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...

When Things Don’t Turn Out as Planned

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11 (NASB) “Did you do your best, honey?” “Yes, mommy, I did” she quietly said. “Did you study for the test, double-checked your answers?” “I did, mommy, I promise.” She was at the verge of tears. My heart sunk. I felt helpless and dumb. The grade was pretty unacceptable and it wasn’t her first bad grade that month. I found myself hating pre-algebra all over again. No, I didn’t think about pre-algebra when I said yes to homeschooling my children. No, sire, pre-algebra was not in my “cons” list. I actually didn’t have a “pros and cons” list at all. I simply knew that God was calling us to enroll our girls in a hybrid school, where they go to school some days and are homeschooled on others. I figured we would do just fine; after all, I was only going to serve as a facilitator and booboo kisser on homeschool days. Wrong! Was I ever wrong. I was also the one who was supposed to be able to help my babies when they didn’t know what to do. Instead, I looked at pre-algebra papers and wondered how on earth I made it through school thirty years...

The One-Mile Marker. Time to quit!?

Passage: Exodus 9 “‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” Exodus 6:6 He left the presence of the Lord, repeating the words God had given him several days before. “I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements”. He hung on to that promise as he got ready to request yet another audience with the King of Egypt. Between you and me – Moses had to be tired of it. When we get to Exodus chapter 9, Israel’s leader had seen God strike Egypt five times with miraculous, awesome wonders, and yet, Pharaoh would not waver.  And although God had told him that He himself would harden Pharaoh’s heart, there’s no doubt that pressing on was a hard thing for Moses to do. How much more, Lord? How much will it take for this hard-headed, prideful king to let your people go? How many more wonders do you have to perform until he finally believes? You know exactly what it will take to break him, and yet, you choose this slow, painful path to set us free. Why? Why? True – I may be stretching Moses’ thoughts a bit, but we know that Israel’s leader at the time had serious issues with unbelief. He questioned God’s sovereignty over and over again, while presenting his excuses to defuse the task of leading the Jews out of slavery (Exodus 4). Surely it was hard to go...

Manipulating God’s Timing

David and his men had been hiding when they heard the footsteps of a man entering the cave. Startled, he oddly shifted on the ground, careful not to make a sound that would announce his presence. He stretched his neck to look toward the sound. His heart skipped a beat. It was him, the man he admired and loved, yet, his enemy. The very one who sent David fleeing for his life into the wilderness was entering his hiding place. It didn’t take long for David to realize that Saul had not entered the cave to capture him. He was just looking for a private place to relieve himself. David was armed and had a small army of supporters who would have loved nothing better than to vindicate their leader. Saul was unprepared and unsuspecting. David had the perfect opportunity to seek vengeance for the years robbed from him, as God’s chosen king had to flee for his life and live like a criminal in the wilderness of Engedi. “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” This story is told on 1 Samuel 24, and my vivid imagination cannot help but ponder David’s dilemma in the cave: “I can end Saul’s life… and take the crown that is rightfully mine. I can go live a normal life again. I can finally claim the throne… Or I can let him go.” You know the story. David cuts off the edge of Saul’s robe… and spares his life. Later on, he even...

Decision Time: Is God Still On the Throne?

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34 It had been a long time since I heard God speak in such a clear, unmistakable way. It took me by surprise. Of all things He could have used to give me His message, He chose a bird. A plain, small backyard sparrow delivered a message that I would never forget. It was 2002 and I was at home with a small baby and an unemployed husband. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001, my husband’s job was eliminated only three months after the birth of our firstborn. Our savings were draining fast and I was afraid. I knelt down by the window of our family room and cried out to God. For the first time since my husband lost his job, I was honest in my prayer: “I’m scared.” “How are we going to pay for the mortgage?” Was God aware of the price of diapers and baby formula? As I finished “informing” Almighty God of all that was going on in our lives and our imminent needs, I felt a strong need to be quiet and wait for Him to speak: “Please talk to me, Father! I need to hear your voice.”  As silence filled the room and several moments passed by, I was about to give up when I heard it: “Chirp!” I looked up and there was the sparrow, sitting on the lounge chair outside my window. It seemed to be looking straight at me. “Look at the birds of the...