Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Flat Lined

What do you do with offenses? That situation where people say or do something that hurts your feelings and causes you to become resentful and bitter. Do you try to strike back or do you pledge to forgive? As I pondered this dilemma, the Lord gave me a vision. He showed me how I was to progress towards maturity when relationships become hurtful. 

In the first stage, I saw an EKG type graph of my heart condition being drawn. Each time the line dipped down low, it was like I had reached up and brought an offense down into heart. It was a spiritual heart attack in the making. I wanted to deal with the offense in my own wisdom. I wanted to be the one who administered judgment. When I realized my heart was festering under the tension, I knew I needed to forgive and hand the offense back up to God for His perfect will. These long low dips went along until I started to comprehend the meaning of the grace and compassion which God was trying to teach me.

The next stage, I noticed the dips were not as deep. My heart condition was improving. I didn’t place the offense in my heart as before but held it in front of me. Consciously I pondered whether I wanted to control the situation or give it to God. Was my demand to be right(ed) before I forgave worth it?  In the end, I knew forgiving then handing the offense over to God would be best. I was growing in the knowledge of what compassion really was and how grace could heal my heart. The holding time for offenses was shortening.

In the final stage, the line became totally flat. I heard the sound signaling death. My will to control had just died. My outstretched arms took the offense and immediately handed it over to God. My elbows never bent downward. I recognized that compassion with forgiveness was the best way to handle offenses. I was moving towards maturity by setting grace in motion instead my own style of retaliation.

In my natural life, I may have a short dip, flat line, and then a short dip again. Like the readings on an actually EKG, the dips and flat places are unpredictable. Offenses in life are unpredictable too. Some are more easily forgiven then others. However, no matter what the offense, my goal is always to forgive. 

A wise friend gave me this statement to ponder:

Take no offense and God will be your defense.

Meditating on this one nugget of wisdom has helped me keep my heart rate steady and my will aligned with His.

Do you have a plan for when offenses come your way? God is ready to show you His plan of action. While you are learning, try remembering my friend’s nugget of wisdom as well. If the saying can keep me in check, then I know it can help you.

So, as those who haven chosen of God, holy and beloved put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Colossians 3:12-13

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Scared Straight into His Arms

Oh what a beautiful snow we had this past Saturday. The extra large flakes came down like a blizzard. It was exciting because I had been praying to see some snow falling this year. However, along with the beauty came the mess. Salt-water slush had dried all over my car. I knew I would need to get it washed quickly.

So…Monday morning, Buddy (my dog) and I went to get the car washed along with the other errands. When I go places, I love to take Buddy. The joyful expression as he hangs his head out the window is priceless. I pulled up to the car wash and paid. All was well until I pulled into the washing slot.


Suddenly, as the machines moved over the car, Buddy began to cower and then slither into the front seat beside me. He was shaking uncontrollable while trying to stay close to me. Buddy instinctively knew, if he could get into the arms of his master, he would be protected and comforted through the whole situation.

I talked to him softly as I stoked his head. I told him how brave he was, that he would be fine and it would be over soon. Buddy may not have understood the words I spoke but he could understand my tone and intent. After the machines stopped, I pulled the car out of the slot. Buddy was timid but nevertheless he still had many licks of thanks. By the time I drove to the street, he was in the back seat, his tail was wagging and he was ready for the window to be opened again.

In that moment I realized Buddy and I are alike in how we react to our fears. When I am overcome with fear, I also instinctively get into my Master’s arms for comfort and strength. God speaks words of encouragement to my spirit through His Word or through those around me. The softness of His words help me to focus on His power to get me through. When I sense that the danger is over, I sit up, straighten my clothes, and thank God he was there to embrace me. As I relax, I resume the activities I was working on before the crisis began.

What do you do when an unexpected situation triggers fear? Learning to run into the arms of your heavenly Father takes time but it is worth the effort. If you are not sure how to begin, take a lesson from Buddy:

Spend time at the feet of your master.

Listen to your master's comforting words.

Learn to response to your master's comfort with thanks.

Before long, with a little practice, you will be instinctively getting into the arms of your Heavenly Father in times of uncertainty too.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, ‘Destroy him!’
Deuteronomy 33:27

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines From Above

What if you went to the mailbox on February 14th and found a Valentine from your Heavenly Beloved? What a unique surprise! As you quickly open the envelope and begin to read the card, you notice once again all the promised ways He wants to show His love to you. You might smile, hold the card close to your heart while reminiscing about how blessed you are that the two of you found each other.

What might the card say?

To my dearest Beloved:

I will never leave or forsake you.
I will always provide for you.
I will encourage you through everything you face.
I will always be honest with you and tell you what I think.
I have already secured a way for us to be together forever.

Then, as you check the mailbox once again, you discover a red heart-shaped box still inside. Upon opening it, you find small heart-shaped candies with words of love written on them. To the side, you notice a handwritten note saying: These are a few of the expressions of love I have for you. Eat them and remember Me.

What might the candies say?

I love you!
You are beautiful.
You are mine.
You make me smile.
I am crazy for you.
You are special to Me.
You Rock!

As you savor the sweetness of His words, you also pledge your undying love back to Him again as well.

What a wonderful love story the two of you have had. Yes there have been difficult times. Times when you did not understand your Beloved’s ways and arguments on your end would ensue. Sometimes, you crossed your arms and refuse His wise leadership. But being able to be yourself without the worry of separation was one of the qualities you admire and love the most. He always gave you time to understand that His ways have a higher purpose then yours. But no matter what you have been through together, you have always come out feeling thankful for each other’s presence and steadfast heart. No … your life together has not been easy but your commitment will expand over this lifetime and then forevermore. And … it is in those experiential trusts that you find your rest.

Will you allow God to be your Beloved Valentine now and beyond? 

Use this Valentine’s Day to evaluate and recommit your life to the one who loves you eternally. Go ahead and open up your heart once again to what He has to say to you from His Holy Word. Tell Him how you are crazy about Him too! Then get ready to sense His loving arm around you as He responds to your sentiments of love. I promise you, it is a risk worth taking.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17

I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine...
Song of Solomon 6:3

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Weakness to Witness

I have battled with ADHD and memory issues all my life. When I was younger, I knew I was different. I struggled to learn to read and write. Even though I wanted to please my parents and teachers, I just could not always remember what was required. I stayed stress and anxious. I felt stupid, especially when I got those scornful looks of disappointment. I became introverted and my self-esteem remained low most of the time.

In my twenties, I married my husband, John. John loved to read and I kept observing his passion for the written word. As John shared details of a book, I began to realize I might be missing out by refusing to read. I made a decision. For the first time in my life, I pushed though my fears to read a book for pleasure. “Blue Camilla” by Frances Parkinson Keyes was the book I chose. As I read, I was surprised that I became so engrossed in the story. When I finished the final pages, I was left wanting for more. That one book gave me the chance for a new beginning.

In my thirties, my husband died of heart disease. God had blessed me with wisdom as I followed His guidance through my difficult circumstances. The insights contributed to my desire to share and help others. That yearning to help others was the seed God use to call me to write.

In my forties, I was doing fine with sharing short little notes and letters to others as the opportunity arose. I thought witnessing and strengthening those around me was all God would require. I felt safe in that assumption. But, I was wrong. He envisioned my writing reaching a much broader audience. As God revealed his dream to me, I was enthusiastic at first but then fear filtered through my excitement and I became afraid of failure. The “What if’” questions or “I can’t” began to haunt me constantly. I ended up telling the Lord I just couldn’t do, as He desired. But my fears did not hinder God one bit. God gently encouraged me to learn more knowing one day I would conqueror those fears and fulfill my destiny.

Finally, in my middle fifties with my fears under control, I accepted God’s call to write for Him. I accepted the fact that I would have to trust Him with everything I would write. I acknowledged I would no longer be in control of my writing gift. Ultimately, I told God that if he would inspire the words, then I would be His willing vessel.

Isn’t that just like God? Taking our greatest weakness, disabilities, and fears in life and turning them into our greatest strengths and witness for Him. We may not get on board right away with God’s vision, but that does not offend or deter Him one bit. God remains steadfast in mentoring us until we can see and claim the victory for ourselves.

Psalm 34:4-7
How about your weaknesses? Is God mentoring you into victory? We all have weaknesses which we would prefer to be left alone. But God is not deter. He will skillfully foster a witness for His glory if we are willing to replace fear with faith.