What is the love of Christ?

“I look back over the events of my life and see the hands that carried Moses to his grave lifting me out of mine. In remembering I go back to these places where God met me and I meet him again and I lay my head on his breast, and he shows me the land beyond the Jordan and I suck into my lungs the fragrance of his breath, the power of his presence.”
― Rich Mullins

The message at church yesterday touched on the love of Christ. As the pastor began his sermon – it was about the love of God. I have heard it often in church. Pastor’s message was focused on defining the love of Christ. Specifically, what do we mean when we say we love Christ? I thought, “I know what I mean when I say it.” As the pastor spoke, I had all these thoughts and questions going through my head. I wondered if I had a good understanding of what it meant to love God. How can I possibly know if I do? Can it be recognized? Do I show the love of God to others, to those close to me. Do they sense it? Does God acknowledge it? I wondered if fellow believers had a good grasp on the concept.

When I say I love Christ, I mean I love Him as He loves me. Unconditionally. As it says in Daniel 3, confident that God would save them, the young Hebrew men adamantly told the King that even if God didn’t save them they would still not bow to another God. I love my Lord so much that I prayed earnestly for Him to remove any desire for companionship. It was during my journey – during years of unemployment (not for lack of job searching) – I came to rely wholeheartedly on the God I could not see. Yes, He became the God I could not see, but yet He saw me clearly. He not only saw me, but with a raging fury He chased me day and night, calling me out. Several pastors became messengers, as did Rich Mullins and his music. During this journey, I came to realize the reality of my walk with Christ. I did not need a man, the lusts of the world, a job, or affirmation to feel complete, to feel worthy. It was in that time that the Lord began to chip away at the very core of who and what identified me. If you said the world. You are correct. The moment we exit the womb the world grabs us by the feet and throws us into its very clutches. The world that I was born into was remarkably different from the world my children and grandchildren were born into, thank God, but the mission has not changed.

The Lord unraveled years of socialization into a world that could never satisfy, or be satisfied. It was in those bitter years the Lord had me on a diet of trial, tribulation and honey. Slowly, the Lord was renewing my thoughts, revealing my true identity, teaching me His truths, teaching me to pray, and to accept that my walk with Him was not always about me. It took me a while to recognize that He was re-socializing me. It was indeed a journey full of reflection. Eventually, the Lord did say, “You are ready to go. Leave this place.” And of course, at that point I was not ready, but God, being God, He prepared the path and I set my feet on it – with Him leading the way.  It’s easy to understand when someone invests time and energy training an individual that the purpose for the training is to eventually say, “It’s time.” I had a bible study teacher that would always point that out. He’d say something like, “I am training you in the things of God, so you can share the love and knowledge of Christ with others and bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ that brought you here.”

In my encounters with the living God, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, I found comfort and fulfillment that drew me ever closer to my Lord. Unattached, my thoughts could always be focused on Him. If He spoke to me in the middle of the night I was prepared to take notes. It was on this journey that the Lord brought me to the point of surrender and to identify with the King of Kings, as a child of the King, and forever resigned my worldly identify. The Lord took me out of the place I was in for so many years and He set my feet in a new place, a place I could never have imagined and I have a pretty good imagination. In a new place is where He has me now. He’s teaching me new things to build on what He spent years rebuilding.

I am quite familiar with the unconditional love of Christ, and all to familiar with His grace and mercy that flows ever so abundantly – too often in the most undeserving moments – and across circumstances. I pray the Lord will always allow me to show that same love, grace and mercy to others, as He leads and not by how I feel, or what others say I should feel. In your name, Jesus Christ.

The Lord used Rich Mullins, his music and his ministry to teach me. There is still much to learn in this walk with Christ.

“I would like to encourage you to stop thinking of what you’re doing as ministry. Start realizing that your ministry is how much of a tip you leave when you eat in a restaurant; when you leave a hotel room whether you leave it all messed up or not; whether you flush your own toilet or not. Your ministry is the way that you love people. And you love people when you write something that is encouraging to them, something challenging. You love people when you call your wife and say, ‘I’m going to be late for dinner,’ instead of letting her burn the meal. You love people when maybe you cook a meal for your wife sometime, because you know she’s really tired. Loving people – being respectful toward them – is much more important than writing or doing music.”
― Rich Mullins

Our Beautiful World!

This summer my husband and I took a road trip out west. Our primary destination was Seattle, but along the way we found some awesome attractions. We both enjoy taking pictures and wow! We found some beautiful places! Some places were so beautiful a mere photo could not capture the awesome views. God’s creation, colorful, vast and breathtaking! Open skies…just amazing! Just want to share some. Thank you for reading.

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Avenue of the Giants

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Along the Columbia Basin

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Window Rock

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Wildfires…to many…to close for comfort.

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My husband on a down tree…the sheer size of it…amazing!

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Beautiful drive down the Avenue of the Giants

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Wildlife

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California

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God’s Mercies are new Everyday

I closed 2017 with a new role, wife. Yes. I remarried after 22 years of living single. The year 2017 was marked by unimaginable grace and mercy, not just for me but for my household. Yes, it is a bit of a cliché, but it truly took me taking a leap of faith into unknown territory, literally, to behold God orchestrating a new beginning. To experience God’s miracles from the sidelines, is nothing compared to being God’s miracle. Actually, 2017 was a year of 360 change for me, one blessing after another. It was marked by events I was not even considering, like remarrying after 22 years of being alone, not even in my wildest dreams and traveling. Surrendering to change is not easy, so allowing the Lord to guide me through so much change was a bit scary at times. Often, I hesitated. I questioned every decision. I prayed asking God to confirm my decisions. The change was going to happen. It had to happen, because if we live for Christ He changes us and when He changes us, He never clues us in as to when, or how he will cause this change. So, when he sets change in motion we have to be willing to allow him to work in us rather than resist at every turn. Like Rich Mullins sang,

“Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees”

Change was coming. I knew it when I was laid of from my job in Sept. 2016. Layoffs generally cause all kind of change, mostly nerve wrecking change. I can say that after facing 3 layoffs, and two of those in less than a year. I was scared. I was frustrated. Then, my only close friend went home to be with the Lord. She had been in the hospital for a few months.  I saw her as often as I could. I sat with her.  I prayed for her and with her. I called our Christian friends to come pray for her. Only one came, Richard. He prayed and I sensed the inevitable. I just wasn’t ready. I did not get to say goodbye to her. Not again my Lord!, I prayed every night. I felt so alone. This was my first job after years of unemployment. I had been employed just over a year and it was only part-time at that and I get laid off. It was my first real job after seven years of underemployment and unemployment due to my first layoff in 2008, when the rug was pulled out from beneath me.

That first layoff turned out to be a harsh lesson. Year after year I was stripped and battered by circumstances, powerless to do anything. Every which way I turned I ran into closed doors. My soul was weary. My thoughts were constantly on the Lord for comfort, for wisdom, for courage and strength to face every day anew. His mercies are new everyday, He says and I trusted in those promises. Still, I was getting older. I was chasing 50. I questioned my identity. Trusting in God was a moment by moment thing. By 2016, things looked promising, but time was passing quickly then the wind changed. I get laid off and now my friend was gone. I had no one to talk to. I prayed. I prayed. I read God’s word. I prayed.

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Storms clouds looming over the city made me reflect on the past few months.  They made me realized that in this Christian walk of ours, storms will come our way bringing both pain and joy, though it seem joy is afar off.  The storms do pass. Sure the storm clouds looked ominous, but they did pass as the Lord is always in control in the storm.

April 1, 2017 after 22 years of living single, raising my children, grandchildren, working to provide, trusting in God in all things and fully persuaded that I was meant to spend the rest of my days on this earth living single, content in the place the Lord had me…Well, lo and behold…a voice from decades long gone…reached out via Facebook.

“Yes. I am the Jeff you knew. Proof: almost got in trouble at the Airman’s Club with your brothers car, and sitting in your mom’s house when they came to the door and told you your brother had been shot .
When I saw this message, I was taken by surprise. I have thought about you a lot since back then. I did not respond back in 2010, I had met my soul mate after 2 failed marriages. I knew that if I responded and she saw it would upset her.
She was very jealous, I knew she was the one that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I really knew God, had put us in a place to find each other. We married in October of 2011.
A year and a half ago we found out she had liver cancer, worst day of our life.
3 weeks ago my wife lost a tough battle, she is now pain-free sitting with my Heavenly Father. Sorry I didn’t respond in 2010, I hope you are doing well.
Maybe one day if our paths cross we can sit for a cup of coffee. Take care, and my God bless you. Your friend, Jeff. 

I responded with “Oh my gosh! You remember all that!!! I’m in tears. So sorry to hear about your wife. I know it’s a difficult time….you will be in my prayers. I too have thought about you often…the one that got away. God has a perfect plan for everyone that trusts in Him. Take care. I’m here if you need an ear.

I text my sister…”you’ll never believe who just messaged me on Messenger! She’s like, who? Still in shock I text..Jeff! Remember? She’s like, “no way!!!! She remembered. Everyone I spoke to after this remembered, Jeff. Through the years, those that had met him when we dated asked if I ever hear from him. I never did. When he rode into the sunset he was gone. I often wondered if he was still alive. Was he happy. Then came Facebook. I did a search of old friends on Facebook at the end of 2010. Many old friends, I could not find, those I did I was not certain if I had the right person. Jeff was one I was not sure of, so I messaged him and asked him if he’s been stationed here in 82. I never heard anything back so I assumed I had the wrong man and forgot about it. It’s been 16 months since that first conversation and I still can’t believe how the Lord orchestrated so much change to bring me to this place. What place is this? It’s a place where the Lord set me to show me His glory, His favor, His mercy.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps his fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

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As with any divorce, there is always left over hurt and distrust. Age can also make one a bit more skeptical when it comes to romance. I had completely surrendered that need to the Lord, yet when Jeff appeared, all those emotions resurfaced. I had not realized that God had been preparing my heart to love again. I had a love for this man that time could not diminish, that was so true, but time and trial had made my heart distrust love. I questioned God. Why this man? This is the only man I would even consider for a relationship, but marriage? I couldn’t. I prayed.

Rich Mullins sang about it…

Well the night was cold and my heart was
Hidden very safely in a shell
But I knew somehow I’d have to run that risk
Have to open up myself
Look at the stars on the face of the sky
They’re the same ones Abraham saw
Come under my wings I will make you shine
Give you strength enough to love

Oh now I’m getting strong enough
You helped me chip my way out and open myself up
And for the snow that comes with winter
For the growth that comes from pain
For the joke I can’t remember
Although the laughter long remains
For the faith that brought to finish
All I doubted at the start
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart

Well my face was smooth and featureless
Just like an egg
And if I was moved you would never guess it
By the look upon my face
But You said man looks without but I look within
I can see the love you hide
It’s a matter of doubt it’s a symptom of sin
It’s a problem of too much pride

And I now I’m opening up wide
Wet feathers pulled out from beneath me
And You’re teaching me to fly
For the strength that comes with friendship
For the warmth that comes with hope
And for the love time can’t diminish
And for the time love takes to grow
And for the moonlight on the water
And for the bright and morning star
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart

Rich Mullins The Hatching of a Heart

Revelation 3:7-8

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

Zechariah 9:12

Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.

 

Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be Blessed!

The Sunset

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30: 4-5

 

What I should’ve done…

Yesterday was another cold day in the Texas Hill Country. I had been wanting to go visit my sister in Pearsall for a few weeks, but life demands made it difficult. Yesterday, my husband and I decided we’d brave the brutal temperatures to visit her down south. It was so cold!!! Even down south was not far enough south to avoid this artic blast. Somehow that four degree difference did not seem to make a bit of difference. Nevertheless, we made the two-hour drive to Pearsall from Kerrville. Along the way, up I-10 most people are bundled up, others not so much. It’s pretty obvious we aren’t use to these cold temps. We don’t know how to dress. One sad fact about freezing temps here and probably most places is the homeless population who have to scramble to find a warm place to spend the night. Those that don’t make it to a shelter you see out in street corners, peddling. One can only pray they are trying to raise enough funds to pay for a bed for the night. It breaks your heart. Homelessness has many faces. Sometimes, one of those faces catches your eye. I see it as God says “That one. Go feed that one.” You are so moved and so compelled, you act.

That’s what happened last night. Before making the trip to my sister’s place, my husband and I were going to stop for a bite to eat, but we couldn’t decide where. We usually go to Denny’s, but we were in San Antonio and willing to try some other place. Up and down the highway, there’s lots of places to eat, so I suggested getting of at the main drag. No doubt, we’d find something there. I pointed out the popular places to my husband….there’s this place, that place, etc. and right under the highway is Denny’s. We both said, let’s just go to Denny’s. Well, we made our way to Denny’s. Traffic was not that bad, but gosh, I couldn’t help but notice all the homeless out, wearing nothing but light jackets, some of them wrapped in those small fleece throw blankets for added warmth. It’s really cold outside! Gosh! I hope these folks are looking for a warm place to weather out these freezing temps, I told my husband.

Well, we pulled into the Denny’s. We parked. As we are getting out of our car, this young woman catches my eye. I had noticed her earlier. She was one wrapped in a fleece throw to keep warm. She’s walking down the sidewalk. I know we are going to cross paths. It seems like she’s going to go right past us. She’s seems focused on something. As we make our way to the sidewalk, she turns suddenly and asks if we had a couple of dollars to get something to eat. She was really hungry, she said. I started fumbling through my purse to find her a few dollars. As I fumble she starts to tell us how she was in a car accident and split her head open and she had recently been released. And she was just trying to get some money to get something to eat. It was heart wrenching to face this very dilemma my husband and I were just talking about. I kept wondering why this young woman, fresh out of the hospital, was walking the streets in this cold weather. Well, that’s a question with no answer. I handed her a few dollars and she thanked us, very appreciatively. We both were hard-pressed to find words to described how we felt at that very moment. We forgot it and went into the restaurant. As we looked around, we noticed only two waitresses working. The bus boy cleaned up a table for us and sat us.  Someone had left a $5 tip on the table and he cleaned around it. He would not pick it up. He sat us and let the waitress know we were seated. To make sure the waitress noticed us he left the $5 bill on the edge of the table.

Well, after a few minutes we were doubting whether we would get service. We were trying to get to my sister’s house, that was still a forty-five minute drive, and this wait was delaying our arrival time. We thought about going else where when the waitress finally showed up to take our drink order. She apologized for the wait. We both wanted coffee and she had started a fresh pot, she said… so she’d bring it as soon as it was ready. It did not take long for her to return with our coffee. Coffee was fresh and hot! My husband and I are talking away when he gestures to me to look over to the counter. “Look, he says, there’s that young woman that asked us for money. She really wanted money to get some food.” She’s sitting at the counter, also waiting for someone to wait on her. I know I had not given her enough money for a Denny’s meal, so I asked my husband if he minded if  we paid for her meal. He said no. I knew he wouldn’t mind, but I asked anyway. When the waitress came over to take our order we pointed her out and asked her to put her meal on our ticket. The woman had gotten up and come over by the door where we were sitting. I had my back to her so I could not see what she was doing. The waitress, for some odd reason, motion for the woman to come to our table and told her, “They’re going to pay for your meal, so order whatever you want.” I don’t think she recognized us from earlier. Either way she thanked us again. We just said, “You’re welcome.” We were not looking for attention. We just knew she was hungry and wanted to make sure she had a nice hot meal.

Well, again my husband says, “Look, she’s sharing her meal with someone.” Both of them hungry and cold sat down to enjoy a warm meal. From the ticket, we knew they had shared a Lumberjack Slam. The woman came over again to thank us and we again said you’re welcome. We really didn’t want any thanks. So, we sat and talked, ate and then out of the blue my husband shares this You Tube video that he’d found hilarious. He’s holding his phone at the edge of the table, and I’m watching it. It was hilarious and we were laughing. Out of the corner of my eye it looks like this woman is approaching us again, but she notices that we are watching something on the phone and she quickly turns away. I did not look up. I just kept my eyes on the phone. For all I know she may have needed to use the restroom and changed her mind. When we left she was no where around.

We finally made it to my sister’s place, visited for a couple of hour, had a great time chatting with her and her partner. I hadn’t seen her in a while. It was not to late when we finally left. The entire ride home, this woman was on my mind. Not so much the woman, but how we responded to her after we offered to buy her meal.

On the drive home, I talked with my husband about the whole experience. In some of our previous conversations, I’ve explained that when I give money to a homeless person, I offer it and it’s forgotten. How that money helps, or doesn’t is in God’s hands. I’m not always prompted, or compelled to give. When I am and I have cash on me, I give. What are the chances that I will ever see that same homeless person again? Well, it depends on the situation of the homeless person, but never. How I came face to face with this woman, well it can only be by divine appointment.

The lesson here was unexpected and I failed miserably. What I did, and what I should have done the Lord said… You heard me. You responded. You did well. You had the opportunity to show someone my love and three times you thought it was about you. She came over, more than once and you could have asked her to join you, to sit and dine with you, but you didn’t. She even shared what she had just experienced and you could find no time to show compassion, to lend an ear, to show her that there is a God and He sees her. God saw that woman last night. God saw this woman last night. This past year, like none before He showed me how much he loves me. I was left in awe. When confronted by one in need of love I was hard-pressed to show that same love. My prayer for that woman is this, if anything we did showed her that there is a God and He does see her need and her pain, I pray that the Lord will protect her and guide her to their meeting place. For this wretched woman, I ask for forgiveness.

Luke 12 says…”For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required;…

Some folks have riches beyond measure and can’t find it in their heart to share, other’s not so much, but some have nothing and yet share all they have, little as it may appear to be.

The Lord has not blessed me with money, or riches, but He has loved me beyond measure. Much love has been given to this woman. How can I deny anyone that same love, when I too am so undeserving. Giving is giving. And God gave All for all.

Freezing temperatures have tested my outwear and I am not prepared. I can’t even find a warm coat, not a pretty coat, or stylish even, but a nice warm coat, that does not cost an arm and a leg. I may not wear it but for a few days, maybe.  God has tested my ability to show love, to respond in love and I was not prepared. It’s a cold world out there and if the man or woman of God is not prepared to offer a warm cup of love, well…

hmmm….just something to think about. Be blessed.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Luke 12:54-56 Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?