Saturday, February 27, 2010

1-2--3 Victory!

My last post centered around the fact I had recently dropped my Zoloft in favor of eliminating a potential flaw in my witness for Christ, but turns out, I'm NUTS without my daily 100mg, so much to my husband and Lili's relief I am once again properly medicated! I have to qualify that I was not sad or depressed and my joy was in no way compromised off my anti-depressant, although, I was crying tears of nearly every emotion one can list while giggling uncontrolably, so I am quite pleased to be experiencing the normalizing effect of my nightly tablet these days! No joke, last Sunday the sermon brought home God's faithfulness to me as if I were living it in that moment, and my joy was so pure and complete that, as they say, "my cup runneth over" along with my eyes and nose to the extent that I am quite confident that the woman behind me who offered to pray for me along with my husband must have been convinced that I was being convicted of some terrible secret sin which amused me and brought on rolls of loud sob-like guffaws of laughter,mind you, all right in the middle of church service. It wasn't long after this event that I decided to go back on my meds as soon as possible! I was hoping to share the video of that sermon along with this blog post but was unable to figure out how to, so if you would like to view it, go to where it can be viewed under Chapter 7 of THE STORY sermon series.
Since I cannot share the video as I had hoped, I will instead share the excerpts that touched my heart along with a few tidbits that impressed me as I wrote, prepared and taught the accompanying upper elementary lesson covering the same content. Our minister drew three aspects of divine warfare that can still be effectively utilized in our lives today as we face spiritual battles of all kinds from the story of the Israelites entering the promised land (1) being a people (or a person) of the word, (2) being a people(or a person) of prayer, and (3) being a people (or a person) who identifies with God formerly through circumcision but currently through baptism. Why did this move me so? Well, because my life is a testament to the absolute truth held in these bits of wisdom from the Bible, and that just spoke to my heart of God's complete and total awesomeness! I've spent the greater part of my adult life clearly identified with God through Jesus Christ in baptism and deeply entrenched in the word allowing God to go before me in my life decisions through prayer just as the Israelites carried the Ark of the Covenant before their procession, and being the same today as he was then, never-changing, my God, the God of the Isaaelites, the one true God has led me into victory despite what should have been defeating odds just like he did for the Israelites. Since I'm on my Zoloft tonight, I can write this tear-free although my heart still swells with overwhelming love for my God and King! What I want you to know from the top of your head to the tip of your big toe is that God SO wants to lead you in victory also! I'm nothing special nor have I been good enough to deserve it or anything else (neither were the Israelites)....God just loves us and wants to do this for us if we'll allow him to, so if you are feeling defeated in life, claim victory through Jesus with the three aspects of divine warfare I mentioned earlier:) One other tidbit that impacted me from this story was a detail that was emphasized in the upper elementary large group lessom for which I can take no credit. Evidentally, the Israelites had to cross a river to enter Canaan, and once afain God parted the waters for them to walk across on dry land. I guess the Israelites gathered stones from the dry river bed before the water returned to its place and made a monument of remembrance with them....I have such a monument on the bathroom counter between the two sinks sit a faith plaque my family physician gave me along with a few Willow tree angel figurines each with a special meaning, and a clinging cross all which were given to me when God was helping me cross safely through a rough patch in my life on the road to victory. Eaxh item is a stone I gathered and now display to remind me each day of how I have arrived on the opposite side of that tradgedy victorious....I share this because I believe remembrance is key to growth iin our relationship with God. I fear that if we fail to actively remember that instead of moving forward, we will slip back.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love Happens!

This may take awhile to piece together, and at this moment, I am not confident I can express all that is transpiring in my mind and soul as clearly as I clearly that you can experience it as well, but I now begin my feeble effort, so let's just say that if you are able to understand what I am writing God has intervined on my behalf and yours as well;)
Let's begin with the movie I just viewed as I soaked my aching back in the warm waters of our whirl pool, LOVE HAPPENS, a new release starring Jennifer Aniston and some guy I didn't recognize....a tear-jerker/romance featuring no sex, nudity, or inuendo to my pleasant surprise, although it did sport some unfortunate language on occassion, but enough with the movie review. The premise was this man had experienced a great tradgedy, losing his wife in a car accident, and being a psychologist had made a career out of helping others face similar tradgedies by authoring a book detailing how he had moved on to experience a full life in spite of loss and speaking at related conferences all while harboring the secret that he had never truely dealt with his own loss. As the plot unfolds, Burke Ryan, Phd. meets Eloise the florist who in time discovers his secret hypocrasy and helps him finally accomplish what he had never been able to do on his own...find peace in tradgedy and live as if he'd gained rather than lost in life. I'm sharing this with you not because I found it to be exceptional entertainment or expressing a valuable lesson, in fact, being an individual who has encountered a few lemons in life, although not the same ones focused on by the movie, I found it rather misleading and was disturbed that an individual who had not yet been able to come to terms with the events of life might after seeing the film attempt to manufacture the false sense of well-being that the movie sells. All of this impacted me because I have lost in many ways and believing with my whole heart that I have only gained, I set out each day hoping to have the opportunity to share the joy and peace I have been blessed to experience even in tragedy with others who are suffering or who have suffered. In effect, I related on a certain level with, Mr.Burke Ryan, Phd., not only as a fellow sufferer but as an author and hopeful speaker. Even to the point that recently, in an attempt to avoid the perception of hypocracy in my own story, I chose to wean off the anti-depressant Zoloft that I had been placed on immediately following my stroke being that many timr the brain-damage caused by stroke impairs the part of the brain that manages moods and such things. I want to be clear that I am not expressing an anti-medication view-point because as a special educator, I have witnessed many individuals achieve successes that might otherwise have been unrealized with the support of medication, but I did want to avoid providing any nay-sayer who heard my story the opportunity of proclaiming that the joy and peace I live as a disabled stroke survivor might have a source other than the love of Jesus Christ because I know deep in my heart that it springs from nothing other than the relationship I enjoy with my creator through the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus. Personally, I needed to prove that I didn't need Zoloft to maintain my joy because Jesus has me covered, and I needed to ensure that my witness did not in any manner become tainted, so that no one missed out on the awesome treasure I have to share with anyone who is interested in life-changing treasures:) Alright, those are the levels on which I related to the plot, but now, moving on to the misleading message that I feel the film projected. Mr. Burke's's main speaking point was the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, which communicates that finding sweetness in the sour moments of life is something we as individuals can accomplish on our own, but as I mentioned, even this secular film was able to identify the farce in this statement by emphasizing Mr. Burke's inability to manufacture sweetness in his own sitution, but what I did find to be on point was that love is what finally did enable Ryan Burke, Phd. to overcome the tragic events in his life. Although the healing love I know and hope for you to know, as well, does not manifest as a quirky and attractive florist, but rather as a poor, Jewish carpenter whose love runs so deep for each of us that he chose to pay the punishment for our individual wrong acts in hopes that we would accept his gift and choose to be his friend and follower for life.
WOW! I hope you hear this with your heart and soul coming from a woman who can inventory the tangible losses she has experienced that I truely have only gained through all the tragedy in my life. Unlike what Ryan Burke was offering his audiences, what I am hoping to pass on to you is REAL and EFFECTIVE! Although I am totally human and imperfect and close inspection of my life would undoubtedly reveal that as a fact. I guarentee that the joy, peace, and contentment I experience in this life are hypocracy-free, and the greatest thing is that its available to you, too!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Tribute To Grandma Lee

If your world seems just a bit dimmer, it may be because the sweet, innocent flame of my Grandmother's life has been fading this week after burning vibrantly on this earth for 93 years...during which she lost her mother at the age of 3 and due to the fact she had numerous siblings and her father, Jasper, felt he didn't have the skills or resources to raise her alone, she was given to friends of the family to raise as their own. Aunt Bessie and Uncle Jack brought Mary Louise Hotz up in the small river town of Shoals, IN. They ran a boarding house out of their home from which many of the pleasant childhood memories Grandma Lee would often share came. The love of her life Harry Lee grew up down the street, and although I am not aware of how they became acquainted, I do know that out of their marriage came the most spectacular mother, Nancy Pannell, with whom God ever could have blessed me along with another daughter, Carolyn Parker. Honestly, the breif sketch I have of Grandma's life before she knew me is a little like a fairy tale in my imagination probably because she lived her life with such gentleness, grace and beauty that I always viewed her as if she were royalty! I know that she waited longer than I did even in these modern times to marry and have children, and being the modern, trend-setter that she was braved the world of men to attain her driver's liscense while she worked in factories as my Grandfather served our country in the Navy. As I lace together the stories she told with the fantasy-like ribbon that is my view of my Grandma Lee, I realize that another reason I might have such an unearthly perspective of her life is that I never heard her complain or express a negative thought about any person or event as she shared these little snapshots of who she was before I knew life. Being that my Grandparents escaped the perils of Pearl Harbor due to a medical discharge, they headed back to Shoals to start and raise their family in a circle of friends from church, where my Grandma played piano and organ for years while faithfully worshipping even in turmoil, and various community clubs while partnering to run a flooring business that served all over Indiana until my Grandfather's health failed due to a series of heart related illnesses culminating when I was 10-months-old in death. Grandma Lee never remarried but remained beautiful, independent, and vibrant for the next 30 years of my life wooing me into the adoration of a grandchild with her complete sweetness that always manifested itself with a smile on her face and a gentle touch from her soft, warm hand preceding a seemingly endless conversation that left you feeling as if you had entered another more innocent much more wonderful time when life moved at a much gentler clip and ladies where actually ladies by definition as they paraded through life with their hair all in perfect place and their modest clothing crisp and tidy with only a light kiss of make-up highlighting already perfect skin that belied any age at all as they charmed the world around them with kindness and generosity that in unknown in today's world. I adore my Grandma Lee, and she is so worthy of every bit of my adoration because I know that more of my impression of her is reality than one would believe possible! Although she never went on about Jesus in the noisy, potentially annoying way I do, I know from her legacy (the one that lives on in me) that this woman will soon be in the company of my Savior, and I will be pleased to meet her there as a fellow daughter of the KING when God sees fit to call me home! Thank you Grandma for everything that you have always been to me, and for everything your memory will continue to be to me and the generations after me! your memory will continue to bless us forever:)

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1:5

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tie a String on Your Finger!

This past week I've struggled spiritually. I really can't put my finger on a particular struggle, but I was panicing because I put myself out here as an example for Christ, and I was terrified that if I didn't get it together I would become more of a stumbling block than an inspiration:( Thankfully, as I was contemplating the battle that was raging in my soul on Saturday before we headed to church, I was reminded of another such battle in the ongoing war for my soul that is detailed in my book This Is My Story. The remembrance brought me into God's presence instantaneously reminding me also of how essential remembering is to progressing in one's walk with Christ! All through the Old Testament God admonishes the Israelites to remember or more commonly worded do not forget - Deuteronomy 5:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and 1 Chronicles 16:12 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. Also, Deuteronomy 6:12 then when you eat and our satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I often wondered as a child after hearing the stories from the Old Testament how it was possible for the Israelites to get so off track in their walk with God so quickly after witnessing first-hand his awesome power when he freed them from Egypt with his wisdom and the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, I mean, how, after walking through a canyon with walls of water that you saw form before your very eyes at God's direction, does one end up worshipping a golden statue of a calf instead of the one who had performed those great acts in your life? Quite simply, the answer is by failing to remember, but still, when one experiences something that awesome, how is it possible to forget it? I'll tell you what, it doesn't make sence to me, but I know its possible because God recorded this historical incident as a warning to us that its possible to get distracted and forget what we know without a doubt , so I choose to religiously adhere to this same warning also found in Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. I take this admonition so seriously in my own life that when I thought I might die during open-heart surgery I recorded a detailed account of all the ways in which God had worked in my life for my daughter Lili so that in my possible absence she might still know and love the awesome God that her mother encountered so personally in life. I believe this might be where we fall short as parents and Christians in today's society. We fail to relate to one another and the next generation the awesome ways God has worked in our lives. There are proofs of God's existence and the reality of a close personal relationship with him through Jesus Christ all around us, but we produce offspring who fail to realize this because we never point it out to them in our personal experience:) I'll tell you what, my Lili and any other child I encounter in this life is going to know about the great and awesome ways God has freed me from slavery and led me safely through trial after trial in this life with a fully satisfied and joyful soul because that is the inheritance I want to pass on to them, and I believe because God's word says its true that remembering is vital to maintaining a healthy and vibrant relationship with God, so I commit to providing anyone and everyone with something real, current, and relevant to remember...that's what I'm attempting to do with this blog...give you something to remember just in case you don't yet have Red Sea moments to recall from your own story of are most welcome to borrow mine until you do, and just so you know, if you don't already have a story of deliverance of your own, God is ready and willing pen in hand to write it...just start walking with him through Jesus Christ, and you will be well on your way to recognizing God's deliverance and prescence in your own life!

Follow the Arrows

I haven't been doing a good job keeping up with the reading of THE STORY or following along with the corresponding Biblical text in the manner I intended, but I have been forced to keep up with the story line as I remain faithful in keeping my commitment to write lessons for the upper elementary youth at church, and I am intoxicated with love for my heavenly father as I have rediscovered his deep desire to be in a relationship with us as he begins to actively work out his plan of redemption through the Israelites! I am repeatedly amazed by his great skill as an author, teacher, and parent as I witness the beautiful manner in which he foreshadows his entire plan to restore his relationship with his fallen creation(you and I)! As I wrote for Sontown I failed, I fear, to precisely capture and relate my amazement and adoration for my creator, so I hope I don't fail here as well because I want you to be able to share in my experience at his we go, let's start with 2 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Originally, God set Israel apart as his chosen people, and in giving this young nation the 10 commandments, he hoped to make them identifiable to the rest of the world as his people resulting in their becoming a directional arrow pointing directly to him for any individual who has lost their way on the journey we call life. This intent behind the "rules" that so many despise and reject as old-fasioned rhetoric was to lovingly bring us home from our lost and wondering state separated from our Creator. So, that brings us to the question of what role we play in this scenario: (1) the flashing neon arrow pointing to God - or- (2) the lost wonderer questioning the origin of the strange yet attractive light radiating from your friend, co-worker, neighbor, the author of this blog (I hope), or the gentle stranger who helped you in your time of need? Let's question deeper...Alright ones asks yourselves," Does my life readily point the way to God so that those I encounter in life are unmistakingly directed to him?" and "If I can't honestly answer with a resounding, 'YES,' what is dimming the light of my arrow?" Okay, twos, its your turn...Why do you continue to put off seeking out the source of that strange yet appealing light you have noticed in one of the aforementioned individuals or someone else I have failed to mention? I mean, you're a go-getter aren't you, so go get it!:) Don't be reluctant to pursue your interest because the attraction you're experiencing is the call of your creator back home into a relationship with him exactly where you were created to be! Doesn't that sound wonderful! It most assuredly is! Feel loved because God has designed the entire universe just to attract you back to him:) I write these things for you to read simply because I want you to experience the peace, joy, fulfillment/contentment I get to experience daily as I live life in relationship with God. As I said, my membership in his family through Jesus Christ is not mine exclusively, but something he wants for you as well, so I share these things in hopes that you, too, will recognize the beauty and perfection of God's love for you and enter into the light of his presence through Jesus Christ:)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back Flips

I have come into contact with a wonderful illustration of the type of faith God requires from us. Its much more than believing that God exists James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. Beyond believing in God's existence, he wants us to believe in what he says-to take him at his word. In other words, when he says something, we need to view it as the undisputable truth. That is beliving and faith at its fullest! My daughter Lili is how I came by the illustration of faith I mentioned earlier. Imagine that, a child displaying faith that exemplifies God-honoring faith! Mark 10:19"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." So, let me tell you how a little child receives God's daughter, as I previously mentioned learned a new Bible verse in preschool church Phillipians 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength, and she believes these words from the Bible so much that she thinks her disabled mother or anyone else including you, I am sure, can do a backflip through Christ who gives us strength. Its sweet and silly, but it makes me think, "Does my faith measure up?" Because I can guarantee you I haven't yet nor do I plan to ever attempt that backflip that she believes with her whole heart that I can do. In fact, recently, I have been fearful of what I may be getting myself into as I pursue to fill a speaking schedule. "Am I up to what all it will entail?" "Do I really have anything to say that could impact a person for Christ?" my mind questions as I pass out business cards advertising this blog and providing contact info to book speaking engagements. Jesus looks at me with disappointment I fear when he hears these thoughts bouncing around in my skull, and responds to me much like he did to his disciples in Mark 4:40 "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" When Jesus said this he had just calmed a terrible storm that the disciples had feared would take their lives, and they still cowered in fear. I think Jesus wondered, didn't you just witness the great display of my power? Why are you still afraid instead of trusting that I am in control and can deal with any thing that comes your way as long as you're with me. Of course, maybe they were afraid of him because of the power they had witnessed from his hand, but I have a feeling Jesus is beyond misunderstanding body language and behavioral cues! Now, I wonder right along with Jesus at the fear I am experiencing as I face a few potential audiences after witnessing him calming the most recent storm in my life! Do I really believe deep in my heart just as Lili does that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength be it a back flip or a speaking engagement? I do! Amazing how recognizing he is at my side dispels all fear! Are you fearful today? Ask Jesus to be your wing-man, and you can do all things through him who gives you strength!...even a back flip;) You may say, "I've never witnessed any display of God's power, and I respond, " read back through my blog posts to witness second hand what he's done in my life, or take in the story of the Exodus of the Israelites in the Old Testament, or consider Jesus' resurrection after he was crucified on the cross because these events display the power that is at work in the lives of those who have Jesus at their side!" Just so you know, there is no need to worry that I will be attempting any back flips today; however, I may fearlessly pass out a few business cards and contemplate what the future may hold;)