Category: Encouragement


shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331All seemed lost. All seemed hopeless. A people who once had carried great hope in their hearts, had long given up and no longer looked toward Heaven for mercy. They went about their lives doing what needed to be done to survive. An oppressive government caused people great hardship. A heavy tax and census was laid upon them, and their lives were disrupted to appease those who ruled over them. In their duty and compliance, life went on…

Yet, unknowingly, in the midst of it all, a divine interruption occurred. An angel brought word to a young, humble teenager. What was promised at the beginning of the age in the beautiful garden was being kept by the Perfect, Glorious Creator in Heaven. Though none were found deserving, though all had failed their God, in the quiet of an ordinary night, a baby who embodied all love, all grace, all mercy and compassion was brought forth from Heaven.

Far away from city life, angels filled the sky bringing the great news to lowly shepherds. Even farther away, wise men wondered about a brilliant star that danced in the sky and chose to follow and seek where it led.

Revealed to those whose hearts were open, the Savior of Mankind, the Light of the World, God’s Greatest gift, came to earth and the redemption of man was set in motion that starry night in Bethlehem. And as the story continues, this little Prince of Peace grew and gave Himself on a cross, bearing our sin and shame.  With that one particular act, man was reconciled with the Perfect, Glorious Creator in Heaven to have fellowship once again as in the days of old while in the beautiful garden.

Now 2,000 years later, the rest of the world goes on, distracted by doing what needs to be done to survive. With heavy taxes and census laid upon them, they grapple to appease those who rule over them. Yet, unknowingly, in the midst of it all, a divine interruption is about to occur.  Another age old promise is soon to be realized. Crowned now as the King of Kings, those whose hearts are open to Him await the return of Jesus Christ, the faithful keeper of promises who carries victory in His hand. He will conquer evil and make everything new. He will reign with truth and justice for ever and ever.

Is your heart open to Him? Are you longing for more than what this world has to offer? Say yes to His promises and receive the miracle of Christmas in your heart by praying this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,
I confess that I’m a sinner.  I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent
Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood. I thank You for Your love and mercy.  I make You my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and Blessed and Happy New Year!  God bless you!

 

Advertisements

Change happens. There is no way to get around it. Sometimes change is by choice, other times it’s not. Sometimes change is for the better, other times it is not. One thing I am discovering about change is that it is much harder to handle when you’re older. You work diligently to arrive to a certain way of life, to meet goals, to realize dreams and you have the expectation that you are on a course that you can stay on until the end. Your future is sure and you have done everything possible to maintain what you have worked for, when suddenly something unforeseen happens that is beyond your control. I’m going through a huge change in my life that was not welcomed, even though it was necessary.

The book of Job tells us in 1:21 that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Job is an excellent example of someone that is confronted with sudden change on every level. He has great wealth, great children, great health and a great life, when calamity strikes and he loses everything. He’s not aware that Satan has accused him of only being faithful to God because of the many blessings God has bestowed on Job. God allows the enemy to test him and take everything except Job’s life. Job is devastated with the tragic loss.  His friends give their own thoughts to Job about why these terrible events have taken place and what to make of it. His wife flat out tells him to curse God and die, which Job, being a righteous man, refuses to do. When Job continues to give praise to God even after all he has lost. God restores him and blesses him even more than before.

Thankfully, most of us have never had to go through the devastation that Job went through, but it does remind us of the sovereignty of God, and that every gift and blessing we have is only because of Him. He knows exactly what we need, what we don’t need, and the perfect time of when to receive it, or let it go. For sixteen years I was a teacher to bilingual Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten students in the inner city of Houston. It was the toughest and most challenging job that I ever had, and I loved every minute of it. However, the demands of education changed as society, technology and ideology led the way into a new direction. Everything flipped and my greatest strengths in teaching now became my greatest weaknesses. I was forced to part ways with my former employer.

I had planned to eventually retire with this assignment, but I’m still a few years away from qualifying for retirement. I was sure I would have been married by now, but have not yet met the right person. So then, what’s a girl like me supposed to do? I’m supposed to walk by faith and not by sight.  It’s time to trust and not lean on my own understanding, time to listen, time to let God be my provider, my guide and my Heavenly father. I know without a doubt that my earthly dad would have let me move back home and helped me out.  How much more I can believe my Heavenly Father, who created all things and has a good plan for my life, to take care of me. 2nd Corinthians 3:18 says that He transforms us from glory to glory. I can trust that if I keep my eyes on Him and stay in faith, that God has something even greater in store for me.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve felt a tug on my heart to a life in ministry. I wasn’t quite sure how, but I thought that I would have a preacher or missionary husband and that I would handle all of the music. Now, all these years later, I’m in a place where I have been forced out of the boat, and now I can either walk on water, find another boat to climb in, or drown. In order to remain on the water, I have to draw out the gifts and talents that God has given me and put them to use. I’m kind of excited and cautious at the same time.  Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  I sense the wind is blowing me in the direction of writing so I’ve decided to publish a book using a collection of my blogs. Stepping out in faith, I published a Kindle ebook that is available on Amazon for $2.99 called Life Kissed By Heaven. To continue stepping out in faith, I’m seeking to get my book published.

Recently, a friend of mine lost a young family member to suicide, and no one knows why.  He was a bright young man and was to enter his senior year in high school this fall.  He had everything to live for, but in a solitary, desperate moment, he came to the wrong conclusion that his life was worthless.  He then imposed a permanent solution to a temporary circumstance.  I want to do all I can to prevent this from ever happening again.  I want the message of Job to be known by all, that difficult seasons are only temporary and that seasons of joy will come once again.  I want the painful lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, along with the increasing knowledge of God’s goodness, to be used to encourage others that feel their lives are hopeless.  In order to raise the funds for a publisher, I’m selling T-Shirts with a Masterpiece Message that everyone has been created and designed by God. I specifically chose orange because it is the color to wear to show support for persecuted Christians. I’m also going to donate 5% of the profits to International Christian Concern which ministers to the persecuted Church all over the world.  I would greatly appreciate your support, but even more importantly, I ask you for your prayers in following God’s will.

He also has a good plan for your life, and I pray that He reveals His will for your life.  If you haven’t yet made Jesus the Lord of your life or need to rededicate your heart to Him, you can click on Make Peace with God, to find out how.

Love and blessings to you all, my friends!

Life Kissed By HeavenT-Shirt Picture

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”  – Proverbs 13:12

How often do we settle into a routine, turn the volume down on our hopes and dreams, and brace ourselves to live life as usual?  We believe in God and His Word and that someday in the far off future, He will deliver on His promises.  I know I have.  Five years ago I surrendered myself to this way of thinking.  Both of my parents had become critically ill within months of each other, and although I desperately prayed and believed for a miracle, God took each of them home instead.  During this time, I was in a relationship that I truly believed was an answer to prayer and to bring comfort,  but it only added to the hurt and heartache I was already going through.  So I had reasoned that in the Age to Come, I would  see the promises of God fulfilled in my life and not a moment before.  I knew God loved me and was good because I could sense His presence in my life. I knew God could answer prayers at any time, as I had seen in the lives of others and heard in their testimonies, but year after year when life became a cycle of work, sleep, work, sleep, church, work, sleep, work, sleep, church…with my prayers seemingly unanswered, I stopped expecting to see God ever move in any major way in my life.  Little did I know that during that time, God was setting things up to blindside me with a HUGE, Over-the-Top blessing!

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving of 2013.  I was sitting in a Cracker Barrel restaurant by myself, eating my holiday meal.  My family lived very far away and my friends were celebrating with their families and relatives.  I wasn’t sad to be alone or anything like that, I had simply accepted that this is how my life was.  Had anyone said to me that day that I would spend next year’s Thanksgiving Day, sitting in a living room on the other side of the world, drinking Turkish coffee with a group of some of the most incredible, wonderful people you could ever meet, I would have looked at them like they had lost all sense of reality.  Yet, that’s exactly what happened!

A few weeks into the 2014 year, I decided to attend a Missions Meeting at church.  They would be talking about the various trips where they planned to send teams  I wanted to see if there would be any affordable trips to a Latin American country that coincided with my summer break from school.  I had gone on missions trips many years ago in the past, which led me to major in Spanish in college and become a Bilingual Teacher.  There weren’t any.  I was a little disappointed, but continued to listen about the other trips in the fall.  As soon as they mentioned the  details of the trip to Israel, I felt a spark of excitement on the inside, as if I had suddenly come to life!  It had been many years since I last felt that way, and it was incredible!  I knew it would be nearly impossible to get the time off from school, especially during one of the busiest times of the year.  And yet this feeling that I was supposed to go, superseded all of the many reasons “of why I shouldn’t bother trying to go”  playing out in my mind.

20141123_153048I picked up the application as soon as they were made available.  I held on to it, wondering how I could approach my boss about this.  The trip was scheduled to return after Thanksgiving and Kindergarten would be gearing up for standardized testing.  That meant that I would be gone during the test preparation time and return just a couple of days before testing started.  Then it was announced that the Stanford would be replaced by the Iowa test in our school next year, and there wasn’t any indication of when it would take place!  That announcement was by no doubt, in my favor!  As the due date drew close, I was still trying to think of a way to bring up the trip, but then the perfect segue into the topic opened up at our Family Science Night.  My colleague and I had chosen to present the experiment in how to make an egg float to the top.  It was an experiment regarding the density of water.  My principal came in the classroom to observe how our experiment was going and began asking questions.  As I answered his questions I thought to myself that now would be a great time to mention the trip, but how??  As he was wrapping up the conversation he mentioned how our project explained why everything floats in the  Dead Sea.  BINGO!  There it was!  As he was turning, I said “Speaking of the Dead Sea, I wanted to talk to you about this opportunity that I have…”   Even though he didn’t give me a solid  yes, he encouraged me to go ahead and get the application in before the deadline.  With that, I began my adventure.

I got the application filled out and turned in just in the nick of time.   I then had to wait to see if I would get called for an interview.  Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that I was not selected and felt disappointed.  After I had finally given up, I received a call a few days later to contact them if I was in the building to conduct the interview that was scheduled that day.  After combing through my inbox, I saw the email informing me of the date and time of the interview, and I had missed it!  How could I have let this happen?    I was closing out the school year and didn’t check my personal email.  I sent a message back explaining what had happened and asked for another interview, which thankfully was granted.  The interview seemed to go well, but again it was time to wait.  I got the  call a week later that I was selected.  I was beyond excited!

20141125_114137I really felt that the Holy Spirit helped me to get to the first meeting!  I had the wrong date written down in my calendar.  Our team leader sent a text to remind us about the meeting that morning.  She had my home phone listed as my cell phone.  For the first, last and only time ever, I received the message on my landline.  I scrambled to get ready and go, thanking God the whole time,  that the text came through on that phone and not my cell phone.  I  often wait until later in the day to check my cell phone for messages and would have missed the meeting entirely.  When I got to the church, the 11:00 service was letting out.  I had to park in a garage about a block away which made me late.  As I hurried into the church and in the area that we were to meet, no one was there.  The meeting was held in a conference room in which you needed to be escorted by someone with authorization.  I turned on my cell phone to notify the team leader that I was there, but my battery was dead!  I couldn’t believe it I stood there not knowing what to do and started praying for a way to get there.  Within five minutes, I noticed a female custodian heading in that direction.  I went over to her and let her know that I was there for an Israel trip meeting and before I could ask if she could let someone from the team know that I was there, she simply took me to the area and let me in with her security pass and rushed away.   I thanked her at the time, but I was so very grateful that I wanted to again express my appreciation after the meeting was over, since I knew this wasn’t ordinarily done, but I couldn’t  find her.  In fact I never saw her again and I sometimes wonder if she was an angel.  Had she not done what she did, I would have left thinking God must not want me to go and pulled myself out of the team.  Whether she was from Heaven or not, she was definitely my angel and I knew God was orchestrating everything!

I arrived and got to meet the other members of my team and was blown away by this great group of ladies.  I couldn’t help but think, “What am I doing here?  These ladies are incredible and so spiritually mature…I’m just the daughter of a factory worker…”  But they made me feel very welcomed and that I was a definitely a part of the team.  We had trainings and scheduled events to take part in leading up to the trip and began to bond as a team.

While preparing for this trip, there were many obstacles that popped up that made it seem like this trip would not take place.  I got a new boss who gave me a bit of a hard time about going in the last week before the trip (even though I talked to her about it when she first arrived on campus), the Iowa testing schedule was announced and Kindergarten would be taking the test after Thanksgiving (same as  the test before);  my position was changed to teach regular Kindergarten instead of Bilingual  in the second week and everything I had was in Spanish (I would have to create all English materials myself) .  The biggest obstacle of all, was that in the summer, Hamas began attacking Israel.  This led to  Israel having to defend itself,  resulting in the One Hundred Day War. This ended before the trip, but tensions were still high.   I won’t even mention the conflict Israel had with the United Nations over whether to lower sanctions against Iran, which  would give them  liberty to progress in their Nuclear Energy Capabilities.  Okay, so I guess I did mention it, but that’s all I’m going to say.

20141128_090530The trip went as smoothly as can be!  We got to see  many of the famous landmarks, hike up Mt. Arbel, sail in the Sea of Galilee, float in  the Dead Sea, pray at the Western Wall, and much more.  My favorite was visiting the Garden of  Gethsemane and  going inside the tomb believed to be where  Jesus was buried –  EMPTY , of course!  We also  got to meet, encourage and bless many wonderful people along the way.  My team members were a major source of inspiration  to me and I learned so much from them!

All of this brings me back  to the verse quoted at the beginning in Proverbs 13:12.  This trip was a dream come true for me.  It woke me up from a deep slumber and revived my spirit  and faith!  God really is good, and He wants to give good things to His children!  When asked by a friend to describe what this whole experience was like, they only words I could use to describe it were I felt like my life  was kissed by Heaven!  If you feel like you’ve been put on a shelf collecting dust, don’t  fall for the lie!  Don’t you dare give up and lose hope!  Wait on God with patience, faith and expectancy!  He has much, much more for you!  If He fulfilled this long time desire of my heart for me, He will  fulfill the desires of your heart as well!

I pray that in this New Year of 2015, your life is kissed by Heaven over and over! God bless you!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331 Hello everyone!  It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I just got back from the movie theater, where I went to see the film Son of God produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. This is a beautiful depiction of the life of Jesus Christ. It made a deep impact on me and inspired a poem in response. I am awaiting a wonderful, glorious day like no other, when Jesus returns for His bride, the Church. It is that hope and anticipated joy yet to come, that keeps me going day after day. Jesus lives in my heart, and I sense His presence often…but what I experience now is only a little taste of the glorious joy that is yet to come when I and all who call on Him are with Him for eternity. I hope this blesses you!

The Joy Yet to Come

There’s a joy that awaits us that we cannot yet fathom
A glory our earthly flesh can’t contain,
When our Prince of Peace returns for us in the clouds,
Only the tried and true in us remain.

In an instant we’ll become imperishable,
Into immortal bodies we shall be clothed.
No longer hindered by sickness and death,
In His presence, beloved and betrothed.

There’s a time that awaits us, when all sorrow shall end.
By His hand, tears forever wiped away.
We will live in the light of His glory and love,
Night banished by endless day.

~ Linda J. Vandock

If you haven’t had a chance to go see the movie, I strongly encourage you to go. Here is a link to the official trailer:  http://youtu.be/uUja5WJFAXA

Enjoy and be blessed!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.

I’ll never forget the early days of my Christian walk when the friends I connected with at church were very big into street ministries. This meant going into some very rough areas on a Friday or Saturday night with handfuls of Christian tracts. We would go outside of bars and nightclubs, heavy metal concerts, and adult bookstores to witness to people. The guy that headed this up had a real passion and drive to bring people to Christ and never wanted to miss an opportunity to talk to people about Jesus. Anyone who knows me, knows that approaching strangers and engaging in conversations isn’t one of my biggest strengths, so this was a real stretch out of my comfort zone. I just wasn’t a talkative person, although I’ve grown a lot in this area. I think back to a time when God tried to break me of this, on my first summer missions project with Teen Challenge in New York City. At the initial meeting where we were given our instructions, I was so relieved when I found out we would be going out in groups of three. Everyone else was so extroverted and out-going, I figured I’d be the one to pray quietly in intercession, while the other two did all the talking. The funny thing is, by the time the leader got to assigning me to a group, there was just one other person left, and he was even quieter than I was! Uh, Oh! How did that happen? That’s when I discovered the sense of humor of God. So I was in a position where I had to be bold and approach people, and I can’t tell you enough how mightily God used that trip to influence my life for him.

So right from the start, I learned that it was our mission to tell people the good news about Jesus Christ. I would do my part and always try to maneuver every conversation with anyone who didn’t attend church on a regular basis to the plan of salvation. After awhile, the guy who led our group at home went off to college and everyone else’s life went into different directions and so we stopped going out. I would occasionally find groups from other churches going out and would connect with them sometimes. Most people were open to us coming out and talking for the most part, but there were others not so cool with it. One time, we came up to some young people acting silly and playing around. Before we even said hello to them, one of them came up and threw a bucket of water on us. He immediately felt bad and apologized and spent a few minutes talking with us afterward, but after that incident, I did less street evangelism and began to focus more on witnessing in my everyday life.

As I was finishing up with college, I did my best to always bring faith into the conversation, but by that time, the world had begun to change. It was during the 500 year anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering America. My University had a conference depicting him as an evil person who brought ruin and destruction to the Americas. I had to attend because it was part of my grade as a Spanish major, even though I saw things from a different perspective. It was then, however, that there seemed to be a shift in the opposition toward Christianity. Long-time friends from college began to press me for answers on controversial subjects and then suddenly cut off their friendships as I answered with what the Bible said. It began to get very difficult. It didn’t help that I was also facing many other difficulties in other areas of my life. Businesses, including the one my dad worked for, began to close and move south after the North American Free Trade Agreement passed. My dad was blessed in that he just barely got his 30 years in, and received his pension and retirement package. Others he worked with were not and lost everything after 29 years of dedicated hard labor. It made for some tense times and it was harder and harder to keep talking about the plan of Salvation when emotions were so raw and ran so high. I began to grow very anxious about even opening my mouth at all since it meant certain ridicule and disdain, but I thought I could please God by continuing, so I did. Then one day, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and it made all the difference in the world for me. In fact, had He not spoken this to me, I probably would have burned out as a believer a long time ago.

It took place in an ESL classroom for third and fourth grade students, where I was called in as a substitute teacher from time to time. This particular lesson was a science lesson on fruit. I was going over a worksheet with the class that the teacher had left. As I pointed out to the students how the seeds were in the fruit, the Holy Spirit suddenly spoke to my heart at that moment and showed me that it worked the same way in the Spiritual realm as well. The seeds that we as Christians plant in the hearts of other people comes from the fruit of the Spirit that grows in us as we abide in Him. Jesus said in John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” So much clicked for me at that moment. If we truly want to plant seeds in the hearts of people, we need to have our fruit developed which only happens when we abide in Him. It is in our developed fruit that yields the seeds that are to be planted. God has made it so that His Word is spread through us. The Word of God is powerful enough alone, as it is alive and does not return void, but when we deliver the Word, along with the words of our personal testimony of what God has done in and for us, demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit that we bear, there is no denial of the power of God and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

This is further demonstrated by what the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and without that love behind our words and motivating us, we will not be effective for the cause of Christ.    We only bear fruit from a true relationship with Him, through time spent daily in His presence and yielding our will to His.  It is knowing Him personally that we are compelled and want to share, no matter what, the wonderful, satisfying, strengthening, enriching love relationship that keeps us going day after day after day.   It’s the love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that people see and are moved by.  It’s what sets us apart from non-believers and will draw those seeking for something more to us.  The more I grow in Christ, and understand how He gave His all for me, the more I want to give my all for Him.

If you have never invited Jesus Christ into your heart to make him, please pray this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I’m a sinner. I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood. I thank You for Your love and mercy. I make You my Lord and Savior. Amen.

You are loved!  Be blessed, everyone!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331“The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   Every summer, as another chapter comes to a close on a school year, I can often look back at a particular moment, when something happens that tugs at my heart.  It’s a moment when I think to myself “Yeah…that’s why I’m glad to be a teacher.” Most of the time, it’s something a child has said or a picture that they have drawn for me. The previous year, that moment came on graduation day, and it involved five students. For graduation, students were allowed to dress up for the special occasion. The little girls came into the classroom looking like little princesses in their fancy dresses with little bows and ribbons adorning their hair. Some of the boys came in looking very handsome and suave, wearing a suit and tie, and others wore a very stylish shirt and nice pants. They were all so excited that their parents would be coming to see them sing and receive their certificates that afternoon; all, that is, except one little girl and four little boys. They came wearing their same old school uniforms. I called their parents during a break to remind them about the program, but the numbers were either disconnected, not in service or unanswered.

After the ceremony was finished, several parents wanted a picture of their child with the teacher, so I spent a few minutes posing for photos. After several minutes, one of the five came up and very excitedly said “My turn!” and stood next to me and put his arm around me. When no one responded or lifted their camera up, he said “Come on! Someone take a picture!” Gently, I had to tell him that they were only taking pictures of their own children. It broke my heart to see the disappointed look on his face. He said “My parents didn’t come.” and went back to sit down and wait with the other four children. After everyone had left, and it was just the remaining five kids and myself, we went back to the classroom and I did my best to celebrate the kids and take a group picture of them holding their certificates. We ate cookies, I let them pick out  whatever sticker they wanted, and then it was time to go. They seemed content as they left, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to be there for them, but I knew that none of it could take the place of having their mom and dad there.

Every year, there are those one or two students in class that are very shy and keep to themselves. They sometimes come in with their clothes unwashed, or their hair uncombed. Their parents don’t come to the special events when invited. For whatever reason, their parents don’t seem to take or have the time to nurture them and show them how special they are. These kids are usually very quiet, and try not to attract attention to themselves.  They are, unfortunately, either ignored or picked on by the other kids.  It is these very children that keep me going as a teacher.  I could relate to these children on so many levels.  I was in sixth grade when I was singled out, made fun of and bullied in class by several students.   I was very shy, and every time someone called my name, I would blush a bright red color.  I also was a straight A student, so that was another strike against me.  No matter what I did or how I tried to fit in, I was teased mercilessly.  There were some difficult situations going on at home, so I never mentioned anything to my parents.  I continued to do my school work and even allowed some students to copy off me, so that they would maybe like me.  Of course, it didn’t work, and on the last day of school, a group of girls decided they wanted to beat me up after school.    I tried to ignore their taunting, but in the last half hour of the day, I broke out in tears.  The girls then felt bad and apologized.   I was very relieved and grateful the next year, when I was placed with a whole different mix of kids and made good friendships that year.  It brought a lot of healing.

In today’s culture, there is a criteria  set that people must meet in order to be considered valuable and successful.  People are judged on what they do, how they look, and how they handle themselves in social settings.  Women are judged on their appearance and what they wear.  More and more, there is a lot of emphasis on performance and competitiveness.  There is a time and a place for a healthy dose of these things in certain events; however, never ever should performance be a tool to measure a person’s worth and value.  Unfortunately, it is very rampant in our society.   Our educational system is set up in a way in which national tests determine which of our students are the best and brightest.  Those that don’t score well risk being labeled as low performers or “not as good” as their peers.  With tests now being given in Early Childhood Education, the competition and labeling is beginning before children even have a chance to develop their thinking skills.  In this data driven environment we now live in, they are burdened with working harder and studying more instead of exploring and discovering the world about them through play.  People are challenged to do as much as possible in a small amount of time.   Faster is considered better, which leads to more careless mistakes, less creativity, and lower quality overall.  There is a standard that is set by the world and those that don’t fit in or conform to that standard, are cast away or ostracized by society.  If one cannot produce something the world considers important and necessary, they are considered useless and throw-aways.   Pregnant women who discover that their unborn baby has a defect are strongly encouraged, if not down-right pressured to end the pregnancy.  Our senior citizens, whose health and strength begin to fail or slow down, are sometimes placed and abandoned in nursing homes.   It doesn’t matter that they have a wealth of wisdom, history or insight to share, they are left and forgotten.  It becomes a type of “survival of the fittest”.  The strong set the standard and the weak get left behind.  It would seem hopeless to live in a world so harsh and cold, but thankfully, we don’t.  There is a God of love, mercy and grace who sets the ultimate standard.  His standard is the only one that matters.

We can catch a glimpse of the nature and character of God towards those the world deems unworthy and rejects through a story in the Old Testament.    One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when David sought out and showed kindness to  Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, David’s best friend.  Even though Jonathan’s father, King Saul, grew jealous and sought to kill David, nothing could diminish the close bond that David and Jonathan shared .   David had been forced to be on the run, living in caves and hiding from Saul, but he and Jonathan’s friendship remained rock solid through it all.  When Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines, David grieved heavily for the loss of his dear friend.    Sometime later after David had become King, he asked “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?”  (2 Samuel 9:1).  Mephibosheth was brought in from where he lived and stood before David.  David spoke kindly to him and restored all the land that belonged to Saul.  Not only that, but he told him that he would always eat at his table, giving him high honor before everyone.  Now, Mephibosheth had grown up with two big strikes against him.  Mephibosheth lost his father, Jonathan, at the tender age of five.  The role of a father is so important, especially to a young son.  He had no father to turn to model what a true man is, no father from which to receive love, advice and guidance through life.   If that wasn’t hard enough, Mephibosheth was crippled in both feet.  His self abasement was clearly evident when he answered David with “What is your servant that you should notice a dead dog like me?”  It did not matter to David, he was the son of Jonathan and that superseded anything else.  It’s much like you and I, and every soul created by God, He loves us all and invites all of us to come to Him and receive our inheritance, our favor and our blessing from Him.  That invitation comes by believing in His Son, Jesus – His death on the cross and His resurrection.

The story of Mephibosheth resonates with the deep compassion of what God’s standard is.   His standard is that every human being is created in His image for a divine purpose.  He has a plan for each and every life that comes into existence.  He places gifts and talents along with different strengths and weaknesses in each and everyone of us.  He never looks at the outside appearance, but looks at the heart.   Nothing can separate the love of God from His children.  He promises that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.  His heart reaches out to the lost, the hurting.  He cares for the widows, orphans and the alienated. He is closest to those who are broken hearted and crushed in Spirit.  When Jesus walked on this earth, His ministry was for those who were sick.  He healed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the mute.  He made lepers whole again.  He reached out to those that were socially unacceptable.  Wherever He went, those He touched were made whole and healed of all afflictions and infirmities.  He sees those that feel invisible, and He walks with them.

We need to value the lives of others and see them through God’s eyes.  We need to defend those who are weak, speak for those with no voice, and seek justice for those who have been wronged.   Jesus said  in Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”   Our prayer should be that God would gives us eyes to see the invisible, that we may reach out to them.  We as believers can overcome evil with good, and show kindness and compassion to others, no matter what the circumstances are, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We have God dwelling on the inside of us, and God is love.

If you are one that feels invisible, know that the Creator of the universe sees you, and He cares about every concern you have.  Things may not make sense now, but a day is coming when they will.  If you haven’t invited Jesus into your heart or made peace with God, please pray this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I’m a sinner.  I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead.  I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood.  I thank You for Your love and mercy.  I make You my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

We have the victory in Jesus!  Be blessed, everyone!

shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331Happy Purim! As Jews all over the world celebrate this holiday that commerates the selfless actions of Queen Esther from the Old Testament and the deliverance of her people from the evil destructive plot of Haman, today’s Christians have a lot to learn about this woman of God. Esther 4:14 states: “And who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In her life of difficult and unwanted circumstances, God, who saw the whole picture, worked them all together for good for the deliverance of His people and for His glory. Esther put her life on the line, after fasting and prayer, and is now remembered and celebrated to this very day. While many of us may not have as grand of a mission as Queen Esther, every one of us have a call and a mission to those lives God has placed around us. In God’s eyes, there is nothing too small or anyone not too important to be left undone or unreached. Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 18:12-14: “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”

Just as in Esther’s case, God can use everything you’ve ever been through to prepare you for His call on your life. When I think about Esther, I think maybe, just maybe, had she not had to press through and overcome so much difficulty in her life, she would not have had such a depth of inner beauty to attract the King over the other multitude of beautiful woman to be his queen. When we have been tried by fire, and our lives reflect pure gold, it gives us whatever credibility those in our lives may need to see in order to surrender their lives to Jesus.

I came across this link that is full of indepth teaching on what we can learn from the life of Esther. Hope this is as valuable to you as it was to me. Be blessed!

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/life-Esther.html#ixzz2LqSz608l

You know, it’s interesting that the older I get, the more I appreciate the holiday of Thanksgiving. As a child it used to be my least favorite holiday. I mean, c’mon! We had to eat turkey and traditional side dishes, when I’d much rather fill my tummy with pizza, hamburgers and fries. There weren’t any fun, lively songs, no cute characters bringing me gifts or candy. Except for the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Program, there weren’t even holiday cartoons to look forward to. I’m glad to say I’ve grown up a lot since then and now see the things I took for granted as a kid such as gathering with loved ons and reflecting on the simple gifts and freedom I have as priceless treasures to be cherished, indeed.

As a Christian, I’m thankful to God to earn a living in a job that invests in the lives of children. I’m thankful that my school had a Thanksgiving Program that allowed us to sing about being grateful. I’m thankful to have a Christian principal and that we begin each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas Pledge and a moment of silence. I’m thankful to have my own home, transportation, the freedom to pursue my own interests. I’m thankful for family and friends who open up there homes to me, put up with my suddenly bursting out into to song at random moments and laugh at my unique, off-the-wall sense of humor. (Well, at least fifty percent of the time anyway…). And of course, I’m most grateful for my relationship with God, experiencing His presence and peace, and a future with great promises.

Anyway, that’s enough about me. If you are a U.S. citizen of the still greatest nation in the world, you still have blessings to count whether or not you acknowledge the existence of the One who has bestowed them upon you.  There are a few obvious ones during this time that very often get overlooked.   Most Americans can be thankful to live in a country that still takes a day to close schools and most businesses to gather with loved ones for the sole purpose of showing gratitude to our great Provider (I’m talking about God, not any elected officials!). You can be thankful to prepare and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, be it turkey and dressing, tamales and jalapenos or brisket, dirty rice and collared greens (whatever your meal preferences). We don’t have to take rations of food determined by the government or go without any food at all. Even people that are homeless and jobless can be grateful to have the choice to stay in a shelter funded by charities and faith based organizations. They are given food and clothing until they are able to get through the hard times and get back on their feet.  There are those that opt out and choose the streets instead, but they still can be thankful to have that choice available to them.

Even if you are one who rolls with the latest trends in society, fashions and commericialized versions of “Turkey Day”, you can be thankful as you eat your fill, watch football (Go Texans!), take a big nap to later stand in line for Black Friday deals. It means you have food to eat, a couch or bed to crash on, and time to do as you wish, money to spend on your choice in electronics, appliances, games, toys and any other thing your heart desires being sold in stores.

There are some who may not feel they have much to be thankful for as they may find themselves alone. I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings holidays by myself so I can relate. You can still be thankful to relax at home, accomplish some things you haven’t had the time to do lately, look into volunteering at community Thanksgiving dinners, and think about things you can change so that you in the future you won’t find yourself alone if you don’t want to be. One year, I decided to go to a cafeteria style restaurant, Lubys, located here in Houston, for a traditional turkey dinner. While standing in line watching families interact, a lady in front of me turned around and began talking to me. It turned out her family was working so she invited me to eat with her, and another lady she met in front of her who was also alone that day. We had a nice meal and conversation and I was touched to not have to sit and eat alone.

There is another group of people who’s gratefulness may be overshadowed by the loss of a loved one. Nothing will make you miss them more than going through holidays without them. You will cry and feel  great sorrow, but if you allow God into your grief, He will carry you through and give you peace, strength and comfort. When you’re able to look past the ache of their absence, you can be thankful you had those people in your life and the lessons you learned as a result of your relationship with them. You can cherish their memories and let it bring a smile to your heart. Three years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my mom that my dad took a turn for the worse and was asking for me. I flew in that night and got to spend his last days on earth with him. I was also given one of my greatest gifts that weekend and that was the opportunity to lead my dad into receiving Christ into his heart the night before he died. I know that I know that I know that I will see him again in Heaven.

I’m so thankful to have God’s promise of Heaven. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” I’m grateful that every hardship and trial I’ve ever endured will some day pay off in the everlasting joy and peace that is promised by God, who is faithful and true.  There is a glorious age to come to those who choose to believe and receive.   If you haven’t made this choice, I hope you will today!  It’s the best!

Be blessed! Happy Thanksgiving!

Miracles: An Unexpected Shift

Have you ever had one of those experiences when you were certain that one thing was going to happen, and instead the complete opposite ends up occuring? It’s a feeling of utter amazement and can leave you absolutely stunned. It can be something as simple as a student getting a much higher grade on an exam than they expected, or a life-changing event such as overcoming an illness, affliction or an area you’ve been struggling with for years. Those are miracles and yes, they do happen more often than we realize. Some are obvious and others take time to see the actual results, like a woman that struggles for several years with a food addiction and suddenly gets the resolve to join a diet program and emerges 2 years later, a hundred pounds lighter. True story!

A few months ago, I had one of those completely unexpected events happen that defies the laws of  motion. It was on my way home from a church service. We had a guest speaker that night, by the name of T.D. Jakes. Ever hear of him? Anyway, it was one of those services where you go in like you do every week and everything is fine, and yet from the first worship song until the end of service you find yourself crying and you don’t know why. It was like that for me, a soothing sense of peace  from  the sweet presence of God that was there that night.

On the way home, I still felt this peace and remembered a song from many years ago called “He is Here Right Now” sung by John Starnes. While I was kind of humming/singing this, I noticed that a car got into my lane several feet in front of me and was driving slowly under the speed limit. I checked to make sure I could change lanes safely and when I looked forward again, all I saw were his brake lights and me quickly heading toward them. Without even thinking, I jerked the steering wheel to avoid hitting him. I was in my SUV and could feel all the weight in the rear of the vehicle as it began to cross over into the other lane towards the cement guard rail along the freeway. I got that sickening out- of- control feeling that I was going to hit it and there was nothing I could do, but brace myself for impact. Suddenly, to my surprise,  I felt the entire weight of the SUV suddenly shift back to normal and straighten up perfectly in the lane and I continued driving on. I looked in the rearview mirror and all the traffic behind us slowed waaay down and kept a very safe distance from us. I knew that either I missed my calling to be a professional stunt car driver, or angels had stopped my SUV from skidding out of control.  I knew it wasn’t the former and it had to have been the latter!  It was a very awesome moment as I thanked and praised God for protecting me as He promises in this verse:

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways…”  Psalm 91:11 

It let me know that God isn’t finished with me yet! I’m here for a reason, and so are you!

Be blessed and encouraged, everyone!

Welcome to a New Year! Did you know that you have the opportunity to make a brand new start for this new year? Whether 2011 ended favorably for you or not, you can leave all the past worries, concerns and frustrations at the door step…no need to bring it into 2012!   There truly is so much out there in the world today that can bring a person down to their knees…which actually is the best place to begin fresh and anew.

If you were like me, you may have had a year full of transitions where you had to let situations, relationships, or negative ways of thinking go. I learned this last year that whatever I tried to cling to for suppport, apart from God, was like quick sand. I began the year having to adjust to living life without the secure, unconditional love of my parents. My dad passed away a year earlier after struggling with a long illness. Five months later, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died the following month. With the rest of my family living far away, never had I felt so lost and alone in my life. I found, unfortunately, that not everyone I turned to had my best interest at heart, leading to more feelings of abandonment. The one thing that kept me going, was knowing that no matter what I was feeling, I knew in my heart of hearts that God was there for me and would never, ever leave. He is the Rock of Ages, that is always steadfast, unmoving and unchanging. There is always hope in Christ. Isaiah 43:18 says “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”  It’s time to let go, forgive when needed, and move forward to the new things that God has before us, knowing that it will be good because He is good!

So then, if you’re not already down on your knees, you may want to get there and ask the God who can fix everything that is broken in your life and make it brand new again to come into your heart.

If you would like to invite Jesus Christ into your heart, whether this is the first time or the umpteenth time, just pray this prayer:

“Heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to die for my sins. I confess that I’m a sinner, and ask that You would come into my heart, and wash me clean with Your blood. I’m done trying to live on my own. I need You to lead and guide me. I choose to follow You and make You my Lord and Savior for all the days of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

If you said that prayer, you should know there is a big celebration going on in Heaven right now over your decision to follow Christ. The angels are rejoicing! And best of all, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 22:27)

Happy New Year! God bless you!