June 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We’ve all got odds. The things that you know aren’t likely — you know the saying “the odds are stacked against you.” We all get that. It’s part of life. But I think the human spirit has a built in “beat the odds” factor. I think we all like to beat the odds sometimes. And, really, it doesn’t always have to be tangible victory. Here is my odds story.
April was probably one of the worst months of my life. It was not marked by death, sickness or divorce. It was was marked by pressing pressure. Heavy overload. My forehead bore the persistant pressure for weeks. At times, my shoulders and back physically hurt with pain. The pressure seemingly came from the pain in my heart. It is my thought that when the heart envelops a great deal of pain, the secondary experience of that is back-breaking and a heavy mind.
April could have been marked by disappointment or maybe other equally worse markers. But it was not. I learned two things in April. I learned that God is faithful and that He sometimes delivers at the very last moment of the very last hour. In fact, that has been His timing recently. In His wisdom, over the last several years, He showed himself faithful to me with a lot of time to spare. It gave me the faith to believe that He would also be faithful when there is no time left to spare. He did that in April. And I think my faith is bigger and stronger because of His timing.
I also recognized that this battle is not mine. We all know when we have caused ourselves to be in a bind. But, in this case, there was no outright sin of mine to claim. I was mainly in a bind because God saw fit to allow it. And when my understanding of what was happening reached its maximum point of lack of understanding, I did not let the inability to solve the puzzle crush me in my humanness. I did not open the door to what would make sense under the circumstances … such as defeatedness or despair. Although I did cry some of the time, I decided to acknowledge and surrender to His plan. There were too many problems for me to figure out and I knew that it was beyond what I was capable of. I think I began to understand what Paul was talking about when he said that this battle is not against flesh and blood, but in the heavenlies. No other explanation made sense to me. If I am a tool He is using to work out His plan, if I have the honor of suffering for Him while war is waged in the heavenlies, then I am thankful to Him for April.
I recently finished Beth Moore’s study on James and I like to think that I got a little bit of James in me. I want a lot more of James in me. And I know that I got some James in me because of April. I do really like Jesus’ character in me. And I like beating the odds.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:10-20
Inspired by my pastor’s January 6 message this year.
May 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Dear Chicken Nugget,
You are so blessed to have the mother God has chosen for you. As you bathe in the warmth of your cocoon for the next several months, I pray that the Holy Spirit speaks to you about how precious and lovely your mother is, and how she is a light and a love to all who have come to know her.
As He quiets and reassures you, covering you tenderly, I pray that He whispers to you about your mother’s radiance. Her penchant to live vibrantly is infectious, as it reflects her desire to breathe in the movement of the Spirit and the ways of God.
It is through your mother, that you will learn about Him. For in her generosity and compassion, she will embody for you the essence of God’s transforming love for you and for others.
She is a brilliant diamond, sparkling with laughter, insight and wit, and her stories always hold the ability of drawing you into her heart. Yet, she never ceases to explore the worlds of her family and friends: comforting them during tragedy, encouraging them during darkness and lifting them up higher than when they first walked in through her doors. It is in these times, that she draws you into His heart.
She will be your advocate, your champion and your #1 fan. Focused and tenacious, she will fight for God’s best for you when the hallways of life seem to close in on you. She will do no less for you than she has already done for those within her constellation of reach.
She is a woman of causes, passions and ideas, and she longs to inspire people to chase their own dreams. She is a born teacher and leader, but most of all, her nature is as a friend. Learn from her, delight in her and draw strength from her. Just as God had designed, she is yours and you are hers.
Sleep tight and take rest, for when your day comes, you will meet this incredible woman who has housed you so sweetly. You will meet your brother whom she has so lovingly reared and your father whom she adores. She abounds with love for them and for her Savior, and will also spare no expense in filling your love tank with an endless supply of kisses, hugs and devotion.
Never forget that your mom IS a treasure, and should be treated as such. Sometimes life may divert your attention, but always remember how much she has poured into you, prayed over you and passed onto you.
Just as you are, she is fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted by the hands of God himself. Now, He has knit you to her for a lifetime, as He has knit you to Him for an eternity.
God has provided you with an amazing mother to safeguard your heart, your fingers and your toes. Love her and cherish her, as I do, and walk in the ways that she has taught, so that you will always remember to walk in Him.
You are so blessed to have the mother God has chosen for you.
Good night, Chicken Nugget. Dream of Mommy’s love, just as I will tonight.
April 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
By Bindu Adai Mathew
The torrid rains of April are falling.
A flashflood into my emotionally overwrought soul.
Tears fall from my eyes like overfilled buckets,
Like Noah, I watch as the waters rise above my head.
I choke on the hurt and gasp for air,
But unlike Noah, I see no salvation, drowning in my own despair.
There is nothing.
No God. No hope. Nothing.
Except more rain.
I imagine this is what hopelessness feels like. I imagine that possibly this is what the son of Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, felt like before he committed suicide in early April.
Depression isn’t prejudiced like we are. It doesn’t pick and choose based on gender, height, or financial status. It doesn’t care if we are Christian or not…even if we’re the child of a famous pastor…depression hits us all. And it can feel overwhelming. At times our depression is the result of a situation and can be temporary. For some, depression can be clinical and an on-going life struggle.
Most of us are fortunate to rise above the rising waters and find our hope again. And some continue to fight. If you’re fighting depression today, I encourage you to let go of the cloak of shame. Don’t let it prevent you from seeking the help you need, the help you AND your loved ones deserve. Because no matter how hopeless it seems and appears, it is a lie, no matter how real it may seem. With God, we always have hope. And that is something we all need to be reminded of.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
April 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Sometimes it rains very, very hard. And you don’t feel the rain falling. Maybe because you needed the rain or you were thirsty. Maybe you had your umbrella. Maybe you planned to play in the rain and the heavy drops don’t hold you back. Sometimes it rains hard and you don’t even feel the rain falling.
And, sometimes, you feel the storm coming. You are not thirsty and you have no plans for dancing. You wrap your arms around yourself and wait to see if you will still be standing when the rain stops.
I haven’t held onto myself in a long while. It is the kind of bracing that empties you of the buffers that usually are your strengths. You acknowledge fears and the truth as they are within you. You are spilled out so you know that, at this moment, there are not any more layers to peel back. This is a kind of core. This is the center of yourself that you are trying to hold together as the storm blows closer. While I hold on to myself, I press the tissue down in a crumbled ball on my nose and lips. I see that can’t hold back while I hold on. I don’t move, I just stand. I think to myself that, if there is a place to be standing, holding on to myself, it would be okay for that place to be the sanctuary of the house of God.
That is where I am. That is where I plan to be while I brace for this storm. While I watch the clouds of my fears roll in and swell up with water. While I anticipate the thunder and lightning. I do not know what my life will look like after the storm passes. I do not know what my life will look like after the storm passes.
I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. Jeremiah 5:22
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope …” Jeremiah 29:11
April 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I am in the rainy season.
Tidal waves of despair threaten to steal my well-being.
Flash floods of sadness threaten to kill my fruitful harvest.
The crackling bolts of fear threaten to destroy my peace.
To steal, kill and destroy are my enemy’s marching orders, and his thundering fists of defeat threaten to deafen and darken my hope.
The monsoon threatens to engulf and flatten my earthly castles and I howl angrily into the air, desperately in search of my Father.
“Where are you???“
I search for signs. I panic.
I listen for the sounds of rescue. I become anguished.
The storm rages on and my patience is battered and bruised.
I fall onto my knees, accepting that the waters will overtake me.
Confused, frustrated and disillusioned.
After what seems like hours, days and months, it is then that I hear His Voice:
“I am in the rainy season.”
I look up in the torrential downpour and I see Him.
I see Him on the cross, naked and forsaken. Pummeled by the gusts of my sin and hopelessness.
It was then that it washes over me that He was on the cross throughout the entirety of my rainy season, preparing my escape.
Preparing my liberation. Preparing my victory.
Preparing my redemption from the jaws of the enemy.
The tempest threatened to steal, kill and destroy my salvation, but my salvation hung on the cross faithfully until my future was secured.
“I am in the rainy season.”
While the squalls of sin threatened to bury me, my Savior stayed on the cross until It Was Finished.
It was then that my spirit was flooded with the knowledge that It Was Finished 2,000 years ago.
It was indeed finished, so why was I allowing the enemy to steal my well-being? To kill my fruitful harvest? To destroy my peace?
To deceive me with empty, powerless threats?
I had forgotten that my Savior placed me on higher ground, on wings of eagles, in the palm of His safety, far removed from the sting of death and the barbs of the enemy.
He did all of this just for me, over 2,000 years ago, long before my rainy season.
Like a child, I had forgotten.
I had forgotten that the joy of the Lord is my strength. I had forgotten that His mercies renew every morning. I had forgotten that Love Never Fails.
“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
I had forgotten that my Lord is King, Commander and Master over my rainy season.
I had forgotten.
“I am in the rainy season and It Is Finished.“
Yes, Father, you are in the rainy season and it is finished.
Help me never again to forget.
March 18, 2013 § Leave a Comment
By Bindu Adai Mathew
As I began to prepare to move out of our downtown condo that has been our home for the last 8 years, I realize that I’m not just cleaning out the clutter of the last 8 years of my life… I’m also cleaning out the clutter that I brought with me when I moved in 8 years ago as well.
As I sit, literally sit, in my walk-in closet and reach for the stacks of notebooks and paper that have remained hidden in the corners of my closet, I begin to quickly feel overwhelmed, realizing that what should only take me a couple of minutes is actually going to take me hours. Part of my brain rebels and reminds me that since I hadn’t looked at them in that many years, then I should probably just grab it all and chunk it into the abyss of the oversized trashbag next to me. I should, but a still, small voice booms louder than my conscience. It is the voice that has ensnared and imprisoned me for years and labeled me as a “packrat.” I give in, as I always do, and start digging through the stacks. An electricity bill from 2007. I hesitate for a moment… “But what if I need it?” I shake my head at myself, ashamed that the thought has even crossed my mind. Before it can repeat itself, I thrust the paper into the black abyss. Some receipts from a store purchase that I won’t even mention the year they’re from. I assure myself since I no longer plan to return those items, yes, these receipts can go into the trash as well. A journal from my single days when I was lamenting the woes of unrequited love. Yes, this one is a keeper and could be potential inspiration for my next novel! Not to mention it’s my journal, for goodness sake! I set it aside to my right, creating a new fresh pile of keepsakes. On and on, I go…I’m embarrassed to know that yes, while the contents of my trash bag grew so did the pile of keepsakes. While some things were easy to let go, others were painful, even if I knew I no longer needed them and probably wouldn’t have the time to look at them until I had to clean my closets yet again. I consider just throwing these keepsakes into a moving box to reckon with them later. After a heavy sigh and the feeling of dread, I look at my keepsake file and begin anew, making another pile of things I can’t part with. I slowly whittle away at the original keepsake file and soon it becomes something more manageable. While it has been painful, tedious, and long, I have to admit, I do feel more free…less burdened…
In my quiet time later that night, God prods my heart. No…not my heart, too, Lord! Wasn’t my closet enough for today? I sigh, knowing that my spring cleaning isn’t complete. If I don’t purge my heart as well of the unnecessary clutter, I will carry that with me indefinitely as well. As I pray, I began sorting through some of it. The betrayal of a once good friend. The letdown of another. The critical words of an inlaw. The stinging words of a sibling. The disappointment of a setback. Yes, there are countless things that I have hoarded and held onto in the dark recesses of my mind and heart. Things I should throw out, things I should let go of…but like the piles of paper in my closet, I have allowed myself to hold onto it, allowing it to fill unnecessary space in my life, clouding it, crowding it. I want to feel that freedom I felt earlier when I looked at my closet and saw the cleanliness and tidiness of it after my spring cleaning. Yes, it was time…more than time to spring clean my heart as well.
Forgive me, Lord, for being so unforgiving. Help me let go of the hurt, the pain, and the bitterness of some of those memories. Cleanse me, Lord, and renew my spirit. Lord, you’ve promised me joy for my ashes. You’ve promised me that you will use everything, even the bad, for my good. Lord, I choose to believe that. I choose You over my hurt and bitterness. Renew me, Lord.
March 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I did some spring cleaning yesterday. One of the ways to look at the condition of my heart is to look at all the papers and notes I have been keeping. Due to some house renovations over the last several months, my desk looked like an avalanche of papers and notes waiting to happen. So, in between my daughter’s insect project, I began to take apart the avalanche.
Part of the avalanche was a foot high stack of my dad’s papers that my brother brought me. The stack included a lot of my dad’s business and personal notes from almost forty years of writing, bible study and running his business. Most of you know my dad passed away into the arm’s of Jesus about three years ago. Spring cleaning. I pray that when my kids look through my own belongings, they find right there in black and white, my commitment to God, study of His word and evidence of introspective thoughts on living this life and serving God. Just like my dad left for me. Spring cleaning.
As I paged through and organized my own avalanche, I breezed through many notes from my pastor’s sermons. I ran across a note that read like this – - Don’t give up if you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. Keep repenting and getting on your knees before the Lord. One day, at just the right time, it will be over. You will have victory. This represents so many periods of my life. I remember that, when my pastor said this, I had the very distinct feeling that I was not alone in my sin. I became grateful that He is graceful and closed the book on a lot of my past. Spring cleaning.
It wouldn’t be spring cleaning if I did not search my heart for a present change that I’d like to make. I can sometimes be serious or stoic or cautious. Perhaps sober is a good word for it. It is very much part of my personality. It works very well with my gift of encouragement, particularly to suffering sisters. I take journeys with my beloved sisters through their pain. I share their brokenness and pour into the exchange all of the love Christ has portioned to me. And then over months, I see His divine touch on her life. I hear her testimony of what God has done and we rejoice together over her healing and deliverance. And, then, sometime later, I feel distant and lonely in my heart and perhaps even for my friend. Because I am spring cleaning as I write, it is hard for me to say exactly why. There is a part of me that misbelieves or remains cautious as to the victory. That’s the part I want OUT. There is a part of me that firmly believes the book is never shut on trials, testing and sanctification. That is the part of me that I want IN. Lord, help me to know You and me well enough to rejoice with my sisters and in your GREAT work. Help me to never stop seeking to become more like you and let me be used as encouragement to my sisters in their journeys to do the same. Spring cleaning.
My avalanche is cleaned. My desk looks beautiful with stuff packed away in those pretty boxes you get at Michael’s. My projects are in four lovely stacks ready to be worked on. God is good. He is faithful and true, worthy to be praised, wholly reliable to fulfill all things. Thank you Lord for spring cleaning.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in the mirror, for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 2:22-25