You’ve got my attention

For a few days now, I have noticed a huge blimp flying over my neck of the woods advertising this and that. It’s funny, I remember the visual of the blimp way more than I recall what it was promoting because, well, blimps are cool and it’s not every day we get to see one hoovering over the earth.

Last night, in an unusual evening of watching some television, my daughter and I shook our heads at what companies are doing these days to try to get us to buy their stuff. I looked at her and said, “Do they really think we are so dumb that this is all they think we’ll understand?”

I walked away from the experience of watching ridiculously watered-down, unintelligent, sexist (could they please give the men in ads half a brain??) commercials feeling frustrated and insulted. I cannot recall one single product they were selling.

Driving between cities this week on a long stretch of highway, billboards screamed at me it seemed every 10 feet. Everything one can imagine was either plastered in paper, boasted neon blinking lights or had 3D statues strung up for all to see. So sad that these overshadow the simple beauty and serenity of green landscapes of trees, cow fields, and farms.

In the midst of so much visual clutter, there was someone in pursuit of my attention for the past week. He wasn’t selling anything. He wasn’t trying to manipulate my emotions, compulsions or cravings. He didn’t set me up to believe a mirage of quick fixes. He didn’t make empty promises of fulfillment. He had a laser-focused message He wanted me to get – and get it good.

God has been incredibly intentional these past seven days to show me one truth – I am not alone.

Several days ago, there was a difficult day that I could barely muddle through. I was at the third grocery store of the day trying to gather everything we needed to host three dinners back-to-back in three days, including Easter. My oldest son and I were filing out of the store with the scores of other people shopping for their weekends when beautiful flowers caught my eye.

What is it about flowers and females? We just can’t help ourselves. We love them!

Years ago, I reconciled that is perfectly fine to buy myself flowers. I am worth it. But, this particularly hard day struck me with wave after wave of despair. I believed the lie being whispered in my ear that I, in fact, wasn’t worth it after all.

My son tried to convince me to buy them, but I didn’t. This wasn’t a pit party or woe-is-me moment, it was a seriously dark day for good reason and I couldn’t find a silver lining in the thunderous clouds looming overhead no matter how many hours I looked for it.

The very next day, my doorbell rang. I had no earthly idea who it was.

I opened the door to find one of my closest friends smiling, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers!  Her heart felt God’s tug, and out of her love for me and obedience to Him she stopped her day to bless mine.

Here is what happened the MOMENT I saw her and the bouquet. God instantly brought back the flowers I wouldn’t buy – and why I wouldn’t buy them – and He whispered to me, Yes you are worth it. 

Only God could have known.

I had been cruising along with cooking, cleaning etc, in preparation for hosting Easter weekend and had not given the flowers I saw the day before another thought. But, God was watching. He saw that, although I tried to hide my broken heart from my son, I couldn’t hide it from my Father. Oh how I love Him!

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Fast-forward a few days. I was unexpectedly involved in a helping a tragedy that left me extremely shaken. Dazed and numb, I continue to coast through the hours and days doing my daily work. Inside, I am a wreck. Flashbacks, sounds of it ringing in my ears and sights of it every time I close my eyes leaves me with an inner tremor I can’t control. It was 2 days before I could shed a single tear. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It’s only been four days and the tears keep flowing…

During this time, my husband and youngest son went to the grocery store for just a couple of things after karate lessons one night, and the sight I beheld when they walked through the door stole my heart.

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I asked my favorite middle schooler why he was giving me these gorgeous roses. He smiled real big and replied, Because I love you and for what you went through. I thought you could use some cheering up. 

I know without a doubt he loves me, and am grateful my teenage son would take the time to show me.  In my heart, I heard God tell me, I see. I know. You can trust your pain to me and I will take care of you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday was an ordinary morning of racing the sunrise to get everybody to where they needed to be. I stumbled into our bathroom to brush my teeth and saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I reached for it and discovered a small yellow Post-it stuck under my medicine cabinet. Then another near my make-up. And another one inside the cabinet. And still another…

Although they were unsigned, I knew exactly who they were from – my daughter. Each member of our family has distinct handwriting, and there was no doubt at all these was from her.

How did she know I needed encouragement so desperately this particular morning? She has a very giving heart and a sense of intuition beyond her high school age.  She, like my friend and my son, felt God’s tug on her heart and responded.

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Lately, stress has been high octane around here for many reasons – some completely out of our control. Like a small boat on the ocean, I feel like our family is being tossed around by ominous, bullying waves. I am seasick from it all and wake up every morning with a pit in my stomach. This pit is the first feeling of the day – not ideal. Only God knows this, and He prepared all of these love notes, with my daughter’s help, to help me exhale through the early mornings.

Does life seem to have the upper hand for you right now? Do you feel lost, tossed, tired or forgotten?

There is one God, one true God, who knows everything about your life. Talking to Him through prayer is awesome because, unlike family and friends, we never have to catch Him up. He has been in every moment. When life takes our breath away, and we feel sucker-punched, we don’t have to muster strength to relive, retell and feel everything all over again.

He knows. He sees. He cares.

Even if you have never, ever called on Him for help – He has loved you all you along, never more – never less. His love is not conditional and does not depend on our performance or lack thereof.

He. Just. Loves. You. Period.

Tap into His love today. He’s shouting it from the mountains, singing it over you while you sleep, and painting it in brilliant colors that flowers only dream of.  He is leaving love notes all over your life.  His signature is distinct, just like my daughter’s.  He is pursing you in ways that only you can deeply grasp, like my friend’s and son’s flowers.

Ask God to help you recognize His handwriting in your life. He is writing His love story on your heart to you, about you, and for you.  Take a moment and read it today. It’s amazing what His perspective can bring to our lives – truth, peace, hope and joy – even in the midst of dark days and frightening waves.

Yes, sometimes life absolutely has the upper hand. But, as a believer, I rest in complete peace knowing God’s hands are bigger and He’s got the whole world in them. He’s got you, too. Let Him carry you today.

 

What salvation looks like

As we walk through this Holy Week and approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, my thoughts stay on Christ and His sacrifice for us. Recently, I saw two videos I cannot get out of my heart. I watched them a few times, but couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so drawn to them.

One night, out of nowhere, I had an epiphany. These two videos are a visual picture of what Christ has done in my life.

Click here and select “Fiona’s story” (top right video in the library) and “Miley’s story” (top left video in the library – also the cover story) and watch these two short, 3.5 & 4 minute videos – warning, they are not what you may expect.

When they found Fiona, she was living in a pile of garbage in an abandoned building. Blind. Terrified. Helpless. Voiceless. Paralyzed in her circumstance. Miley was also living in garbage – literally, a garbage dump. Sick. Hurting. Weak. Dazed.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalm 18:4-6

In each story, the rescuers were gentle and approached with care. They understood these dogs were in crisis and what they needed was immediate help. For one dog, it was food. For the other, it was being shaved and bathed to escape the unrelenting flea infestation. Both needed medical help.

Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Psalm 31:2 

In both cases, the rescuer went to where they were. These rescuers didn’t wait for Miley and Fiona to find them, they went looking for these precious dogs. They weren’t afraid or disgusted at where they found them. Their hearts were moved to help.

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Psalm 116:5-6

One thing about Miley’s story that reminds me so much of God, our Redeemer, is that when Miley knew nothing else but to return to the filthy pillow among the heap of garbage, her rescuer, realizing what she was doing, kindly said, “No, no, no, no we’re not sitting down again.” He cared enough about her to know that the life she had known was not good for her. In fact, it was dangerous and led to imminent death. He knew that if she sat back down, returning to her life, it may be the last time she would ever get up.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:2-5

His compassion for Miley was heard in his expressions about her condition.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

He offered her food from his hand. He wasn’t afraid to touch her and let her touch him.

 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

This rescuer personally led her out of her circumstance. He walked her out of one life and into another, better one, waiting – a life that she didn’t even know existed.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

He didn’t mind getting messy – not him or his nice, clean car. He welcomed her into his car, and watching her circle and settle, my heart skipped a beat as it had been so long since she felt something so soft. Clean. Safe.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

 He got her the help she needed.

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. Psalm 10;17

He understood Miley was exhausted in every way, and needed time to heal and rest. She could do so knowing she was finally safe. She could let her guard down and heal.

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:2-3,8

He continued to feed her and care for her while she healed.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

The rescuer had earned her trust and forever gratitude and Miley came to a place where she could show him just how much he came to mean to her.

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered. Psalm 71:23

As her strength grew and wounds mended, the trust she gained from the relationship with her rescuer gave her confidence to comfort another dog in crisis. These two became quick friends – finding comfort and friendship birthed out of two dogs who were once alone, now bonded forever.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For Fiona, when they realized she was blind, they let her smell them. They, also, were not too clean or too proud to go to the hard places to rescue her. Fiona sat speechless, helpless, as they reassured her by gently petting her head.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

She was terrified. Panicked. She wanted to run away, but had nowhere to go and no sight to lead her there. The only solution was to scoop her up in their arms and carry her – away from her sightless prison of garbage and a malnutrition-ravaged world. The only world she knew.

…I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

 They took her into their space, not caring about the fleas and whatever else could soil their clean bathroom.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death. Psalm 68:19-20

They carefully shaved her matted, dirty, flea-ridden fur coat and gave her a bath that she visibly enjoyed. She was clean. So clean that who knew this grey dog was actually white!

He gives a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 64:3 

They got her the medical help she needed and she received sight back in one eye!  Just imagine seeing again. And, seeing a world she didn’t know existed. Beautiful. Loving. Safe.

The LORD gives sight to the blind. Psalm 146:8

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

The footage of her riding home from the vet’s looking out the window makes my heart overflow. A car ride with her rescuer. The sunlight shining on her skin and in her eyes.  Imagine what she must have been thinking. Feeling.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 116:7-9

Her rescuer fed her by hand. Not afraid or too good to touch and be touched by Fiona. They gave her a safe place to sleep. Heal. Rest.

I lie down and sleep; I awake again, because the LORD sustains me. Psalm 3:5 

Watching her run, pounce and play was so cool. Moreover, watching her rest in her rescuer’s arms, leaning against his chest in total peace and contentment, there’s nothing else like it.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

She was adopted! Never again homeless. Never again alone. Never again hungry or thirsty.

(Jesus said) Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9

Combine these two stories and you’ve just watched my story of Christ’s salvation and God’s grace. As images of these dogs’ stories flash through my mind, I am reminded of where God found me and how He rescued me. I feel His mercy, love and compassion all over again. I feel His strong arms and determined heart to not abandon me. I feel His desire to call me His daughter.

All of this was only made possible through the sacrifice Christ gave for us and our sins on the cross. These dogs were victims for sure and endured terrible circumstances under life’s plight. I can relate. If your story looks like mine, where God found me was at the cost of other people’s decisions and choices, as well as being caught in the middle of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

However, all people are guilty of sin and I came to a place where I had to own mine. Even one sin is enough for eternal separation from God. Not because God is an angry, invisible entity that sits and waits to smite us in our wrong-doing with lightning bolts and curses – getting some sick and sadistic pleasure out of watching us toil and suffer, but because He is holy. Holiness cannot share space with sin. There is a great divide between God and us, and that divide is our sin. We need a Savior.

If you can relate to Miley or Fiona, and you want to be rescued, God is looking for you. In fact, He already knows exactly where you are. He is there with you and His hand is reaching out to you. Will you take it?

Through accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can be reconciled to God once and for all. Talk to God – right where you are. Whatever your life looks like. He’s not afraid to get messy. We don’t need to clean up before approaching Him. His arms are strong enough to carry you. He knows the way to life. He is life. He will never abandon you. He loves you forever and always.

Talk to God. Tell Him what’s going on. Tell Him who you believe (if you truly believe) Christ is – Savior and Lord, God’s only Son who died on a cross and rose again so we can live forever with God. Tell Him you’re sorry for the sins you’ve done. Make intentional effort to stop doing them. However, try as we might, we will all continue to sin because we’re not perfect. But God’s grace and forgiveness is a never-ending well from which we can draw from for the rest of our lives when we seek Him. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Commit your life to God and accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. Tell Him in your own words. He’s listening.

This Easter, Miley and Fiona are beautiful visual reminders of the lengths God will go to rescue us. Christ went so far as to take on our sin for us, suffer unspeakable torture, and be heartbroken over feeling forsaken by God – all so we won’t ever have to.

Easter is so much richer than chocolate bunnies. It is so much more beautiful than colored eggs or tulips or dainty little dresses with skirts that twirl freely in circles. Easter is so much deeper than the celebration of Spring as our culture has embraced.

It is the celebration that Christ, in fact, suffered and died for us, and then rose again to prove every single last word, deed and prophecy is 100% true. He lives today and is preparing rooms in His Father’s house for all who believe.

I hope to see you there.

Questions? Feel free to ask. Questions are good. God isn’t afraid, intimidated, angered or annoyed by them. After all, He IS the answer.

“…But while (his son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20