Grace Doesn’t Always Feel Good

This month marks the 5th anniversary of a painful surgery that left an ugly scar on my abdomen and a new understanding of Grace in my heart. I thought I’d share this post, written only weeks after my surgery in 2012. For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Psalm 84:11 -NLT) I was gently pressing Vitamin E oil over the bright-red scar on my abdomen. It extended for about 5 inches and it was painful. It hurt to move, to sit down and stand up, to turn around in bed and to take a deep breath. My surgery had only been ten days before and this was the first time I had seen the incision. Vanity chimed in and I frowned at the sight. My daughters sneaked in behind me as I bathed the scar in oil. Their eyes got big when they saw the surgery site. “Wow, mom. It’s sooooo big!” said the oldest in awe. “Does it hurt?” asked the baby. I looked at them and nodded. “Yes, sweetie, it’s big and it hurts.” “I’m sorry, mom,” were the next words from my sympathizing daughters. And that’s when I heard the Spirit whisper within my soul. I turned around and signaled them to get closer. “You don’t have to be sorry, dear. I actually like my scar. I even gave it a name.” “A name?” little one said. “What is it, what is it?” she urged with growing curiosity. “Its name is Grace,” I...

A Word from Jesus… to Someone Who Is Ready to Give Up

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. (John 21:6) They had been fishing all night long. As the hours progressed, they each grew tired and discouraged. They had bills to pay and mouths to feed. Yet, not a single fish was caught in their large net. As the morning dawned, a stranger called out from ashore: “Fellows, have you caught any fish”. Their hearts sank as they admitted their unsuccessful trip. “Cast the net on the other side,” He said. As John realized it was the Lord who had asked, excitement built up in their hearts. And fish flooded their net. Have you ever noticed that when Jesus told his discouraged disciples to cast their nets again, it was right at the same old place where they had caught nothing all night long? The same seems to happen with us when we find ourselves in the same barren place for a long time. It could be a disease that lingers… Or a relationship that is deteriorating… It could be long-term unemployment… Or an emotional wound that won’t heal… If we could just get off to a brand new place when we get discouraged, casting our nets again would be an easier thing to do! If we could be a different person, or go somewhere different, or do something different, it might not be so hard to have fresh faith and new encouragement. But it is the same old net that caught...

The Lion, the Bear… And Your Circumstances

Standing at nearly ten-foot-tall, the man must have looked like an armored tank to young David. He wore a helmet of brass upon his head and a coat of scale armor of about 125 pounds of bronze. The bible describes the armor and war tools in details, giving us a vivid picture of Goliath’s fearsome stature and strength. David had come up from Bethlehem with the mere purpose of bringing food to his brothers, who were battling the Philistines in the valley of Elah. But as he arrived at the camp, he heard Goliath’s defiance and blasphemy against Israel’s God. And thus the battle became his. As David goes before Saul to ask permission to fight Goliath, his small stature surprises the king. He was but a boy, compared to the giant. Saul didn’t see how he could win. And then David tells him the story. “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37 NASB) WOW. As I read this story for the umpteenth time this morning,...

He Gives Rain… In.Due.Season.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,  then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.” Leviticus 26:3-5 (ESV) – emphasis added The land was vast, and yet, seemingly desolate. A desert of sorts, the people knew that, unlike the Egyptians who had the fertile Nile to irrigate their crops, Israel was solely dependent on the rain season to be able to harvest bountiful crops. When I visited Israel many years ago, I remember listening to the tour guide describing the abundance of its harvest. I had never tasted fresher fruit and vegetables before. Indeed, this tiny piece of land yields some of the most beautiful crops on earth. I find it especially interesting that of all places on the planet, God would choose to place His chosen nation in a land that would completely depend on rain to produce successful harvests. But then again, The Holy God of Israel knew the heart of His people. Had he chosen Egypt as the Promised Land, the people would gladly depend on their own ability to channel the waters of the Nile into their crop beds. Rain would not have been a deal breaker every year, necessarily. However, the success of any given harvest season in Israel did not depend on...

My Gifts to JESUS

I glanced back to the Christmas tree while climbing the stairs on Christmas Eve. The tree skirt was flooded with packages of all sizes. Santa was generous this year. Christmas morning would be filled with joy and laughter. Once again. I realize how very fortunate our children are. How very blessed I am. We have a home. Food on the table. We have numerous Bibles on our bookshelves. We know the Baby in the manger as our Lord and Savior. We have it all. On earth and in Heaven. But I am ashamed to say that my heart attitude does not always reflect the gratitude of a life that is blessed beyond measure. As a matter of fact, my heart attitude stinks sometimes. It’s Christmas morning and I decided to write a letter to Jesus, wrapping each trial and blessing as a gift of thanksgiving to the newborn King. I thought I’d share it with you: Dear Jesus. My Savior. My Lord. I bring you my imperfect heart to the light of your perfection, wrapping each blessing as an offering of praise to you: You gave me love when I was lonely. Hope when I was lost. You gave me a family that loves me and a house that You turned into a home. You give me food on the table each day. I have never known hunger. You’ve given me healing. For my body… and my soul. You’ve given me peace in the midst of valleys, and strength to endure those trials that were too hard to withstand alone. When Isaiah said you would be Immanuel, he declared...

Trusting God… at the Edge of the Unknown

I hadn’t seen her that excited in a long time. Mom moved up and down the stairs, speaking in a hushed tone with whoever was on the other side of the line, striving to hide the details of my birthday surprise. She acted as if I had no idea of her plans. I smiled at the thought of how it does not matter whether our children and four or forty –  They’ll always be little in our eyes. When the time came to leave the house, she approached me with a blindfold. “From now on, you cannot see where you are going,” she said. I hesitantly agreed. There’s very little I hate more than not knowing where I am heading. I don’t like the feeling of dependence on senses other than my sight for the next step. And I am afraid that whoever is holding my arm will pull a prank on me… or let me stomp my foot on a stone… or that I will trip and fall by accident. I know – I am trusting that way. Sigh. But… it was Mom leading the way. Therefore, I extended my arm, took her hand and put on the blindfold. I knew that however uncomfortable the momentary darkness might feel; she would not allow me to fall. And the pleasure and joy I would find when the darkness was lifted, would be worth it all. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 – KJV) I don’t know about you, but this blind trust issue gets me every time. And it seems as...

The Battle for Your Territory

The man foamed at the mouth. His eyes were evil, lost, afraid… all at the same time. The demons had taken over a long time ago. From within his battered body, his trapped spirit had long lost the strength to cry out for help. He cut himself day and night, and not even chains could bind him anymore. A scene from a horror movie. That’s what we find as we flip the pages of our Bibles to the gospel of Mark, chapter 5. The man possessed by Legion. Not one demon, but an entire legion of them, tormented this man’s body and soul day and night. I became curious and decided to do a little research on Roman Legions. The two Latin words that form “Roman Legion” are Legio Romana –which literally means “the chosen from Rome.” In reference to the early Roman Kingdom (as opposed to the Roman Empire), Legion meant the entire Roman army. The size of the legions varied subsequently, and at the time of Jesus they were typically composed of around five thousand soldiers. Legions formed the Roman army’s elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens. As the French say: “La crème dela crème.” The elite. The strongest. The best trained, educated and knowledgeable in war tactics. That’s Legion. And that’s the army of demons that possessed that poor man when Jesus chose to take a detour to the country of the Gadarenes and pay this place a visit. Legion knew that Messiah had landed on their shore. Their territory. And they rushed the man’s body to Jesus, prostrated at His feet, and worshipped Him. “When he saw...

When God Removes People from Your Life

The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.  Judges 7:7 It was Friday night. I absently stared at the TV, thinking about how lonely I felt. Looking through my phone book, I knew that the options were not good. The friends who would be available on a Friday night would quickly offer me a tour back into my life before Christ… Places I knew not to visit anymore. My new Christian friends were all busy with their husbands and family. It was me, my TV… and… my Bible. I glanced down and picked it up. A new Christian, I had heard that Jesus was all I needed, but was unsure of how to let Him fill the void. My weekends had been busy for as long as I remembered, filled with friends and many invitations. However, several months earlier, I had attended a retreat that forever changed my life. I surrendered my life to Christ that beautiful September morning and experienced an unprecedented joy and peace. I spent the following weeks and months on a spiritual high, attending a new Christian discipleship class, prayer meetings and various church functions. I had made several new friends, but they were, well… new. And most of them were married, anyway. Loneliness filled my heart on the weekends. That particular weekend was the hardest of all. As I held my Bible, tears streamed down my face. One of my best friends of eight years had turned her back on me. We attended college...

Staying Focused {As Your World Spins Around}

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 The ballerina’s elegant figure twirled around the stage with incredible ease. The Rio de Janeiro Ballet Company had come to town, and my parents bought tickets to take their aspiring ballerina to watch their performance. As a young girl, I remember watching her in awe, while dreaming of the day when I would be able to have the same technique and grace to become a Prima ballerina. Oh, the spinning! That was my favorite. To be able to twirl around on my tiptoes for minutes, without losing my balance. That, to my young mind, was the pinnacle of ballet perfection. And I failed. Every time I tried. I’d spin once around, maybe twice, and then, boom! I’d lose balance and trip or fall. My French ballet instructor never took the time to teach me the secret of the perfect pirouette. She was too busy helping the girls who ‘had what it takes.’ And I certainly wasn’t on that list. If I couldn’t master a pirouette, I could not become a ballerina. Thus my dream was shattered. The Secret It took me several decades to learn the secret of the technique. It was my older daughter who taught me. She had been taking dance for a while and came home very excited one day, eager to show me how she had mastered the perfect pirouette. She straightened her posture, started a plié and whoosh! Beaming with pride, she smiled while turning 360 degrees several times before finally losing balance. “Ooops. I...

5 Things You Need to Know About Spiritual Attack

The scene is puzzling and eye opening. The angels of the Lord came to present themselves before the Throne, and Satan came with them. He was there with a purpose and God knew it. He had been “roaming about on the earth.” He had seen Job and his devotion to Yahweh and became convinced that the only reason he worshiped God was because of how much he had been blessed. So, in Job 1:9-11, he bargained with the Almighty (pardon my interpretation): “Of course he blesses You! You put a hedge about him and his house and on all that he has, on every side. You have blessed the works of his hands, and made him the richest man in the land. Let me touch his life. Let me strip him off of every blessing you bestowed upon him. Then let’s see if he still worships you.” You know the story. God gave the green light for Lucifer’s attacks. And all hell broke loose in one of the bloodiest, darkest stories in the bible. Sometimes, spiritual attacks are hardly detectable. They may come in the form of that tempting situation where we have to make a decision… Or through words that are thrown at us by someone we love dearly. They may come through dark thoughts of hopelessness and fear… Or through bad dreams that taunt us, all of a sudden. Other times, spiritual attacks are so fearlessly evident, that we can even sense the presence of evil in our homes, jobs, or when we are around certain people. Truth is, spiritual attacks are as real as God’s blessings are. I have recently...