Sure, Deep, and Certain

The year 2015 was very difficult for me in many ways.  In reading my journal from that year, difficulties weren’t the only things I found.  One particular “conversation” with the Lord I had recorded was my perspective-changer then – and now, four years later.  In fact, I need to see this repeatedly while it works its way into the place of forever settled in me.

(Just for clarification: the italicized font is what I sensed the Lord speaking to me and the plain is my response.)

I want you to enjoy every part of your life.

Is that really possible?  I mean, did Jesus enjoy turning over the tables of the money-changers, or rebuking the Pharisees, let alone suffering the crucifixion?

The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

It’s not a “happy” we’re talking about.  It’s so much deeper and richer than mere happy can ever be.  Happy is an emotion, ebbing and flowing like all the other emotions.  Joy is a Who – Me!  Just like I am every cell goodness, Kay.  I am also every cell joy.  Every cell.  That means it’s not based on feelings and its source is not circumstance or human relationship based.  Rather, I Am the Source of your joy, and I Am the object of your joy, and I Am the sustainer of your joy . . . at all times and in all circumstances.  I am as constantly your joy and your peace as I am your righteousness in Christ Jesus.  I change not.  That’s life (even while you remain in your mortal body) in My kingdom, Kay.

So, yes, it’s possible to live enjoying every part of my life, not because every part is pleasant, comfortable, easy, fun, etc.  But because I am in Christ Jesus and He is in me.  He doesn’t just enable me to live in His righteousness, peace, and joy.  He is my righteousness, peace, and joy.

Just remember, Kay, the peace and joy are as sure and certain as the righteousness in Christ.  And just as deep and certain as My love for you.

New Glasses, Anyone?

Many might consider tedious what I spend untold hours doing, but I find it therapeutic to transcribe my handwritten journals, giving thought to the words as I type them into the computer. Each entry revisits life moments, and the Lord’s part in them I tend to forget otherwise. Sometimes, I need more than just to remember.

I hoped to find at least a thread during this undertaking, at least a hint of a theme, to make sense of what I’d experienced. There had been so many hard things, so many hard times. Perhaps the wrong choices I had made (must have been many) and the point at which I turned away from the Lord’s joy and peace would become obvious in the multitude of keystrokes.

i-can-see-1426645Entry by entry, the threads came together, but the emerging picture wasn’t what I expected. You see, I was looking through the wrong glasses. The difficult circumstances did, indeed, take place, as did my struggle with them. But my perception of them was way off. I needed new glasses to help clear things up!

Maybe telling you how I read Hebrews 11 when wearing the wrong prescription will help. I plunge into the highlights of the lives of those often referred to as the heroes of faith. I agree these are great people worthy of Bible mention, until I remember the rest of their stories. You know, the parts including adultery, murder, drunkenness, self-indulgence, etc. My old lenses quickly cause what’s not written in this chapter to supersede what is. In other words, I become a harsh judge.

When I read with God’s glasses, however, my attention is drawn from the very first verse to the reason for recalling this part of their lives:

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. . . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

This chapter is all about faith, real faith. Faith in the perfect Jesus Christ. And about people who somehow believed even before He came to earth in human form. It isn’t about humans living perfectly, but about what happens by faith in the One Who is perfect.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Our Father sees them through lens of the perfect Christ.

When I began to transcribe, I steeled myself for a heavy hand of correction from Holy Spirit. What a completely skewed perception – to think this of my wonderful Lord! Instead, as letter after letter and word after word made their way from the pages to my eyes, into my brain and through my fingers, He gently exchanged His glasses for mine, and I began to see myself as He sees me.

Now as I viewed the journal, I saw the reality of ongoing physical challenges and unconnected emotional hardships not being caused by my bad choices, but resulting from life in a fallen world. Had I re-read entries during those tough times, I’d have been reminded of Daddy’s gracious words of encouragement and the ever-unfolding and expanding revelation of Christ and His unconditional love. His tone was only gentle, and His responses to my rants contained only amazing grace and tender mercy, no hint of judgment. That’s Who He is! That’s Who He was at the time I lived through it! And that’s Who He will always be!

cross-fabric-1-1145687-1279x1657By the time I completed these journals, the threads had woven a simple picture, correcting my vision for the future, difficulties or not. It reveals what God always sees when He looks at me . . . and you. He sees us seated with Him in Christ Jesus. Christ, the perfect One Who received at the cross the heavy hand of correction we so deserved.

Thank You, Lord, for the new glasses! Thank You, Lord, for the cross!

Lost and Found

This post would be it. The grand finale, that is, the third part of an online blogging assignment involving the lost and found theme. I knew it would, indeed, be grand the moment the following sentences lit the writer portion of my mind, giving foundation to the first and second installments.

Philippians 3:7-9a (Amp) But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him . . .

Something happened between the first and third assignments to change this post’s thrust, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. What I had planned from the beginning had lost its luster, though I tried to continue unwavering. The truth it elucidated needed a different delivery vehicle. No grand finale, after all. The Lord wanted, instead, to use the pain of loss I desperately desired to avoid.

The first assignment challenged us to write about loss, instantly reminding me of the recent deaths of an elderly friend and my 14-year-old dog. Besides the lingering sadness and pain associated with those, I faced the imminent death of another elderly friend. Deciding I’d had enough of all this death and sadness, and having written about it once, I decided on a different object of loss. I’ll add my own twist, I thought, and use, “counting all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ,” as the springboard.

Installments one and two were published, so I had begun jotting down notes in anticipation of the finale. The sense of victory I’d experienced at the beginning of the project was waning, though, not building. Glimmers of understanding touched my heart as I read of a family who left the comfort of England for Uganda to share Jesus’ life and love with those who had no hope – untold poverty found in the slums where sewage ran down every street and into the homes, rampant treatable illness untreated, leaving children and adults dying before their time. Yet this family and others with them continued to serve, continued to love, continued to share life in Christ Jesus.

despairWith every story, the struggle in my heart intensified, as I related it to my world. These elderly became friends because I deliver meals to their homes. A few minutes of weekly interaction led to blossoming friendships – ones that continued even when they moved into assisted living, no longer needing our meals. They shared their lives with me as I did with them, each of us gaining from the other.   One-by-one, they have left me behind, multiplying the pain in each loss.

Self-preservation said I should distance myself emotionally from those who remain, to avoid further pain. It went on to suggest getting involved with children’s groups on some level (totally out of my calling,) because they won’t likely die before me. That way, I could greatly reduce additional pain, I deduced. Those were Kay’s thoughts, not Daddy’s. When I read the challenging words of Nicola Neal, the clarity of His heartbeat took my breath away:

What would you be prepared to give for love’s sake? . . . Would you love knowing that pain will inevitably come? Will you love even when it hurts? 1

Shaken to my core, my mind erupted in a certain, “Yes!” as more rhetorical questions arose.

“Would you rather not have known these precious women, these sisters in Christ, to avoid the pain of losing them?”

“Would you prefer to miss the personal enrichment gained from those you may not have begun to serve, again as self-effort to avoid future pain?”

“Is it possible you are the vessel through whom I share parts of Myself and My love in the latter days of their lives? That you could be helping prepare them for the day when they see Me face-to-face?”

I am undone. The loss remains, but I have ceased the fight against the pain. It is a reality of this life, no less so when living in Christ. My greater loss – temporarily – has been focus on Jesus Christ, the only One Who comforts, encourages, and is my Hope. What I’ve needed all along has been in those quoted words, but I was too focused on my hurt to see. The pain of loss I have felt is as nothing compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In Christ is the strength and joy of continuing to love even when it hurts.

spring hope

1 Nicola Neal, Journey Into Love: The Unfailing Power that Restores Lives (Shippensburg, PA Destiny Image Publishers, 2014), Ch. 18, location 2304 (e-book)

Finding Freedom Now

Losing the Power, posted earlier this month (click to read), painted a picture of walking free from the power of condemnation for all my wrongs. I had been in Christ many years without experiencing freedom from condemnation due to ignorance, despite reading the Bible. My eyes were opened to what had been mine all along in Christ when I read these verses anew:

Romans 8:1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

With the help of these same verses, this post will take you a little further on my personal journey of losing and finding. Parking on the latter words of this passage, I contemplate this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has set me free from the law of death. The more I focus on the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the more all else fades in comparison – even death.

mini-cross of hopeWhen I believed Jesus to be who He claimed – the Savior of the world – I received His Spirit of life. Now I am alive in Christ Jesus . . . forever. Christ Jesus is alive forever, and I live in Him, so I am alive eternally, as well. Already alive forever. Not waiting until my physical body stops working. Now. When my body gives up, my eternal life will continue living in Christ without even a slight pause – simply in a form no longer hindered by mortality. 1

This excites me beyond words and radically changes my perspective on the loss of life as I know it now.   Fear of death is lost to me. What is to fear when I am in Christ? The Romans verse clearly states I am free now (and it’s always now!) from the condemnation that could separate me forever from God. The penalty for my sin, and its justifiable condemnation, was paid in full in Jesus’ suffering and death. It’s gone forever, and along with it, the separation mandated by it. In Christ’s resurrection, I was raised to new and forever life in His Spirit. Death and the fear of it are lost to me now – forever – because I am Daddy’s child.

This is real now, when I’m not at death’s door, and it will be real after my last breath. But it will also be real at the end of my life, evident in the loss of torment often associated with those last days – torment rooted in regrets and remorse and doubts about a less-than-perfect life. Fear of death is lost to me forever, driven out by the perfect love of my Father. 2 Freedom is found – now.

The final verse of In Christ Alone, a familiar hymn, captures the glorious freedom and victory of which I have written:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

For the final in this series, click to read Lost and Found.

1 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

2 1 John 4:18

Glorious Writing Assignment

Explanation: I’m taking an online blogging challenge through WordPress beginning today. The first exercise involves writing whatever came to mind for twenty minutes. The real challenge came in their direction to publish what was written in that time. What follows is the result – no editing.

Twenty minutes of writing whatever comes to mind. And then publish? No way! But this will still be interesting. I have a second second chance in life. Oh, I’m sure there are many more that these two, but I’m thinking of the Big C scare. More than three years ago, it was uterine cancer and it had to be removed surgically – but that was the end of it without any chemo or radiation.

Two weeks ago, with a standard blood test so my doctor would have a baseline to go by before I begin working with another doctor to get rid of some allergies and the root cause, all those plans had to be put on hold. My white blood cell count was drastically low, especially when compared to the counts from last August. Cancel the new doctor appointment and make an appointment with a hematologist at the same cancer center where I still go for follow-up visits with my oncologist.

Today was the day I would meet with him for the first time. Taking Tom with me for an extra pair of ears, we met with the PA first. Just before she did the basic heart check, I asked her if there was any chance the blood test could be wrong. She was less than encouraging in her answer. And then we got to wait longer, this time for the doctor. But not before she described what problems a person has when their counts are low in the areas of white blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets. Tom and I were both confused, because I haven’t been sick (other than the same upper respiratory infection he had in February), I definitely don’t have a problem with blood not clotting, and I haven’t been tired. It just didn’t fit, no matter what the numbers said.

The doctor told us there was always the possibility the blood work could be wrong, which is why he was having more blood drawn today. He did say, however, that if it was still the same as two weeks ago (0.8, for all of you who are familiar with those numbers), he would schedule me for a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday. I hesitated, but then asked if I could expect him to describe what I would be facing with that biopsy when he called later today with the results – if it was necessary. He agreed that it would be best not to go there unless it was needed, and we would talk soon.

Blood drawn. Now we wait. But not for long. Just after lunch, not even two hours after the test, the PA called to say that number is now – only two weeks later – 5.0! Well into the normal range. And the other two numbers are now equally as good! In just two weeks???

How do I explain it? Jesus Christ is still I AM! It’s not because I’m so great, or walk without fear, though I definitely had less fear this time than the last. I was in much peace, even with the idea that I could be in for another type of cancer and treatment. But God! It’s His faithfulness. He has given me another chance. No, that’s not right. He is always with me, and it’s not a matter of chances. That would mean He’s working with me till I get it right. I never will. That’s why I need Jesus.

So I guess I just need to leave it at Jesus Christ. Period. What I do know is it has reignited the appreciation for life I found at work when I was told all the lymph nodes they removed during the hysterectomy were clear. The cancer had been eliminated completely. Three years later, I had allowed life here to have too much pull in my attitude. This latest scare has definitely brought me back to appreciate the life I have been given, for however long I have it. And now I want to share the hope in Christ alone, not in what may or may not happen in our bodies. He is life! He is love! He is eternal! And He lives and dwells in me and I in Him!

What a glorious Lord and Savior is my Christ Jesus!