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

Where the Wind Blows

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.  He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; who makes lightnings for the rain, who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.” Psalm 135:6-7

A few days before Veteran’s Day, I was driving in an area where American flags were displayed on utility poles up and down the main street.  The city does this every year for this holiday as well as Independence Day.  It’s a beautiful sight, and always brings a smile to my face.

On this particular day, while stopped at a red light, I was looking at the flags and noticed something interesting.  Some of the flags were waving proudly, while others hung there limp.  Although the flags were all on the same street, some were being moved by the wind, and some were not.  It had nothing to do with the flags, but everything to do with the wind.

“He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.”  Psalm 147:18

We are the same way. When we are being filled and led by the Spirit, we move where the wind of the Spirit blows us.  Some will move with fierce intensity, while others will have a slower, gentler motion.  Some may not appear to be moving at all.  The Lord uses just the right amount of wind to move us into different seasons of life, and to new places within a season.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  It won’t look the same for any two of us. As long as we’re willing to be moved, we’re being used by the Lord, and the Kingdom of God advances.

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

There have been many times where it felt like I was barely hanging in there.  No visible wind, just hot, stale air.  It’s not something I enjoy, but I believe it is necessary.  Sometimes we are in a time of waiting for the Lord to do in the background what we can’t see with our eyes, and sometimes we simply need to rest.  And then God, at just the right time, breathes on us and sets us in motion again.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

Are you feeling stagnant?  Ready for a new season?  I know the Lord hears when we ask Him to breathe new life into us.  I believe He delights in it!

Sometimes a new season can seem scary.  There is so much unknown to us.  We want to see the whole staircase, but the Lord only gives us enough light for the step we’re on.  Then, at the time of His choosing, He shines the light on the next step.

“When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’  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?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.  And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Matthew 14:26-33

I’m so struck by Peter’s courage to get out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus.  He wanted to be with Jesus!  He wanted to do the miraculous!  And he did!  Then he took his eyes off of Jesus, and the next thing he knew, he was sinking.  As soon as he called out to the Lord, the Lord took hold of him and brought him to safety.

Are you afraid?  Afraid that if you step out of the boat, you’ll sink?  I’ve been there, too.  If you call out the Jesus, though, He will rescue you, just as He rescued Peter.  He loves you dearly, and His hands are outstretched toward you.  He is so faithful.  I have learned that it’s better to walk in the midst of a storm with Jesus than remain safely in the boat without Him.

I want to be bold like Peter.  I want to walk on the water with Jesus.  I want the Spirit to blow so strongly in my life that no one can look at me without seeing Jesus and His mighty power at work in me.  Take a step of faith.  Allow the wind of the Spirit to move you out of the boat and onto the path that God planned for you before you were even born.  His plans are good, because He is good.

He raised the dead to life.  He healed the brokenhearted and set the captives free.  He breathed new life into Israel.  He will certainly do the same for us.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.  He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.  He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know.’  Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”  ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.”’ So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.  Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.’”’  So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.”  ‘Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,’ declares the Lord.’”’  Ezekiel 37:1-14

People of Courage

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Fear. It can steal our sleep, our health, keep us in jobs that we’re not suited for or unhappy in, make us stagnant, and it can bring discord into a family. It can keep us from enjoying the life that God has given us. As Jason Gray, one of my favorite musicians, sings, “There’s no thief like fear.” Do you know that you don’t have to live in fear? I didn’t.

Growing up, and throughout nearly all of my life, fear was a constant companion. It was all I had ever known…and because it was such a part of me, I not only didn’t see it for what it was, but I didn’t know that I could be free from it.

There was nothing traumatic in my life responsible for the fear I felt, as far as I’ve been able to determine. I wish it were that way for everyone that experiences it. It began as shyness, but it grew to eventually impact every area of my life.

Then one day, while sitting in church, the Lord showed me something. God’s Word says over and over not to fear. I read somewhere that the Bible says not to fear 365 times, once for each day of the year. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that we’re commanded to not fear. So…if it’s a command, then that means we have a choice, right? We can choose to fear, or we can choose not to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Every day we are bombarded with messages designed to strike fear in our hearts. Through social media, television, radio, the newspaper, and magazines in the check-out stand, our minds are inundated with these messages. The enemy of our souls uses fear to bring disunity to our homes, our cities, and our country. But there is a better way.

We have a Bible filled with God’s promises. What helps me is refusing to be afraid and choosing to speak those promises out loud. “Your Word says that You will never leave me nor forsake me, so I will not be afraid.” Or “Your Word says that I am clothed with the armor of God, so I will not be afraid.” You get the picture. I have noticed that the more I proclaim God’s Word aloud, the less often fear even tries to take over. I no longer walk in fear, and you don’t have to, either. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear, and the more we spend time in the presence of God, the more we are filled with His love for others, the more fear loses its hold.

One of the main characters in the movie Courageous said, “Where are you men of courage?” But I also have to ask, where are you women of courage? Although the movie was about fathers accepting their God-given roles and responsibilities, women have vital roles to play as well. When we live in fear, and make our decisions based on fear, everything suffers, and our priorities get mixed up. Not only are our spiritual lives affected, but our families suffer and sometimes fall apart, and other things in our lives unravel in the process.

It is never too late to break the fear cycle. We can begin today, knowing that the Lord is faithful, that He came to heal the brokenhearted, that He can take all of our past mistakes and work everything together for good – He can turn ugliness into something beautiful. My favorite words in the song Courageous are, “The only way we’ll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands.” Amen. May we come to Jesus and let go of our fear, and instead, find forgiveness, renewal, strength, restoration and peace. May He make us people of courage.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Kokabee and Hurricane Matthew

“But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer nor His lovingkindness from me.”  Psalm 66:19-20

One day, a few months ago, I was sitting at my desk when I suddenly felt overcome with exhaustion. Now, I’m no energizer bunny, but this was very unusual for me. I must have closed my eyes, because the next thing I knew, I dreamed of a good friend of mine, a woman with a missionary heart, standing before me. She said, “Kokabee, true love.” That was it. I was jolted awake, wondering who or what a kokabee was.

It didn’t take long to discover that Omid Kokabee was an Iranian physicist who was in jail for refusing to cooperate with officials in a nuclear military program in Iran. He had studied in the United States and Spain, and traveled home to visit. He was taken into custody when attempting to return to the U.S.

Kokabee, true love. He was unwilling to use his knowledge to harm others. Instead, he was willing to give up his freedom, give up his life, for people who may never know of, much less thank him for, his sacrifice. Sounds kind of like Jesus, doesn’t it?

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14

I don’t know if he’s a believer, but we have been praying for his salvation and his freedom. If reports are to be believed, I read today that he was scheduled to be released on parole last August.

This week, Hurricane Matthew arrived off the coast of Florida, where I live. Many people were praying that this storm would not come ashore. My church alone had three prayer meetings, and I know that other churches were praying up and down the coast and in other states as well.

The projected path, within the cone, wobbled to and fro on either side of Lake Okeechobee.  I noticed that every time we had a prayer meeting, the blue cone would move to the east, but before long, it would drift back over to the west. It really seemed that it was a battle, all up and down the coast, like a great arm wrestling match.

I really believe that it was the prayers of the saints, and the Lord’s answer to those prayers, that kept the storm off land. Christians with shields raised in battle lined the coast. Then I came across these verses, in a way that only the Lord could arrange:

“Let them give glory to the Lord and declare His praise in the coastlands. The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.” Isaiah 42:12-13

All glory, honor and praise to You, God, for delivering Your people! The Lord is good, and kind, and merciful, even when He doesn’t answer the way that we hope.

It reminded me of Kokabee. He was imprisoned for refusing to use his knowledge to harm people, many of whom would never know or thank him for his sacrifice. And how many are there here in Florida and along the east coast who are going about their business, never realizing that the prayers of the saints, and God’s answer to those prayers, have kept them safe?

We are called to stand in the gap, to be repairers of the breach. If we don’t do it, who will? We were put here for such a time as this. Let us not grow weak, let us not cease to pray for our country to turn to Him. Let us pray at all times, praying for those in authority, praying for racial unity, praying for unity within the church. Let us not grow weary in well doing. And above all, let us love well. They will know that we are His disciples when we have love for one another. Can we truly love if we’re not even willing to pray? May the love of God shine brightly in and through us as we serve one another in love.