What’s Inside That Package?

My husband and I don’t watch much TV but the few shows we watch are, Jeopardy, Master Chef, and occasionally The Voice. What I like about The Voice, (a show where people try to win a singing competition) is that when people audition for the first time, none of the judges see the contestants. They are basing their perceptions of whether to choose that person solely on their vocal abilities. It has nothing to do with the way they look, what size they are, the way they act, the way they style their hair, how much makeup they wear, or what clothes they wear. It comes down to vocal talent. I like that concept and I know that even as open-minded as I think I am, I have found myself being surprised by people who try out at times. Once I was in the kitchen cooking, weeks after they had eliminated contestants and they were down to about six candidates and I heard one of them singing. Because I couldn’t see them, I didn’t recognize which one it was and I had my favorites. I was listening and trying to decide who was singing, but I couldn’t determine which one of ‘my favorites’ it was. I was enjoying this pure voice, but I couldn’t put a face to it. I had to walk into the living room and see who it was. I was shocked because I heard from this person, without seeing them, something I had never heard before, a quality I had never heard before. She was at the bottom of my top three and that night, she moved to my number one! (Incidentally, she went on to win the competition.) I thought right then. Wow! I had a preconceived notion about her. I was judging her based on her age and not her talent. I was letting my mind play tricks on me and not listening to what this gal has to offer! It wasn’t her looks, it wasn’t the way she dressed, it was her age! It made me wonder how many times have I done that with other people based on other things? Maybe it was something else about them that I let get in the way and I didn’t “listen” to what they had to offer. Maybe they had something amazing to share with me and some preconceived notion of mine blocked a tremendous blessing! I was saddened at myself and my reaction.

wm pkg

Later I reflected on Jesus and how he was rejected in his home town. He was also rejected because he was a Jew. We can think of all kinds of things to reject people for. Sometimes we don’t receive from people because they are talented or because they aren’t talented. We can make up all kinds of excuses not to listen. There are many people who will listen to a person because they have so many degrees, like a doctorate or a master’s but I’ve met people with many degrees who don’t have a lick of common sense. Then there are people who have very little education but have all the wisdom in the world. While we do need to be careful who we receive from, we need to be equally careful who we reject. We may be rejecting the greatest treasure on earth.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people who have tossed out what they thought was garbage only to be found by another who found something of great value? When I had my first job at the age of nineteen, I rented a small two bedroom house off the college campus where I worked in Tulsa. The woman who owned the house, had left it, thirty years before, belongings and all, when her husband died because she couldn’t bear to stay with all the memories. It was quite a mess to clean up, but the structure was sound and the furnishings were very nice. It was like stepping into a time capsule of someone’s life. Imagine all the dust and grime that collected over those years! The vacuum’s electric cord had disintegrated into the carpet. When I went to move it, the cord just crumbled! She said to do whatever we wanted with everything in the house. There was a rather dull wall-hanging, in a plain off-white etched wooden frame, that I tossed into the open trash can. My mother came by as I was cleaning and saw it and asked if she could have it. Naturally, I said yes, wondering why she would want it. A couple of weeks later, I was in my mother’s house and there was a beautiful art piece hanging on her wall. I asked where she found that amazing ocean scene. She said, “Don’t you recognize it? It was in your trash can!” She had cleaned it and antiqued the frame to bring out the gold tones of the sun glistening on the water. It was a seascape of ocean waves crashing on the shore, spraying radiant droplets of water up, with reflections of a golden sunrise, but the dirt I saw had obscured the scene and the bland frame had muted the colors. Her skillful refurbishing had brought out what the original artist had seen and depicted. She asked if I wanted it back and I told her “No Mom, you deserve to have it, because you saw what I could not see, you brought it to life.” Over the years, every time I saw that painting, I admired it and reminded myself to look beneath the dirt and grime and see the potential, because I might be missing something of great beauty.

But isn’t that how life is? There is potential everywhere we look. There is potential in everyone, there is great beauty in everyone. God sees it, but sometimes we fail to see it. God sings over each of us, but we don’t all have the ears to hear his song. And God can use each one of us and speak through each of us. If he can speak through donkeys, he can speak through people. We just have to quit shutting our ears to the people around us and rejecting the packages. You never know when you might be missing a beautiful song or tossing out a beautiful art piece. Will you start receiving the packages God sends to you, no matter how they’re wrapped?

See these verses:

Luke 4:14-30 (Jesus rejection in Nazareth)

Numbers 22:28 (donkey speaking)

Zephaniah 3:17 (Lord sings over us!)

Prayer: Father I pray that today you will help us each to receive the messages you send to us, no matter how they are wrapped. Help us to look beyond the package to the message. Help us all to realize that you are the message and it is you we are seeking. Help us to look for content and not be judgemental. Help us to see with your vision to the heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

God Put a Song in My Heart

Do you live in the “who you were” before Christ or the “who you areIN Christ? Do you know that God loves you? I don’t mean do you have head knowledge of this fact? I’m talking about heart knowledge. The kind you can carry with you everywhere you go and not have any doubt.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NLT)

There are plenty of people who know God loves them. They can quote the verses. “For God so loved the world…” and sing the song “Jesus loves me…” but in their hearts and their minds they’re holding back. There is something in their past or some truth that has not been revealed to them. For many it is something they have done in their lives, which even though they’ve asked forgiveness for it, they haven’t forgiven themselves.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and will purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

For others it is something they don’t want to give up to serve God. Some sacrifice they’ve been convicted of that they feel is too great to serve him. It doesn’t matter that God gave up his own son for them. (More on this later.)

Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Then we have the doubters, those whose lives have been fraught with hardships or sorrows. They don’t see how God could allow bad things to happen to good people; therefore God must not exist.

I can honestly say I’ve been in these scenarios, some longer than others. I’m currently in the most peaceful state of mind, heart, and soul, where I plan to stay. I know who I am IN Christ. I am Chosen. I am Loved. I am His beloved and I sing about it when I have the chance. I love to sing praise songs to God.  God has put a song of peace in my heart. The best thing I can tell you about how to get there is if you have a personal relationship with Christ, and you know that he died for your sins and have accepted him, then you need to read the Bible daily. Before you read it, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal his truths to you so that you may understand as you read. God said that he would do this for us.

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.” I Corinthians 2:10-15

There are some things about me that only a few people know. I don’t want sympathy and this is why I don’t usually share my story but I feel that God has told me to start sharing some of the things I’ve gone through in my life. When my son was a toddler, I had dizzy spells for several weeks which didn’t clear up for some time. I went to the doctor a couple of times and was given some pills for vertigo and the doctor told me it was probably a persistent virus. After three months, the doctor decided I should get a CT Scan of my brain and said he would have the results in a week or so. The very next day he called to say he wanted me to go in for an MRI and he had already scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. They had found a mass, which they wanted to get a closer look at. I saw a neurosurgeon the day after the MRI. The neurosurgeon gave me the report that it was a tumor, which was the size of a dime in circumference and about three inches long in the white matter of my brain. He said he couldn’t biopsy it without doing severe damage so he wanted to monitor it through multiple MRIs. I had to have an MRI every month for three months, then once every three months, once every six months, once a year, every two years, and then every five years to make sure it didn’t grow. My family panicked and I didn’t especially like the report but I prayed about it. God gave me the most indescribable peace about this tumor. I felt like he told me “Don’t worry, I’ve taken care of it.” I have walked in that faith and that peace ever since, no matter what circumstances have arisen. This was about fifteen years ago.  There wasn’t any change until I had a near-fatal car accident in November of 2001.

I was traveling to my son’s school when I was t-boned by a woman in a full size pop-top conversion van who was doing 85 in a 50 mph zone. Out of eight windows in my Volvo, only two were still intact. The frame was bent and both axles were broken. The rear bench seat was crunched down into a width of one foot and the front passenger seat was in my driver’s seat.   I was unconscious for four hours. I woke up in the ER with several doctors and nurses working on me. They gave me some pain medication and I passed out again. I was in and out for several more hours and later that day I finally came to with a horrible headache from the concussion. I had a crescent-shaped scar on my forehead and a head full of glass where I had broken the windshield. I would later find out I needed spinal surgery to replace three discs in my neck and knee surgery to take out the mass of nerves which formed from my knee slamming into the dash. My doctor told me the only reason I was alive was because I was driving a Volvo. I told him it was because God saved me.

Volvo Nov 01

Nine months after the car wreck, I was trying to return to my landscaping business and I had planned to start with a light day of spraying roses for a client. My son, who was nine, wanted a cinnamon roll so we went through the McDonald’s drive-thru. As I pulled in to pay, I put my truck in park, which I never do. The next thing I remember, I was on a gurney being loaded into an ambulance with a police officer telling me I had passed out. There was a ten-foot brick wall straight in front of my truck in the drive-thru about two to three car lengths in front of me that I would have hit if I hadn’t put my truck in park. I have no explanation for why I did this because I had never put a vehicle in park at a drive thru before, not even waiting in line. They took me to a local hospital where all I wanted was two liters of ice water to drink and to go to sleep. I couldn’t get enough sleep. I was so exhausted for three days and every muscle in my body ached. I went to my doctor and they ran test after test. One week later, my son described in detail what happened, he had been so traumatized by the events he couldn’t tell me before. I guess he had to process it all in his mind. During that week, I was having trouble with my memory and my speech. I had dysphasia; I would think one word and I would say another. For instance, if I wanted the salt, what I would say was “Please pass me the sugar.” What my son described was a grand mal seizure. We were able to fit the stories from the clerk at the McDonald’s and what my son told me to realize I had a fifteen-minute grand mal. This is what caused the muscle aches and thirst. It was like I ran two marathons back to back my neurosurgeon told me. It also caused my six month memory loss and speech problems. The speech cleared up within a couple of months but I never fully regained the memory I lost. I knew we had taken a vacation but I couldn’t tell anyone when we had, without looking at a calendar. There were places we went in the year before that I totally forgot.

Three weeks later, I had a second grand mal but it was much shorter in length and they put me on medication. These are a result of the brain tumor and it grew slightly when I had the car wreck. The forceful blunt trauma during the car accident had also shifted the position of the tumor in my brain. When I had the first seizure, there was no warning signal of any kind. People who have seizures or auras usually have some occurrence that lets them know that a seizure might be about to happen. I didn’t have anything, but before the second one I did. To me, it sounds like I have gone into a tunnel and noises are very muffled, or non-existent. Sometimes I get light-headed or dizzy but after an aura or a seizure, I usually have a headache and sometimes nausea, and I’m almost always tired.

There are a few other miraculous ways when I have faced death and lived, but I’ll save those for another blog. The stories I’ve shared were all related.

Recently, I went to a celebration dinner for the people who voluntarily give of their time in our church. On the way home, we were visiting and I shared some of my story with the people I rode with regarding what I’ve already shared. I can’t work in places that have beepers, doorbells, scanners, loudspeakers, two-way radios, or drive-thrus because the frequencies they emit can trigger seizures. I found this out the hard way. Now, I usually just have an aura, which is a precursor to a seizure and through prayer and calmness of mind over matter I don’t have a seizure, but I’m supposed to take it easy for a day or so if I have an aura.

After I shared my story, one of my friends asked to pray for me that the tumor would be healed completely and dissolved. I don’t usually share anything about it because I walk in the confidence that I know God has told me that it has been taken care of and I haven’t had to have surgery and I am healthy. God has given me that much peace that I don’t dwell on it or think about it. Even when I do have an aura, I am not reminded of why.

When my friend asked to pray for me, it struck me that nobody had ever asked before. This doesn’t mean others haven’t prayed for me on their own before, because I am sure that people have and I’m truly grateful for those who pray privately! It was just a fleeting thought. My natural person and heart got in the way for a second and I thought. “Nobody ever cared enough to ask to pray for me before.” BUT, just as quickly, as I had that thought God said to me “Don’t you think I care enough?” I know he does and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be here today to tell this story of His miraculous love!! Which leads to the fact that we don’t need anyone to pray on our behalf. We can go to God with whatever we need.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

We, as believers, don’t need someone else to pray on our behalf for our needs. We can go boldly to his throne. He is our (Abba) Father. We can go to him with our petitions. He is not some high and mighty king who cannot be approached. He loves us as much as he loved Jesus, our brother.

Why do you think God sent Jesus? Because God wants to have a relationship with all of his children but he can’t unless we are willing.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18

We, his children, must open our hearts to him. He cannot enter closed hearts or closed minds. He can send the Holy Spirit to work but still sometimes we shut him out and only the ones who listen closely open their doors so he can communicate with them.

For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.” Matthew 13:15

There are some children God spends the whole day with because they take him with them wherever they go but others he only sees once a day during their Bible study or once a week at church. There are others God only sees once a year but he wants to spend as much time with all of his children as they’ll allow him. On the other hand, we have access to him at any time but he only has access when we seek him or permit him. This isn’t the way he planned it, but it’s the way things are for now unless we change it individually and it saddens him. He longs to be with us!

Jesus’ sacrifice was God’s also. Think how hard it would be for you to sacrifice one of your children, even if you knew you would get them back. To watch them go through such a horrible torture. To put one child through such agony for a whole world of your children that may or may not receive you.

You may find this hard to relate to because he is God. Then relate to Abraham and Isaac because they are flesh as you are. He loves you just as much and more than Abraham loved Isaac. Nothing… nothing can separate you from his Love!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.No power in the sky above or in the earth below indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

God has so much love to share and he wants to be sure that he can share it with each one of us at any time with our consent. Let God put a song in your heart today.