Sunday, September 10, 2023

Prayer, Praise and Worship - The Ultimate Lifeline

Music is powerful.  It can boost our mood and make us happy. It can pump us up, getting us through a strenuous workout. It can motivate us, helping us to power  through a difficult task or cleaning the house It can evoke strong memories, transporting us back in time, stirring either pleasant and joyful memories or painful and sad ones.. Music is also a very mighty tool that connects us to God, guiding us toward praising Him for all He’s done, or worshiping Him in adoration for Who and All He is, or crying out to Him when we are hurting or burdened or weary and don’t know what else to do.   To me, singing to and about the Lord is a form of prayer to Him, and it connects me and draws me closer to Him. 

When I was a child, music was a big part of my growing up.  I was surrounded by it. My grandmother was a singer and my uncles played the accordion and guitar. My father attempted to get in to the music business; he dabbled in writing, singing and recording his songs. Both my mother and father had vast collections of LP’s. My dad would play anything from Fats Domino to Chubby Checker, and he made sure we watched Soul Train every Saturday afternoon. Everything he listened to was always upbeat and fun.  My mother, on the other hand, listened to artists like Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. My mom suffered from depression most of her life, so the music she listened to tended to lean towards the melancholy, and thus it had a detrimental effect on me.  To this day, I cannot listen to anything in the minor key scale because it brings me back to those depressing childhood days, and it unsettles me inside. My husband has a massive collection of Christian music from the 70’s on up, and sometimes when he is playing a song that is in the minor keys, after a few minutes, I have to ask him to change it. Even though the words are beautiful, the sad sounding minor keys suddenly gives me a very gloomy feeling. It is amazing how strong of an effect the melody of a song can have on me some 50 plus years later. It is a testament of how deep an influence music is on the emotional center of the brain. And which is why I tend to only listen to positive music with an uplifting beat.

God uses music in many powerful ways.  Throughout the bible, examples of songs of praises, songs of victory, and songs of mourning can be found. When the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptians, they broke out into spontaneous songs of praise and victory, the Song of Miriam and Moses in Exodus 15:  After Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison and put into stocks, they started praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them when suddenly a great earthquake shook the prison and the doors were opened (Acts 16:25-28). Talk about the power of song!  What an amazing example!  Instead of being sad or angry that they were just beaten and thrown into jail unjustly, Paul and Silas just started singing and praising the Lord!  I wonder what the prisoners were thinking. They must have been impressed.  I know the experience caused the keeper of the prison to become so terrified that he asked what he must do to be saved, and he and his family were baptized that night (Acts 16:29-34).  Musical instruments are also mentioned several times in the bible. Instruments such as the harp, trumpet, cymbals, lyre, shofar, bells, tambourine, flute, and timbrel were all used quite frequently in biblical times.  David used the harp to calm Saul when a distressing spirit from the Lord was troubling him.  ”David would take a harp and play for him, and Saul would become refreshed and well and the distressing spirit would depart from him”- 1 Samuel 16: 14-23.   In Jericho, the high and formidable walls fell down on the seventh day of marching, after the priests blew the trumpets, the shofar horns, and the peopled shouted with a great shout (Joshua 6). The walls were no small walls, they were massive stone walls, between 12-15 feet high and 6 feet wide, and they were backed by a 28 foot watchtower. God used the shouts of men and the sounds of the horns to crumble these walls that were considered impenetrable as a reminder of His mighty power and faithfulness.

I myself have seen the powerful impact of songs of worship and praise many times in my own life.  Two particular examples stand out in my mind. The first occurred the day after I had my hysterectomy in September 2019.  I woke up in extreme pain and severe nausea.  The anti-nausea medicine they had given me was not working, and I could not take any pain meds because I was vomiting.  Of course this happened at 6 am when the doctor’s office was not open, so I had to wait for the message to get to the doctor, then wait for the doctor to call in the new prescription, then wait for the pharmacy to open, then wait for my husband to go pick it up. During those horrible hours of waiting in intense pain and misery, I put on praise and worship music. The song I had on repeat was "He Will Carry You" Throughout my tears and anguish, I listened to and sang this song over and over again. Before I knew it, the pain had subsided.  I was able to endure. This song was my pain medicine.  As I was singing to the Lord, focusing on Him as my source of strength and comfort, He faithfully got me through and carried me during those long, painful hours.

The other time occurred during what I now refer to as “The Incident”. My husband and I were taking a long road trip, driving to Wisconsin to visit his mother.  Since I have a hard time sleeping anywhere that is not my own home, and I am prone to anxiety at night, I had been taking CBD gummies to help me sleep.  Well apparently, unbeknownst to me, the brand that I had usually been taken was out of stock. When my husband gave me the substituted ones, the first thing I notice was that the taste was off. I asked him why they tasted weird and he said the other ones were out of stock, but the guy recommended these ones and said they were only a bit stronger.  About an hour later, after I had fallen asleep, I immediately knew something was wrong.  I suddenly woke up from having had a horrible, psychedelic nightmare that consisted of an enormous clown’s face melting.  I instantly jumped up out of bed, and asked my husband “WHAT WAS IN THAT GUMMY??!! As I walked toward him, my legs gave out and I fell, and I couldn’t walk. I was hallucinating, I was acting irrational, I couldn’t speak right, my mind felt out of control, and I was terrified. My husband called his friend, who had a pretty good idea of what might have happened, (the new gummies probably had THC in them) and tried to calm me down. He told me that I would be fine in a few hours, I just had to wait it through.  I tried to go to sleep, but I kept panicking, and I seriously thought I was losing my mind.  I was terrified and felt like I was in a spiritual battle, fighting the enemy for control of my mind.  Words cannot adequately describe the terror I was feeling or the war that was raging in my mind. Finally, I got the presence of mind to pray, so I just kept praying, without ceasing, for what seemed like hours, and singing to myself “Jesus Loves Me”, the children’s hymn. In its simplicity, it was all I could muster in the state that my mind was in at the time, but in its power, I was delivered.  The Lord heard it, and comforted me and allowed me to finally get peace and to fall asleep. I know without a doubt, that Jesus was fighting that battle for me that entire night.  Suffice it to say, I only use Christian music, sermons, and chamomile tea for sleep and anxiety now.

God has used songs just for me to get me through some pretty rough and scary times.  When I am anxious or worried, I put on my power play list. My go to power song is “My Hope Is In You".  That song lifts me up and redirects me to where my mind needs to be: focused on, the only hope out there: Jesus. When I can’t articulate the words, or I am just feeling out of sorts in some kind of way, God ministers to me through song.  When I am angry or upset about something, and I listen and sing praises to Him, I am instantly transformed, and I am in a much better place spiritually and mentally.  God created us with the ability to play an instrument and/or sing, albeit some better than others, of course. But, as my husband likes to say about my singing, it is joyful noise to the Lord, that’s all that matters.  When we sing to the Lord, when we humble ourselves and worship Him in song, He meets us right there, and we are refreshed and renewed in spirit and in mind.  There is no better lifeline than this.


Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation!” – Psalm 95:1

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Showering of Blessings Come from Simple Obedience

This week I was reminded of the power there is in obedience.  A quote from one of my favorite pastors, Charles Stanley, has stayed with me over the years: “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.” I attended a ladies retreat last weekend, and my fire was reignited, my spirit renewed, and I was blessed over and over again by many “but God” moments. I stepped out in blind faith, obeying something the Lord told me to do, and oh how wonderfully and powerfully I was blessed!

Back In June, the Lord spoke to me and said: “Go to the ladies retreat”. I knew it was from the Lord, because it just came out of nowhere in a quiet moment, and I had not attended or thought about a ladies retreat in several years.  So I looked into it briefly, then brushed off the idea and forgot about it. About two months later, God spoke to me again, in a stronger voice, “Go to the retreat!” That jolted me a bit, and I remembered the quote about obedience, so I diligently searched for the information and registered.  It was a giant leap of faith, as I knew I would not know anyone who would be attending nor whom I would be rooming with.  Then I rested and waited in peaceful anticipation of what the Lord had in store for me.

True to form, whenever God is preparing something to work in your life, the enemy tries to come in and steal your joy and peace and prevent whatever good thing God is going to do from happening. So a little over 2 weeks before the retreat date, I came down with the dreaded virus. And it hit me hard; I was down for 2 weeks.  All I kept thinking was “Lord, please don’t let me miss this retreat!” But this time of illness was actually a blessing, as it was preparing me and my heart for the retreat. It made me cry out to the Lord in my misery, asking for strength and healing. I kept remembering scriptures of when Jesus healed people, like the lady who was made well by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment: “Your faith has made you well….go in peace (Mark 5:25-34), or the leper who said “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2-4). It made me appreciate and love my husband even more; he was my nurse and attended to me constantly, and more importantly, he prayed for me continuously.  Another unexpected blessing from this illness was that it broke my dependence on coffee (caffeine), of which I have reaped many benefits that have improved my health. I sleep better, waking up earlier and more refreshed now, giving me more time to read the Word; my heart is no longer racing and working hard, my blood pressure has dropped, and my legs and body don’t ache as much.  All of this was preparing me to be ready for the retreat and sit at His feet, opening my heart to be still, and stripping any hindrance and ridding me of myself, allowing me to hear only from Him for 3 days. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose “– Romans 8:28.

The theme of the retreat was “Beautifully Broken”, and I knew why I needed to be there.  For years, I have struggled with regrets over my past sins, mistakes, and failures.  I know that many things I have done have affected my children, and I struggle with mother guilt, battling the “I coulda, shoulda, woulda” in my mind. Sometimes it is pure torment, but a beautiful sister there reminded me that it is the enemy telling me these things, and don’t let him in my mind that way. As a mother, I may always struggle with this, but a song I heard at the retreat said, “Our sins they are many, His mercy is more.” When these thoughts creep in, I have to keep reminding myself of God’s Word and promises for me. Yes, I did sinful things in my past, but the blood of Jesus cleansed me and wiped the slate clean (Isaiah 43:25). I became a new creation when I confessed my sins and accepted Jesus as Lord of my life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Hebrews 8:12 says “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” If God doesn’t remember my sins anymore, why should I keep rehashing them? I am free from that bondage. And this is why it is so important to read and study the Word of God, because when these battles of the mind, the spiritual battles in the dark hours of night when we are alone and feel beaten down, we can recall these scriptures that are implanted in our hearts and shout them aloud, strengthening us and reminding the enemy he has no place here!

Another “but God” moment for me was through Secret Sister/Prayer Partners. This was an optional activity, where you submit your name and prayer requests and someone draws your name and vice versa.  You commit to praying for your “secret sister” at the conference and for the year, along with giving her 3 gifts during the retreat.  The first night, when I opened my first gift, this note card was inside (mind you, I have never met, and still don’t know who my new “secret sister is, but God used this to speak to me): 

This blessed me so much and spoke to me in a very powerful way! Another thing I struggle with is my feeling of inadequacy and always feeling like an oddball.  I don’t have a dynamic, vivacious personality.  I was always the last one picked for teams in school. I have always been quiet and a loner, doing things by myself. In crowds or groups, I retreat to a quiet little corner, watching all the life-of-the-party people do their thing. So I have struggled to find my place in life.  The older I get, the more I have accepted that l am just “different”. When I read this note, tears started to flow. I said to myself “Yes Lord, You did! You created me and You get me! I will obey You, and You will do the rest!”  So again, I took a leap of faith, and started being open with sisters I met, seizing opportunities to speak blessings to them. I was hesitant at first, since I had long ago put up a wall around me because of past hurts and because I felt my past attempts at reaching out to others was not well received; I felt rejected.  But the Lord said to me “keep doing this, and if it isn’t received, shake off the dust, and move on to the next one” (Matthew 10:14).

During the time of worship and prayer, I asked God to help me be a better wife to my husband and a better helpmate to walk alongside of him in his ministry, and to speak to me about how He wants to use me and my gifts, whatever they are. During this time of waiting on the Lord to speak, this song came on, which is now on my list of power songs: Canvas and Clay.  It spoke to my struggle with past mistakes, and how they aren’t wasted. It spoke to how wonderfully I am made, and how He makes all things work together for my good and His glory. As I was deep in prayer, I heard the very last words of the song “He’s not finished with you yet”.  I looked up and said "Okay Lord, what is it?", and He told me to go back to writing. In October 2020, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. In addition to the numerous physical symptoms, there are cognitive ones:  brain fog, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, etc., all of which have been a battle for me and has put a damper on my writing. There are studies that show that brain volume loss occurs in Graves’ disease, so as they say, the struggle is real. But listening to the many wonderful ladies who spoke at the retreat about their many difficult struggles, which are much worse than mine, and seeing how the Lord continues to use them, the Lord showed me that He can still use me.  My body and mind might not be the same anymore, I am adjusting to this new normal,  but I see that I can still be used by God, just in a slower, stiller and simpler way. So here I am, writing once again.

One thing I noticed of all the ladies that spoke or I met, was that in spite of all their pain, suffering, loss, difficulties, etc., they all had the joy of the Lord. They all emanated this light and peace and love and pure, unspeakable joy of the Lord.  That is what aging gracefully is. That is what obedience to the Lord is. It is submitting to the Lord, no matter what circumstances befall you.  It is having that peace that surpasses all understanding, and trusting that the Lord will continue to sustain you and be there for you and bless you as you navigate through life’s many challenges. It is being receptive to what He is telling you to do, and following in faith, sight unseen, to whatever it is the Lord is telling you or leading you to do.  You will be abundantly and unbelievably blessed.  I found this out by my simple act of obedience in heeding the Lord’s call to go to the retreat. I arrived not knowing a single person, but I left having new sisters in Christ.  I left with my soul and spirit renewed, realizing God is not finished with me and He can, will and still use me, no matter what I’ve done in the past, or how much of an oddball I feel like I am.  I left knowing that He has equipped me with certain gifts, has uniquely made me, with my quirky personality, scars, flaws and all, to bless certain people. He accepts who I am and I can sit still and be who He made me to be.

He’s not finished with me. And He’s not finished with you.

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey. – Luke 11:28

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Victor or Victim?

 I recently took up running. Partly because my gym has been closed, and partly because of the weight gain that I’ve been battling. I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in October, and the medication that has been prescribed to me comes with the nicely added side effect:  “may cause obesity”. Great. While battling these additional pounds I have put on is not a symptom that I welcome, my body has gotten stronger, and that is a symptom that I do welcome and embrace fully. . A few months ago, I could not climb the stairs without pain or struggle, nor get up from a seated or squatted position without assistance and a lot of effort;  now I can jog a full 30 minutes without having to take a break. This is no small feat, mind you, as I have never been a runner in my entire life; 5 minutes in and I would be done. The increase to my strength and endurance truly hit me the other day.  I was rounding a curve and going up a hill, while at the same time the main chorus to the song I was listening to, Again I Say, Rejoice, came on. Struggling to push through and not to quit as the words “rejoice in the Lord always” were repeating in my ears, this beautiful sight of the sun rising over the mountains greeted me. At that moment, I felt so wonderfully and fully victorious, and I realized just how much the Lord has brought me through. I stopped, in complete awe of His greatness and love for me, tears of joy and gratitude started flowing from deep within my heart. The picture I took does not do justice to the beauty God showed me at that moment, but it was a feeling of sitting on Jesus shoulder’s and Him saying “I’ve got this”. He made me see that I wasn’t a victim of my disease, age, past, etc., I was a victor because of Him and what He has helped me, and continues to help me, overcome. 

Victim mentality or victim syndrome has three key beliefs:  1) bad things happen and will continue to happen; 2) other people and/or circumstances are to blame, and 3) any attempt to create change will fail, so there is no point in trying.  At times, I have struggled with this; growing up in a home filled with depression, pessimism and fear probably played a part. It was like having a dark cloud forever hovering over me. Even now, when I visit my mother, she likes to revisit the past. Rehashing past hurts, people’s transgressions, mistakes, etc., and it has been a fight for me not to take on those tendencies, and I sometimes leave these visits with some anxiety.  There are times, however, when I travel down my own personal memory lane, that I wonder and marvel at how I ever made it this far. And I know it was because of Jesus. He saved me and He rescued me.  I am reminded that I am not a victim. Jesus made me victorious. I am not the things I have been through or the things I was, I am victorious because Jesus had a hand in my life, even when I didn’t know it or Him.  I endured racism and bullying in school. But I survived.  I endured abusive relationships. But I am strong.  I was a single mother and had struggles. But I made it through. I am not those bad things that happened to me. Those challenges helped make me stronger and refined me, but most important of all, they helped me see that Jesus was there all along, protecting me and holding my hand through it all, and loving me like no one else ever can or will.

I have been told by others that they appreciate my optimistic attitude and my ability to see things in a positive light.   I try to see things from God’s standpoint. The other day, I was having a conversation with my husband about the time I went to California a few weeks after having a hysterectomy and I ended up in the hospital. He reminded me of how I almost died and how I should have listened to him about not going in the first place. I replied by saying “but God”. I reminded my husband how God put the right people there for me at the right time. I reminded him how seeing the body of Christ come together for me was an excellent witness for my unbelieving children to see and that it could be planted seeds for the future. And I reminded him how, once again, God protected me through it all and saved my life. This conversation triggered a memory for me about how a similar situation occurred when I was about 24 years old. I had a biopsy done for cervical cancer and somehow the doctor had nicked an artery, and then I had unknowingly been hemorrhaging inside for several days. I ended up in the hospital, and by the grace of God, just in the nick of time. “But God” again. I was a Jehovah’s Witness at the time, yet God still had put His protection over me. He had a plan for me, of which I was oblivious to it, or Him, at the time.  When I look back at these and other episodes in my life, I don’t feel sorry for myself that it happened. I say “Praise You Lord for being there and saving me when I didn’t deserve it!”

God wants us to live our lives like we are victorious.  Doing so gives a strong witness to others around us of how powerful and loving He is, and points to the fact that knowing Jesus is the only way to get through this thing called life. Living our life victoriously points to Jesus as the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of life on earth; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).  If I lived my life focusing on the negative parts of my life, being a victim of my circumstances, it would invalidate all the good God has done, and take the focus off God, and put it on me.  I think of Moses, when God told him to go to Pharaoh to bring His people out of Egypt. God knew of Moses’ insecurities, and He told him, “I will certainly be with you” (Genesis 3:12). Yet Moses would give excuses why God shouldn’t use him: “Suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice” (Genesis 4:1). He was taking the focus off of God and what God would do, and instead put it on him and his voice. So God showed Moses a miracle to remind him who was really the focus here, and to help him refocus on whose power and strength was to be relied upon.  God turned a rod into a serpent, then back to a rod again. Then He made Moses’ hand leprous, then restored it. Yet this wasn’t enough for Moses, with him saying “O my Lord, I am not eloquent and I am slow of speech and tongue”, again focusing on himself and his weaknesses, being victim minded, so to speak. God responded by saying “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Genesis 4: 2-12). And still, even with God’s assurance that He would be his mouth, Moses asked God to please send someone else, and God’s anger was kindled against Moses, so he sent Aaron his brother to speak on his behalf (Genesis 4:14-16).  I can’t help but wonder if that is what happens when I tell God I can’t do something because of some excuse I come up with based on what happened in my past. I sure don’t want to kindle God’s anger by not remembering that it is Him who goes with me, in everything I do and that it’s not in my own strength.   I am not a victim of my past. God is with me and that makes me victorious.  I am not inadequate because of past events. I am victorious because God lives in me. He gives me the words to say, the strength to endure, the power to persevere and to boldly press on. When the enemy whispers to me you can’t do it because you are a nobody, the Lord tells me I can because it is through Him I am strong.  Never forget the power we have is Jesus! Through Jesus, we can be victorious!

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Song: Again I Say Rejoice 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

He Calls Me Friend

Weird. Different. Inadequate. If I had a theme song, it would probably be “Which One of These Things Doesn’t Belong”, a song from a popular children’s show.  I’ve struggled with these feelings for most of my life. I think it stems from a combination of many things. I am biracial, so being only half Mexican, and only half Black, I never really felt like I fully belonged to either ethnicity. Then the fact that I am a huge introvert doesn’t help matters. Even though I now have a better understanding of who I am and why and have embraced my uniqueness, it still manages to make life difficult at times.  Social events and group interactions, for instance, are the death of me.  A few months ago, I had to attend a large company function. I was fairly new, and didn’t know anyone. I grabbed my breakfast burrito, and was relieved when I found a safe quiet corner behind a stairwell, where no one could see me.  My tranquil haven only lasted a short while, because one of my co-workers, who also happens to be an introvert, came and pulled out of my corner and forced me to join my other co-workers. While I was not overjoyed about this “rescue”, I felt good because a fellow introvert, and someone who understood my personality, made the effort to make me a part of the group.

Needless to say, having these “weird” personality traits does not make it easy to make friends. I do not have the gift of gab, which is ironic, considering my nickname is Gabby.  In groups, I usually remain silent, unless I feel very comfortable.  I am very blessed that the job the Lord put me in consists of a group of people (and a fantastic boss), who understand and appreciate my personality, and they have allowed me to come out of my shell in my own timing, in my own way. I think what made this transition so easy was that each member listened and valued me and what I have to say.  I think it’s like positive reinforcement: if someone truly listens and acknowledges a person, without dismissing them or changing the subject, the other person will start to feel safe, and will start to open up more.  That is how God is. He truly cares about His children, and He listens attentively. And the safety and security we feel when we go to Him in prayer, the more we open up to Him.  Sometimes it would bother me that I don’t have a lot of friends, and I know my husband wishes I had more friends. While I have always been content to do things by myself, there have been times I wished I had someone who really “gets me “and who I could share everything with. Yes, I have my husband, and he is my dearest friend, but the reality is, husbands don’t always understand the female persuasion. They don’t understand our bodies and the changes that go on; they don’t understand why our emotions are up and down and why we cry at the strangest things.  But as I get older and grow more in my walk with the Lord, I have realized that I do have a friend, the best friend anyone could ever have: Jesus!

I am constantly amazed at God’s goodness.  He is always there, and He is never far away.  Many times, when I am overwhelmed, and my thoughts are all scrambled and I don’t know what to do or say or how to pray, I start journaling to Him.  As I do, I feel immediate peace, and He guides me in the right direction.  He answers me, He comforts me, and He directs my steps. I am overwhelmed in knowing that He cares so much for me.  One of my favorite songs is “I Am a Friend of God”. I weep every time I hear the lyrics: “Who am I that you are mindful of me? That you hear me, when I call. Is it true that you are thinking of me, that you love me? It’s amazing!”  It is very amazing indeed! Taken from David’s words in Psalm 8, this song is a powerful reminder of what a wonderful friend God is to me.  He responds to me is so many ways.  When I am lonely or melancholy, He sends his creation, like birds or bunnies, to greet me on my walks to let me know He is still there. When I am feeling inadequate about myself or my sense of worth and purpose, He reminds me of why I am here, by way of a comment from a citizen I helped or commendation from my boss.  When I am struggling with a decision, He gives me confirmation by opening or closing the doors and giving me peace. The ways He speaks to me are endless, and I am blown away that He hears and cares about even the most insignificant thing I am dealing with.

God’s Word is filled with examples of how He hears and cares for us.  I am touched by how He responded to Hagar, the Egyptian slave of Sarah and Abraham. When Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham, she conceived, and Sarah became jealous, creating a contentious situation. Because of Sarah’s harsh treatment of her, Hagar fled to the desert, all alone. She must have felt so isolated and overwhelmed.  She was an Egyptian slave, so she was away from her people and the home she grew up in. She was treated badly for merely obeying orders from her mistress: to go in to her master and conceive. She is pregnant and all alone.  In the desert. But God, our wonderful and kind Father, goes to her as she is sitting by a well, alone and hopeless, and speaks to her. After she tells Him what happened, He comforts her and gives her a prophecy about her son. He heard her affliction! He heard a lonely, wandering, pregnant young woman in the desert and He came to her to give her comfort and a promise! Then “she called the name of the Lord, The God Who Sees” for she said have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16). How comforted she must have felt knowing God saw her and thought so much of her to come in her time of distress and need!  And He comforted her again several years later. Sarah had again banished Hagar, this time with her son Ishmael. Hagar and Ishmael wandered alone in the desert, and their food and water ran out. She was despondent. She put her son under a tree and walked away so she wouldn’t have to watch him die. God heard her and Ishmael’s cries and He called out to her. He told her to “fear not” and He again gave her a promise. Her son would lead a great nation! And He led her and Ishmael to water, thus saving their lives.  (Genesis 21:9-20)

The story of Hagar is a powerful testament as to how God hears us and cares about us.  It strengthens my faith in knowing that God hears me too.  He listened and heard the cries of a dejected, broken-hearted, lonely, young slave girl in the desert. I know that no matter how alone, odd, or inadequate I feel, God is always right there, listening to my cries, and comforting me, as only a loving Father can comfort.  There may be times that I feel He doesn’t understand me, or isn’t interested my trivial concerns, or is too far away, but I look to His Word, and I and find stories like Hagar’s that remind me of how loving He is, how mindful of me He is, and that He calls me friend.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him?; And the son of Man that you visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels and You have crowned him with glory and honor.” - Psalm 8:3-5

Song: I Am A Friend of God

Saturday, October 13, 2018


I hit a milestone this year: I turned 50.  As the day grew closer, I found myself anticipating the big one with some trepidation.  Growing up, my grandma would frequently refer to the “change of life” as the worst time in a women’s life, and she painted a bleak picture of menopause and growing older with scary scenarios of things like women’s uteruses falling out, horrible hot flashes, and emotional breakdowns. Yeah, fun times that I was not looking forward to.  I put a lot of what she said out of my mind until I turned 40, and those fears started creeping up again. I was in college at that time, and those persistent fears led me to choose women and mid-life crisis as a topic for my research project. I thought it would help me to understand and cope with the psychological and physical changes that were around the corner.  The things I learned from my research eased my fears, as I learned that a lot of it has to do with attitude and perspective. So that knowledge reassured me throughout my 40’s. But then I turned 50.

I tend to think and overthink things. That is my introvert and OCD mind. I think the hardest thing for me was realizing how short life really is.  Life expectancy can be 70 or 80, and I realized that I only have 20 or 30 years left, God willing.  When I look backwards 20 years, those memories seem like they only occurred a short time ago. The reality that life is only a vapor” (James 4:14) hit me hard.  I see that more and more people I used to know from different circles are passing away.  Some younger, some older, and the realization that tomorrow is not promised to anyone makes me appreciate each day on earth more. Another difficult thing for me was looking back and wishing I could rectify some of the mistake I made. The phrase “youth is wasted on the young” takes on new meaning for me. While I catch myself being dragged down with regret, the Lord reminds me that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I know God knows that I am but dust (Psalm 103:14), and I am not the same person I was back then.  He has given me wisdom, and He will use that wisdom for His glory.  I also take comfort that God restores the years the locust have eaten (Joel 2:25). He has preserved my life.  There have been many time that I look back and wonder how did I survive some of the crazy, dunderheaded, dangerous choices I made? God had His hand on my life and protected me for a long time, even before I knew Him!  He has provided for me abundantly, and gave me the desire of my heart, my wonderful husband, when I was 45. Who says God doesn’t restore and work miracles?  And since I have seen firsthand what God has already done in my life, I trust that He will resolve the things in my life that I am still waiting on, things that seem impossible to me, but to Him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). I trust that He will continue to restore those years, fixing damage that was done by my poor choices and ignorance. 

With this new decade, I am learning that a lot of stuff doesn’t matter, and I need to live more simply and fully, and because I have Jesus, that means more abundantly. I find that I appreciate God’s natural beauty more. I would rather be outdoors with my husband, experiencing nature and wildlife, than wasting it on artificial, meaningless things.  Time doesn’t stand still for anyone, and every minute is valuable. I stopped sweating the small stuff. I stopped stressing about my appearances and caring what others might think (Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”- Ecclesiastes. 1:2).  I don’t feel the need to be perfect anymore, worrying about matching my shoes to my outfits, concealing my tummy bulge, or worrying what people think if they knew I shop at thrift stores. I march to the beat of my own drum, and feel okay that I still dress like I’m in the 1970’s and 1980’s. And I started to embrace my gray hair.  I decided to stop coloring it about a year ago, for several reasons (time, money, health), and it has been liberating.   I like how the Contemporary English Version bible refers to gray hair: "Young people take pride in their strength, but the gray hairs of wisdom are even more beautiful.(Proverbs 20:29). If this isn’t a comforting scripture for growing old, I don’t know what is. There are many such scriptures in the bible that show God values older women and gray hair, and His opinion is all that matters. 

Turning 50 also made me see that I have to “let go and let God” more, and live that truth each day.  It’s hard sometimes, and I have to be reminded of that daily.  Whatever problem comes up, I tell God to take over, then have I peace for the day. But in the morning, I take up whatever the worry of the day is, and I start the cycle all over again. But God is faithful. And patient. I am so thankful for His patience with me. It seems that turning 50 gave me some gumption, because I made the momentous decision of packing up and leaving California, the state I was born and raised in.  It was not easy, but with a lot of prayer, support of Godly friends, and God opening the door to my new job, we made the move.  I had to really trust God with this decision, even when it seemed so scary, and especially when I encountered some resistance from people. I had to forge ahead and trust that God was leading the way. I had to trust my husband as leader and submit to him.  I am terrible when it comes to making decisions. Being OCD, I tend to ruminate over things until my brain is ready to explode.  So when I asked God for guidance so I wouldn’t make the wrong decision, I had to give up everything that was of me, and let Him lead the way. And He opened doors that my human mind could not comprehend.  From giving me the job that came out of nowhere, to leading us to an apartment that we could afford and was surrounded by His beauty, I could fully see His hand at work. But thank goodness for His patience, because the enemy started whispering doubts in my ear not long after we got settled in, and I started having second thoughts, a sort of buyer’s remorse for movers.  Getting caught up in missing my family and friends and old co-workers, being overwhelmed by the newness of my job and the unfamiliarity of my new surroundings; all this started weighing on me, and I had to rely on the Lord for strength.  One day, one of my new co-workers asked me how I was doing. She told me that she was impressed with my courage to make such a big decision, and I thought to myself, “I think I’m more nuts than guts to do this”.  But I thought about it later.  God has sustained me during this transition.  When I have moments of fear, loneliness or doubt, He is there, giving me strength. And loving me and caring for me and being patient with me when I go from praising Him for blessing me with my new job and apartment, to questioning Him if this was the right decision.

This year was a year of milestones.  Turning 50. Leaving a company after 10 years. Leaving my family. Moving to another state. Starting a brand new job. But God is faithful. I am reminded of Sarah in the bible (Genesis 12-18).  She had to pick up and leave with her husband Abraham to an unknown land when God told them to. Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65 when they made this momentous journey; she was 15 years older than I am! She too experienced doubt when God told her she would have a child when she was in her 90’s, but God proved faithful. And even when doubt and impatience caused her to make an unwise decision by sending Hagar to bring forth the child God promised to Sarah, He still blessed her with the promised heir, and she is included as an example of faith in Hebrews 11:11.   I am so blessed that God put these examples in the bible. He gave us His Word to encourage us, strengthen us, and show us His faithfulness.  There is nothing new under the sun, and I take comfort that I can turn to Him for guidance as I continue on my journey, waiting and relying on Him as He continues to guide my steps and remind me of others who have been through the same thing I am experiencing.  There are many more milestones that I will encounter, and God will continue to be there for me every step of the way.

"Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you." - Isaiah 46:4

Saturday, February 24, 2018

It's All About Perspective

As I grow older, I am discovering, that in order to deal with life better, I need to change my perspective. Towards a lot of things.  Whenever I am dealing with some dilemma or stressful event in my life, I find that I am having frequent inner dialogues with myself, and I see that when I look at it from God’s perspective, and a more positive one, I realize that I have more peace, and the stress or tension leaves me.  When I reframe it from a Godly perspective, I get a peace that surpasses all understanding. However, this is not always easy to do.

One difficulty that I frequently have to battle with in this regard, is the area in which I live.  Before I got married and moved in to my husband’s apartment, I lived in a decent neighborhood in a very quiet complex, on a quiet street, with a garage and plenty of room.  Now I live in small apartment, in a not-so-good of a neighborhood, with homelessness, gangs and drugs, constant noise, and various criminal activity on an almost daily basis. My once quiet nights are filled with things like suddenly being awakened by cars speeding and burning rubber in the alley, sounding like they will come crashing through our bedroom wall, or hearing the sounds of someone outside our window, in a drug induced state, cursing up a storm, banging on trash cans outside our window.  Sometimes I fear for our safety, as my husband was once threatened by someone wielding a hypodermic needle because he accidentally kicked over his beer bottle when walking home from the store.  These things no longer bother me like they used to, namely because I changed my perspective.  When I would express fear, my husband would always remind me, pointing towards the heavens, that we are protected, and to give it to the Lord.  Then when I saw that my husband would witness to the homeless and drug addicts, I realized that this is a mission field, and God has us here for a reason. So instead of dwelling on the negative, and telling myself “I hate living here”, I found myself being thankful and content, knowing that one of my husband’s greatest passions is spreading the love and words of Jesus to people, and living here provides him that opportunity, and even more importantly, it is part of God’s plan for us.

I always get comfort when I go to the bible and see examples of others who experienced similar challenges.  Moses had to change his perspective.  When God told him He was going to send him to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses kept giving God excuses. Moses asked who is he that he should be the one to do it. He asked God what should he tell the people if they asked who sent him. When God gave him all the instructions, Moses asked what if the people wouldn’t believe or listen to him.   Then after God showed him the two miracles of turning the staff into a serpent, and turning his hand leprous then restoring it back to health again, Moses had yet another excuse:  he was not eloquent and was slow in speech and tongue.  By this time God was angry and asked Moses basically “who do you think gave humans a mouth and the ability to hear or speak? If I gave you a mouth, don’t you think I will give you the words?” Moses really needed to change his perspective at this point.  I don’t know about you, but if I saw a burning bush that wasn’t consumed, and saw God turn a staff into a snake, and then turn my hand white as snow with leprosy then back to health again, I would be pretty convinced that God was telling me to do something and that I better do it, now, no questions asked!  I think with all the evidence that God showed him, Moses could have shifted his thinking and said to himself, “yes, maybe I am not a good speaker, but God will give me the strength and courage and the right words to do this!” But it took Moses some time, and witnessing God’s might and wonders, to overcome his pessimistic perspective.  I love how God used people like Moses, with his negative and doubtful thinking, to make His plan known and to get it accomplished.   Moses’ example encourages me because it shows me that I am not the only one whoever struggled with negative thinking, and even though we might succumb to it from time to time, God can and will still use us.  It is also an example to us, that even though we don’t think we can accomplish something, or that our circumstances won’t get better, God will make us victorious, either by removing the obstacle, or giving us strength and hope to endure. Setting our sights on God, on the things above, gives us the perspective we need to persevere and be strong in our daily battles.

Changing our perspective from a self-centered one to a God-centered one can be a daily battle.  Some days are easier than others. Some days we need extra help in this area.  Reading God’s Word, listening to praise and worship music, praying, even if all we can do is throw up arrow prayers for the time being, helps so much in getting our mind right, and more in line with God’s.  When I find myself in despair over something, imagining the worst case scenario, I sometimes have to fight to change my perspective.  The “I can’t stand this small apartment” becomes “I love my cozy little home with my husband”. The “there is no hope for my prodigal and unsaved children” becomes “God has this and He’s actively working on them in His timing and His way.”  The “my job stresses me out” becomes “I am so thankful that God gave me good job with good benefits and good co-workers.”  The more I see things from God’s perspective, the less overwhelming life becomes, and the more peace and contentment sets in.  And the more I see and realize all the blessings God has bestowed on me, the more grateful and thankful I become for all that He has done.  

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” – Colossians 3:1-4

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The One Who Never Changes

Change has always been hard for me.  Whether it’s a new job, new living arrangements, or new season in life, getting acclimated to the “new normal” takes me a while. I remember after I finished grad school in 2013, I was out of sorts for a while.  I had been going to college every semester, spring, summer and fall, for 10 years straight, and then that season in my life to suddenly came to an end. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but before I knew it, I adapted, just like I usually do, and found something more valuable to meaningful to invest in: Bible College and church.  Some changes are sudden and some are gradual.  Some changes are easier to deal with; others are much harder to adapt to, like the aging of a parent, the loss of youth, health, and vitality, and the loss of important relationships.  Maybe you never completely adjust to these changes; you just learn how to deal with it, the best way you know how.  But it’s an inescapable fact: change is and always will be a part of life.  I can’t control what happens to me or around me, but I can control how I let it affect me, and I take comfort in God, knowing that He never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and always (Hebrews 13:8), and He promises to be there for me always, through any trial, storm, or change.

There are physical changes that face us all. As I get older, I find myself faced with the subtle changes that come with age: diminished vision, longer recuperating time from illness and physical exertion, and of course the vanity side of aging: more grey hair and wrinkles.  Then there are my health changes that seem to be getting worse with age, namely IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  I have lived with this for almost 15 years, and it seems to impact the quality of my life almost daily now.  There are days that I look 5 months pregnant because of the severe bloating (thank goodness for loose and flowy tops and yoga pants), and the pain and discomfort becomes almost unbearable. In the beginning it was more manageable, but now I suffer from various levels of pain and discomfort about 85- 90% of the time now.  God bless my patient and long suffering husband, who has had to endure my numerous complaints, feeling helpless as to how to help me, but doing any and all he can to help alleviate my symptoms.  This condition limits many of my activities often, but my husband is so gracious and compassionate in enduring this, because my limits also impacts him.  The most powerful thing he does is pray for me, and this has helped me to endure the toughest of days.  Needless to say, this wasn’t a welcome change, it is my thorn that I have learned to live with, by the grace of God. I take great comfort in God’s words to Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Change can also come in the form of lost relationships.  Sometimes friends will just drop out of your life for no apparent reason, or maybe there is a reason, but they just didn’t share it with you. Even though it may hurt for a while, you tend heal, and accept that they are no longer in your life.  Then there is the loss of a close family relationship that can be very painful, and you just never quite get over it.  Several years ago, when I was disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witness organization, my brother, whom I was very close to, stopped speaking to me. It has been more than 15 years now, but I still miss the relationship we used to have. Perhaps though, more painful than losing the relationship of a sibling, is the loss of a relationship with your child.  It is painful for sure, and I don’t know if it will ever be restored, but I rest assured in the never changing nature of God, and I rely in Him, to understand my pain, and to comfort me during those immense moments of sadness. I take comfort in knowing nothing is too big or too hard for Him to fix, in His will, and in His timing.

Whatever change I am faced with, I hold on tight to my relationship with Jesus.  I have an unexplainable feeling of peace and security, knowing that He will never change. "I the Lord do not change." - Malachi 3:6. His word never changes, His attributes never change, His promises never change, and more importantly, His love for me never changes.  As I read through all of scripture, I see that His nature is the same throughout, from Old Testament to New Testament.  God is consistent and unchanging ALL THE TIME! When there is a change regarding my health, I trust that God, if it is His will, will heal me, in His timing, or He will give me the strength and the means to endure. If it is change regarding the loss of relationships, I trust that He will comfort me in my sadness, restore the relationship in His due time, or replace the lost relationships with new brothers and sisters in Christ.  God is faithful and unchanging and wants the best for his children. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” - James 1:17.  In this world of constant change and chaos, it it awesome to know that there is an unchanging, steady anchor, Jesus Christ, that I can cling to, and He lets me know that through every change, He is right there with me, and that I will be ok.