Enough

shutterstock_107062958.jpgI was addicted to chocolate. By mid-morning, I’d be rummaging through the cupboard for any available morsel. One was never enough. A handful failed to quench my desire. Why on earth would anyone choose apple pie over chocolate mousse? I wasn’t one to put on weight easily, so my addiction remained hidden.

What is it about our human condition that makes it shockingly easy to over-indulge? Why such insatiable appetites? And it’s not just food. It can be anything. Too much TV, shopping, work, or working out. Too much wine, whining, or finding fault. Too much of anything unmanaged can easily become destructive.

Enough is enough. Only it isn’t. What propels us to keep filling up? We only need more when we’re empty. There’s not enough chocolate in the world to fill what was never meant to be replaced by cocoa or caffeine—or anything else for that matter. No amount of promotions or Pinterest, Doritos or dopamine, nicotine or numbing drugs, gambling or gaming, shopping or shows, food or fashion, sex or social media will ever manufacture the real hit you desire.

But all of these fillers feel good—for a time. Until they don’t.

Because here’s the thing: there’s a God-sized hole in our souls meant only to be filled by God. But we stuff the space full and sell ourselves short with cheap imitations. We run and hide. We misunderstand what it means to know God and the true peace and joy that accompanies this relationship. We wonder if trading in our habits and addictions for friendship with God will be boring. We may even believe our sins are too great for us to be accepted by God.

The truth is God made you and delights in you. You aren’t a random hunk of matter going through the motions until you die. You MATTER to him. He lived to die for you so all the filth in your life can be wiped clean. The cross bought your second chance. Jesus died to not only assure you eternity but to offer you a more abundant life today.

If you think you’re too messed-up to be eligible, you’re wrong. In his own words, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) All your mess-ups are erased the moment you accept Jesus. You begin again—a glorious part two—but now you have his Holy Spirit to help and guide you. You’re no longer alone. He fills the empty hole with his love, joy, and peace with enough to share with others. No matter how deep the hole, how old you are, how messy you feel, it’s not too late.

Are you content with the life you’re living today? Is there an emptiness you’ve never managed to fill? Have the quick fixes provided long-term satisfaction? Do you wonder if there’s something more, or a better way to live? Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). And in John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 

One simple prayer to God, asking him to forgive your sins and be the true God of your life, can alter your every tomorrow. I know because it has mine, and I’ve never looked back.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9

More next time on how my chocolate addiction was resolved…

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  1. What are you using to fill the God-sized hole in your life?
  2. If you confess your sins and receive him, he will make you new.

 

 

Nose Tears

crying picRecently, my 10-year-old told me something enlightening. She said she learned in school that when you cry and your nose runs, it’s actually tears coming out of your nostrils. Nose tears? I was astounded. How could I have lived for forty-eight years and never heard of this phenomenon? This led me to think about all the other times my nose runs besides when I cry or have a cold.

For instance, my nose often runs when I’m enjoying hot food, particularly soup. I’m rather partial to soup. Does this mean I’m crying tears of joy while sipping? I experience a runny nose when outside in the cold. I rather dislike the cold. Perhaps I’m crying tears of pain that I must endure Canadian winters. And when I go for a run, my nose runs along with me. Are these tears of elation since running has always been a passion of mine, or my body secretly shedding tears of compassion for the endurance needed to complete the rigorous exercise?

Apparently there are different types of tears. My daughter informed me there are psychic tears (happiness or sadness), basal tears to keep the eyes lubricated, and reflex tears as a response to things like onions or tear gas. I looked it up and learned that the various types also look different under a microscope (see image below). How cool is that?

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The Topography of Tears ~Rose-Lynn Fisher

It’s amazing to me that God created us to release different types of tears, but also an outpouring of them when we experience strong emotions. Physic tears contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin, that also acts to improve mood. Apparently, when we shed tears, built-up chemicals are released from the body. I suppose the release of these endorphins and chemicals explain why we feel better after a good cry.

I have always loved this verse:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8

The idea that God keeps track of my pain and sadness, and even records them, is a marvelous comfort to me. But that he collects my tears and that they are precious to him brings tears of joy and wonder itself. It shows that our suffering matters to him—intimately. Not one tear or trial are forgotten by him. He hears every pain-riddled prayer and sees every soul-searing sorrow we experience.

I envision arriving in heaven and God holding up my tear jar. I imagine him sitting next to me flipping through the pages of my book of sorrows. I picture him showing me how all the pain and hardship I experienced on earth fit together. I’ll be in awe of how all the trials had a purpose even though I couldn’t understand while in the midst of them. I’ll be amazed at the way his mercy met me at every turn, how his love anchored me, and how his arms carried me through it all; nothing unnoticed by his loving gaze. I’ll gape at how God used it all and somehow managed to turn it into pure gold.

If tears have been your steady companion as of late, and trials pour in like the spring rains, take heart. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6) You are not abandoned or forgotten. He collects those tears and records your sorrows. He sees it all.

Before Jesus was led to the cross, he warned his disciples about some of the trials to come saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This life will not be without trials, we aren’t in heaven yet, but we have God’s spirit to help, guide, and comfort us.

His love is tender and true, and he hasn’t forgotten you!

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  1. Sometimes in trials we are tempted to think God doesn’t care or has forgotten us.
  2. How does it make you feel to know God collects your tears and records every bit of your sorrows?
  3. His love is unlimited and unconditional. Cling to him even in this trial.

If you enjoyed this devo, look for Soul Focus – 30-Day Devotional & Journal (coming Fall 2019), a collection of daily encouragements for overcoming life’s trials. Click here to learn more: Books  

 

 

When I Die

Twenty-six springs have passed since we moved into our neighbourhood. I can’t say how long before we arrived, but even back then an elderly couple lived at the corner house across the street. Every spring their garden came alive and apart from winter, you’d be sure to find them planting, puttering, and tending their blooming menagerie.

This spring, as every other, their flowers are once again pushing toward their prolific show. The green beginnings of new life poke out from the soil declaring winter’s end. You wouldn’t know it to look at the garden, but something is different; one of the caretakers is no longer there. The man sits alone in that sacred space the two of them once shared. The flowers silently about their cheery work won’t tell you that late last summer, the woman passed away in her beloved garden as her family gathered to celebrate her birthday.

Though shockingly sad and sudden, a small space in me can’t help but think that’s just the very place she would have picked; departing from this world on the same day she arrived several decades apart in the place she most loved. Now her garden lives on—a flowering legacy for others. All the beauty she painstakingly sowed now being enjoyed by every passerby.

I think of my life. Will I sow flowers? Will others be left better than I found them? Will the things I’ve done make some small, meaningful impact for good? Will beauty poke out of the dark crevices of others’ lives because of some small deposit dropped into their soul? Perhaps a kind word or deed, an encouragement or offered shoulder in the storm.

I know it’s not just about kindnesses. It’s about choices. One thought in particular nestles into the fabric of everyone’s thoughts, especially as the latter years settle in: where will I go after this? Many prefer to push away thoughts of death, but I’d rather face them head-on. Eternity awaits, and though I don’t morbidly live for my last breath, I should live each day as if it were my last.

I’m sure my flower-loving neighbour had no warning of the sudden heart attack she would experience that day. In this way, I too cannot predict how many days I’m gifted with or which moment will be my last. But I want to be ready: better prepared than I’ve ever been for anything in my life.

When I leave behind the shell I was given to move me through this world—the one that enabled me to speak and write out thoughts, to reach out with hands to comfort, to walk to the places I was meant to tread—my spirit will live forever. That’s where the choice comes in. We each have a decision to make, and it affects where we spend eternity.

It’s not complicated. At least, it wasn’t meant to be. There’s only one decision to make, and I can make it well ahead of time. And I have. I chose Jesus. I chose to accept his free gift of life and love he purchased for me (and you) on the cross. I admitted my sin, asked for forgiveness, and now live each day assured that when my time comes I’m saved from hell, and will be with him forever in heaven. There’s not a thing I can do to assure heaven except to believe and receive Jesus. I cannot take anything with me save my faith in him.

I’m sure heaven’s gardens are glorious. It’s my hope we’ll dance there together among the flowers!

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

~ John 14:6

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

~ Revelation 21:4

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  1. If tomorrow were your last day on earth, are you certain where you would spend eternity?
  2. If not, a simple, heartfelt prayer can change that. There is no formula. Just speak to God and tell him you are sorry for the wrongs that you have done, that you believe Jesus died for them and paid the price so you can spend eternity with him in heaven. Ask for his forgiveness. Move forward with his Holy Spirit as your guide.
  3. The best way to learn about God is to read the Bible, find a Christ-centered church, and surround yourself with other Christ-followers.

 

A Eulogy for My Best Friend

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This Easter weekend, I’d like to introduce you to someone I’m most fond of. He may be the most misunderstood man who ever lived. But I love him for it, because he’s probably the only man who didn’t care one bit about any of that. And because he didn’t care about what others thought of him, he was unswerving in his life’s purpose.

He didn’t get in the way, like some religious people of his time, and block others from seeing God. He showed up in unlikely places—often with the unpopular—and pointed people to his father. Instead of harsh judgement and criticism, he honoured everyone: men, women, and children, and reached out to those on the outskirts of society who would have appeared unholy, unworthy, and labelled sinners by the “religious”. He showed great compassion and said they were the ones he came to call (see Luke 5:32). He offered healing, grace, love, hope, and peace to anyone who would listen and even offered his very life. He gave all, for all, until his last breath.

He was the most unselfish person the world has ever known. His life was lived for his father’s purposes for the sake of others. Every place he stepped, every action he took, every word he spoke was for another’s benefit. His mission was clear: to show God’s love in a myriad of ways so all could see, hear, and understand his father’s great mercy and love.

The beauty of his unfathomable life is that none of it was typical—nothing you’d expect of a king. That was part of the problem. People found his humanness and humility unfitting. It was difficult to take him seriously and hard to accept that he wouldn’t fit their preconceived idea of God. Those who had spent their whole lives waiting for him, missed him. Those who should have known better, crucified him.

This is how one man explained him:

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”  ~ Isaiah 53:3

In the end, even his closest friends scattered. He died utterly alone, and it appeared his thirty-three years on the earth had amounted to nothing. But I adore the way looks are deceiving, and more than that, how his heart-wrenching obedience changed everything. Because he suffered the most horrific death known to humankind, I was offered a second crack at life—a chance to surrender the life I deemed so dear for a new one with him.

He once said: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

And there it is, with him I live freely and lightly; the heaviness of all the things I wasn’t meant to carry handed over. My burdens lifted, my sins wiped out, and my mind renewed. All the former things fade in importance for the friendship found in him. And as the load is lifted, love fills the deadened creases of my life. This same love brings with it a breath of freedom and joy, and peace that ignites hope. You can’t describe his beauty. It’s something to behold.

He moves into our tired lives when we let go. But it’s not easy—the letting go. You see it at the cross, this refusal to release. Some hanging on tightly to their position or praise, others hanging on to disbelief, and others to the material things of this world, grasping at anything that seems too precious to leave behind. Because what is known feels safer than launching into the unknown, even if the known is mediocre at best. But all the praise, position, money, best behaviour, or good deeds count for nothing if I reject him.

His radical, life-altering offer is extended to all. No one left behind. No matter where you come from or what you’ve done, you aren’t excluded. His forgiveness is a free, unearned gift, and when you receive it—believe in and trust him—you’re renewed for today and preserved for eternity.

You’re beautifully and unconditionally accepted and adored by the creator of the universe, all because one Easter, over two thousand years ago, Jesus died for you.

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God loves you. There isn’t a thing you can do, or not do, to earn his love. With a simple prayer, you can receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and step into tomorrow with him.

Brokenhearted

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By virtue of being alive, and living any length of time, there will come a point when you experience the agony of a broken heart. Its initial impact brings you to your knees as soul-searing pain rips repeated and relentless at your insides. Bewildered and vulnerable, you struggle for air as internal bleeding threatens to overcome you.

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

Betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and broken dreams can bring the kind of heart-sickness that tears strips off our faith, hope, and trust. Such is the devastation of brokenness that at times we fear we are impossibly damaged.

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Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  ~Proverbs 13:12

A positive attitude, an improved meal plan, a lengthy holiday, a workout regime, a self-help program, a new hobby, the numbing effects of substances—or another’s body—are all Band-aids. And we are so accomplished at finding fixes and fillers that we think it’s helping. And maybe it does, for a time, but a broken human being is a difficult thing to fix.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Enter the healer:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

We go to great lengths to mend ourselves, often ignoring the one who was sent for this very purpose and the only one qualified for the job. We can wander in the wilderness a long time, thirsty for something we can’t put our hands on, trying to fill a God-shaped hole that nothing else fits. When that emptiness, sadness, or brokenness threatens to swallow us alive, Jesus is there. He was always there.

He is the saviour, healer, counsellor, and lover we’ve needed all along. He’s the only one able to take the fragments of our once tender heart and piece it back together so we can begin to trust, live, and love again.

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  ~ Jesus

Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain, our brokenness, and loneliness. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves. We can’t anyway. We’ve already tried that. But until we accept that we are irreparably broken—unfixable apart from Jesus—we can’t be repaired.

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

Like us, Jesus experienced all of this messiness while on earth. He wasn’t immune to betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and the broken dreams of others. He came to stand with us in our brokenness to heal us, to love us, to point us heavenward, and then to die for us.

Once we’ve experienced the devastation of brokenness, it feels impossible to entrust our heart to another again. It’s much easier to close ourselves off in an attempt to protect ourselves for fear of being hurt again. This protective measure leaves us cold, angry, distant, and joyless. We become untouchables—the walking wounded—never really opening ourselves up. It takes an act of courage, and a measure of faith to love again.

Hearts are a notoriously fragile but remarkably mendable. Entrusting your heart to Jesus—the only one who is fully faithful—will not only secure your eternity, it will secure your heart for the here and now. You are loved by God, fully, unconditionally, endlessly. You cannot be unloved, abused, neglected, or left by Jesus, no matter what you do or fail to do. His is a forever kind of love.

He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

God’s love gives us the boldness and strength to love others, more purely, more patiently, more unconditionally, and more fully. Even if that love isn’t reciprocated, even if others are incapable of loving you the way you’d like to be loved, even if you are mistreated. God gives you the faith, hope, and love to overcome your own messes and brokenness and love others in theirs. There is beauty and abundant life on the other side of brokenness, and it’s gifted from Jesus.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

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  1. Have you ever felt so brokenhearted you feared you could never mend?
  2. Bring your brokenness to Jesus, and trust him to heal you.

A New Year’s Blessing

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Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. I would hazard a guess that you can easily name a few of your own. As this new year starts afresh, I want to embark from a place of thankfulness. As I leave 2018, I feel blessed to have witnessed my first-born wed and to welcome a new daughter into our lives as a result.

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I’m thankful to have seen my youngest go off to school for the first time where the transition, after homeschooling, was seamless. I’m thankful my novel is now in the midst of its second edit. I’m blessed to have ended the year surrounded by family and friends I hold near and dear. Such priceless blessings.

The start of a new year brings a sense of hope and wonder. Anything is possible. New adventures await. So as you enter 2019, I wanted to pass along this blessing I wrote a while back in hopes that it will stir your faith and rekindle your heart to God.

A New Year’s Blessing

I bless you this year, that you would rise up and give your Maker the first fruits of your time. May you draw close enough to hear the sound of his voice, the breath of his gentle whisper into your soul, the gesture of his hand beckoning you to sit awhile and listen to things too wonderful for you, yet meant for you alone.

As a child longs to be gathered onto his father’s lap, to be dandled on his knee, to be comforted, may it be your irrepressible desire to draw in close to the Lord. As a lover longs, with a full heart, to be with their one true love, may the Lord’s love likewise overwhelm you, fill you, and warm you with a burning desire to remain in his presence.

May you remove yourself from the entanglements of the world, the snares and numerous enticements that war for your time, affection, and very soul, and come away to be with the Lord. Jesus made a way for you to enter the Holy of Holies, “for the veil was torn in two” (Mark 15:38). So it was that the physical barrier that separated us from God was removed.

May you enter boldly (Heb 10:19-25) and lay your offering – your very life – at his feet. In that secret place, may you be devastated by his love, utterly undone in the presence of Almighty God (Isa. 6:1-8). May you be transformed, renewed, washed, filled, as a love deluge washes over your soul, cleansing away the soul-silt and rocky barriers that prevent you from being both cleansed and moving forward.

May you leave that place carrying the aroma of God, like incense, with a lingering cloud around you; the very scent of heaven saturating your skin, spirit, soul. May you be ushered into the places you are to tread, where those nearby would stop and lift their faces, and breathe deeply of God’s love, goodness, and mercy that is affixed to you.

May you leave that holy place confident of his abundant love for you, filled to overflowing with his outrageous love, so you will likewise love others without limits and barriers. May you walk in the knowledge of the miraculous things of God, fully expecting his kingdom to come on earth, your faith bolstered by all you have heard and seen, so that nothing can convince you otherwise. For you have lingered in the presence of God and will never be the same.

May you have the desire to return again and again, that action would replace longing, so that you dwell in the secret place, humbling yourself in his presence. Jesus being your intercessor, may you enter freely, fully, and often, so that your iniquity be taken away, and your sin purged (Isa 6:6), that you may be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:1-2), in the world but not operating by the world’s system (John 17:14-16), and set apart to speak to the nations (Jer 1:5).

May the winters of your soul melt away, the rains disappear, the flowers blossom within your spirit, and your life.

Blessings to you this new year, in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come. ~ Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Christmas is a Love Story

 

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This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I’d like to enjoy every moment, yet it’s easy for it be sabotaged by being too busy and distracted—a general theme at any time of year, but especially at Christmas.

There’s the shopping, the preparations, the parties, the presents, the dinners, and time with family. All of this can be lovely (except maybe the shopping), but it can also be stressful and exhausting.

The high hopes surrounding this one day can add a lot of pressure too. I typically have a picture of how this day will shake out. I should fully engage in each moment and live out of the peace and joy ever at my disposal, but it’s easy to enter Christmas exhausted and exit it disappointed when the hype failed to match the event. I wonder if Jesus’s mother struggled this way too.

Mary had anticipated her son’s birth, and then, nearing her due date, she endured a 90 mile trek on a mule’s back to register for a census in the town of her husband’s ancestors. But the hardship didn’t end there. You know the story. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there were “No Vacancy” signs everywhere. In the Christmas rush, they must have neglected to arrange an Airbnb.

At this point, I’d be on the verge of a meltdown. Between the pregnancy hormones and “this is not what I thought it would be” emotions, my husband would be walking on eggshells. Some cross words would likely spill out to the effect of: “I thought you were dealing with this!” and the atmosphere would worsen. As expected, he’d go into fix-it mode and a stable would be a less-than-ideal solution.

It’s interesting that this first Christmas resembles our Christmas. Frenzied and imperfect. I think that’s exactly how God planned it. The census, the stable, and all that surrounded the birth of Jesus was marked by hardship. Could God be trying to show us something?

The God of the universe could have provided ideal circumstances, ensured his son be born in a palace with a grand feast prepared to fittingly celebrate the king’s birth. But in his deep compassion for humanity, not only did he come humbly in human form, he experienced all that we experience, and more. If you wonder if God can understand your pain, think of Jesus—God in the flesh.

Christmas is really a beautiful love story. It’s the continued story of God declaring his massive love and faithfulness to us. It’s him seeking us, finding us, living among us, and ultimately dying for us. It was part of his plan from the beginning. All part of his extravagant love.

It’s my prayer that we replace the scurry and worry and find lasting joy in Jesus. That our hearts will be more full than our tummies. That despite the pace we will find peace. That we will love as God does: completely, unconditionally, and sacrificially.

But most of all, I pray that we will have a deep understanding of how fully we are loved. Know this: God send his son to be born to die for you. You matter that much to him. He made a way for you, amid all your personal struggles, failures, and pain, to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray you’ll take hold of this life-changing, eternity-altering, heart-healing gift, and unwrap a new life in Christ.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours!

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

John 15:12-13