A Romans 8:28 Mindset

Getting ready to travel soon to visit our special needs son Jeffrey in Arizona.  I’m really excited to see him – yet at the same time I can feel my heart often doing the flip-flop thing.  Excitement, yet at the same time trepidation.  Why?  One reason is because I haven’t seen him since Christmas 2016.  Not my choice, but his.

Our precious son who made such great strides in moving away from home to another state to attend college has fallen off the grid, but we’re not sure why because he won’t tell us.  He ended up having to drop out of college after his junior year, and got kicked out of the great house he was staying at because of this unknown issue.  He won’t talk to anyone about it (that we know of), but one thing we do know is that he’s fallen away from God and hasn’t been taking care of himself.  He has cerebral palsy and needs consistent therapy, but we’ve been told he’s stopped all his therapies, and basically sits and does nothing but watch movies and be on the computer all day long.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not wantBecause of his weakened body he was not able to fly home to visit us this last Christmas – and as a matter of fact stated he didn’t want to see us anyway.  My mommy-heart breaks, yet as I wrote about in my post What Am I Focusing On, I need to fix my eyes on all the great and wonderful things that God continues to do in my life each and every day (Philippians 4:8), and remember that He has His hands on our son, and that He loves him even more than we do.

As a matter of fact, when my husband and I decided to take our vacation in Arizona this year so we could see him, Jeffrey tried to dissuade us.  But we had to do it – I had to see my boy to at least tell him how much I love him face-to-face.  Even if he only wants to see us once.

Jeffrey had so much potential growing up.  He was the first child with his type of disabilities to graduate from his high school with a regular diploma instead of a modified one.  His teachers gathered around him and gave him so much support – knowing he was going to do great things with his life.

What happened?  We don’t know.

Yet our great God knows – He knows exactly what happened.

In all the times that my husband and I pray for Jeffrey, we always feel the Lord reminding us:  “Trust Me.”  And so we must.  Which is why I’ve entitled this post what I have, because Romans 8:28 tells us that  “all” things work for the good of those that love Him.  There are reasons beyond our comprehension why Jeffrey’s where he’s at right now, but somehow – in someway – God’s going to take care of it and work it out.

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Jeffrey & Me, Christmas 2016

How about you?  Do you have a wayward child or a loved one whose going through trials that you just don’t understand?  Maybe you are yourself?  Then be encouraged, because if you love Jesus, He says “Trust Me.”

Psalm 23 is a psalm I love dearly.  Awhile back I wrote about that psalm in my journal:  The Lord is my Shepherd.  He leads me down the right path; He restores my soul.  I shall not want!  His comfort is always before me.  Oh Lord, to remember that just as a good shepherd does let a stray sheep wander too far, so You’ll not let Jeffrey wander too far away.

And I know – because I have faith in my Jesus – that one of these days I’ll lift up my head and rejoice like King David did in Psalm 24:7-10.  Nothing is too difficult for my Father.  And even though His ways are different and often hidden from mine, I’m going to do my best to keep the Romans 8:28 mindset and remember that “all” things work for the good of those who love Him.  And I love my God dearly.

 

Freedom From Foolishness

Proverbs 24:7 (ISV) says:  “Wisdom lies beyond reach of the fool… ”  I love the bluntness of the Proverbs, don’t you?

As I’ve been reflecting on “foolishness,” I’m reminded of so many years when I thought I knew it all.  Yes, I was a fool.  I knew what was the right way to do things (just ask me); I knew how things should be run around the house (just ask my husband); and I certainly knew how our son should be acting around his peers and elders (actually I still know that, so no need to ask him – ha!).

As for God?  Well, sure I knew He was there – He was living up in the clouds somewhere in the place called heaven.

Proverbs 12:15 (NLT):  “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”  I was always sure I was right.  I knew how people should be behaving – even if I didn’t always behave the way I felt others should.  And if someone tried to nail me on my attitude?  Shame on them!

don't be a fool!I think it’s really true that a man/woman cannot live without worshiping some sort of god.  The question is:  Which god do they worship?  If a person doesn’t worship the true God, he worships a false one – which probably is a reflection of his or her own self.  You decide what is truth and what is sin, and what standard of living is correct.  You might even bow down in front of a statue or picture and pray to it.

Proverbs 14:9 (GNT):  “Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven.”  Since a fool worships his own god, he also makes his own rules.  He works to justify his personal behavior so that he feels good at the end of the day.

I certainly did this years ago when I was working at a law firm.  I would weasel my way onto someone’s good side if it suited me, but wouldn’t hesitate to throw them under the bus if that person started to really get on my nerves.  It didn’t matter that I crushed their feelings – as long as my own ego didn’t get hurt too badly.

But here’s the thing.  Even though I was destined for hell (let’s face it – I was), God pursued me.  There were people praying for me that I had no idea about.  And I probably would have mocked them if they’d told me so.  They were praying for my soul.

FOOLI know one of them was my husband who told me after we’d been together for a couple years that he was a born-again Christian who needed to get back right with God.  I’d hear him in our bedroom with the door closed praying and reading his Bible.  I used to get mad at him for destroying what I perceived was my comfortable perfect little life.

Another person I know of was my sister who surrendered to Jesus before I did.  Despite me treating her so badly when we were younger, once her heart was linked to the Savior, she wanted me to experience His love and acceptance, as well.

I also think back to when I worked at that same law firm mentioned above.  Because during those years there was a Christian gal who worked there who gave me a Bible one day.  It embarrassed me at the time, but I took it home and stuck it away on a shelfI know she prayed for me, because she told me so.

You know, there are people praying for you too – people you probably have no clue about.  Why?  Because people who know Jesus have a genuine love for others, and, like Jesus, they don’t want others going down into eternal punishment where I was destined for the first 30+ years of my life.

So rejoice today!  And pray for your neighbors and friends who have yet to come to know Him.  Never give up hope.  As I look back on the old foolish me, I realize fresh and new that our God truly is the God of All Comfort.  Thank You, Lord!

What Am I Focusing On?

As I sat drafting this post, I started thinking that I’ve been kind of cranky lately.  Why?  I actually can’t pinpoint it.  I’m at a point in my life where I’m doing so many things that I love, such as writing, helping at church, and getting ready for a couple foster-kid camps that will be starting up soon.  And, we have vacation coming up in a few weeks!

So what’s the deal?

After sitting and reflecting on that question for a bit, I think the answer boils down to:  I’ve just been thinking too much.

No – that’s not a blonde joke.

fun_family_with_jeffreyI’ve been thinking about stuff that I shouldn’t be thinking about.  I’m thinking about our son who is drawing farther and farther away from us – and the Lord.  I’m thinking about how sick I am of how so many people think God’s Word is no longer relevant.  I’m tired of media bashing.  And I’m certainly tired of reading of the British monarchy – who was going to wear what to the wedding, where the couple is now going to live, and how their children will relate to one another.

I’m tired of not being able to keep my home office window open because the foul language out on the golf course is getting worse and worse.  We even had neighbors who moved to another neighborhood not too long ago – one of the reasons being that the mom didn’t want her kids being exposed to that language while they were playing outside.

I’m tired of movies and TV shows which show parents as being stupid; and I’m tired of how sexual innuendo seems to have become the norm.

Are you tired of listening to me rant yet?  I am!

A verse that seems to pop up often when I’m in one of these cranky moods is Philippians 4:8 (NLT):

And now brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Notice how it doesn’t say to fix our minds on all the negative stuff, but instead to fix our minds on the good.  But that’s hard sometimes, isn’t it?

Yet thankfully our God and Father constantly sends us reminders of how we’re not alone in struggling with our minds and thoughts.

The key is remembering that this earth is not our home!

I’ve been doing a Bible study on the book of Romans.  My lesson the other day talked about how all of creation is groaning in anticipation of the day when we will be redeemed (Romans 8:18-39).  On this earth – in our frail earthly bodies – we’re going to be subjected to unpleasantness of some sort or the other.  None of us are exempt.  But on that day of full redemption we will finally be free from days of crankiness forever!

new earthUntil that day, remember that when we lean upon our Father, He’ll help us – He’ll give us peace when we need it.  But our hope and eyes must stay fixed on Him – and not other stuff.  Here’s how Isaiah 26:3 reads in the Amplified Bible:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Our loving Father knows us inside and out.  He knows our frailties, yet promises to guard us and give us peace when we’re committed to Him.  I love my Heavenly Father.  Because of this I know that even when I have days of crankiness, when I turn it over to Him and do my best to stay focused on the Prince of Peace, He will help get my mind where it needs to be.  He can (and will) do the same for you as you place your trust in Him.

Rejoice – someday we’ll not have to deal with all this chaos!

 

 

 

Walking Forward

One morning I got up very early to go sit out on our patio.  All was quiet except for a few birds chirping.  My phone was inside and my husband still sound asleep in bed.  I treasured my time that morning as I prayed, read my Bible and wrote in my journal.

When I finally made myself walk back inside, I heard my phone ping with an Instant Message.  Part of me wanted to avoid it and stay in my blissful state of peace and quiet, but that’s not our world now, is it?  So I took a look.

I am with youIt turned out to be a short devotional from a sweet brother in Africa, and was based on Ephesians 1:3:  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” [emphasis mine.]

You know how sometimes certain verses will just knock you on the side of your head – almost like they’re saying, “pay attention?”  Well this was one of those moments.

The devotional talked about how most of us live our lives in variance with that verse.  We’re not living lives that show us as blessed by our Father.  Why?  Because either we’re failing to really believe what we’re reading in the Bible, or we’re failing to take the right response to what God is trying to tell us through study of His Word.

Years ago when I was a new Christian I thought when God opened a door, He would just push me gently through when He wanted me to do something.  And, sometimes He does.  However usually He’ll open the door, but then it’s up to us to walk through.  Many times He’s waiting for our faith response.

I used to listen to the late Chuck Smith on the radio every morning on my drive to work.  One day his message was about complete and total trust in God, and he said whenever he’s invited to speaking engagements, he never accepts money from them.  His words:  “If God guides, He’ll provide.”

And after traveling all over the world, he added:  “And He always has.”

Pastor Smith stepped through God’s open doors, not being sure exactly how everything was going to work out.  And God blessed him continually “with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” He stated things always worked out – funds came through each and every time.  And his ministry grew powerfully as he continued to trust in God each day.

Not too long ago we needed a plumber, and a friend recommended someone he had used in the past.  When the plumber finished his work at our house instead of giving us a bill, he handed my husband Gary a note saying that plumbing is what he does for his ministry.  He stated he does not charge for his services, but instead allows people to pay what they want.  Of course that raises many eyebrows, but it allows him a doorway into people’s hearts, and he offers to pray for people, and then he invites them to his church.

Step ForwardAnd he has done well.  I think he would fully agree that God has blessed him “with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  He’s doing what he’s called to do, trusting God with each open door that he steps through.  My husband was very impacted by that man’s words that day.

It’s tough thinking about the future sometimes, isn’t it?  Time seems to whiz by so fast – and often we have a hard time catching our breath.  I find myself getting stressed at times when I think about retirement being not too far away.  We don’t nearly have what all the “financial experts” recommend we should have saved – we just haven’t been able to because of circumstances with our son.

But that’s why we must continually “walk by faith, not by sight” as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:7.  Because when we do so, it is pleasing to our Father, and he will bless us “with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Remember:  Our God does not lie – ever!

 

 

Stepping Out Of Familiarity

Awhile back I heard a sermon on Mark 8:22-26, which talks about Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida.

Like me, you’ve probably heard accounts of Jesus and His healings time and time again.  And likely a lot of you think of a loved one that you pray Jesus would lay His healing hands upon – like my husband and I pray for about our son Jeffrey who has quadriplegia.

strength in adversitySo when the pastor started talking about this passage, my mind started intently focusing – was my Father God going to speak to me about Jeffrey’s healing in a new way that morning?

The answer was:  Yes … and no.

Rather than speaking on the miracle of healing, the pastor focused mostly on v. 23:  “Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.” (NLT)

Why did Jesus lead him out of town before healing him?  Never thought about that before.

Of course Scripture doesn’t really explain why Jesus took the man away prior to touching his blind eyes, but the pastor stated perhaps in leading him out of town, He was not only healing this man of his eyesight, but giving this man a brand new perspective on life – in more ways than one!

The pastor stated a lot of times God pulls us out of familiar circumstances once we put our faith and trust in Him.  He does this because He wants our faith to expand farther than it ever has before.  In unfamiliar territory we have no idea what we should be doing, so all we can do is trust Him to direct us, step-by-step.

I found myself reflecting on that for a day or two, as I was reminded of many different times when indeed my Father pulled us out of familiarity, and placed us in a situation or location that was totally brand new.

Probably the biggest was when we found out our son Jeffrey had cerebral palsy.  How were we supposed to raise a child with a disability?  Yes, there were well-meaning people, doctors and many books written on the subject; but in the end we had to rely totally on God to help us.

god grabsAnother big thing was when Jeffrey had in his heart that he wanted to move and attend a college in another state.  How was that supposed to work?  There was not just the logistics that we had to think about, but since neither Gary nor I had ever attended a university we really had no idea about all the mounds of paperwork which had to be completed.  And not only for college, but also for finding health care for our son and a place for him to live where they could take care of his needs daily.  All we could do was pray and trust our Lord.

And then when Gary and I decided to take the plunge and move from the west coast where we were both raised to move to Texas, where we knew absolutely no one.  Where were we supposed to live – the Dallas area is huge!  In the end we just had to trust that God would place us where He wanted, to fulfill His perfect plans for us in this season of our lives.

Phew!

However besides all of my personal endeavors, the message that day also has made me think of Jeffrey who has chosen to continue living away from us in Arizona.  He basically knows no one there, and has had to learn to trust his caregivers to keep him safe.  Dad and I aren’t there to help him if something goes wrong.  Could this be one reason God placed him there in basically unfamiliar territory?  To help him learn that there is only One True Father who will never leave him – and that he can trust always?

Time will tell.  All we can do is keep leaning on the One who knows all, and whose love far surpasses the love of anyone else.

 

 

 

 

Set Apart For Jesus

When people look at you, what do they see?  Do they see a person brimming with joy and hope, or do they see a person living the same way everyone else does – trying to make it through the day, just Workin’ for a Livin’ and taking what they’re giving?

A friend recently told me that at her old church a group of gals used to attend church together Sunday mornings, and then regroup Sunday evenings for Happy Hour at their favorite cocktail lounge.  Do you see a problem with that?  I do!  If we are living the same way as unbelievers, why would people think they need a Savior?

Romans 12:2 says we’re to not conform to this world.  Our lives are supposed to look different!  And, if we truly want God’s best perfected in us, we need to be living according to His will.  Our lives should be pointing people to Jesus.

knowledgeUnfortunately through the years the line between being a follower of Jesus vs. being a follower of the world has become very blurred.  Some denominations now think it no problem to allow homosexuals or bisexuals to become pastors and ministers of their churches.  They sugarcoat or change verses in the Bible that teach the way they live is wrong, saying those verses really don’t mean what they say.

That’s very wrong.  Our God is the only God (Isaiah 46:9).  He does not change (Hebrews 13:8).  And the Bible is just as relevant today as when it was written (Hebrews 4:12-13).  Our Father knows exactly what’s going on in the world today – He is not being fooled.

How have things gotten so out of whack?  My opinion:  God has been taken out of the schools; and in many workplaces you are not allowed to speak of Him, either.  Government entities are having to remove any reference to God from their buildings, and almost every week you can read in the news of how some organization wants to remove anything relating to Jesus and Christianity from even private property – because it’s degrading to them as they drive by.  Sad.

But the good news is that our God is never stopped because of human laws and regulations.  Even back in the time of the apostles there were groups trying to stop them from speaking the truth.  But they knew in Whom they believed, and did not compromise.  (NOTE:  Please remember that we must follow the laws of our government as much as it does not usurp God’s laws.  This doesn’t mean we should be bombing abortion clinics or treating people with disrespect who don’t believe as we do.)

examine.pngBack when we lived in Oregon I worked at a company where the owner stated he loved God, but he lived by what the priests told him about his salvation, rather than studying the Scriptures himself to find out the truth.  He was always so afraid of dying, stating often how he “hoped he was a good enough person” to make it to heaven.  My coworker friend and I were often asked why we always seemed to have peace since he knew we were Christians.  But when we would talk about Jesus and a personal relationship, he just didn’t understand – and didn’t want to.  He’d been engrained in “religion” for such a long time.

It says in 2 Corinthians 13:5 that we need to examine ourselves to make sure we are believing what is really true.  True believers will have peace – even in the midst of chaos.  They will not be swayed by the wind (Ephesians 4:14) because they know the truth about Who Jesus is, and what He has done for them by dying on the cross.

Take an inventory to see if your faith is real.  You really can be sure you will be going to heaven when you die.  John 3:16 says you need to believe in Jesus and turn from your sins.  Acts 16:31 confirms this.

So do you yourself really believe in the saving grace of Jesus, or are you just playing games?  Remember, God knows your heart.

 

 

My Ever-Changing Heart’s Desire

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NIV).  That’s one of my favorite verses ever!  But for me, I realize that my heart’s desire has definitely changed over the years – because I finally started to really understand what the verse was talking about.

From what I can remember, this verse originally became meaningful to me when our remaining son Jeffrey was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  My husband Gary and I were devastated.  Yet I started memorizing this verse, thinking if I kept loving God and doing what was right, perhaps the doctor would realize he had made a misdiagnosis (Continuing Forward).  The desire of my heart at that time was that Jeffrey was just delayed in his growth, and would not be labeled with a disability.

A couple years later, a dear friend sent me a birthday card, and in the card was a bookmark with that same verse – and she didn’t even know how important it was to me!  But at the time I received the card, my heart’s desire had changed.  Jeffrey’s diagnosis appeared to have been correct; so now my desire was that God would miraculously heal him.  I just needed to keep trusting and loving God, doing what was right in His sight.

christ sacrificedOver the years this same verse has popped up in front of me many times since receiving that bookmark.  But something happened one day, which as I look back now appears to have been the catalyst to really understanding this verse.

I don’t remember exactly where we were – or even how the conversation came about – but one day I decided to ask my husband Gary what his heart’s desire was.  I fully expected him to answer something like “have Jeffrey healed.”  But after spending a few moments thinking about it, he said something to the effect,

“To have my relationship with God become the most important thing in my life.”

I remember sitting there at that time, thinking, “HUH?”  His answer had totally caught me by surprise.

But his words have stuck with me over the years since then, and through his response, so began my brain-shift – so to speak.

The key is in the first 5 words:  “Delight yourself in the LORD…”

Heart's desireAs I’ve studied just what this phrase means in this context, I realize I had been very misinformed over the years.  This phrase doesn’t mean just trusting and loving God; instead it means to put Him first – to have Him be first place in your life.  He is to be the #1 Most Important Person.  My love for Him should supersede everything else.

But we’re human beings, fully flawed in our day-to-day thinking for the most part.  And God knows that.  Yet His desire is that we would realize just how intense His love is for us.  He desires to give us wonderful gifts – more than we can imagine (Matthew 7:11).  He gave us physical life, and through faith in His Son Jesus He has given us free the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We just need to accept that gift from Him!

In closing, does that mean that I no longer desire to have Jeffrey healed and able to live a normal life?  Absolutely not!  I still pray, trust and believe that someday my loving Father will answer that prayer.  But I’ve finally come to the realization that my true heart’s desire is that I would grow closer and closer to my Heavenly Father every single day.

Because when my focus is on Him, nothing else is really that important, is it?