Healing Love

Last weekend we flew to Kansas City to spend the weekend with my oldest daughter and her family. Unfortunately they were in the full throes of flu-like symptoms and we spent the majority of our time together fighting fevers, soothing coughs and wiping runny noses. On the positive side, after a sick and sleepless Saturday night, my normally super-charged two-year old grandson was in “cuddle me” mode so we spent Sunday afternoon curled up watching Veggie Tales.

As Bob and Larry bounced across the screen entertaining the fevered toddler in my arms I began to thank God for allowing me the privilege of being there to offer healing love and comfort. There was no place in the world I would have rather been than to be lying on a basement couch with my precious patient resting against me. And as I drifted in and out of my sleep-deprived state a thought came to me. “This is how God loves me.” Arms wrapped tight, enveloping warmth, can’t-get-enough-of-me love. The very thought of it is almost startling and overwhelming to think that God desires fellowship with me at all. Why in the world would the God of the Universe want to know and love ordinary me?

But it’s true.

1 Corinthians 1:9 tells me, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God calls me into fellowship with Jesus. He desires to have a relationship with imperfect me. Loving me so completely that He was willing to give Himself up for me. So when I am sick with sin and burdened with the world’s worries I can turn to the Great Physician, fall into His forgiving arms and receive the comfort and benefit of His redeeming and healing love.

Bless the LORD O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. He heals all my diseases and lifts me up out of the pit. Thank-you LORD, for Your healing love in my life.

A Bump in the Road

On an unseasonably warm January day I headed to the park for a walk. As I strode down the wooded trail I spotted a small boy seated on a bike at the bottom of the hill. Trying to get over a hump in the road he was furiously pedaling, but going nowhere. Seeing no adult in sight I was inclined to stop and help. However, as I came closer I caught sight of his father standing on the path to the right. He had been obscured from my sight by a hedge of bushes lining the paved path.

The boy’s face was contorted in anger and frustration as his father called out to him. Walking past them I heard the dad call out to his little boy, “Do you need a boost?” I had to smile as the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Sound familiar?” How many times have I struggled to get over my own bump in the road refusing the help that was available? How much easier would it have been if I would have simply acquiesced to the Father and allowed Him space in my situation? I remember the words of Jesus when he calls to us saying,”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. I don’t have to keep spinning my wheels trying to get some place fast when my Father is willing to carry me there!

It’s so easy to fall into the thinking that I can navigate this world on my own. Why ask for help when I am perfectly capable of running my own life? However, when the incline becomes steep and my little legs cannot pump fast enough to move up the hill I become very aware of my need. I am thankful for the reminders that God puts in my life, like little boys on bicycles and patient fathers on the path. And ultimately, the knowledge that when I hit that bump in road I can look up ahead and be certain that my Father is there, patiently calling out to me, giving me the boost that I need.

Thank-you, Lord Jesus for your ever-present invitation to find rest in You. Help me to remember that You alone are the truth, the light and the way. And when I struggle sometimes to find you remind me that I need only to call out and You are there. I love you, Lord.

I See Your Face

Yesterday when I returned home from school my husband informed me that he had Facetimed with our two-year old grandson. I was immediately jealous, of course, wishing he would have waited until I had gotten home. But when he let me listen to the voice message on his phone I knew why he couldn’t wait.

First my daughter Rachel’s voice, “Pop pop, we called because Isaiah wanted to talk to you.” And then a little voice piped up, “Pop pop, I see your face?” How could he wait to respond to such a heartfelt request?

There are so many times in my life when I long to see the face of Jesus. In the heartbreak of this world, the poverty of the children around me, the violence that threatens to overshadow the good, I cry out to Jesus, “Oh Lord, let me see your face!” And I can be confident that even when I do not physically see the face of Jesus, He is there. When I call out to Him, in His great love for me, He is moved to respond.

I am also aware that in this broken world, many are crying out that same request. They are looking for answers and in need of comfort. It is in those places I must listen closely to the call of the Holy Spirit to be the face of Jesus to them. In this weary world we cannot be like Moses and look upon the face of God on the mountain top. But as believers, we can be the hands and feet and the very face of Jesus to the ones who are struggling. So when they call out in an urgent request, “Lord, I need to see Your face,” we can respond in love and care.

Lord, let me follow closely so I can be the face of Jesus among those who need you most. Help me to use every opportunity to tell the ones around me that You are the love that they seek.

This is not My Home

I received a text from my younger daughter this morning telling me she had missed her flight out of Miami and would now be spending the day in the airport waiting for a flight home. I could sympathize with her frustration. A couple of years ago I had a similar experience when I missed a flight home out of La Guardia. I had been in NYC with my two sisters visiting family and enjoying the city. As we arrived at the airport to depart for Indianapolis we encountered a problem with airport security. The airport officials had closed down the check-in line we were in and when things were finally settled our plane was already in the air.

We spent the next several minutes haggling with an airport agent trying to book a flight home only to be told there were no seats available on any outgoing flights that day. Although my younger sister was able to secure a flight, I was told by the agent that I should “just go home and come back tomorrow.” All I wanted to say was, “This is not my home!”

I wonder how many times that thought has flashed across the minds of others. Is that what Abram thought when God called him into a new land? Genesis 12:1 records that, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” What was Abram thinking when he heard that call to leave his home and family? Did he think “This is not my home?”

Or what about Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt with Holy baby in arms? They went in the night to escape the wrath of an insane king, but I can’t help but think that they were wondering about the home they had left. What blind faith it took to follow after the voice of an angel in a dream to a strange, new land. A land that was not their home.

In truth, we too are wanderers in a place that is not our home. The struggles we face remind us that our temporary home on this beautiful blue marble is an imperfect place. A place where physical and spiritual hunger abound. Our need is great, but God’s grace is far greater. And as I reside in this land of earth and sod I pray that I can listen closely to God’s call on my life. I want to hear Him when calls me to a new land.

But not only that. Lord help me be willing to travel to the foreign spaces. The places where only You can lead me. Father, help me to go willingly to where the unknown opportunities of ministry await, because I know that is the only place where I will truly be at home.

The day after Christmas

For over a month it occupied the space normally taken by our enormously overgrown umbrella plant. The places underneath it now bare; presents it had guarded, opened and gone. The gold beaded garland which had been hung with so much care a few weeks before now hangs in drooping, careless cascades where little hands have pulled at it. 

As I take the ornaments from their posts I feel an overwhelming melancholy. The house is too quiet and all that remains to be done is to put away the decorations. I wonder what is there to look forward to now? Where is the unspeakable joy of Christmas Eve? What happened to the sweet song of the angels?

On Christmas Day in the midst of all the squealing laughter and happy chatter I had paused to kneel in the corner of my kitchen to give thanks for the blessings of my family. Now only days later I am wondering where my happiness lies. But as quickly as those thoughts are formed the Spirit whispers to me in the quiet of the house. And because of the silence I can hear Him plainly.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Missing the faces of my family around me it is all too easy to slip into the nearsighted vision of the world. In reality, there is much to look forward to because God has a plan. A plan that is meant for me alone. Joy still abounds even in the days after the celebration. And it is because of the stillness I can clearly hear the continuous song of the angels. Glory to God in the highest!

I Wonder?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary lately. Wondering what was going through her tender teenaged mind. Knowing that many, if not most, of the people in her small town doubted her story. It wasn’t the first time that two people in love, pledged to be married had found themselves in this predicament. A baby on the way before the official ceremony, but the story she told, well it was ridiculous. Really it was more than that, it was completely unbelievable. After all, why would she above all other young women be chosen to carry the son of God? Was she able to hold her head high amid the gossip? Did her friends believe her story or did they nod in support only to secretly question her honesty?

In the last days of her pregnancy did she resist the urge to complain as she made the laborious journey to Bethlehem? When they arrived in the small city overflowing with people did panic begin to set in when she realized that she was going to be spending the night in a barn? And when the pain of labor overwhelmed her did she cry out for her mother as Joseph attempted to do the job for which he had not been trained? Was there ever a moment when she thought that surely God would have made a different provision for His son?

Sweet Mary, mother of God, when you held your beautiful son for the first time, did you know then what was in store for your baby Jesus? Did the barn’s beam cast a shadow of the cross over the manger where you laid him? Or in the Father’s great mercy, did God conceal this information?

Thirty years later as you stood at the foot of the cross did your mind flash back to the starlit stable where shepherds sought out the King? Did you wonder why the angels who had pronounced his birth did not fall out of heaven to rescue Him from death? Mary, most blessed among women, what a heavy burden you were called to carry. I thank you darling sister in Christ, for being faithful to God’s call; for believing the promise and yielding up your life to God’s holy plan. May I follow your example of selfless love.

Trusted Counsel

Recently I went shopping with a friend. By no stretch of the imagination am I runway savvy, but I like to think of myself as someone who at least has a decent amount of fashion sense. There are a few friends who even take me with them to help them make decisions about their clothing purchases. This time, though it was my friend who offered a bit of wisdom to me.

As I emerged from the dressing room wearing a flowing, jewel encrusted top my friend looked me right in the eye, pointed her finger and said a vehement, “No!” I smiled because I already knew I would never buy the shirt I was wearing, but cracked up at her response. “That blouse has cruise ship buffet line written all over it.”

Thank goodness for an honest friend. We all need someone who is willing to risk hurting our feelings for our ultimate benefit. A loving word of correction is worth so much more than insincere flattery. Proverbs 28:23 tells me, “Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.”

It’s difficult to be the kind of friend who risks falling out of favor by offering counsel that might not be popular. Still I thank God for the people in my life who love me enough to hold me accountable in the things that are much more important than what I wear. They are the ones who help me check my attitudes, my motives, and the condition of my heart.

Thank-you, Lord,  for trusted counsel. I praise You for the people in my life who give me encouragement, but also correction. Help me to offer the same kind of love in return.

Forgiveness

How wonderful life would be if we could resolve our conflicts as quickly as children after a playground tussle. Two little boys, one blonde the other brown-haired, sat together at lunch smiling and laughing, trading stories and cookies. Five minutes into recess they were at my side wailing accusations. Brown-hair said he had been pushed and kicked. Blonde-hair was sporting a goose egg above his eye. Best of friends only minutes earlier were now spewing out conflicting crime scene reports. I listened intently as each one told his version then put on my referee shirt and sent them to opposite ends of the time-out area to cool down. After the proper amount of “refrigeration” we came back together, talked it out, shook hands, forgave and forgot. They ran back out on to the field of play as friends again.

I have to admit that I don’t always handle conflict in my own life quite so well. I wear my referee shirt a little too often letting that innate sense of fairness get in my way. If I get hurt, it is usually because I feel I have been treated unfairly and the road to resolution is blocked by my unwillingness to let it go. I don’t stay mad; I hold onto hurt.

Recently someone I dearly love unintentionally hurt my feelings.  It took a day or two but I got over myself and forgave the slight. After all, I told myself, I’m not the kind of person who holds onto grudges. I have always taken seriously the “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against” part of the Lord’s prayer. Still as I prayed the Spirit called me into account. I may have forgiven and given up the anger part of the offense but knew deep down I was still harboring hurt. As long as I allowed that seed of hurt to remain no good fruit was going to grow. It was time for me to live out 1 Corinthians 13:5 as an example of love. Paul writes that love “ does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

It’s hard to ignore that last part- it keeps no record of wrongs. I was fooling myself to think that just because I wasn’t angry any more didn’t mean I wasn’t keeping score. The fact that I was still hurt was evidence to the contrary. The Spirit reminded me that allowing hurt to hold me hostage is a scheme of the enemy.

And so I finally gave it up – all of it this time and managed to break out of my pity-party-prison. I’m not saying it was easy – just necessary. Sometimes putting the key into that prison lock and turning till I hear the click is the hardest thing in the world to do. And yet when I finally summon up the courage to do it I find myself basking in the sunshine again wondering why in the world I waited so long. And then like the little boys in the school yard I can run back onto the playground with a free, unincumbered heart thanking my God for the gift of forgiveness.

Thank-you, Jesus for the extravagent love and forgiveness You have poured out over me. Although I am undeserving, I accept it with a grateful heart. Help me to return that love and forgiveness to the ones around me. I love you, Lord.

A Light in the Dark

Like so many other houses this time of year, strands of colored lights outline the perimeter of my home. Our lights are nothing fancy, just your basic multi-colored bulbs.(Not that I’m being competitive, but they pale in comparison to our neighbor’s yearly elaborate flashing display.) Still, they add rainbow splashes to a darkened country road.

I’ve always loved looking at the seasonal lights. Years ago our family would pour into the minivan for our annual “Christmas light tour”. Scouring the streets of our small town we kept our eyes open in search of lights. Sometimes we ventured onto the surrounding country roads and were surprised by a lonely, neighborless house thoroughly decked out in illuminating glory. It seemed a shame that all that beauty would only be seen by the few cars that happened to meander down that way.

The memory of those glowing lights in the night remind me of how God has called me as a believer to be in the world. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus tells us  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

In this season of Advent, as we wait for the birth of our King, there are those among us who are still searching for a Savior. Winding down a weary, blackened road they don’t yet know of His power or His saving grace. Every turn has led to discouragement and disappointment. What if they were to catch a glimpse of a glowing city on a hill that offers hope and encouragement? What a difference it could make to know that someone loves and cares for them.

As believers, Jesus has called us to be a light into the darkness, to light a path that leads to life. Each day is an opportunity for evangelism. Will I take my commission seriously?  Will I act upon the opportunity to let my light shine or will I blend in like another burned out bulb? Lord Jesus, help me to shine.

Tangled Strands

The other day I reached for a necklace only to find it was a mangled mess. I’m not sure how it happened since I store my longer chains in a compartmentalized tray to avoid that predicament, but there it was. I spent several seconds struggling to unbraid the strands pulling one side and then another, only to end up with an even tighter knot. I could feel the blood rising to my face as my frustration increased. Suddenly the Spirit spoke to me saying, “Anne, just one strand at a time.

As I write these words, God is teaching me to apply that same principle to my life. I am being called to a new journey, but the place I long to be seems so far away. I can see the vision in the distance, but the practical to-do list that blocks the path looks more like an endless scroll. My impatience builds and suddenly I am that necklace, tangled and pulled in a million directions, winding myself up into a bigger knot.

Remembering that God has a plan for me can be difficult for this impatient child, but the real question becomes “Do I trust Him?”  Do I trust Him with the timing of my life? Do I trust Him enough to wait?

Isaiah 40:31 speaks to me of the benefits of waiting on the LORD. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I am quickly reminded that the times when I am feeling frazzled are directly related to the times when I have not spent enough time with the Lord.

In my eagerness to get to the next place I must be careful not to miss out on the opportunities to do the work He has set before me now. Today. This very moment. The inconveniences, the interruptions, the tangled messes of my life can be the very spots where real miracles take place. He is calling me to yield to His will taking the time to unravel my life one strand, one story, one precious person at a time.

Lord,  forgive me for my impatience. Help me to remember that you have a plan for me that will be revealed in Your time. Keep calling out to my heart, Lord. I long to know You more.