Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Chosen



It feels good to be chosen. Set apart. Special. Gifted. From third grade on through elementary school, I kept being picked by different teachers to be in an elect group who were made up of mostly children in the gifted program. But, I wasn't gifted. I had an average IQ, even struggled in math.

I didn't understand why I got to be with the cream of the crop, when I didn't by any measurable way, measure up.


We studied humpback whales. Competed in Odyssey of the Mind. Created stories and artwork.


And, I loved every minute of it.


Although I shouldn't have been included, somehow my teachers wanted me to be. I felt awash with grace. 


Then slowly, as a teenager, I lost my spark.


I stopped writing.


I put down my paintbrush.


Somewhere along the way, I came face-to-face with shame. It stifled my creativity, and as a consequence, I buried my gift.


It wasn't until my heart was broken that I recovered my spark.


Through the cracked and hardened earth of my heart, suffering while trusting in Christ, a way was made for new life and creativity.


Christ used my brokenness to allow this heart to heal. 


I felt awash with grace once again and started blogging and joined a writer's group. Since then, I've been working on writing several children's stories and devotionals, which I hope to publish.


In a way, going though the valley of the shadow of death helped me realize how gloriously short life is. 


We have only a little bit of time to make a difference in this world for Christ.


And, the enemy of our soul hates any glimmer of grace, joy, and hope we have to offer to point others to Christ.


One of the most effective tools he uses to keep us stagnant and ineffective is shame.


The only way to fight against it is to know who we are in Christ and to know we are dearly loved.


While we may be feeling like a failure, we must remember this label does not come from God.


The early Christians suffered terrible persecution, and looked to the Scriptures for answers:


"Yet for your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep
to be slaughtered.

Rise up and help us;

redeem us because of your unfailing love." (Psalm 22,26)

And redeem us, He did.


By the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, God made a way for us to be saved. From all our sins. All our failures. All our shame.


The apostle Paul went on to write in his letter to the church in Rome:






Whatever we have lost. It is found, redeemed in Christ.


Because His love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8) and His grace is always enough. So, whatever gifts we have received, whatever we've been chosen to do, let us do so with renewed purpose and the strength that only He provides.





Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Love



Being a single mom with four kids was better than being with some guy who may or may not stay. And, if he did stay, you might wish he'd left. At least that's what I thought about my mom dating again.

I was thirteen and dead set on making The Boyfriend, as miserable as possible. A sneer here, a thankless eye-roll there. Every kindness was met with contempt on my part. 

He couldn't fool me. I knew he was bad news.

That summer, I became a Christian. 

In Christ, I realized that I had a heavenly Father who loved me and cared about me (1 John 3:1).
Nothing had changed about my circumstances. But, I saw the world with new eyes.

I could see he wasn't just The Boyfriend. He was my friend.

He truly cared about me.

I began to enjoy our trips to the grocery store, and he showed me how to set up a budget. He coached me in Spanish and didn't make fun of the way I rolled my "r's." 

A hug and a kiss on the cheek was his Latino way of greeting. It took me by surprise at first, but I learned to appreciate this simple expression of care when he came to visit.

He gave me attention, affirmation, and affection. Something I didn't receive from my real dad at the time.

Two years later, he became my step-dad.  


Through a series of events, I met my birth father and got to know him and the rest of my family. 


I went from having no father to having a heavenly Father and two earthly fathers who all cared about me.

When I was about to get married, I didn't know who would walk me down the aisle. My birth father or my step-dad? I couldn't choose. 

My birth father gave my step-dad the honor. Because I knew him first.



My step-dad gave me away. My birth father strummed a love song. And, as he sang, I felt the love of God wrap around me like the beams of sunlight streaming into the church.




A father's love matters. A girl needs to know that she is loved. Cared for. Cherished.

May this Father's Day be one where you sense our Father in heaven's love for you. Knowing that from the break of day to the setting of the sun and on to eternity, because of Christ, nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38, 39). 





Friday, June 6, 2014

His Mind Becoming Mine


The lives of homeschool moms or moms in general can get pretty hectic. Driving here, there, and everywhere in congested traffic throughout the week, it seems there's little time to cultivate a step-by-step, moment-by-moment walk with God.



This particular day, I hurried to get to the last ballet lesson before recital. Waiting in the minivan at a red light, dark clouds rolled over the sky of blue. Rain drops sprinkled the dusty windshield leaving a dappled shadow on the dash.


I turned on my windshield wipers. In my periphery, an elderly man wearing a lemony-yellow polo shirt, shuffled along, shielding his head with a newspaper.


The light flashed green. I had to go. A sweet little Sunshine Girl has gotta make it to ballet and not a minute late. No time to think, let alone help.


Near our destination, compassion finally hit. But, too little, too late.


An onslaught of guilt, shame, and utter sickness settled in for the lone man in a yellow shirt, walking as fast as his aching bones could carry him to seek shelter before the downpour.


Why didn't I stop?


Why?


What was more important than helping someone in need?


Ballet could have waited.


But, I didn't stop and felt awful for it.


Still, I prayed and hoped someone else stopped to help.


The rain let up, but I didn't know if the man made it out of the rain without getting drenched.


This failure to love my neighbor was a wake up call.


A call to wake up from my slumber: 



.“Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 
Ephesians 5:14-16
I was totally unprepared to take a detour from my plans to give someone a lift. It pained me because I know that little kindnesses matter.  

How can I change? How can I be prepared? To continually be ready? To have the mind of Christ?

These questions buzzed like bumblebees around my mind, needing answers, needing truth. But, I didn't have to wait long for the answer to come. Over and over again, a word here, a phrase there. All reminding me that love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). 





The Lord was discipling me. To be more like Himself. He loves me that much.


God gently reminds us of the truth when we aren't following His directions. 


He knows our hearts. And He knows exactly what we need to hear. (Romans 8:27)


And it is always aligned with His Word.


A few days later, I noticed this young guy, homeless, out of work, holding up a used paper plate with the word Hungry written on it.


I looked all over the car for something to give him and remembered this time, "Love is kind."


My heart spilled over with joy as I handed him dignity, blessing, and a granola bar. "It's all I've got. Hope you find something better soon. And may the Lord bless you."






This life may be hectic, but there is no better place to be then in the presence of Christ, wherever you are, filling your mind with His truth.

It's amazing how the Lord uses our mistakes to apply His Word to our hearts and change us from the inside out. Making us willing and useful servants for His Kingdom.

And He renews our mind with His holy, powerful, life-infusing Word (Romans 12:1,2).


It helps to know it. Really know it. Deep, deep in the long-term recesses of our minds. To practice until made perfect the presence of Christ, which is a life-time venture.


There are many ways to learn the Word.


Repetition.


Visualization.


And, by the grace of God,


Application.








"Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee." Psalm 19:11, KJV








Each part of Scripture can produce fruit in your life and give you a mind more like Christ...for He is the One who makes all things new.