In the Midst of Storms, Rainbows are Born

AmberOBrien"

I, the LORD your God, will hold thy right hand, and say to you, “Don’t be afraid, I will help You”.  Isaiah 41:13

Dear Sweet Sister,

I sat with my morning coffee and my bible in hand when I received the text, “please pray for my ______(family member) ….and then she wrote,

“When it rains it pours!”.

This sweet sister has had many tough challenges recently and now she had another family member who needed help.

I wrote her back the first verse of the poem below that I had written years ago:

In the midst of storms rainbows are born, His Love shines through our tears, In the midst of storms rainbows are born, He is here, He is here. 

I wrote this poem after my husband remarked that for a rainbow to appear, rain needs to still be in the air as the sun shines through the droplets.

Before this revelation, I had always stated the often quoted “After the rain, the rainbow”. But this quote isn’t accurate is it?  physically or spiritually? The rain is needed to create the rainbow.

My sweet sister texted me back , “Rain always brings beautiful flowers”.

“Yes!”I replied “and God the gardener prunes those that He loves…So that we become stronger and bear more fruit”.

The idea that God is in the midst of our pain holding our hands brings such peace to me.

A rainbow speaks of God’s promise to provide dry land and a second chance once the storm subsides.

I hope the poem below gives you hope and peace. He is making something beautiful out of this dark stormy time.  He is with you during the storm…for in the midst of storms, rainbows are born.

The 10 Things That All Christians Can Agree On Day #15 The Purpose Driven Life

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See how very much our Heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children, and we really are!    1 John 3:1

I call you my sweet “sister” because in the family of God we are children of the same father and name you “Sweet” because we should be encouraging each other and sharing in each other’s joys.

So I wanted to share with you the joy of my granddaughter’s baptism. I hesitated before deciding to share this as I know different denominations differ on infant baptism. In fact, my son in law hestitated on having her baptized as an infant as well.  Utimately, all the Christians in my family (Protestants and Catholics) see this as just the beginning as we pray that Megan Elise will continue to say “Yes” to following Jesus all the days of her life.

I started this blog to reach out to ALL my Christian sisters as I have a respect for how God is at work in all denominations that believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”.  I grew up Methodist, spent my late teens attending a Baptist church and joined the Catholic Church as a young adult.  Through the years God has chipped away at many of my misconceptions and prejudices I had against the Catholic Church. I now know from experience that there are sisters and brothers who have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ spread throughout ALL the christian denominations. However, our enemy wants us to argue with our brothers and sisters over doctrinal differences so we have less energy to spread the gospel.

Our pulpits should not be used to speak negatively about different denominations but instead to preach the Good News of love, truth and peace. Our focus and energy should always be on how to work together to spread the gospel message that God has provided a way for us to be set free from the chains of sin and death.

So let us focus on what we all can agree on as sister and brothers in the family of God:

1. We can all agree that our deepest heart prayer is that our children will grow up to know, love and serve Jesus Christ all the days of their lives.   While I am thankful for the sacrament of baptism, my biggest prayer is that my granddaughter Megan will continue to say “Yes” to Jesus throughout her life.

2. We can agree that we are all works in progress and that we all make mistakes.  We all need the Lord.

3. None of us can earn our way to heaven. Jesus paid the price.  His sacrifice is enough.  While I am thankful for the graces I have found in confessing to a priest, I know that my protestant sisters can be forgiven by coming directly to Jesus with a humble heart.   (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 )

4. The evidence of someone who is in the family of God will be good fruit. They will slowly care more about the things that Jesus cared about: the poor, the sick, the aged, those that are chained by addiction and other sins. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Matthew 7:16

5.  Families share our  joys and divide our sorrows. In the same Church that my granddaughter Megan Elise was baptized in, my daughter Megan Elizabeth was given the sacrament of burial.  My family came to add to our joy for the Baptism.  My family also came to divide our sorrow for burial 22 years before.   I truly felt some of the burden lift through each person who came to the funeral and I received added joy for each family member who came to celebrate our great joy of committing  Megan Elise into the family of God.

So do your best to go to the funerals and to the baptisms, the weddings, the birthdays….While we can’t be everywhere and attend everything, love often requires sacrifice, so prayerfully do your best to be there for each other.

6.  We might not always get along with all of our family members. One of my favorite quotes goes something like this:  Some family members on your life will feel like Velvet and some will feel like sandpaper. God will use the sandpaper family members to make you less rough around the edges, smoother and able to reflect the face of your creator when others look at your life. The velvet ones give us a glimpse into to how much God loves and adores us.  We need both the Sandpaper and Velvet relationships to continue to become more like Jesus…..some people will drive us to our knees in prayer and some in thanksgiving.

7. Forgiveness. My favorite marriage quote is by Ruth Bell Graham “A successful marriage is the union between two good Forgivers”.  Really this is true for all relationships isn’t it? We constantly step (trespass)  on each other’s toes, each other hearts, hopes and dreams with lead feet. Has a family member disappointed you?    Let. It. Go.    Keep saying the quote that Jesus prayed as he slowly died a cruel and violent death. “Forgive them Father…they know not what they do”.  Pray for your sisters and brothers and especially for those who currently share a strained relationship with you.  The enemy’s goal is for division between us sisters and brothers. Don’t give the enemy any ground.  Our Jesus is the Prince of Peace. So let Him rule in your hearts, and in all your earthly and heavenly relationships.

8.  God loves us through our families.  So seek out and make time to be together.  Two of the Commandments are: Honor the Sabbath and Honor your mother and Father. Perhaps seek to spend Sunday with family more? Sunday dinner? Perhaps Pizza so no one needs to work? Play a game after dinner. Chat about the week. God loves us through our families.

9. What if I am really irritated or angry at a particular family member? Write 10 good things about them on a piece of paper. I bet by the time you reach number 10 that you won’t be as irritated. Focusing on the good  brings perspective. Writing things down changes your way of thinking so make sure you don’t just think of the positive things but write. them. down.   Consider giving the family member the list as an encouragement or as a present. (No need to explain the reason why you began the list:)

10.  We may have different Christian brothers and sisters through the many seasons of our lives, but we have one Heavenly Father who gave us his only son, Jesus Christ.  At  each season of your life, seek out Christian sisters and brothers to challenge and encourage you along the way.

So Thank you for sharing in my joy over my Grandbaby’s baptism even if you don’t believe in infant baptism. Thank you for praying with me that she will grow up to know, love and serve Jesus all the days of her life.

We are Family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith on a Thread

AmberOBrien"


Dear Sweet Sister,

Has there ever been a time when you almost lost Your faith? How did you reconcile your relationship with God?

I was recently approached with these questions and as they intrigued me, I thought I would share my answers with you.

Has there ever been a time when you almost lost Your faith?
I remember vividly the time when I held onto my faith by just a thread. It was about four months after my baby girl Megan had died and I wrestled with this troubling thought, “Why didn’t God heal my baby after I had prayed and begged for the 40 days she struggled to stay alive in the hospital NICU?”

This time of wrestling occurred during my 28th year, but my love relationship with Jesus had begun 12 years before when I was just 16 years old. While attending a summer Young life camp, a talk was given on how Jesus physically suffered on the cross for my sins and I remember asking Jesus in awed gratitude, “You did that for me – what can I do for you?” I heard in my soul the answer, “Give me your life,” and I wholeheartedly did just that. I decided to follow Jesus and seek to know Him and to trust Him with my future. What an exciting time of adventure and growth as I joined a bible study and witnessed firsthand a personal God who took an interest in every detail of my life. I witnessed over the next twelve years a God who intervened in miraculous ways as He moved in my life and in the lives of my Christian friends.

Now, as I sought answers with empty hands and a broken heart, the heavens seemed silent. I felt God’s peace the day she died in my arms and in the first weeks to follow, but as the shock lifted, my questions and emotions started to build, and I tried to push them down.  Finally, feelings of anger, guilt, hurt and sorrow that I had been stuffing down finally erupted one day as I stood at the sink washing dishes. I screamed out loud to God,

“Why did you give her to me only to take her away?”

I felt hurt and rejected as I knew of other premature babies that weighed less or were born earlier who survived and were alive and well.  Each time I heard of another premature baby that survived, it was as if salt were rubbed into a wound. Were my prayers not effective because I did not have enough faith? Had God turned His back on me? My faith, hopes, and dreams crashed when my husband and I helplessly watched as her small white coffin was silently lowered into the cold, hard February ground.

A few months after her funeral, a well-meaning relative gave me the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.  The author’s thesis stated that while God is good and loving and suffers with His people, He has no control over the universe and could not prevent this “bad thing” from happening.

I wrestled with this non-omnipotent thinking as I read this book. At first this sounded as a logical way out from my conundrum, for if God has no power then I could no longer be angry at Him.  However, the more I thought on it, the more I decided that I didn’t want to serve a God who had no power. Who would want to follow a God who did not have power? Didn’t Jesus claim be the Great I Am? Didn’t he conquer death when He rose from the dead? Wasn’t the reason I had peace as I held her and she took her last breath because I knew she was now free of pain in Heaven, and the reason Heaven exists because Jesus broke the chains of sin and death? Yet this book said that He had no control or power.

So my choices were that either God has no control and He wanted to help me but couldn’t, or that He has control and could have healed my baby and he chose not to. Ouch. I didn’t like either choice.

The scripture that seemed to parallel my dilemma was in the Gospel of John when some of the disciples turned away and deserted Jesus. Jesus turned to the Twelve who were left and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

Simon Peter replied,
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6: 66-69.

Similar to the twelve disciples in the above passage, I had to decide if I would follow and trust Jesus, even if I didn’t understand what He was doing — even if I didn’t like was He was doing. For what is the definition of Love? Love means commitment. Love is not based on feeling or circumstances.

How did you reconcile your relationship with God?
I thought I had “wholeheartedly” given my life to Him at 16, but now I needed to recommit my life to Him and trust that He who is LOVE and sitting on the throne allowed this for my good. I had a choice between continuing to grip onto to my anger, hurt, and disappointment with clenched hands, or to surrender my daughter with open hands into the loving hands of God.

As I worked on climbing out of the pit of all those negative emotions — self-pity, anger, hurt, disappointment, confusion — I started focusing on what I could be thankful for while I waited to see the good that could come out of this. I slowly came to realize that Jesus was suffering with me and caring for me during this tough time through many people and through His Church. A priest came to the NICU to baptize Megan when she was first born. What a gift to have a priest come and visit the hospital and offer the sacrament of baptism. My home church had a full graveyard but found a small plot so we could bury her and gave her the respect of a full burial and service. What a great comfort to visit her grave through the years and my husband found relief tending the garden around the grave as his way to actively grieve. St. Ignatius Church also gave us a room to dedicate to our daughter since she wouldn’t have a room in our home. We hired a muralist to paint a Noah’s ark themed room with carefully selected bible verses to go with each scene. Noah endured 40 days of rain similar to the 40 days Megan spent in the hospital. The biblical meaning of 40 days as a “time of completion after a period of trial and testing” gave me great comfort, as did the rainbow that God gave as a sign after the storm dissipated.

As an adult converted to the Catholic faith, I came to appreciate the memorized prayers of the Lord’s prayer and the Hail Mary as I fell back on them when I didn’t have the energy to pray conversational prayers while I spent time in the NICU. I also realized the gift of having the Mother Mary advocate for me as she is so close to his throne. Just as I called my best friend Janice to pray for me, I realized that we have so great a cloud of witnesses up in heaven close to Jesus’ throne that we can ask to carry our prayer requests up to God’s Throne.

Yes, God had not rejected me but had been there every step of the way: Grieving with me. Collecting my tears. Assuring me of Megan’s home in Heaven through scripture.   

I realized one momentous day that God did answer my many prayers for Megan’s healing, for she is now “healed in Heaven,” free of all pain, sickness, and sorrow. She is now praying for me and my family as we are still left in this broken, sinful world.

I still do not know all the reasons why our baby only lived 40 precious days. But I have learned that after the 40 days of testing in the Bible, there is always change and growth. My young toddler faith, which expected God to answer all my prayers, slowly changed to a more mature faith, with roots that, especially during this dry period, went deeper down into the ground. My spiritual experience is similar to how in a marriage one must navigate going from the infatuation stage to a deeper long lasting sacrificial love. Love is commitment and, for better or worse, rich or poorer, whether my prayers are answered the way I want, sickness or in health, I have chosen to follow Jesus.

I still believe God can heal and answers our prayers on earth, but I also know that He doesn’t always give us what we want because He is God and knows more than we as to what is best for us long term. As a result, I now always end my prayers with, “Thy will be done,” for I believe that God is good, God is love, and God is in control.

Just this weekend, twenty-one years after Megan Elizabeth’s death, God is still assuring me in miraculous ways of how He is in control. After my granddaughter’s baptism, I was reminded that my husband and I gave an envelope with money in it to the two men who dug Megan’s grave, as it was such a bitter cold day and we were so appreciative of their service. They told us that they could not accept the money but would use it as the first money to be put in a fund for the new larger church to be built near the graveyard — seed money.

On Sunday our granddaughter, who was named after Megan Elizabeth, Megan Elise, was baptized in that new church. She was baptized from death (original sin) into life in the church built with the seed money given to dig her namesake’s grave. Who but God could orchestrate such a beautiful analogy but the God who gave the rainbow after Noah’s 40 days and nights?    My many tears have turned into such overwhelming, goose-bumping Joy.

Psalm 126: 5-6
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow,
Will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them.

So my prayer for you, Sweet Sister, is that you will be honest with God through the years and share with Him all of your thoughts and feelings (in your mind, or better yet in a journal). He wants a real relationship with you, and that will include some wrestling.

Most of all, I pray you will always know that anything that happens is always filtered through His loving fingers and He works all things out for those that Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

He is good          He is Love          He is in control.

Ask your Generous abba (daddy) for help, but always end your requests with, “Thy will be done.”

His Forever,

Amber O’Brien

Amber O’Brien Shares Her Eternal Love Story Day #37 Purpose Driven Life

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Can I share my eternal love story with you? My testimony part of my life message?  Just 3 minutes and I believe it could change your life. Eternally change your life.

Day #37

Write out your testimony and then memorize the main points.

Divide it into four parts:

  1. What my life was like before I met Jesus
  2. How I realized I needed Jesus
  3. How I committed my life to Jesus
  4. The difference Jesus has made in my life.

I would love to hear your story Sweet Sister. No one else has the story you have.  Your story is as special as you are. This is the most important story you can leave behind for you family.   Please share it with me and your sweet sisters on our facebook community page.

Turn Worry into Worship #13 Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren

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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.       Phil. 4:6-7

Dear Sweet Sister:

You are worried again. I see it in your tightened shoulders, your shortened breaths and your serious face.  I can tell that you are becoming withdrawn into your fearful thoughts again and not being present to those around you as you worry about what may happen in the future.  Me. too. sister. 

You care so much for the struggling people God has put in your life that they are pulling you down.  You are feeling their pain and absorbing it into yourself physically, mentally and spiritually and it is draining you…..worry doesn’t help them and it is paralyzing you.  I suspect that your hands and heart are tight with worry too.

What is worry?  I recently thought of this simple definition:

Worry is when we think that something bad might happen to you or someone you love.

Worry steals our joy in the present and most concerning…….worry reveals our lack of faith in our good and loving heavenly father.  Worry is listening to the negative thoughts while Worship focuses on the positive (what is more positive than God?) and speaks out truth.

 Worship is remembering the character of God and releasing ourselves and all our worries into His loving and capable hands.

I remember as a young girl my family praying this grace before every meal:

God is Great,  God is good and we thank Him for our food.

If God is Great.….why aren’t we trusting Him more to protect our loved one?

If God is Good.…..why aren’t we trusting that He will only allow a situation what will bring each of us  and our loved one closer to Him and to become more like Him?

Worship is opening our tight fists and hearts and letting God lift our burdens off our tired shoulders.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Today at church my husband and I held hands during the Lord’s Prayer as our outward hands were lifted up.  Single people held both hands up………..what a beautiful example of how our physically bodies ( hands open palm side up …..ready to trust and receive all that God has….and ready to give up whatever He may take back)  reflects what our minds should be doing.  Our bodies and words were as one as we prayed:

Give us this Day our daily bread.  

wow.  This is a statement of true worship and not fear. We are saying we will not worry about today because He is a good Father who provides just what we need.    Daily. Every day. Day by Day. He will Provide. He is a good father who only gives good things to His Children. (Luke 11:11-14)

So first, sweet sis,  we need to pray for our concerns. There is power in prayer and we should come to our heavenly father with our concerns. But then we need to release all of these requests  ……. with open hands …….and start praising God for who He is, showing by our open hands and hearts how we trust Him to do what is best.

And the cherry on top after we release our cares to God………the prayer that  Jesus himself prayed when he was in the garden of Gethsemane overcome with grief…… “They will be done.” 

Worship can be a phrase or bible verse declaring the truth and fighting back against the worry that blocks out God’s peace.

During desert times of great stress     …I repeat these three statements:

God is a good.              God is Love.              God is in Control.

So much of what God is doing is a mystery beyond our understanding,  but focusing on God’s love, goodness and sovereignty is a way to open our hearts to His healing touch and to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Declaring out loud the word of God (scripture) is also a powerful tool as this is a weapon when the doubts and burdensome thoughts attack you: say out loud …No, I will not worry because:

God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.                     2 Timothy 1:7

God works all things out for Good for those that Love God and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I love the following one for those that have children for as mothers we are like the ewes. God promises to care for our children.

He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.   Isaiah 40:11

Listening and singing along to christian music is a wonderful way to choose to focus on God and not on what is worrying us sweet sister.

Go to utube and read the lyrics of a worship song or turn on the local christian radio. My favorite song is “Blessed be your Name” by Tree63. Also, check out  “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and ” What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong. ”

So lift up your concerns to the throne of God sweet sisters and then start to praise God for who He is. He loves you and your loved one more than you could ever comprehend. He is a big God….He is on His throne.  Let Him do His job.

Always end in Thanksgiving…for example: “thank you God that you are there with my loved one”….”thank you that you rose from the dead”……”thank you for setting me free from the prison of my sins and fears”….”Help me to walk in that freedom today.”

And the cherry on the top?      Thy Will Be Done.

So Sweet Sister….when a anxious thought comes…become a funnel and lift up your hands in Worship and let God’s spirit come in and fill you with all the good things of God to replace your anxious thoughts:

Peace, Joy, strength, hope, self-control and an extra helping of Love.

How my Friendship with God Began #12 Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren

AmberOBrien"


Dear Sweet Sister:

The Topic for Day #12 is on how to develop our friendship with God.

Would you like to know how I began my sweet friendship with God? I’m so glad you asked………………

Sometimes the questions that we cannot answer right away have the biggest impact. At least I know that to be true for me. It was three of these kinds of questions that set the stage for the most important decision of my life.

More than 35 years ago (I must have been in my early teens at the time), I vividly remember walking along the sidewalk at a strip mall when a stranger stepped forward and asked me,

“Do you know Why Jesus died on the cross?”

I did not have an answer.

I mumbled “I don’t know” as I quickly walked by, my adolescent shyness overcoming my curiosity. I am sure this sidewalk evangelist also offered some talking points and a leaflet, but I moved too fast and ran into a store.

However, like a persistent dog, the question followed me, nipping at my conscious and never leaving my side. In my thoughts, I sought to figure out what crime (it must have been serious) that Jesus committed to be so charged and crucified.

cross

The question lay dormant for years, just as a faithful dog rests by his owner’s feet.

Although most would have described me as a shy and sensitive girl, looking back upon my childhood, I realize that I broke several of the Ten Commandments. For example, I stole a roll  of stamps from my grandmother (my sweet, wonderful grandmother who was a widow and supported herself). When questioned about it, I added to my guilt by denying that I stole it, then I proceeded to sell it to my brother. I didn’t need the stamps (which made the deed even worse), and I sought to get rid of the evidence. However, while the physical evidence disappeared, these and my other unconfessed sins remained heavy on my conscious. I also remember my best friend and I writing a cruel letter to a mutual friend. We said we wished her pet hamster died and all sorts of other hurtful things. I fell to peer pressure and ganged up against this poor girl. Meanwhile, I protected myself and continued to make poor choices. It seemed that I sinned against the people who were closest to me and trusted me.

I am even more embarrassed to admit that I self-righteously loved to keep notes for my parents of all the terrible things my three brothers were doing. I actually kept a notebook listing the many ways my brothers disobeyed the rules of the household, so I could tattle on them when my parents returned home from a night out. So in short, I covered up my own trespasses and hypocritically enjoyed pointing out other people’s.

About the time I entered high school, I started attending Young Life meetings in the homes of fellow classmates. Young Life is a Christian youth outreach organization for high school students that included silly skits and fun music; sort of like a G-rated Saturday Night Live show.  In the packed living rooms, we swayed to the guitar music and laughed as our friends and the Young Life leaders performed humorous skits. It was such fun to sit with my girlfriends and sing and clap to songs like, “Under the Boardwalk,”  while cute boys played guitars and made us giggle with their shenanigans. My awareness of the opposite sex was growing and I would quickly became infatuated whenever one caught my eye. More importantly, my awareness of God’s love was increasing too.

The college-aged volunteers in my Charles W. Woodward Young Life chapter were such caring and committed individuals who sought to help us through our tough high school years. They spent their free time joyfully planning meetings and driving buses to weekend retreats. The same joy I experienced in the meetings, I could see in our leaders lives as they continued to love us unconditionally.

In the midst of the silly joyful and loud songs, one melancholy song struck a nerve and became my second defining question. “What’s Forever For?” by Michael Martin Murphey was a song we would often sing during the large group meetings. The song’s chorus asks:

So What’s the Glory in Living
Doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore?
And if Love never lasts forever
Tell me what’s forever for?

I even remember inquiring with a volunteer about why this song was included on the playlist, as the melancholy, slow chorus seemed so sad to me. The romantic in me didn’t want to accept that Love could end. I don’t remember the response I received, but I do remember a stirring happening in my heart as I considered the end of the chorus

 

foreverlove

During  those awkward middle school years prior to this time I certainly did not feel lovable or attractive. I sported large, rounded glasses with thick lenses and wore braces and at times even a head-brace that went on the outside of my face (not very popular with the guys). Some peers called me “airbrain amber” (as I thought deep internal thoughts) and the negative teasing chipped away at my self-esteem. 

During the summer before my sophomore year, I traveled with my chapter to the Young Life camp in Saranac, NY. During the adventurous week of camp, I walked on a high ropes course and parasailed off a sandy beach. There were so many fun, new experiences, but most of all I remember sitting in an audience of scores of other 15-16 year olds as each night ended with a talk about God and His love for each of us. The end of the week approached and the closing talk focused on how a human physically suffers when crucified. I remember hearing how a crucified victim agonizingly must lift up putting weight upon his bloody nailed feet to achieve enough air to take a breath and fill his lungs.  Then the dying man would lower down pulling upon his throbbing, wounded wrists.  Learning about this slow struggle for air that caused Jesus so much pain shocked me to the core.   I thought to myself,  ” Why would a God of love allow His perfect son to suffer so”? as I imagined Jesus suffering on the cross after being whipped close to the point of death.

The speaker’s words startled me, as a dog’s urgent barking awakens his master from a deep sleep – he pointed out that it was MY sins that separated me from a Holy, Loving God.  Just as in the Old Testament a spotless lamb was needed to atone for sin; God sent his precious spotless son to die in my place.

“What?” I gasped silently as my heart quickened. My sins? The answer to the question, Why did Jesus die on the cross?, all along was………………….. ME?    

The speaker explained that Jesus died on the cross because the God of the universe saw me sitting on death row in my ugly selfishness and offered up His one and only perfect son to suffer and die so that I could be with Him in heaven for eternity.

God’s sacrificial and unselfish love flooded over me as I sat alone by a tree in the woods after the talk. God did not use fear or threats of future doom to attract this tender heart. No, Love whispered my name and asked if He could come and be my forever friend. The mighty God of the universe wooed me with patient kindness.

I looked upward and responded to Jesus with these words which flowed from a heart overcome with surprise, gratitude and awe.

“You did that for me?”

What a shock to realize that the holy God of the Universe not only knew intimately my ugly selfish heart, but also loved me so much that He gave up His life in hopes that I would accept His gift of not just a future reunion in heaven but communion on this earth with me as well.

The Bible confirms this supernatural Love, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8  

As I pondered such an indescribable gift of Love, my third and final question formed as I looked upward.

Amberoffering

“Jesus, What Can I do for you?”

“Can we give God anything?” you may be thinking. I certainly had no gifts to offer. Just an unattractive, insecure, shy, wounded, and misguided teenage girl in the world’s eyes.  

Ever so gently a still small voice softly spoke into my spirit.

“Give me your life.”

Yes. My gift could  be myself – my unknown future, and all my dreams and hopes wrapped up in a bow.

“Yes, Oh Lord. I give you my Life.”

Alone by a tree in the woods of Saranac, the depth of my gratitude evolved into a lifelong decision of commitment.  I offered my heart back to Jesus, the lamb of God, who died to make it whole.

The closest analogy I can find on earth to describe this spiritual exchange is a bride and groom as they exchange the gift of their entire lives to each other. The bride doesn’t know what the future may hold (better or worse, richer or poorer), but she is willing to accept whatever may come if her trusted groom is by her side.   

I recently located the journal I wrote in when I returned from the trip. What is interesting about that journal isn’t what I wrote, but rather what I didn’t write.  I didn’t write about all the fun activities, cute boys, or the many new friends formed.  

Instead, I wrote,

“I just got back from YL camp in Saranac. I could go into all the details about the things we did there. In fact I may do that later on. But the most important thing that happened there or maybe in my whole life was that I gave my life (heart) to Jesus. This means that I am putting my life into his hands.”

Well, 33 years later I can state with experience that it was the most important decision of my life.  My bridegroom Jesus has proven to be my best friend through thick and thin. He has never left my side. He has given me joy and peace to overflowing.

I returned home and began attending a bible study group and found true friends who encouraged me as I learned more about this amazing God who desired to have a deeper love relationship with me. Since my self worth now was based on God’s opinion of me, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I found self control and self confidence to resist peer pressure and to have self respect for myself and the body that God has given me. Believe me, I am not saying that I no longer sinned or all of a sudden became unselfish. Sanctification is a lifelong process and I still have so far to go. However, the gift of the Holy Spirit convicts me if I have sinned, and I now know whom to go to to humbly confess my many sins and seek out ways to show that I am sorry. God has also given me the help to forgive others as he gives me compassion and understanding for others.

What is joy? To be released from your death row jail cell and to then spend the rest of your life sharing with your cell mates how they can be set free, too.

I want to be real my friend. Following Jesus does not guarantee a life free of trouble. His disciples all faced challenges and all kinds of sufferings. In fact, Jesus himself said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

I certainly have not lived a life free of pain or disappointment.  The beauty of Jesus’s friendship is that he walks with us and never leaves us alone.  Do you know when I have felt God’s peace and presence the strongest? When my premature daughter died in my arms as I held her in the NICU after 40 days of much praying for her healing. The grief following her death was not easy and I was angry when God chose not to heal my baby. He understood my anger, as I believe He hates death and what it does to those who are left behind.  He patiently, tenderly stayed close by as I slowly processed that my baby was a gift from God that I needed to surrender back to Him. Just as I surrendered my life so many years before to Jesus at Saranac. Following God’s lead means trusting Him to work all things out for good for not only ourselves but for His future heavenly kingdom. I now have a more eternal perspective. I believe in my soul that my daughter is now healed in Heaven. I have peace that my prayers were answered but beyond my limited sight on this side of heaven.

What is peace? To trust that all things are in the hands of a loving, good God who always takes care of His own.

I have now grown into a confident wife, mother, and business owner who loves The Bible and her sweet sisters. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that I have a friend who will be there each step of the way holding my hand until I can see Him face to face.

So my future sweet brother or sister, May I ask you a question?
Do you know why Jesus died on the cross?
No need to answer this right away. Just let the question lay at your feet and stay awhile.

Becoming Best Friends with God #11 The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren

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Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence Him.          (Psalm 25:14) 

What is your definition of a friend? Someone who sees the good in you? Someone who keeps your secrets? Perhaps someone who enjoys being with you and you enjoy their company as well? Someone who will forgive you? Someone who you can call at anytime and they will be there for you?

 God is the ultimate best Friend.

 People will always disappoint us, but God will never disappoint His own.

For the scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed”.  (Romans 10:11)

Yes. There will be times when we do not understand the why’s and we do not receive the answer we were hoping for. We live in such a broken, hurting world and to suffer or to watch others suffer is just. so. hard.

I always imagine God’s friendship as being both long term and short term.

Long term will will not be disappointed because we have victory in His resurrection and will be reunited as His children in Heaven.

Short term we have his friendship and during the desert times He shares in our sufferings. He then carries us on His shoulders as the Good shepherd.  During the rainy seasons when we are so joyful, I imagine Him holding our hands and jumping in the puddles with us.

As the saying goes, “A true friend doubles our Joy and divides our sorrow”.  However Friendship cannot be forced and God awaits for you to show interest in having a deeper relationship. Rick Warren writes that Love is spelled T-I-M-E.

So what can you do today to deepen your friendship with God

1. Spend TIME in prayer and reading the Bible each morning. If He is our most important relationship we should run to Him first for help, encouragement and thanksgiving.   

2.  we should chat with God and meditate on His Word throughout our day.  Do you text your friends throughout the day? Try to do this in your mind with God….For example little prayers:   Help Lord!  Thank you God for that. I trust in you. Give me wisdom, Please.     I love you.  You are an Awesome God.  Wow..You are so creative, holy, wonderful, forgiving, loving, generous, etc……….

Try to slow down and use all of you senses and you will start to sense His presence and your eyes will be opened to all the ways he is being a good friend to you.

I promise you Sweet Sister….He will not disappoint you. 

In the midst of storms…rainbows are born Day #10 Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

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The Lord is pleased with those who worship Him and Trust His Love. Psalm 147:11

Dear Sweet Sister:

Do you feel tired and weighed down by your own struggles or of those around you? I have so many people whom I love who are going through the furnaces of ….. physical pain, a broken heart, addiction, marriage struggles etc.

I use to love to quote the saying:  After the Rain…….the Rainbow. 

but a wise man once told me that rainbows can only occur when rain droplets are present as they are needed for the sun to shine through….. So it is more accurate to say….

In the midst of Storms……Rainbows are born.

For a rainbow to occur there must be both water droplets and the sun.

Jesus is the Light of the World and He is present in this dark time that you or your loved one is going through. Hold on with a trusting heart and after the darkest part of the storm is over……when the droplets are not even visible anymore…a glorious rainbow will be born.

Sweet Sister…….. God only allows these situations because He is going to turn them into something good…….For He works all things out for good for those that Love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

He is with you and He is with your loved one during this tough time and He only allows this struggle if something greater will result.

The greatest example of this is Jesus dying on the Cross….God allowed this to happen only because the greatest good of all would result from His death and resurrection….. The sacrifice of the lamb of God would take away the sins of the world.

Imagine the spectacular rainbow that is around God’s Throne.

All around Him was a glowing Halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me. Ezekiel 1:28

 The Light of the World tranforms our stormy situations to a glorious rainbow as we trust in His love and seek to obey Him as Noah did.  

In the midst of storms    Rainbows are born

His love shines through our tears

In the Midst of Storms  Rainbows are born

He is here,  He is here.

Day 8 Planned for God’s Pleasure Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

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The Lord takes pleasure in His people.  Psalm 149:4 

The best marriage advice my husband and I received was ironically from a priest who advised us to “keep dating.”   During our over 27 years of marriage we have chosen different types of dates but the commitment to reconnect and share has always been a constant.  When our children were very young we had a neighborhood babysitter come over once a week and we would have dinner away from the chaos and distractions of our home. When we both worked outside the home,  we started to have lunch dates  together.  I remember  my in-laws asking  my husband what he wanted for his birthday and Dave requesting that the grandparents would care for the children for a long weekend so he could spend time with me. These weekly dates  and occasional longer trips were important, but daily compliments and words of affirmation, phone calls and soft touches each day were needed to ensure that our relationship continued to grow throughout each season and challenge of life.

In Chapter 8 entitled Planned for God’s Pleasure, Rick Warren describes that God created us to worship God and give Him pleasure.  But God wants us to have pleasure too.  He is such a loving God that He desires to have a real love relationship similar to the passion and commitment of a husband and wife with both me and you.  Let me type this one more time as this mystery is beyond human understanding….the God of the Universe wants to spend time with you, enjoys being with you and knows that you will receive the same enjoyment from this as well.  

The last line in Ch. 8 states:

This is what real worship is about- falling in love with Jesus.

So worship Him with others at church each week in music, the scriptures   and in receiving the body and the blood. (date night) See if you can sign up for a day or weekend retreat or mission at your church.

But also seek to find little ways to worship and enjoy the Lord during each week day. For example:  Stop when a beautiful sunrise catches your eyes as you’re running out the door to work; stand still in appreciation and thanksgiving with compliments  “Wow.  Isn’t that Beautiful Jesus! thank you for sharing this with me. You are such a creative God”

Isn’t it wonderful that we were created to be loved by God? Remember Day one and the phrase “you were created by God and for God”?

I encourage you to keep all your senses open to the many ways God is showing His love to you each day. An encouraging text or word from a friend, a verse that seems written just for you and your circumstance, a stunning nature scene etc.

Then return this love with the worship of Thanksgiving and adoration.

I begin each morning with writing the words ACTS in my journal vertically.

A stands for Adoration. God you are so_____(fill in the adjective)

C Stands for Contrition    I am so sorry for ___________

T stands for Thanksgiving     I write three things I am thankful for                1.____2.____3._____

S stands for supplication    I write 10 people I am praying/ advocating for_

Following this framework helps me be less distracted and more focused in my prayer time. Notice that adoration is first. Give God the Glory He so deserves and by doing so all of your  problems will grow small in the face of the beauty, power and goodness of God.

So as a wise man once told me:

Keep Dating. 

The Grand Canyon Gap Between Holy God and Me #7 The Purpose Driven Life The Reason for Everything

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For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Romans 3:23 

Why do you and I often feel closest to God when we spend time in nature? It is because our Father God carefully created the earth and all the creatures in it and He speaks to us about Himself and His love through His creation.   A family visit to the Grand Canyon spoke to me about God’s character, the gap problem all humans face and God’s solution.

When I first approached the Grand Canyon I stood stunned with awed surprise.  I stood mute and spellbound by the vastness of the immense abyss in the ground that is so huge that the human eye can take in only twenty percent of the canyon at a time. Mountain after Mountain of pastel layers of crumbling stone contrasting against a desert blue sky spoke of God’s beauty, power and timelessness.  My oldest daughter wouldn’t walk up to the edge explaining to us the vastness of the Grand Canyon “makes me feel like an ant”.

When I asked my children later at dinner why they thought God Created the Grand Canyon, my son declared, “Because He Loves us.” My girls chimed in with, ” To show us how Big He is….and how Old”.

A ranger explained that a camera from a Jet cannot take a photo of the entire range but a satellite from the heavens is needed. The vastness of this gaping hole in the earth reminds me of how mighty God is but at the same time speaks of a God who loves us so much that He left His throne in Heaven to come to earth to fill the gaps in our hearts and to bridge the gap between our sinful hearts and the holy heaven.   Why would the mighty God of the universe who created all the natural beauties of the world leave His throne to become like us?

Only selfless Love beyond our human finite understanding would become flesh and blood as a helpless baby born to become a bridge between holy heaven and our selfish hearts. He provided a way so our hearts would be healed and someday His creation could then join Him in Holy Heaven.

God reveals His love song through His magnificent creation. A soft love song calls all of us throughout our lives; this love song echoes and never stops calling out our names. A love song sung by the God of the universe, who is older than time and yet desires to walk hand in hand with the crown of His creation, the men and woman who have been made in His image.

  1. List all the choices that have separated you from God. 
  2. Have you ever asked God to come in and fill your empty gap in your heart with His Love and forgiveness?  God’s love is stronger than your mistakes. 

To answer this love song we must humble ourselves just as the God of the universe humbled Himself so He could give himself away.