end of her high school years.  As her present life was in a whirlwind of heartache, changing those decisions from so long ago seemed a given…at first.  Perhaps what she hadn’t anticipated was newfound insight and hope for her relationship with her husband, who was at the source of much of her pain, and the realization that without their union, her children would not exist.

When the movie ended, I remember contemplating decisions I had made and experiences I have had as a young, single woman, then as a wife, and finally as a mother.  What choices would I change?  What memories would I erase?  Or, like the main character in the movie, would I let all be as it was?

I felt the LORD nudging me to share a dream with you.  Problem is, it was in a journal–of which I have dozens.  I knew I would find it post-marriage and child-bearing years but, short of that, I didn’t have a clue where to look.  And that was a lot of years to cover.

“Show me which journal, LORD.”

I got a picture in my mind and dug out that journal.  My world was tilted when it contained one of the bitterest memories I have as a young wife and mother.  Truth be told, I had trouble sleeping that night and cried the next day.  The memory didn’t slice me to the quick as it had in its origin, but it still created heartache all over again, only this time for different reasons.  Had I handled the situation the best way possible?  Was there anything I could have done differently Then?  And what kind of effect might it have on Now?

I browsed through another journal, one written nearly a decade later.  The one containing the dream.  I had been a “hot mess”, to coin a phrase.  Junk, cares of this life, were swirling all around me like a raging sea, threatening to take me under.  What’s really crazy is that at the same time I was enjoying an unbelievable outpouring of revelation.  I guess the enemy was working real hard to steal the revelation as soon as God was giving it to me.  I was receiving encouragement from anointed ministers but desired a personal word.

“LORD, speak to me.”  He gave me a dream.

I dreamed:

The moderator from our home school group of years ago gave me pictures to capture some of the memories our family made with the group–but it turned out to be so much more than that.

What she gave me was colorful and a little larger than an average postcard in size and weight.  It dropped down to reveal 4 connected panels.  While I gazed at the top picture, an incredible thing happened.  The picture came alive and played like a movie.  There were scenes of our 5 family celebrating at what looked like an Independence Day celebration at night, complete with fireworks.  It was beautiful.  There was a video of Bob, surrounded by the kids whenever he helped at the co-op.

couple sitting on concrete dock
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Every picture was different and morphed into short videos.  I saw me with the girls when they were babies and toddlers.

In one video, I was leaning over Rachel.  I was wearing a light pink, long-sleeved shirt with powder blue jeans.  My hair was down.  I looked so very young and pretty and…thin.  I got the impression that I was changing a diaper but there was no video of the soil.

Then I backed up to a window.  The sun was shining so bright.  I got closer and closer to the light until I looked like a celestial being.  My form was still there but I was totally illuminated.  The beauty of that particular frame amazed me.

I turned and tugged up the middle sash and climbed out of the ground floor window with the aid of some people outside from our home school group.  They were playing in a sandbox.  When I arrived, toddlers Laura and Beth immediately descended upon me, arms outstretched.  I fell within their reach, we were laughing….

That was one of the most beautiful dreams I have ever had.  I kind of liken it to stories I’ve heard of people who say their lives flashed before their eyes when they’ve had near death experiences.  My personal home movies dream recorded only the happiest times of my life.  And it showed me totally illuminated with sunlight.  I think it was God’s way of saying, “That’s how I see you, Christi.  Perfect and glorified.  Encased in Light, with only those things joy-filled surrounding you.”

At a time when most of my life felt like a mess, it was refreshing to have this dream.  I got a glimpse of what my Creator Father sees when He looks at me.  He sees no failure, sadness, or darkness, but perfection, joy, and light.  The same is true for you.  But will we believe it and live in it?

I’ve been people watching lately.  You know what I see?  A lot of broken people.  I can tell by the way they carry themselves, the way they interact with others, the way they speak about themselves and others.  Beth was reminding me recently about a girl they know who referred to herself as “trash” when speaking with their peers.  This bothered them so much that Laura decided she needed a God reminder as to who she is.  The next time “trash” exited her mouth Laura told her: “You are not ‘trash’.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”  The girl didn’t utter that again, at least not in their presence.

What grieves me the most is that this is in the church, the body of Christ.  It doesn’t take any imagination to see the reality of pain behind the eyes of believers.  We do experience pain.  After all, we are in this world.  But we are not to be of this world.  At some point and time we must figure out how to exit the world’s natural response to pain and begin operating in the supernatural.

While searching my journals for the dream I shared, I found where Beth had encountered a not-very-nice girl and declared, “And if she is mean to me again, I’ll show her!”

I couldn’t imagine what revenge lurked in the mind of a 5 year old.
“I’ll be nice and kind to her no matter how mean she is.  She’ll see!”

What an example of how to supernaturally handle pain.  I thought how pure and how child-like was the love of a 5 year old; her idea of revenge being unmerited kindness.  Remaining child-like, now that’s an unending challenge.  The hardness, cynicism, pain of life, and toil on the journey of healing take their toll.  Sadly, I’d venture to say that being an innocent 5 year old is a distant memory for many of us.

I guess that’s why it’s important to drop the notions of might’ve been, should’ve been, could’ve been, and all of those tangled, messy memories that cause us reason to question and regret.  So much unnecessary suffering.  Once the stuff has been dealt with, couldn’t we leave it with Jesus instead of insisting on remembering it and all of the pain accompanying it?  Wouldn’t it then be refreshing and gratifying to take out the pictures and movies that God gives to us?  We need reminded that He sees perfection, joy, and light and wants to fill us with hope.

Join me today in the Herculean effort of trusting God to make healing balm out of the painful goop in our lives.  A balm that will not only bring healing to us, but to everyone we touch as well.  Also, may we be able to find praise in the pain.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 KJV

Daddy

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I love my dad.  As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that anyone that doesn’t like my dad has some kind of mental deficiency.  One of my closest friends, who knows my family well, agrees.  Is it because he is without his faults?  No…but don’t tell him that 🙂 .  One of the things that bothered me most growing up was how he handled emotional upsets: he laughed.

For instance, I had a cat named Stripes that followed me around like a dog.  Short of being able to bark, I think he thought he was one in the canine family.  He sprawled on the keyboard while I practiced my music lessons.  Mum let him in my room to greet me every morning.  If I wasn’t out of bed yet he’d wrap his body around my head like a pair of ear muffs and purred until my eardrums vibrated.  Wherever I was, there one would normally find him.  Then came the morning that Stripes did not come.  He would never come again.  My dad scooped him up and buried him before I saw his demise but this is how my dad handled it: “There was Stripes on the road this morning.”  I can smile now but I found it highly disconcerting at the time.  Being an adult, and having a husband of my own now, I guess I understand better why Dad handled many of the hard things of life with jokes, teasing, and laughter.  I honestly wonder if serious conversation was modeled to him in his own life.  I wonder if men in general are equipped to handle life’s heartbreaks for themselves let alone those around them.  

My dad was my hero.  And in many ways, he still is.  I remember the evenings we spent counting out the hits we exchanged while swatting a birdie back and forth in the front yard playing badminton.  When I needed a chocolate fix, we hopped in his pickup truck and he took me to the little local restaurant where I had my choice candy bar.  In retrospect, I think he took me for his own sake as well as mine– a young woman needing chocolate can be quite contentious.  He attended my chorus concerts.  He verbally blessed me (and my brother).  He was welcoming.  It was not unusual for us to link arms when we were out shopping.  Though he was a terrible pick–often leaving me to cry, “Mum, make him stop!”–I loved him and knew that he loved me.

My dad has given me many wonderful and memorable gifts over the years.  But the ones I consider most precious are those which are priceless.  Dad gave me his time.  Our home had a lot of laughter that was enhanced with his mining tales that began, “There I was…”  One of the most cherished gifts he gave me is tears.  My dad has unashamedly cried in worship, in prayer, and in repentance in front of me.  Even though he may not have initiated “deep” conversations, I didn’t doubt that I could go to him and trust him with my heart because he made himself totally transparent in his tears.  Our society today has done a great disservice to men and everyone in their circle by the stigma that a man who cries is weak.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Men who are willing to pull back the veil and cry, and let others witness it, are the strongest men out there.

Jesus wept.  John 11:35  KJV

“Oh, that’s just Jesus,” some say.  “He was weak.”

No, He was meek.  Meekness is power under control.  There’s a vast difference between weakness and meekness.

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I don’t know too many men who would voluntarily suffer rejection and humiliation for ungrateful people.  I don’t know any who could endure beard plucking, hair pulling, spit in the face, punches to the body, 39 lashes with a whip that most likely contained pieces of bone, shards of pottery, etc., a crown with at least inch thorns pressed into his skull, and spikes driven into the hands and feet.  Now that is a strong Man.  And that strong Man wept.  He walked in gentleness.  He forgave.  He loved to the tune of His own selfless pain.

Jesus, the Son, was the true image of God, the Father.  God gave everything, everything, so that He could be our Father.  He gave His perfect, beloved Son so that we could be adopted as children.  What are we doing with His great grace?  Ignoring it.  Wallowing in our own wounds and our own pain instead of taking it to the only One who can do anything about it.  It cost God everything so that we could crawl into His lap and get rid of all the sin, shame, disappointment, unmet expectations, festering wounds– everything and anything that would hinder us, but we won’t do it.  It has been my observation that men in particularly won’t yield because it’s a “sign of weakness”.  No, seeking help, leaning into God the Father, is one of the greatest appeals to strength that there is.  To not know God as Father is to never truly know who we are.  If we don’t know who we are, we will not know where we are going.  If we don’t know where we are going, we will never arrive.  

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We had been outside playing in our big back yard.  Our then 2 1/2- 3 year old twins were adorable in their jackets and matching black fleece “Amish” hats.  It was cold and time to come in.  I brought up the rear, following with my camera, and snapped one of my favorite pictures.  My 6’3″ husband had a girl, one tiny hand clasped by one of his “bear paws” on either side of him.  They were dwarfed by him, but they were safe in his hands.  Nothing or no one would dare harm one of his little girls while they were at his side.  What a picture of total safety and trust.  And love.

Many of us have the understanding that Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” because God could not look on Him in our sins that He took upon Himself.  This may be so.  But I heard another take.  God could not look on Jesus in that moment because if He did He would have removed Jesus from the cross and wiped out mankind because of what we’d done to His only begotten Son.  But He didn’t do it.  Why?  Because He loves us.  You.  Me.  But we won’t receive it.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe, like me, you had a great dad but you have trouble receiving the love of God because you feel undeserving.  Maybe you have issues with your earthly father that prevents you.  Maybe their failings, their abuse, their being absent emotionally/physically has distorted your view of what heavenly Father looks like.  Then it’s our duty, all of us, to find out who He really is.

Think about the ramifications of not humbling ourselves before God.  Think of the effects on our lives.  If we’re not willing to approach Father God with this prayer for ourselves, couldn’t we at least do it for the sake of those broken around us?

“Dear God, my father here didn’t look like You, not much if at all.  But I want to know You, the true You.  I need a dad who really loves me for who I am, my junk and all.  I need somebody to be in my corner.  I need somebody to tell me that they’re proud of me.  I need somebody who actually believes that I have a future and it is a good one.  I need hope.  I need love.  I need forgiveness.  I need to be made whole.  I need to be a light to those around me.  And I need Someone to teach me how.  Will You do this for me?  Please be my dad.  Show me who You are so that I know who I am.  Lead me where You will.  In Jesus’ name, thank You.  Amen.”

Before you uttered His name, your heavenly Father was off the throne (in the form of the Holy Spirit), racing to you with open arms.  All He ever wanted was you, just as you are.  All He ever wanted was to be believed and accepted and loved.  When will we give Him what He wants, so that He can fill us with all of the good things that we want, that He desires for us?  We were made for so much more.  When will we realize this and walk in it?

Join me today in going to God as Father while it is still light.  There is a day approaching when darkness will be upon all the land.  I beg of you, don’t wait until that day to seek Him.

 

Restoration

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They killed it.  The big, picture-perfect maple in my neighbor’s front yard was sawed off to a 6 foot stump.  I thought, “You have got to be kidding me!  A gorgeous tree like that and you go and destroy it.  For what?”

Our great old oak with its gnarly looking bark and some dead branches gets more respect than that beautiful maple.  We are doing what we can to see that the oak goes by way of nature or it doesn’t go at all.  That’s how much we respect and appreciate our tree.  I feel the same about our huge black walnut tree.  We see creation for what it is: a marvelous gift from a loving, benevolent, infinite Creator Father who appointed us as caretakers.  Looking at that flat-topped, bleak stump in my neighbor’s front yard made me feel a little sick and a lot sad.

Fast forward.  I was admiring my neighbor’s tree yesterday.  I do that often.  The story I told you happened years ago.  I thought they killed the tree, but they didn’t.  It grew back in record time.  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s grown to be as big and beautiful as it was before it was chopped.  It remains picture-perfect and gorgeous.  Maybe even more so to me now that I know what it went through.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about broken people and things that look hopeless.  That stump of a tree is a picture of how I feel about some circumstances I’ve run up against in my own life.  I find that I’ve been grieving for things that I desperately longed for that haven’t come to pass, things that look like they’ve been chopped off.  At times I have limped through life without having quite the beauty of the types of relationships and the things that I dreamed of.  And hope….I guess I’m in a battle between two pictures in my mind: the sawed off stump and the big, gorgeous tree.

The vision of the sawed off stump kind of makes me feel like this clip from my all-time favorite movie, The Princess Bride.

 

The picture of the restored tree is much like a scripture I revisited today.  I love how this passage is written under the title of “Seven Blessings”.

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Joel 2:23.  You children of Zion, rejoice exuberantly!  Rejoice in the LORD your God!  For He has given you the Teacher of acts of loving kindness and 1 the Teacher will cause the rain to come down for you, the former rain and the latter rain as at the first.  (Double Blessing)  24. 2  And the floors will be full of wheat and the vats will overflow with wine and oil. (Abundance) 25. 3  And I shall restore to you the years that the locust, the canker worm, the caterpillar, and the palmer worm have eaten, (Restoration) My great army which I sent among you.  26. 4  And you will eat in plenty and be satisfied, (Never a Lack) and praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you, (Miracles) and My people will never be ashamed.  (Respect)  27.  And you will know that I AM in the midst of Israel, (Divine Presence) and I AM the LORD your God, and no one else is, and My people will never be ashamed.    Joel 2:23-27  ~The One New Man Bible 

I read this and I think, How, LORD?  How do you restore the stolen innocence of a child?  How do you restore the love between husbands and wives who have caused each other so much pain?  How do You restore the faith of someone who lost a loved one prematurely?  How, LORD?  How do You take shattered hearts, and splintered hopes, and broken dreams, and make them whole?  How do You restore years?  That one there is a total mystery to me.

Actually, it’s all a mystery.  But I recognize some steps I can take to prepare for the process of restoration, something I look forward to experiencing.

  1. Walk in forgiveness.
  2. Continue to love even when I feel it’s impossible.
  3.  Fight for faith when I feel all faith is gone.
  4. Speak the Truth despite what I feel and see.
  5. Wait.

Those are my responsibilities.  The how isn’t up to me.  I’m glad it isn’t because I’d screw it up.  Not to mention, I kind of look forward to seeing how God is going to do this.  How Look around at the splendor, beauty, and diversity of His creation.  He is a God who definitely thinks outside of the box.  If He can do wonders with trees, what will He do for me?  For you?  For we are the crown of His creation. 

I humbly come to you today, Dear Heart, and tell you that I have been facing the death of so many dreams recently.  Despite the pain of this grief, I choose to believe.  I continue because of His Word, because He who promised can not lie.  I continue to cry out to Him, to lay my brokenness at His feet, because He alone can restore.

Join me today in faith believing that the battles that are ripping our guts out now will bring great glory to Jesus as we triumph over them later.  We are not meant to live in brokenness, Beloved.  We are meant for so much more.  We were made to be whole.  I’m so glad He’s not done, I have much more living and loving to do.  And so do you.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.  Isaiah 61:3  NLT