God’s Time

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.  Ecclesiastes 2:1

Do you struggle with God’s timing?  Do you ask Him why He didn’t do this for you or that when you wanted it done?  Perhaps, your why involves the healing of someone dear to you who is sick, in the hospital.  Or, may be, it’s saving a loved one that was taken early in life.  It could possibly be some trial you are suffering – a divorce, finances, job loss.

Whatever the affair on this earth, God has it all planned out.  He purposefully does not let our meek little minds know His plans for us, present and future.  But we can rest assured that His plans are better than ours.  Our desires and our timing for events in our lives will not produce the fruit of His desires and timing.  In Jeremiah 29:11, He tells us “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you.  Plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

Years ago, I remember interviewing for a position that would have been a promotion for me.  I didn’t get the job.  I was very upset because I felt I was the most qualified candidate for the position.  “Why?”  Later, my why was answered.  Another opportunity came up that was similar in nature.  This time I got the job and today, 10 years later, I am still in that role.  When I look back at the person who got the other position, he was unhappy.  The level of stress was astronomical.  The opportunity I fell into fit my family-life balance perfectly with minimal stress.  I realized that the first position that I wanted and was disappointed in not getting was not God’s timing for me to be promoted to a leader.  His timing was 2 years later, because He knew what I needed and what I didn’t to be successful not only in my career but in my family life.

I still today find it hard to let go and trust God even after seeing so many events in my life that God’s plan worked much better than mine.  Why is it hard for us to trust, to place our life, present and future, in God’s hands?  Our human nature fears the unknown, the lack of control in situation.  We were made to be logical thinkers, to solve problems and so our instinct is to logically put together the pieces of the puzzle of our present and future in our affairs and ask God to deliver them as we see is most logical.  When our plan isn’t delivered when we want as we want, then we question God – “Why have you not answered my prayer?”  Perhaps that loved one that died early, would have suffered greatly and because God loves so greatly spared him/her by bringing them peace in a better place.  Perhaps, the trial you are suffering is refining and purifying you into something that is more valuable than any amount of gold.

We were created to be in union with God, to trust His ways and desire a relationship with Him and let Him love on us in all circumstances.  In the depths of our pain, He wants to hold us and draw us closer to Him.  At the peak of our joy, He wants to dance with us and rejoice with us.  He wants a trusting friendship with us and wants us to rest in His arms, knowing that He sees the big picture and His plans are greater.  Trust that “there is an appointed time for everything” and that God does have “plans for your welfare and not for woe”.  God has the wide lens, not us.

Freedom

Imagine you are walking along the beach.  The sand is sliding in and out of your toes as the ocean brushes over your feet ever so gently.  The sun begins to rise on the horizon.  The sky is painted in an array of orange and pink hues.  The view is breathtaking.  As you breathe in the fresh air, you smell the newness of the day that has been placed before you.  As you continue to peer across the ocean embracing all the beauty before your eyes, a seagull flies nearby, sweeping near the ocean surface.   What a delight as you imagine the freedom he has in the open sky.  Just as you imagine soaring free in the beautiful skies, the wind blows across your face and through your hair and you feel an immense freedom.  Peace sweeps through your entire body and you know deep within that there is a presence within you whispering “I am within you and will never leave you”.  At this moment, you experience the greatest freedom from the things that bound you in the world around you.  You want to stay in this place.  You soak up all that you can to experience it as long as you can, walking freely along the beach shore engaging all your senses.  The world feels as though it has stood still and it is just you, the beach and all that has been placed before you in the peaceful scenario by the one who has loved you from the beginning, your first love who “formed [your] inmost  being and knit [you] in [your] mother’s womb,” Psalm 139:13.

In this moment God meets you where you are.   He meets you in this pivotal moment of your life as you embrace all he has laid before you.  Do you feel His encounter?  Have you wondered where he has been lately?  Have you been spiritually starved, caught up in the busyness of life?  Are you restless and feel like you never have a chance to sit down, let alone pray?  Or may be you just feel there is more to your life, more to you, God is calling you but you don’t know what for?  Or perhaps you are afraid to be still and listen, afraid of what you may hear?  May be you are afraid to surrender control of the things in your life, afraid of the unknown?  Whatever it may be, in this moment when you let go and let His presence sweep you into the solitude of you and Him, feel the freedom of knowing He is with you as He guides your hands, feet, eyes, ears, and thoughts.

So often we feel stuck in the mundane of life.  We check the boxes on our to do lists and even the boxes in our faith.  One day, we wake up and feel something is missing in our life.

Each of us was born with a desire, a desire for God.  We fill this desire or longing, with money, sex, status, material things, etc.  There is always something missing, something more.  That something more is God.  He is the only one that can fully satisfy that desire.  He created us to desire a relationship with Him.  If we never establish it and try to fill this desire with other stuff, we will never be full, something will always be missing.

Faith Can Move Mountains

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Everyone has a story, some are hidden and some uncovered, some are joyful and some full of sadness. Most stories are filled with sprinkles of all. At the center of all these stories is God. With trust in God, there is no fear and the sadness is joyful. With trust, the story is not hidden but offered. In Matthew 17, Jesus tells His disciples if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they can move mountains. I told this to my daughter one day and in her logical mind, she could not connect faith in God to be enough to move a mountain. Most of us struggle with the logical reasoning of human strength that would take to move a mountain. We would have to be Superman to do this. But the reality is that it’s not our human nature, it’s our faith that God can do it for us.

I’ve seen Him move mountains in my life as my faith began as a tiny mustard seed. In the depths of despair, I had little faith that grew into a lot of faith when a mountain was moved before my very eyes. This mountain was not made of rock although it felt as heavy as a rock as long as I carried it. This mountain consisted of fear, of pain, of helplessness, of shame, and of feelings of not being loved. One day the little faith I had, the small amount of hope moved it out of my way so that I could fulfill God’s journey in my life, so that joy could feel each ounce of that mountain and freedom that dwells in trust could prevail. I won’t say that little bits of this mountain doesn’t show up once in a while, like little hills or speed bumps, but God still does not disappoint and I can still move the hills and the speed bumps with the little seed of trust in the Divine Providence of my Heavenly Father. Try it, move your mountain with the faith and trust you have or acquire a small amount to move that mountain stopping you from being the “best version of yourself”, the person God created you to be.

Forgiveness

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How do we forgive?  Is there a magic formula to forgiveness?  Why is it harder to forgive sometimes than others?  Is there a time factor in this magic formula?

I was asked not too long ago, how did I forgive a person in my life who brought so much pain and suffering.  My first inclination was, “Mmm, I’m not quite sure.  It just happened some how.”  I’ve had some time to reflect on it a bit recently.

The more I ask myself about forgiveness, I can only come to one conclusion – LOVE.  It’s love in 2 dimensions.  The first dimension of this love is the love that God poured out on the cross, His Divine Mercy.  The second is accepting that love and mercy that He freely gives us, knowing that we don’t deserve it but He still offers it.  I think once you have knowledge of that love and receive it in it’s entirety, you can offer that love and mercy to anyone through forgiveness.  It doesn’t remove the event or circumstance but it does offer healing of the wound(s).  Since we are not perfect, it may take longer and be harder in different circumstances.  But as long as we have knowledge of God’s love and mercy and accept it, forgiveness is possible in any circumstance.

In the book, “Unbound”, the author talks about the parable where the king cancels the servants debt after he begs him to be merciful.  Later the servant punishes another servant who owes him a debt for not being able to pay it, instead of showing mercy as the king showed him.  What is brought to light by Jesus through this parable is that for us to be merciful to others, to forgive others, we must first receive that mercy.  In the parable, the first servant truly did not receive that mercy and was not able to provide mercy to the other servant who owed him money.

In order to receive the mercy God gives us, we must receive His love, the love He offered us through salvation on the cross.  This has to come through a relationship with God, through Christ.  If we don’t have a relationship with Him, receiving this love and mercy is impossible.  It’s one thing to know Him, to read the Bible and walk the walk but to have an intimate relationship is a different level that goes deeper within our hearts.  It opens our hearts to receive and pour out love.  That’s how we forgive others.

The Companion

When I walked in the desert, I felt alone.  My heart was distant, anxious and alone.  I thirst but was not satisfied.  I longed for something more but could not find it.  My mind searched as my feet shifted the grains of sand beneath them.  The desert winds tossed me here and there as the sand whirled around me and I could not see.  I was blinded by all that was swirling around me until I caught a glimmer of movement.  “Please rescue me from this storm” I yelled.  “I can’t breathe any longer.”  I began to focus on this movement beyond the whirlwind around me that was within my reach.  Suddenly, the winds calmed and there You were, my constant Companion, my Refuge.

When I walked along the river alone and distracted.  I hungered for something but could not find satisfaction from the fruits along the path.  I longed for more and searched here and there with no gratification.  My mind wandered into the past as I stumbled and fell.  Into the raging river, my body was swept away.  I was tossed and turned beneath the water’s furious current.  From beneath the water surface I could see a hand reaching down.  I yelled, “Help me. I’m drowning.”  As I focused on this hand above me, I was pulled from the raging waters and there You were, my constant Companion and Refuge.

A volcano is where I ventured to dwell in my pain and suffering.  My fears surrounded me and overcame me as I ventured alone.  When I approached it’s base, it began to erupt.  The lava surrounded me, trapping me as the heat around me intensified.  Nearby I could see a figure.  As I looked upon it, I began to yell, “Help me, please.  Release me from this fire.  Please don’t let it consume me.”  As I focused on this figure, I was lifted from the fiery lava and there You were, my constant Companion and Refuge.

As I dwell in the desert, drown in the raging river or am consumed by the fiery heat of a volcano, You are my Companion, opening your arms with love and telling me I’m never alone.  Your love and companionship is constant.  It is I who ventures off, leaving You, ignoring You.  When I place my focus on You, “Through rivers, [I] shall not be swept away.  When [I] walk through fire, [I] shall not be burned, nor will flames consume [me].”

We are never alone when we welcome Jesus to be our Companion and Refuge.  Your anxieties, distractions, pain and sufferings, although present are second to His presence.  He rescues you and provides all that you are longing for – His loving presence.

Community

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ…  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share in its joy.  1 Corinthians 12:12,26

When you read these verses, what does it mean to you?  How do you view your Christian community?  Is it the body of Christ, made up of many parts, many people that work together to serve others, that suffer together, that rejoice together?

We live in a culture that tends to highlight all the ugly in our communities, in our world.  Many people may believe that the body of Christ is non existence, the community is broken and everyone is in it for himself.

When Christ is the heartbeat of the community, the parts of that community make up one body and do serve others, suffer together, and rejoice together.  Love overflows from each individual into the other, connected by the blood flow from the heart of Christ.  In order to thrive, the parts of the community must each be life giving to one another.  If the arm is broken, the rest of the body compensates to help heal the brokenness.  So does the parts of the community.   If one individual is hurting financially, medically, emotionally, the rest of the community pours out love in various ways to heal the individual who is hurting.

Several months ago, I found myself in the ER facing an unexpected surgery.  Being a single mom and not having any family around, I was full of anxieties.  “What was I going to do?  How was I going to take care of everything?  This can’t happen to me.”   Little did I know, I was a part of the body of Christ.  I had reached out to a few new sisters in Christ I had recently met asking for prayer.

I lay in a room in the ER crying because I had no control of what was happening and couldn’t take care of the things I was responsible for.   As I lay there, there was a knock on the door to my room.  I thought it was just the nurse.  As the door open, one of my new sisters, peaked her head through the door.  At that moment, I felt a release of the anxiety that had been holding on to me.  She sat with me and comforted me until I was called to surgery.  After surgery, several of my new sisters visited me in the hospital, bringing moments of joy and laughter.  I was flooded with phone calls and texts asking me what I would need when I was released from the hospital.  Anytime I mentioned a concern or worry, within minutes it was already taken care of.  They tended to my needs in the hospital, departing the hospital and at home.  Before I knew it, I had my aftercare taken care of by two of my beautiful sisters that were retired nurses, food to last for a week and my weekly groceries taken care of.  I was appalled with emotions of the love that these ladies in my church community poured out on me.  They, as the various parts of Christ’s body, were an extension of my suffering as they nurtured my needs.  Their strength compensated for my weakness.  Today, I find myself in a similar situation, and yet again am overwhelmed with love from the support and care of my church family, my beautiful sisters in Christ.

These beautiful ladies, my community of sisters in Christ are one of the examples of what St. Paul meant in his letter to the Corinthians when he told them they were the parts of the body of Christ.  As Christians and a community, we are called to use our talents to support one another.  We are called to suffer when one suffers and aid in their suffering.  We are called to rejoice when one is honored.  We are each given different gifts, strengths and weaknesses, to use together to make up the unity of the community, the one body of Christ.  This is the will of our Heavenly Father as He has intricately placed each of us in our community to aid as sisters and brothers, part by part, as one body.

A Walk On The Seashore

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Have you walked along the beach lately?  Have you ever taken delight in combing the beach for seashells or perhaps other interesting things?  I remember when I was a kid, we lived on a naval base in Florida.  We visited the beaches often.  I recall searching for sand dollars, seashells and shark teeth.  I also recall being stung by a jellyfish.  When we walk along the seashore there is no telling what we may discover as we intentionally search the sand below our feet.

Today, walk along the seashore with me.  Delight in the quietness around you as you hear the crashing waves of the ocean and feel the coolness of the water wash over your feet.  Notice the water turning over the sand as it washes ashore.  Do you see anything below?  Does anything stand out before you?

Now look at your day, your week, the footprints that are trailing behind you in the sand.  Has anything significant happened?  Let your thoughts turn over the events of the day or week, searching for those feelings that have been the strongest in your day or week.  Pause for a moment and listen to those feelings, what are they telling you about your day or week.  Wash the sand away from them and discover the gem of those feelings.  Are they feelings of joy and happiness or are they feelings of anger and resentment.  Perhaps they are feelings of peace or regrets.  Whatever they may be, search them deeper, uncover what God may be revealing to you through those feelings.

As you search deeper to understand these feelings, to discover what they are and what they mean for your journey, you notice someone walking towards you.  He approaches you with gentleness and love and invites you to breakfast that he has prepared right there on the shore of the sea.  You feel you know him but you are uncertain.  As you accept his offer for breakfast, your feelings you just uncovered reveal the fruits of your journey to you.  You know what God is telling you through these feelings, what He is asking you to do in your journey.  Everything is so clear to you and you realize this person offering you breakfast is Jesus, and He is guiding your thoughts as you overturn and uncover your feelings.  He comforts any feelings that are troubling you and He illuminates any feelings of joy and peace.  Sit by the shore with Him for a little while, be present with Him and embellish this moment of comfort and peace of all that you are feeling from the day or week.

In John 21:1-14, Jesus appears to His disciples at the sea, just as He has appeared to you.  They are out fishing one night and are not successful in catching anything.  Jesus is standing on the shore and asks them about their catch and then tells them to throw the nets over the right side of the boat and they catch a plentitude of fish.  At this point Peter realizes it’s Jesus standing before them.  Their disappointments of not catching any fish have turned into a moment of comfort and joy, not because they caught fish but because they see Jesus.

Just as the disciples delight in the presence of Jesus, may you as well because He is present with you whether you are on the shore of the sea or in your house staring out the window.