Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

License, Registration, and Insurance Card Please

I rounded the corner and approached the crosswalk at the posted 35 m.p.h. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.

The woman, dressed in jean shorts and a pink top, had just stepped into the roadway.

I tapped my brakes and in a split-second, assessed the situation:

  • I was too close to the crosswalk to stop fully in front of it.
  • A glance in my rear view mirror revealed a car behind me so close that hitting my brakes harder would cause it to hit me from behind.
  • The pedestrian was not quite halfway through the opposing lane of traffic.

I decided it was safest for all involved to proceed forward.

Once past the walkway, I again checked the rear view mirror and was surprised to see the other car also go through it. It was especially concerning since at this point the woman had approached the halfway point and did a stutter step to slow down and not walk into the car.

I threw on my blinker and turned the corner, continuing on to my destination.

One last glance in the mirror and my worst fears were realized. Apparently I had taken in everything in that split second except the police car that just flipped on its lights to pull me over.

My heart sank.

"License, registration and insurance card please."

"Can I ask what I did?"

"You went through the crosswalk with the pedestrian in it."

"I saw her, and I even tapped my brakes, but there was a car behind me. Can I ask why you didn't pull them over?" I was on the verge of tears, but trying to politely defend my actions.

"We've had lots of complaints about this very thing in this same area. I was there specifically looking for cars driving through the crosswalk. I felt you had the better field of vision."

He walked back to his car.

A million thoughts went through my mind. "It's not fair" was chief among them.

I threw up a prayer. "Please God, let him come back with a warning and not a ticket."

He came back with a ticket.

"If you feel you want to argue the ticket, just call and make a court date."

As he walked away, my eyes fell on the cost of the fine.

$230!

I started to weep. To put it mildly, I've endured a lot the past few months. My calendar for the entirety of July is filled with more doctor visits that equal more co-pays. About $230 dollars worth in the next eight days. I was angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed at the thought of this large financial burden being added to my plate.

It took me a good five minutes to calm down enough to get back on the road. By the time I looked up, the officer was long gone.

I thought about what I might say to the judge quite a bit over the next few days. I told the story to a friend and ended with "but I keep coming to the same conclusion. If the judge asks me two questions: Was there a pedestrian in the crosswalk?  and Did you drive through the crosswalk? I can only answer "yes" to both. Regardless of the pedestrian's decision to enter the roadway with an oncoming car, by the letter of the law I was guilty and the judge would most likely refuse to listen further.

A week before the ticket was due, I called the court to see if there were points attached. I assumed there were since it was a moving violation.

I thought about trying to make a deal with the prosecutor for a downgraded charge with no points. While they are often open to that type of deal, it always comes with a steep price tag and the current $230 was already more than I could afford.

"We don't assess points in court. You'll have to call the MVC." The clerk gave me the number.

As I held for many minutes, I flipped the ticket over to reveal a website address. The ticket instructed the recipient to visit the website for more information. Thinking the points might be posted there, I put the call on speaker and typed in the URL to check it out.

I plugged in the ticket number, the court number and my plate number. Then I saw something strange.

"Fee: $0. Ticket addressed 7/5/18."

What? Did someone pay my ticket? No one but my friend was aware I'd gotten one and I knew she didn't do it. I hadn't told her the story until July 6th.

Even as I dialed the number for the court again, I thought "are you crazy? If it's a clerical error and you're getting away with something, you're going to alert them to the mistake!"

I informed the woman on the other end about what I'd seen. "Hold on, I'll check on it."

It felt like an eternity, and all the while I was kicking myself for being too honest.

"That's correct. You owe nothing. The officer said he gave the ticket to the wrong person. Was there someone else in the car with you?"

"Nobody but Jesus" I thought...but I said, "no, he probably meant he should have given it to the car behind me." I explained the whole story. "I'm really a good driver" I said a little weakly.

She laughed and said, "Well, the ticket is rescinded. The officer actually did it the next day, but the 5th was the first day we've had court since then."

It was the last outcome I would have expected.

Just like salvation.

By the letter of the law, we are guilty. We can try to compare our sins to the person behind us and think "I'm not as bad as they are!" but we all fall short of God's glory and deserve to pay the penalty.

We can try to blame our circumstances on the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own actions.

We can even try to justify ourselves with "I'm really a good person." But we can never be perfect 100% of the time.

When we finally come to grips with the fact that there is nothing we can do to escape the penalty for those sins, God hears our tears of repentance and exercises His mercy when we look to Him.

He rescinds our ticket to hell and grants us admission to heaven. We need only believe that Jesus is His son who died to take on our guilt and act as sacrifice for our sins. It's immediate, even though we won't see the final result until the day of "court."

It's the last outcome we expect - or deserve.

I'm not sure why that officer did the unheard of that day, but I am grateful for the mercy extended to me.

I don't know why Jesus would have endured all He did to save me from eternal death, but I am grateful for the love and mercy that led Him to die in my place so that the Book of Life reads

"Fee: $0."






Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Karma's Watching?

Karma. We generally hear the term used when someone has done something or someone wrong.

The hope expressed is that karma will come along to pay the offender back.

Supposedly it works the other way around too, but we rarely seem to wish good on another - we want revenge and if karma's willing to take that on, we'll stand on the sidelines and cheer it on.

So I thought it particularly odd to see this sign in the waiting room of a diagnostic imaging center as I waited for a medical test.

It was actually the same center where I was told this January to see a breast surgeon for a biopsy of something they saw that was most likely cancer. (It was and I blogged about it here.)

The sign made me angry. The insinuation was totally negative.

What did Karma see in my life that would cause me to get cancer?

Not once, but twice in two years?

Was it my full-time position pouring into people's lives when they are vulnerable and in need?

Perhaps it was my volunteer work with the same population.

No. No, it must be all the time I've spent the past year trying to help my brother get his mental illness diagnosed and get him the services he needs.

And if all those things were good, why didn't this "tit for tat" karma thing see to it I didn't get cancer?

"I saw that."

What a terrible, accusatory thought to put in someone's mind.

My heart breaks for those who might read that sign and believe they are at fault for their illness.

Lest you think all this talk of karma means I believe in it, fear not.

I'm still the same Jesus believing daughter of the King I've been for many years. And I'm so glad I know the Truth.

My cancer is not my fault, but my cancer may be used to bring about good.

Right now, I'm reading a book written by a friend of mine, James Watkins. It's called The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling With Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises and Unpunished Evil. In it, he tells the story of a young woman who, when she learned of her cancer diagnosis, prayed that her family would come to Christ through the journey. She didn't survive, but family members will now live for eternity, able to see her again because they came to believe in God through her faith.

Would she have chosen this life over eternal life for her family? No. Would she have chosen that method for them to come to Christ? Probably not. Did judgmental people sit back and wonder what secret sin she had committed that God "saw" and punished her for? Possibly.

That's the kind of reaction Job's "friends" had. They gave him an earful on how to repent from what he must have done to deserve all the terrible things that befell him.

They didn't use the term karma. Worse, they attributed all his misfortune to God - as a result of something Job MUST have done wrong.

The truth is, we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen to good people. God can redeem those bad things.

John 16:33 comforts us with "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."

Sometimes, it's not about illness and disease. Sometimes it's about the very real pain people have caused you. Is it wrong to wish a quid pro quo on them?

Matthew 5:44-45 says "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The New Testament is filled with scriptures: Romans 12:17-18,  I Thessalonians 5:15I Peter 3:9 and others that basically tell us not to repay evil for evil as "karma" would, but rather evil with good because that is what sets us apart as Christians.

We can't control the actions of others, but we CAN monitor our reaction.

And when it comes to disease? Well, sometimes, cancer just happens.

I don't have the BRCA gene. I don't smoke and if I have a drink once a year, it's a lot. Yet I know a number of people who smoke like a chimney and haven't been diagnosed with the disease.

Karma, if she existed, would have her scoreboard all wrong. She really doesn't see a thing. So...

Don't repay evil for evil - or wish that someone else would do the job for you.

Don't take on guilt that isn't yours to bear because sometimes, bad things really do happen to good people.

Love God, do good to others, let go of anger, don't judge.

And remember...when others are guilty, we cry for justice. When we are guilty, we beg for mercy. "Karma" doesn't extend mercy. Only God does - and He truly does see everything.











Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hand in Hand

Curiosity and wonder have captivated her inquisitive mind and she toddles off, wanting to explore.

While she is blissfully unaware of anything beyond her field of vision, I see the potential dangers.

"Give me your hand sweetheart."

Sometimes, she'll turn around with a big grin and willingly slip her tiny hand in mine. I praise her wise decision. "Thank you, honey, you're a good girl to walk with Grandma."

Other times she looks me straight in the eye as she pulls her hand close to her chest and very clearly and defiantly says "no!"

I don't lose my patience. I know she is learning and at the ripe old age of two, testing boundaries.

But I repeat myself a little firmer, knowing what is best for her. "Give me your hand sweetie." I hold out my hand to encourage the right decision on her part.

I don't love her more or less based on her reply. 

I don't think I could possibly love this little girl any more than I already do and I can't imagine ever loving her less than with every fiber of my being.

Eventually, as she matures and our relationship grows I hope she will come to trust me more, believing my request is in her best interest so the defiant "no's" will be fewer.

Right now, I love that she has already begun to invite me on her adventures.

"C'mon Gamma" is one of the sweetest phrases I've ever heard. 

She flashes a toothy smile and grabs my hand or beckons me forward by opening her hand wide, clenching it closed and opening it again.

I am smitten.

My friends, our walk with God is so very similar. The world around us entices us, and sometimes we are tempted to wander off.

"Give me your hand" we hear the Father say.

If we are wise, we turn back toward Him and grasp His hand.

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139:9-10

But sometimes, we are stubborn and defiant. Even though we know He leads us in the way of life, we pull back our hand and assert ourselves loud and foolishly proud.

"No!" we declare.

Even when we reject Him, He loves us still - He couldn't love us any more than He already does - and rather than losing patience, He tells us His mercies are new each morning.

But He also lovingly and firmly repeats Himself.

"Give me your hand."

His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways are higher too. He sees far beyond our limited field of vision and seeks to spare us from dangerous circumstances.

"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right and and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

He longs for us to invite Him along into our day. It gives Him pleasure to commune with us.

As our relationship with the Father matures and grows, we learn to trust Him more. We know He desires only the best for us, and our "no's" become less frequent.

As you face this day and all it holds, don't be tempted to strike out on your own.

Slip your hand into His and never let go.







Monday, June 11, 2018

How Much Can You Handle?

We've all heard it said "God won't give you more than you can handle."

Someone may have even shared that sentiment with you during a difficult time.


They meant to encourage you, I'm sure.

God won't give you more than you can handle?

But what about when...

a loved one dies?

you lose all your worldly possessions to a natural disaster?

the doctor says "it's terminal."

When your world is crashing in and your heart feels like it will explode, does it really help to think, "well, at least God knew I could handle it or I wouldn't be going through this?"

If you unpack what's being said, it's not at all comforting and I don't really think it's accurate.

As my friend Pam said "If God never gives us more than we can handle, why would we need His Presence and His help? Our faith, like muscles never given a workout, would become atrophied."

But it's not just the "more than we can handle" part that I take issue with.

Do you believe a loving and gracious God sits on His throne deciding which hardship to bestow on us, only to watch us struggle under its weight?

That's not the God I know.

When these Job-sized trials - or any problem for that matter - hit, trying to handle them under our own power is futile. And unbiblical.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

And Psalm 55:22 instructs "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."

But I would also argue those trials aren't delivered directly from the hand of God. He hasn't "given" us the difficulties.

We live in an imperfect, fallen world. We may belong to God but that doesn't stop the father of lies from trying his best to trip us up, make us miserable, and get us to take our eyes off the One can get us through the storm.

John 16:33 reminds us "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."

That's why I so appreciate the perspective twist in the pictured quote.

God helps us handle what we've been given.

It's not our own gritted teeth, pull ourselves up by the boot straps, inner strength and dogged determination that allows us to handle the difficult times with inexplicable peace.

It is God being true to His promise to never leave or forsake us, to walk with us each step of the way. Psalm 46:1-3 puts it this way "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

As I return to work after a 3 month absence due to a breast cancer diagnosis, I can tell you that if I believed for an instant that God gave me cancer because He knew I could handle it, I'd be rethinking our relationship.

With the same amount of certainty, I can assure you that the only way I was able to get through hearing the diagnosis, go through the litany of tests, an outpatient and inpatient surgery and weeks of grueling recovery is because He was there beside me, offering a refuge to run to when the fears threatened to overtake me and the tears wouldn't stop; when the pain was crushing and sleep wouldn't come; when I saw the scars for the first time and my patience was severely tested by a drain that was with me 6 weeks longer than the "norm."

His grace and mercy, love and peace were what made handling it all possible.

So my friend, the next time a hardship comes your way, remember that God isn't standing by at a distance watching to see if you can handle it, He's in the midst of it all, waiting for your to put your faith and trust in Him so He can help you through it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

If You Died Tomorrow...

As a group of us sat around soaking up rays on the beach, the conversation suddenly turned heavy.

"Do you believe there's an afterlife?"

I'm not sure who posed the question, but one woman shared she didn't think her belief system thought there was.

The first thing that struck me about her statement was that she wasn't owning an opinion. Her belief system didn't think there was a heaven or hell. No mention of her personal feelings or convictions. And no real understanding of her "faith." I would think where a belief system comes down on afterlife would be a pretty big deal. Like the crux of why you chose to believe the way they do.

Perhaps she was afraid to engage the thought. Like me, she has breast cancer. But hers was far more advanced, and she had made a comment earlier that if all she read was to be believed, she only had about 2 1/2 years to live.

Often times it seems when a person gets a potentially deadly disease such as cancer, the human default is to look at how much time remains...as if a "healthy" life is given some sort of guarantee.

The truth is we're all dying a little each day, and no one knows how or when their end will come. Forget the natural aging process, we need only turn on the television to see the daily dangers of this world that befall young and old alike.

I don't mean to sound morbid or depressing, but as the saying goes, there are only two sure things in this life - death and taxes.

Another woman spoke up. "Well, we (she mentioned her denomination) believe that there is an afterlife and our soul...or is it our spirit?...might go on to heaven, but we don't really know for sure how that happens."

With that, the first woman's phone rang and she queried the person on the other end about the afterlife question.

"My friend says 'it's too complicated for her to explain.'"

Now she was on a mission. She decided to text the wife of her religious leader. Unfortunately, his wife was also unable to give her an answer.

My heart was breaking for this woman who was dealing with death daily but had no hope of anything more than the grave. I spoke up. "I do believe there's life after this one, and" I looked toward the other woman, "I do think we can have certainty about it."

"The thief on the cross was told by Christ 'Today you will be with me in paradise.' Christ is clearly stating that after death there is a place we can go that is akin to paradise and that going there is immediate."

I pressed on "and it's not complicated either. God told us that all we had to do was believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that He died to save us from our sins. Accept the free gift of salvation and get into heaven. The minute you pass from this life."

The last thing I did was recount a conversation I had with a friend years earlier. She was Jewish by birth, but practiced Buddhism. She had made the comment that our beliefs - my Christianity and her Buddhism - were pretty much alike because we both believed in good deeds and loving people. I knew there was more to Christianity, but I didn't know much about her beliefs, so I asked her to enlighten me.

She explained that she believed people were born perfect, messed up along the way, then spent the rest of their time through reincarnation trying to get back to that perfection. With that explanation, I now had the ability to formulate a better answer to her earlier statement.

"Yes, we love people and believe in doing good deeds, but our beliefs aren't the same. I believe that people aren't born perfect, they are born flawed because of sin. There is only one way to rectify that - by accepting that Christ is perfect and died as a sacrifice for my sins. When I believe that, I don't have to spend the rest of my life trying to do things to earn perfection. Salvation is a free gift, and I'd much rather get it free and know I'm going to heaven then spend eternity hoping that I do just the right thing to earn a spot in Nirvana."

The ladies nodded seeming to understand the explanation, but then things got quiet and the subject was changed to where to have dinner that evening. Jesus will make people uncomfortable. In 1 Peter 2:7 Peter describes Christ as the stone the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone. He goes on in verse 8 to say "and, 'A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.' They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for."

One thing I didn't mention was that just as sure as there's a heaven, there's a hell. The Bible talks of a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, ever lasting destruction shut off from the presence of the Lord.

The group didn't revisit the discussion again, but I hope what I said planted a seed of discontent for the non-answers the one woman was receiving from her belief system and teachers. And I hope it gave the woman without certainty of what happens to gain entrance to heaven, a place to begin asking questions.

As I said, none of us know the hour or day our life will end, but we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt where we will be the moment it happens. I can't imagine not living with that surety, especially in light of a life-threatening disease.

It would have been easy to sit silently and listen to the conversation around me. To not "rock the boat," or risk the political incorrectness of challenging someone's beliefs, especially people I barely knew.

But I couldn't hold back information that could save a life even if I only had time to plant the seed. I pray for these women and that God would use others who cross their path to water and harvest.

If you have a personal relationship with Christ, are you letting others in on the Good News? People are dying - literally and figuratively - not having what you have.

And if you don't yet know Jesus personally, there is no better time than right now to accept Him as your Savior and Lord so you can share in the certainty of an eternal life in heaven.

Don't know how? Romans 10:9-10 explains it simply: "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in  your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Life is too hard and too short not to have hope of more...and better.