Thursday, February 16, 2023

Something from the Spirit can be seen in YOU

I was reading 1 Corinthians 12 this week and it starts off with a section talking about spiritual gifts. One line caught my attention especially: verse 7, which in the ESV says, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." I looked this up in the Easy-to-Read Version and it says:

Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person.

The Spirit gives this to each one to help others.

It goes on to list all kinds of gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to people in the interest of the common good. I love this way of saying it though - something from the Holy Spirit can be seen in YOU. But it's not just for your own good, it’s meant to make you a blessing and a help to others. So what is it? What has the Spirit given to you? 

It’s like putting money in a savings account. You expect that with time, that deposit will grow. We know that interest rates fluctuate - sometimes they are higher and sometimes they are very low, but I’ve never seen a NEGATIVE interest rate, have you? No, we make a deposit in the bank and we expect a greater return on our investment. So what DEPOSIT has the Spirit made in the bank of your life so that He would see a greater return? What has He given you that you can give others? It says he has - TO EACH IS GIVEN

There are some center-stage gifts listed here like healing, prophecy, and miracles but there are also behind-the-stage gifts like wisdom, discernment, and faith. Do you know that your faith can inspire faith in others? That’s an example of return-on-investment. If you don’t know what God has placed in you for you to share with others, ask Him to show you. Ask him to teach you how to help others with whatever gift He’s given you.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

See What Kind of Love

See what kind of love the Father has given to us,
that we should be called children of God; and so we are. ~ 1 John 3:1b

I was studying 1 John and when I read this verse I thought, “You know, God could have called us anything - his Creation, his Invention, his biology experiment...but no, he chose to call us his children.” And it reminded me of something my mom said when I told her I had MS. She said she would take it for me if she could. I thought, “WHY??? Why would you want this??” But then I thought, Well, if one of my kids was diagnosed with something serious, I would say the same thing. I would wish that I could take it for them so they wouldn’t have to suffer. 

Because that's the heart of a good parent! So it makes perfect sense that not only does God call us his children, but when he saw that we’d been diagnosed with the worst condition of all - SIN - which leads to eternal death - HE WANTED TO TAKE IT SO WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO!! That’s what Jesus did when he died on the cross, he took our death sentence so we wouldn’t have to face an eternity apart from our Creator…Our Father. What a GOOD FATHER we have. Our earthly fathers - even those who have awesome ones - they can never measure up to the love of our Father in heaven. It never fails, never gives up, would go to any length and suffer anything for us. He’s so worthy of our love, our lives - our everything!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Is it Possible to Move from Forgiven to Unforgiven?

I was reading chapter 11 in Mark, where it says in verse 25:

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Now, as evangelicals, we are really good at focusing on how free and available and all-covering God's gift of forgiveness is. We know so many of the lines by heart:

  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) 
  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace... (Eph 1:7) 
  • For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:28)
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

...everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43b)

That's just a start! His forgiveness is free for the asking. No matter what we have done, no heinous sin is beyond His ability to forgive, and we can even go so far as to say that every sin I will commit in the future has already been paid for, already been covered by the blood of Jesus.

But I noticed something different about this verse today: it seems to indicate that - while forgiveness is free - it might be possible for a person who has been become unforgiven...IF they don't extend that same forgiveness to others. It essentially says "forgive...SO may be forgiven..." So yes, forgiveness is free, but there's a catch. If we want forgiveness, we have to give it as easily as we receive it.

Ooooohhhhh....does that bring to mind anyone you've had trouble forgiving, or any wrong done to you that you've not been able to let go of?

And there are a lot more verses to back it up.

  • For IF you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but IF you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses... (Matt 6:14-15)
  • Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; FORGIVE, and you will be forgiven... (Luke 6:37)
  • Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col 3:13)

Jesus even went so far as to illustrate this idea with a parable so people would get the seriousness of it - The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. In the parable, the servant who owed the king was forgiven his debt. But as soon as the king heard that this servant refused to forgive another servant's debt against him, the king tossed him in jail until all his debt was repaid to the king - essentially taking BACK the forgiveness of the debt. Jesus concludes the teaching by saying, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Friends, this is a serious matter. I know I'm not the only person who struggles with knowing that I have 100% forgiven people for what they've done to me. When we've been hurt by those closest to us, or those we trusted most - that can be some of the deepest pain, and the hardest to forgive. But if we want to be forgiven, We. Must. Forgive.

Think of this, too: in the parable, Jesus described how the unforgiving servant owed A LOT to the king, yet he was initially forgiven...but his co-servant only owed him a little, and even after being forgiven the MUCH, he couldn't bring himself to forgive the little...thus the king's justifiably indignant anger. It's the same for us - our sin against God is GREAT...bad enough that it basically nailed Jesus to the cross and drained the lifeblood out of His body. Nobody on earth has sinned against me quite as bad as I've sinned against God. How could I NOT forgive anyone of anything, when I've been forgiven so much??

And yet, we think about that one person or circumstance, and all the negative emotions and all the thoughts of what was said or done come flooding back, and our hearts start racing, and we think, "Well, have I actually forgiven them??"

The word I'm focusing on this year in my prayer life is "STRONGER" and I think it is so appropriate for this issue - I am NOT strong enough in myself to forgive some people! And I don't think forgiveness is a one-and-done thing, sometimes it takes TIME. Every time the thoughts and the feels enter my head and my heart, I have to stop and pray, give it to God and choose to again forgive. Like Jesus said "seventy times seven" times - keep forgiving until the pain starts to lessen. And that has to be God. Like the man who told Jesus "I believe, help me in my unbelief!" - we too, can pray "I forgive, help me in my unforgiveness!"

When we are weak, He is strong, and if our heart is to forgive, we keep doing our part, and God will help heal our hearts from the pain and He will help us to forgive.

If you have trouble forgiving someone, please, ask God to help you. Ask a trusted friend to pray for you, even if you don't reveal the details of the offense. It's so crucial to your own spirit!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021


Psalm 141:1-2

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

In the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon, part of the plan from God was that there was to always be incense burning on a special incense altar because the burning of the expensive spices was a pleasing scent and offering to the Lord.

I love the idea here that our prayers can be an incense that smells sweet to the Lord. And that my hands lifted to him in worship can be as pleasant as the evening sacrifice. Why is that? I mean, sacrificing a live animal is a much bigger deal in my mind than just raising my hands in the air!

I think because lifting our hands to him signifies surrender. I've never been held at gunpoint but I've seen it a lot on TV - what do you do? Arms up! I give up! I surrender!

When I lift my hands in worship it signifies that I am surrendering my life, my will, even my his greater purpose and plan. He created us with free will when he didn't have to. I think His greatest pleasure must be when a born-wilful, self-focused, demanding child of His has a change of heart and looks to him with hands upraised, offering their all to him and asking him to be in control. 

Let's all commit to doing that today!

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Diagnosis...Part 2

This post has been quite a long time coming. I have been ruminating on it for "some time" but now as I actually look at the date, it's been over a year since I posted Part 1 of The Diagnosis! Wow, sorry to create such an extended cliffhanger! At least I didn't take as long as Pixar did, to release The Incredibles 2. What can I say? It's been a year of seeking God and learning to really fully trust Him, researching autoimmune disorders, trying new meds, adjusting my diet, and getting healthy. As I'm sure is the case with anyone who receives a potentially serious diagnosis, I have spent a lot of time just processing.

As I continue to wonder "why" in regards to my September 2017 diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, I could take an easy route and say 'Que sera sera'...whatever will be, will be. There is no reason. Stuff just happens. No point trying to figure out why. Just read all the info and give in to the dreary reality that you have it and it's going to get worse and all you can do is try to take care of your body and make sure you keep taking the drugs because you don't want a relapse.

That would be the easy way to deal. But am I an 'easy way' kind of girl? No. My mother always told me I was too independent. My friend Amber said I have a stubborn streak.  I don't want to do what everyone tells or expects me to, or what everyone else is doing. And if that means I do something in a meticulous fashion when there's a quicker way to do it, well...sometimes that's just my choice. And if I refuse to believe what conventional medicine has to say about MS, that's my choice too. Sorry Doris, I don't buy it. I serve a God who can do miracles - a God who has raised more than one human from the dead!

My ponderings have led me to consider that if this isn't an attack or a consequence, and if I'm not satisfied with the idea that there is no purpose for it, since God's word tells me that for those who love God, all things work together for GOOD (Romans 8:28), then He must have SOME higher purpose planned to come from this. And that's where I've found my thoughts and prayers dwelling. The higher purpose.

In my previous post, The Diagnosis, Part 1, I was considering the different reasons for Why We Go Through Trials in life. I had considered two options:

1. It's an attack of the enemy  (see the book of Job!)

2. It's a consequence of our sin. We teach our kids: if you're going to make unwise choices, then you're likely going to face consequences. This is a universal truth. (Romans 6:23, Isaiah 59:2, Habakkuk 1:13)

And then I thought there might be one more reason, which is that:

3. It's part of God's plan: it's either an opportunity provided to grow in some way, even if it's just to grow in character or integrity or faith. Opportunity for improvement is often disguised as a hardship. (John 16:33) Or it's an opportunity for the power and glory of God to be manifested. (John 9:1-3)

And this is the one that bothered me most and the idea that I have spent the last year wrestling with. I have my issues. I mean, I'm not an ax murderer or anything, but my conversation is not always seasoned with grace. I struggle with pride. My daily devotions aren't always daily. I'm lazy about spiritual disciplines. I'm impatient with my kids. And bad drivers. And complainers. And slow internet. On the inside, I know I'm not where God wants me to be spiritually. I have lots - and lots - of room to grow. But I have finally decided that if God has seen fit to afflict me with MS in order to get me to do some serious self-work, well then I will accept that challenge. What can it hurt? Even if this is not the reason, treating it as such can only benefit me and those around me, right?

I've spent the last year and a half chewing on these possible explanations for my diagnosis. Which one is it for me? I don't have an answer. So I will continue to love and trust God. I will continue to do my best to walk in holiness, by His grace. And I will continue to seek Him for how He wants me to grow through this. And of course, I'll keep fighting the MS with what I've learned and continue to learn about diet, exercise and supplements.

I do want to praise God though - my last MRI (Jan 2019) was the first one which showed NO NEW or ENHANCING lesions on my brain or spinal cord - whoop whoop! I'm stable. My Vitamin D is finally in a normal range. My hands still feel weird but I no longer have constant nerve "pain" in them. My energy level has increased. And going paleo caused me to drop 25 pounds, which have stayed off for a whole year - can I get a Hallelujah?!

I feel joy and peace again. My time with God has sweetened over the last year and one thing that has gotten me through is music. A couple of songs, in particular, are linked below. I've written the specific words from each one which minister to my spirit. If you are going through a difficult time, I pray these will minister to you.

Lauren Daigle "Trust in You"
When you don't move the mountains I'm needing you to move,
When you don't part the waters I wish I could have walked through,
When you don't give the answers as I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you

MercyMe "Even If"
God when you choose to leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength to be able to sing "It is well with my soul"
I know you're able and I know you can
    save through the fire with your mighty hand
But even if you don't, my hope is you alone...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Diagnosis...Part 1

July 2017.

I'd been feeling a lot of tingling, and some numbness, and I'd fallen a couple times (which I attributed to the shoes I'd been wearing, which I promptly threw away). Along with that, my gallbladder gave up on life so as my doctor referred me to an internal surgeon for the gallbladder and told me to go fat-free for a couple months, she also ordered some lab work and threw in a referral to a neurologist, just for fun. Okay, I'm already trying to sell my house in Washington, find a new house in Oregon, and get our family packed and ready for the move...what's a few doctor appointments thrown in?

September 2017.

After the gallbladder removal, and a result of practically negative levels of vitamin D in my body, and a few MRI's, I met again with the neurologist. Diagnosis: Hepatic Demyelinating Disease, resulting in "innumerable lesions" on the cervical and upper thoracic spinal cord. Translation: I have Multiple Sclerosis. The news came one week before we were to move out of state.

I'm 40. I have three kids aged 13, 11 and 8. My husband and I are moving to Oregon for the purpose of re-planting a church, and having spent most of my career in nonprofit administration and management, I have a pretty significant role to play in this journey. And this is the point in my life when I'm told I now have a medical condition which results in extreme fatigue, parts of the body (including the brain) not working properly, and chronic nerve pain. And it's all exacerbated by heat and stress. Well, it's a good thing I don't live in Arizona! However, a ministry life is not always peaches and sunshine. Stress kinda comes with the job sometimes.

I'll be honest: I had a little emotional breakdown before the diagnosis, when through researching my symptoms the Lord spoke to my heart that the result would be MS. Of course, the inevitable questions: Why? Why me? Why now? Why would God let this happen when we are in the midst of pouring our lives out for His glory? And one part of me wants to say "It's an attack of the enemy! It's Satan's work! He came to steal my health, kill my body and destroy my life! He's trying to stop our ministry! I won't accept it!" It could be true. Just look at Job - that was exactly his story, and he persevered through the pain and loss, and was rewarded by God for his faithfulness, to even greater blessing than he had before his trials.

Sometimes that happens. And I'm not going to close the door in my heart to that hope. But I'm also not going to spend all my waking hours assuming that I am just having a Job experience, and that someday it'll all go away. I don't have the energy to be that girl.

Besides, what if it's not an attack of the enemy? What if it's deserved judgment for sin in my life? God is merciful and loving, but He's also righteous and just. He can't abide sin. He requires holiness from his people. I may not be the same lewd, loose party animal that I was in college but since committing my life to Christ 20 years ago, I'm still certainly no angel! But I know that perfection is not required of me, just a tender and humble heart before the Lord. A willingness to accept His will over mine in any situation, and a daily living, breathing relationship with Him. I got that. I learned long ago that my doing my will and 'following my heart' only leads me astray. I love Jesus more every day, so I don't think this is a consequence of sin.

But I'll continue to pray Psalm 139:23-24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! 
Try me and know my every thought! 
See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in your everlasting way!

I'll pray that every day, and just as Job did, I'll continue trying to mentally process what I'm going through and all the questions that come with it, while not blaming God. This could be an attack, or it could be a consequence. There is one other alternative, though, the thought of which wrings my heart out and drops it to the ground, but which I must consider with all humility and seriousness...

...To be Continued...

Thursday, September 7, 2017

His Path is Love

Psalm 25 is one cool piece of literature because there is much more there than meets the eye! How do I know? Because the footnote in my Bible tells me that in the original language in which this poem was written (Hebrew), the poem is an acrostic - meaning each verse begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Our eleven-year-old son recently crafted something similar for his Dad - an acrostic not based on the alphabet but on the worth "Father", and he used qualities he sees in his Dad:

  • Faithful
  • Advice-giver
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Even better than Nutella (which, if you know our son, is saying quite a lot!)
  • Reads me stories every night

How sweet is that? I just had to share because it was so cute. Back to David's acrostic though, in this poem he's mainly asking God to teach him about His ways, to show him His paths. David wants to go where God goes and walk how God walks. Look at verses 4-5:

Make me to know your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

I think David must have started learning about God's paths after waiting "all the day long" because just a few verses later, in verse 10 he says:

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Do you know what that means? It means that for those of us who are faithful to Him and following the paths He lays out for us, ALL our paths will always be saturated with God's love and faithfulness.  The image that brought to my mind is one our family sees often when we head to the Oregon Coast: hearts drawn in the sand, and maybe some initials or names: D & A Forever. I'm reminded that Jesus draws those hearts in the sand for us. He leaves little reminders along our path of his never-ending adoration of us.

I want to follow His path - His plan for my every day. Because I want to seek Him and know Him better, and the outfall of that will be that I get to experience His love and steadfastness always.