He is Enough

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 36:7

I so long for the simpler, easier days.  I long for the days when my house didn’t need repairing.  I long for the days when the floors were easier to keep clean (though we love them all, we had fewer pets).  I long for the days before my youngest son went to live with his father in another country.  I long for the days when I was debt-free.

Those days were good.  After the emotional rollercoaster of divorce and the slow but steady re-building of our lives, it was good…peaceful…and as I clung to the Lord, our relationship grew deeper and sweeter.

I look around me now, still in the midst of a house renovation that seems to be taking forever, missing my son more than I ever thought possible, and I have to wonder…what happened to my peace, and my joy, and my contentment?  When did they leave, and how had I not noticed their absence before?

Pondering this, I cry out to the Lord, “When did You stop being enough?”

The answer comes swiftly.  It was when my focus shifted from Him to my circumstances.

Ouch.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Peter went from walking on the water…walking on the water…to looking at his surroundings.  He saw Jesus, Yeshua, walking on the water, and he did the same…until he looked away, and his eyes told him that what he was doing wasn’t possible under those conditions.

Did you catch what happened next?  When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began sinking, and when he called out for help, Jesus immediately reached out for him.  Immediately.

Isn’t that so reassuring?  What He did for Peter, He will surely do for us.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

The Lord fills our lives with good things.  Family, friends, pets, jobs, and homes are good.  We enjoy these gifts, and thank Him for them. If we’re not careful, though, we can allow them to become idols without even realizing it.

You don’t think that can happen?  I didn’t, either, until the word divorce came up and I was suddenly faced with the possibility of separation from my youngest child.  The Lord was so gracious to me.  He showed me my heart, and it wasn’t pretty, even though it already belonged to Him.  I had to give my son completely to the Lord, even if it meant separation from him.  It wasn’t easy, and I cried many tears, but I felt such freedom afterwards, and peace like I had never known before.  In His mercy and kindness, the Lord allowed my son to live with me for the next five years.

When we allow anything to take the place of our Savior, when we hold on to anything tighter than we hold on to Him, we err.

The Lord allows it, too.  He allows us to fret and fuss and become miserable until one day we reach the end of ourselves and know we cannot continue down this path any longer.  And so we repent.  We return to the lover of our souls, no matter what we have to let go of in the process.  His peace, joy, and contentment then return.

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131:2

Is there anything you’re holding onto tighter than you should?  Is your focus on your surroundings or someone other than the Lord?  May I encourage you to let it go, and readjust your focus?

Jesus, Yeshua, is enough.  He is more than enough.  He is truly all we need, and in the end, our relationship with Him is what will matter.  Truly.  Call out to Him, and He will come, immediately, and stretch out His hand to you and rescue you.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Lord, thank You for Your patience with us.  Please keep a tight grip on us so that we won’t wander, but when we do, thank You for bringing us back and reminding us how deeply loved we are, and how freely You forgive us when we ask.  Help us to let go of the things that hinder us, or keep us from fully following You.  Help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You, for You are more than enough.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

What a Difference a Day Makes

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

One night awhile back, I had gone to bed hot and irritated.  I live in Florida, and our air conditioning had been having issues for weeks.  After several service calls, the issue had still not been resolved.

There is a balcony off of my second floor bedroom, and tall palm trees in my backyard block the view of the neighbors.  As I prepared for bed, I opened the balcony door, hoping for a breeze to help the ceiling fan cool me.

For the first time in weeks, I slept.  No outside noises woke me during the night, and the Lord sent a breeze to cool me.  I woke well ahead of the alarm I had set.  In the darkness, I contemplated going back to sleep, but instead decided to just have a time of quiet reflection.

I watched as the darkness gave way to light, and watched the breeze blow gently through the palm leaves.  There were still no outside noises – no slamming doors, no vehicles starting, no barking dogs, no voices shouting.  It was peaceful.  It was perfection.

So the LORD said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 2 Kings 19:11-12

It took me back to my younger days, and my very first apartment.  Money was very tight – so tight that I often ate what I called poor man’s pizza, which was nothing more than toast with spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese.  To save money, I often slept with the windows open.  I lived on the third floor, and palm trees blocked the view of the neighboring apartment buildings and the shopping center across the street.

I was a new believer in Yeshua (Jesus), and I greeted every morning with the joyful expectation of spending time with Him.  I devoured the Word of God.  All of my free time was spent studying, praying, and listening to songs about Him.  He filled my life.  He filled me.

Seasons come and go.  Life gets busy, and sometimes the important things are relegated to a lower place in our lives.  It isn’t intentional, and sometimes isn’t even apparent until we have a nostalgic moment, and then we long for the simpler times.  We quiet ourselves, and the Lord whispers that if we slow down and spend time with Him, today can be that way, too.

He reminds us that with all of the distractions of this life, He is peace.  He is hope.  He is there.

What a difference a day makes.

Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. Lamentations 3:22-24

 

Not Abandoned

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take care of me.  Psalm 27:10

A couple of weeks ago I had an awful dream.  Long after waking, I was still filled with the emotions that I had experienced while dreaming.  The effects lasted a couple of days, I’m sorry to admit.

In my dream, my beloved and I were having a mountaintop experience, literally.  It was a dream come true…or at least it should have been.  Upon arriving at the destination, however, things took a different turn.  There were people everywhere, talking and laughing, and we became separated – twice!  To make matters even worse, when I talked with him later (still in the dream), he admitted that he hadn’t even realized that I wasn’t with him the second time we were separated!

To say the dream was on my mind that day would be an understatement.  I knew it was important, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason it was staying with me and bothered me so much.  It wasn’t until a few days later that the Lord showed me what was going on in my heart.  One dream, two revelations.

Revelation #1:  The Lord showed me that I’ve done the same thing my beloved did, but on an even greater scale.  How many times have I gone about my day, got busy and forgot about Him?  Made decisions, made plans, spent time with family or friends, and not included Him?  He longs to be included in everything we experience.  He is our constant companion, the lover of our souls!

Revelation #2:  I’ve written before about how I lived with fear for most of my life, and it was such a part of me that I didn’t even recognize it.  Even as a Christian, it was with me, until the Lord took it away.  You can read about it here if you’re interested.  He healed me from feelings of rejection, too, but that’s a story for another day.  Well, I also lived with something else, and I didn’t recognize that, either!  This thing was behind many of my bad decisions.  It clouded my perception and judgment and negatively affected every relationship I’ve ever had.  This thing, this chain, kept me bound to a poor self image that no amount of compliments, encouragement, or personal accomplishments could erase.  The chain that bound me was a feeling of abandonment.

I was blown away by the revelation.  I grew up in what would be considered a fairly stable home with both of my parents, stable in that life was pretty predictable.  I went to school, did what was expected of me, and started earning money as soon as I was old enough to babysit.  I didn’t physically lack for anything.  I later married, and divorced, but my ex-husband and I remained on good speaking terms, so I still didn’t think I had any reason to feel abandoned.

Over the course of a few days after that dream, though, the Lord began showing me things that had happened early in my childhood and throughout my life, things long ago forgotten, that left me feeling very unimportant, unloved, and very much alone.  Kind of abandoned.

When I was a child, a common saying was that children were to be seen and not heard.  Talking about feelings just wasn’t done, so I kept them all inside, where they piled up but were never addressed.  They just became a part of me.  Hurts covered with invisible bandaids.  And to be fair, many parents at that time were raised the same way, so they didn’t talk about feelings, either.  I don’t believe they knew what to do with their own feelings, so they didn’t how to reach out to their children.  There are always exceptions, though, and if you were raised in a home where there was open communication, you were blessed.

I am learning, though, that the Lord doesn’t like bandaids.  He prefers to remove them so that He can do a deep, thorough cleaning so that true healing can begin.  And begin it does.

It doesn’t always feel good.  We like our bandaids.  We like to keep the pain buried so we don’t have to think about it or keep experiencing it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But that isn’t His way.  He wants us to be whole, to be able to give and receive love, and to experience life fully.  He wants us to experience the abundant life that He died to give us.  He died, but He didn’t stay dead.  He rose from the dead, and in so doing, raises us from the dead, too.

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Isaiah 49:15

Here’s the thing.  I didn’t even know I had a bandaid, or that I had these feelings of abandonment.  It was news to me.  He brought it out in the open, though, in His gentle way, and healed that part of me.  With every healing, I find that I can hold my head a little higher, and because I no longer view things through that particular filter, I am able to see things a little more clearly.  I am learning that things are not always my fault, and that sometimes people hurt us because they are hurt, too.  As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.  True, and I am truly sorry for those I have hurt because I was hurt.

But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.  Malachi 4:2

I know there is more there that He wants to heal, and I am confident that our great Physician will do so with the utmost care and gentleness, in His timing, as I am able to bear it.

The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed.  Luke 4:18

Jesus said that He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.  I have been brokenhearted, and I have been held captive by the pain of the past.  If you have, too, I encourage you to ask Jesus to remove the bandaids in your own life, and let the deep cleaning begin.  I can’t promise it will be easy, but it will be worth it.

He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.  Isaiah 40:11

About a week after the Lord dealt with my feelings of abandonment, one of my very favorite writers, Jamie Rohrbaugh of From His Presence began a series on that very subject.  Here is a link to the first article in the series:  http://www.fromhispresence.com/4-signs-you-have-a-stronghold-of-rejection-and-abandonment/.  I can’t tell you how much I have learned from her posts, and how much the Lord has used her in my life.  She is a tremendous blessing to me, and I believe she will be to you as well.

A Reason to Rejoice

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Earlier this week, I found myself in a small engine repair shop, hoping for a low repair estimate for my lawnmower.  Lawnmowers, generators and other small equipment filled the two bay units of the shop, as well as the outdoor section behind the building.  Alas, my lawnmower was beyond repair.

During my conversation with the owner, I asked if he had any inexpensive used lawnmowers for sale.  One had come in recently, he said, but he wasn’t sure of the condition.  He brought it to me, tinkered with it a little bit and said that it appeared to be fine, but that he would do a complete tune up on it if I was interested, and would have it ready the following day.  Throughout our conversation, the owner’s assistant busily went about his tasks, singing and humming as he worked.  I left the shop with plans to return the next day.

When I returned the following day, the tune up was complete, but some of the tires still needed to be replaced.  The owner walked me through the shop to the outside area behind the building to see the lawnmower, where he gave his assistant instructions regarding the mower.  I found a spot to wait while the repairs were completed.

The assistant was cheerfully working as before, quietly singing and humming in the hot sun.  When he noticed that I was standing in the sun, he kindly told me that I could wait under the shade tent that was covering some of the equipment if I wanted some shade.  I smiled, thanked him, and stood in the shade while he continued working.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

The assistant finished up the job he was doing, walked over to the lawnmower I was purchasing, and then bent over to examine one of the rear tires.  And that’s when I noticed his shoes.  He was wearing an old pair of tennis shoes, held together with black duct tape.  The tops of both shoes had come apart from the soles, and his toes were visible.  I stood in wonder as I gazed at this man.  Here he was, happily working in the sun, concerned for my comfort, singing, smiling, and wearing duct taped shoes.

When he finished, I could barely speak, but I managed to thank him, and asked permission to walk back through the bay to the front of the store so that I could pay. He agreed, after gently cautioning me to be very careful so as not to hurt myself.  I paid, and commented to the owner that his assistant was a very cheerful man. He agreed, and told me that the man has a big heart – that he feeds and cares for approximately 40 cats in the area between his home and workplace.

I have been thinking of this unselfish, compassionate man and his shoes ever since.

I don’t know his story, but I saw his heart.  This compassionate man needed shoes, but he did without in order to feed those cats.  He considers their needs above his own.  That just floors me.

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Luke 21:1-4

We live in a culture where the norm is to want the latest and greatest technology, the newer cars, the larger homes, designer clothing and everything else that catches our eye…everything that we’re told we need to be happy.  We love our creature comforts.  But how many of us would give up what we would consider a need to provide for someone else?  What are we willing to do without, and are we willing to do it when there is no possible hope of repayment?  When there is no one there to see it?

What would Jesus do?  It’s not just a phrase on a bracelet or t-shirt, it’s a real question.  What would Jesus do?

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:34-40

I don’t think we set out to be self-absorbed, selfish or ungrateful people.  I think sometimes life just happens, and we trudge through it, hoping for the best, expecting the worst, and treating ourselves along the way to bring a temporary measure of satisfaction to what can sometimes seem like a very unsatisfying existence.  We’re told that this life is all there is, so we might as well get the most out of it that we can, because you only go around once, you know.  We’re told that if there’s a God at all, He just wants us to be happy.  But what happens when your idea of happy conflicts with my idea of happy?  Whose happy wins?

Throughout my life, I have heard people say that no matter what happens, we should thank God for it.  I don’t understand that thinking.  Thank You, God, for this sickness?  Thank You, God, that I lost my job?  Thank You, God, that my family is in disarray?  No!  Emphatically NO!

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

We can lose jobs, homes, even people, but that verse doesn’t mean that it’s good, that we should give thanks for it.  The meaning has been twisted.  The verse says to give thanks IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances.  His will is that we be thankful in the midst of hardship, pain and suffering.  We can be thankful that He is working all things together for our good.  All things aren’t good, but all things work together for our good.

“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You.” Psalm 33:20-22

If you are going through a tough time, or find yourself being less than compassionate with those around you, may I encourage you to change your focus?  We can choose to focus on the Savior who gives us life.  We can choose to focus on others instead of ourselves.  We can step out of our comfort zones and be the answer to someone’s prayer.

Reasons to be thankful are all around us if we just open our eyes.  Sometimes the Lord will even bring people across our path with duct taped shoes to remind us of this.

God our Father, Jesus our Savior, Holy Spirit our Comforter – they are all the reason we need to rejoice.

“And Mary said, ‘My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.’”  Luke 1:46-55