Sunday, August 24, 2014

True Comfort

     I pulled the plug and threw on something comfy (because who cares about cute at this stage)? I ripped open my goodie bag, slapped on my aromatherapy lotion and a few squirts of body mist, all the while smiling at the thought that something so small could bring such tranquility. Ah, yes, and do those candles really do anything? I confess, I'm all about finding comfort and rest these days. It's no longer hip, cool jeans or shoes. A hot cup of coffee, a blanket that's nice to the touch and thick nerdy socks do me just fine. I've purchased Lavender Chamomile and other fragrances in hopes that the packages' claims could be true. They promise to sweep me off to la la land so I can awaken feeling wonderful, refreshed and well rested. 
     It's been a little over five years since Richard and I said, "I do" to this roller coaster ride called military life. STOP! WAIT! Don't we get a rehearsal first? No! Nothing could truly prepare us for what lay ahead. Saying farewell to family, friends and familiarity was sobering. No matter how confident we were about this being the journey to which God called us, hesitation lingered in the background. 
     I packed up the car and kissed Texas goodbye all the while singing, "did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go...and then you had the feeling that you wanted to stay?" We hit the ground, sprinting. In two months I had to learn everything I could about the Army before my husband deployed. I was anxious, scared and felt alone. There was no more running to family or friends in time of need. I had to build relationships and fast. I was faced with the kids' first day of school, sleepless nights, countless trips to the ER, appointments, surgeries, loneliness, etc.
     Time has passed and often I grin with tears and delight, because in the beginning I thought that the only way to experience peace, joy and rest was to surround myself with familiar things. Any peace I desire will have to come from the One who can be everywhere, because familiarity can desert us and we don't know where this Army life will take us. "I am with you...I am your God."  
      Joy isn't dependent upon circumstances but upon immersing myself in Him because "you will fill me with joy in your presence." 
     Sufficient rest will have to come from Him who is not bound by time. I no longer depend on a perfect 8 hours of that even possible? And NO I won't be getting rid of any of my comfy amenities at home, but I do realize these are temporary things that will not last forever. My true comfort and rest isn't in a bottle or a robe or even a hot cup of coffee. It isn't in anything found here. It's in someone. We may not see Him with our eyes or feel him with our hands, but every once in a while He whispers to our hearts...
              "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

Monday, August 18, 2014


     It was 3:00 a.m. and sleep had abandoned me. I flipped on the t.v. only to run into an infomercial. You know, the ones we always deny watching? I sneered that anyone could lose weight so fast and get such extreme physical improvement in little to no time. I was guaranteed mind blowing results and promised a full body transformation. To top it off I could get a free t-shirt after 60 days of intense workouts. Within minutes, I was reeled in; devoted. Sold! the woman who should not make such an impulsive buy at 3:00 a.m. I convinced myself that I would purchase the videos just to prove them wrong. 
     I devoted myself to those 60 days but after the first three I could barely walk, yet somehow I found the spine to carry on. It went beyond "no pain, no gain." After the first month I marveled at the results that I had achieved, so I muscled through the second. I had been influenced by quick results. I failed to realize, however, that I'd have to keep it up for the rest of my life.
     To be devoted is to have an affection or attachment toward something or someone. My husband is devoted to me as I am to him. It feels good to share that kind of commitment with someone. You feel chosen, you feel alive. We easily devote ourselves in hope that whatever we embrace will match our dedication.
     God's devotion is unparalleled. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He loved, He devoted, He gave it all. Not because we had anything to give back...just because.
     So if your like me, always looking for a new challenge, be careful, devote wisely. Persuasions of all kind shadow us. Influences await our affections. I easily devoted myself to a program with a 30 minute commercial whose results may vary. It is much more pleasurable to be devoted to something or someone who is capable of reciprocating, but only One can give entirely. He replaces mourning with joy, sorrow with gladness and comforts like no other. His whispers, "you are accepted!" 
     So although I can't guarantee that I won't be watching any more late night infomercials I have chosen to truly devote myself to the One whose results don't vary. Who guarantees victory over death and eternal life for all who believe. Who assures us that every need is supplied. Whose promises are endless. Who pledges that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Who is capable of wrapping His arms around not just part of me but all of me.

And that, my friend, is much better than a free t-shirt!

The Kite

     Flying a kite can be kinda tricky if you've never done it. It usually works better with two people. I used to go to the park and try to fly one. You need the right amount of wind and plenty of string. You'll also need a space clear of trees and power lines or it will just end in disaster. 
If all goes well the kite will dance, spin and loop and it can be beautiful to watch. I was mesmerized. I thought, wouldn't it be fantastic to have the freedom to fly like a kite, but without any strings attached.
     When I was fifteen I was trying to grasp just what the word "freedom" meant. I was without a father and my mother struggled to make ends meet. I ached for something to fill that fatherly void. After getting involved in a relationship for the first time and realizing how temporary connections can be, I fell hard. For years I dabbled in a little of this and a little of that. My mom finally decided to put me in a private Christian school in hopes that it would help me find peace. 
      I built friendships quickly, but one in particular would change my life for good. She was different. It wasn't anything she said in the beginning but she had a peace and joy about her that made me curious. She was like a diamond kite with beautiful streamers attached that twirl from behind. Her presence was graceful and her words were sweet. So I decided to follow her lead. We had long talks and soon I surrendered my life to Christ. From that day forward I was never the same. Christ shone through her and His light drew me to Him.
     He became to me a "father to the fatherless" and together we soar like a kite, that diamond kite. His streamers are strong and never tear. It's not that I never get stuck in a tree, but when I do, He walks by and gently lifts me up and releases me from all the branches. I am free...I am free; not because there are no strings attached, but because his kite line is endless and He is with me wherever I fly.
     By the way, a year before my dad died he gave his life to Christ. We were reunited and we celebrated the grace God had bestowed upon us. His last words to me were "pray for me!" 
     Like me, my dad is a soaring kite; the only difference...his string is a little longer than mine.

                                  "They will soar on wings like eagles." Isaiah 40:31

A know It All

     I'm not a know it all at all. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I went to graduate school was because I realized how little I knew. I did get that right. I felt like I knew less coming out than I did going in. Ugh! But it was an opportunity to hopefully gain some insight into the land of Christianity. I didn't know where God was taking me. I wanted to serve God. I wanted to be faithful; you know, be in His "perfect will."
     Sometimes I got the feeling that the more I understood about God the closer to God I'd be. So I dug and dug...still digging. I read big books, little books (those were better). I took course after course. I did what I believed every other Christian was doing in order to fall right into His perfect will. I learned big words like; soteriology, eschatology and amillennialism. I sat in classes with pastors, professors, teachers, counselors, doctors and wondered just where I'd fit in. I figured that soon enough God would give me a blue print, an outline of His perfect plan for my life. So I waited and waited for His purpose to be delivered to me on that sparkling silver platter. 
     When I first met my husband. We had a plan. We would date, get engaged, marry and oh yeah, live happily ever after! We knew in what church the ceremony would be held. We knew the time, the guest list and every other detail.
     Just like my wedding, I wanted to know exactly how God's will would work out in my life. Like most children I too love surprises, but maybe I needed to make some changes. What if God left out some grand detail. What if God needed my help?
     I'm confident that if I knew everything beforehand I would have tried to make things happen sooner, perhaps before I was ready. He alone holds the master plan. After all, He is the One who "made the moon to mark its seasons; the sun knows its time for setting."
     Often times we are made to feel as though we must know everything in order to be in His "perfect will." He is not obligated to tell me anything. He reveals. He withholds. He unfolds. He alone purposes. And yes, He surprises! 
     So if you ask me where I see myself in five years I might give you a good guess, but only God knows for certain. I am in God's will, not because I know everything in advance, but because I yield and He alone fulfills His purpose for me and I'm not just ok with that but I'm relieved...and that's no surprise!
               "I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me."
                                                                                                       Psalm 57:2


I opened the box and there lay hundreds of little pieces. My mouth fell open, I couldn't believe it. It was a Lladro porcelain dove that my grandmother gave me. It was broken and gluing it back together wasn't an option. My daughter had a doll that broke and we tried fixing it only to have it break again later. My son nearly broke his ankle while sliding down a pole way too fast. The doctor explained, "it would have been better for him to have broken his ankle, a sprain is often worse!"
"Broken," is often full of negative connotations. We see broken objects and we grunt in agitation. We instinctively want to fix or replace them. I once cleaned a house for an elderly woman and she warned me to use extreme caution when dusting underneath her expensive collectibles. I chose to skip that area. I was terrified I'd break one. Have you ever noticed a mother (no names mentioned) guiding her child away from something? "Careful," she says, "you'll break a bone!"
Laws are broken. Covenants are broken. Commitments are broken. Sometimes things we hold dear are broken, like collectibles and toys. Often times we learn from these breaks. Lastly, hearts are broken, spirits are broken and yes, we too are broken. These things should not be broken. To be a broken person however, can often have beautiful results; humility, healing, repentance and a sense of what really matters in this life. God often replaces that which is broken with something extraordinary...Himself!
Over time my daughter has learned to be gentle with her dolls. They can't always be fixed. My son has learned to take his time when sliding down a pole. It could result in a two week limp. And me? Well, hopefully being broken in spirit isn't such a bad place to be.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17
He carries our sorrows (better Him than me). He heals the brokenhearted and we are made new. Those that are dismayed He upholds with His right hand. 
The hand of God, what better place to be?

The Thirst

     The sun was racing toward its peak so I swigged down the last few drops of coffee in my cup, laced up my shoes and forced myself to hit the blazing Texas roads. Before I arrived at my half way point to grab a cup of water, I was already desperate. I fixed my eyes on the pavement in front of me while the pavement behind fought for my attention. There was only about a half mile left to the water that would catapult me into the second leg of this run.

     My body began to fear defeat. I threw my head back in disappointment and my legs nearly buckled as I approached my midway point. The park was closed! Turning around wasn't an option. I was thirsty and willing to do just about anything to get a swig. 

     We are running a spiritual race. Why is it that sometimes we quit thirsting? Maybe it's because we quit running. When I cease to run, my thirst settles and I no longer desire refreshment. To truly thirst is to experience a sense of dryness. It's hard to swallow, talk or focus on much else. If you've never had a strong desire for God I encourage you to run to Him. You will thirst, but the cup He offers is even greater than that first sip of water after forgetting your Camelback. Running toward God offers the opportunity for true refreshment.

     Truth be told, running does not initially offer some magnificent feeling. I have to keep pressing on to get to that place, known as "the zone" because it's there that I know I'm able to continue. Every run is a search for that "zone." Initially, I thought I was running FROM something; my home, my stress, my life, but eventually I realized I was actually running TO someone. Someone greater than the hurt, disappointment, obstacles and failures; someone who knew what it was like to thirst.

     I ran...and ran right into Him. It was a marathon with no medal that my eyes could see, no trophy that my hands could hold. And the finish line? Well, it was replaced with a river of flowing water. Forget the paper cup, for it says: "You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water." I jumped in with both feet and as His water washed over me my thirst was quenched and I was rejuvenated. So now, I run, I thirst, but for a different purpose and for someone who can truly quench my thirst. Every time I cross the finish line He is there waiting...inviting me in to a river of flowing water.

And that's refreshing!

A Rose For A Rose

    He handed it to me and said with a grin, "a rose for a rose!" I was taken back a bit. I'd never thought of myself as a rose. Years have passed and that person whom I held dear is no longer here. I have since developed a love for roses and whenever possible reflect upon their nature. Commonalities between the church and the rose have blossomed in my meditations.
    The Church, like the rose, is magnificent, delightful, compelling, inspiring, overpowering, fragrant but at times we too can be prickly, thorny, dry, burned, worn or diseased. 
    A while back I purchased several different varieties of roses. Like us, they are all different. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Over time I have learned their characteristics, demeanor and preferences. Some want to climb, reaching for the heavens, some choose to linger midway, while others prefer to stay low to the ground. All are necessary and require the sun's full attention. A few have strong aromas and bright colors...very outgoing. They compete for acknowledgement and I am captured by each one's individuality. I happily desire our morning meetings. My eyes admire each one and they impart a cheerful air! 
    But one particular rose stands alone. It is super finicky. No matter what I do it is never happy. I figured if I watered it this way or that way, then it will surely perk up. Then, I tried setting it in various spots hoping the sun would hit it just right. Finally, I decided that it probably just wanted some food? I pruned, repotted and gave it way more attention then it deserved. It was useless! This rose had made up its mind. It was stubborn, relentless and unforgiving. 
   Unforgiveness slowly causes us to dry up and produce bitterness. It deprives us of the opportunity to flourish and be of any help to ourselves or others. Unforgiveness stops the growth process. We easily demand forgiveness, but hesitantly offer it. I am often reluctant to forgive because I am too busy blaming. This was the case with that finicky rose. Although I insisted on its unforgiving character, I failed to pay attention to detail. The bottom of the pot had no drain holes, so the rose rotted.

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions." It is essential to forgive but that requires pruning, weeding, nourishment, watering, dedication and paying attention...close the full Son!