Where is Your Trust?

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     Fear has become a constant whispering companion as destructive acceleration surrounds us…global warming, earthquakes, famine, increased hate and violence as well as the rumors of a possible approach of nuclear war. It is so easy to “buy in” to that fear and panic, that “be prepared” mentality that is erupting all around us. Here – in the midst of this chaotic surge – is our place to walk in a different spirit.

     It is now that the LOVE of Christ is needed to dispel that fear. It is now that FAITH in Christ can shine in the darkness – teaching and building hope in the confused. It is now that the HOPE in Christ within us must stand firm, declare and encourage in the midst of what is seen.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.              Psalm 91: 1-6 (ESV)

     Let these words infuse in you today the strength to stand firm. Find rest under His wings – find peace in His refuge as you trust in Him. Remember in HOPE the goodness of your God, remember in FAITH you are called to proclaim that goodness, and remember in LOVE all that Christ did for you and those around you.

     Fear not what you see with your eyes and hear with your ears – look only with your Spirit to the promises of His faithfulness. Breathe easy today as you walk in peace in the midst of this storm, finding refuge in Christ – for there is where your trust dwells.

Fluff & Stuff

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     The perfectly un-scarred teddy bear is unceremoniously opened from the center as stuffing is revealed. Then to my horror the insides are pulled out as if a search is on – looking for the unknown, down inside that fluff. Piles of “fluff and stuff” begin to accumulate – down into the hard packed head, arms and legs the search continues as the pile grows. Then I hear it – “thump, thump, thump”! I can see a small pulsing red light that corresponds to the sound and realize it is a small-computerized heart that had been placed inside long ago but had stopped being heard. Over time its sound had disappeared in the midst of the all the “fluff and stuff”.

     This was just a dream the other night but as my morning and day progressed it soon became a very real analogy that God was speaking into my own heart. All our “fluff and stuff” builds up, packs down tightly, stifling the beating of our heart – the love inside has a hard time being heard, felt or extended anymore.

       We need our own un-stuffing process. How do we get there? It sounds like a big project but it’s the easiest surgery you will every have – just look up, see His face and say YES.

       Our Heavenly Father is faithful to hear. He will reach down and open us up as the Holy Spirit begins un-stuffing all that we have packed in around our hearts. All the hurts, worries, and distractions; along with past regrets and future anxieties – physical and financial burdens – unproductive activities, ministries and relationships – wow and the list goes on. That unpacking can look overwhelming but the process is rather simple. Once His unpacking is complete, the renewal and restoration of Jesus will instantly flood back in – His love saturates and you begin to hear “thump, thump, thump” as the small pulsing red light comes back to life.

     All our “fluff and stuff” – stifles and wears out the pulsing movement of His love in our lives. We have made this journey complex – the reality is as simple as just loving God and loving those in front of us – everything else really is only more “fluff and stuff”.

   Look up, ask and in an instant you will be able to see those you encounter, with renewed love – all the “fluff and stuff” gone as you hear the beat of His heart – His love for each one of them as it begins to pulsate again within you.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (ESV)

An Eternal Friend

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Proverbs 17:17A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times.(Voice)

     The Bible story and friendship between David & Jonathan is one of love and faithfulness that began with a “spirit” directed bond and covenant. When we read this story we often think of David, and God’s eternal plan through him. This covenant of friendship was one that God used to provide protection, training and placement for David’s ultimate purpose; it was part of his journey to the throne, but what about Jonathan?

   Jonathan was a loyal son, an heir to the throne who willingly stepped into a friendship with a very young, poor shepherd boy. That friendship was one, which in the natural made no sense. Jonathan was number two in the kingdom, in line for the throne, and had the constant “ear” of the king – he had it all. So, why make such a friendship?

     I believe we get a glimpse of the why, as we look at the character of Jonathan through his life and choice in befriending David. He was loyal, observant, humble, compassionate, faithful, wise, spiritually inclined and he was a listener. All traits God used and surrounded David with for his encouragement, protection and growth.

     There was something that Jonathan saw in David that drew him beyond the natural. He chose to lay aside his rights in order to continue that friendship even in the midst of his father’s displeasure and desire to kill his friend. He was faithful to his father, standing in battle, honoring him as a son, but there was a point where he had to choose to stand on behalf of a friend. A time he chose to stick closer than a brother – a time he chose sacrifice – to protect his friend at all cost. Jonathan chose love.

     Once Jonathan sent David away, we don’t hear much else about him until he is killed along side King Saul in battle. But, David’s response to that death is one of great loss – the love they shared in friendship went beyond a short-term acquaintance – it was an eternal friendship.

     Is there such a thing as an “eternal friendship” today? In our society friendships seem to exist in fast paced short-term acquaintances – very little thought is even given to the relationship. It often has to do with “what is best for me”, or “does it work in my schedule” and if an offense arises – well – that’s it – “done with that person”. The word friend is thrown around with the click of a button – the “friend” button, the “unfriend” button and the “like” button can be flicked with a keystroke without a thought about the person.

     But, God still desires us to walk in covenant friendship with others. LOVE is the key. With love, Jesus laid down his life for each of us; that is covenant (eternal) friendship.

     How do we walk in that type of relationship with people – with our friends? We listen and move as the Spirit of God nudges us – one person at a time. Choosing to love – choosing to sacrifice “our” schedule, “our” plans or “our” rights in order to protect, to love, and to “stick” with a friend.

Is it easy? No.

Will you be hurt? Probably.

Will you be offended? Absolutely.

     But, through it – you may find a pearl of great price – a hidden jewel of friendship that is not about you, it’s about them – BUT in the end it becomes one of the greatest gifts you will ever be given – an eternal friend.

     Take a chance, listen and reach out, because your next acquaintance just might become an eternal friend.

Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

John 15:13 And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends;(TLB)

I Samuel 18:1 By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend. (MSG) 

 

 

Run to Win

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     Recently I had the pleasure of cheering on the sidelines of a middle school track- meet. My favorite runner – my grandson – was barreling down the track, passing them all – leaving most in the dust. This, the final meet of the short season was a test to win – to beat all previously run times – his own and all the others. Oh, and run he did – with everything in him. With single focus, pointed directly toward that finish line, he pushed with every fiber, every cell, and every breath to WIN! The sounds around him – the cheers of the crowd, the track at his feet and even the pounding of his own heart – were not heard. Every concern, discomfort and thought was set aside for the joy of the run.

     What we don’t see at this track-meet is all the physical conditioning that is put in before today’s “pop” of the starters gun; the daily pushing of those muscles and their throbbing pain in the night watches, the pounding headaches from over exertion and rapid dehydration, as well as the skinned, torn, twisted tissue and tendons as the track often reaches out to win those trial races. These times – hidden from the cheering crowd – are the times where the decision to endure are won or lost.

     We too, are on a similar track, a similar race – our life journey – our race. Our WIN is already promised – it belongs to us through the cross of Christ. But, our race is not an easy one, it is meant to be RUN with endurance. It will require times of determination and physical conditioning. We must cross that finish line. We must have a single focus on that prize! We must not hear or allow all the distractions, concerns and discomforts of daily life to overcome us. We must endure – push past the relational hurts and disappointments, financial struggles, physical illness’ – all those throbbing, pounding, torn and twisted pieces that are part of this race of life. Jesus already promised us the win – the decision is IF you will endure to the finish line – IF you will focus on the prize – for this is the time where you decide to obtain it! Decide to run your race with endurance to receive the prize that is waiting at finish line – and run it well – with every fiber, every cell, and every breath you have been given.

Run to WIN – run for the joy of the run!

I Corinthians 9:24. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives he prize? So run that you may obtain it, (ESV)

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (ESV)

Thankful Simplicity

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As a little girl I was constantly skipping and singing. Wherever I went I didn’t walk, I skipped. It was just more fun to get anywhere that way. Between skipping and swinging I was always on the move.

I wasn’t raised in a home where Jesus was priority, in fact I only thought bible stories were just stories, not real; we went to vacation bible school in the summer as an activity and church on Easter as a dress up experience.

But, some how when I was skipping all by myself I would sing a little song of thanks. This little song was never the same because everything I saw was different every day. This little song wasn’t even directed toward God since I really didn’t know him. This little song was one of thankful simplicity. It went something like this – thank you for my eyes, thank you for my feet, thank you for that bird, thank you for that bug…..etc. As I skipped along I simply called out simple thanks about all that surrounded me.

As I was reminded of this my heart swelled; even then the love of Jesus was obvious to me when I didn’t know him. Today I find myself contemplating the importance of that thankful simplicity in our lives.

Ps 118:1. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

In a society of constant sound and busyness we move through our lives without seeing the beauty around us; thankfulness is not part of our chaotic day. But to live and walk in the peace of Christ that is part of our inheritance, a thankful rejoicing heart is a priority. Even in the midst of the hardest circumstances we are promised that peace. It starts with a simple thankful response.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It’s a choice! It’s a decision! In the midst of tough times and in the center of your busy lifestyle His peace is always available – it will still your anxious heart and settle your racing mind. But it all starts with refocusing your eyes – looking up and realizing the key is in simply being thankful.

Be child-like again – try moving through your day (even skip if you like) with an attitude, a song of thankful simplicity.

Two Faithful Caterpillars

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The unexpected loss of two friends yesterday stirred an emotional fitful sleep but as I finally rested in the peace of Christ, I dreamed,  and from that dream I found comfort in it’s analogy. So here I share it with you my friends,  as you too, walk the path set before you – it’s joys and it’s tears.  

    I dreamed last night of two beautiful fuzzy caterpillars. I watched them faithfully plod along the path set before them. They traversed the wet thick grass and the stony hot ground; they climbed straight up the slippery leaves, and triumphantly crawled over barriers of debris. Always moving up and over the most difficult of terrain, always moving forward – side by side, without hesitation on this journey of life. Then, as the sun rose on one “set apart” morning they woke to a “suddenly” in their short lives.

     Today there would be no pushing forward.   Today the journey had changed. The sun’s warmth, shining upon them, stirred something within as they rose slowly on the gentle breathe of a breeze. Together, they looked below at the path they had traveled. It looked so different from above. That journey – that yesterday life, had been so full of wonder as they had fully lived each new day,  but in an instant it was new. They now had been transformed – from a caterpillar to a butterfly. A transformation that now allowed them to rise high above; to walk into a new eternal home where the caterpillar journey of short duration would now be used for an eternal purpose as a butterfly.

     We too, will someday be transformed from this life to a more glorious eternal one. We know not when or how that will come to pass, but in faith, we daily walk out our journey – plodding along the path set before us, traversing the thick, hot, slippery terrain we call life. We live each new day fully, and in faith we slowly, faithfully move forward toward the ultimate prize – our own “suddenly” where in that one moment the sun will warm us and we will rise on the breeze – to look below at what no longer will matter. For in that instant, our eternal journey will have begun.

A Warrior’s Unexpected “Call to Arms”! (by J. K. Sanchez)

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     The air in the room instantly became thick and hot, her ears hearing only her crashing heart beat; four unexpected words spoken in a sterile environment now bouncing through her head like a ping pong ball – “you have breast cancer”. How she receives, processes and walks through today and the months and years ahead will transform her and impact everyone her life touches.

     The insidious leviathan called “breast cancer” begins to surface, having already begun its rampage within the territory belonging to her. Does she run or fight? Her first responses to this attack are terror, numbness and inability to move. But soon instructions, research and information are received and the sword is offered; now decisions loom. The still surreal question before her – surrender to this monster’s fiery breath or take that sword with both hands, brace her feet and prepare to move forward into the fight of her life?

     This devouring disease looms as a possible destroyer over every woman. There is no discrimination to its destruction – all are at risk. Every year over 200,000 women are faced with this monster’s appearance.   Every year the decision to take up a sword of defense is forced into trembling hands of women of all generations – the single woman, the mother, the career woman, and the retired woman. They all will receive a “call-to-arms” that was never expected. This battle is one that is a life-long sentence! These women may make it through the skirmish, but will live everyday for the rest of their lives with this leviathan and its smoldering breath lurking under the surface; never knowing if it will resurface again.

     Two brave warriors: Cherrie, a vibrant grandmother in her 60’s, and Rachael, a single mother of two in her 30’s, live each day with this lurking monster’s presence, but they walk with positive attitudes of thankfulness. The determination to fight – to lift the heavy sword – is wielded by three powerful words that stand strong within each of them: Faith, Hope and Love – the greatest of these is LOVE.

     Each of my friends and every woman who will encounter, fight, survive or succumb to this insidious disease are already winners, for they have made the stand against it. How the battle is fought is the key – it is the positive attitude within them that knows that they were made for more.

     At 64, the unexpected jolts in Cherrie’s life had adjusted to a soft daily roll. But one morning in March 2011, everything in her life quickly changed. As an exuberant positive person not much could shake her; but as the doctor spoke she barely heard anything past “stage 1a breast cancer”. This was a routine mammogram that now had turned into a tidal wave crashing over her mind. Shock, fear, anger, and tears all flooded unbidden over her, but within minutes the destructive wake stirred a determination as she announced, “Let’s get this taken care of NOW!”

     Her years of experience and research skills immediately kicked into gear. Her first contacts and rapid response came from friends working in the local hospital. They connected her to some of the best cancer specialists and within weeks she was scheduled to have a lumpectomy and begin a regiment of radiation.

     Though her greatest fears were of the cancer spreading or cells being left undetected, she knew her positive attitude had to stay intact.

     Cherrie was overwhelmed with love and support from her daughter, granddaughter and friends; this love became her strength. Shortly after surgery she received a surprise visit from co-workers touting pink roses and champagne to celebrate, cheer her on and stand beside her – just in case she grew tired as she wielded this heavy sword. They were in her corner to fight this fire-breathing leviathan – they knew this red head had enough fire in her to breathe right back at him. Their support, encouragement and love were what helped her through the hardest days. The very best medicine is often found in friends – laughter, love and of course some “furry” snuggles.

     Now 5 years cancer-free, Cherrie knows that love was the reinforcement she needed every day, “To be with those who were positive and loved me unconditionally kept my hope up. ”

     This destructive tsunami hits new women every day, but from one warrior to the next, Cherrie’s advice is “above all else try to remain positive, it is frightening but necessary to be optimistic. Put your trust in your medical team BUT ask questions at every opportunity. If you need help – ask for it! The people who love you sometimes don’t know how to help – so tell them.” And with a smile and some sweet levity Cherrie advises, “be thankful for Lane Bryant push up lingerie – I am!”

     Rachel, a 34 year-old mother of two with no risk factors, was unprepared to hear the results of the recently found rapidly growing and painful lump on her breast. As the doctor diagnosed, “It’s an invasive aggressive cancer”, the words sounded as if a death sentence had just been handed to her – this aggressive cancer could mean less then a year to live. Within weeks, armed with firsthand encouragement and research, she chose her best option for surgery and a double mastectomy, lymph-node removal and implantation of expanders were accomplished.

     Life as she had known it had come to a screeching halt – surgery, weeks of chemo and a myriad of medications took over her life with her biggest fear looming in front of her – her two young sons without a mother.

     Rachel lives a life that is positive – always looking at the best in life and others, so it was time to focus that positive attitude on the fight of her life.

     Family stepped up! With her sister’s ability to research healthy options in every arena and help with her boys, as well as her mother’s strong shoulder and prayer warrior spirit – she found the fuel that helped her make the decisions to fight this leviathan. The onslaught of support through kind words, prayers, and gifts of all types overwhelmed her with love and hope that she would complete this journey.

     With months of pain, medications that made her sick, loss of her hair, setbacks, surgeries and more surgeries, as well as living through months of hormone inhibitors which made her feel dead inside, this young warrior responded, “Giving up was never an option or a thought.  No matter what I am facing and going through, God has given me this life and it is His to give and take away. My goal is love, truth and kindness – even on the hardest days.”

     Now only months since her last medications, she thoughtfully responds, “I am still often tired, but grateful for each day with my sons. I’m lucky to be alive, even though I still have pain and hard days.”

     She thinks often of those who unexpectedly helped her in many of the little everyday ways – providing meals, finances, occupying the boys, and a myriad of thoughtful gestures. She is filled with joy as she sees the example of God’s grace having been walked out in her family – seeing them come together, reconcile differences and support both her and each other has been an unexpected blessing.

       Life is never the same and this battle is never really over. Once you have cancer it is always lurking. The thoughts that ring loud and clear from Rachel are “before this, the world and life felt so big – full of wonder and possibilities. Now I don’t feel that way. Hopes and dreams are simple now, but I have deeper peace and security. I’m able to be more honest and direct. My relationships are all simple because I’m at peace with others and myself. I don’t place expectations on anyone and I allow myself to have weakness and space to rest.”

     Rachel’s thoughts for those beginning and fighting this battle are to walk daily with “Focus- Laser focus! Focus on what is in front of you right now. Whether it is a person, a project, decision, pain, recovery, gift, blessing, sunshine, or storm – all you have is right now. Soak it in. Also, every step is temporary, whether good or bad. Pain comes and goes and healing takes its place.”

     Though cancer takes over every thought in this journey, it is not what defines these women – they have not chosen this battle and have no control as to how, why or when it attacks – but they do have a choice; how they respond to it.

   Loving support and prayer are the covering and glue that seem to hold together as well as strengthen body, mind and spirit while these warriors trudge through this darkness.

     Human beings are able to pick up, move-on and overcome so many horrific obstacles in life because of three seemingly small words: Faith, Hope and Love. Faith that there is a God bigger than all of this, who loves us and is the ultimate one in control; Hope that our life (our story) is not finished yet, and that there is still a promised future waiting for us. And the greatest of these – love. A love that will change, support and bring life, growth and strength to the atmosphere that surrounds us. Love is the adhesive that is the key to any type of recovery.

     Let’s come along side these fighting warriors with faith, hope and love; bringing some small strength to them as they fight this insidious leviathan. For we know not if we may be the next warrior in need of strength to lift the sword in the fight of our life, as its lurking presence may beckon our own unexpected call-to-action.

 

Photo courtesy of : saphatthachat@freedigitalphotos.net