I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

I have never re-blogged another person’s words, but Dannah Gresh’s words need to be shared.

God bless you, Dannah, and all other women who boldly stand on keeping their mind on things that are: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

I Have It … All?

Ever find yourself in a space in time when nothing seems to be going wrong and your life is just perfect? Hair looks good … clothes fit great … car’s just right. Everything you do is as you always hoped it would be and you can’t think of one change to make, right?

No? Well me neither … or have I?

When I see or hear of celebrities shopping the boutiques of Rodeo Drive in Hollywood, it seems natural for society to think of them as the “Perfect, Beautiful People”. They appear to have all the lovely things a person could want. They have money; possessions, perfect bodies, and are loved and adored by many. It seems dreamy to think of a life like that. Watch television or read the magazine articles reported on them, and this life is promoted as the brass ring we all need to reach for. Total perfection; hard work rewarded by the trinkets and baubles offered by society.

Then I look at my life.

When I walk down any street where I live I am rarely noticed by those around me. I wear fashion that does not set me apart. At any time you can find someone driving a newer car than mine, wearing nicer clothes or jewelry, or living in a bigger or nicer house than I live in. And trust me, “perfect body” is not the first thought that comes to the person who first meets me.

Far from the perfect life … or is it?

Webster’s Dictionary defines perfection as freedom from fault or defect. Hmmm, that’s a pretty awesome picture.

It’s true that I don’t need security guards for protection because of all my money or fine possessions. And it’s also true that I have never had a celebrity news team show up at my door to do a story on my life.

I have made some pretty bad mistakes in my life … in fact, some very similar to the mistakes reportedly made by Hollywood’s beautiful celebrities. But my saving grace was that I chose … saving grace. I assure you that if I could have fixed it all by myself, I wouldn’t have needed God’s grace. But that was just not possible. And as soon as I realized my limitations, I also realized that there was another who was Limitless. With the peace I gained from letting go of the illusion of control over the broken areas in my life, I learned that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I may not be loved and adorned by the millions of people around me, but I am loved by the ones that count.

And that is total perfection.

I think I’ll pass on the trinkets and baubles for now … I’ll save mine for later.

I Did Not Blink

Converting my closets recently from Winter to Summer clothes, I came across some summertime pajamas I purchased last Spring. They weren’t flashy, but the sweet kind of PJ’s you buy with comfort in mind. Pretty, yet functional. Finding them brought a smile to my face.

They were a pair of PJ’s I bought for my hospital stay when I had brain surgery, April 2011.

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since that incredible Friday evening when everything around me took on a new life of its own. If you care to reflect back, visit an earlier post.

This past year has been filled with wonderful gifts and blessings. I don’t know if I would have recognized them as such if it had not been for that fateful night in April. For example, I’ve always known that I have an awesome husband. But Lew was there for me in ways that I could not have anticipated … it had to be experienced. He was tested right along with me, and I will forever be grateful to him and his dedication to me and our marriage. My children really stepped up to the plate of responsibility and attentiveness. There’s nothing as wonderful as seeing your grown children react as the loving and caring people you always knew they’d turn into being. And I can’t forget my friends. I received so many cards, calls, and e-mails of best wishes and support. I just recently re-read all my notes and once again felt the surge of love from all my well-wishers.

It’s been said that beliefs and sponges are alike in that they need to be squeezed to see what they hold inside. Truly my beliefs were squeezed—or challenged—last Spring. I had to evaluate if what I believed would be enough to carry me through to whatever happened during the surgery as well as beyond. I had to look dead-on into the eyes of my mortality … I needed to see if I felt the need to turn away from what I saw or if I would be the first to blink.

No blinking for me!

I won’t say that it’s been easy, because this past year has brought challenges. Even after physical, speech, and occupational therapy, I have needed to find a new normal that works for me. I will probably always have some weakness and loss of dexterity in my right side. Running up or down stairs is just a memory now. The area on my head where my hair was shaved has filled in a bit and there aren’t as many renegade wisps as there were only a few months ago.

But I clearly know what I have gained. I can tell you—without a doubt in my mind—that I know Who holds my tomorrows. I can also tell you that I have peace knowing that the Creator of the Universe also planned the existence of Robin Gilbert Luftig. After I was created I truly believe that he stood back, looked at his creation, and smiled.

He watches my back just as he watches my tomorrows.

Life is sweet, don’t think it isn’t. There may be trials in your world today, but they are temporary. Time—along with trials—will pass. Don’t waste time fretting about what could have been. We should always hook our wagons to the “what-is”, remembering who it is that’s holding all of our tomorrows; because honestly … it isn’t us.

“… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NIV

Like looking in a mirror …

… Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” John 4:28-29 NIV

I’ve recently been spending time in the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. This passage is filled with lesson after lesson, and each time I read it I find something new. This time when I read the story, however, I didn’t stop at verse 26 when Jesus told her that he was the promised Messiah. I decided to keep going … wanting to go beyond Jesus’ declaration. I wanted to study her reaction.

Scripture tells us she left her water jar and returned to the town. I think this is one of those times where scripture is so understated. Think of it … she just met a man who crossed a cultural barrier by talking with her and then <gasp!>, asked for a drink of water from her. He told her that knew her history as well as her present, yet didn’t judge her. Instead, he offered her life everlasting and, along with that, peace. If that wasn’t enough, he then chose to reveal to this broken woman … the first person who ever heard these words from his lips … that he was the promised Messiah.

Incredible! 

I was just like that Samaritan woman. I kept to myself, not giving others the opportunity to know me; afraid of their judgment. I already knew the condition of my life. I didn’t want to hear the disgust in their voices, too. I knew all the terrible decisions I had made; I thought if they knew the state of my life they would recoil from me from revulsion. Furthermore, I judged myself even more harshly than others ever could. It only made sense to me to hide my sins and not talk about them; just as the Samaritan woman tried to hide from others.

I believe that when Jesus asked her about her life and she answered him honestly, she gave him the opportunity that he had been waiting for. She shared a glimpse of her brokenness and he, in turn, offered her salvation and peace.

I believe it’s the same for you and me.

Just as this woman’s life (I believe) was changed forever, so was mine. I have never tired of sharing what Christ’s love, grace and mercy has done for this poor Samaritan-like woman.

We can be so broken inside that hiding past failures and pain seems like the only safe option. But that is farthest from the truth. Sharing past hurts and sins with Christ as well as caring and safe people can be as healing to the spirit as removing a splinter from an infected and festering wound. It’s risky … and possibly painful … but it pays off in the long run.

Consider sharing some unknown hurts with Christ as well as a safe, respected friend. You may be surprised as to what it brings to you.

Early Conversations

Corcovado jesus

Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Chorus, Jesus Paid It All, Elvina M. Hall, 1865 

I love it when it all comes together …

When I woke up this morning, the chorus of Jesus Paid It All was ringing in my ears. I must admit my first thought was, Huh? But okay, I’ve learned that when God starts being all chatty so early in the morning, he has lots to say and wants my attention immediately. So I went with it.

Standing in the shower I start singing the words. Okay, I thought, that’s powerful. But I’m still waking up here, Father. I get it, I get it.

I move onto devotions. Surely, I’ll get into some deep meaning in scripture. My reading is Romans 5:8 … “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I realized then that I didn’t get it at all. I wasn’t comprehending the significance of my morning. I needed to ponder, really reach into what I was hearing.

Then it hit me. I can do all I want that’s good … I can talk the Christian talk … I can act like I know what Life’s all about. But bottom line, if it wasn’t for Jesus’ willingness to take what I deserve and offer me grace instead of judgment, it’d all be for nothing. Nada. Zero. I know that it isn’t cool to talk about messy things like “blood” and “judgment”, but that is the bottom line. I owe all my peace, sleep-filled nights, and tender heart to my Savior. Without his willingness to give himself as he did, I’d still be the pathetic wacko I started out as so many years earlier.  But now I have another option; Grace.

My day’s been filled with whistling a catchy tune today. Yes, Jesus DID pay it all. And I will forever be grateful. I’m so glad he woke me up the way he did.

Real Goals or Goals for Show

What a wonderful experience I’ve had since I’ve started following Girlfriends in God, an on-line daily devotional sponsored by Crosswalk.com (http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/girlfriends/).

I know that whenever I read something and it sticks with me for a couple of days, it’s more than just a passing thought—these words are meant for my soul. That’s what happened when I read the January 5th’s devotion, Go for the Gold Part 2, by Mary Southerland. Her words of wisdom as well as challenges from scripture noted in her devotional burrowed deep into my heart regarding setting, maintaining, and understanding goals.

“A goal should not be set to authenticate what you have already been doing or want to do. God created us to mature, to grow and change, not to stand on the sidelines of life. God wants us in the game and on the field of life. Godly goals will push us beyond where we are and what we are capable of. If no effort is required to reach the desired outcome, then it really isn’t a goal.”

Have I been standing on the sidelines when God has had a specific plan for my life? At first I said, “Nawh, that’s not me … I’ve had a full year last year.” But I’ve learned long ago that first responses to questions may not always be the most accurate. So I sat back and took stock of the past year. Did I work on a goal that stretched me spiritually? What did I have planned for this year?

Then I got sight of the second question.

“Are the goals we are setting from God or from our own selfish desires? Do I want my relationship with God to grow or do I want others to think I am Godly?”

Again, I didn’t just read the words of the devotional so I could put a “done” check  on my mental list of things I needed to do. I gave these questions serious consideration.

I love difficult questions like these; I appreciate the challenge. I don’t want to spend my few years here on earth making nice-nice with my beliefs only to one day stand before my Lord and have HIM ask me these same questions. I would much rather ask them of myself so I can answer God as clearly as I can. If I am not mindful of my motives, I can very easily fall into the “I want others to think I am Godly” category. Who would NOT want others to think the best of them, right? But the problem comes when that is our core motivation.

These are some thoughts to ponder and pray on for guidance. This is the time of year for reflection and re-evaluation. No one knows exactly how long we have on this side of Glory to do such pondering. Let’s make the most of the time we have and ask … then truthfully answer … the hard questions about our goals and motivation.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

When Did It All Go South?

Hustling … bustling … doesn’t feel Christ-like to me.

Before you paint me as being judgmental, please know I catch myself falling into the traps of the Christmas holiday season, too. But what’s the deal? I understand God’s greatest gift was put into motion when Jesus was born; the gift of the possibility of eternal presence with The Father. I understand that when Jesus was a small child three wise men brought him gifts fit for a king; Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

So how did we reduce all this symbolism to re-gifting last year’s fruitcake?

Take a moment out of your day. Do some deep-cleansing breathing and reflect. Reflect on what has already been given to you. Think on what you already possess that reflects on eternity. And ponder about what has been given to you that royalty also has: children (if you’re a parent), your health (it is a gift that you could lose at any moment), and the ability to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

It’s still a wonderful time of year if we take a moment and think about its true meaning.

Merry Christmas!

Review of Ascent From Darkness, Michael Leehan

From an early age, life seemed to leave Mike wanting. His family life was dysfunctional, he never felt safe due to suffering a nearly lethal attack from a stranger, and he had been labeled suicidal due to an accidental overdose from pain pills and alcohol. In his search for relief from fear and desperation he prayed, but only found hypocrisy in the Christian religion he saw around him. It wasn’t long before Mike sought and then embraced life as a Satanist. From the making of a blood covenant with Satan to hearing, seeing, and experiencing his evil minions, Leehan’s life was controlled by Darkness.  Ascent From Darkness journals his trek back from Satan’s isolation and destruction to Jesus’ grace that waited for him.

Leehan’s style of writing was easy to read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story, although I found the graphic details involving satanic worship a bit disturbing. Because he wrote about well-known characters (e.g., LifeChurch members and Pastor Craig Groeschel), I have no doubt that all the explicit details shared in this book are true. Unfortunately, I found I needed to stop reading and distance myself from the book for a couple of weeks to be able to return to it with a discerning and prayerful spirit.  This helped when I continued into the later chapters.

I strongly recommend this book for well-grounded Christians only.  Evil is real and all around us. Citing one example of Leehan’s account of the evil spirits’ saying, “I don’t think he can see us,” should be taken as a serious warning; be sure that they are always looking for new victims.

Clarity is Andy Stanley’s Forte

“When we’re on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing.” Ouch.

In The Grace of God, Andy Stanley once again shares the word of God in a highly accurate fashion while keeping it easy to understand. This is a wonderful book for Christians who have been walking with Christ for many years as well as the young Christian just learning about God’s love for His children. It brings to light how God demonstrated grace throughout the Bible—Old as well as New Testament—and how God shows grace as only a perfect God can do.

We’ve all been on our knees asking for God’s grace sometime in our lives. We’ve all made mistakes. But in addition to asking for grace, Stanley shows us account after account through many familiar stories of the Bible—stories of Rahab, King David, the Apostle Matthew, Jonah and the Ninevites to name a few—that there is no possible way to be worthy of receiving it. It also shows very clearly that God’s grace is not found in the absence of consequence to sin (or The Law in Old Testament examples) but in conjunction with that consequence. It’s a packaged deal. He shows, through scripture, that grace was a critical part of his relationship with Adam and Eve when they sinned and were banished from Eden, and again, showed how because of grace he chose a man named Abraham to begin the process of giving us a way to set things right again through Jesus Christ.

Before reading this book, I thought I understood grace. I know realize I only understood what it was to be given grace. I understand more clearly how incredible a gift it really is and how awesome God is to offer it to everyone. All that we need to do is accept it. I give The Grace of God a rating of five stars and highly recommend it

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Perspective

Since my surgery last April, I have had the awesome opportunity to see all sorts of experiences differently. That is, in part, to the exposure I’ve had with some pretty amazing people.

I continue to follow different people I’ve met on www.carignbridge.org and am amazed how I am always blessed by their words. I follow a man who also had brain surgery but continues to praise his creator all the same. I’ve been moved to tears reading the journal of a mommy whose seven-year-old little girl has dealt with cancer, chemo, MRI’s and unending lab work—yet continues to have hope. Then there’s the single mother of four special needs teenagers who has to continually find help due to her many trips in and out of the hospital for a myriad of serious physical problems.

These are just a sample of some of the stories on the CaringBridge site. Some of the people on this site are dealing with incredible medical issues, yet many times they are the first to share words of encouragement to the friends and family in their lives. That is apparent from the notes written on their guestbooks.

Thank you, my CaringBridge family, for sharing hope in what look like hopeless situations. I’ve learned lots from you about the power of controlling one’s perspective. I will continue to follow my favorites.

Treat yourself and check out this site. If you do, your life will be blessed.