Psalm 40:8: “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

King David prayed for the Law of Moses to be written into his heart. He knew that God’s law of life would bring light into the shadowy corners of his heart and mind. It is God’s will that we be changed by the renewing of our mind; little by little the Lord transforms us into children of light when we walk with Him. On that note Jesus says (John 12:36):

“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

A heart devoted to the Lord brings heaven down to earth. The kingdom of heaven is among us whenever His will is being done.

A few years ago I attempted to build a gingerbread house. The end result was broken pieces scattered all over the floor. This project was probably doomed from the start because I lack the patience. Handicrafts are not my thing. Not unlike my failed gingerbread house this world is broken and hurts in many places, but it is still a world full of wonder and beauty thanks to the restorative power of the Holy Spirit. In the first chapters of the Bible we read about God’s Spirit at work. The beginning of the universe is described as chaos steeped in darkness (Genesis 1:2):

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Thanks to God’s uncanny ability to see in the dark He envisioned galaxies and solar systems when there was yet nothing to be seen (Genesis 1-19):

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.”

At the dawn of creation when everything was dark, formless and empty God took nothing and made something. Only the Lord is able to do that. He has perfect night vision. Think about it. This also means He is well-equipped to navigate us through life’s darkest hours. When we are lost in the dark and open up to the Lord, the story of our heart will be as beautiful as the story of creation.

Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The Holy One is extremely generous. We have a greathearted God who is excited about His children. He knows us so well! As we grow to love Him His plans for our life begin to take shape.

Some people have strong visions and they build their lives around it and fight to promote it. However, God is going to open doors that lead to the fulfillment of dreams beyond our imaginations. And even if we have stopped dreaming or don’t know exactly what our vision is – God who knows our hearts, knows our purpose.

I once had a dream. It was a dwarf of a dream. I dreamed that I could make music on the side. My daytime job however consumed me and didn’t leave much room for anything else. One day, out of the blue, I received a phone call from my doctor’s office at work. I was told to go to the emergency room where I had the first in a series of three open heart surgeries. As a result I had to quit my job. Finally I began devoting myself to the things I love doing. And as it turned out, music was only part of it. Once I did the first step more avenues opened up.

The Lord Almighty catches our dreams. Under His care this dream will take on shape, color, and flourish; and before we know it, this dream will turn into reality. Whatever your dreams are, God’s dreams are bigger. Personally, I think that our own dreams are sometimes detrimental to the things God has in mind for us and they can very easily turn into a horrible nightmare. How many people have dreamed to become rich and famous, and when their dreams came true they had lost themselves along the way.

In God we find meaning. He is the catcher of dreams – let Him catch yours too.

“Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream “ Oscar Hammerstein II

Hebrews 12:5: “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you.’”

God does not change, but our perception of Him will over the years. That’s quite normal. In our walk with God we have seen days when He seemed so close He was almost tangible; and we have seen other days when the Lord seemed far removed from us. If we have lost our way we get further and further away from Him. We need to check our direction, adjust our course and return to Him. The ability to turn around and honestly say “I am sorry” triggers a world of good: as a result we grow closer to the Lord and people.

Mistakes will be forgiven when we ask the Lord – we can always count on the Lord’s compassion – however His mercies aren’t cheap and serious mistakes usually have serious consequences. We may be sorry for what we have done, but we will have to deal with the collateral damage too, and there is a good chance that we will feel punished in such situations. If that is the case, then it’s probably true: we are being punished for the pain we have caused. And now is the time to do whatever is necessary to undo the damage we have done. Probably not all damage can be completely undone, but that is beside the point. We do what we can to initiate healing, and this shows that we care.

The purpose of punishment is repentance. And genuine repentance initiates a different course of action going forward because we have had a change of heart. Punishment however gets old if it produces the self-loathing, self-diminishing persona. The foul odor that comes across is like a virus spreading, getting people to beat themselves up. Not a good thing! Others who smell this kind of condemnation from afar make a beeline into the opposite direction.

Similar to the world of photography where shades bring out texture and add the dimension of depth to an image, God’s discipline adds more depth to our relationship with Him and people. Working through our hang-ups is the crucible of any relationship but especially our relationship with God. We reap the most benefits when we are open-minded while He is working with us. Understanding this process as transformation rather than condemnation, we mature.

The Lord disciplines us because He wants us to grow. And spiritual growth has everything to do with learning to love – after all, it’s all about love in the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 6:6: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

In the book of Proverbs we are asked to pay attention to ants and learn from them. Ants outnumber us. In New York City the ant population compared to human population is nearly 800 to 1. That’s almost 1.2 billion ants in a city with a population of 1.6 million people. They live off of the food that New Yorkers throw away. In the book of Proverbs ants are described as foragers (Proverbs 6:7-8):

“It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Looking at the behavior patterns of these industrious critters, we find that they know how to collaborate, forage nutrients and create storage. While an ant colony may only eat ounces a day, it can harvest pounds destined for storage.

I am amazed by the sheer amount of work these tiny insects can accomplish, but I don’t believe our take away from ants is: ‘Let’s immerse ourselves in work.’ Sometimes we use work as an excuse to avoid important issues at home. Or we hide our stagnant faith behind charity work. Oswald Chambers calls this ‘spiritual sluggishness’ and writes: “Active work may be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The danger of spiritual sluggishness is that we do not wish to be stirred up, all we want to hear about is spiritual retirement. Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement”

In other words we never stop wrestling in our faith. That’s how we grow. And since ants are our role models, let us take a closer look at them. A couple of things I noticed as I studied them in more detail: one is collaboration, the other is separation.

  • Collaboration: It’s astonishing to see how millions of ants can work together so seamlessly. Ants communicate with each other using chemical signals, called pheromones. They use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails behind so that other ants can follow them to the food source.
  • Separation: Ants stay together to support their colony, however, to grow beyond one colony some ants must find new territory. Here is where wings come in handy. Only males and queens have wings, so it’s their responsibility to spread its kind; and for that reason they desert their home base when the time arrives.

While collaboration and separation seem mutually exclusive, they do go hand in hand. For obvious reasons we need each other – and yet, there will be times in our life when we have to separate to embark on the things God has in mind for us. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:10):

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We don’t want to be just busy but also productive. Metaphorically speaking we are fruit trees and the Lord wants to see us yielding a bountiful crop. We all have a job to do, a job that He has prepared for us.

Be encouraged to follow the Lord when He beckons you, even if this means you need to go out on a limb. Don’t be shy – spread your wings and fly! If ants can do it, you can do it.

Posted in Ant

Romans 9:16: “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Listening to the song “House of the Rising Sun” we get a little glimpse of the prostitutes’ plight. Jesus was well aware of their situation. Religious leaders of His time considered people who lived on the fringes of society a lost cause while Jesus sought them out. He sat down with prostitutes and held conversations with outcasts. As a result Jesus was invited to their homes and people clung to every word He said. He told them parables, beautiful little short stories of hope and mercy. The overriding theme of His tales: “Lost & Found”.

Perhaps we have read the Lord’s parables of “The Lost & Found Sheep”“The Lost & Found Coin”, and “The Lost & Found Son”.

In the first story we read about a straying sheep which gets separated from the rest of the flock. When the owner realizes that one of his sheep is missing he calls a search party. Once the lost animal was spotted, he is so relieved that he puts it on his shoulders to carry it back home. Overjoyed he celebrates with his friends and neighbors.

In the second story the main character is a woman who owns ten silver coins. One of them gets lost. She proceeds to comb through the whole house until she finds that coin. When she finally discovers it, she is so happy that she lets everybody know.

In the first two stories the object did not get lost by choice. The owners felt responsible and were compelled to do everything in their power to restore the lost object. – Let’s pause here for a minute and think of unspeakable tragedies where people are born into slavery, sold into prostitution against their will, violated, drugged and raped, without a home, without identity. Lost coins are unidentified objects dropped into the dark corners of this world and seemingly forgotten, but in all reality the Owner of the universe is reaching out day and night to get a hold of these precious coins. And like the characters in Jesus’s story, God is not known to give up easily.

In the third story we hear about two lost sons. The wayward son wants to get out and spend all his cashed inheritance while his brother stays at home but seems to begrudge his life situation. Maybe he is even envious of his brother. Both sons are lost in the sense that they are not with their father. One is geographically absent; the other one’s heart is absent. In the end the wayward son returns home after he had squandered all of his wealth. His brother does not want any mercy for him and also doesn’t seem to think that he himself is in need of mercy.

The common theme of the Lord’s Lost & Found Narratives is His astonishing compassion. Mercy is 100 percent His doing; it is not triggered by rituals or initiated by anything we accomplish. The Lord is merciful – that’s who He is. And only through His mercies can we be found.

“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl,
and me, O God, for one.” 
(Georgia Turner and Bert Martin)

Psalm 77:19: “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

We all have lost something at some point in our lives. Grieving maybe the loss of our health, career, or a person dear to us – a common question keeps coming up: “Where is God in all of this?” I have spoken with grief-stricken people who expressed that they do not want to believe in a God who does not seem to care. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, “agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist”. And a rough life without detecting God’s footprints can lead to such a world view.

The book of Ruth tells a story of a family struck by misfortune. Almost overnight Naomi lost her husband and both her sons while residing in a foreign country. Her late sons had married locals and now her two daughters-in-law was the only family she had.

Then Naomi decided to go back to Israel. She did not want to selfishly hang on to the young women and so she said to them, “You are young and beautiful and your whole life is still ahead of you. But I am an old woman and have no more sons to give to you. Why don’t you stay here and get married again?” – In Naomi’s mind these young women were better off staying in their home country rather than going along with her. And one agreed to stay behind while the other already had made up her mind. She wanted to migrate to Israel with her mother-in-law. Her name was Ruth.

Grieving Naomi may have lost all that mattered to her, but unbeknownst to her she still had a treasure, and that was her daughter-in-law. After their return to Israel Ruth married into Naomi’s next of kin and carried on the family name. She gave birth to a son, incidentally King David’s grandfather. As they were celebrating the arrival of the newborn whom they named Obed (Hebrew word for “worshiper”), Naomi’s friends and neighbors spoke up (Ruth 4:14-15):

“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’”

Suddenly God’s footprints emerge. God does care. He holds us close when tragedy hits and sometimes this brings out the best in people as in Ruth’s case. Let us pray that the Lord opens our eyes so we can see His footprints in our lives.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul” Horatio Spafford

Job 33:4: “For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Everything is interconnected. The Spirit of God has created everything and this commonality connects us. The Holy Spirit brings life – rich, reproducing, abundant life, the kind of life that swallows death – life that lasts forever. Take God’s Spirit out of the equation, and futility rules. Productivity without the Spirit of God inevitably leads to a dead end. On that note, Jesus observed (John 6:63):

“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”* Bible Version: New Living Translation (NLT)

Since everything has sprung from God’s Spirit there is a noticeable spiritual bond between God and His creation. Unfortunately, human beings cut themselves loose at some point, and they strayed far from heaven. It has been the Lord’s mission to overcome the apparent disconnection, and this is why Jesus came.

Interestingly, as I’m writing out these thoughts our internet connection went down. The worldwide web has revolutionized our culture and made information more readily available. Imagine today’s world without having this powerful tool. It is safe to say, the interconnectedness provided by various computer devices has accelerated problem solving. The ratio of human inventions went through the roof with the introduction of the personal computer, especially when the computer reduced in size and became a portable device. Power outage and loss of connectivity, even if it is only for an hour, creates havoc in the modern world. However, the repercussions of being disconnected from the source of all beings are intrinsically more serious.

The Holy Spirit is poured out globally and not unlike the Internet accessible everywhere. When people pray, the Spirit of God listens. This is what Jesus was referring to in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7):

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

To be reconnected to heaven all we have to do is ask and the Holy Spirit will re-establish the lost connection; His breath revives us. Reconciliation with the Godhead is only a prayer away.

Proverbs 1:8-9: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

The breaking down of the family unit has been detrimental to human well-being. A complete set of parents who bring up their children and grow old together is all too often a beautiful dream that does not come true. Instead there is this nightmare of divorce. It’s probably more a nightmare for the children than it is for the parents. While the adults move on from their ex-spouse there is no such thing as an ex-dad or ex-mom for a child. Technically speaking, children would be at odds with themselves had they moved on the same way as their parents did. They carry both parents’ genes inside of them. It’s admirable how children navigate through the change in relationship status. They have to somehow reconcile the fact that they love both parents who don’t love each other.

I’m speaking from experience of course – my brothers and I grew up in a single parent household. Our mother married twice and had children with both husbands whom she both divorced. Our mother brought up four beautiful children. That’s quite the task, and she tackled it with passion. So, here is to all single parents – they are war heroes in my book.

In a perfect world, children benefit from a set of two parents to have the best learning experience growing up. Listening to a father’s advice and benefiting from a mother’s input is a bonus for a child. A father’s point of view will differ from a mother’s, and that difference will help pull things into perspective.

For children to have both a father’s and a mother’s wisdom at their disposal may not be taken for granted. It’s a blessing. But even if we don’t have both parents growing up, God can provide. Beyond that, we all could use a little wisdom. Even in old age with a lot of experience under our belt we are smart to listen for God’s input.

Never stop learning and we won’t stop growing until the day we die. Stay curious, my friend!

Psalm 62:1: “I wait patiently for God to save me; I depend on him alone.” *Bible Version: Good News Translation

The other day, I had to wait 50 minutes on the phone to get connected and speak with a representative. If someone tells me to wait, I know I have to equip myself with patience.

Technology has made worldwide exchange of information fast and efficient. We get to distant places faster, and we receive the latest news in a blink of an eye. Meanwhile, it’s no surprise that we have come to expect everything to be available on demand.

What about prayer? Do we feel we get God’s immediate attention when we pray? Well, it’s complicated since there is no such thing as button-pushing in the realm of prayer. It’s not like: prayers go out, God’s answers come in. We have to wait for His input and that puts us in the waiting room until we hear back from the Lord.

On one occasion I was looking for a professional change, but it just wasn’t happening. My husband and I kept praying for the issue. Then, one night I had a dream. I dreamed I was sitting in a car at a stoplight waiting for the light to change. When I awoke it felt as if the Lord was saying:

“Hang in there! Traffic light will change and you will be able to move on.”

It wasn’t long after my dream that circumstances began to change. One of my job applications was accepted and I was hired on the spot – a perfect example of an open door in God’s own good time.

Waiting on the Lord is an expression of trust. It is an opportunity to hit the brakes and grow in our faith. On this note Prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 64:4):

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

I remember situations where we simply had to wait things out for the sake of clarity. And we did see more clearly after the dust had settled and we took more time to think about the problem. Some decisions should not be processed overnight and we will find that the pressure is off once we stop pushing the issue. Submitting to the Lord we give Him control. For the sake of our peace of mind, that’s the thing to do. It will all work out and things will fall into place when we know how to wait on the Lord.

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

My husband likes to make an informed decision, which is why he typically takes his sweet time investigating. His research of pros and cons (which he calls “vetting”) comes before his buying decision.

Buying a product is simple in comparison to making life-changing decisions. Do we get married? Are we going to have children? Should I have this surgery? In fact, such life decisions hardly fit the profile of vetting a product, or are we going to google the pros and cons of having children? Are we going to perform a background check on the person we want to marry? It’s not like that at all, but still, we will look for advice when we are smart. We will interview seasoned parents about the aspects of raising children, ask our trusted friends what they think about the person we are dating and regarding the surgery in question we will look for a second medical opinion.

We know that despite all our planning the unplanned still happens and we sail into situations that catch us off-guard. Life is full of surprises. Besides looking for traditional advice we are well-advised to seek God’s counsel since He alone knows the future. On a personal note, my faith has helped me through many bumpy roads, and through it all I have gained a deeper connection with both God and people.

The best way to look at things we have no control over – and we actually don’t have control over a myriad of things – is to trust the Lord’s promise that He has good plans worked out for us. That is why we don’t want to lose hope even though our own plans may have fallen through. We sometimes think we know our purpose – or we haven’t even thought about it yet. The Lord knows each person’s purpose and wants to translate that into reality.

We are all a diamond in the rough. Since diamonds are made of the hardest material in the world, only a diamond can be used to mechanically cut another diamond. Comparatively speaking, the Lord is the diamond who cuts us into shape. It is His desire that we shine. As long or as short our life story may be, it’s meant to be a blessing. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we have everything figured out. We need to stay humbly curious and seek the Lord in all matters. It is His pleasure to reveal the plans He has for us and the reason why we are here.