One of the best verses in the bible is Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…” Before I met Raul, I saw life through shattered-glass eyes. I saw the world, myself, and others through broken prisms. The cup wasn’t just half-empty it was “almost gone.” The grass wasn’t greener on the other side, it was brown. Life wasn’t a bowl full of cherries, it was a bowl of rotten eggs. But when I met Raul, I noticed that he didn’t see through the same eyes I did. Even though we could be looking at the same unfortunate event, he’d see it differently than me. Instead of seeing the world through shattered glass, Raul saw things through stained glass. Stained glass is stunning. If you’ve ever seen historical cathedrals, the stained glass in them will take your breath away. Why does Raul see things through stained glass eyes? Because at the beginning of his faith, he took Romans 8:28, literally! He truly believed (and still believes) that God works ALL things together for those who love him. Raul has taught me that if God is in it, we can look for the good in it. Not just in some things, but in ALL things. God is not an exaggerator. He’s not an embellisher. When he said “ALL things” in Romans 8, He meant it. When we become a Christ-follower, we become a new creature (Ephesians 4:24) and with that, comes a new set of eyes. Raul embraced his new eyes right away! For some, like me, it takes some time to adust to them. I know we all have eyes, but I hope we see through the stained glass of God’s love, and not the shattered glass of our finiteness. Life looks different, I’m glad Raul showed me.
One time on a trip to NYC, I went to an artisan flea-market. It was incredible to see the trash others had disposed, become treasure by the artists who found it. Pictured here is a ring I bought made out of a vintage typewriter “H” key. I bought it because it was a cool piece of art “treasure.” But I also bought it to serve as a reminder that I’m God’s treasure. Longggggggg before I was born, He created me, named me, destined me and called me to my mom’s belly, to be his treasure to Earth and someday, Heaven. Now in my lifetime, I’ve had three people speak trash over me. (Note: actions may speak louder than words, but words can hurt longer than actions.) In their influence, they spoke against my potential and redemption. But GOD said (and STILL says), “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten.” So when I look at this trash-to-treasure ring, I’m reminded that people can speak “trash” over us, but it doesn’t matter…because before they were ever around…God declared us treasure! And in the words of the great theologian, MC Hammer: You can’t touch that!
Awhile back, Raul gave me the gift of a Magnolia tree. Nature is one of my love languages, so I was highly anticipating its bloom. When it finally bloomed, I ran across the yard to sniff its smellyness and take its picture. I took ahold of the stem to get a close up, when my #ManHands broke it. I couldn’t believe it. I had waited for this, and when it finally arrived, it broke. There’s a blog in this. We wait for someone: a spouse, a child, a best friend. And then we finally get it. And then it breaks. The spouse isn’t who we thought he/she was. The child isn’t growing up to be who we prayed he/she would be. The friend who promised “BFF,” forsakes it when he/she gets jealous and walks away. Here’s what I’ve learned: Life hurts. Relationships break. God heals. It is very important to know that God heals. Does God heal the relationship? Not always. My flower can’t grow back into its broken stem. But God DOES heal every heart that has Him in it. I think that’s why this has been my life-verse: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed,” Because it promises that our heart can be pressed on all sides by brokenness. But God will not let us be crushed beyond a new bloom. I hope this encourages someone today.
When Andy was learning how to talk, there were many consonants he couldn’t enunciate. His brain was saying words faster than his mouth could form them. So Andy was often misunderstood. Andy wanted more of something yet I walked away as if he were done. Andy wanted to be picked up yet I left him on the floor. There were many moments when Andy wanted me to know so badly what he was saying, but I didn’t. Sometimes, I’d just confess, “Andy, I don’t understand what you are saying.” And ‘though he repeatedly kept saying it, we didn’t get anywhere except frustrated. It broke my heart. I want you to know that God has never misunderstood you. When you’ve cried and had no words, He knew exactly what you were feeling. When your burden was so complex and heavy, you didn’t know how to pray for it, the bible says God’s spirit uttered on your behalf. God doesn’t misunderstand you. He doesn’t get confused by you. And nobody has to “translate” to God for you. If He’s in your heart, He knows what you’re saying from it. With people we can be misunderstood. But with God we always stand, understandable.
There are questions I want answers to. I mean, they are pressing. As in, pressing in on the walls of my brain. Like, the questions are the vice, and my brain is in between. Left to themselves, these unanswered questions can leave me restless during the day, and sleepless at night. “Why did she…?” “Why did he…?” “Why did it…?” Do you have questions you want answers to? I’ll confess I’ve spent too much time letting them be on “repeat,” in my head. If it is possible to exhaust a prayer with these questions, I’d be guilty as charged. I needed to abate these questions and lay them down. There were two things I discovered in God’s word that gave me the inspiration to do so. The first is in Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God has given us the ability to change by “resetting” our thoughts. If there is something that is on repeat in my head, and it’s distracting, depressing or deviating me from God as my focus, it needs to be reset. And I (and you) can do that with God. The second thing that spoke to me is actually sprinkled throughout the bible. Some of the most honorable poeple in the bible asked questions–to God no less–and didn’t get answers. See, Moses, David, Elijah, Job and Jesus himself, who were holier than I, had it tougher than I, accomplished more than I AND made it into the bible, asked questions and didn’t get answers. Yet they fulfilled God’s purposes on Earth and ARE in their glory in Heaven. If you are at a precipice like I am with questions, we have a choice. We can go one way and make it our mission to find answers. Or, lay them down and go the other way, and fulfill our God-given mission. I’d be encouraged to know I’m not the only one choosing the latter. If you’re in this with me, let me know! Let’s pray together as we journey onward!
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Today, I posted this #postit on social media. There have been opportunities and relationships I am responsible for losing because I was stupid. But this #postit was dedicated to the ones I was smart enought to learn from. We have a choice to learn from our losses. Although the loss is part of the past, the lesson from it can be part of our future. I was thinking about this one stupid thing I did that rendered a big loss many years ago. Can’t go back and undo it, can’t deny it, so I had to accept it. But as a Christian, it didn’t stop there. I got to ask God to forgive me for it, furthermore, eradicate the guilt-voice in my head (sidebar: guilt beats up, conviction wakes up). Then, after that, I was able to pray, “Lord, what can I learn from this?” In God’s goodness He led me to bible verses, and others who had done stupid things, to cross my path and help me develop a rich lesson of learning. Having a spirit of learning from the things you lose can actually give you a win! Christian, choose to ride the wave of God’s grace and learn from your losses. BONUS, you’ll have wisdom to help OTHERS with what you’ve learned. Life is about choices. But if one of them is choosing to learn from the things I’ve lost, sign me up. In God’s economy, there will be no losers…only winners.
Do we fight? Doesn’t that go against the logic that we are suppose to love? Doesn’t that contradict the adage to “turn the other cheek?” Shouldn’t Christians be “nice guys” who let other guys win? All these questions have run through my head during my Christian journey. And today, the brakes came to a screeching halt when I read this verse: “Thank the Lord, my rock, who trained my hands to fight and my fingers to do battle,” (Psalm 144:1). So judging by this verse, do we roll over and play dead when our marriage is on the rocks? No, we fight and KNOW God has prepared our proverbial hands and fingers to battle the enemy attacking our marriage. Do we let our prodigal child die a slow death of addiction? No, we fight. We put the boxing gloves on, get into the ring and KNOW God is helping from our corner. That weakness we have? That temptation we succumb to? Do we just accept its fate? Do we cower to its pull on our lives? Do we let the stench of its consequence rot in our soul? No, we fight. This verse says David THANKED God who PREPARED him for the battle. If God prepares us for the battle, then Christian, we can fight. Furthermore, the bible promises that we are “MORE than a conquereor,” (Romans 8). What’s more than that? A battler who doesn’t surrender on any battleground in their life because they fight WITH the ultimate champion (“If God is for me, who can stand against me?” Romans 8) So I may not know you, and I may not know your battle, but I know you CAN stay in it and fight! And I pray for the day you see the victory!